[Nfbc-info] An Open Letter to Federation Chapters Regarding the Presidential Release

EverHairston ever.hairston at gmail.com
Fri Nov 9 17:07:00 UTC 2018


An Open Letter to Federation Chapters Regarding the Presidential Release
by Mark Riccobono

Dear Federationists:

In my role as President of the National Federation of the Blind, I love attending local chapter meetings since that is the place where the heartbeat of the organization begins. The chapter meeting is my monthly grounding in what is central to our organization—connecting with our Federation family, hearing about the ups and downs members experience, sharing my own ups and downs, explaining what we are  doing as a movement, and engaging in conversations about where we have been and where we wish to go together at all levels of our organization. Unfortunately, I cannot physically be at every local chapter meeting across the country. Yet some of the engagement and dialogue that I would have in person is facilitated through the Presidential Release.

Playing the Presidential Release at your local monthly chapter meeting fuels progress toward our organizational objectives by allowing me to:

Speak directly to our membership in an environment where questions can be raised, issues can be discussed, and we can spark meaningful conversation
Share what we are doing at a national level and strengthen the common bond we hold in our movement
Cultivate the understanding and feeling that we are an authentic national network and that our local work has value that stretches beyond our community
Inspire people to act to advance our collective interests
Share happenings in the Federation family to connect our members with Federationists they may have met outside the local community
Build a direct connection between the leadership and the membership
These are all important to our movement, and I hope this letter helps you to have a deeper understanding of why they should be important to your chapter. Careful attention goes into the Presidential Release to ensure that it contains important information, builds relationships, and includes some humor—known as "customary endings." Good chapter meetings are busy and packed with program—which should include the Presidential  Release. If your chapter is not consistently playing the Presidential Release every month, this letter is to ask you to work closely with your chapter president to make sure it is part of the monthly program.

The very first Presidential Release was made on November 12, 1973, and I first heard a Presidential Release in the fall of 1996 after I became president of the student division for the Wisconsin affiliate. The question of why chapters of the National Federation of the Blind should offer the Presidential Release at the monthly chapter meeting has been around as long as I have been in the organization, and I suspect it came up before that time. As we come to the forty-fifth anniversary of this organizational asset, it seemed appropriate that the question get attention directly from the horse’s mouth—or maybe it is the horse’s hooves since this is being composed on a computer.

What is the Presidential Release?

The Presidential Release is a monthly communication that is planned and presented by the President of the National Federation of the Blind. It is a direct message from the President of the national organization to the members at the local level, and it is intended to be shared within a local chapter meeting. The Presidential Release was originally distributed on cassette tape to chapter presidents and other Federation leaders. In 2012 it began being distributed on a flash drive which dramatically cut the time for duplicating and distributing the release. Not too long after that we began posting the audio file to nfb.org, and starting with the August 2015 release, #441, we added an RSS feed allowing it to be podcast. Shortly after that we added a new version of the Presidential Release which is intended to reach out to members who primarily speak Spanish—the first Spanish release was November 2015, #444. In the same timeframe that we moved away from cassette tape distribution, we established a telephone number that could be called to listen to the release, and that capability was later moved to NFB-NEWSLINE where you can now find the release on the National Federation of the Blind channel. In January of 2018 we began posting the English and Spanish transcripts of the Presidential Release at nfb.org to provide access to members who are deafblind. To make sure our list is comprehensive, I should mention that the Presidential Release can also be accessed on devices like the Amazon Echo or by pulling up the NFB Connect mobile application on iOS or Android. To get the release with Amazon Alexa say, “Play the Presidential Release podcast.” In general the Presidential Release is made eleven times a year, and it is available prior to the first Saturday of the month on the website and via the podcast feed. We generally have the Presidential Release posted within twenty-four hours of recording it, and the Spanish and text versions follow later in the month. I am not aware of any Federation chapters that meet earlier than the first Saturday. Therefore every chapter should plan to have the Presidential Release at their chapter meeting as long as a new one has been produced for that month

What is the purpose of the release?

The Presidential Release is intended to be a common bond shared among all of the chapters of the Federation. Our organization is strong because it is a wide, diverse network of chapters working on common issues. The release is also an opportunity to make the President of the Federation more personally known by the members. Obviously I cannot be at every chapter meeting, but the release allows me to share some personal reflections, information about what is happening, and some personal  notes that might not otherwise be widely distributed. The release is also a reminder for members of the Federation that they can reach out directly to me to share ideas, information, and feedback. I am always surprised when a member asks if they can have my email address since it is on the Presidential Release every month.

The release is also a tool that chapters can use to spark discussion about the topics that are raised. For example, discussion of organizational priorities, the national convention, pressing legislative concerns, or new Federation projects are an opportunity for chapters to discuss how those national themes fit into the priorities of the chapter and how the chapter can contribute. The goal is to have a united organization where we coordinate work at all levels—local, state, and national—and we find ways to maximize opportunities for blind people.

When should the Presidential Release be played at chapter meetings?

The most important thing to know is that presenting the audio version of the Presidential Release should be a regular part of every chapter meeting agenda. At what point in the meeting it should be played and how it should be discussed is up to the chapter president as the individual running the meeting. Some chapters use it as the first major item of content at the meeting. Others work it in immediately before a report from the affiliate president. Still others take it in chunks so that discussion can happen after a particularly important item has been raised on the release. I caution against the release being the final item on the agenda if it has the effect of encouraging some members to beat the crowd and leave before the meeting is over. I also urge that it not be used as background noise for a break in the meeting. Both of those approaches diminish the intent and importance of the release to the Federation.

The Presidential Release should be introduced with some context for new members. chapter presidents have an opportunity to remind existing members and educate new members before every release is played about its value in bringing the chapter together with every other chapter in the nation. The preamble to the release need not be long, but it is important to remind each other why we do what we do.

Although many members think I do not know, I am well aware that the release is sometimes played at a faster speed at some chapter meetings. I do not strongly object to this practice, but I do urge that chapter presidents be sure that the faster speed works for everyone in the room. Some people have hearing difficulties, and many newly-blind people may not be comfortable with listening to things at a higher rate of speed. Thus, my preference is that the Presidential Release be presented at the speed it was intended to make sure that it is as accessible to as many people in the room as possible. The playing of the release should be thoughtfully placed in the meeting, offered in its entirety, and its presentation should be managed by the chapter president.

How does the Presidential Release fit into today’s fast-paced communication culture?

In 1973 when the first release was made by Dr. Jernigan, or even in July 1986 when Dr. Maurer recorded his first Presidential Release (#117), we did not have the diverse and speedy communication tools we have today. It can be argued that email, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, and other methods of sharing information mean that the information on the release is outdated as soon as it arrives. I believe this is not the case. In fact, if you go back and listen to the release over the years you can hear some of the commonality and some of the evolution. The release is presented in my voice, and much of our other organizational communication is heard through other voices. We provide less detail about specifics of Federation activities than we once did because we can now refer people to the website. Thus, rather than giving all of the details about the program for the law symposium or our next youth STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math] program, I can discuss the overall program and refer people to other sources for the details. Additionally, the release shares information that we do not share through other organizational channels such as celebrations of new Federationists (babies and grandbabies) and new Federation marriages as well as local Federationists who have passed away. This section of the release, which I refer to as the Federation Family notes, reminds us that we are a diverse, grassroots organization where most of our contributors are not high-profile names known to all across the nation. However, many of the names are widely known because of meetings at national conventions, service on a Federation committee, or information sharing through the Federation network. More than any other tool of communication we have, the release brings the personal element of shared understanding between our leaders and our members.

When I first heard the Presidential Release in 1996, I came to know that our President was a blind man who faced the same barriers and misconceptions that I did as a struggling student at the University of Wisconsin. The national President was better at dealing with the barriers than I was, and the release helped contribute to my development of methods and skills to cope with obstacles I encountered. When I finally met Marc Maurer in person, I felt like I already knew him from the release, and it eased my nervousness about approaching the President. Similarly, it is my hope that the Presidential Release brings members of the Federation to a place where they know me and can work with me. I could write something to the members every week or send out a Tweet of the day, but it will not be as personal or as comprehensive as the Presidential Release is today. I also believe that the release is an important part of cataloguing our progress as a movement. It gives us a running understanding of the Federation’s concerns and priorities over time, and it allows us to understand those concerns through the perspective of the principal leader of the movement. The release itself has given us a mechanism for continuing to evaluate what we do and how we might do it better—hence the evolution of the ways of distributing the release and the change from a communication that went primarily to leaders to one that is easily accessed by anybody (member or not). I hasten to add that I’ve seen this availability to everyone used as a reason not to take chapter time for the release, but, as I’ve already made clear, the release is meant to stimulate discussion in the meeting and not just as another source of information.

It is also worth noting that research demonstrates that people have to be exposed to things multiple times—seven is the number used in marketing circles—before it sticks with them. Even if the Presidential Release emphasizes content that is promoted in other places, the fact that it is on the release is helping it gain importance and building understanding within the membership. A good example is that someone once said to me that they were not invited to visit the Presidential Suite at the national convention. Besides the fact that it is in the convention agenda every year and we mention it throughout the convention, I have specifically invited people to come to the suite and thanked them for coming on Presidential Releases. Why did this individual think they were not invited? I suspect because the Presidential Release may not have been played at their chapter meeting.

How can you contribute to the release?

