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 76, Number 2, Spring 2010

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

Table of Contents

 

President's Column. 1

When Robber Struck, She Got Help.  Now, It's Her Turn. 8

An Open Letter to General Public. 10

Thank You for Asking. 12

The Courtesy Rules of Blindness. 14

Truncated Domes: A Modest Proposal 15

Report of the Annual Convention. 17

Resolution A09-01. 28

Resolution A09-02. 29

Convention Alert! 30

Chapter Meeting Dates to Remember 31

Acknowledgements. 31

 

 

 

 



President's Column

ByJennifer Dunnam

President, National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota

 

During the annual convention of the NFB of Minnesota last fall, a parents seminar was held, during which one of the topics of discussion was the difficulty the teenagers were having with isolation and being ignored by their peers.  I was committed to be at another meeting and was not present for the discussion, but I am told that other blind adults shared their own stories of difficulties during the teenage years and were able to provide a measure of support for those parents, showing that the difficulties do not usually last forever and the person gets through it.  Still, the blind adults really felt for those lonely teens and wished there were better answers.  Hearing of that discussion caused me to reflect upon my own difficult teen years, which I had rarely talked about and had tried hard not to think about for 20 years after they were over—and to reflect upon what is different today and what is the same.

 

I was born totally blind, and I grew up a relatively normal kid during the 1970's.  I attended public schools throughout my education, although the first three years were in a "self-contained" classroom with other blind/visually-impaired students.  In that setting, I received a good foundation in braille and in the other necessary subjects, and by the third grade I was mainstreamed in all classes at a public school nearer to where my family lived.  Things were not always easy by any means, but my elementary and junior high school years were generally successful because of the strong braille skills acquired early on and because I was fortunate enough to have all of my educational materials provided in braille during that time.  It also helped that I got to know my classmates from an early age, making some very good friends.  My parents were very supportive and worked to make sure I was "age appropriate" in most skills and behavior.  However, there was one major lack: I never saw a white cane until I was twelve years old, and never knew of any blind people who got around without being led by a sighted person until much, much later.  Neither I, nor my parents, nor anyone else around me knew any differently.  I can remember as a young child hoping that when I grew up, maybe I would find an invisible person who could guide me so that people would not always have to see someone with me everywhere I went.

 

The challenges for me in junior high school were some greater, but I did manage to be involved in activities that other junior high schoolers get involved in and to have some of the normal friendships and attachments that one goes through at that age.  Although I could climb trees, ride bikes, and get into my share of trouble right along with my sisters, still, when not at home, I could not walk around independently except within the confines of a classroom, or on routes within the school that I had practiced beforehand.  I spent a lot of time wondering and worrying about how I would get from place to place.

 

Even though some of my good friends would be going to different schools from mine, I looked forward eagerly to the start of high school.  Several days before school began, I went to the building with a cane travel instructor and practiced walking the routes I would need to get to my classes.  Things started out well.  The teachers were interesting and knowledgeable, and I got to be exposed to more older students.  That first day, however, when lunchtime came, I had no plan.  I'd brought my lunch from home as many others did, but with whom would I eat lunch?  Where would I go?  The cane travel teacher had talked with me about this eventuality, and what I might do about it, but I had tried not to think about it, hoping I would work it out before it became an issue.  Clearly there was nothing to do but to follow the teacher's suggestion to walk up and down the courtyard where people were chatting and having lunch, until I heard someone I knew or until someone saw me and asked me to join them.  Nowadays I would think nothing of doing such a thing; but at that time, it was very traumatic and frightening to me.  I worked up my nerve and did it successfully, but I had to do the same thing every day for the first week or so, and it never got any easier.

 

Then, about a week into the first year, I discovered that some people I knew and liked ate their lunch in the chorus classroom on a regular basis.  I started going there and fit in well, getting to know some very interesting people.  What a relief—things were looking up.

 

Then, everything changed.  About three weeks after the start of school, my father announced that we would be moving to a new town because of his job.  Suddenly it was off to a new school where I knew no one and where no one had any experience dealing with a blind person.  Academically, again, I was successful there, because my materials were available in braille, but socially, it was a different story entirely.  It seemed to me that every day and every hour was just as traumatic as that first week of lunchtime had been at the other school.  I never realized how much the people I had grown up with had learned to anticipate what I would need, and I did not know how to cope with such an entirely new situation. 

 

A couple of weeks after settling in to the new house and the new school, a classmate invited me to a Halloween party, but my parents would not permit me to go.  Unfortunately, I do not think that I was able to explain very well to them that the people who would be at this party were the ones who seemed to have common interests with me, and whom I wanted to get to know better.  All my parents knew was that they had never met these kids or their parents, so I stayed home.  That group never again invited me to an activity, nor did I ever become close with them, although they were in many of my classes.  For quite some time, when I needed a place to focus my anger and hurt over the isolation I experienced for the next four years, the Halloween party incident was what I blamed.  Of course, it's now clear that one declined invitation was not the cause of all my troubles.

 

The details of my lonely high school experience are largely hazy in my memory.  I do know that my head was often filled with terrible thoughts, and in some ways it is a miracle I am still here to tell about it.  Being a private person, I mostly did not reveal what a terrible time I was having.  My interests, hopes and dreams were not unlike those of others, but few seemed to be able to see that, and mostly I felt treated as if I were from another planet.  In my mind, my troubles came down to the fact that I was blind and that mostly my fellow high school students did not accept me. 

 

Only much later did I come to understand that there were many other factors in play to create the difficult situation of my teenage years.  First, being painfully shy and naturally a loner as I was necessarily brings challenges for anyone trying to deal with high school.  Add my lack of independence into the mix, and it's not hard to see why some high schoolers might have found it easier just to go about the business of being teenagers than to do the work it would have taken to include me in their activities.  I had to be led from place to place (or so we all thought), could not drive, could not participate in things that were visual in nature, and was quiet and sad a lot of the time, except in class where I could excel. 

 

A few people did make the effort to be friends and include me.  They did not do it out of pity, but out of genuine friendship, and even then, I could tell the difference.  They were not generally people that I had much in common with, however, but they were good people.  Because of them, the four years were not entirely without adventure, but those fun times were few and far between.

 

Once, I heard of a conversation about me, in which someone commented that I was very smart, and someone else said, "Well, if I stayed in my house and studied all the time, I'd be smart too."  The friend who heard this conversation tried to explain that it wasn't quite like that, but the others didn't listen.  How could they understand that I stayed home not because I wanted to but because I didn't know how to make something different happen?

For some, high school graduation was a sad farewell; for me, it was just a great relief and a chance to move on.

