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
Web site:
www.nfbmn.org

Tom Scanlan, Editor
E-mailtom.scanlan@earthlink.net

Volume 71, Number 1, Winter 2006

WE ARE CHANGING
WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE BLIND

Table of Contents

Les Affaires

The Dream and the Desire

Making A Difference

Governor's Proclamation

The Continuing Evolution of Services forthe Blind

Current Status of Education of BlindChildren in Minnesota

Free Bird

My Journey To and In theFederation

Life Is Not Fair

Convention Alert!

Les Affaires

NFB OF MINNESOTA HONORS MEMBERS

By Joyce Scanlan, President

(Editor's Note: This presentation was made at thebanquet of the NFB of Minnesota annual convention on October 8, 2005.)

It is certainly true that the National Federation ofthe Blind of Minnesota has not been extremely zealous in giving out honorsand awards to very many deserving people. We have in the past recognizedseveral public officials such as U.S. Congressman Bruce Vento, StateSenators Linda Berglin, Jim Pehler, Jerry Hughes, and our members,Rosemary Varey, Andy Virden, Janet Lee, and Joyce Scanlan. Our last awardwas presented more than ten years ago. So we do take awards andrecognition seriously. Anyone receiving an award from NFB of Minnesota isdefinitely outstanding and highly deserving and very, very special.

So, now in 2005, we once again recognize two mostdeserving members of our organization. I know you will agree with me thatboth recipients meet our high standards and are well qualified to be sohonored.

First, we want to recognize a person who has been anactive Federation member for more than twenty-five years. This person hasserved on our state Board of Directors, as state secretary, and as achapter president. This person has helped many blind people in Minnesotato reach their highest potential and achieve employment. Yes, withoutmaking you wait through long games of guessing and wondering who thisperson is, let me say that we are talking about--yes, you'll be surprisedto hear it--the NFB of Minnesota is recognizing a rehabilitationcounselor. Who else could it be but Jan Bailey of Rochester!!!

After all my joking and telling stories about thetrials and tribulations of working with rehab counselors in general, I amabsolutely pleased to present a much-deserved award to a highly-deservingrehabilitation counselor.

Jan Bailey has been a rehab counselor at StateServices for the Blind (SSB) for twenty-six years. She has carried aheavy caseload and has supported her customers with endless energythroughout the entire rehab process, shepherding them through thebureaucracy and complex entanglement of a most challenging system. If hercustomers became bogged down or discouraged and felt compelled to quit,Jan would come up with another creative idea to give the customer renewedsteam to keep on trying until the customer triumphed with a worthy job anda successful closure. Jan always is willing to go the extra mile to be ofhelp to blind people struggling with the system or their own self-doubtsand personal problems. She will never give up on anyone; she is alwayspositive and with her high spirits, she inspires her customers to moveforward, working hard to be the most they can be. Yes, she has highexpectations for all customers and supports them, but she also is willingto challenge the bureaucracy to make the system work for her customers. When her supervisor pointed out to her that she had spent more money oncase services than any of her colleagues, he also had to admit that hewished other SSB counselors would have the same successful closures Janhad, and he would not complain about the money they spent.

Jan never runs out of innovative ideas to keepcustomers moving forward; she truly cares about blind people and workstirelessly to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. I workedwith Jan Bailey for seventeen years and had numerous occasions to watchher build up people's self-esteem and encourage them when they were downand ready to give up. I never saw Jan run out of arguments to persuade acustomer to keep on working as hard as possible. She has an endless planwith suggestions for lifting her customers when they are down. If allblind customers could have a counselor like Jan Bailey, the case closuresat SSB would multiply many times.

We have a plaque for Jan in the shape of the state ofMinnesota, which reads:

  • To Janice Bailey;
  • With sincere appreciation
  • For your many years of outstanding service
  • As rehabilitation counselor of the blind of Minnesota.
  • You made many dreams come true.
  • National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota
  • October 8, 2005

    We also have for you, Jan, a lifetime membershipin the Federation. Thank you for your service to the blind of Minnesotaand the Nation, and may you have many more years of service to give toblind people.

    Congratulations!!!

    (Jan Bailey came to the podium and said:)

    I have to say, I'm shocked and kind of speechless--Iknow that's kind of surprising! My mother will be happy that my full nameis there--she doesn't like nicknames, so I'll have to show her this withmy full name on here. I have to say that I would not be doing the thingsthat I have done without the National Federation of the Blind. When Icame to Minnesota and was interviewing, they asked me, "Are you a memberof the National Federation of the Blind?" At that time, I wasn't, and Isaid no. I didn't know very much about the organization except thosebooks Steve [Jacobson] sent me. No one had ever asked me to join. Butabout a month later, I was a member. Probably if I had been they wouldn'thave hired me, I don't know.

    I also have other people to thank because if itweren't for BLIND, Inc. and theother vendors, Ken Treblehorn, Charlene Childrey, Emily [Wharton] comingdown from BLIND Inc. to work withmy customers--let me tell you, we wouldn't have closures. A counseloralone can't do a whole lot. You have a lot of customers, they needtraining, and if they don't have good training, they're never going to geta job. So, as a counselor, I have to rely on the help of other people, soI want to publicly say that without all these individuals and the NationalFederation of the Blind, I would never have been able to have any success. Thank you.

    (Joyce then continued the presentation.)

    Our next award winner is also a most deserving memberof our Federation family. Again, I will not try to keep you guessing,because this unique individual is so well-recognized and loved that Icouldn't say much before you would easily know who it is.

    Born in Missouri on August 11, 1913--yes, you guessedit--Marie Whitteker is likely the oldest member of our affiliate.

    Her family moved to Minnesota soon after she was born;then they later moved to Norway, where her family owned and operated alarge farm. Marie remembers the spacious home with surrounding gardensand fields. When her father wanted to move back to Minnesota, her motherconsented, and the family came back here to operate another large farm inthe southern part of the state. Marie did the long walk to school throughmeadows of rolling grain.

