Vol. 63, No. 9 October 2020
Gary Wunder, Editor
Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the
The National Federation of the Blind
Mark Riccobono, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.
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Vol. 63, No. 9 October 2020
Illustration: Sometimes We Can Solve Problems Where We Live
Meet the Blind Month 2020
by Liz Wisecarver
Leveraging the Power of the Americans with Disabilities Act to Secure Our Right to Live in the World for Thirty Years
by Scott LaBarre, Marc Maurer, Dan Goldstein, Eve Hill, and Timothy Elder
Within the Grace of God, an Address Delivered by Professor Jacobus tenBroek
by Jacobus tenBroek
Movie Enjoyment Made Easy: Innovations to Include All Subscribers at Netflix
by Greg Peters
With the Normal People
by Trevor Soderstrum
My Life in Politics and My Life as a Blind Person
by Ryan Boudwin
Using Knowledge to Inform, Inspire, and Engage: Perspectives on Equal Access from the Largest Library in the World
by Carla Hayden
Making Gains for Blind Americans: Leadership in the United States Congress
by Senator Dick Durbin
Mississippi's Sam Gleese: Continuing to March Forward in the Movement
by LaShawna Fant
On the Passing of Betty Woodward
by Nathanael Wales
Why I'm Teaching My Blind Child Not to Be Color Blind
by Alison Clougherty
Copyright 2020 by the National Federation of the Blind
Much of the work of the National Federation of the Blind happens at the national and state levels; however, we ought to remember that many important issues, such as transportation, can be dealt with at the local level.
During the November 2019 meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Kansas City Chapter, we discussed a proposal by the city council to move toward a zero-fare bus system. We felt that this could affect the transportation we rely on, and we decided as a chapter to have a city official come to talk to us about it. The recently elected mayor of Kansas City, Quinton Lucas, graciously agreed to attend our January 18, 2020, meeting. The mayor gave us thirty minutes of his busy schedule during which he outlined his accomplishments since he took office on August 1, 2019. He also assured our members that bus fares are a tiny fraction of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority budget and that the money lost by not charging fares could easily be found in the city budget.
by Liz Wisecarver
From the Editor: Liz Wisecarver is our national communications committee chairperson. She lives in Houston, is an active member of the chapter, and works full time for the state affiliate as its NFB-NEWSLINE® coordinator. Here is what she has to say about our Meet the Blind Month activities as we take things virtual:
The National Federation of the Blind celebrates Meet the Blind Month each October to teach the public about the capabilities of blind people through example and one-on-one conversations. Each year, local chapters conduct a variety of outreach events in their communities, including White Cane Awareness Day proclamations on October 15, white cane walks, resource fairs, and Braille workshops. This year will be a little different, however, because the majority of our events will take place virtually.
The theme for this year’s Meet the Blind Month is our lived experiences with problem-solving, self-confidence, and intersectionality. And 2020 has certainly been a year that has put our problem-solving skills to the test. Chapters and affiliates have found creative ways to keep members connected while staying socially distant, including virtual chats over coffee, live banquet viewing parties on Zoom, and workshops on everything from technology demonstrations to exercise classes. Now it’s time to expand our collective creativity to host engaging Meet the Blind Month activities that will reach people outside of the Federation.
One challenge is how to interact with the public now that we are unable to meet in person and go where people are likely to congregate. The Houston Chapter has come up with a unique way to reach out to the community. We plan on hosting a public open house on Zoom for anyone to attend to talk about the National Federation of the Blind and the capabilities of blind people. An invitation will be posted to the usual social media outlets, as well as on the Nextdoor platform. Nextdoor allows users to connect with neighbors and businesses around them to share community events, ask for recommendations, and sell items. We hope that posting an invitation to our community will encourage people to join in and get to know us.
Many chapters are part of White Cane Day Celebration committees charged with planning October 15 proclamations and presentations. The Houston Chapter suggested that a virtual resource fair of exhibitors could be hosted on Zoom as part of the celebration following the presentations. The National Federation of the Blind of Texas, NFB-NEWSLINE® Texas, the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston, and other local blindness agencies will host breakout rooms to let participants know about the services they provide. There will even be commemorative face masks available to purchase for the occasion.
Our national headquarters is hosting virtual events throughout October to promote meaningful conversations between blind people and the general public. There will be a Twitter chat each Wednesday in October to discuss blindness intersectionality with other characteristics that are also subject to inequalities, including other disabilities, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and seniors losing vision later in life. Webinars designed for employers will feature blind people’s experiences in problem-solving to illustrate the unique value we bring to the workplace. A video series sharing stories about building confidence through nonvisual training and the Federation philosophy is being created to show how blind people can accomplish their dreams. We encourage all members to join in the Twitter chats and share your experiences on social media. Remember to use the hashtag #MeetTheBlind.
Although this year may be different than years past, we encourage affiliates and chapters to plan a virtual event in your area to talk about blindness and the Federation philosophy. Invite other local partners and agencies, such as schools and libraries, to take part. The Courtesy Rules of Blindness and White Cane Awareness Day resources found on www.nfb.org are great to share at a virtual event or with local government officials. Please send us the date and a brief description of your event to email@example.com so we can feature it on our website. We can’t wait to see how our Federation family across the country is celebrating Meet the Blind Month this year.
by Scott LaBarre, Marc Maurer, Dan Goldstein, Eve Hill, and Timothy Elder
From the Editor: At the NFB 2020 Convention, President Riccobono introduced our next distinguished panel with these words:
I'm going to turn this over to a gentleman who, in many ways, serves as our general counsel so to speak. He does legal work of all sorts for the Federation. He helps to pursue legal assignments that I send his way, but he also works with a number of our organizational questions, and he has become a leader in the American Bar Association. Amongst his legal work, he has continued to be in the community of the National Federation of the Blind, serving not only as president of our Colorado affiliate but our Association of Blind Lawyers, where he has built a real community. I'm going to let him introduce the rest of these great panelists who have a lot of great things to say, and I'm sure they're going to point us toward the future of what we need to be concerned about in advancing the next thirty years of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here is Scott LaBarre:
SCOTT LaBARRE: Thank you so much, President Riccobono. We'll certainly talk about tomorrow, but to get to tomorrow, we have to talk a little bit about yesteryear, where we have come from, and how we've gotten here. We're celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law. Many of us were trying to predict at that time what it would mean for us as a blind community, what it would mean for the National Federation of the Blind, how we could use it, and what we would have to worry about. That's a little bit about what we're going to talk about, but we'll also address the future. Because even though we have made great strides over these many years, and an example of the great strides we have made show up in Laura Wolk and knocking down barriers so that she could climb those steps to very, very high places. I've got to say, Laura, I look forward someday—I probably will be an old lawyer by then, I suppose I already am an old lawyer—but anyway, someday I look forward to arguing a case in front of you!
Anyway, let me briefly introduce this august panel we've assembled this evening. I realize we're the last thing between you and your virtual happy hour, so please hang in with us, all right? We have on this panel Dr. Marc Maurer, who is of course our Immediate Past President of the Federation. He is now the director of our legal programs. He really truly played just an imperative role in developing our legal policy.
We have Daniel Goldstein, an attorney who is now retired, but who founded the firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy and really helped us to craft our legal policy in the early years of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have Eve Hill who is now a partner at Brown, Goldstein & Levy. We, of course, worked with her when she was at the United States Department of Justice as a deputy assistant attorney general in the area of civil rights and specifically had charge over the disability rights section of the DOJ. Our last panelist is Tim Elder, who is the principal and manager, founder of TRE Legal Services in California. He is the second vice president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and president of the National Federation of the Blind in California. He's the youngest member on this panel, the least experienced lawyer on this panel, but even in his few short years in the legal profession, he has already had a tremendous impact on shaping our policy, on shaping the legal landscape. So we have just truly an amazing panel here this evening.
I want to spend just one second on the origins of the ADA. At an anniversary like this, all of these people get up, Congressmen and women, and professors and lawyers, and they say, you know, I was the founder of the ADA! I was one of the founders of the ADA! And I did work that caused it to come into being. But I would submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that our founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, really truly was one of the authentic founders of what became the Americans with Disabilities Act. Why do I say that? It's because Dr. tenBroek boldly, bravely, declared that the blind had a right to live in the world, and that right had to be secured by law. He is the one who initiated the laws that we called later on "white cane laws." He is the one who in 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was being debated before Congress, said that disability should also be a protected status under law. No one else was saying that then, or at least very few people. It is his work, his legal thinking, that really allowed us to develop all of the disability rights laws that came after. So we have a great deal of debt that we have to still pay to Dr. tenBroek and his amazing work.
Dr. Maurer, I want to first turn to you and ask you to tell us: When the ADA was first being developed, what did the Federation think of it?
MARC MAURER: I have a response to this question, but I want to say about the Americans with Disabilities Act that it is an important law. It is not the most important thing, however. The law is important only to the extent that people think it's important. There are a number of them that nobody much cares about. So the question about the Americans with Disabilities Act is partly that it's there, and partly that people think it's important. In order to make it important, the people who interact with things like law and the life that we live that is affected by law have to think it's important, and they have to behave as if it's important.
Take today's presidential report. That shows that we think this is important and that we're causing other people to come to have the same opinion. So the most important thing is not the law itself but how we behave with respect to it.
When we thought about the Americans with Disabilities Act in the beginning, we thought you could interpret it two ways. You could say that because you have a disability, you have certain things to which you're entitled. If you say that those things are the right to equal access to information and so forth, then the law is well understood and may be interpreted to give us opportunities that we didn't have. If you say that because I've got a disability, you MUST employ me, then that is a problem. We have to do our part to demonstrate our capacity, and we were worried that all the talk about the rights of people with disabilities would mean in the beginning that people thought that just because I've got a disability and just because we now have this law, I have a right to certain property interests that I didn't before. What we wanted was equality of opportunity, not equality of result. If you earn the result, then we thought it was worthwhile.
As I said to Dan Goldstein decades ago, close to thirty years now, I said, unless we can show that the disabled have economic benefit in the society in which we live, it doesn't matter how many laws we pass. If we pass a law that says we have equality and we can't compete, then we don't deserve it, and the law won't work. We have to demonstrate the economic benefit that we have at the same time. So we wanted equality of opportunity with all of that which is implied by the thought, which is an enormous amount. We did not want to say that with this law we have a right to demand that some of what you have, either your government or your employer or your whatever, have got to give it to me. We wanted the opportunity to earn our way, and we were worried that the law might be interpreted improperly.
SCOTT LaBARRE: And I would say that certainly that was a valid concern at the time. It probably is still a valid concern. But it's been interesting. The ADA over the years has been interpreted so narrowly that it has not given us the benefit, I think, that we thought maybe it would. Dan Goldstein, what would you say to this question? How did the NFB start developing a policy or a practice of taking advantage of the ADA? How did we use it as a tool?
DANIEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, that really started about nine years after the passage of the ADA. For many years, we were reactive in the sense that somebody would come with a problem, and Dr. Maurer would decide this was a problem that should be handled with a legal action. And so we did that. Then in late 1999, Dr. Maurer pointed out the tremendous consequences that were flowing from the digital world taking over. They were negative consequences, and they were gratuitous consequences. They were barriers that did not need to be there, when in fact, in the absence of barriers there would be an equality that hadn't been there before.
Dr. Maurer set forth as the task getting developers to think about the word "us" as including the blind when they develop technology. Some of it was reactive, but very often it wasn't. ATMs were a terribly important convenience, so we went after the accessibility of ATMs. Sometimes it was slightly reactive. There was a fellow who wasn't an NFB member who sued Maryland over inaccessible voting machines. The judge did not have confidence in him and asked us to step in. We did, and there began a long series of very important voting cases. Of course the first of these that we did was against AOL. The strategy evolved as we learned. One of the things that we learned very early on is there are giant holes in the ADA. We can't go after an inaccessible technology directly in most cases using the ADA. So we had to pressure the customers of those technologies by suing them instead.
SCOTT LaBARRE: I think from my perspective, these cases really started to help define what purposes we had for our legal program and how we started to make decisions about the cases we would take and those we wouldn't. Dr. Maurer, would you like to comment a little bit about how we develop the purposes of our legal program?
MARC MAURER: Well, the idea was to see that we could get accommodations that would help people get employment. You've got this great big piece of employment law in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and yet the unemployment rate is enormous. The opportunities that the Americans with Disabilities Act might give to employment should be huge. There was a lot of study about it in the 1990s, and people said this was going to cost the United States enormous amounts of money. Yet the unemployment rate remains the same, and those of us who got involved in litigation with respect to employment found that most of the time we lost. We lost because people said it was just not practical to have people with disabilities be employed.
