Vol. 61, No. 7 July 2018
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The National Federation of the Blind
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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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Vol. 61, No. 7 July 2018
Illustration: 6 Dot Dash Ran Like Clockwork
Transition to Blindness: A Conversation That Should Happen in the Federation
by Debbie Wunder
Of Eggshells and a Living Room Rug: Considering Informing the Senior Blind
by Lauren Merryfield
Advocacy in Action—Way to Go, Team!
by Carol Castellano
Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind: Things You May Not Know about
Our Newest Board Members
Snapshots of Federationism in Action
by the Monitor Editorial Staff
Living in Silence
by Cheryl Fields
by Yevgenia Pankova
The Power of Ideas
by Nancy Burns
Tech Tools and Learning Modalities Level the Learning Field
for Students with Vision Impairments
by Valerie Chernek
What Is the Deafblind TSA Experience? Come Along with Alice Eaddy and Find Out
as told to Barbara Shalit
An Enchanted Weekend
by Deborah Kermode
Celebrating Service in the National Federation of the Blind
by Sharon Maneki
Remembering and Telling Our Own Stories: Boosting Confidence in Ourselves and Sharing Real-Life Successes with Others
by Deborah Armstrong
Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind
On Sunday, June 3, the National Federation of the Blind held our sixth annual 6 Dot Dash. This 6K run through the Federal Hill and Inner Harbor neighborhoods of Baltimore raises money to support the programs of the National Federation of the Blind such as NFB-NEWSLINE®, BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Academy, NFB EQ, and the free white cane program.
But it isn’t all about the money. This race brings people who have possibly never interacted with a blind person into contact with Federationists, showing them that blindness is simply another characteristic rather than the defining characteristic of our lives. Federationists participate in the run as well, offering living proof that blindness doesn’t mean you can’t be athletic or participate in public events like this. There were sighted runners, blind runners with sighted guides, blind runners using canes, and blind runners using guide dogs—all of them intent on crossing that finish line in the least amount of time their bodies would allow.
There were a number of corporate sponsors for the event this year, including the Baltimore Orioles, who sent their mascot to come get the crowd excited for the race to start. Afterwards, Oriana Riccobono presented the Oriole Bird with a plaque that said:
The National Federation of the Blind
Recognizes the Baltimore Orioles
As a Power Platinum Sponsor
For the 2018 NFB 6 Dot Dash
Thank you for helping blind people
live the lives we want
Other corporate sponsors included GreenDrop; Pumex Computing; Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP; BGE; Black Tie Services; Panera Bread; Wright-Gardner Insurance Inc; National Association of Blind Merchants; and Harris Teeter.
by Debbie Wunder
From the Editor: Debbie Wunder is my wife, so forget my being detached or objective. I like the initiative she proposed to our Missouri affiliate, and I’m pleased about the story she has to tell.
Since I have been totally blind since birth, I have little to contribute to the discussion of what it is to transition to blindness, but as a Federationist I have every reason to want to know about any experience that people share because of it. I am naturally curious, but, more than this, I am under an obligation to learn so that I may be the best ambassador for the organization that I can. Reaching out and engaging is more than knowing how to deliver our message; it is also knowing the audience for that message and in many cases doing a lot of listening. I have been on some of these calls and enjoy the honesty and wide-ranging discussions the group has, and hats off to our affiliate for welcoming the challenge. Here is how Debbie tells the story:
I have always been blind, but only within the last few years have I lost all of my vision. My predominant reaction to vision loss has been surprise: surprise at how much I used my vision, surprise at the grief I had in losing it, and surprise at how reluctant I have been to talk about it in the NFB, where everyone seems to have adjusted to it without the pain or the difficulty I have experienced.
Because I believe in the NFB and feel we should be involved in all things blindness-related, I asked our affiliate if we could host a monthly transition to blindness group using a telephone conference service. Many were a bit scared by the request: would this be something positive, or would it be a poor-pity-me group? Would it bring people down, or did we have the answers to help build them up? Despite the concerns, the consensus was that the NFB should talk about all aspects of blindness and that ours should not be the group you came to only after you had it all figured out.
Several wonderful things have come from our calls. Because many of us are new to the kind of blindness we are experiencing, we have seen an openness to asking questions without the fear our questions will be regarded as foolish or silly. Our assumption that we were in an organization whose members already had it figured out was wrong. Some of the veteran Federationists who come to our meetings have indeed experienced what we have and are able to give us constructive answers, but a surprising number come with their own questions, and this kind of openness and honesty helps to build unity where once we felt an almost unbridgeable distance.
We have shared techniques that are making a real difference to participants in our calls. How do you keep track of your children at school events, and does it help that you are in the stands when they know you can’t see? At a group event in which your children are involved, how do you supervise them? In independent travel how do you learn to get around new places without calling on a mobility instructor for orientation? Am I a poor excuse for a Federationist if I grieve over the loss of things for which there are no alternative techniques—seeing the faces of my loved ones, not seeing the pictures of my children and grandchildren, feeling sadness at not knowing how to pursue my favorite hobby—photography?
Then there are the unexpected things we share among the group: “I was reconciled to the fact that I was going blind because of glaucoma, but when I found it would be my cornea that took my sight, I was unexpectedly sad. I don’t know why, but I felt gypped because my cause of blindness had changed.”
Another Federationist said, “I have always been an active member of my church. Recently, while attending a shower for a member, I went to bite into a cupcake topped with a wonderful fluffy icing. I got the icing on my face. I went to pick up my napkin, and before I could wipe the icing away, someone pushed my head back and proceeded to wipe my face. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I knew I felt humiliated. I don’t want to stop participating, but what do I do with the feelings, and how do I address the situation?”
As we listen to the questions of others, we are reminded of how important it is to remember what it was like when we were the ones with the questions. It is too easy to forget the skepticism we felt when approached with the message of the NFB once it has become a vital part of our lives. But getting back to that place is a necessity in talking to others and in turn helps us be grateful for the changes the Federation has made in our lives.
The techniques and attitudes we have been able to share are nothing short of a blessing. Getting the tools and having the courage to use them is a tremendous gift to give one another. But the most beautiful thing that has come from our calls is the understanding that the NFB cares about all blind people. How liberating it is to learn that it is just as safe to talk about our struggles as it is our successes and that we are not lesser Federationists because sometimes we hurt about things we have lost. What a relief to know that on some days all of us have to work hard to see the beauty in what lies ahead rather than dwelling on what was in the past and will never be again. The love that characterizes our movement is so abundant and is here for the taking by those of us still struggling with the loss of sight. This affirmation has meant the world to those of us who want to acknowledge what we feel and what we fear. At the same time we have come to know that many members in the organization we love have felt the same way and yet have come to put blindness in a place that does not define them or their future. In our fellow Federationists’ listening ears we find hope, and in their examples we are strengthened in our determination. There is a place for us in the NFB, and knowing that place allows us to be ambassadors to others who have hurt as we have hurt and doubted as we have doubted. We will not hide from blindness or its challenges, and we will not hide our emotional struggles from those who are the most invested in helping us.
by Lauren Merryfield
From the Editor: We know that seniors comprise the largest group of blind people in the United States, if not the world. Yet, compared with other age groups of blind people, few pieces of literature exist to give this group advice and support.
Lauren Merryfield is a blind senior, and she shares encounters she has with other seniors who have lost or are in the process of losing their sight and how they and their families handled it. She tries to provide encouragement and hope along with a few tricks and techniques to those she meets and provides a senior’s perspective of what vision loss and age can team up to take from us. There’s an old saying about old dogs and new tricks, but Lauren is of the opinion that an old Federationist is a much different creature. Here is what she says:
In my intergenerational journey in life, I spend as much time around people my age and older as I do with those much younger, including those young enough to lie in my arms. I don’t know how often someone who is older will say to me, “I just don’t see so good anymore.” They not only say it to me, but they will often let others know too. Sometimes the person will rather quickly add, “But I’m not blind (or visually impaired) like you.” Making a distinction seems to be quite important to them since they still identify as sighted.
Most people are not really informed enough to tell the person that yes, they can still do most if not all of what they were doing formerly. The person might need to learn new ways to do things, but the people they say, “I just don’t see so good anymore,” to do not know any better.
One lady I met on the train several years ago said her family asked her not to cook anymore because one day she accidentally got shells in the scrambled eggs. On another occasion she was informed that her floors were dirty, and she had a dirty living room rug because she couldn’t see to guide her vacuum cleaner to get the dirt off. Believing that they would find her home in shambles, they did not come over to visit very often anymore. They assumed that the problem was blindness, when actually the issue was that the woman had not been trained to function well as a blind person because she was just in the process of losing her vision. Her family thought that things would be a mess from now on, not allowing that she could learn to adjust to being blind.
So, rather than banding together to learn how Mom could learn alternative ways to continue cooking and cleaning, Grace’s family humiliated her by no longer allowing her to do so. Their blanket statement was, “Mom, you’re going blind. You can’t expect to cook and clean anymore.”
Almost afraid to ask, Grace nearly whispered, “Do you cook? Do you clean your own home?” I told her that as a senior I don’t do much cooking now, and I have someone who comes in to clean; however, I did cook and clean for many years. I explained that I could feel the heat of the burner, I put pan handles to the side so they didn’t stick out, I used recipes in Braille or from the computer, and I labeled many items in Braille. I further explained that I picked up my place by hand before running the vacuum. I learned how to guide the vacuum so that I reached the entire floor area, not missing spots as she said she did now. She said, “Oh! You are so amazing.” I explained that I was not a chef, just cooked on a level commensurate with most average cooks. I was not a trained housekeeper, so I probably did just an average job cleaning my place—nothing amazing. However, I did inform her that there are blind chefs and blind professional-level housekeepers out there.
Though there is an affiliate of the NFB in every state and chapters in many local areas, and there are programs focusing on training older blind people to adapt to blindness, often the information is not readily available, and a helpful connection is not made. If those of us in the NFB make a concerted effort to get the word out, many negative experiences can be avoided when the person going blind gets proper assistance.
One time I talked with an older man named Jeff. He used to drive his grandkids out in the country and into the woods where they could play. Sometimes they went down to the river to fish. When his vision started to deteriorate, his children were afraid their own children would get hurt. A tree could fall on them. They could fall in a hole. They’d get a fish hook caught in their hand. They’d slip into the river and drown. The main point was that Grandpa no longer had control of the situation; he could no longer supervise his own grandchildren. It never occurred to them that those kinds of things could happen to the children while supervised by a fully-sighted person. They never considered that it would be important to let him find other ways to take care of what his eyes could no longer do.
We hear quite often about the dreaded day when the car keys are taken away from mom or dad because they can no longer see well enough to drive or their memory is failing them. They often keep the vision-related fears, worries, and pronouncements a secret to the rest of the family, their friends and neighbors, and their pastor if they have one. Some families hide their blind relative because they are ashamed.
On the other hand, some people who are going blind do not let their family and friends pull the rug out from under them. I met Pat, a spunky eighty-some-year-old in a class I took not long ago. She said that her family tried to short-change her life because of their fear. She said, “They made my blindness all about them, when it is my blindness, not theirs.”
She had taken the bus to class. Though rather slow, she was learning Braille. Her kids had bought her a flip phone, but she went and bought herself an iPhone. Although she struggled and struggled with it at first, eventually she had it down. She figured out that the reason she struggled so long was that in spite of herself, little fears kept creeping in about, “Can I really learn this? What if I can’t do this?” When she noticed that I was using an iPhone, she proudly said, “Oh! I have one, too! Looky here. Mine is just like yours.”
I met Dr. Tom, as people called him, while waiting for a baseball game to begin. He had seen my husband and me and decided to come over to talk. He said he was a retired doctor, and at first his family tended to think his life was “pretty much over.” He said he had been an independent thinker and doer all his life, and that wasn’t stopping now.
Dr. Tom figured out how to use public transportation; he began receiving talking books from the Library of Congress; he continued going to the gym, going out to movies, and he still loved to fish. When he noticed that he was trying to look at something, he purposefully stopped himself, thinking, “Now how can I do that with my eyes closed?” Often he figured out an alternative on his own. He told me, “If you look for ways you can’t do something, then you can’t. If you look for ways that you can do something, you can.” He said he went by that kind of rule throughout his practice as a physician, and that wasn’t changing now.
Much depends on the circumstances around the oncoming blindness such as other medical or health issues, level of pain, becoming easily flustered or being doggedly determined, the support systems around them or lack thereof, whether the person is alone with their blindness or if others are around in their lives.