I have tried to make the Presidential Release authentic to my style as a leader of the Federation. I have also tried to encourage people to share ideas, topics, and customary endings that might help shape the content of the release in ways that are helpful to the Federation. While I wish to have feedback and ideas, you should know that I have avoided certain things. I frequently get requests to announce a chapter fundraiser on the release, and I have consciously decided not to open up those floodgates. I may share interesting fundraising ideas that chapters are implementing, but I do not think the Presidential Release is the correct forum for pitching candy bars and umbrellas. I invite customary endings, and I have tried to encourage people to send audio clips of young Federationists sharing those treasures. Sometimes I receive jokes which are not appropriate for the family atmosphere we want at our chapter meetings. Other times I receive cute recordings, but they are hard enough to understand that I decide not to include them. In other words, just because you send a contribution does not mean it will be included for a variety of reasons. On the whole, I never get enough feedback on things you would like to hear discussed on the release.

And now for the real customary endings:

This was the only ending on the very first Presidential Release offered by Kenneth Jernigan:

What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer.

On Marc Maurer’s first release in July 1986 he offered a number of one liners but this one seems most appropriate for a customary ending:

What goes ha, ha, ha bam? A man laughing his head off.

My favorite ending from the first forty Presidential Releases I have recorded appears at the very end of #458 (February 3, 2017). This ending is delivered by me to Oriana Riccobono. I think the ending is a good one, but Oriana’s reaction is the real Presidential Release gem—you will have to pull up the episode online to hear what happens. Here is my ending:

What did the coffee say to the cream? I do not always know how to espresso my feelings, but I love-a you a latte!

As we come to the close of this Presidential Release letter, I wish to offer a few items that might be of interest. Dr. Jernigan wrote an article upon the occasion of the 100th release in 1984. That article notes that he tried to keep the release to about twenty minutes. I had not known that fact until putting this letter together. I also try to keep it to about twenty minutes, but frequently it runs longer because of the number of important topics that I want to cover. With today’s digital delivery of the release, chapter presidents can easily note the run time of the release and work that into the planning of the chapter agenda. You can read the other nuggets from the first one hundred releases in the February 1985 issue of the Braille Monitor in the article entitled “Presidential Releases” (available at https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/bm/bm85/bm8502/

We only have eleven releases a year—how come? Because we do not have twelve of course. Actually the reason is that traditionally one is not made very close to the national convention because the organization is focused on the activities of the national convention. The President does not want to scoop any of the happenings of the convention on the release, and chapters should be discussing the national convention during that month. I did not examine the archive to determine if there was ever a year when we had a release very close to the convention because there was something urgent. However, I can remember years when we have had more than eleven releases. Typically this means we do not have a release in June, but can you think of a year when we had a June Presidential Release? It happened in 2017 because the convention was late enough in July that the July release would have come out immediately before the convention.

We have mentioned the first release by other Federation Presidents. What was my first release you might ask? It was July 2014, #429. I have tried to do some different things on the Presidential Release in the time I have been putting it together. Including my family in the release has been fun—my son Austin even tries to create his own customary endings now. I also once invited the Amazon Alexa to offer customary endings—probably the first time they were offered via the cloud. If the pattern for releases holds, the five hundredth Presidential  Release will be December of 2020—seems like that presents an interesting opportunity to do something fun.

There are a lot of fun and interesting jobs related to serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind. The Presidential Release is one of the fun tasks to tackle. It is not always that the news to be delivered is joyful, but the release itself—what it represents and the bond that it allows me to strengthen with members of the Federation—is really important to me and valuable to our organization. I hope that you will join me in that bond by  making the Presidential Release a priority at Federation chapter meetings. Equally as important, I urge you to continue contributing to that bond by giving me feedback and sending customary endings—I would love to put more young Federationists on the release. If you have great customary endings but no young Federationists to deliver them, send them anyway—I have three members that I go to when a recording is needed. It is my honor to be a part of every chapter meeting within the National Federation of the Blind. I hope to get to your chapter in person very soon. Even if I cannot be there in person, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to offer my perspectives at the meeting. In many large organizations the primary leader serves at a distance to the members. That is not the Federation way, and I am glad to continue the tradition of direct engagement with members at all levels. Remember that together with love, hope, and determination we transform dreams into reality. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.
by Kim Cunningham

From the Editor: Kim is the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, one of the most active divisions we have in the organization and certainly a highly-visible presence at our national conventions. The 2018 National Convention will certainly uphold the standard that has been established, and here is Kim Cunningham and her capable board of directors to tell us about it:

The NOPBC board would like to invite you to attend our 2018 national conference this summer. Our conference is held in conjunction with the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which takes place July 3 to July 8, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. If you are a family member of a blind or low vision child, teacher, or professional, you will not want to miss spending this week with other families across the US along with 2,500 blind and low vision adults. It is our goal to teach you and your family what it means (and does not mean) to be blind by providing numerous workshops, activities, and opportunities for mentoring.

Our theme this year is “Tools in My Toolbox.” Just as a carpenter has many tools, so does the blind and low vision person. We want to share how blind and low vision students are successful both in their personal lives and in the classroom and how each person uses their tools in different ways, at different times.  

The National Federation of the Blind and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines your child’s future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. Blind children can live the lives they want; blindness is not what holds them back.

Most toolboxes include basic tools such as a hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdriver, and saw. Imagine trying to put something together without a screwdriver or cutting a piece of lumber without a saw. Without the right tools, your work will be slow and laborious. We want to help you build your child’s toolbox and build his/her confidence. Blindness skills such as: Braille, a long white cane, Nemeth code for math, Braille music, magnification, and technology (along with many others) are critical skills for independence. If your child qualifies for services as a legally blind student, then your child’s weakest sense is going to be his/her vision. Vision will be the weakest tool in your child’s toolbox. Yet there are those who believe your child should use his or her vision in order to complete most daily tasks, even if other alternatives might be more efficient. This is  similar to someone believing that a screwdriver is the best tool to cut a piece of wood. In the NOPBC we believe learning all the tools will enable students to grow into successful adults with options for how to live the lives they want. My own daughter’s toolbox is full of tools for her to pick from. She may not use each tool in the same way as another blind or low vision person, but she has the ability to choose which is best for whatever task she is doing. She no longer relies on unreliable vision. My husband and I both use a hammer for different reasons and in different ways, but we still know how to use a hammer. Braille is like a hammer. Some students will use it for everything, and some dual media students will use it along with large or magnified print. If your child’s toolbox doesn’t include Braille (or a hammer), he or she might find it difficult to keep up with work in the classroom. The other students might be hammering away while the blind and low vision student is hammering with a screwdriver. If your child’s toolbox doesn’t include a long white cane, he or she won’t enjoy the freedom of independently traveling where and when he or she wants. By building your child’s toolbox, you will build a better future for your child.

We are excited to share our workshops with you and your family and hope to encourage you all to learn about the tools for independence. Our Youth Track program will give our students ages eleven to eighteen the opportunity to socialize and learn about independence from other students. Our NFB Kid Camp will also be hosting a National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (NFB BELL) Academy for children ages three to ten to introduce them to the skills of blindness from blind and low vision adults.  

Last year our young blind and low vision students sold “Megan Bening” angel pins in memory of NOPBC Board Member Jean (and husband Al) Bening’s daughter Megan. Over $5,000 was raised. Technology was a big part of Megan’s life, and we hope to keep Megan’s spirit alive by giving what she loved. We will be holding drawings for various pieces of blindness technology purchased from money raised through our NOPBC Megan Bening Memorial Fund. This drawing will be held during our Family Hospitality evening, July 3.

We are also gearing up to provide even more Braille and Twin Vision books for our annual NOPBC Braille Book Fair. During the book fair on the evening of July 5, families are given the opportunity to choose books free of charge and have them shipped home courtesy of our UPS and Wells Fargo volunteers. We are thankful for the numerous Braille books already donated by families and professionals across the US. We are also thankful for the monetary donations made which enable us to purchase even more Twin  Vision books. Braille rocks!

The NOPBC board and I look forward to meeting everyone in beautiful Orlando, Florida, this summer. Please visit our website to register: http://nopbc.org/2018nopbc or 

From the Editor: The State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development posted this announcement on its website on February 16, 2018, and the original post can be found here: http://labor.alaska.gov/news/2018/news18-04.pdf.

Following a regulatory change that goes into effect today, Alaska employers are no longer allowed to pay less than  minimum wage to workers who experience disabilities. In repealing 8 AAC 15.120, Alaska joins New Hampshire and Maryland as the first states in the nation to eliminate payment of subminimum wages for persons with disabilities.

An exemption from paying minimum wage to persons with disabilities has existed for many years, beginning at the federal level with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and in Alaska regulations since 1978. Historically, minimum wage exemptions were considered necessary to help people with disabilities gain employment. Experience over the past two decades has shown that workers with disabilities can succeed in jobs earning minimum wage or more.

“Workers who experience disabilities are valued members of Alaska’s workforce,” said Department of Labor and Workforce Development Acting Commissioner Greg Cashen. “They deserve minimum wage protections as much as any other Alaskan worker.”

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development received written comments expressing support for repealing the regulation that allowed the minimum wage exemption from the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education, the State Vocational Rehabilitation Committee, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Alaska Workforce Investment Board.

The elimination of the minimum wage exemption brings employment practices into alignment with Alaska Employment First Act of 2014, which requires vocational services help people with disabilities to become gainfully employed at or above the minimum wage.

Leave a Legacy by Joining our Dream Makers Circle

For more than seventy-five years, the National Federation of the Blind has worked to help blind people live the lives they want and, with your support, we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will join our enduring movement by including the National Federation of the Blind in your planned giving. Our legacy society is called Dream Makers Circle because those who join it turn dreams into reality.

