MINNESOTA

 

                      BULLETIN

 

Quarterly Publication of the

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.

100 East 22nd Street

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

Voice:  (612) 872-9363

Website:  www.nfbmn.org

Tom Scanlan, Editor

E-mail tom.scanlan@earthlink.net

 

Volume 79, Number 1, Winter 2013

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

Table of Contents

President’s Column. 1

Meeting Life’s Challenges. 3

An Ordinary Sort of Courage. 7

Change Our Lives — Why I Go to National Convention. 10

Eye on Central Minnesota. 12

News from Our Library. 15

Educating Blind Students in Minnesota. 20

Dialog with State Services for the Blind. 22

Convention Alert! 28

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 29

Background and Purpose. 30

Acknowledgements. 31

 

 

 

 



President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

Here we are, in a brand new year with much work ahead and many exciting opportunities to build on the work we did in 2012, to make the coming year even better.

 

Our annual convention last October in Duluth was one of the best we have had.  Many people worked hard to make it so.  You will read about the convention in detail in the next issue.  The core group of Federationists from Duluth continues to meet and work on ways to spread our positive message and provide practical help to blind people in the northeast region of the state.

 

We continue to work toward the elimination of the payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities.  Three of the 80-plus co-sponsors on the 2012 House bill dealing with this issue were from Minnesota, and we will work to make sure they stand with us again in the 113th Congress along with more of their colleagues. 

 

We participated in protests on two different issues during the second half of 2012.  The first was in August, to make the public aware that Goodwill Industries is one of the entities that pays some of its workers below the minimum wage.  The Federation protested at 90 sites around the country, and two of them were in Minnesota — one in Cloquet and the other in St. Paul.  The day before the protests, I received a call from an official in the state Goodwill organization.  They knew of our protests and wanted to be sure that we were aware that in Minnesota the Goodwill sites pay their workers minimum wage.  I told him I was glad to hear that and asked if Goodwill in Minnesota would be willing to stand up and join with us in working to get the policy changed throughout the rest of the country.  He said, in effect, that they believe there are people for whom a subminimum wage job is the right situation and that other states should decide what was right for them.  Therefore, although the conversation remained cordial, I let him know that The National Federation of the Blind would still be out on the picket lines in Minnesota the next day, which we were.  We carried signs, distributed fliers, chanted and sang, and talked with many people who were outraged and wanted to do what they could to help eliminate the discriminatory practice. 

 

Earlier this summer, an article appeared in the Pioneer Press based on interviews with managers in facilities that paid subminimum wages to workers with disabilities and which extolled the virtues of any paycheck, no matter how small.  At the time, we got a letter to the editor published in follow-up, providing the public with a fuller picture of the issue.  We maintained contact with the reporter who wrote that article, and when our protest was held, he wrote another article about it, helping to further correct some of the information from his previous article.  There was also a piece in a journal in Cloquet, and we were interviewed on the Radio Talking Book as well.

 

Recently an editorial appeared in the New York Times making a strong argument for raising the federal minimum wage for everyone (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/05/opinion/meanwhile-at-the-bottom-of-the-wage-scale.html).  The points made in this article apply just as well in the reasoning for eliminating subminimum wages.  With a discussion such as this in the public eye, the time is right to get this taken care of finally.

 

The problem of subminimum wages is one on which we have worked for decades.  Some other issues that we tackle could likely not have been imagined decades ago.  In December, several Minnesota Federationists joined more than a hundred others from around the country in Seattle to participate in a demonstration in front of the Amazon.com headquarters.  Amazon has been increasing its marketing of its Kindle eBook reader content to schools, despite the fact that material in Kindle format is not fully accessible to blind people and would therefore leave out blind students behind in the classroom.  It is high time that Amazon joined other eBook producers in making their content available to read, search, navigate, and otherwise interact with by using speech output and/or braille.  We will not give up until they do so.

 

We will soon begin to work on another Walk For Opportunity for this fall.  This event has been held in Minnesota for more than 30 years, at different locations throughout the years.  At our 2011 annual convention, we set up a task force to figure out how to bring in funds and increase participation.  The task force recommended holding the walk in Rochester in 2012.  We did so, and it was a very successful event by all accounts.  We took in more than $5,000 — well above our earnings in 2011 and some previous years.  The Rochester chapter did a fantastic job of planning, hosting, and getting the word out about the NFB to the people of Rochester.  For many, it was their first time participating.  At least 20% of the funds were raised by people going out and knocking on doors; commendations to the "knock squad.”

 

We work in many ways to help improve life for blind people.  We advocate for individuals when the need arises, and this work, of course, helps not only the individual in question but also those who come after.  Some of our members are adult English language learners.  Recently, a few of them brought to our attention that at one of the schools they were attending, there began to be a problem.  Instead of the teachers interacting directly with the blind students in the way they do with the sighted students, the teachers had begun mostly deferring to one specific teacher who made decisions on their behalf without their input.  These students were not asking for special favors — they just wanted to be treated equitably with the other students in the school.  We communicated with the school's director about this situation, and we now understand that things have improved markedly.

 

Each year, Federationists participate in a Day at the Capitol and work with legislators to educate them about the real issues of blindness and what we need, and do not need, in the legislative arena.  We are most effective when our members maintain relationships with their specific legislators — going to meetings in the local area, getting on their mailing lists, and calling and emailing them when we have specific issues related to blindness.  We get things done because of the help of all our members.

 

The Minnesota Bulletin that you are reading right now is yet another place in which we can use much more help.  Please consider writing an article; there is no doubt that you have a story that could help someone else or a perspective on an issue that can bring more clarity.

 

I look forward to working with everyone this year in big and small ways to bring down barriers of all sorts and replace them with high expectations and real progress.  Happy 2013!

 

Meeting Life’s Challenges

By Emilie Gossiaux

 

(Editor’s Note:  Emilie gave this address at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), and repeated it at the 2012 semiannual convention of the NFB of Minnesota, while she was a student at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND).  She has now graduated from BLIND and returned to her studies at the Cooper Union in New York, using the new skills and confidence she gained at BLIND.)

 

Good evening friends, family, teachers, faculty, and the graduating class of 2012.

 

Before I begin, I want to thank the NOCCA Institute and NOCCA’s President Kyle Wedberg for inviting Alan and me here tonight as guest speakers.  I am honored to share my story with you.

