Braille Monitor

Vol. 61, No. 9                                    October 2018

Gary Wunder, Editor

Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the

The National Federation of the Blind

Mark Riccobono, President

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        ISSN 0006-8829

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Vol. 61, No. 9                                     October 2018

Illustration: Strengthening the Team Who Works for You:
Comradery and Challenge for our NFB Staff

Blending Assertiveness, Principle, Confrontation, and Collaboration:
The NFB Carries out an AER Strike
by Everette Bacon

Honesty and Telling It Like It Is
by Gary Wunder

From My Blind Child to Our Blind Children—Why the National
Federation of the Blind Is the Answer
by Carlton Walker

Leave a Legacy

Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities:
A Blind Entrepreneur Breaks through Barriers Everywhere He Builds
by Isaac Lidsky

The Senate Must Act on Legislation So Americans can Reap the Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles
by Mark Riccobono

No Borders to the World’s Knowledge: A Commitment to Accessibility for the Blind
by Francis Gurry

Equal Access in Air Travel for the Blind: Raising Expectations from
the United States Department of Transportation
by Blane Workie

Networking that Empowers Innovation: Accessibility for the Blind through Facebook
by Monica Desai

Tommy Craig Dies
by Zena Pearcy

Announcing New Accessibility Resources for Consumers and Industry
by Anil Lewis


Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind

Strengthening the Team Who Works for You: Comradery and Challenge for our NFB Staff

Interacting as Federationists we often find ourselves giving and receiving praise, suggestions, and sometimes tough love. Never do we want to push people beyond where they can go, but neither do we want to encourage them to shy away from going beyond their comfort zone and pushing themselves just a bit beyond where they think they can. As it is for our members, so it is for our staff—a real-life demonstration for those who work for us a bit of what it is like to be one of us, to encounter an obstacle and then to work around it.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Team spirit and cooperation got a boost from a friendly game of cards. Patti Chang and Kimie Eacobacci can be seen in the foreground.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: (Left to right) Karen Anderson, Rachel Olivero, Sophia Connell (behind Rachel), and Amy Mason enjoy the water at Sandy Point State Park.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Gabe Cazares climbs the rope ladder to the tower as Sonia Little watches]
[PHOTO CAPTION:  A group of NFB staff stands on the platform preparing to cross the stepping stones portion of the Aerial Teams Course.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Gabe Cazares, Jimmy McCurley, and Candiss Kiah stand on the platform of the Aerial Teams Course.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: (Almost) the entire staff of the National Center pose together after a great day of teambuilding at Outward Bound.]

On October 6 and 7, 2018, the NFB Jernigan Institute was closed for two days of staff development and appreciation. One day was for celebrating and saying thank you for a year of hard work. The second day was for team building in which the staff experienced the kind of adventure activities that our students and members get through many of our programs. Some of the activities took place on the ground: stand in a circle, hold the hands of people on your left and right, but not the people next to you. Then untangle the crisscross of hands and still remain in a circle. In a different circle pass a hula hoop from one person to the next without ever breaking contact.

One staff member said, “I really liked the five-finger bio activity and think chapters might find it fun and useful. We had to pair up and interview each other, getting the answers to five questions; the questions were represented by the fingers of one hand, which I guess is a memory aid. They were: Thumb: Name something you are good at; Index: A goal that you have; Middle: Something that frustrates you; Ring: Something you’re committed to (e.g. religion, family, Federation); and Pinky: Something few people know about you.”

Another said, “We had an activity where our group was divided into twos; a kind of obstacle course was set up with various shaped objects on the ground in a square-roped box. One teammate was blindfolded, and the other teammate had to direct them through the obstacle course without stepping on any of the objects. If you stepped on one, you would pretend there was an explosion, sound effects included. The first attempt we could say left, right, etc. The next time we were told to direct without saying left or right. Our teams came up with other directions. My partner and I used vegetables: radish-right; lettuce-left; spinach-straight. At the same time, our group leader would loudly drop objects within our path; you could hear them as they hit the ground. This would force you to stop, hesitate, then alter your route, but we were successful in making it through the activity. It was a lot of fun.”

“We were asked to do an activity where we had to line up by certain criteria, but we were not permitted to talk. We did fairly well with lining up by height—easily measured by touch—and by birth month, although we had a couple of issues with dates within the same month. Then we were asked to think of an animal, and then line up by size of animal from smallest to largest. Two in our group of seven were blind, and I started thinking about how I was going to communicate what I had in mind. One of my colleagues took my arms and began to demonstrate relative dimensions to me which I took to be the size of his/her animal. I then turned to the other blind person who was next to me and used the same technique. I had been spending all of my energy thinking about how I was going to communicate my animal to the sighted that I had given no consideration to how I was going to receive information—conditioning from society? I do not consider myself a sit and wait sort of person, but the experience surprised me because of my own thought process and, pleasantly, because my colleagues quickly created a nonvisual means of communication.”

My favorite quotation is taken from a person who is normally very quiet, but it is clear that when he speaks, he has much to say: “The course activities were a great learning experience for me, and I will share it with others. The high wire proved that any person or people, when confronted with adversity at the same time, can overcome the odds if they pull and stick together. The most outstanding thing for me was the two trees; it proved to me, as God said, He would use the foolish thing to shame the wise. He used the very nature that He created. The trees were different in shape and size. They were different in name, but could compromise their shape in order to grow together. In our group there were people of four or five different races, so what I am trying to say is: for me, God showed that no matter what else, just like the trees are all trees, there is one race, the human race. Just do it.” In this paragraph, our quiet friend has said a mouthfull, and we are all blessed by his words.

Activities like this are designed to test a group’s physical abilities, communication skills, and most of all its trust and cohesiveness as a group. While climbing the rope ladder or strapping into a harness to walk across a single-strand rope bridge high above the ground are more blatantly physical and difficult, the challenge of maneuvering adult bodies through the gaps created in the space of clasped hands carries its own difficulties and risks for participants. But no matter which activities our staff members chose to participate in or sit out of during this day, they put their whole heart and effort into that, just as they do daily in their work to help the blind of America live the lives they want.

Blending Assertiveness, Principle, Confrontation, and Collaboration: The NFB Carries out an AER Strike

by Everette Bacon

From the Editor: The National Federation of the Blind was created because a few blind people believed that only if they spoke for themselves could they create and shape the programs that would best serve them. We believe this as much today as we did in 1940. Unfortunately too many people still take literally the parable that says when the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch. In 1940 our hope said that a literal interpretation was wrong, and our experience now confirms it day after day, year after year, decade after decade.

But parables, stereotypes, and legal beliefs do not easily give way even in the face of evidence refuting them. Many professionals once built their identity not only on helping the blind but in speaking for us, making all important decisions for us, and being the interpreters through which America would hear from its blind unfortunates. Thanks to innate ability and a country that encourages us to reach for our day in the sun as we pursue the American dream, the blind now speak for ourselves, direct the programs that serve us, and tell our communities what we need and which service providers are delivering it. We still need professionals who learn to teach the alternative skills we need and to develop ever-more-helpful equipment, but we do not need these men and women to speak for us but with us, sharing in the collaboration that creates, maintains, and evaluates quality services.

In the article that follows, Everette describes the ongoing struggle between blind people who will speak through their elected leaders and a group of professionals who believe that because of their education and experience they are entitled to speak for us and to set the standards that will be used in evaluating the programs created to serve us. Here is what he says:

Some organizations are associated with honor, credibility, and trust. Others are not. Sometimes an organization’s reputation is so tarnished or even toxic that it is better to let it pass into history and have another organization do the work the previous one was unable or unwilling to do. This article is to update and continue the narrative begun in the January 2018 Braille Monitor by our President, Mark Riccobono. That article can be found at https://archive.nfb.org/images/nfb/

In President Riccobono’s call to action, members were asked to blanket the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) with social media and emails calling for AER to hear the widely accepted message “nothing about us without us” and to once and for all end the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) program. President Riccobono had also invited the outgoing AER executive director, Louis Tutt, to come to our national headquarters for a meeting to further the discussion that had started back in October 2017. AER had promised to follow up in January 2018 to schedule the in-person meeting. In March our President called Lou Tutt to inquire about the status, and he was told that the AER Accreditation Council (AER’s new designation for what was previously the National Accreditation Council) would be meeting in late March to discuss the National Federation of the Blind. March came in like a lamb and went out the same way. So too did April with no word from AER. On May 14, 2018, President Riccobono received a phone call from Lou Tutt asking if a letter had been received on April 4, 2018. Our President informed Mr. Tutt that no letter had been received, and this was verified after another check of the Federation’s email server. Keep in mind that by this time it is the middle of May, and AER promised a follow-up meeting in January. If a letter was sent on April 4, why was there no follow-up until May 14? As you will find below, there was an expectation by AER that the Federation would participate in a meeting on April 26, so why did it take better than two weeks to follow-up from that meeting to inquire about the Federation’s response to a letter supposedly sent on April 4?

AER went forward with its plans to revamp the NAC program, and in a letter dated either April 4 or May 14 (we are unsure because the letter was not received by the office of the President until May 14), Dr. Tutt notified President Riccobono that an accreditation council was being formed by AER and that President Riccobono could assign a member of the NFB to it. Dr. Tutt’s letter read as follows:

Dear President Riccobono:

Thanks for taking my call this morning, Monday, May 14, 2018; I am forwarding you the email I sent to the Office Of The President ([email protected]) on April 4, 2018 (reprinted below), along with the attached letter (which has the same content as the email below). Since I had not heard from you, I called to ascertain if you had received the email and letter to which you said you had not. Therefore, I am resending the email to you and Ms. Beth Braun at the email addresses you gave me this morning.



Louis M. Tutt
Executive Director

Here was the letter Dr. Tutt said had been sent earlier:

Dear Mark Riccobono,

On behalf of the AER Accreditation Council, I am extending a formal invitation to NFB to appoint an individual to represent NFB on the AER Accreditation Council. Since our inception, we have been dedicated to giving voice to our members and those who are served by our members by having our work reflect a representation of the field and the needs of the field. To this end, we hope that you will accept this opportunity. The new AER Accreditation Program is outcomes-based; and seeks to ensure continuous improvements and optimal gains. We believe that accreditation is instrumental in helping entities to deliver quality services, under the best conditions that lead to consumers gaining what is needed to live more independently. Our approach is progressive, embodies the collection of qualitative and quantitative data; and culminates with a strict evaluation. Only entities that meet or exceed the standards will be granted accreditation. The Council will convene April 26, 2018 via conference call. Let me know prior to that date the name of the individual that you would like to have seated on the Council. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. This new Accreditation Program has tremendous merit; it offers a systemic and consistent approach to ensuring quality, safety, and sound outcomes. We hope that you will join our efforts.


Louis M. Tutt, AER Accreditation Council Chair

It is impossible to convey just how underwhelming was Dr. Tutt’s letter. He tells us nothing about the Council. We have had no opportunity to participate in evaluating the need it would meet or to be a part of its conception and planning. Nothing is clear about its criteria for accreditation, what standards if any it has, how those standards will be administered, or on what kind of board we are being invited to participate. All of this together makes the letter of invitation insulting and condescending. The fundamental concept of nothing about us without us is clearly lacking in all that has been done, and no offer of one seat on an undefined board with an undefined purpose and an undefined set of standards will change this irrevocable fact. AER cannot make the rules, make the game, and only after all of this invite us to be a player; the blind will not settle for such an insubstantial role.

After consulting with the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, President Riccobono responded to Dr. Tutt with the following letter:

May 17, 2018

Dear Mr. Tutt:

I am in receipt of your letter dated April 4, 2018, which first arrived in my office after a phone call from you on May 14, 2018. When we began this dialogue six months ago, a dialogue that I initiated, I was optimistic that history really could not repeat itself and that particularly you—a professional with many decades in the field—would not be interested in tearing down the gains that have been made in the collaborative work between blind consumers and blindness professionals. I regret that I was wrong. Of the many sayings about the lessons of history, the one that best applies to your letter of April 4 (or May 14) is from Karl Marx: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Your letter is offensive to the blind of this nation, and it is not an accurate reflection of the tremendous professionals I know in the blindness field who honor, through their words and actions, the value of consumer-driven services. This letter makes a final attempt to create understanding with you and invites you to bring your perspective to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind.