You can add the National Federation of the Blind to your will. You can name the National Federation of the Blind as a beneficiary or partial beneficiary of a retirement vehicle, life insurance policy, pension, 401(k), or other asset. You can even gift a bank account.

A gift to the National Federation of the Blind is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is an easy way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want and leave a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.

With your help the NFB will continue to:

Give blind children the gift of literacy through Braille education
Promote the independent travel of the blind by providing free long white canes to blind people in need
Develop dynamic educational projects and programs that show blind youth that science and math careers are within their reach
Deliver hundreds of accessible newspapers and magazines to provide blind people the essential information necessary to be actively involved in their communities
Offer aids and appliances that help seniors losing vision maintain their independence
Fund scholarship programs so that blind people can achieve their dreams.
Please consider the National Federation of the Blind in your estate planning. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.

Invest in Opportunity

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness.

Your investment is your vote of  confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. 
In 2017 the NFB:

Distributed over seven thousand canes to blind people across the United States, empowering them to travel safely and independently throughout their communities
Hosted thirty-nine NFB BELL Academy programs in twenty-five states
Provided over one hundred thousand dollars in scholarships to blind students, making a post-secondary education affordable and attainable
Delivered audio newspaper and magazine services to 115,491 subscribers, providing free access to over four hundred local, national, and international publications
Hosted the tenth anniversary Youth Slam—a week-long science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) camp for blind high school students
Just imagine what we will do next year and, with your help, what can be accomplished for years to come. Below are just a few of the many diverse, tax-deductible ways you can lend your support to the National Federation of the Blind.

Vehicle Donation Program

The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call (855) 659-9314 tollfree, and a representative can make arrangements to pick up your donation—it doesn’t have to be working. We can also answer any questions you have.

General Donation

General donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.


Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.

Pre-Authorized Contribution

Through the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program, supporters sustain the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind by making recurring monthly donations by direct withdraw of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, visit www.nfb.org/make-gift and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.

by Mark Riccobono

Having the opportunity to serve as an elected representative in the National Federation of the Blind is an extreme honor and one that brings with it the expectation that we will do our best to represent all blind people and make them proud. In an effort to formalize standards that have long been a part of the expectations we have for leaders and members at all levels in the Federation, the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind has written a document embodying the principles we will uphold as national, affiliate, and chapter leaders. Federationists will recognize that this document formalizes and presents in some detail the long-held conduct expected of our leaders and makes clear our promise to be the kind of diverse and welcoming organization represented by our brand.

The standard we expect from our leaders mirrors those we expect of members and embodies promises we make to one another as we interact at our chapter meetings and at conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. A primary one is to provide a safe and friendly environment for everyone who attends. Our meetings welcome those from diverse backgrounds who have made advancing the good of the blind a goal that is so important in their lives that they commit their time and treasure to securing it. Everyone who attends our events can expect to be safe, to be treated with courtesy and respect, and to be appreciated for who they are. We make no distinction based on age, race, gender, religion, educational level, sexual orientation, or one’s affiliation or lack thereof with a political party or ideology. Here is the formal pledge that we make to one another to ensure that the Federation is representative, welcoming, and open to all who are engaged in our cause.


I. Introduction
The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. The Federation knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. To help carry out the Federation’s vital mission, this Code of Conduct sets forth policies and standards that all members, especially Federation leaders, are expected to adopt and follow.

II. Diversity Policy
The National Federation of the Blind embraces diversity and full participation as core values in its mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. We are committed to building and maintaining a nationwide organization with state affiliates and local chapters that is unified in its priorities and programs and is directed by the membership. We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross section of society. Furthermore, the organization is dedicated to continuing to establish new methods of membership and leadership development that reflect the diversity of the entire blind community. In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires individual struggle with unfamiliar ideas. We recognize that our views and convictions will be challenged, and we expect this challenge to take place in a climate of tolerance and mutual respect in order to maintain a united organization. While we encourage the exchange of differing ideas and experiences, we do not condone the use of demeaning, derogatory, or discriminatory language, action, or any other form of expression intended to marginalize an individual or group. The National Federation of the Blind does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics.

III. Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy
The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics. Harassment on the basis of any of these characteristics similarly will not be tolerated. Although this Code of Conduct establishes a minimum standard prohibiting discrimination and harassment, nothing in this Code should be interpreted to limit in any way a person’s right to report abuse or harassment to law enforcement when appropriate.

Sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal law and also will not be tolerated by the National Federation of the Blind. Complaints of harassment may be lodged by a female against a male, by a female against a female, by a male against a male, or by a male against a female. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.” The following conduct is either considered conduct that by itself is sexual harassment, or that has the potential risk of causing sexual  harassment to occur, and this conduct is therefore prohibited:

unwelcome inappropriate physical contact or touching;
repeating of sexually suggestive jokes/references/innuendoes and comments about an  individual’s body/sexual prowess/physical attributes/dress;
the use of sexually derogatory language/pictures/videos toward/about another person;
the use of inappropriate sexual gestures;
sexually suggestive propositions; and
explicit or implicit threats that failure to submit will have negative consequences.
Under this policy, harassment can be verbal, written, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law; or that of his or her relatives, friends, or associates, and that a) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment; b) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or involvement in the organization; or c) otherwise adversely affects an individual’s opportunities for participation/advancement in the organization.

Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts including bullying; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group that is placed on walls or elsewhere on the organization’s premises or circulated by email, phone (including voice messages), text messages, social networking sites, or other means.

IV. Social Media and Web Policy
All members of the Federation, but especially officers of the Federation as well as those in leadership positions such as state affiliate presidents, should follow these recommended guidelines when making comments online, posting to a blog, using Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/
Pinterest/Instagram/similar tools, and/or using other platforms that fall under the definition of social media:

Promote the mission and branding message of the organization in comments/posts.
Recognize that you are morally and legally responsible for comments/pictures posted online.
Be aware that the audience includes members and nonmembers of the NFB, both youth and adults, representing diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Refrain from using profanity/derogatory language.
Post/respond with integrity. Though you may disagree with a post, be respectful and factual. Do not fight or air personal grievances online.
Do not post materials that are inappropriate for children/minors to view/share/read.
V. Conflict of Interest Policy
Each NFB officer, national board member, or state affiliate president (hereafter Federation leader) is expected to take appropriate responsibility to protect the Federation from misappropriation or mismanagement of Federation funds (including funds of an affiliate, chapter, or division in which the Federation leader assumes a leadership role).

Each Federation leader is expected to disclose the existence of any potentially conflicting personal financial interest or relationship to the full National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and seek its review and approval, as specified below. For example:

A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of his or her receipt of salary or compensation of any kind from the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division).
A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of receipt by his or her spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other close relative of salary or compensation of any kind from the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division).
A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of any ownership interest exceeding 5 percent in or of any salary, compensation, commission, or significant tangible gift from any commercial venture doing business or seeking to do business with the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division). This process will also apply to the review of such interests involving spouses, parents, children, siblings, or other close relatives.
In reviewing matters brought pursuant to this section, the officer or national board member seeking national board review and approval will refrain from voting.
Each Federation leader shall take appropriate steps to avoid unauthorized or inaccurate appearances or official endorsement by the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division) of any product, service, or activity that has not been so endorsed. For example, because the Federation never endorses political parties or candidates for elected office, any Federation leader participating in the political process must take care to avoid creating an appearance of official Federation endorsement.
VI. Policy While Interacting with Minors
For purposes of this Code of Conduct and consistent with most legal standards, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen. While interacting with any minor, a national officer, national board member, or state affiliate president (hereafter Federation leader) shall recognize that a minor cannot legally give consent for any purpose even if said minor is verbally or otherwise expressing consent. For example, a minor may say that he/ or she consents to physical interaction. However, such consent is not valid or legal and should not be accepted. A parent or guardian must be informed and consulted about any action requiring consent from the minor. A Federation leader shall report any inappropriate interactions between adults and minors to the minor’s parents and law enforcement when appropriate.

VII. Alcohol and Drug Policy
Although alcoholic beverages are served at some Federation social functions, members and Federation leaders may not participate in any such functions in a condition that prevents them from participating safely and from conducting Federation business effectively or that might cause embarrassment to or damage the reputation of the Federation. The Federation prohibits the possession, sale, purchase, delivery, dispensing,  use, or transfer of illegal substances on Federation property or at Federation functions.

VIII. Other General Principles
In addition to the other policies  and standards set-forth herein, national officers, national board members, and state affiliate presidents (hereafter Federation leaders) shall adhere to the following standards:

Federation leaders shall practice accountability and transparency in all activities and transactions.
Federation leaders shall foster a welcoming environment at NFB meetings, events, and conferences that is a cooperative and productive atmosphere for all members and nonmembers.
Federation leaders shall interact with NFB staff in a professional manner and follow proper channels of authority and communication.
Federation leaders shall positively promote the NFB through verbal and written communication.
Whenever possible, Federation leaders and members are strongly encouraged to handle conflicts or complaints involving other members privately, directly, and respectfully. Nothing in this standard is intended to limit a Federation leader’s or member’s right to pursue organizational change through appropriate methods or to limit anyone’s right to file a complaint for violation of this Code when necessary.
IX. Violations and Complaint  Procedure
Violations of this Code of Conduct, after first being established through the process set-forth below, are subject to disciplinary action by the Federation. Such disciplinary actions may include but are not limited to counselling, verbal and/or written reprimand, probation, suspension or termination of officer/leadership duties, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Federation.

