[Nfbmo] The Blind Missourian

Gary Wunder GWunder at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 8 12:06:55 UTC 2011

Here is our newsletter. Thanks Carol.

June, 2011

National Federation of the Blind of Missouri

Gary L. Wunder, President

3910 Tropical Lane

Columbia, MO 65202

Phone: 573-874-1774


Table of Contents


Presidential Report by Gary Wunder

Overcoming the Odds by Kirk Ford

Voting by Shelia Wright

Voting on Election Day by Christina Mikula

2011 State Convention Resolutions

St. Joseph Chapter Goes to Senior Awareness Fair by Lois Ulmer

Susan Ford by Carol Coulter

Future formats of the Blind Missourian by Carol Coulter








Delivered to the

National Federation of the Blind of Missouri

St.  Joseph, Missouri

March 26, 2011



Each year I start by asking myself what we have done since last we met that
justifies the convention's time to report and space in the Blind Missourian
to reprint.  Sometimes what I say here is surprising to the audience because
it involves work we've done but which has not been well publicized.
Sometimes it is information everybody knows, but we need a record to see
that it gets in our history so future generations will have it as they deal
with the problems of their day.


Two weeks ago I read a post from our newsletter editor's list in which the
contributor opined that perhaps she was an idealist, but she wanted to write
something that would change the world, to fix things so the struggles she
went through would never have to be endured by another generation of blind
people.  This made me think about how often I've said and felt the same
thing, and yet, this year has taught me that our service in the Federation
has not put in place any permanent fixes for the problems confronting blind
people.  We have civil rights laws and we still have discrimination.  We
have blindness education programs on the radio, on television, and in the
schools of our state and nation, but we still have judges sanctioning the
taking of children and placing unreasonable limitations on parents because
they are blind.  We have had literacy campaigns, two Braille coins flown in
the shuttle for a week in space, and a year-long celebration of Louie
Braille's two-hundredth birthday but at the same time find Braille being
taken away from a second-grade blind student because it is seen as a
handicapping limitation rather than a liberating path to freedom and the
enjoyment of reading.


Maybe I'm becoming jaded, cynical, or am just suffering the crabbiness of
getting older, but my goals are changing.  I no longer want to save the
world or make a mark that will forever be my contribution to a better
future.  No, I want to make a difference for today and tomorrow and for
every tomorrow that I have breath.  Let God and the people who come after me
take the same responsibility for their present that we are taking for ours,
and maybe, just maybe, this is really what makes the world a place in which
blind people will flourish and move ever closer to true equality with the

One of our annual traditions is to sponsor the Jefferson City Seminar.
Although I could not personally attend because I participated in an IEP,
this year's event was one of the best attended in years.  Our issues are
familiar: a bill to make it easier for blind students to get textbooks, a
bill to mandate accessible software for the taking of tests; a bill to fund
the Blindness Skills Specialists Program; and a bill to prohibit disability
from being used as the reason to take children from blind parents.  All of
these are issues we've worked on before except the last, and I'll say more
about it later.  Budgets are tight everywhere: in our homes, in our
chapters, and at every level of government.  Thank you for coming, thank you
for giving, and thank you for not quitting just because the road is long and


Four people went to the Washington seminar with support from the Affiliate
this year: Dan Flasar, Shelia Wright, Roger Hangar, and Debbie Wunder.  We
are asking Congress to help us reform the education system so that blind
people are provided with instruction and expected to meet standards equal to
the sighted.  Too often the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has
been construed to mean that having expectations for blind students violates
the spirit and letter of the law.  Because all education must be
individualized, so the argument goes, all standards must be individualized,
meaning there are no standards if one is blind.  What we propose is a
commission to establish standards for blind people that are commensurate
with those for the sighted--proficiency in reading, writing, math, science,
history, geography, and any other subject taught in the elementary and
secondary system.


We are also asking CONGRESS to help blind people by including us in the
programs of the Small Business Administration targeted to help minorities.
We request assistance in getting federal contracts and the training required
to run a successful small business, and we also propose giving a tax credit
to those who buy from us.


Lastly, our request is that Congress support a Technology Bill of Rights for
the blind that will improve non-visual access to everything from office
equipment to consumer electronics.  This act is absolutely essential if we
are to remain self-supporting and live independently in the information age.


