Vol. 47, No. 2   February, 2004

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by



National Office

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland  21230-4998

Web site address:

NFB-NEWSLINE® number: 1-888-882-1629

Letters to the president, address changes,

subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature

should be sent to the National Office.

Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also

be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to

Monitorsubscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998



ISSN 0006-8829

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Atlanta Marriott Marquis Ambassador Albert (Smitty) Smith]

Atlanta 2004 NFB Convention Site

The 2004 NFB convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 29 through July 5 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The overflow hotel is the Hilton Atlanta and Towers, just across Courtland from the Marriott Marquis. Room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $59 and triples and quads $65 a night, plus tax of 14 percent at present. The hotels are accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent will be refunded if notice of cancellation is given before June 1, 2004. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the Marriott Marquis at (404) 521-0000 and the Hilton Atlanta and Towers at (404) 659-2000.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, assuming that rooms are still available. After that the hotels will not hold their room blocks. So make your reservation now.

Both hotels are twelve miles north of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport and are conveniently located off Interstate 85. Take Exit 96, International Boulevard, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Peachtree Center Avenue, and turn right. The Marriott Marquis is on the right in the second block. To get to the Hilton, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Piedmont Avenue, and turn right. The Hilton is on the left. Guest-room amenities in both hotels include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and dataport.

The schedule for the 2004 convention is as follows:

Tuesday, June 29Seminar Day

Wednesday, June 30 Registration Day

Thursday, July 1 Board Meeting and Division Day

Friday, July 2Opening Session

Saturday, July 3 Tour Day

Sunday, July 4 Banquet Day

Monday, July 5Business Session

Vol. 47, No. 2 February, 2004


Tribute to a Cab Driver

by Terri Uttermohlen

RSA Rules Again on Merit Scholarships

A Brighter Future for Blind Children

by Mark A. Riccobono

Self-Advocacy Skills Training for Older Individuals

Who Are Visually Impaired: A Review

by Judy Sanders

Open Letter to Agency Directors and Managers

Hiring Competent Blind People

by Mike Bullis

Roller-Blading: Advice from the Voice of Experience

Butch Wax

by Susan Jones

A Review of the Tiger Embossers

by Robert Jaquiss

Tidbits and Travel Tips for Conventioneers

by Anil Lewis

If I Could Choose

by Robert M. Eschbach

Reaching Out For New Opportunities:

The 2004 NFB Summer Science Experience

by Mark A. Riccobono

Free Braille Books Program


Monitor Miniatures

Copyright© 2004 National Federation of the Blind

During the month of January residents of Baltimore, and especially those who traveled I-95 or drove through the Inner Harbor area, became aware that on January 30 the NFB Research and Training Institute was going to open with a gala celebration. First we covered our forty-foot-long lighted rooftop sign with a banner announcing the grand opening. All those who drive along I-95 can easily read our sign as they drive by. Next we rented two billboards for the month of January, one at the I-395 exit from Baltimore City and the other on I-95 South, to remind passersby of the opening. Then, during the final ten days or so of the month, we posted banners with the same message over two streets leading into the Harbor area.

[LEAD PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: The NFB rooftop sign now reads "National Federation of the Blind Research Grand Opening January 30" in large red and black letters on a white field with a full-color Whozit on the left. The U.S. flag can be seen flying behind and above the sign.]

[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION 1: The sign on the roof of the National Center for the Blind]

[LEAD PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: On the billboard pictured here the words "National Federation of the Blind Institute" appear on the left with a full-color Whozit on the right. Below the words is a picture of the model of the Institute,
and at the bottom right are the words, "Grand Opening January 30."]

[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION 2: Billboards at I-395 and I-95 South]

[LEAD PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: On a banner stretching across the street, the words "National Federation of the Blind" are flush left and superimposed on Whozit, while on the right are the words "Research and Training Institute Grand Opening, January 30, 2004."]

[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION 3: From January 20 through the first week in February, Baltimore City street banners on both sides of the Inner Harbor announced the NFBRTI grand opening.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: This picture of Marc Baladi and his cab was taken by Terri Uttermohlen on a trip to West Virginia. It seems to have been one of very few pictures of Marc, and it was used by the Baltimore media after the accident.]

Tribute to a Cab Driver

by Terri Uttermohlen

From the Editor: On the national news of Tuesday evening, January 13, the news anchors described a frightful accident in Baltimore in which a tanker truck, loaded with petroleum, fell from an overpass onto Interstate 95, which passes very close to the National Center for the Blind. Many vehicles managed to evade the catastrophe, but the drivers of the three trucks and one car that were crushed had no time to avoid the spot where the wreckage came down. Amazingly, the driver of the one truck saw what was going to happen and ran far enough away to survive. The other drivers were not so lucky. They and the tanker driver were all killed, and the vehicles were so damaged that it was impossible to notify the next of kin for days because there was very little by which to identify them.

When I talked with people at the Center the following day, I asked if anyone we knew had been in the accident, assuring myself, even as I asked the question, that the likelihood was infinitesimal. But I was wrong. Lots of staff members at the Center use taxis, and one of the vehicles crushed by the tanker was a cab. Here is the tribute written by Terri Uttermohlen, wife of NFB Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs Jim McCarthy, about her friend and driver, Marc Baladi:

Baltimore lost its most reliable method of public transportation in a fiery crash on Tuesday afternoon, January 13.  That form of transportation was a Red Ball Cab driven by a sixty-three-year-old French-Turkish cab driver. Many Baltimore residents also lost a rich thread in the fabric of our lives.

Although at this writing Marc Baladi has not yet been officially declared a victim of that terrible accident caused by an unstable tanker descending onto I-95, I have known since Tuesday night that I have lost a friend.

Marc was referred to us about two years ago as a good cab driver. He was. In fact, his incredible reliability was the reason I knew he had been involved in the accident and later became aware of his death. Marc called me from Columbia shortly before the accident to say he would be at our North Baltimore house in a half hour. I had asked him to come by so that I could run some quick errands.

I travel and telecommute for my job with Virginia Commonwealth University. My days are very busy. Because of this I am often late gathering things together for hurried errands. In the past, when my husband or I wasn't ready or was scurrying to pack before a trip, Marc waited patiently in his cab. On Tuesday I decided to surprise Marc by having everything in hand and sat on the porch waiting for him. Dry-cleaning resting expectantly on the ground near my feet, I listened to each car as it approached to see if it would stop in front of my house. Marc didn't show. Eventually I became cold and went back into the house to call him. There was no answer to that call nor to the increasingly worried calls I placed to his cell phone over the next few hours.

Marc was one of the most reliable people I have ever known about being where he said he would be and about letting his friends and clients know if he might be late.  He was obsessive about calling to let us know where he was and would return calls in seconds if he missed us. When I heard about the crash hours later, I knew Marc had been involved. Otherwise he would have called. Later that evening I contacted the police.

"I think I know one of the victims of the crash. Was one of the vehicles a Red Ball cab?" I asked.

The officer on duty responded that the vehicles involved were beyond easy recognition. At that moment I knew our friend and driver was dead. Since then the police have found his license plate, and they have determined that the car was a cab. Eventually they will be able to establish definitively what with great sadness I realized Tuesday.

In addition to being one of the most reliable cab drivers I have ever met, Marc was also one of my first friends in Baltimore. I met him on a cold December day in 2001. Reeling from the suddenness of our move east because of a wonderful job opportunity for my husband as assistant director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, I was feeling very lonely.  While my husband settled into his new professional life, I was looking for a job and a place for us to live. I entered Marc's cab to run errands and began to talk to Marc, but had trouble hearing his softly accented English. I moved to the front of the cab and began a friendly, interesting conversation that lasted, on and off, until his death Tuesday.

Marc was a character. He was patriotic and fiercely proud of the U.S., his adopted country. Though he was originally from France, he grew up in Egypt and moved to Baltimore as a young adult in the early 1960's.  His taste in food and language, however, was wonderfully French. Passionate about food, he would drive for hours for a particular culinary delight. Generous, he would bring those delicacies back to share with his friends and customers. Intelligent and an avid Republican, he would discuss current and past events. He graduated from Swarthmore College; had a master's in education; and demonstrated a tremendous memory for names, places, and events. He read three newspapers daily and was happiest driving when he could engage his passenger in lively intellectual conversation. He would go out of his way for a friend or client, worrying about us like family.  The line between client and friend, slim to begin with, often blurred to friendship in time. He was passionately loyal and preferred to think well of people. Horns in traffic usually elicited a wave and a “Hi” from Marc--even if the honker's intent seemed angry to other listeners.

Knowing Marc enriched my life. He knew Baltimore extremely well and loved D.C. with intensity. He followed a steady pattern. He dined on Sundays in Wheaton, and on Mondays he picnicked on delicacies from his favorite Italian deli. On Tuesdays he went food shopping and to Borders for coffee and people-watching. On Fridays he would maintain his cab with fastidiousness, making sure that all of the necessary fluids, pads, and other parts were up-to-date and clean.  On Saturday mornings he stopped in his favorite French bakery for his weekly indulgence of wonderful brioches and coffee. Then he spent time delivering pastries from that same shop to his friends.

He belonged to several public radio stations, cultural organizations, and museums, attending the social events and fundraisers with enthusiasm. Each September he would take a couple of days off from his hard, long hours in the cab to vacation in the hills of West Virginia. That's where he was, in fact, on September 11, 2001, and when Hurricane Isabelle came to visit last fall.

I will miss Marc as a friend and as a resource. He was a valuable part of the fabric of my daily life and of the lives of many of my friends. Like me, many of his other clients were blind professionals who would share his name with others like the name of a fabulous wine. Marc was a hard-working, reliable cab driver who gave a damn. The death of this vital, caring, unusual man was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life. It was also a compelling reminder to let others in the fabric of our daily lives know their value before they are tragically torn from us.

RSA Rules Again on Merit Scholarships

From the Editor: In the December 2003 issue we reported on the firing of Christine Boone as director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BVS). In passing we mentioned that Stephen Nasuti, director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and Boone's immediate supervisor, advised presumably by his general counsel, ruled sometime ago now that Pennsylvania residents receiving services from OVR should have the value of any merit scholarships subtracted from their VR funding allocations for education.

Chris Boone, a lawyer herself and a rehabilitation professional with many years of experience, warned Nasuti that, as far back as Nell Carney, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) commissioners had been ruling that merit scholarships were not similar benefits and therefore could not be used to reduce state grants to individuals. We now have several documents that clearly lay out the Pennsylvania position and that of the current RSA commissioner. It remains to be seen whether the folks in the VR saddle in Pennsylvania will be deterred by this latest ruling. Not surprisingly, Chris Boone has been proven right yet again on a question of rehabilitation. Here are the documents in the case, beginning with a memo from the office of OVR's general counsel articulating her rationale for snatching away scholarship awards:

September 23, 2003


To:State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation

From:Catherine Wojciechowski, Deputy Chief Counsel

Re:Calculating OVR's Contribution Towards College Costs

Subject:Awards and Scholarships Based Upon Merit

This memorandum serves as follow-up and clarification with respect to an issue raised by State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation member Judith Jobes at the meeting held September 16, 2003 in Erie, Pennsylvania. You may recall, Ms. Jobes indicated that she had confirmation from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) that OVR [Office of Vocational Rehabilitation] improperly calculates its contribution toward the cost of college training for individuals with disabilities by considering awards and scholarships based upon merit as "comparable services and benefits."1

Initially, please note that the legal opinion of this office never indicated that awards and scholarships based upon merit should be considered comparable benefits and services. Moreover, in calculating its contribution toward the cost of college, OVR does not classify merit awards and scholarships as "comparable services and benefits." OVR does, however, utilize amounts received as an offset to its contribution, in the same manner as other financial aid and grants are offset.

While this may at first appear to be a distinction without a difference, the statutory exclusion merely prohibits OVR from requiring that individuals seek and apply for merit based awards and scholarships as a condition for providing college training services. It does not, however, prevent OVR from utilizing amounts received from merit scholarships and awards in the calculation of its contribution. To do otherwise would result in the expenditure of public funds in cases where the financial need has already been reduced.

This memorandum examines the language of the federal Rehabilitation Act (Act) and it[s] governing regulations and its applicability to the manner in which OVR calculates its contribution. This memorandum will also briefly address the validity of RSA-PAC-90-7.

Statutory and Regulatory Language

Section 101(a)(8) of the Act (relating to comparable services and benefits) provides in pertinent part:

A. Determination of availability

(i) In general

The state plan shall include an assurance that, prior to providing any vocational rehabilitation service to an eligible individual . . . the designated state unit will determine whether comparable services and benefits are available under any other program (other than a program carried out under this title) unless a determination would interrupt or delay . . .

(ii)Awards and scholarships

For purposes of clause (i) comparable benefits do not include awards or scholarships based upon merit.

Additionally, 34 C.F.R. § 361.5(10) reiterates the Act by providing that awards and scholarships based upon merit are excluded from the definition of "comparable services and benefits."

