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 81, Number 1, Winter 2015

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

Table of Contents

President’s Column. 1

At Large Chapter 5

Eye on Central Minnesota. 5

Difficult Avenues and Open Doors. 7

Annual Convention Report 10

Resolutions Adopted by the Convention. 25

Resolution A14-01. 25

Resolution A14-02. 27

Beep Ball Invitation. 28

Convention Alert! 28

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 28

Background and Purpose. 30

Acknowledgements. 31

 

 

 

 



President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

(The following is taken from the presidential report delivered at the 2014 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, and includes some updates since then).

 

Last year at this time we knew that many important changes would be coming, but we had no idea exactly where those changes would lead.  However, we were confident that we would come through the changes even stronger than before.  A year later, there is no doubt, and we can unequivocally say that the prediction turned out to be true!  We have a great deal of which to be proud.

 

At this time last year, we had just learned that we would need to find a new executive director for our adjustment-to-blindness training center here in Minnesota, Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) Incorporated.  We worked diligently to find just the right person.  Dan Wenzel has become the executive director, and as I am sure you agree after what you heard from him at the sessions yesterday and from getting to know him at this convention, we definitely have found the right person!  Dan is a strong leader with a background in the Federation philosophy and great ideas for moving the training center forward — we are very fortunate to have him here.  I would also like to acknowledge Dick Davis for his great commitment and exceedingly hard work to lead BLIND Incorporated through the transition.

 

We also learned that at the same time, there would be a director change at State Services for the Blind (SSB).  Following the retirement of Richard Strong in December 2013, there was a long process for recruiting and hiring a new director.  Because we believe that it is critical for the SSB director to be able to set the right tone and support good decisions that affect people's lives, the NFB of Minnesota was involved all along the way, and we appreciated the fact that our involvement was welcomed by the management of SSB and the Department of Employment and Economic Development. We participated actively in seeking out the best director, and I also think that you'll agree from hearing Carol Pankow yesterday that her common sense, no-nonsense approach and her "get things done" attitude will be very helpful to those who receive rehabilitation services from SSB.  She has a long career in public service and rehabilitation and a strong belief in the capacity of blind people and the importance of good training as the foundation for rehabilitation.  As always, we will continue to let her know how things are going from the consumer perspective.

 

Fourteen Minnesotans attended the Washington seminar, and all participated in making the case to our representatives and senators for our bills.  On HR831 Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (AKA bill to eliminate subminimum wages): Of the 77 cosponsors, one was from Minnesota, Representative Keith Ellison.  On HR3505 Technology Equality and Accessibility In College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act: Of the 31 cosponsors, three were from Minnesota: Representatives Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson.  We will continue to work on these, and we know that we have a good foundation from which to start.

 

March 11 was our Day at the Capitol in Minnesota.  An enthusiastic and hard-working crowd gathered to inform our state senators and representatives about the need for legislation dealing with the following issues:

 

1. Ensure that all working Minnesotans receive the minimum wage by removing disability-related exemptions in state contracts

 

2. Ensure that seniors losing their vision can live independent lives in their communities by increasing resources for services to blind seniors through Minnesota State Services for the Blind;

 

3. Improve opportunities for blind Minnesotans and others by increasing investment in public transportation.

 

As a result of that effort, a bill (House File 3269) was introduced, which would, if enacted, indicate that the state government could not contract with entities that hold special certificates permitting the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.  Although this bill was not heard this year due to timing and the short session, it will be a very helpful tool as we work to build support on this issue at all levels.

 

We have worked over many years to make sure that blind citizens have the opportunity to vote privately and verify their votes via accessible voting machines.  We have also worked to be sure that the new online voter registration system is also accessible to blind voters.  We continue to give feedback to governmental and other purveyors of online content to let them know if their Web sites present barriers to nonvisual use.

 

Of course, our members volunteered with the summer programs at BLIND Inc. — the Buddy Program for children ages 9 to 13, and the PREP program for students a little older.  Our members serve as role models for those students and help to bring up a generation of blind people who know about the Federation and who know that blindness need not hold them back.

 

We held a Possibilities Fair in August, to provide information to blind seniors about living independently while losing vision and about the benefit of making connections with other blind people.  Our seniors division and other Federationists helped to put on the event, and there were over 100 participants.  We talked with them about how to mark their cooking appliances and games, how to get around using a long white cane, and the importance of the support they can get from being a part of the National Federation of the Blind.

 

We had a table this year at the Education Minnesota Conference, which is an excellent opportunity to reach out to the teachers of the state of Minnesota, so that if they have a blind child in their class, they know of our resources of information and people to work with.

 

We have worked to update our online presence with the new NFB logo and tag line.  We have new NFB of Minnesota buttons, which we debuted at the Walk for Opportunity in Rochester in September.  Our Rochester chapter always does a fantastic job hosting the walk.  We raised some much-needed funds, and we had a great time as always, walking in beautiful Rochester.

 

Our newly formed Twin Ports chapter, chartered last year, is thriving and doing very well.  We have worked with this chapter as part of our 75 Days of Action here in Minnesota, to strengthen it and help keep it moving in a good direction. 

 

We are making very good progress on starting an "at large" chapter and to re-activating the Riverbend chapter.  By the end of 2014, each of these groups had held two meetings and has a plan of action for moving forward.  The 75 Days of Action campaign has been a catalyst here in Minnesota and all around the country to help us focus on building.  We need to continue the work of building around the state, and I know that we will keep moving from the momentum of this effort.

 

Give to the Max Day is a day on which Minnesota nonprofits focus on fund-raising.  This online event was held on November 13 this year.  We encouraged our friends, relatives, colleagues, and anyone else to help support the work of our organization, and we raised close to a thousand dollars this year.

 

You heard earlier about some advocacy we have been involved in with the State of Minnesota to make sure that their online information is accessible, and we will keep working in that area as well.  We also continue to work with individuals as they struggle to get past some of the unnecessary barriers that are put in their way.

 

Looking forward, we will be conducting a Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program in the summer of 2015.  This is a two-week day program to give children intensive instruction in braille and provide them with exposure to other skills and role models through classes and other fun activities.  Brook Sexton will coordinate the program; Carlton Walker of Pennsylvania (president of our national Parents of Blind Children division) will be the primary teacher; Martha Harris will be providing much-needed assistance and expertise; and many other members will be called upon to help, just as we do with the BLIND Inc. summer programs.

