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:  http://www.nfbmn.org/

Tom Scanlan, Editor

E-mail tom.scanlan@earthlink.net

 

Volume 77, Number 2, Spring 2011

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 


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

·        Become a fan on Facebook by searching for National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota at www.facebook.com/

 

Table of Contents

 

President's Column. 1

Andy Virden, a Dedicated Member and Friend. 5

Is There a Place for Visually Impaired Individuals in NFB?. 11

Serving As a Blind Federal Juror 14

Remembering the Convention In 2010. 16

A Little Something for Our Seniors Division. 29

Convention Alert! 31

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 31

Acknowledgements. 32

 

 

 

 



President's Column

On The Importance of Training for the Experts

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

"I spent the next week huddled in my basement sobbing.  I mourned the vision I had lost, but mostly I cried because I was terrified about what awaited me.  I cried out of fear I wouldn't see my two daughters, barely five and two, grow up.  I cried about lost future candlelight dinners with my husband and about the burden I feared I would become to him.  I cried because I couldn't drive anymore and because I was scared I wouldn't be able to work.  I cried over lost sunsets, ocean views, and any other beautiful scenery I would miss out on.  I cried until finally it occurred to me that I could still see and that maybe, instead of mourning the unknown future, I should concentrate on Now."

 

The above is an excerpt from a searingly articulate piece about the early stages of adjusting to blindness, by Ingrid Ricks, that appeared recently in salon.com magazine called "What I Learned by Going Blind."  The full story can be found at Salon.com Life Stories

 

The author vividly describes the all-too-familiar experience of learning that she was becoming blind, her first reactions of fear and sadness, and then her beginning to come to terms with it by holding on tightly to the here and now, learning what things to avoid, and doing all she could to preserve her sight.  This story and many like it often strike people as a comforting, inspirational story of someone coming to accept difficulty and embrace a new situation.  To me, it is yet another stark reminder of the vital importance of the work we do in the National Federation of the Blind.

 

This is clearly a very intelligent, capable person, whose world is slowly becoming more and more limited as her sight diminishes.  She speaks of things she has learned to avoid; they include treadmills, crowds, dark places, and coffee houses that allow dogs (a tripping hazard). 

 

When she went to her optometrist, his reaction after the diagnosis was to hand her a piece of paper with the number of the center for the blind and basically tell her there was nothing else that could be done.  Perhaps even a few words from an optometrist, like "At this center, you'll find you can still do the things you want to do, just using different techniques," could have planted seeds to help her see a brighter future.  But optometrists (and ophthalmologists) are focused on the medical and the cure, and when a cure is not available it is seen as a failure.  It is implicit in the article that the author did not connect with the "Center for the blind."

 

It is a good thing to appreciate the present.  The sadness and the harm comes when a person avoids dealing with the future because she does not have help to know that the future can be just as full of beauty and wonder.  One can see from the story that its author may be coming to accept her blindness by shrinking her expectations instead of finding new ways to meet normal expectations.  But is her reaction really any different from what it would be for anyone in her situation?  To see things differently, she needs help from people who are supposed to know better — from people who can help her by connecting her with resources and successful blind role models to counteract the pervasive societal conceptions about blindness, and by their own example of positive attitudes, help her begin to see the real possibilities for her.  One would hope that if and when she does connect with a rehabilitation agency, she will have a better chance of finding this kind of help.  Would that such an assumption were a certainty.

 

Last year the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota was instrumental in the passage of a law requiring that newly hired rehabilitation counselors (who often come to State Services for the Blind with little to no background in blindness) undergo six weeks of blindness-specific training under sleep shades before working with people who are blind.  We are keenly interested to see that the purpose of this legislation — to improve the quality of work with blind people and thereby improve the prospects for true independence and meaningful employment — is realized.

 

It came to the attention of the NFB recently that the adjustment-to-blindness training process was not going well at all for a rehabilitation counselor at SSB.  The counselor displayed unwillingness to meet the requirements of the training program, particularly the requirements of learning under sleep shades.  The issues came to light in front of other students in the training program and others.  The counselor walked out of the training after only a week.

 

Of course, we are concerned for the future of the blind people who will work with an individual who behaved this way and who apparently lacked an understanding of the purpose of adjustment-to-blindness training and the need for blind people to develop independence.  How would such a person be able truly to think in terms of the independence of blind people?  How could she help foster positive attitudes and provide good advice to customers about adjustment-to-blindness training options?  How, in the face of the massive misconceptions about blindness held by our society, would she be in a position to help those with whom she works to deal with their fears and doubts when evidently having some strong fears and doubts of her own?

 

Following is part of a letter that I wrote to Richard Strong, SSB's director, concerning this matter.

 

***

Part of the purpose of the counselor training is to give the trainees an understanding of the way that the adjustment-to-blindness training is accomplished.  The training is also a certification process and can serve to show when an individual may simply not be a good fit for a counseling position at State Services for the Blind.  On many occasions, you have indicated to us your belief in the importance of staff adjustment-to-blindness training.  If this training is to have any meaning, then those who cannot complete it should not work as rehabilitation counselors for the blind. 

 

This situation raises the following larger questions:

 

1. What is being done at SSB to ensure that potential counselors fully understand the training requirements they must meet in order to practice as a rehabilitation counselor for the blind in Minnesota?  Are they made aware that completion of sleep shades training is an expectation — not an option?

 

2. Do the supervisory staff in charge of preparing the new employees for the training have the background themselves to set the stage adequately and encourage the employees in meeting the challenges of training?

 

3.  What consequences are in place for counselors who do not succeed in the training?

 

We look forward to hearing from you and to seeing this matter resolved, to ensure that the law is followed and that the customers of SSB are served by knowledgeable individuals who believe in the capabilities of blind people and hold high expectations for their future.

 

Sincerely,

Jennifer Dunnam, President

***

 

Here is Mr. Strong's response:

 

***

Dear Ms. Dunnam:

Thank you for your letter of February 17, 2011.  The issues raised in your letter, centering on concerns with the intensive training under sleep shades requirement and the need for staff, including rehabilitation counselors, to successfully complete the training are of the highest importance to SSB.  SSB needs to continue its work to ensure staff have the needed knowledge, skills and experiences for their positions and for the important roles they play in the lives of blind Minnesotans they serve.

 

On Friday, February 18, we discussed additional steps that SSB might take to ensure the intent of current SSB policy and state law are realized.  I have reviewed those steps with key SSB leadership staff and those improvements are now in place.

 

I have modified SSB's selection process for new hires that fall under the training requirement.  The process for such hires now includes an interview question on and explanation of the importance of intensive training under sleep shades.  SSB needs to make sure prospective employees have a firm understanding of SSB's standards for its staff and the important role adjustment-to-blindness training plays in the lives of our customers.  I believe this change is a step in the right direction and will incorporate additional improvements in our selection process as warranted.

 

In addition, before starting training each new hire will now meet with the SSB director and their supervisor.  They will discuss the importance of alternative skills of blindness, the essential place adjustment-to-blindness training has in gaining those skills and the accompanying positive attitude, and the purposes of and reasoning behind intensive sleep shade training for SSB staff.  New staff need to understand the importance of the training to their career with SSB, the significant investment of work, energy and time called for by the training, and the positive consequences of successful completion, a requirement for being an SSB rehabilitation counselor.