Any complaint for a violation of this Code of Conduct shall be filed with the Office of the President for the Federation. The President shall appoint a committee of no more than four persons to investigate the complaint and provide a recommendation for action or lack thereof. The committee shall be comprised of persons not directly involved in the matters being raised and who can be completely unbiased about the individuals and issues addressed in the complaint. Every effort shall be made to appoint a committee reflecting the broad diversity of individuals in the Federation.
Complaints shall be treated as confidential in order to protect the identity and reputation of the person about whom the complaint is filed and the person filing the complaint.
All complaints shall be filed as promptly as possible. Except under extreme circumstances, no complaint shall be accepted or investigated after a year from the time of the alleged violation of this Code.
Complaints that turn out to be false and used for the purpose of harassing, intimidating, or retaliating against someone will be subject to the same kind of disciplinary action enumerated above.
Any person dissatisfied with the resolution of a complaint may file an appeal with the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, which may, in its discretion, take such action as it deems necessary. No national board member shall participate in the consideration of an appeal under this Code if such board member is the subject of the complaint or if such board member cannot be completely unbiased, impartial, and fair while considering the matter.
X. Minimum Standard
This Code of Conduct is intended to recite a minimum set of standards expected of Federation members. It sets forth the spirit that the Federation expects of all of its participants toward each other and toward those who work with the Federation at all of its levels. It is intended to be interpreted broadly to instill a respectful, cooperative, and welcoming spirit in members and in the activities of the Federation.

XI. Federation Pledge and Acknowledgement of Code of Conduct
I, (Federation leader), 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. I further acknowledge that I have read this Code of Conduct and that I will follow its policies, standards, and principles.

by Maurice Peret

From the Editor: Maurice Peret began working as coordinator of career mentoring programs for the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in January of 2018. Having gone through the public school system in suburban Washington, DC, the term “partially sighted” was most often used to describe his status because of his very limited vision that would decline completely by the time he was in his early twenties. Although there was a chapter of the NFB in his area, he knew no blind adults after whom to model blindness skills or positive attitudes. He finally became a member of the Federation in 1991 through the mentorship of Ed McDonald who was then the president of the NFB of West Virginia where Maurice lived at the time.

He has worked in the blindness rehabilitation field since 1999 and earned the National Orientation & Mobility Certification in 2002. He has served continuously on the NOMC Training Committee which develops and upholds the rigorous performance-based standards of the Structured Discovery Cane Travel (SDCT) training model under the direction of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Maurice is grateful and excited by the opportunity to provide pre-employment transition-focused career mentoring programs that he might have benefited from when he was growing up. Here is what he says:

For seventy-eight years now the nation’s largest and most influential representative organization of the blind, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), has developed and nurtured its single most valued and effective asset: its membership. The collective experience of tens of thousands of blind men and women, passed down through the generations from one to another, has contributed to the ultimate success and independence of countless blind young people to carry the torch of leadership and to live the lives they want.

The cause of the Federation’s successful and long-standing reliance on and promotion of mentorship as a leadership development tool can be traced back to before the organization’s formation, to the unique and exemplary relationship between Dr. Newel Perry, an instructor at the California School for the Blind, and his protégé, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Dr. Perry earned a prestigious doctor of philosophy in mathematics degree with highest honors in 1901 before returning to his alma mater. He was a supreme teacher, scholar, mentor, friend, and colleague in his own right. Obviously Dr. Perry acquired life skills that allowed him to successfully overcome the myths and misconceptions that prevented other blind people from achieving similar success. More than a teacher, as a mentor Dr. Perry openly shared his experiences and strategies with Dr. tenBroek in a manner that allowed Dr. tenBroek to leverage those strategies to define his own future. Despite the capability their brilliant academic achievements demonstrated, both of these great, accomplished men had to struggle to overcome multiple brick walls to opportunities that society deemed insurmountable by them on the basis of their blindness. This struggle served to strengthen their determination to build the kind of national civil rights organization that would systematically chip away, brick by brick, at the social barriers that would confront future generations. In 1940 Dr. tenBroek founded the National Federation of the Blind, a nationwide organization of blind people that believes in the true capacity of blind people.

Dr. tenBroek explained that the key to Dr. Perry’s “great influence with blind students was first the fact that he was blind and therefore understood their problems; and second, that he believed in them and made his faith manifest. He provided the only sure foundation of true rapport: knowledge on our part that he was genuinely interested in our  welfare.” In other words, because he’d fought the same battles and faced the same barriers, his students believed his interest in their progress as students and developing humans was genuine and untainted by pity or charity. In the decades since Dr. Perry taught, research studies have empirically demonstrated that matching blind youth with successful mentors in this way increases their effectiveness in making decisions about their futures and increases their positive attitudes about blindness.

In October of 2004 the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute received a five-year model demonstration grant from the US Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to develop a mentoring excellence program for blind youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six. With this grant, the Federation established a National Center for Mentoring Excellence to design, develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive national mentoring program to connect young blind people with successful blind adults. Today we are building on the quantitative and qualitative data collected from that experience to establish NFB CAREER Mentoring Programs across the country for blind youth with a stronger emphasis upon pre-employment transition services as outlined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA). The NFB CAREER Mentoring Program combines best practices in mentoring with the  philosophy of the NFB—a philosophy that combines high expectations, a positive attitude, the value of alternative techniques of blindness, and the belief that it is okay to be blind. In the end, we hope to instill a conviction in the blind women and men we serve that they can live the lives they want and that blindness is not what holds them back.

The empowering role that mentors play in encouraging and modeling proven strategies and winning behaviors to young mentees can hardly be overstated. From the time they are very young, boys and girls begin to think about what they want to become when they grow up. Unfortunately, this is also the time that society begins to tell blind and visually-impaired children and their families that not only are they different from other children, but that this difference means that there will be less expected of them because they could never measure up to the expectations held for sighted children. Combined with the tendency for blind and low-vision youth to be underexposed to blind adult role models who are successful in a variety of technical, professional, and academic pursuits within the mainstream workplace, these societal misperceptions of the capabilities of the blind discourage blind children from using their imagination to combine their personal interests, aptitudes, and innate talents to dream big about what they want to be when they grow up.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Mentoring has become an effective strategy used by millions of men and women and thousands of organizations to offer the necessary guidance and support to combat low expectations and cultivate success in groups of people who have not traditionally succeeded in their field. The NFB CAREER Mentoring Program highlights the power of combining best practices in mentoring with the philosophy of the NFB—a philosophy that combines high expectations, a positive attitude, the value of the alternative techniques of blindness, and the solid belief that it is okay to be blind. Mentors can share personal experience of successful and unsuccessful strategies for challenging situations including confronting public and employer attitudes; navigating through programs such as Social Security and Vocational Rehabilitation; managing accessibility in education; and learning about access technology and employment opportunities. Young blind people who are not connected to a network of blind mentors must continually  reinvent the wheel by working through these challenges on their own. Our NFB CAREER Mentoring Program effectively uses the resources of thousands of blind Americans who have successfully navigated the path from education to career success and are willing to share their experiences and insight with young people.

The NFB CAREER Mentoring Program matches transition-age blind and visually-impaired youth and young adults with successful blind mentors in order to: increase knowledge of and participation  in the vocational rehabilitation process, increase postsecondary academic success, and increase high-quality employment and community integration. But unlike some mentorship programs where each mentee is matched with a single mentor, the NFB CAREER Mentoring Program is strengthened by matching each mentee with two to three. Information is gathered from the mentees about academic and career goals, hobbies, and extracurricular activities and used to match them with mentors who share interests or are successful in a career that matches with the mentee’s interests. This method has several benefits, including an increased exposure to educational, training, and career opportunities; a diversity of educational and work experiences for a student to learn from; an extended network of contacts for mentees to benefit from; increased community involvement and sense of belonging; and a more robust ongoing support system for the student as he/she tackles the early years of adulthood.

Blind youth need exposure to positive blind role models who demonstrate a solid belief in the abilities of blind people and can, through guidance and example, raise expectations and offer practical tips and tricks for accessing resources and acquiring skills for success. When successful blind role models take a concerted interest in the lives of young blind people, expectations are raised about what can be accomplished. As dreams become reality, practical lessons are absorbed, often without even knowing that the learning is taking place. With an intolerably high rate of unemployment and under employment of working-age blind people in our nation, knowing what it takes to succeed in the vocation of one’s choosing is critical. Navigating the labyrinth of the special education, vocational rehabilitation, and other social systems while juggling the dissidence and mixed messaging of expectation imbalances can become perplexing and wearisome. The personal knowledge and experience of successful blind adults helps ground blind youth to internalize the philosophy that blindness is not the characteristic that defines them or their future. Every day successful blind mentors help raise the expectations of blind young people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and their dreams. They come to know that they can live the lives they want; blindness is not what holds them back.

As participants in the NFB CAREER Mentoring Program, blind mentees travel with mentors in direct learning experiences. This is done using alternative travel techniques such as the long white cane or guide dog and by demonstrating how to use public transit systems. Working with one or more mentors is the perfect environment for observing and  practicing effective self-advocacy skills, all while learning to confront public misperceptions about blindness with grace, integrity, and respect.

Blind employees as well as blind job seekers must be proficient in the use of access technology including text-to-speech software, screen enlargement software, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs, and refreshable Braille displays. Aspiring blind professionals must be prepared to address how adaptive software and equipment can be used to perform the essential elements of the job and be able to effectively educate the employer about how this reasonable accommodation would allow the blind applicant to be a productive employee. Blind mentors who have successfully navigated these situations are able to share their strategies with their mentees.