Donna, a lady I met on the train, began talking to me because she had a sister, Jackie, whose marriage was in trouble because the husband, Don (still sighted) could not deal with his wife going blind. He said that, “The lights went out in her life, and she’s not the same person I married.” He resented driving her places, reading the mail to her, and describing shows on the TV that were not audio-described. He felt like he was doing so much for her, but she wasn’t doing anything in return. I asked him what his wife did to pass her time. He said she still knitted, read Braille books, fixed their meals, washed their clothes, and kept the furniture nice and clean, including making the bed. “She didn’t do anything?” I asked incredulously. I reminded him that those things Jackie was still doing were ways she was contributing to her family.
There is now an epidemic of younger families alienating their parents and grandparents. Quite often, these older family members do not even know their grandchildren anymore. Dr. Joshua Coleman, an expert in this psychological phenomenon, holds weekly webinars for parents and grandparents who have been shoved out of their younger family members’ busy lives.
The hurtfulness of this is compounded when a parent or grandparent loses their vision. They are put out to an even further pasture than they were already in. These families do not want to be inconvenienced by their older family members. They don’t want to feel obligated to help. The idea of their family member gaining independence rarely occurs to them. They feel better if the older blind person is in some type of facility, receiving assistance from outside the family, no matter how expensive it is. Though in the past, grandma or grandpa would live with the younger family or switch back and forth between them, now expensive retirement centers are so full that there are waitlists to get in.
Nearly everyone I’ve met or heard about who has gone from fully sighted to blind seems to agree that going blind is difficult, scary, and sad. They mention how the blindness affects their family life and how life in general is now more difficult. Many of them do not identify as “blind” strongly enough to join us in the NFB. Some say, “Maybe I will when I lose the rest of my vision.” Often they allow their lives to be more difficult, scary, and sad than they need to be.
Because of the lack of a connection between seniors losing their vision and those of us who know about blindness, it is good for us to have print information available for sighted families and friends. However, it is also important for us to have accessible information available to those in the NFB who lose vision when they become older. The transition can be made much more smoothly this way.
Then there are multiple disabilities that sometimes scramble our minds and bodies like the eggs with shells in them. Although we may know how to function well as a blind person, managing other disabilities can be difficult for us. Because the NFB focuses on blindness, some older blind people continue to focus only on blindness, avoiding or ignoring the onset of other disabilities. As one who has dealt with multiple disabilities all my life, one of the most difficult issues is not the disabilities, but the confusion around them. Many people assume that whatever bothersome thing happens is automatically blindness-related, as if blindness runs our lives.
If I fall, it is said to be because I am blind. Some will say, “I would fall too if I couldn’t see.” I explain that I lost my balance because I was dizzy or my knee buckled under me. When I drop something on the floor, someone is likely to say, “I would drop things too if I couldn’t see.” I answer that it wasn’t blindness that dropped the item; my fingers let go of it. For me, as is the case with other blind people, blindness is no reason not to get out. Blindness is not as limiting as some other disabilities. Blindness does not cause pain, though some conditions causing blindness are painful. Blindness does not cause weakness, dizziness, low stamina, chronic infections, leg problems, heart problems, and so on. Though we may have learned how to function quite well as blind people, we may be less successful in managing other disabilities as they come into our lives due to the lack of appropriate information. That’s when we need to use the problem-solving skills and alternative techniques we already know to find new ways to continue our lives as multi-disabled blind people. This is still a work in progress for me.
This is not the time for others to abandon us because we don’t measure up anymore. This is the time when we may actually need more companionship and support. This is the time when we might need more understanding, sympathy, empathy, kindness, and patience.
We say that the NFB is a family. Families have their younger members who come along, however, we also have older members. We need to make sure that they are not put out to pasture and left there to flounder. We need to include them as much as possible and, in some cases, allow them to include themselves. Instead of focusing on what we have lost, we need people around who support our dignity, diversity, and value. We need to honor our older blind, those who have not joined us yet, and those who have been around for years. Let us make sure those scrambled eggs have no sharp shells of unkindness in them. For we all matter. We are all equally valuable. Let us acknowledge and honor the Federationist in all of us, for it is still there. The senior blind want to live the lives they want as much as our younger members do.
by Carol Castellano
From the Editor: Carol Castellano is a founder of the Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey. This article is very similar to one which appeared in the spring edition of The Sounding Board, the official voice of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. Here is what she says:
My first inkling of concern came in December after the election of our new governor, when I saw the makeup of his Transition Committee on Human and Children Services. I recognized several names from the past when there had been movements to dismantle the Commission for the Blind of New Jersey and combine it with other state agencies. I wondered if there might be any such push this time. It appeared that there were no blind people on the committee. The only person on the committee who we thought would be looking out for the interests of the blind and blindness services was Mildred Crump, the Newark Municipal Council president, who for many years was a teacher of the visually impaired at the New Jersey Commission for the Blind.
At that point Joe Ruffalo, president of the NFB of NJ, and I wrote letters to the governor and the transition committee expressing the strong support of the blindness community for Dan Frye to continue as executive director. We didn’t say anything about concern over dismantling the commission because we didn’t want to give them the idea if they hadn’t already thought of it! We knew that Dan, along with other heads of departments and divisions, had been asked by the new administration to submit a letter of resignation. These positions are all appointed ones—appointed by a former governor.
We weren’t too worried because never in anyone’s memory had the executive director of the commission been removed by a new governor. The commission position had never been political and was always occupied by someone with blindness knowledge and expertise. And then the first bombshell dropped. Dan’s letter, along with those of others appointed by the previous governor, was accepted and he was asked to leave.
We immediately mobilized—spreading the word to the blind of New Jersey and to parents of blind children to write, email, and call the governor’s office asking for the reinstatement of Dan Frye. Our aim was to have 100 calls in two days. I am quite sure we exceeded that number.
But then just a short time later, the transition committee report came out. There they were—phrases like “fragmentation” and “multiple, overlapping departments” and “duplication of services” and “better alignment of programs,” that we knew were code for dismantling the commission and folding the pieces into other agencies.
Again we went into action, creating a fact sheet and sample messages to educate consumers and families and ultimately state legislators, the acting commissioner of the department of human service, and the governor about why we need the commission to be preserved as a stand-alone, blindness-specific agency. Several of our students and young people were able to get meetings with state legislators. Congratulations to Amy Albin, Vee Gaspa, Michael Halm, and Kristin Panaro for their excellent work on this. We inundated the commissioner’s and governor’s offices with phone calls—and they heard us. Thanks to each and every one who sent a message or made a call.
In February we got word that Mildred Crump was able to secure a meeting in Trenton with Acting Commissioner Carole Johnson. Two minutes before I left the house for the meeting, an email came in from the commissioner’s office saying, “the Murphy Administration is committed to CBVI’s important work...and has no intention of dismantling or eliminating CBVI.” We had won the day—the commission would be preserved. At the meeting we did ask for Dan to be reinstated, but unfortunately this was not to be. My guess is that if they reversed one decision, they would be pressed to reverse others, and that simply was not going to happen. We did request that the search for a new executive director be made nationwide and that the search team consult with leaders in the blindness community.
The commissioner seemed impressed with the level of our mobilization. She was very gracious and expressed her desire to work with us in the future. We will certainly be inviting her to our next convention, and we hope you can all meet her there.We plan to nurture our relationship with the new commissioner, continue our cordial and productive working relationship with the commission for the blind, and remain vigilant for any signs of threat to blindness services. We can accomplish great things when we work together. Congratulations, team!
The Braille Monitor frequently updates and runs an article entitled “Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind.” The article serves two purposes. One purpose is to provide some history about profoundly important people in our history. That history includes people such as Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and Dr. Marc Maurer. Its second purpose is to provide a biography for each of the Federation’s officers and members of the Board of Directors.Rather than reprinting the entire document, we are going to run the biographies of those who have most recently been elected to the Board of Directors. They are Denise Avant, Everette Bacon, and Amy Ruell. These will also be included in the complete “Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind” article that can be found on our website. Happy reading.
Denise Avant was born in Chicago in 1958 and was raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood. She had vision problems from birth and was ultimately diagnosed with Liber’s congenital blindness.
She attended a public elementary school with programs for blind students and was initially included in its “sight saving” classes, where she used large print. But in eighth grade her teacher of the blind advised that she should learn Braille in order to prepare for college. She was also given cane travel lessons starting in the spring of seventh grade so that she could travel to school using the bus. At the time, she was given a specific route to follow in order to avoid street crossings. Later, she would learn how to use Chicago’s public transportation system from blind friends to go shopping, attend movies, and engage in other adventures throughout her home city.
Although Denise started to learn Braille in high school, she initially was not proficient and still relied primarily on large print or on her teachers of the blind to read assignments to her. But as she continued to lose vision, especially in low light, she decided that more Braille training would relieve the worry over not being able to read print. In order to become a more proficient reader, Denise received six weeks of intensive Braille training provided by the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services in downtown Chicago in the summer between her freshman and sophomore high school years.
Denise attended college at the University of Missouri at Columbia, originally intending to pursue a journalism major but choosing a political science degree instead. (She would ultimately receive a master’s in journalism from Roosevelt University in 2003). Denise took an undergraduate course in constitutional law and enjoyed it so much that she decided to go on to law school. She stayed at the University of Missouri because she had established residence, and rehabilitation funds for her education were therefore available. But she decided to return to Chicago to pursue her legal career, since she already knew that public transportation was more than adequate there. Her first job was with Will County Legal Aid in Joliet, a two-hour commute from home, but she applied at a job fair for a position with the Cook County Public Defender and got the job. Assigned to the appellate division, where she handled appeals and post-conviction proceedings for people accused of a wide range of misdemeanor and felony offenses, Denise worked for the public defender for thirty years, retiring on August 31, 2017. She had further developed her Braille skills in college and law school by learning to take notes with a slate and stylus. While working in Joliet, she acquired a VersaBraille, and then ultimately graduated to the full-time use of a computer. Her Braille skills proved indispensable for conducting oral arguments in court. Her computer skills allowed her to prepare her own briefs and conduct legal research as she dealt with more responsibility and a heavier caseload due to steady advancement in her career.
Denise knew of the National Federation of the Blind long before she joined in 2005. She had even attended a few conventions and taken advantage of contacts and resources provided by the National Association of Blind Lawyers. But she didn’t think of herself as a joiner and had little interest in being a part of an organization that, she had been told, was made up of mean-spirited, radical extremists. But the people she met and the organization she came to know were nothing like what she had heard. “I attended my first Chicago Chapter meeting in 2005, and I’ve missed very few since then,” she says. In fact, she served on the chapter’s public relations committee and then became its second vice president. She says, “I appreciated the Federation because it was a place in which blind people were respected and our opinions were truly heard and really mattered.” But the real turning point in her involvement came when she was invited to a leadership seminar in August of 2010. At that gathering she realized for the first time that the success she had achieved in her life and career had been made possible by the work of the National Federation of the Blind. “The rehabilitation services and financial aid that I had access to, the technology I was able to acquire and use, and the barriers that had been overcome by other blind people before I started my career: all of those things happened because of the National Federation of the Blind, although I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Denise had been asked before by Illinois affiliate president Patti Chang whether she would consider succeeding Patti in that position, but Denise had always declined. After the leadership seminar, however, she told Patti that she was interested in serving as president. Denise was elected to her first term as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in 2014. She was re-elected in 2016 and was elected unanimously to the national board of directors in 2017.
Denise has worked hard for most of her life; she had summer jobs from the age of fifteen until she began her full-time career. She now looks forward to having more time to enjoy cross-country skiing, running, and reading. She and a group of friends have formed a small club called the Visionnairies, which helps local institutions and charities related to blindness. And, of course, she remains committed to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. “Ultimately, we must all work to continue to change the low expectations and negative attitudes that society has about the abilities of blind people,” she says. “Laws are important, but our real goal has to be changing hearts and minds.”
Everette Bacon was born in Huntington Beach, California, in July of 1970. He was born to Arvil and Patricia in a naval hospital since his father was in the navy.
At the age of five Everette's uncle noticed that there was something wrong with his eyes, a condition his father had not noticed and one which his mother and other female relatives didn't observe because blindness ran in their family. Everette was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy, a condition inherited from his mother's side which went back for thirteen generations, causing rapid-onset blindness. Despite the diagnosis, his family took the advice of teachers and medical experts, believing—or, more accurately, hoping—that since Everette was male and his vision was not deteriorating rapidly like that of other family members, he was unlikely to go blind. As a result, he did not learn Braille or other alternative techniques during his school years. Instead he learned to avoid reading as much as he reasonably could. He became an excellent listener and simply took his lumps when it came to grades that suffered because he could not read long enough to make it seem reasonable to him. "I liked what I read with my eyes, but the pain and the eye fatigue always won out. It caused me to be a fairly average student, and that's unfortunate because I had more aptitude than the average student."
