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 83, Number 1, Winter 2016

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 


 

Table of Contents

President’s Column. 1

Eye on Central Minnesota. 3

All in Seven Innings. 5

When Frustration is a Motivator 6

Dialog with State Services for the Blind. 9

Good News from Our Library. 14

Resolutions Passed At the Annual Convention. 17

Resolution A15-01. 17

Resolution A15-02. 18

Resolution A15-03. 19

Calling All Veterans. 20

Convention Alert! 21

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 21

Background and Purpose. 22

Acknowledgements. 24

 

 

 

 



President’s Column

By Jennifer Dunnam

 

The last few months of the year 2015 have been as busy as ever for the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.  Our 2015 annual convention in Bloomington was the best attended in recent memory and gave lively voice to the breadth and strength of the contributions from our members throughout the state.  Check out the important presentations from State Services for the Blind and the Braille and Talking Book Library and resolutions later in this issue.  The full convention report will be in the next issue.

 

Again, this year in mid-October, we had a table at the Education Minnesota conference to raise awareness about the resource that is the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota for classroom teachers throughout the state.  At the end of October, I gave a full-day presentation about Unified English Braille to the statewide conference in Brainerd for teachers of blind students.  It was a wonderful opportunity for great conversations and strengthened connections with many creative, energetic and passionate teachers who believe strongly in the capacity of blind people and want to know everything they can to help their students get a good education and put their blindness in the right perspective.

 

Our NFB adjustment-to-blindness training center, BLIND (Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions), Incorporated, is now well into the new programs for transition-age youth, sharing the kind of ongoing skills training and exposure to well-adjusted blind role models that many of us who grew up in earlier times wish had been available to us.  Some of these youth attended our state convention as well as subsequent chapter activities.  We look forward to strengthened connections with these youth throughout the state.  There are also more classes available for seniors, some on just technology and some on the full range of alternative techniques of blindness.

 

This fall, we received a new NFB brochure.  We have affixed Minnesota-specific information to the brochure and are distributing copies at various events and wherever the opportunity arises.  We also have posters depicting our umbrella mosaic from the national convention this summer that serve to attract attention and start conversation at these events.

 

Our six chapters have been active, distributing literature at a football game, participating in a special education fair, working tables at local events to raise awareness, celebrating the holidays, and sharing our Federation message with one another and with those they meet.  Our Minnesota Association of Blind Students is getting geared up for a student seminar this spring — watch for more details.

 

Thanks to the efforts of many Federationists, we took in $1,126.92 from our online fund-raising effort on Give to the Max Day.

 

On November 10, we participated in a summer opportunities fair at the Department of Education.  It was great fun to see some of the students who attended our Saturday school years ago and how they are growing into confident young adults.  We also met new people and shared with all of them information about our various programs for youth, including our state and national scholarship program for those who will be attending college this fall. 

 

The following week, Martha Harris and I were pleased to attend the 2015 NFB of Pennsylvania convention, held in Wilkes-Barre at the time and place of the gathering of the seven states that founded the National Federation of the Blind.  The occasion was marked with great ceremony, including a presentation by Jacobus tenBroek's son about what it was like to grow up in the Federation and with many delightful details about our founding national president.  The details of this inspiring landmark state convention will no doubt be in the Braille Monitor.

 

Also in November, we met with the Governor's office to discuss the urgent need for additional money to serve seniors and mitigate the other extra burdens on state funding to State Services for the Blind (SSB).  We continue to work on laying the groundwork for the upcoming legislative session. 

 

We have continued to provide feedback to SSB regarding ways to ensure that necessary vocational rehabilitation and other services are available to blind Minnesotans from SSB in these times of funding shortfalls.  In December, SSB presented proposed policy and fee schedule changes for discussion at the meeting of the Minnesota State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.  In late January, there will be public hearings on these proposals so that the public will have an opportunity to comment and suggest changes before SSB adopts them.  A resolution appears later in this issue about our position on principles that should govern any changes.

 

In December we participated in an open house with Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to express to her the concerns we have here in Minnesota about the lack of clarity on how the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act regulations, which have not yet been released, will affect Minnesota.  There is very little in the way of answers yet, unfortunately, and RSA does not expect to release the actual regulations until the spring.

 

Minnesota Federationists are preparing to participate in the 2016 Washington Seminar January 25-28 to advocate for our legislation to eliminate subminimum wages, improve access to higher education, and make more books available in braille and other accessible formats. 

 

We need everyone's help to spread the word about our state and national scholarships.  The deadline for the national scholarships is March 31, and the deadline for the state scholarships is April 15.  Visit www.nfbmn.org and www.nfb.org/scholarships for more information.

