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 77, Number 3, Summer 2011

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Table of Contents

 

President’s Column. 1

Progress on the Road to Accessibility. 3

BLIND, Inc. Graduate Succeeds in Very Competitive Career 7

Airlines Could Do a Better Job of Assisting Passengers. 12

Braille Is My Life. 14

On-Line Library; Sighteds Only. 16

Convention Alert! 17

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 18

Acknowledgements. 19

 

 

 

 


 

President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam, President

 

A whirlwind of activity has taken place since the Semiannual Convention!  What follows includes some of the remarks I made at the convention and many updates to those remarks.

 

The session of the Minnesota Legislature included various items of interest to blind Minnesotans.  One bill, introduced very late in the session, would in effect strip away all of the special education provisions in state statute that go beyond the requirements in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In Minnesota, such items include our braille bill.  The bill was not heard this session, but will likely be heard next session, and we will be ready to fight to ensure that blind children do not lose out on the education that they need. 

 

As everyone knows, the regular legislative session came to a close without a state government budget.  Two bills pertinent to State Services for the Blind (SSB) funding did emerge from the session.  One bill, related to the budget for the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) passed out of conference committee without cuts to State Services for the Blind and with a base increase so that all federal dollars could be obtained.  A second bill would make significant cuts across the government workforce, impacting State Services for the Blind.  Governor Dayton vetoed these bills, along with most budget bills.

 

As of this writing, the state government has been shut down for almost two weeks.  We were successful in ensuring that adjustment-to-blindness was deemed among the “critical core services” that should continue to be funded during the shutdown.  However, far too many people are being affected by the lack of other services.  Textbooks for children may now not be ready in time for the start of the school year.  We have members and friends who are without jobs now because of the shutdown.  We hope this matter will be resolved swiftly and in a manner that is beneficial for the long-term.

 

Public transportation is another area of concern, with fare increases and service cuts looming.  Federationists have participated in events to express support for public transportation and will continue to do so.

 

Our members have made many phone calls and other communications to legislators on our issues throughout this year.  Our organized communications and attendance at hearings and other such events are extremely important in educating our public officials about our issues.  Thank you to all who have responded to the requests for action.  Please keep it up!

 

On June 8, a group of Federationists met with DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips, to tell him about the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and about Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., and to dialog with him regarding state services to blind Minnesotans.  We expressed our concern that those services not be the first on the chopping block during this time of budget cuts.  We stressed the need for SSB to remain a distinct unit within state government, and we urged that the agency be elevated within government.  The commissioner indicated his commitment to accountability and efficiency in government and for SSB in particular, and we left the meeting optimistic that SSB would indeed be raised within DEED to a level equivalent with other major divisions in the organization.

 

We attended a parents institute at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, presenting about the resources we offer for youth.  Those in attendance were interested to hear about our Braille Readers are Leaders Contest, Braille Pals Club, Future Reflections, and the many other ways that the NFB can work with and help blind children and their parents.  The attendees picked up most of the literature that we brought to the event.

 

In late June, a group of Federationists participated in a town hall meeting with Minnesota’s newest Congressman, Chip Cravaack.  We did not have a chance to meet with him personally at the Washington Seminar earlier this year, so we took this first opportunity to familiarize him with our organization and to hear his views on issues of concern to us.  He was attentive to us, and we will continue to work to build relationships with him and with all of our congressmen and legislators.

 

The need for advocacy for individuals is ever-present.  Issues for college students getting their course material in accessible format are ongoing.  We were successful in assisting several individuals to navigate some hurdles in obtaining some needed services from SSB, such as technology for their schooling, and even just getting some forward motion toward the goals in an Individual Plan for Employment.

 

More than 90 Minnesotans have just returned from another inspiring NFB national convention — a time to get reacquainted with our Federation family from all around the country and to enhance our perspective on the broader issues we face and how our work here in Minnesota fits with those.  In addition to the meetings on any imaginable topics related to blindness, the convention tackled several important issues, including the need to remove provisions in federal law that allow workers with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage paid to their sighted coworkers, the need to maintain basic access to our home appliances, and more.  Watch for details about the convention in upcoming issues of the Braille Monitor.  

