MINNESOTA

 

                      BULLETIN

 

Quarterly Publication of the

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.

100 East 22nd Street

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

Voice:  (612) 872-9363

Website:  www.nfbmn.org/

Tom Scanlan, Editor

E-mail tom.scanlan@earthlink.net

 

Volume 78, Number 2, Spring 2012

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

Table of Contents

President’s Column. 1

Federation Family News. 4

Thanksgiving. 4

SSB Announcement 6

Report for the Annual Convention. 7

Resolutions Adopted At the 2011 Annual Convention. 19

Resolution A11-01. 19

Resolution A11-03. 20

Resolution A11-04. 21

ResolutionA11-05. 22

Resolution A11-06. 24

Resolution A11-07. 25

Response to Some Resolutions. 26

Convention Alert! 29

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 29

Background and Purpose. 30

Acknowledgements. 31

 

 

 

 


 

President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

Since the last issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, the NFB of Minnesota has been busy at work on a variety of fronts.

 

Over the last several months, our student division has been working hard to put together a daylong student seminar.  On March 31, 2012, an enthusiastic crowd of students gathered at our NFB Headquarters in Minneapolis for a dynamic and interactive seminar covering a variety of topics of interest to high school and college students.  The morning began with a presentation from Cindy Bennett, the regional representative of the National Association of Blind Students, in which she explained a bit about the NFB, the resources that we offer to students, and how students can be an important part of our organization.  Next were presentations and discussion with State Services for the Blind and with college disability services office about the services available from these entities and about how students could best work with them to get access to educational materials while also honing their skills of independence to be ready for the world of employment after education.  Following were breakout sessions in which either high school or college students could focus on specific issues related to their experience.  A panel presentation from three employed blind individuals followed, and then a discussion about public transportation.  After lunch were more breakout sessions on obtaining employment, socializing, video description, and being healthy on campus.  For the last hour, one of the large meeting rooms was transformed into an exhibit hall in which students could get explanations and demonstrations of different types of assistive technology such as Apple devices, screen readers, braille displays, portable reading devices, and other technology useful to students.  There were door prizes galore, but among the most valuable takeaways from the seminar were the connections made among people and the things that everyone learned from one another — presenters and students alike.  Thank you to the many people involved in helping to make this student seminar a success.

 

Our Washington Seminar and our Day at the Capitol here in Minnesota were quite successful as usual.  As Federationists know, a primary issue on which we have  diligently focused for some time now is ensuring that all workers with disabilities can receive the minimum wage for their work.  As of this writing, there are 63 co-sponsors on our House bill to remove earnings exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Two of those are from Minnesota (thank you to Representatives Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison).  We must all encourage more Minnesotans to sign onto this bill, H.R. 3086. 

 

In January, after nearly ten months of sending letters and making phone calls seeking more information about the accident in which a car struck and killed Andy Virden last March, we finally received the report from the Waite Park police department documenting the investigation.  Andy was for many decades a tireless and effective advocate for the rights of blind people everywhere, serving as the president of the Central Minnesota Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.  He lived life every day working for the right of blind people to live independently and to come and go as others do.  Minnesota's White Cane Law is one protection of those rights, and is a law that Andy advocated for directly.  One impetus for the creation of white cane laws in the states was that there had been cases in which a blind person who happened to be involved in an accident was said to have engaged in "contributory negligence," simply by virtue of walking independently on the streets, regardless of the actual cause of the accident.  The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, knowing that no charges had initially been filed in the case but without any further information, wanted to be certain that such a misguided and discriminatory principle was not being applied in this case and would not be allowed to be applied in the future.  The police documentation indicates that the weather was windy with a mix of rain and snow, that the driver did not see Andy until after he had hit him, and that no evidence of negligent behavior on the part of the driver could be found.  The driver was charged with failure to yield to a blind pedestrian and was fined $185.00.

 

During our 2011 annual convention, we discussed issues related to pedestrian safety.  Out of that discussion came a work group intended to look at what the NFB of Minnesota can best do to educate the public, particularly drivers, about how blind people navigate the streets and about Minnesota's White Cane Law.  The group consists of Federationists from around the state and has been working on plans to make presentations to drivers education classes.  Andy's death was a terrible tragedy, and nothing can change that or make it less painful, but our active efforts in this arena are one way we can honor Andy's life by continuing the work he did to educate the public about blindness.

 

Those who attended the 2011 annual convention will also remember that we discussed ways we might improve our Walk for Opportunity (formerly known as the Move-a-thon).  As a result of that discussion, another work group was put together to look at the time, place, and other aspects of the Walk for Opportunity (our largest state-wide fund-raiser) to sort out what we might try to make it even more successful.  Now, I am pleased to announce that this year, we will hold the Walk for Opportunity in Rochester, Minnesota!  The Rochester chapter has already started working hard to put together a great event, so I hope that everyone will be able to join us on Saturday, September 8 to put the fun in fund-raising!  More details to come.

 

Our Metro Chapter has changed the time of its Saturday meetings.  The meetings will still occur on the third Saturday of each month, but now they will start at 10:00 in the morning.

 

The Central Minnesota Chapter held another successful spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Eagles club this year.  The spaghetti and garlic bread were as irresistible as ever, as was the good spirit of the Federationists and friends in attendance.

 

As of this writing, we have, in collaboration with Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., held two of three planned activities for blind youth in the metro area.  In January, the group of youth (along with some athletic blind adults), had a great time snow tubing for a couple of hours at Buck Hill in Burnsville.  In March, an even larger group went indoor rock climbing in Minneapolis.  While the young people were climbing the walls, the parents stayed back and talked with each other and with blind adults (Federationists) about a range of blindness-related issues, from the education system to the basics of braille to how to help their kids make friends.  There were also hands-on demonstrations for the parents about cooking as a blind person, and when the kids returned, everyone enjoyed a lunch of homemade pizza, salad, and cookies.  In late April, the activities will be centered around Stringball and other games.