 

I want to make sure SSB does all it can to ensure staff successfully complete the training called for by policy and state statute.

 

I very much appreciate your letter and your discussion of means for SSB to improve its training program.  I request and will welcome your future suggestions of how we can do better.

 

Sincerely,

Richard Strong Director

***

 

We sincerely hope the author of the Salon.com story, and the many like her who are right here in Minnesota, will be able to get more help from their rehabilitation counselors than they often do from the optometrists or ophthalmologists.  The new counselors need the expertise to offer her the real knowledge that indeed blindness need not prevent her from seeing her daughters grow up, or from working at a good job, or from simply going to a crowded coffee house.  We appreciate the adjustments in SSB's policies, which are a positive step.  We will do all we can to see that those who play such a powerful role in the lives of blind people are qualified to do so.

 

Andy Virden, a Dedicated Member and Friend

By Joyce Scanlan

 

Andy Virden, one of our longtime and very active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, was on his way home from a Friday night fish fry shortly after 8:00 on March 11, when he was struck by a car and killed instantly.  Details of the accident are still under investigation.  Andy was 83 years old.

 

Those of us who have known Andy for more than 40 years are deeply saddened at the loss of our much-valued colleague and friend.  Andy always traveled with his long white cane and frequently spoke of the importance of exercising care as he crossed streets.  He was in familiar territory within one-half block of his home.  He had walked the two-block route from the American Legion Hall fish fry numerous times.

 

Andy Virden has been a member of the Federation since 1951 and was instrumental in organizing the Central Minnesota chapter in 1971.  Since that time, he served as chapter president for most of the time; however, throughout these years, he was always looking for others to take the office, and many young students from surrounding colleges and others who demonstrated interest received his encouragement and support in serving as president or in other leadership roles.  While others served as chapter president from time to time, Andy was always the voice of the Federation throughout the St. Cloud/Waite Park/Central Minnesota area.  He was active in numerous organizations and his voice was heard over local radio stations advocating for the rights of blind people of all ages and interests.

 

Our Central Minnesota chapter has always been a vibrant group with its spaghetti dinners and other fundraisers, annual picnics every August, and energetic participation in every Day at the Capital during legislative sessions.  Someone else may have occasionally served as president and leader, but the spokesman and contact person was definitely Andy Virden.

 

The National Federation of the Blind was Andy’s primary interest in life.  He was active in local politics and an active member of the Democratic Farmer Labor party.  Because of his activities, all elected politicians knew Andy and the National Federation of the Blind.  But Andy wasn’t at all partisan; he could support elected officials of other parties as well.  He made friends with officials of any party, and rest assured, all of them were well informed about the Federation and all issues of the day.  With very few exceptions, all legislators of the St. Cloud area could be counted upon to have knowledge of Federation concerns; and most of them were in support of our interests.

 

Of course, Andy preferred that we hold all state Federation conventions in St. Cloud and spoke out persuasively of the advantages of his hometown.  He clearly demonstrated his pride in his local area as he welcomed convention attendees to St. Cloud.  His participation at convention sessions was always energetic and determined; it might appear as though he was bypassing the chair’s wish for order and making himself and his issues take precedence over the planned agenda.  This was definitely not the case.  His issues were always timely and relevant, just slightly out of order or ahead of the agenda.  They were definitely matters Andy felt strongly about.  There were just so many matters Andy placed at the top of his priority list, and he could be persistent.

 

Andy could tell jokes and sometimes unwittingly turn a crowd or an individual from a serious discussion into uproarious laughter.  He and I were scheduled to do an interview at a local radio station one day.  Andy, of course, worked at the downtown Post Office.  He said to the hostess, “Oh, I almost called you this morning; we had an emergency at the post office.”  The interviewer became excited and said, “Oh, you should have called me.”  Then Andy said, “There was a big fight, and the stamps took quite a licking.”  Another such event occurred several years ago when we were holding a seminar in our state office in the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Building.  A very serious discussion was underway when Andy suddenly sneezed and his dentures flew across the room.  No one remembers the topic under discussion; everyone remembers Andy’s sneeze and its outcome.  Humor was a trademark with Andy.

 

Yes, Andy had quite a sense of humor; however when it came to advocacy for blind people, he was the guy you wanted on your side.  As a committed Federationist, Andy took seriously the responsibility of working to change public attitudes toward blindness.  He fought hard to emphasize the capabilities of blind people and to improve opportunities for employment and equal participation in the community for blind Americans.  He proudly lived his Federationism and never hesitated to educate everyone he met.  He used a wide variety of techniques in addition to humor, his own experience, threats, anecdotes, whatever it took to make his point.  Andy was a true educator, and he earned both love and respect for his work.

 

Life in the St. Cloud community was a significant part of Andy Virden’s life.  He was a 1946 graduate of St. Cloud Technical High School and a 1950 graduate of St. Cloud State University.  Andy was employed in sales for four years prior to owning and operating Virden's Vending and Concession  headquartered in the downtown St. Cloud Post Office lobby and was operated under the State of Minnesota Business Enterprises Program for the Blind.  Here he thoroughly enjoyed his daily contact with the public, selling his products and persuading the local citizenry.  He retired on January 10, 1994.

 

Andy was deeply involved in the community, and was a living example of our NFB goal of integrating into society on a basis of equality.  Here are his other activities:

 

·        Fraternal Order of Eagles,

·        Waite Park Booster Club, serving as president,

·        Waite Park Spass Tag Committee, serving as president and various other offices, and Grand Marshall in 1981,

·        DFL politics, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Dinner in St. Cloud in 2009,

·        Wings, Wheels and Water Festival, serving as Grand Marshall in 1986,

·        Knights of Columbus, serving in various offices,

·        Kappa Delta Phi at St. Cloud State University,

·        St. Joseph's Catholic Church, serving in the Nocturnal Adoration Society and the Choir,

·        Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus,

·        Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, serving on the board for six years,

·        Whitney Senior Center, enjoying participation in many of its educational programs.

 

Life for blind people in Central Minnesota and throughout the country is certainly better for Andy’s involvement in his community.

 

Over the past 40 years, I’ve probably had more telephone conversations with Andy than with any other Federationist.  “How are you, Andy?”  I’d say.  “Well, we have problems,” he’d reply.  Then he’d list off all the “problems.”  Someone wasn’t returning his calls.  He was worried about the construction in downtown St. Cloud; he was worried about walking on downtown streets with the loud machines.  “And it looks as though they’re going to change the traffic patterns on the main streets, and blind people will have problems crossing the streets,” and on and on.  After we had talked for several minutes, and Andy had asked me about everything in the Metro area — had I talked with so-and-so?  What was going on in Minneapolis?  Then I’d make some meager attempt to resolve his problems, he’d seem to have moved on, and the problems no longer were relevant.  If I was not home and had to call him back later, he was usually not home or his line was busy, because he was on NFB-NEWSLINE®.  Andy’s problems could be rather frustrating.  But I came to realize that he wanted to visit with someone and the problems gave him reason to call.  He was so committed to doing what was right for blind people that I came to appreciate our discussions and admire his perseverance in dealing with the public and with the problems blind people faced.  Andy was busy dealing with problems, and it was a pleasure to work with him.  He had a big, big heart, and it always focused on the appropriate burning issues.