 

The Move-a-thon has a new name!  This year is our 30th such event, and it is now called the Walk for Opportunity.  This year the route will take us between downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.  Please plan to participate on September 17.  Of course, we also need everyone’s help with raising contributions beforehand for this Walk for Opportunity, which is our largest fundraiser.  Watch for details in your postal mail, your email, and on www.nfbmn.org.

 

As always, we have much to accomplish and much to be proud of.  Our collective experience and our collective action give me renewed enthusiasm for the important work we do. 

 

Progress on the Road to Accessibility

By Steve Jacobson, Vice President

 

One of the trademarks of the work we do in the Federation is that we try to take the long view of the issues with which we deal.  This has certainly been true of our ability to use computers, software, and access documents that are important to us.  While the road behind us and ahead of us is long, occasionally it is well worth taking our eyes off the long road and observe the scenery along the way.

 

In 1998, we worked to pass a law that took the first significant steps toward requiring that the state of Minnesota would make accessibility a part of the purchasing requirements for new software and hardware.  It established the notion that data presented on the State of Minnesota's websites would be displayed in a manner that all of its citizens, including those of us who are blind, can utilize.

 

Within the past few years, we worked with the Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to expand these efforts and to secure funding to train web designers to create sites that we all can use.  Minnesota State Services for the blind also played an on-going significant role as a recognized source of expertise on accessibility matters within state government, and in particular, our own Dave Andrews has been active in that arena.  Still, we have occasionally seen documents, usually Portable Document Format (PDF), which screen-reading software could not process.  This problem became particularly apparent when we found that our screen readers could not read the nine statements issued by Governor Dayton when he vetoed the budget bills in May.  In all fairness, we observed occasional similar documents coming from Governor Pawlenty's office and understand that neither of them intended this to be the case.  On the other hand, the legislative branch has consistently put accessible PDF documents on its site, so we know that it can be done.

 

These were high-profile documents, so it seemed to present a great opportunity to resolve the problem at the source.  Since the department designated to enforce accessibility is the Office of Enterprise Technology, President Dunnam wrote the following letter to the newly appointed commissioner of that department:

 

***

May 27, 2011

 

Carolyn Parnell

State Chief Information Officer 

Office of Enterprise Technology

658 Cedar Street

Centennial Bldg 

St Paul, MN 55155

 

Commissioner Parnell: 

 

I am writing on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (a consumer advocacy organization with hundreds of members around the state) to request your action to enforce the standards promulgated by the Office of Enterprise Technology under Minnesota Statutes 16E.03 Subd. 9 which became effective September 1, 2010.  Specifically, we are concerned that PDF documents on the Governor's and other state Web sites are not being created in a manner that enables non-visual access to these documents.  The policy directive is enclosed with this letter for your convenience. 

 

Individuals who are blind access the information on a computer screen through the use of assistive technology; that is software and hardware that renders the information in speech and/or braille output.  If electronic content is not designed according to standards, the assistive technology cannot convert the information to these nonvisual formats.  Lack of access to information from state government can impact our ability to utilize government services as well as obtain and retain employment.  In response to continuing problems with inaccessible software and documents, our organization worked with the Office of Enterprise Technology and others over the past several years to see these standards put in place.

 

The current problem came to our attention when our members attempted to read the online PDF versions of the veto messages issued by the Governor this week.  These specific PDF files are "image-based", and therefore inscrutable to assistive technology.  Some current state-issued PDF files are being created in an accessible "text-based" format; that is PDF files that have the same visual appearance as an image-based PDF, but with underlying text that can be highlighted, copied, or, most importantly for our purposes, utilized by assistive technology.  We have, over the years, seen other documents issued by state government in the inaccessible image-based format, so it is unlikely that the veto messages are the only problematic documents in circulation at this time. 