The confidence derived from participation in a mentoring program equips blind youth with the ability to own the job interview. Roleplaying and role reversal exercises are useful activities in anticipating questions that may arise ahead of time and addressing them knowledgeably and confidently. Roleplaying between mentor and mentee is also an effective exercise that addresses social and professional morays such as appropriate attire, eye contact, hand shaking (e.g. when to and when not to), and being proactive and articulate in responding to interview questions.

Financial literacy skills are also  learned through practice in joint mentoring activities as blind youth are encouraged to engage in financial transactions such as paying for lunch or purchasing movie, paintball, or laser tag tickets. Mentees learn social protocol for calculating gratuity percentages and guide waitstaff in providing assistance in signing credit or debit card receipts. They explore banking options, learn to open a checking or savings account, learn how to balance their checkbook, and use web-based and mobile apps to track income and expenditures.

Blind mentors provide guidance and empower mentees to effectively self-advocate and consider options that might otherwise have been dismissed. Introduction to successful blind college students, tours of local colleges and universities, and interest surveys inspire blind mentees to consider or reconsider higher education. There is no substitute for spending a day or more with a successful blind student or students to observe how challenges are managed. The National Association of Blind Students and its affiliated state organizations provide an abundant source of peer mentors. These experiences also prove valuable in integrating with other students and faculty, relationships that prove helpful in ways that are not always immediately recognizable. Because academic readiness does not always equate to graceful fluidity in public and social interactions, mock interviews assist blind students with guidance on how to engage effectively in an interview. Blind mentors provide useful tips on how to independently negotiate new environments, how to address the issue of disability prior to or during the interview, interact with Office of Disability Service staff, and strategize about the management of appropriate accommodations.

It is widely accepted that job opportunities are generated most effectively through personal connections. Likewise, successfully employed or scholastically enrolled blind mentors share with mentees their accumulated networking experience in professional and academic associations, service organizations, fraternities and sororities, and especially through membership in organizations like the National Federation of the Blind.

Many Federationists have stories of how mentorship by an older or more experienced Federationist changed their life. For some it was someone in their local or state chapter; for some it was someone like past Presidents Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, or Dr. Maurer. And most of those Federationists talk about their determination to pay the time, faith, and confidence spent on them forward with new and younger Federationists. If you would like to know more about mentorship opportunities with the NFB CAREER Mentoring Program, go to www.nfb.org/mentorapplication and submit an application. If you are that young Federationist who would like to benefit from the advice and support of a mentor, go to www.nfb.org/menteeapplication to submit an application to become a mentee. This is how the Federation helps build a strong new generation of blind youth to continue changing the world until all of society believes that blindness is no true barrier to living the life you want.

by Allen Harris

From the Editor: Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former President and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2018 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:

Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando, Florida, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.

The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.

We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.

Who is eligible?

Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.

How do I apply for funding assistance?

You write a letter giving your contact information, and your local NFB information, your specific amount requested, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.
You contact your state president in person or by phone to request his or her help in obtaining funding. Be sure to tell the president when to expect your request letter by email, and mention the deadline.
You (or a friend) send your letter by email to your state president. He or she must add a president’s recommendation and then email both letters directly to the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. Your president must forward the two letters no later than April 15, 2018.
Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:

Your full name and all your telephone numbers—label them—cell phone, home, office, other person (if any).
Your mailing address and, if you have one, your email address.
Your state affiliate and state president; your chapter and chapter president, if you attend a chapter.
Your personal convention mentor, and provide that person’s phone number.
Your specific request:
Explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.

The body of your letter should answer these questions:

How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.

When will I be notified that I am a winner?

If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details that should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:

Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates of your own to reduce the cost.)
Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.
Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.
If you do not hear from the committee by May 15, then you did not win a grant this year.
How will I receive my convention scholarship?

At convention you will be given a debit card or credit card loaded with the amount of your award. The times and locations to pick up your card will be listed in the letter we send you. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by obtaining an agreement to advance funds if you win a scholarship and to pay your treasury back after you receive  your debit or credit card.

What if I have more questions? For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at kjscholarships at nfb.org or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, extension 2415.

Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level and join several thousand active Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Orlando.

by Amy Mason

 From the Editor: This is the third article in a series intended to help users of assistive technology learn to use and get the most out of the World Wide Web. Navigating the web is possible, productive, and enjoyable, but there are many parts to the puzzle, and this series of articles is intended to let readers examine each piece and decide how they will put together the system that gives them the access they desire to the vast resources of the internet. With her analytic mind, her vast knowledge of resources, and her command of language, here is what Amy Mason has to say, this time about screen readers:

Howdy class. I hope your homework went well. I’m looking forward to hearing reports on how things have gone for you in your test driving of alternative browsers. Since our last class, I’ve been spending a lot more time with Chrome. I’ve been pretty happy with Mozilla Firefox for the last several years, but it never hurts to test drive something different, especially when your regular car is in the shop (see our blog post on Firefox Quantum for further details https://nfb.org/firefox-57-and-screen-reader-compatibility. If you have missed either of the previous “classes” you can find them in the January and February issues of the Monitor and catch up.

Screen Readers—Our Dashboard on the Road

The final level of equipment we need to discuss before we can really start exploring the open road is your blind driver interface: the screen reader. Like browsers, you have many options available, and they offer different paths to the same basic information. Also, like browsers, each screen reader has unique advantages and disadvantages, so once again it is wise for users to learn more than one when they have the opportunity. Sadly, unlike browsers, there are many scenarios where you may be tied to a single screen reader, and you will need to consider carefully your browser choice based upon what is most compatible with it.

At its most basic, a screen reader is a software package that gathers information from the operating system and programs on your computer, tablet, or smart phone, (read “pocket computer”) and offers that information to you in the form of speech and/or refreshable Braille. Dashboards can vary wildly, from a minimal number of indicators to a mess of flashing lights and gauges. Choosing the right interface is essential for making sure you can get where you want to go.

To understand the screen reader’s role in working on the web, it is important to remember a few things about screen readers in general:

A screen reader can only relay information that is programmatically determinable. This is a fancy way of saying that it can only tell you what it has first been told. For instance, unless a website has been coded correctly, the screen reader will not be able to understand that a link is intended to be interactive. It is just like a faulty fuel sensor; it won’t be able to guess and can leave you stranded and hoping to hitch a ride to the nearest town. Furthermore, it will also be unable to do anything with that link if the browser doesn’t properly recognize the link and tell the screen reader what it is supposed to be. This is why we continue to have to work with operating system creators, browser manufacturers, and web designers to ensure that each of them is passing important information on so that screen readers can convey it to us.
Even though I just said screen readers cannot guess, some vehicles are starting to get good at diagnostics and may suggest a fix for that ‘check engine light,’ telling you to replace the spark plugs even when the problem is a loose gas cap. We users have to be savvy enough to understand when the screen reader may be attempting to guess and that we may know better than it does. The way you do this is a combination of knowledge of your specific screen reader, the tool you are using, (website, application, or otherwise) and clues we are able to gather from the information the screen reader will give us. For instance, if you come across the word “submit” all by itself at the end of a form, you may safely assume that this is meant to be interactive even if it is not read as such and try pressing the button. Keeping with our driving analogy, an experienced driver knows that sometimes your gas gauge will complain you are running on fumes because it doesn’t realize you are on a steep hill.
When we have this many layers of interaction, more frequently than we would like something will “go sideways” (Yes that is definitely the technical term). As such, it is worth learning how to restart different layers of the chain and to work backwards from the last to the first to see if you can gracefully recover from trouble. Your screen reader is at the end of the chain, so it is usually the first program that it is worth learning how to restart. Therefore, with each of the screen readers we are covering below, I will include a method for shutting down and restarting which you can use in a pinch to see about getting back on the road faster than if you need to perform a complete system shutdown. The browser and computer are generally easier to shut down since you have the benefit of the screen reader to provide you information about those processes, but of course restarting the screen reader is done without benefit of its assistance, so learning the commands or setting up shortcuts that will allow you to do so will be a worthwhile investment of your time.
When all else fails, it is important to remember that none of this is perfect, and it’s going to be the case that you will need to reboot occasionally. Sometimes you just have to get the gremlins out of your engine, or it’s going to keep  crashing. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t be too nervous about the outcomes. Computers and screen readers are generally pretty forgiving. Save often, develop your sense of adventure and humor, and don’t experiment with deleting files you don’t understand. By following this advice, you will be just fine when computing, whether you are cruising the information superhighway or rocking a spreadsheet.
Just a heads-up here: there are several screen readers you may be familiar with that I am not going to cover in this article. They fall into two categories. The first are our mobile and platform specific screen readers; these will be addressed in a future article since your dirt bike or smartphone requires a very different dashboard from a Ferrari. The second are those that hold just a small market share. Some have a very passionate fan base, but it is not practical to talk about every variant with its own collector’s club. The Back to the Future Delorean dashboard is iconic, but my wonderful editor might kill me if I submit a three-hundred-page article nine months late.

If you wish to read up on ChromeVox, I would recommend reviewing my article “Google in the Classroom: Chromebooks and G-Suite” in Future Reflections,  Vol. 36 No. 3 (Summer 2017). In the case of ZoomText, I would point to its primary purpose as a magnification tool and not a screen reader, unless it is paired with JAWS in Fusion. In this case the references and resources covering JAWS that appear below should be sufficient to get you started.