 

One of the most important things that helped me survive was that some members of the National Federation of the Blind started to invite me to seminars and conventions during that time.  Those experiences slowly started to help me see what might be done differently, but it took a very long time, because conventions and student seminars didn't happen all that often, and I couldn't always attend.  It was not until after high school, though, that I began to get very involved.  The NFB philosophy was what I had always believed, but I didn't have enough knowledge really to live it to its potential.  Slowly, after some thorough "structured discovery method" cane travel training and a lot of interaction with blind people I admired and who pushed me and supported me, I began to gain a confidence I had never before known.  I started doing things I never thought possible before, and I learned to cope with public attitudes, working at the balance between not making people feel bad and not feeling obliged to accept every bit of help that was offered.

 

A quick tour of the next 20 years goes like this.  My parents did not stop me when I decided to attend college far away from home, and they rejoiced with me when the college environment turned out to be one in which I could thrive.  They did not object when I spent summers abroad studying French, German and Russian.  They only mildly expressed their concerns when, after graduating from college, I bought a pass good to ride the Greyhound for a month and began visiting friends around the country—even taking a three-day trip to Arizona with no clear plan of what I would do when I got there.  Incidentally, I did not practice any routes ahead of time.  By the time I moved thousands of miles away to take a job in Minnesota, it just seemed like par for the course to them.  I have been able to lead a normal, happy life, holding a sequence of very good jobs, making many good friends, being involved and holding leadership positions in community activities, and the like.  The support of my family, who instilled in me a basic belief that I would someday be able to do whatever I wanted with my life--and the support of the family that is the National Federation of the Blind, from which I learned the tools I needed to make the belief a reality, and met the role models who helped to show me the path—these things made all the difference.  There are always challenges—some of them blindness-related, some of them not—but that is life's way.

 

During the 20 years we have just flown through, I cannot exactly say that I came to peace with my high school experience; mostly I just blotted it from my memory as an awful time period that I hoped to help other kids avoid going through if I could.  After graduating from high school, I did not remain in contact with any of my classmates at all.  The twenty-year anniversary of the graduation came and went with hardly a thought from me—it was a chapter from the distant past—utterly and thankfully gone and buried.

 

Life, however, is full of twists, turns, and unimaginable surprises.  A few months after the 20 years out of high school mark however, a family member convinced me to sign up for the social networking site known as Facebook.  I had resisted doing so for a long time until being persuaded that it might be a good way to keep up better with family who live so far away.  Soon, in addition to many other people who are part of my life currently, I began to find people from my past with whom I had completely lost touch—some friends from pre-high school, and, eventually, even some people who attended high school with me.  It has been absolutely fascinating to see how their lives have developed--some in predictable ways, some not predictable at all.  It has been a good thing to have contact with these people all these years later, now that we've grown up a bit, and with my clearer understanding about blindness and the role it plays and does not play.  It is also pleasant to find that my memory of some people being truly accepting of me as a person was not wrong—that acceptance continues.  Of course, some remember things I wish they did not or talk about what an inspiration I was, but mostly we're all just people living our lives.

 

Following is one example of some of the kinds of conversations that have happened as part of reconnecting with the people from my past.  In this case, the person, whom I’ll call Lisa, found me but was not sure if I would remember her.  Indeed I did, and we had gotten along well.  After establishing that we remembered one another, the correspondence went like this:

 

***

Jennifer,

 

I am surprised you do remember me!  We were in Ms. ____' math class together during junior high!  I was such a stupid kid then.  I did and said so many dumb things back then.  You know how, as we get older, we always have a tendency to look back on things and remember all the idiotic things we've done?  Well, I have been doing so and I feel that I owe you an enormous apology (again).

 

During that year, you were kind enough to invite me to your birthday party.  I was having such a great time.  You had a real good friend there.  I can't remember her name but she was always there for you and was even learning your braille machine.  She was with me and a couple other friends you had invited, telling us about how you had become blind, and that you could see only blurred shadows.  For whatever reason, and to this very day I still think about it and STILL don't know why, I went up to you and asked how many fingers I was holding up.  Your mom grabbed my hand and told me that it was not funny.  I felt like crawling under a rock and probably should have.

 

That following week, your mom was bringing you to class, I caught up with you and apologized then, and you were wonderful enough to forgive me.  But it has still been bothering me all these years that I had the mental capacity to have been so cruel. Jennifer, I am so terribly sorry for having done that.  I cannot believe I ever did such an insensitive thing.

 

That is why I thought you wouldn't remember me or would even want to remember me.  I hope that you will forgive me (again) and that we can continue to be friends and catch up on the GOOD times!

***

Hi again, Lisa,

 

Goodness!  Please spend not one more second worrying about such a thing!  First, your mentioning Ms. ____'s math class brings back more of the fun memories, but I have zero memory of the incident you described.  Second, what you describe sounds a whole lot more to me like a kid simply being curious than a kid being cruel.

 

I have always viewed my blindness in a very matter-of-fact way, and not as something to be uncomfortable about.  One of the very biggest challenges I faced while growing up (and even now, truth be told), is to help others not feel they must tiptoe around blindness or view it as some great tragedy that makes me vastly different from them.  Your being at my birthday party indicates to me that you were clearly someone who had enough comfort with blindness that you and I were able to have a normal friendship based on other things.  That's pretty special, and was not easy to come by for me, especially in those days.

You weren't feeling sorry for me or thinking of blindness as some big deal.  It is also likely that, even if I was a bit taken aback at first by the fingers question, I was probably a lot more upset with my mother for making a big deal about it than I was with you.  Anyway, I hope this makes sense to you, and please don't be concerned any longer about it.  I'm absolutely delighted to have reconnected with you, and I look forward to staying in touch.

***

Thank you, Jennifer!  I will think of it no longer!!!!  I have been thinking of you a lot over the years and I am also very happy we are able to reconnect!  I am very happy you allowed me to be one of your friends and still are allowing me.  What a blessing!  My parents have always taught me to look past the things that make others different from me and to look for what lies inside; not to dwell on the color of their skin, the God they worship or the wheelchair they sit in.  It is the heart that makes the person. …

***

 

While I certainly was not happy to hear that Lisa had worried about this all these years, it was encouraging to know that people could be so thoughtful.  This was one of many exchanges with different people in which there was the opportunity to articulate things more clearly than I might have as a young person.

 

It is by no means my intent to give the platitude here that "everyone has a tough time as a teenager, so don't worry,  it will all work out eventually."  I was fortunate in many ways to be at the right place at the right time for several elements to become available that helped me immensely.  Such is not the case for everyone, and so we must do all we can to help blind teenagers through what can be a very tough time.  While now having come to a better understanding of the difficulties of my teenage years, I believe I could have avoided some of the problems with better information and support at the time.  We in the Federation have been working hard to improve opportunities for blind youth today, and there is much to do yet.  Some of the challenges in today's world are quite different from those of 20 or more years ago, but some are the very same.  