    Marie later attended the Minnesota Braille and SightSaving School in Faribault and remembers the struggles with sickness ofstaff and students and the struggle to learn to read and write Braillewith the slate and stylus. She graduated from high school in 1935, thesame year her father died.

    Jobs for blind people at that time were few and farbetween. During World War II, Marie worked for a gas machine company. After the war, jobs for blind people were again not available. Marielater had a vending stand in Albert Lea selling newspapers. She wasalways on top of what people were doing--a woman once gave her a $1 bill,saying it was $5. Marie was suspicious and enlisted the help of a janitorto identify the woman, who never bothered Marie again.

    No one should ever try to bamboozle Marie. She wasused to pulling her weight in life. Although she was blind, her familyexpected her to share equally the household tasks and responsibilities.

    Marie joined the National Federation of the Blind in1947, when the National Convention came to Minneapolis. A few years latershe met George, whom she married shortly thereafter.

    Marie has had six dog guides: Cleo, Elba, Whista,Kellie, Rainy, and Nanette. She has loved all of her dogs.

    Marie is an excellent role model for many reasons, hercompetent use of her guide dogs, her ability to prepare marvelous meals,and her awesome skill in making almond and peanut butter divinity. ButMarie has other assets: She has served on the NFB of Minnesota Board ofDirectors; she has been an avid picketer. I marched with Marie, as didmany others, in Chicago, Little Rock, New York, Cincinnati, Minneapolis,and many other places. She always had the greatest spirit and understoodand appreciated the importance of what we were doing on the picket line,although she also admitted that it might have been very hard work.

    Marie was also one of those who represented theFederation while serving on the Board of Directors of the MinneapolisSociety for the Blind, now Vision Loss Resources, after our long legalbattle to win those eight seats on that board. Like all other Federationrepresentatives, she faithfully carried out her duties on that board andgave everything she had for the cause.

    Marie, throughout her entire life, has demonstratedtrue grit and uncanny stamina. In the 1970's, the Minnesota affiliate ofthe Federation was in conflict over what to do about the Home for theBlind we operated. Marie was an active member of the Women's Guild, theorganization within NFB of Minnesota which helped to care for the Homeowned and operated by the Federation. Many blind people left theorganization; many stayed to fight for the Home. But Marie stayed tosupport the effort to do what the times demanded. The Federation nolonger could fund the operation of the Home, and the community no longerhad need of the Home. Blind people had worked hard to open newopportunities for themselves to be housed in the community, and housingwas no longer the problem it had been in 1920 when the Home was firstestablished. Marie lived in the modern times. It must have beendifficult emotionally to see the Home sold. Blind people had worked veryhard to build and operate it for years. Marie was able to yield to herintellect and support the vote to close the Home and sell the property.

    Marie, it seems long overdue. We all look back andmust admire your fortitude in sticking with the organized blind for somany years. We admire and appreciate what you have done, and we honor youtonight.

    We have a plaque for Marie in the shape of the stateof Minnesota, which reads:

    To Marie Whitteker
    With deep appreciation
    For a lifetime of dedicated service;
    You made it possible for blind people to lead full lives.
    National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota
    October 8, 2005

    Also, we give you a lifetime membership in theNFB of Minnesota. Live long and prosper and know that you will alwayshave our sincere respect and abiding love. Congratulations, Marie!!!

    (Marie Whitteker came to the podium and said:)

    I am so surprised! I never thought of anythinghappening like this, and I'll continue to do as much as I can. I'mninety-two now. My mother almost lived to be a hundred, but I think Ihave a little better health than she had at my age. I suppose she hadmore hardships than I've had.

    I want to thank you so much. George, too, was verydedicated to the organization. He did a lot of volunteer work, and healways supported me when I wanted to go picketing--he would stay home andtake care of the dogs. Anyway, thank you so much! I am really happy!

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    The Dream and the Desire

    The Power of Mentoring in Adjustment toBlindness Training

    By Shawn Mayo

    (Editor's Note: Shawn is a graduate of Blindness:Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) and its ExecutiveDirector, as well as an active member of the NFB of Minnesota MetroChapter.)

    One of the most interesting phenomena found in natureis mutualistic symbiosis. This phenomenon occurs when two or more speciesdevelop a relationship that benefits all parties involved. For example,butterflies burrow into flowers to get at their nectar and, while sodoing, pollinate the flower with the traces of pollen they have broughtalong from the last flower they visited. Both species get something thatthey vitally need. The butterfly gets the sustenance it needs to flyfreely through the world, and by contributing nectar the flowers get theopportunity to propagate themselves in another generation. It is truly awin-win situation.

    On average, after three to four months of NFB-stylecomprehensive adjustment-to-blindness training, it is common to hear astudent say, "Blind people can do anything sighted people can do." Thisis a wonderful thing to hear, and when I hear a student make a statementlike this, I know that student is on his or her way to independence. However, the fact that the student can make this general statement is onlythe first step. This often becomes apparent when that student beginslooking at what she or he is going to do after leaving the program. Thisis when the difference between the theoretical blind person and theflesh-and-bone blind person becomes clear--the difference between "A blindperson can get a job" and "I can get a job".

    Whether blind people-or people generally-reach theirfull potential and attain the career and life goals commensurate withtheir skills and passions depends on a combination of belief and desire. They must believe truly that they can attain the goal. This belief setsthe desired goal in the realm of possibility, making it something thatcould happen rather than something that could never happen. However, inorder to turn that possibility into a reality, a person must have enoughdesire to achieve the goal that he or she is willing to put forth theamount of effort needed--the time, sweat, and tears to climb over whateverobstacles lie between the person and the goal.

