Braille Monitor                                                                                                 August/September 2004

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Convention Miniatures

New Baby:

Paul Alfred Baillif
Paul Alfred Baillif

Michael and Lynn (Mattioli) Baillif, both past National Federation of the Blind scholarship winners, were missing from convention this year. An announcement from President Maurer on the opening day revealed why. At 4:54 p.m. on Friday, July 2, Paul Alfred Baillif was born weighing seven pounds, one ounce and measuring twenty inches long. The entire Baillif family is doing well. Congratulations to all three.


A number of divisions conducted elections at their annual meetings in Atlanta. Here are the results we have received:

National Association of Blind Office Professionals (NABOP)

NAPOB conducted its annual meeting on Tuesday, June 29. Officers elected for the 2004-2006 term were president, Lisa Hall (Texas); vice president, Louis Montgomery (Illinois); secretary, Sherri Brun (Florida); and treasurer, Debbie Brown (Maryland).

Those interested in learning more about office jobs blind people are doing should contact Lisa Hall at (210) 829-4571 or email her at <>. Her personal home page is <>. Send correspondence to her at 9110 Broadway, Apt. J-102, San Antonio, Texas 78217. NAPOB dues are $5 per year. Anyone wishing to pay by check can send it to Debbie Brown, treasurer, National Association of Blind Office Professionals, 11923 Parklawn Drive, Apartment 104, Rockville, Maryland 20852. Call her at (301) 881-1892. Her email address is <>.

The next NABOP meeting will be held on Saturday, July 2, 2005, in Louisville, Kentucky. Watch future issues of the Braille Monitor for more information.

National Association of Blind Merchants

Elected this year were president, Kevan Worley (Colorado); first vice president, Nick Gacos (New Jersey); second vice president, Bob Ray (Iowa); secretary, Pam Schnurr (Indiana); treasurer, Don Hudson (Colorado); and Charles Allen (Kentucky), Raj Mehta (Georgia), Gary Grassman (New York), Kim Williams (Tennessee), Don Morris (Maryland), Carl Jacobsen (New York), Lynn Reynolds (New Jersey), and Mark Harris (Texas), members of the board of directors.

Performing Arts Division

The Performing Arts Division was re-established June 30, 2004, with the following officers: president, Adrienne Snow (New Jersey); vice president, Dennis Holston (New York); secretary, Cherian Shipmen (Texas); and board member, John Ferry (New Jersey).

National Association of Blind Musicians

Serving two-year terms will be president, Linda Mentink (Wisconsin); first vice president, Deborah Brown (Maryland); second vice president, Karen McDonald (West Virginia); secretary, Cindy Ray (Iowa); and treasurer, Bee Hodgkiss (Minnesota).

National Organization of the Senior Blind (NOSB)

The NOSB officers are president, Judy Sanders (Minnesota); first vice president, Ray McGeorge (Colorado); second vice president, Roy Hobely; (Nebraska) secretary, Jim Willows (California); treasurer, Paul Dressell (Ohio); and Clayton Hyde (South Dakota) and Don Gilmore (Illinois), board members.

Diabetes Action Network

Officers for the coming year are president, Paul Price (California); first vice president, Lois Williams (Alabama); second vice president, Sandie Addy (Arizona); secretary, Joyce Kane (Connecticut); treasurer, Joy Stigile (California); and Ed Bryant (Missouri), Josie Armantrout (Minnesota), and Bruce Peters (Ohio), board members.

National Association of Guide Dog Users

At its business meeting NAGDU elected the following officers: president, Priscilla Ferris (Massachusetts); vice president, Marion Gwizdala (Florida); secretary, Melissa Riccobono (Maryland); and treasurer, Robert Eschbach (Arizona).

Travel and Tourism Division

Officers of the Travel and Tourism Division elected on Thursday, July 1, 2004, were Douglas M. Johnson, president (Washington); Stephanie L. Scott, first vice president (Georgia); Don Gallaway, second vice president (Washington, D.C.); Milt Taylor, treasurer (Utah); Kay Burrows, secretary (Washington); and Don Gillmore (Illinois), Mary Donahue (Texas), Donna Ring (Maryland), and Kevin Daniels (Texas) board members.

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Changes: After sixteen years of active service in the NOPBC, Marty Greiser stepped down as second vice president. However, he still plans to be active and supportive in whatever way he can. His shoes will be ably filled by another dad from western region, Brad Weathered, father of Hannah. The Weathereds, currently of Montana, are moving to Wyoming this fall. Elected to the board position left vacant by Brad is Maria Garcia (New York, New York). Maria, mother of Elora, is the dynamic president of the revitalized POBC of New York.