In 2008 we held a very successful Mission Believe.  Thanks to a grant from
the Imagination Fund and our affiliate board, a second one was held this
year at Camp Windermere.  Those who participated have written some wonderful
testimonials about what the weekend experience meant to them, but the most
moving thing I heard came from a young man who said: "I tried a lot of the
adventure activities, and I really didn't do very well with any of them.  I
couldn't climb the wall, and I had trouble climbing the rope.  What makes me
feel good, even though I didn't get very far, was that for the first time I
had people who really believed in me.  I want to come back next year, and I
want to get to the top, and maybe, with all of you believing in me, I really


For several years now we have said one of our most important goals is
recruiting and retaining members.  Two membership seminars were held this
year, one in St. Louis and one in Jefferson City.  Both were well attended,
and both seem to have made some difference.  We have to keep this up, but
the major factor in our success probably won't be state initiatives as much
as local events and good follow-up once they are held.  Forming close bonds
is the key, and helping people feel involved will make all the difference in
whether they come for a look and leave or come for a look and stay for a


I am proud to tell you that again this year we sponsored the Braille Readers
are Leaders contest at the Missouri School for the blind and gave awards to
thirteen young people for their accomplishments.  Stephanie McDowell chaired
this effort and was ably assisted by Bryan Schulz and Susan Ford.  This was
Stephanie's first attempt chairing a statewide effort, and she did a
tremendous job.  Remember that Stephanie was the woman who appeared on our
agenda several years ago to tell us about her graduate degree in social work
and to remind us that, when she first applied for vocational rehabilitation
services, the agency and the Missouri School for the Blind suggested that
she work in a sheltered shop because they believed she was developmentally
disabled.  How wrong they were, and how very fortunate we are.


If you were here this morning, you heard the story of Blake, Erika and Baby
Mikaela and how the joyous birth of their child was marred by a governmental
body that didn't know a thing about blindness.  You know we took their case,
spent ten-thousand dollars to reunite their family, and are now spending
more each month to establish a legal precedent that can be used by the next
family when this happens again--and, have no doubt, it will happen again.


When people heard about this travesty, their first question was "Is this
really true? Could this really be happening in 2010? In what backward state
is this occurring? You say Missouri? In what podunk town does this family
live? Independence, the home of Harry Truman; isn't that right there in
Kansas City? I just don't believe it." But, believe it or not, it happened,
and it doesn't matter that it happened in Missouri.  It could have happened
anywhere, because the myths and misconceptions about blindness exist


We're working on a law that will make it illegal to discriminate against a
parent or parents simply because they are blind.  It appears to have enough
support to pass by consent through the House, but the law won't stop this
from ever happening again--it will only make it less likely and perhaps
easier to reverse when it does.  The best defense against the injustice
endured by Mikaela, Blake, and Erika isn't in the statute books or court
precedent; it is found here, where blind people who believe in blind people
come together to stand tall for one another, to provide words of
encouragement and hope, and to raise the funds necessary to hire the
attorneys and generate the press that brought Baby Mikaela home.  I pray
that, when next there is a call for help, the young people of this state and
nation will be there to answer it under the banner of the National
Federation of the Blind and to assure the victims that somebody is committed
to spending every last dollar and every last ounce of their energy and
reputation to see that justice is done.


You heard this morning about Kirk Ford, a decent, competent, intelligent
young man who, among his many traits, has one which worked against him in
the eyes of the law as he seeks to carry out his responsibilities as a
father.  Kirk is blind.  Yes, he sees some.  I can raise fingers on my right
hand and if he's close enough he can count them, but he is blind--so blind
someone presumed to say he couldn't care for his youngest child who is an
infant, so blind he was presumed incapable of exercising sound judgment when
crossing heavily trafficked streets and needed to be court-ordered to avoid
specific intersections by name.  Is the protection for Kirk, Cerise, and
Jacob a new law or a costly legal precedent? If those things will afford
some protection, we'll pursue them, but the real protection is an active and
vital group committed to the proposition that Kirk and people like him are
normal, competent human beings, whose disability, not being able to see,
makes not one bit of difference in nurturing and raising a family.  We are
that group, the National Federation of the blind, and though we are
volunteers, we run a business, a very serious business, whose work makes all
the difference for blind people who want to live with and care for a family.


Kendra Damron is an eight-year-old child attending the second grade at Cass
Midway R1, the school from which I graduated in 1973.  Kendra has Albinism
and is legally blind.  According to the law we helped pass in 1990, Braille
should be the default learning method for blind children, but we know that
one of the first things the task force charged with implementing the
newly-passed  law did was develop a template with model language saying that
Braille had been considered and was not appropriate for student x.  To its
credit Cass Midway has been working with Kendra for almost four years by
providing what is called tactile awareness since she was in preschool.  In
Kindergarten they began teaching her Braille, but in February of this year a
meeting was held and a decision made to stop Braille instruction.  The
argument given was that Braille was interfering with Kendra's learning of
the curriculum, the core subjects on which she is required by the state to
be tested.  Specifically Kendra's Braille instruction was getting in the way
of teaching her science and social studies.


