Fall 2018 Buckeye Bulletin
A publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio
Barbara Pierce, Editor
198 Kendal Drive
Oberlin, OH 44074
Richard Payne, President
1019 Wilmington Ave., Apt. 43
Kettering, OH 45420
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise expectations, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. Live the live you want. Blindness is not what holds you back.
The National Federation of the Blind of Ohio is a 501 (c) 3 consumer organization comprised of blind and sighted people committed to changing what it means to be blind. Though blindness is still all too often a tragedy to those who face it, we know from our personal experience that with training and opportunity it can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance. We work to see that blind people receive the services and training to which they are entitled and that parents of blind children receive the advice and support they need to help their youngsters grow up to be happy, productive adults. We believe that first-class citizenship means that people have both rights and responsibilities, and we are determined to see that blind people become first-class citizens of these United States, enjoying their rights and fulfilling their responsibilities. The most serious problems we face have less to do with our lack of vision than with discrimination based on the public’s ignorance and misinformation about blindness. Join us in educating Ohioans about the abilities and aspirations of Ohio’s blind citizens. We are changing what it means to be blind.
The NFB of Ohio has nine local chapters, one for at-large members, and special divisions for diabetics, merchants, students, seniors, guide dog users, and those interested in Braille. This newsletter appears three times a year and is circulated by email, posted on NFB-NEWSLINE®, our digitized newspaper-reading service by phone, and can be read or downloaded from our website, www.nfbohio.org. For information about the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio or to make address changes or be added to the mailing list, call (440) 774-8077 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about NFB-NEWSLINE, our free digitized newspaper-reading service, call (866) 504-7300. Local NEWSLINE numbers are: 330-247-1241 (Akron), 330-409-1900 (Canton), 513-297-1521 (Cincinnati), 216-453-2090 (Cleveland), 614-448-1673 (Columbus), Dayton: 937-963-1000 (Dayton), 567-242-5112 (Lima), 567-333-9990 (Mansfield), 740-370-6828 (Portsmouth), 937-717-3900 (Springfield), 56-806-1100 (Toledo), and 330-259-9570 (Youngstown).
Dream Makers Circle
You can help build a future of opportunity for the blind by becoming a member of our Dream Makers Circle. Your legacy gift to the National Federation of the Blind or the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio can be made in the form of a will or living trust or an income-generating gift or by naming us as the beneficiary of a retirement plan, IRA, pension, or a life insurance policy. You can designate a specific amount, a percentage, or list NFB as one of several beneficiaries. For additional information contact Patti Chang at (410) 659-9314, extension 2422 or at email@example.com.
The National Federation of the Blind uses car donations to improve the education of blind children, distribute free white canes, help veterans, and much more. We have partnered with Vehicles for Charity to process donated vehicles. Please call toll-free (855) 659-9314, and a representative can make arrangements, or you can donate online by visiting www.nfb.org/vehicledonations.
From the President’s Desk
by Richard Payne
When I decided to write this column, I could not complete the article without reflecting on our most recent Ohio convention, The Team Convention: One Team, One Goal. My belief is that like-minded people work best together. In the book Building The Lives We Want, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan spoke of how he learned critical lessons on the value of working as part of a group. You see, when he was six years old at the Tennessee State School for the Blind, he was bullied by the older boys in the school. He was quite smart. Even as a child Dr. Jernigan was organizing the younger boys to take a stand and defend themselves from unfairness. This is why I often repeat that there is no i in “we.” Together we will build the lives we want, which is the title of the book that talks about how Dr. Jernigan problem-solved as a youth. Moreover, I love his statement in the book, “Even animals in the jungle have sense enough to hunt in packs.” Therefore, it will take us all as one to achieve goals inside and outside of the organization.
In addition one of the meanings of this could be referred to as “coming together” as a team to achieve a common goal, as well as when individuals share a common direction, dependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, talents, and resources. The members of the Federation must also give each other constant encouragement and feedback. You will notice the results when we are standing by each other in difficult times as well as when times are great.
Consequently, many companies and nonprofits have determined that teamwork is crucial for success. Teamwork and communication go hand in hand and are both central in achieving great results. Teamwork is a journey of continuous improvement, and every team member plays an important role in achieving the success in the NFB. We are no different than Fortune 500 companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to develop teams to achieve positive results.
I know that people will try to compare the message from our state convention to great leaders’ messages over the years, and this is fine. While it may not be that our message defines the NFB, it certainly is a realistic way of looking at things. You should use this to evaluate how active and committed you are to this organization. I believe our pledge when we say, “I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.”
One could certainly see and feel this in the general sessions, where we had over fifty first-timers in assembly. When President Mark Riccobono became our national president, he made it clear that he wanted to grow the Federation’s membership, and I am confident that we have done just that in Ohio. While numbers do not tell the full story, they mean something. His speech, “Authenticity, Diversity, and the Synergy of the Organized Blind,” was truly one of his best and motivates me to keep the course.
In April I attended the Columbus chapter’s meeting. I took notice that these Federation members were working together for better transportation on behalf of the entire state of Ohio. The Cleveland chapter has also had several meetings surrounding transportation and developed a relationship with the regional transit system that will benefit blind people. We know that we must be heard across the state and the nation about how important transportation is to us. We use public transportation in all the daily task that we are engaged in. The fact is that you can assure that the NFB will always fight for equal rights for us all.
You should know by the recent developments with our efforts at the Columbus seminar, especially dealing with the parental rights bill of Ohio, known as HB 309, and how important it is to have active members engaged in the total efforts in getting this passed into law. I think that the voice of the NFB of Ohio is being heard. In fact, we have been stopped in the halls of the State House by officials expressing enthusiasm and an appreciation for catching their attention for our legislative issues. We will be attending the Columbus Seminar again this coming year. The date has been set for April 9, and we need as many of you as possible to attend. Sheri Albers and Mike Leiterman will work with the Legislative Committee to develop an agenda. So please keep looking for more information on that important event.
The NFB of Ohio is proud to hold the second Braille literacy Program in conjunction with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) in 2019. I, along with Marianne Denning and Debbie Baker, am happy to have the chance to provide this service the Federation way. Also I am encouraged by the fact that we can use our own data to help convince OOD of how important Braille is to the blind and how critically Ohio needs an NFB Adult Training center in the state. More information will be forthcoming.
On December 15 I attended the Greater Akron Chapter’s Christmas party. I cannot tell you all the great accomplishments that that team has achieved this year. They are moving fast and getting the work done. They have increased their treasury, received permission to place NFB literature in an ophthalmologist’s office along with uploading information on her website. President Dave Bertsch and his members in my opinion are the highlight of 2018. Not only have they grown their membership in the last three months, but their thirst for knowledge about the NFB is quite exciting. Stephanie Bertsch, Kiana Hill, and Colleen Miller put together a wonderful and active event. After the chapter meeting the Stover twins performed, dinner was served, we played games, and we went our separate ways with anticipation for 2019. I expect there will be additional great work coming out of the Greater Akron Chapter in 2019.
As your president I would like to wish you all a happy holiday and a prosperous 2019. I am looking forward to the new year and all of our wonderful and informative events such as the Washington Seminar, the Columbus Seminar, the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Program (BELL), 2019 national convention, and our 2019 State of Ohio convention. Outside of that growing the membership locally, throughout the state, and across the nation has become my greatest passion. It is because of “One Team with One Goal” that we can do this together if you believe in the NFB philosophy that “with love, hope, and determination the members of the National Federation of the Blind transform dreams into reality.” The operative word is “members.” It is plural and not singular. So with that, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas.
by Barbara Pierce
We have now completed the Team Convention: One Team, One Goal. I got to wondering on my way home from the convention what we were meant to take home as an understanding of “One Goal.” I am pretty conversant with Federation literature, but I cannot remember any reference in our writings to one goal. I am a Federationist, however, and I have spent a good bit of time through the years trying to articulate Federation philosophy, so I began casting my mind back to see if I could come up with a reasonable interpretation of this catchy phrase.
In the early years of my membership I often heard a quote from President tenBroek to the effect that the average blind person could do the average job in the average place of business and do it as well as his sighted neighbor. He always made that statement with great conviction, and it gave me hope. I understood that this formidably intelligent blind man believed that we average people could compete on terms of equality with the people around us. What a liberating thought that was. I stepped out on that statement and took it as my own belief. I could compete. I could figure out how to do what I wanted to whether or not I had what we have come to call reasonable accommodations. When I looked around me, I saw Dave Sampson working on the assembly floor of the GM plant in Dayton. Bob Eschbach was the minister of a church. Paul Dressell worked for government in Cincinnati. Annette Anderson was an investigator for the Civil Rights Commission. These people were competing with their sighted neighbors and keeping their jobs. But as I thought about that statement, it did not seem to me to be one goal that captured all that we are doing in the NFB.