 

We will also be part of a national effort to improve accessibility to museums.  In 2015, the Science Museum of Minnesota will participate in a program, and we look forward to working with them to make improvements so that blind children can learn there as well.

 

I would like us to think about things that each of us can do to keep the momentum going for building our organization.  First, think about someone that you know, and invite him or her to join.  Everyone knows blind people who are not involved with us, who perhaps do not know or understand what we are about. 

 

Second, we often need for each one of us to make our voices heard by calling, e-mailing, or tweeting to our legislators when they need to pay attention to and act on our issues.  That's something that each person can do.

 

Third, If you find a problem, whether it's a problem that someone is having that we in the NFB can help with, or a problem that you as an individual member can help get solved, if we all help with the solutions, we are able to make more progress.

 

Fourth, stay informed.  The Minnesota Bulletin and the Braille Monitor may not seem to some to be as compelling reading as a mystery novel, but it is helpful and important for all of us to have the background about the issues that occur.  There are often many things going on that we cannot stand up once or twice a year at conventions or once a month at chapter meetings and talk about very thoroughly.  The more of us with in-depth knowledge, the more agile we are and able to get the work done.

 

Fifth, and by no means least, bring your own ideas.  This organization runs on all of us as volunteers contributing our time, our talents, our resources, and our ideas as well.  If you think of recommendations of something we should do differently or additionally, please make it known.

 

Working on something bigger than ourselves is what keeps us here — we know there is so much to be done, and in many cases we as a consumer organization are the only ones in a position to do it.  We make a difference for more than just we as individuals do, or even for just the circle of people that we know.  Often we may never get the chance to know the people we affect.  I appreciate our work together so that we can live the lives we want and help others to do the same by transforming dreams into reality.  Thank you for such a good year, and I look forward to another one coming up.

 

At Large Chapter

 

Do you wish to be more active in the Federation, but can't get to a chapter because of distance, physical disability, or some other reason?  If so, you might be interested to hear that we are in the process of organizing an At Large chapter, and we would love to have your participation.  This chapter will be much like any other chapter in the state, except that we will meet each month via conference call, instead of in person.

 

If you are interested in getting involved, or for more information, please contact:

Aaron Cannon

(319) 400-0157

cannona@gmail.com

 

Eye on Central Minnesota

By Lori Peglow

 

Meet the Members

 

Ron Mahnke joined the CMCNFB over seven years ago.  Andy Virden was the chapter president at that time.  After the death of Andy, Ron was elected President.  He took last year off but was elected again in September of 2014.  Ron has a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa.  He was born with this condition.  Retinitis Pigmentosa causes loss of sight gradually.  The night vision is the first vision lost.  The peripheral vision is lost next, and then vision is reduced to “gun barrel” vision followed by total loss of sight.

 

Ron is a pastor and a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  He is also a member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church of St Cloud and attends services at the Good Shepherd home.  He was also a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor and a Licensed Professional Counselor.  He married his wife, Barb, on December 27, 47 years ago.  They have two children, their son Bradley, and their daughter Dara.  They have three granddaughters and one grandson.

 

Ron is still very active.  He formerly enjoyed fishing and hunting.  He still enjoys Bible History, American History and Theology.  He writes papers and is the editor of a paper called “The Blind Side.”  He has written papers on marriage, a paper called ARMM that stands for American Rural Ministry Model.  This paper is currently being copyrighted.

 

The technology that Ron relies on is a tape recorder, DVD’s and CD’s, and the telephone.  He used to use the computer but now he records his papers and has a typist who puts his works together and makes the diagrams for him.  Ron also stays in touch with former students.  And he is very active as chapter president.  He keeps up on the National Federation news and reports it to the local chapter.

 

His advice to others is that we need to face our fears.  Unless we face them, they don’t go away.  He faces them with his religious faith.  The support and love from his wife Barb and his family have been great.  They have given him love, prayers and encouragement through the years.

 

Annual Events in the Area

 

Our annual fund raising spaghetti dinner is at the Eagles Club in Waite Park on Friday, January 16, 2015 from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm.  The cost is $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12.  Children under six are free.

 

Little Cane Sales.  Our chapter will be selling candy canes to raise funds.  The canes are being put together by Lori Valo and Scott Tatro.

 

Beth Moline and Gail Gruber-Bengston will be representing the chapter at Louis Braille Day at the St. Cloud Library on the 1st Saturday of January 2015.

 

Todd McKee and Beth Moline have been working on business cards for the chapter.  Some of the cards will have the information about the CMCNFB in Braille on the back of the cards.  Members of the chapter will hand out the cards to introduce people to the chapter and let them know when meetings are held.

 

Jim Cecil, Bev Stavrum, Beth Moline, Gayle Gruber-Bengston and other members help share information about the National Federation of the Blind at the Whitney Center.

 

Difficult Avenues and Open Doors

By Dave Walle

 

(Editor’s Note:  This is the winner of our Metro Chapter’s 2014 essay contest.  Dave is an active member of our Rochester Chapter.)

 

Throughout my entire adult life, I have slowly been losing hearing.  For a while, it was in one ear; then it progressed to both ears.  I have had repeated bouts with middle ear disease through having tumors called cholesteotomas.  While each time I had the surgery to remove these tumors the hearing eventually stabilized, with increasing frequency of operations the resulting hearing became less and less.  The last two years have been particularly difficult, as the hearing loss contributed to communications problems and mobility challenges — none of which I could ignore.  I was approaching the point where I could be considered as being legally deaf-blind.

 

By November 8, 2013, I had my intake meeting to enter the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, and by December 8, I was on my way via Amtrak to New York and then to the little community of Sands Point where HKNC is located.  My first eight weeks consisted of evaluation in a number of primary areas: home management, mobility, technology, vocational preferences and possibilities, and communications learning.  As with any type of evaluation at a rehabilitation facility, I expected to need some remedial support in several of the above-mentioned areas of deaf-blind rehabilitation.  But the one situation in which I had no experience was communications learning.  So, in this specific class, I began learning the basics of finger spelling.  This was what Helen Keller started learning at the early age of her sudden onset of being deaf-blind.  By the close of the eight-week evaluation period, it was evident that I needed much support in the basic patterns of sign language.  When it was determined that I would go on into the first thirteen-week training period, my Communications Learning Center (CLC) instructor emphasized finger spelling at least once a week in our sessions.  During the regular training program, I concentrated on other aspects of communications challenges I would be facing on a daily basis — such as using the iBill to identify money; understanding and articulating the specific features of the Social Security Work Incentive Program and knowing how to utilize to best advantage the Trial Work program; and making and devising communications strategies through communications cards and the BuzzCards app for the iPhone and iPad.  Once I had built some of the simple communications prompts into the paper and electronic applications, we then went out into the community to try out these communications strategies in restaurants and stores so I could gain facility in using the new approaches I had just learned.  While there was some nervousness at first in putting these efforts to the test, they readily became easier and more real, and yet I still had to make the transition from HKNC back to my home community of Rochester, Minnesota.

