From the Editor: Recognizing the work that is accomplished on behalf of blind people is a critical part of the mission of the National Federation of the Blind. For this reason we present a number of awards; some are presented annually; others are presented only as often as the Federation determines that a deserving candidate merits the presentation. This year awards were presented to a distinguished educator of blind children, to the blind educator of the year, to agencies and organizations who represent the life’s work of Dr. Jacob Bolotin, to a leader in the Federation who has performed exemplary service, and to a person who is not a member but who has made a significant contribution to improving the opportunities for the blind. Here are the presentations as witnessed at the 2014 Convention:
Presented by Cathy Jackson
Good morning, and let me be the first to wish you a happy National Federation of the Blind convention week. Some of us have been here for several days already, and over the past couple of days we have been busy doing the work of this, the world's largest membership organization of the blind. We have been involved in our division meetings, our committee meetings, our board meeting, and of course other convention activities. No one ever said it was going to be easy being a member of the National Federation of the Blind. A lot of hard work goes into this organization, but pride and pleasure are rolled in with the hard work that makes us the success that we are.
The National Federation of the Blind takes satisfaction in acknowledging and awarding those who have accomplished great things in the field of blindness. Those we award know the achievements that blind people can accomplish if given the right attitude and skills to compete in the world. Pretty soon we're going to be introduced to our scholarship class of 2014. These men and women have made great strides both in and outside of the classroom. Other presentations will be made throughout the convention, but I have the pleasure of presenting the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award.
This year's recipient most assuredly belongs in this prestigious class. All of our applicants are doing great things and deserve recognition, but we can only crown one winner. Laura Bostick, Mary Willows, Mark Riccobono, and I all saw the same unique qualities in our winner that made her stand taller than the others. First of all was her personal essay. We were intrigued with her outline and her presentation. She gave us her top ten guiding teaching philosophies (which are spot-on, I might add). She doesn't merely tell her students that they can do; she tells them, "You can do and you will do."
The second thing that we saw was her ability to organize parents, teachers, and students, who together exposed the problem of California's blind students who were not receiving their Braille books and materials on time. Mary Willows wrote, in her letter of nomination: "She's not afraid to speak up when she knows the education system could and should be better for blind children."
If you haven't guessed by now, our distinguished educator for 2014 is from the state of California, and it is Ms. Theresa Postello. Theresa has been a teacher of the blind and an orientation and mobility instructor for twenty-five years, and she's currently employed by the San Matteo County Office of Education. I'm not exactly sure how she remained employed while exposing the problems of the blind children. But, when I asked her this, she said, "Oh, I just merely stayed calm and collected and presented the facts. You know, you can catch more flies with sugar than you can with vinegar." So I know now why she got such rave reviews from the parents and colleagues who nominated her for this award. If Ms. Theresa Postello would come forward, I would like to present her with a plaque. It's a beautiful plaque, and I'm also going to give her a little white envelope, which has a big $1,000 check in it. Congratulations, Theresa. Here is your plaque. If you will hold it up, I will read the inscription:
The National Federation
of the Blind honors
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
For your skills in teaching
other alternative techniques of blindness,
For graciously devoting extra
time to meet
the needs of your students,
and for empowering
your students to perform
beyond their expectations.
You champion our movement.
You strengthen our hopes.
You share our dreams.
July 3, 2014
So for a few brief words here is Theresa Postello, our distinguished educator of 2014.
Theresa: Thank you so very much; I'm tremendously honored and over the moon with excitement. I invite you to come to my keynote address this afternoon and hear some of the things I have to say. Again, I thank you. It's great to be here.
Presented by David Ticchi
Thank you, Dr. Maurer, and I very much appreciate the privilege and responsibility of being chair of this committee. To begin with, I'd like to thank the members of the committee. The members of the Blind Educator of the Year Committee are William Henderson of Massachusetts, Sheila Koenig of Minnesota, Kate Mendez of New York, Melissa Riccobono of Maryland, Judy Sanders of Minnesota, and Ramona Walhof of Idaho.