There's a 1999 Supreme Court case, which causes my blood to stir still, even though it's twenty-one years old. In this case Chief Justice Rehnquist made the statement that it would be rational and therefore constitutional for a state with scarce resources, and what state doesn't have scarce resources, to say that it wasn't going to employ people with disabilities because it should reserve the resources that were not too abundant. By saying this, you get the idea that it's more expensive to have the disabled around, and as a matter of law the disabled aren't as productive as those who don't have disabilities. I read this case, and I say, how does the justice know? Is it in the record? Can you demonstrate it? Anyway, you can see why it stirs me still! And yet, not all of the cases have been that way.
So we looked at what was out there. We looked at the possibilities, and we thought, do we think this one has a better than even chance of success? People especially like to sue the government. I know this. The government doesn't mind, or at least it doesn't seem to. There are lots of lawyers that are employed by the government. They've got huge legal offices, and they've got almost an inexhaustible budget. Yet if you sue the Internal Revenue Service, you've got sympathy on your side instantly, even though it's the government, and the government has many, many advantages. Still the public is with you, and even the judges seem to take a kind of an interest in it. Consequently, we looked at the cases, and we tried to figure out which ones we thought we could win and which ones we could use to advance the opportunities.
I asked Dan Goldstein one time: You've got this employment piece in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Why does it not let us sue people who are paying sub-minimum wages? After a while, he came back and said, “Well, there's this exception.” I thought, you've got a whole piece of legislation which says that there ought to be equality of opportunity, and yet the sub-minimum wage statute remains on the books! So you can't attack it directly. You have to attack it indirectly. Well, we did a lot of indirect attacks and expanded our reach each time we did and tried to get somebody to pay attention.
So far we haven't frightened anybody to death or at least not so far as I can tell. We did get a magnificent settlement in the Target case, and that changed the technology world. It couldn't have been done, I think, without the AOL case. But the Target case helped to get on the map the idea that access to this internet, which was becoming the entire world, had to be considered a possibility. We still have a long way to go, but we made a long stride that day.
SCOTT LaBARRE: So, let me now bring Eve Hill into this. Eve, you've come into our legal program a little bit later, and certainly one of the struggles that we have had over the years is getting the courts to accept the idea that the internet really is something that is covered by the ADA. But there's still this tension between whether or not an entity's goods and services are connected with a physical place or whether or not it's just purely virtual. Some courts say that if it's purely virtual, we have no right of access to it. Where do you think we are, and where do we need to go?
EVE HILL: Well, in the technology space, there is this hangup, which is honestly a tricky argument made up by defense lawyers, unfortunately bought by courts, that "place of public accommodation" means physical place. They've been making that argument all over the place. The good news is nobody has actually bought that argument yet in a web case. People keep thinking, oh, there's a split in the circuits. But as we all pointed out in the Domino's Pizza case, there's no split in the circuits right now. The 9th circuit has said you have to have a physical place. Other circuits have indicated you don't have to have a physical space, but never in a website case. So I'm thinking we're still going to do okay in this eventually.
But I think because the internet really didn't take off until just about the time that the ADA was passed, they didn't think about these emerging technologies in the way they probably would now. What we say in the case of a building is, if you build a new building, its gotta be accessible. And there's liability, at least in some circuits, for the architect and the designer and the builder if they don't make it accessible. So there's an argument to be made—I know, because I've made it—(laughing) that websites and other technologies that were built since the ADA should be built accessibly from the beginning, and that we should stop putting them in the area of effective communication and treat them as something that there should be no excuse for building something new inaccessibly.
So we'll see if that plays out, right now, because the Justice Department—I know, I'm so ashamed—has not undertaken its regulatory responsibilities. That's not there.
I think this great thing about the ADA, the thirtieth anniversary is, we're starting to get, I hope—I may just be really optimistic today—a little over the hangover of the charity model of disability. So the ADA rejected that. No, it took no pity all the way. We can do everything we can do. And all the assumptions that say we can't are out of here. You look at us; you just figure that if we have a disability and we're qualified, and then you give us the accommodations to do our job. The courts for ten years said, no, no, no you're not disabled enough! We don't feel bad for you, so you don't have a disability. So you're not disabled enough, so you're not covered. Oh, you're disabled enough to deserve charity, so you can't do the job. There was no winning at all. The good thing is now I'm starting to encounter judges who go, yeah, people with disabilities can do whatever, and that this definition of disability as meaning you can't work, isn't the case. So at least some of the assumptions that underlay the law that allows people to be kept in subminimum-wage sheltered work are crumbling. I think that gives us a lot of hope.
SCOTT LaBARRE: Well, Eve, I hope you're right. But I can also imagine situations in which we think we have secured a victory, but maybe we haven't. Tim, I'm going to bring you into this now. This is going back to the employment context. You were involved with the Reyazuddin case where we won a jury trial. But did we win?
TIMOTHY ELDER: We did in some respects. And first, let me say, the team and the legal work that we do as a Federation to advance the ADA over the last thirty years—this is the best. Like, this is the best work out there in disability rights, access to digital technology. Our team and the legal work that we're doing—we're leading this on a global scale. So it's been an absolute privilege to be part of it.
I choose this career, and I've chosen to do this work because it's amazing, and it makes an impact. There's a lot of other things that we might be doing as attorneys, but this work really is meaningful. I've seen the difference that it has made, from Target.com and some of our other victories; Reyazuddin—the battle continues on for Yasmine, but it is a victory to some extent. We also really need to be looking to the future and what technology means in the employment space. We can't be doing the reactive approach any longer. We really need to be thinking about how we go upstream. The technology is being developed through the stream of commerce. A developer is building one piece, combining it with another developer, they're combining it into a platform, selling it to someone else, and then they're selling it to the employer at the end of the stream. If accessibility has to be dealt with at the end of the stream, we're never going to win this war. We have to figure out ways to take the law that we have and strategize and reach further up that stream, impose liability, make those developers at the top of the chain understand that they have some responsibility. They have liability. And as Dr. Maurer said, they have to think that this is important. For our employment work, I see that as really the future of where we're going to need to go.
Artificial intelligence: what does that mean? I'm excited to work on some of these emerging issues. We've got a lot of questions. But I'm excited to see what the next generation is going to do. Kaylee [Brendle], when you're an amazing disability rights lawyer working with Dr. Bennett on how to make sure AI doesn't discriminate against blind applicants, I'm excited to see what we'll do in the next thirty years.
SCOTT LaBARRE: Tim, on that point, are we going to be able to get there through litigation and with the existing law, or are we going to have to change the law?
TIMOTHY ELDER: I think we have to do things differently than we have done; that’s always been true, and we've always adapted and moved forward. This convention is a great example of how we as a community are very innovative and creative, and we have a huge talent pool to use. We can't just look at the law, either. It's not just litigation anymore. It's litigation-plus. The work we do is amazing, but frankly it's a drop in the bucket compared to the level of compliance that's actually happening out there in the real technology world. We need to figure out ways to harness other forms of technology to make the technology work for us, to use litigation combined with other strategies. For example, what are we doing to crowdsource self-advocacy? We need to be doing big landmark cases at the very top, at the Supreme Court, and things that trickle down. But we need to empower more people to self-advocate in small claims court, in administrative proceedings, to have more toolkits that use automation and efficiency to bring more attention to digital accessibility and legal compliance.
We can't just look at it as the court is our forum of enforcement any longer. We do have to think really strategically about how we use our litigation in connection and integration with many other strategies. Media, perception, automation, efficiency—there's a lot of exciting stuff coming out with artificial intelligence. I think in some cases we're going to be using artificial intelligence to generate advocacy for individuals even. So I'm excited for these next thirty years.
SCOTT LaBARRE: (laughing). Yes, Dr. Maurer?
MARC MAURER: You've got to be careful what you wish for here. If you look at what Tim has said in one way, he indicates that we need lots more lawyers doing lots more cases.
EVE HILL: No, no, no.
MARC MAURER: If you do that, what you want are lots more bright lawyers doing the proper cases in the proper way. We've got a bunch of lawyers out there who are doing the ADA and the disabled no good at all by bringing cases that are eminently likely to lose.
SCOTT LaBARRE: Well, that's true. I was just going to transition to the final point here. At first I would say we were reluctant about the ADA. But then we realized in some ways we had to shape its effects and how it impacted people and shape how the law would be crafted in this area. One of the things we did, and Dan Goldstein here was a great proponent of this, was establish the Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium in 2007. We also were the leading entity in forming the Disability Rights Bar Association, where we are trying to steer lawyers who practice in the disability rights arena in the right direction. I think that's not exactly as a result of the ADA. But it is as a result of us trying to shape the way the ADA is used as a tool. And Dan, I think I heard you wanted to get in on this. Then we'll have to wrap up in just a minute. But Dan, why don't you give us your thoughts?
DANIEL GOLDSTEIN: Well, I was just going to say that clearly we need more legislation because the ADA does not cover the waterfront. It doesn't require nearly enough in the employment area. Although there's language about methods of administration that discriminate, most judges only understand that it's something about reasonable accommodations in Title I. That makes it very hard to attack. But we need non-litigation methods as well. Tim is absolutely right.
EVE HILL: Yup.
DANIEL GOLDSTEIN: Because most judges will force you to settle. So there are no Target cases in the sense of opinions that we can point to except when we litigate against states. Everybody else ends up settling. And, you know, there are too many websites to be able to litigate them one website at a time. So we'll have to be creative about new and different ways. What I think we can lay credit to up to this point is that we have increased awareness of accessibility and a clearer understanding of disability than existed when we got started. But I don't think by any other measure we can claim what we've done has been a success.
SCOTT LaBARRE: Well, I think you're right, Dan, and I think there's another aspect of this, and I think this is where we can end. But we still have to do a lot of work in this community to make this legal community and the pursuit of disability rights look like the rest of our society. We've realized in the last couple of years that when you look at lawyers who practice disability rights law and you look at the people who have been bringing the cases, in the Disability Rights Bar Association, for example, 86 percent of the attorneys involved are white. There's a real dearth of lawyers of diverse backgrounds right now, and quite frankly there's a dearth of lawyers with disabilities from diverse backgrounds right now. Panel, what do we need to do to change that?
MARC MAURER: One thing I want to say is that I'm proud of your work with the American Bar Association. Because part of what we have to do is get the Bar itself to know that disability rights is a part of the law, and a part of the respected element of practice of the law, and ought to be an element of the Bar Association that gets the respect it deserves. You have brought that into being, and I admire you for doing it. But there has to be a program on the main part of the Bar Association agenda, as there does with state bar associations. We have to get the lawyers to know that disability law is still there, and lots of them have never heard of it.
SCOTT LaBARRE: And it's also a pipeline issue. Lots of lawyers with diverse backgrounds have not been involved in this area, including lawyers with disabilities. But I have hope, and the reason I have hope is by looking at our scholarship class this year. We have five or six people either interested in going to law school or who are in law school. And that class is incredibly diverse. So I have hope for the future. I think we have made some important strides. We've had great victories. But we have just scratched the surface. I know because of the team that we've assembled here, because of the lawyers that we will get involved in this area, and because of our members, we will secure our right to live in the world. And I think, Mr. President, even though this could probably go on all evening and deserves more attention, I think we'll turn it back over to you at this point.
An Address Delivered by Professor Jacobus tenBroek
President, National Federation of the Blind
at the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Held in San Francisco, July 1, 1956
From the Editor: One of the major presentations held at our 2020 National Convention discussed leveraging the power of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Scott LaBarre opined that of all the people who claimed to have brought about the ADA, none is more deserving than Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. This address, delivered some sixty-four years ago, not only helps to substantiate that claim, but it speaks to the normality of blind people and to the acceptance of diversity we have always demanded of society. It can be argued that the specifics Dr. tenBroek discusses are different from what we face today, but the broader issues are the same. We, as well as the sighted people in society, must address these issues and treat people as we wish to be treated. Sometimes when the Braille Monitor runs an older speech, someone suggests that we need to update our literature. Let it be known through this notice and others that we entertain and will publish items that contain a similar message and may more clearly represent the challenges of today. Here is what Professor tenBroek said:
It is a privilege of a very special order, and one to which I have long looked forward, to address you here tonight in the unique and wonderful city of San Francisco. For all of us who are native Californians (which means as you know that we have moved at least six months ago from Iowa or Oklahoma) this occasion marks the fulfillment of a cherished ambition; and we feel something of the pardonable pride of hosts who know that their hospitality has been as graciously accepted as it has been warmly given.
But there is something else that is special about the present occasion. Our city and our state are blessed in this year of grace with not one but two history-making conventions, each of which is appearing on the local stage for the first time: our own and that of the Republican Party. There can be no question, of course, which is the more important and far-reaching in its consequences—but let us admit that the Republicans too have an objective of some scope.