 

The deaf-blind manner in which I approached mobility was quite different too from the pattern I was able to use when my hearing was much better and when I practiced with blindness as the primary challenge for navigating my environment.  My mobility instructor gave me experience in using the street-crossing cards both in the downtown areas of Port Washington and in New York City.  We found that on good days I could get responses from people to assist me across the street in 30 seconds to a minute-and-a-half.  In Mid-Town Manhattan, I averaged getting assistance in half a minute to 45 seconds, a fairly good pattern along new York City’s main thoroughfares.

 

The home management, which consisted of cooking, washing clothes, and cleaning, emphasized the idea that since I now have dual sensory losses, I need to use the touch to great advantage — along with using the residual hearing I have so that I have a combined strategy for identifying when food has completed cooking or the surfaces of a counter top or skillet are as clean as possible when attempting to clean up after making a meal.  Braille labels and touch buttons are together a tremendous approach to using the washer and dryer for a deaf-blind individual as well as for a blind person.

 

The one thing, which I have been introduced to before going to Helen Keller National Center, is the use of SSPs (service support providers).  These people are assistants who are paid by a grant I receive so I can go grocery shopping, take clothes to the dry cleaners, participate in community affairs, enjoy some recreation, and have good transportation throughout my local community to do all the things so important to all of us.  At HKNC, I received SSP assistance in going out into the Port Washington community and into New York City to see the Central Park Zoo.  I also attended two different SSP meetings in Newark, New Jersey and in Rochester, New York.  The new Jersey SSP program is run by vocational rehabilitation funds and the Rochester, New York SSP program is supported by several grants that furnish funds to hire the SSPs that will help the deaf-blind participants do the things that will foster their sense of independence in a variety of ways — from grocery shopping, to applying for work, to going to the movies as a recreational activity.

 

Although I can say that I still very much have some “bad ear” days as part of my regimen of life experiences as a newly deaf-blind individual, I can also say that these avenues of challenge are taking me to an increasing amount of open doors.  I am still waiting as I write this for the items of equipment and technology that have been recommended to me by Helen Keller National Center staff, I am able to do errands and negotiate my community, although it is at a somewhat slower pace than I would have otherwise expected before going to HKNC.

 

My vocational preferences and possibilities experience was rounded out by working twice a week in one of the nursing homes near the rehabilitation facility.  On Wednesdays, I played music, using the piano, singing, and playing flute for the residents gathered in the activities room.  On Fridays, I led a brief discussion that responded to some of the social and spiritual needs of the residents, exploring what made them want to get up each day and participate in the ways they now could as they were growing older.  With each musical session and discussion/social period, I would always go around the room and physically shake people’s hands and try to learn their names and just give them the important ingredient of touch that is sometimes taken for granted.  But the avenues of music and social interaction were yet two more inroads that exposed the nursing home residents to someone who happens to be deaf-blind.

 

What follows from my being at the Helen Keller National Center will hopefully continue to give me hope, peace, and strength as I continue to use my new skills and some of the older skills in a new way so I can make a difference in the lives of my friends and family, as well as in the lives of people throughout my home community.  And within the National Federation of the Blind, we can certainly gain from learning about the different aspects of deaf-blindness, as we may be able to be a rich, powerful vehicle of hope, peace, and strength as we forge yet new ways of providing rehabilitation to people who are deaf-blind and hearing-impaired.  We in the NFB can and must be the channels of love, confidence, commitment, and determination as we reach out to people who may have the challenging avenue of a dual-sensory loss, but yet receive the gains made through rehabilitation and integration into the society in which they deserve to be a part. 

 

Annual Convention Report

By Judy Sanders, Secretary

 

The place was the Holiday Inn in New Ulm, Minnesota on October 31 through November 2, 2014.  The occasion was the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM).  Over 80 Federationists gathered for a weekend of fun, friendship and hard work.  The message on the top of our agenda reads, “The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.  Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.  You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.”

 

Nearly 50 Federationists pre-registered for the convention so all they had to do was pick up their agendas and meal tickets.  That meant a short line for more than 30 people who came to register on-site. 

 

 

Friday, October 31

 

Throughout the convention Louis Braille Commemorative silver dollars were available for sale.  Dick Davis and Brook Sexton were on hand to accommodate any customers.  This is the proof version with readable braille sold by the NFB of Minnesota for $42.00.

 

Members were introduced to the inTact Sketchpad and Eraser that makes it possible for blind people to draw and feel their results.  This tool is manufactured by E.A.S.Y. Tactile Graphics and Mike Coleman, the head of this company, appeared on our agenda to share more detailed information about this product.

 

Along with things to see and buy, there were places to go.

 

The NFB, at the state and national levels, sets its policies and direction in helping blind people live the life they want through its resolutions voted on at our conventions.  Two resolutions were submitted to this convention and were first discussed at a meeting of our Resolutions Committee.  Ryan Strunk, chair of the committee, was unable to attend the convention due to illness; however, his advance work on writing these resolutions made it easier for the committee to proceed.  Steve Jacobson chaired the meeting, and both were recommended favorably to the convention.  (The resolutions follow this report.)

 

Live the Life You Want!  This was a conversation between convention participants and Pam and Roland Allen.  People shared their dreams and fears on what might keep them from achieving their goals.  Most of their conversation focused on adventures in traveling independently and safely. 

 

The Minnesota Association of Blind Students met in the early evening under the leadership of President Va’nasha Washington.  Their theme for the meeting was “Fall into Success.”  Kathy McGillivray spoke about her job at Augsburg College directing the Office for Students with Disabilities.  Pam Allen shared her experiences as a college student.  The students amended their constitution eliminating the payment of dues to the division; however, membership in the NFB of Minnesota is required to vote in the division.  Elections brought the following results: president, Va’nasha Washington; first vice president, Maurisa Becker; second vice president, Quinn Haberl; secretary, Jessica Katszung; and treasurer, Candice Chapman.  Students sponsored two fundraisers during the convention; they sold beautifully hand-made mugs made and donated by George Wurtzel and their other moneymaking activity occurred during hospitality.