 

May 2016 will be a wonderful year for us all — individually and collectively!

 

Eye on Central Minnesota

By Lori Peglow

 

Meet the Officers

 

In September, the Central Minnesota Chapter held its annual election of officers.  The following members were elected to the board: Jeff Young was elected President, Bev Stavrum was re-elected 1st Vice President, Second Vice President is Karlene Malmanger, Todd McKee was re-elected as Treasurer, and in December Beth Moline was elected as Recording Secretary.

 

We appreciate so much all of the work and time Ron Mahnke has done in the past as chapter president and the work he continues to do.  Jeff Young thanked everyone who has served over the past year and those who have agreed to serve as officers this year.

 

Annual Events in the Area

 

Our annual fund raising spaghetti dinner will be held on Friday, January 15, 2016 at the Eagles Club in Saint Cloud.  The time of the dinner is from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM.  There will also be silent auction items to bid on.  Ticket prices are $8.00 for adults, $4.00 for children six to twelve and children five and under are free.

 

Andy Virden Scholarship

 

The Andy Virden scholarship is available at the Saint Cloud State University for visually impaired students or students of a visually impaired parent.  Applications are accepted after January 1, 2016.  For information, the contact person at SCSU is Owen Zimpel, phone number 320-308-3117.  Additional information can be obtained through Richard Virden at 763-428-1589.  Andy was a former president of the chapter.  The scholarship is in his honor.

 

An Experience from a Member

 

Recently I, Lori Peglow, a member of the chapter, along with my husband, Stan Peglow, were in Florida for a convention for our business.  The second day there, my husband was admitted to one of the large hospitals in Fort Lauderdale with health issues.  While there in the general hospital, a patient in another room was hollering almost constantly for several days and nights.   Hospital staff can’t share patient information due to privacy laws.  However, I did find out the patient was elderly, didn’t speak English and it was obvious he had some form of dementia.  Because of these issues, the patient was scared.  He only felt safe when a hospital staff member was in the room with him.

 

As I listened to his cries for several days when I visited my husband, I thought about what he must have felt like.  He probably didn’t know what was happening to him.  He wasn’t in familiar surroundings.  He was in a setting where he didn’t understand the language.  It reminded me of what must have happened to my daughter when she came out of her coma and her state of confusion after her accident seven years ago.  She woke to being visually impaired with cortical blindness.  She lives in darkness a lot, but sometimes she has peripheral vision and sometimes her brain is misinterpreting what she is seeing. 

 

Because of her short-term memory loss, she doesn’t remember some things, even with repetition.  She lives in a house she has never seen.  She can’t remember how to get around places.  She can’t see the calendar to know what the day and date is and doesn’t remember without lots of repetition.  She has long-term memory so she remembers her children and how she was before the accident.  But I watch her struggle with how much her life has changed.  Her experience, along with that of the patient in Florida, has given me a new appreciation and respect for the challenges persons with disabilities have to overcome and how well they take on those challenges and continue living their lives to the fullest extent possible.

 

All in Seven Innings

By Emily Zitek

 

(Editor’s Note:  This is the winner of our Metro Chapter’s 2015 essay contest.)

 

As blind individuals, some of us meet hundreds of people every day.  We may not know it, but the people we impact the most may be those we might interact with and not think of it until much later.  This happened to me one night in late August of 2014.  My husband had gotten four tickets to a Minnesota Twins baseball game, and he decided to invite one of his good customers from work, Juan, who brought his six-year-old son, Marcus, to the game.  Since I had gone to the Twins stadium straight from work, I brought my Braille notetaker along.  After all, it had an FM radio that allowed me to listen to the announcers announcing the game play-by-play.

 

It was one of those gorgeous, 70-degree nights we get during the summer when everyone says the weather is just perfect.  Juan and his son Marcus showed up at the game a little late, and when they got there, I was writing something down on my BrailleNote for work.  Like most children his age, he seemed very curious about the computer, and I explained how the BrailleNote is like a laptop computer, with a Braille display instead of a monitor that most people can see.  During the game, I grabbed my cane from under my seat so that I could go to the restrooms and then buy a hot dog.  By the time I got back, it was probably the fifth inning, and Marcus was getting a little restless.  It appeared to me that he was getting tired and wanted to go home.  But his dad was explaining how the cane works, and I stepped in and gave him more details after I sat down.  I really didn’t think Marcus would remember very much because of his restlessness, and his dad said he hadn’t been feeling well.  But just before the seventh inning began, I remember telling Marcus that one day there might be a blind student in his class, or that he might meet a blind person in his neighborhood.  I explained that being blind is okay and that he shouldn’t be afraid of a child because of their blindness.  I encouraged him to make conversations with a blind classmate or playmate if he meets one in the future, and maybe one day they could make friends.  At the bottom of the eighth inning, the four of us left, because it was a tie game, and we didn’t know how long the game could last.