However, 34 C.F.R. § 361.54 (relating to participation of individuals in cost of services based upon financial need) permits OVR to consider the financial need of eligible individuals for purposes of determining the extent of their participation in the cost of services. Further, consistent with this provision, Section 10 of the State Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1988 provides that services will be provided at public cost only to those individuals with disabilities found to require financial assistance. 43 P.S. § 682.10

Analysis of Statutory and Regulatory Language

Since both Section 101(a)(8) and 34 C.F.R. § 361.5(10) exclude awards and scholarships based upon merit from the definition of comparable benefits and services, OVR is prohibited from determining whether awards and scholarships based upon merit exist and from requiring that individuals apply for and secure such awards and scholarships prior to or as a condition of providing college training services.2

However, neither the Act nor the regulations contain any prohibition against utilizing amounts received by an individual in the form of merit awards and scholarships in the calculation of OVR's contribution.

RSA-PAC 90-2

It is the opinion of the Office of Chief Counsel that the PAC-90-2 does not affect OVR's college policy with respect to the inclusion of merit awards and scholarships in the calculation of OVR's contribution toward college expenses for a number of reasons. Initially, the PAC does not unequivocally prohibit the use of scholarships in calculating OVR's contribution. Secondly, it was issued many years before the enactment of the current statute. Finally, the PAC is considered an "interpretative" rule that merely provides guidance and is not controlling or binding upon the courts.

Language of PAC-90-2

PAC-90-2 was issued by the RSA in March 1990 as a means to provide "supportive guidelines" to state VR agencies with respect to treatment of monetary merit awards provided directly to VR customers. In essence, the PAC sets forth the Commissioner's opinion that VR customers should not be required to use monetary merit gifts from private organizations toward the cost of all needed VR services.3 However, the PAC does not prohibit the use of scholarships toward the cost of college expenses. In fact, the Commissioner acknowledges that these funds may reduce the extent of the customer's need for the service.

Issue Date

More importantly, the PAC was issued eight years prior to the current amendments to the Act. These amendments exclude merit based awards and scholarships from the definition of "comparable services and benefits." Accordingly, the opinion of the Commissioner was not based upon and pre-dates the current provisions of the Act. Moreover, the 1998 amendments did not codify the opinion expressed by the Commissioner in PAC-90-2. Therefore, the Commissioner's opinion cannot legitimately serve as the basis for an interpretation of the current Act.

Even if the amendments were an effort to codify PAC-90-2, the plain language of the statute controls pursuant to principles of statutory construction. While legislative intent may be persuasive, the express language may not be ignored. This is especially true in this case where there is no record of the legislature's intent.4 Since the express language does not prohibit the use of merit awards and scholarships in the calculation of OVR's contribution, OVR's policy does not violate the Act.

Interpretative Rule

Even assuming that the PAC-90-2 is relevant to the 1998 amendments, it is a nonbinding agency statement with respect to what the agency believes the statute means. National Treasury Employees Union v. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, 685 F. Supp 1346 (E.D.La. 1988). Interpretative rules are those that clarify statutory or regulatory terms, explain existing laws, and remind parties of existing duties under the law. Interpretative rulemaking merely provides guidance and is not controlling upon the courts. Daughters of Miriam Center for the Aged v. Matthews, 590 F.2d 1250 (3rd Cir. Dist. Ct. App. 1978). As such, it is a nonbinding statement and does not have the controlling authority of a law or regulation.5


To summarize, OVR has a statutory obligation to operate an effective, efficient, and accountable program. In adhering to this mandate, OVR may enact policies governing the provision of services and may consider the financial need of customers. Although awards and scholarships based upon merit are excluded from the definition of comparable services and benefits, the plain language of the exclusion merely prohibits OVR from requiring customers to seek and apply for such awards and scholarships as a condition of providing college training. However, there is no language in the Act or the regulations that prohibits the use of such funds in the calculation of OVR's contribution. In fact, the receipt of such funding reduces the individual's need for funding from OVR.6

cc:The Honorable Stephen M. Schmerin, Secretary

Roger H. Caffier, Chief Counsel


1. Although the Board did not discuss this issue, Ms. Jobes provided me with a copy of the alleged confirmation. The RSA indicated in its response that RSA Program Advisory Circular (RSA-P AC-90-7) continues to reflect current RSA policy and the law that awards and scholarships based upon merit are not considered "comparable services and benefits." (Please note the correct number for the PAC is 90-2).

2. Neither the Act, the regulations, nor the RSA has ever defined "awards and scholarships based upon merit" or attempted to reconcile the fact that Section 103(a)(5) requires that OVR and the individual use maximum efforts to secure grant assistance prior to expending any Title I funds for training at institutions of higher learning.

3. This opinion is based upon the Commissioner's belief that requiring customers to use unrestricted gifts to pay for VR services denies them the recognition and help intended and, in essence, defeats the purpose intended by the philanthropic group making the award.

4. A review of the Conference House and Senate Reports revealed no stated intent behind the amendment to Section 101(a)(8). Further, the Appendix to the regulations enacted in 2001, likewise set forth no reasoning, opinion, or intent related to the exclusion.

5. The PAC is also not a "legal opinion." Commissioner Carney, not the legal staff of the RSA, issued the PAC.

6. There is also the consideration of whether taxpayers should bear the costs of higher education for individuals who are able to secure funding from alternate sources.


Several members of the Pennsylvania legislature became concerned that Pennsylvania might cause problems for itself by deciding to reduce educational expenditures by the amount of any merit scholarships awarded to OVR customers. Here is a letter that Wojciechowski wrote to reassure one legislator:

October 7, 2003

The Honorable Matthew N. Wright

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

RE: RSA-PAC-90-7

Dear Representative Wright:

Your letter of September 19, 2003, to Governor Rendell with respect to the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation's (OVR's) college policy has been referred to me for response. Your letter expresses your concern that there may be a potential conflict between the federal regulations and state policy with regard to college grants to people who are blind. Specifically, you reference OVR's practice of utilizing amounts received in merit-based awards and scholarships in the calculation of its contribution towards college training costs.

First and foremost, please be assured that OVR is committed to providing the vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities necessary to assist them in preparing for, securing, retaining, or regaining an employment outcome that is consistent with their informed choice. OVR is under a statutory mandate to operate an effective, efficient, and accountable program. Accordingly, it may establish policies governing the provision of services to ensure a reasonable cost to the program. For the reasons that follow, OVR's policy does not treat blind and visually impaired disparately. Moreover, the policy is not in contravention of federal law. Therefore, OVR is not at risk of losing federal funding.

OVR is under an obligation to provide a wide range of services to individuals with disabilities, not just assistance with college costs. OVR's policy is uniformly applied to all customers regardless of disability. Therefore, contrary to the information you received, the policy does not have a disparate impact on individuals who are blind or visually impaired. To the contrary, it treats these individuals the same as all OVR customers. Moreover, the policy ensures that the vocational rehabilitation program can serve the greatest number of individuals with its limited funds. Further, due to limited funding, the receipt of awards and scholarships reduces the customer's need for OVR assistance and permits OVR to serve more individuals with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired.

When read in a vacuum, Section 101(a)(8)(A)(ii) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides that "for purposes of clause (i) comparable benefits do not include awards and scholarships based upon merit." However, when read in its entirety, it is clear that this exclusion merely prohibits OVR from requiring that customers seek and apply for merit-based awards and scholarships as a condition of receiving college-training services. It does not, however, prohibit OVR from utilizing amounts received in the calculation of its contribution. To do otherwise, would result in the expenditure of public funds in cases where the individual's financial need has already been reduced.

Although your letter indicates that the Rehabilitation Services Administration's Program Advisory Circular (PAC) 90-7 is still in effect, please note that it has no impact on OVR College policy for the following reasons: (1) the PAC, by its very terms, does not prohibit the use of scholarships toward the cost of college expenses; (2) the PAC is merely an advisory--it is a nonbinding statement, without the force of law carried by a statute or regulation, and; (3) the PAC was issued eight years prior to the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. These amendments did not codify the language of the advisory. Even if the 1998 amendments were an effort to codify the language of the PAC-90-7, the express and plain language of the statute controls pursuant to principles of statutory construction.

In summary, since the express language of the Act does not prohibit the use of merit-based awards and scholarships in the calculation of OVR's contribution, OVR's college policy is not in conflict with the federal Act or regulations. Accordingly, OVR's funding is not in jeopardy. Furthermore, the policy does not discriminate against individuals who are blind or visually impaired--rather it has the effect of making limited funding available to more blind and visually impaired Pennsylvanians.

The Department appreciates your concern in ensuring that the needs of individuals with disabilities in this Commonwealth are met. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Catherine N. Wojciechowski

Deputy Chief Counsel

President Maurer decided in November that the time had come to request the RSA commissioner to rule on this question again since the argument was now being made that following the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act the earlier advisory on merit scholarships was no longer in force. So he wrote the following letter:

November 13, 2003

Dr. Joanne Wilson, Commissioner

U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration

Washington, D.C.

Dear Commissioner Wilson:

Enclosed is correspondence from Catherine N. Wojciechowski, Deputy Chief Counsel for the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, which attempts to explain that clients of Vocational Rehabilitation in Pennsylvania are required to have vocational rehabilitation grants reduced by the amount of merit-based scholarships granted. Scholarships granted by the National Federation of the Blind are conditional. The condition is that, if the government attempts to appropriate such scholarships, directly or indirectly, the scholarships are withdrawn. The National Federation of the Blind is not interested in attempting to fund the rehabilitation program. To do this would be completely beyond our capacity. We are interested in promoting scholarships to students based upon merit. If these scholarships are simply used as a means to fund the rehabilitation program, we will cease to provide them.

Please consider the arguments proposed by Catherine Wojciechowski and provide an interpretation that can be distributed to blind college students and those administering scholarship material for blind college students. I understand that the state of Pennsylvania may wish to get its hands on money raised by the National Federation of the Blind and others. However, this practice will be detrimental to the blind clients it is established to serve.


Marc Maurer, President

National Federation of the Blind

That was Dr. Maurer's letter. Here is Dr. Wilson's reply. It certainly seems unequivocal.

December 15, 2003

Dr. Marc Maurer, President

National Federation of the Blind

Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Dr. Maurer:

Thank you for your letter of November 13, 2003, in which you question the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) policy of using amounts received in merit-based awards and scholarships to reduce OVR's contribution towards college training costs for individuals with disabilities. You also enclosed a copy of an October 7, 2003, correspondence from Catherine N. Wojciechowski, OVR Deputy Chief Counsel, to the Honorable Matthew N. Wright in which Ms. Wojciechowski states that OVR's policy is not contravened by federal law or regulation. We respectfully disagree.

Section 101(a)(8) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended in 1998 (the Act) requires a state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency, prior to providing any vocational rehabilitation service to an eligible individual, to determine whether comparable services and benefits are available under any other program. Comparable services and benefits do not include awards or scholarships based on merit.

The exclusion of merit awards or scholarships from a determination of the availability of comparable services and benefits was originally a provision in Senate bill 1579. The Senate committee clarified this provision in its report with the following language:

"The committee also clarifies that comparable benefits do not include awards and scholarships based on merit. The committee feels that individuals with disabilities who achieve financial awards based on merit should not have awards used as basis to reduce publicly-funded assistance to achieve an employment outcome." S. Rep. No. 166, 105th Cong., 2nd Sess. 15 (1998). Emphasis added.

We also note that many individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind, receive benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance program and/or the Supplemental Security Income program under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, respectively. While a state VR agency may consider the financial need of eligible individuals in the provision of VR services, the agency may not apply a financial needs test or require the financial participation of any individual who has been determined eligible for Social Security benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (34 CFR 361.54(b)(3)(ii).

In summary, we do not believe that OVR's policy of considering the amounts of merit-based scholarships or awards to reduce its support for individuals with disabilities in college training is consistent with congressional intent that such awards should not be used to reduce publicly-funded assistance for these individuals. Consequently, OVR should not use merit-based scholarships awarded by the National Federation of the Blind as a basis for reducing its support for individuals with disabilities in college training. We hope that this response adequately addresses your concerns.

I am providing a copy of this letter to Dr. Ralph N. Pacinelli, the RSA regional commissioner in Philadelphia, with a request that he follow-up with the state agency and, as appropriate, that he provide you with a further reply on actions taken or planned by the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Again, thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention.