Everette got along well with his schoolmates in his school, most people not knowing he had a severe vision problem and was in fact legally blind. "I think I learned how to fake it before I knew what faking it meant," he says.
When Everette was around eighteen his family moved to Texas. He pursued a degree in church music at Dallas Baptist University. He jokes that he was pushed toward music because "you know, blind people sing." His first job was teaching a seventh grade choir, but he found it not to his liking. Searching for other employment, Everette ultimately accepted a management position with Blockbuster Video in 1997. He was very successful in this position, winning several awards and steady promotions. By 2004 he was managing ten stores in the Houston area.
Everette's eye condition began to worsen, and instead of giving up, he adapted by using alternative techniques. "I started carrying a cane, mainly for identity, but I was using it when I felt I needed it. I was never embarrassed or ashamed about becoming blind, because I grew up around blind people; adapting was something you just became accustomed to doing." However, when he asked for reasonable accommodations from his employer, instead of granting these, Blockbuster terminated his employment despite his outstanding record. The company even went so far as to describe Everette's conduct as "fraudulent," implying that he had deceived the company about his capabilities, even though he had previously been praised and awarded for his work.
This experience traumatized Everette and his family. His wife, mother, and other family members sent angry emails to everyone they could, urging readers to avoid shopping at Blockbuster based on discrimination against the blind. One of these emails found its way to Scott LaBarre, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and a successful disability rights attorney. Scott took Everette's case, and ultimately Everette received a settlement from Blockbuster. More importantly, though, he learned about the National Federation of the Blind and the many battles the organization has fought in the effort to advance and protect the civil rights of blind people. "I had heard of the Federation and been told that they were militant," Everette says, "but my experience taught me the importance of our advocacy. There are so many reasons to be proud of who we are as blind people, and the Federation has paved the way for our climb to the top of the mountain of civil rights!”
In 2004 Everette and his wife, Dr. Angela Peters, moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. Everette became involved in the Utah affiliate and developed what he describes as life-changing relationships with dedicated Federationists like Nick Schmittroth, Karl Smith, and Deja Powell. These friends helped Everette improve his blindness skills and grow in the movement. Everette was also looking for new employment opportunities in Utah and heard about a job opening as a blindness skills teacher at the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Everette remembers speaking with Ray Martin about the fact that he knew nothing about teaching blind people. Martin told him that being blind was the most important qualification. The agency supported Everette in his pursuit of a master's degree in rehabilitation. He went from teaching technology to supervising the technology staff, and he now serves as the agency's field services coordinator, overseeing all of the agency's technology and employment services, supervising a staff of nine.
Everette began advocating for Utah's blind residents with an effort to encourage a prominent local cinema chain to incorporate audio description technology into its theaters so that blind people who wanted to experience movies with audio description could do so. An avid movie fan with an extensive collection dating from his Blockbuster days, he believes that audio description can enable blind people to connect more easily with their sighted peers when discussing entertainment. "One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from the NFB is the understanding that blending in to society is an important skill. Being able to relate to our sighted colleagues about movies, television, politics, and sports are excellent paths to opportunities that help change common misconceptions about blindness."
So how did he convince the cinema chain to spend the money? His pitch was simple: if you do this, you will attract more blind people, and we'll make it worth your while in terms of the publicity we get you for your efforts. The project was phenomenally successful—blind people got audio description, the publicity was significant, and the Federation had found a man with capability who could ask for, take on, and complete an assignment with flying colors.
In addition to serving on the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors since 2015 and as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah since 2012, he also serves as the organization's representative on the Federal Communications Commission Disability Advisory Committee.
Of course Everette does much more in his life than work for a living and work as an advocate. He is married to Dr. Angela Peters, a medical doctor whom Everette is proud to have helped support through medical school. Everette and Angela have a love for music, and a funny story around music brought them together. “In my junior year of college I had to practice piano, and I loved to play—badly—on the huge grand piano. One evening I was practicing, and I heard someone else doing the same in one of the small practice rooms with the lights off. I wanted to know who it was, so I went over to the window of the door and tried to peer in even though it was pretty dark. My future wife suddenly opened the door, and I practically fell into her arms! After my initial embarrassment, we started talking, and the rest is history.”
Everette’s “Angel” is his best friend and is very supportive of his work in the NFB. She has attended eight national conventions with Everette and hopes that they will be attending together for many years to come.
Everette loves to work on his deck, and although he is not good at yard work, his wife Angela is very good at yard projects and is equally good at helping him know what needs to be done. He loves baseball, fantasy sports, and his two dogs that he fondly refers to as his children. In his future he hopes to skydive, visit Europe, and see a musical on Broadway. Thanks to the NFB and an opportunity to test some new descriptive audio software, he attended the musical Chicago right before this article was sent to the Braille Monitor.So what has the Federation done to change Everette’s life and his perceptions of his place in the world? "I always thought blind people were capable of doing things, of being a part, but I never thought that we could lead things, control things, be in charge of extremely important projects with large budgets. I always thought blind people were great soldiers or fantastic worker bees doing whatever they were told, but I never thought blind people could lead in the way the NFB brought that to me. Until I met the organization I never knew how significantly blind people were changing policy, changing the law, changing the way businesses behaved, and changing the overall accessibility of the world. I've never lacked for inner-confidence, but I never understood how ambitious I could be as a blind person. I used to think that my difference meant there was a limit to what I could strive to be, but no more."
Amy Ruell was born in 1954 to Kenneth and Gloria Ruell. She is the only blind child in her family. To her family blindness was unexpected, but much was expected of Amy. While growing up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, she had little contact with blind people, the exception being through a camp for the blind she attended as a child. She was educated in public school, but as too frequently happens today, she received minimal instruction in cane travel and no formal professional instruction in Braille. She learned it with the help of her mother and a volunteer, both staying a lesson ahead of her as the instruction proceeded. Luckily for her, the study was intense and thorough. Amy has a mastery of Braille that helps make her a top performer in her field. She feels that, in some ways, the lack of professional instruction forced her to learn invaluable problem-solving skills as she worked with her teachers to adapt her curriculum while ensuring that the same level of competence was expected of her as of her peers.
She obtained bachelor of arts and master of science degrees from Smith College and Simmons College School of Social Work respectively and has been successfully employed as a therapist, supervisor, and, most recently, as a clinical care manager authorizing psychiatric emergency admissions. “I have a time-consuming and sometimes stressful job, but busy is a part of who I am, and making positive contributions to the lives of others is one of my core values.”
As part of her normal life experience, Amy is both a wife and mother. She is married to Jim, and they are the proud parents of two children, Steven and Sheila.
Amy discovered the Federation when her job as the literacy program manager for an initiative at National Braille Press required that she attend the conventions of several national organizations of the blind. At the NFB’s gathering she found people doing things for themselves and at the same time helping others get around the hotel, read menus, and do so many other things in a wonderful spirit of mentorship and cooperation. “I told my husband that I was going to join but that I was not going to become a leader. I already held enough leadership positions. But when I attended my first affiliate convention, I didn’t like it. I was bored, I was frustrated, and I felt like I had wasted my money. Now I am the kind of person who, if I don’t like something, I feel as though I have to change it. I either need to leave it behind or do something about it. So I decided that I would take on the job of planning the next convention and making it better. I asked for and got the job. At the convention that I organized, attendance increased by 20 percent, and I got a lot of accolades for the job I did. So as I looked at the organization, I realized I had two choices: to lead or to shut up, and I concluded that leading was a task more suited to my character and temperament.
“The decision did not come easily. I was already involved with a number of organizations, and I take my involvement very seriously. When I say I will do something, I know it will take precious time that I do not have in abundance, but I do it. This means I do not easily say yes, but when I do, you can count on me to follow through.”
For Amy there was first an investment of the head: the broad advocacy, the systemic change, but later there was the investment of the heart and seeing how much her personal involvement could change one life and then two. That first personal involvement came when a young man needed rehabilitation that had been denied by the agency. After gathering a lot of information about him, determining the options he should have, and capitalizing on her working relationship with the head of the state agency, she got the young man training. “He went to BLIND Incorporated and was transformed from somebody who really couldn’t find his way anywhere to somebody who is now working part-time, going to school, living on his own in his own apartment, and going everywhere on busses totally independently. I have had a couple of situations that are similar in scope and outcome, and for me that is the reward. Despite all of the advances, I think there are a lot of young people who are struggling and who could learn from some of us older folks who have had to learn to do things more independently and who have had to use our own creativity rather than having a prescribed program. This ability to work with some students and see real growth is the kind of reward that keeps me going when I have no energy and I’m really wanting to go watch the Boston Red Sox, go to a concert, or finish reading the book I’m in the middle of.”
Amy says she struggles with where to put our focus and recognition. Like most groups we focus on those of high achievement: our scholarship winners, the innovators, those with excellent attitudes, and the skills that spring from them. But sometimes she thinks that this helps to reinforce the stereotype that we are amazing. How can we instead emphasize that if you are blind and doing normal things, it is because blindness doesn’t make you abnormal. She observes that being the pitiable blind person and the amazing blind person are just opposite sides of the same coin. “I think we do ourselves a disservice in two ways: there are a lot of people who feel distanced from us and who feel like the NFB is very elitist, and to some extent, when we just feature folks in certain categories, we unwittingly contribute to that stereotype. I also think that for some people who are in the group that is featured, they begin to believe that somehow they are amazing as blind people, and they feed into that stereotype that society gives them. This too does blind people a disservice.”
Amy relates that at one of her jobs she was the spokesman for Braille literacy: traveling throughout the country making speeches, staying in fine hotels, and enjoying good meals. At the same time that she was doing this, she knew that the people producing the Braille she was promoting had jobs that were much harder than hers—people who trudged in during a snowstorm and were there by 7 a.m., stood on their feet all day, got paid far less than she did, seldom got a word of praise, and certainly never got the pay or recognition she did for promoting literacy and the essential role of Braille.
Amy says, “So one of the things I’ve tried to do in the NFB is make sure that other people who don’t have the same abilities I do and that many people find most impressive still have a way to know that they are important and to feel what those of us who so easily are considered important feel. I look for people who may not be able to do the jobs I do but who still do jobs that are essential to our organization. I work to help figure out what they can do and see that they are acknowledged for it, and I think this does as much or more than showing them examples of people they will never be like and expecting them to do what those people do.” Amy believes that one of the biggest challenges we face as an organization is the way to include and meet the needs of the increasing number of people with multiple disabilities in the United States.Amy was elected as the vice president of the Massachusetts affiliate shortly after joining the NFB and also has served as the vice president of the Cambridge chapter. She was unanimously elected to the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors in 2017. “My biggest challenge is that I take seriously everything I commit to do. I don’t say yes easily, but when I do, I want people to know that I will follow through. My challenge is how to do all the work of an affiliate president, a board member, and a very busy professional, and still have some time for me. I would rather work for change than complain about it, and all of my jobs in the Federation give me the opportunity to be a part of that change.”
by the Monitor Editorial Staff
Every month the Braille Monitor opens with an illustration: a few pictures, and a paragraph or two showcasing various programs and events held by the National Federation of the Blind or involving Federation members. Often these illustrations involve programs held at the Jernigan Institute or other programs conducted nationally. There’s a really good reason for that, and it’s not that we are interested only in nationwide activities. It is because we who are involved in chapter and affiliate activities forget to capture them for our national magazine. Your editor belongs to the Columbia chapter of the NFB of Missouri, and on Memorial Day we marched in a parade to honor our veterans. Did we photograph it? No. Was I marching? You bet.
Every day there are events held by state divisions and local chapters: fundraisers, scholarships awarded, meet the blind events, community service projects—all sorts of fun and exciting events that other Federationists might be interested in, either to adapt the event to be held in their own community or because a Federation friend might be involved. But we can’t make a lead illustration about an event we don’t hear about.
The good news is that you can change that, and here’s how:
Send in three to seven photos from the event. Please send them as attachments to an email rather than in the body of the email itself. This helps keep the photos as large and clear as possible. In the email itself, identify Federationists who are in the photos, and tell us about the event. It doesn’t have to be much—only a paragraph or two about where and when the event happened, what the event was, and what the purpose was. That purpose may well be, “Our chapter thought this looked like fun, and we were right!” You can send these to Editor Gary Wunder at [email protected], or to his assistant Grace Warn at [email protected]. Help publicize the work of your chapter and affiliate as together we all work to build the Federation.
by Cheryl Fields
From the Editor: Cheryl Fields is the vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Cleveland, Ohio. She offers here a revealing story of abuse that she has overcome and wishes to point the way for others suffering abuse. Here is what she says:
Living with and managing a life of independence while being victimized by an abusive partner is challenging. The ability to live in a world expecting and anticipating an opportunity to excel and thrive in society really was my goal when I lost my vision.