NFB Note Cards Available:

The Jernigan Institute as pictured on new note cards
The Jernigan Institute as pictured on new note cards

At the convention the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio introduced cards and envelopes suitable for thank-yous and other brief notes written by affiliates, chapters, and individuals doing Federation business. A full-color picture of the Jernigan Institute appears on the front of the cards, and a large Whozit in black adorns the top of the message area. These cards will pass through a printer with no difficulty.

Sets of ten cards and envelopes are available for $10, plus $2 for handling. Checks should be made payable to NFB of Ohio and sent to National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, 237 Oak Street, Oberlin, Ohio 44074. For more information contact Barbara Pierce at <>.

Golden Wedding Anniversaries at Convention:

Ron Gardner, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, reports that the Utah delegation to the 2004 convention included two couples who celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries during the convention. Primo and Marci Foianini and Al and Doris Hicks were the guests of honor at the Utah caucus held on June 30 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

Longtime Federationists will recognize the name of Primo Foianini. He was a leader in the sheltered shop employees division of the National Federation of the Blind for many years. The Utah affiliate invited convention attendees to come by and congratulate these two couples who, combined, represent one hundred years of marriage. Among the most honored guests were President and Mrs. Marc Maurer. Dr. Maurer gave some remarks and shared some reminiscences of these two longtime Federation couples. He made a toast (albeit with fruit punch) that marriage is like a fine wine; it gets better with age.

All the guests enjoyed an opportunity to visit informally with Dr. and Mrs. Maurer, savor great refreshments, and extend best wishes for another fifty years of marriage to both golden wedding anniversary couples.

Spanish Translation at Convention:

Dr. Norman Gardner reports that a record number of people were involved in Spanish translation service at this year's convention. Eleven people donated their time and worked very hard to provide this valuable service. These included Mariana Flores and Daniela Rubio, both from Mexico and both attending their sixth consecutive convention. Patti Homan from Spain also worked very hard at the translation table. She was attending her second convention. Our thanks to everyone who made it possible for Spanish speakers to follow convention presentations more easily and completely.

Writers Division Report:

The Writers Division conducted a stimulating workshop on magazine-article writing, presented by Julie Boston, a 2004 graduate with a master's in journalism from the University of Georgia-Athens. Ms. Boston presented a candid picture of her job search and of the necessity for extensive research in article preparation. An open reading of poetry took place after the workshop with an especially touching poem by Bob Eschbach to his wife Pat and by Mary Brucker.

The annual meeting featured a discussion by Jerry Whittle of Louisiana regarding the writing of his fourteenth annual play. Jerry's marked success is due to his understanding of blindness and his wonderful creativity. The players in the play, all of whom did an excellent job, were students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind at Ruston.

GPS Treasure Hunt:

Sunish Gupta and Buna Dahal stride past an outdoor cafe during a GPS treasure hunt in Atlanta.
Sunish Gupta and Buna Dahal stride past an outdoor café during a GPS treasure hunt in Atlanta.

At the national convention the NFB Jernigan Institute, along with VisuAide and Pulse Data Humanware, initiated a GPS Technology Awareness Week. Throughout the week twenty GPS ambassadors received one-on-one training from both VisuAide and Pulse Data Humanware. The ambassadors were divided into ten teams of two. The first five teams represented Pulse Data Humanware, and the other five teams represented VisuAide.

During the week the ambassadors’ task was to demonstrate their GPS devices to as many convention attendees as possible. On Saturday, July 3, the ambassadors gathered at the CVS Pharmacy on North Highland Street to start the treasure hunt. The winning team was the first to locate all of the points of interest.

 The ambassadors received their first clue, "I taste better when I'm peeled," and off they went. Their task was to find the Banana Republic point of interest, located at 1145 Briarcliff Road. The second clue, “It’s brown, sweet, and delicious," sent the ambassadors to the Chocolate State located at 1118 St. Charles Street. Ambassadors found themselves in Orange County located at 806 North Highland Street when they followed the third clue, "I'm not yellow or green, but I'm citrus." Keeping in tune with the humorous clues, "Continue south and you will find a bean" sent ambassadors to Lima located at 751 Federica Street. The last clue was, "From a cow I'm coming your way." At the final destination the winning team had to say that they were looking for the Milky Way.

 Because of the excessive heat, two of the teams dropped out. The competition lasted for about two and a half hours. The winning team was comprised of Kelly Prescott from South Lebanon, Ohio, who took home a Trekker from VisuAide, and Kelly's teammate Robert Smith from Atlanta, Georgia, who took home a BrailleNote GPS.

The NFB Jernigan Institute would like to thank VisuAide and Pulse Data Humanware for making this event possible. From the enthusiastic feedback we received from the GPS ambassadors who participated in the tournament, we anticipate that a similar event is likely to occur again.