As we discussed on November 9, 2017, this conversation is not about the relative value of accreditation, and we will not accept your efforts to ignore our concerns about real consumer-driven approaches by hiding behind the generic value of accreditation. This conversation is about the desire of blind people to be the authentic authority for determining quality services for the blind. Under your leadership and direction, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired has made a conscious decision to revive a failed accreditation system that had the token inclusion of blind consumers as a core value. We are told that among AER’s values is integrity, described as “AER adheres to the highest ethical standards and promotes an environment complete with honesty and transparency.” Yet the transparency has not existed for blind consumers. We were told—four months after you publicly announced the plans to revive a controversial and divisive accreditation body—that it was your intention to reach out to the National Federation of the Blind. Then it took an additional five months—with a sixth thrown in because of a follow-up phone call that took six weeks to arrange and conduct—to make a formal invitation to have one seat on this mysterious accreditation body without any other details. We are expected to believe that this is “progressive,” but the most successful professionals in the field know that transparency means including consumers from the beginning, not as an afterthought. As I think about it, your intention is fairly transparent, but I do not think it is an accurate reflection of the average committed professional in the field. Fortunately, many blindness professionals, even members of AER, have found the value of associating with the National Federation of the Blind and actively participating in the organized blind movement. If only you would follow their example.

Let us cut right to the point. Great services for the blind have thrived without an accreditation process driven solely by the professionals. This has happened, in part, because they have had substantive, consistent, and respectful engagement from blind consumers and individuals elected by the organized blind movement. On the flip side, agencies for the blind that have done real harm to blind people were permitted to parade under a banner of accreditation because that accreditation did not have significant influence by the elected leaders of the blind. You have made a choice to return to the past, and we have urged you not to do so. Your five-month silence, as much as your choice to repeat history, demonstrates your intentions. I am deeply disappointed that you wish to create disruption in the field of blindness where so much collaboration has been built.

Your letter of April 4 states, “On behalf of the AER Accreditation Council, I am extending a formal invitation to NFB to appoint an individual to represent NFB on the AER Accreditation Council. Since our inception, we have been dedicated to giving voice to our members and those who are served by our members by having our work reflect a representation of the field and the needs of the field.” Let the record show that the National Federation of the Blind declines your token offer because it represents neither the field of blindness nor the needs of the field. Your offer represents a return to a time when consumers and professionals stand on opposite sides of a line, when authenticity is argued to be about how much a person can see rather than their effectiveness in teaching, and when the measure of quality is deemed to be a professional duty rather than a collaborative process with equal participation from consumers. We refuse to go back in time because blind people have worked too hard to achieve our status in society, and so many great professionals have committed themselves to the value of partnership with us.

The time has come for a new approach in the blindness field, and I invite you to come be part of that conversation. In your letter you end with, “We hope that you will join our efforts.” We say that your efforts are the wrong ones to be taken. Thus, we, the blind, invite you to join us in moving real collaboration between consumers and professionals forward. Come to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Although the agenda is nearly finalized, I will make time for you on July 7 to talk with the blind of America about AER’s direction and future. We will want to hear about AER’s commitment to an equal voice from the organized blind movement. This will also be an opportunity for you to present a new forward-looking proposal—one that does not include a previously contentious battleground. I will offer an opportunity for members of the Federation to ask you questions about the future direction of AER and the role of blind people in that future. If you truly want the National Federation of the Blind to be a significant part of the “new” efforts you are undertaking, then come tell us about it and address the questions that the blind have about AER’s direction. Our invitation is open, and it is up to you to accept or reject it. I hope to hear from you within a week regarding this offer.

I regret that you continue to choose the past over the future and that you wish to pit professional against consumer. That is not the future we seek, and my experience in the field tells me it is not the future that our best professionals want. The commitment of the blind of this nation to raising expectations in service delivery is unwavering. Our work to build understanding with professionals will not be undermined. Continued attacks on the blind of America and our priorities veiled in the generic language of accreditation and professional standards will not alter the course of the field. We will not return to a time when the leaders of professional organizations force us to fight for equality in the field. We, the blind and those professionals committed to equality, will continue to set the standards. The only question that remains is whether you will lead AER into that future with us or against us.

Our convention’s agenda is going to press shortly. The delays in your letter mean that we must have your response within a week, or we will conclude that you have declined the invitation.


Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

Dr. Tutt rejected the invitation and offered no alternative meeting or time for collaboration. Here is what he said:

May 23, 2018

Dear President Riccobono:

Thank you for letting me know that the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is unable to be a part of AER’s accreditation program. Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to work together in the future. On another note, I want to let you know that I am unable to attend your upcoming July 2018 NFB Convention. I have plans that were confirmed over a year ago, and I am unable to reschedule.


Louis M. Tutt, Executive Director

It is worth noting that the correspondence between President Riccobono and Dr. Tutt was copied to members of the Board of Directors of AER, including the current and incoming presidents, but none of them accepted the Federation’s invitation to the convention.

Upon receiving the letter on May 14, President Riccobono continued to talk with the NFB National Board of Directors in a dialogue about how the organized blind wished to respond and which of the options available would help advance the conversation on behalf of blind consumers. As a result, an AER Strike committee was formed, and I was assigned by our President to chair it. Members were appointed from diverse backgrounds. Some came from members of the national board, some were professionals in the field, some came from within AER, and some were rank and file members whose knowledge of service has come from their authentic experience as recipients of good and bad services. We were also helped by members of our exceptional staff. Together the committee and our leaders arrived at a plan to visit AER’s international conference held in Reno, Nevada, from July 25 to 28, 2018. Unlike the meetings we came to have with the previous National Accreditation Council, we did not come with picket signs and chants as I am sure members of AER expected. Instead we approached the AER conference demonstrating our willingness to engage in collaboration, our goal being to say to members of AER that authentic accreditation must begin on an equal playing field shared by the professionals and the consumers represented by the elected members of the blind.

Much planning went into attending the AER International Conference. It has been almost twenty years since the NFB last held a protest against the practices of NAC. Many professionals from that time have moved on to other careers or have retired. The Federation’s leadership realizes that there are many new faces in the teaching and rehabilitation field and that many of them have not had an opportunity to be exposed to the NFB and the organized blind’s perspective on accreditation. We decided to pay AER’s fee and become an exhibitor during the conference. Members of the NFB would manage the table in AER’s exhibit hall, reach out to AER members, and try to establish relationships. It was exciting to see NFB members like Carla McQuillan, Terri Rupp, Jennifer Kennedy, and so many more cover the tables, greeting and then meeting with many educators of the blind. Our NFB contingent commented on how well we were being received by conference participants.

The AER Strike Committee and the national board of directors also thought it would be a demonstration of Federation spirit and pride to host a reception and invite as many attendees and members of AER as possible. We planned this reception in the evening, and we were promised by AER that our reception would not conflict with other conference activities. This turned out not to be true—whether on purpose or by poor management we do not know. The NFB reception overlapped with a reception hosted by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Holding a meeting at the same time as APH was certainly not our preference; we have a strong and friendly relationship with the leadership of APH and would not have chosen to interfere with its outreach to AER. Despite the conflict, we had over 150 people attend our reception, including the president of the American Printing House for the Blind, Craig Meador, who enjoyed our reception once his had concluded. There were about thirty leaders of the NFB who came from all over to participate in the reception. These included national board members like Denise Avant, some of the directors of our NFB training centers like Julie Deden and Dan Wenzel, and our members who are also active in AER like Eric Guillory and Brent Batron who were able to mingle with the many AER attendees and talk about what accreditation should really look like and why it is imperative that the consumers and the professionals collaborate together.

During the reception, a short program was held. President Riccobono set the tone by sharing his lifelong experience with blind educators: first as a client, then as a professional, and now as a father of two blind children. He spoke about the imperative for AER members to reach out to the leadership and implore them to collaborate with blind consumers. Brent Batron, immediate past president of the Colorado chapter of AER, spoke about the positive outcomes for students when consumers and professionals are working together. He emphasized that accreditation needs to involve all players in the blindness field. Dr. Schroeder spoke about his own history with the NFB, AER, and NAC. He reiterated the fundamental principle “nothing about us without us,” and the way accreditation can have value, but only if consumers are included.

Dr. Edward Bell closed with more personal experiences in working closely with AER members, but he cautioned that the organized blind’s opposition to an accreditation process that does not include us would continue with a loud voice and collective action.

During the AER conference President Riccobono and Eric Guillory (AER member and director of youth services at the Louisiana Center for the Blind) met with AER’s outgoing president, Joseph Catavero, and AER’s incoming president, Janie Blome, to discuss the issues surrounding authentic accreditation. The meeting was cordial and honest. It was clear that the AER leadership was somewhat disconnected from the concerns being brought forward by the Federation. In our organization the elected leaders—not the paid staff—run the organization and control the policy discussions. Apparently in AER that is not the case. At the meeting we expressed real concerns about the hostility being directed at the NFB for raising the issue of continuing to perpetuate an outdated accreditation process. Of the meeting, President Riccobono says, “We conveyed the message that accreditation is not the most pressing issue in the blindness field and that building accreditation without substantive involvement by the blind from the beginning will never be a priority in the field.”

The meeting did not provide any clarity on what AER’s goals are with respect to taking over the National Accreditation Council or how they intend to engage elected leaders of the organized blind movement going forward. All participants left the meeting with a hope that follow-up meetings between the leadership of the respective organizations would, however, create opportunities for the Federation’s perspective to be understood.

An important priority that came out of the AER Strike Committee was to have a resolution passed at the NFB annual convention and a companion resolution introduced by an NFB/AER member at the AER conference. The NFB resolution was passed unanimously, and here is what it says:

Resolution 2018-02
Regarding the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the AER Accreditation Council

WHEREAS, beginning in 1967 and for approximately thirty-five years thereafter, an organization known as the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) sought to control education and rehabilitation services provided to the blind by means of so-called standards leading to so-called accreditation; and

WHEREAS, NAC was the offspring of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), created by AFB in direct response to the growing effectiveness of the organized blind movement; and

WHEREAS, as opposition to NAC by the National Federation of the Blind and others gained strength, the federal government, state agencies, schools for the blind, and even the AFB itself withdrew their former support, financial and otherwise, leading the AFB executive director to exclaim in speaking to the NAC board in 2002 “What part of no more NAC don’t you understand?”; and

WHEREAS, although the dreams of NAC to hold dominance over the blind have lived on into the present decade, the independent voice of the blind has been heard and respected and has prevailed; and

WHEREAS, NAC died, and on June 30, 2017, transferred all of its remaining assets—$85,554—to AER; and

WHEREAS, AER has recently offered NFB a single seat on its National Accreditation Council, only after repeated attempts by NFB to communicate with AER about NAC; and

WHEREAS, this half-hearted offer of a single seat is the kind of tokenism that doomed the original NAC to utter and complete failure and which, unless altered, will eventually threaten the viability and very existence of AER itself: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2018, in the City of Orlando, Florida, that this organization condemn and deplore AER’S insulting gesture of tokenism toward the blind in the formation of its National Accreditation Council; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as stated in our convention resolution 71-03 and repeated on many occasions since, it be made clear that: we do not oppose proper accreditation properly done; we will be happy to participate in and cooperate with any appropriately organized and democratically constituted accrediting activity; and if the time should come that a genuine accreditation system is created along democratic lines and blind people have more than token representation in the governance of the accreditation system and throughout the accreditation process, the National Federation of the Blind pledges its willingness to work with AER and other organizations truly to make services for the blind more relevant and responsive to the needs of the blind than ever before.