However, there was a huge barrier that held me back: an insidious crime in the land. It is traumatic, fuels terror, bruises the psyche, and often kills. Its name is domestic violence. I was introduced to intimate partner abuse when I was eighteen years old. But, not until ten years later, after two children and suddenly losing my vision, did I realize how much danger my children and I were in.
Domestic violence affects one out of four women in the general population. Domestic violence affects blind women at a much higher and alarming rate. Some statistics say approximately three out of four, others estimate one in three blind women. Let’s agree on the fact it happens more often, and most victims remain silent.
The NFB contributes significantly to how I thrive today. At the age of twenty-seven, I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly blind, with two very young children and an abusive partner. The physical abuse continued until I was thirty-two years old. Unaccountably I believed that when I lost my vision, he would stop. That never happened. It only escalated! I had an up-close-and-personal view of various types of abuse, and for years I remained silent.
While receiving rehabilitation services in the mid-80s, there were some rules my abusive husband demanded. I was not allowed to learn how to ride the bus independently, and I could not become too friendly with the blind people. I broke every rule! It was important to me to learn everything that I could while away from the house. Thank God for a very perceptive and creative orientation and mobility instructor. He figured out a way to teach me the skills I would need to become independent. During this time I was periodically unable to think any further than how to get my clothes on properly and keep up with my children.
The crime that was inflicted on me took on the form of financial, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse. I never told a soul. I was silent! After all, my husband had provided for us, loved his children, and denied me nothing other than respect and dignity. I was repeatedly reminded of my many flaws, including the most recent one—blindness. I was told that I was useless, incompetent, and an overall waste of a human being. My life was shattered, and I was broken. As stated previously, I had hoped that the blindness would result in the cessation of the physical abuse since I was blind. Still I remained silent. When I tried to fight back, nothing worked. One of his many threats included placing me into a nursing home, and his family supported this idea. My priority became conquering my blindness and becoming whole again. I never thought about employment or continuing my education. My days were filled with trying to become a super mom and loving wife.
But then, one day a school mate was shot and killed by her husband while her young son looked on. I attended that funeral service. Listening to the sobs of Sharon’s very young, heartbroken son, I knew that I had to get out. But I had no clue of how to execute my escape. A few weeks later my husband beat me in the parking lot at a local mall. The police were called, and he was asked to leave. The policeman told me that my husband would not return, and I would be safe. “Just sit right here and wait.” While sitting there crying and alone, my husband returned. He tried to convince me that I fell, that he did not beat me, and that the people who witnessed this were mistaken and should mind their own business. He said that I needed to come with him. I panicked! I ran through the mall into a department store and hid. No one tried to help me.
Later my aunt and uncle arrived to pick me up. I told them everything. Finally the silence was broken! I filed for divorce and received temporary custody of our children. For the next four years he hauled me in and out of court, accusing me of being an unfit mother. Although this was stressful and costly, I refused to give up or give in and retained custody. This experience taught me how to persevere under pressure and not to remain silent in the face of abuse. These victories prompted me to want to give back and encourage others. That is when I connected with the NFB.
Moving from victim to survivor is a big step, but I took a step further. I was amazed at the accomplishments of NFB members, the energy and effectiveness of advocacy, and the genuine sharing. And now I am thriving!
It is crucial for the NFB to speak up and speak out for the silent, blind victims of domestic violence. How can we ask those that live under the constant threat and fear of bodily injury, struggling emotionally and financially, to follow us on the road to independence? Finding a voice to speak up against bad employment practices, asking for reasonable accommodations for education, and the courage to leave home for guide dog training sounds like a dream for many blind victims of domestic violence.
The Ohio affiliate is committed to educating our Federation family about the effects of intimate partner abuse. I encourage each affiliate to make a conscience effort to examine domestic abuse. It is a key to real independence and strength. Notice the false faces, listen to the silent pleas of blind victims, and have the courage to let them know that it is not blindness that holds them back!
I leave you with the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” And a resource to keep in mind: The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 800-799-7233 or TTY 800-787-3224
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:
Plan to Leave a Legacy
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.
Invest in Opportunity
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 2017 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.
Vehicle Donation Program
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.
From the Editor: This article first appeared on May 7, 2018, on Yevgeniya’s personal blog. It came to our attention at the Monitor after a Federationist shared it on her Facebook. Yevgeniya immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1999. In 2014 she was the winner of a National Federation of the Blind national scholarship, and she recently earned a bachelor’s in social work with a minor in psychology from Bridgewater State University. She has volunteered with a suicide prevention hotline and has done a social work internship in Boston doing case management with families to help eliminate moderate barriers such as childcare to help them achieve long-term financial and housing stability. She says that these experiences have taught her three things: that with the right level of support, anything is possible; to try to view your differences as strengths rather than setbacks; and that a positive attitude despite the obstacles that life throws at you will get you further than you think.
Dating can be difficult, dating as a blind person more challenging, and with the internet becoming the place to find potential partners, the challenges just keep evolving. Yevgeniya says that she tries to live in the moment and not take life too seriously, and she applies that philosophy to her attempts at dating using the popular app Tinder. She describes her experiences with humor and optimism and asserts that for every negative experience there will be good dates to balance it out. Here’s what she has to say:
For those of you who joke that some people on Tinder blindly swipe on everyone just to get matches, welcome to my world. Hundreds of matches might be a nice perk and amazing confidence boost, but I literally swipe right on everyone because I have no other choice.
Before I go into this any further, I just want to say that no, physical appearance does not usually make or break a first date for me. At the same time, though, I am still human, which means that forming opinions is inevitable, despite my desire to keep an open mind. Personality is everything, but I still have to be physically attracted to a person to some degree to keep on dating him. Just because I am blind does not mean that I don’t have my own bedazzled picture of “dream boy” in my head, with his ability to sparkle in the sun and all. Don’t kill me—I’m only kidding. We’ll save my not-so-kind “Twilight” rant for another day.
But on the more serious side of things, I envision my ideal man to be taller than me (not that that’s a hard one since I’m the height of an average person only when I wear heels), built and somewhat in shape, someone who dresses casual, but neat, among other things. On the other hand, I always strive to keep an open mind because I would want the same in return. So, even when a Tinder match doesn’t fit these qualities and doesn’t seem like someone I might connect with, I give them a shot. Doesn’t seem too difficult, right?
I wish it was that easy. Although VoiceOver, the software that comes with every iPhone, allows me to listen and respond to my Tinder messages, it unfortunately doesn’t yet have the capability to objectively describe pictures in such detail that would allow me to form my own opinion about a person. Even if basic descriptions were made available, the subjective qualities that often determine the direction of the swipe for someone who can see would be too controversial in nature to be universally accepted as a description by the public.
Let me explain. We can all agree on the fact that everyone has a nose. Therefore, if the description were to be that simple, it wouldn’t mean much to you if you closed your eyes. Now, say you get a description of “man, face with big nose.” Well, what one person considers big in general is different from another person’s perception of big. A third person’s interpretation of the word would be different still—stripping it of any and all significant meaning in the grand scheme of swiping for a blind individual. Moreover, “big” is already confusing, so just add “nose” to it and the tables unpredictably turn once again. Even if two people agree on the definition of big, one person could view a picture of a nose as big, while someone else could view the same picture as average. This is because, despite the common language we speak, the way we perceive reality differs from person to person.
My mental image of someone before I meet up with him for the first time comes together in the form of sporadic and often unintentionally inconsistent descriptions provided by a bunch of my friends, which I sort through to find some kind of common denominator. Also, huge shout out to my friends for always being so patient and never refusing to describe—it means the world to me! Combine that with the more-often-than-not blank bios, and I am basically where I started when I first swiped right. This is just one of many parts of Tinder that make this already crazy dating world much more of a conundrum for me.
Another problem with Tinder is that guys mindlessly swipe, failing to read the bios in the process, which is where I indicate that I’m blind. They assume that if a girl dresses nice, looks hot, works, goes to school, and likes going out, then there’s no way she could be blind. You want to know how I know? I’ll tell you. I receive about ten or more messages a day along the lines of this:
Wait, are you really blind?
No, I lied… because someone would be messed up enough to lie about that.
Hey! I’m not trying to be mean. You seem like a great girl, but how would this work if you can’t see?
First of all, that’s like saying no offence and still saying something offensive. Second, clearly it won’t. I can’t “see” us working with that kind of attitude.
I just wanted to say that you’re so inspirational, and I hope you have a great day!
I don’t need the pity party if you’re not actually going to talk to me. Thanks, but no thanks.
Hi, so your friends technically swiped on me? So I would technically be dating your friend not you?
So what was the point of this message, just go date all 500 of my friends who described you.
I don’t believe that you’re blind… how do you rock climb?
I don’t have to prove anything to you… and how do you?
I’m absolutely SPEECHLESS… totally mind blown. These are just some sarcastic remarks that pop into my mind every time I read a message like that. I can’t help it; some of them are so ridiculous! Then, it gets better. Some guys never read the bio until I bring up the fact that I’m blind myself:
Guy: Btw, do you have snapchat?
Me: So I’m guessing you didn’t read my bio?
Guy: What, what does snapchat have anything to do with your bio?
Me: Well, if you’d read it you’d know. Lol I can’t see.
Guy: Oh god, I’m so sorry… I feel like an idiot haha
Me: It’s ok. So I don’t have snap, but I do have fb [Facebook]. You can add me
Guy: *doesn’t respond*
These are not by any means the majority of the conversations I have with people on Tinder. It’s just that when they happen they are pretty discouraging. But, I always remind myself that I wouldn’t date someone who wasn’t accepting of others, even if I could see. I also do not expect too much from Tinder, an app that became popular and most known for its one-night-stands. Although things are slowly changing and guys are getting classier by the day, I believe that the best relationships come when you least expect them.
Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic stuck in a generation of people who are more scared of commitment than they are of dying, or maybe I haven’t yet found someone for a different, more promising reason. Either way, that’s my experience, and for the most part people are pretty accepting and excited to talk to someone who has a different perspective of the world. Thankfully, most of the dates that I’ve been on have been fun, classy, and natural, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just a girl trying to do this online dating thing, and minus its flaws (like anything in life), so far, it’s been better than I expected.
by Nancy Burns
From the Editor: Nancy Burns is a woman who knows the history of our organization and not just as a reader or an observer. She has been an active participant, and her distinguished service as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of California is a testament to the love felt for her and her ability to carry on the administration of fast moving and complex programs. Here is what she has to say about our history and what it suggests for our future advocacy when it comes to letting agencies speak for us:
Much of the history of our country has been created and was focused on a single and totally unique idea. In 1776, the words of Thomas Jefferson boldly proclaiming that “All men are created equal” resounded through our new country. Wars and unrest have followed and still occur as a result of this seemingly simple proclamation. This unique idea, however straightforward, is still being fought not only in the judicial system but in our very own streets. As our new country moved forward, a huge westward push emerged. Hundreds of early settlers grasped the idea to expand our new country westward. Wagons were supplied with food, clothing, and utensils of all kinds as the call of land, gold, or simply the idea of a new way of life called to the hearty and adventurous souls.
As this infant country emerged, many creative thinkers invented the radio, telephone, and even a horseless carriage. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries an explosion of progress in many areas became evident.
In 1886 the Statue of Liberty was erected on Ellis Island and welcomed immigrants to this growing nation. Landowners began using slaves to plow their vast plantations, to pick cotton, and to serve their masters. These practices clashed with the concept of equal rights. The question of civil rights began to loom on the horizon and conflict arose. War and controversy spilled over in our nation.
As agricultural issues were becoming over-shadowed by manufacturing, civil rights and issues of equality began to appear. Little attention was given to those citizens who were blind or otherwise disabled. In 1940 another forward thinker set forth a new and innovative idea about the role of the blind in this country but has received little acknowledgement in the history books. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, a young, blind professor, set forth the unique notion that the blind should have a voice in their own affairs. This thought-provoking proclamation has also created ripples throughout the country. Agencies established for the sole purpose of caring for the blind have been not only unhappy with this belief but have attempted to thwart such thoughts on the part of the public.
In 1940 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek brought together a group of sixteen blind people from seven states and organized the National Federation of the Blind. The seven states represented were California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This meeting was somewhat miraculous considering that in this time of our history blind people were considered to be either indigents or paupers and were mostly closeted with no voice in their affairs. Jacobus tenBroek was a true visionary and much like Martin Luther King, both had a dream of equality. He realized, even at this early time, that the plight of the blind was primarily the result of discrimination and untrue belief systems shared by the general public.
Since those early days, the NFB has encountered resistance from many but has steadily grown stronger and more influential. Agencies for the blind flourished and attempted to determine the path that blind citizens should follow. Sheltered workshops sprang up under the guise of employment for the blind. Blind workers were given menial tasks such as broom-making and basketry, and they were never encouraged to gain meaningful employment. These workers were paid disgraceful sub-minimum wages regardless of their actual abilities. Conditions were deplorable, and the issue of self-confidence was never addressed.
Unfortunately, there are still some agencies for the blind that have the mistaken idea that they know what is best for those of us who happen to be blind. Attempts continue to be made that these agencies should monitor, establish guidelines, and control agencies providing services for the blind. Little if any consideration is given to those successful agencies operated by blind professionals. Does it not seem reasonable that blind professionals have the knowledge and expertise to operate such training facilities? How is it that many sighted professionals are unable to understand the benefits of such programs?
The National Federation of the Blind has been strengthened by continued outstanding leadership. Following the incredible leadership of Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was elected president in 1968. The Jernigan administration launched the NFB into a new era of education. The goal to educate the sighted as well as the blind was enhanced by the creation of Kernel Books in 1991. He believed that these small books, written by blind people, would assist in the effort to educate the general public.
Dr. Jernigan did this and much more. A factory building in the south Federal Hill area of Baltimore was transformed into the National Center for the Blind. Leadership seminars, technology training, the aids and appliances programs, public service announcements, and the International Braille and Technology Center evolved within this building. Three residential training centers for the blind were established by the NFB in three states.
Dr. Marc Maurer, an attorney, was elected to the position of national President in 1986 and revealed his visions for the future. Ensconced in the philosophical foundations laid by tenBroek and Jernigan, Marc Maurer projected a renewed enthusiasm. The Jernigan Institute was established with an incredible ribbon-cutting ceremony. At his instigation the KNFB Reader was developed.
In his 2010 banquet address, he outlined the progress of the National Federation of the Blind and referred to himself as the third generation of the organization. He considered Dr. Jacobus tenBroek as the first generation; Dr. Kenneth Jernigan as the second generation; and that the fourth generation of Federationists was already handling much of the work of the Federation with the fifth generation on the horizon.
In 2014 yet another dynamic leader emerged. Mark Riccobono believes that we blind people have the right to live the lives we want. Live music and enthusiasm set the stage for this young, energetic leader.
Throughout the history of our nation, as well as that of the NFB, not all ideas are perceived to be good ideas. It is early in President Riccobono’s administration, but he is being challenged with troubling actions. Once again, agencies comprised of mostly sighted people seem to be intent on creating standards for programs that train blind individuals. Historical evidence points to the fact that the National Federation of the Blind will simply not allow these attempts to succeed. If necessary, we will again take to the streets with our message. This organization, aided by the profound leadership of blind men and women, will not allow blind people to be treated as second-class citizens. We have come too far to allow this to occur. It is imperative to maintain the high profile and professional standards that have been established by decades of devoted efforts. President Riccobono has proudly picked up the gauntlet and will lead the battle to allow blind citizens to live the lives we want.
by Valerie Chernek
From the Editor: This article first appeared on the Learning Ally website in its teaching and education blogs on May 10, 2018. That post can be found at http://www.learningally.org/
Educators/Educator-Blog/PostId/907/tech-tools-and-learning-modalities-level-the-learning-field-for-students-with-vision-impairments. Valerie Chernek is an advocate for teachers and writes about educational best practices using technology to support children with learning disabilities and special needs. Here is what she has to say:
Paige Morra wanted to be an engineer. She thought her career goals were all set until she interned and completed her practicum for Dr. Edward Bell, a professor who directs the Louisiana Tech graduate programs for the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness. Dr. Bell and his wife Mrs. Maria Morais are blind.
Paige says, “I experienced firsthand how people who are blind can lead incredibly “normal” lives. Dr. Bell and Maria opened my eyes to the true definition of what is possible for people with vision impairments. They are accomplished professionals, wonderful parents, and extraordinary role models. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to help more students with visual impairments succeed. I wanted sighted people to understand what real learning potential is for these learners.”
Paige changed her major to family and child studies. She volunteered at summer camps. She learned Braille and the benefits of technologies to equip students with visual and print challenges to succeed academically. She graduated with a master of art in teaching and now works at Plano Independent School District as a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI).
Paige is the first TVI to receive Learning Ally’s Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award. We loved her remarkable contributions to the field of special education and blindness in support of students (infants to age twenty-two) and her unwavering belief that students with visual impairments can achieve great things with the right tech tools and learning modalities. “I fell in love with the field,” she says, “It was like a door opened and said, ‘You can make a real difference! Learning Ally is a big part of the solution!’”
Many of Paige’s students learn in Braille because they like the tactile form of comprehending curriculum. Other students learn through audiobooks, sometimes referred to as “ear-reading,” because they prefer to listen to text narrated by subject experts. “This modality enhances students’ comprehension and critical-thinking skills,” says Paige. “They get the full context of the story. It’s awesome to see children with headsets on so absorbed in a story or giggling about something they are reading.”
A fourth grader with a degenerative eye condition prefers to follow the printed book in Braille and follow along through headphones with human-narrated audio from Learning Ally. “This resource made a huge difference for students to get their books on time in accessible audio format,” she says. Some students have short attention spans—a challenge for many teachers—but with quality education technology, these students are super-engaged learners.
“Whether they use a Perkins Braillewriter, a Mountbatten, a BrailleNote Apex, or Learning Ally audiobooks, these tools keep students ahead of the curve, on grade level, and socially no different than other students. This is a good thing to feel and look normal, just like everyone else,” said Paige.
She believes that when children with learning differences start early to use technology, they become independent readers. Using an iPad with Learning Ally’s Link app, students can easily enlarge font size to reduce eyestrain, bookmark chapters or sections to take notes for reports, and follow precise page numbers as a printed textbook. “These functions level the learning field for students, especially as they progress to upper grades and prepare for college,” said Paige, who is always thinking about her students’ future.
This tech-savvy teacher uses her smartphone to monitor her student’s progress. She logs into Learning Ally’s Teacher Ally dashboard and downloads performance data to discuss with teachers and parents and to prepare a students’ IEP (individualized education programs). She can quickly assign a required audiobook to a student’s account and take advantage of the ready-made reading engagement programs that Learning Ally offers teachers throughout the year at no cost.
Paige says, “Parents are excited to know that their child can access the digital library even when school is not in session or if there is no internet at home. Parents appreciate the reading independence Learning Ally human-read audiobooks provide. I appreciate knowing that we have equipped more students for success and helped to change the course of their lives, just as Dr. Bell and Maria did for me.”
As told to Barbara Shalit
From the Editor: Some of us find travel routine. Others who are blind find it a challenge. But most of us have failed to wonder how it is that one can travel independently and attend meetings if he or she is deaf and blind. Alice Eaddy and Barbara Shalit give us some help in understanding the obstacles and the laws that attempt to mitigate them. Here is what they say:
What does it take to immerse the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) into my world of travel fear and the DeafBlind communication experience? When is it appropriate to separate a consumer from communication access devices in the name of a security check?
Come along with me, and discover my world as a person who has limited sight and hearing. This story started when I lodged a complaint of poor handling of a DeafBlind consumer—me—on a July 16 flight after the 2017 NFB National Convention. Not only did I miss my flight home, but my ride, as well. I ended up routed home by way of St. Louis to Philadelphia. Coincidentally, at the National Convention the DeafBlind Division had hosted a panel on travel, and one of the speakers was from TSA. I notified this individual about my difficulties and was referred to Susan Buckland, senior policy advisor, TSA Disability Branch. Susan and I discussed my experience, and she then invited me to an upcoming disability and medical conference—the TSA Annual Coalition Conference—in Arlington, Virginia. I was thrilled to attend but knew that my journey would take research and preparedness.
I began by checking out the hotel and its location and adding that information to my White Pages app. Using another app, Trip Planner, I input key information for route and best transportation modes. I packed my bag as I do when I’m flying, including a prepared “canned” disclaimer in my Speak2See app that says, “Please note that I’ve photographed the position of all items within. If an item is removed and examined, please return it to its original location.” (It’s a good idea to call seventy-two hours prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures, and what to expect at the security checkpoint.) I booked Amtrak, registered with the hotel, and made sure I’d remember to carry my email and conference invitations to the event.
And then I hit a roadblock: Access Link’s inability to accommodate a 4:30 a.m. pickup from my home to the Philadelphia train station. So, instead, the night before I took a New Jersey Transit bus at 8:15 p.m. to Philadelphia, then another bus at 11:09 p.m. to the train station, stayed overnight there, and then took the 6:30 a.m. train to Washington, DC. My biggest challenge after arriving in DC was my first-ever trip on the Metro from DC into Virginia.
All went well, and I arrived at the conference safe and sound. My initial TSA contact, Susan, was there, searched me out, and we ate lunch together. I used my Speak2See app to order.
During the conference I demonstrated several apps, including the free ShowMe for Emergencies and ShowMe FAC, which are picture-based communication tools. The conference folks really liked them and wanted to take components for use with other travelers with disabilities. TSA has Braille copies of the questions TSA typically asks during a pat down; these can be requested by travelers in advance. Also available in advance is the TSA Cares Helpline that provides travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, and other special circumstances with additional assistance during the security screening process.
Two passenger-support specialists from local airports thanked me for showing them my communication cards. The cards were a revelation for them, which may indicate that DeafBlind travelers aren’t using them. They welcomed ideas to ease communication and reminded me that they provide on-the-spot assistance.
Airports and train stations inherently have things that cause interference to my equipment. I explained that even simple x-rays at the dentist office can fry my hearing aid from the inside out. Also, I let them know that it’s invasive to me when I’m asked to send my phone through the scanning machine because it truly is my only means to communication. Most agents do not seem to understand that. They hand-swipe my ComPilot, Roger Pen, and Mini Mic, items that are irreplaceable and provide a coordinated listening environment for me. I easily feel robbed when I am without them.
During the conference I also talked about having used the Sprint IP Relay app to coordinate my travels, since it’s hard for me to hear on my phone anymore. Using the IP Relay, I can be called via my relay app phone number, and messages arrive in my email inbox.
I learned that the TSA experience is often specific to the airport you’re visiting. I also perused the booths at the conference, which included customer relations service (DOJ), customer service branch (TSA), Diversity and Inclusion Division (TSA), Transportation Security Redress Branch (TSA), and more.
I had so much fun! I didn’t talk a lot but made what I said count. They provided CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services and three rotating interpreters for me, and I’m now a coalition member, too.
So there you have it, a chance with some drama creating an opportunity to open dialogues about the travel and etiquette needs of the DeafBlind consumer when dealing with TSA representatives.
If you need to file a complaint, contact: Susan Buckland, senior policy advisor, Disability Branch/Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, Ombudsmen and Traveler Engagement, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, phone 202-684-5002 (text only) or email [email protected].
From the Editor: Enchanted Hills is a facility run by the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind. One of the people who works there has already been highlighted in the May 2016 issue of the Braille Monitor, and George Wurtzel continues to inspire blind people who want to do woodworking and other activities that are more physical and less intellectual. But George’s work and the work of San Francisco LightHouse also looks to experts in the community to teach what they do not know, and this article is from the perspective of one family brought in to help teach blind people woodworking.
Deborah Kermode is the wife of Jerry Kermode, and here is how she tells the story of becoming involved in the instruction of a class of blind students:
This is a story of timing, guidance, and intention. Over the fifty years Jerry and I have been married, we have often allowed possibilities to guide us. This is our latest adventure and learning.
Probably twenty-five years ago, while in our craft booth at a fair in Honolulu’s Thomas Square Park, Jerry saw a blind man walking by. Always eager to meet a new friend, he invited the man into our booth. Our lathe-turned wood bowls with their various shapes and styles are lovely to look at but even more meaningful is their tactile connection to nature. Our visitor and his wife were fascinated and taken with them, picking each one up to examine it, he with his hands and fingers, she adding eyes and description. We enjoyed their company and compliments, as well as watching JK’s face as he “saw” each piece; they purchased a bowl from us. Their names are Jerry and Theresa, but for the sake of clarity, he will be JK in this story.
Some years later we left our twenty-two years in Hawaii, moving to the San Francisco Bay area and landing in Sebastopol, about fifty miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. At one of our first San Francisco shows who walked into our booth but our friends from the Hawai’i show, JK and Theresa. It was a happy reunion and another moment of wonder watching the depth of joy as JK again discovered each piece. They took another bowl home. During their visit, the two Jerrys discussed the possibility of teaching woodturning to interested blind people.
The years passed, and we were busy establishing ourselves and our business on the mainland. About ten years and many shows later, JK and Theresa again visited our booth. They were unexpectedly and serendipitously joined by a group of high-energy friends, all blind or visually impaired. Bowls were passed around, and the fascination and excitement was palpable.
The tall, long-haired, bearded, and buoyant member of the group was George Wurtzel. We later learned that George is an accomplished professional woodworker who relocated from Minnesota, recruited by the LightHouse for the Blind as the camp construction manager at their Enchanted Hills Camp above Napa, California. We also learned that George’s passion is his woodworking and teaching others. Again the talk turned to teaching, and serious discussion began.
Later in the summer Jerry drove up to the camp, which sits at 2,000 feet above the Napa Valley on Mt. Veeder. He visited a class George was teaching called Woodworking for the Blind. Projects included joinery and marquetry, and Jerry was hooked. He was soon working with a few people on one of the lathes, showing them the joy of proper cutting: riding the bevel of the chisel as the wood spins.
Plans were made for us to take our five student lathes up and teach a four-day workshop for eight people, using the three lathes already in the shop. Before a date could be set, the horrendous, wind-propelled October 9 fires ripped through Sonoma and Napa Counties. The fire blew up and over Mt. Veeder. The lower camp area was decimated, most of the upper main buildings were saved but for smoke damage, staff housing was lost, and months of repair and rebuilding ensued.
Our class was on hold. George and Jerry stayed in contact until a date was set for February 1, 2018, the first event at camp following the fires. Little did we know how significant this weekend would be to all of us.
For weeks prior to class Jerry couldn’t sleep. It is one thing to spend a couple of hours one-on-one, as he did in the summer, but a shop full of blind woodturning students is daunting, even with his thirty years of teaching woodturning and George’s gregarious assurances that blind woodworkers are just like others, only nicer. We laughed, then found this to be true.
We drove the winding Trinity Road up the mountain, pulling our trailer of lathes and enough wood and tools to keep eight students happy for four days. It seems we missed seeing the sign advising against trucks and trailers on Trinity Road.
Our anticipation, nervousness, and excitement became tempered by the blackened swaths through the mountain forest: some homes standing where they shouldn’t, others destroyed in the midst of untouched green, and then a path of pure destruction where nothing is left. Fickle fire!
We turned left off of Mt. Veeder Road, heading down into the camp, with burn on our right and green to our left. We came first to the Art Building, where the wood shop sits above George’s tactile gallery and what will be the pottery studio. Here visitors are invited to touch and explore the turned and sculpted work, unlike most galleries with “Do not touch” as the watchword. On the right side of the road, the building is untouched by fire. Some say it was saved by the woman carved from a redwood stump that sits in front of the building. She is called Theresa for our original contact, JK’s wife, who died just months before the fires.
I met George and Jennifer, his assistant and partner, more often known as Jennifire. George has been blind since early childhood. He owned and ran a furniture building company with twenty employees for twenty years. He broke horses professionally, skied across Lapland, and is now a valuable member of a dedicated group on this mountain. Jennifire is visually impaired, and she certainly meets George’s energy with creativity, joy, and enthusiasm of her own.
Three members of an AmeriCorps team who are living at Enchanted Hills Camp clearing/renewing/rebuilding the damaged areas arrived to help unload the lathes. This group of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old dedicated workers shined as an integral facet of the diamond that these four days developed into.
After we all worked to set up the shop teaching area, George invited us to his home down the hill for lunch. He mixed up delicious barbecue chicken sandwiches, and we sat out on his deck. It was a beautiful, warm Thursday afternoon, really too warm for February but great for our time on the mountain. A few early arrivals for the class joined us, JK and a friend (the only other fully sighted person at the table) among them. I dove into the joyful humor and camaraderie we were to experience over the weekend.
Following lunch I moved us into our comfortable cabin, put our beer in the little fridge, and headed back up the hill to meet more students as they arrived throughout the afternoon. Jerry and George had already started showing them the parts of the lathe, and some were already turning beads and coves, the two main shapes that a turner produces. I joined in greeting new people and introducing them to their first experience of woodturning.
We know the challenge for blind people is to find where to start and end the cut, and we were at a loss as to how to help. Josh and Bryan, two of the students with especially quick mental visual acuity, stepped in to help. They were able to use their hands and fingers against the spinning wood in a fashion I will never try. They have such sensitivity of touch that they can feel just where to be without getting pulled into the tool rest. What a lovely reflection to realize we had blind assistants to help teach the concepts for which we were ill equipped.
Until now Jerry’s introduction to each project was a demonstration, but in this class he needed to find another way to impart the steps to completion. So he stood in the middle of the room, closed his eyes, and described the process verbally as he pictured it in his head. Then the group went to work figuring out what they needed to do to make it work for them: scratching marks they can feel into the wood, measuring with nifty clicker rules made for people needing to use senses other than sight, and setting the tool rest to tell them where to start or end a cut. Involvement with such a group mind working toward a goal is mind-expanding.
The class began. Thursday afternoon and into Friday it was beads and coves, then a carving mallet; Saturday it was bowls and duplicating a spindle; on Sunday they finished up the bowl and turned a plate. Everyone completed every project, helping and supporting one another.
On Friday student number eight joined us, a visually impaired artist on a government grant from Australia to collaborate with visually impaired artists and dancers in the Bay area to create performance art installations. Fayen was here to collaborate with Jennifire, an accomplished artist in her own right, and to take the woodturning class. She and Jennifire spent some of the class time making various turned and carved or notched sticks for exploring spaces with the various sounds the sticks make, more than tap, tap, tap. I was enthralled by pictures and videos of her work, realizing that this is just the beginning of a deep and mind-opening project and performance.
Because the camp was newly re-opened following the fires, a group of LightHouse for the Blind administrators and benefactors were visiting to hear about the cleanup and to see our class. They, too, were emotionally dedicated and excited about the changes and the ongoing work.
Thursday after dinner we convened around the fire in the large, gracious dining/meeting hall, talking and getting to know one another. And—ah—the meals. We passed family-style bowls of delicious hearty food, learning how to tell our blind table mates what was before them and when to offer to serve, a sort of social dance.
Friday night after dinner we were again around the fireplace. But this time Jerry brought his guitar, and we sang. I danced a hula, and everyone enjoyed the music. During the evening, when Jerry introduced a Kate Wolf song, our friend and student JK (who has lived in the Bay area for most of his life) shared that he knew Kate. He talked of his devastation at her early death from breast cancer. While Jerry sang I watched as JK, sitting across from me, broke down crying. This was the same man whose wife recently died from pancreatic cancer. I crossed in front of the fireplace to him and held him in my arms as he sobbed. He has had so much loss, and he is such a part of the camp. The fire affected him in the midst of even more loss. The fire has affected us all. We are fragile and vulnerable. He was thankful for my caring, and I am thankful for his allowing me—it was healing.
Saturday morning I received an invitation from Janet, camp co-manager with her husband Donny, to take a tour of lower camp, the area totally ravaged by the fire. I was eager to get to know this vivacious and friendly woman and to explore. We took off in their off-road jeep-type vehicle past the upper area that was untouched: a playground with climbing structures and a large playing field, though here we saw the remains of the burned-out storage area.
As we wound our way further down into lower camp, Janet pointed out all that was no longer there: the treehouse; the original camp cabins dating back to the 1920s comprised of five girls’ cabins with adjacent bath and laundry houses, counselors’ cabin, and a bit further down the road five boys’ cabins with bath and laundry buildings. Then we were upon the foundation of the oldest building in the camp, built in the early 1900s, originally a dining room, later a camp skating rink, and more recently condemned. George later told me sadly that a project on his list was to reclaim and use all the first-growth redwood from which it was built.
The further we headed down and through the burned-out areas, the more I re-experienced the gray sadness of such devastation. We pulled up in front of a ten-foot-long, old, many-times-burned-out redwood log upon which is carved “Redwood Grove.” The carving is by JK. This was the entrance to the amphitheater built into the hillside. The stage area was burnt out, but still standing were the beautiful redwood benches, designed and built by George and friends, carved using a computer-generated carving machine and then detail-carved by George to enhance the texture. There was fire damage to a few of them, but most were untouched. George will clean them up and seal them and then they, along with the carvings they hold of flora, fauna, buildings, and activities of the camp will tell the story of the camp, fire and all. Janet told me that the fire fighters left a note on the Redwood Grove entry log which read, “We wish we could have saved it all.” The reality of those brave responders, from a Los Angeles fire company, surrounded as they must have been by fire, fighting to save the redwoods, the buildings, the art, touched me deeply and tears flowed.
We walked further down the hill and entered into the forest chapel: simple benches face what was the chancel, now gone. Janet described the simplicity that was this spot and how campers return here to be married. We sat for some time in this quiet, damaged, yet eerily peaceful chapel of redwoods, and she told me her story of how she arrived here only two years ago. As her story unfolded, echoed in some of my story, we realized that she and Donny are very like Jerry and me: two people working together synergistically with results bigger than the energy of two. I shared, but mostly listened, which seemed to be part of my role on the mountain this weekend.
Saturday night following dinner Jerry called for hootenanny time with some of the AmeriCorps folks. We were happy that they even knew some of our old-time songs. They sang and played along with Jerry, then shared some of their originals.
Sunday, back up at the wood shop, it was time to make plates and finish up projects—challenging, but all is completed—then a group picture and pack up time. Suddenly we were saying good-byes among a group that had become like family. As Janet said to me later in the day, “It’s not goodbye; it’s I’ll see you the rest of my life.”
At the end of the day Donny and George took us on another ride through lower camp for Jerry to see. With Donny at the wheel it was a wilder ride, down even further into the valley, though we did not cross the stream where the bridge was out, much to my relief.
I brought home so much from the experience. I’ve learned from people who do not see with their eyes but perceive so much with other senses, and I am discovering what they have to teach me about the capabilities of all people with disabilities: they are not “amazing” as we so often say. They just use different tools and techniques. This understanding can be extended to anyone. We all have different strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the table. Using these differences to find solutions to problems is more productive than “my way is the right way.”
My biggest take away wants to burst from my heart, while at the same time I want to put my arms around it and hold it close. A balance of sadness/grief and wonder/joy, held at the same time, deep in my heart and soul.
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: As I read state newsletters, one of the things I enjoy most are the ones that contain an annual presidential report. Normally I do not consider running these in the Braille Monitor because they rightfully highlight a number of issues that are specific to the state and go out of their way to single out people for recognition. I am making an exception in this case because so many issues are covered that require both state and nationwide attention.
This report comes from Sharon Maneki, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, and although I have done some minor editing to save space, mostly it is as it appeared in the Blind Spectator, the official publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Here is what Sharon said to the 2017 convention:
Service is one of the core values in American society. The Peace Corps, Teach for America, and AmeriCorps VISTA are examples that indicate the importance of service. In Maryland students are required to perform seventy-five hours of student service learning before they are eligible to graduate from high school. Everyone can provide service to others because the methods of service are endless.
The motivation to provide service comes from many sources. Some people serve because of their religious beliefs; others are motivated by the benefits of service. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Let us look at the variety of services that the people in this room have performed and continue to perform. Let us then ruminate about our motivations for performing this service.
Even entertainers recognize the value of service. As Aretha Franklin stated:
“Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well.”
We are fortunate to have many public servants in our midst. Public servants rarely get the recognition that they deserve. If you work for the federal government or are retired from there, please stand. Give them a round of applause. If you work or are retired from the state of Maryland, please stand. If you are a service provider in the field of blindness, please stand. As Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a public servant for a time, explained: “Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that, while public service improves the lives of the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”
My favorite definition of service comes from Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Here is what she said: “Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time."
The National Federation of the Blind has many characteristics. Because of the Federation, we know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise 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! Blindness should not keep us from serving others. Although many in society shun our offers of service, we must persevere. In his 2005 banquet address entitled “The Edge of Tomorrow,” President Marc Maurer summarized the purpose of the Federation as: “The reshaping of the patterns of thought of our society to recognize the ability within us, to value the talent we possess, and to welcome the contributions we have to make.” The National Federation of the Blind is really a vehicle for service. Because of our Federation experience, many members gain confidence and perform service both inside and outside of the Federation.
During the past year we have demonstrated that service to others is a core value of the Federation. Our organization thrives because of effective leadership. Effective leadership is crucial, because if the Federation fails to achieve its goals, the lives of blind people will be diminished.
Let us extend a special thank you to our state officers and board of directors for their dedication and support of our movement. As a grassroots organization, our local chapters and divisions play an essential role in building our membership and in educating the public about the truth of blindness. Will all of our chapter and division presidents please stand. All you have to do is look at the list of Meet the Blind Month activities on our website www.nfbmd.org to see that we have vibrant chapters. For instance, between September 30 and November 10, 2017, we held seven screenings of the movie “Do You Dream in Color?” Some of the places that held screenings were McDaniel College; Towson University; University of Maryland, College Park; and the Peale Center in Baltimore. Think of the number of people who now hold a different view of blindness. More screenings are planned for the coming months.
The division meetings held at this convention also demonstrate the level of service that we are providing to each other about how to live the lives we want as blind people. Let us extend a special word of welcome to our newest division, the Maryland Association of Blind Merchants. We look forward to working together to strengthen the Business Enterprise Program in Maryland and to increase opportunities for all blind entrepreneurs statewide.
This convention is a great example of service. We have parents who welcome new families into our movement. We have marshals who direct us to the locations of all convention activities. I want to personally thank Ronza Othman for her tireless efforts in assisting with convention arrangements.
We owe a special thank you to Holly and Rebecca Mooney who are taking convention pictures and to our sound man Will Schwatka for recording convention general sessions and tonight’s banquet. Let’s give a shout-out to our friends who are listening to this convention on the internet.
Rachael Olivero who makes this possible deserves a round of applause. Rachael does a great deal of behind the scenes work for the affiliate, from creating our registration system to training folks in Drupal so that we can maintain our website.
Our new web committee is definitely increasing our presence on the web. This helps the people who need us to find us. Let us recognize the members of this committee: Steve Brand, Ellen Ringlein, Beth Fogle-Hatch, Graham Mehl, Lloyd Rasmussen, and Scott White by asking them to stand. Please stay standing until you receive your Braille magnet of appreciation. We also want to thank Karen Anderson for leading the effort to keep us active on social media.
Because of the service that we provide to strengthen our organization, we are able to serve the blind community as a whole.
It is most appropriate that we have three pages of pictures in our agenda from our 2017 NFB Braille Enrichment Literacy and Learning (NFB BELL) Academy. We devote a great deal of energy, money, time, and love to our three BELL academy programs in Baltimore, Glenn Dale, and Salisbury. We teach the alternative techniques of blindness, raise expectations, and serve as role models for these children. We are proud of our NFB BELL Academy service. Will all of our NFB BELL volunteers please stand. They deserve a round of applause. It is most fitting for us to have a song in honor of NFB BELL: “Braille is Beautiful.”
José Antonio Bowen, president of Goucher College, has written a book, Teaching Naked, in which he outlines his philosophy on education. Bowen has created a new program at Goucher called The Three R’s of Education. These are Relationships, Resilience, and Reflection. He believes that these three R’s are not only the best predictors of success in college but also are predictors of success in life. In the National Federation of the Blind, we practice the three R’s. We know how to build Relationships; our Resilience is demonstrated by our staying power; Reflection is an ongoing process for us.
Blind people benefit when we build constructive relationships with the service providers in our state. On August 10, we welcomed most of the staff of the Office on Blindness and Vision Services in the Division of Rehabilitation Services to the Jernigan Institute. We shared our goals and philosophies and talked about how we could better work together to serve the blind community. We must have a service delivery system that is more responsive to consumer needs. While we appreciate the need for rules and regulations, these should be applied with common sense. If a client’s case has been closed after services were delivered, and if that client then needs additional services after additional vision loss, why should that client have to establish eligibility again? If the individual was blind the first time, the chances are very high that this person is still blind. Who is really going back to DORS if sight has been restored?
We want the director of DORS to run the programs, not the auditors. Auditors certainly have their role, but they should not prevent older blind people from attending the diabetes education/management classes that are conducted at the Workforce and Technology Center because the Independent Living Older Blind program has no money. If the classes are there anyway, all the clients who need them should be able to attend them. We look forward to more opportunities for dialogue and for building a stronger relationship. Thank you again to all of the DORS staff for joining our convention.
Last year at our convention, I told you about Max Elia who was dismissed from a daycare center after a half a day because supervisors believed they could not provide him with a safe environment since he used a white cane. There was no process in Maryland to settle disputes between parents and daycare providers. We joined with the Developmental Disabilities Council and Disability Rights Maryland to convince the Maryland General Assembly to protect parents and children from such discrimination. Our advocacy work led to the enactment of HB456, in 2017. This legislation instructed the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to develop a dispute resolution process that must include: “a process for investigating complaints, a written report on the findings of an investigation; and if there is a finding of discrimination on the basis of disability, a resolution of the complaint that includes: an agreement with the child care provider, detailing the requirements for remedying the violations, and appropriate remedies that support children with disabilities, their families, and the child care provider.”
By October 2017, MSDE was to submit a report to the Maryland General Assembly which includes the dispute resolution process and draft legislation or regulations to implement this dispute resolution process. Our relationship with other partners and the Maryland General Assembly is definitely protecting the rights of all parents of disabled children to access daycare.
Building relationships does not mean shying away from doing what needs to be done. That is why we passed resolution 2017-01 this morning. We will not allow the Maryland State Board of Elections to take away our right to a secret ballot.
Here are some other examples of our forceful advocacy. More students, especially those with some vision, will have orientation and mobility training for the first time when HB535 is fully implemented. This law presumes that all blind or visually impaired students need mobility. If the IEP team disagrees, they must back their decision up with appropriate assessments and documentation. The MSDE was to develop the necessary regulations and technical assistance by March 2017. Although MSDE made progress with these regulations, the job is not completed. You can be sure that we will continue to remind these officials that they cannot keep blind students waiting. Students need orientation and mobility training now!
For the past several years, MSDE has been in turmoil with personnel switching jobs or leaving the organization altogether. In 2014, to comply with the Braille Standards legislation, MSDE issued regulations that revamped certification and recertification requirements for vision teachers. Vision teachers must take a Braille competency test by the time they are eligible for the renewal of their first five-year credential. We recently learned that the Department never decided which Braille competency test teachers should take. Consequently, MSDE ignored their own requirement. We have already had two meetings this fall to remedy the problem. You can be sure that we will continue to advocate with personnel at MSDE until vision teachers in the state are competent in reading and writing Braille.
The Braille in the Twenty-First Century Literacy Conference, jointly sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the Maryland School for the Blind, that was held on October 19 to 20 is a good example of both building relationships and resilience. Before I discuss this conference, I want to recognize our staff at the National Center for the Blind. We could never have hosted this conference for vision teachers and blindness professionals without the help of this dedicated staff. Please stand for our applause. I want to especially recognize three unsung heroes and thank them for their service: Patricia Miller who has been with the NFB for thirty-one years, Joe Miller for thirty years, and Marsha Dyer for twenty-seven years.
We decided to have the Braille literacy conference to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Maryland Literacy Rights and Education Act, better known as the Braille Bill. At the conference we recognized Delegate Sheila Hixson, who sponsored this bill in the House in 1992. We also recognized Senator Joan Carter Conway, chairman of the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, for her leadership in sponsoring all of our bills about Braille and accessibility since she joined the Maryland Senate in 1997. It is most appropriate that we have a picture of these education champions in our agenda.
We will need to demonstrate more resilience to achieve literacy for all blind and visually impaired children. However, this conference was a step in the right direction. For instance, the presentation on how to assess which students should learn Braille, who should learn print, and who should learn to read, both by Conchita Hernandez from NFB and Michelle Horseman from MSB, provoked meaningful dialog. They discussed how a learning media assessment and the National Reading Media Assessment complement each other. Because of this discussion, there is a better chance that vision teachers in Maryland may really assess a student’s future literacy needs as the Braille Bill specifies.
Another highlight of the conference was the presentation by Eric Guillory and Jackie Anderson on achieving the integration of both print and Braille into a student’s life. Jackie and Eric related how they use both print and Braille. Jackie Anderson encourages her students by explaining, “You don’t know what you can’t see because you can’t see what you don’t see; so you must explore so you can see.”
For decades we have been resilient in promoting better library services in Maryland. Our latest venture was to join with the library community to urge the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan to move library services out of MSDE and to create a new service delivery structure, the Maryland State Library Agency. Now that we have accomplished this goal and helped to garner a funding formula and adequate staff for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, it is time for LBPH to increase its role in eliminating the book famine experiences of the blind in Maryland.
Many thanks to everyone for their service in Annapolis this year. Visiting legislators in their offices, sending letters, making phone calls, and sitting through long committee hearings makes our success possible. Let’s especially give Clarence Hennigan a round of applause. I called Clarence a couple of hours before our library bill hearing to tell him that someone cancelled, and I needed him to testify. He was nervous but agreed to do it. He spoke from the heart about the importance of library services to the blind and the need for change. This was the first time Clarence ever testified in his life. He understood the value of service to his fellow blind.
I was recently appointed by Governor Hogan to serve on the Maryland State Library Board. Many Federationists serve on boards, commissions, and advisory committees concerning transportation, rehabilitation, and other disability issues. Sitting on these bodies can be torturous. But this donkeywork is important because it can keep bad things from happening. Sometimes it can even do some good.
The performance of service can be inconvenient. When the call came on short notice to run down to Washington DC to tell the Asian American Hotel Owners Association to quit telling Congress to reform the ADA as proposed in H. R. 620, many Federationists answered the call. Let’s ask Karen Anderson, Sarah Baebler, Getachew Temare, Millie Rodriguez, Barry Hond, Ellana Crew, Antonio Mendoza, Miranda Williams, Steven Booth, Eric Duffy, and Ellen Ringlein to stand and accept our appreciative applause. Please remain standing until you get your Braille magnet of appreciation.
Sometimes the performance of service requires courage. As a state employee, Judy Rasmussen displayed courage by testifying before House and Senate committees of the General Assembly about how state government officials prevented blind employees from doing their jobs because of the lack of nonvisual access to technology tools. For instance, all Maryland state employees are required to use an email encryption tool made by Virtru of Washington DC to encrypt email messages. Since emails were encrypted by Virtru, and since Virtru was inaccessible to blind people, blind counselors at DORS and their clients could not read any of the encrypted emails they received. Although Virtru has made improvements to the accessibility of its encryption tool, this inaccessible product should never have been purchased for statewide use. The state of Maryland needs to enforce its accessibility laws vigorously. There should be consequences for state officials and for vendors who violate these laws.
In the agenda I have reprinted Governor Hogan’s executive order 01.01.2017.23 entitled “Maryland Disability Employment Awareness Month.” Promotion of the employment of people with disabilities by the chief executive of our state is definitely significant. There are five directives in this executive order to promote both the employment and the capabilities of people with disabilities. I want to highlight what I believe is the most significant directive of this executive order for blind people:
(4) To promote individuals with disabilities' access to technology, the Department of Disabilities shall:
a. hold special events, including those advancing assistive technology that expands employment in community integrated settings; and b. recommend the designation of a State agency, entity, or staff person to 1. provide accessibility technical assistance during State procurement processes; and 2. address any accessibility concerns of State employees.
We commend Governor Hogan and the Maryland Department of Disabilities for this progressive action. Do we have the resilience to put an end to lip service on accessibility by the state of Maryland? You bet we do.
Access to state government is not the only type of access that we seek. We conducted a national campaign to determine whether Cardtronics really made their ATMs accessible as they promised they would in the settlement of our lawsuit. We extend a big thank you to the eleven individuals who tested twenty-five machines in Maryland: Karen Anderson, Aloma Bouma, Tyron Bratcher, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Heather Guy, Terry Hall, Bernadette Jacobs, Melissa Lomax, Graham Mehl, Arielle Silverman, and Hindley Williams. Please stand to be recognized.
Because we are raising expectations, blind people will no longer tolerate discrimination. In August 2017, when Cindy Morales made a purchase at Walmart, the shopping assistant took her to a self-checkout station. Since this register was inaccessible, the “assistant” had to complete this transaction for Cindy. The assistant clicked on cash back and pocketed $40 of Cindy’s change. Cindy did get her $40 back because she had the gumption to call the police and refused to leave the store without her money. Walmart must learn that they are required to treat blind customers with dignity and respect.
In the Federation we are very fortunate to have many opportunities for reflection. We share our reflections through our speeches at state and national conventions. In his 2017 banquet speech, entitled “Innovation, Blindness, and the Emerging Pattern of Thought,” President Riccobono urged us to take action. He states: “In the past we have taught each other how to effectively compete as blind people using a variety of tools and techniques. We must continue to teach each other, but we should explore the effectiveness of new technologies to perform some of those same tasks.” We intend to do this exploration in Maryland.
Maryland does not have a statewide service support provider (SSP) program for deafblind people. Up to now, an SSP has been a person physically located with the deafblind person, to provide situational awareness so that the deafblind individual may participate in all aspects of community life. We want to explore whether the Aira technology would be a better way to provide this service. We must convince state officials of the need for an SSP program and determine the advantages of using technology to deliver these services.
As we celebrate our service to the Federation and to each other, let us be mindful of the founding principles of the National Federation of the Blind. “We think for ourselves, we speak for ourselves, and we act for ourselves to create understanding through our authentic experience. Individually we seek to live our lives fully, and collectively we mobilize the machinery to transform our dreams into reality.”
As we continue our quest to improve education, rehabilitation, library services, and accessibility while tearing down the barriers of discrimination, we must continue to serve each other and the Federation. We must continue to reflect on our actions, build relationships, and maintain resilience. I know that we have the love, hope, and determination to reach our goals. We can live the lives we want!
by Deborah Armstrong
From the Editor: Deborah Armstrong is a member of the National Federation of the Blind Krafter’s division. No local NFB chapter is close to her. She has worked in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley most of her adult life and is currently the alternate media specialist at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, about a mile from the famous Apple main campus. Here is what she says:
I think one thing that holds us back as blind people is that we have an internal belief that we cannot be as effective as sighted people. I always try to keep a supply of stories showcasing how I can indeed be as effective or even more so, because it reminds me how competent I really am.
I have been employed in a technical capacity with software and hardware for the past thirty-eight years. I like to share a story about how I was able to succeed during the interview process. I always like to tell stories about myself to help employers understand my strengths; this is one such story.
This was my first tech support job at Stenograph when we were transitioning from DOS to Windows. I was the only blind person in a department of twenty-eight people, and we were all a bit new to supporting Windows. I didn’t have full access to Windows because the screen reader was so primitive at the time, but I was very experienced with the products we supported.
Our product had an annotations feature that let court reporters record audio notes about a transcript they were preparing for attorneys. We had a long-time customer, Mary Lou from Texas, who was not able to get the annotations feature to work. Support representatives re-installed the software, reconfigured her sound card drivers, troubleshot IRQ conflicts, adjusted her startup configuration, and did everything they could think of to get her microphone working.
One afternoon it was my turn to get Mary Lou on the phone, and she of course complained it still wasn't working. I told her I'd walk her through the procedure one more time.
I asked her to tell me what she saw at the top of the screen. She read to me the title bar. "Good," I said, "Now what's right below it?" She read me the menu bar. In those days we didn't have a ribbon.
"Wonderful," I said, "Now look right below the menu. What do you see?"
"Well," Mary Lou replied, "There's all these little pictures."
"That's right," I encouraged, "Let's look at the picture on the far left. What does it show?"
"Oh, that's a file folder," Mary Lou said. I explained that clicking on that icon would give her access to her files.
"What's next to the file folder," I prompted.
"Why that there is a little ol' pencil," Mary Lou said in her sweet southern drawl.
"That's right," I encouraged. "Clicking that pencil gets you to all the editing functions. Now let's look directly to the right of that pencil. What do you see?"
"Why honey child, that there is a candle," Mary Lou said.
"Click that candle, and you can start recording. It's a microphone, but it does kind of look like a candle."
She clicked it, and the software recorded her shrieks of laughter. The microphone worked after all—Mary Lou just didn't know how to find it.
When I later interviewed with future employers, I explained that this story illustrated how, unlike sighted people who were focused on their screen, I listened carefully and focused on my customer's view of their screen. This is why I believe I was very successful in technical support. Callers have a technical problem, but they need an attentive human to help them solve it. The right answer is an essential ingredient, but almost as important is listening and responding in a way that says they have our attention and solving their problem is our most important job.
Recipes this month were provided by the National Federation of the Blind of Maine.
by Dorothy Woitasek
Dorothy Woitasek is the wife of Walter, and both have been involved in the NFB since 1970. She says she is a recipe experimenter. “I love to take a recipe and see if I can successfully change the proportions to make more or less of it.”
1/2 pound of ground beef or kielbasa (slice kielbasa into small pieces)
1 small onion, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
l/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes (get the kind with the basil, oregano, and garlic for flavor)
1 teaspoon of sugar or Splenda
2 cups of uncooked pasta (use small ziti or mini penne)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta and stir well. While pasta is cooking, brown ground beef or kielbasa in large skillet. Drain off fat and set aside in a bowl. In same frying pan, brown onion, and add in garlic and spices. Add tomatoes, sugar (or Splenda), stir and cook for about fifteen minutes. Add ground beef and 1/2 cup cheese. Turn off heat and stir well. Mix cooked pasta, sauce, and remaining cheese in a bowl. Bake in a glass or metal seven-by-eleven-inch baking dish in oven for about fifteen minutes. Serve with bread and salad to make a complete meal. This recipe serves two to four people. Note: Tomatoes with the spices can be substituted for the individual spices. Some flavor is lost, but this is still very good. Celery, green or red peppers can also be added.
Vegetable and Chicken Bake (serves 4)
by Dorothy Woitasek
frozen or leftover vegetables
1 small onion
leftover or canned chicken, turkey, or ham
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray seven-by-eleven-inch baking dish with PAM. Any kind of frozen or leftover vegetables can be used. I like the “Steam Fresh” varieties because they can be cooked in about six minutes in your microwave. Precook all vegetables. Open package (after cooking) and spread evenly in baking dish. Cut vegetables into small pieces, if needed. Chop small onion. Brown until nicely cooked in about 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet. When tender, spread over vegetables in baking dish. Cut leftover meat into small pieces or use a can of chicken breast or turkey or cut ham cubes. Spread over vegetables and onions. In a medium bowl beat eggs, milk, flour, salt, pepper, paprika, baking powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Beat until smooth and most lumps are gone; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Pour liquid mix over ingredients in baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered for about thirty minutes until set and slightly brown. Enjoy.
Shells and Beans
by Faith Armstrong
Faith Armstrong is the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. She knows that she’s latched onto a good recipe when husband John likes what she cooks.
2 cups pasta (shells, elbows or medium size)
1 15- or 16-ounce jar chunky salsa
2 15- or 16-ounce cans kidney beans not drained (red, pink, or white)
1 cup shredded cheese (Mexican, Mozzarella, or cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Cook pasta according to directions to al dente stage. Drain and return to pot. Add salsa and beans. Heat twenty minutes. Add cheese and serve. It can also be served cold.
The Rochester Chapter of the NFB of New York held its elections this past Monday, May 21. Four officer positions and one board member position were voted on at this meeting. The results were as follows: president, Heather Bird; vice president, Justin Young; treasurer, Zachary Kolbuc; secretary, Bernice Bird; and board member, Kelleigh Larsson.
The chapter is grateful to New York affiliate president Mike Robinson and his wife, Buffalo chapter treasurer Angie Robinson, for attending the May meeting and assisting to help this young chapter’s first election run smoothly. The chapter would also like to thank its nominating committee, all those who were nominated, and all of those who voted. Democracy in action, and energetic and thoughtful participation: that is what it is all about.
Come one and all, blind and visually impaired Federationists who have cerebral palsy, to assist in the development of an active, lively, independent, and vibrant group of blind and visually impaired Americans with cerebral palsy. The purpose of this group will be to provide professional rehabilitation training solutions, rehabilitation training techniques, networking opportunities, mentoring opportunities, problem-solving techniques, mutual support, leadership, legal self-advocacy advice, and an improved understanding for those of us who share both disabilities and must devise strategies to assist with management of each disability singly and together.
Meetings will be held by conference call on the first Saturday of the month (except in January when meetings will be held on the Second Saturday, in July when the meeting will be held on the last Saturday, and November when it will be held on the last Saturday). Meetings will run from 3:00 p.m. eastern time until 5:00 p.m. starting on Saturday, July 28, 2018. The conference phone number is 712-831-0000 followed by pin 999999#.
We hope to hold a face-to-face meeting at the 2019 National Federation of the Blind annual convention. To assist in developing this group, contact Alexander Scott Kaiser by Braille, snail-mail, by phone, or by email. His postal address is Alexander Scott Kaiser, 52 Meadowbrook Road, Brick Township, New Jersey 08723-7850. His email address is [email protected], and his phone numbers are 848-205-0208 and 732-202-6795.
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.
Seedlings Braille Books for Children, which offers one of the largest selections available of books in Unified English Braille, now offers 110 titles in contracted UEB for older kids! Five more titles were added in May, bringing the total to 110. They are: Aesop's Fables retold in verse by Tom Paxton, Amelia Earhart: Pioneer in the Sky by John Parlin, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and A Series of Unfortunate Events #2: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket.
See all 110 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.
MIPsoft, makers of BlindSquare, the most used waypoint navigation solution for persons who are blind or partially sighted, has created a special version of BlindSquare, made available for use when entering or exiting BlindSquare Enabled Airports. Access is enabled through the BlindSquare Event app, available for free on the iTunes store.
Travelers arriving at BlindSquare Enabled Airports, whether by ground or air, will be able to activate BlindSquare Airport Event and automatically be provided with free use, regardless of location, and they will continue with the support of BlindSquare Event for the next seven days.
When arriving by ground (for departure), or by air (on arrival), BlindSquare Airport Event is ready for use at ANY destination airport on the globe: this, to assist in completing the journey to connect to ground transportation on arrival, hotels, meetings, places to eat and places of fun, supported with all the tools of BlindSquare and 105,000,000+ points of interest globally. When returning to any sponsored airport, the seven-day counter is renewed for another seven days.
For more information about BlindSquare, its features, this exciting promotion, and who is sponsoring it, go to http://www.blindsquare.com.
Actiview, a Bay-Area-based technology company, is providing support for all blind/low vision and hard of hearing attendees of the new film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, nationwide. Starting June 1, 2018, the Actiview app will be enabled with audio description and Amplified Audio tracks that people can download on their mobile phone and bring with them to watch the movie. The tracks will be available to anyone, anywhere in the US who wants to experience the movie with the accessibility features.
Millions of people in the US use important accessibility solutions to enjoy movies, including audio description and amplified audio. Audio description enables blind/low vision movie lovers to experience a film fully by providing a narrated description of the visual components that accompany the film dialogue.
Noah Carver, a blind teenager from Maine, explains why audio description is so important for him to enjoy fully movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story. “For me to watch a movie, I need a special audio track called audio description. It’s like a really in-depth audio book of the movie, so while everyone else is watching the battles on screen, a narrator is describing every saber swing and leap in amazing detail to me.”
Actiview’s amplified audio support provides a louder soundtrack for the film that is helpful for the 10 million+ people in the US who are hard of hearing. Hearing loss is an increasing problem and often leads to people missing important audible components of films such as dialogues and conversations.
Actiview brings accessibility back to people who need it. Actiview believes that accessibility technology should be convenient and should fit naturally into everyone’s lifestyle.
Actiview founder, Alex Koren states, “Every day we see people miss out on these shared experiences with family and friends. Movies are such a central part of our culture, and it’s our mission to ensure everyone is included in watching films through the Actiview app.”
For Solo: A Star Wars Story, Actiview will be providing audio description and amplified audio for use in cinemas. Lucasfilm’s new release, Solo: A Star Wars Story, is an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes. Solo: A Star Wars Story releases in US theaters on May 25, 2018, with accessibility support being offered through the Actiview app starting June 1st.
To learn more about Actiview visit www.activiewapp.com. To download the Actiview app on iOS visit www.activiewapp.com/download. To learn more about audio description visit www.activiewapp.com/audio-description.
Actiview is a technology company focused on making the entertainment experience more accessible, active, engaging, and immersive. Our flagship product, the Actiview app, is an all-in-one solution that makes movies accessible to the blind/low vision, deaf/hard of hearing, and foreign-language-speaking communities in a way that feels natural and inclusive for everyone. The mobile app offers a range of services including amplified audio, audio description, translations, closed captioning, and sign language for both in-theater and in-home entertainment experiences. Follow us on social media @TeamActiview.
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.