[Greater-Baltimore] {Spam?} Fall Braille Spectator

nfbmd nfbmd at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 19 17:43:07 UTC 2016

FALL 2016
A semi-annual publication of the National Federation of the Blind of
Judy Rasmussen, editor
Published on www.nfbmd.org and on NFB Newsline by The National Federation of
the Blind of Maryland
Sharon Maneki, President
Comments and questions should be sent to  <mailto:nfbmd at earthlink.net>
nfbmd at earthlink.net
In this issue: 
The Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the NFBMD State Convention
A Victory for Voters in Maryland and Perhaps Beyond
The Annapolis Roundup: Protecting the Rights of Disabled Parents
The Maryland ABLE Act
A View of the National Convention from a National Scholarship winner
BELL Academy 2016
Maryland Student Wins Braille Competition
Al Saile, Determined Leader and Economist
Tom Ley Testifies Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about
Spectator Specs
The Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the NFBMD State Convention 
October 28-30
10.          We have not held a convention in Baltimore City in decades!
9.            The Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards Hotel is
spacious and has lots of amenities such as a beer and wine wall!
8.            The hotel is in a great, convenient location. 110 South Eutaw
Street, Baltimore, MD.
7.            We will offer 2 great tours, a behind the scenes look at the
home of the Orioles- Camden Yards Stadium AND a look back in time at The
Westminster Burying Grounds and Catacombs - the final resting place of Edgar
Allan Poe and other notables. Be watching the website www.nfbmd
<http://www.nfbmd> .org for tour registration information. 
6.            October 28 is the right day for "Sorry, Wrong Number," the
premiere performance by the Braille Is Beautiful Players. Join us at 6pm for
pizza and a play!
5.            Dance with the stars. NFB leaders such as President Riccobono,
Melissa Riccobono, Marc Maurer and Patricia Maurer, and Maryland leaders are
ready to dance with you. Music will be provided by the John Starr Jazz
Quartet. If you need a brush up on how to dance, attend our Wallflower
Destruction Workshop on Friday afternoon! If dancing is not your thing,
listen to good music, bring your own card games, and mix and mingle with
your federation family. 
4.            Great exhibits and great workshops. Check out the new Braille
Note Touch. Examine the Orbit Reader, a braille display that costs less than
3.            Meet and greet a great national representative, Gary Wunder,
the editor of the Braille Monitor.
2.            Great Door Prizes! There will be 2 special door prizes
reserved only for people who purchased a sleeping room at the hotel. One
prize will be a free, scrumptious breakfast with Gary Wunder at the Yard
Restaurant. The other prize is a weekend getaway in Baltimore to include:
Complimentary overnight stay & breakfast for two at The Royal Sonesta Harbor
Court Baltimore, two (2) VIP passes to Baltimore's best-loved attractions,
museums, sites, and tours, and (1) $50 restaurant certificate to The Food
Market on the Avenue in Hampden.
1.            The chance to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the NFBMD
with fellow Federationists and the opportunity to make new friends and to
rekindle or gain the federation spirit!
A Victory for Voters in Maryland and Perhaps Beyond
By Mark Riccobono
Taken from the Thursday, September 15, 2016 Blog Post
EDITOR'S NOTE: "As spectator readers know we have been battling with
Maryland election officials for many years. While we will still have the
segregated ballot problem in the November 8 election, as President Riccobono
explains the November 8 election blind voters should have a better
experience in November than we did during the primary election. "
Last week the Maryland Board of Elections took a new and important step in
ensuring that all blind Maryland voters can exercise our right to cast our
ballots privately and independently. The board agreed, after forceful
persuasion by the National Federation of the Blind and other advocates, that
poll workers must inform all Maryland voters of the availability of an
accessible method for reading and marking their ballots.
Maryland is one of several states that require a voter-verifiable paper
trail when voters cast their ballots, instead of ballots being cast and
recorded entirely by electronic means. Like some other states with similar
laws, Maryland uses optically scanned paper ballots, which can be marked
either by machine or by hand. Maryland has leased electronic ballot-marking
devices (BMD's) with audio output and other accessibility features, and
until last spring there was a system in place to ensure that a significant
number of state voters, with and without disabilities, would use these
machines. However, problems with the machines, unrelated to their
accessibility, caused the board to decide that their use should be limited
primarily to voters with disabilities, and that the option to use them
should generally not be offered unless a poll worker decided that a voter
had a qualifying disability. The National Federation of the Blind and our
allies objected to this plan, both because it was unlikely that election
workers could correctly identify all voters who could benefit from using the
BMD's, and because the result would be a segregated, identifiable  pool of
ballots consisting of those cast by voters with disabilities. Despite these
concerns, the board did not require that poll workers tell all voters that
an accessible voting option was available when Maryland's primary elections
were conducted this past spring. The only requirement was that at least two
voters without disabilities be requested to use the BMD's, to slightly
mitigate the segregation issue. The effect of this policy was that, unless a
voter happened to know about the accessible ballot-marking devices and asked
to use one, voters with disabilities were kept from using the machines in
many instances. Voters were not informed about the machines and, in some
instances, the machines were not even set up or turned on. In addition, some
voters were interrogated by poll workers about why they wanted to use the
Armed with survey data about these fiascoes that we collected, I pointed out
in a letter, and in testimony before a special Board of Elections meeting on
September 8, that the Americans with Disabilities Act and its implementing
regulations require actual notice of accessible services for people with
disabilities. After nearly two hours of testimony and debate, the NFB and
our partners persuaded the board that every voter should be told about the
BMD's. Starting in November's general election, poll workers in Maryland
will be required to read aloud a statement telling each voter that, if
needed, there is an accessible alternative for those who have difficulty
reading or marking a paper ballot. The board even went a step further,
requiring that this statement be printed and taped to the check-in table at
the polling place, so that poll workers theoretically won't forget to make
the announcement to each voter.