 

Recently an article appeared in the journal of AER, about the benefits of giving children early education in independent cane travel.  Of course, we in the NFB have long known and advocated for this, and have helped many little children get independence early.  Still, I was delighted to see that perhaps now, even more kids will avoid some of the kinds of difficulties I had because of travel skills.

 

Technology exists today that provides blind people better access to information than ever before, and also more options for making connections with people than we have ever known.   Because of computers, blind youth today have means of communicating in writing with their sighted classmates that were not available to those my age and older.

 

Indeed, there are no magic formulas, but all these excellent developments do little good if blind youth do not have the basic skills to move about independently and to function appropriately in social settings, and if they do not have access to blind role models to show what is possible.  This is the importance of our programs like Saturday School and Teen Night, and why we must do all we can to find ways of connecting with those who cannot attend these programs on a regular basis.

 

When Robber Struck, She Got Help.  Now, It's Her Turn.

Blind crime victim whose laptop was replaced aids student in similar straits

By Mara H. Gottfried


(Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 23, 2010.  Emily and John Zitek are members of the NFB of Minnesota Metro Chapter.  It is always great to see such an article that shows blind people very capable and willing to do our part to help.)


When Emily Zitek's braille laptop was stolen as she rode a Metro Transit bus a couple of years ago and a former U.S. senator bought her a new one, she wanted to find a way to pay the kindness forward.


Zitek and her husband said Tuesday they found a way.  They offered to buy a laptop for a visually impaired college student who was robbed of his computer Sunday as he waited for a bus in downtown St. Paul.

 

"When you're violated like this, your first thoughts for the first few days is, 'Gosh, it's a bad world out there and who in the world would ever help me?’" said Zitek, 32.  "When they came forward for me, it reminded me that there are good people, also. We just want to pass it on.  We just want to help out."


Phil Sporer, the 20-year-old whose laptop was stolen Sunday, said the Ziteks' offer "brightened my spirits."

 

"I'm speechless," he said. "I'm just extremely happy."

 

The Dell laptop, issued by Minnesota State Services for the Blind, had special software that allowed Sporer to enlarge text so he could read it.  The computer also could read text to him.  Sporer can't see objects that are far away or very small, and he is legally blind without his glasses, his mother said.  Sporer said he also has Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.


Minnesota State Services for the Blind director Richard Strong said Tuesday that it's rare for the agency to hear that its property has been stolen.  He said replacement decisions would be handled on a case-by-case basis.  He said he couldn't discuss specific cases, including Sporer's.

 

Sporer, of St. Paul, said he called his Minnesota State Services for the Blind caseworker Monday and heard back from him Tuesday.  The worker told him "there's no insurance (on the computer) and they can't get me a new one," according to Sporer.

 

Meanwhile, Emily Zitek's husband, John Zitek, read a Pioneer Press article Tuesday about Sporer and the robbery and called the newspaper, saying he and his wife wanted to buy a new laptop for Sporer.  John Zitek said he plans to get the computer to Sporer soon.

 

When Zitek's BrailleNote computer was stolen as she rode a bus from downtown St. Paul to her Minneapolis home in November 2008, she was starting a new business and said she couldn't afford the $6,500 to replace it.

 

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton offered to buy Zitek a new computer, and she reluctantly accepted.  The owners of Simek's meats and frozen foods bought her new computer software.

 

"It felt like my troubles had come to an end," she said.  "Getting the computer, I felt like I had my business partner back.  I didn't know how to thank them at the time."

The only thing that Dayton and the Simek's owners would accept was Zitek's offer to have them to her home for dinner.  She said she cooked them "food from the place I'm from, Louisiana."

 

In January 2009, police arrested a suspect in the theft of Zitek's computer, and he was convicted of felony theft.  John Harold Richardson, now 41, told police he threw the computer away.  He was sentenced to the county workhouse and put on probation for three years, according to court records.

 

Today, Zitek said her work is going well.  She and her husband, who is legally blind, own convenience stores and vending machines in state office buildings.

 

"When this happened to me, I had received comments from other blind people who said that the people who helped me did so because they felt sorry for me because I'm blind," she said.  "We're blind and we're successful individuals who have our own businesses.  We're as capable of helping people as anybody else."

 

Police said Tuesday they had no new leads in Sporer's case. The Inver Hills Community College student was sitting at a bus stop on Fifth Street, between Cedar and Wabasha streets, about 4:50 p.m. Sunday when a man ran up, grabbed the laptop out of Sporer's hands and fled.

 

Sporer began to chase him, but he said another man - who police believe was working with the first man - "whacked me in the side of the head.”  Sporer fell to the ground, but he said he got up and tried to give chase again.  The two men got away.

 

Witnesses told police the robbers were males, 16 to 18 years old, with thin builds.  Sporer said he thought both were about 5 feet 10 inches tall.

 

One was white and wearing a white stocking cap, a white hooded sweatshirt and jeans.  The other male was black and wearing a blue baseball cap, a navy blue hooded sweatshirt and jeans.  Anyone with information is asked to call police.

 

An Open Letter to General Public

By Judy Sanders

 

General Public

Anywhere, USA 00000-0000

 

Blind Person

Everywhere, USA 11111-1111

April 1, 2010

 

Dear GP:

 

Let me introduce myself.  I am Blind Person.  For short, you can call me BP.  I hope you don't mind my informality in calling you GP.  Furthermore, I hope you will appreciate what I have to say and not take it too personally.

 

I have many pet peeves and I want to share some of them with you.  Maybe we can come to a better understanding of each other.

 

1.  I hate it when you do not trust me to know what I am doing.  For instance, as I am walking down the street and using my white cane why do you offer me assistance and when I say "no, thank you" you say "are you sure?"  Please know that if I need assistance I will tell you.

 

2.  Please do not grab me or pick up the bottom of my cane.  GP, you would never grab another female; and when you pick up my cane, I can't use it to gather information.

 

3.  If you ask for directions don't say "Over there."  I'm not even going to explain that one.

 

4.  As I walk down a sidewalk, do not feel compelled to give me directions.  You don't even know where I am going.

 

How are we doing, GP?  Hang in there.  I really do like you.

 

5.  A few points about buses—the public transit kind.  I, as BP, do not need to board first.  In fact, following someone on the bus gives me an audible cue about where the entrance is located.  And again, another reminder about the grabbing thing!  This seems to be another opportunity for you, GP, practically to lift me up the stairs of the bus.