I'd like to tell you a little bit about the award, then I will tell you the name of the winner, then I will ask the person to come up here to the stage to receive the plaque, and finally I will read the text to you.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators to pay tribute to a blind teacher for his or her classroom performance, community service, and commitment to the National Federation of the Blind. In 1991 it became a national award because of the impact and importance of good teaching upon students, faculty, and the community. The award is presented in the spirit and philosophy of the educators who founded and nurtured our movement, people like Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer. I often point out when presenting this award that any of you who have taken Latin will understand that education comes from the Latin "duco/ducere," to lead. We are all leaders in the National Federation of the Blind.
The winner of this year's Blind Educator of the Year Award is Michelle Chacon from Colorado. Michelle, if you would come forward to receive your award.
I want to tell people a little bit about Michelle and her background in education. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of New Mexico, and she has two graduate degrees, both in the area of visual impairment, one from the University of New Mexico, one from the University of Northern Colorado. She has worked at the Colorado Center for the Blind as a home management instructor, she spent four years with the Albuquerque public schools as a secondary school resource teacher, and from 2008 to the present she works in the Arvada school district (and I hope with my Boston accent I am pronouncing that clearly), and she serves there as an itinerate teacher. She is involved with the NFB on many levels: she's the president of the North Metro chapter of Colorado, has worked in the confidence camp, has been the director of the BELL Program for several years, is involved in the Washington Seminar, attends and works at state and national conventions, and in fact, for her to be present here this morning, we had to release her from NFB Camp to come here so she could receive this award.
Michelle is a single parent of four girls, a wonderful parent and homemaker, and a dear friend to many. While she makes her way up here, I'd like to tell you just a few things about her background and recommendations. We on the blind educator committee like to do our homework, to check references, and to do some interviews. I'm going to share with you some quotes about Michelle: consummate professional, natural teacher, builds positive and effective relationships, believes in blind people, has expectations for blind people, will work closely with families, and she will always take the extra step. Michelle, that's a lot to be proud of, and I am proud to present this to you. So, Michelle, congratulations. I'm going to hand you the plaque. It says:
BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
OF THE BLIND
IN RECOGNITION OF
IN THE TEACHING PROFESSION.
YOU ENHANCE THE PRESENT
YOU INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES
YOU BUILD THE FUTURE
JULY 3, 2014
Michelle, congratulations. Before you speak, I want to hand the envelope to you, an envelope with a check for $1,000.
Michelle: I just want to say thank you so much to everybody. When I was teaching at the Colorado Center for the Blind, Julie Deden gave me the opportunity to find my passion: working with the elementary camp and working with those children. And I want nothing more than to see our kids succeed. I want to see them have a beautiful, bright future like I have had, and an opportunity to get to know our Federation so we can continue to grow together in love and in support of each other. Thank you so much.
Presented by James Gashel
Thank you, Mr. President, thank you fellow Federationists. Again it is my high honor to come before you to present the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards for 2014. A biography entitled The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story by Rosalind Perlman and published by Blue Point Books is available from the National Federation of the Blind Independence Market. I'll tell you, I read The Blind Doctor. I consider, along with all of our other Federation literature, this one ought to be one of the classics. You all ought to read the Jacob Bolotin story [applause].
As is true of our winners this year, the Jacob Bolotin story is a story of dogged determination in spite of incredible odds. Dr. Bolotin was born in 1888, and he died in 1924 at age thirty-six; he actually worked himself to death. If you read the book, you'll know. Although his years were few, his accomplishments were many. And you know what? He didn't have it nearly as easy as we do today. He didn't have the KNFB Reader running on the iPhone. Lacking financial resources after attending the Illinois School for the Blind, Jacob Bolotin worked to support his family members and himself. He worked in Chicago selling kitchen matches, brushes, and even typewriters door-to-door. Although the hours were long and the work was hard, he made a success out of these businesses. He even made enough money to put himself through medical school to become a licensed doctor, and he was the only blind person to do so at that time. He had no Rehabilitation Act, no ADA, no Section 504, and no NFB to back him up. But, in the spirit of Newel Perry, Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, Marc Maurer, and Mark Riccobono, Dr. Bolotin blazed a trail for all of us to follow, and we are walking in his footsteps. [applause] In every way that counts, in fact if not in name, Jacob Bolotin was a Federationist. He was a Federationist before the Federation existed. These qualities—a standard of excellence, a pioneering spirit, and a pioneering vision—they are foremost on our minds as we review the people and projects that you nominate each year. When I announce this year's winners in a few minutes, I think you will agree that all of them have met the test.