 

High-quality software exists to allow the creation of accessible text-based PDFs.  Since this software is usually low-cost or even no-cost and therefore would not impose an undue burden, we are requesting that an effort be made to find out how the inaccessible PDF documents are being created and that an alternative process be implemented, resulting in the consistent posting of accessible PDF files on state Web sites.    

 

Please contact me if you have any questions or if the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota can be of assistance. 

 

Sincerely, 

Jennifer Dunnam, President 

cc: The Honorable Governor Mark Dayton 

***

 

Commissioner Parnell quickly responded with the following e-mail:

 

***

From: Parnell, Carolyn (OET)

To: jennifer.dunnam@earthlink.net

Cc: Smith, Tina (GOV) ; Mokros, Andrea (GOV) ; Dayton (1), Mark (GOV)

Sent: Friday, June 03, 2011 11:28 AM

Subject: Response to letter from National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota

 

Dear Ms Dunnam:

 

Thank you for your recent letter informing me about the inaccessible PDFs posted to the Governor's website.  I know the Governor is committed to meeting state accessibility standards and is taking immediate measures to remedy current issues and ensure that future PDFs and forms are accessible from the time they are posted.  The good news is that the website content management system itself is completely accessible so, as you noted, the problem lies with the documents that are posted as attachments.  I am happy to report that OET has assisted the Governor's office in converting all of the PDFs on the Governor's website (save for the two that are in process of being converted into web forms — the internship application and the proclamation form) to OCR and they have been published to the live site. In addition, proper communication, training and software are now in place to assure that future documents will be posted on the website as accessible.

 

Since the technology accessibility legislation was passed two years ago, the State has sought to build in accessibility wherever possible, in areas like state procurement processes and standards-based purchasing.  We understand the impact of inaccessible content and are attacking it on these fronts.  However, we acknowledge that this is a process that takes time, persistence, and resources.  We indeed, count on organizations such as yours to help us identify where we fall short.

 

Responsibility for the creation of content, including PDF files, is distributed throughout state agencies and requires awareness, training, and culture change.  The Office of Enterprise Technology will continue to meet with web-content providers at the Governor's office to help them address your concerns.

 

Please contact me if you have any further questions or comments.

 

Sincerely,

Carolyn Parnell

Minnesota State CIO

Office of Enterprise Technology

651.556.8007

www.oet.state.mn.us

***

 

She has been true to her word.  The nine documents that were originally not readable were all converted.  In addition, we have seen new PDF documents since this exchange posted to the Governor's web page that are also accessible.  Unfortunately, there have still been a few created that are not accessible, probably due to the challenge of culture change that was mentioned in her note.  Still, this is a significant step in the right direction.

 

We need to do our part and help identify areas of difficulty.  If you find problems with documents or web pages on web sites within state government, you should communicate this information through a special web site for that purpose.  You can go to

www.positivelyminnesota.com/apps/survey/MN_EGovt_Access.shtml as I did to explain the problem.  As you can see from the letters above, the responsible people are hearing us and making progress, but we all can play a role in making sure that progress continues.

 

BLIND, Inc. Graduate Succeeds in Very Competitive Career

 

(Editor’s Note:  This article appeared on the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Multicultural Financial Advisors Forum on April 18, 2011.  Harrison Hoyes graduated from Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. in 2009 and is now part of a financial advising team that manages over $5 billion in assets.)

 

Harrison C. Hoyes is a Registered Marketing Associate with the Rasweiler Group in Morristown, New Jersey.  Previously, he was a Financial Advisor with AXA Equitable.


Harrison, whose parents are Jamaican and Jamaican-Chinese, was born in the U.S. and raised in Singapore.  Just as significant, however, is the fact that he is legally blind.  Yet as he explains, this is something that has never really held him back.


I understand you have an interesting cultural background.


I’m Jamaican-Chinese.  My mother's grandparents moved to Jamaica from China.  My father is also Jamaican, although he was born in New York.  I was born in New Jersey, but when I was six months old, my parents moved to Texas.  Then my father, who was working at Citibank, was reassigned to Singapore, so I grew up there until I came back to the States to attend Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Tell me about your visual impairment.