 

6.  There is much confusion about those sideways seats right behind the driver.  The sign says something about giving preference to the elderly and the disabled.  I am neither.  Well, maybe I am getting older but for purposes of bus travel, I am not disabled.  I can easily walk past those seats and look for one further back in the bus.  My biggest problem is when you get up thinking I should take your seat and get in my way.  Why do you think I am better off in your seat?  In winter, it is cold sitting by the door and there are definitely people who really need those seats.

 

I appreciate your willingness to read this.  I hope you know that I understand that you have only the best intentions.  When it really comes down to it, you are a pleasure to have around.  As you partner with the National Federation of the Blind, you get better and better about understanding us.  We can all pledge to keep working at it.

 

Sincerely,

 

Blind Person

 

Thank You for Asking

By Emily Zitek

 

It was a cold day last winter and there was the usual rush-hour activity as I got off the express bus on the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.  As I was about to cross the street, a nice lady came up to me and seemed very hesitant when she said, "Ma'am, I'm sure you know that it's really icy when you step off the curb.  Would you like me to help you cross the street?”  Being grateful that someone had warned me of the slippery curb ahead, I replied, "I think I'll be fine getting across the street by myself, but thank you very much for offering, and thanks for the warning about the ice.  I'd be happy to walk alongside you to have some company while waiting for the light to change."

 

Then the lady said, "You know, I was afraid to ask if you needed my assistance, because a few weeks ago, I asked a blind lady if she needed help, and she snapped at me like I did something wrong.”  We continued talking for a minute, and I asked how her day was going.  I also told her that I had broken my leg a few years ago when I slipped on the ice, and that I am always grateful for warnings about ice in unexpected places.

 

Every year, we recognize White Cane Safety Day by handing out literature in different public places.  We do the March for Independence every July at national convention.  We have events to promote braille literacy at bookstores, and we fight for the rights of blind people in Washington, DC every winter.  Think of how hard we work to change the public's attitude about blindness.  When one of us goes out there and snaps at a courteous pedestrian offering their assistance, that person's bad attitude counteracts everything we as an organization spend so much time and effort doing to help the public understand blindness.

 

I understand the frustration it can cause when you feel like everyone assumes you need help.  But just remember that sighted people get lost driving in their cars all the time.  We often don't see it, because most of us use public transportation.  But when someone offers their help, their assumption isn't incorrect in that we're no different from anyone else who periodically might need a little help.  And by the way, feeling that we need a little help occasionally doesn't mean we're not successful or independent—it just proves we're normal people.  I'm not ashamed to accept help if someone offers it when I really am confused about where I am.  But on the other hand, if someone comes up without asking, grabs my cane or my arm, and assumes without asking that I need help, getting very upset might be more understandable.

 

I went to the state school for the blind in Louisiana from kindergarten until the seventh grade, when I was mainstreamed into a public school near my hometown.  For seven years, I had not interacted with any sighted children my age.  Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.  For the first six months of my seventh grade year, I wondered why I just couldn't make any friends.  After all, I did okay in school, I used my cane to get from class to class, and most frustrating of all, I had to try to educate my ignorant classmates about blindness.  Every time someone passed my desk, he or she wanted to play with the Perkins Brailler.  I couldn't walk to lunch without someone trying to jump over my cane.  But many times, some really nice kids asked if I needed help to a class or to the cafeteria, and I always snapped at them and said I was blind, not helpless, and that I didn't want their help.  Then one day, I was in the bathroom when I happened to see one of my classmates who was very respected by everyone in school.  We got to talking, and she said, "You know, Emily, I think you'd make a lot more friends around here if you were a little nicer to people.  Some of us are afraid to even approach you, because all you ever do is snap at us, especially when we offer our help.”  Her honesty made me go home and reflect upon the way I had been acting and how badly I might be tarnishing my own reputation and that of any future blind students that might attend that school.

 

Since that day crossing the street, I've observed other blind people in the community snapping at offers for help, and other sighted people have made comments or asked why "we" as blind people have such bad attitudes about accepting help.  The bottom line is that the way we as individuals interact with the public affects all of us, even the ones who decline help graciously.  Trying to explain to others that this isn't supposed to be a normal reaction from a blind person is very difficult, because doing this is a way of trying to counteract an unpleasant action that will stand out to people around you, and those people won't forget.  It's easy to forget that piece of literature about braille literacy someone might have picked up at Border's Books, but unfortunately, that one blind person snapping at that same person will make a much more memorable impression about blind people.  So no matter how frustrated you might be about constantly being offered help, just remember that the way you handle it affects everyone in our organization.  It's your choice: you can either become hostile, or pleasantly decline an offer for help, while making conversation with that person to let them know that you appreciate the offer.

 

As an advocate representing blind operators in the Business Enterprise Program of Minnesota, many rehabilitation counselors and other staff working with blind people have been sent to my location for a day of job-shadowing experience.  Unfortunately, some of these people have inquired about our attitudes regarding the offer for help from a sighted person.  I've been asked on more than one occasion: "Is it okay to offer to assist a blind person if it appears that they need help?  I'm afraid they might get angry with me.”  Again, this says a lot about what sighted people in our community are observing.  We work hard to assure that people won't think of us as being helpless, but we certainly don't want to be portrayed as being a group of angry people, either.  As a way of continuing to change what it means to be blind, we really need to think about how we interact in public.  There are days I get frustrated, maybe because I had a hard time at work, or because the snow makes it inconvenient to get around, but that's no reason to get frustrated with someone who is just trying to help.  They can't read our minds.  They don't always know or understand our abilities as blind travelers.  Instead of getting angry, my suggestion is to use this as another opportunity to educate.

 

The Courtesy Rules of Blindness

 

(Editor’s Note:  A major purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to educate people about blindness.  To that end, these rules are a regular part of many NFB publications.)

 

Ten simple, straightforward pointers that encourage sighted persons to feel comfortable and at ease with blind persons, is also helpful to know.

 

When you meet me don't be ill at ease.  It will help both of us if you remember these simple points of courtesy:

 

1.     I'm an ordinary person, just blind.  You don't need to raise your voice or address me as if I were a child.  Don't ask my spouse what I want—"Cream in the coffee?” —ask me.

 

2.     I may use a long white cane or a guide dog to walk independently; or I may ask to take your arm.  Let me decide, and please don't grab my arm; let me take yours.  I'll keep a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.

 

3.     I want to know who's in the room with me.  Speak when you enter.  Introduce me to the others.  Include children, and tell me if there's a cat or dog.