Joanne Wilson, Commissioner
Rehabilitation Services Administration

cc:Stephen R. Nasuti, Executive Director

Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

Dr. Ralph N. Pacinelli

RSA Regional Commissioner

The ball, as they say, is now in Pennsylvania's court. We will await Mr. Nasuti's next move with interest.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mark Riccobono]

A Brighter Future for Blind Children

The 2003 NFB Summit on Education

Helps Shape Programming for the

NFB Research and Training Institute

by Mark A. Riccobono

From the Editor: Mark Riccobono has recently been appointed to coordinate educational programming for the NFB Research and Training Institute (NFBRTI). Last August a number of Federationists with interest and expertise in education for the blind gathered at the National Center for the Blind to do the groundwork on setting educational policy and establishing program priorities for the NFBRTI. Mark Riccobono led the discussion and here reports on the work of that group:

The work of the National Federation of the Blind improving opportunities for blind children is very near the top of our list of priorities. With the impact on regular education of the new focus on standards, the changing classroom environment because of technology, and the endless battle over school budgets, is it any wonder that our concern about the education of blind children is growing? But the problems facing us are not as simple as addressing what is new in regular education. In addition we must consider the trends and activities in special education, particularly with teachers of blind students and orientation and mobility instructors. Because of the critical role the National Federation of the Blind plays in ensuring that blind children receive appropriate training and opportunity, and with the coming development of innovative programs in the NFB Research and Training Institute, leaders in the NFB came together to discuss the education of blind children.

On August 22 and 23, 2003, NFB leaders, educators, and parents of blind children met at the National Center for the Blind to discuss the current status of the education of blind children in the United States. This 2003 NFB Summit on Education was part of the effort to address our growing concern that the current educational system is not providing appropriate instruction to blind children and, furthermore, that the system lacks the innovation to attain successful outcomes for these children. Twenty-one Federationists came together for two days of discussion and brainstorming about the education of blind children. This important meeting, however, was simply one piece of the process. Much more must be done to ensure that every blind child receives an appropriate education based on high expectations.

Before reporting some of the highlights of the 2003 NFB Summit on Education, we should review the role the NFB has already played in the education of blind children. After all, we have already made a significant difference. Consider just two examples from the last twenty years or so. First is our successful effort to get canes into the hands of blind children as early as possible. We began publishing Future Reflections in October of 1981, and from the beginning many of its articles focused on the importance of having child-size canes for youngsters to begin using as soon as they could walk. The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children came into being at the 1983 national convention, and shortly thereafter the NFB produced the video, Kids With Canes. Today many professionals have begun to teach blind kids to use the long white cane at an earlier age. Moreover, our literature and expertise on the subject are gaining increased acceptance.

Second is our strong leadership in meeting the Braille literacy crisis in this country, which led to the adoption in thirty-two states of Braille bills based on our model legislation as well as our successful work to pass the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that provide Braille instruction to all blind students unless, after an evaluation assessing the child's current and future reading needs, the IEP team determines that Braille is not appropriate. Our efforts have continued to secure timely access to materials (the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act) and at the local level to establish educational programs such as Braille Is Beautiful and to expand the Braille Readers Are Leaders programs. While these examples are significant, they represent only a fraction of the positive impact the NFB has made since 1940. Yet even in these areas, cane travel and Braille literacy for blind children, our work is not nearly complete.

How then do we begin to tackle the problems that still exist in the education of blind children? That is what the participants in the 2003 NFB Summit on Education worked on in late August. We had much lively discussion with a number of themes emerging by the end of the two days. Seven of these, in no particular order, were:

· Changes and innovations in the delivery system for serving blind children. We spent considerable time discussing the emphasis in the field on the shortage of qualified personnel, which is often cited as the major problem facing the field as a whole. However, with our unique perspective and collective experience of blindness, we disagreed with this analysis. Summit participants concluded that the shortage of trained professionals exists only if one assumes that the current philosophy behind educating the blind and the method of delivering services to blind children are effective and efficient. We agreed, however, that they are not effective and that this appalling shortcoming is the most serious crisis facing blind children today. The philosophy underlying the delivery of instruction and the approach to providing services are the problems that must be addressed immediately.

· Infusing a positive philosophy as early as possible. Participants discussed their conviction that the profound lack of strong early-intervention programs based on high expectations and positive approaches to blindness puts blind children at a significant disadvantage from the start. All too often parents of blind children are confronted from the beginning with negative stereotypes and low expectations for their children by the professionals with whom they deal. Children who lack opportunities and expectations early on are labeled as slower, and a general acceptance of this lag grows out of the misguided notion that "It just takes these children longer." The summit concluded that the NFB must stimulate cultivation of intensive, excellent early childhood programs based on our effective philosophy and approach to blindness. We must do everything we can to encourage parents to take an active, even leading part in teaching and enabling their blind children to keep up with their peers.

· Strategies for demystifying the education of blind children and infusing positive literature and resources into the system. We discussed a number of ideas for specific programs and products to assist parents trying to prepare their blind children for success. Some of these programs, like the science camp which Dr. Maurer announced in his 2003 Presidential Report and which is highlighted later in this issue, are already on our radar screen, but others will need to be developed.

· Better educational programs for parents, paraprofessionals, and teachers. As the voice of the nation's blind, we are in a unique position to train others to assist in providing needed support and educational services. Using our knowledge and experience with training programs, we can expand our reach to encourage people interested in providing a truly appropriate education for every blind child. Consistent with the NFBRTI's mission to drive innovation in the field of blindness, the NFB Online Education Program will be central to this training.  The first course in the program, Introduction to the Education of Blind Children in the Regular Classroom, was launched as one of the inaugural projects of the NFBRTI at the grand opening celebration on January 30.

· Establishment of standards for blind youth in blindness and life-coping skill areas. Another important discussion occurred around the notion of how we know whether or not blind youth are meeting appropriate standards. Individualized planning for blind students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, as enshrined in federal law, is intended to ensure that every child receiving special education services will be taught according to team decisions made especially and solely for that student. While the intention of federal law is to help each child appropriately and individually, the effect on blind children has been devastating. This practice has resulted in education being provided to each blind student as though this were the first blind student ever taught. The effect is most damaging in the teaching of blindness and life-coping skills. This means no standards by which school administrators, both regular and special education, can assess the progress of the blind student in learning or the effectiveness of the teacher of blind children in teaching blindness skills. On the other hand, those same teachers, particularly those providing good instruction, have no standards to use in convincing their administrators of the appropriate amount of instructional time required to properly teach those blindness and life-coping skills. Worst of all, the blind student has no way of measuring his or her mastery of blindness skills, and most blind students emerge from high school certain that they are doing splendidly until the reality of college and employment shows them otherwise. The NFB's knowledge and experience and our ability to pool the two in collective, thoughtful analysis as well as our long record of trying to make the current system work, uniquely suit us to provide valid criticism of the status quo and to forge solutions that will change the world for America's blind youngsters. That means real standards against which age-appropriate progress can be measured. The obvious place to start is to learn what today's blind students are actually doing in key blindness areas and then use that information to fashion standards for performance against which individual student performance can be measured.

· Pursuing meaningful research that will drive better instruction for blind children. A number of critical research and data questions were raised. These range from improving Braille literacy to tracking the performance of blind children in order to measure the effectiveness of the services they receive. These research ideas are unlike the research currently being done in the blindness field. The questions we raised are grounded in the unique perspective of blind people and are better characterized, in the words of Dr. Fred Schroeder, as "advocacy research." Undoubtedly such research questions will be a part of the work of the NFB Research and Training Institute. Certainly the question of effective and age-appropriate use of access technology has already registered concern across the Federation, and more research will need to be done on how and when to introduce blind children to keyboarding, electronic notetakers, and computers with speech and screen-enlargement programs.

· Developing partnerships with key programs and innovators in education to create model programs and practices based on positive Federation philosophy and the latest research on child development and learning acquisition. Where possible, we need to create relationships and work closely with those in the blindness field and beyond who can assist us to develop new programs for blind children. A number of ideas for accomplishing this were generated and will be incorporated into our future work.

Our discussion was just one step in the process of building an educational program within the NFB Research and Training Institute that will dramatically improve the opportunities and resources available to blind youth and those concerned with their education. The notes from the 2003 NFB Summit on Education have been compiled into a form which will allow the Educational Department of the NFB Research and Training Institute to track and update our progress on the strategies identified at this initial meeting. Many of the priorities and concerns discussed at the Education Summit will be incorporated into the Strategic Plan for the Institute, so we will all be able to follow program development in the months and years to come.

We must not stop with the 2003 NFB Summit on Education, and in true Federation spirit readers must not simply follow the progress of our educational programs. As we continue efforts in the Federation and in building the programs of the NFB Research and Training Institute, our innovative ideas, rooted in our experience and understanding of blindness, must be our driving force. In no other place are these innovations being cultivated in the way we will establish them, and this perspective is the critical element that makes the Federation the leader it is in the blindness field.

All of us then have a role in devising ideas and developing the resources to make the ideas work. While the Education Summit generated a number of useful strategies that we can use as a springboard for the Institute, we continue to need discussion and innovation. Members of the Federation working in local communities to improve conditions for blind children are essential. Your ideas and innovations must be part of the NFB Research and Training Institute. These ideas will necessarily evolve and change, but each idea has an important role in shaping our initiatives based on a positive consumer approach to blindness.

As we build our educational programs, we will need to know about successful programs and resources across the country. While the Institute will leverage our experience with blindness, it will also allow us to create powerful partnerships with those professionals who get it. We will welcome learning about any positive efforts in support of blind youth. Our 2004 NFB science camps are a perfect example of the partnerships and innovations we will try to cultivate through the Institute.

Will blind children continue to be left behind? Will their parents continue to struggle to receive barely mediocre services? Will valuable educational resources continue to fall through the cracks or be needlessly reinvented? Will general educators learn the truth about blindness and how to deal positively with a blind child in the classroom? Fortunately our answers to these questions based on our experience embody great hope. The positive force for change evident in our work today is the same one that was born in 1940. It led the way to improved expectations and opportunities for blind children, and it is now establishing the research and training programs which will forever change the face of education for blind children. The National Federation of the Blind is not a new trend in education. Rather it is the voice of reason and experience and power with a growing track record of success. Let us work together to ensure that no blind child is left to face life without the confidence and independence he or she can achieve.

Please contact Mark Riccobono with your thoughts, ideas, and information about innovative programs for blind children. He can be reached at the National Center for the Blind (410) 659-9314 or by email at <>.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Judy Sanders]

Self-Advocacy Skills Training

for Older Individuals Who Are Visually Impaired: A Review

by Judy Sanders

From the Editor: The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has developed something it calls its National Agenda on Vision and Aging, which involves a coalition of blind agencies and groups. As part of this agenda it has evolved seven goals to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired senior citizens. One of these goals includes a plan to help seniors become empowered as their own best advocates. Toward this end the AFB has created a self-advocacy kit, which contains a training manual, a participant’s manual, and a manual for families of blind seniors. Judy Sanders, president of the NFB's National Organization of the Senior Blind, has reviewed the contents of the kit. Here are her comments and some thoughts about the kit's usefulness:

During last summer's NFB convention the National Organization of the Senior Blind (NOSB) had its annual meeting. One of our speakers was Priscilla Rogers, a consultant with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). She introduced us to a new self-advocacy training program available for purchase from the AFB publications department. Here is a description of the manual and some thoughts about its usefulness.

The training manual is divided into seven modules beginning with an introduction that includes an overview of the curriculum and a justification for why it is needed. All modules in the trainer's manual begin with goals and expected outcomes. They end with background notes which amplify what is being taught.

Module I: Importance of Self-Advocacy Skills Training. This module calls for filling out a self-advocacy inventory to be collected by the trainer. This seems awkward to me because it cannot be filled out independently unless one is still able to read print. Will people be honest, or will they put down what they think they should be feeling if they are filling it out with a reader? The background notes in this module do emphasize the importance of a positive attitude about oneself. This is an attribute which can be found throughout the curriculum.

Module II: Philosophy of Self-Advocacy. The Helen Keller connection to the AFB is evident in this module; she is the first example offered of individual advocacy. Without commenting on Helen Keller's advocacy skills, I do not think most blind people think of Miss Keller when considering self-empowerment; in addition, she had advantages through family connections that are not available to most of us. It seems to me that citing a more contemporary advocate would have been in order.

One disappointing aspect of the second module is that it portrays the beginning of the independent-living movement in the '60's as the beginning of the disability rights movement. This may be accurate for disabled people who are not blind, but we know that the first national civil rights movement of blind consumers began in 1940 with the founding of the National Federation of the Blind. This is a simple historic fact, and it would have been accurate and constructive for newly blind people if the developers of this curriculum had given blind people credit for this important social accomplishment.

Module III: Vision Loss and Psycho-Social Adjustment. This module is designed to let people know that their reactions to their vision loss (whatever they are) are normal. It does seem reasonable to acknowledge that vision loss is a big change in a person's life, but some of the language and role playing exercises seem stilted. To my ear the language does not flow naturally. However, the narrative is written with the expectation that people will pass through this adjustment phase and ultimately achieve a positive frame of mind.

Module IV: Understanding Interpersonal Communication. This module begins the meat of the issue. It teaches about passive, aggressive, and assertive behavior. It is very clear that assertive behavior is the best way for a disabled person to keep control of his or her life.

Module V: Taking Ownership of Your Life. This module is the key to self-advocacy. It lets participants know that blind people can make choices about how we will live our lives. The curriculum emphasizes something we in the NFB have known and taught each other: our attitude toward our blindness will determine our future. (Note: In the Braille outline that accompanies this manual, a transcription error appears in the title of Module V.)