Whenever a separate method or device is designated for the blind and other
voters with disabilities to use in casting our ballots, problems typically
arise. All too many blind voters throughout the country have arrived at
their polling places to learn that the "special" machine for us isn't
working or hasn't been set up, or that poll workers don't know how to
operate the device or its accessibility features. The only real solution is
for all voters to use the same equipment, with appropriate accessibility
features for those who need or wish to use them. Barring that, election
authorities must ensure that poll workers understand the importance of
accessible voting equipment being available and operational for all voters
who need or can benefit from it. All involved must be clear on one point: It
is the right of blind voters, just as it is of all other voters, to vote
privately and independently.
Maryland's Board of Elections, to its credit, realized that the decision of
how to cast one's ballot must be firmly in the hands of the voter. The
board's decision sends two important signals in Maryland, and hopefully
beyond. First, the board recognized that election officials have the
ultimate responsibility to ensure that all voters can exercise this
cherished right.  It is all too often the expectation that advocacy
organizations like the National Federation of the Blind should take primary
responsibility for providing information to voters with disabilities, and
initially there was some sympathy for this position among Maryland Board of
Elections members. But while the National Federation of the Blind and others
can and should remain engaged in informing voters with disabilities of our
rights and how to exercise them, election officials cannot and must not
abdicate their responsibility to make sure that all voters can vote
privately and independently. Second, informing all voters of the
availability of accessible voting methods raises expectations among these
voters and the public, by making it clear that the blind and other voters
with disabilities can, do, and should  participate fully and equally in the
democratic process and, by extension, in American society. The Maryland
Board of Elections' new policy will inform many voters who can benefit from
the ballot-marking device of its availability, including voters who don't
have obvious disabilities. Just as importantly, if not more, it will inform
the public that Maryland is rightly committed to the full and equal
participation of all voters, regardless of disability. Each voter gets a
secret vote, with no exceptions, and each vote is of equal importance.
It took vigilant and vigorous advocacy by the National Federation of the
Blind and our partners, but the Maryland Board of Elections is to be
commended for implementing an affirmative, and hopefully effective, method
of ensuring that all Maryland voters can exercise an equal right to vote.
Perhaps a similar solution will benefit voters in other jurisdictions
throughout the nation.
The Annapolis Roundup: Protecting the Rights of Disabled Parents
By: Sharon Maneki
In the spring issue of the Braille Spectator, we thoroughly discussed our
successful efforts to pass the Maryland Equal Employment Act that will
eliminate the practice of paying disabled workers less than the minimum wage
by 2020. In this article, we will describe our efforts to strengthen the
rights of disabled parents and other bills of interest to Federationists. 
As we know too well, due to stereotypes and misconceptions held by society,
many people, including judges, social workers and other court officials,
believe that disabled parents are not capable of caring for children. The
NFBMD began the process of strengthening the rights of disabled parents in
2008. We successfully enacted 2 laws in 2008 and 2009 that were a step in
the right direction. As time progressed, we realized that we needed to do
more work to strengthen the rights of disabled parents who found themselves
involved in custody disputes, guardianship cases, or adoptions. 
Under the leadership of Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Sandy Rosenburg,
SB765 and HB976 were introduced and discussed by the General Assembly. The
main provisions of these bills are that the burden of proof is placed on the
person who makes the allegation about the parent's lack of capabilities.
Second, the judge in these cases must write his findings and describe the
evidence he used to make his decision. Third, if a judge plans to make a
change in the child's living arrangement, he must provide the disabled
parent with the reasonable accommodation of supportive parenting services
first. Supportive parenting services will give the disabled parent the
opportunity for training or networking with other parents to improve his or
her abilities to care for a child. The following testimony by Mike Bullis
and Patricia Broda demonstrate why these bills were necessary. They
testified before the House Judiciary Committee on March 1, 2016. 
Mike Bullis:
"In 2006, I found myself in a messy divorce. One of the key concerns became
whether I, as a blind person, could care for my four year old daughter, even
though I had been doing it since her birth. After a ten day trial that took
two years, Judge Robert Dugan in September of 2008, finally said that I was
a "mature and responsible adult" and that there was "nothing" to the
concerns about my blindness. In 2014, I finished paying off the $60,000 I
spent to defend my rights to parent.
No person should have to defend against phantoms: "What if she gets away
from him?" "What if she hurts herself?" On and on it went. What this bill
and its amendments say is that the burden of proof should and would lie with
the accusing party rather than leaving me to prove my capabilities. It also
clarifies that they have to provide evidence, not simply fears and
The bill also clarifies outdated disability language and provides for
supportive parenting services in cases in which parents may need specific
independent living skills training to manage their child, such as those we
provide at our Center in Towson.
The bill simply puts people with disabilities on the same footing as those
without disabilities when it comes to CINA, adoption, parenting and custody.
I urge your support of HB 976."
Patricia Broda:
"My name is Patricia Broda and I am here to ask you to support HB 976. What
is happening to me is unfair and discriminatory. My story shows why this
bill is desperately needed. My son is involved in an ugly divorce. He and
his former wife are fighting about what shared custody of their son, my
grandson, will mean. My son lives with me so my 8 year old grandson will be
staying in my home and I will be assisting with his care. 
On October 28, 2015, a home study and parent child observation was completed
at my home with Jeffery Hill, my son, by a LCSW social worker from the
Family Services Division of the Department of Social Services of Baltimore
County. This investigator had been informed by the mother's attorney that I
was legally blind. 
