[il-talk] FW: The Braille Monitor, July 2009
pattichang at att.net
Thu Jul 2 07:57:17 CDT 2009
So does our own Debbie Stein.
Illinois is well represented.
President, National Federation of the Blind of Illinois
pattichang at att.net
----- Original Message -----
From: "denise avant" <dravant at ameritech.net>
To: "'NFB of Illinois Mailing List'" <il-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 8:26 PM
Subject: [il-talk] FW: The Braille Monitor, July 2009
Ronza has an article in here. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm
sure it's well written and well thought out. See most of you at convention.
From: brl-monitor at nfbcal.org [mailto:brl-monitor at nfbcal.org] On Behalf Of
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 1:05 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: The Braille Monitor, July 2009
Vol. 52, No. 7 July 2009
Barbara Pierce, editor
Daniel B. Frye, associate editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Marc Maurer, president
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: nfb at nfb.org
Website address: http://www.nfb.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300
Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the National Office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to bpierce at nfb.org.
Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per
year. Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover the
subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation
of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
© 2009 by the National Federation of the Blind
Vol. 52, No. 7
On the Origin of Our Rights and Our Struggle
by Ari Ne'eman
Dear Mr. President
by Fredric K. Schroeder
I Am Blind
by Ronza Othman
A Vision for the Future
by Hannah Adams
The Nature of Independence
by Kenneth Jernigan
A Choice of Virtues
by Deborah Kent
Canadian Cool to Tropical Tan
by Nancy Burns
Cruising Then and Now
by Jim Babb
by Neil Bernstein and Judith Dixon
by Daniel B. Frye
Ask Miss Whozit
Introducing Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes
Making the World a More Readable Place
[PHOTO CAPTION: Mark Riccobono, executive director of the NFB Jernigan
Institute, chats with Amber Evans, a parent attending the Beginnings and
Blueprints Early Childhood Conference. Amber is holding her daughter
[PHOTO CAPTION: Karen Zakhnini, education project manager with the NFB
Jernigan Institute, talks with one of the children attending the Beginnings
and Blueprints Early Childhood Conference over lunch in the dining room at
the National Center for the Blind. Dinah Little, Institute director of
education, kneels beside their table to join the conversation.]
Through work with early intervention specialists; educators of the
blind; and, most important, parents of blind children, the National
Federation of the Blind aims to identify and address the most critical
issues affecting young blind people and to develop priorities for the NFB
Jernigan Institute. A theme that emerges over and over in this area is the
lack of positive, appropriate early education for families with blind
children. This is especially disturbing because research in early childhood
education shows that the family has the greatest impact on child
development. Parents are frequently told that their children are incapable
of developing age-appropriately because of blindness, encouraging parents
to lower their expectations and creating a vicious circle of learned
helplessness. Because this circle can be overcome with effective early
education, the Institute has made early childhood education a primary
In order for parents to help their children become the best adults
they can, they need a clear blueprint for success. This blueprint and many
of the tools needed for its construction were presented in May to a group
of parents of young blind children at the 2009 NFB Beginnings and
Blueprints Early Childhood Conference held at the NFB Jernigan Institute,
which jointly sponsored the conference with the National Organization of
Parents of Blind Children. It included a number of early childhood
resources and served more than thirty parents of blind children.
[PHOTO CAPTION: (Left to right) Rick Trimble, an unidentified participant,
Patricia Chichester, and Robert Palermo sit together at a parents breakout
session during the conference. In the background the conference name is
visible on a video screen.
Families from several states filled their tool boxes as they attended
a number of panels and breakout sessions. Such topics as play and
exploration, early Braille and orientation and mobility instruction, and
developing Individualized Family Service Plans filled the agenda. Attendees
agreed that the panel of blind adults was one of the highlights of the
conference. "What I Wish My Parents Had Known about Blindness" helped
answer a lot of parents' questions and provided an example of what they
would like their children to grow up to be. The conference also included
visits to the Independence Market, tours of the National Center, a cane
walk, and an exhibit hall. It provided something for everyone as blind
children and their sighted siblings participated in exciting child-care
activities led by positive blind role-models. These included a rousing game
of goal ball, hands-on art projects, and a visit to the Jacobus tenBroek
Library. Having the children on site also allowed great interaction between
families and presenters as well as lots of one-on-one instruction for
parents with their children in orientation and mobility and active
explorative play. It was a great sight to see toddlers getting their hands
on a cane for the first time.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Amy Phelps, director of rehabilitation at Blind Industries
and Services of Maryland, and Marc Fass, a parent attending the conference
on a cane walk with Marc's son Andy.]
This was the second such conference the NFB Jernigan Institute has
conducted. As is the goal with most of the Institute's projects, this
program aims to be a model for other states and regions interested in
providing similar conferences. The education team at the NFB Jernigan
Institute hopes later this fall to make many of the sessions and
PowerPoints from this conference available online through its early
childhood initiative page. The team also hopes to be a resource to states
interested in facilitating their own conferences. To learn more, view
pictures, or read comments from participants, visit
[PHOTO CAPTION: Ari Ne'eman delivers the keynote address during the
tenBroek Law Symposium luncheon.]
On the Origin of Our Rights and Our Struggle
by Ari Ne'eman
From the Editor: Ari Ne'eman is the founding president of the
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, a nonprofit organization of adults and
youth on the autistic spectrum. He is currently a Sondheim scholar of
public affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He
delivered the luncheon address at the Jacobus tenBroek Law Symposium on
April 17, 2009. This is what he said:
The past half century has seen a great proliferation in new kinds of
conversation about rights. Once primarily relevant in the context of
criminal justice and property disputes, rights-based discourses have
expanded their scope throughout our society. We have civil rights, human
rights, gay rights, women's rights, disability rights, immigrant rights,
commercial rights, social rights, privacy rights, animal rights, children's
rights, student rights, parental rights, and countless more. Though we may
not all agree on the extent or even legitimacy of them, it cannot be
disputed that we have broadened our global conception of the role for this
concept called rights in our social, legal, economic, policy, and societal
frameworks. Yet, at the same time as we have updated the role of rights-
based conversations in our society, we remain with some very obsolete ideas
about where rights come from. That holds us back.
We go out to the world and tell them in many ways that it is time for
our rights to be realized. We talk about inclusion, we talk about
integration, we talk about access, but when we are asked why, our answers
are typically phrased in the language of either cost-benefit or desperate
need. The one turns our civil rights struggle into a conversation on policy
technicalities; the other evokes the very charity-oriented model of
disability support that we have been trying to escape. Neither type of
response brings the understanding and the knowledge necessary to
communicate both the nature and the urgency of our priorities because both
talk about rights without talking about where they derive. To legitimize
our rights, we have to explain where they are from and so show that they do
exist in the ways we talk about.
But from what do rights derive? That is the question. The
Enlightenment political philosophy that our country was based on put
forward the idea of a social contract, arrived at by individuals in a state
of anarchy, determining to place some of their G-d-given natural rights in
a central government for the purpose of securing the remaining ones. This
theory carries with it much charm-it fits with our nation's philosophy of
government by the people, for the people; it recognizes and respects rights
as inalienable, not temporal whims to be overridden by the first tyrant
with a passing fancy. Unfortunately, it is anachronistic and also
inaccurate. There has never been a state of nature, and our modern ideas of
rights go far beyond the negative right protections against government
intervention that are all this model allows for. The disability community
would not be the only one left out by such a limited conception of rights,
but we certainly would be one of the first and one of the worst served.
What does that leave us? Where do rights come from? The United States
Declaration of Independence says that men are "endowed by their creator
with certain unalienable rights." I believe that to be true-for both men
and women, it should be noted. And yet, for our purposes, this does not
help us very much. Because the very reason we seek a source for rights in
the first place is to help us understand what they are. Barring a theocracy
tied to a particular holy text, the belief that rights are divinely
inspired does not shed much light on their nature.
You, the people here gathered today, represent some of the most
important leaders of a movement devoted to securing and advancing
recognition of the rights that have been denied them for a segment of the
global population, perhaps more extensively and more pervasively than for
any other. For generations upon generations the very idea that our
population was discriminated against, was deprived of rights, was not even
on the agenda. Disability was-and in many senses still is-perceived as a
problem that should be solved by charity, whose persistence could be blamed
only on the lack of sufficient humanitarian instincts on the part of the
public and the as yet too slow progression of medical science. Disability
rights were not on the agenda as for other rights crusaders-that was a
province for those who ministered to the poor unfortunates of the world,
the sad accidents, the there-but-for-the-grace-of-G-d-go-I angels who gave
of themselves and found meaning in those tragic burdens.
Then things started to change-not so much with the world, though it
is starting, slowly and not yet by any means surely, but with ourselves. We
stopped conceiving of our existences as mistakes, our misfortunes as G-d's
will, and our utility as being grateful for that which hath been given us.
We got activated. We got interested. We got angry. We looked out on the
world and found the blame for our misfortune lay not with G-d or with
medical defects but with a society built up for centuries upon centuries
without any thought to the prospect that people like us might live in it.
In that moment-and we have each found it at different points in our lives-
but in that moment we saw power abused, we saw injustice-in short, we saw
wrongs, and so our rights were born. In that moment-that epiphany-the world
changed for us, and disability rights were born.
The foundation of our legal system comes from something very similar.
Why do we guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of petition, freedom of
assembly, the right to a speedy and public trial or not to have troops
quartered in one's home? It is a direct outgrowth of our experiences with
the British crown, and it was only once we had that experience with
injustice that we could properly understand what justice looked like. A
quick look across history will reveal much the same thing. Our national
experience with slavery imprinted us with the right to freedom from forced
servitude on the basis of race. The gains of the civil rights movement were
not just the result of superior organization and a superb moral cause, they
were our nation's recognition-still partial-of the legacy of lynching,
segregation, and racism. Anti-Semitism was driven from the country club to
the conspiracy-theory fringe when knowledge of the Holocaust came into our
homes. Gay rights have advanced because of public awareness of brutal hate
crimes such as the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard. Rights come only
Let us be clear. This does not mean that we are purchasing social
goods with our victimhood. There are those who would put it in those terms-
the people who claim that we are owed something not because it is
objectively just for us to receive it but because of our community's having
been deprived of something else that would justly have been ours. Many
aspects of the disability policy framework built in decades past are built
on that idea, the retributive model of disability. This is the concept
behind much of our Social Security Disability infrastructure. The result of
it has, in fact, been a form of inaccessible infrastructure unto itself,
with individuals forced to swear, even as many are only just starting their
lives, that they are incapable of ever working in meaningful employment in
order for them to gain the government support necessary to survive. This
system was built on old assumptions of dependency. It was built for the
conversation about need, not for the one about rights and about justice. It
is one of many examples of the kind of infrastructure we must radically
alter if we hope to bring the conversation about disability into the twenty-
first century. Another example can be found in the recently-signed-into-law
ADA Amendments Act. For what reason did the disability community have to
reestablish its original intent to work eighteen years after the ADA first
came into effect, work once again for a considerable portion of the
disability population? It is because the judges who wrote the narrow
definition of disability that the amendments sought to fix interpreted the
ADA as a law about charity-specifically charity for the most severely
impaired-not justice for all those who are being discriminated against.
What does the idea of rights coming from wrongs imply then, if not
compensation for having been victimized? It should show us what direction
our advocacy should take, and, much more important, it should show the
public the reason why our goals are important. For too long our civil
rights movement acted by stealth. Even as we built tremendous political
power and created civil rights laws and social welfare programs, we often
did it, not by making a credible claim that this is the way the world
should be, but by playing on the idea that society should show compassion
and pity for the disabled. This was not entirely our fault. We're dealing
with media and, as a result, a general public that have not even begun to
understand the nature and implications of disability rights. But,
regardless of why we are here, we still have to deal with the results of
having won our legal and political victories while bypassing the social
ones that should have come first. The consequence is that our movement with
all the progress it has brought is still seen, in most circles, as one of
charity or, worse still, as a stopgap until-be it by eugenics, euthanasia,
or medical cures-disability is no longer a part of the human experience.
This is what Dr. tenBroek meant when he wrote about our "right to live in
the world" and the failure of the broader community to accept that right.
This knowledge places our struggle for recognition of even our
victories on the civil rights front in context. Why, almost twenty years
after the ADA, do we still see such extensive discrimination and lack of
access in employment and places of public accommodation? Why, ten years
after Olmstead, do we still see institutions and nursing homes that are
nearly impossible for our people to escape? Why, after "Deaf President Now"
and many similar such actions are there so many disability organizations
and groups that speak about us without us? Why after "Jerry's Kids" and
"Ransom Notes" and countless other examples of unethical fundraising and
advertising tactics do we still see media campaigns that devalue our very
personhood and cast us as less than human?
The answer is that when we come to the public with our demands of
rights and speak those rights to the world with all the passion of our
epiphany, the public see only part of the message. They see the demand for
rights but not the wrongs from which the rights were born. They look at the
individual who uses a wheelchair but cannot enter an inaccessible building
and the autistic student who is excluded, as I myself have been, from his
home school, and what they see is not an inaccessible infrastructure but
needy, pitiful dependents. They may meet our immediate demands for laws and
public programs because charity is still seen as necessary and good and
proper by many well-meaning souls. However, the enforcement of those laws
and the implementation of those programs will never be as urgent or as
meaningful a priority to them as it is for the true civil rights movements.
To them this is still very much a conversation about need-not
injustice. This is not a petty distinction. To have a conversation about
justice is to call for a civil rights movement that all members of the
human community should feel a moral obligation to join and support. To have
a conversation about mere need is to call only for charity conducted mostly
by those who usually do not feel that need themselves and have their own
ideas about the manner in which it should be fulfilled.
I am reminded of an experience my group had when leading a protest
against offensive advertisements depicting children with disabilities as
kidnap victims posted across New York City. The campaign, called "Ransom
Notes," consisted of faux ransom notes from the disabilities that had taken
the normal children that were supposedly once in the bodies of now disabled
young people. We mobilized thousands of autistic people and those with
other disabilities, brought support from two dozen national and regional
disability rights organizations, and also garnered some support from
sympathetic segments of the parent and professional community. Finally,
after thousands of phone calls and emails, our story began to hit the media-
with the UPI headline, "Ads Anger Parents of Autistic Children."
Of course the story was accurately reported in other news sources,
and we did succeed in getting the ads withdrawn, but there is a certain
sense of frustration over the lack of agency that is allowed our community.
Even when every single one of the organizations doing press outreach and
explaining our case to the public was a consumer-controlled disability
rights organization, the only available paradigm that the media could place
this in was one in which we were only passive onlookers as our parents
fought on our behalf. Every disability group and most disability rights
activists have similar stories.
So, even as we spend more money and more political will on disability
issues than we ever have before, we are limited in what we can achieve
because the conversation is not one about justice, not one about
recognizing wrongs and reforming the institutions that continue to commit
them. It isn't about putting power in the hands of the people who have been
deprived of it. It is about charity and dependency and all of those other
things that infantilize and marginalize us, controlled by those who speak
for us on our behalf and without our permission.
The average member of the public does not know about Buck v. Bell or
the tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities or perceived to have
disabilities who were involuntarily sterilized as a result of the eugenics
movement. They do not know about Willowbrook or the countless Americans
with disabilities who have had to live out their whole lives in
institutions-much less the many Americans with disabilities who still must
suffer this segregation. The people in charge of our futures do not
understand our history. They don't see ADAPT calling out, "We Will Ride" or
"Free Our People." They don't see "Deaf President Now" at Gallaudet. All
they see is the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon or the Autism Speaks fear-
mongering television advertisements or Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey
promoting pseudoscientific claims of pharmaceutical company-government
conspiracies to poison their children with vaccines. It isn't just because
the money and the media power are in the hands of those other groups. It's
because the public narrative about disability doesn't know where to place
groups like mine and a movement like ours. The ideas about dependency run
so deep, the charity and victim models are so ingrained, that the response
of most reporters and members of the general public to our message is
cognitive dissonance before pigeonholing our movement into whatever
disability narrative is easiest for them to classify us in. Maybe this is
why the disability movement has not yet had our Rodney King or Matthew
Shepard moment. Since the concept of disabled people as suffering is a
natural, normal, expected thing in the eyes of the media and the public,
suffering brought on from discrimination or abuse is simply placed in the
same, unfortunate-but-unavoidable category as all disability-related
misfortunes tend to be.
A perfect example of this can be found in the Supreme Court's Alabama
v. Garrett decision, where the Court struck down Congress's attempt to
abrogate the sovereign immunity of the states from damages under ADA
lawsuits on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to "identify a
pattern of irrational state discrimination in employment against the
disabled." To a slim majority of the justices of the Supreme Court,
disability discrimination is not the result of having built infrastructures
for only a portion of the population but a perfectly rational act that the
equal protection clause cannot be expected to serve as a remedy for. To
quote the Court, "The Fourteenth Amendment does not require States to make
special accommodations for the disabled, so long as their actions toward
such individuals are rational. They could quite hardheadedly-and perhaps
hardheartedly-hold to job-qualification requirements which do not make
allowance for the disabled. If special accommodations for the disabled are
to be required, they have to come from positive law and not through the
Equal Protection Clause." Here, once again, disability rights are not
matters of equal protection given to full citizens under the law; they are
portrayed as matters of charity that good-hearted people engage in.