In the eighties we found ourselves on picket lines chanting, “We know who we are, and we won’t go back!” Could that be our one goal: to stand on what we have accomplished and refuse to be moved from it? We had found our voice, and we were determined to be sure that everyone in the blindness field understood that we intended to be heard and taken into account. In our struggle with the National Accreditation Council (NAC) it was certainly necessary that the consumer voice be heard in rehabilitation of the blind and education of blind children. Sighted professionals had pretty well taken over the field and were not about to pay attention to what blind people thought that they needed in education or training for competition in the real world. Digging in our heels and refusing to be held down or thrown out was certainly an important stand for us to take, but it did not really seem to me to be the one goal that Richard was talking about at the convention.
In the nineties Dr. Jernigan talked about the nature of independence. Independence is certainly important to blind people. He defined independence as doing what you want and going where you want when you want without inconveniencing yourself or anyone else. This was a liberating idea because it did not mean that a blind person had to do everything alone in order to prove his or her independence. We just had to organize our lives and develop the skills to get the job done without inconveniencing ourselves or being a pain in the neck to others. We didn’t have Aira back then, but that amazing service certainly helps to fill the independence gap for those who can afford the service. But important as independence is, it seems to leave out a good bit of the battleground upon which we all still struggle.
So then I considered our current tag line: “Live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.” This is the summary line of our one-minute speech. It seems to me that it articulates a truth that the NFB has come to understand. It is an affirmation of what we believe can be true if we embrace the philosophy of the NFB and work to acquire the skills we need to compete. Unfortunately it is still a dream for many blind people, but it is a dream within our reach if we are prepared to work for it.
What about our old NFB logo: the triangle with the words “Equality,” “Security,” and “Opportunity” written on the three sides of the triangle? This might be the goal except that these are clearly three goals, but this seemed to me to come closer to the fundamental dream that we fight for. As I thought about these concepts, it began to seem to me that of the three equality was the first among them. Opportunity comes naturally when you have achieved equality. Security, if it is more than outright charity, also is the result of equal treatment. So it seems to me that, reduced to the lowest common denominator, the NFB stands for achieving equality–equal access to jobs, technology, transportation, social services, and community life in general. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the concept of the level playing field has been introduced into American law and social interactions. This comes down to equal access. A person using a wheelchair must be able to get into the office where her job is. A deaf person dealing with bureaucracy has the right to know what people are saying to him. A blind person must have access to online applications before he can apply for a job in which the only job application is on the website. These are all forms of equality that are necessary for us to achieve if we are to live and thrive in the twenty-first century.
So I invite you to read the following convention round-up to recollect in how many ways we heard during the convention that the NFB of Ohio is engaged in the fight for equality. We are truly one team, and we do fight for one goal.
The Team Convention
by Eric Duffy
Editor’s note: A highlight of the post-convention newsletter is always the convention report. It is traditionally written by the affiliate secretary, but this year Shelbi Hindel did not attend the convention. Eric Duffy graciously offered to fill in carrying out the secretarial duties at convention. He brought sophistication and perspective to the job of summarizing this almost four-day extravaganza. If you attended the convention, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can skip this article. I can guarantee that you will discover things that you forgot and find context for understanding many of the activities. Sit back now and enjoy the 2018 convention in retrospect.
One Team, One Goal. This was the theme of the seventy second convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The convention was held at the Holiday Inn, Cleveland/Strongsville during the weekend of November 2-4. When Shelley and I walked into the Rosewood Grill Thursday evening, I thought maybe we were part of a football team sitting down for our pregame meal. It was clear that we had better eat well because we were going to need a lot of energy for the convention that was about to begin. So we sat down to dinner with more than twenty of our fellow Federationists.
As could be expected for a large group, it took us a while to get served, and the clock was ticking. We had a 7:00 PM meeting titled “What Is the NFB, and Understanding Our Role.” I was the first speaker, and I provided a brief history of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. Many of you know that Ohio was one of the seven founding states that came together in 1940 to form the National Federation of the Blind. Can you name the other six states? They were California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Glenn Hoffman of the Mutual Federation of the Blind of Cleveland represented Ohio at the founding meeting. Efforts were clearly made after that meeting to unite various organizations of the blind across Ohio into a single organization, which seems to have been called the Ohio Federation of the Blind, according to a letter from Glenn Hoffman to Dr. tenBroek in 1947. Harry Stiller was apparently the president from 1940 to 1947. A constitution was adopted on January 12, 1947, forming the Ohio Council of the Blind, which was incorporated and listed with the Secretary of state’s office in February of 1947. Paul Clark of Canton was elected as president and Emma Warrent as secretary of the new organization.
Nothing more is said about officers until Clyde Ross of Akron was elected president in 1949 or perhaps 1950. We have a 1962 profile of Ross from the Akron Beacon Journal that says he was president of the OCB for thirteen years, and we know that George Bonsky was elected president of the OCB in 1963. Ross was elected second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind in 1956 and served on the NFB executive committee for ten years. He tried to make peace between the two sides during the civil war—he was good friends with George Card, who early on sided with the states fighting for more power for state organizations. Ross was dropped from national leadership and won the OCB presidency by a shrinking margin in 1962. At that time officers were elected by the executive board, which consisted of one member from each chapter. Ross had been winning seventeen votes to five (twenty-two chapters). In 1962 the OCB was down to twenty chapters. That year his margin of victory was twelve to eight, and the next year he lost, apparently to George Bonsky.
George Bonsky apparently served as president from 1963 to 1968, when Alfonso Smith was elected. Smith was also a member of the NFB executive committee, but I have no idea for how long. He died suddenly in March of 1970. Clyde Ross had died in January of that year. Helen Johnson of Toledo was first vice president in 1970, so she took over as president after Smith’s death and served until October. However, leadership of the affiliate was not her strength. The officers elected in October were president, Raymond Creech; first vice president, Robert Steyer; second vice president, Thomas Matthews; secretary, John Knall; and treasurer, Ivan Garwood. But Creech also proved an unpopular president. His wife controlled the affiliate’s books, and she chose to work with a bank in Florida. Members were frustrated because reimbursement checks took a long time to arrive in people’s eager hands.
It seems as though Creech should have had a two-year term as president, but elected without explanation in October of 1971 were president, Edna Fillinger; first vice president, Tom Matthews; second vice president, Ray Creech; secretary, Shirley Stowe; and treasurer, Ivan Garwood. Rita Bressler was appointed executive secretary by the executive board. On October 25 the Convention approved an amendment to the OCB constitution indicating that henceforth the organization would do business as the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The amendment passed enthusiastically. Edna Fillinger was a difficult president. The NFB’s archives reveal that she exchanged extremely frank letters with President Jernigan on the subject of dual membership. Her language was salty, to say the least. Several of these have found their way into the materials used in national leadership seminars.
Bob Eschbach was elected president at the 1973 state convention. He was elected to the national board in July of 1974. He served until the 1984 convention, when he announced that he would not run again a president, and Barbara Pierce was elected. Bob was named assistant director of the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired in February of 1985.
Barbara served as president for twenty-four years, until the fall of 2008, when Dr. J. Webster Smith was elected and served for four years. In 2012 Eric Duffy was elected president. I held that position until April 2016, when I left Ohio to take a job with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. At that time Richard Payne became President, and he continues to serve in that office.
Did you know that at one time we had 29 chapters in the Ohio affiliate? I wonder how big some of those conventions were. I know that, when I attended my first National Federation of the Blind of Ohio convention in 1985, we were registering 150 to 175 convention attendees. In the late 80’s I began to handle hotel negotiations. We were setting banquets for 150 people. Convention attendance declined once many blind vendors stopped participating in the convention.
This year we had 55 first timers at the convention. We had 161 people register, and we should be tremendously proud of both of those numbers. We haven’t had numbers like that in a long time, but as a point of fact, this was not the largest convention we have ever had.
Friday morning began with a White Cane Walk sponsored by the NFB of Ohio Senior Division. This was a power walk held at the South Park Mall. I can say nothing more about this event because I didn’t have the power to get out of bed.
I was up bright and early for the 11:00 AM Board of Directors meeting. This was the first official meeting of the convention. It got off to a roaring start. We heard from our National Representative Denise Avant. We also welcomed State Representative Nickie Antonio. Of course much more happened at this meeting, but I can give you only the highlights here.
After the Board meeting there was a meet-and-greet networking opportunity. This was a great way to meet Federationists from around the state. The Rookie Round-Up gave first time-attendees the chance to learn what to expect during the rest of the weekend.