During the home visit, the investigator talked only to my son. She did not
tell us why she was there; she did not address me in any way except to say
goodbye. I was shocked when I saw her report. It reads, "Mr. Hill's parents
are not appropriate child care providers given their medical conditions,
specifically auditory and visual impairment." 
I live in constant fear of future biased reports from social service
agencies. I never know when an investigator may appear to evaluate me. I
have been successfully caring for children since I was a teenager. My
capabilities have never been questioned before. The next hearing in my son's
case is March 12, 2016. I hope that the judge will disregard the social
worker's report. She made assumptions and did not get any information from
me. My family should not have to suffer because of this improper evaluation.

HB 976 will help me and other caregivers because it will force reports to be
based on facts, findings, and actual evidence. 
Please vote yes for HB 976 so that I may continue to be involved in my
grandson's life."
Here is one example of the many letters written in support of this
"Senator Jamie Raskin
Dear Senator Raskin,
I am a blind man and a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
                I write to thank you for introducing SB765, the Blind
Parent's Custody Bill.
                I am a parent of two daughters. Blindness is no barrier for
a blind
person in raising children. I started at the beginning with changing
diapers, washing clothes and children, walking them to child care and
school. Sometimes I did the cooking of meals when my wife had other
activities. Later, the tasks included arithmetic drills with flash cards and
explaining adding fractions. I went to dance recitals and soccer games. I
participated in PTSA meetings and school musicals. I stayed home from work
because the girls had measles. Now it is 'grandparent's duty'.
I have friends where both parents are blind, others where the mother is
blind and the father sighted. We find ways to get the jobs done. It only
takes determination, ingenuity and lots of love.
We need S.B.765 because not enough social workers and judges believe that
blind people can do all the things I listed above. Thank you again for
introducing the Blind Parent's Custody Bill.
                Yours truly,
                Tom Bickford
After much letter writing and visiting by advocates, SB765 was enacted into
law on the last day of the General Assembly session. I am pleased to report
that Governor Hogan signed this bill into law on May 10, 2016. Our work to
protect the rights of disabled parents is not complete. The section of the
bill concerning Children in Need of Assistance cases was removed because of
opposition from the Maryland Department of Human Resources. We are working
with the department and hope that legislation in a future session of the
Maryland General Assembly will correct this problem. Although SB 765 is not
a perfect bill, it goes a long way in strengthening the rights of parents
with disabilities. 
Other Bills of Interest
EducationHB709/SB422 will benefit the Maryland School for the Blind because
it instructs the Governor to appropriate one million dollars for residential
services. The legislation also changes the funding formula so that the
school can receive some state funding for its outreach services. The
Maryland School for the Blind will have a better opportunity to recruit
teachers and other professional personnel,, because this law stipulates that
they be paid an annual salary at least equal to the salary received by
public school teachers and professional personnel of similar training and
experience in Baltimore County.
Parental rights for students with disabilities were strengthened by the
enactment of two new laws. Because of the enactment of HB551 parents must be
told about mediation. The law reads "If, during an individualized education
program team meeting, a parent disagrees with the child's individualized
education program or the special education services provided to the child,
the individualized education program team shall provide the parent with, in
plain language: 
                1. an oral and a written explanation of the parent's right
to request
               2. contact information, including a telephone number that a
parent may use to receive more information about the mediation process; and 
                3. information regarding pro bono representation and other
free or low-cost legal and related services available in the area." 
The second law is SB421. Under this law local school districts must
"translate a completed individualized education program or a completed
individualized family service plan into the parents' native language if that
language is spoken by more than 1 percent of the student population in the
local school system." 
Employment remains one of the greatest challenges faced by blind persons.
Persons with disabilities will have a better chance to be hired by state
government because of the enactment of SB818/ HB928. For positions that
require a test, 5 points will be added to the score of a person with a
A second law that will help with employment, especially for persons with
disabilities who own their own business, is HB1537. This law encourages
state government to purchase supplies and services from persons with
disabilities who own their own business. State agencies are supposed to buy
first from the prisons, next from Blind Industries and Services of Maryland,
and third from Maryland Works which is the sheltered workshop program or
from a business owned by an individual with a disability. 
Many thanks to everyone who made the 2016 session of the Maryland General
Assembly such a productive one for persons with disabilities, especially
those who are blind. We look forward to another productive session in 2017. 
The Maryland ABLE Act
By: Sharon Maneki
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act became a federal law in
2014. This law allows persons with disabilities to save money in a special
account for later use, provided that the individual became disabled prior to
the age of 26. States were required to set-up their own procedures to
implement this law. 
In 2016, the Maryland ABLE Act, HB 431/SB 355, was enacted into law.
The Maryland ABLE Act will permit persons with disabilities or their parent
or guardian to establish a special savings account with the Maryland 529
Board. Persons with disabilities cannot be penalized by federal programs
such as SSI for having money in this special savings account. State programs
that have means tests, such as those run by the Division of Rehabilitation
Services or the Developmental Disabilities Administration, also may not
penalize persons with disabilities because they have these special accounts.
Money from these accounts may be used to purchase needed technology or other
items to help the individual with a disability achieve greater independence
and a better life experience. 
The implementing regulations will be ready by October 2017. We will provide
a link to the rules and regulations on www.nfbmd.org
tlook\6LUV0S0Q\www.nfbmd.org>  when they are issued. 
A View of the National Convention from a National Scholarship winner
(Editor's Note: The following article came from the blog of the National
Association of Blind Students. Congratulations, Nathan!)
Here is how Kathryn Webster, president of the National Association of Blind
Students, introduced Nathan's segment at the national convention. 
Nathan Clark is a proud resident in the state of Maryland. He attends Towson
University and is a proud graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. He
serves as the Vice President of the Maryland Student Division; and has high
hopes of pursuing a profession as a probation officer. Nate is a seasoned
Federationist, yet a first time finalist. We are very proud of his great
work within our movement.