 

4.     The door to a room or cabinet or to a car left partially open is a hazard to me.

 

5.     At dinner I will not have trouble with ordinary table skills.

 

6.     Don't avoid words like "see.”  I use them, too.  I'm always glad to see you.

 

7.     I don't want pity.  But don't talk about the "wonderful compensations" of blindness.  My sense of smell, touch, or hearing did not improve when I became blind.  I rely on them more and, therefore, may get more information through those senses than you do—that's all.

 

8.     If I'm your houseguest, show me the bathroom, closet, dresser, window—the light switch, too.  I like to know whether the lights are on.

 

9.     I'll discuss blindness with you if you're curious, but it's an old story to me.  I have as many other interests as you do.

 

10.  Don't think of me as just a blind person.  I'm just a person who happens to be blind.

 

In all 50 states, the law requires drivers to yield the right of way when they see my extended white cane.  Only the blind may carry white canes.  You see more blind persons today walking alone, not because there are more of us, but because we have learned to make our own way.

 

Truncated Domes: A Modest Proposal

By Dick Davis

 

Recently I had a revelation about the truncated domes that grace our light rail platforms and an increasing number of street intersections.  These domes are detectable warnings for blind people so they know when they are approaching the edge of a street curb, ramp or platform.

 

Now, I know my friends will be quick to remind me that truncated domes are unnecessary, that they send the wrong message about the travel abilities of the blind, that they trap ice in the winter, and that they interfere with wheelchairs.  However, I have found another use for them.

 

The revelation happened while I was pacing back and forth on the light rail platform at 5th and Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, waiting with a group from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. for a train to arrive.  I was walking absentmindedly on the truncated domes at the time, and suddenly it hit me—they felt really good!  After a little more walking, I realized that the domes pressing through the soles of my shoes were giving me a great foot massage.

 

I pointed out this fact to everyone else.  Zach Ellingson, one of the BLIND, Inc. travel instructors, tried walking on them and agreed.  Others tried it and felt the same way.  We were on to something!  Since that time, I have made a point of walking on truncated domes whenever I get the chance, and a number of my blind friends do the same. 

 

The experience helped me to look at truncated domes in a new way.  No longer were they useless little bumps that sent the message that blind people were incompetent travelers.  They were an unrecognized boon to humanity!  They were such a boon that I decided to tell everyone about them so we can all enjoy their therapeutic benefits.  Hence, the reason for this article.

 

There’s only one problem with the things.  Somebody has put them in potentially dangerous areas like subway platforms, where a person enraptured by a great foot massage may forget that train tracks lurk only five feet away—straight down.  We need to remove them from such areas and put them in safer places where everyone can enjoy them without fear of injury.

 

Since they soothe tired feet, why not put them at the entrances to office buildings where tired workers can get a lift by walking on them as they leave for home?  I can see “truncated dome rooms” at gyms and other exercise facilities—much cheaper than foot massages.  How about senior centers?  And let’s not forget podiatrists’ offices, healthcare facilities, and dance clubs.

 

In fact, they could become a boutique item.  Hammacher Schlemmer and Sharper Image could sell truncated dome mats, instead of putting greens, for busy executive’s offices.  Imagine slipping off your shoes and massaging your feet on a truncated dome chair mat under your desk.  How luxurious!  And cheap, with no electricity or moving parts to break down. 

 

After thinking about all the benefits of truncated domes, I have concluded that we’ve been wasting them on train platforms and street crossings.  They need a brand new image:

 

“Truncated domes – they’re not just for blind people anymore!”

 

Truncated dome manufacturers could learn a lot from beer commercials.  I can see ads featuring beautiful women and gorgeous men getting together at their favorite truncated dome bar for a refreshing foot massage.  How about it, truncated dome manufacturers?  Are you ready to make some real bucks?  (And if by chance there are any royalties, don’t forget—you read it here first!) 

 

Report of the Annual Convention

October 23-25, 2009

By Judy Sanders, Secretary

 

CELEBRATING BRAILLE

 

What a fine celebration it was!  Not only was braille in evidence throughout the convention, but it was a continued testimony to the hard work of blind Minnesotans and their friends taking control of their lives and creating a positive future for all blind citizens.  Over 100 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront in downtown St. Paul to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth and take collective action on issues affecting blind people everywhere. 

 

Friday

 

Registration began at 1:00 p.m. where people could buy Saturday lunch tickets for the Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) Incorporated annual consumer forum, buy banquet tickets, and register for exciting door prizes.

 

In the registration area one could view exhibits from Handy Tech North America, showing off braille displays and more; Access Education with an accessible dartboard; and the Speech Gurus demonstrating Kurzweil 1000 and Dragon Naturally Speaking.  We welcomed a representative from the federal Department of Education with material about student financial aid for higher education.  It was also possible to buy Louis Braille coins and the Metro Chapter was sponsoring a raffle giving away a portable digital audio-book reader.

 

As usual, there was a variety of activities with something for everyone.  The first of these was an inaugural meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota Seniors Division.  Chaired by Joyce Scanlan, this group adopted a constitution and elected Joyce Scanlan as temporary chair.  This is going to be a high energy, vocal group.

 

Those who attended the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille in Minnesota (NAPUB) had a lot to talk about.  However, spirits were somewhat dampened because Melody Wartenbee, NAPUB's president, was unable to be with us.  She was recovering from a collapsed lung.  (We are all grateful that Melody is now back in action.)

 

This year the BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS contest was expanded to include adults.  There will be categories for beginning braille readers all the way to expert readers.  Everyone was encouraged to participate.  Election results were as follows: president, Melody Wartenbee; vice president, Amy Baron; secretary, Trudy Barrett; and treasurer, RoseAnn Faber.

 

The heart of any NFB convention is the process of passing resolutions.  Any member has the right to submit a resolution, our resolutions committee examines it, and makes a recommendation of pass or do not pass.  This committee, chaired by Steve Decker, met to review two possible resolutions and recommended both to pass.

 

Picture of Students' meetingTwo more meetings filled in our Friday evening.  The Minnesota Association of Blind Students made ambitious plans for the following year and elected the following officers: president, Katlyn Kress; first vice president, Jean Rauschenbach; second vice president, Jordan Richardson; secretary, Matthias Niska; and treasurer, Ann Naber.

 

And while our students were planning a successful future, our parents, through the Minnesota Organization of Parents of Blind Children, were revising their constitution and engaging in a thoughtful discussion about involving their children in an active, normal social life.

 

Generous hospitality from our Metro chapter hosts topped off the evening.  Food, lively conversation and anticipation for a spirited weekend were everywhere.

 

Saturday

 

Following an invocation, our Metro chapter president Pat Barrett welcomed us.  Not only were there many Minnesotans in the room, but there were participants present from Illinois, Idaho and Iowa.  We began drawing for our first door prize.  Rob Hobson, chair of this committee, gave away the first of many valuable prizes.