The first general session of the convention began promptly at 2:00 PM. There was a presentation of the colors, and veterans were recognized and thanked for their service. Strongsville Mayor Thomas Perciak welcomed the convention to Strongsville. He presented a proclamation recognizing the work of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.
Paul Dressell drew the first door prize of the convention. Richard let everyone know that the convention was dedicated to Paul and Bernie Dressell. Paul expressed appreciation for the support he and Bernie have received from the Federation family during his illness. He told us how pleased they were to be back at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The roll call of chapters was next. All chapters were present except Greater Butler County.
Denise Avant, our national representative, gave a report from the national office. She talked about our free white cane program, NFB-NEWSLINE, and the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program. Of course we cannot forget our letters to Santa program. Oh yes, students, don’t forget that March 31, 2019, is the application deadline for the national scholarship program.
We then heard a presentation entitled “The Humanistic Mindset: Perspectives on Visual Challenges” by Scott Reisberg, the executive director of the Akron Blind Center. Mr. Reisberg talked a lot about his personal philosophy about vision loss. Notice I did not use the word “blind,” because, as far as I can remember, he did not use that word. He used words like “handicapable.” He said we are amazing.
I let Scott know we are ok with the word “blind.” We are just fine being referred to as blind people. We don’t have to be people who are blind. We know our blindness doesn’t define us. I understand that many blind people still have not heard of the National Federation of the Blind or the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. Of course they have not come to understand blindness in the way that we do. Perhaps in his position Mr. Reisberg can reach them in a way that we have not. Perhaps he can let them know about the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, and we can help them through the rest of their journey of accepting blindness and understanding what it is and, more important, what it is not.
Mr. Reisberg is a sighted agency director who I believe is coming to understand the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. We were glad to have him with us, and we look forward to what we might do together in the future.
We then heard from Sam Henderson, supervisor of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. This was the second of our conventions at which Mr. Henderson has spoken. He openly acknowledged that there are still many paratransit problems to be solved. He is working closely with our Cleveland chapter. See the resolutions the convention adopted concerning paratransit and fixed-route systems elsewhere in this newsletter.
Sarah Kelly from the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired was our next presenter. She mentioned the Blindsquare Project in which OOD in partnership with Blindsquare and community colleges is bringing Way-Finding technology to all community colleges in the state. She mentioned the partnership between OOD and NFB of Ohio that made an excellent Braille Literacy Program possible this year. She encouraged us to apply for the grant to conduct the program again.
MS. Kelly was then asked why OOD consumers could not exercise informed choice when choosing to go to an out-of-state residential training center for the blind. She said there was no policy in place prohibiting this. She said the counselors could provide needed services to help clients reach their vocational goals. She promised to arrange a meeting between the NFB of Ohio and OOD Director Kevin Miller to discuss this concern.
If there was an easy-to-shoot paper tiger guarding the borders of Ohio letting no OOD consumers out of the state for training, the work ahead of us would be easy. Unfortunately the problem is much deeper and harder to solve. The problem is one of low expectations. From the top down the agency does not appear to be committed to providing the best quality services for its clients. If it were, this problem would go away in a heartbeat.
For a year I worked for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, directed by Dan Frye. Dan said to his entire staff, “Say yes when you can, and say no only when you must.” He expected this of us when interacting with clients and each other.
We had a residential training center in New Jersey. If a client chose to go out of state to another training center, counselors could and did approve this request. If for some reason the request was denied, the client simply had to write a letter justifying the request. See the resolution regarding OOD elsewhere in this newsletter.
Federationists Carolyn Peters and JW Smith were next on the agenda to talk about the State Rehabilitation Council. Ohio was the last state in the country to move to this model. The work to get the council structure into statute began during my time as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The council has now met for the first time and will meet again on November 14. JW and Carolyn are happy to have been appointed by Governor Kasich, and they look forward to the council’s work ahead.
The final presentation of the afternoon was from Aira. Aira thinks like a set of eyes, not a brain. Those who sign up for Aira are called explorers, not users, subscribers, customers, or clients. We use the word “explorer” because together we are exploring the world and life. Aira is on a mission to provide instant access to information for anyone, anywhere, any time. Aira agents are fully immersed in the Explorer’s world. Aira believes that the key challenge behind blindness is not the lack of vision but the lack of immediate access to information. Through a partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, convention attendees had free site access beginning on Thursday for the entire convention. This means that current Explorers could use Aira free in the convention hotel, the South Park Mall, and Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
Kyle Kozlowski, an Aira agent analyst, was with us for most of the convention. He was not there simply promoting Aira; he was helping and solving problems where he could. It seemed as if he has been part of our organization for a long time. For more information about Aira, including pricing plans, visit www.aira.io.
Friday evening included meetings for blind merchants, the At-Large Chapter, the Resolutions Committee, the Nominating Committee, and a technology seminar. The hospitality suite was hosted by the Lorain County Chapter.
If that wasn’t enough, there was a One Touch Self-Defense Class. Although I did not participate, I have heard very good things about this class. For more information about One Touch Self-Defense, contact Wilbert Turner in the Cleveland Chapter.
The Ohio Association to promote the use of Braille (OAPUB) presented “Our Miss Brooks, Thanksgiving,” an old-time radio play. All actors and actresses read their lines in Braille. As he has done for seven years now, Bob Pierce directed the play. We want to thank Bob for his dedication. He was even willing to gobble like a turkey and croak like a frog in the play.
Saturday morning began with breakfast meetings. There were meetings of the Ohio Association to Promote the Use of Braille and the Ohio Diabetes Action Network and a breakfast for scholarship winners.
When the general session opened, Dr. JW Smith gave us a presentation entitled “From the Back of the Bus to the Front of the Classroom: a Memoir of My Thirty-Year Journey as a Blind Professor.” I won’t say anything about his presentation, but those of you who have heard him speak before know I don’t need to say anything. His book should be out in March. He won’t like my saying this, but I hope he will read the recorded version of the book himself.
Will Reed, manager of the Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, talked about future changes to the library service. In a few years all Braille readers who want one will have access to a Braille display for reading books. The library service will get a name change, but we do not yet know what it is. Will does not have enough resources to record locally authored books. This is another reason for JW to record his own book.
Lou Maynus, the current superintendent of the Ohio School for the Deaf and interim superintendent of the Ohio State School for the Blind, introduced herself to our convention for the first time. She comes to us from the West Virginia education system. Although blindness runs in her family, she has no professional experience in the education of the blind. We were glad to have her with us, and I believe she is someone we can work with constructively. See the resolution about the Ohio State School for the Blind elsewhere in this newsletter.
Michael Kirkman from Disability Rights Ohio was next on the agenda. Our organizations have had a long and successful history of working together. President Payne indicated that we have some concerns about the representation some NFB members have received from the Client Assistance Program. Mr. Kirkman said he is willing to meet to discuss these concerns.
Caroline Karbowski is a freshman biology major at the Ohio State University. She discussed the importance of learning Braille as a sighted person. She is not in any danger of losing vision; blindness is not known to run in her family; at this point she is not planning a career in the education of blind children. She simply made the decision to learn Braille while in elementary school. She has a great story to tell. If we can manage it, it will appear in a future issue of this newsletter.
Debbie Baker and Marianne Denning presented “Braille Literacy the Federation Way.” They discussed the program they put together in partnership with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities to teach Braille to blind adults. This was a very successful program, and we hope to have the opportunity to do it again.
Jeremy Morris and Jordy Stringer discussed the role of Independent Living Centers in the lives of people with disabilities. These centers are under-used by the blind, and Jordy is interested in understanding why that is and trying to change that dynamic.
The afternoon recess was filled with activities. As it was for all convention attendees, it was impossible for me to participate in everything that was offered. I was in the exhibit hall, and there were a lot of other people in there with me. It was a busy place, to say the least. There were meetings for blind parents, blind seniors, guide dog users, blind students, and Access Technology users. There were a leadership seminar and a membership-building workshop.
I am tired from having to list all of those activities, but those were just in the afternoon. The annual banquet was still ahead of us. Emily Pennington was the mistress of ceremonies. Denise Avant gave an inspiring banquet address. Awards and scholarships were presented. See the articles elsewhere in this newsletter.
For many years now the Norwalk Ohio Lions Club has generously supported our scholarship program with a gift of $2,000. Thank you very much, Norwalk Lions.
This year Pat Eschbach donated $1,000 for the Robert M. Eschbach Memorial Scholarship. Pat is proud of the work Bob did to build the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, and so are we. Pat is not a wealthy woman, but she has always believed in giving until it hurts. Thank you, Pat!