    One might argue that you can't teach desire. This istrue. You can't make a person want something; however, you can remove thefear that often blocks the path of that desire. This can be achieved bymentoring. Having a real, live, breathing person sitting there talkingabout the raise he or she just got, the fetal pig he or she justdissected, taking his or her three-year-old to see Santa at the mall, orbuilding a new deck on the house, can put all kinds of ideas in a person'shead. But not only can a mentor put an idea in a student's head, thatmentor can explain in detail what it took to accomplish those goals.

    So many misconceptions about the day-to-day life of ablind person are loose in the world that it is impossible to know whichparticular set has found its way into each student's mind. Some of thesemisconceptions might seem to the student so silly or so particular that heor she will never articulate them. They can often mutate into abstractfears that prevent a blind person from letting desire propel him or hertoward the goal. The student might be thinking: "I would really love thatjob, but what if I go into the interview and they see I have a white cane,and they tell me the job has been filled. I don't think I could deal withthat." However, when a mentor can say to a student: "Yeah, I had twentyinterviews before I got my job, and some days it was really hard to keeptrying, but in the end it was all worth while." or "The professor reallydidn't want a blind guy in her class, but this is what I told her...." Fears about problems he or she might face are replaced by real situationswith real solutions.

    Mentoring can be integrated into anadjustment-to-blindness program in any of three ways: employing competent,well-adjusted blind people in all areas of the organization from thesupport staff to the executive director, developing an alumni network, andinvolving an active chapter of the National Federation of the Blind thathas members willing to spend time with students. Staff members who areblind give students a daily reminder that blind people do work and havepersonal and social lives. Students see blind people every day who travelacross the country, raise children, take graduate classes, pursue hobbies,etc. Then they have the opportunity to ask questions about how exactlythey do what they do. While this form of mentoring is essential andirreplaceable, it isn't quite enough. There is something invaluable abouthaving mentors around who are not paid to be there. This is not to saythat anyone would work for a Federation training center solely formonetary benefit (they are called "nonprofits" for a reason), but ratherto say that it makes an impact when people choose to give their free timeto share what they themselves have received.

    Also neither going through Federation-style trainingnor leaving a center is an easy time of life. The support, reassurance,and friendship a mentor provides make an enormous difference and canremove the barriers of fear and separation that keep some blind peoplefrom realizing their dreams. An alumnus mentor can sympathize with thestress and frustrations of training while proving to the student thatthese stresses and frustrations are temporary and conquerable. Achapter-member mentor can teach the student about the history of theorganized blind movement and show her or him the progress that has beenmade and the work that still needs to be done.

    The key element in the development of successfulmentoring is that these three groups overlap. Center staff should ideallybe alumni and should always be NFB chapter members. Alumni, when theyreceive the support and encouragement of chapter members during theirtraining, will want to become chapter members themselves. Chaptermembers, when they see the benefits of Federation-style training, willwant to make sure that they have the skills and self-confidence that theyneed, and they then become alumni.

    This overlap provides a network that both supportsindividual blind people and strengthens the organized blind movement. Itallows us not only to survive but to thrive. It enables center staff,alumni, and chapter members to form a mutualistic symbiotic relationshipthat goes beyond mutual benefits to change the lives of blind peopleprofoundly and permanently. It gives blind people the support they need tomake it through the challenging process of becoming an independent andsuccessful member of society while ensuring that this support willcontinue to be there for future generations. It both fills the landscapewith vibrant and resilient flowers and gives people who thought they wouldspend the rest of their lives on the ground the strength they need to fly. It is truly a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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    Making A Difference

    By Tim Lindbo

    (Editor's Note: This is the winner of the 2005 MetroChapter essay contest.)

    On May 24, 2005, I attended a rally in Washington,D.C. to change the thinking of the Bush Administration. The fact that theadministration wanted to do away with the blind and other disabilityservices made me angry, which was why I was so interested in attending. Iwanted to help the Bush Administration understand how the closing of allthe offices of the blind would be a large tragedy for the blind and allothers with disabilities.

    Before attending the rally, I went to Capitol Hill tohelp persuade as many of the Congressmen and Senators as possible to signour letter to save our rights to rehabilitation services and to speak atour upcoming rally the following day. As a student atBlindness: Learning in New Dimensions(BLIND), I was willing to do anything necessary to help the rallygo smoothly and hopefully persuade the Representatives and Senators to seeour side of things. A number of us brought sleeping bags and camped outwherever we could find space. What amazed me was how many people hadtaken time out of their work or school schedule to come to this rally asan organization to support our rights. We all used similar ideas butwanted the same outcome.

    The morning of the rally, I woke up with lots ofexcitement and optimism and was still filled with energy from the meetingregarding this upcoming event, which had taken place the night before. After breakfast, we gathered together in a large room, where I met withothers from Minnesota. In an orderly fashion, we proceeded outside,winding our way through the streets to get our picket signs. Theexcitement and enthusiasm kept growing for our purpose, and I knew we weregoing to get our message across and be heard by Margaret Spellings (theSecretary of Education) and by the rest of the country. I was expectingthis to be something like the 1960's, where riots broke out in the streetsand people were arrested for picketing. However, here were blind peoplebeing respectful while still getting their point across. Everyone waschanting as we held our signs up and walked the blocks in front of theDepartment of Education building. After several hours of picketing, wegathered together on the steps of the Department of Education building. Representatives from a wide variety of organizations and disability groupsmade statements directly to Margaret Spellings.

    The program began with four former Commissioners ofthe Rehabilitation Services Administration making bipartisan statementsabout how the current plan would dismantle services and hurt the blind andpeople of all disabilities. The highlight for me came when the grimreaper appeared with a coffin and was destroying many of our services,such as informed choice, jobs, dreams, and our hopes. Part of me washoping that Margaret Spellings would have the backbone to show up and facethe people who were being directly affected. However, they had been doingeverything far behind everyone's back in hopes that no one would noticewhat was happening. Because of this, it was no surprise that she wouldnot talk with us. To my surprise, the marching and chaos was conducted inan orderly way. The evening concluded with the grim reaper being shovedinto the casket and the lid being closed.