 

The first part begins nine years ago in 2003, when I was 13.  I started attending classes at NOCCA.  I remember feeling mesmerized by the beauty of the campus and the city.  It became my second home, a haven, where I could do anything and express myself freely in any way my heart desired amongst other young blooming artists, musicians, singers, dancers, writers and actors.  NOCCA opened doors, gave me dreams and helped me set my goals for the future.  Ever since I was a young girl, I was a high achiever.  Whenever I had a goal, I always set out to do it.  To be accepted into NOCCA was my first big accomplishment.

 

I believe I inherited this characteristic of perseverance from my early-childhood hearing disability.  When I was five years old, I put on my first hearing aids.  I saw my hearing loss as something I would grow out of, as if it were an illness that would just get better over time.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  My heart broke when I found out that my hearing was not going to get any better and would most likely only deteriorate more.  By the time I got to middle school I tried my hardest to conceal my hearing disability and strived to fit in with everyone else, but I always felt that I was different.

 

I never knew anyone or talked to another person with the same disability as mine.  So, I felt quite alone.

 

I became quiet and terribly shy, unless I was with my close friends.  And when I wasn't, I would draw.  It was something I was proud of, something I felt good at.

 

After being accepted into NOCCA, I no longer felt alone or different.  I knew I wanted to be an artist.

 

It was here where I learned about the Cooper Union for the Advancement in Science and Art in New York City.  I remember my mom coming home one night after a parent-teacher meeting telling me that it was the most prestigious art school in the country.  Right then, in my 13-year-old mind, I made a promise to myself that I would go there.

 

I want to talk to everyone tonight about what is most important when one wishes to become a successful artist.  Talent, which I'm sure all of you have, is important of course, but if one does not have a strong work ethic, the motivation, or the self-discipline, then it really doesn't matter how talented you are.  This is the one thing I learned during my years at NOCCA, and I applied it not only to my career as an artist, but also to everything in my life.  After graduating from high school, I was accepted into my dream school, The Cooper Union, and it was there where I became a full-fledged workaholic.  This time I just wanted to be the best.

 

The second part of my story begins in the summer of 2010.  Before I started my senior year of college, I underwent a surgical procedure to improve the hearing in my left ear, called a Cochlear Implant.  After the surgery, I decided to take a semester off from school.  That fall I got an internship working for an artist in Brooklyn, and continued creating my own paintings in my studio apartment.  I rode my bicycle to work every morning, and rode it home every night.  I felt as though my life was finally falling into place, exactly how I wanted it to be.  I had a job I loved, I had a beautiful studio loft in Brooklyn, I was living with the most loving and supportive boyfriend imaginable, and I had the comfort and ease of riding my bike whenever I needed to go somewhere.

 

Only nine months after I started dating Alan, four months after I had my surgery and one month after getting my job, everything — my entire life — turned upside down.  On the morning of October 8, 2010, I got on my bike to ride to work, kissed my boyfriend goodbye, and rode off.  Merely 10 minutes after I took off, an 18-wheeler semi-truck hit me.    

 

Six weeks later, I woke up in a hospital with Alan and my mother by my side.  My mother told me my accident was a TBI, or traumatic brain injury, that I had a stroke in the emergency room, and my right arm was paralyzed.  My left femur was shattered in the accident and was replaced with a titanium rod.  I was also told that the optic nerve in my left eye was severed from the impact of the truck to my left side, and my right optic nerve had atrophied from the swelling in my brain.  Due to my injuries, I could no longer see, I could not walk and had very little control of my right arm.  From there on, I went through many months of physical and occupational therapy as an in-patient at the hospital.

 

It's a strange and funny thing that when I awoke from my drug-induced coma and realized that the accident blinded me, I wasn't afraid and I didn't cry.  Once again, I believed it was something that would come back to me, and would gradually get better with the help of developing medicine and technology.  However, I soon realized that I couldn't wait around and rely on that glimmer of hope.  Instead, I took action.  In order to regain my independence as a blind woman, I started taking braille classes along with cooking and white cane travel classes in New York City.  The words stop and give up never once occurred to me.  But, I would be lying if I told you that I never doubted my capabilities.  There I was, partially deaf, unable to walk, and now blind.  The thing that scared me the most was the thought of going back to Cooper and completing my senior year as a Visual Art student.  I was afraid of what people would think of me.  How could I make art if I couldn't see?  How could I ever enjoy it again?  What else could I do if it was the only thing I have ever done, and the only thing I was good at?  The artist in me needed the most time to heal.  It took many months and the help of many friends before I felt confident enough to become an artist again.  During these past four months, I have been working alongside another blind artist/craftsman in his wood shop.  He was born blind and has been designing and building his own furniture since he was 19.  This man has given me a priceless gift, and has shown me an invaluable lesson, that sight has nothing to do with making art; it's the vision within that matters.  My dream was to graduate from the Cooper Union, to be a successful artist in New York City, and it still is.

 

Not only was this traumatic experience horrifying beyond imagination, it was also an enlightenment.  This past year, I learned more about myself, which I probably would have never known otherwise.  Because of my hearing disability, I always saw myself as being the weaker link, since I was always competing with the rest of the hearing world.  However, I discovered in myself all of my strengths.  I learned that I had a strong will to succeed, and I found that I had more discipline than anyone else I knew.  Through this experience, I also found true love and realized who my true friends were, without whom I would not be where I am today.

 

You never know what kind of challenges life will throw at you, or where you'll end up, but you must never forget who you are and you must always hold on to your dreams.  My mobility instructor, when teaching me how to walk with a white cane, taught me how to maneuver around objects, such as newspaper stands, bus stops, or trees, when confronted with them.  I also apply his advice to how we can handle the things life puts in our way.  He told me, "We must walk through life like water in a stream.  When the water hits a rock or a tree in its path, it doesn't stop; it gracefully moves around that object and finds its way back on track.”  This is also my advice to you.  Don't let life stop you from achieving your dreams; take it as a challenge, something from which you can only gain.  You must remember there is no wrong or right way and it doesn't matter how you get there.  The only thing that matters is that you get there.

 

And now, congratulations class of 2012, I wish you all happy travels on your journey through life.

 

Thank you.

 

An Ordinary Sort of Courage

By Shawn Mayo

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the winner of the 2012 Metro Chapter essay contest.)