When I was about 15, I was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, retinitis pigmentosa.  At the time, it didn't really have a significant impact on my life, but I'm losing more vision every year.  I was able to get through college without help, but it was a struggle — I couldn’t see the board very well.  I wish now that I had been more open about it with my professors, but as a 19-year-old it wasn’t something that I wanted to share.


As a result, I can’t drive, but it was never really a problem until I finished college.


What happened then?


I went to work as a Financial Advisor for the retirement planning group of AXA Equitable, working with public school employees.  At first my region was Lancaster City, so I could get around taking public transportation.  But then my region expanded, to Harrisburg, Lebanon County, and Philadelphia, and I was not able to get to all those locations easily.  When we worked in teams, the other person would drive.  But it wasn’t something that was going to work long-term.


Were you having other problems, too?


I wasn’t carrying a cane, and there was no indication that I was visually impaired.  But seeing the computer screen was becoming more difficult, and I found myself having the client fill out all the paperwork.  I would explain the whole retirement plan and the different investments, but then people would ask me questions about the application and paperwork, often pointing to something that I couldn't see, and I would stumble.  Or someone would show me something on the computer and I'd have to pretend I could see it.  It was becoming very uncomfortable.


Did you tell your employers about the situation?


Initially no.  But once my region changed, I took a leave of absence and went to Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Inc., a training school for blind and visually impaired people in Minneapolis.


That must have been an emotional decision.


Yes.  They were telling me most people typically stay there from nine months to a year.  I was in a relationship at the time, and all my extended family was on the East Coast.


Was your condition also a secret in your personal life?


My family knew.  But only some of my close friends knew.  It was still something I tried to keep to myself.


So tell me about the program.

 

It was an amazing experience.  They do everything with sleep shades on, so you can't see anything.  You have to get around the school, get around the city, do everything blindfolded.  I knew that's where I'd end up eventually, so I needed to prepare.


How long did you stay there?


About seven months.  I was a little more determined than most.  Braille is something that many people struggle with, and it takes a lot of practice.  But within two weeks I had a very good comprehension of Grade 1 braille — the alphabet and numbers and all the punctuation and symbols.  Then a month later, I finished Grade 2 which has a lot of abbreviations — kind of like shorthand — and takes most people four or five months.


We had a wood shop class and an independent living class where we learned how to manage ourselves in the kitchen.  We also had a travel instructor who took us around Minneapolis, riding the bus and walking.  And we had a technology course where we learned to use the computer, with programs like JAWS, a screen-reading program, and Kurzweil, a scanning software.


It sounds like you pushed through very quickly.


Yes, I wanted to finish that program and get to the next step in my life.  And I had never met someone else with my condition until I went to that center.  So it was great to meet other people who were making it work.


How did you get this job?


The gentleman who ran our careers course, Dick Davis, put me in touch with Rich Crawford, a successful blind financial advisor who used to work with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Sioux City.  Rich has the same condition I do but his progressed much more rapidly — he lost his vision when he was about eight years old.


Rich asked me to come down to Sioux City to visit him and see how he does his job.  He was so kind.  It was great to see someone so successful in this line of work, who had been doing it without vision his whole life.


How did he do it?


Like everybody else.  When he first started out, like many brokers at the time, he got a phone book and just started calling people.  When you’re speaking to someone on the phone, he or she has no idea if you’re sighted or not.


Over time, he started hitchhiking to work.  I wouldn’t want to do that in New York City, but Sioux City is friendly and people are generally nice to blind people.  So the drivers he was catching a ride with, he'd give them tips or tell them what was happening in the market, and they'd become his clients.  I think he still does that to this day.


Wow, that’s a new marketing technique!


Yes, he is truly amazing.  We got along very well.  So at the end of the visit he says to me, “I know this guy in Morristown, New Jersey who is looking to hire a blind or visually impaired person.”  And he introduced me to John Rasweiler, who's now the person I work for.  My grandfather lives three train stops away from John's office in Morristown, New Jersey, so when I finished my program, I moved in with my grandfather and went for the interview, and in May 2009, John hired me.