The school noted that Kendra's ability to read print far outstripped her
ability to read Braille by a ratio of at least four to one.  If this sounds
strange to you, understand that it also sounded strange to Kendra's parents,
to their representative from the MISSOURI Protection and Advocacy Service,
and to me as a representative of the National Federation of the Blind.  It
turns out that Kendra's Braille instruction does not incorporate material
used in her other classes.  She does not use Braille to read assignments or
to complete them.  For this she is told to use print.  Braille is taught
with flash cards and lists of contractions, the number of contractions
Kendra knows being a measuring stick for how far along she is in Braille.
To complicate things further, the aide who helps Kendra is learning from a
different text than Kendra's Braille teacher is using, so she and Kendra
aren't learning the same contractions at the same time.  Work the aide
prepares may have contractions Kendra has never seen, or, just as confusing
for Kendra, may contain spelled out forms of words that Kendra is being
trained to recognize in contracted form.  Imagine the absurdity of divorcing
the learning of reading and writing from the benefits reading and writing
afford: the ability to read a page and make a friend by getting to know a
fictional character, or to read a chapter and to know something important
about American history.  Imagine learning to write but never seeing your
teacher read what you have written to praise your creativity or urge that
you do a little better with spelling.  Braille has been as unrelated to
Kendra's school work as my Spanish class was to my algebra.  Is it any
wonder that she initially expressed some resistance to learning it?


We made our best arguments for Braille, but we lost.  The decision had been
made before we offered one word of evidence.  We were allowed to speak,
because to forbid us to have our say would have been actionable.  But we
were not heard, for no law can require that one person really hear and seek
to understand another.  The law can require that certain formalities be
observed, but it cannot open the heart to the pleas of two good parents
asking that their child be taught a skill which will not only allow her to
read but make her want to read.  A law cannot require those paid to educate
to listen to the thousands of blind people who believe they were cheated out
of the ability to efficiently read, write, and speak from a manuscript
without holding it three inches from their face.


As Kendra gets older, her print will get smaller.  Today her assignments are
measured in pages; soon she will be required to read chapters; when she goes
to college, her reading load will be measured in books.  Kendra needs a
system robust enough to let her read for three minutes or three hours.  She
needs a system that will not cause her to associate getting information from
a page with eye strain, headaches, and fatigue.  The written word must be
more than something Kendra can endure; it must be a sustaining force in her
life, a path to recreation, knowledge, and employment.  Should Kendra be
learning print? Of course she should.  I know print; you know print; all of
us benefit from a knowledge of the shapes that sighted people use to read.
But Braille is a vital tool in Kendra's struggle to be a normal, capable
adult, and we'll stand with her and do whatever it takes to see that she has
the right to learn to read and write efficiently, her back straight and her
head held high.  Kendra's native talent and motivation will determine who
she will become, but we will see that she has the opportunity to become
anything she wants.  We will see that Kendra learns to read with a system
that will serve her a lifetime.


I want to conclude on a personal matter, talking with you for a moment about
my new job.  Last year I went from a position with the University of
Missouri where I had worked for thirty-one years to one with the Cerner
Corporation.  I was still programming and still sitting in the same chair.
I retired from the University on a Friday and was back at work on Monday.
As work experiences go, this was strange.


I was pleasantly surprised when, in June, President Maurer called to ask if
I would like to become the editor of the Braille Monitor.  I asked for a day
to think about it so I could discuss the offer with Debbie, and we were both
excited by it and I took the job.


For me this second career is a tremendous opportunity.  I have long enjoyed
writing but, am having to cultivate my skill as an editor.  I have too often
written by seeking to imitate the style of popular authors, but imitation is
a far cry from knowing the rules of grammar and applying them in my writing
and the writing of others.  I am trying to learn the skills my predecessor
has so masterfully demonstrated when she's worked on my writing for years:
the ability to make it grammatically correct, while changing so little about
it that I clearly recognize it as my own and wonder where it has been
modified.  The learning curve has been tremendous for me, and I find the
English language much more difficult than any syntax I ever learned to talk
to a computer.  I know that the time I've spent on transitioning to Cerner
and now to the NFB has taken a toll on my work as president.  If you decide
to return me to office, I'll do what I can to see that my volunteer job gets
the attention it deserves, while simultaneously earning the salary you help
to raise and giving you the kind of publication you want to see each month.
If you decide it is time for someone else to do this job, I'll be as active
and supportive of whomever you elect as all of you have been in helping me.


I thank you for your attention today and I pray for your help tomorrow as we
try to do what is right for blind people.  We are not the largest and most
powerful organization the world has to offer, but we have good people who
are fervently committed to a cause which is right, fair, and just.  I
couldn't ask to be on a better team, and I hope you feel the same way about
your membership in the National Federation of the Blind.




By Kirk Ford

Walter Elliot, a Roman Catholic priest and writer, once said “Perseverance
isn’t a long race.  It is many short races, one after the other.”  Life is
full of challenges; however, it is about how one perseveres through each
individual challenge which makes him or her, a stronger, wiser and better
person.  It doesn’t matter whether we are blind or have low vision, or are
fully sighted; everyone faces at least one great obstacle in his or her
lifetime.  Out of all the challenges and obstacles I’ve faced, the most
imperative and difficult one to overcome has been the paternity case I’m
currently involved in.  While every case involving child custody is rather
difficult, my case was further complicated by my vision.  Sure I’ve faced
many challenges, some involving my vision, and yet this one has pulled at my
heartstrings because it is something far beyond what I can control.  