Module VI: Empowerment and Making Choices. Thanks to the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, consumer choice has become an important part of the Rehabilitation Act. This module is designed to teach seniors how to take advantage of consumer choice in selecting rehabilitation services and learning how to take control of their daily lives.

Module VII: Rights of Everyday Living and Self-Advocacy Strategies. This module brings to the attention of a newly blind person things like knowing that one can insist on having documents read aloud and that one should not sign anything without knowing its content.

The training ends with a self-advocacy inventory of ten questions. The person is supposed to circle the number that corresponds to his or her behavior on a scale of one to three, with 1 signifying "usually" and 3 meaning "rarely." Here are a couple of samples:

If I cannot see the menu, I ask if it is available in large print or Braille.

When the salesperson addresses the person with me and not me, I point this out to him or her.

This set of manuals is available from the Publications Department of the American Foundation for the Blind for $59.95. For this price you receive a notebook with large print, cassette, and disc versions of the materials. Is it worth the money? Parts of it are extremely helpful; however, the National Federation of the Blind offers literature and live human beings who give the same encouragement for free.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mike Bullis]

Open Letter to Agency Directors and Managers

Hiring Competent Blind People

by Mike Bullis

From the Editor: Last month Mike Bullis offered some sound advice to blind job seekers. This month he has turned his attention to those who hire blind staff members in agencies providing services to blind people. As always he is honest and straight-talking. And he always speaks from his own experience. This is what he says:

One often hears conversations in the field of work with the blind about the perceived need to have more blind teachers and managers. It is fair to say that the goal of hiring competent, qualified blind people eludes many program directors. So how, when they start with the best of intentions, do agency management staff often end up with few or no blind people in management and supervisory positions or as teachers? How is it that so many agencies recognize the need for competent blind role models as essential, yet large numbers of programs fall demonstrably short of the mark?

The answer is not simple, and the cure will not be easy. As with most pervasive problems, weeding out the underlying negative behaviors will take much thought and time. Rather than looking at the leaves on the tree, we need to look at the roots to understand why things are the way they are.

The unfortunate fact is that many professionals in the field of work with the blind became interested because of their desire to help others. This desire to help was tinged with a sense that blind people need a great deal of assistance from the sighted, and these professionals wanted to be a part of that indispensable support network. Underlying their involvement with blind people was a sense that they, the able-bodied, wanted to help the disabled. One side of the equation is able, and the other side isn't. The unfortunate truth is that, as long as this underlying attitude prevails, society in general will not come to see blind people as equals. At an emotional level they remain the people to be helped, and the professional is the helper.

With few exceptions, university programs make little or no effort to cull out people with this attitude. They fear that, if they did, not enough students would be left to fill the programs and populate the field. "Besides," they might respond, "what's wrong with training people for the field who want to help those less able than themselves? Can't people be educated over time to understand that blind people are their equals? Can't this underlying caring be converted into useful energy to help blind people matriculate into all levels of society?"

My answer is: usually not. It is very difficult to change what, for lack of a better phrase, I shall call primary motivations. If a person's initial attraction to the blindness field was to help the less fortunate, it is likely to require passing through the dark night of the soul for that person to come to see blind people as normal folks who happen to be blind and as colleagues on the road to adult self-realization. If deep in the person's heart is a need to help the blind, it will be difficult to work with satisfaction in the field without fulfilling that underlying need. Unless he or she comes to a true recognition of these motives and develops the willingness to reshape them, little progress will be possible, and the status quo will be perpetuated.

This problem is seldom expressed openly; in fact, most agencies cling to the assumption that we professionals have been trained and understand that blind people are our equals. Agency personnel yearn to believe that we are all singing from the same hymnal when in fact we are not. Attempts to hire competent blind people seem always to run into road blocks. Managers just can't seem to find any blind people who they believe are good enough. There always seems to be some reason why a particular blind person just doesn't measure up. Somehow no blind people are ever available when the agency needs them. And there is never time to focus on the problem.

So sighted people or blind people with poor skills are hired and promoted for what seem like perfectly rational and logical reasons, and the existing problems and behaviors are perpetuated and reinforced. Every time an organization hires an incompetent person, human nature requires some rationalization for the action, and it thus becomes more likely that the next time things will happen the same way. I will make one final observation before moving on. All this usually happens with the best of intentions and complete good will. Nobody sets out to harm blind people, limit their involvement, or keep them underemployed--exactly the opposite is true. Though the results may not be positive, the intentions are truly laudable.

In discussions among agency managers one hears a sense of real frustration. "We hired this blind guy to manage our program, and, though he talked a good game, it turned out that he didn't have good skills of blindness and wasn't able to travel on his own or accomplish tasks in a timely manner. Now we have to keep him because he is our only blind manager, and how would it look if we fired him?" This kind of hiring is usually the result of a very narrow search. The agency looks through the list of the blind people it knows best--its past clients. They hire somebody, hoping against hope that things will work out, but they usually do not. Again the agency manager could say, "Something must be wrong with my methods," but unfortunately (and more likely) the manager will conclude, "There just aren't many competent blind folks out there."

So how is it that some programs have high numbers of competent blind staff at all levels? How do they manage to have a large cadre of blind people waiting for the opportunity to work in their programs?

The simple truth is that successful leadership teams are doing many things right, and those that are not achieving success are doing many things wrong. Here are some dos and don'ts to help programs build a competent blind workforce. These have been gleaned from my thirty years of work in and observation of public and private agency rehabilitation programs and industries for the blind.

1. Successful recruitment is an ongoing process which begins before the need for employees arises. The time to recruit is not when you need someone. The odds that a qualified blind person will be available and will apply for your job are not good. Competent managers should be developing lists of prospective qualified employees far in advance of their need. Attendance at conventions and college training programs and tours of other rehabilitation programs should be used as opportunities to identify those who are competent and to establish ongoing communication with them.

2. Good managers steal employees. It is always best to buy a known quantity. Look at people who are doing work at other programs, and get to know them. Almost everyone is looking for a job if given the right incentives. Figure out what those incentives are and lure new employees to your organization.

3. Associate with blind people. Hang around enough folks, and you will spot the ones who have the skills you need or who can be trained to meet those needs.

4. Avoid hiring past clients of your rehabilitation program as management staff or instructors until they have gone out into the working world and proven to themselves that they can be successful. Sometime during training every blind person considers becoming a teacher of the blind. This is natural. But, until they have been out there and learned for themselves that they really can be successful in the rough and tumble of the workplace, you don't want them serving as blind role models.

5. Get to know blind people outside the field of blindness rehabilitation. Thousands of folks working in every walk of life might be persuaded to move into the blindness field. The nice thing about hiring a blind personnel manager away from the local bank is that he or she is unlikely to be accepting your job solely to help the blind. And you probably won't have to begin by eradicating lots of past bad work habits or attitudes about blindness before you can develop a proper perspective in them.

6. Hire blind people who seem a little cocky to you. I don't mean people who are downright difficult to get along with. Successful blind people have usually learned that, if they had listened to what others thought they could or should do, they would never have done much. The result is that they are just a little cocky, occasionally breaking rules, and they have an underlying independent streak that most organizations say they want in managers. If you find such people a bit abrasive and therefore you tend to shy away from them, ask yourself if perhaps you are actually looking for managers who are yes-people and your preference for the easygoing is merely a symptom. Also consider the possibility that you prefer passive blind people because that's the way you are used to having them behave.

7. Your goal as a director should be to reach a critical mass of competent blind people. One or two blind people with good skills in an organization can be written off as amazing individuals. Eight or ten, on the other hand, become the norm, and their behavior becomes the standard for future employees. Reaching a critical mass is essential if training programs are to be successful. When most blind people come to agencies for training, they have a very limited concept of what is possible for them. If they are shown enough competent blind staff, they will come to believe that competence is the norm. For the blind as well as the sighted, seeing is believing. Your goal should be to have enough competent blind people on staff that students will say, "If that person can do it, so can I." This realization usually comes only through consistent exposure to competent blind people over a long period of time.

8. Another value gained from hiring competent blind staff is that they will spot others and help you lure them into the organization. Their testimony will be far better than yours because the truth is that they are blind and you are not.

As directors and managers you have a role in charting the course of work with the blind for the next generation. As the baby-boomers retire and new employees come into the field, they will represent your legacy. In the human services arena you can make no more valuable contribution than to hire the best. Agency policy can and does change; funding goes up and down. However, the people you are hiring now will in all likelihood be around for the next twenty-five years.

Basing our hiring decisions on sound principles and demanding excellence will help make major change in our field, and you will be proud to have truly helped change what it means to be blind.


Rollerblading: Advice from the Voice of Experience

From the Editor: I was the first one on my street to master roller skating. These were the old over-the-shoe skates that we tightened with keys that we then wore around our necks. I taught the other girls in my crowd to skate and went to the skating rink with them when we got older. In college I took two quarters of ice skating to fulfill my physical education requirement. It frankly never occurred to me to use my cane on the ice rink, and I certainly did not use a cane when I was roller skating. I would have been much safer if I had. I don't believe it ever occurred to me to wonder what other blind kids did about skating either. My full concentration was fixed on straining to see enough to keep from falling myself or tripping other skaters.

What a refreshing and healthy departure from my experience was the following exchange of emails among members of the student division. Here is the series of messages that recently appeared on the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) listserv:

Amber Wallenstein, Ohio: I love to rollerblade, but I haven't done it in the last few years. I used to do it using a sighted guide but was wondering if anyone does it with a cane? If so, could you let me know how it goes and how successful you are?

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stacy Cervenka]

Stacy Cervenka, Minnesota: Amber, there are actually quite a few of us who rollerblade with canes here in Minneapolis. Most of the blind rollerbladers I've encountered have been on the many bike and inline skate trails that run along the lakes and many of the main roads here in the Mini Apple. The five recommendations I'd personally make are:

1. Most blind folks I know (including me) usually feel comfortable rollerblading alone only in familiar areas and on bike trails. Bike and inline skate trails are great because they're outdoors, there're always tons of fun people around, and the paths are usually fairly smooth and well maintained. Also there aren't usually any obstacles. When I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, I often rollerbladed to class, but I would never do that here at the U of M [University of Minnesota].

2. Use a cane that's at least taller than you are. You're higher up off the ground when you're on rollerblades, and you're also traveling faster.

3. I used to use a Rainshine cane [a solid fiberglass cane] to rollerblade, but I've found that the hollow fiberglass canes work just as well, and they're much lighter.

4. Whatever you do, do not use a telescoping cane when rollerblading alone. Talk about a recipe for disaster!

5. If you haven't rollerbladed alone much or you haven't rollerbladed alone since you became blind, start slowly and get used to it. Experiment with how long it takes you to stop and how much warning your cane gives you. As I say, this is why bike trails are so nice. Your local neighborhood sidewalks would probably be okay, but maybe wait to try them until after you've gotten a little more confident.

Anyway, I don't know whether or not any of this is useful to you, but good luck. I think everyone on the NABS list should immediately get up from your computers, lace up your inline skates, and go terrify large numbers of sighted folks.


Steve Decker, Iowa: Hi all. I have rollerbladed and used quad skates at roller rinks before. We were given the opportunity to do this for gym class last year in high school, so I signed up. I used a cane and stayed sort of close to the walls. This was good because people on the outside go faster anyway. I almost ran into some people because I was going too fast, not because I didn't know they were there. It helped me practice turning instead of stopping. I rarely fell, and I don't remember tripping anyone who didn't deserve it. I have rollerbladed outside a little, too.


The National Association of Blind Students (NABS)

NABS is a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Established in 1967, NABS is an organization of blind high school, college, and graduate students dedicated to securing equality and opportunity for all blind students. Through advocacy and collective action we work to maintain high standards and expectations of education for blind students across the country as we address relevant issues that face us. Such issues include Disabled Students Services offices, relationships between consumers and state rehabilitation agencies, and validation of standardized gateway tests such as the GRE and LSAT.

NABS has a listserv to which we encourage students and parents of blind children to subscribe. Just send a message to <>. Leave the subject line blank, and write, “subscribe nabs-l” in the body of the message. NABS also offers a semi-annual

publication, The Student Slate, which contains articles written by blind students about their experiences because of blindness. We invite students to submit articles.

In addition we meet twice a year--at national convention and Washington Seminar. At both the annual meeting and seminar we discuss current issues of concern to blind students and hear from fellow Federationists about their success in academia, which often comes with hard work and a sound Federation philosophy. We invite everyone to join us at these meetings. They are not only insightful but full of energy.

