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 79, Number 2, Spring 2013

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

 

Table of Contents

President’s Column. 1

Federation Family News. 4

Eye on Central Minnesota. 5

Me, Myself, and Seattle. 7

Blindness Opens Doors. 10

Building Our Organization through Mentoring. 11

2012 Annual Convention. 14

Resolution A12-01. 24

Resolution A12-02. 25

Resolution A12-03. 25

Resolution A12-04. 26

Resolution A12-05. 28

Convention Alert! 28

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 29

Background and Purpose. 30

Acknowledgements. 31

 

 

 

 



President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

The age in which we are living can certainly be confusing at times.  Many changes that sometimes seem contradictory with one another are occurring in parallel.  For example, while we now find more independent access to information than we have ever experienced or imagined in our lives, some of us are also finding our jobs, which we may have done quite satisfactorily for many years, becoming harder to do as blind people because of technology that is increasingly difficult to use in a nonvisual manner.  The National Federation of the Blind, both in advocacy and mutual support, is just as critically important as it ever has been.  The changing landscape requires us to think hard and carefully about how we can have the most and best influence as individuals and as an organization.

 

Not long before this column was finished, Twitter turned seven years old.  Twitter, with its 140-character messages and its many ways to categorize and share information,  is full of as many types of communication as we read and hear through other means on a daily basis: the important, inane, funny, ridiculous, profound, edifying, irritating, and everything in between.  A communication has the potential to spread more quickly and widely than ever, and, of course, this applies equally whether the communication contains good or bad information.  Twitter and other venues like it also make it more possible that there will be reactions to a communication, even from people that might not take the time to write a letter or make a phone call.  A problem can be caused, escalated, addressed, and resolved in a very public manner and in a very short span of time.

 

A recent kerfuffle illustrates the point and the need for us to be proactive in shaping the public perceptions of the capabilities of blind people.  Not long ago, A word of advice for people with low vision (and presumably those with no vision as well) was offered on Twitter by a company that sells products of specific interest to blind people.  The tip was, "Use microwaves instead of conventional ovens whenever possible to avoid burns."

 

Really? 

 

Some of our Federation members use stoves daily and can cook circles around most people, sighted or blind.  More of us may not be master chefs but use our stoves on a regular basis to cook for our families and ourselves.  It is hard even to know where to begin to expound on the many problems with this helpful hint.  The implication is obviously that if one is not fully sighted, then one is more likely to burn oneself on a stove.  We know that safety in the kitchen is not related to sight or lack of it, but to paying attention and using good techniques.  We might even prefer "Use conventional ovens instead of microwaves whenever possible for better tasting food.”

 

The company deals in blindness-specific products and may therefore be viewed by some as expert on blindness.  People who are new to blindness may get the idea that, in order to be safe in the kitchen, they will now be limited to cooking in a microwave oven.  Using a microwave oven is, of course, not in and of itself bad; false perceptions that limit options are very problematic in all too many areas of life for too many people.

 

Anyone in the world might have been able to read this tweet.  Perhaps very few in the world actually did read it.  However, quite a number of blind people took a moment to send off a 140-character reaction to the advice on using microwave ovens.  The company ultimately handled the situation well.  At first, they indicated that they had just been passing on the tip from another source, and they provided the link to the fuller list of tips for cooking with low vision.  Upon investigation of the full list, one might count the 140-character limit on Twitter as a blessing.  The advice on using a microwave oven whenever possible went on to say that if indeed a conventional stove were required, then only the front burners should be used.  Readers were also encouraged to buy pre-cut vegetables and the like to cut down on the need for chopping and grating.  These, too, are false limitations; blind people may safely use any and all of the burners on the stove and chop food as much as we wish. 

 

Just a bit of re-framing of the advice  could have helped; for example, even simply to have suggested the use of the front burners in the beginning until the cook becomes more confident in the use of nonvisual cooking techniques would have projected an attitude based on more accurate information and higher expectations.  However, the book If Blindness Comes, which provides many details about how a blind person cooks in the kitchen and does many other tasks in daily life, says it well as follows:

 

"A cook who becomes blind still has a lifetime of experience and knowledge about food as a resource to be prized.  There is no reason for a blind person to be frightened of hot stoves, electric mixers, sharp knives, or anything else in the kitchen.  It is important to take the same good-sense precautions you always did: don't leave cloth potholders on the stove, don't stack glasses in the sink, and so forth.  Accidents occur because of carelessness, whether the cook is blind or sighted."

 

The book is available in hard copy free from our national office, or online at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/books/books1/ifblind.htm

 

The dialog with Twitter followers continued.  To their credit, the company apologized, deleted the tweet, and began encouraging blind people to submit cooking tips of their own.

 

In some ways, this was a tiny incident, but small things like this if left to stand can add up in a very big way to make our lives harder.  Could a comment like this, or enough of them, cause a blind senior citizen to be placed in a nursing home rather than be given the training to continue to live independently?  Could it factor into a parent deciding that letting a blind teenager learn to cook in the kitchen is maybe not a wise idea?  Could it help cement a social worker's perception that blind people cannot safely take care of their children?  And what about the appliance manufacturers — if blind people are advised not to use stoves, then why bother making sure that the controls are accessible?  This litany may seem alarmist, but for many of us trying to live fully within our world, the misconceptions and ripple effects that create attitudinal barriers are all too real.

 

Again, I do not mean to pick on one company.  Even while we have made great progress, the misconceptions about blindness are still widespread.  That is why we as a movement have a responsibility to be prepared to handle them effectively, individually and organizationally.  We need to know all we can about how blind people can get things done, and we can know much more collectively than we can individually.  All the money identifiers and accessible e-books can only help so much without us also honing and using our skill at both recognizing and acting to prevent the underestimation of the innate capabilities of blind people.  We must continue vigorously to fight for accessible information so that we are not left out of employment and all of the other aspects of life.  At the same time, it is urgent that we continue to find ways to improve public attitudes and perceptions, by the lives we live every day and by the work we do for a cause larger than ourselves.  Our Federation is full of people to learn from and work with.  We must work actively to educate the public, through the methods we have developed and through the new ones that we have not yet dreamed of.