At 28 years old, I am the youngest of two children born to Marleen (Brosseau
Gray) Riley and Kirk Ford, and was diagnosed with congenital Aniridia at
birth.  I attended Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas
City, MO until I was five which prepared me for the future.  After my
parents’ divorce, I lived with my father and attended public schools in
southeast Kansas.  Being legally blind didn’t stop me from having a normal
childhood.  Like most boys, I was active, played flag football, basketball,
little league baseball and Boy Scouts.  I was selected to be in the “Wings”
program in elementary school, a special program for advanced students.

In middle school I was consistently on the honor roll and was “Student of
the Month” in 1996.  I was featured on the local news for my accomplishments
despite my being disabled.  I wrestled for two years and was ranked 3rd in
the state of Kansas in my weight class.  I played football in 8th grade and
was voted the team’s “Most Inspirational Player”.  

In 1997 on my third day of high school, I was riding my bicycle home from
school when I was involved in a bad car accident; which required four
surgeries and caused me to miss over half the school year.  I still
maintained good grades and lettered in Spanish my sophomore year.  When I
placed in the top 15 on the National Spanish Exam for the state of Kansas, I
decided to pursue Spanish.  I studied abroad in Costa Rica my junior year of
high school.  In 1999 I was elected to serve on the Mayor’s Youth Council of
Pittsburg, Kansas, which further developed my leadership skills.  I played a
significant role in the development of “The Pitt”, the skate park in
Pittsburg.  I graduated from high school within the top 15% of my graduating
class, with a 3.741 GPA.  

The summer of 2001, my first college semester, I spent abroad in Costa Rica.
I made the Dean’s List once.  In 2003 I moved to Kansas City, and in June
2004 my daughter Cerise was born.  I started working at Envision Industries
in October 2004 as a machine operator.  In 2006 I decided to return to
school; attending Park University seeking a degree in Business
Administration with an emphasis in Management/Computer Information Systems.
I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in May 2009.

Congenital Aniridia is a hereditary and progressive eye condition.  The most
apparent symptom, a direct correlation the name “Aniridia” is the lack of
the iris, the colored portion of the eye that adjusts to the amount of
light.  Myopia, cataracts, glaucoma, nystagmus, and corneal scarring are
just some of the other “side effects” of Aniridia.  When I was 12 years old,
I underwent my first eye surgery to remove a cataract on my left eye.  The
vision was temporarily improved before I developed glaucoma in my left eye
and my vision started to dramatically deteriorate.  After two glaucoma
surgeries, I underwent a corneal transplant which ultimately failed.  Then I
had cataract surgery on my right eye.  After I underwent another
unsuccessful attempt at a corneal transplant on my left eye in 2003, and in
November 2006; I became one of the first patients to undergo a Boston
Keratoprosthesis on my left eye.  The Boston Keratoprosthesis is a corneal
transplant specifically intended for people like me who have “sick skin” on
their eyes.  While a donor cornea is still used, a prosthetic cornea is
attached to the donor cornea which will provide the receiving patient with a
clear window of vision.   After an unsuccessful attempt on a corneal
transplant on my right eye in 2009; I had a Boston Keratoprosthesis in
December of last year.  Currently, while the visual acuity is the best I’ve
ever had; my glaucoma has significantly reduced the peripheral vision in my
left eye.  My eye doctor is highly optimistic that my right eye will
continue to improve.

 In January 2009 I was an expectant father again.  It was around that point
that I started seriously evaluating myself.  I realized the environment in
which we were living in was unfit for Cerise, let alone another baby.  I was
the only one working, the children’s mother refused to work or assist with
housework.  I would come home from work; cook, try to clean up as much as I
could, spend time with Cerise, and then spent the rest my time studying into
the early morning hours working on homework day after day.  If I was too
tired to cook or didn’t feel like cooking we went out to eat.  Money also
was a big issue between us since I was the only one bringing in the money.
I realized that if conditions didn’t improve I could lose my children. I
also realized that I was getting to a breaking point in which I could not
continue to do what I was doing.  The closer I came to obtaining my degree,
the more I strived to reach my true potential.

I separated from my ex-fiancée in May 2009, but vowed to always be a
significant part of my children’s lives. Both of my children were diagnosed
with congenital Aniridia at birth, the same condition that their mother has
been holding against me.  Those who know me see the special bond that I have
with my daughter.  I was present when my son, Jacob, was born in August of
2009; however was not allowed to see him.  I was told it was because I had
nothing for him.  I could have Cerise every other weekend and Wednesday
nights.  Being financially strapped, I was unable to afford an attorney at
the time. I had to wait until February 2010 to hire an attorney. 