The funding support for this program comes from a bequest from the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, which was left to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind. Rosalind Perlman was Dr. Bolotin's niece. This year we have $50,000 to award to four recipients. In a moment I'll specify the amount of the awards for each, but I'll talk about the plaque that they will also receive. Here are the words on the plaque:
name of the recipient
by the National Federation of the Blind
and the Santa Barbara Foundation
The medallion which is suspended over the plaque has print on both sides. The text on the obverse side reads: "The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award," with the logo of the National Federation of the Blind, and immediately below the logo these words: "CELEBRATING ACHIEVEMENT, CREATING OPPORTUNITY." And on the reverse side these words: "Dr. Jacob Bolotin" with a depiction of his bust, then the dates of his birth and his death below that, then finally these words: "CELEBRATING HIS LIFE/THE ALFRED AND ROSALIND PERLMAN TRUST."
Now for the 2014 Jacob Bolotin Awards. For our first recipient, representing exemplary individual achievement and outstanding service on behalf of the blind of the United States, we recognize Scott LaBarre. We recognize Scott with an award of $10,000. Scott LaBarre is a lawyer. He's not just any lawyer. Scott's achievements and efforts to represent the blind in civil rights cases throughout the country are known very well. The Iowa Supreme Court knows Scott LaBarre, and the Palmer Chiropractic Institute knows Scott LaBarre. Five years ago we asked Scott to go off and get an international treaty adopted so blind people around the world could get greater access to books. Nothing is too big for Scott to wrap his arms around. Advocates for the blind, led primarily by the World Blind Union and the National Federation of the Blind, were in favor of having a treaty, but there were others that weren't. That included book publishers, motion picture studios, and the like. Scott took this on, and he's nothing if he isn't tenacious. Throughout a series of international meetings held biannually and a lot of work in between, during 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and some of the work done in 2013, Scott never failed in representing the blind of the United States, and he never faltered in his belief that this would be done and could be done. Even though there was only a glimmer of hope of succeeding in the end, Scott kept at it and finally, in June of 2013, just days before the National Federation of the Blind Convention last year, Scott's persistent persuasion prevailed in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The treaty, which has been mentioned this week, was adopted. There's more to come. Scott has to get it through the US Senate. That's a tall order. When you think of the right to read, the right to learn, and the right to be literate, when you think of successful advocacy by leaders of the blind who stand tall on behalf of protecting rights and winning new rights for blind people, you should think of Scott LaBarre. Here to accept the award is Scott LaBarre.
Scott LaBarre: Dr. Maurer, President-elect Riccobono, members of the board, Jim Gashel (who was my first boss and first tremendous mentor), and my Federation family: this is indeed an honor. I could not have done it without all of you. When I think of Dr. Bolotin, I think of a pioneer, an early torchbearer whom we could later follow. His work stood for the principle of equal opportunity, and I have no doubt that the work we did with Marrakesh will create that opportunity because it opens up the information flow. But I also want to tell you that recently I've been thinking of Dr. Bolotin for another reason. I've been thinking of Dr. Bolotin because of Aaron Cannon, because, if Jacob Bolotin could be a practicing, successful medical doctor in the 1920s, there's no reason in the world why Palmer should deny Aaron Cannon from being a chiropractor in the twenty-first century.
Let me just end really quickly with what I told the Iowa Supreme Court. I quoted from Dr. Bolotin himself when he was becoming a licensed physician and he said about that fact, "Well, is there anything so remarkable about it? Because a man has no eyes is it any sign that he hasn't any brains? That is the trouble with the world and the blind man. All the blind man asks is fair play. Give him an equal chance without prejudice, and he generally manages to hold his own with his more fortunate colleagues." That's what Dr. Bolotin said, that's what we believe. I thank you Federation family; I thank my family Anaheit, Alexander, and Emily; thank you very much, Mr. Gashel.
Jim Gashel: For our second recipient, representing exemplary organizational achievement, we recognize the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and its parent advocacy program for blind parents. This is with an award of $10,000.