The NABS board consists of nine positions. The offices and the

people currently serving are as follows: Angela Wolf, president; Jason Ewell, first vice president; Kimberly Aguillard, second vice president; Allison Hilliker,  secretary; Ryan Strunk, treasurer; and Tony Olivero, Ronit Ovadia, Mary Jo Thorpe, and Tai Tomasi, board members.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susan Jones]

Butch Wax

by Susan Jones

From the Editor: The following story is reprinted from The Car, the Sled, and the Butch Wax, the twenty-fourth in our Kernel Book series of paperbacks. It begins with President Maurer's introduction:

Susan Jones lives in Indianapolis and is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana. Much of our work in the Federation revolves around striving for various kinds of equality in our lives. Reporting a delightfully humorous incident from her own childhood, Susan points out that blind youngsters sometimes have no problem in achieving equality of mischievousness. Here is what she has to say:

I was born blind in 1951, the second of five children, the rest all being sighted. One morning, when I was about five, my older brother Doug entered the kitchen for breakfast, and my mother said, "Your hair's standing straight up!" I put my hands to the top of my head and observed that my hair was lying down, quite flat. "How does he do that, Mom?" I asked.

"Butch Wax," she said.

Now for some reason I thought I would really look neat with my hair standing straight on end. So, as I finished my breakfast and went out to play, I plotted to find that Butch Wax.

Lunchtime came and went, and soon it was naptime. I used to nap in my older brother's room. I heard my mother as she gave her parting remarks to Madonna Blessing, our new nanny, who had just come: "I'm going to the club to swim. The kids are in bed. They shouldn't give you any trouble."

I heard the car drive out. "Good," I thought, "I've got some time to look for this stuff." I went to Doug's dresser and soon enough found a small jar. I opened it up and sniffed--yes, this must be it. Now, how much would it take? I reached three fingers in and grabbed a bunch, applying it liberally to my long hair. It smelled and felt luxurious as I worked it into my tresses.

I will never know what made Madonna come up and check on me, but I heard footsteps, so I rushed to close and replace the little jar. The door opened suddenly. "Susan, what are you doing?" she gasped.

She shampooed my hair with hot water, then again with cold water; but nothing took out the Butch Wax. She was sure my mother would be horrified when she returned home. She was right. Mom and her friend Mrs. Toney, who lived next door, spent all evening trying to remove the greasy stuff. They pulled with paper towels, then toilet paper.

Finally, after supper, Mrs. Toney said, "Why don't you try Cheer." Cheer was what we washed our laundry with. So my mother laid me on the top of the freezer, dangling my head into the washtub. She soaped my hair with Cheer and rinsed it out. Sure enough, most of the wax was removed. The rest would take days, perhaps weeks, to wear out.

What does this story have to do with my being blind? Well, nothing really, except to show that blind kids, like sighted kids, are curious and like to try new things. Happily, most of us, and our gray-haired parents, live to tell about it decades later.

We in the National Federation of the Blind believe that the average blind kid can get into the average amount of trouble in childhood in the average amount of time, as well as or better than the average sighted kid. How else can we be prepared to compete on terms of equality with our sighted peers?


If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $__________ (or "______ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: ________") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Jaquiss examines a tactile map of the United States produced by the Tiger Pro]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Jaquiss stands with his hand on the Tiger Pro. The Tiger Max is in the middle, and the Tiger Cub is on the far left.]

A Review of the Tiger Embossers

by Robert Jaquiss

From the Editor: This is another in our series of articles on tactile graphics and related technologies. No single technology provides a solution to all tactile graphics problems when graphics are needed, but reading the following review will give you a good sense of what is available from one producer today. Robert Jaquiss is an access technology specialist in the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. He is especially knowledgeable about tactile graphics and their production. This is what he says:

Tiger embossers, produced and sold by ViewPlus Technologies in Corvalis, Oregon, are unique in that they produce the finest dotted-line graphics of any embosser. The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) has three of the four available models. Here is an excerpt from the description for each model as described in the ViewPlus catalog:

Tiger Pro: Production Embosser

The Tiger Pro Embosser is the flagship of the Tiger line. It is our biggest and fastest model, with the most paper options and highest durability. The Braille speed alone makes the Pro a bargain. But the Pro has much more-–high resolution tactile graphics, compatibility with any Windows software-–there is simply no production embosser on the planet that provides so much benefit at such a low price.

* Manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP): $9,750

* Speed: Braille speeds over 100 characters per second (cps) (5 to 6 pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 2 to 3 pages a minute.

* Paper: Up to 17 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Up to three cut-sheet stack feeders and two tractor feeders for multiple paper sources simultaneously.

* Voiced Menu Panel: For additional ease of use, the Tiger Pro can be adjusted using a fully voiced menu panel. Unlike conventional embossers, the Pro menu is in a tree structure, not command driven.

Tiger Max: Desktop Embosser

The Tiger Max is the perfect solution for customers who don't require a production embosser but still need a robust machine. The Max is the smallest Tiger embosser that will accept standard-width Braille paper.

* MSRP: $5,995

* Speed: Braille speeds over 60 cps (4 pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 1 to 2 pages a minute.

* Paper: Up to 14 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Optional cut-sheet drop feeder for lightweight Braille paper.

Tiger Cub: Desktop Embosser

The Tiger Cub is the perfect solution for customers who require a small, affordable embosser with significant Braille speed. Faster than most small desktop embossers, the Cub is a great solution for libraries and even students.

* MSRP: $4,995

* Speed: Braille speeds over 50 cps (3+ pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 1 to 2 pages a minute.

* Paper: Up to 9.5 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Optional cut-sheet drop feeder for lightweight Braille paper.

Tiger Cub Jr.: Personal Embosser

The Tiger Cub Jr. is the perfect solution for customers who want the functionality of a Tiger but have a very limited budget. It has the Braille speed of our original Advantage production embosser.

* MSRP: $3,995

* Speed: Braille speeds over 30 cps (2 pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 1 page a minute.

* Paper: Up to 9.5 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Optional cut-sheet drop feeder for lightweight Braille paper.

An IBTC Assessment

The IBTC has the Tiger Pro, Max, and Cub models. All the Tiger embossers work well, are reliable, and perform as advertised.

The Tiger Pro is the largest and fastest of the Tiger embossers. Our configuration includes three sheet feeders for cut paper, an output stacker, and a second tractor feed. With this arrangement it is possible to load five different kinds of paper into the Tiger Pro. The various options can be set from the printer control panel or from the printer driver on a PC. It is very nice to be able to select different types of media on the fly without reloading the printer. The Tiger Pro is much faster than earlier models of the Tiger. The ability to print on a seventeen-inch-wide roll of paper makes it possible to make good-sized maps, and diagrams. All the Tigers have the ability to emboss dots of various heights, so it is possible to fill in areas on pie charts. It is possible to distinguish between adjacent sections of a pie chart or other filled graphic. Because the Tiger is a PostScript printer, Microsoft Windows applications can easily use it for producing output.

Tigers are best used for applications that require graphics such as spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and maps. The output from the aforementioned applications is fairly easy to understand. Drawings of three-dimensional objects are harder to understand. This is partially because of the inherent limitations of embossing on paper, but partly a function of the lack of skill of most blind people in understanding how a three-dimensional object is rendered in two dimensions. (Practice can help to overcome this lack of skill.)

Another advantage of Tiger printers is that the cost of paper is very low compared to the cost of thermal expansion paper, which is required by some other graphic systems. A teacher or student can try experiments without wasting lots of expensive materials. It is important for teachers and students to experiment and look at many tactile graphics. The lower the cost of media, the easier this is to accomplish. Although the initial investment for a Tiger is higher than for alternative equipment, the ongoing costs are much less. These factors make Tiger printers a good investment.

Those interested are invited to examine Tiger models and compare with other graphic-production embossers by visiting the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are required; visits are free. Email <>; phone (410) 659-9314.


Tidbits and Travel Tips for Conventioneers

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: Anil Lewis is president of the NFB of Georgia and a longtime Atlanta resident. If you are planning to attend the 2004 NFB convention--and you don't want to miss it--you will want to read what Anil has to say about getting to the hotel and moving around downtown Atlanta.

What makes Georgia an ideal place to host the 2004 NFB convention? It's our wonderful climate and friendly people. It's the easy accessibility of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the deepwater ports of Savannah and Brunswick. It's the fact that over forty countries already have consulates and trade offices in Georgia. Businesses flock to Georgia because they recognize that Georgia knows what it takes to attract investment and create jobs like no other place in the world.

Most of you will be flying to the convention and will be coming into the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, recently renamed to commemorate Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta. A popular public official, Maynard Jackson twice served as mayor, each time for two consecutive terms.

Serving around seventy-five million domestic and five million international passengers annually, Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world. It has two terminals (North and South); six concourses packed with shops, restaurants, and banking facilities; and a unique people mover or underground train. Future expansion plans are impressive, including a fifth runway, an additional passenger terminal, improved transportation, and extra parking.

Once you deplane, you will make your way down the concourse to the escalators which go down to the airport's people mover, which connects all six of the airport concourses to the main terminal. This small automated train travels east-west and takes passengers from concourse to concourse. All stops are announced by an automated voice. Exit the train at baggage claim and ground transportation. Using the escalator to the right takes you up to the baggage claim area. You are facing west as you travel upward. To your right will be North terminal baggage claim carousels, and the South terminal carousels will be to the left.

Once you retrieve your luggage, continue west down the spacious but almost certainly busy corridor of the airport. If this seems a somewhat daunting prospect, most airlines offer a meet-and-assist program for passengers who need assistance. Members of the NFB of Georgia will be working throughout June to ensure that airport and airline staff understand how to respect the rights of the approximately 3,000 travelers coming through the airport on their way to our convention.

Of course taxis are available for those who decide not to use our splendid public transportation system. If you continue west through the automated doors at the end of the airport corridor, you will arrive at the taxi stand. Fares from the airport to the Marriott are a flat rate based on the number of passengers. Transport for one passenger costs $25, for two passengers the cost is $26, for three it is $30, and for four the cost is $40. Shuttle fares to the hotel are $14 one-way and $25 round trip.

The remainder of this article is intended for ambitious, frugal travelers who wish to use Atlanta's public transportation system. Becoming familiar with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will allow you to be more independent and able to enjoy fully whatever leisure time you have during the convention. Just before you reach the end of the airport corridor that leads to the taxi stand, you will find the entrance to the airport rail station.

MARTA is the most cost-effective way to travel in Atlanta and the most convenient. A number of fares and passes are available to meet rider needs. You can choose from several TransCard, Half-Fare, and individual-token rates.

MARTA consists of a lightrail system and a network of buses and paratransit vehicles. The cost to ride MARTA is $1.75 (exact change, token, or pass) for a one-way trip, including transfers. Token machines are located at the entrance. Placing a crisp $20 bill in the machine will produce eleven tokens and $.75 in change. Those intending to use MARTA throughout the week may want to stock up on tokens for use later. You can buy a roll of ten MARTA tokens for $17.50 or twenty for $30. Weekly MARTA transcard passes, available for $13, can be used for unlimited travel during the week. For specific information about MARTA service, call (404) 848-4711. MARTA also provides paratransit service and honors eligibility from other states. Those who need paratransit service should contact the MARTA eligibility office at (404) 848-5389.

Once you pay your fare and pass through one of the turnstiles of the MARTA rail station, head north up the escalator to the train platform, where you will board one of two northbound trains. The airport station is the southern terminus of the MARTA rail system's North-South line, so you can board any train. However, for your information, the North Springs train is on the right; the Doraville train is on the left. They both go to the Marriott. Rail cars have ample baggage space, and trains depart every eight to ten minutes.

 The trains make several stops on this approximately thirty-five-minute trip to the Peachtree Center MARTA station. One of these is the Garnett station, which is where conventioneers traveling to Atlanta by Greyhound bus can catch the MARTA rail. The next stop is also noteworthy. It is the Five Points station, the stop for underground Atlanta. This is the only station where the doors on both the left and right sides open and allow you to access the East-West line of the MARTA rail system. The next stop after Five Points is Peachtree Center station, where you exit to get to the Marriott.

This station has a center platform with four exits, two near the southern end and two near the northern. They can all be accessed by stairs, escalators, and an elevator.

It is best to take the Harris Street exit (northeast) to get to the Marriott. Take the long up escalator in the Peachtree Center station. Once you reach the top, work your way around to the right, where you will find the entrance to the Peachtree Center Mall with its many shops, restaurants, and businesses. You can get to the Marriott through the mall if you choose. But I suggest you take the second, much smaller set of escalators to the street level. This places you on Peachtree Street, in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta's attractions are known the world over, from the Atlanta Braves to CNN to Stone Mountain. There is a park, a sports team, or a museum for you. Moreover, the entire Southeast comes to Atlanta to shop. From nationally known department stores to unique boutiques, the shops and services will never let you down.

Southern food is a one-of-a-kind experience, and Atlanta's acclaimed restaurants win rave reviews all over the world, perhaps because they serve every type of food imaginable. Of course you can find the very best fried chicken, homemade vegetables, and peach cobbler here. But mouth-watering Italian antipasto? Delectable and artistic sushi? Award-winning contemporary dishes? Barbecue that's been smoked for twenty-four hours? They're all here, plus much, much more. Just don't forget the sweet tea!

For future reference, the MARTA bus #10 travels north and south on Peachtree Street and provides easy access to underground Atlanta, midtown, and Art Center.