 

Membership renewal time is here!  In the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, as in all NFB affiliates, membership is on an annual basis.  The membership year begins on June 1 and ends on May 31.  It is now the time of year for members to renew, and if you're already a member, all it takes is $5 to renew so that you can vote on policies and in elections.  By now you have probably received the letter with notification about the upcoming Semiannual Convention. Along with that letter, you received a membership renewal slip.  Regardless of whether you are able to attend the Semiannual, please send in your slip with your $5 dues.  You can also renew your membership at the convention.

 

As I say often but cannot say often enough, the work we do to raise society's expectations about blindness and improve opportunities for blind people cannot succeed without the hard work of many people.  Thanks to each and every person who helps with this work in large and small ways.  Every bit makes a difference, and there is so much to do — let's keep it up.

 

Federation Family News

 

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

 

James Sloan, who is originally from Liberia but has been in the U.S. for 14 years, became an American citizen on February 15, 2012.  Congratulations, James!

 

Bryce Samuelson just got a job as a Certified Test Consultant at The Wehrman Collaborative, doing accessibility testing of websites, electronic documents, electronic file formats, etc.  He will no doubt be a great asset to the company and a help to ensure that blind people can access the materials.

 

Judy Sanders has successfully completed a very rigorous course and earned certification as a Literary Braille Proofreader from the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  Congratulations to Judy.

 

It is likely that we’ve missed some noteworthy news here.  If so, please do send it along for the next column. 

 

Thanksgiving
By Cindy Bennett


(Editor’s Note: Cindy Bennett is from North Carolina and has recently graduated from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc.  In this article, she writes about the annual Thanksgiving feast the BLIND, Inc. students prepare for their instructors and how that activity builds self-confidence.)


Thanksgiving with my family has always been just that, very family oriented.  We used to travel but have taken to hosting the dinner and housing up to 16 guests in our 1900 square foot home.  So this meant that Thanksgiving was filled with wonderful chaos, chaos that often left me at a loss for how I should help out.  I took to the tasks I knew like the coveted potato pealing or before-dinner-even-begins dishwashing.  I had always been curious about turkey preparation, but in my teen years, and OK maybe still, I had never been ambitious enough to wake up at 5:00 A.M. or courageous enough to interrupt the chaos to ask questions.  So everyone left the turkey roasting to mom, and the turkey frying to the boys outside.

At Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. however, the students prepare a giant Thanksgiving meal for the staff, and the staff repays us with a holiday dinner.  So we began with a plan to map out a menu, decide who was going to do what, and what to prepare beforehand.  We wanted to fry and roast turkeys, and I was excited to assist with both processes.

 

I first carved a turkey and realized that the artistic connotation that carving gives is not accurate.  It was actually quite easy to feel where the various parts of the turkey such as the legs and wings bent and joined with the mid-section.  I cut the legs, thighs, and wings off before slicing the breast.

 

The morning of the dinner, I prepared the fryer for turkey.  I examined its pieces before hooking up the propane tank.  It was quite simple to feel each end and connect the tank to the fryer.  I have worked with matches, but I was a bit wary of lighting one so close to the propane tank.  I used the match to find where I needed to light before doing so, and I listened for the fryer to light before removing the match.  The oil has to heat to 325 degrees, and for the amount we used it took about 45 minutes.  Typically, before you fry a turkey, you displace it in water to figure out how much oil you need.  You can do this by filling the fryer with water the day before, and placing the thawed turkey, still wrapped, inside the water.  After all of the excess has spilled, you can measure how much water remains to determine the amount of oil to use.

 

A turkey must fry three minutes per pound, so this meant that our 12-pounder needed to cook for 36 minutes, but before that could even start, we had to lower the bird into the incredibly hot oil.  Brice, another student, held the basket, which is metal with holes, that comes with the fryer.  Food is placed into the basket, and a device that looks like an upside-down hanger is utilized to lower the basket.  I lifted the raw turkey and placed it into the basket.  I do not mind working with raw meat, but I was a little grossed out since I had to stick my hand into the inside of the carcass to lift it, but it was definitely worth it.  Brice then connected the hanger device to the basket handle.  This would be comparable to hooking the part of a hanger that hangs on the closet clothes bar to something.  He found the side of the fryer with the basket, lifted, and lowered slowly to avoid scorching splatters.  He removed the hanger device from the basket handle, and we put the lid on and waited.

Removing the finished turkey is tedious, because you first have to use the hanger device to find the handle, hook it onto the handle, and lift.  Then, you must move the side of the basket, which has a lip, slowly up the side of the fryer and hook it onto the top edge of the fryer.  This allows oil to drip.  After the dripping has stopped, the turkey can be lifted completely out of the fryer and placed to cool.

 

Although the turkey was the main course, there were many other tasks necessary for a successful meal that we engaged in the entire week prior.  I learned how fussy homemade piecrusts can be, and worked on patience while cutting them.  I placed a toothpick in the center of each pie to center myself and placed toothpicks along the side to indicate the slices I had already cut.  From the appetizers to the dessert, we all worked hard to serve the staff, and finally, ourselves, and the meal was incredible.

 

I am appreciative of BLIND, Inc. for creating opportunities out of holidays to learn the important nonvisual techniques essential to hosting large dinners with food that is typically only cooked at those occasions.  I look forward to hosting several holidays for my family, and even though I did not perfect any of these skills, I built a foundation of skills and confidence to start from in the future.

 

SSB Announcement

 

State Services for the Blind (SSB) now offers Communication Center customers the option of submitting requests for braille transcription over the internet.  To place an order, please visit www.mnssb.org . You will find the braille and audio transcription pages under the tab, Braille, Radio, Talking Books, News.

 


Report for the Annual Convention

By Judy Sanders, Secretary

 

Were you at the Ramada Mall of America the first weekend of October of 2011 helping make history for the organized blind movement?  If not, here's what you missed!

 

Those taking advantage of discount prices through preregistration were able to pick up an agenda and meal tickets and be on their way.  They may have begun their afternoon in the exhibit/sales area where they could peruse offerings from the Low Vision Store where Steve Zent was available to demonstrate and answer questions about the latest in assistive technology. 

