[Nfbmo] The Blind Missourian, March, 2010
gwunder at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 20 02:06:01 UTC 2010
Attached in a Microsoft Word document and placed in the body of this message is the March issue of the Blind Missourian. Happy reading!
THE BLIND MISSOURIAN
National Federation of the Blind of Missouri
Gary L. Wunder, President
3910 Tropical Lane
Columbia, MO 65202
Table of Contents
Legislative Notes By Brian Wekamp 1
HALLOWED HALLS AND COURTESY CALLS 2
By Tom Stevens
ED BRYANT: GREAT VALUE ADDED 3
By Tom Stevens
MY NIGERIAN JOURNEY By Rev Paul Weingartner 4
The Philosophy That Guides Us By Susan Ford 6
The Role of Sighted Members By Lois Ulmer 9
Kansas City Chapter Recognizes Two Deserving Members 11
By Shelia Wright
St. Joseph Chapter Report By Carol Henderson 12
News and Notes By Eugene Coulter 14
By Brian Wekamp
It is that time of year again where we focus our attention on our State Legislative issues. With the beginning of a New Year, we start to work on planning and following our issues through the Legislative process. For the 2010 State Legislative session we have two issues, the funding for the Blindness Skills Specialist and the accessible text book bill. The Blindness Skills Specialist funding has been an issue we have dealt with for at least eleven years and the text book bill has been an issue for three years.
The Blindness Skills Specialist funding follows the budget process through the legislature. The budget item starts in the House Education Appropriation Committee and from there it goes to the House Budget Committee. Once the House is finished with the budget item, it goes to the Senate Appropriation Committee.
At the writing of this article, about mid February, we have had to reschedule our Jefferson City seminar because of bad weather. The Jefferson City seminar is only the beginning of our work. The accessible text book bill which is HR 1880 has not been assigned to a House Committee yet. It is important to follow both of our issues through the legislative process and when there is a committee hearing it is very important to make phone calls and send emails to our legislators voicing our support.
I know that dealing with the same issues year after year can be frustrating especially when there seems to be very little progress. But just imagine how much better off a lot of us would have been if we would have had programs like these when we were in school.
I remember one time when I went to my first Washington Seminar someone asked James Gashel why we dealt with some of the same issues year after year and his response was the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That's what we need to do during these rough economic times for state government and make sure our programs are not cut. As a final thought it is going to take all of us to see that the future is brighter and better for our blind children of today.
HALLOWED HALLS AND COURTESY CALLS
by Tom Stevens
Our efforts to inform members of our state and federal legislators come into sharp focus every year about this time. Our efforts to inform these people are basically very successful. There are times when we critique ourselves sharply for those things that don't happen immediately, but the self-critique can mislead us. As for the activities of those bodies of lawmakers in the year of 2010, results will come. My experience this year is briefly presented below.
In Congress, I was one of seven Missourians who met with five of our congressional delegation. (I had made my schedule before congressional appointments were firm, so missed part of our work.)
We met with three aides in three congressional offices. Those aides typify those we see in Congress. They were young, intelligent, personable, and good listeners. In my opinion, they represented their bosses well, but they could make no promises.
In the past, I have exercised the option of making a "courtesy call" when no appointment had been forthcoming. We did this with the office of Congressman Lacy Clay, which has been quite successful in the past. We had no appointment, but his aide was present and gave us as much time as the first three offices.
As we considered our next move just outside that office, Sheila Wright mentioned that the office of my own Congressman was next door. While we had an appointment the very last thing on Thursday, we did have a schedule conflict with another appointment at the same time. So why not make a courtesy call now? I went into his office and noted my purpose to his receptionist. "Why not talk to him right now? He's right behind you."
Well, he was. He had been snowed in such that he could not return to St. Louis for the weekend and would be glad to talk with us right then. We spent a most agreeable thirty-five minutes with him. He exhibited a quick grasp of our needs, a sense of humor, such that I was quite favorably impressed.
In these calls, we are usually seeking that individual will cosponsor or otherwise help with the issue. At this time, some results are still pending.