    Prior to this event, I had no idea what was availableand what we could be losing. This was not as much for myself as it wasfor those to come after me--especially the young blind children. Thisexperience moved me, because it made me feel proud to know people in theFederation and to see such a large group of people gathering together tofight for a common cause. It was passion, and it is what made me want tobe a part of a bigger picture and join the NFB. It did not matter if theproblem was small or large, because everyone supported each other like abig, happy family. And best of all, people will not stop fighting untilthe job is done.

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    Governor's Proclamation

    State of Minnesota

    Proclamation

    WHEREAS: The National Federation of theBlind (NFB) was founded in 1940 to serve as the voice of the nation'sblind, to end discrimination against the blind, and to secure first-classcitizenship for all blind persons; and

    WHEREAS: The National Federation of theBlind represents more than fifty thousand members across the country andcontinues to work to secure equal rights and opportunities for the blind;and

    WHEREAS: To change attitudes aboutblindness, the National Federation of the Blind provides information aboutblindness to parents, teachers, school administrators, and business,political, social, and civic leaders; and

    WHEREAS: Since blind people andblindness are still frequently misunderstood, the National Federation ofthe Blind has developed a public education campaign, Meet the Blind Month,to create opportunities for the people of Minnesota to learn firsthandthat blind people are basically like everyone else; and

    WHEREAS: The Minnesota Affiliate of theNational Federation of the Blind, now in its eighty-fifth year, invitesneighbors, coworkers, and classmates to join them at various Meet theBlind events throughout the month of October to learn how blind peoplelead full and active lives.

    Now, THEREFORE, I, TIM PAWLENTY, Governor ofMinnesota, do hereby proclaim the month of October 2005 as:

    MEET THE BLIND MONTH

    in the State of Minnesota.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand andcaused the Great Seal of the State of Minnesota to be affixed at StateCapitol this 16th day of September in the year of our the Lord twothousand and five, and of the State the one hundred forty-seventh.

    Signed: Tim Pawlenty, Governor, and Mary Kiffmeyer,Secretary of State.

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    The Continuing Evolution of Services for theBlind

    By Chuk Hamilton, Director

    State Services for the Blind

    (Editor's Note: This report was made at the NFB ofMinnesota annual convention on October 8, 2005.)

    Greetings Federationists!

    Thank you for inviting me to share with you the 2005State Services for the Blind (SSB) Annual Report. More accurately, it isa report celebrating the partnership with our customers and stakeholders. Those stakeholders include you, the National Federation of the Blind ofMinnesota. All of us working together with a common vision is what makesthe partnership "A Formula for Success." We thank you for yourinvolvement, support, and commitment!

    The following are some important highlights that haveresulted from our partnership over the past year:

    133 customers, striving to obtain or retaincompetitive employment, were successful, which met our goal for 2005.

    We have intensified our marketing and outreachactivities. The Senior Outreach Project, designed to aggressively marketthe services of the Communication Center and Senior Services, hascontacted every ophthalmologist and optometrist in Minnesota as well asothers in the human service arena. Similar efforts have taken placerelated to children.

    Preliminary reports indicate we served nearly 3000seniors again this past year. For 2006, we will be earmarking anadditional $45,000 for Senior Services, specifically to be used for grouptraining.

    SSB has re-established information and referralservices to children and their families. We have created a newsletter forthem and developed new marketing and website materials. The web addressis www.mnssb.org/childrenand it includes such topics as early childhood, education, advocacy,support for families, and book and video games.

    Regarding school age kids and youth, I would like togive you an update on how the Assistive Technology Collaboration projectfor K-12 students is coming along. As many of you know, SSB, the MNDepartment of Education and Statewide Vision Network (SVN) have beenworking since early this year to add a number of items to the loan poolthat is coordinated from Jean Martin's office in Faribault. Several yearsago, we worked together to make four BrailleNote 32's available tostudents around the state for assessments. That initiative has been verysuccessful in providing a vehicle for students to gain exposure to cuttingedge technologies.

    Recently we were able to add new equipment to the poolwhich include:

    The loan term for the items is expected to be 1quarter in length.

    The Department of Education is in the process ofpurchasing the hardshell shipping cases that will be used to protect theitems in transit. The target date to begin loans is Oct. 15 but this willdepend upon the arrival of the cases. In the meantime, the AssistiveTechnology Workgroup is putting the finishing touches on support materialsand curriculums that will ship with each unit as well as putting in placetechnical support mechanisms, particularly for the Mountbattons and thePacMates.

    The Saint Paul Foundation fund-raiser for theCommunication Center, Angela Bodensteiner, more than doubled the amount ofgifts from 2004 to 2005, from $200,000 to over $500,000. This includedone large gift received from the estate of one individual. In the future,these funds will need to be increasingly a larger part of thecommunication Center's budget just to maintain the status quo.

    The Legislature allocated stable funding for theSSB-administered, telephone accessed newspaper and magazine readingservices, known as NFB-NEWSLINE® and Dial-In News. This resulted fromthe hard work and political savvy of the National Federation of the Blindof Minnesota to get the bill introduced and passed. Support also wasprovided by the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota, the UnitedBlind of Minnesota and others.

    SSB's projected income to meet expenses is expected tobe adequate for the next couple of years, but I am seeing signs thatthings will then get very tight. We have, and will continue, to look forways to decrease our costs where we can. As staff positions are vacatedwe will be looking at them carefully and determine whether they need to befilled at all, or need to be modified or reduced to better meet customerneeds. All expenses will receive the same review.

    SSB made a substantial short and long-term investmentin staff training. With the support of our State Rehabilitation Councilfor the Blind (SRC-B) and consumer groups, we developed and implemented astaff-training program regarding blindness and visual impairment. Phase 1Training is designed to provide all staff with fundamental informationabout blindness, DeafBlindness, and visual impairment. Phase 2 Trainingprovides some staff with experience under the blindfold to learn moreabout the emotional adjustment to blindness and the alternative techniquesavailable to address vision loss.