 

I was in an airport recently, buying a breakfast sandwich to take to my gate when a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "What is your name?”  I immediately started worrying that I was supposed to remember her from somewhere and slowly replied, "Shawn.”  But before I could ask her anything in reply she said, "Shawn, your courage has inspired me today.”  Now I was really speechless.  It is not as if I have never been told how amazing I am because I am blind and yet manage simple daily tasks; but to me, courage has always been such a large and abstract term suitable for battlefields and burning buildings, and I really couldn't find anything resembling courage in obtaining a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant.  I felt like I was in one of those Bud Light Real Men of Genius commercials — like an announcer should be saying: "And here's to you, blind airport traveler" and I had to fight back a laugh.

 

The woman and I were witnessing the same simple scene, "Blind Woman Gets Breakfast", but analyzing it in two totally different ways.  To me, even though it was a delicious sandwich, it was the most ordinary thing in the world for me to stand in line, ask what they have, make a selection, pay for it and walk away.  I do it 50 times a year.  Most of the blind people I know do the same.  But I might be the first blind person she ever saw do this.  To her this is highly unusual.  Maybe she has never met a blind person, maybe she has only met blind people who didn't travel alone, regardless we are starting with different pre-conceptions and, therefore, getting totally different interpretations.

 

But when I got home, I looked up the word courage.  Here is Merriam-Webster's definition: "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty,” and I started to see that her word choice might not have been as overdramatic as I thought.  Nowadays, more than fifteen years after my adjustment to blindness training at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., my personal store of courage is used in other parts of my life.  But back then, it did take courage to get on a plane by myself, get up from the gate and go find food, and explain to the TSA screener that I am in fact a big girl who goes places all by herself.  It then occurred to me that courage is exactly what it takes to put blindness in its proper place.  Then I went back, looked up the word “encourage,” and realized that this is the definition of what we do at BLIND, Inc.

 

It's a shame that courage is a noun; it really ought to have a direct verb form.  But since it doesn't, I'm going to make one to describe what it is that our students do.  They courage up.  It's not unlike the phrase "cowboy up" or "cowgirl up.”  It's also not unlike "leveling up" used in role-play gaming.

 

Now I am going to go back to the definition of courage to show you how this plays out.  In this definition, courage entails three kinds of strength — to venture, persevere, and to withstand danger or difficulty.  I'm not a big fan of the word withstand here, I think a better one would be take on — it's more active.  So let's start with this one, "take on danger and difficulty.”  Now going out into the world as a blind person isn't inherently dangerous.  But, a number of the things we do often appear dangerous on the surface and this can cause a lot of fear that can be a difficulty to take on in its own right.  In addition, you have some real practical difficulties such as how to read, how to get around, how to use a computer, how to take care of your home, and how to do a job.  These are what folks take on in each of their classes.  And, they take each of these things from a difficulty to a very ordinary part of life.

 

The next part of this definition is to persevere.  Taking each of these difficulties and making them ordinary doesn’t happen overnight.  It also doesn’t happen as quickly as anyone wants them to.  It would be wonderful if we could take all of the blindness skills that we teach and download them directly into our students' heads just as Keanu Reeves learned Kung-Fu in the movie “The Matrix,” but that’s not possible.

 

We have been working hard to develop methods of teaching braille faster and more efficiently, but it still takes time and hard work.  Our cane travel instructors show students solid strategies for dealing with many kinds of situations, but mastery is measured in miles, not feet.  Some things are going to come easier than others and some things are going to be more enjoyable than others, but so often when students reach the end of their training, the most enjoyable accomplishments are those that took the most effort.  I think it was Woody Allen who said, “Ninety percent of success is showing up.”  And I would take this a little further to say that it’s showing up when you don’t feel like it, when you are exhausted or frustrated, or when it’s snowing.  It’s putting the miles on your cane and beneath your fingers when you would really rather be watching TV or eating ice cream.

 

The last element is to venture; to take a risk.  The biggest risk our students take is the loss of their comfort zone and the likelihood that they will be a different person in certain ways when they finish.  So often at student graduations, people will comment: “When you first started you were so quiet, but now you are outgoing.”  Or “You used to never want to go out and now you’re going all over the city.”

 

Usually when people come to training it’s because they find that they are in a box and that box is too small.  They have been limiting their life and activities.  And while they know their box is too confining, it is very often a cozy place.  It’s comfortable, and there’s actually plenty of room for excuses and justifications, just not much room for anything else.  So when people start working their way out of that box, they find new interest and passions.  They make new friends.  They become more assertive and sometimes more outgoing and social.  They change their lives and some really noticeable parts of their personality.  Their core personality remains the same, but they act differently.  This is a big change.

 

It’s a change for them and for their families and friends.  It’s a positive change and ultimately a good thing.  But everyone has to come to terms with the fact that this blind person doesn’t need the kind of help that she used to, she doesn’t need to take an arm to get through the parking lot, and this changes the dynamic of the relationship.  Also, it is a risk to one’s pride to admit that maybe you aren’t as competent, efficient, or great as you think you are and that you could do better.  One of our instructors tells the story of how she entered training thinking she would finish in three months and run circles around everyone else only to get left behind her first night.  She found herself standing at an intersection like a lost puppy because she couldn’t keep up with the other students.  Of course they came back and got her, and when they did she could walk faster since she was carrying a lot less ego.  But that was tough to take.  It took courage.

 

So the best way I can describe what we do as instructors and staff at BLIND, Inc. is that we encourage.  Encourage is an intransitive verb.  Not to get too grammatical here, but this means that we aren’t the ones doing the action.  The students are couraging up.  We are just giving them the time, space, tools, and support to do it.  They do the work.  Our work is merely to support their work and make ourselves gradually less necessary.

 

When our students accomplish a significant task or reach a milestone, they ring the freedom bell, and everyone comes, asks them what they did, and congratulates them.  The instructor hands the student the bell, shakes their hand, and walks away, leaving the student to explain why they rang the bell and receive the encouragement.  An instructor may ring the bell if they earn a new certification, win an award, or something like that, but the students’ successes and failures are their own.  They are the ones taking all the risk and they therefore deserve all the reward.