 

Later that evening the Minnesota Association to Promote the Use of Braille held its semiannual meeting with President Melody Wartenbee presiding.  Jennifer Dunnam, manager of Braille Programs for the NFB and the NFB representative to the Braille Authority of North America, talked about the latest information regarding the change to the new Unified English Braille Code (UEB).  Everyone had the chance to discover how easy it will be to read because our convention agenda was printed using UEB.

 

Pat Barrett, assistant librarian in the Braille section of the Communication Center at State Services for the Blind (SSB), shared with the audience a description of his varied job responsibilities.  Helping to proofread texts for blind students to invoicing purchasers of books each day brings a variety of tasks that need to be done.

 

The following were elected to office: president, Amy Baron; and secretary/treasurer, Trudy Barrett.  Ben Moser has one more year to serve as vice president.

 

iPhones are all the rage for everyone and this is one product that is accessible to blind users without needing additional software to make it speak.  Sharon Monthei was available to answer questions about how to use the latest model.

 

Our energetic students sponsored Halloween hospitality.  Not only was there free food and a cash bar but there was a costume contest and, of course, another student fundraiser involving pie.

 

Several came to the event decked out in creative Halloween costumes.  Each entrant in the contest had to describe their costume to the audience so that the blind judges could make their choices of three winners.  They were first place, Brook Sexton as Strawberry Shortcake; second place, Debbie Hobson as a Christmas tree; and third place, Qeon Holland as a Viking (not a football player).

 

And then there was the pie.  Four intrepid Federationists, Pam Allen, Jennifer Dunnam, Sharon Monthei, and Va’nasha Washington volunteered to have a pie thrown in their face.  Only one would have that honor.  It went to the one who raised the most money.  Of course, the money came from everyone in the room who wanted to show their love for one unlucky volunteer.  She was Va’nasha Washington who received her reward from Dick Davis who pitched the pie.  Our student division raised close to $200 from this activity.

 

 

Saturday, November 1

 

Our energetic Seniors Division met for breakfast at 7 a.m.  President Joyce Scanlan reported that the sale of cell-phone carriers is completed.  The new product for sale is a pin that says “Senior in Charge.”  It is available for a mere $5.00.  Judy Sanders reported on the success of last summer’s Possibility Fair for Seniors.  Over 100 people came to see the exhibits and hear Diane McGeorge, our keynote speaker from Denver.  Elections were held with the following results: president, Joyce Scanlan; and secretary/treasurer, Pat Barrett.

 

At 9 a.m., everyone gathered for the call to order by President Dunnam.  We began the session with an invocation given by Pat Barrett.  Dunnam made us aware that for the first time we were streaming our convention over the Internet.  Megan Bening, a student at Mankato State University and a longtime Federationist, welcomed us to New Ulm.  Monica Buboltz, another Federationist from New Ulm, introduced New Ulm’s mayor, Bob Beusman, who not only acts as mayor but also sings with a group called The Concord.  He treated us to a sample of his singing honoring the German heritage of the town.

 

Door prizes always add excitement to our convention sessions.  Matt Langland and Maurisa Becker kept our attention throughout the weekend, drawing names from convention registrations.  As always, one had to be in the room to win the prize. 

 

Our bake auction is a spirited way of raising funds for our treasury.  Charlotte Czarnecki explained the rules for the auction and temped us with some of the delectable items to be auctioned.  She would be calling on various members of the audience to serve as auctioneers.

 

Our national representative, Pam Allen, presented a report about issues affecting all of us from our national organization.  Mrs. Allen is treasurer of the NFB and president of the NFB of Louisiana.  Allen reported that we are in the midst of our 75 days of action where, throughout the country, in honor of our 75 years as an organization, we are working to strengthen existing chapters and start new ones.  This push for membership expansion is just the beginning of a year of activity celebrating our existence as a national organization since 1940.  Our national convention will be extra special this year because of 75 years to commemorate.

 

Allen reminded those who have never been to a convention to apply for a Jernigan scholarship which aids first-timers with financial assistance.  Our national scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students are already available for those attending school in the fall of 2015.

 

We are seeking passage of the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act.  While this bill has not yet passed, President Obama recently issued an executive order raising the federal minimum wage for all federal contractors (including people with disabilities) to $10.10 per hour.  We still seek passage of our bill HR831, introduced by Representative Greg Harper from Mississippi, so that all workers with disabilities can receive at least the minimum wage. 

 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was signed into law this summer with the NFB’s support.  The NFB was able to work with Congress ensuring that Section 511 of this bill will help raise wages for disabled workers.  In addition, the bill keeps the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Education where we want it. 

 

The Technology Education and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH) will help ensure that all technology in the classroom is accessible to everyone, including blind students.  While publishers have joined us in supporting this act, the American Council on Education expressed opposition.  We are countering their negative publicity with letters to the editor and other publicity.  Senator Tom Harkin, from Iowa, included verbatim language of our act in the Higher Education Opportunity Act reauthorization that could increase the possibility of its passage this year.

 

Our Washington Seminar, where we gather to visit Congress to tell them how they can help us live the life we want, will begin on January 26.  Students, parents and others will hold meetings in advance of the seminar. 

 

NFB-NEWSLINE® is a free service offered by the NFB making nearly 400 newspapers and magazines accessible to blind people through a telephone, e-mail or Internet.  We can even use reading devices such as a Victor Stream to listen.  The service includes emergency weather alerts, television listings and the Target store ad.  Any patron of the National Library Service is eligible for this.

 

We continue to sponsor leadership programs for parents of blind children, science activities for youth and our BELL (Braille Enrichment Learning and Literacy) program.  BELL is for very young children.

 

The NFB has a large presence on social media including YouTube, Facebook and a blog called “Voice of the Nation’s Blind.” 

 

Beginning the day after Thanksgiving until Giving Tuesday, December 2, the NFB will hold its “Bid for Equality” auction on line.  State affiliates have donated packages for bid with all proceeds going to our national treasury.

 

Public Service Announcements are available for our Vehicle Donation program.  We accept cars, boats and other forms of transit.

 

Mrs. Allen closed by emphasizing the importance that each one of us plays in spreading the belief that our blindness does not hold us back; by working together we can live the life we want.

 

Carol Pankow, the director of the agency, presented “Dialog with State Services for the Blind.”  Her remarks will be in the next issue.  Kathy McGillivray expressed appreciation for the work that the Communication Center at SSB is doing to produce e-texts.  This service was initiated at the urging of the NFB and it is evidence that SSB administrators listen.