Federation Family News

 

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

 

Several Federationists will be graduating with high school diplomas or college degrees this spring, including Hannah Furney, Jordan Richardson, Catherine Jacobson, and Quinn Haberl.  Congratulations to all.

 

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Suzanne Fearon, daughter of long-time Federationist Maxine Schrader.  Suzanne had also been a member and had been battling cancer for more than 20 years.

 

We also learned that several months ago, Norm Grow, the brother of Janiece Duffy, passed away.  He had been in a rehabilitation facility recovering from cancer and suffered a heart attack.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Maxine and Janiece during this difficult time.     

 

Congratulations to Ryan Strunk, who starts his new job in accessibility and marketing at Target in April.  Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. will miss him, but of course, he still will be an active member of the NFB of Minnesota.

 

We are pleased to announce the engagement of Rob Hobson and Deborah Jensen.  We tried to talk them into having their wedding as part of the annual NFB of MN convention, but alas, the happy couple will be married in August in Omaha.  All the best to them.

 

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

 


Eye on Central Minnesota

By Lori Peglow

 

From the CMC's President's Desk

 

Relationships are a vital part of our emotional well-being as a person.  Interaction with others is essential to all of us, for we are social beings.  The first two chapters of Genesis in the Bible reveal that to us, and the behavioral sciences verify it.  You and I thrive when we have good relationships with others and with ourselves.

 

Often, those of us who are blind can struggle in our relationships.  We can think of ourselves as different, and feel like we don't fit in.  Thus, if we are not careful, we can isolate ourselves, and become subject to loneliness.  Depression then can easily become part of our existence; we have angry feelings, and wonder about our worth as a human being.

 

Coming out of that negative thinking venue is not easy.  I've been there, and I know that many of you have been there also.  Moving into a positive view of self and others, I have found starts with a vital relationship to God.  It is in God's truth that we lay claim to our worth as a person. 

 

The next step, of course, for us, is not to walk this journey alone.  We need the support of others.  For me, that has been my faith community and my loved ones who care about me.  Reach out — we don't need to travel this road alone. 

 

Thirdly, get involved.  I suggest here getting involved with the National Federation of the Blind.  The NFB is an organization that advocates for the rights of the blind.  Our emotional energy needs focus and direction.  Otherwise, that emotional energy gets locked inside of us, and nobody wins in that scenario.  The NFB gets your emotional energy moving positively for constructive change in the lives of people, including our own. 

 

I have just shared with you a triad, namely, stand upon God's truths and love as to who you are as a person.  Secondly, don't try to go it alone — the support of others is essential.  Thirdly, channel your emotional energy constructively.  The NFB exists to help you in that process. 

 

In conclusion, I share with you a statement I recently heard.  That statement was, “What's in the well comes up in the bucket.”  May your well and mine be full of living water.  May God bless!

 

Sincerely,        

Reverend Ronald Mahnke,  CMC/NFB President

 

Meet Members of the CMCNFB

 

Kevin Horodenski

Born with Retinal Pigmentosa, Kevin Horodenski, now 35 years old, has been a member of the Central MN NFB since December 2012.  Kevin has slowly been losing his eyesight because of the disease, and had to stop driving between 2006 and 2007.  He can distinguish light and dark and has some light perception.  Kevin uses the JAWS program on his computer to read text.

 

Kevin was originally from Macungie, Pennsylvania.  He moved to the St. Cloud area to be with his fiancée and stepson and to attend the St. Cloud Technical College where he is majoring in Automotive.

 

Kevin’s hobbies are hunting, fishing, woodworking and restoring classic cars.  His father owned his own construction company.  That is where Kevin learned to work with wood.  He is building a smoking cabinet and restoring a wooden rocking chair.  Kevin used to build model cars, but because of his disease, he can no longer see to build them.  He is currently restoring a classic pickup truck.

 

Kevin’s advice for blind or low-vision people is this — don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you are blind.  Tell them they are wrong and then prove them wrong because blind people can do anything they put their mind to.

 

Day at the Capitol

 

Kevin Horodenski represented the CMNFB at the NFB of Minnesota’s Day at the Capitol.  He met with Senator John Pedersen from District 14.  Kevin relies on public transportation so he was able to speak to Senator Pedersen about making sure there is money for public transportation, not only in Central MN, but also in the Twin Cities.  That includes money for such services as Metro Mobility and Dial-a-ride.

 

Kevin also has had accessibility issues at school and has been unable to obtain special accommodations for a blind person.  Senator Pedersen is going to look into the issues and see what he can do to help.

 

Through his experiences at Day at the Capitol, Kevin learned a lot.  If more people go to Day at the Capitol, the more legislators hear our voice.  And the more who hear us, the more we will accomplish.  We will learn, as Kevin did, to self-advocate and to advocate for others who are blind.  We just need to speak up.  If we learn to say what we are having problems with, we go in the right direction.

 

Virden Scholarship

 

Andy’s family created the “Andy Virden Memorial Scholarship” at St. Cloud State University in late 2011 in recognition of his activism and service to his community.  The original endowment is $5,000; anyone can make additional contributions at any time.  An annual grant of $1,000 will be made for as long as funds remain.  To be eligible, students must be in good academic standing, have a visual impairment, and be active in community service.  If no applicant meets the criteria, children of parents who are visually impaired will be considered.  The university’s Office of Student Disability Services will choose winners.  The director of that office is Owen Zimpel, tel. 320-308-3117.

 

In setting up this fund, we worked with the university Director of Development, Bob Beumer.  He can be reached at telephone 320-308-3716.

Me, Myself, and Seattle

By Emily Zitek

 

When I think of taking a trip or vacation, I think of going somewhere nice with the family or my husband.  Together, my husband and I have traveled all over the United States and even to Mexico for our honeymoon.  Any time I took trips, they always included at least one other person I knew at some point during the trip.  In many cases, I might take a plane to a specific place where I would be meeting with a specific group of people.  All I had to worry about was getting there, and the itinerary for the week or weekend would be set up for me.  But I never imagined taking a trip, out of the state, totally by myself.