The resolution submitted to AER was authored by Brent Batron of Colorado and Michelle Chacon of New Mexico. The resolution was submitted to the AER resolutions committee on time and in proper form. Here is what it says:

Resolution of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, July 2018
Accreditation of Blind and Low-vision Services
Resolution Number 2018 – XX
Authors: Brent Batron and Michelle Chacon

Whereas, the AER board of directors adopted the accreditation program of the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC), now under the executive management of AER, effective July 1, 2017;

Whereas, an announcement of this action was distributed to AER members and others by AERBVI Member Services on August 31, 2017, noting AER’S new mission statement: “The mission of AER is to serve and empower professionals to deliver standards-based practices that lead to improved educational and rehabilitative outcomes for individuals with visual impairment and blindness;

Whereas, during its entire history as a free-standing organization devoted to standards and accreditation of blind and low vision services, NAC was unable to achieve widespread acceptance by agencies and schools in the field of blindness and visual impairment, due largely to organized and persistent opposition of blind consumers, especially opposition of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB);

Whereas, for many years, as the battle between NFB and NAC intensified, the conflict between these organizations came to symbolize a broader struggle for control between agencies and professionals on the one hand and organized blind consumers on the other;

Whereas, according to its official statements, NFB’s opposition to NAC is based on disagreements over the founding and structure of NAC as an organization and does not reflect opposition by NFB to accreditation, provided the accreditation is conducted in a fair and open manner with equal opportunity for consumers and providers to engage with one another and collaborate in meaningful ways throughout the accreditation process;

Whereas, in adopting executive management of the NAC accreditation program it is the policy of AER to respect the independent voice of blind consumers, the right of the blind to organize for self-expression, collective action, and the right of the blind to meaningful participation in design and implementation of accreditation of programs affecting their lives; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), on this twenty-eighth day of July, 2018, in the city of Reno, Nevada, that:

this organization, through its President and Executive Director, shall invite the NFB to establish and carry out a joint project to be known as “Vision 2020: A New Accreditation Program for Blind and Low Vision Services”; that this project so created shall consist of a joint consumer/provider Committee on Accreditation of Blind and Low Vision Services, with the goal of balanced (equal) opportunities for consumer and provider representation on the Committee; and the charge of the Committee so created shall be:

  1. to identify goals and objectives of mutual interest which could be met by means of a joint consumer/provider accreditation process;
  2. to develop a conceptual outline describing how a proposed joint consumer/provider accreditation process would work, including organization, membership, governance, structure, duties, and funding; and
  3. to report its findings and recommendations to the governing boards of both AER and NFB on or before January 1, 2020 in order for each organization to plan and take appropriate action in response to the report at its next regularly scheduled national conference to be held during that year;

Nothing in this resolution shall affect current implementation plans of the AER Accreditation Program as announced on August 31, 2017, unless otherwise determined by further action of the AER Board of Directors.

This was the resolution submitted to AER under its rules. Brent Batron and Eric Guillory attended the business meeting at the AER International Conference; only AER members were allowed in the room. This was because the AER leadership feared, without cause, that the NFB was planning on a hostile takeover of its meeting. Of course this was never the case. The NFB members who attended the AER Conference conducted themselves as the professionals they are.

When the Batron/Chacon resolution was introduced, Kathryn Botsford called for the floor to offer a substitute resolution. The substitute resolution took most of what was offered in the original except it inserted the term visually impaired in a number of places and it changed the intent of the resolution, watering down the specific olive branch from AER to NFB which was the call to action of the original resolution. Even though this was a resolution that specifically involved AER, NFB, and the accreditation process, some mysterious faction wanted other organizations to be the focus not the National Federation of the Blind. The opposition to NAC and its fraudulent practices were led by members of the NFB. Other groups may have agreed with us, but none stepped up to speak or rally their forces against NAC. When the substitute resolution was offered, it was done as a so-called “friendly amendment” to the original resolution. Brent Batron explained that the friendly amendment was not accepted because it changed the intent of the resolution in building a bridge between AER and the powerful consumer voice represented through the National Federation of the Blind.

Chaos ensued as the meeting became a discussion about the proper procedure for dealing with the situation. During the period of uncertainty it became clear that the Batron/Chacon resolution and the spirit with which it was offered was favored by a number of long-time AER members in the room. Rather than taking a straight up or down vote on the Batron/Chacon resolution, the AER membership had no direction until out of nowhere came Mark Richert, director, public policy for the American Foundation for the Blind and former executive director of AER, who moved adoption of the substitute resolution and, in effect proposed to burn the bridge that was being offered between the organizations. It is my understanding that AER has specific policies regarding when a resolution must be submitted, and nowhere is there any provision for inserting a substitute resolution or denying a straight up-and-down vote on one that has been submitted according to AER rules. Bypassing protocol, fairness, and openness in favor of control, the AER leadership presented and voted on a substitute resolution without addressing the real concerns of its members as offered in the original Batron/Chacon resolution. While the substitute resolution passed, it had the lowest support of any of the resolutions considered during the meeting. Thus, AER has once again made a positive decision not to strengthen the relationship with the organized blind movement. Here is the resolution that was placed on the floor in violation of AER policy and considered instead of the Batron/Chacon resolution:

Proposed Resolution of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the
Blind and Visually Impaired: July 2018
Accreditation of Blind and Low-vision Services
Resolution Number 2018 – 4
Authors: Brent Batron and Michelle Chacon

Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute
Whereas the AER board of directors adopted the accreditation program of the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC), now under the executive management of AER, effective July 1, 2017;

Whereas an announcement of this action was distributed to AER members and others by AERBVI Member Services on August 31, 2017, noting AER’S new mission statement: “The mission of AER is to serve and empower professionals to deliver standards-based practices that lead to improved educational and rehabilitative outcomes for individuals with visual impairment and blindness;

Whereas during its entire history as a free-standing organization devoted to standards and accreditation of services for people with blindness and low vision, NAC was unable to achieve widespread acceptance by agencies and schools in the field of blindness and visual impairment, due largely to organized and persistent opposition of consumers with visual impairments, especially opposition of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB);

Whereas according to its official statements, NFB’s opposition to NAC is based on disagreements over the founding and structure of NAC as an organization and does not reflect opposition by NFB to accreditation, provided the accreditation is conducted in a fair and open manner with equal opportunity for consumers and providers to engage with one another and collaborate in meaningful ways throughout the accreditation process; and

Whereas, in adopting executive management of the NAC accreditation program it is the policy of AER to respect the independent voice of consumers who are blind or visually impaired, the right of people who are blind or visually impaired to organize for self-expression, collective action, and the right of people who are blind or visually impaired to meaningful participation in design and implementation of accreditation of programs affecting their lives; now, therefore,

Be It Resolved, by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), on this twenty-eighth day of July 2018, in the city of Reno, Nevada, that this organization, through its Board of Directors:

  1. shall invite the NFB, the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and other such national organizations of consumers who are blind or visually impaired and their families as the board may identify to establish and carry out a collaborative project to be known as “Vision 2020: A New Accreditation Program for Blind and Low Vision Services”; this project so created shall consist of a consumer/provider Committee on Accreditation of Blind and Low Vision Services, with the goal of balanced (equal) opportunities for consumer and provider representation on the Committee; and
  2. shall give the following charge to the Committee, so created:
  3. to identify goals and objectives of mutual interest which could be met by means of a consumer/provider accreditation process;
  4. to develop a conceptual outline describing how a proposed consumer/provider accreditation process would work, including organization, membership, governance, structure, duties, and funding; and
  5. to report its findings and recommendations to the AER Board of Directors which shall communicate such findings to the governing boards of collaborating organizations and to the AER membership on or before January 1, 2020, in order for each organization to plan and take appropriate action in response to the report at its next regularly scheduled national conference to be held during that year; and
  6. affirms that nothing in this resolution shall affect current implementation plans of the AER Accreditation Program as announced on August 31, 2017, unless otherwise determined by further action of the AER Board of Directors.

There you have the resolution that was submitted, denying an up or down vote on the Batron/Chacon resolution. Throughout sessions held during the conference, Dr. Tutt kept proclaiming that NAC is dead. With this sentiment we most readily agree, but so too is the newly named effort if it fails to deal with the foundational problems that haunted NAC from its very beginnings. Cooperation and collaboration should be the spirit of the day, but nothing to this point suggests that AER wishes to make a clean break with the past and embrace the voice of consumers. Because we have the most to gain, the most to lose, and are the direct recipients of services funded by governmental and private entities, we intend to have a voice in which agencies get the stamp of approval by the blind and which do not. The days of accreditation without meaningful standards are dead; the days of accreditation based on the mere payment of dues are over; the days of accreditation without meaningful representation by elected blind leaders of the blind are over. The only question is whether major players in the field can come together to work out a process or whether this conflict will have a more public face because the public, the state legislatures, the federal regulators, and even the United States Congress will become involved if blind people are not meaningfully included.

Overall, the work of the AER Strike Committee and the NFB members who attended the AER Conference was effective. It truly feels like progress has been made toward bridging what gaps exist between educators of the blind and the consumers they serve. This progress is being made because of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind and despite the lack of real action by leaders of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Let no one be deceived: There is still much work to be done.

On a positive note, AER has a new president and will soon have a new executive director. On the other hand, the AER Accreditation Council goes on, and the word at the AER Conference was that none other than Lou Tutt will manage that work once he leaves his post as executive director of AER. How will this new leadership respond to the call for collaboration by many of its members at the AER Conference? We already know what Lou Tutt will do at the helm of the AER Accreditation Council. According to AER’s website, https://aerbvi.org/the-national-accreditation-council/ “The standards for accreditation are set by a peer Council whose members include professionals who are skilled and experienced with program administration, systems, educational and rehabilitation protocols and service delivery.” Where are consumers and the elected representatives of consumers in this process? They are not reflected in this mission statement. This does not appear to be a collaborative process AER is embarking on, but where there is change, there is hope!

Where once blind people were only the recipients of service, today we are also the providers. We have agency administrators who are blind, and they oversee some of the most well-run programs that provide the best services in the country. To new people in the field, this kind of consumer involvement in the provision of service and staff will seem normal, nothing about us without us being the creed they’ve adopted in their careers. But the history of work with the blind shows that the concept is relatively new and not beyond the traditional powers to test, to question, and to work against. We will meet that test; we will not let NAC or its successor organization run our lives or the agencies that exist to help us make our lives better. We have the most to win or lose, we hold the power, and we intend to exercise it on behalf of blind people!

As President Riccobono says, “The AER Strike revealed that accreditation of programs in the blindness field is not the most pressing concern of the professionals in the trenches. We have successfully guarded the field from takeover by a problematic accreditation system which is now dead, but we must not get so comfortable that we fail to guard against future threats. More importantly, we need to build for the future. We intend to link arms with those highly committed and open-minded professionals that we encountered in Reno, and together we will set the standard of excellence in services for the blind.

Honesty and Telling It Like It Is

by Gary Wunder

In the Braille Monitor for June 2018, we ran an article by Rocky Hart. It was entitled “My First Day at the State Capitol.” On reflection, Rocky remembers that this was his first day at the capitol on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind but that in fact he had been to the capitol on several occasions. Here is what he says to clarify:

Hello Mr. Wunder:

This past June, the Monitor ran an article about my most recent trip to the Minnesota state capitol. The article and the introduction which accompanied it stated that this was my first visit to the capitol. I would like to clarify that this was not, in fact, my first visit, but the first day I participated in any direct educating on behalf of the NFB of Minnesota. I had visited the capitol twice prior to this, once for lobbying for budgetary requests for the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, and second in observance of White Cane Safety Awareness Day in October of last year.

In the first draft of the article, the phrase “Day at the Capitol” was listed in quotations. I would like to offer my sincere apology to the readers of the Monitor for misleading them in believing that this was my first visit. I would appreciate having this published if at all possible since I highly value honesty and accuracy. Thank you, once again, for publishing the article, and I look forward to hearing from you.

From My Blind Child to Our Blind Children—Why the National Federation of the Blind Is the Answer

From the Editor: Carlton Walker is one of the most interesting people you are likely to meet. When it comes to brains, she has an abundance of them. When it comes to motivation, she has more than her share. When it comes to education, she absorbs knowledge like a sponge, and she is not intimidated by the need to get more of it. When it comes to passion and love for her blind child, there is no calibrated scale that can measure that which is infinite.

We work hard to get our children the education they deserve, and we know that environmental integration is not the same as educational integration. When Carlton learned this, she threw herself into doing something about it. Here is the speech she gave at the 2018 NFB National Convention on Sunday, July 8:

Good morning, my friends. I thank the National Federation of the Blind and our President, Mark Riccobono, for inviting me to speak with you today. I also thank you for being here. Each of us has the power to change the world every day; today, you are taking the opportunity to do so.

Since I was in eighth grade, I have wanted to be an attorney. I started my own law firm in 1997, and I still continue to serve clients in my solo practice. In 2008, I returned to school and earned a master’s degree in education and Pennsylvania certification in teaching students with visual and multiple impairments. I taught students in South Central Pennsylvania for more than six years, and I then moved to the National Federation of the Blind, where I served as the manager of Braille education programs for almost two years.