For those of you who are curious about the distribution of screen reader users here and elsewhere, you may wish to look at the WebAIM Screen Reader Survey #7 at https://webaim.org/projects/

And with those bits of advice behind us, let us look at the screen readers themselves:

JAWS (Job Access with Speech)–Space-age smart cars are here

Operating System Supported: Windows

Compatible Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Edge (sort of)

Obtained from: Freedom Scientific, a division of VFO group. www.freedomscientific.com

Cost: Widely variable—if purchased outright it will cost $970 for home use and more for business; however, some organizations (employers, educators, etc.) have deals with Freedom to provide the software to their users at drastically reduced prices.

JAWS is the last remaining early Windows screen reader. As such, it has had years and years of work behind it. This means that it offers a lot of customization—you can spend hours or even days setting this beast up to work exactly as you like it. Whether you want to use different voices for different elements, or sound effects to convey information, or even change how you interact with web forms, you can and likely will need to spend some serious time customizing JAWS to get the most out of it.

It is well understood by the community. There are more training materials, both free and paid, for this software than for any other screen reader on the market. For this reason, it is  still often the de facto option in many workplaces, colleges, and other institutions.

Likewise, there are many (mostly legacy) software packages and some websites that have been specifically coded to work well with JAWS instead of to the standards, and, as such, are more likely to misbehave when used with other screen readers. Hopefully in the coming years this will continue to change and evolve, but it’s a factor that we need to be aware of now.

If there is a screen reader that tries to guess at what’s going on in a misbehaving system, it is JAWS. It will often get things right, though it is important to be aware of this tendency because, when JAWS gets something wrong while guessing, it is more likely to really confuse the situation; it doesn’t tend to warn you when it is just a guess.

It’s built on a very large existing code base, so you need a more powerful computer than you might for other screen readers in order to have it run well. When bugs emerge, it can take more time for VFO to find and repair them than some of the lighter, more nimble screen readers.

In a nutshell, JAWS is a powerful large software package with a lot of development hours behind it. This means it will let you set everything up just the way you like it—everything from variable density in the car seats and automatic heated seat to the trip movie selections on the built-in TV—but when things go wrong, you probably need to send it to a specialist. Your friend who’s good with cars probably can’t fix this one in his driveway. Sometimes that complexity can get in your way; automatic sensors and cameras to keep you in the middle of the lane are great, except when you need to go around roadworks.

In this vein, JAWS offers pretty  comprehensive (if challenging to initially set up) Braille support and such extreme customizations as allowing for scripting even of individual webpages and applications.

On the web it attempts to guess at relationships between elements and labels when they are not explicitly and correctly coded. This is why you may find that JAWS will read labels on webpages where other screen readers will not. If you find that the first edit field in a set is unlabeled, but subsequent ones are, you can bet that JAWS is guessing, and one off. For instance, if you hear something like “edit, <tab> First name edit, <tab> last name edit…” you are fairly safe to assume that the first edit field is where your first name goes, not the second.

Further Resources for JAWS

The help topics and manuals for JAWS are extraordinarily comprehensive. You will also find links to a wealth of free and paid webinar information from the manufacturer. You can explore all of these materials from the Help menu in JAWS itself. If you are looking for a specific command in the application, press JAWS-Space followed by the letter J to open up a context sensitive search box where you can search for commands relevant to your location on the computer. You can also press JAWS-1 (on the  number row) to enable Keyboard learn mode. Pressing this combination a second time will return the keyboard to its normal state.

One training reference which is especially relevant to your experiences on the internet is “Surf’s Up! Surfing the Internet with JAWS and MAGic” It is a very powerful and interactive tutorial, even if they have the metaphor wrong. Although it is JAWS specific, much of the information in it can be generalized to use with other screen readers as well, and it may be worth exploring regardless of the tool you choose to employ. It can be found at: http://www.freedomscientific.com/Training/

Restarting JAWS

When you need to quit and restart JAWS and do not have a dedicated keyboard shortcut created, the most sure-fire method is to exit the program then open the run dialog by holding down the Windows key and pressing R, henceforth referred to as Win-R. Then type JAWS followed directly by the version number of the software you are running. So if you are running JAWS 2018 you would type “jaws2018,” and for v. 17 you would type “jaws17” followed by Enter without spaces.

NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access)—The best vehicle for non-drivers

Operating System Supported: Windows

Compatible Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Edge (sort of)

Obtained from: NV Access www.nvaccess.org

Cost: NVDA is free to download, but its development is supported through donations, so when you first download or when you update, you will be asked to consider donating to this most worthy application’s further development. You may also choose to purchase higher quality voice packs from several different sellers, which usually run between $50-$100 for a one-time purchase.      

NVDA is sort of the “anti-JAWS.” It is a competent screen reader that is focused on simplicity and speed, so when using it remember the following:

It is highly standards compliant. If the webpage you are reviewing doesn’t offer a label for an edit field and you hit that field with NVDA, it will not guess what the label should be. Instead, it will cheerily read back that it is “blank” and leave you to do the sleuthing to find out what’s nearby and likely to be the label for that item.
It is extraordinarily nimble—It is updated on average three to four times a year and often contains significant improvements from one version to the next.
It is also quite small and light. NVDA seems like it would probably run on a toaster, as long as it was running Windows (I’m still waiting Amazon).
Although it doesn’t offer the same depth of customization out-of-the-box, much about this screen reader can still be set to suit. Basic customization is available and very simple to set up. For more complex or experimental features, a plethora of add-ons can be included to make it work the way you like it.
Free and paid training resources certainly exist for NVDA and continue to be actively developed, but they are not nearly as comprehensive as those for JAWS. They also tend to be of mixed quality when it comes to the quality of production because they come from volunteers who bring various levels of knowledge when it comes to content creation. Even so, these materials are very useful and have the distinct advantage of being very affordable—when they cost anything at all.

In my opinion the most exciting thing about NVDA is that it is a screen reader that we as the community have the power to affect more directly than any other. It is open source, which means that it can be taken apart and studied, viewed, and improved by anyone with the know-how and desire. This is much like fixing up a car with your dad—adding pieces and making it your own with enough time and elbow grease.

NVDA is the screen reader written by blind folks for blind folks, and it shows. It’s not as polished around the edges, and the doors are not necessarily the same color as the bonnet, especially when it comes to documentation and training. But it has now been around long enough that people have started to create pretty comprehensive materials about its use. Furthermore, due to its free and open source nature, many web developers are using it to test their work, guaranteeing the best result for everyone.

Further Resources for NVDA

As I mentioned previously, NVDA is a program that has a lot of support from the community. As such, one of the best resources I’ve seen for this software is actually a community resource. Located at http://accessibilitycentral.net/nvda%20audio%20tutorials.html it provides several audio tutorials, links to other resources, including the official help page from NVAccess (https://www.nvaccess.org/help/) and several different and very comprehensive instructions for downloading and installing NVDA on your own computer. NVAccess itself has created a couple low-cost tutorial books which can be accessed from its official help page along with information for email listservs and paid technical support options. In the software itself, the user’s guide can be accessed from the Help menu. Finally, like JAWS, it is possible to enter Input Learn Mode by pressing NVDA-1.

Restarting NVDA

There are a plethora of ways to  restart NVDA when it is misbehaving. They include the following:

Activate the desktop icon or executable for NVDA while it is running. The application will shut itself down and restart.
Press NVDA-Q (Quits NVDA) and choose “Restart” or “Restart with Add-on’s Disabled” to unload and re-load the program.
Type “nvda” into the Run dialog box in Windows (activated with Win-R) and press Enter
When initially installed, by default, NVDA creates a keyboard shortcut, Alt-Ctrl-N, and pressing this at any time will launch or relaunch the program. Unfortunately, this conflicts with several commands available for the Google G Suite of applications. So I would recommend changing the default shortcut or disabling it if you are a user of those tools. Personally, I have found that Alt-Ctrl-` (grave accent, located to the left of “1” on most keyboards) is an excellent substitute since I am unaware of any keyboard commands that directly conflict.
VoiceOver—Driving on  the Other Side of the Road

Operating System Supported: Mac OSX

Compatible Browsers: Safari, Chrome, Firefox (sort of)

Obtained from: Installed on any Apple Mac Computer built in the last decade.

Cost: none

Voiceover is the name for all of the built-in screen readers available on Apple products. However, in this article we are going to limit our discussion to the Mac because mobile Apple products offer a very different browsing experience from that offered on the full desktop. With that in mind, here are the relevant details to keep in mind when you choose to use VoiceOver as you browse.

You are not behind the wheel of a Windows PC. The paradigms are very different. Modes of interaction, commands, and controls are all in different places and work differently from those you may be familiar with if coming from this environment. In my opinion, using a Mac with VoiceOver is very similar to driving in the UK, Australia, or other countries where drivers travel along the left side of the road, not the right. You can be just as safe, effective, and competent using a machine built for this environment, but if you are coming from Windows, (or the US and Canada as drivers) you are going to have to take some extra time to learn how things have changed, and you may find yourself reaching down to shift gears with the wrong hand until you grow accustomed.

VoiceOver receives updates at the same time as the operating system, so it’s important to decide just how comfortable you are with change and possible instability when choosing to update your OS. VoiceOver is the only choice you have on a Mac when it comes to screen reading, so if a bug hits which you cannot work around, you will be stuck until Apple offers a patch, unless you choose to reload an earlier system image to get back on your feet.

VoiceOver and OSX have a very dedicated fanbase. The number of VoiceOver users may not be as high as for Windows screen readers, but many of these folks are very active in sharing their knowledge, so training materials are readily available.     