 

Six months later, my husband came home and said that Juan had stopped by his store earlier that week and told him that Marcus’s teacher had mentioned something during a parent-teacher meeting.  His second-grade class was discussing the topic of blindness, and the teacher said that Marcus sort of took over the lecture.  He told his class about how a blind person uses the white cane to get around and that with the right training we can do just about anything we set our minds to.  He explained how he had met a blind woman at a baseball game who had had a “braille computer,” and that instead of forming letters on a monitor, it makes dots for the blind person to feel.

 

Although I had thought briefly about Juan and Marcus since that night, it had never dawned on me how much I had influenced Marcus.  Sometimes when we meet certain people, especially children, we may not realize how much just 15 or 20 minutes of simple education can change their views about blindness.  Although Juan seemed to have a good perspective on blindness himself, who knows what Marcus’s thoughts and attitude might have been if we hadn’t met.  By sharing his experiences with his class, he educated 15 or 20 second-graders who, for the most part, had never interacted with a blind person.  The next time I question whether someone is really listening and taking in what I have to show him or her, I’ll always give him or her the benefit of the doubt.  Sometimes we affect individuals or even groups in comfortable environments when we don’t even think about it.

 

When Frustration is a Motivator

What One Person Did When the Market Didn’t Provide What He Needed

By Edward Cohen

 

(Editor’s Note: Edward is a member of our Rochester Chapter.)

 

I am a senior citizen dealing with late-stage RP (retinitis pigmentosa).  My decline has sped up in the past couple of years.  While I still have some usable vision, things I could see just a year ago, I no longer can.

 

In late 2014, along with my wife, I started to look for the weekly planner I needed.  For those of you with some eye sight and a busy schedule, you know that there are few calendar options that are easy to see, have a lot of space for writing and in a form convenient to carry with you.  After visiting a few of the local big box stores, we found nothing that met my needs.

 

So the logical next step was to go online because everyone knows that everything is on the Internet.  But after hours of struggling with search engines and websites, I found nothing that had large daily spaces in which to write, used huge black letters and was intended to be used on the go. 

 

I kept telling myself, “This is not that hard.” 

 

It quickly became obvious that I needed either to stop talking about it, or find another solution.  I needed to avoid pushing my wife to the point where she would say she was tired of hearing me complaining about my situation.  People in the NFB know that giving up is never a good option and rarely solves a problem.  I came to accept that I was going to have to make my own.

 

Fortunately, I have been blessed with a creative and problem solving nature.  So in mid-January 2015, with marker and ruler in hand, it took less than an hour to lay out the key features of a weekly planner/calendar that would work for me.  Some weeks later, I showed my work to a neighbor who has a home based graphics business.  She liked what she saw and agreed to help me get it to a point where it could be printed. 

 

By late March 2015, the layout came to life.  At that point, I was ready to print one at the local quick print shop.  Then came the first two shocks.  Because of the unique black lines around the edge of the weekly pages, the printing had to be done by a large-scale printing house with the big machines. 

 

The second shock was hearing that printing my one eight-and-a-half by 11-inch calendar would cost over $100.  But the printer said that printing a few more only raised the price a little.  Thinking if I could find a few buyers for them, I could reduce the cost for my copy.  So I told them to print a few more. 

 

I was a little concerned that anyone but me would want it.  After all, the calendar only started in April and lacked any monthly pages.  Plus what would my wife say about spending that much for a calendar.  I knew it was a gamble, but one I felt I had to take.

 

By April I had five calendars and was using one.  As I occasionally showed them to local NFB members and other people dealing with vision loss, I was a bit overwhelmed by how enthusiastic many were upon seeing the calendar.  By May, the extras were gone. 

 

At times, it was both wonderful and humbling to hear those first buyers praise the calendar’s design.  It was gratifying to hear them say that with this calendar they could far easier manage their daily schedule.  When I asked how they were doing that now, I heard everything from using a large wall-size calendar, to 3-by-5 cards, all the way to their spouse having to keep their calendar for them.  These were people who were used to living active, independent lives.  It was humbling and a bit depressing when they lost the ability to manage their schedule on their own.