 

Debbie Hobson asked if SSB was working with the state to eliminate the requirement of a driver’s license on the job application when such a license is not necessary to perform the job.  Pankow said that, in conjunction with Governor Dayton’s initiative to increase the number of people with disabilities employed by state government, SSB is urging the ADA coordinator for Minnesota to look at each job description that requires a license and examine if it really does.  Dunnam urged people to let her know if we run into job applications that mention a driver’s license.  We can do something about it if we learn about it soon enough.

 

Jan Bailey expressed the opinion that SSB had no method of determining how many people apply for service but never become clients.  Pankow said that their intake work group is examining the intake procedures and that RSA has also suggested that this is a problem.

 

Dunnam closed this convention item by expressing appreciation for the cooperation and responsiveness of Director Pankow.  We are proud to have her as a member of the NFB of Minnesota.

 

Kristin Oien, Blind/Visually Impaired Specialist in the Minnesota Department of Education, presented an item entitled “Ensuring Quality Education for Our Children” that will also be in the next issue.  Ms. Oien’s activities include making plans for implementation of UEB in this state as it affects young Braille readers and working to find solutions for a shortage of qualified teachers of the blind and visually impaired.  Dunnam expressed the hope that Oien will assist in finding students for our first BELL program in Minnesota next summer.

 

Throughout our convention program, blind members inspired us with tips on accomplishing tasks nonvisually.

 

Pro Tip from Sharon Monthei: Ms. Monthei talked about her experience at a gym with various types of exercise equipment.  While many pieces of equipment appear to require vision to operate, Monthei found many of them such as weight lifting machines and stationary bikes are usable.  Many gyms offer one free session with a trainer who can acquaint the customer with the equipment. 

 

Brad Harper, superintendent of the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, began the presentation entitled “What’s New at the Academy.”  More students than ever before are receiving a mainstream education because of professional curriculum development with a consultant.  Jan Bailey was elected chair of the governing board of the Academy.  The Academy may need the Federation’s help with a request to the state legislature for funding to update the school technology including hardware, software and networking.  The school is already working with the NFB to improve nonvisual access to student data that should be available to state employees.  Currently, blind staff cannot use it.  In conjunction with the state’s activities in implementing the Olmstead Act, the school will be taking part in a “Quality of Life” survey.  This activity is in response to a Supreme Court decision that requires people with disabilities to be integrated into the community whenever possible.  The school is endeavoring to find funding for a running track for the students.

 

In the past, the Academy has staffed a booth at the state fair.  This was a burden because it happens just when school is starting.  They opted out of that event; instead, they sponsored a table at Education Minnesota in October.  (Note: The NFB of Minnesota has had a table at this conference for the past several years.)

 

Jon Davis, director, State Academy for the Blind, continued the presentation.  They have 48 students.  All the seniors are taking at least one class at the public high school in Faribault.  The school is joining other school districts in changing their grading system.  It will reflect whether students are meeting standards in their curriculum instead of letter grades.  The standards are the same ones used all over the state. 

 

Several people commented that it will be positive for the Academy to have a running track and that they can join blind runners from all over the country.  The school has a track team; but the track they used is no longer available to them. 

 

Bob Raisbeck talked to us about the Preauthorized Contribution Plan.  This is an opportunity for people to set up an automatic monthly donation to our national treasury.  We can use checking accounts, or credit or debit cards to do this.  This subject also was handled at the banquet.  Ms. Allen taught us new words to the PAC plan song so that we could be prepared to sing it at the banquet.

 

“Get on the PAC plan;

Sign up today;

Use your checkbook or credit card, either way.

It’s such an easy way to give

To live the life you want to live.”

 

This year the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library was represented by Rene Perrance, a public services librarian.  Anyone who calls the library for books recognized her friendly voice.  Her remarks will be in the next issue.  Joyce Scanlan asked about a magazine that she receives from the library.  She has not received an issue since May/June.  Ms. Perrance said that volunteers produce it and they may be lagging.  It reminded her that many order forms are received where the person very nicely checked off the books they want but they forgot to put their name and address on the form. 

 

A question was asked about finding Minnesota books on BARD.  Perrance said that they are not yet listed there.

 

During lunch, many Federationists gathered with students and staff from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. where we had the chance to get to know them better.  Each staff member and student introduced him or herself and gave a brief autobiography.  BLIND board members were also acknowledged.

 

Our afternoon session began with a report from Candice Chapman about our 75 days of action.  This is in celebration of 75 years of a national organized effort where blind people have worked and continue to work in improving opportunities for us to live the life we want.  Ms. Chapman is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota’s coordinator of 75 in 75 campaign.  This means that we want to find 75 new chapters in 75 days throughout the country.  Ms. Chapman expressed thanks for the work of an extremely active committee.  Everyone’s support makes it possible for her to keep her busy school schedule.  Our Duluth chapter is growing and energetic; we are reviving our Riverbend chapter and we are forming an at-large chapter.  This is a chapter that will meet once a month over the telephone making it possible for those who can’t get to a local chapter meeting to be involved. 

 

In “Print, Print, Everywhere — But Now We Can Read It Too,” the KNFB Reader was demonstrated by Kathy McGillivray, head of the Office for Students with Disabilities at Augsburg College.  For many years, there have been versions of the KNFB Reader available allowing users to take a picture of the printed word and hear it read aloud.  Its first iteration was a stand-alone unit and then it progressed to a cell phone.  It is now improved and simpler to operate in an iPhone.  It can be purchased as an app for $99.  Ms. McGillivray demonstrated its many faceted capabilities.  People have used this to read anything from Power Point presentations, product labels, and fortune cookies to reading the computer screen. 

 

Technology is not only opening up for us to read print, but we can also draw and make our own tactile graphics.  “Promoting the Tactile Graphics Fluency Movement: Drawing Tools for the Blind” was presented by Mike Coleman, vice president of E.A.S.Y. Tactile Graphics.  He began by donating his product, a sketchpad with a stylus and 25 plastic sheets to our auction.  It is worth $125.  Nadine Jacobson purchased it for $100. 