VoiceOver, although it certainly has its own way of doing things, has a fascinating combination of traits when it comes to how it’s been built to behave. In standards compliance for local computer programs, it’s going to largely demand standard controls or changes to the desktop software it is reviewing in order to ensure accessibility. But on the web, it has the tendency to play guessing games similar to those played by JAWS. As with JAWS, this is both a blessing and a curse. Further, like JAWS, it is highly customizable, and getting down deep into the tweaks you can make with the package is going to be an important part of getting the most out of it.

Like other desktop screen readers, VoiceOver can be relied upon to offer fairly good access to software and content that is built to be accessible. This includes websites and browsers. Unlike screen readers for Windows, though, everything will feel very different until you have learned how to work with it.

I will admit that even after several years of use I just don’t feel quite as comfortable with this tool. I know many users who swear by it, and I am pleased that it suits them. That said, I continually seem to muddle my hands and controls when I use it. All I can say is that in the truest sense of these words, your mileage may vary. The best way to know is to find a way to try it for yourself, whether you ask someone to let you try it out on their machine or take the leap and get your own.

Even as someone who is not quite comfortable driving on the left side of the road, I can admit there are some really delightful and unique benefits. For example, on the Mac the Track Pad enables VoiceOver users to operate the computer in much the same way one operates the iPhone, with gestures. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest tricks that VoiceOver has to offer. Browsing the web with just a flick of the finger is really quite a satisfying experience

Further Resources for VoiceOver

There are a lot of Apple fans in the blindness community. I am not going to even try to name all the podcasts, articles, and groups available to get you connected with other Apple users. I will, however, point you to the group that I find has been of most assistance to me when I’ve been looking for tutorials, software reviews, and general information: www.applevis.com. If these folks don’t have what you need, they can probably point you to the resources that do. It’s a whole community of blind  people who are passionate about all things Apple and accessibility, and I would recommend looking them up no matter what your skill level or Apple device of choice.

As for VoiceOver internal help, pressing VO-H will provide you with a large number of resources in the software itself which you can use to learn how to make the most of this powerful tool. In the Help menu you can find Command Lists, the User Documentation, and even the simple interactive tutorial that is offered the first time you turn it on.

Restarting VoiceOver

You can toggle VoiceOver on and off by pressing Cmd+F5 on Macs with physical Function keys, or by quickly triple tapping the fingerprint sensor at the top right corner of Macs with the touch bar. If using the touch bar, a self-voicing menu appears and allows you to toggle VoiceOver on or off.


For those just starting out with a screen reader, your choice to use Mac or Windows should be guided by what you plan to use the computer for and your budget. Any of these three can be great options, depending on what you want to do. When choosing the proper screen reader for browsing, it honestly comes down to choosing the proper screen reader for you and then following up with the browsers that work best. Each screen reading interface is going to handle pages and browsers somewhat differently, but, like getting behind the wheel of any car for the first time, if you learn where the controls are and how to use them, you will find that with some practice you can become an excellent driver with any of these dashboard setups.

Even so, like with driving, if you  have the opportunity and inclination, you will benefit from getting comfortable with more than one model of car… I mean screen reader. The more time you spend moving between the different options, the more resilient you will be when you come across problems, not only because you will have different tools to choose from, but also because your mind and reactions will be sharper. Race car drivers practice in different conditions with all sorts of obstacles and track layouts so that they can hone their reactions. Your growing accustomed to unfamiliar screen readers, applications, browsers, and even OS’s will help to improve your reactions, intuition, and skill in the same way.

As such, I am assigning homework again. This time you have a choice: In your primary screen reader, endeavor to learn something new. Perhaps you can find a new plugin for NVDA or discover the shortcuts you can use on the web to jump between different elements in JAWS. You might even try the Track Pad for the first time with your shiny Mac.

For extra enjoyment, if you are fortunate enough to have a Braille notetaker, look at trying to connect it to your screen reader and enjoy the power of browsing with all the power of both your preferred screen reader and Braille.

Try something else. Borrow a Mac, visit an Apple store if you are a Windows user, or try one of the screen readers you don’t know as well. Even JAWS can be downloaded and used in forty-minute mode. You can learn a lot using it even forty minutes at a time.

One final option: teach someone else. You may feel very comfortable with the screen reader and computer you use every day. That’s great! Share that knowledge. Some of the greatest gifts I’ve received from my Federation friends and family are the gifts of time, teaching, and mentoring. Each of us is an expert in something; let’s share our expertise and make this world a little brighter for us all.

Class Dismissed!

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

Chicken Enchilada Soup
by Donna Wood

Donna is a retired human rights investigator who lives in Wichita. She is a past president of our affiliate and currently serves as second vice president. Here is what she says about this recipe: “This is my go-to soup that is super-fast and easy. It's so rich and creamy and guilt-free! It's packed with fiber and flavor. Pumpkin is the secret ingredient that makes the soup rich and creamy and adds fiber and vitamins.”

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1-1/2 cups chopped celery 
1 medium chopped onion 
1 large red pepper diced 
3 cups fat-free chicken broth 
3-1/2 cups (28 ounces) mild green enchilada sauce (use medium if you prefer more heat) 
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin 
1 small deli-roast chicken, deboned, skinned, and torn into bite-sized pieces 
1 7-ounce can mild green chilies 
1-1/2 cups frozen white corn 
1 package ranch-style salad dressing mix

Optional toppings: 
crumbled queso fresco cheese 
shredded cheddar cheese 
crushed tortilla chips 
chopped avocado 
sour cream

Method: In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the 
celery, onion, and red pepper until slightly tender. Add the chicken broth, enchilada sauce, pumpkin, chicken, green chilies, corn, and dressing mix. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes or longer. Serve with your choice of toppings. 

Shrimp Pasta Salad
by Susan Tabor

Susan is a member who lives in Lawrence and is the wife of our first vice president Rob Tabor. She has hosted several cooking-related demos at recent Kansas conventions. She says this is so good that she loves to double the recipe when she makes it.

8 ounces elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 pound shrimp, cooked, drained, and chopped into chunks
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced green onions
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup diced red pepper, for sprinkling over top to add some color

Method: Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour so flavors can blend.

Crockpot Sloppy Joes
by Tom Page

Tom Page is the current president of the Kansas affiliate and is employed as a professional musician who lives in Wichita. He admits that the recipe is a little loose, “I’m not sure how to translate from number of “shakes” to actual measurements, so feel free to play with it.”

1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3/4 pound ground beef or turkey
1 small can tomato sauce
five shakes of salt
six to ten shakes of pepper
six to ten shakes of garlic powder (to taste)
three or four shakes of Italian seasoning

Method: Combine ground beef, tomato sauce, and onions in the crockpot. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and Italian seasoning; mix together. Cook on low for at least four hours. Spoon onto buns. Makes 4 to 6 sandwiches.

Pumpkin Bread
by Sharon Luka

This one is a real favorite of Kansas Federationists. Anyone who has attended our state conventions has probably enjoyed a loaf of Sharon Luka‘s famous pumpkin bread.

Sharon lives and works in Salina and serves as our affiliate secretary. Sharon modestly says, “This recipe was originally taken from a former NFB Braille paperback cookbook. I have made a few simple modifications.”

3-1/2 cups flour
3 cups sugar 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1 15- or 16-ounce can of pumpkin
3/4 cup water
1 cup oil

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the mixture. In a separate bowl, beat four eggs. Add eggs, pumpkin, water, oil, and soda to dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased and floured medium-sized loaf pans. Place loaves on a cookie sheet (the cookie sheet is not required). Bake for approximately fifty minutes. 

Frosted Cappuccino Brownies
by Susan Tabor
These are wonderful, creamy, coffee-flavored, milk chocolate brownies. They freeze well too, according to Susan.

2 pounds milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup instant coffee granules or espresso powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
8 eggs
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour four eight-by-eight-inch baking pans. Place the chocolate chips and the coffee granules in a double boiler over simmering water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs two at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, then mix in the melted chocolate. Mix in flour until just blended. Divide the batter equally into the prepared pans, and spread smooth. Bake for thirty-five minutes in preheated oven, or until the edges pull from the sides of the pans. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate for eight hours. Cut the cold brownies into bars to serve.

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
2 to 3 tablespoons strong-brewed coffee or espresso, cooled
1 to 2 tbsp milk or cream, optional, if needed for correct consistency
1/4 to 1/2 cup cream (if you want to make cappuccino buttercream)

Method: Cream together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and cream (if making buttercream instead of regular frosting) using a handheld mixer or stand mixer. If icing is too stiff, beat in either more coffee or some milk or cream to make a smooth, spreadable consistency.  

After frosting these brownies, the more they set, the better they taste as the flavors have more time to blend. Twenty-four hours is about ideal, but it’s hard to wait that long! Enjoy!

You can also experiment with the chocolates; use half milk chocolate chips and half dark chocolate ones, or all dark chocolate, or milk and bittersweet chips, or all bittersweet chips. Different varieties/strengths of the chocolate will play with the other flavors in their own ways, so you may want to adjust the flavors like cinnamon and coffee and vanilla according to your taste.

Blindness Summer Transition Youth Learning Experience
Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Inc. presents Summer Transition Youth Learning Experience (STYLE) 2018. Spend part of your summer in STYLE!

The STYLE program offers three separate, five-day, theme-based educational/recreational programs. All of our programs are delivered by blind role models. STYLE students will learn skills, gain confidence, and have fun! Attend one, two, or all three sessions! Day programming and residential options are available.