Here is Nathan's post.
"As a national scholarship winner this year, it was an amazing and
educational experience for me. Although this was my eleventh NFB National
Convention, which made me one of the most veteran students in the
scholarship class, I learned a lot about both our mentors and the Federation
in general. Having a mentor every day allowed me to interact and communicate
with great leaders within the organization from across the country that I
would not have probably had the chance to encounter, unless I was a
scholarship winner. I learned about how many of our leaders found the
Federation and what role they play in the organization. It was a humbling
experience walking around with my mentors and meeting new people from
different states, especially during the general sessions. For example, when
I was with Ron Brown of Indiana, I had many of the Indiana state leaders and
friends come up to me during the general session and I got to talk to them
about my experiences in college and what I want to do professionally. I
enjoyed talking to my mentors and observing their excitement and enthusiasm
that they had regarding the Federation and the convention as a whole. 
On Sunday, when I had Ron Brown, he was screaming, cheering and clapping the
entire time during the opening ceremony of the General Session and during
the veterans' ceremony. Finally, when I had Gary Wunder on Tuesday, when the
resolutions were being discussed, I got the chance to talk about my
philosophy and beliefs with Gary and how they compared to his opinions and
attitudes on policy issues for the organization. I want to thank the NFB as
a whole and the scholarship committee for giving me this wonderful and
fortunate experience this past week at the NFB National Convention in
ORLANDO, Florida. I am proud to be a member of the greatest blindness
organization in the world because I know that we, in the NFB, are changing
the public's perception of the blind so that all blind people can live the
lives we want. I will always consider myself a Federationist, and I have,
and will continue to consider the NFB part of my family. Let's go build the
BELL Academy 2016
By: Judy Rasmussen
For the past eight years, the bells have been ringing for blind students in
Maryland. As some of you may know, BELL stands for Braille Enrichment for
Literacy and Learning. We are proud that the program started in Maryland,
and has now spread to 34 states. One parent's idea has led to life-changing
experiences for nearly 300 blind and visually impaired students across the
>From July 18 to August 5, 23 students (seven for the first time)
participated in well-organized educational programs in Salisbury, Glenn
Dale, and Baltimore. Students ranged in age from 4 to 10. Each program is
different, depending on the program's location, and the students' needs.
Several students in all three programs were younger, and therefore just
beginning to learn braille. Observing blind adults reading braille at a
normal pace motivates beginners to continue practicing to increase their
speed, and to learn all of the contractions necessary to read and write
Drawing pictures, playing braille games, reading poems, and learning to
spell new words are only a few of the many innovative things BELL students
did to increase their knowledge of braille. Every day, students wrote
highlights of the day's activities in a journal. All students shared a "bell
ringer" (something they were proud of" each day." Examples of bell ringers
were: "I learned the ch sign," "I learned to write the contractions for the
words before and after," "I kept my learning shades on during the travel
activity," I blew up a balloon for the first time," I liked playing beach
ball braille, "and I liked making candy necklaces." 
Some programs had specific themes. Of course, all programs' themes were to
expose students to many fun braille-related, non-visual and travel
activities using the white cane. Farming was Salisbury's theme. Students
went to a farmer's market, planted plants, shucked corn, had a visit from
goats and sheep, and participated in other farm-related activities. Shooting
water at each other with squirt guns was a highlight of play time. 
Students in the Baltimore program visited the Jewish Museum of Maryland,
where they made pretend doctor kits, and were able to listen to their
hearts. They got to open up small drawers where they learned to identify
some medicines by their smell. At the Library for the Blind and Physically
Handicapped, students made mazes. Everyone had lots of fun at a swimming
pool. Some students enthusiastically did cannon balls, while others had fun
splashing each other. 
Since blind and visually impaired students do not often have a chance to
work in the kitchen, cooking using non-visual techniques is an essential
part of the BELL program. Learning to measure and mix accurately with cups
and spoons labeled in braille allows everyone to work independently. Some
students really enjoy getting their hands all messy, except when it comes to
reading a braille recipe to follow directions.
               Making nachos, s'mores, and caramel sticky buns in the
microwave were all enjoyed by BELL participants. Eating the homemade ice
cream in a bag was a real hit on a hot day. 
Participants in the Glenn Dale program visited the College Park Aviation
Museum. Dressing up like Wilbur and Katherine Wright, an air mail pilot,
helicopter pilot, a modern woman pilot and a rescue pilot was a big deal.
Students participated in a scavenger hunt, where they had to locate eight
items, including bells, plastic ducks, scented soap, and Brailled cards.
Seeing the progress some students had made in their reading and writing was
a joy for the volunteers.
Two students in Baltimore participated in the BELL Ex program. This is a
program for older students who have learned enough braille to branch out and
try other things such as learning more about assistive technology. This
year's theme was to create a newspaper called "The Blind Bell." Participants
interviewed instructors and students as well as the president of the
National Federation of the Blind, Mark Riccobono. Their job was to write
articles about each part of the program, and put it all together, including
formatting and embossing it.
The last day of the program is always a highlight. Parents' seminars were
held in Baltimore and Salisbury. The theme for the last day activities for
the Baltimore and Glenn Dale programs was the Braille Olympics. BELL Academy
students made crafts, participated in relays, and many braille activities. 
A song learned by all BELL Academy students was "Braille Is Beautiful",
composed by Federationists to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the
National Federation of the Blind. 
This song, as well as other songs and skits by each program, were performed
for the parents. 
Last but not least, each student was given a back pack with school supplies
donated by the National Harbor Chapter, as well as a goody bag containing a
braille book, playing cards, and a bell. Hearing all of the students ring
their bells was a fitting climax to the 2016 BELL Academy program. 