 

Our reward comes from knowing we’ve done our job well when they don’t need us anymore.  This enables us to push people to break out of their comfort zones, to go farther and do better than they think they are capable of, and to reach their real potential.  Nothing is more awesome to us than when a student flies right over what we thought was a high bar, then grabs the bar and sets it higher — turning in eight pages of slate work when they were only required to do three; walking home under sleep shades without being assigned to do so; decorating the lunchroom in the theme of their large meal.  This is couraging up, and witnessing it is the best part of my job as executive director of BLIND, Inc.

 

So I wish I had had the time and presence of mind to explain this to the woman in the airport.  I would like her to know that she is right.  It did take courage to get from where I was to where I am now, but it isn’t any sort of extraordinary courage.  Many people have it, and if we keep encouraging, more and more people will find it, and it will become more and more ordinary.  This is what we are about in the Federation.  This is what we are about at BLIND, Inc. — encouraging, striving, and expecting more from others and ourselves.  We take on difficulties; we persevere; and we venture.  This is how we change what it means to be blind.

 

Change Our Lives — Why I Go to National Convention

By Chris Kuell

 

(Editor’s Note:  This example of how attending the NFB national convention has changed the lives of so many of us is reprinted from the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of The Federationist In Connecticut publication of the NFB of Connecticut.  On a personal note, this year in Orlando will be my 44th convention, and all of them were educating, entertaining, and motivating.)

 

In the summer of 1998, my wife and I entrusted the care of our kids to my brother and his wife, said a few prayers and headed to Dallas for our first NFB National Convention.  My gut was full of anxiety, both because it was our first time leaving the kids for more than a few hours, and because of the unknown that the convention was to me then.  I really had no idea what to expect, except that a blind friend named Betty Woodward had encouraged us to go.  She told us it would change our lives.  Since my entire life had been overturned in the previous year after I lost my vision, I figured any further change could only be positive.

 

We caught a shuttle van from the airport to the hotel.  A guy on the seat next to me asked if I was going to the NFB convention and I said yes, how about him?  He told me he was going to his fifth convention.  His name was Ed, and he was from Detroit.  I asked who he was traveling with and got my first shock of the week.  "Nobody" he said.

 

"Nobody?”  I said, trying to wrap my head around this.  I had received a white cane from our state agency for the blind, and even knew my way to my kids school and the local Rite-Aid, but the concept of traveling to another state, alone, was beyond my comprehension.  How could you find the door?  How could you find the front desk to check in?  Or your room, for that matter?  My brain nearly burst with questions.

 

I held my wife's elbow tightly as we checked in at the front desk, surrounded by blind people.  Several asked my wife for directions, which she gave.  We had to walk down a long hallway to another building to get to our room.  As we walked, I heard little feet and kids laughing as they sprinted by.  "You won't believe it," my wife said.  "That was three blind kids, racing with their canes down the corridor."

 

Blind kids, running?  Once again my mind filled with one question.  How?

 

We spent the afternoon listening to talks.  I popped into a meeting of blind diabetics, and another full of blind scientists and engineers.  Before dinner, we went to the pool for a swim.  There I met Dan, a blind computer teacher who answered some of my many questions about JAWS.  We spoke with two women who had driven down from upstate New York with a van full of kids.  I talked with a blind single mom who was raising a daughter the same age as my son. She worked as an accountant at a company in Virginia.

 

My  wife wanted to clean up before dinner, and she turned the TV on for me before showering.  I listened as a man with a strong voice and a slight Tennessee drawl spoke about a blind man who was sitting at home waiting for someone to help him. He said the guy called and called his state agency for the blind, but they rarely called him back, and when they did, they rarely did anything for him.  They reminded him of all the things he couldn't do.  The man felt worthless, he felt afraid, and he lost all hope for the future.  As I listened, tears began to stream down my cheeks.  The man on the television said he was talking about a guy named Bill, but I didn't think that was the case.  He was talking about me.

 

After dinner, we went to the bar where I learned another truth — blind people like to drink!  I talked with a guy named Mike from Canada, and a man named Felix from San Diego who had lost his sight, had it restored through surgery, and then lost it again.  I heard stories of frustration, stories of adventures, and stories that made me laugh so hard my belly hurt.  I felt more relaxed than I had since the day the doctor had removed the bandages from my eyes and I couldn't see anything.

 

After a week, we left Dallas, and both my wife and I had changed.  She didn't want me clutching her elbow anymore, and she wanted me to try doing more things by myself.  Rather than me questioning how other blind people did things, I thought to myself — if they can do it, I can do it as well.

 

In 1999, we brought the kids with us to the convention in Atlanta, and in

2000 I attended the national convention by myself.  I've been to conventions in Philadelphia, Kentucky, and back to Atlanta again.  With each convention I meet new people, make more friends, and come back rejuvenated to make a difference in the world.

 

Eye on Central Minnesota

 

CMCNFB Chapter President’s Report

 

Dear Chapter Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

 

Well, we did it.  This is the first publication of “eye” on Central Minnesota NFB of Minnesota newsletter.  We are most grateful to Lori Peglow, who is the editor of this newsletter.  None of us here in the CMC chapter can say thank you enough to Lori for her willingness to take on this publication.  Many thanks, Lori!

 

Congratulations to Bev Stavrum for her being elected to the State Board of the NFB of Minnesota.  This is a tremendous honor for our Chapter.  Watch for a tribute to Andy Virden in the section called “Virden’s Corner.”  Andy was President of the Central Minnesota Chapter for many years.  I will also make comment on a Virden family scholarship trust foundation whereby scholarships are available to chapter members and their children who attend St. Cloud State University.  Along with this, I will also make brief mention of the spaghetti dinner, which is scheduled to be held on Friday, January 18, 2013, from 4:30 to 8:00 PM at the Eagle’s Club in St. Cloud.  Ticket costs for this event are:  Ages 0-5 free, Ages 6-12: $4.50 and adults $7.00.  Once again, thanks to Lori Peglow for putting this newsletter together.

 

Rev. Ron Mahnke, President

 

The Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota

 

Keep up with the latest happenings in Central Minnesota.  The Central Minnesota Chapter (CMC) of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Minnesota has been around since the early 1970’s. 

 

During the annual October “Meet the Blind Month,” various members of the chapter put on displays at different places around Saint Cloud such as the Crossroads Mall, Midtown Square and the Whitney Senior Center.  The group focused on handing out literature and demonstrating various technologies designed to promote independence for blind and low-vision people.  This year the display was held at the Whitney Senior Center on October 17, and was hosted by Bev Stavrum, Jim Cecil, Beth Moline and Gayle Bengston. 

