MINNESOTA

 

                      BULLETIN

 

Quarterly Publication of the

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.

100 East 22nd Street

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

Voice:  (612) 872-9363

Website:  www.nfbmn.org/

Tom Scanlan, Editor

E-mail tom.scanlan@earthlink.net

 

Volume 78, Number 4, Fall 2012

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 


 

Table of Contents

President’s Column. 1

Federation Family News. 2

Change Is Good. 3

Walk the Walk. 5

Was it Worth It?. 6

Looking Ahead With 20/20 Hindsight 9

Semiannual Convention Report 11

Convention Alert! 17

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 18

Background and Purpose. 19

Acknowledgements. 20

 

 

 

 



President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

This column will be a bit more brief than usual.  We have been quite busy in the NFB since the last issue of the Bulletin.  We have been protesting discriminatory payment of subminimum wages at Goodwill, raising funds through our Walk for Opportunity in Rochester, attending several activities at our national center, holding chapter meetings, planning for our upcoming convention in Duluth, helping with a golf tournament to benefit Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND)., advocating for blind individuals, and more.  We will be discussing these items in more detail at the convention, as well as planning future activities.  I hope that everyone will attend and be part of our work. 

 

In the meantime, I leave you with five things to remember and to do:

 

1.     Read this month’s issue of the Braille Monitor, our monthly flagship publication for the National Federation of the Blind.  In fact, don’t just stop at one month—make it a habit!  If you do not yet receive the Braille Monitor directly, please contact us and we’ll help you get subscribed.

2.     Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day.  Remember to vote!  You can find your polling place at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/ and you will be able to cast your ballot via the accessible AutoMark machine.

3.     Mark your calendars for Give to the Max day, which will be Thursday, November 15, 2012!  On that day, thousands of Minnesota nonprofits will come together to raise millions of dollars in just 24 hours, and the NFB of Minnesota will be a part of it.  It is another great way to gain financial support from outside our organization.  Watch email, Twitter, and Facebook for details.

4.     Continue to let people know about the need to eliminate the payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities.  If your Congressional representative has not yet signed on to H.R.  3086, write them another letter about the importance of this issue.  We will not rest until we get this done.

5.     Make an easy $10 contribution to the Imagination fund via the NFB’s Text2Give program by texting the words “blind MN” to 85944.  Encourage your friends and acquaintances to do likewise.

 

See everyone at the convention!

 

Federation Family News

 

The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota is an organization focused on consumer advocacy for blind people and promoting a positive philosophy of blindness.  We are also a family.  Here is a column that we print from time to time, containing items that would not normally be sent out on our membership listserv but which are noteworthy and of interest to members.  Did you or a Federationist you know get a new job?  Go on a major trip?  Win an award?  Have a child?  Something else important to you?  If you have news you would like shared in this column, send it to the Bulletin editor, Tom Scanlan, and he will pass it along. Here’s the news since our last issue:

 

There's lots of good job-related news to share this time: 

 

·        May Spooner is now working at Ta's hair salon, providing massages on weekends.

·        Lori Brown now works as an office specialist for the Minnesota Health Licensing Boards.

·        Matthias Niska has accepted a position at the Brown, Goldstein & Levy law firm in Baltimore; he and Corinne will be moving there at the end of October (he also just passed the Minnesota Bar Exam.)

·        Steve Decker is working as an accessibility consultant at Target.

 

Congratulations to all, and to the companies who have wisely taken on these capable folks as employees.

 

It was 20 years ago this year that Anne Naber arrived in the United States from South Korea.  We are glad you are here, Anne!

 

Michele Denise Michaels, better known to us as Michele Gittens, has a new CD coming out entitled "Altar Call."  You can listen to the gorgeous first single from the CD on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss1R0TdkbUI

 

This summer, Jean Rauschenbach left Minnesota to seek her fortune in Moline, Illinois.  Jean served as president of our student division for a time, and she also helped out in all sorts of other behind-the-scenes capacities to get things done.  She has been a dependable and capable worker who brought a sense of humor to all that she did.  We will miss Jean here, but we know she's still part of the Federation and will be around at national conventions and other activities.

 

Joyce and Tom Scanlan have sold their lovely house on Queen Avenue and will soon be moving to an apartment closer to uptown Minneapolis.  For 22 years, many a gathering of Federationists was held in that house, from St. Patrick's Day celebrations to fancy dinners for six sold at our convention auction, and all manner of other wonderful festivities.  All the best to the Scanlans with their new residential adventure.