We realized a profit of $955 from our auction. In gifts and pledges we raised $3,175 from Money for the Movement. Thank you to everyone who donated items for the auction. A special thanks goes to those who so generously contributed to Money for the Movement.
Those who had energy left went to the After Banquet Party. I can only say I walked past the room a couple of times, and I heard a lot of music and laughter. It sounded as if I were missing a good time.
We got an extra hour of sleep, and I for one needed it. But by 7:45 am. many of us were in the Mulberry Room for a faith service. This was a chance for those who wished to do so to offer prayer and to give praise through song. The Sunday morning session began with a memorial service led by Macy McClain. This was our opportunity to pay tribute to those in our Federation family who have died in the last year.
The first presenter of the morning was Charlette Davidson, who talked about attending her first national convention. Her presentation was inspiring, informative, funny, and lively. Rachel Kuntz shared part of her life-long journey with blindness. Rachel went from having few to no blindness skills and even less self-confidence to becoming the residential coordinator for Blind Inc. in Minneapolis.
Affiliate elections were next on the agenda. The elections were of course preceded by the report of the Nominating Committee. This committee was chaired by Sherry Ruth. Sherry gave the report, which was adopted by the convention. Nominated for president, Richard Payne; vice president, Sheri Albers; secretary, Eric Duffy; treasurer, Sherry Ruth; and at-large member of the Board, Suzanne Turner. The slate was elected as presented. There were no nominations from the floor. We would like to thank Shelbi Hindel for her service as secretary and Macy McClain for her service on the board. Congratulations to Eric Duffy and Suzanne Turner for their election to the Board.
Sheri Albers then talked about “Living with and without Sight–Stuck in the Transition: The Federation Way.” There are a lot of people who have much in common with Sheri as they learn to deal with vision loss. There comes a time when they no longer see themselves as sighted, but they surely can’t see themselves as blind either. What little vision they have left is both a blessing and a curse. Sherry helped to put some of that confusion into perspective.
We then moved into discussing resolutions. We had six resolutions to consider this year. I do not remember a time when we have had this many resolutions. We have typically asked people to bring prepared resolutions to the committee for consideration. This year we said, “Give us the problems and tell us how you think they should be addressed, and we’ll write the resolutions.” Please see the resolutions article elsewhere in this newsletter.
The final item on the agenda was “Thirty-five Years of Affiliate Leadership, A Conversation Among Four Presidents.” Barbara Pierce began by recalling her hesitation to stand for president because she doubted that she could do as good a job as Bob Eschbach had done. But he could not go to work for the Bureau of Services for the Blind while leading the consumer organization, so she took the job and nearly got herself impeached early in her first term. She concluded by saying that the secrets of her leadership were a spectacularly successful fundraising program and Eric Duffy as our director of field services.
JW Smith began by saying he never considered seriously the idea of being affiliate president until the final few years of the Pierce presidency. Even then he knew he would be a transitional president. JW was the glue that held us together when the financial crisis of losing our funding came.
Eric Duffy said he was a young college student when he first joined the organized blind movement in 1984. He knew he had a lot to learn. He was elected to the board in 1987 and to the position of first vice president in 1988. He worked as director of field services for approximately sixteen years.
Richard Payne said he thought he was the victim of an April Fool’s joke when Eric and JW called to tell him that within a couple of weeks he was going to become the next president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. He finds the work rewarding, and he enjoys leading the team.
This was an exciting and energized convention. Many people worked to make it happen. Thank you to everyone. A special thanks goes to our sponsors. They are Gold Sponsors: Delta Gamma Foundation and Uber; Silver Sponsors: Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Disability Rights Ohio; and Bronze Sponsor: Dr. Carolyn Peters.
Once again thank you, Norwalk Lions Club and Pat Eschbach for your generous support of our scholarship program.
2018 Resolutions of the NFB of Ohio
by Barbara Pierce
Below are the six resolutions approved on Sunday morning, November 4. These now become the policy of the organization. Barbara Pierce chaired the Resolutions Committee, and Debbie Baker, Michael Leiterman, and, in the absence of MariLyn Piepho, Eric Duffy. This was a hard-working committee, and I thank all of the members. We plan to place all six of these resolutions on the affiliate website.
NFB-O Resolution 2018-01
The Creation of State Government Documents and Forms in HTML5
WHEREAS, for many years blind Ohioans have been unable to obtain most forms and other government documents in an accessible format; and
WHEREAS, many documents sent to blind people from state agencies are time-sensitive and have severe consequences attached to a missed deadline; and
WHEREAS, PDF documents are often inaccessible to the blind, and the remediation of these documents is both costly and time-consuming; and
WHEREAS, PDF documents cannot be completed on mobile devices using screen-access software nor be made compliant with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA; and
WHEREAS, HTML5-based formats render all documents accessible regardless of device; and
WHEREAS, all citizens benefit from documents that are properly formatted and easy to read on any device: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio in Convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2018, in the City of Strongsville, Ohio, that we call upon all state agencies to adopt policies requiring that all documents and forms be produced in HTML5-based formats by December 31, 2019; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon these agencies to replace or convert all currently used forms or documents to the HTML5-based format and that this replacement or conversion process commence on or before January 1, 2020.
Selection of the Superintendent of the Ohio State School for the Blind
WHEREAS, in 1837 the Ohio government established the Ohio Institution for the Education of the Blind; and
WHEREAS, this institution was the predecessor of the Ohio State School for the Blind and was the first public school for the blind in the United States; and
WHEREAS, this history demonstrates a strong commitment on the part of the people of Ohio to ensure that the blind children of the state receive a free and appropriate public education in an environment with specialized educators, professional staff, and equipment; and
WHEREAS, in its modern history until 2008 the Ohio State School for the Blind had a superintendent whose sole responsibility was to oversee the educational and social development of the pupils placed at the school; and
WHEREAS this responsibility includes supervising staff at all levels and overseeing the maintenance of the buildings and grounds of the school; and
WHEREAS, the construction of new facilities for the Ohio State School for the Blind and the Ohio School for the Deaf, completed in 2011, is a further demonstration of the understanding of the Ohio General Assembly that blind children have unique educational needs and that the people of Ohio remain committed to meeting those needs: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio in Convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2018, in the City of Strongsville, Ohio, that this organization call upon the Ohio Department of Education to begin a national search for a qualified superintendent of the Ohio State School for the Blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist on having representation on the search committee; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, if the department of Education fails to begin a search within three months or fails to include the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio on the search committee, the president of this organization be authorized to take any and all political or legal action he deems appropriate to see that the Ohio State School for the Blind has a qualified superintendent.
Appointment of the Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities
WHEREAS, at its inception in 1970 the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (now Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, OOD) was governed by seven Commissioners, a majority of whom had disabilities or represented those with disabilities, including a representative from the blindness field; and
WHEREAS, because this body was comprised of people with disabilities who had both personal and institutional knowledge of rehabilitation services and were firmly grounded in a positive philosophy of disability; and
WHEREAS, this body insisted that the agency director share its values and philosophy concerning appropriate rehabilitation outcomes–the agency director and bureau deputy directors being professionals from the disability field; and
WHEREAS, even with this leadership in place the blind of Ohio often disagreed with the agency administration, the disagreements were handled in a mutually respectful way, and both sides knew that both positions were grounded in knowledge and experience in the disability field; and
WHEREAS, despite occasional disharmony among key stakeholders, the agency was in at least the top five agencies in the nation in key performance indicator categories, including types of jobs held by people with disabilities, wages earned, number of hours worked, and successful case closures; and
WHEREAS, in recent years the director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities has been a gubernatorial appointment; and
WHEREAS, the current OOD director was a purely political appointment with no experience in administering successful rehabilitation programs; and
WHEREAS, this director appointed others with no experience in services for the blind to key leadership positions within the agency; and
WHEREAS, this has led to the predictable result that the state’s rehabilitation services agency has been in a protracted struggle with the organized blind of Ohio as we try to improve the quality of rehabilitation services for blind citizens throughout the state, which will result in more blind people living higher quality lives and becoming more productive citizens able to engage in every aspect of life, including paying taxes; and
WHEREAS, leaders who are experienced in rehabilitation and committed to working with the organized blind and others with disabilities could build OOD into an agency that leads the nation in successful rehabilitation outcomes, making Ohio the envy of the nation among people with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, identifying an official with the rehabilitation experience and dedication to making the OOD program one that truly offers effective training opportunities and provides excellent rehabilitation to Ohio’s growing population of citizens with disabilities will require a national search; and
WHEREAS, Ohio’s disability consumer organizations understand what constitutes effective rehabilitation and would examine applicant credentials with a recognition of excellence and commitment to high expectations: now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio in Convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2018, in the city of Strongsville, Ohio, that this organization urge the next governor of Ohio to commit himself to improving rehabilitation services in the state; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge him to conduct a national search for a truly excellent director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we offer the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio in conducting this search and finding an OOD director truly capable of building an agency committed to genuine rehabilitation of Ohioans with disabilities.