When Erica Johnson and Blake Sennet arrived at Centerpoint Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, they were just two parents getting ready to give birth to their first child, and they were in every way normal parents. They were going to have a girl, they had already named her, she was going to be called Mikaela, and that means "somebody who resembles God." In every sense imaginable Erica and Blake were and are a normal couple, but not so as that is understood by the state of Missouri. Upon receiving a report that a baby had been born to a blind couple in Kansas City, a protective services agent (they'd probably say a social worker) swooped into the hospital, snatched up the baby, and took her to foster care. To the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, this is what you might call a teachable moment. Armed with an attorney and witnesses, the NFB of Missouri did its own swooping in to teach officials of the state a lesson that they should have learned. Two months after the baby was snatched away from Erica and Blake, a social worker from the state showed up at their home, brought Mikaela back, and two hours later our attorney got a fax saying the Department of Social Services was dropping the case: no explanation of why the baby was taken in the first place and no explanation of their high-handed conduct in this whole sordid affair. In the face of our NFB affiliate, the state of Missouri stood down, gave up. That wasn't enough. The NFB of Missouri at the next sitting of the legislature in Jefferson City got a bill passed to strengthen the rights of blind parents in that state to raise their own children. [applause] They've even made a video to teach the social workers how to behave. When you think of blind people raising their children to become competent, contributing, successful adults, when you think of facing down the power of the state and teaching the officials lessons about blindness they should have learned in school, then you should think of the NFB of Missouri and its Blind Parent Advocacy Program. Here to accept the award is Gary Wunder, president of the NFB of Missouri.
Gary Wunder: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. President, board of directors, and all of the people who made this possible. It's a great thing to come before you today and receive this award. We decided that we would do this video when we went to Children's Protective Services and they said, "You know, we don't want to be treated this way anymore, and we don't want to treat people this way anymore. How do we change it?"
We said, "Well, we'd like to come and talk to you."
They said, "Okay, there are 114 counties, and you'll probably have to come talk to us every year or year and a half because of the turnover."
We said, "Oh my goodness, how do we do that?" So we decided we would make a video, and they would incorporate it into their training. The main person responsible for this was Carol Coulter, and this is another Federation victory because you'll remember that in 1986 Carol was denied the right to be licensed by the state of Missouri as a childcare worker, and now she runs her own business. You guys made that happen.
We made the video, we're going to distribute the video, and we're going to make it such that blind people in the state of Missouri and the nation can parent without fear. Thank you.
Jim Gashel: Now for our third recipient, demonstrating exemplary leadership on behalf of the blind, this year we recognize the Parent Leadership Training Program conducted by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children with an award of $10,000. The challenge of becoming a parent to an impressionable and precious little child is just part of the normal human experience as children are born, advance through school, become adults, have babies of their own, and pass the torch along to the next generation. We've been passing the torch all week here. So it's part of the normal human experience. I know there are books written on this, but I've always wondered, why doesn't each kid come with a help file or an owner’s manual, so we know exactly what to do when things just don't go right.
Now imagine if the parents of the child are sighted, and then the child is blind or becomes blind. Where is the help file for that? Well it's the Parent Leadership Training Program and the NOPBC, that's where it is. Launched eight years ago, the Parent Leadership Program is a two-year training program providing parents of blind children with the skills they need to become effective advocates for their children while they also develop the skills to become leaders within their localities and, in fact, a national network to make sure that no blind child is left behind. When you think of believing in blind children as ordinary children who just can't see, when you think of reaching out and lifting up sighted parents so they are empowered to raise their blind children as normal human beings, when you think of selfless service to help others in need to know how to solve a problem, you should think of the NOPBC Parent Leadership Training Program. And here to accept the award on behalf of the NOPBC Parent Leadership Training Program is Carlton Walker.
Carlton Walker: [Ms. Walker speaks with a voice which has obviously been over-stressed by convention and her allergies.] As a parent you know we give it all. I thank the Bolotin committee as chaired by Mr. Gashel, President Maurer, President-elect Mark Riccobono, and the entire Federation family. We all know a child needs a loving, supportive environment in order to thrive. Members of the NOPBC, a proud division of the National Federation of the Blind [cheers, applause], we know our children receive just such an environment here in our NFB family. We are committed to sharing this truth with every parent of every blind child. We are grateful to the Bolotin Committee for this award, which will enable us to continue nurturing parent leaders across our nation. Thank you all.
Jim Gashel: And now for our fourth and final recipient this year. You can count as well as I can—you've got three $10,000 awards going out so far, right? We've got $50,000 to give out, right? To represent exemplary performance on behalf of blind people we recognize the National Blindness Professional Certification Board [cheers] with our highest award this year, which is an award of $20,000.