 

Hearing the same sort of reaction and stories repeatedly really got to me.  In addition, on multiple occasions I was encouraged to start a business and make more to help more people.  But starting a business was the farthest thing from my mind.  I retired years ago, I have a busy life and I’ve never wanted to be a businessperson.  But I couldn’t shake the memory of how appreciative those first few buyers were. 

 

I’ve been dealing with progressive stages of vision loss since a child.  But I only became involved and came to know many blind people through the NFB in the mid-'90s in my previous city.  As with all of us, each of these people had traveled their own path.  All had overcome obstacles, some of which I wasn’t sure that I could have overcome.  Had blindness not brought us together, I would never have met them.  Their lives are a testament to true resilience and grit.  I truly believe that my life has been enriched by knowing many of these blind and low-vision people through our organization.  It dawned on me that maybe if I were to produce these calendars, I could in a small way give something back to this community that had given me so much.

 

During those times of deciding what to do, the words of my father, long passed, would come back to me.  He had much small business experience.  How I wished I could talk to him about this decision.  I remembered him often saying something like, “…don’t get involved with a business or try to sell something that you don’t really believe in.”  Remembering these words helped me decide.

 

By June, I had made up my mind to take the plunge.  That began what now seems like a lost summer.  It was a period when I was on the phone or the computer every day and night for hours.  Days were long and hours of sleep reduced.  My wife would see me on the computer when she headed up to bed, and find me in the same place when she came down the next morning.  Every little detail had to be addressed.  Things that should not have taken long or been hard were time-consuming and difficult.  But on that rainy October day when the printer dropped off my calendars, the past months seemed like they had passed in a blur.  Now the challenge is and will remain, getting the word out that this product is available.

 

What I hope you take away from my story is declining eyesight should not mean you must accept being frustrated by the situation you find yourself in.  You don’t have to go to the lengths that I did, but don’t just accept some vision-related issue that is frustrating you, do something about it.

 

And oh yes, if you want to check out the calendar go online to   EZ2SeeProducts.com.  If you do Facebook, please Share the page using the button on the right side of the top banner.  You can also buy the EZ2 See calendar through the NFB Independence Market or Independent Living Aids plus the Duluth and the Chicago Lighthouses for the Blind.  I would welcome your feedback and ideas at: Edward.Cohen350@gmail.com or 507/226-8040.

 

Dialog with State Services for the Blind

By Carol Pankow, Director, Minnesota State Services for the Blind

 

(Editor’s Note:  Carol made this presentation at our Annual Convention on October 10, 2015.)

 

Good Morning Federationists!  Thank you so much for inviting me once again to come and talk with you about what’s happening at State Services for the Blind.  I want to begin by saying that I’m here to answer questions, to get your feedback, and to let you know that I’m grateful for the partnership that we have with the NFB of Minnesota.  You keep us on our toes.  You ask the tough questions.  You aren’t afraid to speak up if you disagree with something we are doing.  Now and then you let us know if we’re doing something right, and most of all, you go out and model every day what it means to be blind and living the life you want.

 

Just 10 days ago, we turned over a page on the calendar, or, for most of us, the pixels on our screens rearranged themselves to say October rather than September.  As you may know, the start of our federal fiscal year begins on October 1, and I have to tell you that as this October 1 rolled around, it was a bittersweet day for SSB and me.

 

That day, after many discussions we did something I’d been hoping we would never have to do again.  We made the announcement that due to budget constraints, we were going on Order of Selection.  Order of Selection is just a fancy way to say we have to wait list some customers until we have adequate funding.

 

Order of Selection was the bitter part of October 1 for us at SSB.  I’m going to say more about Order of Selection, our budget situation and what we’re doing to fix it in a few minutes.  I will also answer any and all questions you might have.  But I also want to talk about the sweet part of that bittersweet day.

 

October 1st is our New Year’s Day.  It’s the day when all the numbers from the previous year come in, and for us Federal Fiscal year 2015 was a record-breaking year.  We didn’t just break records; we more or less smashed them.

 

In previous years, we’ve been serving just over 3,000 people in our Senior Services unit.  A few years back, we had some stimulus monies and were able to pay for some advertising.  That year, we served 3,600 Minnesota seniors who were losing their vision.  That was a record.  This year, with no stimulus money and no paid advertising, we saw just over 4,000 people.