    Another area of importance has been informed choicefor customers considering adjustment-to-blindness training. Incooperation with the SRC-B, consumer groups, community rehabilitationprograms such as BLIND, Inc. andothers, a process was developed and administered to persuade and counselcustomers to tour facilities prior to their making a decision. It is ourposition that all community rehabilitation programs should be fairlyconsidered in this process, and should have the opportunity to "sell"their programs to customers. I gave my first report to the SRC-B andcommunity in August. While about half of the individuals sent tohalf-time or more training since the first of the year visited at leasttwo community rehabilitation programs, half did not. Some only visitedBLIND, Inc., and others only visited either VLR or the Duluth Lighthousefor the Blind. I would like to see the percentage visiting more than onefacility rise substantially.

    At the 2003 Convention I reported that we had starteda process related to standards for technology trainers. SSB staff, withthe support and involvement of the SRC-B, Community RehabilitationPrograms, individual contractors, consumer advocates and others havedeveloped and implemented the first Assistive Technology Trainer Standardsin the country. These standards include specific testing on varioussoftware in the blindness and visual-impairment field, as well as arequirement for training in adult education. This contribution to thefield of rehabilitation will be shared with other agencies.

    Many of you are aware of what we call the 21st centuryPlan for the Communication Center. One aspect of that relates toreplacing the receivers for Talking Book Network with new,state-of-the-art digital receivers. They have either not been available,or at a reasonable cost. Recently a new digital receiver was shown at thebroadcasting industry's trade show, and they indicate they will beproviding us one for testing soon.

    And finally, at the 2004 Convention I was asked aboutour internal software that was inaccessible to blind staff. Since then,some improvement occurred through the efforts of our Assistive Technologystaff. The long-term solution, however, is now at hand. Workforce 1, theDepartment of Employment and Economic Development's new operating softwareis in the final stages, with pilot testing beginning in November, andassuming everything goes well, full-scale implementation starting thefollowing month. This software, tested by David Andrews, will beaccessible.

    On behalf of SSB staff, thank you again for yourpartnership in this endeavor. Working together we can make a positive,profound and life-long difference in the lives of blind, DeafBlind andvisually-impaired Minnesotans.

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    Current Status of Education of Blind Children inMinnesota

    By Jean Martin, Director

    Minnesota Resource Center for the Blind

    (Editor's Note: This report was made at the NFB ofMinnesota annual convention on October 8, 2005.)

    It is my pleasure to be here once again to update youon what is happening at the MN Resource Center: Blind/Visually Impaired ofthe Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

    The first issue is one that many of you have expressedan interest for me to address: Minnesota Rule 3525.1345 Visually Impaired. I am recommending changing the title of this rule to Minnesota Rule3525.1345 Blind or Visually Impaired.

    Subpart 1. Definition. "Visually Impaired means amedically verified visual impairment accompanied by limitations in sightthat interfere with acquiring information or interaction with theenvironment to the extent that special education instruction and relatedservices may be needed." I am recommending changing this to "Blindor Visually Impaired."

    Subpart 2. Criteria. "A pupil is eligible as having avisual disability and in need of special education when the pupil meetsone of the criteria in item A and one of the criteria in item B." I amrecommending changing this to "A pupil is eligible and in need ofspecial education and related services for blind or visually impaired whenthe pupil meets one of the criteria in item A and one of the criteria initem B."

    I am not expecting controversy on this recommendationand hope this can be accomplished through the expedited rule makingprocess.

    State Tests Update: Students entering grade 8 in2005-06 or later do not take the Basic Standard Test (BST), but will takethe MCA-II/Grad (Written Composition in grade 9, Reading in grade 10,Mathematics in grade 11). They must obtain a satisfactory on each ofthese tests to graduate from a public school in Minnesota.

    A State Review Team specific to blind/visuallyimpaired continues working on the developing and item bias review specificto our students. Minnesota recently signed a five year contract with onetest-development company to develop test items for all state tests. Inthe past there have been up to three companies involved in this process. It is our feeling this may make our job easier. This team will spend atleast 15 days from September through November in the development of newtest items and review test questions for item bias.

    Braille: I continue to co-manage the interagencyagreement between the MDE and SSB. School districts that participate inthe agreement agree to withhold $5 per special education child count in acentralized account at MDE and will receive Braille at no cost. Schooldistricts that do not agree to participate in this agreement will have topay for Braille materials.

    Orientation and Mobility: MDE partnered with thePennsylvania College of Optometry in a Distance Education Orientation andMobility Training program. Through this program we have doubled thenumber of Orientation and Mobility Specialists working with our students.

    Assistive Technology: The AT/BVI work group is workingon an exciting initiative. The group consists of teachers of theBlind/Visually Impaired and SSB AT staff. With financial support from SSBand MDE the group is developing a list of AT equipment (BrailleNotes,PacMates etc) that will be available to students on a loan basis throughmy office. SSB is contributing funds to purchase the equipment, and MDEis purchasing storage containers, as well as providing funds for training,and lending and repair costs.

    Workshops/Training opportunities: Some of this year'straining initiatives focus on Megadots training, working with blind orvisually impaired students with autism and the Parent Child Institute.

    Summer Transition Program: This two-week programprovides experiences to address the transition needs of students who areblind, low vision or DeafBlind.

    CHANGES OVER TIME IN THE EARLY POSTSCHOOL OUTCOMES OFYOUTH WITH DISABILITIES: A Report of Findings from the NationalLongitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National LongitudinalTransition Study-2 (NLTS 2) prepared for the Office of Special educationPrograms, U.S. Department of Education, June 2005. This study is long andalthough I have not had time to analyze the content I would like to sharestatements in two sub-sections titled Youth with Hearing or VisualImpairments:

    "Youth with visual impairments had the largestincrease in participation in postsecondary education overall and both theyand youth with learning impairments surpassed other disability categoriesin the size of increase in participation in 2 year and 4 year colleges,giving them the highest rates of enrollment in those institutions of anycategory of youth."