Now you know one of the shameful truths in the blindness services profession is the propensity of professionally trained sighted workers to believe that they and not the blind know what's good for the blind. But blind people have not been silent bystanders in the face of these kinds of lofty pronouncements from these learned professionals, especially when they write them up in the journals they control. In 1981 the only organization that was then available to certify professionals in work with the blind refused to certify Fredric K. Schroeder even though he had completed all of the academic and practical experience requirements necessary to be certified as an orientation & mobility instructor. In the intervening years laws were passed which encouraged personnel standards that required certification. But the same laws also required nondiscrimination on the basis of disability, which you've heard about this week. Enter the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Responding to a growing body of legal requirements, both related to personnel standards and nondiscrimination, the NBPCB is a voluntary organization of educators and rehabilitation specialists serving the blind. Its mission is to develop standards for certification of professional personnel, who provide services to blind persons throughout the country and to administer tests designed to assess their professional competence. Critical areas include orientation & mobility, Braille literacy, and certification of adjustment-to-blindness programs. Most important of all, the NBPCB's standards give full respect to the competencies and capabilities of blind people working in these programs. In becoming widely recognized and accepted as a reliable certification authority, the NBPCB has brought equality to the blind and put an end to second-class treatment of the blind in the profession of serving the blind. When you think of exploding myths by more enlightened understanding, when you think of courage to believe in blind people in the face of others who do not, and when you think of shaking the blindness profession to its core and changing that profession forever, think of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. It is a high honor to recognize the president of the NBPCB to accept this award, Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder.
Fredric Schroeder: Thank you very much, my Federation family. The board has really done some amazing things, and really its formulation is pretty straightforward: we work based on the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. We start with the assumption that blind people can live the lives they want to live. We believe in blind people, and, when the established profession wouldn't certify blind people to teach orientation & mobility, we created a certification standard which, in my opinion, is the gold standard in certifying orientation & mobility specialists. We have taken affirmative steps to address the crisis in Braille literacy and have now certified many people as competent in literary Braille, and the same with our training centers using the Federation philosophy as our foundation. We look at training programs in terms of do they really fulfill the promise of providing the encouragement and the skills that blind people need. Thank you very much for this recognition.
Thank you, Dr. Schroeder. Dr. Maurer, Mark Riccobono, and fellow Federationists: these are the distinguished and very deserving members of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award class of 2014. Thank you to Ron Brown and Mary Ellen Jernigan for their enlightened experience and intelligent review of all of the applications that various ones of you submitted this year. Their help in doing this is invaluable. Mr. President, this concludes my report and the presentation of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin awards for 2014.
Presented by Ramona Walhof
During a discussion about public relations a consultant said to us that he thought we had both prestige and widespread recognition as a leading force in work with the disabled in many if not most states. He said, "You don't need a Jerry Lewis or a movie star. You need and you have blind leaders who are effective and hardworking, have good knowledge, and have a high level of caring for other blind people."
We have long understood that love is the glue and the mortar that bind the Federation together and make us strong. No one demonstrates the truth of this thesis better than the man we have chosen tonight to honor with the Jacobus tenBroek Award. He is a national leader of course, and in his home state he is loved and respected by the blind, by the legislature, by city and state officials, and by thousands of other citizens.
The tenBroek Award was created in the 1970s and has been presented thirty-one times to NFB leaders from nineteen states. This year the members of the selection committee are Barbara Loos, Jim Gashel, and I. We have chosen to honor a man from a twentieth state, a man who has served as president of his state affiliate since 1986 and as a member of the board of directors since 1992. He is a man who is loved and respected by the blind and the sighted. Are you ready?
Sam Gleese, will you make your way to the platform? [prolonged applause]
Although Sam was blind as a child, he did not know it. He struggled to see, to read, to fill out paperwork throughout high school and college. But he received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Jackson State College in 1970. Also in 1970 Sam married his lifelong partner, Vanessa Smith. Their daughter Nicole was born in 1976. Sam worked for a grocery store chain through the 1970s and received promotions up to assistant department manager. In 1979, however, his retinas detached, and he lost his remaining vision. Then he was forced for the first time to learn the alternative skills of blindness. He soon moved into more leadership positions.