 

If we have missed any noteworthy news here, please send it along for the next column! 

 

Change Is Good

By Emily Zitek

 

I believe that one of the most challenging obstacles I've had to overcome in life is having the ability to accept change.  Starting at about nine years old, I can still remember being severely bothered each September by the inevitable changes with the start of each school year—new teachers, classes, and routines.  I was afraid to be taken out of one familiar routine and be forced to start a new one.  What if I didn't get used to it?  What if these new changes meant something bad?  As a child, I felt like I had absolutely no control of the changes that occurred in my life, and even today, as a successful blind woman, I still have a hard time with it.  I still have to fight myself from being afraid that each time things change, it might be for the worst.

 

This isn't necessarily a problem only blind people must overcome, but it is something I hear many people worrying about, whether it has to do with school, employment, or family.  My reason for writing this article is to teach blind people, especially students going through adjustment-to-blindness training, how to embrace change when it happens, because change can be a really good thing.  Whether change comes because of a good or bad situation, it allows you to grow as an individual.  Deciding to make a major change in your life might seem very daunting.  In fact, think about the day you decided to actually get training, maybe after many months or even years of wanting to do it, but just didn't because it seemed too overwhelming.  Before I went through training, I had been maintaining a particular routine for years and was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.  Before being introduced to the NFB, I didn't think there was any other life for a blind person besides living with or near Mom and Dad, being driven everywhere and escorted from class to class using a sighted guide.  Even the thought of cooking my own breakfast was scary, but it had never intimidated me more than the day my rehabilitation counselor sat down with me and said it was time for a change.  She made me realize that sooner rather than later, I would be in high school and would need to learn how to order my own books, get from class to class by myself, use a computer that was up-to-date with the software everyone else was using, etc.

 

So this was my first major step in deciding to make a change, and it wasn't easy.  In fact, even after I began learning how to wash my clothes, do my hair, and cook my breakfast, which were things my mother had always done for me, I got a little sad knowing that she wouldn't be doing that anymore.  But I finished my training that first summer at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and this positive change took shape along with the new school year and all the other changes taking place around me at that time.

 

Another major event took place in late 2007, which affected many aspects of my life.  After working at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated as a rehabilitation teacher and office manager for almost ten years, I decided to make a change in my career and become a sole proprietor of the Business and Enterprises Program (BEP).  Working at my old job had allowed me to create a comfort zone, because I knew my job well, and I felt secure in that job.  If I had stayed there, I knew I could go to sleep every night knowing that unless something unfortunate happened, I would get a paycheck next month, in six months, and even next year.  But when I decided to go into the BEP, there was no guarantee that I would get a business anytime soon.  In fact, I had to attend classes for six to eight months prior to even being eligible to take on my first business.  It was scary knowing that I wouldn't have income for at least that amount of time, and fortunately, Social Security and my husband's income helped me pay the bills.  Although I had been thinking about changing careers for a while, it took almost two years for me to take that leap of faith, not knowing what the outcome would be.  But if I didn't take that step, I would never know what the future would have been.  I had to believe in myself and my abilities as a possible business owner, and with the support of my husband, family, and many friends who believed in my capabilities, I held my breath and took that big step into something new—the unknown.  Since the unknown has been something I have always feared since childhood, I figured my best way to get over that fear was to face it head on.

 

You will make many decisions in life, some of which will cause your life to change dramatically.  There may be times after you have made these changes where you will question whether you made the right choice.  In my situation, I made sure that I was educated about both the positives and pitfalls of this new career before I made any major decisions.  The hardest part was for me to keep still, be patient, and know that things would work out for me in the end.  If this didn't work out, the NFB had provided me with the skills to seek other employment.  People who don't know me as well still wonder why I left a secure job, and I believe that it has helped me develop and understand myself and my abilities in ways that I would never have experienced had I not taken that chance.  As it turns out, I came out on the other side of this learning experience owning a convenience store and 20 vending machines at the Department of Health and Agriculture in St.  Paul.  Will I change locations anytime soon? Probably not, considering the fact that I just spent a year organizing my store and vending machines to my liking.  But I know that if a better opportunity ever arises, the fear of change will not be the obstacle it had been before.

 

Walk the Walk

By Nancy Burns

 

(Editor’s Note:  This article is reprinted from QUE PASA, the quarterly newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico.)


Membership recruitment is an ongoing and challenging problem for most any organization.  While working with membership growth and strengthening within the National Federation of the Blind, one might want to consider two questions.  First of all, why would any individual want to join such a local chapter, and secondly, why would one NOT want to join a group of blind or visually-impaired individuals?

