Vol. 61, No. 6 June 2018
Gary Wunder, Editor
Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the
The National Federation of the Blind
Mark Riccobono, President
email address: [email protected]
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.
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The 2018 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 3 to July 8, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Shingle Creek staff only. Call 866-996-6338.
The 2018 room rates are singles and doubles, $88; and for triples and quads $93. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $100-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2018. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2018, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
All Rosen Shingle Creek guestrooms feature amenities that include plush Shingle Creek Sleeper beds, 40" flat screen TVs, complimentary high-speed internet service, in-room safes, coffee makers, mini-fridges, and hairdryers. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has a number of dining options, including two award-winning restaurants, and twenty-four-hour-a-day room service.
The schedule for the 2018 convention is:
Tuesday, July 3 Seminar Day
Wednesday, July 4 Registration and Resolutions Day
Thursday, July 5 Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 6 Opening Session
Saturday, July 7 Business Session
Sunday, July 8 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 61, No. 6 June 2018
Illustration: Chopped Challenge at the Colorado Center for the Blind
It’s the Economics, Stupid
by Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette
Convention 101: Answers to the Questions about the National Federation
of the Blind National Convention
by Candice Chapman
Blind New Mexicans Can Now Vote with Accessible Absentee Ballots
by Curtis Chong
My First Day at the State Capitol
by Rocky Hart
If Only I Had Braille When . . .
by Terri Rupp
What Does Helen Keller’s Legacy Mean to the Organized Blind
Movement and the World Beyond?
by Kane Brolin
KNFB Reader V3.0 Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
by Joel Zimba
Driving Blind on the Information Superhighway—Basic Interactions:
The Fast Lane to Getting Stuff Done on the Web
by Amy Mason
by Kevan Worley
Living the Movement: Ferret Federationists
by Priscilla McKinley
by Lauren McKinley
Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind
At our NFB training centers we push our blind students to go beyond what they imagined they could do. In a world where expectations of blind people are often low, the willingness to push beyond the known is what makes the difference between living the lives we want and just dreaming about them. Many new students come to training never having used a sharp kitchen knife or cooked on a hot stove, or maybe they have recently become blind and lack the technique and the confidence to do these common things nonvisually. Soon they’re chopping and slicing, using a hot oven, and in fact “cooking with gas.” As they graduate, having faced and completed the big requirements, cooking a well-planned meal for dozens, and finding their way back to the center after a drop in an unknown part of the city, they admit that they didn’t think they’d ever be able to do these things. And yet they have. The not-so-secret formula is now part of them—they know how to push themselves beyond simply what they know to what they want to know and need to do. Our NFB training center graduates have succeeded in pushing themselves beyond their fears and low expectations, so their blindness can no longer hold them back.
In April the Colorado Center for the Blind Home Management staff put a twist on challenge in the kitchen by staging a “Chopped” contest. Inspired by the popular TV show, four classes over two days were divided into two teams each and given a cart full of sometimes strange ingredients and two hours, forty-five minutes to brainstorm, prepare, and present their meal to the panel of expert judges—namely, their teachers. One competition, for example, had to create a meal out of figs, stew meat, hoisin sauce, Cheetos, Smarties, dill pickles, and Texas toast. While much of what is taught in the kitchen is about planning and preparing, this exercise is about dealing with the unexpected under extreme conditions and working with your teammates toward a positive–if not always spectacular—outcome. And what happens when the stew meat burns? We won’t give away any secrets, but the broader answer is to problem-solve and press on to the end, because in order to live the lives we want, sometimes that’s what it’s going to take.
by Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette
From the Editor: Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette was born and raised in Maine and now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his partner and two cats. He has a background in the mission-driven nonprofit sector and has been a member of the Government Affairs team of the National Federation of the Blind since May of 2017. Dylan is an avid fitness enthusiast, a political junkie, and loves following his favorite Boston sports team, especially the Red Sox and Celtics. He says he loves to write and would like to contribute more to the Braille Monitor. After reading his article I hope you will be as excited about this prospect as I am. Here is what he says:
There are few things more infuriating than inconsistency in a logical argument. It is maddening when your opponent in a debate, especially an existentially important one, appears to be making an argument that you know to be false or, to be more charitable, that is confusing when considered alongside other things you know to be true.
This state of confusion and irritation is where I have found myself ever since I joined the government affairs team here at the Jernigan Institute and began actively working on our opposition to H.R. 620, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.” This bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in February, represents an example of a broader push for a “notice and cure” provision within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For the purposes of this writing, I will refer to the broad “notice and cure” construct and not so much to H.R. 620 specifically. Though everything said about notice and cure applies equally to H.R. 620.
As a quick primer on notice and cure, it is first vital to know that it would fundamentally alter the way people with disabilities enforce their rights under the ADA. It requires that a person who has encountered an access barrier that violates his or her rights, typically his or her rights to equal access to places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA, first provide written notice to the proprietor of the place of public accommodation in question and then permit that proprietor some specifically-defined amount of time to cure the problem. Hence, we have “notice and cure.”
As the ADA currently stands, a person who has encountered an access barrier that violates his or her rights under Title III of the ADA may pursue one of three immediate options: 1) They can seek a private resolution by negotiating directly with the proprietor; 2) They may file a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the issue will be investigated; or 3) They may file a private lawsuit in order to seek redress of the violation. It is essential to point out that under the federal ADA a plaintiff may not seek money as a part of the lawsuit, only redress of the access barrier. There are, however, some states that have passed their own state-level versions of the ADA that do permit a person filing a lawsuit alleging a violation of the ADA to seek money as a part of the dispute.
While there are many problems with a notice and cure framework, one of the most glaring ones is the negative effect it would have on proactive compliance with the ADA. It is often said by those of us who oppose notice and cure that it would produce a wait and see approach to compliance with the ADA, which is a slap in the face to the original intent of the law. Think of it this way—why would a business proactively comply with accessibility requirements under the ADA if they are not legally obligated to do so until they receive a notice from a person who has encountered an access barrier and thus have had her or his rights violated?
And here is where the frustrating part of the argument comes into play. The groups actively promoting notice and cure and those who were largely responsible for H.R. 620 do not acknowledge the new reality that notice and cure will produce. They represent large and powerful sectors of the business community and were the key to successfully passing H.R. 620 in the House of Representatives. They lament the existence of “drive-by” and “serial” lawsuits as being prohibitively onerous on the business community. These types of unscrupulous legal activities do exist, though on a much smaller scale than the business community would have us believe. But supporters of H.R. 620 simply will not accept or affirm the undermining effect on the rights of people with disabilities that notice and cure would have. They often stress how much they admire the ADA and how most businesses genuinely want to comply and welcome customers with disabilities. But, according to these groups, it is just too difficult to know how to comply with the ADA, and it is only reasonable that all of the burden of education and enforcement should be placed on the backs of people with disabilities.
The National Federation of the Blind, as readers will know, rejects the premise of notice and cure and the arguments that undergird it. Notice and cure unacceptably diminishes the civil rights of people with disabilities, and we stand ready to fight these efforts, armed with both moral and legal counter-arguments.
One category of counter-argument that does not receive enough attention lies in the realm of economics. More specifically, microeconomics.
A bit of personal background on me. I am an economics enthusiast and as such I studied and obtained a degree in economics during my undergraduate studies, and then I continued that focus on the study of economics in graduate school. As a result of this interest and this training, I tend to analyze problems and assess issues through the lens of economics and the principles associated with the discipline.
There are two bedrock principles of microeconomics that can tell us a lot about why notice and cure will lead to an exacerbation of the problem of noncompliance with the ADA. Those two principles are rational choice theory and profit-maximization. I will briefly describe both ideas below and then demonstrate why they should deliver the finishing blow to any argument favoring a notice and cure provision that posits that it would not have a negative effect on ADA compliance.
Rational Choice Theory: This is a key principle that lies at the core of much of the economics discipline. In short, rational choice theory asserts that people and firms are rational actors and as such, will pursue the rational economic decision in most instances. The “rational” thing to do is to make the decision that produces the most pleasure and the least displeasure. The term often used in this case is “utility,” which is another way of capturing pleasure or satisfaction. So maximizing the utility we gain from any given decision is the goal of a rational actor, and that actor will therefore make the decision most likely to result in the highest level of utility for that individual.
The theory further posits that if everyone pursues this rational course of action, the overall level of utility across a given society or economy will increase. Efficiency will also increase, according to this theory, as rational choices will produce the most efficient allocation of resources, and this will also produce a positive aggregate outcome.
Profit-maximization: This is a concept connected to rational choice, but it relates more to decisions made by businesses. The basic idea here is that businesses will always seek to generate the highest possible level of income while simultaneously striving to minimize the costs of production. The cost of production is comprised of a variety of factors, called “inputs,” that range from labor costs to the cost of raw materials to compliance costs, among others. The ultimate goal of the firm at the most basic level is to maximize profit, which is income minus costs.
The merging of rational choice theory and profit-maximization means that in order to be the most efficient and successful business, rational choices about income and costs must be made in order to keep profits as high as possible. This is especially true if the business in question is a publicly traded company, answerable to shareholders. In this instance, businesses actually have a legal obligation (called the “fiduciary” obligation) to generate the highest possible profits and, in turn, the most shareholder value through higher share prices.
We can now take these fundamental principles of microeconomics and apply them to our arguments against notice and cure. It is also important to note that businesses would likely agree with everything laid out above about rational choices and profit-maximization; we are not making wild or erroneous assumptions about the views and actions of the business community. These are widely held and generally agreed upon pillars of economics and business management practice.
So here is the point: if businesses are rational, profit-maximizing actors with a responsibility to act in this way (especially if they are publicly traded companies), what possible incentive would any of them have to proactively and consistently comply with their obligations under the ADA? Remember that rational choice theory lays out the virtues of making self-interested decisions that produce the most personal gain possible. Remember that the profit-maximizing imperative of businesses shapes their production strategies and budget objectives.
Businesses will always avoid expenses they do not have to incur in order to keep the margin between income and costs as large as possible. Or, in other words, in order to maximize profits. If it will cost a business x to install a wheelchair ramp or y to purchase an accessible point-of-sale (POS) machine, they will not do it unless they have to. If notice and cure becomes an enshrined part of the ADA and creates a wait and see environment, what reason would a rational, profit-maximizing firm have to ever install that ramp or buy that POS machine before receiving a notice letter from a person with a disability?
The implications here are straightforward and alarming. Businesses exist to generate profits and complying with the ADA will, by definition, reduce by some degree the profit margin. If businesses are not required to comply with the ADA proactively, and if they do not have the incentive to do so out of a desire to avoid legal action, they never will comply proactively. It would be, in strictly economic terms, irrational for them to do so. And this is a key argument against notice and cure and one that we should be making more forcefully. If we can speak in their language and demonstrate that we know how business works and how economics work, we can better isolate and knock down their arguments in favor of notice and cure. In doing so, we can deliver the death blow to this effort and safeguard the civil rights of people with disabilities for the foreseeable future.
by Candice Chapman
From the Editor: Candice Chapman is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi. She is also a leader in our student division, a member of the scholarship committee, and an absolute joy to be around. Here is what she says for our first-timers:
There are many ways to describe a National Federation of the Blind national convention. Convention is exciting, fun, and enlightening. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with friends, meet new people, and network with a diverse group of professionals in a variety of fields. The things that convention can be in the midst of all the connection points and interesting meetings is stressful and overwhelming. I recall feeling the excitement and the stress during my first national convention. After attending nine conventions I’ve learned a few things that make the experience a pleasant one time and time again. It’s my hope that by sharing a few tidbits with you, that you can plan well and have an altogether fun, exciting, and stress-free NFB national convention!
I’ve often been told that the best place to start is the beginning, so the beginning it is. Before you can come to national convention, you have to pack. The right clothes are an absolutely essential part of a stress-free convention. When considering what to fill your suitcase with, keep a couple of things in mind. First things first: our national convention is held in Orlando, Florida, this year. It’s very hot and often rainy in Orlando, so you want to pack clothing that will ensure your comfort in hot and rainy weather. Keep that in mind. The second point here is that our national convention is a professional conference. I’d recommend finding a balance between business and business casual for most days. The exception to this will be on our banquet night. This is a formal banquet which means formal attire is most appropriate. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying it’s a requirement to go out and buy a fancy ball gown or rent a tuxedo. I would, however, recommend wearing whatever you consider to be a level above your business casual wear.
Just to summarize, for the week of convention, save your flip-flops and tank tops for your down time, and plan for your slacks and button downs during meeting times. One last thing to mention on your convention wardrobe planning: the hotel is very large, and you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking. Make sure your footwear is good for keeping your feet comfortable
Clothing aside, you’ll also want to pay attention to a few details regarding your belongings. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve marked your luggage in such a way that you are able to locate it at baggage claim. Feel free to use whatever method works for you. Whether it be some sort of ribbon, bandana, colorful tape, or a keychain, the important thing is that you can identify your belongings when the time comes. In the same vein, you’ll want to have some sort of identifying features you can use to identify any technology or other accessories that belong to you.
You’ve crossed the hurdle of packing for convention; congratulations. Now you need to get there. Once you make it to the hotel, you’ll want to do a few things. If you’re a guide dog user, you’ll want to locate the relief areas. In the next section of this article, you will find good sources of information. Relief area information can be found there. While we’re talking about guide dogs, it’s probably a good idea to direct you to the National Association of Guide Dog Users. They will have all sorts of good information that will help to make sure that your guide dog has a stress-free convention as well.
Another thing that you will need to do after you settle in at the hotel will be to register. You will be able to find registration details in your convention agenda. One of the things you’ll receive when you register is a banquet ticket. Make sure to hang onto this ticket because you will need to exchange it for the ticket you will use on banquet night. The banquet exchange will open after general session begins. Be sure to listen for the announcement during the sessions so you won’t miss it. When they make the announcement, the entire process will be explained.
Now that you’re all packed and on your way to convention, you’ll want to know where to get good information. One of the first places to find it is the information table. On the days prior to general session, you can find the information table in the hotel lobby. Once general session begins, the information table will migrate to the designated registration area (you’ll be able to find details for registration in your convention agenda). It’s been my experience that there’s not a whole lot they don’t know at the information table, and if they don’t know, they can certainly tell you how to find out. No matter its location, the information table is one of the best sources you will have. Another place for good information is the presidential suite. The presidential suite will have all sorts of information that you might need for convention such as the location of your state caucus. Aside from useful information, the presidential suite is also a good place to meet Federation leaders, grab a snack, or just take a breather. Keep in mind that even though the presidential suite is home to the President, he is not always there. You can schedule a meeting with him by calling the Presidential Suite or stopping by and doing so in person. Expect that the meeting will likely last only a few minutes. The President is very busy during the convention, so please be understanding if you don’t get a chance to have a one-on-one meeting with him.