NFB Resolution 2018-04
Need for Public Transportation Reforms in Ohio
WHEREAS, in the state of Ohio public transportation is a valuable community resource; and
WHEREAS, those Ohioans who do not have access to personal transportation must rely on public transportation; and
WHEREAS, the blind of Ohio necessarily depend on public transportation to go to work, attend school, travel for medical appointments, and engage in various aspects of community life; and
WHEREAS, in the state of Ohio paratransit options are limited; and
WHEREAS, paratransit has proven unreliable, time-consuming, and frustrating even for those blind Ohioans who do have access to it; and
WHEREAS, public transportation offers more flexibility for making travel plans; and
WHEREAS, public transportation options such as streetcars, buses, and the like are considered fixed-route transportation; and
WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically addresses the operation of fixed-route transportation; and
WHEREAS, the ADA mandates that bus routes will be clearly announced at each stop; and
WHEREAS, fixed-route vehicles are required by the ADA to announce major stops as well as major intersections; and
WHEREAS, many public transportation systems have installed automated announcement systems on buses; and
WHEREAS, the volume of these automated announcement systems is sometimes set so low that they are inaudible; and
WHEREAS, these automated announcement systems are often turned off or are in a state of complete disrepair; and
WHEREAS, bus drivers mostly fail to make announcements when the automated announcement systems fail to work appropriately; and
WHEREAS, public transportation systems allow a bus with a nonworking automated announcement system to remain in service for long periods of time before maintenance is performed; and
WHEREAS, bus drivers on a fixed-route system are required to stop when an identifiable blind person is clearly waiting near a bus stop, but often do not; and
WHEREAS, multiple buses can line up at a bus stop and a bus in the second, third, or fourth position often fails to wait for the first bus to pull away, without alerting blind passengers who might be waiting for that bus, resulting in blind passengers never having a chance to board the bus they need; and
WHEREAS, many transit companies make no reasonable effort to let blind riders know when a bus stop has moved or been temporarily taken out of service; and
WHEREAS, the blind of Ohio have for years complained in the hope that transit authorities would correct these and similar injustices; and
WHEREAS, in the past our complaints have been passed on to management without noticeable resolution of the problems or any efforts made to comply with the Americans with Disabilities act or with transit systems’ best practices regarding blind and disabled passengers: now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio in Convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2018, in the City of Strongsville, Ohio, that we call upon all public transportation systems throughout the state of Ohio to comply with all transportation protections established by the Americans with Disabilities Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we demand that all public transportation systems follow their own best practices in providing transportation to the disabled and to the blind of Ohio; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that transit authorities meet with local chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and leaders of this organization to resolve problems identified by the blind of the area; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the president of this organization be instructed to take any political or legal action he deems appropriate to protect the rights of blind and disabled users of transportation systems in the state and to ensure their access to transportation.
NFB-O Resolution 2018-05
Paratransit Reform and Modernization in Ohio Through the Use of Ride-Share Companies
WHEREAS, in the state of Ohio public transportation is a valuable community resource; and WHEREAS, those Ohioans who do not have access to personal transportation must rely on public transportation; and
WHEREAS, Ohioans who are deemed eligible may use paratransit services; and
WHEREAS, the blind of Ohio necessarily depend on public transportation or paratransit to go to work, attend school, travel for medical appointments, and engage in community life; and
WHEREAS, throughout the state of Ohio paratransit options are limited; and
WHEREAS, in some instances public transit systems provide their own paratransit services direct to the community; and
WHEREAS, public transit systems often contract with a third party to provide paratransit services; and
WHEREAS, these third-party contracts can be very lucrative for the third-party transportation provider, resulting in profit having a higher importance than performance; and
WHEREAS, making use of paratransit presents many challenges such as being able to get a pickup or drop-off time that is close to when you would like to travel, being picked up and dropped off at the scheduled time, not spending extended time in transit, problems with dispatch, having trips canceled based on driver availability, last-minute change in work schedule, and in the case of non-ADA trips being able to schedule a ride at all; and
WHEREAS, paratransit is not an option if you have an unforeseen event or emergency that occurs outside of the prescribed paratransit reservation window; and
WHEREAS, paratransit has proven unreliable, time-consuming, frustrating, physically uncomfortable, and in some instances unsafe; and
WHEREAS, paratransit is lacking in both customer service and in quality assurance; and
WHEREAS, paratransit providers have difficulty in hiring and maintaining quality drivers; and
WHEREAS, paratransit providers throughout Ohio have an overall operating cost that can fluctuate based on employee overtime, fuel cost, number of trips scheduled, and vehicle maintenance; and
WHEREAS, state and federal funding for transportation including paratransit is subject to budget cuts; and
WHEREAS, the cost for an individual to take paratransit and to bring an escort along has historically increased in cost, which is paid directly by the eligible rider; and
WHEREAS, the development of new business models and the advancement of accessible smartphone technology have created an alternative to the traditional transit and paratransit markets; and
WHEREAS, ride-share companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar can be found in communities throughout Ohio where public transportation and paratransit are offered; and
WHEREAS, ride-share companies could be used to supplement and improve paratransit services by lowering cost to the rider, allowing escorts to ride along with no additional charge, offering more flexibility when scheduling ride times, reducing the overall time spent in transit, and moving towards an on-demand option; and
WHEREAS, using a ride-share option could reduce the overall cost of paratransit by lowering the number of drivers, reservation staff, mechanics, administrative staff, and miscellaneous employees directly employed by paratransit companies; and
WHEREAS, going to a ride-share model would further reduce cost by decreasing tax dollars being spent on paratransit vehicles, garage equipment, and facility costs: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio in Convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2018, in the City of Strongsville, Ohio, that we call upon all paratransit systems throughout the state of Ohio to move to a ride-share model to supplement the current paratransit option; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that transit authorities meet with local chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and leaders of this organization to develop the use of ride-share options to improve paratransit within Ohio; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the president of this organization be instructed to take any political or legal action he deems appropriate to support the implementation of a ride-share paratransit partnership in the state of Ohio.
Domestic Violence against the Blind
WHEREAS, people living with disabilities, including the blind, are victims of domestic violence three times more frequently than able-bodied people; and
WHEREAS, blind people may not realize that they are victims of verbal, financial, physical, sexual, psychological, and other forms of abuse; and
WHEREAS, few domestic violence agencies, shelters, or law enforcement and health care providers are aware of the most effective ways to support a blind victim; and
WHEREAS, there are no specific procedures to follow when the crime of domestic
violence is committed against a blind person; and
WHEREAS, the current national escape plans address the problems of able-bodied victims; and
WHEREAS, hotline and shelter staff members have no training in reasonable accommodations for blind victims during a crisis: now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the national Federation of the Blind of Ohio in Convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2018, in the City of Strongsville, Ohio, that this organization call upon health care professionals, law enforcement entities, domestic violence agencies, shelter and hotline staff members, and others to work with the organized blind to develop appropriate plans and reasonable accommodations for helping blind victims of domestic violence; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the president of this organization appoint a committee to work to help local NFB chapters and local officials develop an escape plan for the blind that the various local and state domestic violence agencies can adopt; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we continue to speak out against the crime of domestic abuse and work toward ending the cycle of violence against blind people.
2018 NFB of Ohio Scholarship Report
by JW Smith
Editor’s note: Dr. JW Smith chaired this year’s Scholarship Committee. Here is his report of the 2018 state scholarship program:
It was a privilege to serve as the chair of the 2018 NFB of Ohio Scholarship Committee. Once again I’d like to thank President Payne for this opportunity to serve. Also I want to thank my wonderful committee members Robert and Barbara Pierce, Emily Pennington, and Lucas Cassi for making my job easier indeed.
On Saturday, November 3, 2018, it was a delight to award two of our affiliate scholarships to Lillie Pennington and Robert Sabwami. Lillie Pennington received the Barbara E. Fohl Scholarship in the amount of $1,000. As I introduced Lillie, I reminded the audience about what a wonderful and consistent and dependable long-time member of our affiliate Barb Fohl had been. She served as a board member for a number of years and ultimately served as our affiliate second vice president, fittingly chairing the Scholarship Committee for several years. As Lillie progressed toward the podium, I tried to convey to her the significance of this award and what a special honor it was to receive it. Just to reiterate, here is what I wrote about Lillie in a previous article:
Lillie Pennington is not a stranger to our affiliate. It has not taken her long to make meaningful contributions to our movement and success. Lillie is on track to graduate a year early with three academic minors. She is a student at Northern Kentucky University majoring in Social Work. Lillie also continues to be involved with activist and awareness organizations for LGBTQ+ communities. Most notably, Lillie served as an intern at our Kenneth Jernigan Institute under the tutelage of Anil Lewis.