The Marriott is a block and a half away, so you can easily walk to the hotel from here. Turn to your right (north) off the escalator and travel along Peachtree Street to the first intersection, which is Harris Street. Turn right and travel east on Harris. The next intersection is Peachtree Center Avenue. Cross that and travel north (left) on Peachtree Center Avenue. The entrance to the Marriott is in the middle of the block on the right. You will enter the hotel on the lobby level, and the registration desk is just beyond the concierge desk to your left. In future articles I will highlight some of the restaurants and shops in the area and some of Atlanta's must-see attractions. I am looking forward to having you all here. Safe traveling mercies, and we will see you this summer.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bob Eschbach]

If I Could Choose

by Robert M. Eschbach

I love to walk. I don't do it for the exercise or for the health benefits, but I have always enjoyed the ability just to ramble where I wanted to go under my own steam. Even as a child growing up in the mountains of the Philippines, I walked everywhere and thoroughly enjoyed investigating trails, fishing for tadpoles in a stream, hiking through beautiful pine forests, and generally discovering the delights of what nature had to offer.

After I became blind, I continued walking everywhere. In those days all blind people had to help them were waist‑high wooden canes with crooks for handles. These were painted white with big red tips. When I look back on it, I am amazed at all we did with those little canes. At least using them meant that we didn't have to wait around for someone to take us places. But walking was the main thing.

Unfortunately I had weak ankles. In time I was forced to wear shoes that would allow me to continue doing what I liked to do. As the years went by, these ankles of mine argued with me more and more, but I walked anyway. Of course the time came when I had to slow down, yield to the need to ride in a car instead, getting around the way most people did. Eventually arthritis took over, and there were times when I actually had to hobble a few steps before my ankles would let me begin moving with relative ease.

 My wife and I enjoy traveling with our motorhome. Several years ago we went with an RV caravan into Eastern Canada. It was a delightful venture, and we made many friends as we marveled at the remarkable ways nature works. We watched and listened to the tidal bore, watching ducks trying to swim downstream when one of these tides was coming in and seeing them go backwards. We tasted all kinds of foods not generally available back home, and we investigated wilderness areas that still seemed to be untouched by humankind.

As we visited Peggy's Cove, I really struggled to get to the places we wanted to explore. We had to climb over and around huge boulders and use lots of steps to get to lookout points. My wife had to assist me because my ankles were protesting.

Several days after this adventure we had to leave the caravan and return home for a wedding. The night before we left, we gave each person in our new circle of friends a Kernel Book published by the National Federation of the Blind, and I read one of the articles aloud, demonstrating that blind people can read Braille as efficiently as sighted people read print. The article, written by Barbara Pierce, was titled "Fighting Every Step of the Way." In the article Barbara describes the frustrations of dealing with people who believe absolutely that blind adults cannot safely negotiate independently or, for that matter, be counted upon to get anywhere safely.

As I read, I realized that the folks around me had probably assumed that all the difficulties I had been experiencing in walking were caused by my blindness. I asked point-blank, "Do you folks think that I have trouble getting around because I'm blind?" The response was a universal and emphatic yes. So I explained that blindness had nothing to do with it; arthritis was the culprit. Using Barbara's article as the backdrop, I described many of the things blind people can do.

Not long ago I was walking past the TV while my wife Pat was watching the Oprah Winfrey show. Oprah was asking members of the audience the question, "If you could change anything in your life right now, what would it be?"

I muttered "ankles." Then I thought, "What would have happened if I had been asked that question on her show?" I can guarantee that she would have been astounded that my answer was not "blindness." I smiled as I reflected on such a hypothetical exchange. I believe my response would have rendered her speechless--an unusual state for her.

But the reality is that I have been blind for much of my life, and it has never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do--but arthritis certainly has.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tactile materials and exploration are essential to effective science learning for blind youth. This group of students examine a tactile map of the Chesapeake Bay as the Living Classrooms sailing ship takes them out for more hands-on learning.]

Reaching Out For New Opportunities:

The 2004 NFB Summer Science Experience

by Mark A. Riccobono

NFB Coordinator of Educational Programs

Will a blind person land on the moon? Will a blind person make the next breakthrough in medicine? Will a blind person produce the next revolution in technology? These and many other questions will be determined by the types of opportunities and quality training we provide our blind youth. We will be limited only by our energy to pursue these goals. The one certainty is that the National Federation of the Blind is demonstrating the training and skills necessary to prepare blind youth to reach for opportunities, no matter how big, and is rocketing the blind to new heights.

On January 30, 2004, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will celebrate the grand opening of the NFB Research and Training Institute. Many people have been asking what will the Institute do, and when will we see the results? Over the past five years Dr. Maurer has articulated the purposes of the NFBRTI and a vision of the potential it has for the future of the blind. In his banquet speech at the 2000 annual convention of the NFB, President Maurer said, "Much research is conducted involving blindness. . . . Almost no research is conducted in the realms that we find of interest. When the National Research and Training Institute has been built, we must put the facility to use. It will not be enough to expand what we are already doing; we must dream of programs that do not exist." He went on to say, "What is it that we want to build which, in our wildest imaginings, could be constructed for the blind?"

As he continued to speak, Dr. Maurer posed a list of diverse questions that the Institute could address, such as: "How long will it take to devise a personal vehicle that we can operate?" and "What is the best way to give blind people access to the written word whether it is in print or in electronic form?" He concluded the list with this question: "How can education for blind children be stimulated?" He then summarized, "These questions arise from our dreams of a brighter tomorrow. We intend to use our Institute to answer not only these but dozens of others."

Three years later, at the 2003 NFB Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, President Maurer made good on his word. In his presidential report he announced, "We are planning to develop a science camp for the blind as one of the elements of our newly developing Research and Training Institute for the Blind. The projected time for the first activities in the science camp is the summer of 2004." Those who have been asking about the activities of the Institute have an answer: one of the first initiatives of the Institute will address the question of stimulating education for blind children.

And indeed in the summer of 2004 the NFB Research and Training Institute will host its first science experience for blind youth. The 2004 NFB Science Experience, which has been termed Fast Forward--Science for Tomorrow will offer two weeklong camps designed to expose blind youth to a variety of science activities. Blind youth are generally excluded from these crucial learning activities simply because regular public school science teachers are not aware of the way in which a blind student might participate.

Each week has a different focus, but the underlying goals are the same:

· To spark the interest of blind youth in science and inspire more of these youth to pursue careers in science;

· To allow blind youth to build confidence through opportunities to perform challenging science activities from which they are generally excluded in public schools; and

· To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Federation's approach through the development of a centralized collection of resources related to blind youth in science that can be accessed by regular educators, blind youth, their parents, special educators, and others.

Some of the products will include resources for regular education teachers about how to integrate blind youth in science courses; multimedia information regarding the effective nonvisual techniques and adaptations used by the blind in science; model IEPs to demonstrate the appropriate integration and accommodation of blind youth in science courses; a core set of regular education teachers who have been trained in nonvisual science techniques who can act as models and network resources for other teachers across the country.

The knowledge and experience of the National Federation of the Blind will serve as a foundation for this program and will be augmented by important partners within the field of science. Partners include the talented staff from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facilities in Maryland and the staff of the Maryland Science Center (MSC) in Baltimore. Through the strong leadership of the blind, the innovative programs of our Research and Training Institute, and partnerships with organizations like NASA and the MSC, blind youth will have more opportunities to succeed in the sciences and will be better equipped to reach for bigger and brighter achievements in all areas of life. Science is crucial to every student today, because we live increasingly technology-saturated lives. The 2004 NFB science experience is merely one step on the road to shaping a generation of blind innovators and--who knows?--maybe even inspiring the first blind astronaut. You imagine the opportunities.

NFB 2004 Summer Science Experience

Camp Session 1: The Circle of Life

When: July 18-24, 2004

Where: NFB Research and Training Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

Who: Twelve blind youth, grades six through eight, will be invited to participate in the camp by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Students who would like to be considered for the program should fill out and return the information requested in the interest form accompanying this announcement.

What: A weeklong camp that will expose blind youth to the excitement of science in real-life applications. Students will learn about the circle of life and the connections between life and ecosystems by looking at the past (the dinosaur age), the present (the Chesapeake Bay), and the future (using weather and environmental data to make predictions and projections). Activities will include behind-the-scenes, hands-on trips to the Goddard Space Flight Center and the nationally acclaimed Maryland Science Center.

Under the guidance of accomplished blind educators and mentors, students will interact with internationally known scientists who are working on solving the mysteries of life. Hands-on activities will include doing a dissection; performing measurements independently; making observations using nonvisual techniques; and learning how to collect data about weather conditions, soils, etc., through the international GLOBE project. In addition, when students return to their school districts for the 2004-05 school year, follow-up resources will ensure that the blind youth continue to participate fully in their local science programs.

This experience will, of course, be rooted in the high expectations of Federation philosophy and will expose participants to talented blind scientists eager to share their enthusiasm for science with the next generation of blind youth.

Cost: All aspects of the program, including transportation, room, and board, will be provided by the NFB at no cost to the participants.

Camp Session 2: Rocket On!

When: August 15-21, 2004

Where: NFB Research and Training Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia (about three hours from Baltimore)

Who: Twelve blind youth, grades ten through twelve (including high school graduates of 2004), will be selected from among those who apply for the camp. Students will be selected based on, but not limited to, the following: academic performance, previous training in the skills of blindness (e.g., Braille, cane travel, daily living skills, etc.), diversity (i.e., having characteristics typically underrepresented in the sciences), and interest and motivation. Applications are available from the National Federation of the Blind national office (see the accompanying interest form). Priority will be given to applications received on or before March 15, 2004.

What: A weeklong camp which will provide a unique experience for blind youth to experience science as a vehicle for adventure, exploration, and innovation, and as a career option in their future. This experience will shatter the myth that challenging and technical sciences are dangerous for blind youth. Participants will develop, build, and launch a twelve-foot rocket off the Eastern Shore of Virginia at the Wallops Flight Facility. Later, under the guidance of Wallop Facility scientists and blind mentors, the participants will analyze the results against their predictions. This experience will build skills in teamwork, leadership, electronics, physics, and advanced calculations.

Encountering the high expectations of Federation philosophy, students will gain confidence through challenging activities. Visits to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will be incorporated into the program as an enhancement to their learning experiences at Wallops. In addition, participants will interact with blind and sighted NASA scientists and engineers to learn about the rewards of pursuing a career in science and what it takes to get there. Each participant will also be matched with a mentor from NASA in order to foster further interest in science and engineering following the program.

Cost: All aspects of the program, including transportation, room, and board, will be provided by the NFB at no cost to the participants.

Just the Beginning

The 2004 NFB Science Experience is not just about a week of fun and excitement; it is about a bright future of opportunities for all blind youth. Regular education science teachers will be brought into both the Circle of Life and the Rocket On! programs to experience firsthand the techniques and strategies that allow blind youth to fully participate in the science curriculum. These teachers will carry their training back to their home districts to provide reinforcement and act as a resource to others working with blind youth. Additionally, long-term goals for this multiyear program include:

1. Development of multimedia resources for those working with blind youth in science;

2. A Web site to provide further connections for blind youth, their parents, and science teachers across the country;

3. Model IEPs dealing with science adaptations, goals, and objectives; and

4. Development of other materials to enhance access to information about how to include blind youth in existing science programs and curricula.

This is only the start. The opportunities for blind youth in science are limitless when the energy and experience of the NFB are combined with partners in the science community who have come to understand the truth about blindness. The continued involvement and input of parents of blind children with the Federation regarding the needs of blind youth in science and in any other educational area are critical to helping guide the innovation of our Research and Training Institute.

All are welcome aboard the NFBRTI rocket as we give blind youth the opportunity to establish a new standard of excellence in science during the summer of 2004.

2004 NFB Summer Science Experience

Interest Form

Please complete the following form and submit it to Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, President, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21230. You may also submit this information by email to <>, or by fax, attention Mrs. Cheadle, at: (410) 685-5653. Please note: this is a form to register interest, not an application. A confirmation letter with additional information and/or an application packet will be sent to you upon receipt of the interest form. Please print legibly.

I/we are interested in the

[ ] Session I: Circle of Life

[ ] Session II: Rocket On!

Student's name:

Birth date:


Parent/guardian name(s):

Home address:

City, State, Zip:

Please indicate the best way(s) and time(s) to contact you:

Home phone ( )

Work phone ( )

Cell phone ( )

Email, home:

Email, work:

If you are someone other than the parent or the student listed above (such as a teacher), please print your name, your relationship to the student, and the way we may contact you: ______________

For more information regarding the 2004 NFB Summer Science Experience, contact Mark A. Riccobono, Coordinator of Educational Programs, National Federation of the Blind, Research and Training Institute, (410) 659-9314, extension 368, <>.

For questions regarding the application process contact Barbara Cheadle, President, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, (410) 659-9314, extension 360, <>.

