[Nfbmo] Why I am a Federationist

Gail Bryant gbryant at socket.net
Thu Mar 30 23:21:32 UTC 2017

I joined NFB in college mostly because friends were in the organization and I thought it would be cool to try something new.

When I lived and went to Missouri Valley College in Marshall, a blind friend in  town wanted me to go with her to a Missouri Council of theBlind meeting.  We never made it to that meeting because there was a snowstorm. Thank you snowstorm.

So when I came to Columbia and joined NFB, I met people like Tom Stevens and Gene Coulter.  I already knew Gary who lived in Warrensburg. 
I came to Mizzou because the college I was attending wouldn't let me take chemistry because none of the other blind studets had taken it because it was to hard and we might blow up the lab and destroy equipment.  So I got mad and transferred back to Mizzou where I knew people.

During my undergraduate time, I attended my first national convention in New Orleans where I met Willa Patterson and Janna (Sims) Moynihan.  Attending that convention convinced me that I needed the NFB.

So I was taking classes at Mizzou minding my own business in graduate school when some nut knocked on my apartment door and asked if I was that blind lady he'd been hearing about.  Hello to Ed Bryant.  We married two and a half years later.

All of this time, I was learning federation philosophy. Did I say I took Ed to his first NFB meeting?  Ed became the editor for Voice of the Diabetic.  We attended national conventions and I met capable blind people.  The custodial treatment I had received at the blind school and other places wasn't in the federation.  And, I never did meet any radicals who were mean and destroyed stuff.  Quite the opposite. Most federationists I've met have been warm and friendly. 

I learned about blind children and that they needed to be educated.  Hey, I could do that.  I was a good braille user. And I knew a little about the technology they needed to learn.  Hence, I started my business, Columbia Braille Teaching Services LLC.  If it weren't for the National federation of the Blind, my life would be different.  One of my current students will be at the state convention because a Federationist named Gary Wunder has helped she and her family. And I have a contract working with her as a direct result  
Gail Bryant
Columbia Braille Teaching Services L.L.C.
1212 London Drive
Columbia, MO 65203-2012
Phone: (573)817-5993
Cell: (573)268-4962
gbryant at socket.net

-----Original Message-----
From: Nfbmo [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Gary Wunder via Nfbmo
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 4:17 PM
To: 'NFB of Missouri Mailing List'
Cc: Gary Wunder
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Why I am a Federationist



-----Original Message-----
From: Nfbmo [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Benjamin Vercellone via Nfbmo
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 1:59 PM
To: nfbmo at nfbnet.org
Cc: Benjamin Vercellone
Subject: [Nfbmo] Why I am a Federationist

I have been totally blind since 1992, in my early childhood, due to a car accident. My parents raised me to the best of their ability, with the goal of me becoming a competent and independent person. They tapped into multiple resources, one of which was the National Federation of the Blind. I began to realize the NFB'S existence, purpose, and dynamics in 2004, when I was 16 years old. Since then, I became increasingly involved in this organization. The more I learned about the NFB and got involved, the more I experienced as truth the message of this organization.
I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind from late 2007 through mid-2008, and the training I received there was absolutely life-changing! The Louisiana Center for the Blind is a residential training center in Ruston, Louisiana, where the model of training is second-to-none. Committed students transition from LCB as confident and independent blind individuals, having done many things that society believes to be impossible for the blind. There are more than a few philosophical discussions that take place at NFB training centers. Fortunately, the rubber is applied to the road on at least an hourly basis!
All of the instructors at LCB, and at the other two equally great NFB training centers, are either blind or can perform all aspects of their job wearing sleepshades. At LCB, students with any remaining vision are required to wear sleepshades from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. They also must wear sleepshades during the many training activities that occur outside these hours, such as the rock-climbing trip, the white water rafting, and Mardi Gras. I could write volumes about my training at LCB, but I'll keep it short.
I emerged from the Louisiana Center for the Blind armed with the knowledge that blindness is not the real barrier between me and my goals. The real barrier is constructed largely from low expectations. These low expectations are not only held by those with sight. Low expectations, as I have learned and frequently observed, are quite often accepted, internalized, and implemented by blind people themselves. Though most people are not out-to-get me, or anyone else for that matter, the good intentions of much of society regarding blindness are also part of the barrier to blind people achieving our dreams. And then there is the old-fashioned discrimination due to ignorance and apathy. Thankfully, the NFB has also succeeded in decreasing these elements quite a bit.
I am a fairly driven person. I know for a fact that if I wait around for equal access and equal opportunity in all aspects of life, I'll be waiting until the cows come home, unless other blind people have already pushed for this equal access and opportunity. The National Federation of the Blind has indeed pushed the envelope since 1940, and I am glad that I am a part of this great movement. It is only appropriate, and is quite beneficial, for me to join in the efforts of the NFB. If I don’t, the chain will be shorter, less multi-faceted, and more taxed. If I get involved, our efforts to make a difference are one person stronger.
After attending LCB, I went to Montclair State University in New Jersey and got my Bachelor's degree. Then I got my Master's degree at Louisiana Tech University, and also received my National Orientation and Mobility Certification. Since February of 2015, I have worked as the orientation and mobility specialist with Rehabilitation Services for the Blind of Missouri, Southwest District Office. I may not have sought a career as an O&M instructor and found this job without the invaluable help of the National Federation of the Blind.
I find it interesting that many people, at least in my area of the Midwest, find it quite fitting for a blind person to teach other blind people how to travel independently. Imagine that! I completely agree with this assessment! Even as recently as my childhood, a significantly higher percentage of society in the U.S. believed that sight is required to teach orientation and mobility. The NFB was pivotal in the positive change that has taken place, and is still quite revolutionary in this arena. I am thankful that Structured Discovery, problem-solving, Socratic questioning, transferable skills, and an internal locus of control are all discussed at length now. This has been the case for some time. This discussion greatly helps to flesh out how blind people effectively teach O&M. In fact, effective O&M training does not take place without these elements, even when the instructor is sighted. The bottom line is that if it were not for the work of the National Federation of the Blind, only a small percentage of society would believe that blind people can teach independent travel, or do many other things for that matter. Believe me when I say that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on this front. I could write a volume on this too, but I won't right now. I want to be involved in this work.
I am somewhat of a geek, especially when it comes to theorizing how new or already-existing technologies may work or work together to help the blind. I am not a programmer or hardware designer, so I spend a lot of time sharing ideas with those who know much more, and I give feedback on existing technologies. Some people view me as the go-to person when it comes to technology. Technology is one of my big hobbies, but I’m glad it’s not my job! My motivation to get involved in the technology arena, despite my somewhat limited knowledge, has been enhanced by the “let’s make it happen” philosophy of the NFB.
In summary, if I wait around for society to believe that I am a competent individual, and that blindness does not define me or determine the length, width, height and depth of my life, I'll be waiting an awfully long time. I have seen the positive difference of the National Federation of the Blind in the lives of many blind people, both inside and outside this organization. Joining this organization and getting involved have brought this positive difference to my own life. Activity in the NFB is basically the embodiment of the American dream, but with an emphasis on overcoming the barriers related to blindness and perceptions about blindness. I have greatly benefitted from the many NFB members with whom I've worked and interacted. I trust that I have also benefitted some blind individuals. It is an honor and privilege to be serving as the president of the Springfield chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. Let's go build the Federation!

Nfbmo mailing list
Nfbmo at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for Nfbmo:

Nfbmo mailing list
Nfbmo at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for Nfbmo:

More information about the NFBMO mailing list