Session 1: July 23 to 27: Fitness, Fun, and Friends:
Get fit, have fun, compete! Students will participate in individual and group recreational activities. Learn about proper nutrition while preparing healthy meals. Activities may include rock climbing, goalball, water sports, self-defense, etc.! Have fun while being active and hanging out with new and old friends.

Session 2: July 30 to August 3: Tech Trek:
Students will explore the world of assistive technology. Computers, smartphones, tablets, etc. are the tools which  will help students achieve success. Learn to effectively and efficiently use assistive technology in school, at work, and at home. Sign up for your Tech Trek adventure today!

Session 3: August 6 to August 10: Career Quest:
What jobs can blind people do? Where do you want to work? Students will explore jobs held by blind people and learn what those jobs truly entail. Learn what skills are needed to reach your vocational goals. Topics include résumé building, interview skills, soft skills, finding jobs, qualifications/experience, and more!

Contact Michell Gip, youth services coordinator, at (612) 872-0100, Ext. 231, or mgip at blindinc.org for more information or an application. We can assist you to work with your local vocational rehabilitation agency to attend the program. The first review of applications will occur on April 30, 2018. Apply today to ensure your space in this program!

Attention Blind and Low-Vision Students!
Are you or do you know a blind or low-vision teen who wants to spend their summer learning, meeting new people, and having a great adventure? Join the National Federation of the Blind at our NFB EQ program. NFB EQ is a jam-packed week of fun and learning.

Participants spend each day engaged in activities designed to strengthen their knowledge of engineering as well as their problem-solving abilities. In the evenings, participants hang out with the twenty-nine other teen participants while exploring the local community and participating in various recreational activities. Throughout the week, participants will forge new friendships while increasing their engineering knowledge, problem-solving abilities, self-confidence, and independence.

To learn more and to apply, visit http://www.blindscience.org/nfbeq.

The Specs:

Who: Thirty blind and low vision teens currently enrolled in grades 9-12 in the United States.

What: A weeklong summer engineering program for blind and low vision teens.

When: Participants will travel to Baltimore on July 29 and travel back home on August 4. 

Where: The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Why: To meet new people, learn new things, and have an exciting adventure!

How: Apply Now! Applications are due May 1, 2018.

How Much: There is no registration fee for this program. Visit our frequently asked questions web page for more details: http://www.blindscience.org/nfb-eq-faq.
Additional Information:

To be eligible to apply students must: be enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2017-2018 school year in a school (public, private, charter, residential, or home school) in the United States, be blind or have low vision, and be available to attend the entire program.
Participant’s transportation to and from the program will be arranged by the National Federation of the Blind. Students will travel to Baltimore on Sunday and will travel home on the following Saturday.
This is a residential program; students will stay in dormitories at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and all meals will be provided.
In the evenings, after the conclusion of the instructional day, students will be engaged in various social and recreational activities.
What are people saying about EQ?
“NFB EQ gave me more confidence to keep doing what I want—no one can stop me! The program opened my eyes to even more options in the field [of engineering], and it gave me some confidence that  I can do some mechanical stuff that I didn’t think I could do before.” – Michael, Texas

“At the program, I learned that there is accessible equipment—I can use equipment that is close to what sighted people use, like Braille rulers and click rules. At school, the tools for measuring in science aren’t always accessible to me.” – Lilly, Alaska

“I increased my drawing skills at NFB EQ. The tactile drawing board helped me because I could feel what I drew. Visualizations also have gotten easier [going from drawing to model to prototype]. In engineering, you have to picture an idea in your mind and then draw it before you can build it. When you draw it, you can really see how it's going to come together.” – Trey, Kentucky

“I am amazed at how the people involved in organizing this program made everything so easy for us. From organizing logistics to making sure the schedule was running smoothly for the students—the whole event was very successful. The staff’s warmth and attention to detail really eased my mind and made me feel good about leaving my son at the program for the week.” – Mark (father), North Carolina

"I was looking for a rigorous, highly academic science program that promoted and modeled independence, and the National Federation of the Blind was offering everything I was looking for. Still, I was hesitant. What if it wasn’t a good use of my students’ resources, or what if they weren’t safe? My fears were unwarranted, from start to finish. NFB made the health, safety, academic rigor, social experiences, and general well-being of our students paramount. Every detail was professionally planned and handled, ensuring that every moment, for every student, was as meaningful as it could possibly be.” – Laura (teacher of the visually impaired), Kentucky


Send them to: STEM at nfb.org; call (410) 659-9314, extension 2418; or mail to National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1712887. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of  the National Science Foundation.

In Brief

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.

Amazon Prime Discount Available:
Amazon is extending an Amazon Prime discount to Medicaid and EBT recipients. The cost is $5.99/month or $40/year, normally $12.99/month or $99/year. Applicants must upload a scan of their Medicaid card.

This offer has all the benefits except the ability to extend the Prime membership to Household Members. Benefits include Prime Video (a service similar to Netflix); two-day free  shipping; and Amazon Now, a service available in places where Amazon has a warehouse and can fill an order within two hours. To learn more about the service and to apply go to http://www.amazon.com/qualify.

Share Your Story:
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky, kicked off its 160th Anniversary Celebration with an open house on their founding day, January 23. As part of this celebration, APH announced a National Writing Contest. Students and adults who are blind or visually impaired as well as professionals in the field are invited to share their stories about the impact of APH products on their lives, as well as celebrating their personal success stories. Categories, word count, and topics are as follows:
Grades 3 through 5 (Maximum 250 words)
Official Topic:

The American Printing House for the Blind provides specialized tools and materials for people who are blind and visually impaired to learn and to live independently. Write a letter to APH telling us about either 

your favorite APH product: how you use it, and why you love it, or 
a product you would like to invent for APH: what the product would be called; how it would be used; and who would benefit from it.
Grades 6 through 8 (Maximum 500 words)
Official Topic:

Louis Braille, a Frenchman, invented the Braille code of tactile reading and writing in 1821. He died in 1852—six years before APH was founded in 1858. Write a letter to Louis and tell him either 

how Braille changed the lives of people who are blind or
how APH has changed the lives of people with vision loss since it was founded in  1858.
Grades 9 through 12 (Maximum 750 words)
Official Topic:

Think about the career or vocation you would like to pursue as an adult. Write an essay about how your strengths and interests will help you in this work. What person (or people) have empowered you to succeed? What APH product(s) has best prepared you for work in this area, and what product(s) will you use to become successful in this career or vocation?

Adult Consumers (Maximum 1,000 words)
Official Topic:

APH has celebrated many milestones since it was founded in 1858. For example: in 1883 a new building was constructed; in 1932 Standard English Braille became the only tactile reading and writing system produced by APH; in 1974 cassette tapes were introduced in the Talking Book program; and in 2003 Book Port was offered for sale. Write an essay about significant milestones in your life. What factors helped you to accomplish remarkable things and to overcome challenges? What APH product(s) have empowered you along the way?

Professionals (Maximum 1,000 words)
Official Topic:

Write an essay about the most creative, unique way you have used an APH product (or products). What is the product and what did it help you (or a student or adult you worked with) accomplish? 

Cash prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third places in each category. The deadline for all entries is June 1, 2018. For additional information about rules, eligibility, and evaluation criteria, as well as official entry forms, please visit the contest website at www.aph.org/contest/160th-anniversary-essay. Questions? Contact Nancy Lacewell at nlacewell at aph.org or (502) 899-2339, or Lauren Hicks at lhicks at aph.org or (502) 895-2405.

For the purposes of this contest, visual impairment is defined as corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye, or a visual field limited to twenty degrees or less. This includes those who function at the federal definition of blindness (FDB), described above, due to brain injury or dysfunction.

Braille Calendars Available:
I am selling handmade Braille calendars. They are Brailled on larger Braille pages, and there is space on each page to make your own notes and mark events, just like sighted people do on print calendars. These are also good practice for children and adults learning to read and write Braille or use a calendar and allow teachers and parents to create activities using tactile markings.

I’m creating these calendars using a Brailler, so there is no set price. I will discuss with each individual to determine price based on what they can afford. I will also Braille recipes,  words of songs, poems, stories, and other things that are not under copyright, except computer and music Braille. Whatever money I get will be used to help me attend the NFB convention and help others as well. If you are interested, please email me at adrijana.prokopenko at gmail.com.

State Resource Handbooks Available for Purchase:
I have created thirty-four screen-reader-friendly resource handbooks containing resources pertaining to the blind and visually impaired for use by consumers and professionals. This handbook is for the residents of specific states and includes the many organizations for the blind and visually impaired covering areas such as employment, housing, transportation, and more. Currently the handbooks are for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Oregon, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.

These state resource handbooks are not available in the following formats: Braille hard copy, audio, CD, and National Library Service cartridge.

The handbooks include contact information on the local, regional, and national level. For more information on pricing, formats, and order form please contact Insightful Publications by email at insightfulpub at gmail.com, by phone at (808) 747-1006, or by visiting http://www.in- sightful.com/orderpage.html.

Monitor Mart

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 sale.

Braille Watch Wanted:
I am looking for a Braille watch that has a spring and must be wound. If someone has one for sale, please call Eftyhios Scordas at (331) 245-8037.

NFB Pledge

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

Ever Lee Hairston, President emeritus 
National Federation of the Blind of California
H: 323 654.2975
C: 323 252.9188
ever.hairston at gmail.com

The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nations Blind. Every day we work together to help Blind people live the lives we want.

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