Free Braille Books Program

Blind kids want the same things sighted kids do. They want to watch their favorite television shows, go rollerskating with the gang, buy the current fashionable shoes, and read the newest popular book. Children enjoy collecting their favorite books and reading them over and over. Many adults today continue to cherish their Nancy Drew or Boxcar Children book collections. Experts in literacy say that this type of popular literature plays an important role in developing reading skills and a love of reading among children. We at the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF) believe blind children ought to have the opportunity to enjoy literature, develop literacy skills, and learn to love reading, just like their sighted peers. Through the Free Braille Books Program we are working to make this possible.

In 1997 the AAF started this program to provide blind children a free Braille book every month from a popular children's reading series. The books are for the children to keep and collect for as long as they want them. The titles published every month are the same titles that are available in bookstores and public libraries everywhere. In the past six years over one hundred twenty-six titles from popular children's reading series were distributed to thousands of blind children. These titles were from the following reading series: Goosebumps®, Goosebumps® Series 2000, Animorphs®, Baby-Sitters Club, Baby-Sitters Club – Friends Forever, The Nightmare RoomÔ, Little House chapter books, Nancy Drew®, The Hardy Boys®, A to Z MysTerieS®, and Junie B. Jones chapter books.

Because reading interests and trends change, the AAF periodically reviews and changes the titles offered. Beginning January 1, 2004, AAF will issue six titles each from the A to Z MysTerieS® series (reading levels 2.6 and up), the ever-popular Junie B. Jones series written by Barbara Parks (reading level 2.0 and up), and the Matt Christopher Sports Bio Bookshelf (suitable for preteens). The books will be shipped in alternating months: two titles in January, one title in February, and so forth to the end of the year. Blind youngsters, blind parents, teachers of the blind, schools, and libraries serving the blind are eligible to participate in this program. Participants may enroll in or withdraw from the program at any time. They may also choose to receive one, two, or all three titles, as they like. And the books are free and theirs to keep.

No child should be left out because he or she is blind. Because of this program blind children can now discuss the newest book with their classmates and build their very own collection of books--just like their sighted friends.

Free Braille Books Program


To apply for the program, please send the information requested in the application below to:

AAF Free Braille Books Program

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Telephone: (410) 659-9314, extension 361

Fax: (410) 685-5653





City, State, Zip:

(check one) [ ] student, [ ] teacher, [ ] library or other institution

If student, birth date:

Name of parent(s):

[ ] Yes, send me the Junie B. Jones chapter books (RL 2.0). I understand six books will be issued in 2004.

[ ] Yes, send me the A to Z MysTerieS® chapter books (RL 2.6). I understand six books will be issued in 2004.

[ ] Yes, send me the sports biography books written by Matt Christopher for preteens. I understand six books will be issued in 2004.


This month's recipes have been submitted by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Rhode Island.

Vegetable Soup

by Richard Gaffney

Richard Gaffney is the president of the NFB of Rhode Island. This is a soup to warm you on a cold February night. It is an old family recipe.


1 beef shank (approximately 3 pounds)

1 bunch of celery

1 large onion

2 large potatoes

1 medium head of cabbage

1 pound bag of carrots

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1-1/2 cups of uncooked rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: In large pot place beef shank and add enough water to fill the pan about half full. Chop all vegetables in grinder or food processor. Add vegetables and crushed tomatoes to pan. Bring soup to a boil and cover, cooking on medium until vegetables are tender, about three to four hours. Add rice and cook till rice is done. Discard bone and serve soup.

Frozen Cranberry Salad

by Mary Jane Fry

Mary Jane Fry is secretary of the NFB of Rhode Island.


1 bag or 3 cups fresh cranberries

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cups crushed pineapple, drained

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup nuts (personal preference)

1/8 teaspoon salt

8-ounce tub Cool Whip

Method: Chop cranberries and nuts. Add the sugar and salt to the cranberry nut mixture and mix together. Thoroughly drain the crushed pineapple and add to berry mixture. Let the cream cheese soften at room temperature and then work the Cool Whip into it until smooth and creamy; then fold into first mixture.

Place salad in a mold or freezer container and freeze. When ready to serve, unmold and slice in serving sizes. May be kept in freezer for months. Serve frozen. It will thaw during the meal and is very festive when served on a lettuce leaf.

No-Bake Fruit Squares

by Mary Jane Fry


1 cup raisins

1 cup pitted dates

1/2 cup dried apricots

1-1/2 cups dried orange peel

1/3 cups dried figs

1/2 cup candied cherries

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice

Confectioners' sugar


Method: Combine raisins, dates, apricots, orange peel, figs, cherries, and walnuts. Stir in enough orange juice to bind mixture together. Press into greased 8-by-8-by-2-inch pan. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut into squares. Sift confectioners' sugar across top. Makes about thirty-six bars.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

by Angelina Teixeira

Angelina Teixeira is a member of the NFB of Rhode Island board of directors.


Olive oil for sautéing

1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced

1 cup pepperoni

1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon parsley

4 15-ounce cans tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Method: Place enough olive oil in frying pan to sauté the minced garlic and cook for two or three minutes on medium high. Chop pepperoni very finely. You can use a food processor. Add the pepperoni to the pan and cook for five to ten minutes more on very low heat. Then add tomato paste and season mixture with fresh basil, oregano, parsley, and pepper. Add tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes with their juice and simmer covered on low for one to two hours. If desired, add Parmesan cheese to provide further flavor. This sauce can be used for meatballs, chicken Parmesan, and veal Parmesan.

Stuffed Mushrooms

by Fredericka Jay

Fredericka Jay is a new member of the Rhode Island affiliate, and if the following recipes are any indication, she is a very good cook.


1-1/2 pounds mushrooms (30)

1/2 pound pork sausage meat

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

3 onions

2 green bell peppers

1 red bell pepper

1 package tiny shrimp

Method: Fry sausage meat and drain, saving the drippings for use later. Wash mushrooms, removing stems and placing them in food processor. Dry mushroom caps and set aside. Clean, chop, and place other vegetables in food processor with the stems and finely chop them all. Sauté chopped vegetables in sausage drippings until tender, drain, and again save the drippings. Place cooled sausage in frying pan and chop until fine. In large bowl combine sausage, vegetables, bread crumbs, and cheese and gently work in shrimp. Use reserved sausage drippings to grease bottom of a shallow baking dish with sides, then fill mushroom caps and bake at 450 degrees for fifteen minutes. Sprinkle mushrooms with Romano or Parmesan cheese. Allow cheese to brown slightly in oven before serving.

Pear and Leek Bisque

by Fredericka Jay


1/4 cup butter

6 large leeks, split, rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise

3 medium potatoes, pared and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 29-ounce can pear halves in natural juices

3 14-ounce cans chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 pound blue cheese, crumbled

Chives for garnish

Method: In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add leeks and sauté three minutes. Add potatoes and sauté for a minute more. Drain pear liquid into a saucepan with potatoes and leeks, add chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, in food processor or blender purée pears and pour into a small bowl. Strain soup through a sieve into a large bowl. Place this leek mixture in a food processor or blender and purée. Return puréed mixture to the large saucepan and add broth. Add pears and heavy cream. Heat soup on medium, stirring often, until soup is hot. Transfer to tureen. Sprinkle with blue cheese and garnish with chives.

This recipe makes eight servings. It can be served cold in summer or warm in winter. Each serving includes 400 calories, 10 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 32 g fat, 67 mg cholesterol, and 754 mg sodium.

Holiday Nuggets

by Adrina Baligian

Adrina Baligian is a longtime member of the Rhode Island affiliate and a past member of the board of directors.


3/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup chopped nuts

2 cups flour

Method: Thoroughly cream the shortening, butter, and powdered sugar. Blend in vanilla, almond extract, chopped nuts, and flour. Beat until dough holds together and is well blended. Shape into balls, using a tablespoon of dough for each. Place balls on ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 325 degrees for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Roll in powdered sugar after cooling slightly.

Zucchini Quiche

by Adrina Baligian


4 medium zucchinis, peeled and grated

4 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1 cup Muenster cheese, grated


Method: Beat eggs well. Add flour and beat till thick and lemon-colored. Then add cheese and zucchini. Fold in gently until well blended. Pour into a greased ten-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes, or until well set. Serve in wedges.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family


On Saturday, November 15, 2003, the NFB of Arizona's East Valley Chapter held its annual election. The following people were elected: president, Mark Feliz; first vice president, Mary Hartle-Smith; second vice president, Connie Ryan; secretary, Tony Sohl; treasurer, Tom O'Brien; and Carol Scarlat and Mark Hamblin, board members.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: David and Michele Andrews with son Carlos]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Rosa Maria Elizabeth Andrews]

New Baby:

David Andrews maintains and many of our listservs. He and his wife Michele, who live in Minnesota, joyfully announce their adoption of Rosa Maria Elizabeth. The proud parents and big brother Carlos welcomed Rosa from Guatemala shortly before Christmas. She was ten months old at the time she came home to stay. Congratulations to the entire Andrews family.


On October 25, 2003, the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania held its annual elections. The following were elected: Denice Brown, president; Leon Conaway, first vice president; Patrick Comorato, second vice president; Karen Comorato, recording secretary; Yvonne Mason, treasurer; and Russell Smith, Doris Tunstall, Ann Walters, and Willie McDuffy, board members.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert (Mac) McDonald, December 21, 1918, to January 3, 2004]

In Memoriam:

Charlie Brown, president, and Seville Allen, first vice president of the NFB of Virginia, recently prepared a notice for the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. Here are excerpts:

On January 3, 2004, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia turned the last page in a chapter of a long history of Federation leadership when Robert (Mac) McDonald died. Barely two weeks earlier his Federation colleagues had joined to celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday.

Mac was one of the four founders of our Virginia affiliate. In May of 1957 these four brave blind people met to begin what would change the lives of the blind of Virginia for the next three generations.

When Mac, his wife Marion (deceased), Jimmy Nelson (deceased), and Lydia Stuples of Harrisonburg met that spring day, the blind of Virginia faced a bleak future. Colonel Watts ran the Commission, which was supposed to serve the blind, but instead the blind served Watts. Opportunities for blind people were limited by his opinions, and he denied commission services to any blind person who crossed him. Needless to say, these four people made sacrifices that those of us who came into the Federation during the seventies and beyond cannot fathom.

Mac taught us how discrimination and ignorance affected the blind, denying him and his colleagues jobs and even the right to raise a family. He taught us how to work to improve our lives and to understand the prices paid, and he taught us how to reach for the stars and dream of what we wanted to be instead of confining our futures to society's limited ideas.

As our first state president Mac received our affiliate's NFB charter at the 1958 national convention. Soon thereafter, when some tried to tear the Federation apart, Mac was a staunch supporter of our Federation philosophy, Federation unity, and the elected Federation leadership. Long after his distinguished service as our state president, Mac continued to mentor his Federation children in various other positions, including as president of our Potomac Chapter. He mediated differences and always reminded us of the historic perspective and how far we had come on our road to equality. He also well understood the importance of building membership and developing new leaders.

We will miss his wisdom, wit, and most of all his guidance. He laid the foundation for changing what it means to be blind in Virginia.


The Des Moines Chapter of the NFB of Iowa held its annual election at its January chapter meeting. Elected were Peggy Chong, president; Joy Harris, vice president; Mike Barber, secretary; Roger Erpelding, treasurer; and board members Sandi Ryan, Dave Helm, and Merry-Noel Chamberlain.

Wedding Bells:

On December 27, 2003, longtime Federation leader Barbara Walker and Lincoln chapter member Brad Loos were married in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the couple plan to live. Congratulations and best wishes to the Looses.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Fred Wurtzel]

More Accessible Voting:

New Software Program Helps Blind Voters

Cast Ballots in Democratic Caucuses

by Kathy Barks Hoffman, AP Political Writer

Ever since he began voting, Fred Wurtzel has needed someone to help him read a ballot and mark his choices. But computer software that reads the list of Democrats running for president aloud will enable Wurtzel and others who are visually impaired to vote privately for the first time using the Internet.

Wurtzel demonstrated the software Wednesday during a news conference at the Library of Michigan. "I've never yet voted with a totally secret ballot. This is a groundbreaking event in my life," said Wurtzel, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. He added that the Michigan Democratic Party's decision to offer Internet voting and to set up the special software has made the February 7 presidential caucuses the most accessible election for the blind in Michigan history.

"The measures taken in this caucus to assist blind voters and others with disabilities further the Michigan Democratic Party's long‑standing commitment to making voting easier for all voters," said party executive chairman Mark Brewer. "We hope that future elections in Michigan will follow the steps taken by the MDP, increasing greater access to all voters."

Visually impaired voters will still need the help of a sighted person to fill out a ballot application and to read them their ballot user name and access code once that information is mailed to them by the party, Brewer said. But once they sign onto the party's Internet voting site, the software gives them verbal [oral] prompts on when to enter their user name and access code, plus information on their date of birth and city of birth. All voters casting their votes over the Internet will be asked for that information as a security measure. The ballot then will appear on the screen, and the candidates' names will be read, allowing visually impaired voters to select one. Voters also will be able to cast a vote for a write‑in candidate or say they are uncommitted.

