Braille Monitor                                                 February 2011

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News from the Federation Family

How to Pay for Your Hotel Stay in Orlando:
This helpful information comes from Tony Cobb, whose convention job has made him a fixture in our hotel lobbies for as long as I can remember. Here is his advice about paying for your hotel stay:

Every year at our national convention we have serious trouble with use of debit cards or cash payments at hotel check-in, and, having worked to solve these problems for years, I can tell you they can nearly ruin the convention week for those experiencing them. Planning to attend our national convention should therefore include thinking hard about how to pay the hotel, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid using cash or a debit card as your payment method. Doing so may seem convenient, but you should not do so. If you do not have a credit card of your own to use instead, prevail upon a close friend or family member to let you use one just for convention. Here’s why:
If you are paying in actual currency, most hotels will want enough cash up front at check-in to cover your room and tax charges for the entire stay, plus a one-time advance incidentals deposit to cover meals, telephone calls, Internet service, and other things you may charge to your room. The unused portion of the incidentals deposit may be returned at check-out or by mail after departure. Understand, however, that, if your incidentals charges exceed the incidentals deposit credited, you are responsible for payment of the full balance at checkout. The total can end up being a very large sum indeed.

If you use a debit card, however, you are really at a potentially painful disadvantage. The hotel will put a hold on money in your bank account linked to the debit card to cover the estimated balance of your stay—that is, for the entire week’s room and tax charges plus a one-time incidentals deposit to cover meals, movies, and so on charged to your room. You should be aware that the hold can therefore be a considerable amount of money and that you will not have access to that amount for any other purchases or payments with your card. (Hotels sometimes also put authorizations on credit cards, by the way, but those are not often a problem unless they exceed your card’s credit limit.)

Holds can remain in effect for three to five days or even a week after you check out. If you have pre-authorized payments from your bank account, for example your monthly mortgage payment, or if you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused, the hold from the hotel can cause you trouble or result in very large overdraft fees for payments you thought you had money in your account to cover. I have seen this hit some of our members in the form of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.

This means that, if you use a debit card, you would have to be certain you have a high enough balance in your checking account when you come to convention to cover any debit card holds. This is a perilous practice since charges may exceed your estimate by a considerable amount. (Some frequent travelers even open a separate checking account used only for debits like these.) Remember, a hold is going to be placed on your debit card regardless of how you end up paying the bill, and the hold is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or cash when you check out of the hotel.

Planning ahead in this area can ensure an untroubled week at convention, leaving you free to enjoy fully the world’s largest and most exciting meeting of the blind. See you as usual in the lobby at check-in—using a credit card, I hope.

In Memoriam:
Priscilla McKinley, August 10, 1961 to December 11, 2010Michael Barber, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, reports with sadness that on the evening of December 11, 2010, Priscilla McKinley, a devoted NFBI member and president of the Old Capitol Chapter, died while she slept. Priscilla was awarded a 1996 NFB scholarship and became a tenBroek Fellow in 1998. She received a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction writing as well as a PhD in language, literature, and culture from the University of Iowa. She served twice as chapter president of the Old Capitol Chapter and served several terms on the NFBI board of directors. In October of 2004 she wrote an article for the Braille Monitor entitled "Baby Steps, Long Strides, and Elephant Seal Humps," in which she talked about her early days as a blind person and her resistance to using the long white cane.

At the 2000 NFB convention Priscilla received the NFB's Blind Educator of the Year Award. She also served as first vice president of the NFB’s teachers division and vice president of the National Organization of Blind Educators. Priscilla was an exemplary Federationist and someone we can all remember as a successful, confident, and competent blind person. Her spirit will live on through her chapter and the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.

Scholarships Available:
The following announcement comes from Patti Chang, who chairs the National Federation of the Blind’s scholarship committee. Here is what she says:

Do you need money for college? The National Federation of the Blind scholarship application is now available online. This national scholarship program is available to those who are legally blind and living in the United States or Puerto Rico. There are thirty awards, ranging in value from $3,000 to $12,000. In addition each winner will receive assistance in attending the NFB annual convention for 2011 in Orlando, Florida. Applications and supporting documents must be postmarked by March 31, 2011. The application and other important scholarship information are available online at <>, and questions may be emailed to

The following comes from Anthony D'Altrui, treasurer of the Happy Valley Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania. Here is what he says about a loved and respected Federationist, scientist, and friend:

Congratulations to Dr. Cary Supalo, who has just earned his PhD in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University and has been accepted into the MBA program at Purdue University. He intends to pursue his MBA part-time while he ramps up his business, Independence Science, LLC, which develops and offers accessible tools for the blind for use in education and science. So next time you say hello to Cary, remember that it’s okay just to say, “What’s up, Doc?”

The Milwaukee chapter of the NFB of Wisconsin held elections at its September meeting. The officers and board members elected for 2010-2011 are as follows: president, Bill Meeker; vice president, Steve Heesen; treasurer, Cheryl Orgas; secretary, Laurie Heesen; and board members, Joanne Braun and Cindy Freeman. Thank you to those continuing in office and to those leaving the board for their service to our chapter.