 

In addition, this year we began rolling out a new project, called the Aging Eyes Initiative, which Margaret Klein is leading.  This project is geared to helping SSB serve the 25,000 seniors projected to need our services by 2020.  We’ve been working with other community professionals who serve seniors — like nurses and social workers in the block nurse program — and equipping them with simple strategies and basic tools to help out seniors who are at the early stages of vision loss.  This will free up our staff to provide more comprehensive services to seniors with more advanced vision loss.  Through the Aging Eyes Initiative, our staff can get away from the business of handing out magnifiers and large print playing cards, and into the business of showing seniors how they can use nonvisual techniques to accomplish tasks they used to rely on their eyes to do.

 

When I spoke to you in May, you met one of four women who were enrolled in a comprehensive class designed especially for seniors at BLIND, Inc.  Since then, we’ve sent more people over there for those same classes.  We are super excited about this ongoing partnership.  More and more we’re witnessing that shift in seniors who are losing vision from saying “What can I do,” to saying, “What can’t I do!”

 

At that meeting, you heard from Roz who had participated in the class.  As Roz realized how much she could do as a person with a visual impairment, she decided she wanted to go back to work and is on the Workforce side of our place.

 

On the workforce side, we also had a record-breaking year.  By October 1, we had posted 143 successful closures — that’s 143 Minnesotans who have a job and who’ve been in that job for at least 90 days.  To put it another way, that’s 143 blind, visually impaired, or DeafBlind Minnesotans who are living the life they want.  Sure, some of our success on the employment side is related to overall improvements in Minnesota’s economy, but that doesn’t account for all of it.  In 2012, we had 80 successful closures.  That means that in 2015 we had a 78% increase in successful closures over three years.

 

One of those closures this year was David Bates.  He’s a guy who has been running his family’s business in downtown Minneapolis until he lost his vision.  He also came to BLIND, Inc. for adjustment to blindness training.  He freely admits that when he first came there, he was one of the skeptics.  “Why do I have to go to wood shop,” he would say, or “Why do I have to learn travel skills?”

 

But, as time went by, he also went through that shift from thinking about being blind as a limit to thinking about all the possibilities that were still open to him.  Here’s one quick story about Dave.  Recently he went on a Caribbean cruise with his wife.  One day, his wife decided to stay on board, and Dave decided to go on the daily island excursion.  As he was waiting in line to get off the boat, a concerned crew member said, “You can’t go by yourself.”  Dave said, and I’m quoting, “The hell I can’t.”  And he did, and had a great time.

 

Dave is living the life he wants.  In addition to being a working Minnesotan, Dave is also an employer.  This year, his business, Alternative Homes, which provides housing for people in recovery, took on a visually impaired young adult as part of an effort to give more blind, visually impaired, and DeafBlind young Minnesotans real-world work experience.

 

We love your message Live the Life You Want and that is the message we want to go out to young adults.  Last year, I told you about a major piece of federal legislation called WIOA, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  With WIOA comes an increased emphasis on making sure that young adults, especially high schoolers have the tools, training, experience and life skills that they need to succeed in college, work and life.  I’m really proud of all that we’ve done in the last year to ramp up our services to young adults between the ages of 14 and 21.  To start, I’m really pleased that we were able to hire Sheila Koenig as our coordinator of Transition Services.  With Sheila’s help, and the hard work of other staff, we’ve been reaching out to students across Minnesota.  Last year we had about 62 students who qualified for Transition Services.  Now we have over 101.

 

Just this summer we sent out a request for proposals, looking for programs to be developed that would work with blind, DeafBlind and visually-impaired students year round, to build on the summer opportunities that are already available.  Just a few short months later, there are already options around the state for students to take part in, including a new program through BLIND, Inc.

 

I’ll be honest with you, because of WIOA, we’ve had to take funding away from adult services, and this has been really tough for us.  On the other hand, I know that there will be long-term benefits, including cost savings for SSB and the state of Minnesota.  Our goal is to equip these young adults to live the life they want — to set goals and meet them and to see their visual impairment not as a liability.  We’re hoping that as they head out to work and college with strong skills and positive, confident attitudes, maybe we’ll hear from them again only when they contact our Communication Center because they need a book put into braille or scanned into e-text.

 

As always, our Communication Center is humming along.  We’re continuing to sync up services with the Braille and Talking Book Library in Faribault.  Now, our Audio Services shares the same toll free number with the library, speeding up the time it takes to answer customer questions or track down a book, and cutting back on the hassle of having to call Faribault for books and SSB for equipment.

 

Just a couple weeks ago, we said goodbye to Donna Marhoun as she retired from heading up our Braille section.  We’re pleased to welcome Jay Maruska who has already started as the new Braille supervisor and who is off for his Adjustment to Blindness training.