 

Federation philosophy was more than just talk for Andy.  In addition to operating his vending business for more than forty years, he cared for his aging parents keeping house and managing the family home until both parents had passed away.  He then sold the house in which he had grown up and moved to an apartment where he lived independently to the day of his death.  He did his own cooking and cleaning and kept the apartment managers from custodializing him and trying to tell him how to run his life.  Andy would have it no other way.  His participation in community activities continued at his usual pace.  All of us declare that blind people are capable of running their own lives; Andy made it all a proven fact.

 

Andy loved attending national conventions.  He was an active member of the Blind Merchants division and served for several years on the Resolutions Committee.  He loved seeing his Federation family each year; wherever you might go throughout convention sessions, in the restaurants, at the Merchants’ meetings, anywhere at all, you could hear Andy Virden voicing his opinions on something important to him, greeting members, telling a joke, or laughing at someone else’s joke.  National Conventions were very special to Andy.

 

In more recent times, as he began arranging to travel to the convention, he would say, “This will probably be my last convention.”  Each year as he aged, travel became a greater challenge for him; yet he continued to make the journey.  Then he would go to the next convention and have a wonderful time.  As he prepared to go the following year, he’d declare again, “Well, this will probably be my last National Convention.”  I actually heard him say it this year as he began arranging to fly to Florida.  His Federation spirit again told him to look ahead.

 

Large numbers of Andy’s friends, including many members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, attended both his Wake and Funeral Mass last week.  Six priests attended.  The music led by the choir was outstanding.  It was clear that everyone knew Andy well.  While we know that Andy had selected the music and speakers for his service, he would have loved it.  The National Federation of the Blind was specifically mentioned many times, always absolutely correctly — always with the appropriate “of.”  Andy had obviously done his usual fine job of educating.  The entire service was a great tribute to Andy.  Although this was a Friday in Lent and fish should have been the only choice of the day, the priest announced that this was a special day and therefore a dispensation had been granted and the customary ham would be served at the dinner following the mass.

 

Andy was born in Waite Park on November 19, 1927, lived his entire life in Waite Park, and was buried in Waite Park.  His influence, however, extended far beyond his hometown.  His legacy can be bourn out by comments many friends made following his death.  Here are just a few:

 

·        Greg James,Neighbor:  I’ve lived in the same neighborhood as Andy for over 20 years.  Over the years, I had the opportunity to chat with Andy at the store, or on one of Andy’s walks through the neighborhood.  I knew Andy as a warm and friendly man.  I always enjoyed the chats we shared.  Andy was a fixture in the neighborhood and seeing Andy’s familiar face on one of his walks was common.  Although I didn’t know Andy as well as many others, I feel my life is richer for having known him at all.  The neighborhood definitely won‘t be the same without Andy.

·        Larry Haws, Friend (and former legislator):  Larry Haws is sending this message from St. Ben's ShortStay where he is recovering from brain surgery in January.  One of Andy's most significant contributions to the people he served was his attitude, and to put a person's "abilities" first.  Andy taught many people about this, but Larry learned this many times from Andy's example of courage and determination.  One day when Larry was working at the State Capital, Andy walked into his office alone, white cane in hand.  Larry was surprised and amazed that Andy had navigated his way to his office in the capital building.  Andy said that it wasn't really that hard and that he only had to yell out a couple of times, "Where's Haws at?”  Andy was a brilliant man.  Larry said that Andy called him once about a problem he had and what experts Larry knew who could solve that problem for him.  Andy asked if Larry would call those experts and get the problem solved.  Larry asked for an hour and gave the designated "experts" a call and there was a solution found.  The St. Cloud/Waite Park community has lost a wonderful human being in Andy Virden.  He was a true example of looking at what you can do in life and then pursuing it.  Happy Heaven, Andy!  I'm sure that you're finding your way around with Heavenly vision!

·        Mary Dombovy Pull,Neighbor:  As a young girl and into my adult life, Andy always knew my name and spoke to me.  He was a true friend and gentleman.  Heaven will be blessed to have Andy among the other saints.

·        Michael Petschen, just a person Andy touched just by talking to him over the years:  What an inspiration Andy was.  He was the most courageous person I knew.  St. Cloud has lost an icon.  But heaven has gained a saint.

·        Dave, Friend:  We miss your presence at the post office; you were such a staple fixture in the community, and always a pleasure to chat with.

 

We all have countless fond memories of times spent with Andy.  Everyone will miss Andy.  He is irreplaceable.  To say, “Rest in peace,” is pointless, because Andy will always be educating, advocating, changing attitudes, promoting progress, making new friends, and continuing in Heaven among the Saints the work he has always done when he was with us.  And, Andy, keep on singing!

 


Is There a Place for Visually Impaired Individuals in NFB?

By Cathy Jackson, President, National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky

 

(Editor’s Note:  The following article is reprinted from the Winter 2010 issue of the Kentucky Cardinal, a publication of the NFB of Kentucky.  As well as Kentucky state president, Cathy is a member of the national board of directors.)

 

I was a participant on a panel at a State Presidents seminar held at our national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland where the topic of visual impairment was discussed.  We also touched on how to convince partially blind individuals that they can benefit greatly by being a part of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's largest organization of the blind speaking for the blind.  Of course, just as important is the fact that they in turn have much to offer the NFB.  For many it is automatically assumed that we are an organization of the blind because our name says it all, the National Federation of the Blind, not the National Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

 

For purposes of this article, I am going to use the terms visually impaired, partially sighted and partially blind or similar phrases that may come to mind.  I am not afraid to use the word blind or admit that I am a blind person, but I need to make distinctions and clarifications.

 

The public in general only recognizes total blindness or perfect vision, anything in between is a mystery.  Trust me; it's also a mystery to those of us with partial vision.  How can I see a dime on the floor from across the room and fall over a chair getting to it?

 

There have been countless times when, during a conversation, I have said something like, "As a blind person I...”  There is an immediate gasp.  "You're not blind; you can see, can't you?”  Then they start waving their hands in my face.  I feel compelled to launch into an explanation.  "Yes I have some usable vision but my visual acuity is 20/200, which means that I meet the legal and medical definition of blindness.”  The discussion doesn't usually end there.  They start pointing to objects asking if I can see them.  When my daughter, Nickie, was little and her friends asked how well her dad and I could see, she would simply say, "My dad is almost blind, my mom is half blind and I am a little bit blind."

 

The honest to goodness truth is that all too often visually impaired people don't know exactly where they fit in.  On one hand, we the NFB say, "Admit you are blind.”  But on the other hand, there are those who have somewhat of a condescending attitude that says, "But you can really see."

 

At a national convention, I overheard a conversation between two people and one of them said, "NFB doesn't ever discuss the issues faced by those of us with low vision, do they?”  I stopped and thought, “You know, we really don't.  I have talked with members in the Kentucky affiliate who have expressed this exact same sentiment to me.”