 

One day in Mid-August of 2007, I had been teaching a life-skills class at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., where I had been working for almost ten years.  After class that day, Shawn Mayo, the Executive Director, asked if I would be interested in attending a seminar in Seattle about how to teach English to blind immigrants.  The prospect seemed quite interesting, not only because of what I would be learning, but because I would be traveling completely alone to a new city.  The other lady attending the seminar was someone I had known for quite some time, but I wouldn't be traveling with her or even staying at the same hotel.  So I knew that this would be a challenge that I was willing to experience; it was something new that I knew I would remember forever.

 

I told Shawn that I needed to think it over, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought of how exciting and challenging it would be to travel completely independently as a blind person for the first time ever.  At first, there were little voices in my head nagging at me, and the questions kept coming.  What would I do to occupy myself during those days when the seminar wasn't going on?  Would I just sit in my hotel?  Would I be able to find stores and places to eat?  What would happen if I got off the bus in the wrong neighborhood on my first night in Seattle?  And I'm sure these are fears that sighted people also face when going to a new place by themselves, so I knew this had nothing to do with being incompetent as a blind person.

 

But despite all my anxieties regarding the trip, I told Shawn that I would attend the seminar.  Of course, there were others she had considered asking, but I knew that this was an opportunity I would regret passing up later, and this kind of challenge may never come my way again.  Ever since I was a little girl, every time I put my mind to something, I could do just about anything.  After all, I told myself that this trip would be fun!  The seminar was to take place Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week I would be in Seattle, and on Tuesday and Thursday, I could set up my own itinerary of things to do and explore. 

 

Shawn told me to do some online searches for reasonable airfares, and I booked my own flight.  Then with the help of one of my longtime friends in the Federation, I got the names of decent hotels in Seattle.  The hotel I chose wasn't very close to the seminar location, but I got the phone number to the transit center in Seattle, which is almost as efficient as the one in the Twin Cities area. 

 

After my flight and hotel reservations were set up, I began making plans as to what I would do with my free time.  Two days after I was asked to go on this trip, I had information about how to get from the airport to my hotel, and then to and from my hotel and the Kaizen Center where the seminar would be held.  In fact, the people at the hotel were very friendly and helpful over the phone and gave me the names and addresses for some great restaurants and diners, and even a supermarket and drugstore within walking distance of the hotel.

So by the time I left for Seattle, I felt more confident than ever, and an overwhelming sense of excitement took over me, especially when my week in Seattle started.  I couldn't believe how simple it was to get around the city using the buses, and how informative the people had been over the phone.

 

I had a great time that week.  I had almost forgotten how much fun it was to sit up late into the night watching my favorite TV shows and talking on the phone without worrying about disturbing somebody else trying to sleep.  Married people don't always have the luxury of sitting up late at night, going out to dinner at midnight and coming in late from listening to a jazz band, or working out in the hotel's workout room whenever you want, even at 5:00 in the morning.  As planned, I took the seminar on the designated days and learned a lot, and on the other days when I wasn't studying, I ventured out to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, and I went on a two-hour cruise around the lake, where I listened to detailed descriptions of different historical things we passed during that cruise.  I found a nail shop and hair salon and spent an afternoon getting pretty.  I visited many shops at Pike Place Market and bought a few souvenirs to bring home with me, and there I ate some of the best fish I'd ever eaten.  Sharon (the other lady taking the seminar with me) and I met once for dinner at a New Orleans-style restaurant we were told about, but other than that, I was completely on my own, and I came home with so much enthusiasm about the trip and self-confidence, because all my fears about traveling alone were washed away by nothing but great experiences.

 

If you're ever up for a challenging adventure, I recommend taking a little trip by yourself if you haven't done this before.  Even if the trip you take has no specific purpose, I can assure you that it will be very rewarding and will give you a great sense of freedom and independence.  Even if you only have a day or two to spare and only want to go to the nearest big city, go ahead and do it.  You'll realize how nice it is to take time out for yourself and set your own itinerary and schedule, and it will make you want to try it again.  Doing research about the place you choose beforehand is a big help.  Talk to friends, family, or other acquaintances that may have gone there, which is where I began my research.  Researching online was also helpful, but the thing that made this trip so successful was my determination and ambition.


Blindness Opens Doors

By Randi Strunk

 

Too often when people think about being blind they consider all the doors closed to them, all the things they will no longer be able to do, and how life just won’t be as exciting since they can no longer see.  As I look back on my life, however, I notice an opposite trend. 

 

I was born blind; I have had the same vision my entire life.  I grew up on a farm in Nebraska and went to school in a small town where my class had 36 people.  I didn’t think I was blind.  I struggled with school, only learning to read large print at a snail’s pace.  I was always apprehensive about going new places because I didn’t use a cane, and my participation in extracurricular activities was very limited and filled with anxiety.  I loved sports and tried to participate, but it never quite worked out the way I wanted.  When I graduated from high school and went off to college, I wasn’t confident in my abilities and I wasn’t accepting of my blindness.  It seemed like there were many closed doors.

 

Something happened during my freshman year of college when one of those doors cracked open and what I saw inside would help me unlock far more doors than I could ever have imagined.  I attended a college workshop put on by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and there I heard Peggy Elliott talk about her life, her struggles and successes, and — most importantly — the National Federation of the Blind.  This workshop made me think there was more out there for me.  I met blind students who were successful in college studying a myriad of subjects, and I wanted the confidence they all seemed to have, even though they were blind.

 

Once I got home, I began scouring the internet for articles Peggy had written; I read them all and then began reading other articles in the Braille Monitor.  I contacted the Nebraska Association of Blind Students and eventually joined at an NFB of Nebraska state convention.  As my interest in the National Federation of the Blind grew, I decided to transfer from the small state college I was attending to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  UNL was my dream school and I thought I should really try it.  Little did I know, the door to what was possible would be thrown wide open through the Federationists I would meet because of this decision. 

 

I had been corresponding with a few members of the Nebraska Association of Blind Students and they welcomed me to Lincoln with open arms.  As a result, I began attending NFB meetings, using a long white cane, and using JAWS for Windows to complete schoolwork.  I was traveling more confidently, being more efficient with my studies, and becoming ever more involved with the NFB.  Doors were opening. 