Other locations to get good information are the hospitality suite, which is sponsored by the host committee for the convention and the convention arrangements suite. The locations of all three of these will be found in the preface information in the convention agenda. A final source for good information is your state affiliate. If by chance you don’t come to convention knowing how to get in touch with yours, there’s a few ways to do so. You can find affiliate contact information in the presidential suite. Additionally, once general sessions begin, you can find your affiliate designated by a large sign. The sign is labeled in both print and Braille.
Alright, you’ve packed well, know where to get good information, so now what’s next? In the early days of the convention you’ll have a chance to register, explore the exhibit hall, and the independence market. When you register, you’ll get a hard copy of the convention agenda. The agenda can be overwhelming because there are a lot of things going on all at once. Here’s where things can get overwhelming; here is also where I’ll tell you a few things that I hope will help you not feel overwhelmed by this big document.
Remember that the agenda will be available online prior to convention. Having it before arriving is hugely helpful because it allows you to familiarize yourself with what will be going on all week. Going through the agenda beforehand also gives you a chance to decide what you’re interested in doing and prioritize. There’s absolutely no way that you’ll be able to do and go to everything. Making priorities before arriving will help to minimize stress. Tackling the exhibit hall and independence market can also be a stressful experience. I would suggest handling it the same way you would handle the agenda: check out what’s available online before convention and then prioritize.
One note about the independence market: Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the market is about to close; the last day it is open can be very busy, so go as early as you can.
You can expect to have to deal with crowds at our national convention; everyone’s excited to be there, so be prepared for some shout outs from old friends meeting up. Here’s a few ways that you can avoid the crowds if bumping shoulders with fellow Federationists isn’t your cup of tea. Two places that you’ll find lots of crowding are in the hallways between events and in the elevators and their waiting areas. One way to avoid the crowding in both places is to leave more than ten minutes before the event you’re attending begins. Most people will be heading out around this time. Leaving early also affords you the opportunity to take alternate routes to the meeting area. One of those alternate routes could be the stairs or perhaps following the same route to the meeting area except taking an outdoor path instead of inside. As you can imagine, this option is not always a popular one in the heat, so you are guaranteed a far less crowded commute. Similarly, the stairs are a less popular option than the elevators.
Let’s talk just for a minute about etiquette in meetings. I’ll reiterate that the national convention is a professional conference. Remember when in a meeting to silence your cell phones, and if you have to take or make a call, step out of the room until it is concluded. Another thing to note about the hotel is that smoking is not allowed. This includes e-cigarettes. A good rule of thumb for meetings is to give the respect to the speakers and fellow audience members that you would like to have in their place.
You’re likely to meet lots of friendly people who may invite you to hang out in a variety of settings. No matter what the setting, it’s important to exercise caution. Don’t leave beverages that you may have unattended, and if you find yourself in a setting where there is perhaps an “unofficial bartender,” it is probably a good idea to express even more caution and even consider obtaining your own beverage that you can verify is safe. It’s important that we all are responsible for our beverages and behavior. The expectation at our convention is that we will treat each other with civility, kindness, and respect. One other note about etiquette in the bar, outside of not leaving your drink unattended, is to remember to tip your server. Keep in mind that standard manners and conventions dictate 20 percent. Tips often are the major source of income for wait staff whether in a bar or restaurant.
Here are a few final thoughts that will help to prepare you for your national convention experience. Be sure to practice self-care. Taking care of yourself during this busy week will go a long way in helping reduce stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Be sure to eat. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but neglecting to have a decent meal is something that happens to the best of us. Wait times can be rather lengthy, so make sure to have snacks just in case you can’t get a meal right away. It’s also very important to stay hydrated. Like I said earlier, it’s hot in Orlando. Be sure to drink plenty of water around the clock.
It is my sincere hope that the information offered in this article is helpful to you. Pack well, travel safe, and we’ll see you in Orlando!
From the Editor: Curtis Chong has been a strong advocate in the many states in which he has lived. He is best known for his work with technical issues, having for a long time served as the president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. He now works in the state of New Mexico as the manager of assistive technology at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, where he continues to push for nonvisual access in education, recreation, and employment.
Here is what he has to say about the march of the blind to gain a completely secret voting experience, in this case using an absentee ballot:
Whenever blind Americans participate in a local, state, or federal election, we have been able to use voting machines at the polls which (if not as helpful as we might like) afford us the opportunity to mark our ballots in secret without anyone having to know whom we have voted for. But if we want to vote using a printed absentee ballot, those of us who do not see well enough to fill out a printed form must necessarily rely on the help of someone else to mark the ballot, meaning that our ballot is no longer truly secret.
In the fall of 2014, blind voters in the state of Maryland, for the first time in history, were able to cast a truly secret absentee ballot through the use of a fully-accessible online ballot marking system. They logged on to a secure website using the access technology of their choice, marked the ballot using an accessible web form, downloaded the appropriately marked ballot to their computers, printed the ballot, and mailed it in. This significant achievement, which would not have occurred without the hard work of the National Federation of the Blind, clearly proved that technology could be used to make the absentee ballot fully accessible to blind voters.
Members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico were inspired by this exciting development in Maryland, and so, at the organization’s 2015 convention, the membership unanimously adopted a resolution which declared that the time had come for the printed absentee ballot to be accessible to the blind of New Mexico and for the state of New Mexico to have an accessible online ballot marking tool of its own. This was only the beginning of a long, three-year process—a process which has resulted in an accessible online ballot marking system which is having its debut for the June 2018 primary election.
Three things happened to make all of this possible: First, the state of Maryland was willing to give its source code away for free, meaning that software could be deployed in New Mexico without the costly effort of writing an entirely new system.
Secondly, the blind of New Mexico had two champions in the state legislature. They were Representative Tomás Salazar and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, both of whom cosponsored the necessary enabling legislation and worked energetically on our behalf.
Last but not least, we found an incredible ally in the person of Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State, who testified publicly and enthusiastically in support of the legislation that would give us the accessible online ballot marking system and who inspired her office to work closely with the organized blind to ensure a smooth implementation.
Here is how the voting process works. Voters visit a Voter Information Portal website and request an absentee ballot. Three pieces of information are requested: the voter’s state identification number, Social Security number, and date of birth. If the voter is already registered and has verified that the correct mailing address is stored in the system, an absentee ballot can then be requested. Blind voters request the ballot that is accessible to the blind and check the box which certifies the following:
“I hereby state under penalty of perjury that the following is true and correct:
“I am an individual who is blind or visually impaired, and my blindness or visual impairment prevents me from being able to independently complete a standard absentee ballot;
“I understand and agree that this statement is made under penalty of perjury pursuant to federal law. I further understand and agree that this statement is also covered by New Mexico law which makes perjury a fourth degree felony.”
Once the application has been verified and approved, the county clerk mails a packet of two envelopes to the blind voter. A smaller envelope is meant to hold the ballot, and the larger envelope contains the smaller ballot envelope and a signed and dated voter certificate. While the blind voter might need some help to sign and date the voter certificate, there is no need for anyone to see the printed ballot before it is inserted into its own envelope. Once the envelopes reach the county clerk’s office, the ballot (in its sealed envelope) is immediately separated from the voter certificate. Thus, no one thereafter will know who marked the ballot in the first place.
All of this does require the blind voter to have a working email address, a computer, and a printer. Moreover, the blind voter must be reasonably proficient with navigating through web pages and filling out online forms. While there are those who might complain about this, the reality is that in today’s technologically-oriented world, these are the basic essentials for any online activity. The important thing to keep in mind here is that through our own organization, the National Federation of the Blind, we have proven that the printed absentee ballot can be made nonvisually accessible and our right to a secret ballot thus maintained.
by Rocky Hart
From the Editor: Rocky Hart is a freshman at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind. He is also a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Rocky is a reflective and articulate young man who writes with excitement, wisdom, and conciseness beyond his years. Here is what he has to say about his first visit to the Minnesota state capitol:
Earlier this year I had the great honor and privilege of attending the National Federation of the Blind Washington Seminar in Washington, DC, where I had the opportunity to advocate for every blind person in America. I met with four members of Congress to discuss issues affecting blind people and had a wonderful time. Nearly a month later, I was invited to our affiliate’s “Day at the Capitol.” When I received this invitation, the big day was only a week away, and as much as I wanted to attend, I was concerned that I could not arrange for transportation and supervision in a timely manner. Fortunately, just the opposite happened. One of the staff from MSAB (Minnesota State Academy for the Blind) agreed to transport me, and all I needed to do was read our fact sheets, make appointments with my state legislators, and get prepared for the adventure I was about to have.
When I arrived at the capitol, I was pared up with Steve Jacobson, the vice president of our affiliate, who was also one of my team members in Washington, and we would attend our appointments together. We had four scheduled appointments, all with members of the Minnesota House of Representatives. The priorities we were focused on were the protection of the rights of blind parents, funding a study to establish a program at the University of Minnesota to license teachers of the blind/visually impaired, and maintaining and creating accessible voting machines to insure blind/visually-impaired people could cast a secret ballot.
Our first appointment of the day was with one of the representatives from the Twin Cities area, though I cannot remember how to pronounce his name. He seemed very interested in what we were proposing. In regard to the issue of teachers of the blind/visually impaired, he said he was willing to write a bill if we could not find any other author.
In my opinion our second appointment ended up being by far the best appointment of the day. We met with Republican Representative Ron Kresha, who represents the Ninth Congressional District in Minnesota, located geographically very close to the district in which I reside. He also serves on the educational finance committee, the same group I testified before when advocating for budgetary requests for MSAB. For that reason we began our meeting by discussing the TVI issue. He not only pledged to support us; he offered to draft a bill for us once we provided him with the appropriate language. Of course we said yes. He asked me specifically to testify before the committee once the bill was drafted, and I said I would. He also agreed to support us on our other legislative priorities.
Our third appointment was with Rita Moran, a Democrat from the educational finance committee, who is also supporting us in our work. Our fourth and final appointment of the day was with one of my own local representatives: John Poston, a Republican who also coincidently serves on the educational finance committee. He agreed to support and co-sponsor any bill we wish to draft regarding the issue of teachers of the blind/visually impaired, as well as the issues concerning the rights of blind parents and accessible voting machines. I took photos with both Ron Kresha and John Poston. I left the capitol knowing my effectiveness in advocating for the blind of Minnesota payed off and generated huge success, and I was more assured than ever that our state legislators are behind us.
Over the course of four months I have attended the NFB of Minnesota state convention resolutions meeting, the 2018 Washington Seminar, and now the Day at the Capitol. I do not take these opportunities for granted, nor do I take credit for them. I thank God for all of these privileges. Though what we are advocating for are our rights to live up to our fullest potential, I view advocating in and of itself as both a great honor, privilege, and an obligation. We are privileged with the opportunity to go to our local, state, and national legislators to advocate for our rights, yet we must do this if we are to live up to our fullest potential. As members of the National Federation of the Blind know better than anyone, there are still many misconceptions and superstitions among the sighted population about how we simply go about our daily lives. After all, we can’t…right? We in the NFB know the truth: we can live the lives we want. That is what we need to demonstrate to our sighted counterparts and elected officials. I have done just that through my advocacy at the legislature. In addition to education, advocacy, and optimism, one of the most important attributes we must have as blind people is faith. Once we advocate, we should then be optimistic and faithful that we will get what we so rightfully deserve. This is what I have done through all of my legislative work, and it is what I will continue to do for many more years to come!
by Terri Rupp
From the Editor: Terri Rupp is the mother of two children, one of whom is blind. She serves as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, and this article is taken from a blog she composed several years ago. It is as relevant now as it was when it was written:
If only I had Braille when…I was a child learning how to read.
If only I had Braille when…my classes took turns reading out loud, and I was skipped over because I couldn’t even read the large print books that the schools provided me.
If only I had Braille when…the waiter handed me the menu when I sat down with my friends at a restaurant.
If only I had Braille when…my kids asked me to read the signs on the trails where we were hiking.
If only I had Braille when…my son had a 102-degree fever, and I had a brand-new box of medicine and didn’t know the correct dosage to give him.
If only I had Braille when…I was reading the directions on the box of blueberry muffin mix.
If only I had Braille when…I wanted to read a nutrition label on a granola bar wrapper.
If only I had Braille when…my kids find a new book and want me to read it to them.
If only I had been offered Braille as a child instead of fighting to learn it as an adult.
If only Braille was as common as print.
If only all blind or visually impaired children were taught Braille so they wouldn’t have to struggle to read as adults.
Braille is something that I am very passionate about. Tonight as I was reading my children their bedtime stories, I started thinking, “If only I had Braille when…”
Did you know that only 10 percent of blind or visually impaired children are taught Braille? Did you know that as a child I struggled to read large print, fell behind in school, and worked twice as hard as my peers to keep up? Did you know that I didn’t fully become literate until the age of twenty-three when I finally learned Braille? What if only 10 percent of sighted children were taught how to read?
I have to admit that I haven’t thought about these things quite as much in the last few years. However, now I am teaching my own daughter how to read and write, and now I am personally transcribing many of the books that are on their bookshelves into Braille so that I can read to them because it is faster than waiting for new Braille/print books.As a child I used to wish that I could be either completely sighted or completely blind so that I wouldn’t have to be stuck in the middle, always having to explain my so-called disability. Now all I wish for is for more Braille: More Braille for blind children learning how to read; More Braille for blind adults all over the world; More Braille. More Braille. More Braille.
by Kane Brolin
From the Editor: It is almost a sure bet that everyone who reads this will know the name Helen Keller. I was so fascinated with the book The Miracle Worker that I actually stayed up most of the night reading it in Braille. Regardless what we may say about blindness, most of us found Helen Keller’s story inspirational, and those of us who saw the movie marveled at the way Patty Duke played the role.
For all the prominence that Helen Keller has had, we really know little about her life after becoming a civilized human being. We know that she traveled and met some famous people, but how did she feel about family, who were her friends, and what were her political views as she lived through World War I, World War II, and observed not only America but other countries?