 

If you stop and think about it, visually impaired individuals face the same problems as totally blind people.  Actually, our situation may be even more precarious.  The public in general is convinced that totally blind people can't do anything; however, they aren't exactly sure just what to expect from those of us with partial vision.  If we are half-blind, are we expected to do only half as much?

 

We walk into the job interview and it is apparent that we have some vision, but we called ahead to have the test put in an accessible format — large print, audio, and even braille.  We too have to convince the potential employer that we can do the job and with the proper accommodations we are every bit as competent as our sighted peers.  We have to make accommodations in the classroom.  We have the same issues with public transportation.  More often than not, we are unable to read the destination sign in the window of the bus and have to ask, “What bus is this?”

 

Now put a cane in the hand of someone like me.  Let me tell you that really adds a layer of confusion.  I am treated quite differently when I am carrying my cane.  I was traveling to Oregon a few years ago to serve as the national representative to their state convention.  As I recall I had to change airplanes twice before I arrived in Oregon.  I was grabbed by the shoulders and turned around and the end of my cane was lifted off the ground.  I protested and took the opportunity to turn the situation into a teachable moment.  During one of the layovers, I decided to head to the ladies' room to freshen up a bit.  I stood my long white cane next to me and proceeded to comb my hair and reapply my lipstick.  In the mirror I could see a lady standing behind me watching with curiosity, unaware that I was watching her.  All sorts of thoughts were running through my head.  Did she think I was faking my blindness?  Was she wondering if I could actually apply lipstick?  Was she waiting for me to make a mess of it all?  There were a couple of other things I was considering.  Maybe I'll just apply the lipstick on and around my lips so as not to disappoint her if she doubted my skill to put on makeup.  No, I decided then I would have to wash my face.  Then a second brainstorm popped into my head.  I think I'll turn around and ask her if I look OK.  No, there would be nothing gained by embarrassing her.  Instead, I chose a more polite approach.  When I turned around, I simply said hello.  She made a beeline to the nearest stall.

 

On this same trip coming home from Oregon I was pretty tired and not in the mood to be hassled.  An attendant in the O'Hare airport decided that I needed a cart to transport me to my gate.  I assured her I was fine and if she would just give me directions I could travel alone.  Besides, I had been sitting for several hours and needed to stretch my legs, to which she replied, "Not on my watch.”  I was told to stay put.  Lucky for me O'Hare is quite busy.  When she turned her head, I collapsed my cane and bolted.  Should I have folded my cane and run?  Probably not.  Looking back that was the coward's way out.  I should have stood my ground, but as I said, I was tired and not very rational.  I was counting on the fact that if I put my cane away I would be just another passenger in the airport and it worked.  I hope by now they have called off the search.

 

If I weren’t already a member of NFB, how would you convince me or any other partially sighted individual that joining NFB would be a great idea?  What would you say to me when I tell you I have enough vision to "fake it”?  How would you persuade me that learning to do things using non-visual techniques might actually make my life easier?  How would you encourage me to open up and share my experiences, both good and bad?  And probably the biggest challenge to me: what would you say and do to make me feel comfortable in my own skin?  Just telling someone it's OK to be blind isn't always enough.

 

Most of you reading this article know that I am self-sufficient and strong-willed.  How did this happen?  It was no accident.  I was fortunate enough to have parents who made it clear from the get-go that I was no different from my siblings apart from the fact that I couldn't see as well.  I was expected to do well in school and to do chores around the house.  They also made accommodations that I was totally oblivious to, but grew to realize their importance.  I had large print storybooks and coloring books and white paper plates dotted the baseball field so I could see the bases.  They instilled in me a sense of confidence and well-being.

 

Looking back over my life there were very few times when I was made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of being visually impaired, or made to believe that I was less of a person.  I understand this isn't always the case.  Some partially blind people haven't been so lucky.  For these individuals NFB could be a pivotal point in their lives.  If we can convince them to attend a chapter or division meeting and especially a state or national convention, we can begin the mentoring process and show through our actions that the NFB philosophy does apply just as precisely to partially sighted people.  Visually impaired individuals will learn that they no longer have to "fake it" but "face it.”  We can teach them to advocate for themselves.  They will learn the use of alternative techniques that can reduce a visual impairment to a nuisance.  Pretty soon they won't care if they are referred to as blind and the word blind will become just a part of their vocabulary.  It's all about changing attitudes.  You see, no pun intended, there truly are more similarities than differences between partially sighted and totally blind people.  We all want to be treated with respect.  We all want to be independent and productive citizens.  We need to continue setting the success bar higher for ourselves than others do.

 

If you have ever doubted your place in the National Federation of the Blind, let me assure you that you are welcome and that your membership is valued.  I attended my first national convention in New Orleans in 1977.  Every national board member I met or saw walking around the convention was totally blind, or perhaps it was merely the fact that they were using their blindness skills to perfection and I assumed they were totally blind.  Although at that time I thought one had to be blind to be a member of the Board of Directors, I am living proof that this is not the case.  I have never doubted for a minute my membership in the Federation or the contributions I have made.  I also value the lessons and opportunities that the NFB has afforded me.  So for those of you who are partially blind members of the organization I want you to realize your worth; and to all of us, let's share with other partials who may be feeling left out.

 

Serving As a Blind Federal Juror

By Trudy Barrett

 

In 1982 when I lived in Idaho, I was picked for federal jury duty.  I was picked like everyone else, at random through the telephone, census, and voting registration.  My husband and I were going through the mail one night after dinner as we always did at that time.  We ran across a letter and form saying I was called for federal jury duty.  I felt honored and surprised at the same time.  We filled out the form and returned it.

 

We had a friend in our church that happened to be a law clerk for a federal judge at that time.  I called him and told him I was selected for jury duty.  He told me, “Congratulations!”  He told me if I needed anything read before or during a case he would be glad to be my reader!  I called the federal court office the next day, and explained that I was blind and a friend of mine worked for the judge and asked it he could read me any documents that I would have to have read before the case I would be serving on.  The lady at the other end of the phone said, “Oh, no, we didn’t know you were blind.  We will have to have your name and address taken out of the pool.  We can’t have a blind person serving on a federal jury court case.”

 

After hanging up the phone, I called Norman Gardner who was the state president of the National Federation of the Blind in Idaho at that time. 

 

A few days later, I received a letter in the mail saying I was exempt from jury duty because of blindness.  I called Norm and showed him the letter.  He made a few phone calls and talked to a few people, and within a few weeks, I received a letter and form to fill out.  The form consisted of my name, address, telephone number, social security number, earnings, employer’s name, and availability on a minute’s notice.  It stated that I would be on call for six months.  I was pleased to fill out all the paperwork that was required.  Within about a week, I got a letter in the mail accepting me for jury duty. 

 

I felt so proud!  I felt I was serving my country and making it a little easier for my blind brothers and sisters by opening the door a little wider for opportunity. 

 

I called Norm Gardner as soon as I received the letter.  He said, “Congratulations!  Now when you show up to be selected, don’t lose your temper, and don’t say something you will be sorry for later!  Don’t let us down.  We are counting on you!  Good luck!”