 

The answers to these two questions are as varied and numerous as the
personality traits of those being considered for membership.  For many, particularly those experiencing recent vision loss, it is a matter of denial.  Such people have not realized the need for introduction to positive-thinking and active blind people.  These individuals may fall down stairs, run into obstacles, and may admit that they are unable to read the paper, but they are not "blind."  They just do not see very well.  Because of existing stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions of blindness which exist in society, the admission of blindness is painful for many.  It is an ongoing and constant effort of the NFB to erase or clarify these false impressions.  Such an endeavor is difficult.  So what is the solution and how do we reach those who are uncomfortable joining the ranks of thousands of people who believe that it is respectable to be blind?

 

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  In my opinion a single act by a confident blind person can have a long-lasting influence on one of these people who are not blind but just do not see well.  As blind people we are ambassadors of education, independence, and hope for such people.  My own introduction to the NFB occurred when I was just a teenager.  I reluctantly attended a local chapter meeting in Los Angeles and was taken there by a blind woman who used her white cane to navigate the two of us through the busy L.A. traffic.  Once we arrived at the home of the woman who was hosting the meeting, she greeted us, showed us to a seat and provided us with refreshments during a short break.  It was after the meeting that I learned that Dr. Isabelle Grant was blind.  The group was comprised of people who had varied talents and interests.  There were students who were working toward such goals that I had never considered possible.  There was a woman with a small child on her lap.  One gentleman repaired small engines and another was an auto mechanic.  All of these people had used public transportation, successfully traversing the busy Friday evening traffic.  This was prior to the days of paratransit.  What an eye-opening, no pun intended, experience this was for me.  As a totally blind high school student I had no idea of the possibilities that this one meeting opened up for me.  I was hooked.

 

Dr. Grant became a most influential person in my adjustment to blindness.  She was a tiny bundle of energy who referred to herself as Scottish, not Scotch, which she said is what one drinks.  She encouraged me to take the prerequisites for college; without her influence I doubt I would have attended college at all.  Recognizing the power of education in all aspects of life, she mentored and guided many blind and visually-impaired individuals. The introduction to her and the NFB at that first meeting I attended changed the direction of my life.

 

My advice to members and officers who are focusing on membership growth and strengthening is to inventory your own independence skills and determine if they would appeal to a perspective member.  You and your confidence hold the key to attracting new members.

 

Was it Worth It?

By Jean Rauschenbach

 

In the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to go on a short-term mission trip to Mexico with my church.  The purpose of the trip was to continue building relationships with the churches in Juarez and in a small mountain village deep in central Mexico. 

 

We six Americans traveled with 14 local Mexicans from Juarez to San Juanito. The directors of an orphanage and youth from three churches in Juarez were to work together while presenting a one week Vacation Bible School (VBS).  Our main job in San Juanito was to help the Mexicans with the VBS.  There were 75 or so children of various ages from toddlers through elementary school.  We mostly helped with the age group classes, filled in for crowd control and played with the children during free times.

 

 Back in the 1980s, I went on several of these short-term mission trips.  In those days, my vision was better so I didn’t go as a full-fledged, cane-carrying blind person.  It was a relief, this time, to admit that I couldn’t see well, but that wasn’t going to deter me from stepping into the unknown.  This time it was a relief not to have to fake being able to see when I really could not.   

 

We worked on the VBS for the first week and did some sightseeing and church services the second week.  During that first week, I noticed the children would shy away from me.  Most of them had never seen a long white cane and didn’t know what it was for.  I am sure I caused not a little confusion because I was taking pictures and moving around freely.  Yet when someone came to speak to me, I couldn’t recognize his or her face.

 

Because I had been on trips like this before, I rather knew how it would be.  Before we left for Mexico, I met the people in several preliminary meetings.  Everyone seemed to relate with me well then.  But when we were away from our familiar surroundings, things changed.

 

Because of several things, I found it difficult to relate to some of the people in our group.  One was that I did not speak Spanish very well.  Two of the girls spoke enough to carry on simple conversations.  Another was that I, like three of the others, had not been with the Mexicans from Juarez before and therefore lacked a relationship with them.  Another was because all of them were all under 30 years old and I was…well, not.  The final and probably the biggest reason, was because of my blindness.  It took almost until the end of our time together to even begin to relate with the Mexican youth.  I am sure none of them had encountered blind people in any positive situations.  It didn’t help that one of the American girls played the role of the Alpha Female and decided I would not be one of the passengers who would travel with her in her car when we went on different day trips.  