The BELL Academy would not have been possible without the dedication of our
many volunteers, committed teachers, parents, and our most excellent
participants. We wish to gratefully acknowledge grants from the Friends of
the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Dollar General,
Eastern Shore Charities, The Greater Baltimore, Central Maryland, TLC,
National Harbor and Sligo Creek Chapters. We are all looking forward to the
2017 BELL Academy program. 
Maryland Student Wins Braille Competition
EDITOR'S NOTE: "Meredith Day, who is eight and is a third grader at
Mechanicsville Elementary School in Sykesville, Maryland, has attended our
BELL Academy program since the age of three. She was one of our BELL Ex
students this summer." 
Meredith won the Regional Braille Challenge competition in the apprentice
category (first and second graders) held at the Maryland School for the
Blind on January 30, 2016. She was invited to attend a nationwide
competition held every year at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. It is
an honour to be invited to this event. The competition consists of students
from ten US regions and three Canadian provinces. Not only did Meredith win
our regional competition, she placed first in the apprentice category in the
national competition. 
The competition consists of four categories: speed and accuracy, vocabulary,
grammar and punctuation, and comprehension. Meredith is very happy about
winning the national competition. Just as important, she made many friends
from across the country. Her mother, Chris, says now she and her new friends
enjoy conversing with each other on FaceTime, reading paragraphs from books
on their braille note takers. 
Meredith's older brother, Derrick, who is also blind, attended the
festivities. Chris reports that seeing Meredith win the competition has
motivated him to read more braille, and who knows, maybe win the competition
in his age group next year? Meredith is definitely living the life she
wants. The below article will give you a little more insight as to the
excitement Meredith felt before going to this competition. 
FInksburg student Competes in National Braille Challenge
June 30, 2016 | carrollcountytimes.com | By Heather Mongilio
A second-grader from Finksburg traveled across the country to participate in
the National Braille Challenge on Sunday.
Meredith Day, 8, a blind student, won the Maryland Regional Braille
Challenge, advancing her to the national competition in California. She
competed in the apprentice level against other first- and second-grade
students from around the United States. 
The Carroll County Times caught up with Meredith before she left for the
competition to ask her about competing. 
Q: Can you tell me a little about what you had to do for the Braille
A: We had to read, we had to spell words, we had to write words in Braille
and spell them correctly, and we had to read and detect errors and read
things and do comprehensive questions. 
Q: Did you practice for this? How did you train? 
A: I use Braille every day so that's how I practice. 
Q: For people who don't know what Braille is or how you read in Braille, how
do you read in Braille? 
A: It's a six-dot code. It's dots that make up different letters and things.
So like six dots on a dice. 
Q: Is it easy or hard? 
A: Easy. We're all Braille readers [at the Maryland School for the Blind].
Not for the sighted people who are trying to learn it because then they have
to learn both ways. So there are people in school that read with their eyes
and teach. 
Q: Do you have a favorite book you like to read? 
A: I like to read this book called, "Socks." It's about a kitty cat by
Beverly Cleary. 
Q: So going on to the national level of the Braille competition, what are
you excited for the most? 
A: Well I'm excited about the reading part because I love to read. 
Q: What's your favorite part about reading? 
A: All the great stories. 
Q: Is there anything that you think will be the hardest? 
A: Maybe finding errors because sometimes you can't always find them because
you might not know how to spell a word. 
Q: When you are competing with other people, are you all in one room or are
you doing it separately? 
A: It's divided into different grade levels. I'm in the second grade level,
which I think is apprentice because I'm in second grade. 
Q: Were you in a room full of people when you were doing all the reading? 
A: Well, only the other people who were competing and the instructor for
that activity. 
Q: Do you have a certain amount of time you have to do each activity in? 
A: Yes, they are timed. Yes. 
Q: What's your favorite part about competing? 
A: I like to do lots of different things. And sometimes if you finish before
time is up, up you get to do different things like play Braille games and
Q: What types of Braille games do you play? 
A: Sometimes we play Uno and sometimes we'll read Braille cards. Lots of
things. And sometimes I play Monopoly. 
Q: What made you decide to do the Braille Challenge? 
A: Because I like to read and most of it is about reading. When I grow up I
would like to be a librarian. 
Q: Do you get to read a lot at school? 
A: If you finish your work early you get to read, yes. But there's also a
time when teachers tell you that you should be reading, that you can read.
And in the mornings after you've done everything you have to do in the
morning, you can read. 
Q: Do you have a favorite subject at school? 
A: I like media, and I also like math. And I'm really good at math, too. 
Q: What was it like to get past the regional Braille Challenge and find out
you won? 
A: I was pretty excited. 
Q: I know you get to travel but anything else that you are looking forward
to when you are going to the National Braille Challenge? 
A: We're going to Disneyland before we go to the Braille Challenge. And I
was excited when I found out. 
Q: And what's a fun fact about you? 
A: I like pink. And I like cake and puppies. And bunnies.
Al Saile, Determined Leader and Economist
Editor's Note: "Al Saile was a long-time member of the National Federation
of the Blind. He was active in both the Sligo Creek and Central Maryland
chapters of the NFBMD, and was the president of the Sligo Creek Chapter for
at least a year. He had a delightful sense of humor, and was an excellent
fund raiser. After his recent death, we reflected on the struggles he
endured on his job. Al's struggles happened in the late 1970s.
Discrimination existed then as it does today. Knowing that he was qualified
to perform the duties of an economist, yet was always passed over for
promotions and not given meaningful work to do, he persisted and won his
grievance with the Department of Labor. We are reprinting an article from
the January, 1981 Braille Monitor, which describes Al's determination to
fight discrimination. His persistence led to his being awarded the promotion
he should have received years earlier. As Federationists, we know that if we
want to continue living the lives we want, we must be vigilant in pursuing
what is right. When one person wins a victory, we all win! The Al Saile case
set a precedent which has helped many federal employees ever since."