Lillie graciously thanked our affiliate for this honor, and we wish her well in her continued studies at Northern Kentucky University.
Robert Sabwami received the Robert M. Eschbach Scholarship in the amount of $1,000. Robert Eschbach was a long-time leader in our affiliate, even serving as president from 1973 to 1984. He also served as a member of our national board at one time and was held in the highest regard at all levels of our movement. It was a joy to have Robert Eschbach’s wife, Patricia, in the audience on this evening. As Mr. Sabwami and his family (his wife and daughter) proceeded to the podium, I exclaimed, “Here you are, Sir! From one Robert to another.” I thought it was important that Robert Sabwami talk a little bit about his journey from Kenya to Dayton, Ohio. He expressed in his public comments about how difficult that journey had been from time to time, but how rewarding it was for him to receive such a prestigious award. At one time in his life, he had been a high school dropout, and many did not believe that his current narrative would ever have been possible. Now Robert is a graduate student at Wright State University, where he is studying to be an intervention specialist in special education.
It was a joy to share the banquet with these two wonderful recipients, and I know you join me in wishing them well in their future educational endeavors. It is my hope that our scholarship program will continue to grow and that we will continue to attract productive students and scholars.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 national scholarship program. The form can be found on the national website, nfb.org. The deadline for filing is March 31. Ohio’s program will soon open. Our scholarship form will be available at nfbohio.org.
2018 Awards Committee Report
by Cheryl Fields
Editor’s note: Cheryl Fields is a member of the NFB of Ohio Board of Directors and a leader in the Cleveland chapter. She also chaired the 2018 Awards Committee. Following Denise Avant’s moving banquet address, Cheryl came to the podium to present this year’s two Gavel Awards and two individual awards to deserving volunteers. Here is her report of that activity:
If you missed the Awards Committee presentations at the 2018 Team Convention banquet, you missed a treat. Conventions are exciting because of reconnecting with Federation family members from other cities and are filled with loads of information, speakers, breakout sessions, and of course the exhibit hall. Then there is the Saturday evening banquet. The atmosphere is lively, door prize winners are being called, and auction items are anticipated and discussed at each table. Then thehe meal is over, attendees are enjoying dessert, and it’s awards time. The winner is announced, and you realize it is your chapter, your division, or you, yes you. For a moment there is silence. Then the reality sets in, all of the philosophy, evening and weekend teleconferences, advocating on behalf of others, fund raising and more have culminated in this awesome moment when your peers publicly acknowledge your efforts. It is really unexpected and humbling to become aware and have confirmed that what you are doing matters. We are Federationists because we believe that those who have gone before us and we have worked today to secure the future for the blind everywhere.
The Gavel Award winners this year are truly inspiring, paving the way to the elimination of barriers and announcing to the world that it is respectable to be blind. So again, if you missed it this year, keep reading to find out who walked away with top honors for 2018. The Cleveland chapter earned the Chapter Gavel Award, and the NFB of Ohio Senior Division was awarded the Division Gavel Award. These Federation organizations are to be saluted. They have consistently planned and executed programs and projects that demonstrate the philosophy and leadership of the Federation. They have displayed extraordinary creativity and ability to educate their members and the public about NFB philosophy and what it means and how to live the lives we want.
This could not have been accomplished without extraordinary leadership. Suzanne Turner, president of the Cleveland chapter, and Barbara Pierce, president of the Seniors Division, have demonstrated energy and creativity in their leadership. We applaud them and celebrate this accomplishment.
The awards committee is also proud to announce the presentation of two individual awards for 2018. The Alfonso Smith Award for the outstanding blind person of the year was presented to Sheri Albers, and Karen Whalen received the Ruth Garwood Award for the outstanding sighted person. These award recipients have displayed outstanding dedication and commitment to the Ohio Affiliate. Karen and Shari, both of Cincinnati, are leaving a lasting imprint and legacy on the Ohio Affiliate that we can be proud of. Each was presented with a certificate and a bouquet of roses donated by Wayne Fletcher.
Finally, the committee thanks each of you for trusting us to collect the information necessary and make the decisions for affiliate awards. If you have not served on this very important committee, please consider volunteering to serve; you won’t be sorry. The insight that is gained and bonds made between members are what make this one of the most interesting and fulfilling committees we have in the Ohio affiliate. I want to thank those who have served with me: Robert Spangler, Annette Lutz, Jerry Percell, Paul Dressell, and Barbara Pierce. I have enjoyed chairing this committee, and I thank all of you for your service.
Our First Convention
by Dave Bertsch
Editor’s note: Dave Bertsch is the president of the brand new Greater Akron Chapter. I like to invite a person attending his or her first convention to write an article to report on the perspective of a new Federationist. Of course we had over fifty people attending their first convention. Dave is a very thorough fellow. He was not satisfied to jot down a few personal observations about his experience at convention. He made a point of talking to a number of other newbies and molding all of their comments into a reflection about the Strongsville convention This is what he says:
With more than fifty first-timers attending the 2018 NFB of Ohio convention, there were a lot of anxious people walking into the Holiday Inn Strongsville, not knowing what to expect. But nerves quickly turned to excitement.
Is this for me? Taslim Dibba of Cincinnati said he had to get out of his comfortable bubble just to attend, but once there, seeing so many people in his circumstance inspired him. Today he says, “I know now I’m not alone in this.”
Missy Prokay from Akron admitted she walked in unsure of what to expect, but says after soaking in Dr. Peters’ warm welcome during the rookie session and hearing other rookies share their journeys, Missy knows that she does have a place here.
There were many experiences that we rookies found helpful. For example, I must have heard twenty attendees praise the outstanding hotel staff for their help and respect for our members. First-timers Margaret and James Roberts praised the hotel staff several times and the work Suzanne and her Convention Planning Committee put in with the hotel staff long before any of us arrived in Strongsville.
Getting past hello: Many of us left our first convention delighted to have met so many leaders of our NFB of Ohio family. Akron rookie Pat McPherson recounts learning about the NFB during many enjoyable conversations with Ohio Federationists. As a greenhorn myself, I especially enjoyed meeting those whose names I had seen on Ohio-Talk–instant camaraderie–talking Federation and just getting to know members of a family many of us had only just met.
People like me: The diversity of attendees was striking and unexpected to some. From the youthful Stover sisters to James and Margaret Roberts, who are both past 90—all were attending their first convention. Rookie attendee from Columbus Gerron Chapman shared his joy at finding a whole community of people like himself, “I was alone,” he says, “no connections except sighted trainers,” and today he has an NFB family.
Every story a common thread: Amy Bonano of Miami Valley said she was moved especially by Suzanne and JW, who aren’t just surviving but thriving in circumstances similar to her own, saying, “Hearing their stories, their struggles gave me enormous encouragement.”
Rookie Ed Louden of Cleveland said that he was witness to some of the most intelligent and heartfelt speeches he had ever heard. Ed confirms that he was choked up by the personal stories offered by National Rep Denise Avant and Sheri Albers.
Banquet, more than a meal: The banquet remains near the top of every first-timer’s list of “wow” memories. From those moving and lesson-packed speeches to the awards inspiring us each to become more, through the wild auction: that evening alone may spark our passion and purpose when we summon the memory.
More to learn: Ed later added on Ohio-Talk that he had learned so much from Barbara Pierce and Dr. Peters, from Dr. Smith and Ed’s fellow veteran Lee Martin, that he’s not sure he can digest it all. All the first-timers likely share in Ed’s information overload. We have much to learn about the organization, about each other, and about what we can accomplish by serving together. This NFB of Ohio convention was a tremendous learning experience. And as Akron vice president Kiana Hill said, we surely look forward to many more. Many comments by rookies at the convention and since have been in appreciation for our leaders across Ohio, our State Board, and the contagious enthusiasm of President Richard Payne. One Team, One Goal.
It’s been said that most motivation and even what you learn at a big event are lost and forgotten after just a few days. Maybe that’s natural, to leave some ideas behind and settle back into our comfort zones.
But these convention rookies I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with seem to be fighting that urge to sink into old routines, all determined to build momentum and put what they (we) have experienced and learned into action every day. Let’s all go build the Federation!