 

After graduating from college, I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) in Ruston.  I was finally able to gain the alternative techniques and confidence I had been wanting for so long.  While in training at LCB we went white-water rafting, rock climbing, and horseback riding and I participated fully in all of these events — no apprehension, just doing, a far cry from the constant worrying of just two years prior.  LCB wasn’t all fun outdoor activities.  I learned how to travel with a white cane, use JAWS, read braille, and add alternative techniques to my daily living skills.  I even built a china cabinet in shop class, and I put all four doors on myself. 

 

The National Federation of the Blind has given me training and confidence through one of its centers.  It has allowed me to make professional connections that have taken my husband and me to the beaches of Waikiki, the heart of Texas, and now to the lakes of Minnesota for employment, and it has given me friendships that have taken me on cruises to Mexico, the Caribbean, and three city baseball stadium tours.  These things were never in my wildest dreams ten years ago, but they are my reality today thanks to the NFB and the impact the Federation has had on my life.  I can’t wait to see what’s behind the next door!

 

Building Our Organization through Mentoring

By Bryce J Samuelson

 

(Editor’s Note:  Bryce is a member of the NFB of Minnesota Board of Directors and president of our Rochester chapter.)

 

When I was growing up in rural Minnesota, the only successful professional blind person was my Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) counselor, Jan Bailey.  Though I knew I wanted to grow up and be successful, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher or rehabilitation counselor.  I knew a general path — or at least a potential occupation — for me would have to be around technology and computers, although I didn’t know anyone who was blind and successful in that area.  Of course, I’d used or at least heard of JAWS, ZoomText, Window-Eyes and other assistive technology and was about two years or so from getting my first Braille ‘n’ Speak.  I started using MS-DOS and an Apple® 2GS and Apple® 2e at about the ripe old age of four or five at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind’s (MSAB) Summer School program.

 

Growing up as the only blind student in my district, I felt very lonely — not even realizing my visual limitation until I reached kindergarten.  The drive that took me through high school and eventually college began with an experience I had at that young age.  I came home from school one day and told my mom that I was mad.  She asked me why and I said, “Because I can’t see the chalkboard and the other students can.”  It was my first realization that I was blind, though at that time, I didn’t call myself blind.  I called myself either “legally blind,” “low vision” or “visually impaired.”  Instead of giving up, I became determined to work harder and to graduate with my classmates, disability or not.  I struggled with having a paraprofessional sitting beside me in school, every day all day, and I never was able to form any real friendships with my classmates.

 

The only salvation I found was in summer school at MSAB.  I began attending at the age of three and what fun I had in those brief times.  At summer school in 1994, I really hit it off with one of my fellow students and we quickly became best friends.  Until then, I hadn’t had someone who I could call a best friend.  For three of the four years I went to MSAB, my best friend was there.  I was always eager to go back on Sunday night to see my best friend and go into the Gopher’s Burrow to play air hockey or to one of our rooms to listen to music.

 

As a junior in high school, I returned to my home and attended public school because I knew I would need to survive in a sighted world, though it was not easy to leave my friends and safe surroundings behind.  In the Spring of 2000, I graduated from high school on time with my classmates just as I had resolved to do early in my educational experience, even taking a Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) course.  I later went on to finish my Associates degree at Riverland Community College and a certificate in Web design.  Web design was, and still is, my love and I wanted that to be my profession. 

 

I job-hunted, interviewed, but couldn’t find anyone with the courage to give me a chance to show what I could do.  I even offered to work free, just being paid for a project at completion only if it had value to the employer and customer, but no takers.  I wish I had known someone with a visual limitation who was working and successful in the computer field.  I needed someone with whom I could verbalize my frustration, someone who had been there, walked that path before me, and lived through it. 

 

On my own, I resolved to search for a baccalaureate program.  I completed one year at Winona State University in Rochester.  It was during my last semester at WSU that I met with a Disability Services counselor at Rochester Community and Technical College who pointed me toward the University of Minnesota’s Department of Rhetoric’s Bachelor of Science in Scientific and Technical Communications, which I completed in December of 2006.

 

Knowing I needed more that an education to succeed in this world, in January, 2007 I started in the comprehensive program at our training center, Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Incorporated in Minneapolis.  While there, I successfully completed three drop offs, a graduation walk, two meals and a four-page braille document.  The first drop off was pretty easy by the time I got to it as I had successfully completed more complicated routes that the travel instructor could give me.  I listened for traffic and obvious noises as I walked back to the bus stop.  When I got to the first busy street (which turned out to be Hennepin Avenue), I found the bus stop and when a bus came, I asked what number it was and he said that it was a six.  I knew right then where I was or what intersection I was at.  Now I was confident, I had a good education and independent living skills that would help me get a job and live on my own.  It was so reassuring to have the instructors and fellow students from the program to cheer me on.

 

A month after I left Minneapolis and arrived home, I started living in an apartment by myself.  One reason is that I would be closer to the Workforce Development Center in Rochester where I started working with a placement person in March of 2008.

 

By the end of the year, I was back at home living with my parents after 13 months of trials and challenges that go along with living on your own.  The experience was fine and exciting at first, but I soon found myself starting to stay at home longer before returning and dreading that return.  I had to face the challenge of learning and getting used to a woefully inferior bus system.  Living where I did was mostly fine because it was right downtown and had a store, a library, a church and other essentials close.  I imagine this has happened to other blind people, young people trying to establish themselves, but I had only my SSB counselor to talk to.  Although she was very helpful and supportive, I had no idea if it was realistic to believe I could succeed in the field of Web design.

 

In 2009, I continued seeing the placement person though I only got interview experience.  In September of 2009, I started an internship with the office of my local congressman.  I stayed at that internship until late May of 2010.  That position was a very helpful learning process.  I learned to handle a multiple line phone, deal with the public, and about the inevitable office politics.  My supervisor was very helpful and that gave me confidence.  Less than two months later, I started working at the Minnesota Low Vision Store in Rochester as the store manager.  That position wouldn’t have come along without my visual limitation, knowing something about some of the products I sell and knowing Jan Bailey.