Like many parents of blind children, blindness and blindness education became part of my life because of my child, Anna Catherine. Early on, blindness was not a factor in her life or in ours. Soon after she was born, she had many health issues, underwent many tests and surgeries, and spent way too much of the first year of her life in hospital beds.

In mid-December 2001, Anna Catherine was not yet nine months old, but she was hospitalized again. When we took her home, she was on twenty-four-hour oxygen, on continuous feeds with a feeding tube, and on a heart-lung monitor at night. Before we left the hospital, the doctors told us that the upcoming Christmas would likely be our last with her. We were devastated.

In the spring of 2002, after a change in hospitals and doctors, Anna Catherine gradually began to improve. Anna Catherine was still very delayed physically, and she received services under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (which refers to services for children who are not yet school age). She also had privately-provided weekly physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, oral-motor therapy, and aquatherapy; we were on the road a lot and were very, very busy. In her second year of life, with all these supports, Anna Catherine started to make those first-year milestones. Things were looking up.

In June of 2003 (after we had celebrated TWO Christmases with her), Anna Catherine finally began to eat and drink by mouth as a result of a month of an in-patient feeding therapy program, and we got rid of the feeding tube. We believed that her struggles would soon be over.

I knew that lazy eye (amblyopia) runs in my family, and Anna Catherine’s eyes never acted like most children’s, so I took her to a pediatric ophthalmologist—to wrap up that loose end.

After testing, the doctor came into the examining room ashen-faced. He was unable to make eye contact or even speak. I was terrified. After about a minute of silence, I asked fearfully, “Is she going to die?”

He quickly said, “No” and launched into a bunch of medical jargon. I was still reeling from his earlier behavior, so I didn’t exactly catch what he was saying. From my point of view, Anna Catherine was doing well and starting to eat and drink by mouth—for the first time in two years. Though her vision did not seem to be affecting her life, her father and I delved into the world of pediatric ophthalmology.

As months passed, we had more visits and tests with ophthalmologists, including the wonderful ERG (electroretinogram). My little girl had no central vision, only spotty peripheral vision, and her visual acuity was 20/400. My sweet toddler was legally blind.

In the ensuing years, my husband, Anna Catherine, and I learned A LOT about visual impairment and blindness. Anna Catherine already had been receiving terrific services from physical, occupational, and speech therapists. We assumed that services related to her blindness would be similar. Well, you know what they say about assuming …

Even though I asked, the school would not assess for services related to her blindness. I was told that those services are really more school-oriented and that I should wait for her transition to an IEP—in six months. I didn’t know better, so I accepted what they said. When Anna Catherine was finally assessed, I was told that she would be a large print reader. After all, she could read seventy-two-point font text at four to six inches.

This didn’t sound right, but what did I know? I was a mother, an attorney—not an “educational professional.” I did do some research of my own into non-school services. Through a series of fortunate accidents, I learned about an upcoming conference in Baltimore, Maryland, the “Beginnings and Blueprints” Early Childhood Conference sponsored by a group called the National Federation of the Blind. At the time, I wasn’t sure how much help it would provide—after all, Anna Catherine could see things. Nevertheless, my husband, Stephen, Anna Catherine, and I left home on the evening of May 5 in 2005 headed toward Baltimore. Little did we know how much our lives would change—for the better—as a result of that weekend.

At the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, we learned about the importance of Braille, cane travel, and nonvisual skills—even for our daughter, who could still see some. We learned that our daughter’s future success would not be measured by her remaining vision; it would be measured by her facility with blindness skills. But, most importantly, we met competent, confident blind adults—and these blind adults cared about all of us and wanted to provide us the knowledge, skills, tools, support, and love needed to help Anna Catherine grow into the independent, confident young woman she has the right to be.

Truly, it was a transformative weekend. However, when we returned home, nothing at school had changed. We understood that Anna Catherine needed blindness skills, but her “teacher of the visually impaired” disagreed. So began the IEP Wars. Like the Clone Wars from Star Wars, the IEP Wars involved multiple battles against powerful antagonists.

There were the Braille battles. It took months of emails, telephone calls, meetings, and an Independent Educational Evaluation to get Braille instruction started. Once instruction started, it was slow. The teacher told Anna Catherine that Braille was hard—not a particularly successful educational strategy. She told me that Anna Catherine was “too tactually defensive” to learn Braille—not a particularly effective means of encouraging parental involvement. During those months, I was on the phone with the mentors I had met at NFB. They were my Yoda—highly intelligent voices of calm and reason to guide me through these battles.

Later we engaged in the O&M (orientation and mobility) battles. Ridiculous “assessments” supposedly indicated that Anna Catherine did not need orientation and mobility instruction. I challenged them with the knowledge my NFB mentors taught me. We lost the O&M Battle, but guess what? We didn’t really lose. NFB resources taught us how to be our child’s first O&M instructors and to teach her to use the NFB long white cane.

In elementary school, there were the Cane Battles. When we demanded that Anna Catherine be allowed to bring her NFB-provided long white cane to school, the teacher told the IEP team that long canes are dangerous—because little boys running in the hall could trip over them. Thanks to my NFB mentors, I was prepared for this foolish statement: I asked the principal if little boys were allowed to run in the halls of her school. We won this battle, but there were others—about cane storage, cane technique, canes on the playground, forced sighted guide during emergency drills, etc.

Truly, a show entitled “IEP Wars” could yield many seasons of episodes for the viewer. Unlike the Clone Wars, however, IEP Wars are not science fiction; they are the reality for thousands of blind children, and IEP Wars continue to be fought every day across this nation. None of these fights are necessary. Students, families, teachers, schools, communities, and future employers would be far better off if we could end IEP Wars and provide blind children the educational services and tools which will provide the free appropriate public education to which they are legally entitled.

So why was there so much fighting? The simple and sad reason is this: school officials did not treat Anna Catherine as a full-fledged student who belonged in their school. I am sad to report that Anna Catherine is not the only blind student who has lived through these battles. After years of needless conflict, I have determined that these battles result from schools taking three unfortunate stances in relation to our children’s and student’s education:

First, many teachers and administrators treat our students as “special” cases and throw out the educational principles they apply to every other student in the school. Too many teachers’ expectations of our students plummet the moment they learn that the child is blind/visually-impaired/has low vision. Instead of providing students the instruction and tools they need to engage as full-fledged students, these kindly teachers and administrators try to remove the need in various ways:

Their motives may be pure, but they are killing our students with their “kindness.”

Second, many teachers assume that, if a student can see some things, the student is not really blind. Sadly, this is especially a problem among teachers of students with blindness/visual impairment and orientation and mobility specialists— educators of blind students, the very educators who should know better. Even today, a great number of “professional educators” strive to “maximize” the student’s vision, despite the fact that vision is not effective, efficient, or reliable for many, or most, academic and functional tasks.

In other words, in all areas of a blind student’s educational life, far too many educators of blind students focus on maximizing vision use—instead of maximizing the student and student’s capabilities.

Third, many people believe that “technology has made Braille obsolete,” and there is an unfortunately high number of educators in the blindness field who perpetuate this fallacy.

So why is this the case, and what can we do about it?

Well, after just a few years of IEP Wars in Anna Catherine’s early elementary education, Stephen and I realized that we could not rely on her teachers to provide the education our daughter needed. Though my law practice was now growing, I cut back on work and started taking classes to become a teacher in the blindness field. At that time the excellent program at Louisiana Tech did not offer online options (it does now), and I lived in very rural South-Central Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania institution offered online classes, so I chose to get my certification there.

What an experience. My program required six semesters of learning about “visual efficiency” and “low vision” devices, but there was only one class for learning Braille. We also had three whole days of summer instruction in Nemeth Code and abacus. That’s right, the entire class lasted only three days. And guess what? The program I went through had more Braille than many other programs which purport to train teachers to teach blind students.

Is it any wonder that so many graduates of these programs gravitate toward vision and away from the Braille and Nemeth Code their students need for success?

In my orientation and mobility class, we met in-person on six separate evenings. We were exposed to and got to touch and use canes on only one of those evenings, and, out of the two dozen canes we could use for “practice,” only two were long white canes. Is it any wonder that so many graduates of these programs gravitate toward protection and guide techniques, “pre-canes” and “identification canes” and away from the long white canes that can allow their students to achieve independent travel skills?

Our Independent Living Skills course consisted of online coursework and one day of on-campus activity. We used sleep shades during those on-campus activities (such as spreading peanut butter on bread and folding money for identification), and we spent the afternoon eating a meal under sleep shades. While these were good activities, they were rushed, and we did not have time to practice them and become comfortable with them.

Is it any wonder that so many graduates of these programs remain uncomfortable with nonvisual techniques—even when those techniques would allow their students to perform tasks more efficiently and effectively?

As you can see, many programs which prepare men and women to teach blind students focus on vision and give short shrift to nonvisual tools and techniques. However, this is not the greatest weakness of those programs. The greatest weakness, by far, is the lack of interaction with competent blind adults. Truly, it is startling. Every one of my professors was typically-sighted, like I am. While we sighted people are nice enough, we are not experts on blindness. How can any teacher prepare students to be competent blind adults when that instructor has little to no interaction with competent blind adults, much less authentic and meaningful relationships with the blind adults who daily use the skills our students need to succeed?

Obviously, traditional programs are not adequately preparing teachers of blind students, so now we know the answer to why so many school officials resist and even fight teaching our students blindness skills. Now, what can we do about it?

The title of this presentation tells us: the National Federation of the Blind is the answer. The National Federation of the Blind provides the knowledge, resources, and, most importantly, the blind adults who can change the trajectory of the lives of blind children.

The NFB offers 24/7/365 mentorship for blind individuals and their families, tools (like free white canes, and free slates and styluses, and free Braille books from the American Action Fund), and resources (like Future Reflections magazine, the Braille Monitor, the NFB BELL Academy, and our STEM programs).

Why does NFB offer mentorship, tools, and resources?

We offer mentorship, tools, and resources because 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.

My fellow Federationists, we can and we must share the truth: blind children can have the lives they want, and we will not allow any low expectations of “professionals” to hold them back. We will share with them everything the National Federation of the Blind and our members have to offer, and we will do this through another N-F-B: Nurture, Formulate, and Believe.

N—Nurture: We will Nurture our blind children and their families. We will get to know them and invite them to know us. We will share meals, events, laughter, and tears. We will foster meaningful, long-lasting relationships with them, and they will become members of our Federation Family.

F—Formulate: We will Formulate plans to help our blind children gain the skills they need in school, in their communities, and in life. We will help them bring these formulations to schools, and we will demand that the schools teach our children. Teach our children Braille (including Nemeth Code and Music Braille). Teach our children cane travel and orientation skills. Teach our children nonvisual skills, both high-tech and low-tech. In other words, provide our children the free appropriate public education to which they are entitled and which has been the law of our land for more than four decades.

B—Believe: We will Believe in our blind children, no matter what obstacles come up. We will remind them to Believe in themselves. We will model Believing in them for all the world to see. We will show them that they are not impaired, no matter what their vision is or is not. Visual function does not define a person any more than does height, race, or a multitude of other characteristics. Do these characteristics affect how the child develops? Probably, but they do not define the child. We will make certain that they know that our children are far, far more important than what they can or cannot see.

My Federation family, please join me. Join me in proclaiming to blind children and adults across this great nation—the National Federation of the Blind is the answer, and we are with you every step of the way.

Leave a Legacy

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 Donation

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.

Pre-Authorized Contribution

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.

Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities: A Blind Entrepreneur Breaks through Barriers Everywhere He Builds

by Isaac Lidsky

From the Editor: This presentation was made late on the morning of July 7, 2018, and, as President Riccobono noted, it stood between us and lunch but was well worth staying to hear. In his introduction he related the long list of accomplishments by Mr. Lidsky, including his start out as a childhood actor, graduating from Harvard at the age of nineteen with two degrees (one in mathematics and the other in computer science), becoming a lawyer, working as a clerk for two Supreme Court justices, cofounding an internet startup, and now working as an entrepreneur in central Florida running a company that does $250 million in business every year.