A year after beginning his training, Sam was a volunteer counselor at the training center where he had taken training. Having taught Sunday school through the 1970s at Mission Baptist Church, he became a deacon in the church in 1980. After his training Sam and Vanessa ran a tax preparation business for a few years, and he worked at a sheltered workshop in order to have year-round income. Sam became a senior associate pastor at College Hill Baptist Church in the 1990s and continues to serve there today, along with other things.
In 1983 Sam attended his first NFB convention. This was a major turning point in his life. Two years later he was elected president of his local chapter, and, as I said, in 1986 he became state president.
Blacks were not permitted to work in the Randolph-Sheppard Program in Mississippi until 1980. However, in 1985 Sam entered the Randolph-Sheppard Program, and he was assigned the worst facility in the state. He worked for two years and improved that location and was assigned a better one. He also worked to improve the entire program throughout Mississippi and did a lot. In 1994 he was awarded one of the best locations in Mississippi. He and Vanessa worked together there for the next six years.
Sam's work with the blind and disabled has spread the Federation message far and wide in Mississippi. In 1999 he was appointed to chair the first Mayor's Advisory Committee on Disabilities. Also in 1999 he was confirmed by the Jackson City Council as the first blind person to serve on the Jackson Hines Public Library Administrative Board, which supervises libraries throughout seven towns in the county. Sam worked with people with disabilities in AmeriCorps. Then he was employed as an independent living specialist for LIFE (which stands for Living Independence for Everyone). He works statewide as the director for the Project for the Healthy Futures Grant, assisting disabled youth from fourteen to twenty-one.
Sam has worked for several years and continues to work as a compliance coordinator for the city of Jackson in the Americans with Disabilities Office. He has served on numerous IEP teams, and he has mentored numerous blind Mississippians. Those who attended last year's convention will not forget Casey Robertson, the young blind teacher of blind children, who made an excellent presentation at that convention and credits Sam Gleese for guiding her in her work with the legislature. Sam works closely with the members of the Mississippi Legislature and the US Congress. The lead sponsor of our Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act is Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi. Congressman Harper also spoke at last year's NFB convention and said that his family and the Gleeses are close friends.
People from Mississippi tell me that the most notable thing about Sam Gleese is his big heart, and we see it in the hours Sam works and the quality of his work throughout the state and the country. Sam, this is why we have selected you tonight to honor you with the highest award we can give a member of the Federation: the Jacobus tenBroek Award. We give it to you with respect and with love. We are proud of your accomplishments, we are proud to have you as our brother, and we are proud to give you this plaque. The plaque reads:
JACOBUS TENBROEK AWARD
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
FOR YOUR DEDICATION, SACRIFICE,
ON BEHALF OF THE BLIND
OF THIS NATION.
YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS MEASURED
NOT IN STEPS BUT IN MILES,
NOT BY INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES
BUT BY YOUR IMPACT
ON THE LIVES OF THE BLIND
OF THE NATION.
WHENEVER WE HAVE ASKED,
YOU HAVE ANSWERED.
WE CALL YOU OUR COLLEAGUE WITH RESPECT.
WE CALL YOU OUR FRIEND WITH LOVE.
JULY 6, 2014
And it's got the new logo.
Sam Gleese: Dr. Maurer, President-elect Riccobono, my Federation family: My wife wouldn't believe I'm speechless right now; it's not too often I get to a place where I don't know what to say. For thirty-one years I've been at this convention and always guessed at who was getting the Jacobus tenBroek Award. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought it would be me. I'm humble, and I'm proud. I'm proud because in 1983 I found the organization that shaped my future and destiny. I don't know where I'd be without the NFB in my life, because it gave me structure and direction. It's amazing that I was here when Dr. Jernigan transitioned to Dr. Maurer, and I remember when Mark Riccobono got elected to the Wisconsin state affiliate, and now he's our president-elect. This is the greatest organization for people, not only in America, but around the world. I love you, I cherish you, and you shall forever be in my thoughts. They always ask me, "Where are you on the Fourth of July?" I'm at my family reunion, because the Federation is my family. Thank you and God bless.