The good news is that this does show us what our next steps should
be. It explains that the biggest obstacle for the disability rights
movement's ascent to the next level of rights discourse in America-placing
us on a par with other minority groups based on race, religion, sexual
orientation, and similar attributes-is the failure to take our message to
the public. I'm pleased by the progress that we're seeing in that direction
in the growing Disability History movement, attempting to incorporate the
history of people with disabilities and our civil rights struggle into the
classroom just as the experiences of other American minority groups have
been incorporated. In many ways finding a way to cement our past into the
American national narrative will be the best way to ensure that we have a
future. It is important for us to memorialize and to educate the public
about the achievements of men such as Dr. Jacobus tenBroek as well as other
disability leaders like Ed Roberts and Justin Dart, not just to pay respect
to those who have gone before, but to show the world that we have a history
of taking control over our own lives and that there is a real and
legitimate civil rights movement of, by, and for people with disabilities.
To quote Ed Roberts, "The greatest lesson of the civil rights movement is
that the moment you let others speak for you, you lose." Showing the world
those parts of our past where we have confronted the wrongs that are being
committed against us and have restored agency to our community is one way
for us to take back our voice.
Another thing that we must do is begin to confront, and to confront
vigorously, those organizations and groups that speak about us without us.
When Jerry Lewis and Voice of the Retarded and Autism Speaks go to the
public and claim to represent the needs and perspectives of the disability
community with their calls for more pity, more segregation, more eugenics,
and more distance from our dream of being recognized as equal citizens in
this society, they perpetrate an obscenity upon us. This obscenity
nevertheless has use in that it teaches us about how important to the
disability rights movement it is for us to take control of our own message
and our own community. We must organize not just around laws but around the
public conversation on disability, confronting those corporate donors and
political infrastructures that give support to these repressive, fear-
mongering groups that challenge our right to live in this world. To quote
Dr. tenBroek himself, "There are...large and powerful agencies abroad in
the land, considerable in number and vast in influence, which remain
hostile to our movement in thought, in speech, and in action. Under the
guise of professionalism, [they] would perpetuate colonialism. [Their]
philosophy is a throwback to the age of the silent client, before the
revolution in welfare and civil rights, which converted the client into an
active and vocal partner in the programming and dispensing of services.
In...[their]...lofty disregard of the organized blind as the voice of those
to be served, [they] betray bureaucratic bias that is...[an]...image of the
blind client not as a person to be served but as a defective mechanism to
Finally, in order to communicate our message to the public, we must
also realize that the most effective social change comes not from activist
groups but from individuals and from individual discussion. For the public
to understand that the disability message is a civil rights message, they
must hear that message from their friends, their family members with
disabilities, and their coworkers with disabilities. Beyond this, for us to
accomplish that, we must succeed in broadening the base of the disability
rights movement to encompass a broader scope of people with disabilities.
There remain too many people with disabilities who do not yet have the
chance to participate in our community and whose identity is explained to
them only in medical terms. We must broaden our community and give every
disabled person access to the disability culture and perspective. I would
like to end by quoting American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who said,
"You have built castles in the clouds. Now you must build foundations
underneath them." As we talk about how to imprint the American public with
the meaning and message of the disability rights movement, we talk about
what must be done to build the foundations that will show that our vision
is no dream. This is what we must do. This is what we can do. This is what
we will do. Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to working
with all of you to bring that dream to reality.
[PHOTO CAPTION: The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar]
[PHOTO CAPTION: A young girl reading Braille]
Dear Mr. President
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: Attention everyone who believes in Braille. We need
your help immediately if you have a compelling personal story about Braille
in your life. Read on for all the details:
So far our Braille Readers are Leaders initiative has been a
resounding success. We have sold so many Braille coins that we have
exceeded the mint's production schedule, and at the time of this writing
the coins are currently back-ordered by as much as six weeks. We have
distributed tens of thousands of Braille alphabet cards, held dozens of
events in celebration of Braille, and appeared in newspapers all across the
country. Our campaign has achieved so much momentum that we have even been
able, with the help of NASA, to send two Louis Braille commemorative silver
dollars into space.
Our work, however, is far from complete. In order to sell all 400,000
Braille coins by the end of 2009, we must continue to spread the word about
the importance of our campaign. Today far too many blind children and
adults are being refused Braille instruction by both schools and
rehabilitation agencies, and many who are receiving a Braille education are
given inadequate instruction. The Braille literacy crisis in this country
must be brought to an end, and we must make it happen. We are the experts
in blindness, and it is our knowledge and experience that will shape the
future for blind people everywhere.
Many who have not received quality instruction in Braille can tell
compelling stories of missed opportunities and difficulties at school or on
the job arising from their lack of Braille. Others who have experienced a
full education in Braille can tell stirring success stories of the way
literacy has changed their lives and helped them to participate fully in
society. Our goal is to collect these stories-the inspiring and the
compelling, the positive and the negative-and compile them into a book
about Braille literacy. From the submissions we receive we will select one
hundred of the most powerful stories for our book, and the author of each
chosen testimonial will receive a free Louis Braille commemorative silver
If you have been educated in Braille either in school or through a
rehabilitation agency and you lead a productive life because of this
knowledge, or if you have been denied Braille instruction at any point and
you believe your life has been affected by the struggles you have faced in
becoming literate in Braille, the world needs to hear your story. If you
are a parent or teacher who has seen the positive effect Braille can have
on your children or students, your story needs to be told.
On October 1, the first day of Meet the Blind Month, we will present
our collected stories to President Barack Obama, demonstrating through our
own voices the power of Braille literacy for all blind Americans. We will
share our hopes and dreams with him; we will tell him about the struggles
we have faced in becoming literate and the success that has come from our
knowing Braille. Through our personal stories we will show him that Braille
provides independence to blind people and makes us free.
One of the major goals of the Braille Readers are Leaders initiative
has been to educate the public about the importance of Braille for all
blind people. We have accomplished this through media exposure and word of
mouth. We have educated our local and national legislators about the
necessity for Braille instruction. By reaching out to the highest office in
the United States, we can teach President Obama about the critical link
between Braille and independence. If we can enlist his leadership, we can
insure a brighter future for Braille literacy.
We need your help in sending this message. To add your story to our
collection, please send it by August 28 in print or Braille to Letters to
President Obama, c/o National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street,
Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Be sure to include your full name, address,
phone number, and email address if you have one. You can also submit your
story online by visiting <www.braille.org> and clicking the link entitled
"Letters to President Obama." If we decide actually to publish this
collection of letters, contributor contact information will be omitted.
Whether we are seeking competitive employment, a quality education, or
integration into society, Braille is key to our success. It is the crucial
component that enables us to be literate and productive, and it is
necessary for our independence. We must take the initiative and inform the
president about the absolute importance Braille plays in each of our lives.
Working with one another, the president, and the public, we will bring an
end to the literacy crisis.
[CAPTION: Ronza Othman]
I Am Blind
by Ronza Othman
From the Editor: By the time you are reading this, the 2009 Motor
City March on the morning of July 6 will be history. At this writing, mid-
May, we have no idea how much money will have been raised. We can be sure
that well over a thousand people will have marched the three miles and
enjoyed the camaraderie of shared endeavor and rousing presentations. In an
effort to solicit contributions from friends and family many of us will
have written letters inviting financial support. The following letter was
one of these efforts. It was so effective and inspiring that we thought
others might take heart and learn from it.
Ronza Othman has been a leader in the Chicago Chapter and the
Illinois affiliate. She is a practicing attorney who recently took a
prestigious job with the federal government and now lives in Baltimore.
This is what she wrote to friends and family under the title "I Am Blind":
Once upon a time those were three words I couldn't say. To be blind
meant to be incapable, to be weak, to be flawed, to be broken. But I've
learned that I was wrong. I am blind, and I am whole. I have potential, I
have plans, and I need your help to help others find that they can say "I
am blind" too.
I grew up using my limited vision to try to get along as though I was
sighted. That meant I stumbled over curbs; now my cane tells me they're
there so I can keep walking without breaking stride. I went to bed every
night with a headache from the eye strain caused by trying to read regular
print; now I read more quickly than my family members and well into the
night using my talking software and Braille books. I was afraid to leave my
house at night without someone to hold on to; now I come and go as I please
(though Mom's still my boss and imposes curfews). I never traveled far from
my house independently; this year alone I moved across the country to
accept a new job, leaving behind my support system and everyone who ever
guided me. Since I've learned independent mobility skills, I've traveled to
Mexico, Hawaii, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean, as well as
throughout the United States both for work and pleasure.
What has changed? My attitude, my skills, my confidence, and as a
result my life has changed. Why? Because the National Federation of the
Blind found me. A few years ago I received an NFB scholarship. I went to a
convention and met people who were blind (yes, even blinder than me), and I
learned from them. They were doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers,
pharmacists, rehabilitation professionals, students, spouses, parents,
travelers, pioneers. They had something I lacked-belief in their abilities
and faith in the blind community. They helped me to accept my blindness, so
I went from a "visually deficient" person to a blind one. That was the most
liberating event of my life.
So I learned from them, gained from them, befriended them. Now they
are my teachers, my family, and my inspiration. I found my mentor through
this organization, and I have found my best friends. I found a place where
I could fit in, no matter what. They attached the name of their
organization to me all those years ago when they gave me money as proof
they believed I could be a successful lawyer. They taught me, by example
and through nagging, that, if I learned blindness skills like the use of
the long white cane and Braille, I could be more efficient and effective.
So I absorbed, I pondered, and eventually I accepted who I was and what I
could do given the proper tools.
So you see, I am a government official because I was introduced to
other government officials who serve our country with pride and
effectiveness regardless of blindness. I have been a successful litigator
because the NFB gave me a scholarship and taught me how it could be done. I
am an independent traveler because someone put a cane in my hand and taught
me to use it. I am a faster reader and a deeper thinker because someone
taught me Braille. I am a stronger advocate because people advocated for me
until I learned how to self-advocate. I am confident because I learned who
I really was instead of who I was trying to be. I am happier because of the
family that's adopted me.
Now I need your help. Thousands and thousands of people are out there
in the world just as unenlightened as I used to be. I need you to help me
march toward opportunity for them. I need you to support me as a marcher so
that I can help change the life of someone too. I need you to help me pay
I will be marching on July 6, 2009, in Detroit, Michigan, along with
thousands of blind and sighted people in the NFB's March for Independence-a
Walk for Opportunity. I'm asking you to sponsor me in this event. Your
money will help the organization that helped me in a thousand little ways
and in many more big ways. Please support me in trying to pay the
organization back by paying it forward. Thank you, friends, for your
support in my journey. If you can't walk with me in person on July 6,
please walk with me in spirit by supporting me financially.
[CAPTION: Jeff Altman teaches travel at the Nebraska Center for the Blind.
Here he safely uses a power saw.]
A Vision for the Future
by Hannah Adams
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted with permission
from the May-June 2009 issue of LifeGlow, a magazine published by Christian
Record Services of Lincoln, Nebraska. Though the Nebraska adult training
center is not operated by the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska,
Federationists are active in its administration and operation, and the
NFB's philosophy of blindness and belief in the abilities of blind people
shines through in this story. Here it is:
Fear would have driven many out of the room-sighted and blind alike.
Not Alex. Smooth pieces of wood taken from a poplar tree wait on the table
before him. Wood essence permeates the surrounding area jumbled with
equipment-a band saw, table saw, drill press, and many other woodworking
tools sit ready for use.
The Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired doesn't
kid around. Empowering people who are blind, promoting opportunities, and
building belief in oneself is more than just the organization's motto. "We
want people to be totally confident in their life, not just pass by," says
Fatos Floyd, director of the Nebraska Center for the Blind, a part of the
Commission. "Anybody can pass by. But are we on this earth for that? I'm
Teaching woodshop skills (see cover photo), an area that often
creates anxiety, is only one of many services offered by the commission.
"If I can run a power tool, I can do anything," Floyd laughs. But thirty-
four years ago Floyd couldn't run a power tool-or even function
independently in day-to-day situations. The summer before she was to start
at Bosphorus University in Turkey, two brain surgeries left her completely
blind. Unwilling to give away her hard-earned spot at the institution,
Floyd pressed ahead and graduated a few years later with a double major in
psychology and teaching. "After I finished, I realized I was one of the
most educated, but most illiterate persons in Turkey," she recalls. "I
couldn't read and write, and I was functionally illiterate."
Moving to America, Floyd attended what was then called Arkansas
Enterprises for the Blind, now Lions World Services for the Blind. By age
twenty-four she had learned basic life skills, including Braille-opening up
an entire new world for her to experience. For the past fourteen years
Floyd has directed the Nebraska center to give others a similar chance at a
"Society in general believes that blindness is something to be
feared, that blind people are helpless and hopeless," Floyd explains.
"There are a lot of misconceptions. So, if we live in such a society, we
begin to believe these things. We need to educate. It is not out of
negativity that people say that blind people are helpless and hopeless-it
is out of ignorance. People do not understand how a blind person will live
a productive life."
Blind individuals are shattering stereotypes. Erik Weihenmayer, blind
since the age of thirteen, has climbed the seven highest mountains in the
world. In 1997 he got married at the height of 13,000 feet on Mount
Kilimanjaro. In England private pilot Jim O'Neill was blinded due to a
sudden stroke while flying. However, he was able to safely land his
aircraft with aid from the Royal Air Force.
"We have people doing really interesting jobs, jobs that people might
think you need vision to do," Floyd says. "The only jobs that I do believe
blind people cannot do are truck driving and car driving. We know that
blind people can do things. The reason they're not isn't blindness. Society
believes the myths and misconceptions about blind people."
It isn't easy changing society's views. Movies and books portray
people who are blind as incompetent. As the visually impaired are a
minority, the sighted don't often meet a person who is blind or get to see
how successful many truly are. Ignorance harms all involved, even in the
form of compliments. "We forget you're blind, because you act so natural,"
Floyd was told during a meeting with other master's-level professionals.
"Well, I forget you're a woman because you drive so well," she shot back.
Floyd says that, before offering a supposed compliment, people should
think about what they're getting ready to say. "When you make a comment
about blind people, if you just change the blindness to another minority-
woman or Jewish or whatever-then you begin to realize it's really not a
compliment that you're saying. It's really putting that group down," the
center director explains.
In Lincoln people who are blind work hard at changing, not only
perceptions, but also their own lives. Considered one of the top four
centers in the United States, the Nebraska Center for the Blind is a busy
place. Ninety percent of the clients live in apartments downtown and
commute each day to the center, where their training course may last
anywhere from nine to twelve months. How do they make it to and from the
Jeff Altman, a tower beside the tiny, vivacious Floyd, trains
students in cane travel techniques. Clients learn everything from basic
long cane use to locating street addresses and using Lincoln's bus system.
Altman doesn't teach specific routes, such as going to the post office.
Instead he gives clients skills they can use anywhere.
"Jeff has a good analogy. Imagine us dropping you with a parachute in
Turkey. You've never been there and don't know a word of Turkish," Floyd
says. "We can drop you by yourself-nobody there to help you. At the end of
the year you will have learned Turkish, but will have gotten into a lot of
trouble. Or we can drop you with a native Turk whose second language is
English and they can interpret everything. Would you learn Turkish by the
end of the year? No. Our way is that we will drop you with someone else.
They will teach you the basics but then let you practice things by
That philosophy guides the way the students learn everything, not
just travel. From navigating buffet lines to communication-such as
handwriting and computer programs like Excel-students begin with 100
percent assistance from the instructors. But by the end of the year
students are able to accomplish it all by themselves. "We teach the basic
structure but set it up so people have a time and place to practice what
they learn and problem-solve by themselves," Floyd says. Instead of
teaching the students how to brown a burger, for example, Cindy Zimmer,
home management instructor, teaches them how to tell when the burger is
brown. Many of the center's clients were previously sighted and must learn
alternative ways of managing.
"When you're at a party and you're the only blind person, guess how
many people are looking at you?" Floyd asks. "Everybody. We need to realize
that it's okay; I don't care if people look at me. But we are representing,
as one person, the whole group. It is a big thing to carry on our
shoulders, but that is the reality. From one blind person others are going
to deduce that all blind people are like that."
The sense of responsibility may seem heavy, and, although Floyd
jokingly refers to the center as a boot camp, the clients' search for
independence is often full of laughter and fun. They attend cultural
activities, such as local theaters and festivals, as well as work on
community projects. Jokes are cracked in the classroom; meals made by
clients are set up for newcomers as well as entered into cooking
competitions. The family-like atmosphere pushes students toward an
assurance that soon becomes integral to who they are.
"Blind people need to have the confidence in themselves to go into an
interview and say, `You will benefit from hiring me. This is not a hand-
out. I will do a good job,'" Floyd explains. It's not just the feeling of
self-assurance the center teaches. The practical ways of successfully
living instead of simply existing are paramount to the operation. Some
things aren't written in a guide somewhere and must be discovered along the
At one point a client asked, "Can a blind person be a waiter?" The
dining room was then set up as a restaurant, and he was given four tables
to wait on. Calling last names, just as in a regular restaurant, Floyd
played the role of a hostess. "What would be the most functional way of
taking orders?" the group asked one another. Slate and stylus wouldn't be
practical to carry around. A digital recorder, however, turned out to be
the perfect solution. "He served all of us that day, and realized, `Yeah,
it can be done,'" Floyd says.
The Nebraska Center for the Blind continues to teach its students
important skills. A wooden desk taking form in front of Alex, a middle-aged
client, is a tangible representation of what he's learning at the center.
"I'm gaining confidence to know that I'm working on these tools with no
guards or anything, and that I can do it," he explains. As Alex picks up
his woodworking tool, he begins shaping his future. Fear is not an option.
[CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan]
The Nature of Independence
An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan
at the Annual Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
Dallas, Texas, Tuesday, July 6, 1993
From the Editor: I was lucky enough to be in his office when Kenneth
Jernigan received letters from students at the Louisiana Center for the
Blind questioning him about his independence. Dr. Jernigan was never loath
to tackle a complex issue or piece of criticism, and yes, though the
letters were polite, they were definitely critical. Dr. Jernigan
immediately began reading them to people and discussing the ideas they
contained and the issues they raised. The letter he wrote to the students
became the foundation of one of the most influential speeches he ever
delivered. It is fitting that he gave the speech on Jacobus tenBroek's
birthday in 1993. Though the speech is always to be found on the NFB
Website, it has been many years since it appeared in these pages. It is
well for us all to remember and take to heart Dr. Jernigan's wise words
about the nature of independence. Here they are:
Shortly after last year's convention, I received a number of letters
from students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was clear that the
letters were written as the result of discussions held at the center and
that, although the apparent topic was independent mobility, the real issue
was independence in general and how blind persons should live and behave. I
want to share those letters with you, then tell you how I answered them,
and finally say a few things about what I think independence really is. The
letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I am a sophomore in high school. Right now I am in a teenage program
that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. It is the STEP
program. That means Summer Training and Employment Project. We are allowed
to get jobs and make money as well as have classes.
A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really enjoyed
all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you and Mr. Maurer
walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call your attention to the
almost code-word use of the term "sighted guide." Not "walking with a
sighted guide" or "walking with a sighted person" or "holding the arm of a
sighted person," but "walking sighted guide." This makes it clear that the
concept of "sighted guide" has been the topic of considerable conversation.
But back to the letter.] and we thought you all would never walk sighted
guide, because you all are so highly involved in the NFB. I never thought
sighted guide was OK until then. So why did you all use sighted guide? I
know there are many reasons why this might be. We discussed this in one of
our talk times and came up with one reason this might be. We know that you
all have to be at meetings all the time, and it would be faster if you
would use sighted guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the
use in the following sentences of the depersonalized "it." Now, back to the
letter.] I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your cane travel
skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just wondering why you
do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the people being trained at the
moment, were caught using sighted guide, they would fuss at us. And I
realize that you are not the one in training, so it is not wrong. We
couldn't use sighted guide, because we might want to use it more than the
cane if we use too much of it.
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed that
you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all. I can
understand that you have to be in many places in a short amount of time at
the conventions, and that might be the reason you went sighted guide. But I
also know that, when you came for a tour of the center, you also went
sighted guide. We do not understand this.
We all have our own theories as to why you went sighted guide, but we
want to get the correct answer straight from the horse's mouth.
Your fellow Federationist,
That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be called that
end of the horse. Here is the last one:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
This year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national convention
of the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind
in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This program stresses cane use,
Braille literacy, employment readiness, and self-confidence based on
achievement. While at the convention I heard from a friend that you were
never actually seen using your cane. I discussed this with a group of
friends, and it was decided that you most likely had many places to go and
had to get to them quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed
settled. Then one of the group remembered you using sighted guide during a
tour you took of the center while passing through Ruston on the way to the
Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and the
question was no longer settled because the only alternative travel
technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide.
I do not mean this letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the
Federation, or its many achievements. If the Federation had not pushed so
hard for independence for the blind, I would have no grounds on which to
write this letter. It is because of my own personal convictions about
independence that I ask why the figurehead of the NFB is not himself using
the alternative techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been
teaching for nearly ten years in Ruston.
I would prefer to end the letter on a positive note. I realize that
you are responsible for the training I am currently receiving, and I am
grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no cane skills, because I
do not honestly know.
These are straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise
fundamental questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer. Here is
the expanded substance of what I wrote:
July 29, 1992
Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why I
didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in Charlotte
and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took a sighted
person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I appreciate your
letters and will tell you why I do what I do.
In the first place let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel
skills at all. This might be comparable to the situation of a parent who
had no education but dreamed of an education for his or her child. That
parent might preach the value of education and might work to send the child
to high school and then to college. The parent might, though personally
uneducated, feel tremendous satisfaction at the learning and accomplishment
which his or her effort had made possible. In such circumstances what
attitude should the child have toward the parent? The child might be
critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and lack of education
and might even be ashamed to associate with the parent-or the child might
feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work that had made the education
This is not an apt analogy since I have perfectly good cane skills,
but it has elements of truth about it. When I was a child, there were no
orientation centers or mobility training. The only canes available were the
short heavy wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with
begging, shuffling along, and being helpless.
It was not until I finished college and had taught for four years in
Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of wood and had a crook
handle. I might also say that it was longer than most of those in vogue at
the time, forty inches. I started using it in 1953, just before going to
California to work at the newly established state orientation center for
the blind. The center had been in operation for only a few months and had
enrolled only four or five students by the time of my arrival.
In those days the California center was using forty-two-inch aluminum
canes. They were a tremendous improvement over the forty-inch wooden cane I
had been carrying, and I immediately adopted the new model. Even so, it
seemed that something better was needed. I worked with the person who had
been employed as the travel teacher, and we experimented with different
techniques and canes.
In the mid-1950s the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was
first made by a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California center
popularized it and brought it into general use. We also worked to improve
the tip. Our students received intensive training, those with any sight
using blindfolds (or, as we called them, sleepshades), and our students and
graduates were identifiable in any group of blind persons because of their
competence and ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit of our
study and experimentation, as well as intensive instruction and the time to
practice, many of them probably became better travelers than I-and I felt
pride and satisfaction in the fact. We were advancing on the road to
freedom and independence.
In 1958 I went to Iowa as director of the state commission for the
blind, and I carried with me the experience and knowledge I had acquired in
California plus a forty-eight-inch fiberglass cane and a head full of new
ideas and hopes for the future. I hired a young sighted man who had no
experience at all with blindness and spent several days giving him
preliminary instruction in mobility, using blind techniques. First I had
him follow me all over Des Moines, watching me use the cane while crossing
streets and going to various places. Then he put on sleepshades, and I
worked with him to learn basic skills. Next I sent him to California for
three or four weeks to gain further experience and to compare what I had
taught him with what the California center was doing. Finally he came back
to Des Moines, and I spent several more weeks working with him until
(though sighted) he could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted safely
and comfortably using a cane.
During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, for, unless
one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a blind person,
independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly achievable. This
travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he developed into one of the
best I have ever known.
Iowa students rapidly became the envy of the nation. You could single
them out in any group because of their bearing, their confidence, and their
skill in travel. As had been the case in California, some of them
undoubtedly traveled better than I, and I felt a deep sense of fulfillment
in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the director of your own Louisiana Center) was
one of those students, and I am sure she has told you how it was at the
Iowa center-how students were treated, what was expected of them, the
relationship between staff and students, our dreams for the future, and how
we set about accomplishing those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your teachers)
was also an Iowa student. Both Joanne and Arlene are living examples of
what we taught and how it worked. So are President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer,
Peggy Pinder, Ramona Walhof, Jim Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty
others in this audience.
It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. It was
an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We also
gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled us to walk
faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I have already told
you, I started with a forty-inch wooden cane. Then I went to forty-two-inch
aluminum-and after that to solid fiberglass, then to hollow fiberglass, and
(three or four years ago) to hollow carbon fiber. As to length, I went from
forty inches to forty-two, then to forty-five, forty-eight, forty-nine,
fifty-one, fifty-three, fifty-five, and fifty-seven. At present I use a
fifty-nine-inch cane. It seems about right to me for my height and speed of
travel. Will I ever use a still longer cane? I don't know-but at this stage
I don't think so. Obviously there comes a time when a longer cane is a
disadvantage instead of a help.
I've told you all of this so that you may understand something of my
background and approach to independence in travel, and independence in
general. The doctors who established the medical schools a hundred years
ago were (with notable exceptions) not generally as competent and skilled
as the doctors they trained, for they did not have the benefit of the kind
of concentrated teaching they themselves were providing. Obviously they
could not stand on their own shoulders. Through their students they
extended their dreams into the future, building possibilities that they
themselves had not known and could never hope to realize.
So it is with me in relation to you. You are the third generation of
our mobility trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned and also
of what Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned. Unless you make
advances over what we have done, you will, in a very real sense, fail to
keep faith with those who have gone before you and those who will follow.
In this context I would expect and hope that some of you will become better
travelers (and, perhaps, better philosophers and teachers) than I, and if
you do, I will take joy in it.
Having said all of this, let me come back to my own travel skills.
During the 1950s I traveled completely alone on a constant basis throughout
this entire country, going to almost every state and dealing with almost
every kind of environment-urban area, city bus, taxi, complicated street
crossing, rural setting, hired private car, country road, and almost
anything else you can imagine. During late December and early January of
1956 and 1957, for example, I traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven
days, writing testimony for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big
deal and not something I thought about very much. It was simply a job that
had to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for granted. I have
taught travel instructors and have developed new techniques and canes. I
travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the most convenient way to get
there-and sometimes that means alone, using a cane.
Once, when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a barber
shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with me some of the
same questions you have raised. That afternoon in our business class (you
may call it by some other name-philosophy or something else) I dealt with
the matter. I told the students some of the things I have told you, and
then I went on to say something like this: "Although what I have told you
should mean that, even if I couldn't travel with much skill at all, I might
still not merit your criticism, we don't need to leave it at that. Follow
me. We are going to take a walk through downtown traffic-and see that you
I took the lead, and we walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast
clip. When we got back to the classroom, I didn't need to tell them what
kind of travel skills I had. They knew.
Then we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop with another
staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to discuss, and I
felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing while going for a
haircut. As a matter of fact, in those days I often made a practice of
taking my secretary with me to the barber shop and dictating letters while
getting my hair cut. Of course I could have made a point of walking alone
each time just to make a visible demonstration of my independence, but
somehow I think that such insecurity might have made the opposite point and
would certainly have been counterproductive.
In the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission for
the Blind but also first vice president and then president of the National
Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs, requiring me to use to
best advantage every waking minute. I was up before 6:00 to go to the gym
with the men students; I wrote over a hundred letters a week; I entertained
legislators and other civic leaders an average of two or three nights a
week to gain support for our program; I traveled throughout the state to
make speeches; and I spent long hours working individually with students.
Besides that, I handled the administrative details of the commission and
the NFB on a daily basis. At the same time I was doing organizing in other
states and dealing with problems brought to me by Federationists throughout
In that context it would have been a bad use of my time (and both
Federationists and Iowa students and staff would have thought so) for me to
spend much of my day walking down the street to make a visible show of my
independent travel skills. I traveled alone when I needed to, and I gave
demonstrations to students, legislators, and others when I needed to do
that-but I never did either to convince myself or to establish in my own
mind the fact of my capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary.
So what about the NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of
convention organization and arrangements, and there were a thousand details
to handle. There were four hotels and a convention center, each with its
own staff and each requiring separate handling and a myriad of decisions.
Sometimes I had not only one but two or three people with me as I went from
place to place, talking about what had to be done and sending this person
here and that person yonder.
Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to take the arm of one of
the persons with me and used my cane to walk alone. But for what reason?
When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down a street with
somebody else and trying to carry on a meaningful conversation, it is
easier to take the other person's arm. This is true even if you are the
best traveler in the world and even if both of you are blind.
In fact I contend that there are times when refusing to take an arm
that is offered may constitute the very opposite of independence. If, for
instance, you are a blind person accompanying a sighted person through a
busy restaurant closely packed with tables and chairs, do you create a
better image of independence by trying to get through the maze alone, with
the sighted person going in front and constantly calling back, "This way!
This way!" or by simply taking the sighted person's arm and going to the
table? What is better about following a voice than following an arm? From
what I have said, I presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course, if
no arm is conveniently available, you should be prepared to use another
method, regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how labyrinthine the
path. In either case you should do it without losing your cool.
But back to the convention. When you are trying to get through crowds
quickly to go from meeting to meeting and possibly also trying to find
different people in those crowds in a hurry, the efficiency of sighted
assistance multiplies. Incidentally, even if I were sighted and doing the
things I do at national conventions, I would want two or three persons with
me-to look for people in crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and
As an example consider what happened at last year's convention with
respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He has normal eyesight
and is in every other way, so far as I know, able-bodied and energetic. I
am sure that he can drive a car and walk vigorously. Yet he sent an
assistant to Charlotte a day in advance of his arrival. The assistant
scouted out the convention and then went to the airport to meet the
secretary. The assistant drove the car from the airport to the convention,
accompanied the secretary into the meeting hall, went with him to the
platform, met him at the edge of the platform when he finished speaking,
and drove him back to the airport. If the secretary had been blind, I
wonder if somebody would have said, "Just look! He's not independent. He
has to have a sighted person with him at all times, accompanying him
everywhere he goes and driving his car."
Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or
to establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of equality
with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when that is most
convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a demonstration when it
is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were a student, I should and would
behave differently. As an example, I think a student should always use a
rigid (not a collapsible) cane. But I generally use one that is
collapsible. Why? Students are often uncomfortable with canes, and, if they
are allowed to use those that fold or telescope, they may tend to hide or
conceal them because they think (even if subconsciously) that it will make
them look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long that I would
feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am with somebody or
not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to carry a collapsible cane
until we developed the telescoping carbon fiber model. I pull it to such a
tight fit that it doesn't collapse as I use it, and I almost never collapse
it unless I'm in close quarters. Again, it is a convenience, and my sense
of independence is not so brittle that I think I have to carry the rigid
cane to prove to myself or others that I am not ashamed to be seen with it
or uncomfortable about blindness.
When I was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I
often said to those in attendance that students at a center tend to go
through three stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious independence, and
normal independence-FI, RI, and NI. During fear and insecurity one tends to
be ultra cautious and afraid of everything, even if at times putting on a
good front. During rebellious independence one tends to be overly touchy,
resenting anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of assistance
at all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. In the
rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the neck, both
to himself or herself and others-but this is a necessary step on the road
from fear and insecurity to normal independence. Unfortunately some people
never get beyond it.
Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the stage of normal
independence, with relatively little need constantly to prove either to
oneself or others that one is capable of independence and first-class
citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with condescending treatment,
and it also means flexibility in accepting or rejecting offers of
assistance, kindness, or generosity. Sometimes such things should be
graciously or silently taken, sometimes endured, and sometimes rejected out
of hand-but the reason should never be because you doubt your own worth,
have inner feelings of insecurity, or wonder whether you are inferior
because of blindness.
Normal independence also means not rationalizing your fear or
inability by saying that you are just doing what is convenient and
efficient and that you don't feel the need to prove something when in
reality you are just covering up the fact that you are as helpless as a
baby-and it means not going so far the other way and being so touchy about
your so-called independence that nobody can stand to be around you. It
means getting to the place where you are comfortable enough with yourself
and secure enough with your own inner feelings that you don't have to spend
much time bothering about the matter one way or another. It means reducing
blindness to the level of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more
of your everyday characteristics-a characteristic with which you must deal
just as you do with how strong you are, how old you are, how smart you are,
how personable you are, and how much money you have. These are the goals,
and probably none of us ever achieves all of them all of the time.
Nevertheless, we are making tremendous progress-and we are farther along
the road now than we have ever been.
I am pleased that you wrote me, and I am especially pleased that you
are able to receive training at the Louisiana Center. It is grounded in
Federation philosophy, and it is one of the best. You are getting the
chance while you are young to learn what blindness is really like, and what
it isn't like. You have the opportunity to profit from the collective
experience of all of us- the things we tried that didn't work, and those
that did. On the foundation of love and organizational structure which we
have established, you can make for yourselves better opportunities than we
have ever known-and I pray that you will. The future is in the hands of
your generation, and I hope you will dream and work and build wisely and
That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of subsequent
developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, "I can see your
point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model?"
To which I replied, "I thought that was what I was doing." Then there
was the letter I got about a month ago from a person who attended a seminar
at the National Center for the Blind last Christmas. She said in part:
The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana
Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways. I no
longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing about being
unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect travel skills. I remain
painfully aware that I could be much more efficient than I am, particularly
if I could read and write Braille, but I no longer feel that I am less
worthy because of the lack. And, by the way, I hope to take care of my
deficiencies in that area soon.
The discussion also helped me better to appreciate and respect my
dad, who was blinded by an on-the-job accident when he was twenty-six.
After he became blind, he went to law school, and I have always admired his
relatively quick adjustment to blindness. On the other hand, I have always
felt somewhat embarrassed that, when traveling, he uses a sighted guide the
majority of the time. (For instance, I was horrified and disbelieving when
I heard my dad flew to Alaska by himself to go fishing without his guide
dog or a white cane!) He has a guide dog but only used him when he was
going to work. I have never seen him use a white cane although I have just
learned that he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar
discussion helped me to understand that everyone's situation differs and
that the opportunities available are not uniform. My dad has accomplished a
lot: he was an administrative law judge until he retired last month; he is
an avid fisherman; and he is as pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met.
That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point.
It is simply this: we must absolutely not become so rigid and dogmatic
about the means and precise details of achieving independence that we make
ourselves and everybody else around us miserable. Down that road lies
bigotry as well as the loss of any real independence or true normality.
Usually, when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep with a
recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for this. The
person said something to this effect: "You should not read recorded books.
You should use Braille. After all, the Federation advocates Braille
literacy, and, if you use tapes and Talking Books, you decrease the
circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you also set a bad example.
What kind of statement are you making? What kind of image are you creating?
You have an obligation to serve as a role model."
I didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good. Yes,
I use Braille; and, as you know, I find it helpful. More than that. My life
would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means. It is a vehicle, not an
article of faith. I am conscious of the fact that I have an obligation to
be a role model, and I do the best I can to meet the requirement. But the
kind of role model I want to be (for anybody who cares to see me that way)
is that of a competent, well-balanced human being, not a caricature. The
fact that I don't want to die of thirst doesn't mean that I want to drown.