Braille Monitor, January 1981
"Unlike discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion,
which usually takes the form of some open and outright prejudicial action,
discrimination against the blind in employment is often more subtle and
covert. The discrimination practiced against Al Saile (who is a long-time
Federationist and who has been employed for many years) is a case in point,
illustrating our long and painful struggle to achieve first-class
Al Saile is a well trained and highly qualified labor economist, currently
assigned to the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration.
He has worked in various capacities at the Department of Labor for nearly 15
years. During this time it would be hard to isolate any single or especially
significant incident which, in and of itself, would give rise to a claim of
discrimination, but despite this Al Saile has been victimized by one of the
most cruel, yet indirect, forms of prejudicial treatment. The type of
discrimination practiced against Al Saile is one of the more typical forms
of mistreatment of qualified blind employees wherein denial of opportunity
is a gradual process which can only be perceived upon viewing a series of
incidents over an extended period of time. 
The discriminatory treatment in this case was a pattern of behavior adopted
by supervisors which prevented Al Saile from demonstrating his professional
skills, thereby placing him at a serious disadvantage in competition with
others for promotions. The result was that, while sighted employees were
given the assignments and tasks necessary to prove themselves and to build a
record of competent performance, Al Saile was systematically denied these
opportunities, falling victim to his employer's presumption that "he would
not be able to do the work anyway." 
This is the age-old situation in which a blind person is protected by
someone else (in this case supervisors on the job) from what is thought to
be inevitable failure, should the opportunity be extended. The problem with
this quite familiar and typical practice of protecting the blind is, of
course, that while extending the almost maternal hand of custodial care for
the welfare and safety of the blind person, the self-appointed protector is
also foreclosing any possibility of success. Making the situation even
worse, this custodial treatment is usually extended with the best of
intentions and the desire to prevent the blind person from suffering the
pain of failure. 
This is exactly the problem which Al Saile lived with for the majority of
his 14 years of employment at the Department of Labor. It wasn't that people
didn't like him or that they would leave the room and make rude remarks
whenever he came around - quite the opposite. Almost everybody was, for the
most part, congenial and good tempered. But the problem was really much more
basic and subtle; behind the facade of kindness and goodwill toward Mr.
Saile, there was the deep-seated feeling that a blind person (any blind
person) was simply not cut out to be a labor economist. So year after year
Al Saile suffered this undeserved sentence of inevitable doom. Sometimes he
was given assignments which were well beneath his capacity, but more often
he was passed over even for the most simple and menial jobs, being left to
sit idle as though the government could well afford to hire a token blind
person, thereby being proud that it was meeting its obligation to employ the
There are undoubtedly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of blind persons who are
trapped by their employers in exactly the same situation, but the success of
Al Saile's long struggle to break loose from the bonds of deeply rooted
prejudice should give hope and encouragement that the traditional barriers
of discrimination have at last begun to crumble. Reprinted below is an
article from the July 28, 1980, issue of Federal Times, a newspaper printed
for federal employees. In the section entitled "Forum," Al Saile describes
in his own words his situation. On September 11, 1980, Mr. Robert L. Davis,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the
Department of Labor, announced the Department's proposed disposition of Al
Saile's grievance. The decision represents a victory for Al Saile and for
all of us; it came in the form of a letter which we are including in this
article because of its significance. Victories such as this are made of hard
work, tenacious determination, and the realization that we can best achieve
our common objectives by organizing with one another. Al Saile exhibits each
of these characteristics, and because of this the decision in his case will
go down as a ringing declaration of equal rights and another victory for the
National Federation of the Blind. 
Affirmative Action Doesn't Exist for the Blind 
(From the Federal Times, July 28, 1980) 
For the past 14 years, I have been employed as a labor economist or in other
related jobs in the Employment and Training Administration of the Department
of Labor at the same grade. 
Legally blind until late 1971, and totally blind since, I have encountered
continuous discrimination by office chiefs and top management in the
recognition of my abilities to perform all the tasks specified in my
position descriptions. 
Many remarks reflect the prevailing attitude that no blind person can
perform complex duties involved in research assignments of the office in
which I have been employed. Nor was any effort made to reassign me to what
management thought could be more suitable work. The little work I did do was
generally considered of good quality, but never had any practical purpose. 
Unhappy with my situation, and unable to gain union support, I directed my
efforts to seek competitive jobs as they were posted. For the first few
years, because both my resume and my performance evaluation included remarks
about my blindness, I never made the highly qualified rating from panels. By
removing these references to blindness, I was able to seek, over the past
five years, nearly 80 interviews for which I had been found highly
The negative attitude about blindness surfaced in these interviews with such
comments as: "How do you function? How did you find this room? It's so
marvelous what blind people can do." 
I was in competition for jobs in which minorities and females were granted
preferential selection by my agency and I have heard the remark, "I can
promote your guide dog because she is black and female, but management knows
nothing about affirmative action for the handicapped because there are so
few employed and top management gets no pressure to recognize advancement
rights for the handicapped as is applied for minorities and females." 
In late 1978, I went for an interview with a person who knew my work
previously done in the research specialty that he directs, and who thus
accepted my capabilities. However, he warned he might not have hiring
authority, since the overall office director had some concerns over the
position. It was well-known the office director in the past had a say on who
was selected and he was one of the persons who believed that due to lack of
sight, my work was not competitive. 
Upon being turned down for this position, I filed an equal employment
opportunity complaint. Before this action, I had brought my situation to the
attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, with the support of the
National Federation of the Blind, to seek possible court remedy. The
complaint was based on advancement denials and the inadequacies of my work
assignments due to my blindness. 