During our regular convention sessions today we have had a fairly full review of the work of the National Federation of the Blind. We have seen the accelerated growth of the organization marked by the accession of nine state affiliates in the year since our last National Convention, lifting us from a beginning of seven states in 1940 to a grand total of forty-two states today and with a clear view of affiliates in forty-eight states in the foreseeable future. We have seen an organization with purposes as irrepressible as the aspiration of men to be free, with far-flung activities and accomplishments, with the solid adherence and participation of rank and file members, and with the selfless devotion of an ever-increasing array of able and distinguished leaders. We have seen the action and the forces of action. We have also seen the reaction and the forces of reaction. There is perhaps no stronger testimony to our developing prestige and influence as the nationwide movement and organization of the blind than the scope and intensity of the attacks upon us. These attacks are not new. They have persisted from the very beginning. They have ranged from unspeakable, whispering campaigns against the character and integrity of the leaders of the Federation to public disparagement of its goals and structure. Now, however, the attacks have taken on a new bitterness and violence. They include open avowals of a determination to wipe several of our affiliates out of existence, and every step possible has been taken to bring about this result.
Whence come these attacks? What is the motivation behind them? Are they personal? Are they institutional? Are they based on policy differences as to ends as well as to means? What is the pattern of action and reaction for the future? Is such conflict unavoidable? To what degree is reconciliation possible?
It is to an analysis of these problems and to an answer to these questions that I should like to direct your attention tonight.
Let me begin by giving you a purely hypothetical and very fanciful situation. Imagine that somewhere in the world there exists a civilization in which the people without hair—that is the bald—are looked down upon and rigidly set apart from everyone else by virtue of their distinguishing physical characteristic. If you can accept this fantasy for a moment, it is clear that at least two kinds of organizations would come into being dedicated to serve the interests of these unfortunate folk. First, I suggest, there would appear a group of non-bald persons drawn together out of sympathy for the sorry condition of this rejected minority: in short, a benevolent society with a charitable purpose and a protective role. At first, all of the members of this society would be volunteers, doing the work on their free time and out of the goodness of their hearts. Later, paid employees would be added who would earn their livelihood out of the work and who would gradually assume a position of dominance. This society would, I believe, have the field pretty much to itself for a rather long time. In the course of years, it would virtually eliminate cruel and unusual punishment of the bald, furnish them many services and finally create enclaves and retreats within which the hairless might escape embarrassing contact with normal society and even find a measure of satisfaction and spiritual reward in the performance of simple tasks not seriously competitive with the ordinary pursuits of the larger community.
The consequence of this good work would, I venture to say, be a regular flow of contributions by the community, an acceptance by the community of the charitable foundation as the authentic interpreter of the needs of those unfortunate and inarticulate souls afflicted with baldness, an increasing veneration for the charitable foundation, and a general endorsement of its principles, and—gradually but irresistibly—the growth of a humanitarian awareness that the bald suffer their condition through no fault of their own and accordingly that they should be sponsored, protected, tolerated, and permitted to practice, under suitable supervision and control, what few uncomplicated trades patient training may reveal them able to perform.
Eventually, a great number of charitable organizations would be established in the field of work for the bald. They or some of them would join together in a common association which might well be entitled the American Association of Workers for the Bald. Step by step, upon the published "proceedings" of their annual meetings, carefully edited to eliminate the views of the outspoken bald, they would aspire to climb to professional status. As a part of their self-assigned roles as interpreters and protectors of the bald, they or some of them, would sooner or later undertake to lay down "criteria" and "standards" for all service programs for the bald to be "a manual of guidance for those responsible for operating the programs. . . ."
These, then, would be the assumptions and the ends to which the charitable organizations for the bald would tirelessly and successfully exert themselves. They would petition the community through both public and private enterprise to support these purposes, and their appeals would dramatize them through a subtle invocation of the sympathetic and compassionate traits of human nature. Sooner or later, some of them, in order to drive competitors out of business, garner favor with the public, and to give color of legitimacy to their own methods, would issue what they would unabashedly call a code of fundraising ethics.
All this presumably would take much time; but before too many generations had passed I expect that most if not all of these objectives would have come to fruition, and there would appear to be an end to the problem of the bald.
Unfortunately, however, there seem always to be those who persist in questioning established institutions and revered traditions; and in my improbable fable, at some point well along in the story, there would appear a small band of irascible individuals—a little group of willful men—bent on exposing and tearing down the whole laborious and impressive structure of humanitarianism and progress. Incredibly and ironically, these malcontents would emerge from the very ranks of the bald themselves. At first I suspect that they would pass unheard and almost unnoticed; but eventually their numbers would increase and their dissent become too insistent to be easily ignored. What they would be saying, as I make it out, is something like this:
"You have said that we are different because we are bald, and that this difference marks us as inferior. But we do not agree with certain Biblical parables that possession of hair is an index of strength, certainly not that it is a measure either of virtue or of ability. Owing to your prejudice and perhaps your guilt—because you do not like to look upon us—you have barred us from the normal affairs of the community and shunted us aside as if we were pariahs. But we carry no contagion and present no danger, except as you define our condition as unclean and make of our physical defect a stigma. In your misguided benevolence you have taken us off the streets and provided shelters where we might avoid the pitiless gaze of the non-bald and the embarrassment of their contact. But what we wish chiefly is to be back on the streets, with access to all the avenues of ordinary commerce and activity. We do not want your pity, since there need be no occasion for it; and it is not we who suffer embarrassment in company with those whom we deem our fellows and our equals. You have been kind to us, and if we were animals we should perhaps be content with that; but our road to hell has been paved with your good intentions." One of the leaders of the bald doubtless would rise to say: "We do not want compassion, we want understanding; we do not want tolerance, we want acceptance; we do not want charity, we want opportunity; we do not want dependency, we want independence. You have given us much, but you have withheld more; you have withheld those values which we prize above all else, exactly as you do: personal liberty, dignity, privacy, opportunity, and—most of all—equality. But if it is not in your power, or consistent with your premises, to see these things as our goals, be assured that it is within our power and consistent with our self-knowledge to demand them and to press for their attainment. For we know by hard experience what you do not know, or have not wished to recognize: that given the opportunity we are your equals; that as a group we are no better and no worse than you—being in fact a random sample of yourselves. We are your doubles, whether the yardstick be intellectual or physical or psychological or occupational. Our goals, in short, are these: we wish to be liberated, not out of society but into it; we covet independence, not in order to be distinct but in order to be equal. We are aware that these goals, like the humane objectives you have labored so long to accomplish, will require much time and effort and wisdom to bring into being. But the painful truth must be proclaimed that your purposes are not our purposes; we do not share your cherished assumptions of the nature of baldness, and will not endure the handicap you have placed upon it. And so we have formed our own organization, in order to speak for ourselves from the experience which we alone have known and can interpret. We bear no malice and seek no special favors, beyond the right and opportunity to join society as equal partners and members in good standing of the great enterprise that is our nation and our common cause."
End of quotation—end of fable. Is this fable simply a fanciful story or is it a parable? Some will say, I have no doubt, that I have not presented the case of the blind—that there is no parallel and therefore no parable. For one thing, is it not surely ridiculous to imagine that any civilized society could so baldly misinterpret the character of those who are not blessed with hair on their heads? It may be! But civilized society has always so misinterpreted the character of those who lack sight in their eyes; and on a basis of that misinterpretation has created the handicap of blindness. You and I know that blind people are simply people who cannot see; society believes that they are people shorn of the capacity to live normal, useful, productive lives and that belief has largely tended to make them so.
For another thing, did the fable accurately portray the attitudes of at least some of the agencies for the blind? Are their goals really so different from the goals of the blind themselves? Do they actually arrogate to themselves the roles of interpreter and protector, ascribing to their clients’ characteristics of abnormality and dependency? To answer these questions and to demonstrate the bona fides of the parable, I shall let some agency leaders speak for themselves in the form of seven recent quotations:
Quotation number one uttered by an agency psychiatrist: "All visible deformities require special study. Blindness is a visible deformity, and all blind persons follow a pattern of dependency." That one hardly requires any elucidation to make its meaning plain.
Quotation number two uttered by the author of a well-known volume upon the blind for which the American Association of Workers for the Blind conferred upon him a well-known award:
With many persons, there was an expectation in the establishment of the early schools... that the blind in general would thereby be rendered capable of earning their own support—a view that even at the present is shared in some quarters. It would have been much better if such a hope had never been entertained, or if it had existed in a greatly modified form. A limited acquaintance of a practical nature with the blind as a whole and their capabilities has usually been sufficient to demonstrate the weakness of this conception.
That one also speaks adequately for itself.
Quotation number three uttered by a well-known blind agency head: "After he is once trained and placed, the average disabled person can fend for himself. In the case of the blind, it has been found necessary to set up a special state service agency which will supply them not only rehabilitation training but other services for the rest of their lives." The agencies "keep in constant contact with them as long as they live." So the blind are unique among the handicapped in that, no matter how well-adjusted, trained and placed, they require lifelong supervision by the agencies.
Quotation number four uttered by another well-known blind agency head: "The operation of the vending stand program, we feel, necessitates maintaining a close control by the federal government through the licensing agency with respect to both equipment and stock, as well as the actual supervision of the operation of each individual stand. It is therefore our belief that the program would fail if the blind stand managers were permitted to operate without control," This is, of course, just the specific application of the general doctrine of the incompetence of the blind expressed in the previous quotation. Blind businessmen are incapable of operating an independent business. The agencies must supervise and control the stock, equipment, and the business operation.
Quotation number five, first sentence of the Code of Ethics (so-called) of the American Association of Workers for the Blind: "The operations of all agencies for the blind entail a high degree of responsibility because of the element of public trusteeship and protection of the blind involved in services to the blind." The use of the word "protection" makes it plain that the trusteeship here referred to is of the same kind as that existing under the United Nations Trusteeship Council—that is, custody and control of underprivileged, backward, and dependent peoples.
Quotation number six uttered by still another well-known blind agency head: "To dance and sing, to play and act, to swim, bowl, and roller skate, to work creatively in clay, wood, aluminum or tin, to make dresses, to join in group readings or discussions, to have entertainments and parties, to engage in many other activities of one's choosing—this is to fill the life of anyone with the things that make life worth living." Are these the things that make life worth living for you? Only the benevolent keeper of an asylum could make this remark—only a person who views blindness as a tragedy which can be somewhat mitigated by little touches of kindness and service to help pass the idle hours but which cannot be overcome. Some of these things may be accessories to a life well filled with other things—a home, a job, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, for example.
Quotation number seven uttered by still another head of a blind agency:
A job, a home, and the right to be a citizen, will come to the blind in that generation when each and every blind person is a living advertisement of his ability and capacity to accept the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. Then we professionals will have no problem of interpretation because the blind will no longer need us to speak for them, and we, like primitive segregation, will die away as an instrument which society will include only in its historical records.
"A job, a home, and the right to be a citizen," are not now either the possessions or the rights of the blind—they will only come to the blind in a future generation! A generation, moreover, which will never come to the sighted since it is one in which "each and every blind person" will live up to some golden rule far beyond the human potential. In that never-to-be-expected age, the leaders of the agencies for the blind will no longer discharge their present function of "interpretation," because the blind will then be able to speak for themselves.
Whatever else can be said about these quotations, no one can say that these agency leaders lack candor. They have stated their views with the utmost explicitness. Moreover, these are not isolated instances of a disappearing attitude, a vestigial remainder of a forgotten era. Such expressions are not confined to those here quoted. Many other statements of the same force and character could be produced, and the evidence that the deed has been suited to the word is abundant. At long last, we now know that we must finally lay at rest the pious platitude and the hopeful conjecture that the blind themselves and the agencies for the blind are really all working towards the same objectives and differ only as to means for achieving them. I would that it were so. We are not in agreement as to objectives although we frequently disagree as to means as well.
The frankly avowed purposes and the practices of the agencies tend in the direction of continued segregation along vocational and other lines. The blind would move vigorously in the direction of increasing integration, of orienting, counseling, and training the blind towards competitive occupations and placing them therein, towards a job, a home, and normal community activities and relations. The agencies, by their words and their acts, tend to sanctify and reinforce those semi-conscious stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes which have always plagued the condition of the physically disabled and the socially deprived. We, by our words and acts, would weaken them and gradually blot them out altogether. Their statements assert and their operations presuppose a need for continuous, hovering surveillance of the sightless—in recreation, occupation, and congregation—virtually from cradle to grave. We deny that any such need exists and refute the premise of necessary dependency and incompetence on which it is based. Their philosophy derives from and still reflects the philanthropic outlook and ethical uplift of those “friendly visitors" of a previous century whose self-appointed mission was to guide their less fortunate neighbors to personal salvation through a combination of material charity and moral edification. We believe that the problems of the blind are at least as much social as personal and that a broad frontal attack on public misconceptions and existing program arrangements for the blind is best calculated to achieve desirable results. We believe, moreover, that it is worthwhile inquiring into the rationale of any activity which takes as its psychological premise the double-barreled dogma that those deprived of sight are deprived also of judgment and common sense, and that therefore what they need above all else is to be adjusted to their inferior station through the wise ministrations of an elite corps of neurosis-free custodians.
The agency leaders say, and apparently believe, that the blind are not entitled to the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship, or to full membership in society betokened by such attributes of normal life as a home and a job. This can only be predicated on the proposition that the blind are not only abnormal and inferior, but they are so abnormal and inferior that they are not even persons. We believe that blind people are precisely as normal as other people are, being in fact a cross-section of the rest of the community in every respect except that they cannot see. But were this not so, their abnormality would not strip them of their personality. The Constitution of the United States declares that all persons born in the United States or naturalized are citizens. There is nothing in the Constitution or in the gloss upon it which says that this section shall not apply to persons who are blind. If born in the United States or naturalized, whether before or after blindness, blind persons are citizens of the United States now and are now, not merely in some future generation, possessed of the right to be citizens and share the privileges, immunities, and responsibilities of that status. Moreover, the bounty of the Constitution extends to all persons, whether citizens or not, rights to freedom, equality, and individuality. As citizens, then, or as persons, who happen to be deprived of one of their physical senses, we claim, under the broad protection of the Constitution, the right to life, personal freedom, personal security; the right to marry, have and rear children, and to maintain a home; and the right, so far as government can assure it, to that fair opportunity to earn a livelihood which will make these other rights possible and significant. We have the right freely to choose our fields of endeavor, unhindered by arbitrary, artificial or man-made impediments. All limitations on our opportunity, all restrictions on us based on irrelevant considerations of physical disability, are in conflict with our Constitutional right of equality and must be removed. Our access to the mainstreams of community life, the aspirations and achievements of each of us, are to be limited only by the skills, energy, talents, and abilities we individually bring to the opportunities equally open to all Americans.
Finally, we claim as our birthright, as our Constitutional guarantee and as an indivestible aspect of our nature the fundamental human right of self-expression, the right to speak for ourselves individually and collectively. Inseparably connected with this right is the right of common association. The principle of self-organization means self-guidance and self-control. To say that the blind can, should, and do lead the blind is only to say that they are their own counselors, that they stand on their own feet. In the control of their own lives, in the responsibility for their own programs, in the organized and consistent pursuit of objectives of their own choosing—in these alone lies the hope of the blind for economic independence, social integration, and emotional security.
You may think that what I have said exaggerates the error and the danger to be expected from those whose only interest is to serve the welfare of the blind. I think it does not. No one could ask, it is true, for any more conscientious and devoted public servants than those who serve in the rank and file of the agencies for the blind, public and private. The leaders of many agencies, too, must be given commendation for enlightened policies and worthwhile programs. No one can doubt either that the agencies when so manned and so led may be of immense and constructive assistance in a multitude of ways, during the onward movement of the blind into full membership in society. As to some of the agencies not headed by leaders of the character just described, credit must be given for sincerity and good intentions. This, however, but serves to raise the question whether, in social terms, sincere and upright folly is better or worse than knavery. This discussion I forbear to enter.
What should the posture of the National Federation of the Blind be in the midst of these attacks and struggles? As the possessors of power, we must exercise it responsibly, impersonally, and with self-restraint. As a people's movement, we cannot allow others to deflect us from our course. We must apply our power and influence to achieve our legitimate goals. To this end, we must all exert ourselves to the utmost. Our opponents have history and outmoded concepts on their side. We have democracy and the future on ours. For the sake of those who are now blind and those who hereafter will be blind—and for the sake of society at large—we cannot fail. If the National Federation of the Blind continues to be representative in its character, democratic in its procedures, open in its purposes, and loyal in its commitments—so long, that is, as the faith of the blind does not become blind faith—we have nothing to fear, no cause for apology and only achievement to look forward to. We may carry our program to the public with confidence and conviction—choosing the means of our expression with proper care but without calculation, and appearing before the jury of all our peers not as salesmen but as spokesmen, not as hucksters but as petitioners for simple justice and the redress of unmerited grievances. We will have no need to substitute the advertisement for the article itself, nor to prefer a dramatic act to an undramatic fact. If this is group pressure, it is group pressure in the right direction. If this involves playing politics, it is a game as old as democracy, with the stakes as high as human aspiration.
In the Sixteenth Century, John Bradford made a famous remark which has ever since been held up to us as a model of Christian humility and correct charity and which you saw reflected in the agency quotations I presented. Seeing a beggar in his rags creeping along a wall through a flash of lightning in a stormy night Bradford said: "But for the Grace of God, there go I." Compassion was shown; pity was shown; charity was shown; humility was shown; there was even an acknowledgement that the relative positions of the two could and might have been switched. Yet despite the compassion, despite the pity, despite the charity, despite the humility, how insufferably arrogant! There was still an unbridgeable gulf between Bradford and the beggar. They were not one but two. Whatever might have been, Bradford thought himself Bradford and the beggar a beggar—one high, the other low; one wise, the other misguided; one strong, the other weak; one virtuous, the other depraved.
We do not and cannot take the Bradford approach. It is not just that beggary is the badge of our past and is still all too often the present symbol of social attitudes towards us; although that is at least part of it. But in the broader sense, we are that beggar and he is each of us. We are made in the same image and out of the same ingredients. We have the same weaknesses and strengths, the same feelings, emotions, and drives; and we are the product of the same social, economic, and other environmental forces. How much more consonant with the facts of individual and social life, how much more a part of a true humanity, to say instead: "There, within the Grace of God, do go I."
by Greg Peters
From the Editor: Here is what President Riccobono said in introducing Mr. Peters:
As Federationists know, access to media and inclusion of positive images, authentic images of blind people in film is a concern of ours, as is our equal access to media. We have been proud to be working with Netflix on its audio description work, as well as other innovations it is considering. Our team of volunteers and also our staff have been engaged with Netflix on a number of fronts. This is the first time we've invited Netflix to be featured on our main convention stage. We're proud to have with us the chief product officer of Netflix. He's been in that position since July 2017. He leads the product team, which designs, builds, and optimizes the Netflix experience for all subscribers. Accessibility is a chief concern of his, and it's part of his responsibility at Netflix. Here to discuss the innovations at Netflix and potential work going forward is Greg Peters!
Well, thank you very much for that intro and that intro music. I am Greg Peters, chief product officer at Netflix. It's just a pleasure to be with you today, to be the first representative from Netflix to join the Federation. Thank you for that honor. I want to also thank the Federation for the partnership. We're excited about it, and we're excited about more to come. So thank you there.
At Netflix, we really do one thing: we're all about entertainment, and we aim to do it really, really well. We want to be the most amazing entertainment service that we can possibly be. Part of that commitment, and really that opportunity, is a belief that more and more people around the world should have their lives represented in the stories that we tell. That means working with the best storytellers on the planet, wherever they live, whatever language they speak, bringing a diverse set of experiences to the stories that we are producing and that they are telling. We want to give those storytellers the capability to tell their stories at the highest quality level in the most compelling way that we possibly can.
But it also means then connecting all of those stories with audiences, our members all over the world. To enable those connections to happen, and to happen broadly, we have a fundamental goal of accessibility. That goal has been built into our product and our technology DNA from day one. I was there at the very beginning. I can tell you, it's been a key factor to how we've grown as a company. It's really why we've been successful. So for us, that broadly is, it's a fundamental trait of what we do. It's not sort of a tacked-on afterthought. And because it's so important to us, we have tremendously ambitious goals around it. We aspire to have the best accessibility solution and coverage of any mainstream video entertainment service on the planet, full stop.
Now, we use the term accessibility in a very broad sense. It has many layers for us. But it all starts with streaming and the internet, really. Pioneering using the internet to stream has allowed us to unlock huge dimensions of accessibility and make entertainment accessible like it's never been before. First of all is just breaking down traditional barriers for content distribution and availability. It used to be that what you had access to was very limited country to country. Things would get distributed based on what was popular, and if you had interests that didn't match what was popular in that country, it was often very hard for you to find access to the stories that you wanted to hear. Now, obviously we enable our members also to have control over their entertainment experience. We're trying to break down some of those traditional constraints that have existed. A fundamental part of streaming is giving our members sort of on-demand control, so they can watch what they want to watch on their schedule. We also seek to be on a wide range of devices, pretty much any device that you can imagine, so that your entertainment is there when you want it, where you want it, and how you want it. We want to bring all of those benefits to everyone to serve all of our members. And there's a lot more that can be done to achieve that goal. But we're constantly innovating and continuing to increase the accessibility of our service.
An important tool that I love to talk about with our audience to do that, to increase that accessibility, is audio descriptions. We kicked off our initiative with regard to audio descriptions in 2015 with a title from Marvel called Daredevil, which seemed apropos, since it happened to feature a superhero who happened to be blind. We have increased the number of hours and languages we support. Today we support over ten thousand hours of audio description on Netflix globally. That includes most of our original shows and films in over thirty languages. We also do closed captions in all Netflix originals; that's mandatory for us, and we have up to thirty additional caption languages for each title. We have of course a place in the UI [User Interface] you can go to specifically to look for titles that have audio descriptions presented. Our goal there is to give members an easy way to access those titles. We also make sure the audio description identifier is on titles that have audio description available, so if you're browsing through a different portion of our user experience, listening to our recommendations, you would know which shows have that audio description available to you as well. As we continue to expand our originals offering, to grow our slate of local original content, that's content that's made outside of the United States and made in other languages, we're going to increase the availability of local language content that's accessible in original language as well as in other languages and accessible to people with hearing and vision impairments. Now, we always pass through all of the audio descriptions and closed captions that come with any content that we license and titles that we license. But we also source or create additional assets when they aren't available for a given title when we think there's going to be demand. So we're out there either building that ourselves or contracting with someone to make sure that we're finding assets across different languages to make that available.
We also make sure that our service is compatible with all major screen-reading platforms, and we require text-to-speech capabilities for all Netflix-recommended TV. This is a badge that we put on those TVs that we think are best for our members. We work with our device manufacturing partners to evaluate them. If you buy any TV with that badge, you can rest assured that it has the required text-to-speech capabilities included with it, and we've tested that with the device manufacturer.
Now, we are in the entertainment business. And we don't want to lose that sense of entertainment and fun and creativity in making our titles accessible. We think of that as just part of the process, a regular part of the process of creating these shows, and it requires just as much creative craft as all the other pieces that go into making an excellent show or movie. So, for example, we have an audio description AD specialist, writers who take into account the genre of the story, the audience, the tone of the story, the atmosphere, as well as film techniques, sound and music cues. They're putting that all together to produce a script for the audio description, and we have an AD director who ensures that the language that's used in the narration is linguistically accurate and that the voice fits the tone of the scene being described. You can see our narrators might be more lively during a fight scene. They might be more somber during a funeral scene. It's essentially just another stage of direction that we think is just like directing the actors in this scene.
Of course the right talent is key here as well. We select and bring on board the right AD narrator for every particular film or series. We are thinking about the age of the AD narrator. That should match the content and age of the intended audience. Imagine a teenage voice that's appropriate for young adult content like Never Have I Ever. Kids titles will typically have a younger sounding AD narrator. Sometimes we make an exception for very young children's content, where we might want a more nurturing adult's voice. But we try to match it to the content to make it work best.
We also think about how the voice works from distinguishability and comprehensibility. Imagine a show that's dominated by male characters. We may actually pick an AD narrator that's actually a female voice to increase the contrast and make it more distinct and easier to follow. Imagine with Sacred Games or Narcos, we have that female voice for the contrast. But sometimes we want more of a complement, so we often have female narrators, say, narrate strong female lead stories. We always think about the best match, the best fit. We also think about the narrator's voice texture, even when selecting them for a title. Imagine for a love story we might be looking for a sort of happy, mellifluous voice that we think will pair well. We've taken that and put it into an extensive guideline for creation of audio description to capture all those aspects. We use those obviously for the work we do, but we've also made those guidelines public. We've made them available to our competitors, peer services, the industry, the content partners we work with, so that the best practices are available to everyone, and we can really improve the entire industry and how it responds to the situation.
That really typifies what we're doing, which is trying to lean into a community approach to improve our offering and to improve the industry at large. We're proud to develop and maintain strong partnerships with organizations like the National Federation of the Blind. Our goal is to leverage the expertise of those who understand these experiences and can help us improve them. So for example, we're innovating on video format storytelling with these interactive titles. We've done half a dozen of them so far. It's an early initiative. But we took one of those titles, Bandersnatch, an early interactive title targeted at adults, one of the first that we did. At the time of launch, it wasn't a great experience for our members who are blind or visually impaired. But we partnered with NFB and Lighthouse for the Blind to improve that experience, and, based on what we've learned from that process, we've implemented a system to ensure our interactive content is easily accessible for all future releases at the time that we launch it. That's just an example of the many kinds of improvements we want to make.
We know that Netflix and really all media companies have room to improve the ability of our services to be accessible by all our current and future members. That's why we have created an internal group at Netflix focused on accessibility. We call it Accessibility at Netflix—not a very creative name, but it's to the point. We use that to get our teams across all functions in the company thinking about accessibility, thinking about accessibility across all dimensions of the product, but also about all of the work that we do, all of the business operations that we do. Just to give you an example of what that group is working on now, they're really thinking about the title discovery and playback experiences that we have, and working to make those as effortless and enjoyable as possible for those using assistive technology. We have a good roadmap ahead of that and many things we'll work on next as well.
At Netflix, we're passionate about delivering amazing entertainment. We're passionate about delivering a diverse set of stories and content, and we're passionate about it because we believe that storytelling is an important part of what it means to be human. We believe that great art tells many different stories from many different perspectives and that many different experiences can help build empathy, understanding, proximity, and reduce prejudice. We think it can increase happiness in the world through connections. But all that only happens—you only get those benefits—when the stories you're telling are accessible for everyone. So we're going to continue to innovate and collaborate to make our service work for everyone.
I want to thank you for having me with you today. I really appreciate it. And I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference. Thank you very much.
by Trevor Soderstrum
From the Editor: Trevor Soderstrum is a writer for several papers in Iowa. James Omvig was a friend of his father, and Trevor has written a wonderful tribute to a man many of us know and love. Here is what he said in the papers carrying his story:
“Would you gentlemen like to ‘pre-board,’ or do you want to wait and board with the normal people?” the woman behind the desk at the United Airlines departure gate asked.
“Board… with… the… normal…. people,” the words burned into Jim Omvig’s soul like he had been punched.
The year was 1979. The place was the Columbus, Ohio, airport. Jim was an extremely successful lawyer. He was also blind. Instead of seeing a man who less than a year later would be making arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court, all the woman behind the counter saw was Jim’s friend and his white cane.
Finding a smile, Jim calmly responded as best he could, “I think we’ll just go along with the normal people if that's all right with you.”
“Normal… people…” We have all had those moments where someone looks at and judges us as being less than human, of not measuring up, someone to be pitied. They see a person’s weight, gender, sexual orientation, scar, skin color, missing limb, or wheelchair. They see a person who is a victim, not someone with the potential to do amazing things.
Jim had suffered through a lifetime of these slings and arrows. Born in the small Norwegian farming community of Roland, Iowa, and raised in nearby Slater, he discovered at age ten or eleven that he was going blind when he was asked by a nurse at a school eye examination in the gymnasium to read an eye chart on the wall. Confused, he asked, “What eye chart?”
Over the next few weeks, Jim learned that he had a rare degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP). His teachers and he did the best they could as reading became a nightmare for him. They placed him in the front row in order to help make reading the chalkboard easier. Some of his teachers even gave him their notes to assist in matters. These were kind and wonderful things to do, but it also made Jim stand out and be seen as “different.” And we all know how some other children treat those that are “different.”
In ninth grade, school became too difficult for him, and it was decided that he needed to be sent to the Iowa School for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa. (If you are wondering how being visually impaired was viewed in the 1950s, the school had formerly been named the Iowa Asylum for the Blind.)
Instead of being empowered and learning how to deal with his disease, the school viewed its pupils as victims, being inferior to sighted individuals. He was taught to weave rugs, cane chairs and baskets because those were “the only jobs the blind could do.”
There was no thought of teaching him how to read and write in Braille or how to make his way over long distances with a white cane. Although many of the people there meant the best, they were unknowingly teaching that the blind were not normal, that they were lesser people, and victims of circumstance.
Jim graduated and, instead of going out to conquer the world, he moved back into his parent’s home in Slater and took a part-time job moving butter for the local creamery for the next eight years. He had internalized much of the message regarding sight that had been silently communicated to him the last few years.
How does a person go from moving butter to being one of the most successful lawyers in the United States? Sometimes angels in human form appear in your life. For Jim Omvig, that angel was named Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. In 1958 Jernigan became head of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. He saw his job as not teaching the blind menial skills, reinforcing the feelings of victimhood, but rather establishing “an attitude factory.” With rigorous proper training and hard work, he believed the only limitations a blind person had were those he or she placed on themselves. Being visually impaired was a “social problem,” not a limitation. His students were normal just like everyone else. What Jernigan initiated became known as “the miracle of Iowa.”
In 1961 Jim went to the Iowa Orientation and Adjustment Center. There he found himself not only learning the basic skills and training he needed, but doing things he could not have previously imagined like cutting down trees for firewood and water skiing. Most important, Dr. Jernigan stressed the Biblical notion of giving back and helping others.
Challenged, Jim saw his way of giving back was the practice of law. After attending Drake University, he decided he wanted to attend Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. One little problem: the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) was not available for blind people to take. Instead of spending years in court trying to change this predicament, Jim appealed to the dean of the school, who recognized the unfairness of the situation. Finding other methods to measure Jim’s talent, the dean agreed to accept him.
Graduating, Jim found himself still battling the skepticism of the larger society. He had to suffer through roughly one hundred and fifty interviews before finally being offered a job.
Jim never forgot Dr. Jernigan’s words and spent the rest of his life battling for the rights of the blind. That is what brought his friend, him, and their spouses to the Columbus airport and this woman from United Airlines asking if he wanted to pre-board or wait in order to board with “the normal people.”
As hard as it is to believe now, at that time blind people had to endure the indignity of being forced to sit on rubber blankets in order to make sure they did not soil their seats. There were questions as to whether their highly trained service dogs should be permitted on planes out of fear that the canines might bite fellow passengers. Blind people’s white canes were taken away from them to assure that they would not become “flying missiles” if the airplane crashed. It was also even believed that the blind should not be allowed on long flights for their own safety.
The woman’s words stayed with Jim as he took his seat in the airplane. “Normal… people…” So when the flight attendant asked his friend and him to turn over their canes, something in Jim made him pause. It was not planned as he had freely handed over his cane hundreds of times previously.
“Normal… people…” Instead, he said, “No.” He informed her that there was no need to worry about their canes becoming “flying missiles.” His friend and he would buckle them into their seat belts.
Flummoxed, the stewardess informed the pilot, who became extremely angry regarding these two gentlemen holding up his flight. After a hostile face-to-face confrontation and Jim feeling the hot breath of the pilot on his skin, the police were summoned. The two extremely accomplished blind men were arrested and marched off to a nearby holding area. “Normal…people…”
We can pat ourselves on the back over how much things have improved for the blind and others our society has viewed as being not “normal.” Yet, as I sat next to Jim Omvig on Memorial Day, I realized how many battles still have to be fought. No one wants to be seen as “the other.” Too many people with so much potential have been asked to sit on the sidelines of life.
I am not quite sure what “normal” is. We all have burdens, pieces missing, and mountains to overcome in this life. People can do amazing things if we let them; even become angels that inspire and help uplift others like Jim has. I would like to think we all can become angels to those around us. Wouldn’t that be nice?
For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.
With your help, the NFB will continue to:
Plan to Leave a Legacy
Creating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.
Invest in Opportunity
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 2019 the NFB:
Just imagine what we’ll do next year, and, with your help, what can be accomplished for years to come. Below are just a few of the many diverse, tax-deductible ways you can lend your support to the National Federation of the Blind.
Vehicle Donation Program
The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call 855-659-9314 toll-free, and a representative can make arrangements to pick up your donation—it doesn’t have to be working. We can also answer any questions you have.
General donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.
Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.
Through the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program, supporters sustain the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind by making recurring monthly donations by direct withdraw of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, visit www.nfb.org/make-gift, and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.
by Ryan Boudwin
From the Editor: Ryan Boudwin is the United Utah Party nominee for the 42nd district of the Utah State House of Representatives. He is relatively new to blindness, and he had the good fortune or exercised the good judgment to become involved with the National Federation of the Blind and get training to deal with his newly-acquired vision loss. He lives with his family in South Jordan, Utah. You can learn more about his campaign at ryan4utah.com. Here is what he says about his life, his transition, and his commitment to live and thrive in the world he intends to help change:
I am thirty-five years old, and I am blind. But I haven’t been blind very long. I’ve always been a very political person. I lobbied the adults I knew on behalf of my preferred candidates before I was even old enough to vote. I hold a master's degree in international relations from the University of Warsaw, Poland, as part of my Fulbright Fellowship to that country.
Most of my life I had identified as a moderate Republican. When I lived in Utah County, I was elected precinct chairman and a member of the Utah County Republican Party Central Committee. The extremism I saw there led me to ultimately change my party affiliation and join the United Utah Party. The United Utah Party is a moderate, centrist third party that is seeking to improve the political climate in Utah and elect reform-minded candidates that will help bring a modicum of sanity back to our polarized political environment.
After volunteering with the United Utah Party for some time, I was appointed the Utah County Party chairman in December 2018. I was enjoying my volunteer work, doing something I was intensely passionate about to make my community better.
On February 2, 2018, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. It was quite a shock for which I was not really prepared. At this point I had doughnut-shaped blind spots in both eyes and was not yet legally blind. My mid-periphery and nasal fields were gone, but my central vision and far periphery were still working. I likely could have hidden my condition for some time, but I knew I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes. Having been dealt a terrible hand of cards, I decided to try to think like an engineer and find the most optimal outcome possible for me. I wanted to be prepared for the future so that I wouldn’t have to be afraid of it.
There is no treatment for my condition, and I knew my vision would get worse over time. I wanted to develop the nonvisual skills that I would need before I was entirely helpless without them and adjust my lifestyle so my pending blindness could be mitigated as much as possible. So I resigned my position as county chairman the day I was diagnosed to allow myself to focus for a time on adjusting to blindness after this terrible news.
Within a week of my diagnosis I had ordered a white cane. I arranged for a field lesson with a cane instructor to get me started, and I went to my first meeting with the National Federation of the Blind. That first meeting I met a lot of people who had been through the same challenges I was facing now. I realized I was not alone in this struggle. Most importantly, I saw blind people who were clearly happy, well adjusted, and living the lives they wanted—I knew I wanted to be like them. I didn’t want to let my blindness control my life.
I took a tour at the training and adjustment school in Salt Lake City, Utah. I knew immediately that this program was something I was going to need, so I worked with my employer to arrange for me to be able to take a leave of absence for six months so I could attend the school full time. I also knew that where we were living was going to be a problem. My wife and I had a beautiful home in Saratoga Springs. We loved our neighborhood, we loved our neighbors, and had finally made a lot of friends after three-and-a-half years. Unfortunately, the public transportation there was almost non-existent, and I knew that my decision to stop driving was going to mean pretty severe isolation if we stayed there. I knew I needed to move somewhere with better public transportation infrastructure if I was going to be able to maintain my independence and my sanity. Luckily for me, my wife was very understanding about the situation, and together we decided to move. In less than a month after my diagnosis we had moved out and put the house on the market. We found a lot in Daybreak, a neighborhood in South Jordan right next to a light rail station, and started building a new home.
By April I was a student at the training and adjustment school. During this time, I started to get to know Dr. Kenneth Jernigan through the pages of Kenneth Jernigan: The Man, The Mission, The Movement. I grew to love his example, as a boy and then a man, faced with daunting challenges and without the support that I had. The more I learned of the NFB philosophy and the more discussions I had with my brothers and sisters in the Federation, the more determined I was that I would continue to live a fulfilling and satisfying life. Blindness was not going to hold me back.
Putting on my shades and turning off the visual world for six months was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. But I am so glad I did. Because I took action early, I was able to take a leave of absence and learn these skills while I still had a job worth saving. Because of the training I have received, I am able to still be the primary breadwinner for my family.
Now that my training is done, I use what vision I have as much as I can, using whatever blend of visual and nonvisual skills makes sense for the task at hand. During the day my cane is primarily a low vision aid rather than my only means of navigation. It makes it so that I can look where I am going instead of staring at my feet; it makes it so that I don’t run into people anymore, and those around me have some clue that I might not see them. It means I don’t miss steps and curbs, and it means that I am safe. At night I rely on it much more.
On December 5, 2018, I was declared legally blind. My disease has progressed enough that I only have twelve degrees left of reliable central vision. With each eye exam I learn how much more vision I have lost, and I still mourn that loss. Training has not made me immune to that pain. What training has done is take away the fear of blindness. I am not afraid. I know I can still be a great dad, a provider for my family, and an engaged member of my community.
So I decided to get back to doing the things that matter to me. That meant re-engaging in scouting, and so I co-founded a community scout troop in my new neighborhood where I currently serve as an assistant scoutmaster.
That also meant that when my state party chairman called me this past February and asked me to run for the state legislature, I said yes, jumped in with both feet, and kicked off my campaign. I decided from the very beginning that I would be open about my blindness during the campaign, because it is respectable to be blind. It is referenced in the bio on my campaign site. I travel with my cane everywhere I go, so it comes along on the campaign trail to every house I visit.
Sometimes it invites questions about how I can be an effective legislator if I am blind, which leads to a discussion about the nonvisual skills I learned during my rehabilitation and the assistive technology I use to be able to work effectively at my day job as a technical recruiter. Usually it is an opportunity to spread some NFB philosophy and help another member of the public to learn about blindness. And most of the time, voters are supportive of someone working through adversity to still make change in their community, though sometimes I wish I could spend more of our conversations focused on the problems facing Utah and my plan to solve them. Sometimes it invites abuse from people who do not understand blindness.
The other day I was canvassing in a local neighborhood, distributing doorhangers as part of our alternative electoral strategy in this age of social distancing from COVID-19. I was quietly walking from house to house with my cane and my mask, hanging a doorhanger and then recording on my smartphone which voter I had contacted for our campaign records. Because I still have some usable central vision, I often use my smartphone visually for short tasks like this.
There was an older man sitting outside on his porch watching me from the other side of the street as I did this. After he saw me using my phone, he started screaming at the top of his lungs that I was a fake, a fraud, a liar; that I shouldn’t have a cane because I wasn’t really blind, and I was obviously trying to mislead the public. He was making quite the scene.
I crossed the street to go talk to him. I tried to calmly explain that it was true that I was not totally blind. I tried to explain to him that blindness is not a binary condition, that most blind people have some remaining vision, and that I was one of those people. He continued to scream over me. His wife was obviously embarrassed by his behavior, and it was becoming clear that I was not going to get through to this gentleman. Eventually I just said that he was misinformed about the nature of blindness and that if he ever wanted to learn more about it, he could go to nfb.org and learn more from the National Federation of the Blind. As I walked away to head to the next house, he continued to scream at me from his porch. I don’t know how closely his neighbors watched this exchange, but I hope they saw it for what it was.
This little episode and the dozens of conversations I have with voters in my district show me that we as the Federation have a lot of work yet to do in terms of educating the public about the true nature of blindness, about the ways we are still able to live fulfilling lives, and in terms of raising expectations for blind people everywhere. It should not be such a strange and remarkable thing for a blind person to aspire to public office and serve their community.
My brother, Derrick Boudwin, who is also blind, has always been an inspiration to me. He said,
We are who we choose to be, and how we define ourselves matters. So today, instead of defining yourself by the things that you wish you weren’t, or by things that you have no control over, try describing yourself by the things that you choose to do. The things that you do on purpose. For me, this means that even though I struggle with things like blindness, anxiety, depression, and ADHD, those things aren’t who I am. I am not depression. I am not ADHD. I am not anxiety. I am creative, I’m kind, I’m compassionate, I’m hardworking, and I’m strong. You try it. How we define ourselves matters. And it’s a choice that we can choose to make. So who are you going to choose to be today?
Let us follow Derrick’s wise words. We are not blindness. We are who we choose to be. We must choose to have high expectations for ourselves. We cannot sit and wait, hoping that somehow the world will someday accept us as equals as we watch from the sidelines. We must work towards our goals and excel in whatever vocation we choose for ourselves. The best revenge we can have against the naysayers is joy we take in our own success. We must stand up and be the kind of change we want to see in our communities. Little by little, that change will come. And we will see the image of our efforts reflected in the reality around us—the reality that we, the Federation, have helped to build.
by Carla Hayden
From the Editor: Carla Hayden is the Librarian of Congress, and one of the programs she oversees is the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled which is headed by Karen Kininger. Here are the remarks President Riccobono made in introducing her:
I'm really jazzed about this next presentation. Our presenter is another first for us at this convention. She was sworn in as the fourteenth Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. She is the first woman and the first African-American to lead this national library. NFB provided a letter of support to the United States Congress when she was in the confirmation process. We knew her because, prior to this post, she served since 1993 as the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library right here in Baltimore, Maryland, where she still lives. I do believe this is the first time we've had the Librarian of Congress, and she was definitely worth waiting for. We talk about the library every year and are really pleased that she's taken the time to be with us personally. In many places she goes she says her goal is to make being a librarian cool, and I think she's definitely achieving that. I've had the opportunity to meet with her a number of times, and I have to say our nation is blessed to have her overseeing not only the library for the blind but also all of the other tremendous and inspirational artifacts of the Library of Congress. Here is Carla Hayden:
CARLA HAYDEN: Thank you for that. I'm a child of two musicians. I'm a librarian because I have no talent. Thank you for that! It's because I'm not able to be there in person that I'm grateful the power of technology allows me to be with you. It's my privilege to spend some time with you from Baltimore. I also want to acknowledge the recent passing of another Baltimorean and member of the Federation, Mr. Charles Cook, who was so instrumental in designing technological solutions. We are thinking of his family during this time.
It's also an honor to speak with you from the perspective of the Library of Congress now because it gives me an opportunity to share with you the hard work of librarians and the devotion of many people across this country, providing access so that "all may read," the motto of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. That name was changed recently.
You may know that the division was officially established by an act of Congress in 1931. However, the Library's access and commitment to providing materials to support adults and children who are blind became a significant part of the library's mission when it moved into its first home, the magnificent Thomas Jefferson building, designed to resemble an Italian palace, to signify that in this country, we build palaces to knowledge and wisdom, and not to wealth.
It was mentioned that I am the fourteenth Librarian of Congress, and one of my predecessors in 1897 opened a special reading room with mahogany tables and the finest furnishings where books with raised print were available and readings were held. One of the first public programs featured the renowned poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, who was at the time a Library of Congress staff member, and he read from his works.
Over the years material was acquired by gift and purchase. It was really supplemented in 1913 when Congress passed a law that said that one copy of every raised type book produced in the United States be deposited at the Library of Congress. Then…and you'll appreciate this: After years of urging, in 1931 the Pratt-Smoot Act was passed by Congress and approved by the president to appropriate annual funds for a national free library program. This allowed the Library of Congress to not only distribute reading materials but to produce them for regional libraries for circulation free of charge.
In 1952, a year I know well, the service was expanded to children and teens; in 1962 to include music materials; and in 1966 to include free service to individuals with other disabilities. Beginning with nineteen libraries, the network has expanded to fifty-five regional libraries, twenty-six subregional libraries, and sixteen advisory and outreach centers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Guam. However, this network of libraries, from my perspective at the Library of Congress, really shows me that this network of libraries is providing one of the bedrock services to equal access of materials that inform, inspire, and engage.
Frederick Douglass once said, "Once you learn to read, you'll be forever free." And in Alberto Manguel's History of Reading, he said, "As dictators, slave owners, and other illicit holders of power have always known, an illiterate crowd is the easiest to rule. If you cannot prevent people from learning to read and being able to read, the next best recourse is to limit its scope.” Libraries were established to support literacy and to be a key to opportunity. The library world in general has had a commitment to ensuring equal access for all. That access means everyone should have the opportunity to be empowered by libraries. They are the places that hold the materials to inspire and cultivate the possibilities of humans.
There is a book that, as a librarian, I have been referring to a lot in the last couple years. It's Eric Klinenberg's Palaces for the People. He said in a recent article "To restore civil society, start with the library.” He is echoing what libraries and library patrons have been saying for years: that libraries are equalizers and are absolutely universal.
I've been able to see this commitment to equal access to materials from the beginning of my library career in an urban public library system, the Chicago Public Library, that administered an NLS regional library. Years later I was able to see firsthand what the network at NLS at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore that was physically and programmatically connected to the Maryland NLS could do for blind patrons. I even got a chance to conduct story times.
Libraries have always evolved to adapt to the needs of communities. The Library of Congress' partnerships and networks help ensure that those opportunities are accessible to everyone. In 2013 the Library of Congress announced the availability of the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), which allows patrons to download Braille and talking books to their mobile devices without cost and in 2016 to provide refreshable Braille devices. Equal access from this standpoint means continuing to enhance and upgrade that system as the world continues on a digital path, and that path has been most strikingly emphasized in recent months. Equal access means making sure that the NLS provides everyone the opportunity to get accurate, objective information for all of their needs. Equal access means that the NLS and the network provide materials in Braille for children that allows a young person to be inspired by the biographies of people like Rosa Parks. Equal access means being engaged by a concert by a young jazz pianist, José Andrés, who is also blind and is now performing online after being live streamed.
A recent op-ed piece published by Forbes magazine this past summer had an interesting headline: “Amazon Should Replace Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” Now as you might imagine, this piece was greeted by outrage, not only by librarians but by library users from every sector worldwide. In fact the uproar was so loud, Forbes deleted and took down the article. And I might add, rightfully so.
As the Librarian of Congress, I've been part of the amazing and brilliant work of libraries across the world. Whether it's at a sprawling urban library system or small rural library, all join together in the recognition of the critical need for access to services and technologies by all people. Libraries have learned to adapt to the changing needs of diverse communities, and they're continuing to try to harness the power of technology to provide materials in all formats to inform, inspire, and engage.
The Library of Congress recently launched a new strategic plan to be even more user-centered. Part of this plan is a digital strategy that will harness technology to bridge not only geographical divides but every divide that prevents us from expanding our reach and enhancing our services. This means we will continue to throw open what's been called the Library of Congress' treasure chest, the world's largest library. It will allow us to connect with all users and cultivate an innovation culture. It's starting now. For instance, NLS has launched a blog, Music Notes, that highlights lesser known materials and activities and people in the music department. Some of the items featured in the blogs have been profiles on Braille transcribers and their work, free Braille giveaways, as well as interviews with patrons and narrators on social media.
As I close, I just want to assure you that the Library of Congress will continue to join libraries nationwide to provide equal access and to be more aggressive in our outreach to work with libraries and communities across the nation. Whether it's working with local librarians to working with teachers and librarians in schools, we want to share the resources of the largest library in the world. One of the primary reasons for instituting a national program like NLS was to decrease the difficulty and the high cost for individual libraries to acquire materials in special formats. We will continue to offer books and other materials in as many ways as possible, free to all regardless of age, economic circumstances, or, increasingly, technological expertise. That is what equal access to inform, inspire, and engage means from the perspective of the Library of Congress, and it is an honor for me to be a librarian at this time.
I really want to thank you for including the Library of Congress and with me the library community in your conference. You should know that we're your partners, marching together in equal access. Thank you for including me.
by Senator Dick Durbin
From the Editor: This year we were pleased to have three members of Congress on our agenda. Believe it or not, we have gotten some pushback not only for inviting them but for allowing them to speak. The reason: a majority of those who accepted were Democrats. Although most of the remarks they made were about the National Federation of the Blind and the legislative issues they thought should be bipartisan, no politician comes only to speak about the organization he or she is attending. Just as we have agendas, they have agendas. We may not agree with everything they say, and the reality is that with most politicians we don’t even agree with everything they say about blindness or blind people. But the world is not about everybody agreeing on every point. It is about diverse opinions, a willingness to hear them, a determination to put one’s already determined ideas aside long enough to let the message wash over and soak into ourselves. Once we understand the message, then we can analyze it, accepting some of it, rejecting some of it, but being the better for knowing that we can actively listen and engage in civil disagreements.
I just attended the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota, and I came away with a wonderful term. People there told me they were all for having spirited discussions, but the prime directive was for them to remain North Dakota nice. What a fine sentiment in a very divided country. Here is what President Riccobono said in introducing the senator:
Here now is our third member of Congress that we're having participate in this convention. This gentleman, who I would like to welcome now, is the 47th United States senator from the state of Illinois. He's the senior senator in Illinois. He's the convener of the Illinois bipartisan Congressional delegation. He was first elected to the United States Senate on November 5, 1996, just a couple of months after my first convention of the National Federation of the Blind! He's been reelected three times since. He's running this year as well.
He serves as the Democratic whip, which is the second highest ranking position among the Senate Democrats. He has many, many, many distinctions, but he has served in the post of being the Senate whip for a long time. His colleagues continue to look to him for leadership in the United States Senate. He takes his job seriously. And he stays rooted in the people of Illinois. He's also a committed family man and a friend of the blind of America. Here is Senator Dick Durbin!
DICK DURBIN: Thanks to President Riccobono for the kind words. I want to thank the NFB board and staff, Federationists from around the country and beyond the country, for joining me in this historic National Federation of the Blind 2020 Convention. It is in fact the largest gathering of blind people ever. That's saying something. I want to especially acknowledge the Federationists who are here from my state of Illinois. A special shoutout to Denise, president of the NFB of Illinois, member of the NFB national board of directors, and a tireless defender of equal rights for all. She's one of the best.
Now, it's a curious thing about our sight. A person can have 20/20 eyesight and not be able to see truth that's right in front of them. And a blind person can have vision to imagine a solution to a problem before other people even see the problem. Visionaries like that are rare. We're here today, and America is better today, because of one such visionary. You know his name: Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, NFB's founder. As you know, he was partially blinded in an accident when he was seven, completely blind by the age of fourteen. But as NFB rightly says repeatedly, his blindness was not the characteristic that defined him or his future.
Dr. tenBroek taught law at Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the University of California at Berkeley—a constitutional law scholar, a humanitarian, a civil rights leader, a social welfare reformer, and a man who changed the world. In 1934 he was twenty-three years old. He and a handful of other blind people founded the California Council of the Blind. In 1940, a few years later when he was twenty-nine, he organized the National Federation of the Blind. Young people: Give them half a chance, and they'll change the world, won't they?