In this article we find not only the celebration of accomplishment but the misunderstandings about blindness that can come between us and our dreams. What Mr. Lidsky has been able to do is remember his own misconceptions about blindness and treat others with gentleness and compassion when they manifest the same. He makes a case both for empathy and education, and his strategies for breaking through obstacles and converting them into opportunities are well worth noting and incorporating into our own lives. Here is what he said:

When Dorothy was a little girl, she was fascinated by her pet goldfish. Her father explained to her that fish swim by quickly wagging their tails to propel themselves through the water. Well, without any hesitation or doubt, little Dorothy responded: “Yes, daddy, and fish swim backward by wagging their heads.” Now in her young mind this was a fact as true as any other fact. Fish swim backward by wagging their heads. She believed it.

Our lives are full of fish swimming backward. We make assumptions and faulty leaps of logic. We harbor biases; we know that we’re right and they’re wrong; we fear the worst, we strive for unattainable perfection, we perpetuate our insecurities and vanities, we struggle to listen to each other and to our own hearts, we tell ourselves what we can and cannot do. In our minds fish swim by in reverse, frantically wagging their heads, and we don’t notice them. Now these pesky, unnoticed fish can be particularly problematic when it comes to so-called disabilities. People make all sorts of assumptions about disabilities. That’s not news to anyone here, right? We are all pretty familiar with that idea. The thing is, we are wired to do it. Our brains build up a vast database of experiences, and we reason from those experiences. We are wired in our brains to predict, to infer, to assume. We take that which we understand, that which is familiar to us, and we try to apply or extend it to the new circumstances we confront.

So what happens when we confront that which is entirely unfamiliar? What happens when our mental database has no relevant or useful information? What happens when we have no basis to understand what we’re confronting? Well, often, fear happens, and anxiety, and self-doubt, and awfulizing.

My childhood was a Hollywood fairytale. I was born into a middle-class family in America to parents who loved me and nurtured me. I never had to worry about food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare. Blessed with a powerful intellect, school came easy to me, and I really enjoyed it. As you heard earlier, the Hollywood part—I mean literally. I grew up acting: I did somewhere between 100 and 150 commercials, got some small parts in some big things, some big parts in some small things, and then I got that lucky break: Weasel Wyzell on NBC’s Saved by the Bell—that dorky, nerdy character. I’ll tell you that as a young boy, it was really an acting challenge for me to get inside the mind of a young dorky boy—it took a lot of acting.

So I grew up with the world in my hands, and then, at age thirteen, I’m diagnosed with this rare disease called retinitis pigmentosa or RP. Now I was unaware of any symptoms at the time. In fact, I would’ve sworn that my eyes were perfectly healthy. Still, the expert told me that I had this disease, and it would cause my sight to fade to blindness. I was thirteen and going blind.

Now I didn’t know the first thing about blindness, right? So what happens? Well, fear, and anxiety, and self-doubt, and awfulizing—that’s what happened. They did their work, and with a bunch of lies they made blindness familiar to me. They told me “You understand blindness just fine enough—thank you very much.” I believed them, and so I adopted their story about blindness.

Here’s what I thought I knew about blindness when I was thirteen, having just been diagnosed. Blindness will ruin my life. Blindness is a death sentence for my independence. Blindness is the end of achievement for me. Blindness means that I’m going to live a wholly unremarkable life, likely alone. No one is going to love or respect me; I’m not going to love or respect myself. I’ll probably never be a father, which is probably for the better. On and on and on it went, and that’s what I knew about blindness when I was thirteen years old and diagnosed.

Now, of course, none of that happened. Of course, that awful reality was a lie; it was fiction [applause]. I was eventually able to see that, to move through it, to choose who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life. I broke fear’s spell, and I built a very blessed life for myself—with plenty of children by the way. I have three children who will turn eight in September—that’s a phenomenon doctors call triplets, incidentally—so the tripskies, Lily Louise, Phineas, and Thaddeus will be eight in September, and sweet baby Clementine is two-and-a-half. I am immensely grateful.

So why am I prattling on and telling you all of this? Well I’d like to leave you with two points, if I may. First point: If I had not learned to see through the reality of my fears, eyes wide open, the awful life those fears foretold could have become my reality. I would’ve lived that life. I’m absolutely certain of that fact, and it’s such an important point that I want to say it again. If I hadn’t figured out for myself how to discover my own truth about blindness, I would’ve lived the truth of my fears. I’ll ask you what you fear and how your fears might shape the reality you’re creating for yourself?

Second point: Whether we like it or not, when it comes to blindness, many sighted people and others—many people—live in that world of fear. They don’t understand it, they’re afraid of it, and they assume that blindness essentially ruins your life. They think a blind life is a sad life, a partial life, a pity. Now that is an extremely painful fact, and I wish it weren’t true. I deeply, deeply wish it weren’t true. But I know it’s true because I grew up as such a person. I can remember what I first thought about blindness when I was first diagnosed. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I cringe when I remember it. I’m embarrassed, I feel guilty. How could I, of all people, have harbored such awful and erroneous thoughts about blindness? How could I have been so biased? The answer is simple: I was wired that way. Until I was forced to learn more about it, forced to really understand it, forced to confront it, my default assumption was that blindness was pure terror for me. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just blindness. I made all sorts of baseless assumptions about other people and their lives and their abilities. I still do, though now I’m far more aware of it.

So, was I a bad person as a kid? Did I knowingly discriminate? Did I intentionally behave in ways that excluded some and stacked the deck against others? No. I was human, still am. Looking back at my young self, I’m not angry; I’m sad. I’m sad at how little I understood; I’m sad that I wasted so much time and energy and thought tormenting myself with dark imaginings. I’m sad that my unenlightened perspectives about life and disability may have disadvantaged others and certainly disadvantaged me. I want to go back and hug that young boy, I want to reassure him that he’s going to live a beautiful life, I want to teach him the true meaning of ability and disability. [applause] I want to teach him the true meaning of success and value and joy.

As a blind man I confront other people’s incorrect assumptions about my life and my ability every day. Are those assumptions frustrating? Almost always. Do they feel demeaning to me? Often. Do they make me angry? Sometimes. But then I remember that young boy who knew about blindness and how it would destroy his life. I remind myself that, like that young boy, those who make assumptions about me and my blindness—they have their own fears and their own anxieties and their own self-doubts. I remind myself that what I really want is for them to understand. If we want to be understood, we must aim to help others understand. [applause] We must teach not with anger or hate or bitterness or resentment. We must teach with humanity. We are wired to do that too if we so choose. I think that’s the right choice. Thank you.

The Senate Must Act on Legislation So Americans can Reap the Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles

From the Editor: This editorial is reprinted with permission of The Hill. It originally appeared on July 31, 2018:

The myriad benefits of autonomous vehicles (AVs) are remarkable. Beginning with greater independence and enhanced mobility options for those who cannot or do not drive, to dramatically reduced road fatalities and declines in traffic congestion, the autonomous vehicle revolution promises many positive changes across the country and around the world.

The National Federation of the Blind, the country’s largest organization of blind people, has been especially enthusiastic about this exciting innovation. While blind Americans are already mobile and regularly use available transportation, we face challenges related to insufficient public transportation networks, inadequate paratransit systems, and issues of disconnectedness for those of us who may prefer to live in small towns and rural areas. These challenges play a role in driving suboptimal employment outcomes, a poverty rate that is double the national average, and community disengagement among people with disabilities.

The AV START Act of 2017 (S. 1885) is a bipartisan bill that would lay the groundwork for the safe and rapid deployment of AVs. This bill will ensure a coherent federal framework for the proliferation of this life-changing technology while also clarifying the vital role that states and localities will play in their traditional jurisdictions.

Most importantly from our perspective, the bill would require that accessibility be a key element of safety reporting and prohibit discriminatory licensing practices that could exclude blind Americans from full and equal access to AVs. The bill would also create a working group specifically dedicated to helping craft recommendations on accessibility and other issues related to people with disabilities. In short, the AV START Act is an inclusive and pro-innovation approach to the safe and expeditious rollout of autonomous vehicles, and we support it wholeheartedly.

Skeptics of the AV START Act often cite the safety risks associated with this new and disruptive technology. This critique is confusing given that AVs have the potential to radically reduce road fatalities by removing some of the dangerous human element from driving. To underscore this point, note that 94 percent of the roughly 37,000 deaths on our roads and highways last year were attributable to human error, which comes in the form of drunk or impaired driving, distracted driving, and fatigued driving. An autonomous vehicle will never be drunk, and it will never be fatigued. The safety gains that could be brought about by the advent of AVs could quite literally save thousands of lives every year.

Beyond the paradox of opposition based on safety concerns, it is also confounding to observe this opposition from a historical perspective. Critics also feared the automobile and thought that replacing the horse and buggy would be far too dangerous and disruptive for America to handle. Innovation skeptics also thought that airplanes represented too much of a risk to public safety. Skepticism of autonomous vehicles can be placed in a similar category—exaggerated fear of an exciting transportation innovation that will bring innumerable societal benefits, not the least of which being greater transportation independence for the blind and other people with disabilities.

AVs, while not a silver bullet for any of the transportation-related challenges we face, do represent a powerful new addition to the toolbox that can help us live the lives we want. However, these benefits are in jeopardy if the United States Senate does not act swiftly and concertedly. Now is the time to guarantee that the United States will lead the world in yet another technological paradigm shift. We cannot afford to wait any longer—the rest of the world isn’t waiting.

No Borders to the World’s Knowledge: A Commitment to Accessibility for the Blind

by Francis Gurry

From the Editor: Scott LaBarre introduced the next speaker with these words: “This next gentleman is somebody who has been critical in bringing greater access to information to the blind and print-disabled of the world, someone who was critical and key in helping us get the Marrakesh Treaty first adopted and now further implemented throughout the world. He is a high-level United Nations official, and for him to be with us here, not only this afternoon but at our banquet, is indeed a privilege and a distinction for our organization. He holds law degrees from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

I also note that he has served as secretary general of the International Union to Preserve New Species of Plants. He served as deputy director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization [WIPO] starting in 2003, and in 2008 assumed the title of director general. WIPO—the United Nations agency that deals with intellectual property rights—played a critical role in getting Marrakesh adopted, and it would not have done that without this gentleman’s leadership.

Second, since the adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2013 he has established programs for WIPO to lead implementation efforts all over the world. And thirdly, through his leadership WIPO established the Accessible Books Consortium, which is another vehicle to help implement the Marrakesh Treaty. And more important, he’s become a true friend of the National Federation of the Blind. Join me in welcoming and giving a loud and warm National Federation of the Blind welcome to Dr. Francis Gurry! [applause, cheers]

Thank you very much, Scott. Dear friends, it really is a privilege to be with you. It’s a thrill to be at this national convention of the National Federation of the Blind, and I’d say it’s one of the highlights of my career to be with you to jointly celebrate the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty and the pending ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by the United States of America. [applause] I’d like to thank Mark Riccobono, the President of the NFB; Fred Schroeder, vice president and president of the World Blind Union; Scott LaBarre, your (I would say) indominable negotiator who has—and I’ll say a little more about this—really lead the process of negotiation and compromise that resulted in the Marrakesh Treaty.

Let me just start by saying a few brief words about the World Intellectual Property Organization: we’re a United Nation’s agency, as Scott has mentioned. We have 193 member-states, so it’s the whole world, really. We deliver a variety of services in the field of intellectual property, and we are custodians of about twenty-six multilateral treaties that establish rules worldwide in the field of intellectual property, of which the Marrakesh Treaty is one.

Intellectual property—it’s a bit of a special field, but really it is about the creation of new knowledge: providing incentives to ensure that we do get innovation, technology, literature, publications, music, all forms of new knowledge. And as Francis Bacon said a little over 400 years ago, “Knowledge is power.” Knowledge is power collectively for countries, for companies, and individually for individuals.

At World Intellectual Property Organization we are committed to an effective and a balanced intellectual property system, one that ensures the creation of new knowledge but also the sharing of the social benefit of the new knowledge. And that balance and fairness and justice and human rights were at the heart of the “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.” I would say that the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2013 is one of the greatest achievements of the World Intellectual Property Organization in its 130-year history. [applause]

What does it do? Very briefly, it creates a mandatory exception worldwide to enable the copyright of a published work not to interfere with, if you’d like, or to be broken, if you’d like, in order to create an accessible format of the work for persons who are blind or visually impaired. And most importantly it allows the cross-border exchange of any work so created. So it creates a truly international forum for the exchange of publications in accessible formats.