In May 1980, one year after this case had been initiated (my report had been
lost twice) a meeting was held with the equal employment opportunity officer
of Labor's Employment and Training Administration for resolution. Present
were Marc Maurer, representing the National Federation of the Blind, Patrick
Norton, representing ACLU from the law firm of Covington and Burling, and
myself. Selecting officials, we were informed, had the right to choose from
among the applicants interviewed. 
There was no answer from the EEO official when asked how over the past
decade minorities and females settled claims of discrimination when they
were not chosen, yet it is well-known that within ETA such persons must be
given preferential selection and if not chosen, the selecting official must
document the reasons why to top management. As expected, management
continues to ignore the Vocational Rehabilitation amendments of 1973 which
in intent, provide for the handicapped the same consideration for
preferential selection. 
Management conceded that I had, indeed, not been given enough work since my
total blindness and the reason was based upon the belief that I could not
perform the duties of my grade because of lack of sight. Yet, management did
not have to atone for this prolonged mistaken view. The case was resolved
this way: I have to prove that I can do all the tasks while management sets
about to prove that I will fail. And this is not to be done in my present
job. A new job will be created, setting me aside from my work background,
and I will be placed under an unidentified supervisor. 
The carrot is that if I survive and meet up to the full expectations of all
the tasks required at my present grade level, I then can be promoted without
As far as I am concerned, this face-saving management offer is too little,
too late. Worse, it fails to address the entire problem of enforcing the law
which specified the advancement of handicapped. I do not have to prove my
qualifications. I know I can do the full extent of the next higher grade in
my job series or related series and the only reason I have not advanced
according to my skills is solely due to management concern over my lack of
Fourteen years is more than enough evidence of that. I totally reject
management's argument that others have also gone such long periods without
promotion since there are a number of persons, a few of whom I know
personally, who do not want advancement and do not actively seek to compete
for higher paying jobs of more advanced skill. 
If management now wants to test out my capabilities, let them do so at the
higher grade I have so long sought. It is only at the higher grade I will
willingly undertake the test, for I know I will not fail and both the
government and myself become winners. Otherwise, let's take the risk, the
long siege of battle in court and prove there is or there is not a provision
in law that is meaningful. 
I intend to continue the fight until the battle is won no matter how scarred
I become for there is no end to manning the barricade on this issue until
handicapped persons receive equal treatment in matters involving their
qualifications for advancement as do others protected under civil rights
laws. Members of the National Federation of the Blind will stand shoulder to
shoulder with me, and we will win. 
U.S. Department of Labor 
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management 
Washington, D.C. 
September 11, 1980 
Certified Letter-Return Receipt Requested 
Dear Mr. Saile: 
As the Department official designated by the Secretary of Labor to make
agency decisions in cases alleging discrimination under the Equal Employment
Opportunity Program, I hereby submit my proposed decision on your complaint.

You allege that because of your handicap (loss of sight) you were not
selected for a position of Manpower Analyst, GS- 140-1 3, under announcement
ETA 78-244, in the Office of Policy, Evaluation and Research (OPER) and that
the underlying reason for your non-selection was because you were given too
few, and too insubstantial work assignments since becoming totally blind in
The evidence gathered during the investigation reveals that the merit
staffing of the position in question appears to have been executed properly.
However, the events leading up to the actual selection indicate that you may
have faced some unnecessary barriers to employment. There is more than a
casual connection between your being underutilized, periods of inadequate
accommodation, and your non-selection for the position of Manpower Analyst,
GS- 140-13. 
In past years, employment discrimination tended to be viewed as a series of
isolated and distinguishable events, for the most part due to ill-will on
the part of some identifiable individual or organization. Employment
discrimination, as viewed today, is a far more complex phenomenon and is
generally described in terms of 'systems' and 'effects'. The investigative
file reveals that you were ranked as the second choice for the GS-13
Manpower Analyst position. The question is, with adequate accommodation and
proper utilization, would you have been selected for the position? 
I have concluded that you are a capable employee, who because of periods of
inadequate accommodation and underutilization, could not perform adequately.
Therefore, there is reasonable cause to believe that inadequate
accommodation and underutilization were factors in your not being selected
for the position in question. 
Based on the evidence in the file and my conclusion, I am disposed to find
that you should be retroactively promoted to the position of Manpower
Analyst, GS-140-13 and awarded back pay to the date you would have been
promoted had you been selected for the position in question. 
Robert L. Davis 
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management"
Tom Ley Testifies Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about
Editor's Note: "For many years, Tom Ley has been a leader in the diabetes
action network, a proud division of the National Federation of the Blind.
He also facilitates the Maryland Diabetes Action Network Committee calls on
the first Thursday of each month at 7pm. If you wish to receive information
and support on managing diabetes, call 641-715-3272. The access code is
We are reprinting Tom's testimony before the Food and Drug administration to
demonstrate our commitment to accessible equipment for people who have
diabetes and blindness or low vision. If you would like to read the
Technology Bill of Rights that Tom refers to, go to
<https://nfb.org/2016-resolutions> https://nfb.org/2016-resolutions,
Resolution 2016-16. Tom was able to make the case for accessibility not only
to the FDA, but also to the many equipment manufactures and other leaders in
diabetes who attended this session.
This FDA hearing took place on July 21, 2016. The purpose of the hearing was
to determine if people with diabetes should be able to use continuous
glucose monitoring (CGM) systems to make insulin dosing decisions. Prior to
this hearing FDA was recommending that these systems be used for monitoring
only, so additional blood testing was still required. The FDA decided that
people with diabetes can make insulin dosing decisions based on the data
from their CGMs. This decision will be very beneficial to people with
diabetes who also have low vision or blindness because they will no longer
have to get blood on the test strip."