 

During the second week, we spent a lot of time together.  We did a lot of hiking through rough terrain.  I was determined that I would not stay behind because it was hard walking.  Once the guys saw that I was going to climb rocks or go down steep hills, they came and supported me as I climbed some of these difficult trails.

 

In Mexico, women are supposed to be more demure and not do things men would do.  Leave it to me to break stereotypes.  One time, all the guys went swimming.  I wanted to go so badly, but none of the women was willing to get wet.  I decided to go for it, in spite of the fact that I was wearing jeans and it would take all afternoon for them to dry.  After I got in, a few of the rest decided it must be OK.

 

Another time, we went to a place where there was a lookout tower.  Again, only the guys climbed the rickety metal ladder up the 30 feet to the top.  After I reached at the top, a couple of the other girls decided it must be safe and followed me up.

 

During the entire time in Mexico, I never saw a single person with any disability. Through an interpreter, I asked the director of the orphanage if she had any children with any disability in her orphanage.  She seemed reluctant to look at me as she told me that these children go to “special” schools that treat them well.  I asked her if she knew of any blind children integrated into the regular Sunday school classes.  This line of questioning made her very uncomfortable and she was very happy to be interrupted by her daughter’s request for help.

 

One day we had a meeting where the directors of the orphanage told their stories.  After they finished, the director went around thanking each of the Americans for supporting the work and saying something about each of us.  When she came to me she started crying.  As was to be expected, she was amazed at my bravery to come to such a place while not being able to see well.  Of course, I should have expected to hear such a statement.  I guess I was glad she had anything nice to say at all.  I did my part in helping with the children and with the cooking, but she could only be amazed that I managed at all.

 

The beginning of a journey is taking the first step, and that is so with blind people in Mexico.  Everyday life for most Mexicans is very difficult.  In a society like this, it is truly the survival of the fittest.  People with disabilities are the least fit.  There is little or no training for people with disabilities so they are relegated to “special” places where they are out of the way.  Unless Mexico has a grass roots organization like the National Federation of the Blind advocating on behalf of the blind there, freedom for the blind will never come.  I am glad that I was there to show the Mexicans that with proper adjustment to blindness, both in attitude and skills, blind people could do the same things they do.

 

To anyone who wishes to travel to do short term mission trips, I would say, be prepared to feel a little left out.  I suppose I could have put up a fuss about the way I was being treated, but it was not my intention to be the center of attention.  I wanted to blend in and do my part, which I think I did.  Had the trip been a little longer than just two weeks, I think relationships would have developed better.  During the last couple of days, the Mexican girls began to feel more comfortable with me.  Knowing the potential was there, I felt much better about my effect on them.

 

Even though I wouldn’t say the trip was a smashing success personally, it still was worth it just for a blind person to leave a positive impression on the Mexican people.

 

Looking Ahead With 20/20 Hindsight

By Patrick A. Barrett

 

(Editor’s Note:  Pat is a board member of the NFB of Minnesota, and a past president of our Metro Chapter in which he is very active.)

 

Twenty-seven years ago, I lost a dear friend and mentor.  Frank Smith was blind, and taught me to learn from my past mistakes, not to beat myself up, and look forward to the future.

 

Frank was born in 1935.  He wanted to be a firefighter, but became blind at 21 due to diabetes.  He became a teacher.  He was also a husband and proud father of six children.  One of those, Rixon, was adopted and blind as well.

 

I first met Frank when attending the Orientation and Adjustment to Blindness training program at the Idaho Commission for the Blind in June of 1975.  I had just graduated from high school, and was going to college in the fall on the scholarship I had won as a newspaper carrier.  I did not have any plans for the summer, and thought I could learn some things to help me be more independent as a blind person.

 

Frank always told the funniest, clean jokes.  For example:

 

Patient to doctor: “Doctor, I am feeling like an apple!”

Doctor to patient: “Vell, ve must get to zeh core of zeh matter.”

 

Or:

 

Why is it that your nose runs and your feet smell?

 

In later years when I got to know Dick Davis here in Minnesota, I looked forward to sparring pun-on-pun with Dick.  I draw the line on blonde jokes, though.

 

In our philosophy class, Frank posed more serious questions like:

 

“Can a blind person light a gas stove safely?”

 

“Do you believe blind parents can be successful?”

 

We would discuss our orientation training experiences.  Frank helped us talk through and feel better about the terrible travel route, and bolstered our small triumphs cooking delicious meals on the gas stove.