In 1951 Dr. tenBroek published a book on the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. That was the same book that Thurgood Marshall, really the father of the modern civil rights movement, relied on heavily when he argued his case in Brown v. Board of Education in the Supreme Court. He proved that separate but equal was alive five years before the Supreme Court declared itself. His work paved the righteous way for the movement for racial justice, playing out even today in America with Black Lives Matter. His ideas also helped pave the way for major victories, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and of course the Americans with Disabilities Act, the great civil rights law that turns thirty years of age later this month. I'm proud to say that as a member of the House of Representatives, I voted for the Americans with Disabilities Act. I know how hard NFB worked to pass it, and I know how hard you've had to work to protect it.
Part of the law in progress is we have to safeguard the victories we've won or else we lose them. We also need to build on the victories. I remember the world before the ADA, when arbitrary barriers limited the dreams and opportunities of people with blindness and other disabilities. When I was a kid, I had two uncles who went blind because of macular degeneration. I saw their worlds narrow as their vision did. It was heartbreaking. Today we know it's not only heartbreaking, it's unnecessary. The ADA was an historic step in ensuring that disability rights are human rights.
Boy, has the world changed since 1990! We live our lives online. That's never been clearer than during this pandemic when telemedicine and online grocery shopping have been lifelines for many Americans but have been inaccessible to too many people because of inaccessibility or expense to use this technology to make their lives complete. Many who think access is too hard to include in their products should talk to Apple. It includes voice-to-text technology in every iPad and iPhone it makes, standard, ready to go, out of the box.
I believe we should expand the affordability to access technology to the blind, period. I know this is a top priority for you, and I want to work with you to close the digital divide between sighted and blind people. America does better when we develop the skills and talents of everyone. That's why we passed the IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Sadly, this current administration seems to struggle with that basic reality. But NFB, thank you for setting them straight. When the Department of Education tried to eliminate the right of parents and others to file complaints with the office of civil rights for violations of IDEA and other laws, your organization organized a coalition of civil rights groups, you fought back, and you won. That's leadership. Let me be clear. This pandemic does not erase or reduce the rights of blind students and students with other disabilities under IDEA or other laws. And any COVID relief bill that Congress passes must include additional resources to schools so they can provide accessible course materials, Braille instruction where needed, and other essential support during this crisis.
Let me tell you what Congress should not do, not during this pandemic, never. We should not repeal the Affordable Care Act. We can't go back to the days when the insurance companies called all the shots, the days of preexisting conditions and healthcare rationing through annual and lifetime caps. It's hard to believe the administration is still pushing that in the midst of this pandemic. They want to kill the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court, and what do they have to replace it with? Nothing. We need to work together. We can improve the act, but we certainly don't want to kill it. We need to underline the rights of all voters, underline all, including blind voters, to cast their votes safely, privately, independently, whether in person or by mail. The third COVID relief bill we passed in Congress included $400 million to help states prepare for the elections. State election officials can and should use some of these funds to ensure safe access for voters with disabilities.
Now, the CARES Act funding is good, but not enough. For a nation of 325 million people, it won't cut it. We need to protect all voters, including blind voters, during this pandemic. It's one of my priorities as we return to Washington next week to discuss the COVID relief bills. I believe Speaker Pelosi will be part of your program. She's shown much leadership. Speaker Pelosi really pointed the way in the passage of the Heroes Act. I wish Senator McConnell would join in and make this a bipartisan effort.
Nothing is more fundamental to the democracy than the right to vote. I could go on, but I won't. Part of the reason for that is because the person following me is a person whose story you need to hear: Mariyam Cementwala, who worked for me ten years ago, and was the only blind person to work on a committee in Congress, which is where we debate civil rights in America. She was there. Today she's helping to train diplomats to represent America and the world.
There's one more issue to mention before we close. Twenty years ago, twenty years—boy, you think you need some patience to serve in the Senate —I introduced a bill called the DREAM Act to create a pathway to citizenship for people brought to the country as children and for whatever reason never became US citizens. We've never quite been able to get the Republicans to join us. In 2012 I appealed to my former colleague in the Senate, the man who became president, Barack Obama. I asked him, use your authority as president. Create a program to shield DREAMers from deportation on a temporary renewable basis. He did it. It's called DACA. And if these DREAMers register with the government, pay a fee, pass a background check, they're protected from deportation for two years and allowed to work as well. But in 2017, President Donald Trump announced he was going to abolish DACA. Thank goodness just four weeks ago the United States Supreme Court rejected President Trump's actions. It was chief justice Roberts who shocked all of us by leading and writing this opinion and saying what President Trump did was arbitrary, capricious, and wrong, and spelled it out in detail. Thank you, Supreme Court, for coming to the defense of almost 800,000 current DACA protectees. They need our help. They need our protection. And you know who they are? They are business people, teachers, lawyers; 200,000 of them are essential workers; and 41,000 of them are healthcare workers needed now more than ever, risking their lives every day to save people's lives and to risk their own lives to keep us safe.
Let me tell you about one DACA recipient. His name is Martin Becerra-Miranda. He came to the United States with his mom from Mexico a few weeks before his fifth birthday. He grew up in Phoenix. He lost his sight at age sixteen. He was lucky though. He was able to attend the NFB's training center in Colorado, one of the premier in the world. He was a very good student, and impressive, because the training center hired him right away as a youth counselor, teaching cane travel to other young blind people. Today, Martin is youth director at the Colorado training center. I believe that Martin and all DREAMers deserve the right to live and contribute in our nation, the only home they've really ever known. I hope NFB will join me in saluting him and all of those with disabilities who are also protected by DACA.
Thank you, Federationists, for letting me say a few words to you today. We're going to be a better nation because of you. You continue to point the way to a better, fairer, more equal future for all Americans. Your determination throughout the history of this organization has been nothing short of amazing. You know the history. You go back in time before NFB, and people with disabilities, those who were blind, were basically put in the backroom to live a very lonely and unproductive life. You have thrown the door to that room wide open. You've said to people who are blind and with other disabilities, come out of that room and into America. We need you for our future. I'm proud to be a partner. Thanks for letting me say a few words today.
by LaShawna Fant
From the Editor: LaShawna Fant is a very active member of the Mississippi affiliate, serving as the president of her chapter and as the second vice president of the affiliate. She has been a member since 2011. LaShawna is employed as a teacher of blind students and all of this she balances with family and says, “Akin to priceless treasures, unmovable jewels are placed on my heart whenever I spend time with family.” Here is what she says about one member of our Federation family she and we all love:
Representative John Lewis is quoted as saying, "Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world." These profound words also chronicle the purposeful life's mission of Sam Gleese.
Minister Gleese is a native of Mississippi. He was born legally blind and became totally blind in September 1979. In 1982 Reverend Gleese became a member of the National Federation of the Blind. He was soon encouraged to attend the national convention. The following year he reluctantly traveled to Kansas City to attend his first national convention. He had never seen so many white canes and guide dogs in one place. This national convention was transformational and aided him in knowing that "It is respectable to be blind."
In 1986 Sam Gleese became the affiliate president of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi. One colossal reason was his mentor Dr. Kenneth Jernigan who talked with him and urged him to hold the position of affiliate president for two years. The thought of being state president had never crossed his mind. President Gleese assumed the role and started blazing the trail of leading the Mississippi affiliate until 2016.
His most memorable national convention occurred in 1992. During this convention, he was elected to the National Board of Directors. The moments after his election were very overwhelming for him. On top of this, his new role weighed heavily on him because he knew he had to be a representative for every member of the organization.
As a member of the board of directors, one in-person board meeting occurred every year around Thanksgiving weekend. He expressed fond memories when describing the homemade ice cream and desserts. Moreover, he marveled when explaining how the board and their families functioned as a family. He stated, "It was like having a family get-together back home." His last year serving on the board was 2014.
Former President Gleese was delighted with the 2020 National Convention. He remarked, "I never thought we would have a virtual convention, and it is something I will never forget." He was grateful to attend sessions and do things he would have done in person. The 2020 National Convention reminded him of the 1983 Convention and boldly highlighted how things could be accomplished with adjustments.
Our friend Sam is now retired. Besides living with blindness and diabetes, he has a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Like a real fighter, he rises daily to devote half of his day to reading and helping others. He educates many on the Medicare system and helps guide them on being a self-advocate.
Talkative and an encourager are two adjectives describing him. As a child he was quiet, but he became more outgoing after joining the National Federation of the Blind. He likes to encourage people to get involved and learn about our organization's history and philosophy. "The NFB teaches us not to give up, to always be informed, and to know our rights. We need to also be supportive of our members because this helps us to survive," proclaims Gleese.
In conclusion, our longtime leader, colleague, and friend says: "Learn all you can. Apply it to your daily life. Interact with other people both sighted and blind, because we are part of society, and we need to learn to interact. Do not let people mislead or discourage you by saying it is difficult to live life blind. We need to take up the challenge and move forward. Blindness should not be the thing that holds you back."
by Nathanael Wales
From the Editor: Nathanael Wales is a tenBroek winner of two national scholarships. He is kind, gentle, and reflective. Here are his memories of Bruce and Betty Woodward, two fine Federationists who are responsible for our having an affiliate in Connecticut:
It is my humble pleasure to share some words or perspective on the passing now of Betty Woodward (Bruce passed in March 2018). I am by no means adequate to do so, but I am happy to help see that they are honored as best I can.
As a bit of my own history, I had heard of them from a very good friend of mine, Jason Ewell, who had spent some time earlier that year in Connecticut helping to organize, advocate, and train affiliate members. Living and working on the other side of the country, I had not known them, but I was delighted that a couple that such a good friend of mine had such respect and love for was a highlight of the 2003 National Convention banquet. I went to the Braille Monitor archives and found the article on the presentation: https://www.nfb.org/sites/www.nfb.org/files/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm03/bm0309/
bm030905.htm. Thank you for ensuring we have such great history and documentation. This material may also be helpful, and it captures their love and spirit well.
I am always humbled when thinking of Betty and Bruce Woodward. Bruce was the long-time Connecticut affiliate treasurer and chair of the academic scholarship committee. As Bruce retired from these roles between 2012 and 2015, I agreed with him and our affiliate leadership to take over these responsibilities. There is no way, however, in which I can truly fill the shoes Bruce wore. Bruce and Betty had handled these roles with such grace, dignity, gentleness—in one word, love. Their devotion to every Federation member and the work they did, whatever it was, permeated everything that they set their hearts and hands to. “Quiet” and “hardworking” were used to describe them when the Federation awarded them its highest honor for a member, the Jacobus tenBroek Award, in 2003, and having seen their leadership firsthand, I couldn’t agree more.
I first actually met the Woodward’s when I moved to Connecticut in 2007 at the affiliate state convention. They welcomed me warmly, as I saw them welcome every new person at that convention. Over the past twelve years I saw them welcome, mentor, and work alongside many, many members and blind people new to the Federation. Whether it was at a chapter meeting, an affiliate quarterly board meeting, a state or national convention, or advocating in the halls of the US Congress, they were both always filled with gentleness, determination, and love. That gentle spirit and love for everyone, and especially every Federation member, challenge me every day that I put on the shoes of leadership and service—left for all of us—that I am slowly growing into.
Thank you so much for allowing me to honor the Woodward’s.
by Alison Clougherty
From the Editor: I first saw this article in the summer edition of Future Reflections, a publication of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. It is edited by the well-known author of many children’s books and a longtime leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, Deborah Kent-Stein. Here is how Debbie introduces this wonderful blog entry, which is also used here with permission:
On her blog, Seeing Things in a Different Way, Alison Clougherty has written a number of thoughtful posts about her journey as the parent of a blind child. This recent post is especially insightful today, as the nation reflects upon our history of racial division and injustice. You can follow Alison's blog at https://seeingthingsinadifferentway.com/2020/06/19/why-im-teaching-my-blind-child-not-to-be-color-blind/.
I have said many times to friends and family that I'm thankful that Finn can't see skin color and thus won't judge people based on color or other appearance-based information. I now know that it was both naïve and wrong for me to believe this was true.
Following George Floyd's murder and the ensuing protests over the past months, I've been doing a lot of research, reading, self-examination, and listening. One thing, among many, that has really been a lesson for me is that "not seeing color," something I've more than once been proud to claim, is not the goal in achieving racial equality. Rather, the Black community and other racial minority groups want badly to be seen. They want to be seen, they want their differences and struggles to be known, and they want to be treated fairly and equally. I now recognize that ignoring race only perpetuates systemic racial prejudices and the idea that being white means being normal.
This has been a real shift in perspective for me, and this shift in perspective has taught me that I need to adjust some of my parenting tactics. I work to teach Finn colors by saying "The grass is green" or "The sky is blue" so he can begin to understand that objects in the world have distinct differences beyond texture, taste, and sound. What he imagines green or blue to be in his mind is known only to himself, but I want him to be aware that the world is full of different colors and that diversity is a wonderful, beautiful thing. What I've failed to do is point out to him that people come in different colors, too. I've never once mentioned his skin color or anyone else's to him, and this was purposeful. I thought I was doing the right thing—that I was allowing him to view all people (or characters in the books we read) on an even playing field and to make his own judgments about them based only on their words, actions, or his interactions with them.