New Baby:
Steve and Laurie Heesen welcomed Andrew John (AJ) Heesen into the world on White Cane Safety Day, Friday, October 15. He weighed eight pounds and ten ounces and was twenty-two inches long. Big brother Josiah and big sister Jenna are excited to have this little guy around--until he starts taking their toys, that is. Mom and baby are both doing well.

Reminder from the Deaf-Blind Division:
If you didn't have an opportunity to examine and purchase T-shirts from the NFB's Deaf-Blind Division during convention, you are invited to contact Division President Burnell Brown at <> for additional details about remaining colors and sizes.

NFB of New Mexico Participates in ADA Twentieth-Anniversary Celebration:
Pictured left to right are Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima; Fortunato Gonzalez, vice-president of the Mesilla Valley Chapter of the NFB of New Mexico; and Adelmo Vigil, White Sands Chapter board member and director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind’s adult training center in Alamogordo.Christine Hall, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, reports the following:

In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the affiliate marched in a parade and set up a booth to tell the world about the National Federation of the Blind and our life-changing message.

The Mesilla Valley Chapter of the NFB of New Mexico initiated a joint partnership with other ADA advocates affiliated with the Las Cruces ADA advisory board to create a parade float in the September 2010 Whole Enchilada Fiesta in Las Cruces. Chapter officers and members Wesley Peters, president; Nato Gonzalez, vice president; Maryellen Kebbel, secretary; and Michelle Phillips, treasurer; and members Terry Kebbel and Scott and Wanda Moore began the float planning in early July. The parade float theme was “Happy Twentieth Birthday, ADA.” To commemorate the historic legislation of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a three-tier cake was built by Alfred Hughey. On the day of the parade, along with the planners, Adelmo Vigil and students at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind’s orientation center, Claudia Martinez representing Parents of Blind Children in Albuquerque, Hearing Loss Association members, Blinded Veteran Association members, and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima marched in the two-mile-long parade to acknowledge the importance of the ADA.

An ADA information booth was set up at the three-day fiesta. Members of the NFB provided information and brochures about the organization.

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.

Free Life Insurance Program for Parents:
Anthony D'Altrui, treasurer of the NFB of Pennsylvania Happy Valley Chapter, works in insurance. He has offered to provide useful financial information to Monitor readers from time to time. Here is information about a program that very few people know about. If you are a parent and earn between $10,000 and $40,000 a year, the following may be of interest to you. This is what Anthony says:

If you think nothing is free in this world, you’ll want to learn more about a free life insurance program designed for parents. The philanthropic LifeBridge Free Life Insurance program is designed to help protect a family’s dream of providing an education for their children if anything happens to them before their children finish school. It’s that simple.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) will issue a $50,000 life insurance policy at no cost to you for ten years. The company pays the premiums. If you die within that time, the $50,000 is used to cover the educational expenses of your children. They have ten years after your death or until age thirty-five (whichever is later) to use this educational benefit.

The $50,000 benefit is paid to a trust administered by the MassMutual Trust Company, FSB, solely for educational expenses. The trust pays benefits directly to the schools your eligible children attend. The money can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, campus room and board, and other educational expenses. Preschool, private school, trade schools, colleges, and universities all qualify.

"We’re trying to ensure that access to educational opportunities exists for children of working families,” said Cindie St. George, director of LifeBridge operations, MassMutual. To be eligible for the program, you must be:
• between the ages of nineteen and forty-two,
• the parent or legal guardian of one or more dependent children under age eighteen,
• a permanent legal resident of the U.S.,
• currently employed full or part time with a total family income not less than $10,000 or more than $40,000 annually,
• the only member of your household who has applied for the LifeBridge Free Life Insurance program, and
• in good health as determined by MassMutual’s underwriting standards.
For more information about this program visit <>. To ask questions or to request an eligibility form for the program, email Anthony at

New Distance Education Program Available:
Beginning in 2008, the Hadley School for the Blind and Utah State University (USU) began partnering to meet the growing demand for an affordable certificate and degree program for paraprofessionals, teachers, and parents through distance education. Courses are offered as part of USU’s SKI-HI Institute, a unit of the College of Education’s Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education. This training enables USU-Hadley students to work more effectively with children who are blind or visually impaired in a classroom.

Students can earn either a certificate in blindness at the undergraduate level or a USU associates degree in general studies with a focus in blindness, enabling them to work in a classroom with school-age children who are blind or visually impaired. Courses include Introduction to Blindness and Visual Impairment, The Human Eye and Visual System, Introduction to Braille, The Role of Paraeducators with Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Introduction to Low Vision, and Introduction to Multiple Disabilities. The program is available to teachers, teacher assistants, paraprofessionals, and parents.

It offers various student options. Certificates of completion are available at two levels: nine semester credit hours (three courses) and a practicum, or eighteen semester credit hours (six courses) and a practicum. Associates degrees in general studies require sixty total credit hours, thirty of which must be in blindness or related topics in order to receive a focus in blindness as part of the degree. Courses are also available for graduate credit or can be taken on a noncredit basis.