    "Youth with visual impairments had the largestincrease in paid employment since high school; they joined cohort 2 youthwith hearing impairments in having a 62% employment rate, similar to therate for youth with disabilities as a whole."

    "Youth in these categories experienced large increasein engagement in their communities via the dual roles of employee andcollege student; more than one-third in each category had both worked andgone to school since high school."

    "Out-of-school youth with hearing or visualimpairments had among the highest rates of participation in organizedcommunity groups, and they experienced the only significant increasesamong the disability categories in their participation in volunteer orcommunity services activities."

    Although this is a short synopsis of the report, itmay indicate that we are doing a better job than we previously were withmeeting the transition needs of our blind and low vision students;however, we all need to continue this focus.

    In Minnesota we are fortunate to have many summeropportunities for our students who are blind or visually impaired toprovide experiences beyond the school day and year to enhance acquiringneeded skills.

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    Free Bird

    By Carrie Gilmer, President

    Minnesota Parents of Blind Children

    (Editor's Note: Carrie is the mother of a blind child(Jordan Richardson), the administrative assistant atBlindness: Learning in New Dimensions(BLIND), and an active member of the NFB of MinnesotaMetro Chapter.)

    Once there were two beautiful birds that shared a verynice cage inside a cozy home. A wonderful family who loved the birds verymuch cared for the birds. The family always made sure the birds had freshfood and water as well as a clean cage. The family also kept the air inthe house just the right temperature--never too hot or too cold. Onspecial occasions the family would even let the birds out of the cage tofly throughout the house.

    On one of these special days, when the birds had beenlet out, one of the birds noticed that a window had been left open so sheflew to the windowsill. Sitting there, she could tell she was just on theedge of being free. She called for the other bird to join her and said,"If we fly out this window we'll be free birds! There is a whole worldout there to be explored and who knows how many other birds to meet! Let's take this chance and go!"

    The other bird replied, "Oh no! We can't! We don'tknow what is out there! How will we eat? Who will care for us? We mightget hurt! Oh no, we can't, we can't!" The bird wanting to fly free saidback, "I want to live like the other birds we watch fly by. I want toknow what they do, and how they do it and especially where they go. Iwant to be able to choose what I do everyday. They must find their ownfood somehow. I'm scared too, but I want to be free. Come on! We canhelp each other!"

    "Oh no, I just can't go!" the other bird replied. "Iwant to stay here where I know what will happen and that I'll be caredfor. I'm sorry, I just can't go." The bird wanting to fly free sadlyhugged her friend and turned to fly out into the world. "I'll miss you!"she cried and flew to a nearby bush. From the bush she called out, "I'llcome back and visit. Maybe you'll change your mind. Good-bye!" "Goodluck! And do come back!" called the bird who stayed on the windowsill.

    A year passed by, a year that had been pretty hard forthe newly free bird. It took her awhile to learn how to get food and tomeet some of the other birds. She had many days of being hungry orlonely. There were also days when she was wet or cold as she had troubleat times finding the right kind of shelter. Sometimes she thought thelong, cold winter would never end. Then she would think about her friendin the cozy cage with plenty to eat and not having to do any work to feedor warm herself. But mostly she found the world was full of opportunityif she kept on trying hard. She found other birds, of all types, who werewilling to answer her questions and teach her how to do things by herself. She observed and tried and practiced until she found methods of nestbuilding and food gathering that worked for her. When she heard storiesof other birds who had come to freedom later in life she sought them out,and these birds were happy to offer their experience, advice, andencouragement. On the really hard days, she would cling to the new beautyshe found everyday. And when she did find food on her own it was oh somuch better and of such variety, that she never missed the same seed shehad had, day after day, in the cage.

    When spring came, it happened again that someone letthe caged bird out and also left a window open. It was at the same timethat the free bird had come back hoping for a chance to visit her oldfriend. The birds were so happy to see each other and the caged birdexclaimed, "I can hardly believe it! I missed you so much! You lookso--so--different! So ruffled. So skinny! Are you all right? I've beenso worried for you! Have you come home?"

    The free bird replied, "It's been hard at times. Imay look ruffled, but I feel very fit. Everyday I can decide whatever Iwant to do or wherever I want to go. I've learned how to find deliciousfood if I work hard. And I have even managed to build myself a wonderfulnest in a pine tree on a bluff near other birds like us. Oh, won't youplease come and join me?"

    "What are a bluff and a pine tree? Oh dear, oh dearit sounds like a lot of work. Isn't there a lot of danger too? I justcouldn't go hungry. I'm too scared to leave. It's so comfortable here. I can't, I just can't." said the caged bird.

    Well, to make a long story short, the free bird liveda long and wonderful life. She learned to fly south in the winter, raiseda family, and flew to many exciting and interesting places. In fact, shereally appreciated her freedom and she tried to explore or learn somethingnew everyday. Sometimes she did encounter danger, and sometimes she evenhad to fight other birds, but she realized that is the way it is for allfree birds.

    The caged bird lived a long time too--but she neverknew anything beyond the little house where she lived and she depended onthe family to make all of her decisions and provide for all of her needs. She was as safe as safe could be--as long as the family that cared for herwas around.

    It happens that parents of all kinds want to keeptheir children of all types in a sort of cage where they are protected andsafe and the parent is in control of everything. This happens a lot toblind people of all ages when their families or the people they know, suchas teachers or employers or neighbors, don't know the truth aboutblindness. Sometimes people think blind people can't learn to take careof themselves like everyone else. They want to help by doing everythingfor the blind child or adult. But if someone does something for you thatyou can do for yourself, then that takes away your freedom. Sometimespeople of all types get used to other people caring for them, and this istrue of blind people too. These people who are so sheltered and protectedbegin to believe that THAT is an easier life--but it is NOT easier.