 

The CMCNFB meets the second Saturday of each month at the American Legion in Waite Park at 12:30 pm.  Join us early, at 11:30 am to enjoy good food (like the “Buck Burger”), good company and a few jokes.  If you have questions or want information, please call Ron Mahnke at 320-229-0583.

 

We will be contributing articles from Central Minnesota to the State NFB newsletter.  If you have ideas for the newsletter, please call Lori Peglow at 320-597-3777.

 

Meet Members of the CMCNFB

 

Six months before Beth Moline was born, her eyes stopped developing.  Beth attended elementary school in St. Cloud where she learned to read and write braille.  She attended middle school at North Junior High in Saint Cloud.  Her seventh-grade math teacher recorded math problems on a tape recorder, pausing after each problem so Beth could record her answers.  This worked well for a while until her study tools started disappearing from the study lab.  In the spring of her eighth-grade year, Beth moved to the Minnesota Braille and Sight Saving School (now the State Academy for the Blind) in Faribault.

 

Beth started working after tenth grade at the Opportunity Training Center.  Her project was to work in the kitchen at the Masonic Hospital, something she thoroughly enjoyed.  She went on to attend Saint Cloud State University.  In December of 1977, she took a job at Fingerhut. 

 

Beth has been active in the CMCNFB since 1978.  During October, Beth also goes to the Northland Christian School to give talks and demonstrations on how blind people perform activities of daily living.  One thing she showed the students was how she folds her one-dollar, five-dollar, ten-dollar, and twenty-dollar bills to distinguish one from the other.  She told them that if she had a $100 dollar bill she would frame it!  Beth keeps busy with knitting, crocheting, making latch hook rugs, socializing as well as reading and writing plays and songs.  She also collects old-time music, radio programs and gospel music and watches old-time, classic television shows.  Some of these classics can be found at your local libraries.

 

Recipes

 

Blue Cheese Potatoes by Beth Moline

 

Wash and cut potatoes, with the peelings on into wedges.  Roll the potatoes in Blue Cheese dressing.  Bake on a baking pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

 

Virden’s Corner

 

Andy Virden was the president of the Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota for many years.  Under his leadership, hundreds of people found assistance for living with blindness.  As the CMC chapter president, Andy made personal contacts with many individuals.

 

Andy was born on November 19, 1927 and died on March 22, 2011 because of a tragic accident.  Loyalties to God, to our country and to the NFB were three major themes in the life of Andy Virden.

 

God — a central part of Andy’s faith life and practice was his relationship to his Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  He gave service to the various committees and boards within his church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Waite Park where he was an ever-present figure in the church choir.

 

Country — Andy was active in the political scene of the USA, especially here in the State of Minnesota.  He was in constant dialogue with Senate and House members.  His voice was heard continually, making a positive contribution to the structure of the democracy in which we live.  He was honored recently by having a brick with his name on it placed in front of the DFL headquarters in the Twin Cities.

 

CMCNFB — What do you say about a man who, for decades, was president of the CMC Chapter, a man who fought for the needs and rights of the blind here in the state of Minnesota, and on a national level?  What do you say about a man who extended himself, time after time, to those who are blind, giving us encouragement and direction?  We say thank you Andy, for God’s empowerment of you, for your direction and leadership.

 

We are also grateful for Andy as a historian.  He was keenly aware of significant events in history as well as having knowledge of those who were significant in shaping the governing landscape of our country.  He had an amazing repertoire of people’s names, places, and issues and he could speak forthrightly about issues and concerns at NFB conferences and seminars.

 

Andy was a businessman.  For a number of years he ran his own business in St. Cloud.  He was well known as the proprietor of his food service enterprise located in the Post Office.  He was very instrumental in helping other visually impaired individuals set up their own business.

 

Andy was a knowledgeable person who was willing to share his opinions, ideas and feelings across the social strata wherever he went.  He was down to earth, could apologize when needed and then move ahead with solid strength and conviction.  His leadership had a strong influence throughout Minnesota.  All who knew him respected Andy.  We remain very grateful for all he has done for the blind.

 

Virden Scholarship

 

In the upcoming weeks, you will be hearing more about the Virden Scholarship Foundation at St. Cloud State University.  We give many thanks to Andy’s family for this!  Watch for further details in the spring issue of Eye on Central Minnesota.

 


News from Our Library

By Catherine Durivage, Director, Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library

 

(Editor’s Note: This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on October 27, 2012.)

 

Hello, my name is Catherine Durivage.  I am the Library Director at the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library.  Thank you for extending an invitation to me to speak at your annual conference again this year.

 

What a difference this year has been compared to last year.  I am not here this time talking about the effects of a state government shutdown on the library.  Instead, I am here to talk about some exciting changes in this program.

 

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has a new director.  Her name is Karen Keninger.  She was the director of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped from 2000-2008 and then the director at the Iowa Department for the Blind.  She considers herself a user of this program first, then director. 

 

Her goals for NLS are:

 

·        To be the best program for the blind and physically handicapped in the world.

·        Revive braille.

·        Increase scope of offered materials.

·        Increase readership by 20% in the next 5 years.

·        Develop more and better ways for patrons to take advantage of technology, especially seniors.

 

Many NLS staff seem to welcome her leadership and seem invigorated.  I know I am.

 

In regards to technology, I want to share some changes that will occur in BARD or Braille and Audio Reading Download.  BARD continues to be very popular with library patrons.  We are approaching almost 1,000 registered users of BARD.

 

Many of you are aware that BARD does not currently contain braille.  Well, that is going to change in the next upgrade.  Web-Braille will be merged with BARD, so you will have a one-stop place for both braille and audio downloads.  If you do not have a BARD account, you will need to obtain one.  Your Web-Braille login will not work in BARD, so please register for a BARD account.  Web-Braille will not be updated once braille books are incorporated into BARD and eventually it will be shutdown.

 

So what can you expect from the new and improved BARD?  Besides the inclusion of braille, you will be able to add books to a wish list.  This will allow you to select books you wish to download at a later date.  You can remove books on your wish list at any time.

 

You will also be able to track previous downloads.  I know some of the beta testers of BARD miss this feature and it is coming back.

 

There will also be more information about the book, like navigational points and clickable links for author, narrator, series, and subjects.

 

You will be able to change the color of the screen background to black/white and limit by format so if you want only audio books to be displayed in your search results you can change a setting.