 

All of that — a Communication Center that is continually improving its services, record numbers in Senior Services and employment, the new Aging Eyes Initiative, and enhanced transition services — all of that is the good news.

 

The bad news is Order of Selection.  As I said, our budget situation made it necessary to waitlist some new customers.  We were under obligation to pay for a new statewide case management program, to the tune of nearly a million dollars per year for the next two years.  WIOA required that we shift 15% of funding for employment services to high-school students between the ages of 14 and 21.  Those are a couple examples of the budget constraints we’re working with.  Bottom line, we don’t have enough money available to pay for the anticipated number of people coming to our Workforce Development unit.

 

When that happens, the federal government requires that agencies like ours impose Order of Selection.  For SSB, it means that we can only take on customers who have the most significant barriers to employment.  There’s a set of criteria for identifying these customers, and applicants have to have five or more barriers in order to receive services from us.

 

Let me be clear about just what Order of Selection means and doesn’t mean.  First of all, we’ll continue to provide services to everyone who was determined eligible by the end of September.  Second, folks who come to us looking for assistance to keep the job they already have will also be served.  Third, transition students will be able to receive pre-employment transition services even on the waitlist.  Finally, our senior services team and our Communication Center will continue to provide services as usual.

 

Nonetheless, there will be people coming to us looking for employment services who will be put on a waiting list.  We’ll only be able to serve them when we have the funding necessary to do so.

 

I want to let you know first of all, that I’m doing absolutely everything in my power to make sure we end Order of Selection as soon as we possibly can.  I am working through our internal process for legislative proposals and I have been reviewing each staff position as it is vacated and making decisions to not fill positions that are extraneous to direct services to our customers.  We have a really strong staff right now, an involved and dynamic council, and good relationships with our Community Partners like BLIND, Inc., and consumer groups like the NFB of Minnesota.  All of that will make a difference, and I’m committed to turning this around soon, if not sooner.

 

Meanwhile, we have open hours at our Resource Center staffed by our Assistive Technology staff, we’ve published a resource guide on our website, and we’re looking at any and all options to do whatever we can to help anyone who has to go on the waiting list.

 

I hope that when I come to you next, I can say that Order of Selection is over, and that we’re back in business serving ALL blind, visually impaired and DeafBlind Minnesotans as they strive to live the life they want.  I’m proud of what we’ve done, I’m incredibly impressed by the customers I have the privilege to meet every day, and am 100% committed to keeping that success going.

 

Let me stop there and use any time I have left to answer your questions.  If I don’t get to your question, you can stop me later today, or give me a call, send me an email, or drop by my office.

 

Good News from Our Library

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

 

(Editor’s Note:  Catherine made this presentation at our Annual Convention on October 10, 2015.)

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at your convention today.  It’s always a pleasure to share with all of you news about the library. 

 

Let’s start with BARD.  As many of you know, BARD was unavailable for over a week towards the end of August and the beginning of September.  I know this was very frustrating for many of you as it was for us.  The problem occurred at the Library of Congress, not at National Library Service, but I know this is little consolation when you are desperately in need of reading material.  However, you can always contact us and we will send out by mail any available audio and braille books. 

 

Now, for some better news, the BARD Mobile App for 2nd generation Kindles and other Android devices is now available.  While braille is not accessible on BARD Mobile App for Kindle and Android devices, you can read talking books and magazines. 

 

·         Fully accessible with TalkBack

·         Browse the BARD collection and download from your wish list

·         Read at speeds up to 300%

·         Built-in user guide

 

The next version of BARD Mobile App for iOS devices is forthcoming, but I’m afraid I don’t have a release date.  One of the new features coming in the new version will be a sleep timer among other things, like the option to subscribe to a series, so when a new title is added to a series, you will be notified.  You can now be notified when new issues of subscribed magazines are available. 

 

I am also happy to report that the tone/speed slider bar is now back in the latest version of the iOS software. 

 

MN BARD continues to be popular.  In terms of popularity, the iPhone is the most registered device, followed by the iPad, then the iTouch and finally Android devices. 

 

NLS continues to add more commercially produced audio books to the collection.  In fact, NLS added 2,876 books to the collection, including 900 commercial audio books.  This is the most books NLS has ever added to the collection.  NLS has agreements with Audible, Hachette, Penguin Random House and Scholastic to make their audio books available to you.  NLS select about 20 books each week from these publishers. 

 

For those of you who subscribe to magazines on cartridges, you can now keep them longer.  Yeah!  The cartridges that contain only weekly magazines can be kept for three weeks instead of one and those cartridges that contain monthly magazines can be kept for seven weeks rather than four.  Remember, audio magazines on cartridges must be returned. 