 

In conclusion, my experience might have been less stressful had I had a peer group to share experiences with and a role model or mentor for guidance and support.  Our organization has an opportunity to become a resource for even more blind and visually impaired people of all ages.  Not only could this build our membership, but it would also provide the much needed role models and supportive, informal and sustaining relationships for the mentees who joined the program.  This would be beneficial to not only the mentors and mentees, but to the broader communities in which we live.  If the mentees would happen to join the chapters closest to where they lived, they would see more people and have the opportunity to build more connections, but also to be a part of a support group and have people they could talk to about things they may be going through.  For that reason, we should develop a mentorship program that is both informal and supportive to connect successful professionals in any industry or area with blind or visually impaired students and job seekers of any age.

 

2012 Annual Convention

By Judy Sanders, Secretary

 

Convention theme: THE URGENCY OF OPTIMISM

 

This year's convention theme was the title of President Marc Maurer's 2008 banquet address, and the aura of excitement that permeated the convention made it apropos.

 

Friday, October 26

 

Federationists began arriving at the Radisson Harborview in Duluth Friday afternoon, where registration and exhibits opened at 3 p.m. Exhibits included:

 

·        the sale of NFB Louis Braille Commemorative silver dollars,

·        sale of cell phone carriers for the NFBMN Senior Division,

·        information on student financial aid for higher education from the U.S. Department of Education, and

·        information about the Duluth Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss.

 

The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille in Minnesota held the first meeting of the afternoon, with President Melody Wartenbee presiding.  Jennifer Dunnam, who manages the braille programs of the NFB, talked about the various programs and the status of the Unified English Braille Code in the United States.  The Braille Monitor has printed many articles about this new code.  Melody was re-elected president and Trudy Barrett was re-elected secretary/treasurer.  Amy Baron has one more year to serve as vice president.

 

The Minnesota Association of Blind Students (MABS) featured Minnesota's Lieutenant Governor, Yvonne Prettner Solon as its first speaker.  Her remarks showed that she understood the needs of blind students in this state and she recognized that the National Federation of the Blind was the place to be to work directly with blind Minnesotans.

 

Frederic Schroeder, the Federation's national representative at this convention, energized the students with his remarks.  In addition, Karen Anderson represented the NFB's student division and was an enthusiastic participant throughout the whole convention.

 

Jordan Richardson was re-elected as the MABS president.  Va’nasha Washington will serve as first vice-president, Hannah Furney will be second vice-president and Adrianne Dempsey will serve as treasurer.  They will elect a secretary at the semiannual convention in May.

 

The Resolutions Committee, chaired by Ryan Strunk, met to review and make recommendations about proposed resolutions.  This is a key step in the process the NFB uses to set its policies and direct its actions in the future.  All resolutions brought to the floor of the convention and passed appear at the end of this article.

 

Our students ably hosted the evening hospitality.  Members who paid $5.00 to show off their talent entertained us, with the proceeds going to MABS.  Appetizers, a cash bar, conversation with friends and watching talented (or not so talented) Federationists made for an enjoyable evening.

 

 


Saturday, October 27

 

Activities began early on Saturday with a breakfast meeting of the NFBM Seniors Division.  Richard Strong, director of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) who gave a brief preview of his remarks that would come later in the convention, joined members.  The following people were elected for one-year terms: president, Joyce Scanlan; vice president, Jan Bailey; and secretary/treasurer, Pam Provost.

 

The last item on their agenda was a pitch for the ever-popular cell-phone carriers they sell to benefit the senior division treasury.

 

President Jennifer Dunnam called our general session to order.  After a welcome to Duluth from Pam Provost and an invocation from Kathy McGillivray, President Dunnam issued us three challenges to achieve over the weekend: meet someone new, teach someone something and learn something new.

 

Frederic K. Schroeder, first vice-president of the NFB and president of our Virginia affiliate gave for his national report.  He set a tone for the day of high expectations for what we should achieve.  Whether discussing legislation, resolutions, accomplishments, or attitudes toward blindness it is the National Federation of the Blind here in Minnesota and throughout the nation that binds us together and ensures our positive future.

 

Sheila Koenig, chair of our scholarship committee, introduced us to this year's scholarship recipients.  Martha Mellgren and Josh Klander said hello and would speak to us further at the banquet.

 

Karen Anderson, representing the National Association of Blind Students, the NFB student division, told us she got her start in the Federation by receiving a scholarship from the Nebraska affiliate; she has never looked back.  She summarized the activities of the division that included sending student representatives to state conventions to meet and encourage students, publishing the Student Slate and sponsoring monthly membership calls.  Many people already subscribe to the student listserv.

 

Anmohl Bhatia is a case manager at the Duluth Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss.  The Lighthouse started its existence in 1920 as a sheltered workshop; but twelve years ago, it discontinued the shop and is now exclusively an adjustment-to-blindness center, providing its training through community education and support groups.  It also sells blindness and low-vision products.  It lost a grant to serve deaf/blind individuals but was given a grant to serve seniors.

 

One of the highlights of our conventions is hearing from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) Incorporated students.  They share with us graphic reminders of the importance of learning to understand our blindness and go forward with a positive spirit throughout life.  Shawn Mayo, executive director of BLIND, introduced a panel of students that did not disappoint us.

 

Adrianne Dempsey is from Michigan and had the idea of coming for training five years ago.  However, she was reluctant to wear sleepshades; so she put it off.  As she came to know people in the NFB, she gained courage and took the plunge.  She now realizes that she walks faster when she isn't trying to see everything.  As she gains in confidence, she is becoming more assertive in a positive way.

 

Ralph Jarrell believes that whatever one is trying to do we should each just do the best we can.  He thinks that more important than the skills he is learning is that he can feel good about the effort he is putting into his training.  He thanked the members of the NFB for their encouragement.

 

Marie Kouthoofd is a longtime leader who served as vice-president of the NFB of New York.  She is a professor of psychology.  Why then, with all her accomplishments, would she come for training?  Marie acknowledges that she felt she was losing her edge; her blindness was getting in her way more than it had in the past.  Her vision was changing and she needed to change with it.  For 16 years, she has espoused the Federation philosophy; now she is learning to live it and she is excited.