It was pretty amazing that I started out in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, went to a training program in Minneapolis, and got introduced to a guy in Sioux City, who knew a guy who wanted to hire someone just down the road from where I was going to live.


Why was he looking for someone who was visually impaired?


He's involved with The Seeing Eye, a guide dog school here in Morristown.  He knows that blind and visually impaired people are discriminated against, and he is adamant about equal opportunity.


What do you do there?


I started out as a financial advisor, working particularly with our international clients because I have international experience.  We actually have quite a few clients in Singapore.  But we just restructured our group into teams.  Mine has two advisors, I'm the registered marketing associate, and we also have a sales assistant.  Now I'm more focused on working with the Financial Advisors — running financial plans, getting information out to our clients about various investments, and finding different opportunities within the client base.


Do any of the clients realize you are visually impaired?


I have only mentioned it to two of them.  One knew another student at BLIND Inc., and the other was telling me that he'd been injured in an accident and was having trouble with his eyes.  But outside of that, none of them know.  We mostly deal with people over the phone, and I don’t think you can tell by speaking to me that in the future I won't be able to see very well.  I now have an enlargement software program that magnifies everything, so between that and the computer reading to me, I can pretty much do everything that I need to do.


Have the multi-cultural aspects of your background helped you?


Our group works solely with a large global corporation, so many of our clients have traveled around the world and many have been to Singapore, so I’ll certainly mention that to them.  Because I’ve also traveled around Southeast Asia quite a bit — to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan and Korea, I can speak with almost all of them about something that is happening in most of the major cities there.  It helps to build the relationship.


Is there anything you’d advise someone else who has a disability?


The most important thing to do is to get proper training, and to learn how to operate in a work environment.  Technology is a big part of that.  So is knowing how to read braille.  And so is being able to get to and from work.


It sounds like it’s perfectly possible to succeed with the right equipment and support.


Absolutely. 

This also sounds like a more interesting job than your first position.


Yes.  Even if I wasn’t visually impaired, this is probably a step that I would have taken.  Things are looking very positive.

 

Airlines Could Do a Better Job of Assisting Passengers

By Deborah Kendrick

 

(Editor’s Note:  The following article is reprinted from Que Pasa, the NFB of New Mexico newsletter.  It originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on February 20, 2011.  Deborah Kendrick is a blind Cincinnati, Ohio writer and advocate for people with disabilities, and has served as secretary of the NFB of Ohio and coordinator of Ohio's mentoring program.)

 

Last week, the Department of Transportation fined Delta Airlines $2 million for violating rules regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.

 

All public conversation regarding the situation, including Delta's own blog, refers to the dignified and appropriate handling of people who use wheelchairs and their mobility equipment.  I have friends who use wheelchairs, and any measure that can enhance their travel experience is one I applaud.  But there are plenty of disabilities that don't involve wheelchairs at all, and that news flash isn't always reaching the airline radar screens.

 

When I fly, I ask at the gate for a "Meet and assist" request to be entered into the computer for me.  What I need, I explain each time, is a person who knows the route from gate to exit, gate to baggage claim, Gate A to Gate B if making connections.  That's it.  A person who knows the way and who won't mind my walking alongside them.

 

Before I go any further, I should also explain that not every person who is blind or visually impaired will need or want this kind of assistance.  Some visually impaired people who fly frequently learn the layout of particular airports and, thus, can travel within them independently.  If I had a job at the airport, was traveling out of or into the same airport every week, or frequented an airport location consistently for any other reason, that's exactly what I would do.  But as a person who travels about a dozen times a year, out of and into different airports, using my available mental real estate for developing maps of said airports is a low priority.  The most efficient method for me is simply to follow someone who knows the way and get where I want to go.

 

Requesting this assistance from airline staff gets successful results about 50 percent of the time.  Knowing that, I will often simply get off the plane and ask a fellow passenger who has initiated friendliness, "Could I follow you to baggage claim?”  Or wherever.