 

NLS recently launched their own Facebook page along with a new public education website themed That All May Read.  The website contains information about the program, how to sign up and a video featuring several patrons discussing their experiences with the program.  You can find NLS’s Facebook page and their public education campaign webpage.

 

As I have mentioned in previous speeches, NLS is moving to Unified English Braille in January, when all books and magazines will be produced in UEB.  In the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of Braille Book Review (LP and BR) you will find an UEB Reference Guide.  You may want to keep this issue for reference, but you will also find a link on the NLS webpage a brf file on Frequently used UEB Symbols.  If you would like a hard copy braille version, contact the library.  If you are a BARD user, you will find 42 UEB titles available to download.  The easiest way to access what’s available in UEB on BARD is to use the Subject search and select Unified English Braille from the dropdown menu. 

 

I’m sure this is not news to many of you, but now patrons can access audio versions of Talking Book Topics (TBT) and Braille Book Review (BBR) through NFB-NEWSLINE.  Once they register for NFB-NEWSLINE, patrons will find the Talking Book Topics (TBT) and Braille Book Review (BBR) under the Blindness Specific sub-category of Magazines.  Each annotation is listed as a separate article, allowing patrons to easily navigate the magazines in search of relevant titles.  If a patron decides a book is of interest, he or she may press #9 to have its annotation e-mailed to him or her for later reference. 

 

If you are receiving any publications by mail and no longer want to, please contact us so we can adjust your subscriptions.  I know many of you use BARD or NFB-NEWSLINE to access our magazine collection, so if you want to cancel your mailed subscriptions, let us know. 

 

As for happenings here at your library, we have some things in development.  We are working on offering customized cartridges, or what we refer to as one-to-many or patroncentric cartridges.  What this means is that more than one book or magazine could be placed on a single cartridge.  It could be a number of individual book titles or magazine issues, or books by the same author, or on the same subject or in a series.  The options are numerous.  There are many logistical things yet to work out, but we are hopeful this will be available soon to all of you.  

 

Sometime next year, we will begin to offer descriptive DVDs.  Our VHS descriptive video collection, while popular, is outdated and is no longer the preferred video format.  We are making every effort to order only those titles that contain a descriptive audio track, so stay tuned. 

 

Our advisory committee meets next at the Minnesota Department of Education on Monday, November 9 at 1:00 p.m.  We have a committee of five members: Rebecca Kragnes, Adrienne Haugen, Bryce Samuelson, Dale Heltzer and Maureen Pranghofer.  All our meetings are open to the public. 

 

The library continues to work closely with Communication Center, State Services for the Blind, to improve our services to patrons.  We hold monthly training sessions with SSB staff; continue to work on a new a joint application which we hope will be easier for people unfamiliar with our services to complete; and to provide more outreach activities so more people are aware of our services. 

 

This concludes my remarks.  It has been a pleasure being with you today.  I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with you and hope to visit again in the future.  I will now open up the floor to any comments and/or questions. 

 


Resolutions Passed At the Annual Convention

 

These are the resolutions passed at the Annual Convention on October 11, 2015.  Due to the length of the convention report, it will be in the next issue.

 

Resolution A15-01

Regarding Ending Subminimum Wage Payments to Workers with Disabilities

 

WHEREAS, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) is founded on the erroneous belief that people with disabilities lack the capacity for competitive, integrated employment and currently permits approximately 100 Minnesota employers to obtain Special Wage Certificates resulting in over thousands of workers with disabilities to be paid wages that are less than the federal minimum wage, herein referred to as "subminimum wages"; and

 

WHEREAS, employers who pay subminimum wages to people with disabilities, arguing that the Special Wage Certificate is an essential tool for employing workers with disabilities, threaten that an increase in employee wages would require them to terminate their workers with disabilities, but some of these same employers have enough revenue to pay their executives six-figure salaries and pay professional lobbyists to advocate for the perpetuation of this discriminatory provision; and

 

WHEREAS, other employers of people with disabilities operating in similarly situated industries, working with comparable populations of employees with disabilities, are able to maintain successful businesses without the use of the Special Wage Certificates, proving the assertions and threats of subminimum wage employers to be false; and

 

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota is joined by our Fair Wage partners—over eighty other national and local organizations of and for people with disabilities—in our effort to support the policies and programs that work to end the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities and to aggressively oppose the development and implementation of policies that would perpetuate the use of this discriminatory provision; and

 