 

Frank tried to persuade me lovingly but firmly to continue my training into the fall.  My folks wanted me to start school.  In September, I started my degree at Boise State University.  Though I returned the following summer for more training, there is no substitute for several consecutive months of comprehensive skills of blindness training.  Idaho’s program at that time was patterned after Dr. Kenneth Jernigan’s great Iowa training center.  In 1993, with the good Lord’s blessings and Joyce Scanlan’s help, I got a second chance.  I graduated from Blindness:  Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. in August of 1994.  The comprehensive training has helped me be a better husband, father, employee, church Toastmaster, and community volunteer.

 

Going back to June of 1976, I met my friend Paul Empey.  Like Frank, Paul had become blind from diabetes.  He was also a blind father of several children, and wanted to become a teacher.  Frank challenged Paul to put aside learned misconceptions about blindness.  He urged Paul to not dwell on what he had learned about what the blind could not do, and apply the ideas and training toward a successful teaching career.  That Paul could do.

 

Despite Frank’s best caring efforts of encouragement, Paul had trouble making the journey to realize his great worth as a person who happened to be blind.  Despair smothered his self-esteem.  Two months before Paul was to attend Trudy’s and my wedding, we learned that Paul had committed suicide.

 

Flash forward to March 2010.  At the 75th anniversary convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, we met with Paul’s daughter, Susan Bradley, and granddaughter, Angela.  They enjoyed hearing Trudy’s and my stories, funny and sad, about Paul.  I felt I was paying it forward from Frank’s positive teachings to me.  Through their activity in the National Federation of the Blind, their outlooks on their futures were hopeful and vibrant.

 

Back in 1985, at Frank’s memorial service, I was broken up at his loss to me, yet treasured then and do so now what he taught me about being Pat, who happens to be blind.  One of the speakers recalled when Frank would hold his white cane behind him and ask, “What is that?”

 

“I don’t know, Frank.”

 

“It’s 20/20 hindsight.”

 

Later that day, Frank’s blind son, Rixon, was honored in a special ceremony of scouting.  Blind father and son had camped, fished, hiked, built racecars out of pinewood, and performed community service projects together.  This earned Rixon his Eagle badge, the highest award from the Boy Scout organization.

 

If we as blind and sighted people learn from our mistakes, don’t beat up on ourselves, and find time to laugh each day, we will go far in our own personal journeys.  Memories of mentors, those who died and those still living, will serve as comforting compasses. 

 

We must also mentor others through our positive examples and actions.  Working alongside one another shoulder-to-shoulder and heart-to-heart in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota will make, as Dr. Jernigan often said, our dreams come true!

 

Semiannual Convention Report

By Judy Sanders, Secretary

 

Many people began their preparation for the 2012 semiannual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota by preregistering and purchasing their academic lunch provided by the Minnesota Association of Blind Students.  This meant a shorter line for everyone.

 

Even before registration opened on Saturday, May 19, people had the chance to shop at the Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated's rummage sale.

 

Coffee and doughnuts were available in the morning.

 

In addition, NFB literature was available for the taking and sharing.  Jernigan Fund raffle tickets were offered for purchase.  We could also buy cell-phone carriers to benefit our senior division, Whozit pins from our Rochester chapter, 50-50 raffle tickets from the Metro Chapter, and the ever-popular Louis Braille Commemorative coins.

 

President Jennifer Dunnam called the convention to order at 9:30 a.m.  After reviewing logistics for the day, President Dunnam began her report to us by reminding people to preregister for the national convention to take advantage of discounts on registration and the banquet.  She acknowledged the many Minnesotans that take an active part in national activities.

 

In Congress, Senator Patty Murray of Washington spearheaded a "Dear Colleague" letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking that his Department strengthen the rule in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act pertaining to the teaching of braille to our nation's blind children.  Due to the advocacy of Minnesota Federationists, we were pleased to have Senator Al Franken sign on to the letter.  Twenty-five other senators joined Mr. Franken with their signatures.  We were also successful in helping to defeat a proposed amendment to the transportation bill that would have eliminated rest-stop vending facilities of the Business Enterprise program.  Three Minnesotans representatives, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Colin Peterson, are cosponsors of H.R.3086, the bill to eliminate subminimum wages for people with disabilities.

 

We heard a promotion from Carl Jacobsen, the chair of our Imagination Fund committee who said that at this year's convention there would be a "Green, Dream Machine" where we can express our ideas for what we dream for the future of blind people.  To fulfill these dreams, we must also find a way to fund this movement.