 

The first case I was selected for dealt with the State School and Hospital for the Severely and Profoundly Retarded.  I was not selected for this case because I worked in this institution as an employee for a few months, and my twin sister was a resident there for a short time.  The next time I showed up, there were more than enough jurors.  The third time, I was picked for a case.  The case was about immigration, with a man accused of importing illegal immigrants from Mexico to Idaho to be farm workers.  He was importing them in a station wagon with no seats and with all passengers piled on top of each other.  We declared him guilty.

 

Each juror was cross-examined by the lawyers, and I was asked how I would be able to know what was going on in the courtroom without being able to see.  I told the lawyer calmly and firmly that I could tell what was going on in the courtroom by what the witnesses said.  We were to make up our minds on what we heard in the courtroom.  So it didn’t matter if I could see or not.

 

During the trial, I got so involved in the case I kept making a humming sound.  The judge told me several times to be quiet.  He told me that he worked hard to get me on this case and to serve for jury duty!  Now if I didn’t be quiet, he would have to dismiss me!  He scared me and I never made another sound.

 

The judge thanked me for my service at the end of my six months, and I have not had an opportunity to serve again. 

 

It felt good knowing I was making a difference by trying to change what it means to be blind. 

 

Remembering the Convention In 2010

By Judy Sanders, Secretary

 

"CELEBRATING 90 YEARS: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD" was the theme for a very special 90th annual convention at the Best Western Kelly Inn in St. Cloud on November 5-7, 2010.

 

Friday Afternoon

 

For the first time, convention participants had the opportunity to preregister for the convention.  This speeded up the process of getting agendas, banquet and lunch tickets (the entire package was $50.00) and enabled everyone to join in the many activities that included:

 

Exhibits/Sales:  The Low Vision Store demonstrated the new Pearl camera used with Open Book Version 9 and the Topaz and Ruby hand-held magnifier from Freedom Scientific.  There were demonstrations of braille displays and sales staff was available to answer questions about products.

 

Louis Braille Bicentennial silver dollars were available for sale.  Those who have purchased coins are supporting the campaign to increase braille literacy.

 

Meeting:  The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota Seniors Division held its annual meeting.  They decided to sell cell phone holders as a fundraiser.  Their officers are president, Joyce Scanlan; vice president, Harry Krueger; and secretary/treasurer, RoseAnn Faber.

 

Discussion:  NFB 101 provided answers to the following questions: How does the organization work?  How do I find out the organization's positions?  What resources does it offer?  How can I help?  This was an opportunity for many of our new members to become more knowledgeable about the NFB.  Our national representative, Mark Riccobono and our president, Jennifer Dunnam, conducted the discussion.

 

Committee:  Our resolutions committee, chaired by Steve Decker, met to introduce the resolutions that are the foundation of Federation policy.  Everyone had a chance to air their views and get an advance look at proposed resolutions that would be introduced to the convention.

 

Meeting:  The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) met to explore ways of increasing braille literacy and had its usual fun with braille games.  Elections produced the following results: president, Melody Wartenbee; vice president, Amy Baron; secretary, Trudy Barrett; and treasurer, RoseAnn Faber.

 

Friday Evening

 

Meeting:  The Minnesota Association of Blind Students (MABS) held the last meeting of the day.  Their energy was evident throughout the convention with the selling of 50/50 raffle tickets.  Their new officers are: president, Jordan Richardson; vice president, Alvin Jask; secretary, Anne Naber; and treasurer, Jean Rauschenbach. 

 

The day ended with generous hospitality from our Central Minnesota chapter.  Seeing old friends and meeting new ones made for an interesting time.  The highlight of the evening was a fundraiser sponsored by MABS.  Those wishing to show off their talent paid an entrant’s fee and shared their finest moments.

 

Saturday Morning

 

After a continental breakfast, President Jennifer Dunnam called the convention to order and introduced Reverend Ron Mahnke for an opening invocation.  Andy Virden, president of our Central Minnesota chapter gave us some welcoming remarks and some history about the downtown area where we were located.

 

Outside the room, students were urged to meet David Reeves from the U.S. Department of Education, who had information regarding financial aid.  Dick Davis was available throughout the convention to sell the Louis Braille Commemorative coins.

 

To celebrate our 90th convention throughout the day, Jeopardy-style questions tested our knowledge of our history.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The year the NFB of Minnesota was founded.

Question from Tim Aune: What was 1920?

 

Charlotte Czarnecki explained how our annual bake auction would work.  She and Kathy McGillivray coordinated a group of auctioneers.  Bids were high making the auction a huge success.  Convention participants donated all items.

 

Our past year was an active one as could be seen in the reports from President Jennifer Dunnam and our national representative Mark Riccobono.  Jennifer reported that we played an active role in choosing the new director for State Services for the Blind (SSB) and have made clear that we will be in constant contact with them about how they can deliver the best services possible for all blind Minnesotans.  At last year's convention, we passed a resolution suggesting that the Communication Center at SSB start producing electronic texts.  SSB is investigating how to do that.  Due to Federation inquiries and another resolution about the low successful closure rate for employment of SSB customers, we are now actively involved in a task force that is trying to determine how to raise the rate.  We were active participants in helping to raise standards for accessible data given out by state government.  We were also successful in enhancing the training for counselors at SSB so that they are now required to have six weeks of training.  It is now in state law.  We were the only blindness organization to call legislators’ attention to a mistake they had made in figuring SSB's budget for the coming year.  We participated in listening sessions held by the Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative.  This project aims to increase employment for people with disabilities in Minnesota.  They will be producing policy briefs that will be available to employers or anyone else who might be interested in them.  We continue to provide feedback to them on the policy brief about blindness.  We continue to work with the Secretary of State's office on doing outreach to voters with disabilities and promoting nonvisual access at the polls.  We continue to work to bring youth into our movement through Teen Night and Saturday School for younger children.  We conducted an event in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education, State Services for the Blind and Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated called Transition to Independence.  We made two presentations to the Statewide Vision Network made up of the teachers of blind children.  After many years of work, we finally have a sign at our headquarters building that identifies us to the world.  We continue sending our message through Twitter and Facebook.  We have been holding conference calls for members at large.  We had 83 people attend our national convention.  We hope that number will increase in Orlando.  Jennifer expressed appreciation for the chance to work with such dedicated and hardworking members.  We will continue to work on all these and other issues in the coming years.  For Jennifer’s complete presentation, see the Winter 2011 issue of this publication.

 

Jeopardy answer:  This Minnesota resolution called upon all teachers in the state to teach braille.

Question: What is 26-02?  It was in 1926 and we wanted Grade 2 to be taught to blind children.  (No one got it right.)