It was remarkable that this treaty was concluded for several reasons. First of all, of course, unfortunately, as we all know, we live in a very divided world, and the Marrakesh Treaty represented one of the few occasions in the last several years in which the world has been able to come together with a unity of purpose, that unity of purpose being to end the book famine and to create the conditions for access worldwide to publications and thus to knowledge for persons who are blind. A second remarkable thing about the Marrakesh Treaty is that it was driven by civil society and non-governmental organizations, and premier amongst those was the National Federation of the Blind. [applause] I would like to congratulate the NFB for this fantastic achievement. It was in 2009 that the World Blind Union presented through the delegations of Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay at the World Intellectual Property Organization a proposal for the Marrakesh Treaty. It took four years to conclude—you might think that’s a long time, I can tell you it’s a short time internationally. We’ve got negotiations going on at the moment for a new treaty in the area of broadcasting. They have been going on for twenty years, and we still don’t have agreement. You know we have negotiations for an international instrument to protect traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, and they, too, have been going on for twenty years. So the four years that it took from the start to the end of the Marrakesh Treaty really was, in international terms, given that you have to establish a comfort level for 193 states, was really quite rapid, and it shows the expression of the solidarity of the whole world for the rights—the human rights—of blind persons. That was 2013, and for the conclusion of the proceedings let me say for those who don’t know that we had Stevie Wonder who came specially to Marrakesh to urge the delegates to really do the deal, to conclude the deal, and then to present a concert with his friends at the end to celebrate the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty.

We are now at forty countries that have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty. [applause] We will not rest until the whole world has ratified the Marrakesh Treaty.

Where do we go from here? The first thing is universality. Because of this facility to exchange books that is established across borders, that is established by the Marrakesh Treaty, this facility is a facility for dealing with the enormous differences that exist in this world between capacity and economic power of different countries. It creates the possibility for rich countries like the United States of America or the European Union to share the books that they have been able to establish in accessible formats with the poorest countries of the world, and this is a wonderful, wonderful thing. [applause] As you know, thanks to your efforts, we are hoping that the United States of America will ratify very soon the Marrakesh Treaty. We have a commitment from the European Union that it will ratify it in October of this year. That’ll bring us up to sixty-nine countries, and we have a target of 100 countries by the end of 2019. [applause]

Scott has mentioned the Accessible Books Consortium. Let me just say a few brief words—because I know we’re running out of time—about the Accessible Books Consortium. It’s a vehicle for really implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, because what the Marrakesh Treaty does is it creates the possibility of the exchange of books in accessible formats. The Accessible Books Consortium actually does the exchanges. So we have a global book service with an online catalog that now makes over 200,000 works in accessible formats available. That collection exists in seventy-six languages in Braille, DAISY text, MP3, humanly-created audio tapes, and soon EPUB3. It also does capacity building, so 90 percent of the population of blind persons in the world is to be found in the developing and least-developed countries. We have projects in twelve developing and least-developed countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Burkina Faso, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and Vietnam. In those twelve countries we are helping with the establishment of libraries for the blind so that they can benefit from the Marrakesh Treaty. And through donations from the Australian government we have created 4,500 texts and books and materials of an educational type for primary students, secondary students, and tertiary students in developing countries in local languages, and by the end of this year we’ll get to 8,000. Finally, what it does is it represents a commitment and an encouragement to accessible publishing. Born accessible is what we want from publishing. We have an international excellence award and a charter for accessible publishing which is getting more and more adherences from the publishing community.

So finally, let me say about the Marrakesh Treaty you can be sure that WIPO will renew and strengthen as much as possible its commitment to the universality of this treaty and to the objectives of this treaty and to ensuring practical ways of its implementation. We will also, since we are an organization which deals with rights in relation to technology, be starting a major focus next year on assistive technologies and how we can ensure that assistive technologies are more evenly shared across the world in the spirit of solidarity amongst the whole world. So, dear friends, it really is a pleasure and a great privilege to have been with you this afternoon. Thank you very much Mark. [applause]

Equal Access in Air Travel for the Blind:Raising Expectations from the United States Department of Transportation

by Blane Workie

From the Editor: Air travel and the treatment of blind passengers by the airlines are not new topics for the NFB and in the Braille Monitor. But recent events have the topics squarely on the NFB Agenda as you will read in this article covering the speech given on July 8. President Riccobono introduced the following presentation like this:

“We have with us the assistant general counsel for the office of aviation enforcement and proceedings. You know, treatment of passengers on airlines has been on the news a lot lately, except for blind people this is not news; we’ve known about this treatment for decades. Whether it’s being treated like an unaccompanied minor, or having our canes taken away, or trying to fight with the in-flight entertainment system to get on the WiFi, or knocking up against an inaccessible kiosk or website, we know about the treatment from the airlines. We are very happy to have this next presenter here to talk to us about the consumer protections and civil rights enforcement efforts at the Department of Transportation. Here is Blane Workie:”

Thank you for that introduction and good afternoon everybody. I am very honored and delighted to be here with all of you today at this very impressive gathering. Improving transportation for people with disabilities is a high priority at the US Department of Transportation, and I am personally committed to the goal of making accessible air transportation a reality for all. [cheers] I appreciate your president, Mr. Mark Riccobono, inviting me to the National Federation of the Blind’s 2018 National Convention. I have a great admiration for Mr. Riccobono’s leadership and the work that is done by the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that blind people have access to goods and services. The NFB has been and continues to be a champion for the rights of the blind and visually impaired. The NFB actively engages with the US Department of Transportation and in its advocacy makes clear NFB’s philosophy that the blind are the best qualified to lead the way in solving problems facing the blind. [applause]

As the assistant general counsel in the US Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, I have had the great pleasure of working with NFB on a variety of issues affecting blind air travelers such as the accessibility of airline websites and airport kiosks, traveling by air with service animals, and in-flight entertainment. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity today to recognize your colleagues in Washington DC: John Paré, who is the NFB’s executive director for advocacy and policy, [applause] and Parnell Diggs, who was NFB’s former director of government affairs. [applause] This is for the work that they have done to raise awareness of and advocate for accessible air transportation for blind and low vision Americans. Like them, and all of you, we at DOT believe it is important that the transportation system is accessible, as accessible transportation is vital in maintaining independence.

Looking out at the crowd in front of me, the strength of the NFB and the unity of purpose this convention brings to blind people is very clear. I understand that there are approximately 3,000 delegates here [applause] from every state in the country as well as some foreign countries. I know that you have had a full day, actually a full schedule the last few days, and I appreciate being given the opportunity to present on the Department of Transportation’s work to ensure equal access in air travel for the blind.

Let me begin by briefly explaining to you the function of my office and our involvement in aviation civil rights matters. My office, the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, is part of the US Department of Transportation’s Office of General Counsel. Among other things we are responsible for enforcement and rule-making activities related to the Air Carrier Access Act. The Air Carrier Access Act was passed by Congress with bipartisan support, and President Reagan signed it into law on October 2, 1986. It initially applied only to US airlines, but was later amended so that it also applies to foreign airlines. The act makes it unlawful for US and foreign air carriers to discriminate against passengers with disabilities in commercial air transportation. It struck a powerful blow for equality.

Before the Air Carrier Access Act was enacted, the airlines’ treatment of blind passengers varied greatly as different airlines had different procedures, and even a single airline might have its procedures interpreted in different ways by its employees. This made travel unpredictable for people with disabilities. Further, there were reports of airline personnel making erroneous assumptions about the condition of people with disabilities, some of which led to demeaning treatment. For example, there was a time when blind persons and other people with disabilities were required to sit on blankets. At that time, there were few specific regulations regarding the treatment of air travelers with disabilities that applied to commercial airlines.

We have made significant progress since then. Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, we have established regulations that require commercial airlines to provide guide assistance to blind persons at airports. It also requires airlines to allow passengers with disabilities to transport canes and other assistive devices in the passenger cabin close to their seat, consistent with safety requirements. Airlines must also provide blind passengers timely access to the same information given to other passengers at the airport or the airline, such as flight delays or gate assignments. Airlines may not charge for providing accommodations required by the Air Carrier Access Act regulation such as both services I mentioned. Airlines cannot count an assistive device against carry-on baggage totals allowed for individuals. In addition, the regulations require training on the Air Carrier Access Act for all public contact employees and contractors. And carriers must make available what is called a complaint resolution official or a CRO to respond to complaints from passengers with disabilities. Further, today airlines’ websites and airport kiosks must be accessible to people with disabilities. [applause]

Now, these are good regulations. They make a difference. Still, airlines receive thousands of disability-related air travel complaints each year. In calendar year 2004, the first year for this required report, US airlines reported receiving 10,193 disability-related air travel complaints. The number of disability complaints that airlines receive each year continues to increase. In calendar year 2016, the most recent year of data that is publicly available, US airlines reported receiving 27,842 such complaints. Now, if you’re going to include foreign air carriers with that, that would be over 32,000 complaints. The top disability complaint areas in 2016 were: 1) wheelchair and guide assistance issues; 2) stowage, loss, damage, and delay of assistive devices; 3) seating accommodations; and 4) service animal issues. This is consistent with what we have seen in prior years.

Now the fact that airlines receive thousands of complaints each year, or the increase in complaints year after year, may lead some to think that the experience of air travelers with disabilities, including blind persons, is as bad or worse than it was in the past. I don’t believe that to be the case. There are more individuals with disabilities flying today than ever before. Also, individuals with disabilities have a better understanding of their rights, which makes it more likely that complaints will be filed against airlines when airlines fail to provide accessible air transportation as required.

At DOT we place great emphasis on public education as a means of ensuring passengers and carriers know their rights and responsibilities. For example, we recently redesigned our website to allow air travelers to quickly and easily access information about their rights as passengers. The redesigned website highlights content on topics of greatest concern to consumers, including flying with a disability. It also makes it easier to file a complaint. In addition, in 2017 we were able to release a series of informative training materials that target the top four disability complaint areas. We worked with stakeholders from the disability community, including the National Federation of the Blind, and the aviation industry to develop interactive and informative training materials that target the top four disability complaint areas. The informational materials that were developed include videos, interactive guides, and downloadable brochures that can be printed or viewed on a mobile device. These materials are also available on our website and can be used to assist individuals with disabilities and to supplement the training and education of airline employees and contractors.

Although the increased complaints may not be indicative of a worsening situation for air travelers with disabilities, the complaints do tell us that our work is not yet done. There is more that needs to be done to achieve our goal of accessible air transportation. This includes, when appropriate, taking enforcement action against airlines. Generally speaking, my office pursues enforcement action against airlines on the basis of a number of complaints on which we may infer a pattern or practice of discrimination, or where we find evidence of a particularly egregious violation of the law. For instance, in 2017 we issued an order against a US airline for a series of errors in the handling of seating arrangement for a military veteran who attempted to travel on a flight with his service animal. We found this series of errors reflected lapses in training and led to significant travel complications and frustration for the passenger. We directed the airline to provide supplemental training to its reservation agents and gate agents about the proper handling of service animal requests.

Over the past ten years DOT has issued more than thirty orders, wholly or partially involving violations of the Air Carrier Access Act and its implementing regulations and assessed over nine million dollars in civil penalties against airlines for those violations. Because fines that are assessed against airlines for consent orders are payable to the federal government and not to consumers directly, when appropriate, we build into the orders that we negotiate credits for compensation that the airline pays directly to consumers who filed complaints. For example, in another case in 2017 where we assessed an airline $400,000 in civil penalties, the department provided a $36,000 credit for compensation that the airline agreed to provide to consumers who filed disability complaints with the airline during the time period that was covered by the order. We also sometimes include offsets for programs or technologies that airlines implement to improve the air travel experience for passengers with disabilities that go above and beyond the legal requirements. In addition, as part of our enforcement approach, we look for other innovative ways to increase accessibility for passengers with disabilities. For example, we’ve recently entered into landmark voluntary agreements with various airlines that self-disclosed to us their difficulties in complying with the department’s accessible kiosk rule. The department reached agreement with these airlines to not take enforcement action against them for their temporary non-compliance with the department’s rule that any airport kiosk that is installed be an accessible model until at least 25 percent of kiosks are accessible. In return, the airlines agreed to undertake measures to make air travel more accessible for persons with disabilities. This includes agreements that the airline will only install accessible kiosks in the future so that ultimately 100 percent of the airline’s kiosks will be accessible to passengers with disabilities. [applause] We have also entered into an agreement with an airline that self-reported its temporary non-compliance with the department’s website accessibility rule to not take action in return for the airline ensuring that its mobile website is also accessible, which is not required by law.