 

He and his partners started their company with help from the NFB while they were students at the University of Vermont.  Mr. Coleman is a big promoter of STEM, which is now STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math.)  He wants us to know that drawing is a spatial skill; it is not a visual one — although vision may be of some help.  He defines vision as being able to imagine — eyesight is not required.  He advises that kids start drawing early and often.  His company maintains that we should not only have the opportunity to read graphics but we should be able to write them.  Workbooks that require students to finish a drawing should be available to blind kids as well as sighted students.  They are developing a product that will enable blind people to draw digitally.  He brought with him a draft of a book that has drawing exercises.  The BELL program will have a tactile component to it in the future.

 

“It’s Even Faster than You May Think.”  What is faster?  According to Brook Sexton, reading Braille can be faster than we think.  Ms. Sexton is a longtime Federationist who has come to Minnesota in the past year to work as an Accessibility Analyst for the Target Corporation.  Sexton talked about the myth we learn that Braille is always slow.  At one time, Sexton could read 500 words per minute.  She took a speed-reading course and gave us two tips that would enable us to increase our speed this very day.  First, stop saying the words we read in our head or aloud.  And don’t go back over the words we have already read.  In her class, she had to commit to read for one hour each day at the fastest speed possible without losing comprehension.  That’s how she got to 500 words.  Anyone wanting to increase speed should have a way of measuring his or her progress.  Even two or three words faster are enough to keep one going.  Find Braille readers whom you can model.  And if you have never learned Braille because everyone said speech is better, remember that even if you learn to read elevator labels it is a beginning and quite useful.  Sexton closed with the thought that we will always need Braille — Braille is the best!

 

Over the past two months, several blind persons employed by the State of Minnesota requested assistance from the National Federation of the Blind to resolve accessibility issues that affect their ability to perform their jobs.  Steve Jacobson, vice president of the NFB of Minnesota, provided some background and the status of this situation.  The NFB of Minnesota has long been at the forefront of accessibility issues, particularly where the state of Minnesota is involved.  In the late 1990's, we passed legislation requiring the state to purchase accessible software, one of the first such laws in the country.  Ten years later, we worked with others to broaden and strengthen legislation to ensure that state software and processes are accessible, to both blind state employees and blind citizens of Minnesota. 

Much progress has been made, but there are still some challenges that must be overcome, and we are working with several blind state employees to overcome
them.  While law requires accessibility, it is sometimes a haphazard proposition, and it is further complicated by the complexity of today's software.  There seems to be general support within state government to correct problems that exist, but other priorities often slow those efforts.  We will share more information as we see how this unfolds.

 

Dan Wenzel is the new executive director of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND).  Mr. Wenzel has over 21 years of experience working in the blindness field in Colorado, Wisconsin and Maryland.  He began his tenure at BLIND doing what all staff members do, completing three months of training with the same courses as all students.  During that time and for one month when Wenzel did some teaching, Dick Davis served as acting director and worked closely with Wenzel. 

 

Mr. Davis talked to us briefly about his experience as acting director.  He was primarily responsible for organizing a “guardian angel” program where new students are assigned a more experienced student to act as a mentor or guide to learn the ropes.  Sometimes one can learn more from a fellow student than from instructors.  Throughout his time in this position, he made sure Wenzel knew everything he was doing so that there would be a seamless change in directors.

 

Wenzel announced that BLIND has received its certification from the National Blindness Professional Certification Board and Chelsea Duranleau, a new Communications instructor, passed the National Certification in Literary Braille competency test.  This means that all three communications instructors, Duranleau, Martha Harris and Jennifer Wenzel hold this certification.

 

Wenzel expressed gratitude to Al Spooner, who, for many years, has been working as assistant director in charge of recruiting students to the program.  Mr. Spooner has also been building an eBay business that has proven quite successful.  He found this opportunity through the NFB’s working with eBay to make its website more accessible.  Spooner has decided to devote himself full-time to his business. 

 

Kotumu Kamara is now the English Language Learner instructor.  She is a graduate of BLIND and well-qualified to teach new English speakers.  Other graduates have come on board as instructors: along with Duranleau and Harris, there is Mark Erickson managing the residential part of the program, Quinn Haberl as cane-travel instructor and Jennifer Wenzel doing itinerant teaching and working with students in the apartments. 

 

There are plans to revive our classes for senior citizens and add a job component to the summer PREP program. 

 

Kia Yang is a student who arrived one month ago from Massachusetts.  She never thought she needed training but her sister went through the Colorado Center for the Blind and Kia realized what a difference it made in her life.  She had to convince her counselor at the Commission for the Blind that she needed this training even though she is a recent college graduate.  Her main reason for wanting to come was to gain more confidence in traveling with a white cane.  The academic part of college was easy; but Kia missed much social life because she was afraid to go places by herself.  She has only been here a month and has already made her first solo trip. 

 

David Bates, a Minnesota businessman, took a tour of BLIND with Spooner.  When he visited the industrial arts class, he told Spooner that he did not need that class; after all, he ran his own business.  Spooner suggested he just try it for a while and he has now built his own piano bench under the tutelage of Mark Barlow.  He is graduating soon and will be going on a master-chef cruise where he will have the chance to work with a blind chef.   

 

Alice Hebert presented “Employment for the Long Term.”  Ms. Hebert is a teleconference specialist for AT&T.  After graduating from the Louisiana School for the Blind, she trained at Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind to be a receptionist.  Her rehab counselor helped her find employment with what is now AT&T where she was told that she could only do one job.  When that job was phased out because of changes in their system, she learned other skills and was able to stay employed.  In her career, Ms. Heber has lived in 11 states and worked in 10 different offices.  Many offices closed due to changes in technology and consolidation.  Her advice to be able to stay with a company is to be flexible.  She was in a position to relocate whenever they asked.  She has 36-1/2 years of service with AT&T.

 

“Landmark Case is a Victory for Us All” introduced us to Aaron Cannon, who came to Minnesota three years ago from Iowa and has been a Federationist for many years.  He is a Lead Software Accessibility Engineer with Instructure, Inc.  Mr. Cannon was interested in working in the healthcare field; after much research he decided to study to be a chiropractor; he knew that other blind people had been successful at this.  He chose to study at Palmer College of Chiropractic.  He was accepted, so he and his wife moved to Davenport, Iowa.  Shortly after his arrival, in the middle of his pre-med classes, the director of the office for students with disabilities called him into a meeting and told him that Palmer had high standards for their students and one of those standards was that students should have a good sense of vision.  Mr. Cannon wanted to know when they could start working out accommodations to deal with that.  The next step was to hold a meeting with the disability steering committee.  Almost one year later, just before Cannon started his doctoral program, the steering committee finally met.  This committee set more obstacles in his path so he wrote to the president of the college for assistance. 