 

They might have purchased a massage from May Vang, a Thai massage therapist.  Massages were also available throughout the convention.

 

Many invested in a raffle ticket to try to win a MacBook Air or an Apple TV with proceeds supporting Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc.

 

Another gift item for sale was a cell phone case with profits headed for our Seniors Division.  These cases not only hold a cell phone — they work for your Victor Stream or any electronic player.

 

The NFB of Minnesota Seniors Division met with President Joyce Scanlan presiding.  Among other agenda items, seniors heard from Jan Bailey, a longtime counselor at State Services for the Blind (SSB) who now runs her own business as an instructor of blind adults in the nonvisual techniques that allow blind people to retain their independence.  Elections brought the following results: president, Joyce Scanlan; vice president, Harry Krueger; and secretary/treasurer, RoseAnn Faber.

 

Ryan Strunk ably chaired our resolutions committee.  The resolutions appear at the end of this article.

 

On Friday evening, there was the meeting of the Minnesota Association to Promote the Use of Braille under the leadership of Melody Wartenbee, president.  After adopting a new constitution, they elected the following officers: president, Melody Wartenbee; vice president, Amy Baron; and secretary/treasurer, Trudy Barrett.

 

President Jordan Richardson presided over the meeting of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students where they heard about services for students with disabilities, audio description and they listened to Cathy Jackson, our national representative.  Jordan will continue as president; Ann Naber, secretary; and Hannah Furney, treasurer.

 

After all the meetings, the day ended with hospitality hosted by our Metro chapter.  Snacks and socializing let everyone relax and get ready for the rest of the weekend.

 

President Jennifer Dunnam called the 91st annual convention to order promptly at 9:00 a.m. and Pat Barrett opened with an invocation.  Sheila Koenig, president of our Metro chapter, welcomed us and announced that the chapter would be hosting karaoke following the evening banquet.  Buddy Kahle, sometimes known as Brice Lennes, sang an original composition called "We're the same.”  His CD was for sale during the convention.  Charlotte Czarnecki, coordinator of our bake sale auction, went over the rules of the auction and sold our first items.  Several people served as auctioneers throughout the convention.  Bev Stavrum was taking responsibility for collecting people's bids and delivering the baked goods.

 

Jennifer acknowledged the behind-the-scenes work for this and many other conventions done by B. Hodgkiss-Castleman whose health is declining and was therefore unable to be with us.  We circulated a card to be signed by all present.

 

Jennifer challenged us to do four things while at the convention: meet someone new (there were lots of first-timers in attendance); learn something we didn't know; teach someone something that he/she did not know; and lastly, leave the convention with a task to perform that will benefit the organization.

 

We welcomed our national representative, Cathy Jackson, for her report.  Cathy is president of the NFB of Kentucky and a member of the national board of directors.  Cathy began by sharing her experience in witnessing the first blind driver to drive around the Daytona Speedway on January 29, 2011.  Many of us who could not be there in person shared the event through streaming on the Internet.  It was incredible to know that a blind person (Mark Riccobono) was actually traversing the racecourse and even passing another vehicle. 

 

We are updating the Home Appliance Accessibility Act to include standards for nonvisual access to home appliances and home medical equipment.

 

The Social Security Administration has announced the debut of the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) pilot program.  This program is much like legislation that we have sponsored; so while this test is in play we will not pursue our legislation.  We are hopeful that some of our members will be included in the project.

 

Congressman Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida, and Tom Bishop, a Democrat from New York, introduced H.R. 3086, a bill to phase out the certificates exempting paying the minimum to people with disabilities.  This would revoke Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Other disabled groups are joining us in this fight.  Senator Al Franken serves on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee that will hear a Senate version of this bill. 

 

We will be seeking legislation that reinforces the idea that braille is the primary reading mode for blind students through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

 

Cathy explained the benefits to the NFB's state affiliates and national organization that come through supporting the Imagination Fund.  We should register online and donations can be made directly online, or we can text the word blind to 85944 to make a $10 donation.

 

The NFB has a myriad of programs through the Jernigan Institute to strengthen recruitment of blind youth, parents and teachers to our movement.  These include such programs as YouthSlam where students study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the explorers program where parents learn to be their child's first cane travel instructor.

 

We are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS contest that is now available for children and adults.  We are open to ideas that would make it more interesting.

 

The NFB tenBroek library is available to all of us online; we can use it to study all aspects of blindness.  International papers are going to be added to NFB-NEWSLINE® and we can express our preference for papers that might be of interest.  Many magazines and job listings are now available on NEWSLINE.

 

NFB and eBay have launched a cooperative project that allows blind persons to become owners of a business with their computer.

 

The dates for our upcoming Washington Seminar will be February 6-9, 2012.  Our national convention will be from June 30-July 5, 2012 in Dallas.

 

Cathy's report was followed by a drawing for the first of many door prizes given away throughout the convention.  Rob Hobson was a most popular person as keeper of the names to be drawn.

 

Richard Strong, director of State Services for the Blind, gave his usual informative update.  See his full remarks in the Winter 2012 issue.  Shawn Mayo asked what was being done about the inaccessibility of the new SWIFT (Statewide Integrated Financial Tools) computer system used for the State of Minnesota accounting and purchasing, or will blind people be excluded from employment that might require using this system?  Mr. Strong did not know about its accessibility but pledged to work with the appropriate people to make it so.

 

Kathy McGillivray asked if the SSB Communication Center is able to scan books for customers.  Mr. Strong said that the position to handle that task is currently vacant but will be a priority when someone is hired.

 

Kristen Oien, the Blind/Visually-Impaired Specialist in the Department of Education, was scheduled to speak with us.  She could not be present but sent written remarks     that were read by Kathy McGillivray and are printed in the Winter 2012 issue.  Ms. Oien urged us to forward questions to her.  Jennifer suggested that we ask about the importance of braille in school districts where students are being given iPads for use in the classroom.  Improved access does not mean less braille.  Jan Bailey wanted to know how blind students are performing on the state's standardized tests.