Time: 1:00 PM
"Hello, my name is Tom Ley, and I am here representing the National
Federation of the Blind, and in particular, our National Task Force on
addressing the inaccessibility of diabetes technologies for people who are
blind or have low vision. 
The National Federation of the Blind did pay for my Uber car down from
Baltimore today, but that's it. (audience chuckles). 
In the National Federation of the Blind (the NFB) we have much experience
with diabetes because so many of our members have diabetes. Some, like me,
grew up with diabetes and have gone blind. Many more today, though, are
those who lived their whole life as blind people and have now suffered from
the epidemic that's spreading across the world today of Type 2 diabetes, and
many are using insulin. Then we have another group coming into play, those
who are living longer and encountering age-related eye disease, and then are
diagnosed with diabetes after losing vision in their senior years. 
So our ranks are swelling, not that that's what we're looking for, but the
issue we have is, what's been addressed by others, is the great burden of
doing finger sticks when you are blind and can't see well enough to find the
drop of blood. 
The advent of the CGM(Continuous Glucose Monitor) has been extraordinary in
my life personally. Even before I could use a CGM accessibly, I'll get to
that in a moment, I had a CGM. Even though I couldn't read the screen, I
used one just so I would know what was happening when it would alarm when I
was going too high or too low. So the technology is terrific. 
But for those of us who have to work hard, sometimes testing five or six
times to make sure we are getting an accurate blood sugar reading, and for
those of us who have issues with sensitivity in our fingers, to get the
strip to where the blood is, this is a huge burden lifted from us to only
have to test twice a day to calibrate. 
Second point quickly, we want to commend Dexcom. We've put out a Technology
Bill of Rights for People who are blind and have diabetes stating that all
people who are blind or have low vision have a right to technologies that
can be used by people who are blind or have low vision, and Dexcom has done
Their G5 Mobile system is wonderful, and it's been designed in a way so that
I, using my iPhone with its built-in accessibility, I today can know what my
blood sugar is (I was 129 going steady before I came up here). (audience
And my Type 1 son, when he was up at camp in Connecticut, I was using the
Dexcom Share feature and knew what his CGM reading was too. 
So, I really want to encourage the FDA to take this into consideration as
you make your recommendations this afternoon. People with diabetes - we are
all for using CGM for treatment decisions. We do it today. We know what
works and doesn't work as people with diabetes. And this works. Thank you. "
Spectator Specs
*         On June 11, Danielle Shives, an active member of the At-Large
Chapter, married Jonah Manke. 
*         On July 8, Nicole Fincham, an active member of the TLC Chapter,
married James Shehan.
*         On August 5, Anthony Evans and Kim Mohnke were married. Both are
long time Federationists. Currently, Anthony is a member of the At-Large
Chapter and Kim has been an active member in the NFB of Michigan. We welcome
Kim to the Maryland affiliate.
*         On August 13, Faith Geipe and David Waybright, long time active
members of the Greater Baltimore Chapter, were married. 
Congratulations to all the newlyweds!
New Babies:
*         Longtime Federation leaders Mary Jo and Jesse Hartle recently
welcomed a new member to their family. Braden Alexander was born on August
9. Jesse is 
Second Vice President of the NFBMD, and Mary Jo is the immediate past
President of the TLC Chapter.
*         On August 11, Melissa Sheeder and Aaron Carpenter became the proud
parents of Ren Elizabeth Carpenter. Melissa has been an active Federationist
for many years and in true Federation fashion, she has involved Aaron and
big brother Luke Carpenter. 
*         Nicole Fincham-Shehan and James Shehan became the proud parents of
Christian Nicholas on August 20, 2016. Nicole and her daughter Arielle have
been active participants in the Federation for years. Nicole is the
newly-elected Vice President of the TLC Chapter. Christian Nicholas Shehan
is fortunate to have two big sisters and a big brother, Arielle, Inanda and
Congratulations to all the parents on their new arrivals!
*         Christopher Nusbaum, President of the Maryland Association of
Blind Students, graduated from Francis Scott Key High School in Westminster,
MD. Christopher is attending the adjustment to blindness program at the
Louisiana Center. After completing this program, Christopher will continue
his studies in college.
*         Brandon Pickrel graduated from Northern Middle School. He will be
attending Northern High School in Accident, MD.
*         James Zimmer graduated from Wicomico Middle School. He will be
attending Parkside High School, in Salisbury, MD. 
Best wishes for much success to all the graduates.
*         Al Saile, a longtime leader and member of the Sligo Creek Chapter,
died on May 22, 2016. In his later years, Al moved to Columbia and continued
his NFB activities by joining the Central Maryland Chapter. During his
working career, Al was an avid fundraiser for the Sligo Creek chapter. He
also fought against discrimination. Read "ANOTHER VICTORY AGAINST
*         On July 13, Harold Hayes, a charter member of the National Harbor
Chapter, died after a long illness. We will miss Harold's kindness and his
willingness to help anyone in need. He was always a willing volunteer
alongside his longtime companion, Ava Ferebee.
*         Lavonnya Gardner, a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter, died
suddenly on August 26. She was a strong advocate for people with autism and
blindness and always tried to educate the public. Lavonnya and her daughter
Brianna were always at chapter meetings, conventions, and federation events
together. We will miss Lavonnya's enthusiasm and spirit.
*         Congratulations to Geoffrey Rono who became a U.S. Citizen on
August 12. Geoffrey, born in Kenya, is a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter.
*         Congratulations to Orlo and Mary Nichols who celebrated their 49th
wedding anniversary on September 16. May they have many more years of
happiness together.
Sharon Maneki, President
National Federation of the Blind of Maryland

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