To learn more about enrolling in USU-Hadley, contact Linda Alsop at <> or (435) 797-5598. To take noncredit courses, contact Fran Payne at <> or (435) 797-5591.

Choice Magazine Listening Now a Free Download:
What is the value of a well-told story? What should it cost to hear quality writing from an eclectic selection of magazines that includes the New Yorker, Scientific American, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Condé Nast Traveler, Horticulture, and about ninety others? What would you pay to have the best articles, stories, and poetry culled from all of these magazines brought to life by professional narrators? Nothing if you subscribe to Choice Magazine Listening.

Choice Magazine Listening is a free literary service for people who are blind, visually impaired, or physically disabled. Like miners in search of gold, CML’s experienced editors read through stacks of magazines every month in search of fine writing. Not surprisingly, they often find their treasure in such literary journals as the Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and Granta. But it’s just as likely they’ll unearth a gem or two from Fortune, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, or even Sports Illustrated. Subscribers can expect to immerse themselves in entertaining and evocative literature spanning a multitude of topics. Past issues have included such gems as “The Wreck of the Beverly B.,” an exciting excerpt from T.C. Boyle’s soon-to-be-released novel When the Killing’s Done, as published in McSweeney’s. Subscribers were also treated to “The Farm,” an excerpt from Mark Twain’s autobiography, as published in the British literary journal Granta.

Choice Magazine Listening’s recordings are packed with articles, stories, and poems by authors who have won literary prizes or received worldwide recognition. A recent issue included two major literary award winners: “Looking for the Rozziner,” a memoir by Colum McCann, who won the 2009 National Book Award, and “Magic,” a poem by Philip Levine, who won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Choice Magazine Listening ( is a free audio anthology for a special audience of blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, or dyslexic subscribers. CML was created in 1962 by the nonprofit Lucerna Fund to offer the best of contemporary magazine writing, completely without charge, to adults unable to read standard print. For more information or to subscribe, call (516) 883-8280.

Independence Market Corner:
The following 2011 calendars are available through the NFB Independence Market:

American Action Fund Braille Calendar
Comb-bound, pocket-sized Braille calendar measures 6-by-6.5 inches. Each calendar page includes the days of the month and lists major holidays. A page for personal notes is in the back. Available free of charge.

Large-Print Calendar
Spiral-bound large print appointment calendar measuring 8.5-by-11 inches with inside pockets. Each month is displayed on two facing pages and features two-inch blocks for each day of the month. The months are tabbed and include a section for monthly notes as well as a three-month calendar overview. The cost is ten dollars plus shipping and handling

Large-Print Planner
Featuring easy-to-read large print, this new spiral-bound, 146-page organizer measures 8.25-by-11 inches. All calendar views are spread over two pages and include current and upcoming year-at-a-glance views, twelve monthly and fifty-three weekly views, as well as pages for names and addresses, notes, and personal information. The cost is $22 plus shipping and handling

For more information contact the NFB Independence Market using email at <> or by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216.

Free Audio Recordings Available:
Have you ever wished that you could read popular magazines or learn about the latest in cell phones and computer technology for people with low vision? Would you like to keep up to date on the latest treatments to reverse blindness? The Audio Internet Reading Service of Los Angeles, (AIRSLA) is your one-stop source for audio recordings on all of these topics and much more. AIRSLA is a non-profit organization that produces audio recordings called podcasts for people with low vision and those who cannot read typical print. It is made up of volunteer voiceover artists and audio engineers from throughout the United States who read articles from popular magazines such as People, Oprah, Scientific American, Sports Illustrated, Consumer Reports, and dozens more.

In addition, AIRSLA produces educational programs that will teach people with low vision how to perform daily activities independently. They also post interviews with some of the most successful people with low vision who will inspire and motivate you. It also has interview shows featuring experts in the field of low vision and technology who share the latest advances to help blind people to work, play, and learn. Whether you are interested in the arts, politics, cooking, science, sports, drama, technology, or health or you want to listen to some of the most important seminars on vision impairment from the Council of Citizens with Low Vision, International; the Foundation Fighting Blindness, or the Braille Institute, AIRSLA has the audio recordings for you. Go to <> on your computer or Internet radio and listen from your home or office. If you wish, you can download any of the shows and listen to them on your iPod, Victor Reader Stream, BookSense, or other MP3 listening device. Best of all, the service is free.

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.

For Sale:
Barely used PAC Mate Omni BX 400 with Perkins-style Braille keys. Features full synchronization with Microsoft Office applications and uses ActiveSync to synchronize seamlessly with your desktop computer. Your email, contacts, appointments, files, tasks, and even Web favorites are effortlessly updated every time you connect. It meets the on-the-go needs of users at work, at school, and at play with word processing, spreadsheets, and mobile Web access. The PAC Mate measures 11 inches long by 4.87 inches wide by 1.93 inches high. It weighs only one pound thirteen ounces, and it’s yours for $1,250 or best offer, with a free executive case and free shipping within the United States. For more information email <> or call (917) 856-1720.

NFB 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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