 

Cindy Bennett spoke to us from the National Association of Blind Students (NABS).  She serves as its secretary and speaks throughout the Midwest.  She gave an example of NABS advocacy efforts; when professors were using iTunes for downloading material the NFB was able to use experiences of blind students to show its inaccessibility.  Because of these efforts, most of Apple's products are extremely accessible.  NABS provides a large network of advice to new blind students.  The division serves as a starting point for many future leaders.  She talked about their organizational structure and various ways to be involved.  She will be helping Minnesota students plan a seminar for the spring.

 

News From Our Library was presented by the director of the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library.  See her remarks in the Winter 2012 issue.  The digital program is growing rapidly.  While during the state-government shutdown the library could not send out books, patrons could download a book any time.

 

Ken Trebelhorn is employed as a technology specialist at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind (MSAB).  He shared the latest news from the Academy.  The school has opened a house to be used by transition students to learn independent living skills.  Residents must either be employed or at a community college.  There are currently 53 students enrolled at the Academy with 30 of them living in the dorm.  Attendance has increased slightly because parents can now choose to send their children to the Academy without a referral from the local school district.

 

The school sponsored a white cane awareness day that Ken predicted would be a great success.  (Note: The walk took place on October 14th with over a dozen Federationists participating.)

 

The Academies for the Blind and Deaf are building a technology center on the Deaf campus.  It will teach everything from the latest in technology, to industrial arts and even have a culinary program where the students will run their own restaurant.  Shawn expressed concern that this might be a first step toward combining the two programs.  Ken said that he expressed the same fear and has been assured that there is no such plan.  We know that we must always be vigilant.

 

To speak out about transportation we heard from Chad McGuire.  This was his first NFB convention and we hope it will not be his last.  Chad is a member of the Metropolitan Council's Accessibility Committee and is a Master of Urban and Regional Planning candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in the University of Minnesota.  Chad asked that we consider four numbers: 11, 18, 59 and 71.  His home is 11 miles from the Ramada; it takes 18 minutes to drive that distance; it takes 59 minutes by bus and 71% of employment opportunities are not on public transit.  We have our work cut out for us.  But what stronger advocates could there be than the NFB?

 

During our lunch break BLIND (Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions) held its annual consumer luncheon.  We had the pleasure of meeting current staff and students.

 

The first order of business in the afternoon was to see a film produced by Dan Bernstrom, one of the counselors in the summer youth program last year.  It showed shots of the students going through their everyday classes and activities.  We saw them learning to use their canes (sometimes rather hesitantly), working in home management and industrial arts and having fun on a roller coaster.  Charlene Guggisberg, coordinator of the youth program, then introduced two participants who appeared in the film: Anthony Reinhart and Joshua Xiong.  This program helped them know that someday they would be able to live away from home and lead a full life.  They said that their parents and teachers steered them toward the program and they found cane travel the most challenging.  They greatly enjoyed their trip to Florida.  They were able to tour Universal Studios.

 

Al Spooner reminded us to bring our checkbooks to the banquet where we would hear more about and be able to sign up for the PAC (Preauthorized Check Plan).

 

Jennifer reported on the aftermath of our informational protest of last summer at Senator Al Franken's office to gain his support on the elimination of subminimum wages for people with disabilities.  Since that time, Senator Franken has taken a tour of BLIND where he saw the potential for competitive employment.  His staff is working with us, and Anil Lewis in our national office, to further his understanding of the issue and we now have a House bill, as mentioned earlier by Cathy Jackson, H.R.3068.  At the time of the convention, we were just beginning to gather support in the House.  Other organizations for and of the disabled are beginning to join us in our fight.  One hundred four places in Minnesota hold certificates allowing them to pay below the minimum wage to disabled people.  We are fortunate that none of them is specifically open for blind individuals but this does not mean that there are not blind people involved at the other places.

 

We were asked to have a moment of silence for those members we lost in the past year.  We specifically mentioned Andy Virden, Walter Hybbert, Marcie Sawyer and Gordon Danuser.

 

Richard Davis, Assistant Director for Employment Services at BLIND and chair of the Employment Committee in the NFB, moderated a panel of people who are on the road to finding employment or who have already done so.  First, we met Michelle Jackson, a student at Centerpoint School of Massage Therapy.  Rather than specialize in a particular kind of therapy she is studying all of them.  She is required to take a lot of science in her coursework. 

 

Dwight Freeberg served as a mentor for the other two panelists.  He was having his first contact with us at this convention.  He and his wife own a beauty saloon and spa.  When they talked about being partners in business his wife insisted that he would not just manage the books he must bring in income.  That was when he decided to become a massage therapist.  Although this career is working for him, he warned us about falling prey to the idea that this is a career for all blind people.

 

May Vang is practicing Thai massage therapy.  May learned her craft while living in Laos.  When she came to this country, she not only had to learn English and blindness skills, she had to upgrade her skills to go into business.  She is just getting started and we were able to benefit from her skill at the convention.  Dick gave special recognition to Sharon Monthei who taught May English when she first came to BLIND.

 

Jennifer reported to us on successes during the last year and challenges for the future.  We were able to keep adjustment-to-blindness services open during the government shutdown in July.  We were instrumental in bringing about a higher visibility for SSB in the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) so that the Director of SSB reports directly to the Commissioner of DEED.  We have advocated for numerous individuals who have run into roadblocks at SSB in getting services to which they were entitled.  We are working to build relationships in the state legislature and with our Congressional delegation.  As an example, a group of us attended a town meeting sponsored by Congressman Chip Cravaack in the Eighth Congressional District.  We were encouraged to attend other town meetings.  We have changed the name of our move-a-thon to the "Walk for Opportunity.”  We celebrated our 30th walk with Alice Kalesh completing the route for the first time.  Alice is 84 years old and is a new member from the Central Minnesota Chapter.  Steve Jacobson completed his 30th walk.  He is the only one who can make that claim. 