Kane Brolin begins to open the door for us by showing that there was more to Helen Keller than the miracle girl who was transformed from wild child to civilized dinner guest and speaker. He also hints at the box we can be put into when people believe they know us and demand that we act as expected. Here is what he says:
“Read the dictionary and you will find that a miracle is defined as some great and wonderful quality that can be brought to pass. ... How then, can one go about expecting miracles and causing miracles to happen? The number 1 thing is to have a tremendous faith, a deep faith, a faith that is so positively strong that it rises above doubt. ... if you train yourself to have faith in depth, it will release an astonishing power in your life to produce miracles. ... The great people of the world are miracle makers.”
These quotations, reproduced in Guideposts Magazine, are attributed to Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. For more than fifty years, Peale served as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City and was legendary in his promotion of “the power of positive thinking” to a worldwide audience. Given Dr. Peale’s lifelong fascination with what it takes to produce miracles, it is perhaps not surprising that he openly counted himself a champion of another American dignitary whom many people think of as a walking miracle: Helen Adams Keller. In the foreword to Ms. Keller’s book My Religion, Norman Vincent Peale wrote: “If a worldwide poll were to be taken to determine the most outstanding woman of our generation, note that the top selection would be Helen Keller. The work she has done for the blind and other handicapped people throughout the world is enormous, and many a person with or without handicaps has been inspired by Helen Keller’s books.”
Growing up totally blind but having been educated in an integrated public school system, I knew virtually nothing about the impact of the organized blind movement. Even though I grew up in Iowa at a time when Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was at the height of his influence in that state, I was blissfully unaware of how much struggle the National Federation of the Blind was engaged in right then to further the equality, opportunity, and security of the blind. But I had heard of Helen Keller. Pretty much everybody among my sighted classmates had, too. But the Helen Keller we thought we knew was at best a cartoon character. There was the image of the “wild animal” that no one could control at age six, who had no idea how to communicate or eat with utensils. A terrifying image of this primal child is reproduced in the preface to Helen Keller’s famous autobiography My Life, written when she was just twenty-three years of age: “Once, in a likely fit of jealous rage, Helen overturned the cradle of her younger sister Mildred. Had Kate Keller not caught the baby before she crashed to the floor, one can only imagine what might have happened to the child. There was nothing anyone could do to reach Helen. She tyrannized the household, but no one had the stomach to discipline her even when she smashed dishes and lamps. People observing Helen thought her a ‘monster,’ not least when she plunged her hands into their dinner plates.”1
Then a “miracle” transpired. But Helen Keller never was viewed as the producer of that life-changing miracle; instead, the “miracle worker” was Johanna Mansfield Sullivan, better known as Anne: a young woman from the Boston area whom Helen’s mother Katherine brought down to the Keller estate in Alabama to tame her blind-deaf-mute “wild beast.” Through painstaking, patient work and seemingly endless creativity and faith, it worked. Through the process of finger-spelling, then Braille, the young Helen finally learned to communicate using the written word. Eventually, she learned to speak. And the rest is history—except that most of that history has never become known in the mainstream.
Helen Keller became one of the most well-known American celebrities of the twentieth century. She even learned how to speak in public, though she had no memory of ever hearing speech. Yet as we grew up, I and my schoolmates tended to have in our minds a limited picture of this woman. She had become a pin-up poster representing the deafblind as a whole—a remarkable freak, but a freak nonetheless. Sometimes in that era before the onset of political correctness, she was even reduced to a category of jokes.
Q: How did Helen Keller burn her left ear?
A: She answered the iron.
Q: How did Helen Keller burn her right ear?
A: They called back.
Q: Did you hear about the new Helen Keller doll?
A: You wind her up and she bumps into the furniture.
In hindsight, this display of so-called humor at the expense of a disabled person seems shocking. But what about the more benign representations of Helen Keller that were meant to seem so inspiring? Some of her more famous quotations are found online. They feel all the more inspiring, because many rely on visual imagery, even though Helen Keller did not have eyesight: “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”2 But to dismiss Keller as a type of long-suffering saint held prisoner by multiple disabilities, who rose above the world because she could not fully take part in it does perhaps as much to marginalize and to stereotype Helen Keller as the cruel jokes her legend inspired. The result is that most of us go through our lives recognizing Helen Keller’s name but knowing very little about the complex, politically aware, and quite unsubmissive human being she truly was—the human being that most of her own colleagues seem never to have acknowledged.
Helen Keller was never a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Whether she ever corresponded with or met Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, or any other prominent Federationists of the 1940s and 1950s is not something I have ever been able to determine. Yet June 27, 2018, marked the 138th anniversary of Helen Keller’s birth, and June 1, 2018, marked the fiftieth anniversary of her death. I believe it is only fitting that we, who prove over and over again that it is respectable to be blind, should explore the legacy of this larger-than-life deafblind American to figure out what affect she truly had on twentieth-century American culture.
In the induction ceremony one goes through when officially becoming an active member of a Lions Club, it is not uncommon to hear the inductee’s sponsor read a passage about Helen Keller. While attending the Lions Clubs International Convention of 1925, she challenged the world’s Lions “to become knights for the blind in the crusade against darkness.”3 But what kind of darkness was she crusading against, anyway? Did Keller simply wish for Lions around the world to raise enough money to produce the medical miracle of “curing blindness”? I propose she was talking about something much more subtle but much more expansive.
The America in which Helen Keller grew up was very different from the America of 2018. Occupational safety, environmental protection, and even the non-toxicity of foods and medicines that we put into our bodies were thought by many not to be worthy of guarantee or protection. In the United Kingdom and the United States alike, it was not uncommon for children as young as seven years old to work more than twelve hours a day in factories and even in mines.4 The landmark seventy-fifth anniversary e-book commemorating the National Federation of the Blind, Building The Lives We Want, makes it clear how oppressive many of the institutions were which housed and employed the blind during the late 1800s and early 1900s. But Helen Keller during this time identified and spoke out against much more than the deplorable conditions faced by people with disabilities or by the poor in general. She dared to blame the leading men who designed and bankrolled our capitalistic system for promoting conditions that led to people becoming blind in the first place.
She noticed that the leading causes of disability in the United States were largely attributable to industrial and workplace accidents and diseases, frequently caused by an employer’s greed and reluctance to prioritize workers’ safety lest it diminish profits. She found that other social factors contributed, too, such as the prevalence of poverty, unequal access to medicine, overcrowded and unsanitary slums, and an officially imposed societal ignorance regarding matters of reproductive and sexual health. She discovered that, once disabled, such individuals constituted a class who “as a rule are poor,” cast aside and forgotten. They were thrown into institutions, mired in poverty and unemployment, cut off from educational opportunities, and segregated and marginalized at every turn. There was not a single census in any state or city of the country that even kept track of the numbers and needs of the disabled population. They simply did not exist as far as the powers-that-be were concerned. “Step by step,” Keller recounted in 1912, “my investigation of blindness led me into the industrial world.”5
Keller’s heart for the oppressed extended far beyond the disabled population. Although Caucasian, she donated money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—then a young and controversial civil rights organization that focused on opposition to lynching and job and housing discrimination against African Americans—and wrote for its magazine. At an antiwar rally in January 1916 (prior to the United States’ entrance into World War I) sponsored by the Women’s Peace Party at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Keller said, “Congress is not preparing to defend the people of the United States. It is planning to protect the capital of American speculators and investors. Incidentally this preparation will benefit the manufacturers of munitions and war machines. Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought! Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!”6
Bothered by what she was repeatedly reading about the conditions underlying oppressed subpopulations and the mass poverty that surrounded them, Keller increasingly turned for answers to the work of such influential Leftist political and economic philosophers as Karl Marx, H.G. Wells, William Morris, and Eugene Debs. As a result, she joined the American Socialist Party in 1908. Later, as she became dissatisfied with the ineffectiveness of the Socialists to affect the kind of change she thought necessary, Helen Keller “became a steadfast proponent of the efforts of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which advocated for the organization of an explicitly revolutionary labor movement. ... Before long, Keller was counting among her closest friends, colleagues, and acquaintances nearly every major figure in the radical, socialist, and anarchist movements. This included such diverse personalities as John Reed, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Langston Hughes, Upton Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, Anna Strunsky, William “Big Bill” Haywood, Robert La Follette, Ella Reeve Bloor, James Weldon Johnson, Fred Warren, and countless others of lesser fame.”7 In 1913, Keller published the book Out of the Dark: Essays, Letters, and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision, which synthesized her political ideals. And she never gave up her vision. It is said that for decades afterward, Helen Keller continued recommending that book to people who were asking her about her political inclinations. As of this writing, oddly enough, Out of the Dark was not available from Bookshare, Learning Ally, or NLS BARD, nor as an accessible e-book. A classic reprint was issued in 2017, however, and it is visible in a search of Google Books.8
Helen Keller was a woman who refused to let others place her into a neat ideological box. She railed against industrial abuses and war machines, yet the famous people with whom she corresponded included steel magnate Andrew Carnegie; automotive giant Henry Ford; AT&T founder Alexander Graham Bell; and Woodrow Wilson, the US president who entered the United States into World War I.9 Some of the risks Keller took, when proclaiming her personal beliefs on various matters, placed her at odds with those who normally were her brothers and sisters in arms. While not true across the board, it is appropriate to say that Karl Marx and many who followed his lead during the Progressive Era in which Helen Keller lived rejected religion out of principle. Marx had written: “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. ... The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.”10
Yet Helen Keller insisted on not only sticking to her religious faith but on sharing that faith with others very publicly. Out of all the Braille volumes Helen Keller possessed, she said the Bible was the most frequently read: “I have read and reread it until in many parts the pages have faded out—I mean, my fingers have rubbed off the dots, and I must supply whole verses from memory, especially the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Gospels.”11 But her publisher Doubleday mostly wanted a steady stream of books similar to My Life, focusing on Helen’s blindness and deafness—those elements of her life that fascinated the commercial reading public. My Religion, written around 1927 and long after she had self-identified as a political Leftist, was not a commercial success for Keller, and she could not find anyone to help her compile her many thoughts on this subject into an orderly work that felt natural to read. “A project so religious in nature had little appeal for Keller’s editorial assistant at Doubleday, and even less for Anne Sullivan Macy.”12 Yet Helen Keller was a passionate follower of the teachings of the eighteenth-century Swedish Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, also known as an inventor and a scientist. Swedenborg was a type of charismatic believer who claimed he had received personal scientific and spiritual revelations from Scripture but also from angels through various dreams and out-of-body experiences. Inspired by him, Helen Keller came to believe in the universal salvation of all souls and to identify herself with Humanism and with Christianity at the same time, decades before such mixing of New Thought and Bible-centered theology was considered acceptable in the Church at large.13 Keller’s diverse collection of professed beliefs likely tended to alienate her from both some of her friends on the political Left and from more conservative adherents to established or orthodox Christianity as well.
Having said all this, a huge question remains to be answered: What is the greatest miracle manifested through Helen Keller’s life? Is it that Helen, the daughter of a proud Confederate officer who had owned slaves and who clearly believed black people to be subhuman,14 evolved to become a champion of the oppressed and a supporter of the NAACP? Perhaps it is that even in early adolescence, she had compassion for those worse off than she, even though she could not hear, see, or speak. Maybe it is because those closest to Helen, even when she was a little girl, insisted on showing her the whole of the world as much as possible. In a letter written when she was not quite fifteen years old, from New York City, Helen wrote to her mother Kate: “We went to the ‘Five Points,’ a place in this city which was once dreadfully dirty and poor; but which has been greatly improved, and to the ‘Tombs,’ the New York prison. We went into the court-house which was ... very gloomy; with tremendous stone pillars. I was never so near a prison before, and I felt strangely and sad in the silent court-room.”15 One year before that, when she had to spend the Christmas season in the North at her school instead of with her family in Alabama, she had written to an adult friend: “Sometimes it seems almost as if it is wrong to feel so glad and happy when one knows there are so many of God’s little ones friendless, and even cold and hungry, but if we are to let their misfortunes banish the gladness from our heart they would not be any happier, so I am sure it is right to be as happy as we can, and do whatever we may ... to make those around us happy and look forward hopefully to the beautiful time when Christmas shall bring to everyone joy untouched with sorrow.”16
Maybe the greatest miracle displayed through Helen Keller’s life is her extreme empathy: that she so freely, and apparently without bitterness, referred to life using descriptors laced with visual and aural references, even though she could neither see nor hear. Shortly after her seventeenth birthday, she wrote to her mother: “What is so beautiful as the gleam of a golden moon the bosom of a quiet lake? It draws one irresistibly into the Land of Dreams, and the spirit in ecstasy drinks ‘repose from cool cisterns of the night.’”17 Even more remarkable is an open letter, written many years later, in which Keller talks about the joy she experienced after having “heard” a symphony orchestra broadcast on the radio: “I do not mean to say that I ‘heard’ the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. ... Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony18 someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm. What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibration, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and interwingling [sic.] vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roil of the drums, deeptoned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voices leaped up thrilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices. I felt the chorus grow more exultant, more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flamelike, until my heart almost stood still. The women’s voices seemed an embodiment of all the angelic voices rushing in a harmonious flood of beautiful and inspiring sound. The great chorous [sic.] throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth—an ocean of heavenly vibration—and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes.”19
But this passage, beautifully written though it is and sincerely inspired as it might be, brings to my mind a more troubling question: How did Helen Keller really feel about the dignity and empowerment of the blind or deaf, or about the characteristics of blindness and deafness themselves? Would she have been in accord with the National Federation of the Blind if she were alive today? Or was she more about smothering her disabilities under a cascade of normal-sounding visual and aural imagery? A little-known fact about Helen’s life is that Anne Sullivan, her beloved teacher and lifelong companion, was functionally blind in her own right; but Keller did all she could to hide this fact from the world—perhaps to help Ms. Sullivan maintain her position and income. In a private correspondence, she admitted: “I need not tell you that my dear teacher is ever at my side, ready to encourage and help me in my work. The only drawback to our complete happiness is her eyes. They trouble her constantly, and I cannot help worrying about them.”20
It is easy to find on the internet these days many citations of praise for Helen Keller as a humanitarian, an agent of social change, a tireless advocate for the rights of women and African-Americans, a voice for the downtrodden. But how would she feel about self-advocacy?
For more than four decades of her life, Helen Keller represented the American Foundation for the Blind, an organization consisting mostly of sighted professionals dedicated to working for the blind but whose agenda historically has not been directed by blind people and whose leadership historically did not include blind people. The AFB and the connections she made through the world of blindness and deafness professionals certainly gave Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy a lot of resources to work with. It gave them the means to travel to several continents, to rub shoulders with dignitaries, to enjoy an audience with presidents, prime ministers, and religious leaders. What impact did the limiting philosophy of the Foundation leave on Helen Keller the activist? It is hard to believe that a deafblind-mute young woman so empathic as to grieve for the plight of prisoners at age thirteen would not ever envision the blind or the deaf reaching a point where we could control our own destiny. How much did she know, and what did she really think about the National Federation of the Blind? As I try to answer this question for myself, I find no ready answers. And I am not the only one expressing reservations about what Helen Keller’s legacy means for disabled Americans of 2018. Haben Girma, an African-American deafblind woman honored as a Champion of Change at President Barack Obama’s White House in 2013 said: “Helen Keller, while inspirational, offers very little guidance for a DeafBlind woman in the twenty-first century.”21
Bottom line: For me, the legacy of Helen Adams Keller, as with many other things, is up to interpretation. I can read the writings she left behind, but I cannot place words in her mouth. Can I judge her statements or her affiliations of eighty years ago by the yardstick of today? Of course, I can; but it’s doubtful that this would be a productive use of my energy or a meaningful testimony to the world. What I choose to take from her legacy is that Helen Keller probably gives the most inspiration to seeing and hearing people, who might not ever have known an educated, capable, well-traveled blind or deafblind person before they read or heard about Helen. She might not be a champion of the organized blind as we stand today, but she is a great conversation starter. While she was never a member of the National Federation of the Blind, there is no question that I and others in our movement can build on what she did, taking self-empowerment to a new level. It is worth remembering that in a speech delivered in 1973, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, a titan in the Federation, expressed a word of praise for Helen Keller:
I have said nothing at all about the best known of history’s blind celebrities—Homer, Milton, and Helen Keller. There is good reason for that omission. Not only are those resounding names well enough known already but they have come to represent—each in its own sentimentalized, storybook form—not the abilities and possibilities of people who are blind but the exact opposite. Supposedly these giants are the exceptions that prove the rule—the rule, that is, that the blind are incompetent. Each celebrated case is explained away to keep the stereotype intact... Helen Keller, they say, was the peculiarly gifted and just plain lucky beneficiary of a lot of money and a “miracle worker” (her tutor and companion, Anne Sullivan). ... Don’t you believe it! These justly famous cases of accomplishment are not mysterious, unexplainable exceptions—they are only remarkable. ... As for Helen Keller, her life demonstrates dramatically what great resources of character and will and intellect may live in a human being beyond the faculties of sight and sound.22
Ms. Keller, you did not live to enter into the Promised Land of full equality or opportunity for the blind, for the deaf, or even for women. But your struggle, which the world witnessed and wondered at nearly forty years before the formation of the National Federation of the Blind, was a hopeful and perhaps a necessary step on the journey toward the hope of that promise—a flame that burns brightly in our own day. Thank you. May you rest in peace.
Taken from Fifty Famous Helen Keller Quotes: http://www.quoteambition.com/famous-helen-keller-quotes/
See A History Of Child Labor, an article found online at https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/
Taken from "The Politics of Helen Keller," International Socialist Review: https://isreview.org/issue/96/politics-helen-keller
Quote republished in Helen Keller, feminist, radical socialist, anti-racist activist and civil libertarian: https://boingboing.net/2015/04/20/helen-keller-feminist-radica.html
"Helen Keller's Love Of Reading," republished in AFB Blog, American Foundation for the Blind: https://www.afb.org/blog/afb-blog/helen-kellers-love-of-reading/12
“Helen Keller, Emanuel Swedenborg, And Universalism”: a blog entry found at https://etb-history-theology.blogspot.com/2012/03/helen-keller-emanuel-swedenborg-and.html
Taken from a synopsis of Helen Keller, A Life by Dorothy Herrmann, and published online by The New York Times: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/h/
"Transcription For A Letter Written By Helen Keller To The New York Symphony Orchestra, Printed In 'The Oracle,'" March 2, 1924. Republished online at https://helenkeller.localarchives.net/
"After Helen Keller: Empowering Students with Disabilities," published online at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2013/02/27/after-helen-keller-empowering-students-disabilities.
Taken from the Banquet Address at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New York City, in July, 1973. https://archive.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/
For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.
With your help, the NFB will continue to:
Creating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 2016 the NFB:
Just imagine what we’ll do next year, and, with your help, what can be accomplished for years to come. Below are just a few of the many diverse, tax-deductible ways you can lend your support to the National Federation of the Blind.
The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call 855-659-9314 toll-free, and a representative can make arrangements to pick up your donation—it doesn’t have to be working. We can also answer any questions you have.
General donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.
Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.
Through the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program, supporters sustain the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind by making recurring monthly donations by direct withdraw of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, visit www.nfb.org/make-gift, and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.
by Joel Zimba
From the Editor: Joel Zimba has been the person primarily responsible for providing answers to callers about the KNFB Reader, and his work has also allowed him to be very involved in the direction of the product and its testing. A new version is in the offing, and here is what Joel has to say about it:
My favorite iPhone model was the iPhone 5. I sold mine quite some time ago for a respectable sum, which I used for an upgrade. I recall it feeling great in my hand. Now clothing is changing to meet the demands of our larger devices, and there is not a beveled edge to be seen.
My iPhone 5 was the first device on which I ran KNFB Reader, when it was first released in 2014. I bought the app the day it landed in the App Store and spent hours that evening learning how to take a decent picture. I remember sorting out piles of Christmas packages left by UPS in the main entry to my Charles Village row home, which has been converted into six flats. I had very little furniture at the time, so I got lots of practice kneeling on my floor to recognize pictures. It is still my preferred method; I don’t show that trick during demonstrations.
KNFB Reader ran quite well on an iPhone 5. It worked even better on an iPhone 6S and then an 8. All this time, the app itself changed very little. The operating system on which it was first designed did. In fact, it changed dramatically, so much so that some of the fundamental technology used to keep the app running has gone away. We saw this eventuality coming back in 2016 and started planning.
Software design is not really like building a bridge or baking a cake or playing music or making love or gardening. It is building something far more imaginary. It is unfortunately like using cobwebs to hold soap bubbles against their will in a thunderstorm orchestrated by demented imps. Keep in mind that everyone helping in the process is using semaphore and smoke signals to communicate. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be fun.
The above description does not make any of the actual challenges in bringing about the latest iteration of KNFB Reader obvious. The messy details would ruin your breakfast, but suffice it to say that no part could be easily changed without a profound and unforeseen catastrophe appearing where least expected. In that sense, it is much like all of the aforementioned analogous activities from which I strive to distance myself. There was nothing to do but write down the lessons learned and start over.
That, gentle reader, is what we have done. If you already have the update, as I am sure many of you do, you will see that KNFB Reader has departed from the familiar linear or path-based method of taking a picture and recognizing text. We have transitioned to a more discrete appearance which reflects the modular design hidden within. The separate tabs of the interface group similar features together—the thinking, of course, being that camera functions really are not anything like document management. Hence each aspect of KNFB Reader can grow and change well into the future.
Once a less interdependent framework exists, any number of more powerful features and improvements can be added. This is where an engineer might forget to keep the actual working of things dead simple. Complexity is the hobgoblin when software evolves. You will also note that, while the look may have changed, the core functionality of KNFB Reader remains the same. Taking a picture will still quickly and accurately read a document. In many significant ways, this product remains unmatched.
Remember that an app is one size fits all. This is the lesson of three years of tech support phone calls and email messages. It is no exaggeration to say that KNFB Reader is used by those from ages seven to ninety-seven. I have worked with students, from those who need a multisensory model of reading books to those wanting to read printed books in Braille. We make this possible through a rich and highly customizable feature set. If I were to turn off all of the nonvisual accessibility features of KNFB Reader, like the Field of View Report option and the Tilt Guidance tool, and then activate a cropping and aligning tool which helps to create an excellent rendering of the original document on which a highlight can move along with the text being read aloud, you might think it was an entirely new app, especially when the recognized document goes into full-screen mode, making all of the controls slip out of sight for a more focused reading experience.
Those of us in the National Federation of the Blind were determined to expand the power of KNFB Reader beyond our long-standing user base of the blind. Our vision is of a tool which meets the needs of those with reading needs not necessarily determined by level of vision. Still, our app would have to be fully accessible, reflecting our belief that universal design benefits everyone. And that is the challenge we presented to our development partners, Sensotec NV.
Sensotec has considerable experience developing products for those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. They understand this similar, not-quite-parallel group. Our needs often intersect in that text converted into machine readable form can be represented in ways which benefit both groups. Yet, the actual requirements at times seemed antagonistic to our goal of a more universally usable app. And so the horse-trading, the gnashing of teeth, and late nights began. At times it seemed as though we were moving further from our goal. There was even bloodshed: a paper cut from a testing document. And in the end, we had an app.
This is not to say that KNFB Reader has moved on from its roots. If anything, we have worked to make sure that all that you could do before is now even easier. Reading documents from the cloud for instance is now as simple as moving to the Files tab and browsing the entire structure of your GoogleDrive, OneDrive, or DropBox account. This is largely possible because this technology has matured since KNFB Reader was launched. Even the way documents are stored in your device has changed. As mobile devices have moved closer to their desktop cousins, the features we expect, like nested folders and endless combinations of file types, have become possible. You will see this reflected in KNFB Reader.
Now is not the time for lengthy descriptions of how to use every changed or added feature of KNFB Reader. There will be articles, podcasts, hate mail, and even YouTube videos comparing and contrasting every change. All the above contributed to my current understanding of what our customers wanted. Please do not think all your needs will be met. The second most famous quote of P. T. Barnum, “Always leave them wanting more,” applies to software design as much as it does to Braille Monitor articles.
I close by saying I am proud of KNFB Reader 3.0. Everyone who contributed to the project is proud. All of you should be proud of your participation as well, whether through using the app or through building the movement that sparked an idea over forty years ago culminating in this powerful tool for independence we know today.
by Amy Mason
From the Editor: This is the fifth in an ongoing series to help blind people learn to use the web or to increase their proficiency and ease of use. We regret that a keystroke listed in the last article is incorrect. To display the elements list using NVDA, the keystroke is NVDA+F7. That correction being noted, Amy presents to us another in this fantastic series to take the mystery out of browsing the web and getting us to the place where it is not burdensome but enjoyable. Here is what she says:
Greetings once again. How were your first cruising experiences? It's been a lovely few days for driving, so I hope you've been getting out and exploring the open road. Today we are going to add another layer of skills to those you have already learned, and we will be focusing on using interactive elements. These are the items on a webpage that allow you to actually do things on a website instead of just read and navigate around. They are useful for changing settings and options, filling out forms, and providing information. Your ability to use these tools will be crucial to your success on the web, whether you are ordering groceries on Peapod, commenting on the latest scandal in Washington, DC, or turning in an assignment to your professor on Blackboard.
Screen readers are an interface that sit between the user and the operating system/applications they are using. Remember from our earlier lesson that the screen reader is like your dashboard, and you interact with it to work with the webpages and applications you are using. This we compared to the road. You aren't touching the road directly when you are driving a car, but instead your car is interacting with it because of the commands you give it. However, not all of the commands and informational panels you have on your car's dashboard affect your involvement with the road directly. Sure, when you use a steering wheel, you move the wheels of the vehicle on the pavement, and you control your speed with the brake and accelerator. But there are many controls that give you information and don't change things. Your speedometer tells you how fast you are going, but it does not actually allow you to interact with the road. Instead, it gives you information about your interaction passively. Your car may tell you what direction you are travelling, the temperature outside, and the state of its engine. All of this information is useful and often necessary to be able to operate a vehicle on the highway but is not actually affecting your interaction directly.
Likewise, your screen reader also contains controls that allow you to interact directly with the web or applications and others that provide information only. On the internet, non-interactive controls are usually not able to be touched by a user, so text, headings, graphics, and other static information would be out of reach if the screen reader didn't have commands for allowing you to review and move among them. When you use these commands, you are not able to change anything. Instead, you are just reading and moving through elements visible on the screen.
The internet is a bit of a tricky place because it contains many elements that are static and cannot be changed. But many others that must be interacted with directly are there, so screen readers have been designed to run in a few different modes: read-only, read-and-interact, and heavy-interaction. Each screen reader has its own terminology for the different modes, so they are described below:
In JAWS this is known as the Virtual PC Cursor, VoiceOver calls it Quick Nav Mode, and NVDA calls it Browse Mode. No matter what you call it, these are the modes in which you are able to use the different letters on the keyboard to jump between elements like headings, links, graphics, and others. This is the mode in which you can read text without changing things and can review the info on a page with your arrow keys. In older browsing and screen-reading situations, these modes were pretty solidly separated from those in which the user could interact with items on the page, going so far as requiring the user to activate any interactive controls before they could use them. The traditional behavior of JAWS with Forms Mode prior to the introduction of automatic and semi-automatic forms mode falls into this category. Quick Nav is not the default behavior for VoiceOver and therefore is pretty strict about its use of this read-only review mode. But today JAWS and NVDA are a little more fluid about moving between this virtual mode and the one in which the user can interact most directly, usually when you arrow onto an interactive control.
By default, this hybrid situation is one in which a user is able to tab between elements and have the screen reader activate them or arrow between them and only interact when they are focused explicitly. It is in many ways the actual default behavior for JAWS and VoiceOver today. NVDA's "browse mode" pretty fluidly switches into focus mode when an interactive element is encountered but seems to stay slightly more purely separated than either the JAWS or VoiceOver behaviors since it is still necessary to tab to any links the user wishes to reach.
This is traditionally called "forms mode" in JAWS and "focus mode" in NVDA, and it's where you do things to interactive elements. You are using the website pretty directly, and the screen reader, other than reading you the information it programmatically gathers from the site, sits back and lets you interact in a manner very similar to that which a sighted keyboard user would employ. Tab, arrows, keypresses, and the use of Space, Enter, and Escape are directly (or nearly directly) handled by the browser.
There is another interactive mode known as "applications mode" which is being used on complex websites more each day. Normally you choose when to switch between reading and interacting, but in applications mode this is chosen for you by the website. To initiate this mode, a developer includes a special signal for your screen reader using ARIA to say that this section of the website should be treated more like an application (like MS Word, or iTunes) and less like a document. In this mode the section of the website that is seen as an application is interacted with directly, just like when you are using forms or focus mode to move between smaller elements. We won't see much of that in our explorations today, but it's important to be aware of applications mode because it changes everything about the way you use the web, and frankly your chances that a developer used it correctly and on the right elements are not great today. Knowing it exists and that you have a way to force your screen reader to try switching cursors or modes (JAWS key + Z for JAWS, NVDA Key + Space for NVDA, and toggle Quick Nav on and off for VoiceOver) will be important in our future lessons where we discuss how things sometimes go wrong on the web.
While we are discussing things that can go wrong on the web, I feel it is important to point out that today's lesson is based around proper, accessible, accepted patterns of behavior for interactive elements. I’ve chosen the examples I’m using today for the overall consistency of what you will experience. These websites are designed to work the way these elements should work with screen readers, and where they do not, I do my best to lay out how the interaction normally should go. Not every website is so well behaved, and we will be covering what to do when things break in future articles. For now, just keep in mind that for every rule I give you, there may be an exception.
That's the bad news, but please don't let it scare you off. Think of our lessons here like when you first learned cane travel, cooking, or any other skill. I've always likened these lessons in my mind to when I learned cane travel. I first learned to hold the cane, then how to swing it properly. I learned in flat, simple environments. Once I mastered the techniques, my travel instructor took me out to face weird street crossings, construction, and drops. Soon I was planning my own routes. Early cane users would be very lost, scared, and frustrated if they were confronted with a major construction site on their first day, but veterans will usually be fine. Well-skilled travelers probably won't enjoy dealing with messes, but they have a lot of experience and tools to help them confront those challenges successfully. It is my goal to build up your web skills so that you have that same ability to problem-solve in your virtual travels as effectively as you can in the physical world.
As I am writing this, spring is in the air, and preparations are ramping up for national convention. When this article is released, it will likely be June, and many of us will be making our travel plans to attend. This got me thinking: cruising is fun, but when people get in their cars to drive, they are usually driving for a purpose. In keeping with the theme of going places and traveling, I came up with the theme for this month's article and hatched what I believe is a truly delightful plan. Even if you read this article months or years after its printing, I believe that this plan will be of benefit to you, my loyal readers. Today's topic involves taking a tour of interactive elements with the screen reader. The mastery of these skills will allow you to put your hard-earned internet driving education to work. In fact, if you will forgive the pun, I believe that with the skills we will practice today, your internet usage will really "take off."
So, with no further air-headed jokes, I shall now reveal today's itinerary: we are going to go through the process of booking a flight on the Expedia (www.expedia.com) website and stop just after we've discussed each of the major interactive element types. Here's my reasoning: I know that the page is full of the most common interactive elements you are going to see on the internet, so we will spend less time wandering between examples and more on a coherent process than in last month's article.
Expedia sports quite an accessible page. I will not promise that each step is simple, but it is very accessible, so it will give you a nice overview without having to teach or muddle through a lot of exceptions to the rules of expected behavior on the road. You've done a lot of work to get this far, and I know that the first time that I booked my own travel online, it felt like a real accomplishment. I hope that for some of you this will provide that same boost I experienced.
I've had the privilege to partner with several of the developers from Expedia as they have worked to improve its accessibility, and I want to show off how well they've done. So grab your keys—um... keyboards—and let's cruise on over to www.expedia.com. Remember that from here on, I am using and describing my experiences with NVDA and Chrome. I'll let you know of any oddities I am aware of for other browser and screen reader combos, but, as in the last article, my ability to explain everything is greatly outstripped by the options available. I would recommend consulting your documentation to find how to accomplish the same goals with your vehicle of choice.
Every site has a home page or landing page. It acts as the reception area or lobby of the site. Like a hotel lobby, it gives you paths to access other parts of the property and usually includes advertisements, assistance, and major services of that site. You may hear the terms home, homepage, or landing page used interchangeably. You may occasionally find any of these terms being offered as links on websites you are browsing, and if you activate them, they will return you to the entry point for the site.
Upon first opening the Expedia site, you are greeted with the page title, "Expedia Travel: Search hotels, cheap flights, car rentals, and vacations." A well-built page will provide a similar title when it first loads. After all, how do you know what business you are visiting if there isn't a clear sign above the door? Feel free to take a few minutes to explore the page that comes up. Use the skills you have learned so far to see what information is provided and what you can do here. When you are finished exploring, meet me back at the "Skip to Main Content" link on the top of the page. Remember that you can quickly move to the top of a page with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Home on Windows, and Command+Up Arrow on the Mac.
From here we are going to activate the "Skip to Main Content" link to save ourselves from having to navigate the rest of the stuff above the portion of the page we want. Skip links don't always work, but this one is handled well, and it never hurts to try them if you know there is content you want to bypass. I'd guess they work about 50 to 60 percent of the time, so it doesn't hurt to give them a shot, but unless you know the page is well coded, I wouldn't plan to rely on them. To continue our hotel metaphor, the skip link is a lot like the bellhop. A good one will save you a lot of time; one that is not so good might just muddle things for you when you don't really need or want the help.
In this case the Skip to Main link moves us to a location labeled as "Beginning of Main Content," which is precisely where we want to be. If you arrow down, you will probably find an advertising link followed by a list with our first interactive elements—eight buttons.
Good news! You already know how to use buttons. Buttons are used just like links. You can tab to them and press either Space or Enter to activate them. So why, you might be asking, are there both buttons and links if they both behave the same?
The answer is they aren't really meant to behave the same. It just sort of happens sometimes because of the way some pages are designed. In very broad and general strokes, links take you somewhere, and buttons are supposed to do something. A button might be placed at the end of a form to allow you to submit it. Alternatively, you might find one to clear your answers and let you begin again. By contrast a link would take you to a different page.
In our hotel, you will be taking the hallways (links) to go from the lobby (homepage) to your room. On the way, you will call the elevator with a button. The buttons here are doing things, while the links take you places. Even when you press the elevator button to go somewhere, you are doing so by making something happen first. Sometimes buttons won't change where you are at all; they will just set a process in motion, like if you call the front desk to ask for extra towels.
You will likely find situations in which links and buttons have been interchanged without much thought for the way each of them is meant to be used because a designer feels that the button or link would provide a better visual appearance to the website. The important thing to remember overall though is that you can interact with both elements in more or less the same way. If you are expecting a button or link and don't find one, it's worth looking for the alternate option instead. Keeping with our analogy, if you can't call the elevator, there's always the stairs.
The other thing to know about buttons that makes them different from links is that they have different states than links do. A link as you remember may be a "same-page link," "visited," or "unvisited." A button, on the other hand, will let you know if it is "pressed," "selected," "disabled," or may not have a specific state at all. Disabled buttons can't be pressed right now, possibly because the form they are tied to is not filled out properly or for other reasons you may need to investigate on the page. A selected button on the other hand is often found when you have a group of buttons you can choose from, and only one of those buttons can be activated at a time, sharing some similarities with "radio buttons," which we will look at later in this article.
In the case of this Expedia page, however, the list of eight buttons lets us choose which type of travel product we are looking for. They include the flights tab, hotel tab, and bundles tab buttons. When I loaded the page, it reported that the "bundles" were selected. Since we are searching for flights today, tab to the flights button and activate it. Now if you tab and shift tab through the group of buttons, you will see that the bundles tab no longer reads as selected but that the flights button does.
Simple as it sounds, we've now completed the button tutorial for today's class, so tab or arrow to the next place where we get a new element type.
Excuse me, I appear to have been channeling Highlander for a moment there, though the heading of this section is, in fact, accurate. Radio buttons are a group of elements which require you to make a choice. As soon as you have chosen one, any other you may have selected is automatically unselected. They get their name from the buttons you used to find on car and home stereos which would pop back out as soon as a different button was chosen. You may have seen this behavior in the old National Library Service tape player controls.
If you would prefer to follow our theme of travel today, you can imagine the radio buttons as a strip mall containing multiple sit-down restaurants, sushi next to Mexican next to a steak house. When you drive to the strip mall, you are going to one location, but you have to choose which cuisine you actually want. As soon as you have chosen one, you have chosen against the others. In the same way, when you enter a properly built group of radio buttons, you will find it is preceded by a question (the mini-mall) and that each button is connected to an answer for that question (the three restaurants). In our example today on the Expedia site, our question is "Flight type?" It also advises us that the option you choose will change the rest of the page below the set of radio buttons.
The answers you can choose are "Roundtrip," "Oneway," or "Multi-city." Today, we are going to choose Roundtrip. If you are using JAWS or NVDA, you can tab into the group of radio buttons from the buttons above it, and you ought to hear the question and the first answer, Roundtrip. Pretend for just a minute that you want to select a multi-city flight. If this is what you wished to do, you would not tab at this juncture. The buttons above are each completely separate items. Other than changing the selection the user wishes to make, they have nothing to do with one another. This is not how the radio buttons work. Instead, they function as individual parts of a whole. This means that when you tab from the first radio button in a group, the computer thinks you are done with the whole group and skips your other options. It is for this reason that when you encounter a group of radio buttons, you will enter and exit the group with the Tab key but actually make your selection with the Up and Down Arrow keys. It may be necessary to select one with the space bar. This will depend on the group of radio buttons and what they are coded to do when you first give them focus.
Feel free to practice selecting different radio buttons, then tabbing below them to see how the form below changes. When you are comfortable with the way this works, choose “Roundtrip” and tab into our next element.
Here we come upon one of the easier element classes to use but one of the hardest to describe. These are difficult because they all have approximately the same purpose, but each one is slightly different. It's a bit like clothes shopping at the mall. All the stores sell clothes, but you will find different sizes, different purposes, different rules, and all of them come with their own unique names (The Gap, Kohl’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Nordstrom all sell clothes.) That being said, at the end of the day in their myriad uniqueness, all of these elements share the majority of these basic traits. A text field, no matter how your screen reader identifies it, still contains text, or at least it will when you are done entering it. Basic interactions should be fairly straightforward. Tab or arrow into the field, listen for any formatting requirements, enter the text that is expected, and tab out again at the end. Your cursor should move at this point into the next element in the tab order.
And that's it. Everything else is just a little up to chance. Here's a list of some of the things you are likely to come across when you are moving through edit/text boxes/fields/areas/combo boxes.
Required: This box must be filled in to the satisfaction of the site, or you are not going to be able to move forward in the process.
Protected: Usually these are password fields, and you may hear synonyms for "protected," but it will come to the same thing. The text you enter in this box is almost immediately obscured to both sighted and blind users. If you attempt to review the text in this box, you will hear bullets, stars, asterisk, or dots instead of the characters you originally typed.
Editable combo box or has autocomplete: These boxes will offer suggestions in a list below the box which you can choose from based upon what you have already typed. This is the same type of box you encountered during the Google Search exercise in the last article.
Email/phone/date boxes: The newest forms of web design allow a developer to tell the browser what types of information they are expecting in an edit box so that smart phones and other devices with software keyboards can pull up keyboards which include necessary symbols for filling out these boxes. Other than changing your keyboard, these will work more or less like any other box.
Text areas or multi-line areas: These are big text fields, which are intended for holding more than a single value. They might be used for social media postings, essay answers, comment sections, product reviews, or anywhere else that the user is expected to write more than a couple of words. These boxes may be a little harder to extract your cursor from since the Tab key and Enter may be keys you would use when entering text in them. In these cases, you should be able to "escape" with the use of the Escape key (clever, isn’t it?).
With that basic overview out of the way, let's turn our attention back to the project at hand and look at the edit fields for where you are flying from and where you are flying to. Both of them read exactly the same except for how they are labeled, so let's unpack what's here: As we have discussed before, your screen reader may use slightly different terminology with some of these items, but the meanings will be the same: “Flying From/Flying to: edit, has autocomplete, required, city or airport.” (Well, that is quite the mouthful.)
Flying from (or flying to): This is the label of the form; essentially, this is the information they want you to put in the field.
Edit: This is the type of element we are dealing with. In this case "edit" means “please type in me.”
Has autocomplete: This means that once you have started typing you can switch to arrowing up and down a list of suggestions provided by the site and choose one of those. This can be extremely helpful when you are trying to fly to Albuquerque, for example, and have no idea how to spell it. Incidentally, I had no idea how to spell it. If it were not for Word's spell checker, I'd have had a very embarrassing example on my hands.
Required: Exactly what it says on the package. This information is required in order to complete this form and start the process of looking for a flight. If you don't fill this out, you will not be able to go on, and the website will throw errors your way.
City or airport: This is a hint the developers added to this field to tell you what sorts of information the field will accept.
You will regularly hear other hints on edit fields which might tell you what format a field expects an answer in or what types of info are accepted. Common ones include:
Format mm/dd/yyyy: when entering a date, use digits for the month, day, year, with slashes in between (example 01/01/2019).
Must include a letter, a number, and a special character: usually found when creating a password and occasionally a username for websites. This info tells you that your entry has to have letters (sometimes mixed between upper and lower case), numbers, and punctuation or other special symbols. We will talk about good password hygiene in another lesson.
Digits only: simple, they want the answer without spaces or other punctuation. You will find this most often with phone numbers or credit card numbers.
Now that we know what everything means, give filling out these boxes a try. Enter the nearest city to you with an airport in the first box, and when you get partway through, you should hear something like "five options are available use your arrow keys to select from the list." It may not be precisely this, but something similar will likely be read. Because of the complex wizardry being done by the website and your screen reader, it is possible that you will not hear this message. I did not while preparing this example. But you were given a heads up when the page mentioned an "autocomplete," so feel free to arrow down and see what options are available. When you have finished choosing or typing (both options work), tab and you will be placed in the "clear field" button that appeared upon your completion of this edit box. Tab once more and you will be in the "flying to" field. Rinse and Repeat.
Note: the clear field buttons are a nice addition created by Expedia that are not on most edit fields. If you need to clear other edit boxes, make sure your cursor is in them and that you are in your screen reader's interaction mode. Press Control-A for Windows or Command-A for Mac to select all, and then press Delete or just start typing. Your system should overwrite whatever was in the field with the new information you are entering.
Now we reach the most complicated element on the whole page, possibly in the whole process. Don't worry, you can handle it. It is in fact quite accessible, just involved. In fact we are going to deal with it in a few parts because it includes both an edit box and a table. Yup, you heard that right—edit boxes and tables—in the same element. Not to worry, Expedia has provided some nice explanations of how to handle this complex element, and it gives us a chance to talk about tables today as well. We will walk through it together now.
This is the section of the element that is an edit field again. It doesn't quite tell you that by calling itself an edit field, but it gives you the instructions to "enter the date" you want. Expanded tells us that this element has more going on and that it is open right now for you to explore. This element tells us that there is a table below, so we can infer this is the other piece of this element that is "expanded." If you still want to practice edit fields, go ahead and type the date you want to fly out in your imaginary trip planning and press Tab. Either way, do me a favor and press Tab.
Once again, it's a button. You know how to use buttons, but let's look at your options in a little more detail. “Activate this button to close the date picker.” If you do this, when you next tab, you will enter the "returning calendar/edit box combo element.” If you don't activate this button you can tab to continue into the picker itself.
Finally, because the picker is governed by being open or closed (expanded or collapsed), you can choose to press Escape to close it. Escape in this scenario has the same function as the "close" button above so that when you tab, you will move to the next field and not into the calendar. When you encounter expanded elements, or open lists, or generally want to leave an interactive element, the Escape key will be your friend. It will perform this function for most interactive elements and tends to do so without erasing your work. So, remember it is always a tool you can use when you need to step out of something gracefully or if you feel stuck.
Since we have looked at edit fields before and you are already old pros at buttons, let's take the opportunity presented by the date picker/calendar widget and learn a little more about tables.
Don't close the date picker. Instead, tab from that button into the next element available. It should read "next month button.” If you were to activate it, the date picker would move the visually available calendars ahead by a month and should announce what months are shown.
You can safely tab from this button as well and will find yourself in the first date button that is available. For instance, as I am writing this portion of the article, it's May 2, 2018. When I tabbed onto the calendar, I reached the button for today, May 2nd. Once again, there is a load of material here to unpack, so let's break down the information we are getting from the website: “May 2018 table with 6 rows and 7 columns, row 2 Wednesday column 4, 2 button.”
We have another compound element here. This is both a table and a button as you can see from the text above. We understand its function as a button, so for now we will just set that aside. Suffice it to say, you could tab to each button on this calendar until you reach the one you want, but that is not the fastest or most efficient way for you to use this control.
Tables sometimes get read oddly. This table is no exception. Since I jumped into the table already in progress as it were, I was given my cell coordinates, the name of the table, the cell contents, and what context could be gleaned all at once. Normally, when you enter a non-interactive table, you will get similar information upon first entering, but you will likely start at the cell at row 1 and column 1. This table breaks down in the following ways:
With JAWS and NVDA, you can move through this table by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Arrows in the direction you wish to move on the table. If you want to move to May 10 for example (using my calendar, obviously your results will differ), you would hold the Alt and Ctrl keys and press down once and right once. When you reach the button you want to activate, you then could activate it the normal way.
Tables, in their most basic form, are just grids; you can navigate them very effectively with your screen reader's table reading commands. Each option has many more ways to navigate tables, so I am going to refer you back to your documentation for a more complete discussion of this subject. (If it helps, you can think of tables as very large parking lots. You can use lots of different methods for finding your car, including just walking up and down the aisles, but it will be a lot faster if you know you are in the fifth row from the front of the store and in the second column of cars.
After the two calendar widgets, we find another fancy compound element. This item calls itself a list with one item and a button and asks about the number of travelers. It is currently collapsed. If you hit enter, it is expanded, and you will find buttons for setting the number of adults, children, and infants who will be flying. Everything in this element is familiar, as it is meaningfully a bunch of buttons, so I will leave it to you to play with. Let me know if you have questions.
Next we find a button for advanced options. It is also collapsed. Please activate it, since we will look at our last two element types in the advanced options below this button.
Well, with all the traveling we've done, I'm hungry again. It's been a while since our radio button lunch. I have good news though. We've just arrived at a checkbox food court in the mall.
Checkboxes behave the same way as radio buttons with one major difference: you can choose more than one. When they are grouped under a single question (food court), you can choose multiple items under that question (McDonald’s fries, a shake from Dairy Queen, and a burger from Wendy's).
Sadly, this is not how our checkboxes are set up on this page on Expedia. Instead, each is under its own question and only offers a single option. "Non-Stop" and "Refundable Flight" followed by the checkbox and label associated with each. This is slightly disappointing as an example, but remember that essentially you can treat these the same as radio buttons when they are grouped together. Select all the ones you want by activating them with the spacebar. When multiple checkboxes are under a single question, once again you can arrow among them, choosing as many as you like.
Our final stop on the tour today is at boxes that can be expanded or collapsed and used to select a value from a list of options. They are pre-populated with values, and you can arrow through the choices until you find the one you want. Depending on how they are coded, it may be necessary to open them first by pressing Alt+Down Arrow, or you may be able to just press Up and Down Arrows without opening them first. The best practice is to try opening them, but the way they are coded varies, and unfortunately this makes them some of the least reliable elements for keyboard users. On Expedia you can use them expanded or collapsed. Try both ways.
Following these elements (which let you choose the class of your flight and any preferred airlines), all that is left are a few extra checkboxes and the submit button.
Congratulations, you have now searched for a flight on Expedia!
With that, we've completed our tour of interactive elements for now. Of course, you will benefit from spending a bit more time, so... you knew this was coming. Your homework is to finish your flight booking up to the point where you would actually activate the purchase button. (I would recommend not activating that button unless you really want to go on the trip you created, though if you have somewhere to be... go for it!)
This assignment will give you ample opportunity to practice everything you've learned so far in what is a friendly environment. As you are working, remember a few things we learned today and through the course thus far:
You can use the Escape key to back out of fields and move back into the more "read only" screen reader interactions you may be used to on the web right now. Escape will also collapse elements that are opened and that you wish to get out of the way.
As you have seen throughout this article, there are often multiple ways to complete any task. Be flexible, and try multiple options when your first choice doesn't work. You will find that with practice, you will build a toolbox of your preferred interaction models, but you will also grow more accustomed to your backup strategies and make great strides just because you are flexible.
Pay attention to the clues being provided by the website. "Required" notifications, information on what should be in an edit box, instructions on how to complete a task, and the type of element you are interacting with can all give you massively important information on how to interact with the page in the most efficient way.
Remember to use headings and other navigational elements to your advantage as well. You don't need to read everything on a page, just the stuff that is relevant to you.
Be patient with yourself. If this is new, it can be frustrating, but if you come at it with a sense of curiosity and pay attention to the clues provided, you should have the tools you need to complete this task, no problem.
Of course, as usual, please direct any feedback on this article or any questions you have on further training resources or technology tools to [email protected], or feel free to get in touch with me directly and let me know how I can assist you further in increasing your driving skills.
My dear students, I know that you are champing at the bit to continue your journey on the information superhighway, and I wouldn't dare leave you without more places to practice your skill with forms and interactive controls. As such, allow me to recommend spending time with some of the following:
The options are endless. Sadly, not all of them are as accessible as those recommended above... but that is a topic for our next meeting. Good work on today's assignment. I'll see you next month. Class dismissed!
by Kevan Worley
From the Editor: This article is reprinted with permission from The Extra Mile Newsletter from Achilles Pikes Peak. Educating others is a part of our job, and in this article Kevan attempts to describe the benefits of echo location to some who have never heard of it or are either skeptical or oversold on what it can do. Here is what he says:
Hello, hello, ooo, ooo. Achilles, Achilles, eeesss, eeesss. Well, there is the echo; "echo: noun 1. a repetition of sound produced by the reflection of sound waves from wall, mountain, or other obstructing surface.” That is from Dictionary.com.
And, here is what it says about cue: “cue: noun… 2. anything that excites to action; stimulus. 3. a hint; intimation; guiding suggestion. … 5. a sensory signal used to identify experiences, facilitate memory, organize responses. verb (used with object), cued, cuing... 7. to provide with a cue or indication; give a cue to; prompt.”
Since I was a child, I have relied on echo cueing as a significant tool for independent travel. But I have sometimes been amazed at how often the newly blind or folks who can see ask me how it is that I can discern that we are passing a tree or a wall or a fence or a building. When space is filled with an object of sufficient size and density, the object will reflect ambient sounds which can then be heard if one is paying attention. By the same token, if there is no object to fill that space you will hear openness, the lack of an echo coming back. If I am walking down a narrow hallway, I will hear walls on both sides. These walls might reflect the sounds of my shoes walking, cane tapping, guide dog harness jingling, or whistling the Achilles theme song. Do we have a theme song? Good! I was afraid that we did. If I walk out of the narrow hallway into a large cavernous room, the echo will be vastly changed. This will give me a cue about where I am and which way I might wish to go.
There have been some very fanciful news clips and articles about blind kids who could ride bikes at considerable speeds drawing much of their information and directing actions from echo cues. There have also been stories about blind kids who can actually hear an echo from a ball lying in the middle of a field. I have no reason to believe that these incidents are not true. Although I do not remember having that kind of specificity when I was a kid, before fifty years of rock-n-roll took a toll on my hearing. When I was a kid, my hearing was better; I was shorter, closer to the ground, and I could actually hear curbs and bushes. Echoes are extraordinarily helpful in providing information in order to cue the blind person. But I recently talked to a professional who teaches orientation and mobility. She told me she had never heard of echo cueing. Echo cueing has as much value as the long white cane, mapping skills, a willingness to explore one’s environment without trepidation, the guide dog, and the acceptance from your fellow human beings as you meander forth on the trail.
Forward, always forward ‘til next time.
by Priscilla McKinley
From the Editor: This article first appeared in the March 2000 issue of the Braille Monitor. We are reprinting it here because it clearly illuminates the power of one person to change her perspective on life and the importance to those of us who are Federationists to live an example that makes this positive change seem possible and infinitely worthwhile. Here is how it was introduced when it first appeared eighteen years ago:
At this year's Mid-Winter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students, two students were invited to speak about their notions of what it means to live the movement. The first to address the audience was Priscilla McKinley, President of the Old Capitol Chapter of the NFB of Iowa, a member of the affiliate's board of directors, and a graduate student at the University of Iowa. Priscilla has also twice won NFB scholarships. This is what she said:
Good morning, Federationists, or perhaps I should say, "ferret-like Federationists." Yes, you heard me right: ferret-like Federationists. The other day, while sitting in my office thinking about my life as a blind person, I was continually reminded that my ferret was in the room asleep in her hammock hanging from the ceiling of her cage—the sound of her breathing very soft but noticeable. And then I thought of it, the perfect metaphor for this speech, my pet ferret Chloe.
A few months ago I had a dream in which I had a mink, a ferret, a mongoose, and a goat. When I woke the next day and asked my husband Brian if I could get one of those, he rejected the mink, mongoose, and goat, but finally agreed on the ferret. Two days later I had a pet ferret, and my obsession began.
Do any of you in this room have a ferret? Well I can tell you a few things about them. Ferrets are adorable little animals with long bodies that seem to change form with each movement. They have triangular heads with pointy little noses. They're related to weasels, badgers, otters, minks, and even skunks. But unlike those animals, ferrets have been domesticated for centuries because they were originally used to ferret out rabbits for hunters in England and later rats on farms in this country.
Spending most of their time in dark tunnels, most ferrets have very poor eyesight. They don't see well in the bright light, and they don't see color at all. Many are totally blind. Yet according to my ferret book, blind ferrets get around better than their sighted counterparts. Studies show that the blind ferrets use their other senses and are actually more aware of their surroundings. In fact, with their keen sense of direction, ferrets have often been used to wire planes and other equipment.
So what does this have to do with my life as a blind person, with your lives as blind people? Well, since spending about ten hours a day with Chloe, whose cage is in my office, I know that ferrets have two modes of operating: lethargic and lively, off and on. First there is mode one, in which the ferret sleeps between fourteen and sixteen hours a day, often climbing out of her hammock only to get a drink or piece of food. Sometimes too lazy to get out of her hammock, she will hang over the edge, stretching her long body to snatch up a raisin or a fruit treat.
When I lost my sight due to complications of diabetes, I was much like a ferret in the off-mode, extremely passive. I was content in my situation, letting others take care of me, letting others determine my fate. At first, suffering from depression, I wanted to sleep sixteen to eighteen hours a day. When my mother compared my blindness to the deaths of my sister and father, I thought she was right. I believed that my blindness was a tragedy, a death. When I decided to go back to school, my rehab counselor told me that maybe I could get a job at Goodwill—a good job in the office, not a job sorting clothes. I actually considered this for a while, but then I told my rehab counselor that instead I wanted to go back to school.
When I thought classes like science and foreign language might be too hard for me, a blind person, I requested waivers for those classes. When I was accepted into grad school and decided to apply for a job as a graduate instructor, one professor told me that perhaps I should teach a correspondence course, where I wouldn't have to deal with students. Another professor told me that I should apply for a job in the writing lab, where I wouldn't have to worry about an entire class, but would be working one-on-one.
When I registered for a practicum in that writing lab and asked the instructor when we'd be working with our students, she said, "We won't have to worry about students. I don't know how they would react to having a blind teacher." So, what did I do? I went home and cried. I snuggled up under my blankets on my bed, just as my little ferret snuggles up under her blankets in her hammock.
Even though I eventually had my own writing lab students and secured a position as a graduate instructor, I lacked self-confidence and a positive attitude about blindness. I remained in mode one—the off-mode. Then in 1996 I attended my first convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Anaheim, California. For the first time in my life as a blind person I wasn't the minority, and I started scratching at the door of my cage, anxious to move into mode two—the on-mode. Just as my little ferret does the weasel joy dance, hopping and skipping and jumping, moving independently across my office floor, I observed Barbara Pierce, one of my mentors, flying across the floors of the Hilton, hurrying to get to her public relations meetings. Just as my little ferret extends her pointy nose to ferret out every nook and cranny of my house, I observed Peggy Elliott extending her seven- or eight-foot-long cane, eager to explore uncharted territory.
Just as my little ferret takes on my two sighted spaniels, chasing them through the house, often tugging on their tails, I observed Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, and the other leaders in the NFB taking on the big dogs in the world, not at all intimidated by their size.
When I returned home after the convention, I knew that I could never go back to my cage. I had tasted the freedom and the positive attitude about blindness the NFB offers blind individuals. Unlike ferrets, which spend their lives in those two modes, we as blind people can choose the mode in which we want to live our lives. We can choose to live in mode one, content to be locked in our cages, letting others determine what we can and cannot do. Or with the love and support of the National Federation of the Blind, we can live our lives in mode two, taking on the big dogs, exploring new ground, doing the weasel joy dance for all of the world to see.
by Lauren L. Merryfield
From the Editor: Lauren Merryfield lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her two cats, Toby and Laynie. She is a frequent contributor to our Federation literature, and in this article she shares her concern that people frequently fail to tell us about things because they find them boring and hastily conclude we will as well. Here is what she says:
The dictionary, thesaurus, and our culture define "seeing" as: 1. to perceive with the eyes; look at—the sense or power of sight; vision. 2: considering. 3: going out with someone. 4: meaning/vision. 5: the clarity of focus. 6: be careful or certain to do something; make certain of something. 7: to follow with the eyes. To follow. 8: discern, perceive, glimpse. 9: note, spot, notice, mark. 10: (I would add) to regard, feel/touch, watch, to get to know/become familiar with, to spend time with, and so on. Though the books filled with definitions focus on eyesight and the "power" of physical sight, remember that those books were written by sighted, light-dependent people.
One day when a man brought a de-scented skunk to our school, I immediately said "I want to see it," as sighted staff were ooohing and aaahing over the cute little animal. I meant that I wanted to touch it, to become familiar with what a skunk is shaped like and its size. I had heard skunks referred to as polecats and, cat person that I am, I wanted to know if the "cat" part of that term meant there was some resemblance to felines.
In third grade, some of us from the school for the blind were taken to a museum. We were allowed to touch some pottery and statues. I enjoyed it so much that several years later I was eager to attend a museum again. Imagine my disappointment when I was not allowed past ropes and told that I could not touch anything due to oil in my fingers. Subsequently, I learned that this was the norm at museums, so I stopped going. I felt cut off when I wasn't allowed to "see" the items there. In some cases I had pieces described to me very well; however, it still was not the same as seeing for myself.
One day, when my mother and I were going home after she had picked me up from the university, I asked her what a particular house we always passed every day looked like. She became frustrated with me, stating that she hadn't ever really noticed.
When my daughter was young, two people chased her and her dad and me out of a grocery store, yelling for us to stop. According to them, our daughter had shoplifted. I said I did not think she had; that we were examining items in the store, and she was showing her dad and me some items, which meant that the three of us were picking up items off the shelves and feeling them. This did not mean that anyone had shoplifted. Before I could object, they rammed their hands into her coat pockets gruffly saying, "Let me see what you have in your pockets."
They not only assumed that she had shoplifted, they further assumed that because her father and I were both blind, that we did not see it happen. I felt like they were invading our daughter's privacy and ours. People were standing around, you guessed it, looking to see what was going on and what would happen.
Since our daughter only had tissues and the candy we had just bought her in her pockets, we were allowed to leave—and leave we did. We never went back to that store, even though they had the best doughnuts in town.
When I visited my first cat show, out of both curiosity and chagrin, I sat in the audience hearing meows and listening to the presentations. No one would allow me to "see" the kitties, as in touch them. They were afraid of germs. They feared that the cats would be distracted. I left the show disappointed and even more concerned that showing cats might be more cruel than not. And I never even heard anyone talking to their trained cats or referring to them as "kitties." I felt sad and cut off from the cats I had so wanted to "see." It was not that blindness itself was causing me to be cut off. It was the behavior of the people there who were refusing to allow me to "see" the cats that brought about the disconnect.
After joining the Cat Writers' Association (yes, there really is such a thing), we were given press passes to attend the cat show near our convention site. So my husband and I attended. At first I heard the meows and the occasional "cat out!" over the sound system. But before I knew it, people began to bring their kitties to me or invite me over to the table where their cat was resting. They, contrary to my first experience, felt that my "seeing" their cats would help socialize them. They also seemed to realize that if I didn't get to touch the cats, I would be unnecessarily detached from them and lacking information about them beyond their meows. I got to see cats with full coats, cats with short or long fur, cats with slinky or stout bodies, cats with long, thin, thick, short or no tails—this is beginning to sound like Dr. Seuss—a Bengal cat, a Devon Rex cat with almost no hair, a Russian blue, a Scottish fold with differently-placed ears, kittens, "cattens," and cats. And, yes, I heard some of the people owned by these cats refer to them as "kitty."
Quite often at Christmas gatherings, wedding and baby showers, and other events, people quickly rip open their gifts, exclaiming over them, and I have no idea what they unwrapped. I usually ask, which annoys some people, as if they are saying "It's none of your business." I think it is. If everyone else in the room sees what so-and-so got, why is it their business but not mine? I have even suggested that we pass items around, like my family used to do, with someone always saying that would take too long.
Someone I know becomes impatient with me, like she wants to say "Why do you need to feel it anyway? Why is it so important that you see it?" She has stated that I am too curious and snoopy, especially when I am in other peoples' homes or out in the public. When I visited her recently, she became quite annoyed when I started touching items on the small table next to where I was sitting. One of the items was a personal piece of paper that I could not even read, so why the fuss? For one thing, I wanted to figure out where to put my drink, and, for another, I was, yes, I was curious about what all was on the table. She did not understand that she could see everything on that table just by looking over in that direction taking it all in with her eyes, but that was not considered "too curious" or "snoopy," or other negative terms or connotations. In other words, it is all right for sighted people to look around, notice something, take in what is there, but when a blind person wants to touch things, that is somehow not okay.
Too often it is assumed by some sighted and even some blind people that not physically seeing something means that we cannot function on our own. Some people will not understand that my long white cane is a tool to help me find out what is in my environment. They assume I cannot cook because you have to see to cook, which is not true. The senses of touch, smell, and especially taste can make a blind person a very good cook, even if that person is not me. If I cannot see, how did I raise my daughter? How do I get to the store? How do I get my groceries? How do I ..., how do I ..., how do I ..., all assuming that one has to use physical sight to perform these life tasks.
When the Broadway version of Cats the musical came to town, my husband and I attended. Because we were not familiar with the T. S. Elliott poetry, the song lyrics, or the actions onstage, we were really at a loss to what was going on during the show. All I really remember was that the lady sitting in front of me had a fur coat draped over the back of her seat, and I was relieved to know that it was not made of cats.
The other day a friend and I spent some time at a cat shelter because I had recently lost my Maryah of fourteen years, and I was considering an adoption. On our way home I asked her what color the last two kitties were—the two I was most interested in. She said she could not remember, that they just looked like regular everyday cats.
Now that it is commonplace to use PowerPoint slides, display song lyrics on the screen at churches, and other projections, once again I often feel unnecessarily cut off. The other day, I asked someone at church what the words were to a given song. She said she did not know unless she saw them on the screen. I thought about all of the songs and hymns I had memorized over my lifetime, and I decided that for me that was preferable to depending on a screen. I wondered how many times people reading from a screen really understood what they were singing about and whether the hymn really became a part of them.
Quite often when I go to the movies, I am the only one laughing. Some people are so immersed in watching that they miss the conversational aspect of the movie. They, of course, upon seeing me, assume that I am going to miss out on the whole movie, like, why am I even there? They have a point, to a point. However, with Descriptive Narration, when the devices are available and in working condition, I am able to "see" the movie as well as the next person.
Not long ago one of my friends here where I now live visited my apartment. I asked him what was on the screen of my laptop. I was curious about the background picture that was presented behind a sales pitch. I assumed it was probably the beach, a beautiful building, flowers, or something exotic. He just said "Oh, it doesn't matter. It's boring."
I said "Wait a minute! You think it is boring, but I want to know what it is. I might not think it is boring, or I might, but I want to decide for myself."
He informed me that it was just a picture of men and women in suits carrying briefcases and one guy holding up a bright, shiny brochure. He apparently decided that I wasn't missing anything.
To conclude, sighted people do not always see what is there. Blind people are not cut off due to blindness, but sometimes are unnecessarily cut off by the attitudes around them to what is available to be seen.Now let me finish with what our physical education coach used to say: "I see, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw."
Recipes this month come from the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana.
Peach-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
by Jewel Ardoin
Jewel Ardoin serves as vice president for the North Central Chapter of the NFBL. She is also a technology specialist at the Louisiana Center for the Blind where she loves working with students. Ruston is known for its delicious peaches. Jewel won first place in the 2015 Peach Festival cooking contest with the recipes below. Enjoy!
Two 1.5-pound pork tenderloins
Ingredients for seasoning rub:
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 similar-sized bay leaves, ground to powder (approximately 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Method: Place pork tenderloins in thirteen-by-nine-inch baking dish. Combine all ingredients for seasoning rub in a bowl. Rub seasoning on pork tenderloins. Cover and place in refrigerator for two hours or overnight. Uncover and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for one hour or until the internal temperature reads 150 degrees. Pour peach glaze (see recipe below) over tenderloins and bake for another twenty to thirty minutes. The final temperature should be no less than 160 degrees.
8 to 10 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup peach brandy
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Method: Put peaches and brandy in a blender. Melt butter in a bowl, add brown sugar, and mix. Pour butter mixture into blender with peaches and brandy; blend until liquid forms. Pour peach liquid into sauce pan. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often, until liquid turns into a glaze that will stick to the spoon.
Fresh Peach Salsa
by Jewel Ardoin
1 sweet mini red pepper,
1 sweet mini yellow pepper
1 sweet mini orange pepper
1 large fresh jalapeño pepper
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Method: Peel and chop peaches. Remove seeds from all peppers and chop into small pieces. For a spicier salsa, leave some or all seeds from jalapeño pepper. Combine peaches, peppers, and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Place in an air-tight container in refrigerator for up to three days.
by Jewel Ardoin
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup pecans, broken into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 cups cooked jasmin rice (cooked in chicken broth, butter, and salt)
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: In a skillet, roast pecans in two tablespoons butter. Remove and set aside. Add remaining butter to the skillet and sauté onions. When onions are done, sauté rice in skillet with onions, and then stir in roasted pecans. Note: fresh garlic is also good in this recipe.
Shrimp and Grits
by Krystal Guillory
Eric and Krystal Guillory, along with their beautiful children, Austin and Brilyn, are an integral part of our NFB of Louisiana family and are always ready to serve wherever needed. Eric is director of youth services at Louisiana Center for the Blind, first vice president of the affiliate, and president of the Professionals in Blindness Education Division. Krystal is our BELL Academy coordinator extraordinaire and treasurer for the affiliate. She is a teacher of blind students in Lincoln Parish. She is also known for her wonderful cooking!
Note: Fresh ingredients produce the best flavor, but you can supplement as you see fit.
4 cups water
Salt and pepper (or we love Cajun spices, but that’s optional).
1 cup stone-ground grits
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
6 slices bacon, chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 large clove garlic, minced
Method: Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper (optional Cajun seasoning). Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese. Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In reserved grease, add shrimp. Cook until they turn pink (four to five minutes)—turning (or stirring) occasionally. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Sauté for three minutes. Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.
by Krystal Guillory
Salt to taste
Pico de gallo (Recipe follows. You can make this or buy pre-made. We usually buy pre-made.)
* Cajun or spicy seasoning if you want to add an extra kick (optional)
* Guacamole mix packet (Optional—some people like to add for some extra flavors. You can usually find this with the dry salad mix packets in the grocery store.)
Tortilla chips, for serving
Method: Halve the avocados lengthwise and remove the pits. Use a spoon to scrape the “meat” out onto a large plate. Next, sprinkle on some salt and other seasonings to taste (optional Cajun or guacamole seasoning mix). Mash away with a fork until you get the avocado to the consistency you want. Next, add a generous helping of Pico de gallo. Fold together. Lastly, squeeze the juice of half of a lime over the top. Give it one last stir. (Always test the guacamole with tortilla chips so you'll get a more accurate gauge of the salt content.)
Pico de Gallo Ingredients:
3 yellow or red onions
12 roma tomatoes (slightly underripe is fine)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
2 to 3 jalapeños
Method: Dice up equal quantities of onion and tomato. Roughly chop the cilantro. Now, slice one or two jalapeños in half. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds. (If you like things spicy, leave in some of the white membranes.) Dice the jalapeños very finely; you want a hint of heat and jalapeño flavor, but you don't want to cause any fires. Now dump the four ingredients into a bowl. Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice from half a lime into the bowl. Sprinkle with salt, and stir together until combined. Be sure to taste the Pico de Gallo and adjust the seasonings, adding salt or more diced jalapeño if needed.
by Kristen Sims
A dedicated teacher, Kristen Sims always finds ways to empower her students by sharing the tools and positive philosophy of blindness needed for success. She is the treasurer for the Greater Ouachita Chapter of the NFB of Louisiana as well as our state secretary.
4 pounds of plums (I use over-ripe black and red plums) diced should be about 6 cups
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon butter (to reduce foaming)
8 cups sugar (1/2 this amount if using reduced sugar pectin)
Method: Clean and sterilize jars, bands, and lids. Leave lids in hot water until ready to use. Put a cup of ice water with a metal spoon in it nearby. Bring diced fruit and water to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes to break down fruit. Then add pectin, butter, and sugar and bring back to a boil. Boil at least one minute then check for setting by quickly scooping a small amount with your cold spoon. If it sticks to the spoon without running off, it will set. The amount of set you want depends on you!
Quickly ladle into prepared jars wiping the edges carefully. Then finger-tighten lids and bands. Place in a canner or large pot with water covering lids by one to two inches to process in boiling water for ten minutes.
by Alison Tarver
Alison Tarver is the president of the Louisiana Parents of Blind Children who believes passionately in our mission. She works diligently to reach families around our state. Her son, Nicholas, has been an important part of our BELL Academy for the past several summers and was also a finalist in the recent nationwide Braille reading contest sponsored by the NFB of Illinois.
1/2 stick of butter/margarine
1 cup raw rice (uncooked)
1 can beef broth
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 pound ground beef (optional)
Method: Cook onion, rice, and butter on medium flame for five minutes, stirring constantly. Do not brown. Add all other ingredients and put into a casserole dish. Cover tightly and bake for forty-five minutes to one hour at 350 degrees (until rice is done).
by Alison Tarver
1 cup margarine, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Method: Using an electric mixer, cream margarine, sugar, and eggs together until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda, blending well. Drop dough by teaspoonful on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for ten to twelve minutes. Makes thirty-six.
by Alison Tarver
2 cans whole corn
2 cans tomato sauce (this adjusts thickness)
2 cans hominy
2 cans ranch-style beans (with jalapeño peppers if you desire or use 1 can of each to regulate heat)
1 package taco seasoning (add more to suit your taste)
1 pound ground beef
Method: May be cut in half for smaller amount. Brown the ground beef; mix everything together; cook for twenty to thirty minutes in a covered container (remove cover several times, sniff aroma, this gets your taste buds excited.) When you just can’t wait any longer, serve over chips/crackers (crumble if you like.) For atmosphere, play soft Tijuana Brass music, lower lights. (If just for two, wear low-cut blouse with swirly skirt. If for the whole gang, wear regular attire.) Enjoy!
Coco’s Cornbread Dressing
by Sophie Trist
Sophie Trist was a 2017 recipient of a national NFB scholarship as well as the 2018 winner of the Jerry Whittle Memorial Scholarship from our affiliate. She serves as the president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students and is a proud graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She has also served as a junior mentor for our BELL Academy. She is currently attending Loyola University where she is involved in a wide variety of activities. This is what she says about this recipe, “If heaven had a taste, it would taste like my grandmother’s cornbread dressing, the staple of every Thanksgiving meal I can remember. You so much as mention this cornbread dressing in front of me, and I will start drooling like an overexcited puppy. With its rich blend of flavors, this is the ultimate crowd-pleaser.”