I no longer ascribe to the belief that being "color blind" is doing a favor to Finn or to those who may be treated unfairly due to the color of their skin. The reality is that we don't reside on an even playing field. Sooner or later my child, blind or not, is going to figure that out.
Recently a friend of mine told me that her ten-year-old daughter asked whether she would approve if she wanted to marry someone of a different skin color than her own someday. My friend replied, "Of course! As long as he/she treats you well, then you marry whomever you want!" My friend is one of the kindest, least racist people I know, yet her daughter still felt the need to ask that question. Why? Because my friend has remained mostly silent on the topic of race with her child, just as I have with mine, in an effort not to draw attention to race or make it an issue. Nevertheless, her daughter deduced somewhere along the way that an interracial relationship might not be acceptable. She didn't automatically know that her mother would approve.
This is the difference between being non-racist and anti-racist. We have to talk to our children about racism, and we have to tell them that we are against it in every way. We have to explain our role in not perpetuating it.
Luckily, my friend's daughter asked the question and didn't make her own assumptions. But many children won't ever ask. In the absence of direct conversation, our children are left to make their own assumptions or gather information from other sources that may not be aligned with the values we hope to instill in them. We have to open the conversation.
My blind son may not see differences with his eyes, but he will see them. He will learn them just as he learns everything else. In fact, in part of my research recently I discovered a study from 2015. The study found that, although it may take blind people longer to categorize people by race, they still often develop racial stereotypes.1 As he grows up, Finn is going to be out in the world, encountering new people and places beyond the small circle he lives in right now. He's going to learn about the world from many sources other than his family. I never want him to mistake my silence on the topic of race for underlying prejudice.
We can't protect our children from the prejudices that they will encounter, whether it be through classmates they meet, books they read, music they listen to, or television they watch. However, we can talk openly with them, make our beliefs known, and control the narrative as much as possible. It's on us as parents to make our children know from the start that there are differences of all kinds, that we see those differences, that we celebrate those differences, and that we do not support racism, sexism, ableism, or any other "isms" of any kind. Ignoring these topics does not make them go away. It does not make them a non-issue, and it does not serve those on the receiving end.
We have to tell them.
So how do we start? For us, it's starting with direct dialogue and representation in our home. Recently we started explaining to Finn what his skin is, that it has a color, that everyone has skin, but not everyone has the same skin color. We talk about the people in our lives who have different skin color than ours and how these differences make the world a better place. We also took stock of our children's book collection. Unsurprisingly, we realized that it is overwhelmingly representative of people who look like us. Immediately we ordered a collection of children's books reflecting races, histories, cultures, and skin colors other than our own to read to Finn and his sister.
My son has his own physical differences, and I want people to see him for exactly who he is—a sensitive, sweet, blind boy—while also treating him the same as they would treat a sensitive, sweet, sighted boy. I've never wanted his blindness to be ignored, unseen, or not talked about. In fact, I've often hoped that parents out there are reading books to their sighted children that include representations of little boys and girls holding canes or reading Braille. And I hope they are telling their children to be kind and fair and to listen to kids like Finn when they encounter them in the real world. Why didn't I realize sooner that the Black community would want the same?
Finn is not yet even three, and Sloane is not yet one. There is a limit to what they can understand right now, but this is only the beginning. We plan to teach our children not only about color differences, but about the different lived experiences (good and bad) that often come with them, just as we will teach Finn about his own differences. We will teach our children not just to be non-racists, but to be anti-racists. We will teach them that the word ally is a verb—with it there must come action, and silence is inaction. We will teach them to stand up and say something when they encounter injustices in the world. We will teach them that events such as the murder of George Floyd are not just single events where "one bad person did a bad thing." We will help them understand that institutional and systemic prejudices, alongside inequality of resources, lie at the root.
There is much more work to be done, definitely including my own, but this is a starting point for how we hope to move the needle with our children and make sure they don't go into the world color blind.
Below is a link to several books for young children to help start the discussion about race. I've also linked an article about how to choose the right anti-racist media for your children. Finally, I've linked an episode from a new series on Instagram called “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” that briefly addresses the issue of color blindness.
Recipes this month were contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma.
Modified Irish Colcannon
by Jeannie Massay
We began making this recipe when delving into our Irish ancestry and culture. This recipe typically has cabbage in it, but I do not care for cooked cabbage. This dish is a great side in any meal. You may choose to substitute the butter and heavy cream for a lower fat option.
6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stick butter, cut into slices
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 slices of bacon, pre-cooked to crispy
4 green onions, cleaned and cut into small pieces
Method: Cook potatoes in a saucepan, drain and move to a bowl. Add cream and butter. Using a potato masher, gently mash potatoes leaving some chunks. Crumble bacon and add to potatoes. Add green onions. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
White Chocolate Chip Cookies
by Glenda Farnum
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup cocoa
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups vanilla chips
1 cup chopped nuts
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Add cocoa, add remaining dry ingredients. Stir in chips and nuts. Drop onto baking sheet and bake for twelve minutes.
Recipe is from spendwithpennies.com. My notes are in parentheses. This is a quick and easy dessert that quickly became a family favorite over the summer.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (Buttermilk works and creates a slightly moister cake.)
1 tablespoon flour
1-1/2 cups blueberries (Fresh or frozen. Fresh blueberries are the best if you have them on hand, but I have used frozen as well and it comes out beautifully. I prefer to thaw frozen blueberries, but you can leave them frozen and add a little extra cook time.)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I kick this up to 1 teaspoon.)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 pan. In a large bowl, cream sugar, butter, egg and lemon zest until fluffy. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to sugar mixture, alternating with milk, mixing just until combined. Toss blueberries with one tablespoon flour. Fold into batter and spread into prepared pan. Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter and bake forty to forty-five minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
No-Fry Chicken-Fried Steak or Chicken-Fried Chicken
From The Ultimate Weight Solution Cookbook by Dr. Phil McGraw. Makes four servings.
4 top round or sirloin tip steaks or chicken breasts (about 5 ounces each)
1 teaspoon meat tenderizer
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup oat flour, or 1 cup uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats finely ground in a food processor or blender (not quick-cooking oats) (tapioca flour works well, also)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
Method: Place the meat (steak or chicken) between two large sheets of wax paper. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a large, heavy saucepan, pound the meat to 1/4 to 1/2-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of wax paper, prick the meat with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals, and season evenly across the pricked surface with meat tenderizer. Peel meat off the bottom sheet of wax paper and place in a large shallow roasting pan (they can overlap). Pour the buttermilk over the meat and marinate at room temperature for thirty minutes, turning occasionally to coat thoroughly in buttermilk.
Meanwhile, position the rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Spray a large, shallow roasting pan or a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray or use nonstick aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. On a large plate, combine the oat flour or ground oats with the paprika, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne (if using), mixing well.
Dredge the buttermilk-coated meat in oat flour mixture, then place in the prepared baking pan or cookie sheet. Spray them lightly with nonstick spray. Bake until firm but tender when pierced with a fork and lightly browned, about thirty minutes.
Diabetic Caramel Apple Salad
by Fatos Floyd
3 large or 4 medium Granny Smith apples, cored and peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
Can of unsweetened crushed pineapple in natural juice
1 package of sugar-free instant butterscotch pudding mix
2/3 cup chopped peanuts or walnuts
1 small carton sugar-free Cool Whip
Method: Mix pineapple and pudding together until smooth. Add apple pieces and peanuts, and fold in Cool Whip.
Jiffy Eggnog Cornbread
by Mike Floyd
3 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 cup of your favorite eggnog
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (give or take)
1 or 2 tablespoons of your favorite butter (You may substitute with coconut oil spray… or your favorite grease)
1 large cast iron skillet (I prefer the type with higher sides, ordinarily used for frying chicken. You may substitute your favorite large baking dish or pan.)
1 rubber spatula or wooden mixing spoon
1 large and 1 medium/smaller mixing bowls
Method: Heat oven to 400 degrees. When your oven reaches 400 degrees, place your cast iron skillet in for five minutes, then remove and put the butter in to melt. (Note: preheating glass or aluminum dishes or pans is not recommended.) While oven is heating and butter melting, you may begin combining other ingredients. Pour contents of three boxes of cornbread mix into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the tablespoon of cinnamon. Create a crater or a cup-shaped depression in the center of the combined dry ingredients. In a small mixing bowl, briefly stir together eggs and eggnog with a fork or your favorite whisk. Pour the wet mixture into the center of the dry mixture.
Using a rubber spatula or wooden mixing spoon, stir together wet and dry mixtures until all ingredients are fairly combined and moistened, but not over-blended. (Lumps do not hurt.) Let batter set for eight minutes. Making sure skillet is well greased all over, pour batter into the skillet. Place skillet into center of oven and bake for forty-five minutes to one hour. You may use a toothpick, fork, or butter knife to test doneness by poking into the center of loaf. Remove from oven and place skillet on a cookie rack or your favorite trivet to cool for ten minutes before removing the loaf from the skillet. Serve warm with butter for best results.
Smokey Carrot Dogs
by Brooke Anderson
6-8 carrots cut in half depending on size, or similar to length of hotdogs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth (I use water instead.)
2 Medjool dates, pits removed
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon fresh garlic minced
1 teaspoon pickled jalapeño juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Method: Add all ingredients except carrots to high speed blender or food processor. Slightly cook carrots in the mixture until just slightly crispy, not mushy, do not overcook. Leave to marinade for a few hours. Serve and enjoy.
Mango Quinoa Salad
by Brooke Anderson
This mango quinoa salad is so easy, you just throw it all together any old way you like in a large bowl and enjoy.
2 cups quinoa
2-1/2 cups water
10-ounce pack frozen corn or cooked garbanzo beans
1 chopped mango or pineapple
1 chopped bell pepper
1 small chopped red onion
1/2 cup cilantro or mint
1/2 cup slivered almonds or jicama
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
Method: On high simmer, cook two cups quinoa in 2.5 cups of water until water is nearly all absorbed. Add into the quinoa near the end of cooking, ten-ounce pack of frozen corn or chickpeas. Add one chopped mango or pineapple and one chopped bell pepper to a salad bowl. Add in one small chopped red onion, half a cup cilantro or mint, half a cup slivered almonds or jicama, any greens you like, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
by Brooke Anderson
1 cup uncooked rolled or instant oats
1/2 cup peanut butter or whole peanuts
3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates
Method: Add to a food processor or high-speed blender, one cup uncooked rolled or instant oats, half a cup peanut butter or whole peanuts, 3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates. Then add other favorites like chocolate, coconut, or strawberries. Be careful not to make too moist. Form into cookies and enjoy.
News from the Federation Family
Braille Readers Are Leaders is Stronger and Healthier than Ever:
The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and the National Federation of the Blind are pleased to announce our 2020-2021 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest for Blind Children and Adults. We are finalizing documents which will be posted to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults website and for distribution through email lists and social media. The registration period is from November 1, 2020, to January 18, 2021. The contest begins December 1, 2020, and ends January 18, 2021. The contest reading log is due by February 1, 2021, and winners will be announced by February 15, 2021. Cash prizes along with Braille-related items will be mailed by mid-March 2021. For more information, go to www.actionfund.org.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Job Openings at Envision
Envision is currently hiring blind/visually impaired individuals for Cashier/Stocker and Bag Folder/Picker positions with paid relocation. Interested candidates should apply at www.envisionus.com. See below for job descriptions.
Position Title: Cashier/Stocker
Reports to: Store Manager
Business Unit: Envision Express
POSITION SUMMARY: Responsible for stocking, cash register operation, and customer service at an Envision Base Store located on military bases.
KEY RESPONSIBILITIES/ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS INCLUDE (List in order of importance):
JOB REQUIREMENTS INCLUDE (List as required or preferred):
Education: High school diploma or GED equivalent required.
Experience: Previous experience in retail sales and computer applications preferred.
Position Title: Bag Folder/Picker
Reports to: Production Supervisor
Business Unit: Envision Industries
POSITION SUMMARY: A Bag Folder/Picker works in a production manufacturing setting. Responsibilities include assembling boxes, removing various types of plastic trash bags and other industrial products from conveyor, inspecting products to specifications and hand-packing them into appropriate boxes.
KEY RESPONSIBILITIES/ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS INCLUDE (List in order of importance):
JOB REQUIREMENTS INCLUDE (List as required or preferred):
Education: High school diploma or GED equivalent preferred.
Experience: Previous work experience required; exposure in manufacturing environment preferred.
Envision, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without illegal discrimination because of race, color, sex, age, gender identity, disability, religion, citizenship, national origin, ancestry, military status or veteran status, marital status, sexual orientation, domestic violence victim status, predisposing genetic characteristics and genetic information, and any other status protected by law.
Envision employs and advances in employment individuals with disabilities and veterans, and treats qualified individuals without discrimination on the basis of their physical or mental disability or veteran status.
Reasonable accommodations will be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
This position description is intended to convey generally the duties of this job. It is not an all-inclusive listing of duties, and it is not a contract, expressed or implied.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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 constitution.