What is independence? I would define it this way. With respect to
reading, it means getting the information you want with a minimum amount of
inconvenience and expense. For me that means Braille, but it also means
using live readers, recordings, and (despite my limited competence in that
area) a certain amount of work with computers. For somebody else the
combination may be different, but any active blind person who lacks skill
in Braille will be limited-not necessarily unable to compete but definitely
As to travel, independence is the ability to go where you want when
you want without inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none of us
(blind or sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the time-and almost
all of us achieve at least some of it some of the time. Usually we are on a
If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great expense,
there are times when it would be a real problem. What about the trip I made
to Kansas City in May of this year to meet with local Federationists and
speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had other things to do, and it would have
been inconvenient to take somebody else. I went alone. Did I have any
assistance during the trip? Yes. At times-when it was convenient for me and
not inconvenient to others.
What about the time last month when I was called for jury duty? It
would have been very difficult for a guide to have accompanied me to the
jury box or the jury room-so, of course, I went by myself. Does that mean
that nobody showed me where the jury box was or gave other assistance? No.
It means that I went where I needed to go without inconvenience to me or
those around me. That is what I call independence.
Just as with the sighted, there are times when you as a blind person
want privacy-want to go somewhere (to see a boyfriend or girlfriend, for
instance) without being accompanied by your daily associates, want to buy a
present for a friend or a loved one, or just feel like following a whim. In
such cases a dog or a cane is helpful. On the other hand, there are times
when the assistance of a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by
itself, the use or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if
anything at all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of
independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else) involves
the concept of doing what you want when you want, and doing it without
paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or otherwise) that the thing
is hardly worth having once you get it or do it.
In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your
head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence-but
not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to
read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence,
not the substance of it. They should be learned and used when needed-but
they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes
from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb
reading skills-and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and
independence in the only way that really counts-in rising self-respect,
growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices.
Above all, independence means choices and the power to make those choices
stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of it. That is
why we have organized. That is why we have the National Federation of the
Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. Let
anybody who doubts it put us to the test. My brothers and my sisters, the
future is ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it with hope; and
(most important of all) let us meet it together!
Giving a Dream:
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to
assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the
Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not
merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will
directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
Seizing the Future:
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities
that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest
benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is
leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to:
. Help the NFB fulfill its mission
. Realize income tax savings through a charitable deduction
. Make capital gain tax savings on contributions of appreciated assets
. Provide retained payments for the life of a donor or beneficiary
. Eliminate or lower the federal estate tax in certain situations
. Reduce estate settlement costs
NFB Programs Are Dynamic:
. Making the study of science and math a real possibility for blind
. Providing hope for seniors losing vision
. Promoting state and local programs to help blind people become first-
. Educating the public about their true potential
. Advancing technology helpful to the blind
. Creating a state-of-the-art library on blindness
. Training and inspiring professionals working with the blind
. Providing critical information to parents of blind children
. Mentoring blind job seekers
Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further
information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer at (410)
659-9314, ext. 2204.
[CAPTION: Deborah Kent Stein]
A Choice of Virtues
by Deborah Kent
From the Editor: Many Federationists know Deborah Kent Stein as an
occasional contributor to these pages and a leader of the Illinois
affiliate. I first met her when she entered Oberlin College, where I was an
undergraduate. Neither of us knew much about the NFB at that point in our
lives, and I, at least, was busy staying away from other blind people in
case their problems and oddities might rub off on me. Through the years,
however, I continued to hear scraps of news about Debbie, who was making a
name for herself as a successful author of books for young people.
We met and became friends at the 1988 NFB convention in Chicago.
Steve Benson, president of the host affiliate that year, brought Debbie to
my room so that we could get to know each other. He wanted me to convince
her that the NFB was a fine organization and that she should become active.
We had a wonderful evening, and Debbie did become active. Her NFB work has
largely been with blind parents and blind children and students. As of May
of this year, she has also become the editor of Future Reflections, the
NFB's quarterly magazine for parents and educators of blind children.
But Debbie also continues to maintain an active life as a
professional writer. She recently contributed a chapter to a book titled
Unseen Childhoods: Disabled Characters in 20th-Century Books for Girls,
edited by Helen Aveling (London: Bettany Press, 2009). We are delighted to
have the chance to reprint Debbie's chapter in a somewhat abbreviated
version without the footnotes and bibliography but retaining the
publisher's British spelling. Now meet Mary Wilder and Susan Oldknowe:
For me, as a blind child growing up in the 1950s, books were scarce
and precious commodities. I lived in a quiet New Jersey suburb, where
nothing exciting ever seemed to happen, and reading opened the door to the
life of adventure that I craved. In my favourite books young heroes (and,
better yet, heroines) explored the wilderness, championed the oppressed,
and battled daunting enemies. I longed to live in such stories myself.
Time and place melted away as I joined each exploring party and
rescue mission. Yet one sliver of reality never completely disappeared. All
of the adventurers I so admired could see. Didn't blind people ever have
adventures? Weren't they interesting enough to be portrayed in fiction?
For a number of formative years the only blind character that I
encountered in my reading was Mary Ingalls in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little
House series. To my mind Mary embodied the worst possible image of a blind
girl. While her sister Laura scrambles through life finding adventures,
Mary sits in her rocking chair. She is protected and loved, but most of the
time she remains so passive that she barely exists at all. I felt that the
world expected blind girls to be much like Mary Ingalls. We were supposed
to stay out of the way, to sit on the sidelines, and to leave real life to
Then, when I was eleven, I discovered a very different blind
character, Susan Oldknow in LM Boston's novel, Treasure of Green Knowe. The
novel is a fantasy in which a modern boy meets his eighteenth-century
ancestors, Susan among them. Susan's mother sees her daughter as a burden
and a family disgrace and tries to keep her out of sight, but Susan does
not let her mother's attitude define her. She seizes every opportunity to
stretch toward independence and engagement with the world. Susan has plenty
of spirit, and she is not always sweet. In fact, sometimes she is even
angry over the way that her family treats her. Unlike Mary, Susan is never
passive and resigned. When adventures come her way, she springs into
Both the negative stereotype reflected in Mary Ingalls and the
positive, self-directed image of Susan Oldknow played important roles in
shaping my identity. Mary Ingalls showed me what I might become if I
yielded to the fears and beliefs of others. Susan demonstrated that I was
not alone in imagining that a blind girl could be bold and adventurous--
somehow, an English author named LM Boston had conceived of the same idea.
Mary Ingalls in the Little House Books
In the Little House series, first published between 1932 and 1943,
Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the fictionalised story of her childhood and
adolescence on the American frontier of the late nineteenth century.
Throughout these books, beloved by generations of readers in the U.S. and
overseas, Laura's family is shown to be caring, courageous, and boundlessly
Laura, the main character, is the second of the four Ingalls girls.
Her older sister Mary appears in nearly all of the books and plays an
important supporting role. In the first three volumes--Little House in the
Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek--
Mary is fully sighted. In the first chapter of the next book in the series,
By the Shores of Silver Lake, we learn that Mary has just lost her sight
due to scarlet fever. Mary then appears as a blind character in four of
Wilder's books--By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town
on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.
From the beginning, Wilder establishes the fact that Laura and Mary
possess very different personalities. Laura is adventurous by nature, while
Mary is retiring and domestic. Laura firmly believes that her older sister
is prettier, more capable, and in general a better person than she is
herself. For the most part she holds Mary in great admiration, but on rare
occasions she reveals a flash of resentment. In a scene toward the end of
Little House in the Big Woods, Laura accidentally tears the pocket of her
dress and reflects that Mary would never be so careless. She goes on to
Mary was a good little girl who always kept her dress neat and minded
her manners. ... Mary looked very good and sweet, unrumpled and clean,
sitting on the board [seat] beside Laura. Laura did not think it was fair.
When Mary becomes blind at the age of thirteen, her response is
totally in character. Wilder describes Mary's convalescence after the
scarlet fever attack:
She was able to sit up now, wrapped in quilts in Ma's old hickory
rocking chair. All that long time, week after week, when she could still
see a little, but less every day, she had never cried. Now she could not
see even the brightest light any more. She was still patient and brave.
By the time that Mary recovers, the rocking chair is no longer Ma's,
but hers. It is her refuge of comfort and safety. Whenever the family moves
to a new location, Mary's rocking chair is one of the first pieces of
furniture to be put in place. Once it is set up, Mary sits patiently while
the rest of the family unpacks and sets the new house in order.
Even before Mary lost her sight, Laura perceived her as patient and
good. Her blindness only accentuates these traits, which were already
strongly embedded in her character. In one regard, however, Mary's
blindness brings about a radical change. As a sighted child she kept busy
helping with endless household chores, but her blindness renders her nearly
incapable of playing a useful domestic role. This shift is apparent in an
incident which occurs early on in By the Shores of Silver Lake. Pa plans a
trip to Kansas, a journey that will require him to be away from the family
for two months. Ma assures him that she will have no problems managing the
household in his absence, since Laura and Carrie will be there to help her.
In this statement she discounts any possible help from Grace, her youngest
daughter, who is only a toddler. Her comment also dismisses any thought
that Mary, once her mainstay, can be of help any longer. Now that Mary is
blind, she and her baby sister share the same status.
Over time Mary resumes some family responsibilities. She learns to
sew, to make beds, and to wash dishes. She helps to care for little Grace,
rocking her for hours in her lap and telling her stories. In The Long
Winter, when the Ingalls family is besieged for months by one blizzard
after another, both Mary and Laura perform tasks essential for everyone's
survival. They spend back-breaking hours each day grinding wheat into flour
in Ma's coffee mill and twisting hay to make "kindling sticks" to keep the
kitchen fire alive. But when Ma takes in a stream of boarders, it is Laura
who helps with the mountains of cooking and cleaning. Mary never lends a
hand, staying upstairs with the younger children.
Not only is Mary shut out of opportunities to be useful at home after
she becomes blind, she is also excluded from a variety of recreational
activities. In The Long Winter Pa makes a checkerboard and checkers out of
wood. The family fills the winter evenings with lively games--everyone,
that is, except Mary. It never occurs to anyone that Pa could make a board
with raised squares so that Mary would be able to join in the fun. In
another scene in the same novel Pa plays the fiddle and encourages Laura
and Carrie to learn the waltz. He exclaims proudly that both of them are
going to be fine dancers some day. Mary, meanwhile, sits by the stove,
listening quietly to the music, her hands folded on her lap. No one
suggests that Mary too could learn to dance, and Mary never asks for a
lesson. Mary's exclusion from the dancing lesson implies a far deeper
exclusion--as a young woman who is blind, she is no longer seen as a sexual
In By the Shores of Silver Lake, Pa tells Laura and Carrie to stay
away from a nearby railroad camp, where rough men use vulgar language.
Laura and Carrie receive further admonitions from Ma, who cautions them not
to walk where the men might see them. No such warnings are extended to
Mary; there is no likelihood that she might venture near the camp or become
a temptation to the workers. Both the pleasures and the dangers of sexual
expression are outside Mary's sphere.
Mary's patient acceptance of exclusion is completely in keeping with
the role that she is given by her family and the community after she
becomes blind--that of moral example. A conversation between Ma and
Reverend Alden, a visiting preacher, reveals their belief that blindness
has made Mary especially virtuous. Ma tells the preacher that Mary is a
great comfort to her and marvels that Mary has never once repined. Reverend
Alden replies that Mary is a lesson to all of them. He goes on to say that
"a brave spirit will turn all our afflictions to good." Thus he implies
that Mary's patient acceptance of her disability will help to build
character in those around her.
Just as Reverend Alden suggests, Mary's blindness furnishes Laura
with the opportunity to learn self-sacrifice. In By the Shores of Silver
Lake, the Ingalls family sets off by wagon to a new home in Dakota
Territory. The children spend long hours each day confined to the jolting
wagon. Laura yearns to get down and walk beside the wagon for a while, but
she does not express her wish out loud. She is certain that Mary would not
be able to walk fast enough to keep up with the wagon; therefore Mary does
not have the option to get down and walk, and, because Mary cannot get
down, Laura feels it would not be right for her to do so herself. Silently
she endures her discomfort and continues to keep her older sister company.
Mary's blindness presents Laura with a far greater challenge: a shift
in the family's expectations about her future. Until Mary lost her sight,
her parents had hoped that she would become a teacher. However, a teaching
career is out of the question for her as a blind girl. Laura, the next
daughter in line, is therefore expected to become a teacher in Mary's
place. Laura has no innate gift for teaching and no wish to spend her life
inside a classroom. Nonetheless she accepts her fate with fortitude;
uncomplaining, she studies for her teaching certificate.
By the standards of her family, Laura has a rebellious spirit that
must be brought under control. With uneven success Laura strives to emulate
Mary's goodness. In Little Town on the Prairie, she confides to Mary that
she wants to be just like her. She laments that she can never come close to
the example that Mary sets every day. Mary modestly denies that she is as
good as Laura thinks she is and admits that she sometimes has angry
thoughts. However, she nearly always manages to keep these thoughts to
herself, safely hidden away.
The reader is never told what triggers Mary's secret angry thoughts.
One possibility might be her exclusion from school upon the loss of her
sight. Before the scarlet fever Mary was an eager and diligent student.
Blindness automatically interrupts her formal education. Each night Mary
listens intently as Laura and Carrie do their homework. With their help and
encouragement she learns their lessons beside them, but no one considers
that Mary could go with her sisters to the school in town and learn orally
with the sighted pupils. Though Mary's mind is as agile as ever, her
blindness somehow precludes her from sitting in a one-room schoolhouse. The
whole family is thrilled when Reverend Alden describes a special college in
Iowa for blind students. When Ma asks the reverend about the cost, Laura
thinks her voice sounds "choked and hungry." In one scene Mary sheds her
usual stoic decorum and bursts forth with a torrent of enthusiasm. She
Oh, I do care about [going to school]. I want it more than anything.
There's so much to learn, I always wanted to go studying on and on. And to
think that I can, if we can save the money, even now that I'm blind. Isn't
The Ingalls family works with single-minded focus to save for Mary's
education. Laura redoubles her commitment to teaching, knowing that her
salary will help Mary fulfill her dream. Of the four sisters, Mary is the
only one to go away from home to study. Homebody though she is, she is
willing to leave her family (and the ever-present rocking chair) and
venture into the unknown.
Mary leaves for the school in Vinton, Iowa, midway through Little
Town on the Prairie. At this point she largely drops out of the narrative,
though there are occasional references to her weekly letters. These letters-
-though never quoted directly--assure the family that Mary is making
excellent progress. She reports that she has learned to run a sewing
machine and sends home samples of her fancy beadwork. She is even studying
the organ. Thrilled, Pa buys an organ and has it shipped to the Ingalls'
Dakota homestead as a surprise for Mary when she comes for a visit.
Mary is away for three years, only once returning to spend a summer
with her family. During this visit Laura and Carrie are struck by their
sister's increased independence. When Carrie asks Mary if she had been
afraid, riding home alone on the train, she replies: "Oh no, I had no
trouble. We like to do things by ourselves at college. It is part of our
education." The family observes that Mary seems much more sure of herself,
moving freely around the house instead of sitting quietly. When Pa brings
in her trunk, Mary unlocks it "quite as if she saw it." After Mary hands
out presents to her parents and sisters, Laura reflects: "Mary had often
smiled, but it was a long time since they had heard her laugh out, as she
used to when she was a little girl. All that it had cost to send Mary to
college was more than repaid by seeing her so gay and confident."
Despite Mary's accomplishments, however, Ma and Pa foresee a bleak
future for their eldest daughter. At the end of Mary's visit Ma shares her
thoughts with Laura. She points out that Mary will return home to stay when
she finishes the programme at school and that she might never again have
the chance to travel. She tells Laura that it is nice for Mary to have
these wonderful experiences and the opportunity to make new friends. Ma
concludes: "She will have it to remember." Mary's education is not seen as
a springboard into a future of productive work or one of marriage and
children. Instead, it is a gift of sweet memories to help buoy her through
the empty years that stretch ahead.
At the end of These Happy Golden Years, Laura prepares to marry her
sweetheart, Almanzo Wilder. The First Four Years, based on a manuscript
left unfinished at Laura Ingalls Wilder's death, chronicles the early years
of Laura's marriage and the birth of her daughter Rose. Mary's name appears
only once in this final volume of the Little House series--in a passing
reference to her rocking chair.
Susan Oldknow in Treasure of Green Knowe
LM Boston published six novels in the Green Knowe series, of which
Treasure of Green Knowe (1958) is the second. Green Knowe is an ancient
house in the English countryside, alive with memories of its past
inhabitants. In The Children of Green Knowe, seven-year-old Tolly visits
his great-grandmother, Mrs. Oldknow, at Green Knowe during his school
holidays, and she tells him stories about the children who lived in the
house long ago. In Treasure of Green Knowe, Tolly returns on his spring
holiday and hears another set of stories. This time the central figure in
Mrs. Oldknow's tales is Susan Oldknow, who grew up at the end of the
eighteenth century. Susan also makes brief appearances in An Enemy at Green
Knowe and The Stones of Green Knowe, but Treasure of Green Knowe is the
only book in the series in which she plays a major role.