 

Picture of Zach Ellingson wearing huge orange hatAnother tradition at our fall convention is our lucrative bake sale auction.  Coordinated by Zach Ellingson many members had the chance to wear the auctioneer's hat and help sell tasty goods.

 

Each person who wishes to do so can have ownership in the NFB by participating in our conventions and local activities.  Another way to have an impact is a financial commitment.  Al Spooner talked to us about becoming members of the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan.  This means donating a designated amount of money automatically to the NFB from a person's checking account.  Throughout the weekend, members made their commitments to make our movement stronger.

 

The theme for this convention was "Celebrating Braille."  In honor of the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of braille, Congress authorized the issuance of a commemorative coin with real braille on it.  Proceeds from the sale of these coins belong to the NFB to conduct a national braille literacy campaign.  Dick Davis described the coin to the audience and was available to sell coins to all.

 

We were pleased to welcome our national representative, Patti Gregory-Chang, member of the national board of directors and president of the NFB of Illinois, for her report.  Patti explained in depth about the need for our braille literacy campaign.  She acquainted us with the myriad of programs run through the Jernigan Institute, including Youth Slam and the Junior Science Academy. 

 

H.R. 734 and S. 841 is the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that will set a standard for the sound made by quiet cars after a study to determine what that sound should be.  Minnesota currently has five cosponsors for that bill.

 

H.R. 886 deals with eliminating work incentives with Social Security Disability benefits.  There are two Minnesotans cosponsoring this bill.

 

We also will have a Technology Bill of Rights introduced by the time of our Washington Seminar.  (Note: The bill was introduced and Congressmen Keith Ellison and James Oberstar are two of ten original sponsors.)  All of these bills will be topics of discussion at the Washington Seminar in February.

 

Our national convention will be in Dallas from July 3-8.  It is not too early to start making plans.

 

Picture of Alice WoogAlice Woog is the newly appointed director of the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind in Faribault.  The school has about 55 students with a very active transition program.  Dr. Woog is new to the blindness field and she is still learning about the potential of her students.  However, she showed a good understanding of the importance of braille, and its meaning to the success of her students when they graduate.  We also heard from Ken Trebelhorn who is the assistive technology instructor at the Academy and is a member of the NFB.  Dr. Woog closed by saying she wanted to work closely with us to raise expectations for her students.

 

"State Services for the Blind: A Time of Transition" was presented by Richard Strong, acting director of State Services for the Blind (SSB).  The full text of his remarks appeared in the last Minnesota Bulletin.  (Note:  Since our convention, Mr. Strong has been appointed the permanent director of SSB.)

 

His remarks covered such topics as staff changes, ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) funding, and focusing on accomplishments and areas of improvement for each unit of SSB.

 

During the question and comment period, Jennifer told us that the NFB has been actively engaged in advocating for SSB customers who are not getting the services to which they are entitled.  She also sent a message to DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development that SSB is part of) that retaining our separate agency status is imperative above all things.

 

Kathy McGillivray asked about the status of services for children and youth.  There is no longer a program for services for children, but anyone over 14 is entitled to seek a counselor.

 

In his closing statement, Mr. Strong expressed the hope that the next director would seek out the support and guidance of the NFB and that if it did not happen that way he was confident we would make sure the director heard from us.

 

Catherine Durivage, Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library director, gave an update from our library to us.  The full text of her remarks appears in the previous Minnesota Bulletin.

 

Ms. Durivage talked about progress with some temporary employees filling the gap of a personnel shortage that the library has had to contend with for a few years.  She expressed appreciation to the blind community for our support for the library at the legislature. 

 

Her focus was the announcement that the new digital players are being distributed.  There is a waiting list with veterans receiving the first machines and those patrons who are over 100 years of age second on the list.  The rest of us will follow.  (Note:  At this writing, any library patron can call for a machine).

 

Picture of State Representative Tom RukavinaA surprise guest made brief remarks to the convention.  Representative Tom Rukavina reminisced with us about his involvement with our Braille Literacy bill over two decades ago.  Mr. Rukavina is a candidate for governor who expressed support for a separate agency for the blind.

 

Kallie Decker was Minnesota's coordinator for Youth Slam.  She introduced three participants in the program.  Jordan Richardson was a student in 2007 and served as a mentor in 2009.  He said that he developed patience in working with students for a week.  He now appreciates what his mentors endured.

 

Ann Naber has attended Youth Slam twice and had the chance to drive the prototype of the automobile being developed by the Jernigan Institute. 

 

Katlyn Kress helped developed a solar panel which was sort of right up her alley because she hopes to be a student of science in college.  She wants to major in biology.  What meant more to her than the subject matter was getting to know her mentor who had been blind for two years and works as a nurse.

 

Katlyn also expressed appreciation to the adults who coordinated teen night.  She wanted to see more students become involved.

 

Jeff Thompson closed this panel with a brief review of the teen activities and his pride in their recent involvement in the NFB and our student division.  Most of the new officers are participants in teen night.

 

During lunch people ate box lunches and listened to a progress report from the staff and board of directors for BLIND, Incorporated.

 

Picture of Joan Breslin-LarsonPast convention goers will remember that each year we heard from Jean Martin, Director of the Minnesota Resource Center for blind students.  Due to her retirement one year ago that position has been vacant and her responsibilities are being carried out by her former supervisor, Joan Breslin-Larson.  This position has been posted nine times by the Minnesota Department of Education and has not yet been filled.  On a more positive note, the Department is working on providing accessible material to blind students in core instruction areas.  Minnesota is one of fifteen states that has a sub-grant from the U.S. Department of Education for this project.  The Department is also reviewing licensure requirements for special education teachers.  They will continue to have separate requirements for teachers of blind and visually impaired students with an emphasis on braille.  There should be public hearings on this rulemaking process in 2010.  Jennifer asked about the review of questions on standardized tests that may be biased in a negative way for blind students.  This was a major responsibility of Jean Martin and Mary Archer, former director of the Braille Section at SSB.  There have been no new test questions lately but when there are, competent people will review them.

 

Carrie Gilmer asked for a clarification of what material the sub-grant from the U.S. Department of Education covers.  It is to help digitize material for recorded material but it could also help people using braille displays.

 

Jan Bailey asked for the exact title of the open position and if it had been advertised outside the Minnesota system.  The position is for an Education Specialist II Braille and Visually Impaired and is being posted for the ninth or tenth time.  Ms. Breslin-Larson will be happy to share it.

 

"Learning English, Learning Cane Travel" was a panel discussion presented by three people from BLIND, Incorporated.  Sharon Monthei is a language instructor who also teaches her students beginning braille.  Her job is to help her students know enough English to enroll in a full-time rehabilitation program.  Cane travel is a key subject so they learn travel words like "directions.” 