At the hearing in May 2010, Laura used my lack of vision against me.  When
we first became a couple, she was fully aware of my disability and the fact
that my children might have it as well.  She didn’t have a problem with my
parental abilities with Cerise but argued that the lack of vision would
affect my parenting abilities with Jacob.  The Court agreed establishing a
Guardian Ad Litem, typically reserved for cases in which abuse or neglect is
evident and restricted me from crossing any busy street with the children.
In order for me to have visitation time with my son, the Court appointed my
sister to supervise on every other weekend and the children’s mother to
supervise me on weeknights.  

In August, due to extenuating circumstances, I received less time with the
children.  The children’s mother decided to return to school and
furthermore, enrolled Cerise in religious education classes held on the
weeknight in which I was entitled to visitation with the children; thus
preventing me from seeing the children during the week.  Although I tried
unsuccessfully numerous times, their mother would not bring the children on
a different weeknight because she was in school and there always seemed to
be a different excuse on nights she didn’t have class.  The constant travel
took a significant toll on my sister and her family, and in September she
started coming only once a month. In November she was hired in partnership
with Greenbush, and teaches in a small school district 80 miles from where
she lives.  It was for this reason that from August until March that I
didn’t have a weeknight visit with my children, and I didn’t see my son
between Halloween and Christmas and only twice between Christmas and March

On March 2, 2011, there was another hearing regarding my case.  My attorney
had filed a motion to remove the supervision and fight to get visitation
with the children on a weeknight.  The children’s mother was adamant that
supervision and the current restrictions were necessary for the interest of
the children.  Unable to settle outside of the courtroom, the judge heard
the case for the first time.  It was very humiliating having to show the
Court what I could and could not see.  The children’s mother had admitted to
the Court that she had not allowed me to see the children, and when asked,
she acknowledged on the stand that my vision was the only reason why she
felt I needed supervision and restrictions.  She stated that if Jacob was a
little older it wouldn’t be an issue.  My attorney did an excellent job of
pointing out that toddlers are hard to keep track of for any parent and they
get into everything.  In the end, the judge ruled that I didn’t need
supervision and I would immediately start to have more time with my son.
Furthermore, the judge lifted the restrictions imposed upon me allowing me
to cross the street with my children.  I will have my first overnight visit
with my son on April 15.  The case is set to go to trial April 20th;
however, my attorney is highly optimistic that the mother of my children
will settle outside of court.

I first learned of the National Federation of the Blind in July 2010 after
my sister read about Erika’s and Blake’s ordeal.  My sister jumped the gun
and initiated contact with Debbie Wunder and gave her a brief overview of my
situation.  I then contacted Gary Wunder and Sheila Wright.  Mr. Wunder and
Mrs. Wright have given me a significant amount of emotional and moral
support and have provided me with key information and knowledge to educate
the judicial system and society on the abilities of a blind parent.  There
was a period of time in which my attorney was moving, and although Mr.
Wunder and I had tried, we were unable to contact him for two months, and
considered hiring another attorney.  It was because of Mr. Wunder’s
suggestion that I receive mobility training that I learned many suggestion
which I could utilize to better accommodate Jacob; and just how blind people
make adaptations when it comes to children to accommodate for their lack of
sight.  If it wasn’t for the continued support of the National Federation of
the Blind, I would lack the necessary resources to fight for my right to my
children.  I cannot express my gratitude enough to the members of the
National Federation of the Blind, the Wunder family and Mrs. Wright for such
a priceless gift.

I have learned many lessons throughout this whole ordeal; the most important
is the value of perseverance and support of others.  When I was least
expecting it, and on the verge of hopelessness and faithlessness, I stumbled
upon a very important source which helped me regain my composure and once
again stand tall.  The mother of my children thought she could utilize my
vision as a weapon.    Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “When you come
to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on”.   I’ve been hanging on for
a long time now and look forward to moving on and overcoming the new
challenges that may come my way.  This wouldn’t have been possible without
Mr. Wunder, Mrs. Wright, and the members of the National Federation of the
Blind.  Simply thanking you seems a bit inadequate; however, it is heartfelt
and sincere.  I truly believe I would not be where I am with my children
without your support and faith in my abilities as a parent and not just a
blind parent.




By Shelia Wright

When the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) passed in our nation’s capitol and
later was implemented, blind people across the country were ecstatic as this
allowed many of us, for the first time in our lives, to cast a truly
independent and secret ballot. Voting to elect those that serve as our
elected officials is something in which we as Americans take pride. We
believed that our nation was committed to making our polls accessible to
all. I will always remember the first time I voted independently and as I
walked out of the polling place, I felt a new sense of pride in our American
process that we so value as a nation. Little did I know that technicalities
and interpretation would mean that this new found right would only be
applied to certain elections but not others? 

Then one day, I received a letter from our county Board of Elections
advising me the electronic voting machine would not be available for the
upcoming election due to the low number of volunteer poll workers. I was
surprised and immediately questioned how this could happen; what about HAVA?
Not being satisfied with the answer given by our election board, I contacted
our National Federation of the Blind’s office and learned HAVA unfortunately
does not cover local elections. For that election, I went to the poll with
my husband and silently protested by not casting a ballot at all. I knew
that the poll workers at our precinct also take pride in having the
accessible voting machine which is used throughout the day by a number of
voters. They were very apologetic and did not know why the machine was not
part of the set up in that election. My protest probably served no purpose
beyond a demonstration to those present that an independent and private
voting option is important to me but I needed to make some type of
statement. My rights should not be subject to what is convenient.  