 

There will eventually be more locally-produced recordings (books and magazines) from other states included, but you will be able to limit your search to only NLS-produced material, if desired.

 

So when will these new features be available?  Network libraries are beta testing the new interface now.  We hope the new features will become available sometime after November.  For more information about Minnesota BARD, visit https://nlsbard.loc.gov/MN1A.

 

Related to the changes in BARD is the development of a smartphone app for Apple iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads.  I expect an app for Android phones to be available later.  The contract has been awarded and the goal is to have the app ready sometime in early to mid-2013.  The app will be able to handle disrupted downloads and there should be an accessible download progress bar.  More information will be forthcoming, but this is exciting, as I know many of you have been eagerly waiting for this app.

 

The other technological development I want to share with you is the conversion of audiocassette magazines to digital.  Many of you BARD users are already taking advantage of downloading digital magazines.  However, if you are not a BARD user or prefer to receive your magazines by mail, you will shortly be receiving them on digital cartridges.  Those of you who subscribe to multiple magazines will receive a cartridge containing multiple titles.  You may experience a slight delay in receipt of your monthly magazines because the cartridge won’t go out until the last magazine for the month is published.  Weekly magazines will be sent to you weekly.

 

Magazine cartridges must be returned within a certain period or else the magazine subscription(s) will be suspended.  We will contact you when this happens.  If your magazine subscriptions won’t fit on one cartridge, you will get more than one cartridge.  

 

Magazine packaging and labeling will be a little different.  Magazines will be shipped in similar containers as digital books, the container will be dark red and the seal on top of the container will be different to reflect that it contains a magazine.  Magazine cartridges will be blue.  The mailing label will include a punch hole or 45 degree cut in a corner so you can identify what side the return address is located.  The return label will have the audio magazines producer’s address on it rather than the library’s address.

 

Returning digital magazines is a new procedure, so it is important that you do not hang on to the cartridges indefinitely as it will affect your magazine subscriptions.  This includes subscriptions to the audio version of Talking Book Topics.

 

Once a magazine title is available on a cartridge the cassette version will cease.  If you want to discontinue receiving audio magazines by mail, please let us know.

 

I know I haven’t shared much about NFB-NEWSLINE® in the past.  It continues to be popular, especially now with the recent addition of an iPhone, iPod Touch® and iPad app.  We currently have over 250 users access NFB-NEWSLINE® every month.  We have many more registered users, but not everyone accesses the service monthly.

 

NFB-NEWSLINE® usage statistics are:

 

·        Phone users: 154

·        Web users: 66

·        In your pocket users: 12

·        Email users: 36

·        Total calls: 4414

·        Total web sessions: 634

·        Total in your pocket deliveries: 769

·        Total email deliveries: 12,466

·        Total call minutes: 87,100

·        Total state newspaper accesses: 124

·        Total TV listing accesses: 1,333

·        Average call length: 19.73

·        Percent local calls: 74.01

 

The library now has a much smaller web URL.  It is now www.mnbtbl.org.  We are in the process of updating content on our website, so be patient, but the new URL should make it simpler for you to find us online.

 

Our Advisory Committee is seeking one new member to fill an opening.  You need to complete an application available at the Secretary of State’s website or contact the library if you would like a copy e-mailed or sent by mail.  Members of the Advisory Committee meet quarterly, generally in Roseville at the Minnesota Department of Education, to discuss library issues and concerns.  Members are paid a per diem and travel expenses.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

 

The last bit of news that I would like to share with you is our on-going relationship with the Communication Center at State Services for the Blind.  We have a long-standing and strong relationship with the Communication Center that handles the distribution of NLS talking book machines and accessories.  They offer many more services, like audio/braille transcription, the Radio Talking Book Network and Dial-in News.

 

In August, staff from the Communication Center and the library participated in a Kaizen event.  For those of you not familiar with Kaizen it is the Japanese word for improvement or change for the better.  It is a process that helps identify ways to improve relationships and streamline processes.  Staff from the Communication Center and the library spent three days discussing ways to improve our joint services, recognizing that we both operate with limited staff.  We are currently working on implementing some of the recommendations, like creating a joint application for library service and sharing the same computer system since our current computer systems do not speak to one another.  This results in quite a bit of duplication that could almost be nonexistent in a shared computer environment.  These are just a few of the activities that we are working on together.  The bottom line is that we want to find ways to improve our customer service and possibly expand the type of services we both currently offer.

 

It has been a pleasure being here today.  If there is time, I’ll entertain questions.

 

Thank you.  

 

Educating Blind Students in Minnesota

By Kristin Oien, Blind/Visually-Impaired Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education

 

(Editor’s Note: This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on October 27, 2012.)

 

Hello Minnesota Federationists,

 

Thank you so much for inviting me here today to share what’s happening with school-age students who happen to be blind or visually impaired.  We’ve had a very busy start to the school year, with a two-day assistive technology workshop at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and a Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) specific mentor training in August, and four low vision clinics and celebrating White Cane Safety Awareness Day in October.  The Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) vision is that all children get necessary support for healthy development and lifelong learning.  The special education policy division’s mission is to provide leadership to ensure a high quality education for all Minnesota’s children and youth with disabilities.  My responsibilities as the MDE specialist for students who are blind or visually impaired include providing support, training, and technical assistance to teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists, and other stakeholders providing service to students with disabilities and their families.

 

The following is a list of workshops, trainings and meeting dates for this school year that have been offered to Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists.

 

·        10/9 - 12/2012      Low Vision Clinics in Owatonna, Metro and St. Cloud

·        10/15/2012           White Cane Safety Awareness Day at MSAB

·        11/1 & 2/2012      MDVI Conference

·        11/15/2012           BANA Updates Workshop

·        12/03/2012           Autism in the Child with Visual Impairments, Shoreview

·        12/14/2012           Statewide Vision Network Meeting (SVN), MDE room CC 14

·        02/08/2013           SVN Meeting, MDE room CC 14

·        03/22/2013           SVN Meeting, MDE room CC 14

·        04/21/2013           SVN Meeting, Charting the Cs Conference

·        05/02 & 03/2013  COMS and SVN Meeting, MDE room CC 14

 

Each of the statewide vision network meetings and several of the workshops above will also be available via video stream for remote area participation.