 

Mark Riccobono, executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, gave our national report.  He began by talking about our current concerns in Congress.  First, there is the Technology Bill of Rights.  Much technology today, both in the home and in the workplace, is no longer usable nonvisually.  He also told us that we are seeking a standard of sound emission for quiet cars for the safety of all pedestrians.  (Note: Since our convention, Congress passed and the president signed the Pedestrian Safety Act.)  Our next Washington Seminar occurs on January 31-February 3, 2011.  Before the Washington Seminar, many members will attend the first "Blind Driver Challenge" which will allow a blind person to drive a car.  It will take place on the Daytona speedway and we want a big audience to witness this momentous event.  No longer will people be able to say that we can't accomplish anything.  We need never limit ourselves again.  Through our efforts there is now a commission (Riccobono is the NFB representative) to find ways to insure access to education materials at the higher education level.  This does not just mean books; there are kiosks, Websites, and class materials that are not accessible.  We want publishers to provide their material in an accessible format when they are first available to the public.  We are also working with builders of e-book readers.  Through a settlement with eBay, the NFB is creating opportunities for blind people to set up their own businesses on eBay.

 

Our newest leadership program is the "Teachers of Tomorrow."  We are looking for individuals who want to teach blind children and we will train them in positive attitudes toward blindness so they can incorporate those attitudes in the classroom.  We were reminded of the many free programs sponsored by the NFB such as free white canes and NFB-NEWSLINE®.  The entire collection of the Braille Monitor has been digitized.  We are looking for interviews to create our history and file it at the Jernigan Institute.  On the education front, we have our science academies and we have the BEL program (Braille Enrichment Literacy).  We are looking for three affiliates in addition to the nine who did it last summer to participate in this program.  We are also getting ready for the third annual Youth Slam.  Riccobono ended his remarks by reminding us that in order to keep these programs going we have to fund them.  We should all register for the Race for Independence.  Our work improves our lives; we make a real difference.  One way to donate is through the “Text To Give” program.  Text the word blind to 85944 and donate $10.  When we make speeches, we should ask our audience to use their cell phones and text.

 

Kristin Oien, the new Blind/Visually Impaired Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, presented “Promoting Literacy and Quality Education for Blind Students in Minnesota”.  Ms. Oien has extensive experience in teaching blind children orientation and mobility and other subjects such as braille.  Most recently, she worked as a member of a diagnostic team for blind, deaf/blind and deaf student in Honolulu.  The policy for Special Education in Minnesota is to provide leadership to ensure a high quality education for all Minnesota's children and youth with disabilities.  There are 427 blind and visually impaired students in Minnesota.  For Ms. Oien's complete presentation, see the Winter 2011 issue of this publication.

 

Our agenda had an unexpected guest, Sean Whalen, past president of the NFB's national student division.  The students have a new and improved Website, listserv, and their newsletter The Student Slate is better than ever.  Students are traveling throughout the country to reach out to students.  Students are participating in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest and sponsoring a fundraiser where they are asking for Pennies for Pages to reward their reading.

 

"New Frontiers" gave us the opportunity to meet four staff members who are either new or who have changed their position at BLIND, Incorporated, (Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions).  Shawn Mayo, executive director, talked about always wanting to upgrade teaching practices while sticking to the tried and true methods of success.  They now have a Communications class that combines the teaching of computers and braille taught by Emily Wharton and Ryan Strunk.  Emily pointed out that technology helps make braille more available than ever; for instance, by using speech output on a notetaker with a braille display, the student gets immediate feedback about their accuracy.  Ryan Strunk told of a student who used his ability to scan, word process and braille to produce a restaurant menu.  His success was lauded on Twitter; other businesses picked up the message and spread it even further.  BLIND has developed a new curriculum for braille based on memorizing the braille code and then learning to recognize the position of the dots.

 

George Wurtzel, the new industrial arts instructor, has a long career in the furniture-construction field that is unusual for a blind person.  He is now showing blind people that their dreams can become reality.  Whether it is fixing windows, sawing down trees or fixing a dishwasher, they do it all!

Sharon Monthei is a certified English Language Learner (ELL) instructor and developed a program specifically for blind students.  Most ELL classes rely on pictures; Sharon incorporates teaching braille and English at the same time.  She has taught 17 students from seven different countries.

 

Meet the Blind Month is now a tradition in Minnesota and throughout the country.  Sheila Koenig reported that the Metro Chapter participated in Macy’s Department Store's Shop For A Cause and members leafleted on Nicollet Mall and in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.  Our state affiliate has a Facebook page where we posted biographies of blind individuals.  We staffed a table at the Education Minnesota conference.

 

One of the ways that members support our national movement is through the PAC (Preauthorized Check) plan.  It allows members to have a predetermined amount of money withdrawn from their checking account and donated to the NFB.  Al Spooner reminded all of us why we should participate.  Several Federationists increased already existing plans or started new plans.

 

During lunch, we met the staff and students from Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated.  This is the only consumer-directed blindness training center in the state and it is fitting that they celebrate their success with the National Federation of the Blind.

 

Saturday Afternoon

 

Our afternoon session began with another Jeopardy question.

 

Jeopardy answer:  On December 28, 1920, this organization adopted a policy in support of this travel device.

Question:  What are whistles?  This was a preliminary solution to let the public know that a blind person needed assistance in crossing the street.  It preceded the wide use of the white cane. (No one got it right)

 

The first speaker for our afternoon session was the new director for the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind in Faribault, John Davis.  He is starting his 12th year at the Academy; he taught science and was athletic director.  Davis talked about various construction projects and staff changes.  We urged Mr. Davis to become familiar and participate in the many programs for youth sponsored by the NFB.

 

Jeopardy Answer: Three Minnesotans held for an hour in Six Flags over Georgia for not giving up their canes in 2004.

Question from Sheila Koenig:  Who are Zach Ellingson, Mike Sahyun and Brandon Ball?

 

Jon Benson, director of SSB’s Administrative Unit, gave our State Services for the Blind (SSB) Update.  He spoke on behalf of Richard Strong, SSB's Director.  After thanking the NFB for its continued support, he warned us that SSB and all state agencies are in for serious budget problems.  There could be a $6 billion budget shortfall in the coming biennium.  Benson provided updates from the following units at SSB: WorkForce Development Unit that serves transition-age customers and those seeking employment, Assistive and Adaptive Technology Unit that advises customers about the best accessible technology that will meet their needs, Audio Services that records textbooks and other material for customers, Radio Talking Book that broadcasts books, newspapers and magazines, Braille that produces textbooks and other material in braille, and Senior Services Unit that provides services and information to those wanting independent living services but not necessarily employment.  For specific details about SSB's activities, see Jon Benson’s complete remarks in the Winter 2011 issue of this publication.

 

Jeopardy answer:  An early nickname for this organization.

Question from Pat Barrett:  What is the MOB (Minnesota Organization of the Blind, the name of the organization from 1920 to 1973)?

 

Catherine Durivage, Director of the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library, gave her usual informative report filled with practical advice about ways we can improve our own library service.  In past reports, we heard about staffing difficulties; while the library is not yet fully staffed, staff has increased.  She expressed gratitude for all the NFB's work with the legislature to help bring about the staff improvements.  We heard a lot about the conversion to digital books and we learned that the new NLS Digital player is now available to all patrons.  She gave us hints that we should keep in mind when returning books.  Not only can we borrow books we can use our computer to download them.  Even with all these new ways to obtain books, we should keep our cassette players because it will be a few years before the whole collection is converted to the digital format.  The library wants to make use of listservs, blogs and other forms of high technology.  See Ms. Durivage's full report in the Winter 2011 issue of this publication.