    If you are someone who is sitting on the windowsill, Iencourage you to make that leap off the edge. If you are someone who iskeeping another back so you can ensure what is best for them, I tell youyou are robbing them of our most fundamental human need andright--freedom. I initially wrote this story for a group of Buddies atBuddy Camp at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND). I wanted to impress the importance of practicing their skills and doingeveryday chores with a simple concept that they could easily remember. Itis also a concept I hope to impress upon parents, teachers, and counselorsin living and supporting NFB philosophy. Every time a parent has a childvacuum, wash the clothes, order their own book--that is practice theskills of an independent, free adult-I want them to realize they are onestep closer to setting that child free. Free with all the risks andresponsibilities true, but only freedom offers POSSIBILITY. Where thereare no possibilities there is no hope and growth is forever stunted orceased. What a great day it will be when blind children are given normalwindowsill opportunities and taught to leave the nest as a normaltransition to adulthood. What a great day when blind people are expectedto be as responsible and free and autonomous as any other adult of thesame intellect and physical or emotional health. Because of the NFB, Ibelieve that comes closer to reality everyday.

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    My Journey To and In the Federation

    By Melody Wartenbee

    (Editor's Note: Melody is the Braille instructor atBlindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) and an activemember of the NFB of Minnesota Metro Chapter.)

    My journey to the Federation has had its ups and downsand my journey in the Federation has been good. It has all been alearning experience.

    When I was a blind child growing up in Midwesternstates, the schools for the blind and state agencies for the blind werenot overly eager to introduce my parents and me or most other blindchildren and their blind or sighted parents to the National Federation ofthe Blind (NFB). Even though white cane travel was taught at the firststate school for the blind I attended, it was not strongly emphasizedwhile I was there. Consequently, I did not learn white cane travel at thefirst state school for the blind I attended. After graduating fromcollege and while I taught in another state, I learned that the mobilityinstructor who taught at the first school for the blind I attended behavedin a dangerous manner toward blind children and teens. In my way ofthinking, he had no business teaching children anything.

    One of the music teachers there said I'd never be amusician. I'm not a pianist; I'm a singer. I decided not to take thetime to be both a pianist and a singer. At least she didn't say all blindpeople are musically gifted because they are blind.

    While I was at the first school for the blind Iattended, I was very fortunate my parents, teachers, and schooladministrators decided Braille would be the best reading alternative forme. It was better than what I had been doing, which was straining my eyesand curling my eyelashes in order to read large print. Sometimes theshadow of my head would obstruct my view of the printed pages. My mothertaught me print letters with magnetic print letters. She also taught mehow to sign my name in cursive. Currently, I cannot read print, but ithas been valuable to know the shapes of print letters. I learned to readcontracted Braille in first and second grade and how to write with thePerkins Brailler. In third grade I was given a slate and stylus andinitially, I struggled to learn to write with these useful tools. I tooknotes almost exclusively with the slate and stylus in high school and incollege. I did not own a Brailler until I attended college.

    When I was a child and not in school my activitiescentered around family, school, and church. I sang solos and in trios inchurch and in school. I rode a tandem bike, went swimming, did housework,and socialized with church and school friends.

    While I was in elementary school I moved to Missouri. I learned about the National Federation of the Blind after I moved toMissouri. As I recall, it was during my freshman year of high schoolafter an article appeared in the newspaper stating that I was the onlyblind person attending public high school, I got a call from an NFBmember. After that article appeared in my city newspaper, this NFB membereducated me about the NFB. She decided I was too young to join, but shemade sure I received The Braille Monitor. If I had joined atthat time, I might not have attended many chapter meetings; I'm notcompletely sure.

    I am sure one thing I learned by reading the Monitorwhile I was in high school was that the blind are a minority and Icompared the blind to another minority in written assignments for one ofmy history classes.

    Even though I did not take gym class where studentsplayed softball, volleyball, and other sports, I participated in most ofthe requirements of my classes. It was probably just as well that I didnot participate in sports then because of what I later learned about myback condition. Another thing I should not have excused myself from doingbecause of blindness was dissecting a frog in high school and in college. Unfortunately, I did. I did win a trophy for dramatic interpretation in acity speech tournament, when I was a senior in high school.

    I sang in school choirs, trios, and sang solos. Isang solos and in trios and went to the high school state competition. Isang solos at high school assemblies and at my high school commencement.

    After I graduated from high school, an articleappeared in the city newspaper about the first and only blind person whograduated from public high school in that community. The principal didn'tthink I could do this, he said at my commencement, but I proved that Icould.

    The only time I used my white cane during my highschool years was between my freshman and sophomore years of high schoolfor a month. The mobility instructor said I was no good at using the caneand never would be. I felt discouraged and saw no reason to use my caneafter that and so I walked with a sighted guide instead. I had Braille,swimming, archery, cane travel, nonverbal communication, and other classesat that time. In the nonverbal communication class we were taught how towave, nod, shake our heads no, and frown, to name a few. I do not recallwhat the other classes were.

    After my high school graduation, I took some lessdiscouraging blindness skills training. I gained enough self-confidencethere for me to continue using the white cane ever since.

    After I completed my blindness training, I went tocollege. I had had enough of the inadequate training I received to thatpoint so I exited as quickly as possible.

    A blind minister, Rev. Hershel Moore, who was a memberof the NFB spoke at my church and invited me to a chapter meeting. I wasreluctant to join because I thought the NFB was more militant than I wasprepared to handle. The NFB members were not as aggressive as I feared. I joined during my sophomore year of college. I joined the Federationbecause of the opportunities to educate the public and work to getblindness-related legislation passed. Some very kind blind professionalsmentored me and a year later, I was elected chapter president. I waselected to 3 offices in that chapter and was a board member and was insuch leadership positions most of the time in that chapter while I livedin that community.