WHEREAS, Congressman Gregg Harper has introduced the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (or TIME Act), HR 188 which, when enacted, will immediately stop the

issuance of new Special Wage Certificates, responsibly phase out the use of the Special Wage Certificates over a three-year period, and finally repeal Section 14(c) of the FLSA; and

 

WHEREAS, Senator Kelly Ayotte has introduced a companion TIME Act in the Senate which is S. 2001; and

 

WHEREAS, there are 46 members of the US House of Representatives who have cosponsored HR 188 and 1 senator who has cosponsored S. 2001, but no Minnesota Members of Congress have yet co-sponsored the TIME Act: Now, Therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention Assembled this 11th day of October, 2015, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we condemn and deplore the actions of all employers that take advantage of the unfair, discriminatory, immoral provision found in Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we continue to encourage the public to discontinue donating to, shopping at, or partnering with subminimum-wage employers until they discontinue their use of the Special Wage Certificates and pay every employee at least the federal minimum wage; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on all other members of the US House of Representatives, especially those from Minnesota, to exercise the same courage by supporting the passage of HR 188 and S 2001.

 

 

Resolution A15-02

Regarding State Services for the Blind and Order of Selection

 

WHEREAS, the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) increases to 15% of federal dollars received for Pre-employment Transition Services without increasing funding, resulting in the decrease of funds available for other vocational rehabilitation services; and

 

WHEREAS, other sources of vocational rehabilitation funding have decreased over the past few years; and

 

WHEREAS, all of these factors have resulted in the implementation of an "order of selection" which means that blind Minnesotans applying for services will not be able to receive the services they need to resume living a full life and become employed; and

 

WHEREAS, these financial circumstances have forced Minnesota State Services for the Blind to look for areas where costs can be cut: now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 11th day of October 2015, in the City of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the management of Minnesota State Services for the Blind to observe the following principles when considering areas of cost reduction:

 

1.     adjustment to blindness training and related training in the alternative techniques of living and working independently are unique and not available elsewhere and should not be cut;

2.     examination of internal organizational structure and positions should be carried out before services are permanently reduced;

3.     external employment placement services, which have been largely curtailed, should remain, as much as possible, within agency staff and limited to placement services having experience with blindness;

4.     the separate identity of this agency must be preserved and not lost in the name of efficiency which generally produces less effective services;

5.     permanent policies to cut costs based upon reduced services should be the last resort and should be designed to affect the fewest number of customers;

6.      the adjustment to blindness component ofnew staff training should be preserved; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commend Minnesota State Services for the blind for their efforts to find alternative ways to serve blind persons during the "Order of Selection" such as the establishment of fixed times when blind persons can receive technology assistance from SSB's staff.

 

 

Resolution A15-03

Regarding Accessible Voting Machines

 

WHEREAS, the Help America Vote Act which was passed in 2002 has for the first time given blind Americans the chance to vote independently; and

 

WHEREAS, the first accessible voting machines were purchased in 2005 with funds made available for that purpose by the federal government; and

 

WHEREAS, voting technology such as automatic counters and ballot styles are constantly evolving, and

 

WHEREAS, many of the original accessible voting machines that were purchased are in need of repair and are no longer being manufactured; and

 

WHEREAS, the responsibility for funding and purchasing replacement machines has now been shifted to state and local governments: Now, Therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 11th day of October, 2015 in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization urge Steve Simon, Minnesota's Secretary of State, to initiate or support legislation that will facilitate the purchase of accessible voting machines including the provision of financial assistance; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon Secretary Simon to encourage the purchase of accessible voting machines that can mark the same ballot that is used by voters not using those machines; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that processes be established to maximize the privacy of ballots when circumstances dictate that those less preferred machines which produce an identifiable or nonstandard ballot must be used.

 

Calling All Veterans

 

The National Association of Blind Veterans, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, is seeking members from Minnesota.  Jack Rupert from Lake Crystal is first vice president.  Interested veterans should contact Jack by e-mail at

jerupert@outlook.com or telephone at (507) 276-4640.

 


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 in May 2016 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 June 30 through July 5, 2016 at the Roses Shingle Creek 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 2016.  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 Chapter — statewide, consisting of those who live outside a chapter area and/or cannot attend a meeting in person; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month by teleconference call.  The telephone number for the call is 1-605-475-6700 with access code 9458023.

 

Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:00 on the second Saturday of every month (with an optional lunch for purchase at 11:00) at VFW Post 428, 9 18th Ave N in St Cloud

 

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 7:00 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month by teleconference call.  The telephone number for the call is 1–712–432–0926 with access code 1005345.

 

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.

 

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.