 

Zach Ellingson is a travel instructor who is bridging the language gap with his students.  He shared many humorous stories that show not only his students drive but also his ability to learn some new vocabulary in other languages.

 

Musamil Yahya is an English Language Learner student who is also taking the full program.  He is from Ethiopia and has been in the U.S. for a year and a half.  He told about getting on a bus and forgetting how to say the name of the street he wanted.  It did finally come to him but this is an example of the challenges that he and others face.  The audience could tell that he has made tremendous progress with both English and his other skills.

Sharon closed with sharing a remembrance of the day when Muzamil came into her class and excitedly bragged that he had walked around the block by himself.  It was the first time he had gone anywhere by himself since becoming blind.

 

After taking time to meet the audience, where each person gave examples of how braille is important in their life, we heard from Andy Virden, longtime president of our Central Minnesota chapter.  Andy is a mainstay of our conventions but he could not be with us this year.  Through the marvels of technology, we listened to his remarks over the phone.  His chapter is growing in membership, getting ready for another spaghetti dinner, and letting their community know of the importance of public transportation and other matters.  They have sold several Louis Braille coins raising over $300.

 

Shawn Mayo, executive director of BLIND, Incorporated briefly listed many of this year's accomplishments such as welcoming Rob Hobson, a second travel instructor, taking exciting new trips like dog sledding and paying off the mortgage to our beautiful headquarters in Minneapolis. 

 

Shawn then introduced us to another new staff member, Charlene Guggisberg, who talked to us about another exciting program for blinded veterans and wounded warriors.  BLIND has its first federal grant to develop a training program specifically for veterans who have become blind after their military service or more recently on the battlefield.  Charlene is helping the entire staff prepare to work with people who are not only newly blinded but are dealing with other disabilities.  This preparation means meeting with Veterans Administration officials to learn about the effect of brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and other physical and mental changes.  This new program will give our veterans the opportunity to benefit from adjustment to blindness training closer to home without having to travel to a VA center (the closest center to Minnesota is in Chicago.)  Veterans will receive the best training blind civilians have to offer, while taking advantage of the best that the VA can give.

 

We heard from three students who shared their perspectives on their training.  The first was Justin McDevitt from St. Paul.  Justin had a long career in sales but reached a crossroads in his life.  Due to a poor economy, he reached a point where he and his employer reached an amicable parting of the ways.  He then faced a decision of what to do next.  He sought counsel from his friends in the Federation and his wife and determined that his confidence could use a boost.  Where else to get that often needed shot in the arm then at BLIND!  He has been a dog guide user for 20 years and needed to brush up on his cane skills.  He is learning new and better ways to work in the home and he is getting to know himself better than ever.

 

Laura Wolk's parents contacted the Federation when she was ten months old and gave her every opportunity to achieve.  In particular, she was an excellent braille reader but when she became a young adult, she realized there was more than she knew.  She knew there was a problem when she feared walking to the front of the room to defend her dissertation more than she feared defending it.  She knows that everyone reaches critical points in their training such as completing their small and large meals or coming back from a complicated cane travel activity.  However, she values the little things like getting that stubborn jar open or being in charge of making her own doctor's appointment.  She expressed appreciation for a staff that is so caring and always there for the students while allowing them to grow.

 

Shawn introduced us to Mark Erickson who, as a Native American and a talented musician, wrote a special celebration song for the mortgage-burning party.  Mark is a Viet Nam veteran, raised a family and has had labor jobs as a sighted person.  He began losing his sight at age 40; for 10 years he did nothing about it—even when he became totally blind.  He was sad and didn't know what to do.  He stayed active in his culture by performing as a drummer and attending powwows.  But he had to depend on people to get around and get his coffee.  He had friends and family who would listen to him cry.  He finally contacted SSB and met with a counselor who showed him that there could be a better future.  He learned about blindness training and toured the facilities.  BLIND was his first tour, where he appreciated the camaraderie.  As friendly as everyone was, he sensed the training would be difficult and that he would really be challenged.  Being a former marine, after touring the other facilities, he made an easy decision.  It has been a long, hard journey but Mark has finally arrived.

 

Technology these days is both a blessing and a curse.  It is our hope that manufacturers will think about nonvisual access when first building their product instead of ignoring us or trying to add it later.  Mike Sahyun presented an example of how this can be done when he introduced us to the Apple iPhone.  It is a music, Internet, and cell phone device that can be used by us.  All their applications are text-to-speech and can be operated through voice or touch commands.

 

Carrie Gilmer, president of the Minnesota Association of Parents of Blind Children, presentedremarks that followed our braille theme.  She reminded us that in order to know where we are, we have to know where we came from.  She reviewed the trials and tribulations of Louis Braille's life and his struggle to invent braille.  We should never take this method of reading for granted; we should not ever abdicate our responsibility to make sure that braille remains available to all who need and want it.

 

"Braille: What it means to us through the years" was meant to be a look at braille in our lives through three generations.  However, we could not hear from Austyn Johnson because he had the flu and was unable to be with us.  Austyn is a student at the State Academy for the Blind and a voracious reader.

 

Sheila Koenig is a ninth-grade teacher of English at South View Middle School.  She was not given the opportunity to learn braille as a child; that opportunity came when she was an adult student at BLIND.  Her full remarks appeared in the Winter, 2010 Minnesota Bulletin.

 

Joyce Scanlan began her reading life as a print reader.  But Joyce grew up in a time when legally blind children learned both print and braille.  Although Joyce resisted learning braille her teacher proved more stubborn and Joyce is now a prolific braille reader.  In fact, print has not been an option for her for many years.

 

Pat Barrett was our master of ceremonies for what is always the highlight of every convention—our Saturday evening banquet.  Following Justin McDevitt's invocation and some required jokes from our master of ceremonies, we heard from Charlotte Czarnecki who announced that Mark Erickson was the winner of the Metro Chapter essay contest.  Mark received $50.00 and, from a random drawing of the other entrants so did Maureen Pranghofer.  The Metro Chapter also sponsored a raffle for a portable digital player and Tom TeBockhorst was the lucky winner.

 

Pciture of Jennifer Dunnam presenting plaque to Mary Archer's familyJennifer Dunnam came forward to make a special presentation.  Recently Minnesota and the nation lost a very strong advocate for braille.  Mary Archer, the longtime head of the braille section at State Services for the Blind, passed away and left a void in the lives of all braille readers.  The NFB of Minnesota presented the Archer family with a plaque to say, as best we could, "Thank you."  That thanks was not just for the braille that was produced under her leadership but also for the respect that she had for all of us.