Committee on Associates 2004 Sunset Report:

As the Committee on Associates disbands, Tom Stevens provides the following information for 2004:

A total of 1,355 associates were enrolled during this contest year, raising $31,075.50, having been enrolled by 174 recruiters. The top Associate-recruiting state was Ohio with 188. Following were North Carolina, Maryland, New Mexico, Michigan, and Missouri, the last state to recruit more than 100 Associates. North Carolina had the most recruiters--thirty-two. Individually, J. W. Smith of Ohio won the gold ribbon with 108 Associates. Arthur Schreiber of New Mexico, Sharon Felton of North Carolina, John Stroot of Indiana, and Tom Stevens of Missouri completed the top five. On the money track the largest amount raised was $2,637 by John Paré of Maryland. Following him were Sharon Felton of North Carolina, Patricia Maurer of Maryland, Dr. Smith of Ohio, Joe Ruffalo of New Jersey, and Bill Isaacs of Illinois, all having brought in more than $1,000; Betty Woodward of Connecticut raised $999. To those who have participated in this program through the years, I express my profound appreciation. Chairing this effort has been my privilege.

Convention Blues

by Fikru Gebrekidan

Fikru Gebrekidan
Fikru Gebrekidan

The deafening hubbub at the Atlanta Hartfield Jackson International Airport echoed in every direction, submerging the words from the public address system that never seemed to shut up. I strained my ears for any sound of a white cane or dog in harness, but all I could make out was the cry of a toddler in the distance, the rhythmic steps of a woman wearing high heels a few yards away, and the endless procession of suitcases rolling in both directions. The friendly tap-taps of white canes were long gone as was the good-natured pushing and shoving of my fellow Federationists. The relatively well-trained and eager-to-help group of volunteers at the Marriott Marquis seemed a world away and from another century.

"Does he have his ticket?" inquired a voice, addressing the airport agent whose arm I held as he escorted me past the security gate. Under normal circumstances I would have insisted that I be spoken to instead of the person with me, but given my foreign name and the paranoid nature of airport security, I chose to forego this commonplace courtesy. I reached for the ticket in my shirt pocket, reminding myself that this was the way the world had been before the convention and the way it would continue to be afterwards.

In 1992, while a first-year graduate student at Michigan State University, I attended my first annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind (an organization of the blind speaking for themselves) then held in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have since traveled to six more conventions, which roughly translates to one convention every other year. When I missed a convention it was usually the result of being abroad doing research, and last summer I was moving to Canada, having just landed a faculty position at a university there.

As I finally eased myself into a window seat in a Boston-bound Boeing 737, I began to reflect on my decade-long love affair with National Federation of the Blind conventions: the friendships I have established (some temporary, some permanent); the lazy strolls through the exhibit halls, where samples of the latest adaptive technology are always on display; the tears and laughter at the professionally executed plays performed by the Louisiana Center Players; the hypnotizing eloquence of the late Dr. Jernigan; and the climactic banquet addresses by President Maurer, often punctuated with light-hearted humor.

Although these are in themselves enough reasons to make one a regular attendee at the conventions, I admit that one other factor overrides all other explanations for my frequent participation. During fifty-one out of fifty-two weeks of the year, I live my life and work by the standards and expectations of the world at large. At the National Federation of the Blind convention, however, where thousands of blind people converge to strategize about their struggle for acceptance and equality, I am part of the majority. It is a world without stares and prejudgment, a world of freedom; it is my world, where I can afford to be myself and still be understood--liked or disliked for what I am and not feared or avoided for what I am not. It is also the place where blind people speak up with power and confidence.

As my plane taxied and took off into the dusky Atlanta skies, I knew I was leaving behind another memorable week of convention. On the entire flight to Boston I found myself reliving my Atlanta experience with wistful nostalgia, in the same way one replays an old graduation video. Everyone I met had that youthful air of sweetness and vigor. Everything seemed to fall in place. Even the vast and open lobby of the Marriott, where nothing seemed to be in the same place twice, exuded beauty and elegance.

As we descended into Logan International two-and-a-half hours later, a gentle tap on my left shoulder roused me from my reverie. It was the flight stewardess advising me to stay behind until everyone was out, at which time she would come and get me. I remembered walking past the same flight attendant as I preboarded the plane. Why are we the first to board and the last to deplane, I silently wondered. It reminded me of some of my friends’ kids who like to dash into my high-rise apartment before their parents and are the last ones to be cajoled out.

Do the sighted perhaps think that the blind enjoy the tube-like atmosphere of the plane? Are the extra minutes in the plane a sympathetic gesture to prolong our experience of flying? I did not know the answer, nor did I follow the stewardess's advice to stay put. I waited for my turn in the aisle, got up, opened my collapsible cane, collected my bags from the overhead bin, and headed for the exit, humming to myself Ray Charles's classic, "Georgia on My Mind," although what I really had in mind was not the Peach Tree State, but the convention.


National Federation of the Blind Pledge

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.

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