 

Nadine Jacobson serves as a member of the Board of Governance for the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.  She played a role in selecting the new superintendent for the academies for the blind and the deaf, Brad Harper.  Mrs. Jacobson introduced Mr. Harper and Ken Trebelhorn, who is one of our members teaching technology at the Academy.  Ken let us know that enrollment at the school is stable and that the students are involved in many activities.  One of them involves participating in Project Search in which students find internships to gain job experience.  Other opportunities are in athletics and learning independent-living skills.  Mr. Harper has a wide variety of experience in the educational system.  His most recent stint was at Pine School in Anoka County, a school for students who had problems with the judicial system.  When he arrived at the school, he found low expectations with all courses elective and not meeting state standards.  By the time he left the school, the students were earning diplomas and no longer just passing time.  Mr. Harper made it clear that he wants to learn our stories and our dreams for the Academy kids.  He invited us to visit him at the Academy; he spends Tuesdays and Thursdays on the Blind campus.  He comes to the Academy with an open mind and an excitement that is refreshing.

 

Al Spooner came forward to urge us to sign up or increase our PAC (Preauthorized Contribution Plan).  This is our way of making an automatic monthly contribution to our national treasury.  Several people pledged to increase and start new plans.

 

Upon adjournment of the morning session, many members went to the BLIND, Incorporated lunch where they met students and staff and had a more informal look at their program.

 

Charlene Guggisberg coordinated an activity for teenagers attending the convention.  They walked to Lake Superior and visited the area including exploring an old-fashioned toy store.

 

Those interested in forming a new Duluth chapter met to make plans.  Pam Provost was chosen as temporary chair.

 

The afternoon session began with an update from Richard Strong, director of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB).  For his complete remarks, see the Winter 2013 issue of this publication.  Among other things, he discussed staffing changes, challenges in providing services to various constituencies of blind customers, updates from the various units of SSB and budget matters.

 

Sharon Monthei asked how the NFB can be helpful in solving service delivery problems that occur frequently with particular staff.  Mr. Strong said the first step is to make sure the agency is aware of the difficulties.  The Administrative Rule has procedures for appeals.

 

Charlotte Czarnecki expressed the hope that more blind people would find employment at SSB.  When asked if there were particular jobs that blind people need not apply for, the answer was that SSB would do everything to provide reasonable accommodations where necessary, both for an interview and on the job.

 

Dick Davis, as chair of the NFB's Employment Committee, offered to meet with SSB to develop strategies to recruit more blind employees.  SSB is also working with state government to increase employment opportunities in the state for people with disabilities.

 

Kristin Oien, whose remarks also appear in the Winter, 2013 issue, is the Blind/visually-Impaired Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education.  Her office is sponsoring many conferences and workshops to enhance the knowledge of teachers of blind children.

 

Jan Bailey asked if there was data indicating how blind students are faring on standardized tests.  Mrs. Oien offered to share the data with the NFB.

 

President Dunnam commented on the preponderance of electronic books used in classrooms; she asked if this presented a problem for the blind student in getting material.  Oien said that hard copy braille is still available and that each child's needs are considered on an individual basis.

 

Oien also indicated that there is a document analyzing the workload of vision teachers that she can provide to us and that plans are being made to fill vacancies that will occur in the future.  She ended her remarks with a promise to continue to disseminate material from the NFB about the various programs for youth and educators.  She acknowledged Charlene Guggisberg, who serves on their advisory committee.

 

Our next speaker, Catherine Durivage, director of the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library is the last speaker whose remarks appear in the Winter issue.  Ms. Durivage reviewed matters at both the local library and at the National Library Service.  Many changes are occurring with updated technology making books easier to receive.

 

Tom teBockhorst asked about book conversion from cassette to digital format of a book series or older books.  The library is slowly converting all cassette books; when a book is not in condition to convert the library must make a decision about re-recording it.  If something we want is not on BARD (Braille and Recorded Downloads) we should let the local library know and they will pass on our concerns.

 

Ryan Strunk asked what procedure to follow to complain about a book annotation that gives away the ending.  Again, we should share the information with the library.

 

Dunnam asked if the library's advisory committee had input into selections for the book collection.  NLS has a committee that seeks input about book selection.

 

One of the things that sets the training at BLIND, Incorporated (and our other NFB centers) apart from other programs is their desire to employ blind cane-travel instructors whenever possible.  Rob Hobson and Zach Ellingson presented their perspectives on their experiences as instructors.  Mr. Hobson told us that before he became a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind he traveled with a dog guide.  He attributed his ability to travel to the dog.  He never envisioned himself as a cane-travel instructor.  He now takes great pride in helping his students go through the stages of learning their skills and gaining self-confidence.

 

Mr. Ellingson took us back to 1998: b.c. (before cane.)  This was when he hit bottom; his partial vision caused many an accident including a broken nose and other mishaps.  He credits Jan Bailey, (his rehabilitation counselor then) with never losing faith in him.  It took seven years but she finally convinced him to enroll for training at BLIND.  Travel class was his favorite but he never thought he would wind up as an instructor.  Shawn Mayo recruited him and he has never looked back.  He loves his job and can't believe he receives pay to do something so fun.  He spends time getting to know his students because he believes he can better help them relax.  Hobson and Ellingson find it helpful to bounce ideas off each other; they are a great team!

 

Judy Sanders gave a short history of how it came to be that blind people could now vote independently and privately.  She talked about the role that the NFB played in bringing this about.  The Help America Vote Act ensures that there will be a voting machine with nonvisual access in every polling place.  Dunnam announced that there would be a national hotline sponsored by the NFB to report problems on Election Day.

 

The afternoon session ended with various announcements about a plethora of fundraising opportunities.

 

Steve Jacobson served as master of ceremonies for our annual banquet.  The following drawings and awards were given:

 

Community Shares of Minnesota raffle: The NFB of Minnesota is a member of Community Shares of Minnesota, which helps raise money for our treasury.  We sponsored a 50/50 raffle with half the proceeds going to Community Shares and the other half going to the winner.  Donna Jorgenson won $31.50.

 

Metro Chapter essay contest: Judy Sanders, Deanna Langton and David Andrews were this year's judges.  Shawn Mayo won $75 for her winning entry.  Read her essay in the Winter issue of this publication.  Hannahh Furney won a drawing among the other entrants.  Ms. Furney received $50.