Tolly first hears of Susan when he asks about the patchwork quilt on
his bed. He learns that it was made for Susan by her grandmother. Tolly's
great-grandmother goes on to tell a short story about the quilt. She
explains that Susan's grandmother loved quilting and made a patchwork quilt
for Susan's mother Maria. However, Maria had refused to have a patchwork
quilt for her bed, preferring satin or lace. Offended, the grandmother
declared that Susan could have the quilt some day when she married. On
hearing this suggestion,
Maria said Susan was hardly likely to get an offer of marriage, but if
Granny liked to go on making patchworks, Susan could have them in bundles
of a dozen. Susan wouldn't mind how old-fashioned anything was.
For some reason which Mrs. Oldknow does not yet reveal, Susan's
mother does not hold Susan in high regard. Soon Tolly gathers other clues
about Susan's history. He opens a chest in his great-grandmother's room and
discovers a box filled with exotic sea shells and polished stones. At the
bottom of the chest he finds the model of a sailing ship, the Woodpecker.
Mrs. Oldknow explains that these were gifts to Susan from her father, a sea
captain who was often away from home for a year at a time. Susan cherished
all of her father's presents, especially the Woodpecker, a model of his own
Finally Tolly comes face to face with Susan's spirit in the doorway
to the music room (Mrs. Oldknow refuses to use the word "ghost" to describe
the ethereal children who share the house with her). When he tells Mrs.
Oldknow about this brief meeting, he comments that Susan is somehow
different from the other spirit-children he has met. He feels that she
looked at him as if he wasn't there.
At this point Mrs. Oldknow explains that Susan was blind from birth
and goes on to tell more stories about her childhood long ago. She begins
her first story about Susan with a clear statement that sets the tone for
everything that follows: "What is really hard to believe is that her mother
and old Nanny Softly did everything they possibly could to keep Susan from
learning to find her way about." The reactions of each member of the
household, upon learning that baby Susan is blind, reveal both character
and social milieu. Maria, Susan's mother, laments: "Whatever shall I do
with a blind daughter--I can't take her into society--she'll never be
married--there will be no pleasure in dressing her--she won't even be able
to dress herself, and we'll have her for always."
According to the grandmother, "It was a judgment on Maria for her
flighty life, and though the child would be little more than an idiot, she
would try to see that it was at least a Christian one." Sefton, Susan's
spoiled older brother, is secretly delighted to learn that Susan is blind,
sure that she will never compete with him for money and favours. Caxton,
the butler, "would pinch her cheek and talk baby talk when Susan's father
or mother were present," but "when only Nanny Softly was there, he would
say, `It should have been drowned like a kitten.'"
Old Mrs. Softly, the children's nanny, is the person who spends the
most time with Susan and has the most devastating impact on her life.
"Nanny Softly rocked and wept and clasped the child to her featherbed bosom
and said at least the poor little thing wouldn't be without someone to love
her. What bumps her poor dear little head was going to get! But she would
watch her day and night and never let her out of her sight. Her old Nanny
Softly would always be with her".
Wisely, Mrs. Oldknow points out to Tolly that Nanny's relentless
coddling was far worse for Susan than her mother's indifference, "because
though it was good for her to be loved, it was dreadful never to be allowed
to try to do anything herself." True to her word, Nanny hovers over Susan
constantly with an endless litany of warnings and reassurances. Nanny
fetches Susan's toys, buttons her shoes, and ties her hair ribbons. She
even feeds Susan at the table so that she never learns to use a knife and
fork. Nanny does her best to convince Susan that the world is a very
dangerous place that Susan cannot possibly negotiate on her own.
In all the busy household of family and servants, only Susan's
father, Captain Oldknow, believes in her innate abilities and understands
her need to explore. He recognizes that Nanny and Maria are mishandling
Susan grievously, forcing her to be helpless when in fact she is full of
eagerness and curiosity. Each time he returns home from one of his ocean
voyages, he is pained to see that nothing has changed. The situation makes
him feel helpless himself. He longs to make life better for his daughter
but does not know what to do for her.
LM Boston, in the voice of Mrs. Oldknow, places the attitudes of
Susan's family within their historical context. Mrs. Oldknow tells Tolly
that in those days Braille and schools for the blind were not available. If
a blind person was poor, she or he had to live as a beggar. Blind people
from wealthy families were "prisoners with servants." The captain, for all
his good intentions, has no guidance, no positive example to follow. He is
entirely on his own.
Boston is remarkably insightful in her descriptions of Susan's early
life. She recognizes the critical need for a blind child to explore through
touch and conveys a poignant sense of Susan's deprivation. To prevent Susan
from falling or breaking things, Nanny Softly keeps her strapped in a chair
most of the time. Her only toy is a large wooden doll, which is also tied
to the chair. Mrs. Oldknow points out that no one wants a toy that is tied
to her. With mischievous approval she adds, "It was a wooden doll, and
[Susan] could hit out nicely with it, and once Nanny Softly caught a good
rap over the head." Susan is liberated from the chair only when someone
leads her through the house by the hand.
In leading her they were impatient, because their idea was to get her
quickly where they were going, while Susan's idea was to feel everything
possible on the way there. Everything was to her most mysterious, because
she only felt a bit of it as she was dragged past, a ledge or a knob, a
fold of curtain, or perhaps she felt nothing, but there was a different
smell or a hollower sound. She had no idea how big things were or what
shape. They stuck out of space like icebergs out of the sea. For this
reason she enjoyed the continuous pleasantly shaped stair rail and liked to
draw her fingers along the banisters as she went up and down, pushed and
pulled by Nanny Softly.
Captain Oldknow encourages Nanny to let Susan touch things but meets
with solid resistance from her. Nanny is determined to break Susan of her
incorrigible habit of "fingering" everything within reach. If Susan had her
way, Nanny insists, everything in the house would be lost or broken.
Susan's hands and clothing would always be dirty, and Susan would be sure
to injure herself. The captain appeals to Maria, urging her to teach Susan
to do things for herself. Maria retorts that teaching Susan would require
an angel's patience--patience which Maria lacks in abundance. Maria reminds
the captain that Susan's grandmother teaches her about religion, and that
is the only education she will need.
Despite their best efforts, Maria and Nanny Softly are powerless to
quench Susan's natural curiosity. Mrs. Oldknow tells Tolly: "[S]he wanted
to catch everything in the act of being real. She even put her finger in
the candle flame to see what being burned was like."
Because her experience has been so severely limited, Susan has large
gaps in her knowledge about the world around her. When she hears frogs
croaking in the moat, she pictures them as little men dressed in suits of
wet leather. When Captain Oldknow tries to tell Susan about his life at
sea, he is aghast to discover that she does not understand what a river is
or what he means when he uses the word "float." To help Susan understand
what a boat is and how it floats on the waves, Captain Oldknow gives her a
model of the Woodpecker, which she can play with in her bath. However, he
is painfully aware that she needs far more than a few toys to nourish her
When Susan is seven years old, Captain Oldknow hires Jonathan, the
seventeen-year-old son of a neighboring pastor, to be her tutor. At first
Jonathan is doubtful that he can teach Susan anything. The captain urges
him to teach her orally and to use his imagination. Above all he tells
Jonathan to answer Susan's questions and to make sure she understands his
answers. Despite Sefton's mockery and his own misgivings, Jonathan finds
Susan to be an apt pupil. Taking the captain's advice, he answers her
questions and reads her stories out loud.
Even so, the captain longs to widen Susan's world still further. The
following year, during a stop at Barbados, he strikes upon an
unconventional solution. He buys Jacob, an eight-year-old slave recently
brought to the Caribbean from Africa. The captain promises Jacob his
freedom if he will be a companion to his blind daughter in faraway England.
Thus Jacob comes to Green Knowe and transforms Susan's life forever.
Like Susan, Jacob possesses immense curiosity and a vivid
imagination. The children take to one another at once and instantly become
fast friends. At their first meeting Captain Oldknow sends them to play in
the garden together. When he looks out the window, he sees them marching
along the paths playing a newly invented game. He exclaims to Maria that
this is the best thing he has seen in years and that Susan is playing like
any other child at last. Conveniently, Nanny Softly falls ill soon after
Jacob's arrival, and the children are left to their own devices.
With Jacob as her mentor, Susan's education truly begins. The
contrast with her earlier life is dramatic. Mrs. Oldknow tells Tolly:
"Susan had always been taught to walk as carefully as if it were the most
difficult thing in life not to fall, in a world beset with water, fire,
staircases, high windows, open doors, and pits." Jacob has no such
apprehensions. With his liberating guidance, Susan explores her
surroundings and learns to walk freely through the house and garden. She
gets her dress muddy as she turns somersaults on the lawn. She learns to
climb to the top of the tallest beech tree at Green Knowe, pretending that
she is perched in the rigging of the Woodpecker. In response to Susan's
eager questions, Jacob captures frogs, birds, hedgehogs, and other
creatures to show her. Jonathan, the tutor, is inspired to teach Susan her
letters, shaping them with bread dough.
Confident and independent, Susan becomes a full-fledged player in the
dramas of the household. Sefton has seized every opportunity to humiliate
Jacob. Susan helps Jacob to retaliate through a series of nettling pranks.
Sefton never thinks to suspect her. He does suspect Jacob, however, though
he can prove nothing against him. When Sefton forces Jacob to climb into
the chimney like a chimney sweep, Susan rushes to her friend's defense. She
flies at Sefton and kicks him squarely in the shins.
Finally, Susan and Jacob work together to rescue their friend Fred,
the gardener's son. Thirteen-year-old Fred has been caught poaching rabbits
and will be hanged or sold to a press gang for service in His Majesty's
Navy. The children hide Fred in an underground chamber and smuggle food to
him until he can make a safe escape.
As Tolly's visit draws to a close, he asks his great-grandmother what
happened to Susan and Jacob when they grew up. Mrs. Oldknow tells him that
Jacob became a groom at Green Knowe, caring for the horses and driving
Susan in her carriage. On a trip to Barbados with the captain, he married a
woman of African heritage and brought her back to England with him. Susan
married Jonathan, her former tutor, "and had lots of children, who could
all see." Jacob's wife served as their nanny. Susan and Jacob remained the
best of friends all their lives.
Unlike Mary Ingalls, Susan is granted a happily-ever-after ending,
complete with marriage and family. She grows up and takes on the
responsibilities of motherhood with the help of a nanny, as befits her era
and social class. The statement that all of Susan's children could see
hints that the ending would have been less happy if any of them had been
blind and that blindness is not entirely acceptable, even for the
enlightened Mrs. Oldknow. Within its context, however, the comment seems
intended as further assurance that Susan led a fulfilling life and made a
positive contribution to the family.
A Choice of Virtues
The Little House series and Treasure of Green Knowe are books by
twentieth-century authors that portray children of earlier times. Mary
Ingalls and Susan Oldknow are shaped by the eras in which they lived, when
opportunities for blind people were severely restricted. Yet the girls grow
up in very different environments, within very different philosophical
On the American frontier the Ingalls family lives by the Protestant
ethic of hard work and fortitude. For the most part Mary's blindness
exempts her from hard work; she is no longer expected to be an active,
contributing member of the family unit. But Mary is cast in a new role--she
is a model of patience. For the Ingalls family, and apparently for Wilder
herself, patient acceptance is one of the highest possible virtues. Wilder
refers frequently to Mary's patience and goodness, as though these traits
are almost synonymous. Mary's willingness to sit on the sidelines in her
rocking chair is never portrayed as laziness. Rather, Wilder conveys her
admiration for Mary's graceful acceptance of her fate.
As a blind child reading the Little House series, I was appalled by
Wilder's depiction of Mary. Mary's silent acceptance of limitations and
exclusion collided with everything that I aspired to achieve in my own
life. To me her uncomplaining patience was not a sign of goodness, but of
an infuriating passivity. What on earth was so enthralling about that
rocking chair of hers? How could she be so content to sit on the outskirts
of life? Why did she relinquish her right to play an active part in the
world? Why didn't she seize every opportunity to prove that she could still
be useful and active, whether or not she could see?
Almost as distressing to me as Mary herself was the attitude of her
family. Mary's parents and sisters love her deeply. Yet no one in the
family challenges the assumption that blindness has put an end to Mary's
active participation in life. When it comes to including Mary in the full
range of family and community activities, the Ingalls family shows a
profound lack of will and creativity. This is ironic, since their very
survival on the frontier depends on their ability to find solutions to
unexpected problems. The Ingalls family is endlessly resourceful when it
comes to building shelters, gathering food, traveling where there are no
roads, and having fun in spite of hardships. Somehow, though, this can-do
spirit founders before Mary's blindness. Instead of tackling the challenge
of blindness with pioneering resilience, the Ingalls family falls back on
time-honored beliefs, equating blindness with helplessness. To their
credit, they never treat Mary as if she is a burden and are never
embarrassed by her presence. But their gentle, almost reverent treatment of
her helps only to ensure her isolation. When they see her patience as
admirable, a manifestation of goodness, they quietly justify keeping her in
a special place apart.
At first I thought that Mary's experience at school would transform
her perspective on life and would awaken her family to new and endless
possibilities. In fact, Mary makes dramatic changes, even travelling
hundreds of miles alone on the train. This is an amazing feat for a girl
who previously would not rise from her rocking chair to unpack a trunk.
However, to my vast disappointment, Wilder strongly hints that Mary's
school years are an aberration. When she completes the program, she will
return home, where sweet memories of friendships and adventures will help
her bear with patience the empty years before her.
When I was growing up, I knew that, despite their relative newness,
the Little House books were considered to be classics. People had already
been reading about sweet, passive Mary Ingalls for years, and they would go
on reading about her for countless years to come. It dismayed me to realize
that the majority of these readers probably accepted the author's view of
Mary without question. They would carry away the image of patient Mary in
her rocking chair, glowing with goodness. I feared that the image of Mary
Ingalls would reinforce some of the worst stereotypes about people who are
In Susan Oldknow, I felt that I had found a kindred spirit. Susan is
an explorer, stretching out her hands to discover her surroundings despite
the reproofs of Nanny and her mother. It is not her blindness that holds
Susan back, but the stifling behavior of the people around her. Susan's
experience resonated deeply with my own. I too had heard endless warnings
about stairways, fire, sharp objects, and myriad other components of daily
life. Like Susan, I had learned not to take most of these warnings as truth
but to test reality for myself. Fortunately, like her, I had significant
people in my life who believed in me and who made sure that I had the
opportunities I needed.
In striking contrast to Mary's life on the frontier, Susan is a child
of Regency England, growing up amid servants and luxury. Her father sees
Susan's blindness as a difference that need not define or hamper her. He
does not expect or want her to sit patiently with folded hands; instead, he
seeks to help her engage with the world. As he points out to Jonathan, her
tutor, it is only a matter of finding creative approaches to her education.
The approaches to blindness in Treasure of Green Knowe and the Little
House books represent two distinct philosophical views of humanity. The
Protestant ethic which rules the Ingalls family regards human nature as
intrinsically bad, although humans can be saved from evil by resisting
temptation. Mary Ingalls could easily be tempted to anger and self-pity
(clearly regarded by Wilder as negative emotions to be overcome), but she
rises above such impulses and holds to higher ground. Captain Oldknow is
guided by the philosophy of Rousseau and other Enlightenment thinkers of
the eighteenth century. Rousseau and his followers saw human nature as
essentially good and believed that organized society had a corrupting
impact on the child's innate purity. Susan Oldknow is an innocent, a pure
child of nature, untainted by the materialism of her mother and brother;
she embraces life with eagerness and joy. Her father delights in her
spontaneity and encourages her spirit of adventure in defiance of the
strict rules that govern the behavior of proper little girls of her era.
Jacob, Susan's invaluable teacher (Boston's version of Helen Keller's
Annie Sullivan), is a child of nature himself. Jacob spent his early years
in Africa, among the lions and elephants, and he still carries a host of
animistic beliefs. When Susan and Jacob are at play, the garden at Green
Knowe bears a passing resemblance to Eden. Captain Oldknow selects Jacob to
be Susan's mentor because he is a free spirit, full of playfulness and
imagination. Despite the hardships of slavery, Jacob is morally and
emotionally intact. His nature has not been twisted by the constraints of
uppercrust English society. As an outsider to that world, he is able to
appreciate Susan for who she is and to meet her with intuitive
Although Susan is very different from Mary Ingalls, she too shines
with a kind of goodness. She is loving and loyal. She has not learned
affectations and judges others on their merits rather than their social
status. Her lifelong friendship with Jacob is a case in point. Susan is
free from racism and is outraged when others treat Jacob insolently.
Perhaps, if she were sighted, Susan would have been as arrogant and self-
absorbed as her brother Sefton. Her blindness allows her to follow a very
In a sense both Boston and Wilder idealize their blind characters,
investing them with virtues that stem from their disabilities. Yet as a
blind girl, trying to find friends and heroines in books, I found Mary
Ingalls cloying and rejoiced upon meeting Susan. I cheered when Susan
kicked Sefton and celebrated when she climbed to the top of the giant beech
tree. I thrilled as she discovered that her life brimmed with
possibilities. Susan was learning exactly what I myself wanted to believe
and wanted the rest of the world to know.
[CAPTION: Don and Nancy Burns dance together.]
Canadian Cool to Tropical Tan
by Nancy Burns
From the Editor: Nancy Burns is the past president of the NFB of
California. She and her husband Don have retired to New Mexico. As we
settle into summer, Nancy offers a vacation report. This is what she says:
Packing for a twelve-day cruise in a midsize suitcase and one carry-
on became more challenging than I had anticipated. Adding to this challenge
was the fact that we would board the ship in Vancouver, British Columbia,
sail around the Hawaiian Islands, and disembark in Honolulu. We had planned
this trip for several months because Don and I were celebrating our
fifteenth anniversary. We were traveling with our friends Jim and Mary, who
were celebrating their fortieth. All of us had previously traveled to the
islands, but it had been several years before, and we were all very excited
about this cruise.