 

There has been a logistical change regarding the BVI resource libraries that I’d like to inform you about.  The BVI resource library of materials in print, as well as the TBVI and COMS Assistive Technology Loan Program have been transferred to the Minnesota State Academies.  The academies will now staff and manage the library and MDE will continue to support the purchase of new and relevant material.  Both the BVI and DHH libraries will be physically housed at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.

 

Now here’s an update of current data regarding school-age students who are blind or visually impaired in the state of Minnesota.  The 2011 MDE Unduplicated Child Count indicates there are 435 students from birth to 21 who are blind and visually impaired in Minnesota, 104 of these students are of high school transition age.  The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) 2012 Federal Census data indicates there are 777 students from preschool to age 21 who meet the definition of blindness.  The disparity in these numbers comes from the MDE child count indicating the primary eligibility category as BVI, while the APH census takes into account students with multiple impairments who are also blind.  Individual Education Program teams strive to provide each of these groups of students with the supports and strategies necessary to meet their individualized educational needs.

 

It is my overall goal that children and youth who are blind and visually impaired in Minnesota receive quality instruction that will lead to their highest level of independence and success.

 

Thank you so much for inviting me to share this information with you today.  Please know that I welcome suggestions for effective change.  Feel free to contact me with concerns or ideas for the future.  My email address is Kristin.Oien@state.mn.us and my phone number is 651-582-8843.

 

Dialog with State Services for the Blind

By Richard Strong, Director, Minnesota State Services for the Blind.

 

(Editor’s Note: This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on October 27, 2012.)

 

Thank you Ms. President. 

 

Once again, I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity to speak with the membership of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, the largest organization of blind people in the state.

 

As I’ve noted in past meetings, your work — the help, input, suggestions, ideas and feedback you give State Services for the Blind (SSB) — is welcomed, recognized, appreciated, listened to and critical to the success of your State Services for the Blind and ultimately, to the increased independence of blind Minnesotans.

 

Your membership impacts the services SSB provides and the results customers achieve.

 

You are helping make a Better SSB for a Better Minnesota and a Better America.

 

I want particularly to thank those who serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and its committees:

 

·        Jan Bailey serving as Council Chair;

·        Tom Scanlan, Ken Trebelhorn, and Kathy Hagen as full members and active committee members;

·        Jennifer Dunnam, Joyce Scanlan, Steve Jacobson, Pat Barrett, Sharon Monthei, Amy Baron, Harry Kruger, Bob Raisbeck, and Judy Sanders.

 

I particularly appreciate the specific and detailed feedback provided SSB in the area of Access Technology Trainer Certification, and how we can improve those services.

 

Clearly, the Federation, individually and collectively, is at the table and helping to change what it means to be blind in Minnesota.

 

There are several major areas of SSB efforts and results I want to share with you: 

 

·        Staffing changes at SSB and the State and faces you will be seeing in the near future;

·        Preliminary outcomes for the year just ended on 9/30;

·        Efforts underway and planned for improving services AND results;

·        The fiscal status and fiscal future of SSB as best I can;

·        And most importantly, my semiannual quote from a New Yorker — my home state.  

 

Staff update:

 

ASU — Stephen Larson will be assuming the SSB Counselor position here in Duluth effective November 7.  During his time in the administrative services unit, he has carried out numerous improvement efforts and projects and I can safely say we are much better off because of the work he has done.  More importantly, we all look forward to Stephen providing exemplary services to blind people in northern Minnesota.  They — and we — are fortunate to have such an outstanding professional returning to direct service to our citizens. 

 

The paperwork to fill Stephen’s current position is already underway.

 

Deb Fjetland has joined the Workforce Development Unit Team in Duluth earlier this month.  She’s come over from the dark side of the other VR agency in Minnesota.  We’ll have a very strong team up here to provide outstanding service in Northern Minnesota. 

 

Senior Services — And another person who has seen the light and joined SSB from the general agency is Lee Ann Bussee working with Seniors out of Marshall.

 

A&AT and WDU [Assistive & Adaptive Technology and WorkForce Development Unit] Earlier this month we shifted the A&AT direct service staff to WDU, freeing David Andrews up to focus on system-level initiatives critical to Vocational success of blind Minnesotans.  They include:

 

·        Active leadership roles in a variety of statewide access initiatives we have supported with VR ARRA funds over the last few years;

·        Testing metrics for venders;

·        Equipment sharing;

·        Tech advisory committee at the state and  department levels;

·        IAAIS committee;

·        STAR Advisory Council;

·        AT Community of Practice with Department of Education;

·        IT Symposium;

·        Deaf/Blind equipment lending advisory committee; and continue as 

·        Chief Technology Officer at SSB continuing to increasing access statewide.

 

Finally, last week, Mark Phillips resigned as Commissioner of DEED and Governor Dayton appointed Katie Clark to that position.  I’ve worked with her to a limited extent over the last two years when she served as Director of DEED’s Trade Office.  She recognizes the importance of the direct and related services needed to facilitate vocational and personal independence by persons who are blind, DeafBlind and visually impaired.  She has general knowledge of the efforts we’ve undertaken and have underway to improve our services and outcomes. 

 

Just this week I touched base with her on the efforts SSB and others are working on to have the state be a model employer for persons with disabilities and the work we continue to do on access to state systems.  I’ll be meeting with her in the very near future to brief her on major initiatives, issues and opportunities at SSB.  I’m certain she will welcome the opportunity, as did Commissioner Phillips, to meet with and consider seriously input from the National Federation of the Blind.  

 

It was noted recently by a fairly cynical person out of New York that over the last dozen years or so we’ve lost Johnny Cash, Steve Jobs and Bob Hope — we have no cash, we have no jobs and we have no hope.

 

That’s not the case at SSB.  Because of the work you’ve all done over the years, and continue to do, we and many of our customers have jobs — jobs that really and truly make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.  We — and I mean SSB — have cash; I’ll talk about that shortly.  And I firmly believe we have hope for the future.

 

First the jobs.

  

Preliminary results thus far show there are JOBS.  WDU had 87 successful outcomes for FFY 2012; for the fourth consecutive year, an increase in competitive employment in integrated settings.  Over those four years, more than 325 Minnesotans have an answer to the often-asked question “what do you do?” 

 

The reason they have an answer is due primarily and most importantly to the guile, grit and hard work of the customer.  