 

In the future, we want to revive our conference-call meetings for members throughout the state who are not near a local chapter.  

 

We had three Minnesota teens who attended the NFB YouthSlam.  Jennifer also attended the YouthSlam as a staff member.  She learned that not only were the students stretched in their learning but Jennifer learned that she could coordinate a team of marshals who would be the talking signs that would help students get from place to place by themselves.  She talked about the techniques she used to learn the campus herself — a campus in Towson, Maryland and Jennifer living in Minneapolis.  (See Jennifer's column in the Fall 2011 issue of this publication).

 

Shawn Mayo, executive director of BLIND, introduced us to three students who talked about their experiences.  Nineteen-year-old Christopher Meyer came to us from Indiana, straight from high school.  One of the first things Chris learned before he came to Minnesota was how to speak up for himself with his rehabilitation agency to gain the right to come here.  He credits Al Spooner and Ron Brown, president of the NFB of Indiana with helping him work this out.  Since his training began, Chris has taken one trip home and gone with his family and a blind friend to Chicago.  He noticed a big difference between his ability and that of his blind friend.  The difference was that he has had the chance to learn and she has not. 

 

Sarah Lang, a Minnesotan, has been working on the first golf tournament to benefit BLIND.  Sarah became blind two years ago but kept her job in a restaurant and pretended to see.  That didn't work.  Sarah moved back home with her mother and stayed there for eight months.  She was afraid and embarrassed to go anywhere alone.  Finally, she was referred to SSB and taken on a tour of BLIND.  She immediately saw that there was hope for a different kind of life, and took a big step in enrolling for training.  During the first week, she cried every day; some from fear and some from being overwhelmed about how much she had to learn.  She is becoming the person she wants to be and knows she will go back to work and go anywhere she wants in life.

 

Cortnie Ryan, from Indiana, was educated as a blind child where she felt that much was lacking.  She was doted upon for accomplishing everyday tasks and now realizes it was not helpful.  She was told that she would not make it in college because of poor math skills.  Hearing about adjustment-to-blindness centers, she did some research and decided to come to Minnesota.  She told us about adventures in learning how to cook hamburgers and, while it was difficult, she knows she is on the right road.

 

Jennifer concluded the afternoon agenda calling our attention to three articles in The Braille Monitor from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) regarding how braille must keep pace with changes that now appear in print literature.  BANA will seek our feedback about these changes.

 

The social hour preceding the banquet gave people further opportunity to invest in the various raffles that were to be drawn for that evening.  We had lots of time to catch up with old friends and meet the challenge of becoming acquainted with some new people.

 

Al Spooner served as Master of Ceremonies at the banquet where he called upon Kathy McGillivray for an invocation.  After introducing the head table and enjoying a sumptuous meal, Al asked those wanting to draw raffle winners to come forward.  First was the drawing from BLIND for the MacAir and Apple TV.  The winners were Wendy Lavoi and Joyce Scanlan respectively.  Ryan Strunk had the honor of selling the most tickets. 

 

The NFB of Minnesota is a member of Community Shares of Minnesota, a fundraising federation of socially responsible nonprofits.  Member organizations are required to help raise money for Community Shares; toward that end, we held a 50/50 raffle won by Tom TeBockhorst.

 

Jennifer Dunnam won the 50/50 raffle sponsored by our student division.

 

Charlene Guggisberg presented $75 to Chris Kuell from Connecticut as the winner of the essay contest sponsored by the Metro Chapter.  Emily Zitek won a drawing for $50 among the other entrants.  Charlene thanked the other judges, David Andrews and Deanna Langton.

 

Sheila Koenig, chair of the scholarship committee, presented two scholarships.  Kinsey Norton, awarded $1,000, is a student at St. Benedict’s in St. Joseph.  Kinsey hopes to work as a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State.

 

Alex Loch was the winner of an all-expense paid trip to our national convention in Orlando and a $1,500 scholarship.  He is studying physical therapy at St. Scholastica in Duluth. 

 

Sheila thanked her committee of Steve Jacobson, Ryan Strunk, Jan Bailey and Michele Gittens.

 

Kathy Jackson inspired us with a time-travel experience throughout her life where she learned to live as a Federationist long before she knew of the organization.  Her parents instilled in her the desire for independence and she learned to assert herself.  The older she became, the more obstacles she encountered and had to find ways to get around these.  Eventually her education led her to the Kentucky School for the Blind where she had her first lessons in discovering that the amount of sight one has is not the key to one's success.  She was destined to be a leader in the NFB.  She shared her experiences because she believes that our experiences parallel hers and each member has much to offer the organized blind movement. 

 

Al described the Preauthorized Check Plan (PAC) in which we contribute a monthly amount to our national treasury through automatic deductions from our checking account.  People were able to increase their current donation or start a new plan. 

 

The evening ended with some lively karaoke and more socializing.  We now know that many of our members have talent and others may want to keep their day jobs.  No matter which category one fell into everyone had fun.

 

Sunday morning came quickly and everyone was present and full of energy for our closing business session.  Jennifer announced that Parnell Diggs of South Carolina is running for Congress.  The NFB does not endorse political candidates, but individuals are welcome to contribute to his campaign.  We know how valuable it would be to have a blind person in Congress who understands the values that we share in the Federation.

 

Ryan Strunk came to the podium to read our proposed resolutions.  There were six of them. 

 

Resolution A11-01, finding employment with the help of State Services for the Blind, urged SSB to allow temporary employment while working to fulfill a long-term job goal and that a temporary job is not grounds for closing a case. 

 

Resolution A11-02 was not recommended to pass due to some mechanics in the writing of the resolution.  It was concerned with quiet cars and while we did not pass the resolution, the issue is of great concern to us.

 

Resolution A11-03 asks SSB to eliminate or reclassify a current counselor position that involves interpreting policy.  There was a technical amendment to the Resolution to insert the job title being referred to.