 

Last year, I was traveling with a group in which one person needed a wheelchair.  It struck me at the time as laudable that the assistant with the wheelchair was right there on the jet way when we deplaned.

 

Another time, while traveling alone and having made the above request, it struck me as odd that, as I came off the plane, a guy standing there asked, "Are you the person who requested the wheelchair?”

 

When I explained that I wasn't but that I did indeed need someone to follow to the ground transportation area, he turned his back on me, waiting for the passenger with the "real" disability to arrive.

 

Last week, I was flying from Dayton to Tampa with a 40-minute connection in Atlanta.  When I made my usual request at the gate in Dayton, the agent recognized me and warned, "I'll put it in the computer, but know that since you don't need a wheelchair, it might not work.”

 

That time it did, but coming back to Ohio, I was even more nervous when the Atlanta connection was only 30 minutes.

 

When I boarded the first plane, the woman beside me struck up a conversation.  I quickly learned that she was making the same connection.  I asked if I could follow her to the gate.

 

No problem.  She had requested a wheelchair, she said, and they are "always right there.”  She was a lovely woman and able to walk, but is in the habit of requesting wheelchair assistance because her knee sometimes "pops" out.

 

Sure enough, a guy with a golf cart was right there when we came off the plane — and drove us all of three gates away!

 

There's something to this, I thought, while recognizing the irony that I could have walked it in the same amount of time but might well have been waiting for someone to give me the right direction had I not been with this fellow wheelchair-requesting passenger.

 

When we arrived in Dayton, her prediction was again fulfilled.  Wheelchair guy was right there when we deplaned, and by following him, I was among the first to arrive at the baggage claim.

 

When he heard my puzzlement over the different handling of our two requests, he demurred, "Oh, you must have asked for a 'Meet and assist'.  Sometimes, if there's no wheelchair involved, those requests don't even go out.”

 

Hmmmm.

 His advice matched that of my newfound friend from the airplane: Just request a wheelchair and take a ride.

 

Maybe it's a solution, but it's the wrong one. 

 

I can walk.  My disability is that I can't see the signage guiding me back to civilization.  Requesting a wheelchair would be ridiculous.

 

More important, if I adopt that easy solution, I'm feeding the clear misconception behind the practice.

 

Airline and airport training could incorporate common sense.  Simple message: There are some 50 million Americans who might fly with you who have disabilities.  Some of them will request assistance and some won't.  The assistance needed is as varied as the number of passengers themselves.  Some will need wheelchairs.  Some won't.  Any accommodation you provide enhances customer satisfaction and keeps them coming back.

 

Braille Is My Life

By Elizabeth Slaughter

 

(Editor’s Note:  Elizabeth Slaughter is an NFB of Minnesota member living in Bemidji.  She can be contacted by telephone at (218) 755-1271 or e-mail at manutips@paulbunyan.net.)

 

I hold many things learned and experienced throughout my life to be critical to my education, independence, socialization, and financial security.  Chief among them all is my learning and using braille.

 

Born congenitally blind, I was a very low partial and strained my eyes and shoulders through elementary school.  When I entered high school, I was enrolled in the college preparatory program.  I wanted to go to college, but had reservations about how I would manage the curriculum, since even more reading, writing and research would be required in college than in elementary and high school.  I was enrolled in Sight-Saving, and blessed to have an insightful homeroom teacher who asked the braille division teacher if she would teach me braille.

 

I was so elated to attend braille instruction once or twice a week, and sailed through grades one and two braille in one semester!

 

As my vision deteriorated, I gradually moved from large print to braille, and by the time I graduated from high school, I was reading and writing braille exclusively.

 

I always enjoyed receiving birthday, Christmas and other greeting cards from family and friends, but usually disheartened and somewhat put-off, when my parents, siblings and friends had to read the very cards they gave me.  The punch was taken out of their presentation, because I could not read the greeting and delight in the pictures on the cards.