Once again, in our March 22, 2011 elections in Kansas City in which we
elected a new Mayor, City Council Members, and Judges, accessible voting
machines were not available and I had to resort to using someone to read and
mark my ballot. This has happened on at least three occasions since our
county has fully implemented HAVA and will occur again on April 5th when we
go to the polls again to vote on the City Earnings Tax. This is not a
problem unique to Platte County. I have talked with voters throughout
Missouri and find they have similar stories. Yet other states such as
Maryland and Kansas do use their accessible machines in all elections.
Furthermore, our federal laws are a good vehicle to help increase awareness
and solve issues. What is right should not need to be mandated by law at
every level. Let’s take a lesson from the County Board of Elections that are
taking the initiative to go further than what is mandated simply because it
is right!



Voting on Election Day

By Christina R. Mikula

On November 2, 2010, I went to the Andrew County Courthouse so that I could
vote on Election Day. When I arrived at the County Clerk's office, it was
very busy so I waited patiently for my turn to vote. When it was finally my
turn for help, I was surprised to learn that neither the County Clerk nor
any of her assistants knew how to operate the special voting machine that I
needed to use. She didn't realize that you have to put the ballot in the
machine before it would talk. Once she did that, the machine began giving us
step-by-step instructions.

The machine I use talks and has Braille on the buttons. When I first started
to use the machine, the clerk and her assistant stayed close by in case I
had trouble. Once they saw that I was getting used to the machine, could
read the Braille buttons, and could understand the speech, they backed off
so that I could vote on my own, which I have never been able to do before.

The next step was to print the ballot, put it in the envelope, and sign the
back of the envelope. The clerk and her assistant helped me with these
tasks, and I left the polling place feeling that this had been a great
learning experience for all of us. It was fun to vote independently. It was
fun to vote by myself. It was fun to cast a secret ballot for the first time
in my life. I liked being the teacher and the learner, and I liked being
able to cast my vote.



Resolutions from 2011 State Convention






WHEREAS, the State of Missouri Family Support Division oversees both the
Blind Pension and the Supplemental Aid to the Blind programs, including
determining both initial and continued eligibility; and


WHEREAS, many blind Missourians receive Supplemental Aid to the Blind and
Missouri Blind Pension; and


WHEREAS, regulations require that annual reviews be completed by recipients
of these benefits and the FA-402 forms that the FAMIS computer system sends
out are entitled "Missouri  HealthNet Eligibility Review"; and


WHEREAS, this title has caused great confusion among consumers who are not
sure what the purpose of the form is and has resulted in benefits being
stopped for some consumers who did not realize that this form is the review
form for the blind programs; and


WHEREAS, many blind Missourians do not receive adequate information because
they are notified with a letter, in a hardcopy format, that they cannot read
because it is not accessible; and


WHEREAS, this causes hardship changes in their economic status such as
termination of their benefits; and


WHEREAS, many blind people do not have regular readers or the technology to
scan and read important printed documents sent to them by the Family Support
Division, Now, therefore:


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri in
convention assembled this 26th day of March, 2011, in the city of St.
Joseph, Missouri, that we call on the Department of Social Services and the
Family Support Division to change the title of the form and make other
necessary changes on the review to make it clear what program the form is
for and its purpose; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on the Department of Social Services and
the Family Support Division to notify its consumers in a timely manner and
in the consumer's preferred reading medium, which may include Braille, large
print, phone, electronic or recorded audio.








WHEREAS, the State of Missouri Family Support Division oversees both the
Blind Pension and the Supplemental Aid to the Blind programs, including
determining both initial and continued eligibility; and


WHEREAS, it is the consumer's responsibility to respond in a timely manner
to correspondence, including review forms, requests for information, and
notices of case action; and


WHEREAS, the notices are only produced in 9 to 12 point type and are not
available electronically, in Braille, recorded audio, or large print; and


WHEREAS, many of these notices are time sensitive and must be responded to
in less than a week from the time the consumer actually receives them, Now,


BE IT RESOLVED by The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri in
convention assembled this 26th day of March, 2011, in the city of St.
Joseph, Missouri, that the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri call
on the Department of Social Services and the Family Support Division to take
steps to make correspondence accessible to visually impaired and blind
persons immediately; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, until such steps can be taken to make forms and
notices accessible, that Eligibility Specialists and others issuing
correspondence to consumers notify such consumers by telephone or electronic
mail that a notice has been sent and the nature of the notice; and


BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that we call on the Americans with Disabilities
compliance officers within the Department of Social Services and the Office
of Administration to make sure that consumers have full access to these
notices and are therefore being provided with an equal opportunity to due
process within agency programs.