 

His answer from the president seemed to have been written by an attorney; the letter listed all the things the school did not have to do under the law.  However, they took one of Cannon’s suggestions and sent a representative to visit the Iowa Department for the Blind where the school learned (or were told but did not comprehend) all the reasons this could work.  They ignored all suggestions; so just before the end of his first trimester Cannon decided that it was not worth all the trouble and he did not take his finals.  He later regretted this decision.

 

Before leaving town, he filed a complaint with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission who found probable cause of discrimination against Palmer.  After various appeals, Cannon finally won his case in the Iowa Supreme Court.  Cannon’s attorneys say that this case sets a precedent not only for future blind chiropractic students but also for the necessity of any entity to interact honestly and sincerely to try to make reasonable accommodations to make a thing work. 

 

Cannon is pleased to know that future students will have this precedent to rely on; he said that through it all the National Federation of the Blind supported him.  He knows that he is not alone in getting such support and he hopes that we all appreciate what this organization does to make a difference in all our lives.

 

 

The Banquet

 

During the social hour, people had a chance to buy raffle tickets to raise money for Community Shares of Minnesota.  The NFB of Minnesota is a member of Community Shares, which is a payroll-deduction campaign that donates to our treasury.  Half the proceeds would go to Community Shares and the other half to the winner of the raffle.

 

Kathy McGillivray began the banquet festivities with the invocation.  Following this Judy Sanders, serving as master of ceremonies, introduced the head table.  Door prizes were given and bake sale items were auctioned throughout the banquet. 

 

After dinner and a spirited singing of an NFB song Sheila Koenig made some presentations.  She began by announcing the winner of the Metro Chapter essay contest.  Dave Walle’s essay, “Difficult Avenues and Open Doors” appear previously in this issue.  Mr. Walle received $75 for his efforts.  The names of all other entrants were eligible for a drawing for $50 and Pam Allen drew the name of Judy Sanders.  Ms. Koenig thanked Deanna Langton and Dave Andrews who joined her in serving as judges for the contest.

 

Koenig continued with her presentation of two NFB of Minnesota scholarships.  She thanked her committee of Jan Bailey, Michele Gittens, Steve Jacobson and Ryan Strunk for their work in making the selections. 

 

The first winner was Candice Chapman who received a scholarship of $1,000.  Ms. Chapman is entering graduate school to study school counseling at the University of Minnesota.  The second scholarship, in the amount of $1,500, was awarded to Musamil Ibrahim who also received an all-expense paid round-trip to last year’s national convention.  Mr. Ibrahim is enrolled at Minneapolis Community Technical College and will be moving on to the University of Minnesota to study youth studies.  His interest in this field came about in part from working in BLIND, Inc.’s Buddy Program.

 

President Dunnam began a special presentation not listed on our agenda.  Tom Scanlan has served as our treasurer for 40 years and chose not to seek reelection.  Dunnam began with a history of Mr. Scanlan’s involvement dating all the way back to 1972 — she had recordings of Scanlan from that time.  Following Dunnam Joyce Scanlan presented us with a moving history of events in Minnesota that were impacted by both of them.  We learned much about their personal journey and Federation activities.  Their story, as written by Mrs. Scanlan, will be printed in a future issue of this newsletter.  It has the makings of a good movie with a happy conclusion.

 

Dunnam presented Mr.  Scanlan with a crystal piece set in a black vase with a diamond-cut edging with the inscription engraved upon it:

 

Presented to Tom Scanlan

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota

Treasurer, 1974-2014

With immeasurable gratitude for your extraordinary commitment and hard work to build and strengthen for our present and our future.

 

The vase was presented to Scanlan with a lifetime membership to the NFB of Minnesota.  In accepting his honors, Scanlan showed real emotion signifying how much this organization and the friendship of its members means to him.  He wrote in the Summer 2014 issue of this publication that he was pleased to give back part of what this organization gave to him.

 

Our keynote speaker was Pam Allen, our national representative.  She reminded us that we are a family and that this convention allows us to celebrate our accomplishments.  She shared with us her story of how she became so involved in our movement.  Like many of us growing up, she did not have contact with many blind people; none of her role models were blind and she had no desire to change that.  In her sophomore year of college, she was invited to a student seminar sponsored by the NFB of Ohio.  She decided to attend, and has never looked back.  She closed by telling us that when we have knowledge we have power.  We know that growth is occurring and though we do not always see immediate results, we must believe in what we do.  We should not be afraid to be creative to try new alternatives for success.  Finally, we must never forget the importance of giving back.

 

After all the inspiration, Dunnam talked to us about the Preauthorized Contribution Plan (PAC) and urged us to either increase our giving amount or start a new plan.  Several people did so.

 

Sunday, November 2

 

President Dunnam called the Sunday morning session to order and asked Pat Barrett for an invocation.  She then began her report to the convention.

 

In the past year, we helped BLIND, Incorporated find a new executive director, Dan Wenzel; we took an active part in the selection process for a new director at State Services for the Blind, Carol Pankow.  Fourteen Minnesotans participated in last year’s Washington Seminar making the case to Congress how they can serve blind citizens.  Congressman Keith Ellison is a sponsor of the Fair Wages bill; Ellison, Rick Nolan and Colin Peterson sponsor the TEACH Act.  On March 11, we had our Day at the Capitol where we discussed fair wages, services for blind seniors and the importance of public transit for all of us.  We worked to ensure that the Secretary of State’s website is accessible to blind voters.  Many of us volunteered at BLIND, Inc.’s programs for children and teens.  In August, we held a Possibilities Fair for blind seniors.  We spread our message to teachers throughout the state at the Education Minnesota conference. 

 

We debuted buttons showing our new logo at the Walk for Opportunity in Rochester.  Membership is thriving as actively participate in the 75/75 days of action in our national movement. 

 

We look forward to our first BELL program in the summer of 2015.  We will be working with our national organization and the Minnesota Science Museum to make the museum a fun place for blind kids to learn.  With everyone working together, we can look forward to a year of progress toward being able to live the life we want.

 

Resolutions that follow this article were approved unanimously.

 

Tom Scanlan gave his final report to the convention as treasurer.  Our total assets are $521,651.  The treasurer’s report was adopted.