 

"Life-Changing Adventures" was presented by three BLIND, Incorporated students who once again demonstrated through their words that if we believe in our own abilities there is little that we can't do.  Hannah Furney came to us from Ohio but claims Minnesota as her home now.  She told us of a camping trip taken by staff and students last summer where she and Steve Decker, a blind instructor, were part of a group that went tubing down a river.  They became separated from the group and got caught on a tree.  It was the instructor that figured out what to do showing Hannah that blindness did not stop them from solving their own problems.  She has also learned that when a skill seems difficult, patience can be rewarded with success.

 

James Smith arrived from Kansas and thanked the Federation audience for making him comfortable with his blindness.  His experiences in Kansas had been extremely negative and he is grateful to learn that life does not have to be that way.  Mr. Smith can control his own destiny.

 

Virginia Walden has been legally blind all her life but lived her life as a sighted person who couldn't compete.  Ginny had many successes in her life before she came to Minnesota; she earned a Master's degree in divinity and she worked on the streets of Chicago with women who needed help.  But she never felt comfortable with herself and could tell that something was missing.  Ginny sensed this gap in her life and searched the World Wide Web for blindness, braille and white canes.  She found the Braille Monitor, the NFB, and a completely new way of thinking.  Each day she is now challenged to determine whether she is equal with others who are not blind.  She is now able to take risks and knows that she will keep evolving.

 

"Building the Organization, Shaping the Future" was a new experience for longtime convention goers.  We engaged in group discussions exploring what it is that draws us to the Federation and how can we build our organization to strengthen it.  After the discussion, groups reported to the full audience.  Most of us came to the NFB because we wanted more control over our lives; we may have encountered discrimination or we may have felt a lack of independence.  We came for a support system that we will probably always find valuable.  We can share with other blind people why we are here and hope to strike a chord that will draw them in.  Several groups mentioned the importance of combining our special interest groups with chapters and finding tasks to involve everybody.  We must always be open to new ideas while remembering the tried and true things that have worked for years.  Notes were taken with specific suggestions so that we can put our ideas into practice.

 

The NFB of Minnesota is a member of Community Shares Minnesota, a federation of organizations that believe in social justice and raise money for their causes.  Most of the money is raised through workplace giving but the member organizations are expected to help raise money.  Toward that end, a 50/50 raffle was held with the winner getting half the proceeds, and the rest was donated to Community Shares Minnesota.

 

Saturday Evening

 

The prelude to an exciting banquet was a social hour where, along with pleasant conversation, people took their last chance at purchasing raffle tickets for the student division and for Community Shares Minnesota.

 

Master of Ceremonies Andy Virden enlivened the banquet with his down-home sense of humor.  After Pat Barrett's invocation and introduction of the head table, we engaged in a bit of spirited singing of NFB songs.  Ryan Strunk was the winner of $50.00 in the Metro Chapter essay contest and Muzamil Yahya won the random drawing for $50.00 from all those who entered the contest.

 

Kari Hanson was awarded a $1,500 scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota at Morris.

 

The climax of NFB conventions is the foundation of our existence.  Mark Riccobono gave our banquet address.  He shared his story and all of us found parts of it with which we could identify.  Maybe it was the isolation of being left out of childhood activities or self-imposed limitations and those placed on us by others; maybe it was learning too late the place that braille should play in our successes; or whether it was finally knowing that there were people everywhere who can help make the road to independence much easier, we have all lived some part of his story.  His oratory inspired his audience to want to give back so that we can share with others how lucky we are to have the opportunities and successes that we experience.  We are fortunate to be a part of making history for all blind people.  His closing remarks brought us full circle, as he told us of the birth of his children — and the news that his youngest might be blind.  His fears for her did not involve the physical loss of sight, but had more to do with whether she would have an educational system that could meet her needs.  Never has the work of the National Federation of the Blind seemed so important!

 

All of us left the banquet carrying a gift of a pizza cutter courtesy of the Central Minnesota chapter.

 

After a long day, many still found the energy to enjoy further hospitality.  It helped that we gained an extra hour of sleep by turning our clocks back from Daylight Saving Time.

 

Sunday Morning

 

Even with that extra hour, Sunday morning came early and all were present for our final session.

 

One of the Federation's major activities is influencing legislation that improves the lives of blind Minnesotans.  We are effective at this because of the work of our local chapters in a unified effort throughout the state.  We need only look at our host chapter to see how a little effort establishes good rapport with local legislators.  We were pleased to hear remarks from Representative Larry Haws, outgoing member of the legislature from St. Cloud.  He gave us a primer on how to get to know all the new legislators so that we can continue our successes.  It was apparent that he considered Andy Virden his friend and he wanted to serve us well during his tenure.  Among other things, he helped the Minnesota State Braille and Talking Book Library obtain additional staff.  Jennifer presented Mr. Haws with a Louis Braille coin in honor of his appreciation of braille literacy.

 

Jeopardy answer:  This was the first major purchase of property by this organization.

Question from Judy Sanders:  What was the Home and Center for the Blind?  The property was purchased in 1924, and a building constructed.  This building provided housing, meetings, socials, and entertainment programs from 1929 to 1980.  Joyce Scanlan reminded us that while the home solved serious housing discrimination problems faced by blind people, this organization also worked tirelessly at the legislature to eliminate such discrimination.

 

Tom Scanlan reported that our treasury has a net income but our fundraising is down and we cannot predict what will happen with grants, foundations and individual contributions.

 

We heard reports from our chapters and divisions that included conference calls for members at large to keep everyone involved.  Members are distributing literature, fundraising and spreading the word to potential recruits.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The year that the first issue of the Minnesota Bulletin was published.

Question from Joanne Stark:  1935.

 

A moment of silence remembered those members and supporters whom we lost this year.

 

Election results were as follows: vice president, Steve Jacobson; treasurer, Tom Scanlan; first board position, Pat Barrett; and second board position, Joyce Scanlan.  Our current officers and board members who were not up for election are president, Jennifer Dunnam; secretary, Judy Sanders; board members, Jan Bailey, Charlene Guggisberg, and Sheila Koenig.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The year that Joyce Scanlan was first elected president of this organization.

Question from Judy Sanders:  What is 1973?  We heard a sound clip from the convention that elected her.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The largest protest held by blind people in Minnesota.

Question from Judy Sanders:  What is 1980 when we marched to the Minneapolis Society for the Blind?  We heard another sound clip from the march.

 

Steve Decker, chair of the resolutions committee, thanked his committee: Joyce Scanlan, Shawn Mayo, Mike Sahyun, and Jan Bailey.  This year we had a single resolution expressing our concerns about the upcoming budget of State Services for the Blind.  The resolution was passed unanimously and follows this article.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The year and the location of the latest protest conducted by the NFB of Minnesota.

Question from Kathy McGillivray and Tom TeBockhorst:  What is 2008 in Rochester in front of a movie theater showing "Blindness" that portrayed blindness in a negative way?  We heard another sound clip from television coverage.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The first year that Tom Scanlan was elected treasurer.