RESOLUTION 2011-03 was voted on but did not pass.






WHEREAS, some actions are beyond human comprehension; and


WHEREAS, such an unthinkable act is about to happen to the members of the
Missouri affiliate; and


Whereas, the membership of this affiliate are powerless to stop Susan Ford
from leaving our state; and


WHEREAS, we are grateful for her decades of selfless service to this
organization, including her service in the Saint Louis area, the affiliate
board of directors, her strong advocacy for Braille, her dedication to blind
children, and many other issues, Now, therefore:


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of The Blind of Missouri in
convention assembled this 26th day of March, 2011, in the city of St.
Joseph, Missouri, that we, the members of the National Federation of the
Blind of Missouri, give Susan Ford all of our love, and be it known that we
will miss you more than mere words can express; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we whole-heartedly commend Susan for the
dedication she has brought to all of us and send with her our best wishes
for a great adventure in her new life out West.







WHEREAS, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) has made it possible for blind
persons to cast a secret ballot for the first time in history in National
elections; and


WHEREAS, all election jurisdictions are required to have voting machines
that are accessible to the blind for these elections; and


WHEREAS, currently these same jurisdictions do not use this equipment for
local, county, state, school board, and mayoral elections, therefore
depriving  blind people of their constitutional right to a secret ballot;


WHEREAS, most members of society would be appalled if they had to announce
their vote to another person, Now, therefore:


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri in
convention assembled this 26th day of March, 2011, in the city of St.
Joseph, Missouri, that we call on the Secretary of State to urge that local
jurisdictions use the machines available to them to grant the secret ballot
to all voters; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization will take whatever steps
required to make all elections accessible to the blind, and provide them
with a secret ballot, including, if needed, a Help Missouri Vote Act.










WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri is privileged to
have outstanding leadership from members who serve at both the state and
national level; and


WHEREAS, some of these leaders have served for at least a quarter of a
century if not more; and


WHEREAS, such dedicated service deserves our highest recognition; and


WHEREAS, Tom Stevens has been one such dedicated leader at the local, state,
and national level for over thirty five years; and


WHEREAS, without the gentle love, dedication, and assistance of his most
gracious wife Helen such leadership would have been less effective, Now,


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of MISSOURI in
convention assembled this 26th day of March, 2011, in the city of St.
Joseph, Missouri, that we give Tom and Helen Stevens our highest
commendation for outstanding dedication and service to the blind of our
state and nation.







WHEREAS, many blind people have had difficulties when using the accessible
voting machines; and


WHEREAS, the election judges are not adequately trained on how to use the
equipment; and


WHEREAS, a number of blind people have approached the election judges for
help with the machines and have received minimal or no help, and some
individuals have reported that their election judges had poor attitudes; and


WHEREAS, it is our constitutional right to complete a secret ballot, and we
are not able to do so if we can't use the machines, Now, therefore:


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri in
convention assembled this 27th day of March, 2011, in the city of St.
Joseph, Missouri, that we call on the Secretary of State and all county
clerks to mandate that all judges be continually trained on the use of the
accessible voting machines; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all accessible voting machines are properly
maintained and worked on regularly prior to each election.





By Lois Ulmer

On Saturday, June 11, 2011, the Saint Joseph Chapter was invited to attend a
Senior Awareness Fair held in Savannah, Missouri.  This fair was hosted by
the Community Action Partnership of Greater Saint Joseph.  The fair was held
at the CAP Office with local Community Outreach Specialist Sally Green
hosting.  There were booths from various agencies such as Missouri Gas
Energy, KCP & L, Savannah Vision Center, Weatherization Inc., Missouri
University Extension Office and others.  The participants had the
opportunity to go to every booth and gather information from that particular
entity.  Vendors gave away important tips and supplies.  

The National Federation of the Blind was asked to participate and Lois Ulmer
was able to attend and present information about our organization.  She
offered information on programs and leaflets with the Braille alphabet on
them.  She offered Kernel Books to attendees and told them about the

Lois gave information about the local chapter and how they are trying to
increase interest.  She asked any interested participants for their contact
information for future meetings and let people know that it is possible,
that the NFB could arrange transportation to and from Savannah for the local
chapter meetings.  The local chapter meetings are held the second Saturday
of the month with the location to be announced.  All interested parties get
a phone call a few days before reminding them of the meeting and to see if
they are in need of transportation.

The Saint Joseph chapter also held a drawing for a laundry basket filled
with various household items that everyone could use; laundry soap, dish
soap, trash bags, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.  It was won by Betty
Crabtree of Savannah, Missouri.  Lois delivered it to her door after the

“It was a venue where we could get the National Federation of the Blind out
into the community,” said Lois Ulmer, on why the NFB was there.  “I was able
to talk to people and let them know that there are services out there to
keep them in their own home.” 

 Lois talked to several ladies living at one of the senior complexes in
Savannah about marking their washers, dryers and microwave ovens.  She will
be contacting them about setting up a time to visit with them at their
complex later this summer.