 

Nine people serve on our board of directors.  Those not up for election this year were president, Jennifer Dunnam; secretary, Judy Sanders; and three board positions held by Sheila Koenig, Rob Hobson and Bryce Samuelson.  The positions of vice president, treasurer and two board members had the following results: vice president, Steve Jacobson, treasurer, Alice Hebert, board members, Bev Stavrum and Jan Bailey.

 

In mid-October Bill Meeker, a Federationist from Wisconsin, suffered a brain injury from which he is working to recover.  Thinking of him, Dunnam read an article from the Braille Monitor written by Mr. Meeker.  It was a delightful means of thinking about NFB philosophy and public reaction.  The article was published in 1994 and can be found on the NFB website.

 

The morning closed with reports from chapters, divisions and representatives serving on various councils appointed by the governor to advise state agencies and schools. 

 

This was followed with another pro tip from Tim Aune.  Mr.  Aune likes to grill in his backyard; he has a solution to keep food from getting lost on the grill.  He purchased grill baskets that cage the food and he simply turns the whole basket to flip what needs turning. 

 

The convention adjourned with a reminder that our semiannual convention will be in May.

 

Resolutions Adopted by the Convention

 

Resolution A14-01

Regarding Accessibility of the State's Information Technology

 

WHEREAS, Minnesota's Information Technology agency (MN.IT) has become the centralized agency in charge of procuring and implementing information technology for Minnesota state government and is therefore in charge of insuring that such technology is accessible to all; and

 

WHEREAS, due in large part to the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, the Minnesota legislature has adopted a strong law (Minn. Stat. § 16E.03 subd. 9)  which mandates that all information technology be accessible to state employees as well as members of the public; and

 

WHEREAS, MN.IT has procured a license for Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and intends to roll it out to all state agencies in the near future; and

 

WHEREAS, state agencies intend to expand their use of SharePoint, not only internally but also externally, having outside contractors interact with the state through SharePoint; and

 

WHEREAS, SharePoint is not accessible to blind individuals using assistive technology because SharePoint does not allow such individuals to use critical aspects of the program with substantially equivalent ease of use thereby making it difficult to do important parts of their job compently; and

 

WHEREAS, although MN.IT has been examining how to make SharePoint accessible, it has not adopted any solution; and

 

WHEREAS, even though it has no plan to deal with the barriers Sharepoint creates for blind employees, nonetheless, MN.IT apparently plans to roll out SharePoint and does not know when accessibility will be achieved; and

 

WHEREAS, SharePoint is not the only problem in that there are several other information technology packages that have been procured which are not accessible; and

 

WHEREAS, The State of Minnesota has significant economic clout that could force outside vendors to provide accessible information technology but has not been exercising that power; now therefore

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 2nd day of November, 2014 in the city of New Ulm, Minnesota, that this organization insist that Minnesota's Information Technology agency (MN.IT) take all necessary steps to make Microsoft SharePoint accessible to blind state employees (and anyone else using SharePoint to interact with the State) and cease further expansion of its use until this has been accomplished; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the State of Minnesota, through MN.IT, exercise its leadership and fully enforce the information technology law it has adopted by requiring that all information technology used by state employees or by the public be accessible in a nonvisual manner; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the State of Minnesota to procure information technology only when the State has verified through thorough user testing that said technology is accessible nonvisually; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the State to conduct a full accessibility audit to determine which of its technology is not accessible and adopt plans to remedy these issues.

 

Resolution A14-02

Regarding State Services for the Blind Senior Services

 

WHEREAS, State Services for the Blind's Senior Services Unit is the primary, and in many cases, only source of funding for services to blind seniors in the state of Minnesota, especially crucial adjustment to blindness training in the home or through group classes, as well as access to information and resources; and

 

WHEREAS, a recent study by the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota describes an impending “Silver Tsunami” in which the number of blind seniors will expand exponentially in the coming years, unaccompanied by any significant public or private funding to meet their needs; and

 

WHEREAS, in comparison to the rapidly expanding need for senior services, funding is minimal, approximately 50% of the Unit’s $2.1 million budget (the rest of which goes to pay the salaries of direct service staff who locate seniors and provide limited teaching and referrals to them), not even remotely enough to meet current needs, leading to a service crisis of massive proportions; and

 

WHEREAS, Minnesota has an established network of service providers, including our partner organization, BLIND, Inc., which are capable of providing group and individual adjustment to blindness training to seniors, but which are currently unable to do so because of lack of funding; and   

 

WHEREAS, these crucial services, which will enable blind seniors to live independently in their own homes and communities, can be provided for a one-time cost of 20 to 50 percent of a single month of assisted living or nursing home care which would otherwise go on for years, wasting state funds that could meet real medical needs; and

 

WHEREAS, State Services for the Blind has been encouraged by everyone knowledgeable of the problem to seek a major funding expansion for Senior Services, which is entirely justified, in order to avoid the destructive effects of the upcoming “Silver Tsunami”; Now Therefore

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 2nd day of November, 2014 in the city of New Ulm, that this organization call upon the Governor and the Legislature to provide a major increase in funding to the Senior Services Unit of State Services for the Blind, enough to meet all existing needs and head off the upcoming “Silver Tsunami” crisis. 

 

Beep Ball Invitation


St. Paul Midway Lions announce openings for Free Beep Baseball — our 12th year — coming up in spring of 2015.  Our team will continue to play inter-squad games at Cretin Derham Hall High School in St. Paul with about nine players per session on Saturdays.  The players range in age from 15 to 70-something.  We invite you to see our website at beepball.webs.com.  I am coach Lion Dennis Stern, and please feel free to e-mail me at
dennisstern@hotmail.com or call me at 651-452-5324 if you would like more information on playing beep ball. 

 

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 is May 16 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 5 through 10 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.  Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember

 

At Large ChapterMeets by conference call on the third Sunday of every
month; contact Aaron Cannon at (319) 400-0157 or cannona@gmail.com for
meeting details

 

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

 

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 — Mankato area; meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of every month in Mankato; 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 

 

Twin Ports Chapter — Duluth area; meets at 6:00 p.m. on the second Monday of every month at Pizza Luce, 11 E Superior St, Duluth.

 

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 Tuesdays 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.

 

Technology Group — This group gives the chance for everyone to explore what’s new in technology, and have their questions answered.  These sessions will occur on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at our building.  We hope to find a way to involve people around the state.  For further information contact Kathy McGillivray at 612-822-9174 or e-mail gilgal63@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.

 

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

·        Sharon Monthei makes corrections to the braille and print editions, transcribes, and embosses the braille edition.

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

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

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

·        Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.

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

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