Richard Bernstein, a Farmington Hills lawyer whose vision is impaired, said the party's efforts show that "What is good for the disabled is good for the general public." "This is fantastic for senior citizens," he said of the new voting method. "It's going to provide accessibility to people who have trouble voting."

In Brief

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.

Computers Available:

Here are a computer you can afford and a new step-by-step computer training tutorial combining Window-Eyes and Windows 98 by Brian Hartgen on six audio cassettes. You also get a forty-page tutorial in large print for Windows 98 for those who can use the mouse. It also comes with a minitutorial on keyboarding.

The refurbished computer is a Pentium, 133 megaherz or faster, with 64 megs of RAM. It will have Windows 98, second version, with a demo copy of Window-Eyes and a freeware copy of Zoom Power, which will enlarge up to fifteen times.

It will have speakers, a 56 K dial-up modem, sound card, and a CD drive. We also include a copy of the Juno free email program. This package gives you everything you need to learn how to use a computer and enjoy free email.

A $100 investment gives you the means to surf the Net and do what your family and friends are doing. It will be a lot of work, and it will bring frustration, but you can move into cyberspace. This offer is good in the United States only. Call Bob Langford at (214) 340-6328 during business hours Central Time and get started on the mastery of this wonderful tool. This offer is for real. References provided on request.

Bookcourier Now Available:

We are pleased to announce Bookcourier, successor to the Road Runner portable digital book reader. Bookcourier is a totally accessible text-to-speech reader and MP3 player. Now you have more options than ever. As you receive it, Bookcourier can easily hold approximately 200 books of the type you get from If that's not enough memory, feel free to expand it with ordinary compact flash memory cards so that your portable book and music collection of any size can go with you anywhere.

Prefer to listen to music or spoken-word recordings of books? No problem. Bookcourier will store and play dozens of hours of recorded audio. Get instant spoken information about your audio recordings. You can hear the name of the file you are playing, the amount of progress you have made through the file, or the battery status. Bookcourier has a sleep timer, a talking clock/calendar, and even a digital voice recorder so that you can make your own spoken notes.

Bookcourier will work with your PC (Windows ME or above) to provide years of entertainment, education, and utility. The list price of Bookcourier is $379.00, and discounts are available to those using Kurzweil's K1000 software or to current subscribers of

To find out more about Bookcourier, contact <>, or call (703) 620-1125. If you prefer, send email to <>.

Attention Writers:

A nonprofit organization plans to publish a book on nature and visual impairment. Submissions should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words. It pays $25 for 1,000 words, and one cent per word over that for accepted manuscripts. If you have a passion for the outdoors--whether through skiing, camping, sailing, or any other nature-oriented activity--send a query to Chrissy Laws at <>.

Attention Parents of Men and Women in the Air Force:

Your Guardians of Freedom is the office that operates the Air Force Parent Pin program. (Log on to <> for additional information.) An offshoot of that program, E Pluribus Unum, offers the Air Force Parent pin and accompanying letter in 100 languages. As part of a new initiative, Braille is being added as another form that service members can request for their parents' convenience through the E Pluribus Unum program. Blind or visually impaired parents who have children or other relatives for whom they are parental figures serving in the Air Force (active duty, Guard or Reserve) can receive materials in Braille. Interested parents should contact Major LeWonnie Belcher by email at <>, or phone (703) 692-9738.

Custom Braille and Recording Services Available:

MAB Community Services converts print documents into accessible formats for the blind, visually impaired, and physically handicapped reader. A wide variety of documents can be converted from print to either Braille or cassette. MAB Community Services specializes in everything from syllabi and class handouts to magazine articles and textbooks. Substantial savings can be made by transcribing only selected segments of texts.

Braille documents are produced on both sides of the page and either stapled or bound, depending on document size and customer preferences. Cassettes are produced using Library of Congress formatting with track announcements and tone indexing when desired.

For further information on our recording studio, contact Robert Pierson, recording studio supervisor by telephone at (617) 972-9117 or email at <>. For information about the Braille program, contact Bob Hachey, Braille program supervisor, (617) 972-9109, email <>. The Web site is <>.


Adoptive Families Needed for Waiting Vision-Impaired Children:

The World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) is seeking loving adoptive families for beautiful waiting children from around the world. Currently we have seventeen children with various forms of vision impairment ranging from mild to significant.

WACAP has been placing children in loving adoptive homes since 1976. WACAP has adoption programs in six countries including China, Korea, India, Russia, Thailand, and the United States. Financial assistance is available for the adoption of waiting children.

Amulya is a baby girl born in December of 2002. She giggles and coos, especially when she is spoken to. She is blind and was born with a club foot, for which she has undergone surgery. Amulya is a delight to her foster family and will certainly delight her permanent family as well.

For more information about Amulya or any of the other seventeen visually impaired children, contact WACAP's Family Finders Program at (206) 575-4550 or <>.

Retreat for Seniors Losing Vision:

Ruth Sager, coordinator of senior services at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) passes along the following invitation:

Blind Industries and Services of Maryland is hosting an adjustment-to-blindness skills training retreat especially for senior citizens at the Pearlstone Center, Reisterstown, Maryland, May 11 to 14, 2004. This is an intensive, fun-filled, four-day, three-night adjustment-to-blindness retreat. The program will emphasize nonvisual techniques in cane travel, introduction to Braille, and exploration of computer and other accessible technology. There will be frank discussions about attitudinal barriers that can prevent true adjustment to blindness with positive solutions and suggestions to overcoming these barriers.

Discover newfound freedom, gain self-esteem and confidence, learn the skills of blindness from competent blind instructors, and meet other seniors dealing with adjustment to blindness.

The cost is $300, including meals and snacks, three-night double-occupancy room, closing ceremony luncheon, and transportation from Baltimore to the Pearlstone Center (if needed). Optional are $10 closing ceremony luncheon tickets for family, friends, and guests.

For an application or further details, contact Ruth Sager at (410) 233-4567, ext. 333 or by email at <>. Registration is limited, so apply early.

Position Announcement:

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision is particularly eager to invite blind applicants for the position described here. The salary range is $55,000 to $72,000, depending on credentials.


(Senior Research Associate/Assistant Research Professor)

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University is seeking applicants for the Center Training Director. Position #5149 includes managing and implementing the Center's training and dissemination program, developing proposals for external funding, managing and designing course-work/workshops both on-site and by distance education, and networking with national leaders in blindness rehabilitation to determine training needs and priorities of practitioners.

The position will be filled as an assistant research professor or as a senior research associate. Candidates for the assistant research professor rank will need a doctorate in rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility, or a closely related field, and ten years experience in blindness rehabilitation; evidence of success in securing external funding, conducting blindness-related training, and publishing in peer-reviewed or consumer publications; excellent writing skills; understanding of state-of-the-art computer access technology, distance education principles; and adult learning theory.

Candidates for the senior research associate position will need a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility, or a closely related field, and ten years experience in blindness rehabilitation. They will also need evidence of success in these same areas.

Salary will be negotiated based on experience. Send letter of application, resume, writing sample, three letters of reference, and copies of transcripts to Dr. Brenda Cavenaugh, Chair, Search Committee, RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Box 6189, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762. For further information, call (662) 325-2001. Applications will be accepted until February 16, 2004, or until the position is filled. MSU is an AA/EOE.

Free Magazine:

Choice Magazine Listening (CML) is a free service for any adult U.S. resident unable to read standard print due to loss of vision or other disability. Six times a year CML brings eight hours of unabridged selections of articles, short stories, and poetry from leading publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Esquire, Gourmet, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Foreign Affairs, Time, the Paris Review, Fortune, numerous literary magazines, and many more. It's all a free service of the nonprofit Lucerna Fund, which has been offering this service since 1962. The special-speed cassette playback machine required to listen to the four-track tape is also free on permanent loan from the National Library Service, Library of Congress.

Those interested in receiving a free subscription can contact Choice Magazine Listening, toll free, at (888) 724-6423, or fax (516) 944-6849. Write to Choice Magazine Listening, 85 Channel Drive, Port Washington, New York 11050. Email to <>. The Web page is <>. When signing up for the service, please indicate whether you already have the NLS cassette playback machine.

Telephone Email Available:

Verb Exchange has developed groundbreaking communications that harmonize long-distance calling, fax, landline, cell phone, email, and voice mail into a single easy-to-manage voice-activated system with your own 800 number. You can now send and receive email by voice using your telephone. There are no long-term contracts; service is billed month-to-month. Try it for one month and communicate in ways you never thought possible. For more information call Bruce Lumsden at Communication Solutions, (866) 248-1179.

AccessWorld Available on the Web:

AccessWorld(R): Technology and People with Visual Impairments, was relaunched as a free, Web-based magazine at <>. AccessWorld will continue to offer the in-depth coverage of assistive technology that it's become known for, while adding new, accessible features such as "email this article to a friend" and "printer-ready" options. In addition, readers who are blind or visually impaired will now have access to "Braille embosser-ready" files that have been translated and formatted to be sent directly to their Braille printers. Issues dating back to January 2000 will also be available online.

Tales of Woe and Warning:

Cheranne Verduin, who is now attending the Louisiana Center for the Blind, recently contacted me angry and frustrated because she had found what she thought was a great deal on a Braille Lite at a very good price from a company in Florida called Computer Assistive Technologies. She found out the hard way that this company is neither a dealer nor an authorized repair service for Freedom Scientific products. Her unit stopped working, and the company would not or could not fix it. Freedom eventually did so, but at a cost of several hundred dollars. Cheranne is understandably furious and wants people to know about her experience with Computer Assistive Technologies. Now comes another letter with the request that it be published as a warning. Here it is:

To Readers of the Braille Monitor:

I run a small Brailling business and recently decided to purchase a second Braille embosser to have as a backup so my business would not be affected if my primary embosser stopped working properly. Having limited funds, I was delighted when I found a refurbished Versapoint embosser for $1,200 through a company in Florida called Computer Assistive Technologies. I contacted the owners of this company, Robert and Stephanie Brown, and on January 21, 2003, placed my order. I used my debit card to pay for this embosser, and the funds were immediately withdrawn from my account. Yet I did not receive the unit until March 3, 2003.

When the embosser finally arrived, it seemed to be in working condition; however, after a couple of weeks the embosser began to have problems and stopped working. I called the company numerous times and sent several email messages to follow up. The Browns decided the best thing to do would be to send the embosser back, and it would be repaired or serviced under their four-month warranty policy. The machine was packaged and sent back to their facility on June 5, 2003, and since then I have not heard from the company. I have attempted on numerous occasions to contact the Browns and find out where my embosser is and whether I will be issued a refund. They have refused to speak to me on the phone or return any of my email messages. I even sent them a registered letter, but they refused to accept it too.

They now have my embosser and my $1,200, and I have nothing. I am taking this opportunity to let everyone know how this company treated me and how they have decided to run their business. I do not want to see other people taken advantage of by the Browns. I have contacted the Florida State Attorney's office and was told that, unless several claims had been made, they could not do anything to prevent the Browns from continuing to do this to unsuspecting customers. I have contacted the Better Business Bureau in their area, and at this writing my complaint is under investigation.

I have since received a letter from the Better Business Bureau informing me that the Browns won't even respond to letters they have received from the BBB. I would be very interested to hear if others have had similar problems. Please feel free to contact me at (480) 345-8773 or email <> to discuss this matter in more detail.


Marjorie Arnott

Monitor Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

Braille Bible and Hymnal Available:

I would like to give away a King James translation of the Bible and the 1964 Methodist Hymnal in Braille. I can send either one Free Matter to anyone who could use them. Contact Sherry Ruth at (440) 324-4218 or email <>.

Hoping to Buy:

Tom Mattock is in the market for a used PacMate TNS with standard keyboard. He can be contacted at <>.

For Sale:

V-Tek Voyager VR1 electronic reading machine. Recently rebuilt, in excellent condition. Asking $400 plus UPS shipping and insurance. Call Bill Porter at (847) 341-7155, 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. CST; email <>.

For Sale:

Braille Inferno Braille printer in excellent condition. This machine even speaks. Asking $2,500. Call Lucia Marett at (646) 486-1649 (evenings) or (212) 341-3621 (days).


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.


1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230






Home Phone (     )

 Work Phone (    )

I am registered with a state or private vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind.  __ Yes   __ No

If yes, please give name:

I am enrolled in a public school special education program for the blind or state residential school for the blind.  __ Yes  __ No

If yes please specify:

I am registered with a cooperating regional library under the program of The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.   __ Yes   __ No

If yes please specify:

If you answered no to all the above questions, you must include with this application a letter from one of the following certifying that you are blind.

___ Your doctor

___ Social Security Award letter

___ President of a local chapter or state affiliate of the NFB

___ Teacher of the visually impaired / O & M Instructor

I certify that I am blind or visually impaired and unable to read a printed newspaper.