Ingredients for cornbread:
1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons oil
3 cups milk
Method: Mix all ingredients together. Pour into greased eleven-inch ovenproof dish. Bake at 425 for thirty minutes.
Ingredients for meat mixture:
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
Salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper
1 14-1/2 ounce can beef broth
2 10-3/4 ounce cans cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (in the spice aisle)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onion
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Method: In a large skillet, brown beef. Drain off fat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and celery. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. This should be relatively spicy because you will be mixing it with cornbread. Add beef broth and cook slowly, about forty-five minutes, covered. Add cream of mushroom soup, Kitchen Bouquet, parsley, and green onions. Crumble cornbread and add it to the meat mixture. Check seasoning. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Spoon into baking dish coated with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 for thirty to forty-five minutes or until bubbly. Serves twelve to fourteen. Warning: Do not prepare this recipe unless you are prepared to set aside several hours after its consumption for a food coma. I promise it will be worth it.
Miss Neita’s Peanut Butter Balls
by Neita Ghrigsby
This recipe was submitted by Neita Ghrigsby, office manager at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Known by everyone as “Miss Neita,” she began working at the center on December 2, 1985, and has thoroughly enjoyed her time at the center watching the students learn new skills and become independent. “Couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be other than right here at the center these past thirty-two years making lifelong friends along the way whom I see at national conventions and being involved with our students each day as they push themselves and gain new skills to help them live a more productive life. What an absolutely wonderful journey this has been, and I look forward to having even more time doing what I love to do.”
1-1/4 cups Karo syrup
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 12-ounce jar crunchy peanut butter (If the 12-ounce size is not available, go up to the next size and use almost all of that size.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
Method: Heat sugar and Karo syrup until sugar dissolves, about two to three minutes. Don’t cook much longer because the peanut butter balls will be hard after they are made up. Remove from stove and add peanut butter, stirring well. Add vanilla and stir a couple of more times. Pour this mixture over the Rice Krispies (I usually put these in a large bowl to give you plenty of room to stir). You will need to quickly stir this all together—mixture will become very thick and hard to stir. Take a stick of margarine/butter and butter both hands well and begin making balls from this mixture. You will probably need to butter your hands several times until you get it all made up into balls. Lay on flat surface, not touching, until dry and set, and then store in an airtight container. Depending on how many you eat while you are making them, this recipe should make around sixty peanut butter balls.
Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB Resolutions Committee:
Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2018 National Convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 4. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.
To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Riccobono or to me by June 19, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again. If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, [email protected]; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, MD 21045.
Braille Book Fair Needs Volunteers:
The Braille Book Fair has become one of the highlights of the convention for many teachers, parents, blind kids, blind parents, and adult beginning Braille readers. But the event could not take place without the help of many dedicated, talented volunteers. And that's where you come in. As a past worker, or simply interested supporter of the Braille Book Fair, I hope you can either volunteer or give me the contact information for someone that you recommend. You do not need to work the entire afternoon or evening, but I do ask that you try to work an entire shift.
We especially need for people who help customers to come BEFORE we open the doors at 5:00 p.m. and to commit to staying until at least 6:30 p.m. Book lovers are great for this shift, as you will assist visitors in book decisions/selections. Thanks so much for taking time to consider this request, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
In your email to volunteer, please provide the following information:
YES...I can work the following shift(s): 8:00-10:00; 10:00-12:00; 1:00-3:00; 3:00-5:00; 5:00-7:00; 7:00-9:00 _________________________________________.
My cell phone number that I will have at convention is _______________.
I live in (state) __________.
Braille skills (including if you read by touch or by sight as a sighted person) _____________.
Note: If you are a parent of a blind child under the age 18 (or still in high school or below), we know that you will want to attend the NOPBC Annual Meeting which takes place just before the BBF, but we would welcome you to work either during the event or on the clean-up shift after the event.
If you can help, please contact Sandra Oliver, NOPBC Board Member at 713-825-4573 or [email protected]
Braille Book Fair 2018:
Calling all Braille readers, teachers, and parents! It’s that time again: Time to sort through all those boxes of Braille books and donate those gently used but no longer needed Braille books to the 2018 Braille Book Fair sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Our primary goal is to get more Braille books into the hands of children, youth, and beginning adult readers.
Needed items: print/Braille story books (aka Twin Vision), books in good condition, and leisure reading (fiction or nonfiction) books
Children are so hungry for their very own books that every year, despite generous donations of books, most of our books for young children are gone in less than an hour. So, begin your search through the boxes in your basement and spare room and get those books shipped to: 2018 Braille Book Fair, National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.
Please note that you are shipping the books FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND; you do not need to pay shipping cost for Braille items. Hand write, stamp, or affix a label to the upper right-hand corner of the box stating: FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND. Take your package(s) to your local post office.
Happy Birthday NFB Krafters Division:
Join the Krafters Division and enjoy unlimited access to classes and chats throughout the year. Membership is $20 and runs now through July 2019. One full year of fun crafts to learn. See our website at www.krafterskorner.org for information on signing up.
We are ten years strong. We are looking forward to meeting everyone at national convention this year. We are still trying to finalize our Craft Sale. Stay tuned for the date(s) and times.
New at Convention—NFB Krafters Division Marketplace:
Are you a crafter, artist, or designer? We are looking for you! The NFB Krafters Division is proud to announce the opening of the NFB Krafters Division Marketplace. The Krafters Division Marketplace will offer you a great opportunity to showcase and sell your one-of-a-kind, handmade items to your Federation family. We anticipate this year’s marketplace to be especially exciting. The marketplace will take place July 3 between noon and 6:00 p.m. Table space is limited, so please contact Joyce Kane for availability and reservations either by phone at 203-378-8928 or by email at [email protected]. For more information about our division, please visit our website at www.krafterskorner.org
Join the Community Service Division Annual Community Service Project:
READY! SET! SERVE!
Recipe for Love
2 Hearts Full of Love
2 Heaping Cups of Kindness
2 Armfuls of Gentleness
2 Cups of Friendship
2 Cups of Joy
2 Big Hearts Full of Forgiveness
1 Lifetime of Togetherness
2 Minds Full of Tenderness
Stir daily with Happiness, Humor, and Patience.
Serve with Warmth and Compassion, Respect and Loyalty.
The shocking truth about community service, you’ll love it! Please come join the Community Service Division in our annual Community Service Project on July 3, 2018. We will provide meals for approximately 150 homeless individuals at the Coalition for the Homeless in Orlando, Florida, 639 W. Central Blvd. We will leave the hotel at 9:00 a.m. and return at 2:00 p.m. The Coalition gives people hope, just as we do in the Federation.
It’s a family affair, so gather your chapters, divisions, and/or friends to step up to the plate. We are the home team of the Federation. and we will knock this service project out of the park! Teamwork makes the dream work, and we as members of the Federation transform dreams into reality.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.
Email: [email protected]
The National Association of Guide Dog Users Meets at the 2018 National Convention:
The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind, is excited to offer the most dynamic, informative events in the nation for guide dog users at our national convention in Orlando. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors: Accessible360, On the Go by Julie Johnson, Ruffwear, Texas Association of Guide Dog Users, and Veterinarian Emergency Clinics of Central Florida, NAGDU is offering some incredible programs for our members.
Tuesday, July 3, 1:00 to 10:00 p.m.: Seminar
1:00 to 1:45 p.m. - Registration. Registration is free and required to be eligible for door prizes!
2:00 to 3:30 p.m. - Is My Dog in Crisis? Lori Tilley, DVM, Veterinary Emergency Clinic of Central Florida, a board certified emergency veterinarian, will share how to assess if your dog’s health issue is an emergency needing immediate attention. She will also give us tips on how to avoid a trip to the emergency clinic, as well as maintaining wellness, preventive care, grooming tips, and first aid.
3:45 to 5:00 p.m. - Advocacy and Access: Everyone has a Part to Play Calling Out Counterfeit Service Animals: The myth, the image, and the law Facilitator: Marion Gwizdala, president, National Association of Guide Dog Users. With the growing challenge of untrained dogs in public and the problems they create for legitimate guide and service dogs, we must be the voice of reason. Join us as we mobilize our division to solve the problem. This interactive program is a must for all guide dog users, those wishing to become better advocates for guide dog users and other disabled individuals, and public and private entities wanting to know their rights.
5:00 to 6:00 p.m. – Dinner break
6:00 to 6:45 p.m. – Registration. Registration is free and required to be eligible for door prizes!
7:00 to 10:00 p.m. – Living the Guide Dog User Life you want!
Part 1: Is It Time? The struggle of letting go. Facilitator: Merry C. Schoch, LCSW. The retirement or passing of our guide dogs is a very challenging time and one we will all eventually experience. A licensed clinical social worker and guide dog user helps us through the process of retirement and loss.
Part 2: Harness Up: The process of getting a guide dog and beyond: Various guide dog training programs and consumers. If you are interested in getting a guide dog, want to find out how they really work, get to know what is involved in the application and training process, and learn about the Guide Dog User Lifestyle, this session is for you! Guide dog training programs will share information about their programs, and guide dog users will help you understand what is required when you come home.
Part 3: Guide Dog Show and Tail: Guide dog users share their favorite gear, grooming tools, and toys. If you have a favorite item to share, bring it with you for others to learn about! Some of them will be yours to take home for you and your dog to enjoy!
Thursday, July 5, 6:00 – 10:00 p.m.: Annual Meeting
6:00 to 6:45 p.m. – Registration. Registration is free and required to be eligible for door prizes.
Membership dues of $5.00 are required for those who are not members of an affiliate division to be eligible to speak on the floor, make and vote on motions, and hold office.
7:00 p.m. – Call to Order. Join NAGDU for the most exciting and important meeting of guide dog users in the United States. Here are some of the highlights you will experience: “Supporting the NFB’s national ridesharing testing initiative” presented by Valerie Yingling; “Learn about our advocacy with Delta Airlines” presented by Christine Bouchard, Delta Airlines; “Learn how to comment on new regulations for the Air Carrier Access Act” presented by John Paré, executive director for advocacy & policy; “Download and tour the newest version of the NAGDU Mobile App for iOS & Android” presented by Raul Gallegos; Elect our 2018 to 2020 leadership; and energizing reports from our affiliate divisions.
As you see, the NAGDU events are filled with substance—the place to be if you are an active guide dog user and advocate. Plan to join us and enhance your knowledge and understanding. The NAGDU seminar and annual meeting are held in conjunction with the convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by email to [email protected]. We will see you in Orlando!
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Register Now for Contemporary Issues in Rehabilitation and Education for the Blind Seventeenth Annual Rehabilitation and Orientation and Mobility Conference:
Come and join us! Once again, this year's conference will be action-packed with a variety of new speakers, topics, and hands-on events. It will be held on Tuesday, July 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
7:30 - 8:30 AM—Registration
8:30 AM—Conference Begins
2:00 - 5:00 PM—Interactive Breakout Sessions
5:00 - 7:00 PM—NBPCB Awards Reception
To register go to: https://nbpcb.org/members/login.php?r=/members/er.php?eid=355. The registration fee includes the NBPCB Awards Reception. Before June 15 the registration fee is $85 for professionals, $75 for students. After June 15 the fee is $100 for both students and professionals. Those certified through the NBPCB may register using their username and password. All other participants should register as a guest.
For questions or special arrangements, contact Edward Bell at (318) 257-4554, or [email protected].
Sponsors: National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), Professional Development & Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB), Louisiana Tech University, and the National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education.
Medicare Information to Become Accessible to Blind Beneficiaries:
In a release dated April 25, 2018, a settlement between the National Federation of the Blind and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was announced. The Monitor is reprinting that release here:
The National Federation of the Blind and three blind individuals have reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The settlement resolves the allegation brought forth in a 2016 lawsuit that CMS discriminated against blind and low-vision beneficiaries by failing to provide meaningful and equal access to Medicare information.
The agreement requires that CMS set up processes so that beneficiaries can make a single request to receive all communications and notices from Medicare in an accessible format, such as large print, Braille, audio, or electronic data. Additional terms include that CMS will:
CMS has already begun implementing critical procedural changes that include training employees on compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, implementing testing requirements to ensure that information posted on Medicare.gov is accessible, providing CMS’s most popular publications in accessible e-book formats at Medicare.gov, and establishing a Customer Accessibility Resource Staff to coordinate and support CMS’s accessible Medicare communications. The agreement prohibits CMS from changing any of these new practices in ways that would result in less effective access to Medicare information for blind individuals.
“Thousands of blind and low-vision people depend on Medicare benefits and must be able to apply for, understand, and manage those benefits independently,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “This agreement will ensure that blind Medicare beneficiaries have equal access to critical and often time-sensitive information about their individual benefits and this vital program.”
"The Medicare benefits a person receives are only as good as the access they have to them,” said Silvia Yee, senior staff attorney for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “Without equal access to vital Medicare information, blind people not only face greater difficulty getting their health care needs met, they also run a higher risk of losing services and supports altogether when they can't properly access details about Medicare plan benefits, review services provided, or confirm how much those services will cost. DREDF applauds this necessary step forward by CMS in providing Americans who are blind--including thousands of aging low-vision Medicare beneficiaries--access to necessary information that non-disabled people get to take for granted.”
The plaintiffs were represented by Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF).
Unified English Braille Pocket Reference Books Now Available:
Now available for sale: pocket reference books of the Unified English Braille literary code. This book is three inches by five inches and easily fits in a pocket, purse, or backpack. We have an interpoint Braille version for those who read Braille tactually. The small size makes it manageable for both adults and little ones. We also have an ink version that consists of print and simulated Braille, perfect for parents, friends, and teachers. These books are great for those just learning the Braille code for the first time or for those refreshing their Braille knowledge. Each copy is $10, with all profits benefiting blind children’s literacy programs. To order either version of our Whittle books, please visit www.nbpcb.org.
Seedlings offers 100 titles in UEB for older kids:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children, which offers one of the largest selections available of books in Unified English Braille, now offers 100 titles in contracted UEB for older kids.
Thirteen titles were added in February and March, bringing the total to 100. They are:
See all 100 titles at http://www.seedlings.org/browse.php?cat=12. Seedlings continues to add new titles regularly, so check back often.
Seedlings' nearly 300 print-and-Braille board books for babies and toddlers and beginning readers are already in UEB. Order at http://www.seedlings.org/order.php.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.