Susan Ford, Someone to Be Admired

By Carol Coulter

Susan Ford, a long time member of the National Federation of the Blind of
Missouri, will be leaving us in July. She is moving to Idaho to be closer to
her family. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell everyone about her and
let her know how much we think of her. If you didn’t know who Susan was,
someone might point her out as the lady making the pillow. You see she
almost always had a pillow to work on while in a board meeting or at general
sessions during our conventions. While talking with Susan, I found out
something interesting about her pillow making.  So keep reading and you will

Susan was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Her sister, Ramona and brother
Curtis are also both very active in the National Federation of the Blind. At
the age of 21 she gained a few more siblings when her mother remarried.
After her sophomore year in college, Susan went to Montana to work as a
mobility instructor for a summer program sponsored by the NFB affiliate in
Montana. Susan had no idea that she was going to get more than a paycheck
from this job. You see, the crafts instructor was none other than our
beloved John Ford. Yes, John was teaching crafts and Susan was teaching
mobility. Of course I had to ask her if John was the one that taught her how
to make those pillows she is so well known for and the answer was yes, but a
client had taught John. In 1966, fifteen months after they met, John and
Susan pledged their love for one another and became husband and wife. They
stayed in Montana for the next five years.

The next state that the couple would find themselves in, was Colorado. They
moved to Greeley so that Susan could get her Masters Degree in Education and
John received his Bachelor’s Degree. In 1972 they moved back to Montana and
by 1976 they became a family of three when Brenda was born. In 1977 a 26
month old baby boy named Brent was lucky enough to be placed in their home
as a foster child. The courts gave permanent custody of Brent to Susan and
John so Brent was blessed with a loving home and parents who knew how to
raise a blind child. 

In 1982 John got a job working for ABLE, a rehabilitation facility for the
blind in St. Louis, Missouri. Susan was not far behind John in getting a job
with ABLE. Once they learned of her qualifications they were eager to have
her. She started out a couple hours a day until the children were both in
school and then her hours steadily increased. When ABLE closed in June of
1991, Susan was the last employee they let go. She was self-employed for
fifteen months until she was hired by the Bureau for the Blind
(Rehabilitation Services for the Blind) in September of 1992.  Susan worked
for RSB helping people adjust to their blindness by teaching them blindness
skills and offering moral support until she retired in March of 2011. 

Susan already has herself a two bedroom apartment in Idaho and will be
moving in July. She told me that the NFB has already asked her to help with
a seminar in September. Susan, your reputation precedes you. You have been a
constant in this affiliate when it comes to rehab and the education of blind
children. You have been such an asset to the seminars for parents, the
scholarship committee and rehabilitation services. Your shoes will be hard
to fill. 

When I think of Susan and her integrity and knowledge of what it takes to
raise a blind child and how to help the elderly learn what is necessary to
be independent in their own home; I think of Walter Cronkite the news
reporter/anchor. He had this way about him that made you trust him. You felt
that if he was reporting on something you were getting the truth. That is
how I feel about Susan. I respect her expertise, judgment and commitment.
Good luck Susan and we will all miss you.                        



Future Formats of the Blind Missourian

By Carol Coulter

The ever changing world of technology has struck again.  While the invention
of new technology allows us to receive information quicker and more
efficiently, it results in the obsolescence of other items we have become so
accustomed to.  The Blind Missourian has been available for subscribers in
large print cassette tape and more recently by e-mail.  Unfortunately the
time is fast approaching when we will no longer be able to provide our
newsletter on cassette. They are becoming a thing of the past. We need to
look to the future and find an alternative way to get The Blind Missourian
out to our current tape subscribers. I ask that anyone with suggestions send
them to me either by e-mail or snail mail.  I would especially like to hear
from those currently receiving tapes. We want to find something that will
work for everyone. Please send your ideas to Carol Coulter, 1613 Blue Ridge
Rd., Columbia, MO 65202 or e-mail  <mailto:cjcoulter at centurytel.net>
cjcoulter at centurytel.net.      





I pledge to participate actively in the effort 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














Board of Directors

National Federation of the Blind of Missouri




Gary Wunder, President                               Julie McGinnity,
Recording Secretary

Shelia Wright, First Vice President                Dacia Luck, Corresponding

Ruby Polk, Second Vice President                Carol Coulter, Treasurer




Board Members:


Eugene Coulter                                               Lois Ulmer 

Gary Horchem                                              Jeremiah Wells 

Bill Neal                                                        Bob

Gene Fleeman


Chapter Presidents


Gene Coulter, Columbia                                  Helen Parker, South

Rita Lynch, Jefferson City                               Gary Horchem,

Shelia Wright, Kansas City                              Dennis Grabill, St.
Joseph (contact)

Chris Tisdal, Lewis and Clark                          Bryan Schulz, St.





















NFB of Missouri

1613 Blue Ridge Rd.

Columbia, MO  65202







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