 

Minnesota Association of Blind Students 50/50 raffle: President Jordan Richardson awarded $82 to Joyce Scanlan.

 

Scholarship awards: Sheila Koenig, chair of the committee, presented $1,000 to Josh Klander.  Martha Mellgren received a $1,500 scholarship.  Both gave brief remarks of thanks.

 

Our keynote address, given by Dr. Frederic Schroeder, did not disappoint us with high doses of inspiration, humor and thoughtfulness.  He taught us that in the NFB we come together, work together and stick together.  We come together because someone cared enough to ask us to be there.  We work together to do such things as help a blind mother keep her child.  Our strength comes because we stick together; we make a decision through democratic means and even if we are on the losing side of an issue we accept the decision and move on.

 

It was appropriate to close the banquet with an appeal from Al Spooner to join the PAC Plan.

 

The evening ended with an informal social hour.

 

 

Sunday, October 28

 

Our Sunday morning began with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" in honor of the many birthdays that occurred during the convention.

 

In President Dunnam's report to us about matters occurring since our semiannual convention, she told us that three Minnesota members of Congress were cosponsoring our bill to eliminate subminimum wages paid to blind and disabled workers.  We brought attention to this issue through the news media and having a visible presence in front of Goodwill Industries.  When the public becomes aware of this issue, they are as outraged as we are.

 

Our pedestrian safety task force has almost completed a brochure and presentation for drivers-education classes.  Our other new task force finds ways to increase contributions toward our "Walk for Opportunity.”  At their suggestion, we moved the walk to Rochester where we had a successful event and raised over $5,000.

 

We continued our advocacy work.  Several English Language Learners complained to us that at their school the teachers were making decisions for them without discussion.  These decisions included not letting them use a braille writer in class and making them use a cassette recorder to take tests.  Our intervention has eliminated these practices.  One gentleman came to us to intervene with his family so that they would allow him to keep control of his finances.  These are just a few examples of our advocacy efforts for blind individuals.

 

We continue to publish this Minnesota Bulletin under the capable editorship of Tom Scanlan.  Dunnam urged us to submit articles for this newsletter that has circulation throughout the country.

 

We had a good crowd at our meeting for those interested in forming a Duluth chapter of the NFB.  They have planned their first follow-up meeting.

 

Dunnam announced the formation of some new committees.  They are:

 

Social Media: This committee will find ways to enhance our presence on such things as Facebook and Twitter.

 

Fundraising: This committee will find new ways to add funds to our treasury.

 

Publicity: This committee will find ways to make us more visible beyond the social media.  An example is Meet the Blind Month.

 

Membership: This committee will focus on recruiting new members to our organization.

 

Our elections yielded the following results: vice president, Steve Jacobson; treasurer, Tom Scanlan; first board member, Bev Stavrum; and second board member, Pat Barrett.  Those with one year remaining in their terms are president, Jennifer Dunnam; secretary, Judy Sanders; board members, Brice Samuelson, Sheila Koenig, and Rob Hobson.  Dunnam gave special thanks and acknowledgment to Joyce Scanlan who did not seek another term on the board.  Mrs. Scanlan will be a shining example of continuing to be active in the Federation without holding office.

 

Tom Scanlan's treasurer’s report showed that we are currently raising a little more that we are spending.  We must always be vigilant.

 

Our local chapters and divisions all reported on various activities such as communicating with their local elected officials, fundraising and membership recruitment.  There were many educational activities as well.

 

Judy Sanders urged adults to participate in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.  Participants can read individually or form teams to compete together.  Last year, Minnesota's team, Little Dots on the Prairie, won the contest.  This year we hope to have more than one team.

 

Dick Davis reported on changes to Social Security.  There will be a cost-of-living increase to benefits.  Blind recipients can earn $1,740 per month and still receive Social Security Disability.

 

Jan Bailey serves as our representative on the Site Council for the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.  This Council has three committees: one plans the annual White Cane Day walk; one works on their website and one is investigating finding ways to interest students in various careers.

 

Charlene Guggisberg serves on the Resource Center advisory committee.  They are trying to anticipate a shortage of teachers for the blind and braillists for school districts.  This committee serves as a venue for passing the word about our many activities for children and teens.

 

Brice Samuelson, our representative on the Library Advisory Committee, told us that there might be a move to broaden the eligibility criteria for services from NLS.

 

Tom Scanlan is the NFB representative on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind that advises SSB.  Many people also help the council and SSB by serving on their various committees.  Mr. Scanlan's term will be ending and we have recommended that Jennifer Dunnam succeed him.  The Governor makes all appointments.

 

Dunnam gave us an update on the progress to unify all the braille codes.  They include the literary code, the Nemeth code and the computer code.  The Braille Authority of North America has the ultimate responsibility of finalizing any changes to the braille codes.  At last summer's national convention the NFB passed a resolution that supports the adoption of the new code for literary braille, keeping the Nemeth Code and that the implementation of these changes be gradual to ensure as little disruption to a child's education as possible.  Many groups have followed the Federation's lead in supporting these changes; the only real opposition comes from transcribers who are worried about learning all the new changes. 

 

Tom Scanlan reported that we made $2,560 on our bake auction.  Other fundraisers going on at the convention raised close to three hundred dollars.

 

Our convention concluded with brief announcements, closing remarks from Dr. Schroeder and door prizes.

 

Resolution A12-01

 

WHEREAS, State Services for the Blind (SSB) recently created a new contracting system for center-based and itinerant adjustment-to-blindness service providers, incorporating major elements of the Administrative Rule that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota helped develop in the 1980’s; and

 

WHEREAS, the new training contracts require adherence to such requirements as the use of sleepshades in training, positive discussions about blindness, structured discovery learning, and referrals to successful blind consumers and organizations of the blind, things that the NFB of Minnesota has championed for years and which have formed the basis for training at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc.; and

 

WHEREAS, the new requirements, to be enforced by SSB monitoring, offer the promise that service providers who formerly shunned the use of sleepshades, used only rote learning, promoted restrictive and negative attitudes about blindness, and ignored the organized blind movement will be forced to "get with the picture" and start delivering more meaningful, consumer-focused services; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this twenty-eighth day of October, 2012, in the city of Duluth, Minnesota, that we commend SSB for making training contracts contingent on adherence to the Administrative Rule, and encourage its director and staff to work closely with the NFB of Minnesota to continue to improve services for the blind citizens of the state.