After leaving Vancouver, we set sail for Kauai and were at sea for
five wonderful days. With the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean surrounding
us, there were times when the sailing became a little rough. Our favorite
thing to do during this part of the cruise was to stand on our balcony and
listen to the waves crash against themselves and the ship, creating
whitecaps as far as one could see. There is nothing like this incredible
As the ship continued to bounce through the Pacific, we found plenty
of activities to occupy us. Shipboard shops provided everything from the
necessities of life like toothpaste and sunscreen to duty-free gifts and
souvenirs. The outside decks provided an opportunity to walk. For those who
preferred a bit more exercise, there was a complete spa. A beauty salon
helped the women prepare for formal evenings, and games for passengers of
all ages kept us entertained. A casino was available while we were on the
open sea, and a variety of bars and coffee shops served up our drinks of
choice. Afternoon tea at sea was always fun. Then there was food-lots of
food. Any time, twenty-four hours a day, food was available and
plentiful, from pizza to gourmet soups and salads to steaks and seafood.
During my first cruise, when I complained to a waiter who was passing a
large platter of cookies, he advised me not to worry because it was the
ocean air that caused our clothes to shrink.
The meals and desserts were not only tasty but creatively presented.
My favorite dessert on this cruise was something called chocolate melting
cake. It was an individually baked chocolate cake with a sort of pudding-
like filling. On the same plate there was a small dip of vanilla ice cream,
usually decorated with something chocolate. Yummm.
As we docked at the first island, Nawiliwili, the lush, green tropics
provided a startling contrast to the blue ocean. Because of the heavy
rainfall this is the only island of the Hawaiian chain with navigable
rivers. The other islands provided contrasting scenery and endless shopping
The last day of our trip before flying back to Albuquerque we spent
in Honolulu. The warm, gentle trade winds softened the effects of the
tropical sun. We wandered through the International Market, picking up
chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, Kona coffee, and other goodies to take to
family and friends. As we settled into the airport shuttle and said goodbye
to Hawaii, we lingered over the wonderful memories but were now anxious to
return to the Land of Enchantment.
Cruising Then and Now
by Jim Babb
From the Editor: Here is another cruising article. Jim Babb is
president of the Albuquerque Chapter of the NFB of New Mexico. This is what
Our first cruise was in the spring of 1969, about six months after we
were married. We cruised the Caribbean, leaving from Miami. We stopped in
Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and Nassau. The ship was of
German registry and was of average size for the time, about five hundred
passengers. It bobbed around like a cork in the water, and my wife Mary was
constantly seasick. I had some usable vision then, and mobility aboard was
not difficult. The hallways and dining rooms were laid out in the usual
grid--in other words, logical, unlike the monster cruise ships of today.
Mary said she would not cruise again, not because of the food or great
ports, but because of the seasickness.
We both took early retirement in 2001 and decided to try cruising
again. We had heard that the ships were larger, employed stabilizer fins,
and rode the seas much more smoothly. We can both attest to the fact that
they do indeed ply the choppy oceans much more smoothly and they are
astronomically larger. A small to medium Royal Caribbean cruiser has
fifteen hundred to two thousand passengers, a medium to large ship has
three thousand to forty-five hundred passengers, and the truly big ones
have over six thousand. Some of these larger ones would be like laying the
Empire State Building or the Sears Tower on their sides. I find mobility
aboard the behemoths a real challenge. On the cabin floors the hallways
often do not go straight through; you may need to go up or down a few
floors to get to the other end of the ship. The dining and entertainment
floors constantly curve to the left or right, often through noisy gambling
Our latest cruise ship had tactile and Braille numbers at eye level
near each cabin door, where they should be. Our first cruise ship had flat
numbers. The elevators on our modern cruiser were Brailled, and there were
a few wheelchair-accessible cabins. The daily ship newspaper was available
in standard print only, as were the meal menus. The Americans with
Disabilities Act does not apply to international cruise lines. I have seen
a few blind cruise passengers with white canes, but I have never seen a
guide or support animal. I have heard of some serious problems with guide
and support dogs on shore in some foreign ports.
Last September Mary and I celebrated our fortieth anniversary by
taking a twelve-day cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Hawaii,
including several stops among the islands. We found a fabulous cruise deal
from a travel agency in Seattle that I have used several times in recent
years. Once we were aboard the 2,100-passenger Carnival Spirit, the good
times began. The food, service, and accommodations were awesome. We had
gourmet food at every meal, and our bed and bath were cleaned when we left
the room for breakfast. The first five days were at sea, but we found
plenty to do, including cooking classes, a tour of the massive kitchen
facility, other classes, a library, miniature golf, shopping at the
numerous stores aboard, exercise room, swimming, and much more. Mary took
some library books, and I took my Victor Stream and listened to hours and
hours of books, podcasts, etc., as I watched the ocean and people on deck.
If I had taken my Talking Book player and vinyl records in 1969, I would
have needed an extra-large suitcase to carry an equivalent amount of
We stopped at about five of the Hawaiian Islands and had about eight
hours in port to shop, walk around, or take a ship-sponsored tour. We could
even take local transportation. We didn't do the onshore luau since it was
pricy, but many passengers did and raved about it. We did take the Honolulu
tour, which included the castles of the Hawaiian monarchs and the Arizona
Memorial. The memorial was both sobering and inspiring. It was interesting
to note that about 80 percent of the visitors to the memorial were
I was also surprised to find a bit of New Mexico in Hawaii. I brought
my radio. While I was listening to a local Hilo station, I heard an
advertisement for Sierra Blanca mini ranches for sale in Ruidoso, New
Mexico. We had a great time; may a cruise be in your future.
by Neil Bernstein and Judith Dixon
From the Editor: Earlier this spring the National Library Service
brought its new permanent Website online. It is remarkably user-friendly,
and many patrons have had no trouble moving around it, finding what they
want to download, and then doing so. Others have found things a bit
confusing, so we asked the staff if they could prepare a description of the
site and instructions of how to use it. The following article is the
result. Neil Bernstein is a research and development officer, and Judy
Dixon is the consumer relations officer at the National Library Service for
the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. This is
what they say:
On April 30, 2009, the National Library Service for the Blind and
Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, launched the Braille and
Audio Reading Download service (NLS BARD). BARD, a free service for
eligible patrons, allows readers to download any of more than fifteen
thousand NLS digital Talking Books or issues of forty-four different audio
magazines. New books and magazine issues are added continually. There is no
limit to the number of items readers can download, and the materials do not
expire. The downloadable books are identical to those distributed on flash-
memory cartridge by the national network of cooperating libraries.
Any NLS patron in good standing is eligible to use the Website. Simply
fill out an application by following the link called "BARD application
instructions" at <https://nlsbard.loc.gov>. You will need basic computer
and Internet skills, such as filling out online forms and downloading and
unzipping files, and a high-speed Internet connection. NLS digital Talking
Books can be read using the new NLS digital Talking Book machine, which is
free on loan to eligible patrons. Users may also elect to purchase one of
four commercial players.
Despite its name, the BARD service does not yet offer Braille
materials. For now the NLS Web-Braille service continues to serve that
purpose. Eventually the two services will be brought together under the
BARD name and site, offering readers one-stop shopping for Talking Books
and magazines, Braille books and magazines, and NLS music materials.
This article gives an overview of NLS BARD. The site is subject to
future changes, but the basics of BARD will remain the same.
Many of the elements on the BARD pages are consistent throughout the
site. Every page begins with a header and ends with a footer. The header is
either a brief description of the contents of the page or the library's
name. The footer includes four links:
. "<NLSDownload at loc.gov>" (an email link for help with BARD)
. "National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
home page" (a link to the NLS home page)
. "BARD main page" (a link to the BARD main page)
. "Log out" (a link to exit the site)
Within the book listings BARD uses consistent heading levels to help
screen-reader users navigate quickly. For example, book titles are listed
at heading level 4 on all pages. JAWS users can simply press the "4" key to
jump from one book title to the next. Window-Eyes users can press the key
sequence "4-H." Other screen readers have similar facilities. Also on all
pages index letters (where used) are at heading level 2. Heading level 3 is
always used for each page's main grouping.
All download links begin with the word "Download" and, for books, are
found after the NLS annotation (a short description of the book). Pages
with book listings also feature many common navigational links, such as
"Next page," "Last page," and "Start over." The "Start over" link always
takes you back to where your search began, which is usually the BARD main
BARD Main Page
After logging in, users are presented with the BARD main page. This
page is the base of operations for the site. Everything you need can be
found by starting here, and every page includes a link back to this page.
The BARD main page has eleven links and fourteen headings. The content of
the main page is divided into three sections: "Find books," "Find
magazines," and "Additional links." Each of these sections is at heading
Within the "Find books" first section are six elements, each at heading
. "Recently added books" (a link)
. "Most popular books" (a link)
. "Search the collection" (an edit box to enter search terms and a "Go"
. "Browse by author's last name" (a combo box with letters and a "Go"
. "Browse by book title" (a combo box with letters and a "Go" button)
. "Browse by subject" (a combo box with subjects and a "Go" button)
Each of these is described below.
Within the "Find magazines" section are two elements, both at heading
. "Recently added magazines" (a link)
. "Magazines by title" (a combo box with magazine titles and a "Go"
The third section, "Additional links," includes two elements, both links:
. "Update account settings"
Recently Added Books
The first link on the BARD main page leads to the "Recently added
books" page. This page lists books that were made available for download
during the past thirty days. The number of links and headings on this page
will vary over time.
The title of the page, which appears in the title bar, is "Selection
by recently added books displaying items 1 through X of Y," where X is the
number of items on this page and Y is the total number of books added in
the past thirty days.
At the top of the page is a header (at heading level 2) "BARD books
sorted by date of addition during the past 30 days."
Following the title are "Displaying items 1 through X of Y" and
navigational links for moving to subsequent pages or starting over.
The content of the page is divided into sections using the dates that
books were added to the site in the past thirty days with the most recent
date listed first. Each of these sections is at heading level 2, and the
individual titles, listed from highest to lowest book number, are at
heading level 4. Each book entry includes the book's title, author,
narrator, reading time, and subject heading, followed by the book's NLS
annotation and a link from which to initiate its download. The bottom of
the page has the four footer links described above.
Most Popular Books
The second link on the BARD main page leads to the "Most popular
books" page. This page, entitled "Selection by most popular books
displaying items 1 to 40 of 40," lists the twenty most popular fiction
downloads and the twenty most popular nonfiction downloads, compiled within
the past ninety days. This page has forty-six links and forty-three
headings. At the top of the page is a header "Most popular BARD downloads
in the past 90 days."
The content of the page is divided into two sections: fiction and
nonfiction. Each of these sections is at heading level 2, and each of the
twenty books within each section is at heading level 4. The format of each
book's entry is identical to that on the "Recently added books" page.
Entries are not numbered but are listed in order of popularity. The page
ends with the standard footer.
Search the Collection
To search the collection, use the sole entry field on the BARD main page.
Type one or more terms into the edit box and then select the corresponding
"Go" button. The resulting page is titled "Selection by keyword displaying
titles 1 through X" where X is the total number of entries found to match
the search term.
The header says "BARD books containing keyword" followed by the keyword
or words you entered to search. This is followed by the number of matching
records and six index links. These six links tell you how the search terms
match the records found and allow you to narrow the book search to the part
of the record that is of interest to you. They read (with "X" representing
the search term used):
. "X in the title"
. "X in the author"
. "X in the subject"
. "X in the annotation"
. "X in the book number"
. "X in the narrator"
Use these links to jump immediately to the type of match you are looking
for. (For example, if you have searched on the word "Dowling" because you
are looking for a book by Colette Dowling and not for the Father Dowling
Mystery series, you would use the link that says "1 in the author" to jump
straight to the book in which your search term, "Dowling," appears in the
At the bottom of this list is another line indicating what is being
displayed and a link to start over. The content of the page is six sections
at heading level 2. If there are books in a section, they are at heading
Book Browsing Links
Back on the BARD main page, the next three elements are used to browse
through the collection. Use these, not to search for a particular item, but
to browse through the listings when you are not sure exactly what you want.
These elements are also useful if you are not sure of how a name is spelled
or a title is phrased.
The first two elements, "Browse by author's last name" and "Browse by
book title," work similarly. Each element has a combo box and a
corresponding "Go" button. The combo box contains the letters of the
alphabet. To browse items beginning with a particular letter, select the
letter from the combo box and then select the corresponding "Go" button.
The titles of the resulting pages are respectively "Selection by
author" and "Selection by title," with an indication of the items being
displayed. The index letter chosen is at heading level 2, and the book
titles are at heading level 4. On the "Browse by author's last name" page,
the author's name is at heading level 3, with each title by that author
after the name at heading level 4. The "Browse by subject" element works in
the same way, except that the combo box contains a list of subject areas
instead of letters.
The second major section of the BARD main page contains two links that
are used for finding magazines. The first is "Recently added magazine
issues." This link leads to a page containing download links for the most
recent issue of every magazine title available on BARD, approximating the
magazine rack at a newsstand or public library. As new issues are added to
BARD, this page is updated to show the newest one. Your Web browser's
"visited link" status is a good indication of whether or not you have
already downloaded a given issue.
The page title is "Recently added magazine issues displaying items 1
through X of Y." Each magazine is at heading level 3. Below each magazine's
title is a link to download its most recent issue available on the Website.
The next element on the BARD main page is "Magazines by title,"
consisting of a combo box and a "Go" button. To see all available issues of
a particular magazine, select its title from the combo box and then select
the corresponding "Go" button. The resulting page is titled "Selection by
magazine title displaying items 1 through X of Y." The magazine title is at
heading level 3. The content of the page contains links to the past twelve
months of issues, with the newest first, and a link for "Older issues of
There are two more links before the footer of the BARD main page. The
first is "Update account settings." This link leads to a page by that name
holding eight links and other controls. At the top of the page is the text
"Update account settings. Current settings for [login email address]." The
page then has links to change your password, change your email address, or
request an authorization key for a purchased digital Talking Book player.
Those links are followed by a combo box for setting the maximum number of
books to be displayed on any one page of the site and edit boxes for a
security question and secret answer. These last two are used in combination
if you need to reset your password because you have forgotten it. All of
this is followed by an "Update" button to update these settings and the
standard site footer.
The last link on the BARD main page before the footer is "Help." The
"Help" page contains only two links:
. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)"
Both of these links lead to pages that contain in-depth information on the
use and content of the BARD Website.
The Future of BARD
NLS will continue to add features and content to BARD. Some changes,
like the inclusion of Braille and music materials, will be immediately
obvious. Others will serve to make the site easier to use, more robust, and
faster. Whatever the change, please be assured that BARD is now a permanent
service of NLS and its libraries.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Dan Frye]
by Daniel B. Frye
Jury service is one of those civic responsibilities that most people
accept only reluctantly--sometimes even grudgingly. I am in the minority
here; serving on a jury has always appealed to me as an exercise in
watching human behavior. Both the characters in criminal and civil trials
and the chemistry of a group of strangers deliberating on questions of fact
and law seem to me ripe with potential for observation and thought.
Despite being registered to vote since the age of eighteen, I had
never been summoned to jury service until February of this year. After
graduating from law school, I concluded that my opportunities for jury
service would now be limited, since people with a legal education are often
excluded during voir dire (jury selection). So I was pleased to receive a
summons to appear in the Maryland Circuit Court for the City of Baltimore
on March 31, 2009.
I arrived a half hour early at the juror entrance of the Clarence M.
Mitchell Jr. Courthouse in downtown Baltimore, where I met Stephanie, a
cynical young administrative assistant for a property management company
who had taken the bus into the city for what she called "a day of jury
hell." We made small-talk about books and local politics on the steps of
the courthouse before prospective jurors were admitted to the building. She
had served three times in the last three years, and she agreed to take me
under her wing until we were separated. Then Judy, a financial analyst for
a health insurance company, arrived, grumbling that this would be her
fourth time to serve and, she hoped, her fourth time not to be selected. As
we filed through security, I commented that, if I had to invest a day here,
I hoped to be put to use. Both Stephanie and Judy good-naturedly offered to
give me their juror numbers to increase my chances for selection.
After scoping out seats in the rear of one of the three jury holding
rooms, we were told that one of the judges had died in the last several
days so all 999 of us were expected to be called since they were trying to
reduce the backlog of cases caused by the court's closure for the funeral
the previous week. We watched a video extolling the virtues of jury service
as a civic duty and reviewing the history of trial by jury as a
constitutional right. We were then advised of the local courthouse rules
for jurors, informed of the general grounds for juror exclusion, and
invited to register by number and collect our $15 pay for the day.
When jurors four hundred to five hundred were called, I went forward
to be processed. Stephanie and Judy wished me luck. They were not part of
my group, so they promised to save my seat for the long wait ahead. I
presented my identification card and summons to the woman behind the table.
She paused uncomfortably, then asked me to wait while she turned to one of
her colleagues for a whispered conversation about the fact that I was
blind. Returning her attention to me, she explained that courtrooms in the
circuit court were in two buildings, the main building, where we were, and
one directly across the street. She told me that she would indicate for the
record that I was not to be called for a jury pool outside the building. I
replied that I appreciated her thoughtfulness but that I would be fine
crossing the street, especially considering that jurors were escorted in a
group by court staff from the jury holding room to any of the courtrooms in
the complex. She acknowledged my reply and assured me that she would take
care of the matter. By the way, I was wearing a jacket and tie in case I
was legitimately excused from service and could go to my office, so she
could not have written me off as a ne'er-do-well.