 

Resolution A11-04 calls upon employers in Minnesota who hold a certificate allowing payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities to give them up and urges Congress to pass the Fair Wages for People with Disabilities Act of 2011 eliminating this exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

 

Resolution A11-05 deals with technology and SSB.  It condemns and deplores the red tape that SSB uses to determine when assistive technology will be provided and it asks the Director of SSB to establish policies that will truly assist the SSB customer seeking employment in obtaining needed technology.

 

Resolution A11-06 condemns and deplores the wholesale installation of audible pedestrian signals at intersections including those where blind people are unlikely to travel and urges using the media to bring to the attention of the public the waste of tax dollars.

 

Resolution A11-07 urged that the state comply with nonvisual access laws in making the new Statewide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT) usable by blind persons.  A technical amendment pointed out that Minnesota Management and Budget is responsible for this system.

 

All resolutions recommended by the committee passed unanimously and appear following this article.  Ryan thanked committee members Jan Bailey, Dick Davis, Shawn Mayo and Steve Decker who served as secretary to the committee.

 

After dealing with all the resolutions an in-depth discussion occurred regarding the education of the public on pedestrian safety and the white cane law.  A motion passed directing our president to appoint a committee to develop an education plan to deal with this issue. 

 

Election for state offices was as follows: president, Jennifer Dunnam; secretary, Judy Sanders; board members: Rob Hobson, Brice Samuelson and Sheila Koenig.  Charlene Guggisberg and Jan Bailey both chose not to seek reelection and were thanked for their service.  We know they will remain active in the organization.  Those whose terms will expire next year are vice president, Steve Jacobson; treasurer, Tom Scanlan; and board members Pat Barrett and Joyce Scanlan.

 

Chapter and division reports were given reaffirming that the NFB of Minnesota is active throughout the state with community awareness activities, fundraising and much more.

 

Tom Scanlan gave our treasurer's report showing that our income is down because of the economy affecting individual donations. 

 

It was appropriate that brainstorming about fundraising followed this report.  We have held our walk for 30 years with varying degrees of success.  Is it time to try something new?  Should we change the time of the walk?  Several alternatives were offered.  Whatever we choose to do it must be something that increases our income.  Jennifer planned to form a working group to explore these possibilities.

 

Several Federationists serve on advisory committees and boards.  Charlene Guggisberg and George Wurtzel serve on a board that advises the office for Blindness and Low Vision in the Department of Education.  They reported that Christine Oien, the director, seems to want to make changes in the special education system in the public schools.  It remains to be seen how much cooperation there will be with the rest of the group.

 

Jan Bailey serves on the advisory council to the State Academy for the Blind.  They are looking forward to their white-cane-awareness day where many Federationists will participate.  They are bringing in speakers who can help mentor students.  Jan represents not only the NFB on this committee but also the alumni.  Therefore, the NFB could appoint another representative.

 

Tom Scanlan is the NFB representative on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind advising State Services for the Blind.  Many other Federationists are active in making this Council work through serving as members and playing active roles on Council committees.  One of its accomplishments has been the development of a survey of SSB customers who receive adjustment-to-blindness services.  This survey has shown that BLIND is one of the most highly rated services available.  We were urged to attend council meetings.

 

Steve Jacobson reported on an employment summit held by several state entities to explore how to reduce the unemployment rate among people with disabilities.  Listening sessions preceded this summit with groups of disabled people to talk about what works and what does not work in gaining and retaining employment.  The summit was the means of sharing the results of these listening sessions.  They defined employment as competitive and paying at least the minimum wage.  We need to raise people's expectations about their employment opportunities.  The question was raised about what to do when disability groups do not agree.  Steve and Jennifer, who also attended, suggested that groups focus on areas of agreement and let individual groups handle the issues where there are differences.  Many wanted to know why the NFB is so successful at the state legislature. 

 

Tom reported that our bake sale brought in $2,626.  Many people's generosity meant that we could carry home wonderful baked goods and feel good about adding to our treasury.

 

The convention adjourned on that positive note.

 


Resolutions Adopted At the 2011 Annual Convention

 

Resolution A11-01

Regarding: Job Placement and Training at SSB

 

WHEREAS, preparing blind people for and helping them get competitive employment are the reasons why State Service for the Blind's (SSB's) Workforce Development unit exists; and

 

WHEREAS, one of the best ways to assure that blind people get competitive jobs at the end of the rehabilitation process is for them to get part-time and/or temporary jobs while they are attending community English Language Learner (ELL) classes, pursuing their GED, or enrolled in higher education or vocational training; and

 

WHEREAS, it has come to our attention that some Workforce Development staff believe that job placement and other rehabilitation services such as training are mutually exclusive, with customers forced to choose between one or the other, and that they must close an individual's file when the individual has obtained employment, regardless of whether other services are still needed; and

 

WHEREAS, federal law, regulations, and policy directives state clearly that an individual's file should not be closed rehabilitated until they achieve their employment objective, not when any form of employment happens to come along; and

 

WHEREAS, the above practice is particularly detrimental to blind immigrants, who cannot receive Supplemental Security Income and must support themselves by working; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to review SSB's policies and operational procedures, clarify that temporary job placement can be provided without having to close the individual's file, and take whatever action is necessary to inform all SSB supervisory and field staff of that fact; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to inform the President of the NFB of Minnesota on the actions taken and provide a complete report on it at the next NFB of Minnesota semiannual or annual convention.  

 

Resolution A11-03

Regarding: Filling policy vacancy at SSB

 

WHEREAS, State Services for the Blind (SSB) has a vacant “lead counselor” position in its Workforce Development unit that it is currently attempting to fill; and

 

WHEREAS, some of the policy interpretations that have come from the previous incumbent in the position have been incorrect, and have led to misunderstandings that were detrimental to customers; and

 

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act and regulations and the SSB Administrative Rule allow rehabilitation counselors the flexibility to work with their customers to make service decisions on an individualized basis; and

 

WHEREAS, it seems to us that it is the responsibility of SSB managers and supervisors, not field staff, to clarify and interpret policy, and that a better use of field staff would be to help blind people prepare for and secure employment, not add another layer to SSB's bureaucracy; and

 

WHEREAS, SSB has a comparatively low customer employment rate and comparatively high customer failure rate, indicating that the money currently spent on this position could be better spent on service delivery or hiring competent job development and placement staff; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we call upon the Director of SSB to either eliminate the position and use the money saved for service delivery, or reclassify it and hire a competent job development and placement person, and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to inform the president of the NFB of Minnesota on the actions taken and provide a complete report on it at the next NFB of Minnesota semiannual or annual convention.