Presented by Marc Maurer
We have two awards that we give in the National Federation of the Blind. One is an award that comes to a person who is within the organization, and one is an award that comes to a person who has been outside the organization but has made substantial contributions worthy of recognition. We have a committee to present this award, which is chaired by Allen Harris. Allen Harris asked me if I would make the presentation today on behalf of the committee, and I ask that the recipient come forward now so that we may talk about the work that you have done.
I will start by saying that we have named one of our awards, which we have just had presented, after our founding president, that is, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, who led us for many years. He started in 1940, and he continued as our principal leader (although he wasn't always our president) until 1968. It has not been lost upon me that that might be thought of as twenty-eight years.
He had a teacher. That was Dr. Newel Perry. Dr. Newel Perry was a person who was blind himself and had a PhD in mathematics and some published papers in mathematics at a time when no blind person anywhere was teaching very much anywhere. He spent years with his published papers and his graduate degrees trying to find a job. Eventually he was offered a job to instruct students at the California School for the Blind, and it was fortunate for us. Because he met and trained Dr. tenBroek, and Dr. tenBroek's restless mind imagined that there could be a national organization, and the National Federation of the Blind came into being. Dr. Perry was the teacher of our first president and our first teacher. He caused enormous change to occur that has been beneficial to blind people and to disabled people in this country and around the world.
That spirit is the spirit that we use for our Newel Perry Award. Our recipient has done the same, has brought imagination to the work of promoting the interests of disabled and blind people and has caused enormous change in this country and around the world. Her name is Judy Brewer. She directs the Web Accessibility Initiative at the World Wide Web Consortium. She works on web accessibility, ensuring that the guidelines which come in the work she does are offering accessible technology in web content, browsers, media players, mobile devices, authoring tools, and other computer elements that are used in the development of access technology or technology which, if it implements these guidelines, would provide equal access for disabled people.
The work that she has done has been adopted by many governments around the world and occasionally by the government of the United States. I think that it has an actual recognition of the standards that she has caused to come into being, but sometimes it does not follow the standards. Consequently, she has also the distinction of having provided a good deal of employment to lawyers that we know. But we couldn't have the kind of success that we find in the legal arena without the standard. The standard has to come first. One of the arguments that works always in the legal system is that there is no way to do it, that the impossibility is there, that an accepted mechanism for getting to the place of accessibility does not exist. And, when she put together the World Wide Consortium standard, which has provided accessibility in the development of all these products, there was a mechanism to do it. I invite Judy Brewer to come up.
I want to give you this award from us in recognition of your work. It says:
NEWEL PERRY AWARD
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
In recognition of courageous leadership
and outstanding service.
The National Federation of the Blind
bestows the Newel Perry Award
our sister on the barricades;
You champion our progress;
You strengthen our hopes;
You share our dreams.
July 6, 2014
I will also give you the Braille copy which has helped me remember the words in their proper order.
Judy Brewer: Thank you so much, Dr. Maurer. I am so very deeply honored to receive this recognition from the National Federation of the Blind. In a room full of advocates I am completely humbled. I am very moved by the intense energy here tonight. The advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind under the great inspiration and strong leadership of Dr. Maurer has highlighted the important expectations of the blindness community that the technology of today and in the future must be accessible and has helped drive important changes in the field. I have to say that Anne Taylor said this would be a surprise. If you ever need someone to keep a secret, she's the right person to do that.
I was told I could make a few very brief comments. The web is access to the world. For people with disabilities it's an essential aspect of access to information and to interaction. We live in a time when so much of technology is converging onto the web, that if, as people with disabilities, we do not do our utmost to ensure that all of these critical technologies are usable by us, then we will be deprived of so much access to the benefits of the information society. At the World Wide Web Consortium, Web Accessibility Initiative, based at MIT and several organizations internationally, we have the opportunity to develop consensus-based, cross-disability guidelines, standards, and educational materials in partnership with all stakeholder groups, including people with disabilities, industry, government, and research. As a person with a disability, this is personally very important to me, and it's also very important to W3C's vision of what the web should be. What we've been able to accomplish so far in the Web Accessibility Initiative has been the result of many individuals and organizations contributing their efforts from around the world. We welcome deeper involvement from the NFB in our work at the design stage of technology standards, as in partnership we work to ensure that all of the technologies that converge onto the web can and will be accessible.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to be working there in this collaborative effort and deeply grateful for the recognition of the work of the Web Accessibility Initiative from the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you so very much.