I returned to my seat and told Stephanie about the staffer's doubt of
my ability as a blind person to function. Abandoning the banter of our
morning's conversation, I explained the challenges that blind people face
being seated on juries. I talked about our legislative campaign to adopt
jury nondiscrimination laws in the fifty states. Stephanie was sympathetic
and commented that in the past as an African-American woman she too would
have faced arbitrary exclusion from jury service. Lightening the mood, she
again said that she did not really want to serve today, but she would not
want to be excluded because of her race. I assured her that I had resolved
the matter, and we settled back to wait for the first jury pool call.
Within half an hour the lead staff member called for jurors 428 to
547, with the exception of juror 458, to report to Judge Pearson's
courtroom, number 329, across the street. They were told to meet at the
front door of the courthouse to be escorted by circuit court staff across
the street and into the appropriate courtroom. Alarmed to be the only one
excluded from this series of numbers and mindful of my experience during
registration, I immediately inquired why I had not been assigned to this
I was met by a deputy sheriff, in the room to answer questions and
keep order. I explained my concern and said I suspected I had not been
selected because I was blind, so he made further inquiries on my behalf. He
returned to report that the decision was to have me assigned only to
courtrooms in the main building. I protested that such a restriction would
not be necessary, but he assured me that because of the backlog there would
be ample opportunity to serve on a jury and that the decision was final.
Preferring to serve on a jury rather than fight the battle for public
education, I returned to my seat. I told Stephanie that I had been excluded
from the pool because the courtroom was across the street. She wished me
luck addressing the issue before she left as part of the next call.
When my name was not listed in two additional calls for jury pools
assigned to courtrooms in the main building (the protocol appeared to be to
progress up the juror numbers without going back to include previously
excluded jurors), I began to worry. By lunchtime my patience was exhausted.
We were all excused for an on-your-own lunch break. I quietly simmered at
the irony of being determined to be unable to cross the street in a group
of jury pool members while no staff member even offered simple directions,
much less an escort, to the front door of the building. I left the
courthouse, grabbed a sandwich at a deli down the street, and returned
prepared to resolve the issue respectfully but firmly.
Before we gathered again after lunch, I visited the office of the
jury commissioner to register my complaint and see if I could speak to
somebody with the authority to remedy the situation. An administrative
assistant in the office of the jury commissioner greeted me. I briefly
recounted my experience and asked to speak with the jury commissioner. She
said the commissioner was out of the office for the afternoon but took me
to Lisa Dungee, a supervisor in the jury commissioner's office.
I began by saying I appreciated the intention that had motivated the
staff member's decision to exclude me from assignments in courtrooms across
the street, but I also told her that I had indicated that such an
accommodation would not be necessary. I pointed out that I had crossed
several streets en route to the courthouse for jury service earlier that
day, and I mentioned that I crossed these same streets every day to reach
my place of employment. I told her that my job required me to travel
extensively and independently throughout the nation, and I reviewed my
educational background. I said that, considering the dearth of qualified
jurors in Baltimore, excluding me seemed a waste of a qualified--and for
that matter fairly eager--juror candidate. I explained that I was perfectly
willing to be excluded from selection for a particular jury based on any
number of legitimate factors that either the judge or the attorneys might
identify, but I was not willing to discard a perfectly good day without
being given the chance to be fairly considered for this important civic
To her credit Ms. Dungee was apologetic and understanding. She agreed
that the staff member should have honored my request to have no
restrictions placed on my availability for jury pool assignments, and she
attributed the poor judgment of the staff member to the fact that extra,
untrained staff were required to help process the day's larger-than-normal
jury pool. I replied, perhaps a little wryly, that I did not think much
training was required to teach employees that they should honor the
decisions and statements of competent blind adults. Laughing, Ms. Dungee
conceded that I had a point. She then told me that several more calls for
jurors were scheduled for after lunch, and she promised to see that I was
immediately assigned to one of these.
Within a few minutes of reconvening, I was called to be part of a
twenty-person supplemental pool that a judge--in the building I had been in
all along--requested be sent to her courtroom, since she expected to
exhaust her original pool before a panel was seated. We trooped upstairs to
courtroom 600 and, after sitting for about half an hour, returned to the
jury holding room because we had not been needed after all. An hour later
we were excused for the day with the gratitude of the Maryland Circuit
Court for the City of Baltimore.
Needless to say, my first experience with jury service was bitterly
disappointing. If I am called again--and I am assured that, once you are in
Baltimore's system, you will almost certainly be called every year-I hope
that I am given a real opportunity to serve. Stephanie returned to the jury
holding room and told me that she had been excused from service by Judge
Pearson on what was going to be a fairly lengthy murder trial. While it
would not have been convenient for me to be absent from work for an
extended trial, I would have preferred to be legitimately excused for
professional reasons rather than excluded from consideration by a clerk who
had unilaterally decided that I was not equal to crossing the street. In
this instance not even our jury nondiscrimination legislation had a chance
to be tested. My opportunity to perform my civic duty was thwarted by the
simple but profound ignorance about blindness of much of our society. We
still have much to do to educate the general public, but perhaps my one-
person campaign will make a difference for future potential blind jurors
summoned to service. In time we will reach a verdict on the effectiveness
of our public education campaign. We will make the case for our competence
as blind people one experience, one anecdote at a time.
[GRAPHIC/DESCRIPTION: A formal place setting, complete with placecard
bearing the Whozit logo and the words "Miss Whozit."]
Ask Miss Whozit
From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader
questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve
blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can
send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore,
Maryland 21230, or email me at <bpierce at nfb.org>. I will pass the questions
along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most
recent letters Miss Whozit has received:
Dear Miss Whozit,
I am blind, but my question is not personal. I was with a group of
blind people at a public event where some of us were going to speak. A
sighted professional with an agency in our state that works with blind
people came over to a blind man sitting near me and told him in tones loud
enough for me to hear that his coat and slacks did not go together and that
his shoes were different colors.
My immediate reaction was annoyance with her because I recalled Miss
Manners giving the advice to provide such information to a person only when
he or she has the ability to correct the situation-a spot that could be
removed or made less obvious, a slip showing, a button undone, etc. She
went on to say that, when the person could do nothing about the problem (as
in this case when the man was two hours from home), the most considerate
thing one can do is to pretend that the problem is invisible. So I was all
ready to take the woman to task, in my own mind at least, for having
embarrassed a man to no purpose.
Then the man's sighted wife spoke up and changed my reaction
entirely. She said, "What difference does it make? He's blind. No one
expects him to look good." I was immediately furious with the wife for
saying such a thing and the husband for agreeing, I assume--at least he did
not object to her statement.
Miss Whozit, I want your opinion on this matter. I said nothing at
the time, but on the way home, when we were able to conduct a private
conversation, I tried to explain my view that blind people have a
responsibility to do the best we can to look professional and well turned
out when we are in public and especially when we are going to address
people who know nothing about blindness. The couple got indignant with me.
The chapter president, who is a professional and dresses well, blew the
whole incident off, saying that he would have the same problem if his wife
didn't tell him what to wear and when to send it to the cleaner or put it
into the wash. What do you think?
Disconcerted but Still Angry
You need not continue to be disconcerted, or at least Miss Whozit is
shuddering along with you and patting her brow with her lace-edged
handkerchief. The very fact that "No one expects him to look good" is the
very reason that he should dress so as to confound the stereotype of the
blind beggar dressed in rags. I suspect that the wife's attitude that
mismatched clothes and shoes don't matter because her husband is blind was
somewhat defensive since one would have expected her to advise him on such
matters in order to avoid his embarrassment in important professional and
I have heard sighted members of the families of blind people argue
that they themselves do not care whether they are wearing unmatching or
stained clothing as long as it is clean. That is their right, of course,
but they are judged as individuals when they dress carelessly. The blind
person who makes that decision reinforces a stereotype that damages all of
us. Whatever their own attitudes about dress and good grooming, parents and
spouses should in Miss Manners's opinion do all they can to teach blind
children and newly blind adults to identify clothing and remember what
garments go together. Color identifiers and systems of organization are
often important tools in such efforts. Those who have no idea how to begin
helping a blind family member take control of his or her wardrobe should
look around them and ask a blind person who consistently dresses
appropriately how to begin.
Miss Whozit would like to think that all blind people care about
furthering our efforts to persuade the public that we can compete on terms
of equality with our sighted neighbors. Blind people who do not care
whether their clothes fit well and are clean and matched are working
against our contention that we are like everybody else except that we don't
In an ideal world the sighted professional would have waited till the
meeting had ended before calling attention to the unfortunate choices the
blind man had made. You are correct that there is no point in causing
embarrassment when nothing can be done about the problem. In this case,
however, the comments probably did not damage his confidence or self-image,
but that is no reason to make statements that would cause embarrassment to
a person with normal sensibilities who is powerless to change the
situation. In the instance you describe, there was plenty of blame to go
around, but you can comfort yourself that you did what you could to educate
people who should have known better.
Dear Miss Whozit,
I must be a rather old-fashioned sighted woman. I got on an elevator
the other day with a blind man, a work colleague. The elevator was in our
building, so I know he was familiar with the control panel. When the car
door opened, he stepped on before me and then stood at the rear waiting for
me to push the button for his floor as well as my own. I do not object to
pushing elevator buttons, and I am used to waiting for others to board the
car before me.
It seems to me, however, that most sighted men of my acquaintance
would have stepped back for me to precede them and then offered to push the
button for me. At the very least they would have taken the responsibility
for pushing their own button rather than assuming that I would do it for
Am I missing something here? If blind people want to be treated
equally, it seems to me that they should be alert to making the small
gestures of civility that, even in this era of gender equality, courteous
men make as a matter of course. If he had had his hands full or had not
been familiar with the panel, I would have been delighted to help by
pushing his button. Even then, however, I would have preferred to have been
asked rather than having him assume that I knew where he was going and
would as a matter of course be prepared to let him enter first and then
push the button for him.
Am I expecting more of my colleague than is reasonable? It seems to
me that I am merely holding him to the general standard of social behavior.
Looking for Chivalry
Miss Whozit devoutly hopes that neither chivalry nor courtesy is
dead, but she fears that both are sometimes much put about. In explanation
of your blind colleague's thoughtless behavior, one might point out that
sighted people very often step back, waiting for a blind person to enter or
exit an elevator ahead of them. It is easy for a blind person to begin
thinking of such special treatment as normal. It is also true that, when
blind people reach for the control panel, hands fly from all directions to
push the button before we can locate it. Even when we ask if we can push it
for someone else, a finger usually descends from over our shoulders to do
These facts may explain your male colleague's behavior; it is,
however, not Miss Whozit's intention to offer an excuse for him. Ladies and
gentlemen should conduct themselves with civility at all times. The fact
that a blind person does not actually see people trying to get off an
elevator or other people waiting to step on does not excuse us from
allowing them to leave or get on ahead of us. Miss Whozit hopes that,
gender equality notwithstanding, men who aspire to conduct themselves as
gentlemen will begin or continue to invite women to enter or exit ahead of
them. Ladies should certainly do the same when appropriate. You are to be
commended for expecting to hold your blind colleague to the same standard
of civility as you do others in your workplace.
[GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: The image under the book title is a silhouette of a
suspension bridge with a man holding a white cane standing at the center of
[PHOTO CAPTION: The front cover of our new book about blindness and
Introducing Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes
From the Associate Editor: At our convention in Detroit the first
week in July, the National Federation of the Blind released a new book,
Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes. It focuses on
nonvisual methods of managing diabetes. Since the NFB's quarterly
publication addressing issues of blindness and diabetes, the Voice of the
Diabetic, is no longer being published, this volume has been prepared to
answer common questions from blind diabetics. The book includes a
collection of some of the best articles from the Voice of the Diabetic and
a useful resource section. The NFB is making this free guide to living with
blindness and diabetes available to everyone interested in this subject,
particularly blind diabetics and healthcare professionals. Contact the NFB
Independence Market at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2216, or email
<Independencemarket at nfb.org> for further information or to place your
order. To give readers an idea of the volume's organization, its target
audience, and the features that make it especially useful to blind and low-
vision readers, here is the book's introduction:
Diabetes can be difficult, especially if one lacks essential
information about managing it. Blindness or vision loss can be all the more
frustrating when one lacks critical know-how. So what happens when one is
experiencing both diabetes and blindness? Where can one turn for answers?
Where does someone with diabetes turn when he loses vision? Where does a
blind person turn when she develops diabetes?
Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes, a one-of-a-kind
resource, provides the necessary link between diabetes and blindness, and
the facts about successfully managing diabetes as a blind person. The word
"blind," as used in this volume, refers to any significant degree of vision
loss that a person experiences that markedly limits the ability to do
This five-part volume draws from articles originally published in the
Voice of the Diabetic, a magazine that the National Federation of the Blind
(NFB) published for twenty-four years that met the informational needs of
blind people with diabetes. We begin with "Personal Portraits: Success
Stories about Living with Diabetes and Blindness." Readers of this book
(particularly blind people who also have diabetes) need to know that they
are not alone and that people everywhere are adopting a positive approach
to coping with these dual conditions.
Next, we present "Diabetes Basics: What Everyone Should Know." Few
diabetes resources are available in accessible formats, so in this section
we make sure that readers have access to necessary information. In "Secrets
of Success: Managing Diabetes as a Blind Person," we offer a wealth of
wisdom developed especially for and by the real experts, blind people who
manage their own diabetes. Seasoned diabetes specialists and rehabilitation
professionals, as well as blind diabetics, will find this section
enlightening and instructive.
In "Continuing the Journey" we share personal stories and important
technical information from medical experts in the field. This should prove
especially informative for those blind diabetics who may also be
encountering concerns like dialysis, amputation, wound care, neuropathy,
and gastroparesis. Finally, in "Resources" we gather a treasure trove of
useful community-based resources for enhancing independence, many of which
are free for the asking. We have even included sample jumbo-print diabetes
logs, available for the first time.
Designed with Optimal Accessibility in Mind
Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes is unique. This
new resource guide has been created by the Diabetes Action Network (DAN) of
the NFB and has been designed with maximum accessibility in mind. It is
produced in large print so that some blind people can read the print
independently. But accompanying it is a disc that includes an audio CD
recording of each article (in an MP3 version) along with an electronic text-
only version. In addition, people can read this book online, where they can
also find printer-friendly versions of each article.
A Special Message to Healthcare Providers
If you serve blind diabetics, this book is for you too. Here you will
find essential tools so that blind diabetics can independently manage their
diabetes every day. Feel free to reproduce its articles to share with
coworkers, diabetic patients, and clients.
What Is the NFB Diabetes Action Network?
Since 1985 the NFB Diabetes Action Network has educated, empowered,
and inspired blind diabetics to live their best and fullest lives. The DAN
encourages its membership, advocates for accessible diabetes technology,
and does everything it can to put essential information about diabetes into
the hands of blind people. This Federation division fosters positive
attitudes and offers practical advice to blind diabetics, family members,
rehabilitation specialists, and healthcare professionals working in the
field of diabetes. We encourage you to join the DAN and benefit from its
peer support and advocacy efforts.
The Changing Demographics of Diabetes and Blindness
When the NFB established its diabetes division, most of our members
were type 1 diabetics who had lost their vision after years with the
disease. Back then far less was known about diabetes, and hardly any tools
existed for reliably measuring and controlling blood sugar.
Today our members also represent two other quickly expanding
demographics, most of whom have type 2 diabetes. Some have lost or are
losing vision from type 2 diabetes; others have been blind for some time
and have mastered independence as blind people, but, like too many other
Americans today, they have developed type 2 diabetes as experienced blind
adults. Whether you were born blind or are blind from other diseases such
as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, or glaucoma, you
can turn to the NFB Diabetes Action Network for both accessible diabetes
information and tips for managing diabetes without vision.
With Gratitude to Our Sponsors
Special thanks go to the generous donors that have helped fund this
important work. They are GlaxoSmithKline, the Diabetes Research and
Wellness Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the St. Agnes Hospital
Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland. Without their support this critically
needed resource would not be in your hands today. Enjoy reading Bridging
the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes.
Making the World a More Readable Place
From the Editor: Lou Fioritto is a member of the East Hillsborough
Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. He owns and
operates a small business that was profiled in the St. Petersburg Times on
May 25, 2009. Despite Lou's being a blind man running a business in the
blindness field, the reporter resisted the temptation to gush over his
skills or the nature of his company. Articles like this one are heartening,
not just because they spotlight blind people who are successful in their
chosen work, but because they help to emphasize our place in the mainstream
of community life. Here is the story:
Owners of Brailleworks found a niche to fill
by Ashley Grant
What began as a business of helping the blind to gain independence
became a mission of making the world a more readable place. Lou Fioritto,
sixty-two, who has been blind since birth, was out of a job and needed a
way to make money. He wanted to help people like himself. He and his wife
Joyce opened Brailleworks in Cleveland in 1994. They moved the company to
Seffner [Florida] in 1996 and have been going strong ever since. The
company mainly handles restaurant menus, but it also prints Braille bank
and credit card statements for financial institutions as well as a few
other commercial businesses.
Why did you start Brailleworks?
My wife and I went to a restaurant, and they gave me a Braille menu
in 1993. I had never been given one before. The menu didn't have a table of
contents, and there were quite a few pages of Braille. So, if I was looking
for something, I'd have to touch every single thing on the page to find
items. The first thing I thought was, if I had a Braille company, we'd do a
table of contents. We were both entrepreneurial-minded, and we decided to
start a Braille company at that table. I started doing research, and in
December of 1993 we locked in our first contract, although we didn't have
any software or any equipment. We got our first job out for the phone
company in Cleveland, Ohio, and then we picked up Applebee's, Bob Evans,
Outback Steakhouse, and other major restaurant chains.