 

 

Resolution A11-04

Regarding: Wages for Workers with Disabilities

 

WHEREAS, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938 to provide workforce protections to American employees by establishing a federal minimum wage prohibiting employers from exploiting workers through the payment of wages below this specified minimum; and

 

WHEREAS, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act permits the secretary of labor to grant special wage certificates allowing specified employers to pay workers with disabilities at rates that are lower than the federal minimum wage, eliminating those workforce protections granted to every other American citizen; and

 

WHEREAS, paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages stems from the public misperception that people with disabilities cannot be productive employees; moreover, this exploitive standard for employment is patronizingly considered a compassionate opportunity for people with disabilities to receive the "tangible and intangible benefits of work"; and

 

WHEREAS, when provided effective rehabilitation services, training, and support, employees with disabilities (even those with the most significant disabilities)  can be as productive as nondisabled workers, obtaining jobs paying the federal minimum wage or higher; and

 

WHEREAS, though some employers possessing special wage certificates claim to provide rehabilitation and training to their workers with disabilities to prepare them for competitive employment, the fact that such employers choose to pay their workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage demonstrates that they do not possess the skill to prepare those workers for integrated employment in the mainstream economy; and

 

WHEREAS, there are 104 facilities that possess a Special "Subminimum" Wage certificate in the state of Minnesota, which not only allows them to exploit the labor of people with disabilities through the payment of wages less than the federal minimum wage, it denies these same individuals the opportunity to receive the training and support to become competitively employed; and 

 

WHEREAS, the only way to discontinue this wage discrimination of workers with disabilities is to repeal Section 14(c) of the FLSA and to revoke every special wage certificate granted under that provision; Now, therefore

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization call upon every entity  throughout Minnesota that currently possesses a Special Wage certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor to immediately surrender their Special Wage certificate, and to adopt a business model that values each of their employees with disabilities by paying them the federal minimum wage or higher; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all entities that hold these certificates to join with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in our efforts to encourage the United States Congress to pass the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011, which provides an incentive for employers to adopt a business model that pays employees with disabilities the federal minimum wage or higher by phasing out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and by revoking the certificates issued under that provision so that workers with disabilities are guaranteed the same workforce protections afforded nondisabled employees; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to co-sponsor H.R. 3086 to achieve this goal; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization condemn and deplore every entity that continues to exploit people with disabilities through the payment of subminimum wages.

 

ResolutionA11-05

Regarding: Technology and SSB

 

WHEREAS, computer technology is an integral part of our lives today, especially in higher education and employment, and blind people need access to that technology in order to compete successfully in both; and  

 

WHEREAS, the federal Rehabilitation Act and regulations recognize this fact by requiring that assistive technology and training be provided to customers throughout the rehabilitation process, including during adjustment to blindness training, going so far as to exempt them from comparable services and benefits requirements; and

 

WHEREAS, it has come to our attention that some rehabilitation counselors in State Services for the Blind's Workforce Development unit still consider public library computers a "comparable service", and refer rehabilitation customers to Eye-Link and other programs, instead of buying them the assistive technology they need; and

 

WHEREAS, these same counselors often require customers to jump through hoops, such as waiting until they get a letter of acceptance from a college or university, or requiring them to prove that a specific job requires the use of a computer, instead of logically assuming that it will; and

 

WHEREAS, these stingy and shortsighted practices not only violate the Rehabilitation Act and Regulations as laid out in Rehabilitation Services Administration Technical Assistance Circular 98-04, but also harm SSB's blind customers by denying them the equipment and in depth training they need to compete in higher education and employment; and

 

WHEREAS, preparing blind people for, and helping them get, competitive employment are the reasons why SSB's Workforce Development unit exists, and such practices no doubt have contributed to SSB's comparatively low customer employment rate and comparatively high customer failure rate; now, therefore

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization condemn and deplore the practice of denying blind customers the assistive technology they need to succeed in higher education and employment; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to take immediate action to fix this problem through written communication, staff training, individual counseling, disciplinary action, and whatever other means are necessary to assure compliance with federal law and regulations; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to inform the president of the NFB of Minnesota on the actions taken and provide a complete report on such actions at the next NFB of Minnesota semiannual or annual convention.

 

Resolution A11-06

Regarding: Accessible Pedestrian Signals

 

WHEREAS, for over ten years, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota has worked with city, county, and state transportation officials to develop standards for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals (APS), requiring that they be installed only in those intersections which are difficult or potentially hazardous for blind persons to navigate because of their complexity, unusual shape, or degree of computer control; and

 

WHEREAS, the City of Minneapolis has abided by those standards, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), other cities, and the county jurisdictions have opted instead to follow the "best practices" guidelines issued by the federal Public Right of Way Access Committee, even though they are only guidelines, not regulations; and

 

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota has testified orally and in written comment against the plans adopted by MNDOT, and earlier this year, by Hennepin County, with no apparent effect; and

 

WHEREAS, it has come to the attention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota that APS are being installed at a rapid rate in newly constructed or updated intersections throughout the state, including many locations where blind persons are extremely unlikely to travel; and

 

WHEREAS, it is our opinion that the wholesale installation of APS at every intersection is a waste of federal, state, county, and city money at the same time that those bodies are facing budget shortfalls and cutting necessary services which really can benefit blind people; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we condemn and deplore the wholesale installation of APS at new and updated intersections, and call upon MNDOT, counties, and cities that are doing so to cease this wholesale waste of public money, and work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop more reasonable guidelines for APS installation; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota will distribute this resolution to the members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, Governor, MNDOT commissioner, and county and city officials, and call the attention of the media to this blatant example of government waste.