But we still have some other big challenges to tackle in the future. This includes addressing the inaccessibility of in-flight entertainment systems and the use of service animals onboard aircraft. In 2016 an access advisory committee was established to negotiate a proposed rule on several issues, including these two issues. The committee included representatives of airlines, persons with disabilities, and other interested parties. The NFB’s own Parnell Diggs was a very valuable member of that committee. [applause] The good news is that after seven months of negotiations the access advisory committee was able to reach consensus on accessibility of in-flight entertainment, an issue that has been unresolved for decades. As you know, airlines today generally do not provide in-flight entertainment with captioning or audio descriptions. Under this agreement, movies produced after a certain date and displayed on aircraft would be captioned to provide access to deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers and audio described to enable people who are blind to listen to a visual narration of movies and shows. [applause] Airlines would be permitted to display content that is not closed captioned or audio described only if uncaptioned or described versions are not available from the airline’s content provider. The access committee also established deadlines for airlines to ensure that any new seatback in-flight entertainment installed in new or existing aircraft are accessible and reached agreement on addressing aircraft that have inaccessible seatback IFE systems as well as installing software upgrades needed to ensure that the user interface to connect to the internet on aircraft is accessible. [applause]

The IFE agreement reached by the access advisory committee would need to be incorporated into a future DOT rule for it to be law. The department’s 2018 Spring Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions identifies a notice of proposed rulemaking on in-flight entertainment as a long-term action to be taken. DOT’s significant rulemaking report explains that the reason for the delay is related to the need for regulatory evaluation.

With regard to service animals, another issue that the access committee had been charged with negotiating, the committee was not able to reach agreement. DOT had charged the access advisory committee with determining the appropriate definition of a service animal and establishing safeguards to reduce the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets would be able to falsely claim that their pets are service animals. Although the access committee was unable to reach agreement, the committee has furnished helpful information to the department. After the termination of the access committee the department continued to hear from the transportation industry as well as individuals with disabilities that the current air carrier access regulation could be improved to ensure undiscriminatory access for individuals with disabilities while simultaneously preventing instances of fraud and ensuring consistency with other federal regulations.

In May 2018 the department issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking [ANPRM] seeking comment on amending its Air Carrier Access Act regulation on transportation of service animals. In the ANPRM the department solicits comments on numerous issues including: should the department continue to require the transport of emotional support animals, should there be limitations on species that airlines are required to transport, should there be limits on the number of service animals that passengers can carry, should passengers be required to provide documentation providing proof of vaccinations and/or attesting that the animal is properly trained? The comment period on the ANPRM closes tomorrow, Monday, July 9. I understand that the NFB has already submitted comments.

Given that the service animal issue is currently the subject of an open rulemaking, we had also issued an interim statement of enforcement priorities to inform airlines and the public of our intended enforcement focus with respect to the transportation of service animals in the cabin. We explained that our focus will be on clear violations of the current rule that have the potential to adversely impact the greatest number of persons. The comment period on the interim statement of priorities has closed, and a final statement of enforcement priorities will be issued in the near future.

In conclusion, I’m proud of the progress that we have made, and I am confident by continuing to work together with all of you that we can accomplish even more. [applause]

Networking that Empowers Innovation:Accessibility for the Blind through Facebook

by Monica Desai

From the Editor: President Riccobono introduced this presentation with these words: "This next speaker represents an organization that has also never appeared on this stage: Facebook. [cheers] Yeah, thumbs up to that. Facebook has become more than just a platform for connecting people. It also provides information of various sorts, businesses use it for innovative approaches, people now stream everything from television to Federation conventions on Facebook. And as blind people we have a deep interest in working to make sure that when new features come out on the Facebook platform that they're accessible. They've never appeared here before, and we hope that by being here today it's the beginning of a long relationship to make accessibility a priority and to bake it in to everything that Facebook does. Here with us today we're happy to have the director of public policy from Facebook, Monica Desai."

Thank you so much, President Riccobono, and to the National Federation of the Blind for inviting me here to speak today. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about accessibility on Facebook, particularly with respect to people who are blind or have low vision.

My name is Monica Desai, and as President Riccobono mentioned, I'm director of global public policy at Facebook, where I focus on issues involving online communication services—our video products and accessibility in particular. Prior to joining Facebook I spent over a decade in senior positions at the Federal Communications Commission, including service as the chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau which develops all policies and rules in connection with accessibility issues, and as chief of the FCC's Media Bureau which has oversight over broadcasters and cable companies and which oversees captioning policies. I was previously a partner at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, where my practice included counseling clients on accessibility issues.

Though I became acquainted with the National Federation of the Blind while I was at the FCC, I learned to really appreciate the National Federation of the Blind when I began counseling clients on accessibility issues. In particular, we did work with the National Federation of the Blind when we did a consultation on a new product for a manufacturing client who came from China, who sent engineers from China to work with the NFB and others who worked with a prototype product. It was amazing to see the impact of the input that was given by this organization in terms of the comments and how they were reflected in the product. We really appreciated that.
Today I want to speak with you about Facebook and about our accessibility ethos, how we're using artificial intelligence and machine learning to make the platform more accessible, about our navigation assistant tool, our Teach Access Partnership to promote teaching accessibility and best practices in higher education design and computer science programs, and some of our initiatives to promote an inclusive workforce.

With respect to our ethos, our mission is to bring the world closer together, and that means everyone. Accessibility is a core part of that mission. Consider, for example, that on Facebook one in ten people use the zoom feature on the desktop browser, 20 percent of people increase the font size on iOS, and over 100,000 use screen readers on mobile devices to view Facebook. We want to make it possible for anyone, regardless of ability, to access the information and connections that happen on Facebook. One of the key ways we are promoting accessibility on the platform is by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning services to power accessibility technology for people who are blind or have low vision. In 2016 we launched automatic alt text or AAT [cheers], a feature that uses object recognition to describe photos to people who use screen readers. Thank you for the cheers; people worked really hard on that, so thank you. [cheers, applause]

In December of 2017 we launched a face recognition tool that can tell people using screen readers who appears in their photos in their newsfeed, even if they aren't tagged. Every day people share over one billion photos on Facebook, and through research we have done with the vision loss community, we knew that users of screen readers engage with photo content and that they desired more context for a photo's content. But the traditional mechanism for describing photographs to people with vision loss was the use of alt text, which typically requires that the content creator supply a secondary description on a per-photo basis. This is both time consuming as well as an uncommon user activity. To address this challenge we built the AAT and face recognition accessibility tools. Our goal was to greatly improve the experience that people with vision loss have with this commonly shared media. AAT can currently detect more than 100 concepts, such as the number of people in a photo; whether people are smiling; physical objects like a car, a tree, a mountain, and other objects; and today about 75 percent of photos on Facebook now have at least one image identified by AAT.

We're honored that AAT was awarded the Federal Communications Commission Chairman's Award for Advancement in Accessibility in 2017 and the American Foundation for the Blind's Achievement Award for 2018. [applause] Using this technology people who use screen readers will know who appears in their photos and their newsfeed. As Facebook continues to improve its object and face recognition services AAT and face recognition will continue to provide more descriptive narratives for visual content.

I also want to call out how important feedback from our users was in developing AAT. When building AAT, we ran multiple rounds of user research to refine the experience. This included one-on-one interviews with users of screen readers to test out early prototypes and a two-week experiment on Facebook with follow-up surveys to users asking for feedback and sentiment. We learned from survey results that people want to understand more about what people are doing in photos, so we updated AAT to understand more about people's action in photos. It's our hope that this deployed product experience demonstrates the importance of AI for enabling better access to content across the web for persons with disabilities.

We strongly believe that AI is the future of improving additional interaction experiences at scale, whether they are visual in nature or otherwise. As AI systems get better at understanding images—video, audio, and other media—Facebook believes that more novel and robust innovations in accessibility will follow.

I also want to spend a minute touching on Navigation Assistant. In October of last year we introduced Navigation Assistant, a feature designed to improve navigation for people who use a screen reader or keyboard shortcuts on Facebook or on desktop web. When activated, the Navigation Assistant can be used to jump to different sections of the current page, jump to other pages, or jump to accessibility resources. For example, the sections of the page in Navigation Assistant list the landmark regions that are on the current page, and the screen reader user can move the keyboard focus between the sections in the menu by pressing Enter or Return. The Navigation Assistant can be activated from any page on Facebook. It's our hope that Navigation Assistant will make navigating Facebook on the desktop simpler and more predictable.

Next I want to touch on our participation in Teach Access. We want to also try to drive innovation in accessibility that extends beyond Facebook. That's why we are proud to be part of the Teach Access Initiative. Announced on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July of 2015, Teach Access brings industry, academia, and advocacy together to create models for teaching and training students of technology to create accessible experiences. This initiative includes (among others) Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Stanford, MIT, and Georgia Tech. The challenge we identified is that accessibility is not often taught in computer science, design, and user experience degree programs. So Teach Access launched an online tutorial covering best practices for accessible software design in order to advance accessibility training in higher education. And we're honored that Teach Access has won a Heroes of Accessibility award from Knowbility and received an honorable mention for the FCC Chairman's Award for Advancement in Accessibility. [applause]

Finally I want to touch on our workforce and initiatives through our workforce initiatives. Disability inclusion is critical to our mission. Hiring a workforce that is diverse and inclusive is important in order to build products that are diverse and inclusive. That's why we have a dedicated program manager focused entirely on driving awareness and engagement for our current and future employees with disabilities. We have a dedicated recruiting team and a unique alias for receiving resumés via our outreach efforts to resources and organizations that represent candidates with disabilities. We have a robust accommodation process for candidates and provide training to all recruiters in this process, and Facebook has a formal accommodation program for employees who need any accommodation of some type. We also have a dedicated group that is focused on diversity programs, one of which is dedicated to disabilities. So for people who have disabilities, who have family members with disabilities, or are interested in the space of disability, this is a place for them to collaborate and talk about their experiences.

So let me conclude by thanking you for inviting me here again to speak, and I look forward to collaborating with you in the future. [applause]

Tommy Craig Dies

by Zena Pearcy

From the Editor: It is always hard when we lose a beloved Federationist but even harder when the loss is unexpected. Tommy Craig was a two-time state president in Texas. He was hit by a car, and although his injuries were significant, they were not thought to be life-threatening. Here is what Zena Pearcy has to say about the life of our former brother and Federationist:

Thomas Edward Craig was born in Arkansas on January 12, 1955, but as he would tell anyone who would listen, “There are two kinds of people…Texans and people who want to be Texans.” Tommy got to Texas as soon as he could and never left. He had a passion for life and fierce loyalty to people, animals, places, music, and technological products.

His father was a deputy sheriff in Ashdown, Arkansas. Tommy had fond memories of riding in the patrol car and turning the siren on and off. His dad died of brain cancer when Tommy was eight years old. His mother died from a fall on a staircase when Tommy was eleven. He then moved to Houston to live with an aunt, uncle, and cousin.

Tommy attended the Arkansas School for the Blind, the Texas School for the Blind, and graduated high school in Houston at a public school. He attended college classes at Stephen F. Austin and UT Austin. Forever curious and always learning something new, Tommy enjoyed the Boy Scout program for many years. He became an Advance Amateur Radio operator and assisted many young people in getting licensed as HAM radio operators.

Tommy met his wife-to-be, Margaret “Cokie” Dennison, at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind in the late 1970s. They married in 1986. Together Tommy and Cokie raised Siberian Huskies and adopted rescued Greyhounds. They have been active delegates several times to the Democratic conventions in Texas. Both have been leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of Texas.

Fascinated by technology from the beginning, he recognized the importance of home computers shortly after Apple invented its first computer. Through the years he was fiercely loyal to the Apple brand. He had almost every product they made and made sure friends had them, too. He served on the board of the Austin Capitol Macintosh Users Group for several years.

Tommy worked in the field of adaptive equipment for blind people. He traveled the United States selling adaptive devices such as Braille displays, speech-enabled computers, and Braille embossers. He trained many people to use this equipment. Among his clients were people like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.