What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Knowing that we are making a difference out there. We are a Christ-
centered company, and we work at that daily. We make sure that our products
have integrity. I can read my menu for myself, and I know that thousands of
other people are able to read their menus and credit card statements for
themselves and have the privacy to do so. This gives them one more step
toward their own independence.
What is the income like for this kind of business?
The company makes more than six figures annually in gross sales. We
have thirteen staff members now. We've grown every year since we came to
What has been the biggest challenge in your job?
Money. It got pretty tight there for a while. We self-financed, and
the stuff (we needed) wasn't cheap. It took everything we had. In 1994 or
1995 we took our last bit of my retirement savings out of the bank and put
it in our checking account. I went to the Small Business Administration in
hopes of getting a loan, and this lady who had a master's degree in
business helped me write a business plan. Finally I walked in one day, and
she said the plan was acceptable.
Why is the plan so important?
I had a lot of people telling me we should go after certain kinds of
corporations and government accounts, and I took my eyes off of the
restaurant industry and started marketing to government agencies and big
business. I'd be up at three in the morning praying, saying we're going
under. As a last resort I pulled out the bottom drawer of my desk, and the
whole business plan was centered on restaurants. The next morning I told
(Joyce) we were going to be okay, and I got back on the phone and started
calling restaurant after restaurant. I went back to my plan, and the deals
came through. Basically, we quickly learned that sticking to the business
plan would always save us and keep us successful. When we divert from the
plan, it is a risk for failure.
What are your plans for the future for yourself and the company?
I'd like to see the company be able to get bigger clients, major bank
and health care accounts as well as government accounts. For myself I want
to have more of an advisory role.
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of
the Blind of Utah.
Simple Swedish Meatballs
by Bill and Sandy Gibson
Bill Gibson is the director of the Utah State Division of Services
for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is also the newly elected treasurer
of the Weber/Davis Chapter of the NFB of Utah. Bill and Sandy are the
parents of five children. They also have a few cows in their backyard,
otherwise known as a pasture.
2 pounds lean hamburger
1/2 cup unflavored cracker or breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg (or more to taste)
Pam or other nonstick cooking spray
3 tablespoons oil
1 can Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 soup can of milk (use evaporated milk for a richer taste)
Method: Mix the first six ingredients together until well combined.
Form into balls. Coat a skillet with cooking spray, then add the oil and
preheat. When oil is hot, slip the meatballs into the pan and turn with
spoons to brown on all sides. Reduce the heat and drain excess oil if
necessary. While browning meat, combine condensed soup and milk. Pour
mixture over meatballs. Simmer for twenty to thirty minutes, depending on
the size of the meatballs. If you like a thicker gravy, leave the lid off;
covering the pan for part or all of the simmering time will result in a
thinner sauce. For more gravy add more soup and milk. Serve over hot cooked
noodles or hot mashed potatoes. Great served with peas.
Utah Sheet Cake
by Jerry Nealey
Jerry Nealey was elected president of the Weber/Davis Chapter of the
NFB of Utah in March of 2009 after attending a membership seminar at the
National Center for the Blind. Jerry took what he learned at the membership
seminar to heart and increased his chapter membership from seven to thirty-
four in two months. He and his wife Julie are the proud parents of a son,
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups white sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup water
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup sour cream
Method: Combine self-rising flower and sugar. In a saucepan bring to
a boil butter, water, and cocoa. Remove from heat and beat into the flower
and sugar. Add eggs and sour cream and mix well. Pour batter into a well-
greased 9-by-13-inch pan and bake for twenty-five minutes at 350 degrees.
Do not overbake.
1 stick butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 pound confectionary sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecans, chopped (optional)
Method: Over low heat combine butter, cocoa, and milk. Blend by
stirring constantly until mixture is homogeneous. Remove from heat and stir
in vanilla extract and enough confectionery sugar to make the frosting
spreading consistency. If you like nuts, you can add chopped pecans. Pour
over cake while it is still hot.
Fiesta Chicken Rice Bake
by Kris Cox
Kris Cox is the executive director of the Department of Work Force
Services for the State of Utah, which is a cabinet position. She is also a
member of the board of directors of the NFB of Utah. Kris and Randy have
two boys, Tanner and Rylie.
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup Pace thick and chunky salsa
½ cup water
1 cup corn
¾ cup uncooked white rice
4 chicken breast halves
½ to 1 cup shredded cheese
Method: In two-quart baking dish mix soup, salsa, water, corn, and
rice. Place chicken on top. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and bake at 375
degrees for forty-five minutes. Sprinkle with cheese.
Irish Style Pot Roast
by Everette Bacon
Everette Bacon serves as president of the Salt Lake Chapter and as a
member of the board of directors of the NFB of Utah. He is a technology
specialist with a master's degree in rehabilitation teaching. He is married
to Dr. Angela Peters.
1 4- or 5-pound rump roast
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6 medium potatoes, washed, peeled, and quartered
3 carrots, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 12-ounce can stewed tomatoes
A sprig of fresh dill weed
1 head green cabbage, cut into moon-shaped wedges
1 16-ounce bottle Guinness draft
Method: You can cook this roast in a crockpot or a Dutch oven.
Combine flour, salt, and pepper on a large plate or cutting board and
dredge all sides of roast in the flour mixture. In a frying pan or the
Dutch oven, cook roast on all sides until it is lightly browned. Layer
potatoes, carrots, and onions in bottom of crock pot. Place roast on top
and pour tomatoes over it and sprinkle with dill weed. Arrange cabbage
wedges on top and pour Guinness over all. Cover and cook on low in the
crock pot for eight to ten hours or on high or in oven at 300 for four to
five hours. Serves four to six people. Don't worry, the alcohol is cooked
out of the dish.
[CAPTION: Marla Palmer]
Five-Minute Microwave Caramel Popcorn
by Marla Palmer
Marla Palmer and her husband Michael are proud parents of three
children (Megan, Adam, and Lauren), two of whom are blind. Marla also
serves as the president of the Utah Parents of Blind Children. The NFB of
Utah boasts that it has the best parents division anywhere in the country.
This is due to Marla and many other parents in Utah who make it all happen.
2 packages of microwave popcorn, popped according to package directions
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white Karo syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Method: Pour popped corn into large bowl. Set aside. Cook butter,
brown sugar, white Karo syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in the
microwave on high for three to five minutes, until melted and boiling. Stir
sauce and pour over popcorn. Mix until sauce coats all the popcorn. Let it
cool for about five minutes before eating.
[CAPTION: William Black]
Willie B's Gumbo
by William Black
William Black is a 2008 national scholarship winner. He is the
secretary of the Salt Lake Chapter of the NFB of Utah. He is currently
working on a bachelor's degree in culinary arts at the International
Culinary School at the Art Institute of Salt Lake. Willie and his wife
Amanda are the proud parents of two girls, Erica and Christin.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
2 cups yellow onions, chopped
1 cup green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
14 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed but uncooked
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup green onions (scallions), chopped (green part only)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
Steamed white rice, for serving
Method: Combine the 3/4 cup oil and flour in a large nonstick
saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux
mixture is dark brown, the color of chocolate, thirty to thirty-five
minutes. Add the onions, peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, bay leaves, and
garlic. Cook the vegetables, stirring often, until they are soft and
tender, about ten minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large
nonstick skillet. Season chicken with Creole seasoning (recipe below), and,
when oil is hot, brown the chicken on all sides and remove from pan. Add
the stock, cubed chicken, and sausage to the pan with the vegetables. Bring
the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer,
uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about one hour. Skim off and
discard any fat that rises to the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay
leaves. Stir in the green onions and parsley. Serve immediately in shallow
soup bowls over steamed white rice.
Creole Seasoning Ingredients:
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Method: Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store in a tightly
covered jar. Yields two-thirds of a cup.
[CAPTION: Sachin Pavithran addresses the 2007 banquet audience.]
by Sachin and Margee Pavithran
Sachin Pavithran won the top NFB national scholarship in 2007. He is
the president of the Cache Valley Chapter of the NFB of Utah and serves on
the board of directors of the NFB of Utah. Margee is the treasurer of the
Cache Valley Chapter. They are the proud parents of a new baby, Maya Anne.
Sachin and Margee chose this recipe because they love Indian food (Sachin
was born in India), and this snack is easy to make and very tasty. Sachin
became a United States citizen on September 10, 2008.
1 package spring roll pastry
3 large potatoes
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon water
Oil for frying
Method: Boil potatoes until tender, then set aside to cool. Pour
water into a small bowl with flour, and mix until it has a thin, glue-like
consistency. Set aside. Chop the potatoes into small, bite-sized pieces.
Place them in a medium bowl, then add peas, chopped onions, spices, and
lemon juice. Mix everything together. To make samosas, place each sheet of
pastry on a cutting board. Lift one corner of the pastry and brush some of
the paste on the underside of the corner. Coil it toward the center and
press paste-side-down against the center of the sheet so that it is glued
in place. Brush paste on the other corner of that long side of the sheet
and coil into a cone, pressing the pasted corner firmly against the back
side of the sheet to seal. Hold the cone in one hand and stuff the open end
of the samosa with about a tablespoon of filling. Coat the open lip with
the flour glue. Fold the edge over. Press to seal. In a deep pan over
medium heat fry three samosas at a time on one side until they brown. Then
turn them over and fry on the other side. Lift them out of the pan and
drain on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. You can serve
samosas as an appetizer or as part of the main course.
News from the Federation Family
[PHOTO CAPTION: Space shuttle Atlantis soared toward space after its May 11
liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph-Kevin O'Connell]
Braille Coins in Space:
The NFB circulated the following press release in early May:
The 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar, the first coin
ever to feature readable Braille, flew on NASA space shuttle Atlantis on
May 11, 2009. The coin was launched into space on mission STS-125, which
serviced NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar was released by the
United States Mint on March 26, 2009. Sales of the coin will be used to
support the National Federation of the Blind Braille Readers are Leaders
campaign, a national initiative created to double the number of blind
children learning Braille by 2015. NFB President Marc Maurer said: "The
Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar symbolizes the power of knowledge
and future opportunities for blind children across America. It is therefore
fitting that this historic coin is part of a mission to uncover the secrets
of the universe. Perhaps someday a Braille reader will also be part of such
"NASA believes strongly in the importance of educational
opportunities for everyone," said Joyce Winterton, assistant administrator
for education at NASA headquarters in Washington. "That is why we have
partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to help create programs
that enhance scientific study for blind youth. Launching the first coin to
contain tactile, readable Braille into space symbolizes NASA's commitment
to the spread of knowledge by every means and to every individual."
The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar is currently on sale.
Those interested in ordering a coin should visit <www.usmint.gov> or call
(800) USA-MINT (872-6468). For more information about the National
Federation of the Blind and the Braille Readers are Leaders campaign, visit
On March 7, 2009, the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the National
Federation of the Blind of Illinois held its annual election. The following
officers were elected: president, Bill Isaacs; vice president, Frank
Einfeldt; secretary, Carol Kwaak; treasurer, Ruth Isaacs; and board member,
Bud Publishing Company of Bremerton, Washington, recently introduced
Ivan Weich as its newest author and released his first novel, The Bloody
Shield. The novel looks at the anatomy of homicide investigations. It is a
virtual ride with a homicide team leader in a large city. The publisher is
working to produce the book in an alternate format as quickly as possible
and has spoken out about print-disabled people's recent problems with the
Authors Guild. Ivan is a longtime Federationist who currently serves as
president of the NFB Public Employees Division.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor
readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we
have edited only for space and clarity.
Book Angel Program Reminder:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children has a free program open to all
blind children in the United States that enables them to receive two free
Braille books a year. So sign them up now if you haven't already done so.
It is called the Book Angel Program, and you can register your children
online at <http://www.seedlings.org/bkangel2009.php> or call Seedlings toll-
free at (800) 777-8552.
Free Christian Magazine Available in Braille:
The Apostolic Faith Church publishes the Higher Way, a free quarterly
Christian magazine in standard print and Braille. When subscribing, readers
should indicate format preference. For further information or to subscribe
to the magazine, contact the Apostolic Faith Church at (503) 777-1741 or
email <Subscriptions at apostolicfaith.org>. Recent editions of the Higher Way
can be read online at <www.apostolicfaith.org>.
Summer Experience at the Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind:
Blind adults are welcome to attend one of the week-long camps at the
Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind in Sandy, Oregon. This is our twenty-
seventh annual summer camp series. Featured this summer are Adult Adventure
Camp (August 1 to 7), Alumni and Friends Camp (August 9 to 15), and Explore
Oregon Camp (August 17 to 23). For further information about the Oral Hull
Foundation for the Blind's summer camp programs, weekend retreats, and
other special events, contact Jeff Lann, executive director, at (503) 668-
6195 or email <Oralhull at teleport.com>. Visit the foundation's Website at
<http://www.oralhull.org> for camp registration forms and a description of
its facilities and history.
Pen Pal Wanted:
Jamie Thompson writes: I am a thirty-seven-year-old female seeking a
pen pal with whom I can exchange letters in uncontracted Braille. I would
like to meet someone with whom I can share thoughts and insights and with
whom I can practice my Braille writing skills. My address is: 1819 Corning
Lane, Midland, Michigan 48642.
ASB Ends Magazine Production:
Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB) ceased
its recorded periodicals service operation on May 15, 2009. ASB also closed
its RICB radio reading service at that time. Some people have subscriptions
to recorded periodicals that are paid up beyond May 15. If so, ASB will
issue refunds for the unexpired portion and hopes to send refunds by the
end of June.
Music Instruction by Ear:
Learn to play your favorite musical instrument without having to read
printed or Braille music. Bill Brown's Music for the Blind offers beginner
courses for a dozen instruments, including piano, guitar, bass, violin,
banjo, and flute. These courses are taught by ear in all-audio formats, so
no reading of music is required. Each course contains at least four
cassettes or CDs and costs as little as $39.
In addition to these beginner courses, over six hundred individual
song lessons are taught in the same all-audio format. Prices start at
$11.95. For further information visit the Website at
<www.musicfortheblind.com>; call (888) 778-1828; or address correspondence
to Bill Brown's Music for the Blind, Valdosta Music and Publishing, 704
Habersham Road, Valdosta, Georgia 31602.
Independence Is Cross-Country Skiing:
The thirty-fifth annual Ski for Light International Week will take
place from Sunday, January 31, through Sunday, February 7, 2010, in the
Wasatch Mountains of Utah. We will stay at the Marriott Hotel & Conference
Center in downtown Provo, Utah. We will ski at the Soldier Hollow cross-
country ski area in nearby Midway, Utah. Soldier Hollow was the cross-
country skiing venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
If you are a visually impaired adult who would like to spend a
week skiing or learning to ski, you will want to attend the thirty-fifth
annual Ski for Light International week, January 31 to February 7, 2010.
Nearly three hundred skiers and guides will converge for a week of
recreational skiing, fun, friendship, and fellowship. Visually impaired
skiers are matched with sighted guides and ski together for the week while
working on developing the skills and techniques of cross-country skiing.
For additional information contact the VIP Coordinator Renee Abernathy
(704) 263-1314 or <reneabne at bellsouth.net>; or Lynda Boose at (906) 370-
7541 or <Lyndab at sfl.org>. Visit the SFL Web page, <www.slf.org> to learn
more about the program and to put in your application for a fantastic week
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can
pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for
the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for
Perkins Braillewriter with cover, in excellent condition. Asking
$275. Will ship by UPS (insured). Contact Bill at (719) 547-1611 or email
<052338 at comcast.net>.
Tony Sohl has a K-NFB Reader Classic that he is willing to sell. This
is the first handheld unit manufactured. Included is all the documentation
in print, Braille, cassette, and CD. Also included are the case for the
unit, charging adapter, and software version 3.8.1. The software is on an
SD (Secure Digital) memory card. The data is stored on a compact flash card
that can be used with other notetakers such as the BrailleNote and PAC Mate
The only problem he reports was that, when the PDA needs to be
recalibrated, sighted assistance is required. He is asking $1,200 or best
offer. If you have any questions, contact Tony at <tonysohl at cox.net>.
This Patriot Platinum Magnifying America CCTV is in perfect condition
and includes camera, color TV screen, and movable table. The original price
was $3,895; the asking price is $1,775 or best offer. The owner has to move
and does not want to take the CCTV with her. Selling this technology is an
immediate priority. For further information and to negotiate all other
terms, contact either Sylvia Cohn, owner, or Sue Ellen Goldman at (410) 484-
7110 (home) or (410) 375-4866 (cell). Email inquiries can be sent to
<Segoldman2 at verizon.net>.
Sarah Harris would like to sell a BrailleNote MPower BT 32. The unit
is three years old and in good condition. Carrying case and battery charger
are included. Asking $4,100. If interested, email <sarahandfamily at live.com>
or call (806) 886-1340.
Contact Alice McDonough at (404) 626-6621 to inquire about any of the
. Merlin Portable Magnifier, Amigo, is a small CCTV that provides large
magnification and is perfect for reading mail, menus, and checks. You can
carry it easily wherever you go. The Amigo retails at $1,600; asking
. Merlin LCD Desktop Video Magnifier is a desktop CCTV. It can magnify
print up to 72 times. Read, write, work, and view photos using this
ultimate machine. The Merlin LCD Desktop Video Magnifier retails at
$2,595; asking $1,000.
. High Tech Screen used for magnifying materials, almost new. The original
price was approximately $1,600; asking $800.
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.
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