 

After years of putting up with this secondhand method of giving and receiving greeting cards, I decided to do something about it.  In April 1979, I established Slaughter Enterprises, and began producing braille-large-print greeting cards with braille graphics.

 

My goal was, and continues to be, to produce the most attractive, highest quality braille-large-print greeting cards anyone could ever hope to give or receive.

 

My Registered Trademark is MANUTIPS®, to emphasize the point that books, magazines, and even greeting cards are manually read with the fingertips!

 

Braille is my life.  I enjoy using my computer, and use it daily, but the delight I have when called upon to quickly take down a phone number with slate and stylus, write a note on the Perkins Brailler, or relax in my rocker with a braille book or magazine far surpasses my love of computer, because braille opened the door to education, independence, socialization, and financial security, something no other means of communication could so aptly provide. 

 

On-Line Library; Sighteds Only

By Patrick A. Barrett

 

(Editor’s Note:  Pat Barrett is first vice-president of our Metro Chapter and a member of the NFB of Minnesota board of directors.)

 

Marching together for our rights.  It was a thrill for my wife, Trudy, who is also blind, and me to participate in the March for Independence at our National Federation of the Blind 2009 convention in Detroit!  Rallying for the right to read and write braille, as sighted kids are routinely taught to read and write print, was a central theme of the march.  On-line literacy and access to electronic books was also an urgent concern of the thousands of convention delegates.  Many on-line titles that the sighted could read have been denied to the blind through prejudice not only from authors, but also even by higher institutions of learning.

 

Trudy and I stayed a day after the convention to tour the Henry Ford Museum.  One of our Federationists from Missouri had arranged the tour.  There were about a dozen of us on the tour.  We saw, and got to touch, a few of Henry Ford’s pot-bellied stoves.  They were part of a collection of 300 he had at one time.  Another exhibit showed a group putting together a Model T car.  The chair Abraham Lincoln, one of my favorite presidents, had sat in at Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated was also on display.  But my favorite was the civil rights exhibition.

 

Through the glass, I could see the sinister costume of a Ku Klux Klansman.  Prejudice fueled their fiery passion for beating and killing innocent black people.  Incredibly, the KKK is still alive today.  One big reason is that they have freedom of speech and assembly.  I also saw signs on display that said “Whites Only” for drinking fountains and libraries.  The most moving part of the tour for me was the Rosa Parks bus.

 

I scrambled ahead of the rest of our tour when I saw it to make sure I sat in the front of the bus.  This was the actual bus that the Ford Museum had restored where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat in the “Whites Only” section.  She was arrested for her stand against old, discriminatory ideas.

 

A tape was played while our tour sat on the bus.  This was an account in Rosa’s actual voice of the incident.  I felt like I was sitting beside her in her struggle just to ride the bus after a tiring day of hard work.  Then I thought, “Why do blind people have to be locked out of on-line libraries?”  Half a century later, how can textbook authors and college administrators put gates up to keep us barred from just reading books?  Is prejudice still fueling pushing blind people back from moving forward with their degrees or careers?  Damn straight it is!

 

Amazon and the Kendall 2 folks do not want to understand that blind workers, students, and parents only want access to the written word.  Blind people should not be charged or categorized because they need to hear the word on the electronic page instead of seeing it.

 

We in the NFB have come a great distance in asserting our right to sit wherever we want on the bus.  If we have an additional physical disability, such as a leg or back injury, we have the option to sit in the front seats.  Bus drivers may invite — even cajole — us to sit in the front seat, but we still have the right to choose.  Gaining entrance into the on-line, “sighted-only” libraries of Amazon and Kendall, however, will take more time, work, and constructive passion to feel that freedom.

 

Convention Alert!

 

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

 

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be October 7-9, 2011 in Bloomington.  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.

 

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in May 2012 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 National NFB Convention will be during the first week of July 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 will be in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.

 

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember

 

Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 2:00 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Acknowledgements

 

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

 

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

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

Jennifer Dunnam transcribes the braille edition.

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

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

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

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