 

Resolution A11-07

Regarding: State fiscal system

 

WHEREAS, Minnesota Management and Budget recently unveiled the new Statewide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT) system, which governs all the State's fiscal transactions, including those with private service vendors; and 

 

WHEREAS, attempts by blind persons to use the SWIFT system have been unsuccessful because parts of its design, including the vendor training manuals and the ability to create a new password, are inaccessible by nonvisual means; and

 

WHEREAS, Section 16C.145, Minnesota Statutes 2006 requires that "nonvisual technology access standards ... must be included in all contracts for the procurement of information technology by, or for the use of, agencies, political subdivisions, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities", and that "nonvisual access technology must be integrated into networks used to share communications among employees, program participants, and the public"; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we call upon the State of Minnesota to correct these problems and others in the SWIFT system that may need fixing immediately, so that blind people can use the system and the State is in compliance with the law; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if this is not done, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota intends to take whatever action is necessary, including entering into litigation, to compel the State of Minnesota to make it accessible.

 

Response to Some Resolutions

By Jennifer Dunnam, President

 

Following is a summary of my conversations with Richard Strong, Director of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB), regarding the resolutions pertaining to SSB that were adopted by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled October 9, 2011.  These resolutions were adopted because of specific issues that were brought to the attention of the NFB of Minnesota and had been discussed in past months with Mr. Strong.

 

I sent these resolutions to Mr. Strong not long after the convention, and when we met shortly thereafter, he indicated that he had reviewed the resolutions thoroughly with Jon Benson, who had recently become the Workforce Development Director at SSB.  Additionally, training of staff on new elements of the recently-revised administrative rule had covered some of these items.

 

Resolution A11-01, Regarding Job Placement and Training at SSB

 

Mr. Strong indicated that he agreed that temporary employment before a customer has achieved the vocational goal is not itself grounds for closing the case.  SSB is not an employment program in the classic sense; the rehabilitation process leads toward a specific, agreed-upon vocational goal.  If that goal is to be amended, it is to be done with the agreement of the customer.

 

Instances can arise during the rehabilitation process in which case closure may be appropriate, but not because the person has achieved some part-time or temporary employment.  Cases are not to be closed early just because a person got a part-time job or internship, and he will continue to work with staff to ensure this understanding.

 

Resolution A11-03, Regarding Filling Policy Vacancy

 

This resolution referred to a specific position vacancy at SSB.  Mr. Strong stated that the position is not being re-classified, but clarification of the purpose of the position is in order.  There are two reasons for the position.  The person filling this position will be a counselor with a caseload and will also be a resource to the field.  The person is to work in collaboration with the supervisors and counselors, not simply a "point person" for interpreting and promulgating policies.

 

Resolution A11-05, Regarding Technology and SSB

 

Mr. Strong indicated that he agreed with the assertion in the resolution that technology does not require the seeking of comparable services and benefits.  If a customer needs assistive technology to work toward the vocational goal, the customer should not, for example, be sent to the local library to use whatever technology may be available there.  There have been some shifts in the administrative rule that will help ensure that customers receive required technology services.  A person could receive a technology package on loan while in adjustment-to-blindness training.  There are solutions available that do not require sending customers elsewhere to get the rehabilitation services they need.

 

Resolution A11-07, Regarding Statewide Fiscal system

 

Although this resolution is not addressed to SSB, we shared it with Mr. Strong as well as others in a position to do something about the issues, so that he would be aware of the concern from the organized blind.  Mr. Strong said that the Statewide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT) continues to be problematic on a variety of levels to everyone.  It has caused great difficulty in obtaining the reports needed to manage the business of SSB.

 

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), the state department responsible for the SWIFT system, has since sent several letters detailing the actions it is taking to rectify the accessibility problems with SWIFT.  As shown in the following letter, it has made progress on the accessibility front.

 

January 11, 2012

 

Jennifer Dunnam

President

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota

100 East 22nd Street

Minneapolis, MN 55404

 

Dear Ms. Dunnam:

 

On behalf of the SWIFT Project Team and its Steering Committee, I wanted to follow up on my earlier letter of November 28, 2011, about the concerns expressed by the National Federation of the Blind regarding vendor information and resources.  We are fully committed to making certain all vendors and prospective vendors have access to the tools and information needed to effectively conduct business and bid on business opportunities with the State of Minnesota.

 

The SWIFT Project Team has recently modified the Supplier Portal to improve its functionality based on feedback from the vendor community, which includes your membership.  The SWIFT project ushered in a new way of doing business for all current and prospective vendors, and vendors across the state have had to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities within the new system.

 

We invite you and your members to review both the Supplier Portal https://supplier.swift.state.mn.us and resources provided as guidance on the Minnesota Management and Budget Website http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/vendorresources.  If your members continue to experience difficulty accessing or using the SWIFT Supplier Portal now or in the future and have suggestions for improvements, we encourage them to contact Wale Sanya at wale.sanya@state.mn.us or 651-201-8214.  If they have general vendor questions about their registration or payments with the state, they may contact Sue Swanson, sue.swanson@state.mn.us 651-201-8183 or Deeja Kinde, deeja.kinde@state.mn.us 651-201-8184 for personal assistance.  

 

Enclosed with this letter are instructions on activating the accessibility mode on the Supplier Portal.  These instructions will soon be available directly from the Supplier Portal page via the link titled Instructions for Enabling Accessibility Mode.

 

Thank you for your patience with the implementation of Minnesota's new accounting and procurement system.

 

Respectfully,

 

Jim Manion

Swift Program Director

Minnesota Mgmt and Budget

400 Centennial Office Bldg.

658 Cedar Street

St. Paul, MInnesota 55155

651-201-8200

James.Manion@state.mn.us

 

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 in May 2012 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 June 30 through July 5 2012 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 2012 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 and Other Meetings to Remember

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Background and Purpose

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Acknowledgements

 

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

 

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

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

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.