On 23 February, I visited with 21 members of the Missouri legislature or their staff. I actually saw 14 of the 21. Some were so pressed in time that they got a one minute, standup briefing. At least three said that I could have all the time I wanted. What a wonderful change in that they exhibited much less pressure than was noted inside the Beltway.
A critical factor in all this is your report to those legislators of your opinion of our efforts. The visits and the courtesy calls are the starting point. But they have no knowledge of the strength of the urgency unless you give your input. You can either be a functioning part of the machinery or a missing cog.
ED BRYANT: GREAT VALUE ADDED
By Tom Stevens
In the late 70's, I began to receive phone calls about a guy who was walking with a tree limb, apparently for a cane. Did I know him? Couldn't I help him?
I didn't know him initially, but was soon able to make phone contact with him. No, he said he was doing just fine!
Then came word that he had moved into handicapped housing and shortly he met Gail Y. Jones. His life changed dramatically in a number of ways, including marriage. He joined the NFB and before long was an involved worker. We became much more aware of the impact of Diabetes. Ed had several episodes which were life threatening in that he forgot to take his medication. Gail saved his bacon several times with the candy, which she carried with her.
In the mid 1980s, Ed brought to us the idea that led to publication of the Voice of the Diabetic. For 18 years he edited the publication in its thousands and traveled nationwide to advocate to blind diabetics. He testified before committees and innovated several significant changes. Ed's value to the blind community was not limited to his interest in Diabetes. He was a great fundraiser and a great encourager. He was very much involved in the Diabetes Action Network, including its presidency.
He had excellent support from his family, especially when he received a kidney transplant. He was a risk taker in having a kidney transplant at that time and worked to reduce transplant rejection. One transplant survivor suggested that his influence had probably extended her life by 20 years. What a wonderful tribute!!
His creativity, his dedication, and his approach to problem solving set a wonderful standard. He was a tremendously effective participant in the Columbia Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, in the affiliate, and nationally. As a tireless promoter, he had few equals. His awards included a Distinguished Service Award from the National Federation of the Blind, but his contributions cannot be adequately assessed.
MY NIGERIAN JOURNEY
By Rev Paul Weingartner
Assemblies of God National Representative for the Blind
"The land of spams and scams" is the first thought usually conjured up in people's minds when they hear the word "Nigeria." It is unfortunate. This central African country is so much more than its world-wide first impression.
Diversity is probably a good description of Nigeria. From the mountains to the plains and on to the delta, the land diversity reflects the multiplicity of customs, cultures, languages and religions. Another description would be "friendly." In the airport, on the streets, in the villages, everywhere we went, people were respectful, friendly, and quick to forgive my cultural faux pas.
Education and technology are priorities for the people of Nigeria. Chiefs of villages with no running water or municipal electricity have degrees from American universities and carry cell phones.
The EVAMI private Christian school for children with disabilities is located in the city of Enugu in the southern part of Nigeria. Over the past few years it has been my privilege to assist the Assemblies of God Healthcare Ministries to equip the school to better serve blind children. My contributions were made from a comfortable office in Springfield, MO. The Center for the Blind of the Assemblies of God helped provide Perkins Braillers, an embosser and other blindness related tools for learning. My offer to make the 48 hour journey to Enugu was quickly accepted.
As the time approached, friends were generous in forwarding news articles of riots in the Delta, kidnappings in the south and religious persecutions in the North. The dangers were real. At one point we found ourselves praying," Lord, make this just an armed robbery and not a kidnapping," when civilians with large rifles stopped our car.
However, when it was time to leave my greatest fear was that I would be the only blind member of the team, and the only male. I would be dependent upon the ladies for all information that can only be obtained visually. Could I trust them? Would looking out for a blind man get old? Would I always feel like the fifth wheel of the team?
My fears were unfounded. Karen, Krista and Rebecca seemed limitless with joy to include me. Their descriptions gave a vivid knowledge of my surroundings. They painted mental images that enabled me to feel the ambiance. Even in sensitive situations, they were sensitive and professional.
Ones first impression of Enugu was not one of hope for a person with any disability. Finding even a faint measure of independence seemed impossible. Ruts instead of sidewalks; steps with no ramps: traffic patterns that defied the sighted; everywhere barriers squelched independence and inspired discouragement.