Also important is the work done by SSB and the organizations we work with, be it in:

 

·        The Communication Center, so:

o   a child has the braille needed to learn to read and write and access information;

o   a college student has accessible materials in a timely manner;

o   and the RTB providing a wide range of needed and desired broadcasts 24/7/365.

·        Senior Services, whose staff may encourage customers — the chronologically gifted as some are — to return to the workforce.

·        Workforce and Assistive Technology staff who work most closely with people seeking employment; and

·        What we call Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) such as BLIND, Inc.

 

From time to time, I hear of concerns customers have about our services.  However, more and more I get to hear a lot about the positive impact and the difference our services make in the lives of the people we touch.  A tribute to the work of the customer and to the job done by all of us here in Minnesota: SSB, the CRPs, and, ultimately, the blind persons we serve and their hard, hard, march towards independence.

 

That’s jobs — now on to hope.

 

There is HOPE.  While WDU touched hundreds in the last several years, Senior Services touched over 10,000 people in the same period.  Preliminary data indicates 2,956 persons served during the last year — past indication that over 90 % of those served have increased control and confidence in their personal lives.  We are concerned about the impending AGE WAVE and are exploring options to improve our services over the next several years.  More about that project later.

 

We have CASH.  At the Federal level, Congress passed a continuing resolution   late last month funding the federal government through March of 2013.  That provides for level funding for our VR and IL programs into FFY ‘13.

 

On a parallel federal track is the entire issue of sequestering — the Budget Control Act of 2011 — has enforcement mechanisms if the $2.1 trillion budget reduction target for 2012-2021 period is not met.  If not enacted by January 2, 2013, then mandatory reductions split equally between the Defense Department and domestic programs, go into play.  Estimates for reductions in education programs range upwards of 8-10%.  We are looking at various scenarios to handle any reduction in federal funding at SSB.

 

Right now, and realize it is a shifting situation, it appears because of a number of factors including prudent spending in the past and the ability to carry over federal dollars from one year to the next, that for at least FFY 2013 we will be able to manage any of the talked about reductions in federal funding from sequestering.

 

Very unclear what will happen at the end of the year with certain tax provisions due to expire and how they will be handled by the lame duck congress and the new congress after November‘s election.

 

At the state level, agencies have been instructed to submit budget proposals with a 5% reduction; not across the board, rather prudent reductions based on value of the programs that are efficient and have measurable outcomes.  Further information is embargoed until the Governor releases his budget in late January, 2013.

 

There continues to be full staffing at SSB and we are well positioned to fill any vacancies that may arise from any retirements that may come up in the near and mid-term.   

 

That’s what I know about cash.  I’m optimistic for SSB in this process because of work over the last several years to make us more viable and stronger.

 

Here are just a few of the efforts done to make us stronger and more viable and suggests HOPE.

 

Rules:  Workforce Development, SSU and very shortly now BEP will have updated decades-old administrative rules, all with community involvement and without controversy.

 

Kaisen/Continuous improvement:  WDU, SSU and Assistive and Adaptive Technology was one of five continuous improvement projects from throughout state government recognized by the Governor for their Kaisen-continuous improvement — projects that achieved huge efficiencies in assessing customers for Access Technology.  They’ll continue their improvement efforts with another Kaisen/Continuous Improvement effort later this month.

 

MBTBL and Audio:  Events took place in late August to reduce processing time and complexity between Faribault and Saint Paul in a way that’s seamless to the customer:

 

·        Decreasing processing time and effort by over 7,000 person-hours; hours to be redirected to serving more customers in a better manner;

·        Working to install common phone system; and

·        Integrated data base eliminating duplicate entry and e-mails and wait time and

 

You get the picture.

 

Conversion of the RTB from analog to digital is nearly complete with Mankato and Rochester areas completed this fall.  Only Grand Marais remains to be converted.

 

The Braille Section now has an on-line ordering system for teachers ordering braille that has decreased confusion and increased efficiencies in the requesting process.  It’s because of their efforts, providing hundreds of thousands of pages of braille a year, that kids have the materials needed to compete.

 

Computer lending:  Six fully accessible computers are now available for homework and practice by students in full-time Adjustment–to-Blindness training at community rehabilitation programs. 

 

I look to the day when blind kids come out of school with the skills and positive attitudes needed to move seamlessly to post-secondary worlds and, in what was ALMOST the case with my two kids, return home only for a visit and not to live for any length of time.  

 

And the little girl receiving braille from us who invested her tooth fairy money with SSB won’t need Center-based services to move forward with her education, career and life.  But if she does need those services, we’ll work to ensure she gets quality services including the expectation to practice using technology.

 

SSU Redesign: We’ve secured outside funding for a redesign effort in SSU and have met several times on a preliminary basis with U of M personnel from The Public and Non-profit Leadership Center at the Humphrey Institute to see how we can double the number of senior customers served over the next several years with the same or fewer resources. 

 

Advanced strategies:  Review of options for an information system for our field services, including the case-management system, continues to take place with SSB and VRS as the viability of our current system (WF1) is threatened.

 

We completed Master Contracts with over 50 vendors, using a newly developed Fee Setting protocol.  These contracts will run for five years.  And we’re getting set to ensure we have proper monitoring in place for those contracts.

 

Finally, as one of several aspects of succession planning at SSB we have three of our staff embarking on intensive development activities:

 

·        Angela Christle of Rochester and Chad Bowe in Metro were selected for the prestigious State of Minnesota Emerging Leadership Institute.  They are the fifth and sixth SSBers in this elite program in recent years.

·        Jon Benson has applied for and been accepted for the upcoming National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute Executive Leadership Seminar Cohort conducted by San Diego State University and George Washington University.  It has an outstanding faculty and brings together emerging rehabilitationists from throughout the nation.

 

I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that when the question comes up, be it from inside DEED or from interested others, “what is SSB doing to make things better?” there’s plenty to say.  YOU, each of you in what you do and how you do it, have helped and continue to help make a better SSB for a better Minnesota.

 

Thank you all.

 

Convention Alert!

 

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

 

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be on May 18 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis.  Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The National NFB Convention is July 1-6 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida.  This is nearly a week of friends, fun, and serious business.  It is a chance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world.  The full convention bulletin is in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.

 

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in October or November.  Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Background and Purpose

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Acknowledgements

 

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

 

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

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

·        Sharon Monthei transcribes the braille edition.

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

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

·        Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.

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

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