[Ohio-talk] Sightless Children's Club

Timothy J. Meloy tmeloy at fuse.net
Tue Dec 9 12:17:28 UTC 2014

Hi Katie,
I'm concerned by your email. My experience with SCC was nothing but positive. I was able to receive much of the equipment I needed for law school that BSVI didn't have the budget in my case to provide. Not once did I see them deny a request and I believe some tiger embossers were even purchased for some children. SCC fills a void created by BSVI's budgetary and regulatory restrictions, which can actually prevent people from receiving the technology they need. Their work should be applauded. Just my two cents. 

> On Dec 9, 2014, at 5:24 AM, Kaiti Shelton via Ohio-talk <ohio-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I am writing with a few thoughts on an organization based out of
> Vandalia called the Sightless Children's Club.  There are several
> reasons for this post, but I'm writing mainly to see if anyone from
> the affiliate has tried to speak to them in recent years, and to see
> if something can be done.
> Some of the members of OABS had parents who were involved in this
> organization when we were much younger.  The organization was a
> non-profit which helped blind and visually impaired children across
> Ohio get assistive technology they needed.  I remember receiving my
> first laptop, printer, and a Blazey embosser from them which I used
> from the time I was 12 through most of my high school years.  This is
> also where the braille book lending library my mom and I started
> almost 10 years ago is kept.  The most recent thing I received from
> them was my copy of the Goodfeel Music Suite from Dancing Dots, which
> I desperately needed in high school in order to take music theory (By
> my senior year, my school district seemed to view the software
> purchase proposal from my TVI as a bad investment rather than a way of
> meeting their requirements according to the law, but that's another
> story).  Anyway, they were really good when my mom first joined.
> Cindy Conley was president at that time, and it seemed like a way to
> bridge the gap between what the school could provide and what I needed
> for doing homework at home since BSVI doesn't cover equipment for
> children as young as 10 or so, and we really didn't have the money for
> all the equipment.  However, there were changes in leadership over the
> years, more and more restrictions were added so families needed to
> jump through more hoops to get equipment for their kids, and the
> philosophy was appalling.  The president of the organization did not
> know much about the assistive technology, and would describe requests
> for technology that she didn't understand as "All the bells and
> whistles," but she and the organization in general made it clear that
> they had the notion that braille was on the way out.  Some of the
> requests for things seemed ridiculous to my mom and I.  6 year olds
> were requesting and being granted Victor Streams so they could listen
> to audio books that their sighted peers were reading in class.  One
> girl requested and was granted an audio talking bible, and others
> requested and were granted the KNFB Mobile.  While I fail to see how a
> bible and a cell phone are necessary for school work (or at least the
> cell phone wouldn't have been in that day and age since it was before
> the advent of Bluetooth and the notetakers weren't as sophisticated),
> very few requests were granted for braille-related things by that
> point.  My mom was astonished when the 6 year old at the time was
> granted the stream and other equipment like it that would provide
> speech output for text.  I wrote in my monitor article that she became
> a huge braille supporter, and she really didn't understand why one
> wouldn't want to establish literacy skils in their child first, and
> then give them access to these other options as a means of providing
> an alternative choice once they had the hang of reading.  It seemed
> that audio wasn't another option, but it was being presented as the
> substitute for braille.
> The lending library was almost never used, and the director, in a
> misguided attempt to look good, said that braille labels should not be
> placed on the spines of the books like my mom and I wanted because it
> would look weird if media ever filmed in there.  This totally defeated
> the vision my mom and I had for the library, where while parents were
> at the meeting students could come into the library room, find a book
> independently, and sit down to read braille.  The catalog system was
> also envisioned as a braille and print system, so that if I or a
> sighted parent was supervising that night we could check the kids out
> if they wanted to take the book home to finish it.  Of course, this
> philosophy says a lot about the philosophy the organization has
> towards independence too.
> Sometime in my sophomore year of high school I questioned why the
> parents were required to do the service hours for the club if it was
> the Sightless "Children's" Club.  It just seemed weird to me,
> especially since my mom and I worked together on our project, that
> other kids weren't getting involved when they were directly
> benefitting from the group.  Nothing came of that either.  Most kids
> didn't even come to the meetings even when they requested things.  I
> know some parents wrote the thank you notes for their kids after they
> were granted things.  It was just not very conducive to independence
> or braille literacy.  My mom and I were very outspoken advocates for
> braille.  I even submitted a paper on the braille literacy chrisis
> that I wrote for my sophomore honors English class to the group's
> newsletter for publication.  It was printed, but no one seemed to pay
> attention to the information I sighted from the NFB's 2009 literacy
> report, information from AFB, and why literacy is crucial for people
> regardless of whether they read print or braille.  I also spoke to the
> group about my experiences that year, when in November my personal
> laptop as well as my Old Faithful BrailleNote Classic crashed
> unexpectedly.  I had to do all of my homework on the Perkins for 3
> months until the school district broke down and got me an Empower, and
> very little of my homework was done on a computer because if I wanted
> to use JAWS for assignments I needed to work through my lunch break or
> in the morning before homeroom and could not leave school with the
> laptop the district owned.  That paper on braille literacy was written
> with the aid of my mom because the family computer still had a floppy
> drive and Windows 98, and therefor could not run the version of Jaws
> that I had.  I talked about how I would have been totally helpless and
> reliant on my parents to do all my homework like I was as a young
> elementary school student had I not known braille.  Like with
> everything else, people nodded in agreement but nothing changed.
> Eventually, my mom eneded up really butting heads with the president
> over this and left.  By then I was set up with BSVI so all we lost
> were the books in the library, but the problems there have been
> something my mom and I have talked about on occasion ever since.
> I bring this up because recently at a scholarship dinner for UD, one
> of the guests I was paired with for the evening talked about her
> granddaughter who is blind and has parents in this group.  The girl is
> 9 or 10, and doesn't know much braille although it is very difficult
> for her to read.  The woman asked me a lot of great questions about
> technology, cane travel, and braille.  She asked me how much I use it,
> and when I replied, "Almost every day," she was surprised.  This club
> had told her daughter that braille was on the way out, and that it
> wasn't something the little girl needed to learn as long as she could
> learn the technology and use her vision to read.  I politely pointed
> out the cons associated with this line of logic, and thankfully the
> woman is very interested in staying in touch with me and we've
> exchanged some emails.
> SCC has almost slipped my memory in recent years, but I'm worried by
> the fact that things have not changed for the better since my family
> and I have left the organization.  This could very well be a big part
> of why we have so much trouble recruiting parents for our NOPBC
> division, and also why the student division has been sleepy in past
> years and isn't geographically diverse now.  If parents in this group
> and others that may be like it around the state are being told that
> braille is a waste of their child's time, then why would they want to
> Ally with the NFB.  Especially if they think technology is the end all
> beat all, and they know an organization which can give the equipment
> to them, then they would logically see themselves as stable where they
> are.
> I have contacted the group in the past about the student division, but
> no one has ever answered me.  Now either I've been blocked from their
> facebook page, or they no longer have one.  I'm wondering out of
> curiosity if anyone from the NFB has ever tried to work with these
> people or addressed their philosophical problems which are definitely
> having a negative impact on braille literacy for students in Ohio.
> -- 
> Kaiti Shelton
> University of Dayton 2016.
> Music Therapy, Psychology, Philosophy
> President, Ohio Association of Blind Students
> Sigma Alpha Iota-Delta `Sigma
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