Yet, every government official we visited shared a vision of sustainable self-supporting futures for the Blind. Their goals were to find solutions within the Nigerian culture. Somehow it was easy to believe they would actually succeed!
On my first visit to the EVAMI School, I immediately realized that this was going to be a learning experience for me. Classes were held in a roofless building under construction. Hammer blows echoed through bare cement block hallways and competed with human voices. School went on!
Ebeah (pronounced eBay) was a sharp young blind skills specialist. His total blind skills training was in his junior high classroom. He was proficient in Braille, with a knack for teaching it. However, there were no Braille books in the school library. With the aid of a sighted reader, Ebeah would type Braille books on a Perkins. Unfortunately, his only paper was too thin to hold dots.
For almost three hours Ebeah and I explored a tub full of blind educational devices that accompanied my trip. I wanted to include toys and games but they would have been rejected by the culture. Instead, I found some great fun educational tools at Toys R Us!
I introduced Ebeah to his first long white cane. He initially perceived it as a useless American device. But, he quickly grasped the concept and fell in love with it.
Ebeah's trek to work every morning began with following the noise of traffic to make his way down a hill to the main street. There he would have to convince someone of his blindness and need for help crossing the busy intersection to catch a motorcycle taxi. Half way to work, he had to repeat the street crossing exercise to catch another motorcycle taxi. From the taxi he could follow the crunching of the gravel to make his way to the school.
With the long white cane, Ebeah could safely navigate his rutted road to the main street. People were more eager to recognize his need for help in crossing the street. Actually, helping a blind man with a long white cane became almost a novelty, especially with the young ladies.
Flores was a sharp and pretty 21 year old blind woman. She arrived at the school ready to fly home with me to enroll in an American school for the Blind. Explaining to her that it was not quite that simple was in itself not a simple task. I do believe that if she ever had the opportunity, she would be quite successful.
Flores was quick to tell me how leading a blind person by the arm as we do in the United States was inferior to the Nigerian way. I made a sincere effort to learn their method. Being a happily married man and, walking hand in hand with a young lady in a foreign country made me feel a bit self-conscious. We postponed the next lesson for a while!
I left Ebeah with a generous supply of slates and styluses and another Perkins. I also left him with a commitment to help build his Braille library and a promise to make an effort to return next year.
I brought back a greater application for the benefits our country offers it's Blind. I also brought back an admiration for the Nigerians who approach challenges with hope and ingenuity, and a love for the people who welcomed me with more respect and kindness than I deserved.
The Philosophy That Guides Us
By Susan Ford
The National Federation of the Blind was imagined by a group of rebellious blind people who were dissatisfied with the way things were for blind people. In 1940 this group of people met to form the National Federation of the Blind. They were led by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, a blind professor from California. As the years went by others were attracted to this man and his beliefs about blind people. By 1952 the organization was growing and having annual conventions and had affiliates in a number of states. Kenneth Jernigan was a member in Tennessee, where the 1952 convention was held. He became a leader in the organization very soon. He was a dynamic speaker and mentored many of us over the years. He was a teacher of great merit and in 1957 he was invited to move to Iowa, where he headed the Iowa Commission for the Blind and its orientation Center for 20 years.
I learned what I know of Federation philosophy from him and others who have joined the Federation since that time. Dr. Jernigan taught us that blind people were worth something. He believed that they were of equal value to all persons. His basic philosophy as the head of the agency was that blind people can perform the average job in the average place of business at least as well as their sighted neighbors with the proper training and opportunity. He believed that learning alternative techniques of blindness was essential to the first belief.
Dr. Jernigan and Dr. tenBroek before him were more than philosophers. They were willing to join their colleagues on the picket lines, in courtrooms, in politics, in recreational activities, and in every aspect of life, where you would expect sighted people to be. Dr. Jernigan led us out into rural Iowa to cut down trees for wood-burning in the fireplace at the Commission. He was willing to be at the other end of the crosscut saw, when new students were afraid they would not know what to do. He challenged students to do their best in all manner of things. When they doubted themselves in physical prowess, he encouraged them with exercise classes and even running in the streets of Des Moines, if they believed using a white cane kept them from doing so. When we hadn't the confidence or "guts" to represent ourselves, he did it for us. When I applied to be accepted in the college of education in the University of Iowa in the spring of 1964, they refused my application. I asked Dr. Jernigan to come and help me plead my case. That day I don't know what possessed me but I was afraid. I didn't show up at that meeting, but Dr. Jernigan did. He pleaded my case because I wasn't strong enough to do it myself. I was accepted into the college of education and he later reminded me that we all must help each other in order to accomplish first-class citizenship. He never chastised me for that weakness, but he helped and supported me throughout the rest of his life. But he did hold me accountable to do the same for those who became my students.