The Washington Seminar: A Life-Changing Experience 34 Years Ago
by Eric Duffy
Editor’s note: Eric Duffy needs no introduction to this readership. I too remember his first Washington Seminar thirty-four years ago. He was always the cow’s tail in our delegation. At that time we all went to every meeting. I think Ohio had twenty-one House members and two Senators. We had to travel rapidly to make all our meetings. We may have divided into two groups, which would have halved the number of meetings in our schedule, but I remember waiting outside each office to collect all of our group before sweeping in to meet with the staffer or member. In those days we were allowed to walk through the bowels of the Capitol, under the Rotunda. We wove among mail carts and picked our way through desks, filing cabinets, and chairs lining the walls of the hallways in those early days of each Congressional session.
I can remember marking Eric as a very promising participant. He may have been slow, but he had mastered the fact sheets and could be counted on to make good points in our conversations. He was also eager to improve his mobility. I knew that we had found a real treasure in this college student. I was certainly correct in that assessment. Here is his recollection of the Washington Seminar:
It was a cold January day in 1985 when the then National Federation of the Blind of Ohio President Bob Eschbach called to ask me if I would like to be a part of what was then called the March on Washington. By then I knew a little about the event because I had joined the Capital Chapter in the spring of 1984. So, of course, I told Bob that I would very much like to go. What I didn’t tell him was what I was thinking as I gave him that answer.
I had been to Washington D.C. a few times with my family. I have always had an interest in government and politics. I took two trips to D.C. during high school. One trip was sponsored by the American Legion. I had to answer numerous questions and write an essay entitled “What Freedom with Responsibility Means to Me,” to win the American Legion trip. This was a statewide competition among high school juniors and seniors. I was the first student from the Ohio State School for the Blind to win this contest. I had the highest score in the state that year. I was two points away from a perfect score, but spelling tripped me up. As a side note the (now) Shelley Duffy won the same contest the next year. Now back to the story. By the time I got the call from Bob, I was in my sophomore year of college, I had been elected to student government, and I was a political science major. So I thought, “Boy, I’ll teach these guys a few things.”
Was I in for a humbling experience! On a Sunday evening we arrived at the Holiday Inn Capitol, where the Washington Seminar still takes place today. I heard Dr. Jernigan call the meeting to order and observed him preside over a dynamic meeting. I heard Jim Gashel talk about the issues we would be presenting to Congress, and then the two of them gave us our marching orders. Before that part of the evening was over, it is safe to say that I got an attitude adjustment. What I didn’t realize was just how much I had to learn and that the real learning experience hadn’t even begun. We addressed three issues: postal rates for not-for-profits, the vending priority for the blind especially in military facilities, and interstate insurance protections for blind people.
As a student at the Ohio State School for the Blind, I did not get the same travel instruction that most of my peers got. Shelley received instruction and had the travel skills to be granted permission to travel anywhere in the city by herself. I could leave campus only with a guide. Shelley could have been my guide. Because I have cerebral palsy, I was told that the school wasn’t going to be responsible for me if I fell down and got run over by a truck. This is no exaggeration! I asked what I was supposed to do when I went to college. The answer was, “You’re smart enough; you’ll figure it out.”
That is exactly what I did. I learned how to get from my college dorm to the nearest bus stop. I learned the bus system on my own. I thought I was doing well until that fateful trip to Washington. I struggled to keep up with the group. One of the reasons for that was that I had a short, heavy cane. But the other reason was that I just had to engage in more independent travel.
I made up my mind that I was going back with the group in 1986 and that things were going to be very different. I was going to be very different. Once again, I didn’t really know what I was saying.
It was of course in 1985 that I met Barbara Pierce. I paid careful attention to how she carried herself on the Hill and how she conducted herself as an affiliate leader. I paid attention to her on the Hill when I could catch up with her of course. She did not literally leave me behind, but it was clear that I had work to do.
After returning from Washington, Bob Eschbach gave me my first long straight cane. It was longer and lighter than any cane I had yet had at that point. Bob was always a straight shooter. He said, “I hear that, when you’re on campus, you use a folding cane. I also hear that, when you can fold up the cane and take the arm of a sighted person, you do it.” I agreed that those things were true. Bob said, “You’ll never become a good cane traveler that way.” I immediately changed the way I operated, and Bob and Pat Eschbach were there to be sure that I did.
By 1986 I was a team leader for the Washington Seminar. It was not because there was no one else who could do it, because those of you who know Barbara Pierce know that she has no tolerance for mediocrity. She was our delegation leader, and I was a team leader. I was ready. During that year I learned a lot about how to lead in the Federation and on the Hill.
I have attended every Washington Seminar since that first one in 1985. I went to Ohio appointments even when I lived in New Jersey and Maryland. Don’t misunderstand. I did this in addition to the other responsibilities I had for the affiliates of which I was then a member.
Upon hearing that we go to Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress, many people say that must be a lot of fun. Yes it’s fun, but it is also a lot of hard work. We must know the issues we are bringing to Congress forward and backward, inside and out. We must be prepared to meet with congressional staff rather than the actual member. The Ohio Congressional delegation is smaller than it was in 1985, and now we don’t walk to and from Capitol Hill as we did back then. However, we still do a lot of fast-paced walking. Given these changes, I once wondered if we were overly emphasizing the type of stamina that is required for this event.
A few years ago my question was answered when I was part of a group in which several members could not make it from the bus parking area to Capitol Hill. Several who made it into the buildings were quickly exhausted. In 2015 I began having problems with my feet. That summer we conducted a two-week Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy that required a lot of walking. The day after the program ended, I went to see fireworks in Columbus, which meant that I was standing for several hours. The next day I flew to Orlando for the national convention. Everyone who has ever been to a national convention knows how much walking is involved. My feet were killing me. I was in a lot of pain, and there was nothing to be done about it. I was hoping the problem would resolve itself once I could cut back on the amount of walking I was doing. It did not.
I don’t know how I made it through the 2016 Washington Seminar, but I did. I also thought it would be my last. I knew I couldn’t make it through another one unless something changed in a miraculous way. I also wondered whether or not I could do the walking required for a national convention. In late 2016 I went to a podiatrist, and my problem was solved. I went to the conventions and Washington Seminars in 2017 and 2018. I plan to continue to be a part of both events for years to come.
What if I could no longer go to Washington, however? I know that there are still things I can do. I could still contact both Ohio Senators and my member of the House of Representatives. I could let them know that the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio who will visit their offices represent me. I could call and send emails or letters asking them to support our issues. You can also do these things if you do not attend the Washington Seminar. We should continue to follow up with our members of Congress long after the Washington Seminar is over. We circulate the fact sheets for the issues we are going to discuss before the Washington Seminar. We also reprint them in the Braille Monitor. Everyone in the organization should closely study these documents to be ready for making calls to Capitol Hill and conducting meetings with our members of Congress in the district or in town hall meetings. The NFB is not an organization that throws around money to buy votes in Congress. We have to count on knowledgeable members to argue for our positions on the bills we are fighting to get passed and made into law. Please do your part in this important work. You may never join us in Washington, but you too can find that our legislative efforts can change your life.
American Nightmare: How Workers with Disabilities Are Denied Economic Prosperity
by Mark A. Riccobono
Editor’s note: The following op ed appeared in The Hill on November 30, 2018. It powerfully argues for one of the issues we are working on in Congress. Here it is:
“Workers paid only a few dollars per hour.” “Disabled workers exploited for profit.” “Employers pay next to nothing for manual labor.” If you read these headlines at the top of your newspaper, would you think you were reading about sweatshops in some distant developing country? If someone were to tell you that every day hundreds of thousands of workers with disabilities are paid less, typically far less, than the minimum wage in cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland, or Salt Lake City, would you believe them? Would the thought ever cross your mind that this could happen right here in the United States?
The stark reality is that everything you just read is true. People with disabilities are paid subminimum wages, and it’s completely legal for companies to do so.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, was a landmark law enacted with the specific intention of protecting the rights of American workers. It established such modern norms as a forty-hour workweek, overtime pay, restrictions against child labor, and the federal minimum wage. However, it also introduced an exception to that minimum wage with the inclusion of Section 14(c), which allows employers to obtain a special wage certificate granting the permission to pay people with disabilities at a rate “lower than the minimum wage.” There it is in black and white, discrimination codified into United States law.
According to the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, 321,131 Americans with disabilities are currently employed under 14(c) certificates. That is more than 300,000 people who are legally able to be paid less than the minimum wage by employers like major restaurant and hotel chains, consignment stores and school districts. Even more disturbing is that the vast majority of these organizations are nonprofits, which receive set-aside government contracts for hiring workers with disabilities while paying those same workers subminimum wages. This is perhaps the most insidious and cruel form of double-dipping.