 

Sheila Koenig, chair of our scholarship committee, presented a $500 scholarship to Amanda Swanson and a $1,000 scholarship to Matthias Niska.

 

Picture of Patti Gregory-ChangMany people come to NFB conventions just for the banquet—and not because of the food.  It is to get our shot of spirit from our banquet speaker.  This year we heard from Patti Gregory-Chang, an attorney of 20 years, mother and member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.  Patti equated the blindness movement with the civil rights movement.  We eliminate injustices by working together through the National Federation of the Blind.  Most importantly, we change our own attitudes and grow in our independence.

 

Following Chang's inspiration, Al Spooner came to the podium to talk to us about the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan.  People took the opportunity to increase their donation or start a new PAC.

 

After the banquet, many people stayed to enjoy karaoke.  The talented and the wannabees had a lot of fun.

 

 

Sunday

 

Our Sunday morning business session began with a treasurer's report from Tom Scanlan.  We are facing the same problems as most non-profit organizations in the current economy and showing a loss of $16,688 for the first half of our fiscal year.

 

Each year the NFB of Minnesota has two conventions; our two-day annual and a one-day semiannual convention.  We discussed whether to change the format of the semiannual convention.  One idea was to have a business meeting at the beginning and then hold seminars on such subjects as technology or transition for youth.  Another suggestion was to focus on one topic instead of several.

 

The next discussion was about holding elections.  In order to meet the provision in our bylaws for a secret ballot for multi-nominee elections, we agreed that we would use a method of tearing corners on cards to indicate our choice.

 

We followed this discussion with elections that yielded the following results: president, Jennifer Dunnam; secretary, Judy Sanders; and three board positions: Charlene Guggisberg, Jan Bailey, and newly elected board member, Sheila Koenig. 

 

Those who were not up for election this year were vice president, Steve Jacobson; treasurer, Tom Scanlan; and board members Pat Barrett, and Joyce Scanlan.

 

Steve Decker presented two resolutions to the convention; the texts of these follow this article.  The first resolution dealt with urging the Communication Center to begin providing books in an electronic scanned format.  The second concerned the abysmal successful closure rate in the vocational rehabilitation program at SSB.  It demands that SSB investigate and determine why this is happening.  Both resolutions passed unanimously.

 

We heard from Tom Scanlan who represents the NFB on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.  He urged members of the NFB to join the audience at Council meetings to have an impact on the agency.  Many Federationists participate by either serving on the Council or lending a hand with the Council's committee work.

 

Dick Davis announced that we sold 17 Louis Braille coins during the convention.

 

Nadine Jacobson serves on the governance board of the State Academy for the Blind.  She expressed great hope for the tenure of Dr. Alice Woog as the new director of the school.  She is new to blindness but not new to administering a state school.

 

A few moments of silence were taken in memoriam of members we lost this year.  Mention was made of Julie Vogt and Melvin Schraeder.  They were longtime members whom we will remember and miss.

 

Reports from chapters and divisions show that we are busy everywhere in the NFB.  An example of our ever-changing style is that the students plan to start a Facebook page.  Several members were using Twitter to keep people posted on our convention.

 

Jennifer said that in the coming year we are putting an emphasis on membership recruiting.  We will be sponsoring recruiting training sessions.

 

The NFB of Minnesota received an Imagination Fund grant to sponsor a transition age fair for blind students and teachers.  We will work with the Department of Education to sponsor this.

 

This year's bake auction raised $2,227.  Many left the convention lighter in their wallets but less hungry.

 

The convention closed with a lot of enthusiasm and energy to keep working.

 

Resolution A09-01

 

WHEREAS, for many years the Minnesota State Services for the Blind Communication Center has been a nationwide leader in the provision of textbooks and educational materials in Braille and audio formats to postsecondary students and others; and

 

WHEREAS, The creation of electronic formats is an intermediate step in the creation of braille and the Communication Center already has great expertise in the scanning of books as part of the braille transcription process; and

 

WHEREAS, a great many students are becoming accustomed to provision of electronic texts, requesting them from colleges and universities rather than audio; and

 

WHEREAS, electronic texts, particularly those in a DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) format, have a number of advantages over audio materials, including greater access to the spelling, punctuation, and formatting of the material, as well as greater ease of navigation by chapter, page, subheading, paragraph, search, etc; and

 

WHEREAS, many schools and universities are providing texts in electronic formats, giving students flexibility in the medium in which to read the material, the environment in which it is read and the type of device used to read it; and

 

WHEREAS, many publishers provide electronic versions of books, and these can easily be translated into accessible formats; and

 

WHEREAS, in many cases, an electronic version of a book can be translated into an accessible format more quickly, even in high quality, than a human-recorded audio version; and

 

WHEREAS, schools are opting to scan their own material rather than utilize the Communication Center, which can lead to uneven quality for students and resulting in duplication; and

 

WHEREAS, offering electronic texts would enable the Communication Center to maintain its leadership status as a quality provider of alternative formats.  Now therefore

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 25th day of October, 2009, in the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, that this organization strongly urge the Communication Center to provide educational materials in an electronic text format such as DAISY or BRF when requested.

 

Resolution A09-02

 

WHEREAS, Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) closed only 79 persons successfully during 2009; and

 

WHEREAS, a breakdown of Federally-reported statistics from 2007, the most recent available, shows that of 358 closures, only 81 cases (23%)  were closed successfully, that 45 persons could not be located, that 106 persons refused services, and that 38 cases were closed as uncooperative; and

 

WHEREAS, it defies logic to believe that 106 people out of 358 closures refused services after applying for them, and that 45 people somehow could not be located after filling out applications of service; and

 

WHEREAS, these shocking statistics demonstrate a lack of commitment to serving blind people by the rehabilitation supervisors and counselors; and

 

WHEREAS, the practice of closing cases before employment goals have been achieved sends the message that SSB does not believe that these blind persons can ever be employed, and damages their chances for successful employment; Now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 25th day of October, 2009 in the city of St.  Paul, that this organization condemns and deplores the epidemically destructive practices of closing cases before successful outcomes can be achieved; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the acting director of SSB to investigate the causes of this problem and take all necessary corrective action.

 

Convention Alert!

 

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

 

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be May 8, 2010 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis.  Members have received a letter with details, and the letter is on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The National NFB Convention will be July 3 through July 8, 2010 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas.  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 is in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.

 

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in October or November 2010 in Greater Minnesota.  Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

Chapter Meeting Dates to Remember

 

Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 2:00 p.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 Church in Rochester

 

Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at Old Chicago Restaurant in St. Cloud

 

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

 

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.

 

Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the compact disc edition.

Jennifer Dunnam 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.