 

Our Minnesota headquarters building is 100 years old this year.  We are proud to share ownership with BLIND, Incorporated and have updated a memo of understanding between us further clarifying how expenses will be handled to take care of this facility.  A steering committee will work on building matters.

 

Jennifer reported that Representative Tom Rukavina, a longtime friend to blind people in this state, announced his retirement from the legislature after serving 25 years.  We want to thank him for his long service and leadership on our issues.

 

Our annual convention will take place on October 26-28 in Duluth.  We are inaugurating a new Counselor of the Year award given occasionally when warranted to a rehabilitation counselor working with the blind.  When a worthy recipient is nominated, the award will be given at our annual convention.

 

We next heard from two Federationists who recently found employment.  Bryce Samuelson from Rochester is working at a company that helps other businesses make their website nonvisually accessible.  Randi Strunk from Minneapolis is working for the Target Corporation as an operations analyst to do the same with their website.

 

Shawn Mayo, executive director of BLIND, Incorporated, gave her usual upbeat report and introduced some of her students to share their thoughts about their training.  First, we heard from Quinn Haberl who focused on the opportunity to attend a national student meeting in Washington and visit our National Center.  He commented how complicated it is to get around our Center but that with the proper training it can be done.  Quinn talked about his reluctance to be a part of the NFB because he thought he could not meet the high expectations that the NFB has for blind people.  But through his time at BLIND, he learned that we are a family and we respect people for their effort and for their willingness to give back.

 

Reggie Duke was a basketball player for Tulane University, and, in the middle of a game, he realized he did not see a player (from the other team) come for the ball.  Reggie has glaucoma and spent a long time convincing himself that he would always have usable vision.  Eventually, he was referred to State Services for the Blind where his counselor urged him to tour Vision Loss Resources and BLIND.  He appreciated the warmth and friendliness at BLIND and now is gaining an understanding of what life can hold.

 

Emily Gossiaux gave a speech to us that she delivered to students at her former high school.  Emily’s moving remarks will be printed in the next issue of the Bulletin.

 

Richard Strong, director of State Services for the Blind (SSB), made it clear in his introductory remarks that he welcomed constructive criticism to make the agency better and he acknowledged those Federationists who serve on Rehabilitation Council committees.  He reported that after a meeting between Commissioner Mark Phillips of the Department of Employment and Economic Development and the NFB, the status of SSB in the hierarchy of the department was elevated so that the SSB director reports directly to the Commissioner.

 

SSB is seeking people to serve as role models for SSB staff needing to job shadow an employed blind person.  He recognized Emily Zitek, who is already volunteering in that capacity.

 

Mr. Strong reported on the goals and priorities of the agency.  The first priority was regarding employment outcomes.  Because of services provided by SSB, people should be finding good jobs.  The agency wants to increase opportunities for minority, deafblind and transition age customers.  The Workforce Development Unit is working on all of these goals and priorities.  Successful employment figures are ahead of last year's rate.

 

We know that the fastest growing part of the blind population is seniors.  Mr. Strong says that by 2015 SSB will double the number of blind seniors that it currently serves.

 

At the time of this speech, new radio receivers for the Radio Talking Book were a thing of the future.  (They have now been distributed throughout the state.)  SSB, through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education, will continue to provide braille textbooks to Minnesota's blind youth.  They are also working with the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library to refine the process for applying for equipment for audio books.

 

They continue to seek improvement in other areas including ensuring staff receives a thorough background in adjustment to blindness.

 

Shawn Mayo asked how many people have open cases in the Workforce Development Unit and what SSB is doing to increase the number of tours for adjustment to blindness training.  Mr. Strong said that there are somewhere around 700 cases open and they recently updated the policy manual to reflect the importance of this service and they will discuss it at future meetings with staff.  He knows they need to do better.

 

Our last year's treasurer's report and our 2012-2013 budget were presented to us by Tom Scanlan.  With the understanding that our expenses are increasing and our income is not guaranteed, a motion was passed to allow the state board to examine in minute detail the budget with the idea of coming up with a balanced budget.

 

It was announced that our Walk for Opportunity would take place on September 8 in Rochester around Silver Lake.  Wanda Samuelson introduced us to the route.  Curt Johnson said there should be no reason why we should not raise $5,000.

 

The convention elected Jennifer Dunnam as our delegate to the national convention and Steve Jacobson as our alternate delegate.

 

Charlene Guggisberg, coordinator of youth activities for the NFB of Minnesota, shared with us the exciting experience that our teenagers had in participating in snow tubing and rock climbing.  While the kids had fun, their parents stayed behind to discuss with blind adults questions that they have in raising their children to be normal individuals who can and will contribute to society.

 

Rob Hobson chairs the Pedestrian Safety Group.  Its members are Beth Moline, Pat Barrett, Jan Bailey, Deanna Langton and Jennifer Dunnam.  They are arranging to speak to driver's education classes about the white cane law and blind pedestrians.

 

Sheila Koenig, chair of our scholarship committee, introduced us to our two scholarship winners for 2012.  The first was Josh Klander who will be a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth and will receive $1,000.  Martha Mellgren, the winner of our $1,500 scholarship and a trip to our national convention in Dallas, spoke to us briefly.  Martha is from Ethiopia and is proud to be in the United States.

 

Pledges were taken for the tenBroek Fund that supports and maintains our National Center.  A motion was passed to authorize the affiliate to match all pledges fulfilled by December 1.  The amount pledged was $1,455.

 

The morning session ended with door prizes and announcements.

 

We had opportunities to continue with the activities that had preceded the convention while we ate our "academic lunches.”  In addition, Michelle Corso-Jackson, a Federationist who is a massage therapist, offered arm and hand massages for $10.  Each massage would last 10 minutes, and she donated the proceeds to the NFB of Minnesota.

 

Our afternoon offered a variety of small group sessions as follows:

 

The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota Seniors Division met under the leadership of President Joyce Scanlan.  They held an in-depth discussion about services that are available for seniors through State Services for the Blind.  An examination of how to improve services elicited the discovery that services are different in various parts of the state.

 

After this serious discussion, they had fun playing bingo with braille and large print cards.  Seniors need not give up their social lives because of blindness.

 

Federationists not participating in the senior meeting divided into two groups.  Each group attended two focus sessions.

 

Focus Session 1: Legislation.  Judy Sanders and Steve Jacobson conducted an historical look at legislation affecting blind people in Minnesota and the instrumental role played in that legislation by our state affiliate and national organization.  Some of the bills covered included:

 

·        White Cane legislation,

·        inclusion of disabled persons in Minnesota's human rights laws,

·        Social Security regulations that help blind persons,

·        requiring that braille be considered the default reading mode for blind students unless it can be demonstrated that another mode will work better,

·        requirements that counselors employed by State Services for the Blind have training specific to blindness, and

·        we never forget about trying to create a separate agency for the blind in this state.

 

We covered a number of other issues related to legislation through lively discussions.  It was evident the immense impact that the NFB has had in blind people's lives.

 

Focus Session 2: Workings of Our Organization.  Facilitated by Jennifer Dunnam, this session dealt with how the NFB of Minnesota works, what it does, and ideas for the future.  For each of the one-hour sessions on this topic, members brought good questions and were ready to help answer the questions of others.  Each of the group discussions had its own focus, driven by those participating.  The first session became primarily a discussion about fund-raising for the NFB of Minnesota.  Members learned about the various sources of funding for our organization and the need for the help of each member.  They shared various new ideas for fund-raisers on the local, state, and national level, as well as specific ideas for leveraging interest in our beautiful historic headquarters building.  Some of these ideas are in the works, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of this discussion.

 

The second session dealt with a variety of topics about the philosophy of NFB, our resources, and how we get things done.  We emphasized the importance of our collective experience—how we can inform one another so that our positions and decisions are well considered pertinent to many, not just one individual.  We affirmed that we are the ones to do the type of work we do, and no other agency or blindness-related group can fill quite the same role—it is our responsibility.  We talked about the ways that each and every member can be a part of the work we do to change attitudes and spread our positive message about blindness—reading our publications to be informed, telling others about the movement, helping to raise funds, making phone calls or sending e-mails to elected officials, teaching one another how to do things, participating in our various events, being active in our larger communities, and so on.

 

After these sessions and senior meeting, there was a meeting of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille in Minnesota.  President Melody Wartenbee reports that they played games utilizing their braille skills and Melody answered technical questions about proper braille rules.

 

"Have Cane Will Travel" was offered by Rob Hobson, a cane travel instructor from BLIND, Incorporated.  People had the chance to brush up on their cane skills.  They were able to ask questions about how to get out of difficult situations and get where they wanted to be independently and safely.

 

The day ended with everyone cleaning up the building and making plans for the next convention.

 

Convention Alert!

 

Exciting times are coming in NFB conventions.  Keep these in mind as you plan your activities throughout the coming year.

 

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be October 26-28, 2012 in Duluth at the Radisson Hotel, 505 West Superior Street, Duluth, Minnesota 55802.  Members received a letter with details about a month before the convention, and the letter is on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in May 2013 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis.  Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter is on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The National NFB Convention will be the first week of July 2013 in Orlando, Florida.  This is nearly a week of friends, fun, and serious business.  It is a chance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world.  The full convention bulletin will be in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.

 

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember

 

Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 10:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis

 

Riverbend Chapter — New Ulm area; meets at 9:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month in New Ulm; contact Monica Buboltz at 507-354-5680 for meeting location

 

Rochester Chapter — Rochester area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester 

 

Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at the American Legion in Waite Park

 

Runestone Chapter — Alexandria area; meets at 1:30 on the third Saturday of every month at First Congregational Church in Alexandria

 

Braille Club — Any National Federation of the Blind member who uses braille is invited to attend.  This group meets at the NFB of Minnesota headquarters at 100 E. 22nd Street in Minneapolis on the first, second, and third non-holiday Monday of the month from 4:30-6:30.  Its purpose is to improve braille skills and get better acquainted with other NFB braille users.  Attendees bring their own book or magazine or borrow one.  Contact Melody Wartenbee at 612-870-9484 or e-mail mlwartenbee@gamil.com.

 

Activities for youth — Several times a year, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota holds educational/recreational activities for blind youth.  These activities provide opportunities for the youth to learn new skills, to connect with one another and with confident, well-adjusted adult blind role models, and to have fun while doing so.  Meetings and other activities for parents
also take place in conjunction with these events.  For more information, contact Charlene Guggisberg at 507-351-5413 or e-mail cguggisberg@blindinc.org

 

Background and Purpose

 

The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is two-fold — to help blind persons achieve self-confidence and self-respect and to act as a vehicle for collective self-expression by the blind.  By providing public education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, literature and publications about blindness, aids and appliances and other adaptive equipment for the blind, advocacy services and protection of civil rights, development and evaluation of technology, and support for blind persons and their families, members of the NFB strive to educate the public that the blind are normal individuals who can compete on terms of equality.

 

No one understands blindness as well as those who live with it daily.  To apply this know­ledge to solving the problems of blind­ness, blind people formed the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM).  NFBM is the state's largest and oldest or­ganization of the blind.  It provides self-help programs for blind people of all ages and activities.

 

As blind people, we know the loss of eyesight is not the major problem of blindness. The real problem is the misun­derstandings that surround blind­ness.  The NFBM overcomes this problem through education of the sighted to the reality of blindness and through mutual help among blind people.  Such activities make blind people fully‑partici­pat­ing members of society.  They earn their living, raise famil­ies, and take full responsibility for their own lives.

 

The NFBM began in 1920 as the Minnesota State Organization of the Blind.  It is a member­ship organiza­tion open to everyone who believes in the capability of blind people to help himself or herself become full participants in the community.

 

In 1940, Minnesota and six other states founded the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).  Today, the NFB numbers over 50,000 blind people.  It has organizations in every state, and local chapters in almost every sizable commun­ity. 

 

During these many years, we have made strong progress toward equal­ity.  We have improved employment opportunities and educa­tion for blind persons in the state of Minnesota and in the nation.

 

Most of our members are blind, and their knowledge of blindness comes from their personal lives.  Other organi­zations get their informa­tion on blind­ness through the reading of textbooks or other secondhand techniques.

 

For a complete listing of the NFB of Minnesota board of directors, visit www.nfbmn.org/board.html.

 

There are several ways to keep up with, as well as interact with, the most active group of blind people in Minnesota

 

·        Join the discussion list for Minnesota on NFBNET at www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/minnesota-talk_NFBNET.ORG

·        Follow @nfbmn on Twitter at twitter.com/nfbmn

·        Like us on Facebook by searching for National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota at www.facebook.com/

 

Acknowledgements

 

Many people are involved in getting this issue to you.  The writers can write and the editor can edit, but until the material is printed, brailled, recorded, and distributed, it is just a computer file.  Therefore, we owe great thanks to the following people for the work they do in producing this publication.

 

·        Dave Andrews marks up and posts the NFB-NEWSLINE® edition.

·        Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the Compact Disc edition.

·        Sharon Monthei transcribes the braille edition.

·        Art Hadley reads the audio edition for cassette tape and Compact Disc.

·        Judy Sanders proofreads and provides corrections for both the print and braille editions.
Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.

·        Sid Starnes deals with the printer for the print edition and other tasks as needed.

·        Emily Zitek embosses and collates the copies for the braille edition and mails all editions.