Dr. Jernigan learned how Dr. tenBroek thought and how to think with depth. He taught many students how to do that. I never learned as well as many, but I learned a lot. I learned that I was right in thinking that I should be a teacher. I could show others the philosophy and strategies of the Federation without preaching or hounding them. I could help others to strive for their best by trying to present myself in a positive way. There were many tasks that I taught over the years, but the most important one was to believe in oneself and then to go out and teach others to believe in themselves and each other. That is not the end of it however. After we have learned the skills of blindness important to blind people's success, we must, in a caring way, show all with whom we come in contact, what it means to be blind.
We are here because we have all become leaders in the National Federation of the Blind. Some of us are old members who come to such seminars to teach others and to continue to learn ourselves. You can bet that somebody today will say something which makes a difference in my life and in the way I lead the Lewis and Clark Chapter. Some of us are new members-not only new to the organization but new to the idea that it is okay to be blind. It is respectable to be blind. Down deep we may still have the idea that those with normal vision are better than we; that those with some vision have it better than those of us with none. Dr. Jernigan told a story on me once that demonstrates what I mean. I was conducting a meeting of the Parents of Blind Children and I had just mentioned the little girl who "had" to learn Braille. He reminded me that all children need to learn to read and write. You do not need to designate and separate children because of how they read. The important thing is that they read. The little girl who reads Braille is just as competent and just as impressive as the little boy who sits next to her and reads print. She might be a great deal more impressive than the child who doesn't apply itself or the child who plays truant from school. We must be careful about short-changing our blind friends and neighbors by belittling them inadvertently.
Along with treating our NFB colleagues with love and respect, we owe the same to others who believe differently. We can try to influence them, hoping that they will gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. But I remember talking about older members in the Federation who never learned Braille or never used a white cane, or always believed they had to go with a sighted person in order to shop. That was what society taught us years ago. After they joined the Federation, they learned what they could, but they may never have gotten as far as I did. And I may not get as far as the next generation. We need to find people who will fight the good fight in the future after we are gone.
When my kids both went to fourth grade, it was the first time they had gone to the same school. Brent had been in a resource class for blind children and Brenda had been in public school. In fourth grade they were in different classes but they were both main-streamed. The principal spoke to the children before they went to their first class and I was there to support them that day. He told them that so far as he was concerned, every one of them had all A's that year on the first day of school. If they kept those A's they would have to work at it. If they didn't, there was a problem, with their teachers, with their attitudes about school, or with the materials that they were using. I liked that. It places the responsibility for learning in the hands of the teachers and the students. That's what I want to do with my students, and that's what I think we ought to do with our membership. We teach what we can, and then we encourage and support as other leaders move forward. We have to share what we can before they are ready to move ahead of where we were.
There are lots of kernel book articles which help us along the way of accepting where we are and how far we have come and how much further there is to go. We can keep trying to reach the stars. We can try and finally stand on one foot. It is not enough to learn for ourselves alone. We must then reach a hand to the next person; walk with them as long as we can, and then welcome them to take our places in climbing the stairs all the way to the top.
The Role of Sighted Members
By Lois Ulmer
I believe that sighted members in a blind organization play a very important part of the whole population of the group. Through the years, I have learned many things about blindness, adaptation, and societal acceptance. Until recently, society was not about to adapt to our needs, wants or desires. We, as the blind, were reduced to handouts; and the government is still many years behind the times.
Society and the general public, used to see and describe the blind as severely handicapped. Everyone remembers the old movies depicting a blind man on the corner with his cane and his little pencil can, soliciting for donations just to survive. And the blind woman, well, that was such a disgrace to a family. Everyone was very sympathetic, but so totally ignorant, as was myself. The TV version of the Little House on the Prairie made blind girls a little more acceptable, but even this depiction of a blind child's life was not wholly correct.