Question from Joyce Scanlan:  What was 1974?  We got another sound clip.

 

Several Federationists who serve on advisory councils reported to the convention.  Judy Sanders serves on the Statewide Independent Living Council and reported that this Council has been invited to meet at SSB so they can learn more about what that agency does.  Judy also joined Steve Jacobson on an advisory committee to the Secretary of State to do outreach to people with disabilities to increase the number of registered voters.  We had the opportunity to promote use of the AutoMARK that gives nonvisual access to the ballot.

 

The Site Council that advises the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind wants to narrow its focus to advocating for a mentoring program for the students.  Carolyn Barnes is the NFB representative on the Council.

 

Tom Scanlan serves as the NFB representative on the State Rehabilitation Council Blind that works with SSB.  Also serving on that Council at the time of the convention were Steve Jacobson, Ken Trebelhorn, Jan Bailey and Judy Sanders as its chair.  The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), as a part of its oversight responsibilities, brought a monitoring team to Minnesota and met with several Federationists to get our views about service delivery to consumers.  One of their points for improvement had to do with the agency being buried too deeply in its parent department, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED.)  The council is also working on trying to find ways to increase the successful employment rate of SSB customers.  Federationists are urged to attend council meetings and participate on council committees.

 

Jeopardy answer:  1951.

Question from Jan Bailey:  When did Andy Virden join the NFB?

 

Jeopardy answer:  We have a current Minnesotan who inspired one of our NFB speeches.

Question from Shawn Mayo:  Who is Emily Zitek?  Emily wrote one of the letters featured in "The Nature of Independence" by Kenneth Jernigan.

 

Jennifer talked about the great array of NFB literature that continues to inspire us.  She would like to know what piece of literature or article had particular meaning for us; we may print some of these in the Minnesota Bulletin to share with newer members.  A lot of our history is on our Website.  In particular, she recommended an article from 2007 by Joyce Scanlan entitled "How Our Organization Came To Be."

 

Jeopardy answer:  The year that the NFB of Minnesota and BLIND moved into the Pillsbury mansion.

Question from Pat Barrett:  What is 1994?  This sound clip featured the ringing of several miniature freedom bells to celebrate the grand opening.

 

Jeopardy answer:  The number of articles published in the NFB's Kernel Book series written by Minnesotans.

Question from Jan Bailey:  What are ten?

 

Dick Davis announced that we sold $620 worth of commemorative coins.  There are still more to sell.

 

We thanked Tim Aune and Steve Jacobson for all the sound clips from the Jeopardy questions.

 

Our bake sale auction, held throughout the convention, yielded us $3,361.

 

Closing remarks from Andy Virden, on behalf of our host chapter, and Mark Riccobono, our national representative, ended a convention that showed lots of energy and came away with lots of ambitious plans.

 

Resolution A10-01

Regarding adequate funding for senior services

 

WHEREAS, State Services for the Blind's senior services unit provides a variety of services to blind seniors in the state of Minnesota, especially crucial adjustment to blindness training in the home or through group classes, as well as access to information and resources; and

 

WHEREAS, these services are essential for many seniors who wish to maintain their independence; and

 

WHEREAS, these crucial services can be provided for a one time cost of 20 to 50 percent of a single month of assisted living or nursing home care which would otherwise go on for years; and

 

WHEREAS, as the population continues to age, these services will be important to an ever-growing number of older Minnesotans;  now therefore

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 7th day of November, 2010 in the city of St. Cloud, that this organization call upon the governor and the state legislature to provide adequate funding for senior services for blind Minnesotans.

 

A Little Something for Our Seniors Division

By Tom Scanlan

 

I recently had a discussion with a couple of our members who are entering middle age in which I learned that they had never heard an un-popped kernel of popcorn called an Old Maid, nor knew the same term was used for a never-married woman (although not to her face).  How times change. 

 

Even more recently, I received an email with the subject “A Test for Old Kids.”  So here is that test for our seniors to see if they are old enough to remember these things but not so old as to forget them.

 

By the way, I got all but one right.  The answers are listed after the items.

 

1. After the Lone Ranger saved the day and rode off into the sunset, the grateful citizens would ask, “Who was that masked man?”  Invariably, someone would answer, ‘I don't know, but he left this behind.”  What did he leave behind?

 

2. When the Beatles first came to the U.S. in early 1964, we all watched them on the _______________ Show.

 

3.  “Get your kicks __________________.”

 

04.  “The story you are about to see is true.  The names have been changed to ___________________.”

 

5. “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, ________________.”

 

6. After the Twist, The Mashed Potato, and the Watusi, we “danced” under a stick that was lowered as low as we could go in a dance called _____________.

 

7.  “Nestle's makes the very best _______________.”

 

8.  Satchmo was America's “Ambassador of Goodwill.”  Our parents shared this great jazz trumpet player with us.  His name was _________________.

 

9.  What takes a licking and keeps on ticking?

 

10. Red Skeleton's hobo character was named __________________ and Red always ended his television show by saying, “Good Night, and ________________.”

 

11. Some Americans who protested the Vietnam War did so by burning their______________.

 

12.  The cute little car with the engine in the back and the trunk in the front was called the VW.  What other two names did it go by?

 

13. In 1971, singer Don MacLean sang a song about, “the day the music died.”  This was a tribute to ___________________.

 

14. We can remember the first satellite placed into orbit.  The Russians did it.  It was called __________________.

 

15.  One of the big fads of the late ‘50s and ‘60s was a large plastic ring that we twirled around our waist.  It was called the ________________.

 

ANSWERS:

1. A silver bullet.

2. The Ed Sullivan Show

3.  on Route 66

4.  to protect the innocent.

5.  The Lion Sleeps Tonight

6.  The limbo

7.  Chocolate

8.  Louis Armstrong

9.  The Timex watch

10.  Freddy the Freeloader and “Good Night and God Bless.”

11.  Draft cards (Bras were also burned.  Not flags, as some have guessed)

12.  Beetle or Bug

13.  Buddy Holly

14.  Sputnik

15.  Hoola-hoop

 

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 21, 2011 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 – 8, 2011 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort 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 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 October or November 2011 in the Metro area.  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 and Other Meetings 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 United Church of Christ in Rochester 

 

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

 

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.

 

Saturday School — Every third Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m.-Noon at the NFB of Minnesota headquarters at 100 E. 22nd Street in Minneapolis.  Saturday School is geared generally for blind children K-6 to find confidence and normalcy by learning to do everyday things from blind people who lead normal lives doing those things everyday, and to come to know blind people are really just like everyone else.  Contact Steve Jacobson at 952-927-7694 or e-mail steve.jacobson@visi.com.

 

Teen Night Transition Club — Every third Friday of the month 6:30-9:30 p.m.
at the NFB of Minnesota headquarters at 100 E. 22nd Street in Minneapolis.  Teen night is driven mostly by the teens!  It is an opportunity for blind teens ages 13-18 to network and socialize with each other and with young adult blind mentors.  Once they come, teens don't want to miss it!  Contact Charlene Guggisberg at 507-351-5413 or e-mail cguggisberg@blindinc.org

 

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.

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.