 

Resolution A12-02

 

WHEREAS, Heritage for the Blind, an organization headquartered in Brooklyn New York, has been soliciting car and other property donations throughout the state of Minnesota, advertising  over radio stations 93X FM, KROC in Rochester, and other stations, and giving the impression that such donations help blind Minnesotans; and

 

WHEREAS, Heritage for the Blind offers the donors of cars, boats, and similar property a two-night hotel stay in a city of their choice (subject to limitations), a scheme that may make donors ineligible for a deduction under IRS rules, or severely limit the value of any tax deduction allowed; and

 

WHEREAS, Heritage for the Blind has failed to provide information to the Better Business Bureau, is currently under investigation by the State of New York, and is not registered with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office; and 

 

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota has no knowledge of any blind Minnesotan having received services from Heritage for the Blind, leading to the conclusion that it may be just a scam, exploiting sighted individuals' compassion toward the blind; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this twenty-eighth day of October, 2012, in the city of Duluth, Minnesota, that we call upon Heritage for the Blind to cease all fundraising in Minnesota until it registers with the Minnesota Attorney General's office and demonstrates to this organization's satisfaction that it actually provides useful services to blind Minnesotans, and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon Minnesota radio stations and other media outlets to cease advertising for Heritage for the Blind until it meets the above conditions.

 

Resolution A12-03

 

WHEREAS, regular physical activity reduces the risk of many diseases and improves physical health and well-being; and

 

WHEREAS, research has shown that children in the United States generally do not engage in sufficient physical activity to maintain good health, and blind children tend to have even lower levels of physical fitness than their sighted peers; and

 

WHEREAS, participation in group activities such as competitive sports can often be a strong motivator for people to establish consistent habits of physical activity; and

 

WHEREAS, blind children in mainstreamed educational settings often experience barriers to full participation in physical education courses or other sports activities both because of low expectations of the physical capabilities of blind people and because of lack of knowledge about the options and techniques which exist; and

 

WHEREAS, experience has shown that blind students can participate along with their sighted peers in a variety of sports activities, including track, wrestling, martial arts, and swimming; and

 

WHEREAS, some sports and games have also been developed specifically to allow blind and sighted players to compete together such as Goalball, power showdown and the like; and

 

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has worked hard to promote the integration of blind people of all ages into society by developing and raising awareness about nonvisual tools and techniques to allow our full and independent participation in all facets of life; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this twenty-eighth day of October, 2012,  in the city of Duluth, Minnesota, that this organization urge Minnesota schools to ensure that sports activities are available to blind students, beyond adaptive PE, that promote their health, fitness, and integration with their peers.

 

Resolution A12-04

 

WHEREAS, the Communication Center of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) has for many years been highly regarded in Minnesota and around the country as a leader in providing access to the printed word in alternate formats; and

 

WHEREAS, the Communication Center has employed a number of blind persons over the years demonstrating a willingness to work with individuals to develop alternative approaches to fulfilling job responsibilities as can be seen, for example, in braille proofreading positions; and

 

WHEREAS, It is less important how a job function is performed than the level of the results that are achieved; and

 

WHEREAS, It is often necessary for blind job-seekers to develop techniques to address specific aspects of a job in a manner that is different from how that same duty is performed by someone who is not blind; and

 

WHEREAS, two recent job openings at the Communication Center were defined specifically or by implication in such a way as to prevent otherwise qualified blind persons from competing for those positions because of not being able to read print directly; and

 

WHEREAS, this approach prevents qualified blind candidates from presenting alternative approaches to handling the duties associated with the position or even applying; and

 

WHEREAS, blind persons should not expect to be given preference for particular positions but should reasonably expect some flexibility in dealing with printed material from the agency having as its mission to provide blind persons with access to printed materials; now, Therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this twenty-eighth day of October, 2012, in the city of Duluth, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Communication Center of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) to ensure that future postings for positions at the Communication Center are not defined in such a way as to prevent qualified blind candidates from competing for these positions; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization express its willingness to work with SSB and the Communication Center to help develop flexible approaches to defining job responsibilities so that excellent potential blind employees are not excluded and so that SSB can serve as a model of successful employment of qualified blind persons to other employers.

 

Resolution A12-05

 

WHEREAS, Tom Rukavina was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1987; and

 

WHEREAS, one of Representative Rukavina’s first official acts after his election was to meet with members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota; and

 

WHEREAS, throughout his 26 years in the Minnesota legislature, Representative Rukavina never wavered in his commitment to making a better life for blind Minnesotans, lending his support to myriad issues of interest to blind Minnesotans including serving as chief author of the very first state braille literacy bill passed in the United States, advocating staunchly for a separate agency for providing rehabilitation services to the blind, helping to bring NFB-NEWSLINE® to the state of Minnesota and securing funding for it, and developing requirements for adjustment-to-blindness training for rehabilitation counselors at State Services for the Blind; and

 

WHEREAS, despite the controversial nature of some of these issues, Representative Rukavina's efforts were unflagging and stalwart; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this twenty-eighth day of October, 2012, in the city of Duluth, Minnesota, that this organization wholeheartedly commend Representative Tom Rukavina for his twenty-six outstanding years of service to all blind Minnesotans and thank him for his dedication to helping blind people become independent, productive members of society; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we wish Representative Rukavina well in his retirement and extend to him an open invitation to join the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota at any time.

 

Convention Alert!

 

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

 

The National NFB Convention is July 1-6, 2013 at the Rosen Centre Hotel 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 Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be on May 18 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis.  Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in October or November 2013. 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 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@gmail.com.

 

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

 

Background and Purpose

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Acknowledgements

 

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

 

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

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

·        Sharon Monthei transcribes the braille edition.

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

·        Judy Sanders proofreads and provides corrections for both the print and braille editions.

·        Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.

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

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