I believe that part of my role as a member of this group, is to help educate the public about blindness and blindness issues, our wants, needs, and desires.
When I went to Baltimore a few years ago for a leadership conference, I met Dr. Marc Maurer, our National President. I was speaking to the group about something concerning "your" blind group when I was corrected. As long as I am a member, it is considered "my" group. I am a member. I am a fellow advocate. It makes no never-mind that I am not blind. I am part of the group. I have the same duties as assigned to me and obligations as any other member of this organization.
But, because I am not blind, I need to be educated in the ways and considerations of the blind population. That is why I need to learn and ask questions. I am still learning and asking questions. If I am to advocate for our causes, then I must know my information. I must know the answers to the questions that may be asked of me as a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
In my many years now, I have asked many, many blind members how they lost their sight. I am not being curious or nosy, but I want to be educated in these matters and problems, so that I can be an asset in finding others that need the support of the National Federation of the Blind in their lives.
If I know nothing about macular degeneration or diabetes sight loss, then when I come across a person that could benefit from our support, I have nothing to show and am just as ignorant as any other sighted person. I am not saying that all sighted persons are ignorant, but merely uneducated to the lifestyle of blind persons.
I firmly believe that blind persons can and should do anything they wish to do. A person that has been blind for quite some time usually does not need my help in day-to-day tasks, as they have grown up with this life and it is the norm for them. They would not have it any other way. And that is the way life should be for any person, blind or sighted. Years ago I would have tried to assist a blind person because I felt sorry for them.
Today, I have a more educated perspective of blindness. I have learned that blind persons will ask if they desire assistance. I have learned that some blind persons are quite independent and this is as it should be. I also feel that blind persons need to speak up for themselves. There are blind persons who can get themselves to work, home, and the grocery store without assistance from anyone.
There are times when a blind person needs a little assistance, such as the catsup on your tie from lunch, or you are dragging a half a roll of toilet paper stuck to your shoe down the hallway at work. This kind of stuff happens to everyone, and anyone would let their friend know, politely, of course, sighted or blind.
A newly blind person may require some extra assistance, which I feel, should come from another blind person, but I also feel that a sighted person could be a mentor to a blind person. A sighted member could mentor a newly blind person, but first they must be educated in blind customs. By customs, I mean, more like rituals so to speak, daily living for blind persons. Such as the way money is folded so that blind persons can tell which bill is which or replacing items in the place that you found them. Some of this knowledge is just common sense for everyone.
I have been somewhat educated about the adaptations that blind persons make in their daily lives over the years. Every day that I am with my blind peers I am amazed at the way that technology has caught up with some of the nuisances that face my friends. Someone might say that blind persons are not my peers. I say, sure, they are people just like me. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like me.
A cane travel lesson taught me much more about blindness. It made me especially frightened for newly blind persons. I was thinking of all the challenges that faced them. I was hoping and praying that they would be able to tackle any task and find the strength through mentors and the National Federation of the Blind teachers and mobility experts to regain their independence.
Whenever I am with a group of friends I may do things for them, such as run an errand or get them a drink. I do these things for them, not because I think that they are incapable, but because I love them and they are my friends. They would do the same things for me for the same reasons. I did not say with a group of blind friends, I said friends because that is the way that it should be.
I hope to remain part of our group for a long time. I look forward to serving with the National Federation of the Blind in any capacity that I am able. My goal is to do my best to educate other sighted persons about blindness and I vow to advocate for our issues. Thanks for being my friends and letting me be part of "our" group.
Kansas City Chapter Recognizes Two Deserving Members
By Shelia Wright
On December 12, 2009, the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri - Kansas City Chapter presented its Five Star Award to Jana & James (Jim) Moynihan for their long time leadership and commitment to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Jana became a member of the Federation in the sixties. She has served our Kansas City Chapter, NFB of Missouri and national organization for over forty years. On a local level, Jana has served as President, First and Second Vice President, Secretary and as Chair of most committees at one time or another. She holds the distinction of being the longest serving member of the Kansas City Chapter. In the early years, she was instrumental in the development of the first NFB of Missouri's Student Division. She has served as First Vice President of the NFB of Missouri, and on the front lines throughout the years as an enthusiastic supporter of our movement. On a national level, one of the memories Jana fondly speaks of is her work with the Cultural Exchange and International Program (CEIP). Her work with this committee extended our reach to blind persons in other countries.