His involvement with the National Federation of the Blind began in the mid-1970s, when he joined the Austin Chapter. He soon became a leader in both his local chapter and within the state affiliate. He served as a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas Board of Directors beginning in the late 1970s, and he became president of the affiliate in 1992. He served in that position until 2000, and he served again from 2002 to 2011.

During his tenure as a member of the board, he and Jeff Pearcy served as the leaders of our legislative committee, and under his direction we were able to pass powerful legislation regarding Braille, fair insurance rates, and more. He was probably most proud of his efforts to pass our landmark Braille bill, which was the first in the nation to require on-time delivery of Braille textbooks for blind students, and his effort to secure adequate funding for NFB-NEWSLINE® still makes it possible for us to carry out programs for blind youth, blind seniors, and any Texan who loves to access information.

Those of us left behind mourn the loss of our friend. His passing was sudden and unexpected on August 24. He was planning his rehabilitation from his many injuries from being struck by a car. In his usual “take charge” attitude, Tommy was already setting goals for himself to beat the time limits his doctors reported for normal recovery. He chose his rehabilitation placement based on reports that he could have his dogs visit him there at the facility and that there would be plenty of visits from therapy dogs and horses! His zeal for life held out through his very last moments! We might say “Rest in Peace,” but Tommy probably has other ideas for his future. He is probably romping with all his beloved animals and visiting friends and family who went on before him!

Our dear friend truly lived the Federation philosophy. He was independent, he worked hard, and he lived the life he wanted to live every day.

Announcing New Accessibility Resources for Consumers and Industry

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: When we see problems, we do more than talk and write about them. When we can, we create programs to address them. Here is what Anil Lewis, the executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, has to say about one of our newest programs:

You may remember that in 2016, with support from the Maryland Department of Disabilities, the National Federation of the Blind launched an important initiative aimed at generating new resources for accessibility. We named it the Accessibility Switchboard. At its core, it is a dynamic online portal at AccessibilitySwitchboard.org that houses guides, articles, and other resources that consumers, government, corporate entities, and educational institutions can use to effectively address various aspects of accessibility—from developing accessible websites to procuring accessible technologies.

All of our resources are designed to be action-oriented and are grounded in proven success stories and existing best practices graciously shared with us by our Community of Practice members and member organizations. We are continually updating and adding content to the portal as we work to respond to current needs for specific information related to accessibility.

Today, I'm excited to announce the addition of seven new QA articles and six new guides. As a preview, these will include answers to critical questions like, "How do I advocate for myself when my school has digital accessibility problems?" and "How can I overcome resistance to change in an organization-wide accessibility project?"

We will be rolling out this new content throughout the coming weeks, and I invite you to actively join in on the discussion by following and using the hashtag #A11ySwitchboard.

The key to creating a more accessible world is to ensure meaningful participation and active communication between consumers and industry. The Accessibility Switchboard brings consumers and industry together, providing up-to-date information about accessible websites, emerging technology, as well as frequently encountered accessibility problems and relevant solutions. It also serves as a centralized point of contact for consumers to voice concerns about barriers to nonvisual access.

By creating this dynamic accessibility information portal, highlighting the organizations that are doing it correctly, and creating a place where consumers can give real input, the Accessibility Switchboard can shift organizational implementation of accessibility from second hand to second nature.

I'm excited for you to be a part of and have the opportunity to help shape this effort as we announce our latest content. Be sure to check #A11ySwitchboard this week and beyond.


Recipes this month come from the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.

Apricot Orange Jell-O Salad

by Debbie Brown

Debbie serves as first vice president of the NFB of Maryland. She is also the president of the Sligo Creek chapter. She says, “This is a recipe that is refreshing in summer and festive in winter.”

1 15-ounce can apricot halves, drained
1 15-ounce can mandarin orange segments, drained
1 15-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
1 3-ounce package apricot or orange Jell-O
1 cup water
8 ounces sour cream

Method: Combine apricots, oranges, and pineapple in a large bowl. Mix Jell-O with one cup boiling water and add to bowl. Mix in the sour cream. Chill for several hours.

Maryland Crab Cakes

by Darlene Barrett

Darlene Barrett is a member of the board of directors of the NFBMD. She also serves as president of the Central Maryland chapter. No list of Maryland recipes would be complete without crab cakes.

1 pound backfin crabmeat or any lump crabmeat
8 saltine crackers
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method: Place crabmeat in bowl and check for shells. In another bowl, finely crush crackers and add remaining ingredients. Gently fold in crabmeat, just enough to combine all ingredients. Shape into six crab cakes and refrigerate for one hour. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in nonstick frying pan. Sauté crab cakes until golden brown.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

by Ellen Ringlein

Ellen Ringlein is president of the Greater Baltimore Chapter. Ellen also runs the NFB Independence Market.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium or 2 small sweet potatoes, thinly sliced (2 to 3 cups)
1 or 2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 zucchini or yellow squash, thinly sliced
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup Marsala cooking wine

Method: In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat; add onion and sauté until soft. Add sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, broth, and curry powder. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally. Add Marsala wine before vegetables are fully tender. Transfer soup to blender and puree in batches. Gently reheat soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.


by Ronza Othman

Ronza is a member of the board of directors of the NFBMD. She also serves as first vice president of the Greater Baltimore Chapter. This is a traditional Palestinian dish—perhaps the most commonly served meal. Serve it with a side of plain yogurt or a thinly sliced salad of tomatoes, cucumber, lemon, and olive oil. It serves approximately six people.
4 cups white rice
chicken (cut up whole chicken or chicken pieces depending on preference)
2 cauliflowers
4 potatoes
2 onions
1 cup water
garlic powder
other preferred seasonings

Method: Peel the onions, cut them, and layer them at the bottom of a large pot. Onions should be in strips or rounds and should fully cover the bottom of the pot. Layer the chicken pieces over the onions. Add cinnamon, cardamom, garlic powder, pepper, salt, and other preferred seasoning. Tip: Seasoning blends work well, but there is no right or wrong seasoning. Add one cup of water and turn the heat on under the pot with the chicken and onions. Allow to cook for about twenty minutes until the onions are soft. The chicken will not be fully cooked. Soak four cups of rice in very hot water with salt. This will make the rice absorb other flavors. After twenty minutes of soaking, drain and rinse the rice.

Cut up the cauliflower and potatoes so that they are small enough to deep fry. The potatoes should be half an inch thick or thinner. Deep fry the cauliflower and potatoes and set aside to drain. Cauliflower is done when golden brown and crispy, and potatoes are done when golden brown and soft inside. Tip: Vegetables can be baked instead of deep-fried if going for a lower calorie option, but this takes longer—just spray them with cooking spray prior to baking. Once onions are soft, layer the cauliflower and potatoes over the chicken with the cauliflower on one side and the potatoes on the other. Layer the rice over the cauliflower and potatoes. Add hot water so that it comes up just over the level of the rice and cover the pot. Turn on the heat under the pot on medium for about thirty minutes or until the water evaporates and the rice is tender. You can test to see if the water has evaporated by inserting a wooden spoon into the pot all the way to the bottom. If it comes out wet, then there is still water that needs to evaporate. As the water gets closer to fully evaporating, reduce the heat to low.

Once the water has evaporated, turn off the heat. Remove the pot’s lid. Use a large pan—it must be significantly larger in width than the pot. With both hands (and oven mitts), flip the pot over so it is upside-down onto the pan, now with the onions and chicken on the bottom and the rice on top. This lets the flavors reabsorb into the elements of the meal a second time. Serve.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Melissa Riccobono

In addition to being the First Lady of the Federation, Melissa is a member of the board of directors of the NFBMD, and she is president of the Maryland Parents of Blind Children Division. She says, “These cookies are a bit famous around our kids’ school; we have made them several times for various teachers, and everyone who tries them loves them!”

1 cup soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick oats
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips

Method: Cream butter and sugar. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and stir into mixture. Add vanilla, then dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheet. (The recipe says ungreased, but I usually grease just to be safe.) Bake at 350 degrees for ten to twelve minutes.

No-Bake Pineapple Cheese Pie

by Ellen Ringlein

1/2 cup boiling water
1 envelope unflavored Knox gelatin
One small can crushed pineapple, drained, reserve liquid
One small can of pineapple rings (8 rings), drained, reserve liquid
1/2 pineapple juice from reserve liquid
2 8-ounce bars cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Method: Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add pineapple juice and stir well. Combine this mixture with cream cheese and sugar. Blend with hand mixer until smooth. Spoon half cream cheese mixture into pie crust. Layer the crushed pineapple on top. Cover with remaining cheese mixture. Garnish with pineapple rings. Cover with inverted plastic pie cover, crimping the aluminum edges of the pie plate to hold the top securely. Chill for several hours before serving.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

by Janice Toothman

Janice Toothman is a member of the board of directors of the Sligo Creek Chapter of the NFBMD. She also chairs the NFBMD Deaf-Blind Committee. Janice is a prolific baker at various auction fundraisers. Everyone wants to buy her items, so she makes our events very successful.

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal

Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Place chocolate in microwavable bowl, and microwave on high for one minute. Stir. If chocolate is not all melted, microwave an additional minute. Add creamed mixture to melted chocolate. Add beaten egg to bowl after bowl is cool to the touch. Add baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add flour and oatmeal. Stir well. Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking sheet, twelve cookies to a sheet. Bake for twelve minutes. Yields approximately three dozen cookies.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Message from Diane McGeorge regarding 2019 Washington Seminar Reservations:

This message is to advise you that Washington Seminar will be held January 27 to January 31, with the Great Gathering-In taking place on Monday, January 28. 

You can now reserve a room at the Holiday Inn Capitol (550 C Street, SW Washington, DC 20024) for Washington Seminar for check-in beginning Friday, January 25, and check-out Friday, February 1.  The rate is $196.00 per night.  This rate does not include DC sales tax, currently 14.95 percent.  You may begin booking reservations directly online by clicking on the weblink below.  You may also make reservations by calling 877-572-6951 and referencing booking code NB8.  Credit card information is needed at time of reservation.  Individual cancellation policy is seventy-two hours prior to date of arrival to avoid one night's room plus tax cancellation charge on credit card provided.  If your departure date changes, you must inform the hotel seventy-two hours in advance of departure to avoid a $100 fee.  Please call 877-572-6951 and reference your confirmation number.  Please obtain a cancellation number when cancelling a reservation.  The firm deadline date to make a reservation is Friday, December 28, 2018.  Reservation requests received after the deadline date will be subject to availability and prevailing rate. 

 Following is the link to reserve your room: http://ichotelsgroup.com/redirect?path=rates&brand Code=HI&regionCode=1&localeCode=en&GPC=NB8&hotelCode=WASSM&_PMID=99801505

If you would like to hold a special meeting during the Washington Seminar, please email Lisa Bonderson at [email protected] just as you have done in past years.  She and I will work with the hotel on the assignment of those meeting rooms.  To ensure that you get the space you need, please let us know of your meeting space needs by December 7, 2018.

Lisa and I will always be available to help you with any problems you might experience with the booking of your hotel reservations. We have worked closely with the hotel staff, and they are looking forward to working with each affiliate or group wanting to make reservations.

See you in Washington!

The Ride to Vote: Use Lyft to Exercise Your Rights:

At Lyft we're working to improve lives by connecting people and their communities through the world's best transportation. This election day (Tuesday, November 6), we want to help people across America exercise their right to vote.

It is estimated that over 15 million people were registered but didn't vote in 2016 because of transportation issues. That's why we're committed to providing 50 percent off rides across the country and free rides to underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation.

More details on our plan:

Across the country, we'll give away 50 percent off promo codes with our partners that encourage voter turnout. We're thrilled to be working with Vote.org, Nonprofit VOTE, TurboVote, and more to help distribute codes to those who need them. We'll also have a product integration to help passengers find their polling location.

For underserved communities, we'll provide rides free of cost through nonpartisan, nonprofit partners, including Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, and the National Federation of the Blind.

We know that getting to the polls is only one part of the voting process. We're also committed to making it easier to register to vote and learn about important ballot initiatives. We're partnering with When We All Vote and National Voter Registration Day to ensure Lyft's passengers, drivers, and broader community are prepared for election day. We will:

Your voice is important! We're excited to help make it heard in this year's elections.

NFB Pledge

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