    In college, I lived in dorms, with my folks, and inapartments. Some of my sighted neighbors did not approve of me livingalone in an apartment. Two sighted, college educated men who lived nextdoor to me told my sighted landlady, who also lived alone, that theythought it was terrible that my parents allowed me to live alone. Shedid not have a problem with me living alone. I never dated those two men. It is a good thing we never did because I might never have graduated fromcollege and I might not have worked where I worked or currently work.

    When I graduated from college, an article appeared inthe city newspaper about me as a blind person graduating from college andthat I earned a bachelor's degree in psychology. Shortly after that, Iwas invited to sing and speak at the local American Council of the Blind(ACB) chapter meeting even though I was an NFB member at the time. I wasto speak about my teaching and discuss my college experiences as a blindperson. I was also asked to speak about my teaching responsibilities. Iwas their entire program for the meeting.

    Shortly after this engagement, an article appeared inthe ACB state newsletter in which I was described as an exceptional blindperson for graduating from college and for being employed. As Dr.Jernigan said, the exception can be the rule. The average blind personcan do the average job and do it as well as his/her sighted neighbor. Healso said, the above-average blind person can do the above-average job anddo it as well as her/his above-average sighted neighbor.

    I was eager to share my Federation philosophy whereverI went and so I ordered a large quantity of print and Braille NFBliterature. My former employer did not belong to either blindorganization and she said if I got any ideas from the conventions andchapter meetings that we could use where she and I worked, I should lether know. I had the literature sent to my work address because I knew Iwouldn't be home when it arrived. My boss didn't know what to do with allof the literature that arrived at first, but she decided to have shelvesbuilt on which to place the print literature. I didn't realize it wouldbe 30 boxes. When nursing, teaching, psychology, and sociology collegestudents needed sources for research papers, we had information available. I gave Braille literature to Braille students and distributed print andBraille literature at chapter meetings and state NFB conventions. Ipromoted print and Braille literacy which was not in opposition to NFBphilosophy. In addition to giving brochures of where I worked, Idistributed NFB literature to the college, high school, and communitygroups I spoke to about blindness and where I worked.

    I don't always fit into the boxes people put me intowhether it's those that are related to people's expectations of me as ablind person, a person with my type of personality, religiosity,womanhood, or people's expectations for people who are my age. I careabout others in what I consider to be a constructive manner and I also dowhat is right for me. If stereotypic blindness careers like piano tuning,being a musician or teaching the blind are a blind person's passion andthese professions are marketable, that's what those of us who have thoseabilities should get into. Those are gifts from God. If being acarpenter, physical therapist, medical doctor or other professions are theblind person's passion and God-given abilities, those are the careers topursue. I studied voice in college and have sung solos since childhood inschool and in churches and will do this when I do not teach Braille. Itook voice lessons in college as an elective despite what my elementarymusic teacher said.

    I have done work other than teaching the blind, butteaching the reading and writing of Braille to blind teens and adults atBLIND, Incorporated has been one of the most positiveexperiences I have had.

    I'm happy there are three NFB training centers whereblind children, teenagers, and adults can receive decent blindness skillsand attitude training so they can be employed in competitive employmentwith the sighted. I am happy more blind people have this training thanwas the case when I was growing up. The blindness skills I acquired weretaught to me by my parents, teachers at state schools for the blind, stateagency staff, training centers for the blind, NFB members, and by myself.

    It can be frustrating when blind and sighted membersof the general public seem to think the blind are to only receive andnot ever give. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receiveand this applies to the blind as well. The blind like to constructivelycontribute to society as the sighted do and it's not just by being robbed. Many blind people like to contribute in a mutualistic way.

    We don't want to be robbed of our birthright. This isalso true when we're misunderstood by airport and airline staff, andairplane passengers. I'm encouraged and have been encouraged by NFBfriends in Missouri, Minnesota, and throughout this country because theyunderstand.

    We are educating these people.

    I would like to thank Joyce Scanlan, Dr. and Mrs.Maurer and all of my other NFB sisters and brothers for what they havetaught me about blindness. I look forward to the future and to continuingto work with other NFB members to change what it means to be blind.

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    Life Is Not Fair

    From Charlene Childrey

    (Editor's Note: Charlene is the president of the NFBof Minnesota RiverbendChapter and the mother of two children.)

    To anyone with kids of any age, here's some advice. Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a high school about 11 things theydid not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good,politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no conceptof reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world. Love him or hate him, he sure hit the nail on the head with this!

    Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

    Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel goodabout yourself.

    Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out ofhigh school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until youearn both.

    Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait tillyou get a boss.

    Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping--they called itopportunity.

    Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault,so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

    Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't asboring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills,cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thoughtyou were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of yourparent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

    Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winnersand losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failinggrades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the rightanswer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in reallife.

    Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don'tget summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FINDYOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

    Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real lifepeople actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

    Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end upworking for one.

    If you agree, pass it on.

    If you can read this--Thank a teacher!

    If you are reading it in English--Thank a soldier!

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    Convention Alert!

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

    The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will beheld in March or April 2006 in greater Minnesota. Members will receive aletter with details about a month before the convention, and the letterwill be on our website atwww.nfbmn.org.

    The National NFB Convention will be held at theWyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas during July 1-7 2006. This is awhole week of friends, fun, and serious business. It is a chance to bepart of the largest gathering of blind people in the world. The fullconvention bulletin is in theBraille Monitor, and on thewww.nfb.org website under the Conventions link. An important new featurethis year is advance registration by mail, fax, or online.

    The Annual NFB of Minnesota Conventionwill be held in October or November 2006 in greater Minnesota. Memberswill receive a letter with details about a month before the convention,and the letter will be on our website atwww.nfbmn.org.

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