Jim became a part of the NFB in the seventies and was an active member of the Federation prior to his coming to Missouri. He too has served unselfishly at all three levels of our organization. Jim was the President of the Kansas City Chapter in the mid eighties and again two years ago. At the state level, he has served as Corresponding Secretary, Resolutions Committee Chair, President of the Missouri Guide Dog Division, and as a long time member of the NFB of Missouri State Board of Directors. In addition, Jim served as President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU).
The Moynihans have worked both individually and as a couple, to further our cause of security, equality, and opportunity for all blind persons. They are passionate about the philosophy of the NFB and apply it to their everyday lives. Jana retired several years ago after a successful career as an Investigator for the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Jim retired about a year ago from his job as an Investigator with the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education. They are home owners, proud parents of two wonderful children, and participants in community organizations/activities. They look forward to relocating to St. Louis where they can be near their adult children and all the new experiences ahead.
With the presentation of our Kansas City Five Star Award, We pause to salute Jana and Jim Moynihan for all they have done to help make the National Federation of the Blind what it is today.
St. Joseph Chapter Report
By Carol Henderson, president
On October 29, 2009 our chapter had a wonderful experience during meet the blind month; we were invited to a Diabetes convention. The NFB had a table along with 30 other organizations. Lois Ulmer and I were overcome by the many people that were there. We handed out over 1,000 information packets, talked to almost half of the people, and in fact we ran out of our information. We were invited to the next one which I am going to double up on my packets.
We received some leads on potential members. We will becontacting them and letting them know about our chapter. Wish us good luck. Lois Ulmer showed off her Louis Braille coin and handed out cards about how to get them, it was a tiring but great day for the St. Joe chapter.
Also during this month we had a meeting with the Savannah, Missouri mayor who promised to help get a potential chapter started as soon as May or June. I am looking forward to working with the mayor.
News and Notes
By Eugene Coulter
Long time Columbia Member Ed Bryant died on December 5 see the article "Ed Bryant Great added Value" in this issue. Kathleen Coulter, mother of Gene Coulter, died October 17 of complications of Alzheimer's disease. Our great friend Mike Merrick died on February 24 suddenly on his way into work with Rehabilitation Services for The Blind. Mike could always be counted on to be in the corner of blind consumers in this state and will be greatly missed.
Goldina and Dustin McKnight celebrated the arrival of Charlotte Rose in August. Goldina is the daughter of Cora Underwood and Lawrence and Dacia Luck's sister. Susan Ford became a Grandma on February 19 when her daughter Brenda gave birth to Zane Ford Axmaker . The mothers, babies and families are all doing well.
Jana and Jim Moynihan are doubly proud parents as both of their children James (JC) and Janine got married. Both couples reside in the St. Louis area. Congratulations to Jeremiah Wells on his retirement from the Business Enterprise Program and to Brian Wekamp on his brand new job in the state Capitol Building cafeteria.
Note: Submit snippets for this regular feature to the editor for inclusion to cjcoulter at centurytel.net.
Board of Directors
National Federation of the Blind of Missouri
Gary Wunder, President
Shelia Wright, First Vice President
Tom Stevens, Second Vice President
Debbie Wunder, Recording Secretary
Dacia Luck, Corresponding Secretary
Carol Coulter, Treasurer
Susan Ford, Lois Ulmer, Jim Moynihan, Jeremiah Wells, Bill Neal, Brian Wekamp, Bryan Schulz
Debbie Wunder, Columbia Helen Parker, South Central
Rita Lynch, Jefferson City Gary Horchem, Springfield
Shelia Wright, Kansas City Carol Henderson, St. Joseph
Susan Ford, Lewis and Clark Bryan Schulz, St. Louis
FREE MATTER FOR THE
BLIND AND PHYSICALLY
NFB of Missouri
1613 Blue Ridge Rd.
Columbia, MO 65202
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