Many argue that giving disabled Americans something to do, even if it means paying us next to nothing, is better than our doing nothing. They will argue that earning a paycheck, even if a week’s check amounts to just a few dollars, provides a sense of dignity for disabled Americans. They argue that providing some place for disabled Americans to go, even if it is a workshop where we perform repetitive and mind-numbing labor, is better than sitting at home. They argue that all of these things foster feelings of pride and independence in disabled Americans. This misguided notion of charity is actually pity, and is insulting to disabled workers because it presumes we do not know and can’t understand the value of money. I’m not convinced that anyone can feel proud and independent when their paycheck for a week of work is not enough to afford a value meal at a fast food restaurant. Are you?
To put it bluntly, Americans with disabilities do not want your pity. We want your respect. We want you to respect us enough to extend the opportunity to work in a meaningful job, to work side by side with you toward a common goal, and, most important, to earn a living wage so that we can be independent.
The American Dream is generally understood as the opportunity for anyone, regardless of background, to achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. Section 14(c) creates a second class of citizens, based solely on disability, who are unable to experience the benefits of that dream. Americans with disabilities are determined, we are willing, and we are most definitely able to work hard, but regardless of how hard we work, success and prosperity will always be well out of reach as long as Section 14(c) is on the books. Our nation’s commitment to end discrimination against people with disabilities must include ending the payment of subminimum wages; otherwise it is nothing more than a hollow platitude.
The Greater Akron Chapter held elections July 21. The officers serving through December 2019 are president, Dave Bertsch; vice president, Kiana Hill; secretary, Stephanie Bertsch; and at-large board member, Mary Weldon.
The Capital Chapter conducted elections on November 10. For the next year the officers are president, Annette Lutz; vice president, Heather Leiterman; secretary, Eric Duffy; treasurer, Jeremiah Williams; and at-large board member, Mike Leiterman.
We are proud to announce that Hadley has named Ali Benmerzouga the 2018 Student of the Year. The announcement reads in part:
A former math and statistics teacher from North Olmsted, Ohio, who lost sight in his left eye in 1998 and then, fourteen years later, in his right, has been recognized as “Student of the Year” by Hadley.
Ali Benmerzouga, sixty, lost vision in his left eye as a result of myopia, which affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population and occurs if the eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved. And after experiencing difficulty with his one working eye in 2011, the career school teacher would wait nearly a year before going ahead with surgery at Case Western Reserve University’s Hospital in Cleveland that he had hoped would allow him to keep partial vision.
“I was still very active at work and at home and loved the outdoors,” he said. “I was just afraid what might happen and put the surgery off as long as I could. But it got to the point where I wasn’t able to read, write, or drive, and I decided surgery was my only option.”
Sadly, his worst fears were realized when multiple surgeries were unable to fix his deteriorating eye, and he became legally blind. Then, in early 2014, Ali reached out to Hadley and began to learn Braille. After passing through the Braille series, he moved on to our independent living series.
“I was trying to salvage myself and sharpen my skills so that one day I would be able to re-enter the workforce,” Ali added. “Hadley was helpful and supportive and was always there to offer encouragement. They’ve restored my life in so many ways and have allowed me to continue to live my authentic life, communicate with the world, and meet new people.”
Next came a series of nine online technology classes, a curriculum in business, and then Hadley’s Foundations of American Government class. “Ali is a motivated, hard-working, dedicated student, possessing a cheerful spirit, uplifting outlook on life, and quick wit,” said Hadley instructor Ed Haines. “He always has a kind word for everyone he meets and expresses gratitude for the smallest of deeds on his behalf. He is one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve met in my thirty-five years of teaching.” “I was overjoyed to learn that I had won Student of the Year,” Ali added. “It made me feel like, ‘Hey, I’m back, and still worth something to this world.’ It gives me a great feeling just knowing that I can continue to be a good, productive citizen.”
We have just learned that Tom Anderson, who was a member of the Board of Directors and served for some years as second vice president of the Ohio affiliate, is now a resident of a nursing home in Youngstown. He had his wife Louise will certainly be in our prayers.
The election results of the Diabetic Action Network on November 3, 2018, were as follows:
president, Susan Day; vice president, Walter Mitchell; secretary, Wanda M. Sloan; treasurer, Collene Roth; board member, Sue Ott.
The NFB of Ohio Seniors Division elected the following officers: president, Barbara Pierce; vice president, Suzanne Turner; secretary, Colleen Roth; and treasurer, Paul Jordan.
The Ohio Association of Dog Guide Users elected vice president, Debbie Baker; Marianne Denning, treasurer; and Luann Bowers, board member. Deanna Lewis remains president, and Brent Thane continues as secretary.
The Ohio Association to Promote the Use of Braille conducted elections at the state convention with the following results: president, Marianne Denning; vice president, Debbie Baker; secretary, Deanna Lewis; and treasurer, Emily Pennington.
There is still time to order from our NFBO Honey Baked Ham Fundraising page. Get all your Christmas shopping done in just a few minutes. You can purchase an electronic gift card directly from the site or request a plastic gift card that Honey Baked Ham will send to you. The plastic cards come in separate envelopes for super-easy gifting. Gift cards can be used either online or at any Honey Baked Ham retail store nationwide. Don’t delay, support the NFB of Ohio today. These would make excellent gifts for your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and others. The possibilities are endless with the selection of wonderful items that Honey Baked Ham offers. Please check out our fundraising page at https://honeybakedfundraising.com/fundraisers/NFB_of_Ohio_Fundraiser.
If you have any questions or need help with the website, contact Deanna Lewis, firstname.lastname@example.org or 513) 328-7976.
We are participating again this year in the 2019 Flying Pig BLT Station and the Piggest Raffle Ever. The National Federation of the Blind of Ohio is now posted on the event website www.piggestraffle.com. We can now buy pigs on behalf of the NFB of Ohio and promote this fundraiser to our friends and family. The paper tickets will be available shortly. If we work this right, this can be one of our most lucrative programs. As in the past the cost of one pig is $5, and, for every pig purchased for NFB of Ohio, we will receive 100% of the donation.
How does it work? Easy! Purchase a pig for $5 each when selecting National Federation of the Blind of Ohio from the drop-down menu on the page. For each pig purchased, you have a chance to win on Flying Pig Marathon Weekend, and NFB of Ohio receives 100% of your donation.
Raffle details: On May 3, 2019, we will draw a lucky winner of $5,000 cash, and the charity for which the winner purchased the pig will also receive $5,000 cash. You do not need to be present to win, but everyone is welcome to join us for race weekend.
Only one chance to win? Of course not. We will select two additional Piggest Raffle Ever contestants as prize winners, who also need not be present at the event to win.
First Place: $10,000 cash ($5,000 to winning ticket holder and $5,000 to the charity that sold the ticket)
Second Place: two-year lease on a Toyota Prius
Third Place: Cincinnati Get-Away Experience! (valued at over $1,500)
So get ready to buy pigs yourself and to sell them to your friends and families.
The Cleveland chapter conducted elections in November for two board positions. The new board members are Ali Benmerzouga and Robert Campbell. Congratulations also to Suzanne Turner, who has been appointed to a board position for the Services for Independent Living of Euclid.
Here is the reservation information for the national convention taken from the December Braille Monitor. The same enviable rate of $99 per night applies to singles and doubles as well as triples and quads. Hotel and sales taxes are 13.38 percent and 8.25 percent respectively. The resort fee (normally $37 a night) will be waived for NFB convention attendees. However, fees for internet access, local and toll-free calls, and fitness center access may apply. To make reservations for the 2019 convention, you can call the hotel at 887- 632-7800 after January 1. The hotel will take a deposit of the first night’s room rate for each room and will require a credit card or a personal check. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately. If a reservation is cancelled before Friday, June 1, 2019, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
The NFB of the Miami Valley held its election December 8 at its Christmas party. The new board is president, Dr. Carolyn Peters; vice president, Karen Warner; treasurer, Tim Janning; secretary, Robert Spangler; and board member, Sheila Hardy-Wilson.
The NFB of Springfield elections occurred December 15 with the following results: president, Debbie Baker; vice president, Susan Day; secretary, Gail Cowan; treasurer, Crystal McClain; and board member at large, Hans Wagner.
December 1-January 19, Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
January 4, Louis Braille’s birthday
January 4-10, Braille Literacy Week
January 14, Telephone board meeting
January 28-30, Washington Seminar
March 31, Deadline for national scholarship applications
April 9, Columbus Seminar
April 15, Jernigan Scholarship application deadline
July 7-12, National convention at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV