Spring 2019 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. You can 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
I have attended almost every national convention since I joined the National Federation of the Blind, and it is impossible for me to overstate the importance of this annual event. I have traveled to Louisiana, Illinois, across our border with Michigan, and then Florida. Each experience was empowering and thrilling, to say the least. As I look back on all these experiences, what sticks with me are the laws that have been enacted because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind. I can still remember the gavel dropping and how loud the crowd was and the overwhelming excitement that filled the room from the conventioneers. Moreover, the national convention hotel tests your skills and strengthens them as well, but it is the members and fellowship that have a long-lasting impact. The national convention is where all fifty-two states get together and make decisions about laws and set policies for the organization.
We benefit by attending for several reasons: to connect likeminded members, to break down barriers, and to share advice from a real-world perspective. Someone has always been there and done that. Furthermore, division and committee meetings address just about every topic and profession: rehabilitation counselors, artists, sports and recreation, and dozens more. For five years the national convention has held a career fair with over thirty employers from across the country who offer vocational guidance and employment opportunities for blind job seekers. And who could forget the spectacular Exhibit Hall with rows and rows of tables featuring technology, hand-held gadgets, T-shirts, unusual products, and more?
Additionally, during the convention one of the most uplifting aspects is the banquet speech. Last year the roof almost came off the banquet hall, because President Riccobono delivered one of the best speeches that I’ve heard in a long time. You can be assured if you attend this year’s national convention that it will be one of the largest and most moving events that you will ever have an opportunity to attend. As many of you know, I come from Arkansas, an affiliate that had no convention assistance. Hence the members shared rooms and helped out with transportation so that all could attend.
If you are planning to go to Las Vegas for the 2019 national convention, reach out to your chapter president for support, consider sharing rooms, and start talking to friends, family members, and possible sponsors for financial assistance. It is also important to apply to the 2019 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship Fund for assistance if you are a first-timer. The organization invests in our membership, and, if you are attending your first convention, you should apply for the grant. For those who are not first-timers, the cost of the rooms this year is approximately $20 higher than last year. The pre-registration is the same as last year’s, $25 before June 1 and $30 at the door. The banquet cost is $70 when preregistered and $75 at the door. Ohio will have some convention assistance; details will be available later. We can do this together and make it to the 2019 national convention in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada.
Finally, I have met many blind people who say that the convention was quite overwhelming but an experience that they would not change. Perhaps it is the meeting of new blind friends and the discovery that blind people work and play just as our sighted peers do. The convention is where we are in the majority, and it is organized by blind people for the blind. We can assist you with filling out the forms or can just provide mentorship. So, whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned Federationist, if you need help, please feel free to reach out to the Ohio leadership. It is through love, hope, and determination that the National Federation of the Blind transforms dreams into reality. We can live the life we want; blindness is not what holds us back.
Here is the description of the 2019 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:
Allen Harris, the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee, was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former president and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur.
Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.
The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.
We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.
Consult a current issue of the Braille Monitor for specific instructions. You will have to write a letter with your contact information in it and explaining how you will use the funds you are requesting. Send this letter to me, Richard Payne, so that I have time to append my letter to yours and send them both to Allen Harris by April 15. You should hear if you have received a grant by May 15. I hope that you will seriously consider joining the Ohio delegation at the convention this summer.
by Barbara Pierce
You may be aware that the National Federation of the Blind is putting forth a good bit of effort on membership issues in the organization. Every chapter and every state division in every affiliate have been urged to prepare a rather complex spread sheet with all sorts of information about its members–their contact information, when they joined the organization, when they last paid their dues, and what relationship they bear to other members of the chapter. All of this information is being placed in a single database, which can be updated by the chapter or division and can be used to prepare mailing lists or send email notices. When it is completed, it will be a wonderful tool for us all, but it requires that we all buy in to the project and prepare and pass along the information to the national office as soon as possible.
As part of this membership-building, every member whose name is entered into the database and every new member will receive a pewter challenge coin. Some affiliates are encouraging their members to carry the coins always by charging a $10 penalty to anyone who is challenged to produce the coin and who cannot do it. Each member also receives a Braille and print card with the NFB pledge on one side and the one-minute speech on the other. We are all being encouraged to learn both these short statements because they are central to what the NFB stands for.
Dr. Jernigan became convinced that the NFB needed a pledge, so he sat down and wrote what he thought that every member should be prepared to stand up and say to demonstrate his or her allegiance to the organization. We all know the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Flag. I would think myself a poor excuse for a citizen if I had to mumble my way through the Pledge to the Flag or whip out a card to read the words. The Pledge to the Flag is thirty-one words long; the NFB Pledge is thirty-nine words—not a lot of difference. Let’s take a moment to consider what we are being asked to pledge ourselves to do in the NFB pledge. There are only three things:
1. “I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind”;
2. “to support the policies and programs of the Federation”; and
3. “to abide by its constitution.”
Why would anyone be a member of the Federation if he or she did not believe in equality, opportunity, and security (notice these are in alphabetical order) for blind people? Why would one bother with membership in an organization whose policies and programs were unimportant to the person? And finally, if one is not prepared to abide by the constitution of an organization, why would he or she belong to the club?
The NFB pledge is all about verbs. We pledge to participate actively; to support its policies and programs; and to abide by its constitution. If you memorize the verbs, the rest comes easily and naturally. I urge you to spend a little time thinking about the NFB pledge and saying it over to yourself. Then lets practice in our chapter meetings saying it together and pledging each other that we will work together.
This is the pledge. How then did we acquire the one-minute speech? A decade ago a group of Federation leaders got together with some experts to try to distill down to a few words what the NFB stands for—what in other words we would say about the organization in a few seconds—the time of an elevator ride. They settled on forty-nine words—a bit longer than the pledge, but only three sentences. I personally find the one-minute speech a little clunky because it changes point of view three times. But I have to say that it captures some very important ideas that the organization stands for and that differentiate us from all other organizations of and for the blind.
The first sentence says, “The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.” How many blind people do you know who now define themselves by the fact of their blindness? When we say right up front that blindness does not define us or our future, we are saying something that most people, blind and sighted, simply do not believe. This at least should grab the attention of the person listening.
The second sentence is almost as radical: “Every day we raise expectations for blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.” We have learned to our detriment about the soft bigotry of low expectations, and the NFB is all about believing in each other and ourselves.
The final sentence puts the hope of the Federation right out there, where the newly blind have to trip over it or change their way of thinking about blindness and their future. “You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.” It is always a good idea to have some useful and inspiring words memorized to pull out in stressful or discouraging moments. That is why so many churches encourage their members to memorize Bible verses. This is what the one-minute message is, an NFB scripture. Even when you can’t quite believe it, you can repeat it to yourself and tell yourself that your brothers and sisters believe it, and they believe it of you as well. I hope you will take the time to commit both of these brief statements to memory and build in the recital of them for your chapter meetings.
2019 NFB of Ohio Committee Charges and Appointments
Editor’s note: In January of each year President Payne appoints committees for the year. Here are this year’s appointments. For your information and convenience we have included each committee’s charge as well. The first name listed is the committee chair.
Charge: To oversee the awards process, to provide information and feedback when necessary, and to make reasonable judgments about NFBO awards
Heather Leiterman, Ali Benmerzouga, Emily Pennington, Jerry Purcell, and Annette Lutz
BELL ACADEMY COMMITTEE
Charge: To organize the BELL Program and plan efficient ways to promote and execute this very important academy
Eric Duffy, Debbie Baker, Michael Leiterman, Marianne Denning, Sherri Albers, and Barbara Pierce
COMMUNITY SERVICE COMMITTEE
Charge: To educate the Ohio Affiliate about the professional and personal benefits of community service, to encourage chapters, divisions, and individuals to participate in projects in their communities, to encourage members to identify or develop and implement their own service projects, and to educate the public about NFB philosophy and the skills and abilities blind people bring to community service
Cheryl E. Fields, Rachelle Broomfield, Kiana Hill, Amy Bonano, Wanda Sloan, William Turner, Gloria Robinson, and Janine Pickens
Charge: To make sure that all NFB-O constitutions follow the state and national constitutions, both philosophically and rhetorically
Colleen Roth and Barbara Pierce
CONVENTION PLANNING COMMITTEE
Charge: To assist and advise the president in the planning and execution of our state convention and to provide assistance in planning and executing affiliate activities at national conventions
Sherri Albers, Annette Lutz, Suzanne Hartfield-Turner, Andra Stover, Cassandra Jones, Sheila Hardy-Wilson, Dorothea Davis, and Jessica Stover
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COMMITTEE
Charge: To develop relationships with the domestic violence agencies in Ohio and to increase the amount of assistance offered to blind people experiencing domestic violence
Cheryl E. Fields, Ahkeela Cade, Gloria Robinson, Lilly Pennington, and Gerron Chapman
Charge: To advise the president about policies, legislation, strategies, and initiatives in which the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio should be engaged to improve educational opportunities for blind youth throughout the state
Debby Baker, Sandy Krems, and Ali Benmerzouga
FINANCING THE MOVEMENT COMMITTEE (SUN Coordinator, Jernigan Fund Coordinator, and PAC Coordinator)
Charge: To make members aware of these specific organizational fundraising opportunities and to implement strategies to increase participation throughout the year
Suzanne Hartfield-Turner (PAC), Sherri Ruth Jernigan Fund), and Colleen Roth (SUN)
Charge: To investigate additional opportunities to increase NFB-O resources and to implement effective fundraising strategies and programming
Deanna Lewis, Cassandra Jones, Angela Maddox , Gloria Robinson , and Lucas Cassi
Charge: To increase the organization’s visibility and effectiveness in the state legislature and to continue to support our efforts in Washington throughout the year
Co-chairs Sheri Albers and Mike Leiterman, Heather Leiterman, Suzanne Hartfield-Turner, Eric Duffy, Andra Stover, Pat McPherson, Barbara Pierce, and Ali Benmerzouga
Charge: To implement effective strategies to recruit and retain members and to reinvigorate the chapters and divisions of the NFB of Ohio
Co-chairs Suzanne Hartfield-Turner and Carolyn Peters, Annette Lutz, Dorothea Davis, Beverly Harris, and Gloria Robinson
PROMOTION AND PUBLICITY COMMITTEE
Charge: To promote and publicize the programs and events of the NFB of Ohio and to acquire as much positive publicity as possible for such activities
Dave Bertch, Walter Mitchell, and Ali Benmerzouga
Charge: To oversee the submission process and to write and distribute clearly articulated and philosophically sound resolutions
Barbara Pierce, Eric Duffy, Robert Spangler, Debbie Baker, and Michael Leiterman
Charge: To conduct the affiliate scholarship program and to develop and implement effective strategies to increase the visibility of the program and increase participation
Emily Pennington, Heather Leiterman, Michael Leiterman, and Cassandra Jones
SPECIAL PROJECTS COMMITTEE
Charge: To assist in finding corporate donations and to help find ways to fund the special projects and work of the affiliate and to assist wherever we have the need
Eric Duffy, Michael Leiterman, and Sheri Albers
Charge: To guide the affiliate’s strategy in dealing with public transportation around the state
Annette Lutz, Michael Leiterman, and Eric Duffy
VEHICLE DONATION COMMITTEE:
Charge: To see that more cars are donated to the NFB from Ohio
Owen McCafferty and Larry Rodriguez
WEBSITE AND NEWSLINE COMMITTEE
Charge: To assist with updating the content on the webpage and NEWSLINE, including advertising and promoting. The members of this committee must be very good computer users
Robert Spangler, Dave Bertch, Walter Mitchell, Sherri Albers, and Cheryl Fisher
Blindness: Dual Disabilities, the Federation, and Aira
by Eric Duffy
Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but they both had more than a healthy dose of common sense. I was born at least two months early in 1963. I was quickly placed in an incubator, which of course saved my life, but it also left me blind. I don’t know how old I was when my mom took me to the doctor and said to him, “This baby is blind.”
The doctor said, “Lady, there is nothing wrong with this baby.”
My mom said, “He doesn’t look around, and he doesn’t turn his head until he hears a sound.” She said, “I’ve had enough children to know what I’m talking about.”
After a little more convincing by my mom, the doctor performed some tests and told her she was right. He said, “Your son is blind, and the best you can do is to take him home, keep him clean, and take good care of him. Someone will have to care for him for the rest of his life.” That is the story my mom told me more than once many years later.
Of course my parents were devastated. They knew nothing about blindness. They had just been told that their youngest son was going to have to be cared for for the rest of his life. But their troubles weren’t over yet.
My mom soon noticed that I wasn’t reaching some of the appropriate milestones for movement, such as sitting up, crawling, and of course walking. The doctors eventually told her that I had cerebral palsy. They wanted her to put braces on my legs at night and get me into physical therapy.
I remember the braces and the physical therapy all too well. The braces were heavy, they felt tight on my legs, and, if they thought it was hard for me to walk before, what were they thinking the braces were going to do? So naturally I fought the braces and the therapy.
When I was still very young, I remember having two surgeries on my legs to lengthen muscles. For some little time I walked on my tiptoes. I remember being in casts for months. And of course there was more physical therapy.
When most kids my age were starting kindergarten and first grade, I was dealing with leg surgeries and their aftermath. I wasn’t thinking about school, and neither were my parents. I had to walk better before I could go to school, so I started school at a later age than most kids.
I have a younger sister, and of course she was walking, running, jumping, and doing a lot of physical activities long before I was. So at some point in my life I learned that I was different from everyone else in my family. I was told that I was blind. I was told that I couldn’t walk like everyone else. I don’t know when I heard the term “cerebral palsy” for the first time, but I do remember being told that I couldn’t do certain things until I learned to walk better.
I was also told that I was going to go to the school for the blind and that I was going to have to stay there during the week and come home on the weekends. I wanted no part of that. When the day came for me to go to the school for testing, I told my mom that I wasn’t going to do it. She could take me there, but I wasn’t going to talk to them.
Well, I did what I said I wasn’t going to do, and they got the testing done. I don’t remember how that happened. But they told my mom that I wasn’t going to be able to read and write Braille. They said that my hands weren’t strong enough. I heard my mom telling other people this. By that time, I wanted to learn to read and write Braille. I was placed in the classroom of first grade teacher Mary Butler. She started teaching me to read and write Braille. I started school in April, and by June I could read and write Braille as well as anyone in my class. In fact, one evening, when my dad came to pick me up, they called him into the office and asked him who was teaching me Braille at home. He said that no one was. No one in my family knew Braille. They told him they couldn’t believe how fast I was learning Braille.
Of course their concerns about my physical strength were put to rest. I played on the playground, took physical education, and did the same things that the rest of the kids did. To their credit, that is exactly what the teachers and staff at the school encouraged me to do. I soon figured out that I couldn’t run, jump, and do some of the things that the others in my class could do. I also didn’t take long to figure out that, if I could use my upper body to compensate in any way for the leg strength that I didn’t have, I would have a great equalizer. I started to do things to build my upper body strength. While everyone else was running around, I was hanging on the monkey bars and the jungle gym. I knew that I could build my hand and arm strength and that doing so was going to be to my advantage. I don’t remember anyone telling me to do this. It just made sense.
As most boys do, my friends and I liked to wrestle, and yes, occasionally we got into fights. Word soon had it that whatever you do you can’t let Duffy get his hands on you. If he gets his hands on you, it’s all over. You’re done.
I wrestled in elementary school and made the high school varsity team. Balance and leg strength just weren’t a big issue anymore. I completed all of my physical education requirements, from which I could have gotten an exemption. At some point I got smart enough to realize the long-term value of physical therapy, and I actually volunteered for it. So it went throughout my time at the school for the blind until it came to orientation and mobility.
I was given basic cane travel instruction. In fact, I had permission to leave the campus alone and travel to nearby locations. As I continued to work with instructors, however, they became concerned with the fact that I fell occasionally. For me it was not a big deal. I fell, got up, and kept going. But the school decided that they were no longer going to give me orientation and mobility instruction. When I asked what I was supposed to do when I started college, I was told, “You’re smart enough to figure it out.”
Figure it out I did. I taught myself to use the bus system in Columbus. I was soon traveling wherever I wanted to go. I then began to question why so many people were nervous about traveling in new places alone. Why did we have to have these highly educated professionals teaching travel? It just didn’t seem to be a big deal.
As I began spending time around other Federationists, I learned that there were others who didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to get from one point to another. Like me they thought traveling as a blind person just wasn’t something to spend a whole lot of time thinking and worrying about. I got a lot of good tips from Barbara Pierce and Bob Eschbach.
There came a time when I was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. This meant that I was also traveling on behalf of the organization. Sometimes during that travel I would fall. No one made a big deal of those falls. One time, as I was walking through a gas station with a glass Coke bottle in my hand, my foot hit a pump island. I went down. Of course the bottle broke, and my hand was cut. The cut seemed bad, so I went to a nearby fire station and from there to an urgent care center. I went from the urgent care center to an emergency room, where they told me I needed stitches. I won’t take up space here describing everything I said to try to convince the doctors that I didn’t need stitches. Let’s just say that they weren’t amused when I started talking about what I had learned about stitches in medical school.
Long before that point I had come to understand that society tends to judge all blind people on interactions with one or two blind people. I was proud of the work that the Federation was doing and that I was beginning to be a part of the leadership in Ohio. But I also knew I had balance problems. I did not want people to judge our work and our organization based on my falls. I called Barbara Pierce and told her what had happened. I also told her that, if she thought I should, I was prepared to resign from the board.
She said she wouldn’t hear of it. She said, “You didn’t fall because you’re blind.” After that point I had no more questions. It was a refreshing change to go from a school where I was told that I wasn’t good enough for its orientation and mobility program to an organization that embraced me.
I have often heard people criticize the Federation by saying that we are not accepting of people with multiple disabilities. When it is pointed out that I have a disability other than blindness and that I am a leader in the Ohio affiliate, the critics don’t know how to respond. I was once walking with Jim Gashel and other Federationists at a rather fast pace while Jim was still employed as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Federation. We were walking on some narrow and rather uneven sidewalks. Jim asked if I would like to take his arm. I did, and I began to explain about the cerebral palsy. Jim simply said, “I know,” and we didn’t discuss it any further.
John Paré has always been good about pointing out ramps and asking whether or not I need assistance when steps were the best way to go. President Riccobono has done the same thing when we have walked together. All of this is part of the reason I say the Federation is an accepting family that I’m proud to be a part of.
In 2016 I began to use what was then a new service called Aira. When signing up for the service, I created an online profile. I was asked if there were health issues or medical concerns that I wanted Aira to know about. I did not mention the cerebral palsy. I said nothing about balance concerns.
While taking my first walk using the Aira glasses, I hit my foot on the bottom of a construction fence. The Aira agent had told me the fence was there, and I touched it with my cane. Nevertheless, as I walked along the fence, my foot hit one of the supports that were sticking out, and I went down. I popped up quickly and went on walking. Of course the agent asked me if I was ok, and I said I was fine. I continued my walk to the Walgreen’s store. When I reached into my pocket to get my wallet, I noticed there was a problem with the little finger on my left hand. Actually, I thought I had broken it. That night I spent several hours in the emergency room only to find out that it was a sprain. I never told anyone at Aira until about 18 months later when I had lunch with the agent with whom I had been working when the fall happened.
In late July of 2017 I was walking to a barber shop in Baltimore. The Aira agent told me I was approaching construction ahead. She suggested that I turn around, walk back to the corner, cross the street, get past the construction, and cross the street again. I said no, that sounded way too time-consuming. I said I would step out into the street and get around the construction that way. Wouldn’t you know it, my foot hit a traffic cone, and I went down. A very concerned Aira agent asked if I was ok, and I told her that I was. I could hear the concern in her voice, and I tried to reassure her. I continued my walk to the barber shop, got my haircut, and walked back to the Jernigan Institute.
Later that evening I received a call from an Aira team lead. He and I had developed a good rapport. He said he was calling out of personal concern and because the Aira agent had reported my fall and that she was very concerned. I assured him that I was fine and that there was no further need for concern.
I knew then, however, that something had to change. I then called my friend Amy, who is still a vice president at Aira. I explained what had happened, and of course she was already aware of my fall. I told her about the cerebral palsy. I told her that it is something I have dealt with all of my life. I explained that I know how to fall without getting hurt. I also said that, If I needed medical assistance after a fall while I was working with an Aira agent, I would let the agent know. I told Amy that I understand that the agents will be concerned when I fall and that in fact I appreciate the concern. But I said that I am always going to fall. Sometimes I will fall while working with an Aira agent. “But somehow, some way you have to help me deliver the message to the agents that, if I fall and tell them that I’m ok, I am ok. We should go on as normal. I can’t have agents panic every time I fall.”
Much to Amy’s credit and to that of Aira, the message has gotten through. New agents get it as well. My falling is not a big deal to me, to the Federation, or to Aira, and that is how it should be.
I believe Aira has saved me from many falls. They can spot uneven terrain ahead and warn me of it in advance. They point out rough or cracked sidewalk. As I get older, falling takes a bigger toll on my arms and shoulders, so I appreciate it when an Aira agent or anyone else for that matter helps me avoid a fall.
Aira has a policy that requires agents to remain silent while an explorer is crossing the street. At first glance this policy makes sense. However, many people want to know when they are veering into the parallel traffic. This kind of information can be extremely helpful to those with hearing loss. I would like to know when I am veering, and I would also like to be directed to the curb cut. An agent giving direction while I am crossing can help me avoid a fall. I am one of Aira’s biggest champions, and I have been since the first time I used it on that walk to Walgreen’s when I sprained my finger. I will continue to champion Aira, but I am making a simple request. Let me check a box, sign a waiver, or do something to indicate that I understand the company’s street-crossing policy, but I am waiving liability in order to get the information I need.
I know many of the people in the administration of Aira. They are good people, and I believe they want to provide the best service possible while protecting the best interests of the company. I have been told at this point there will be no exceptions. I don’t like it, but I understand. I will continue to use Aira just as much as I always have. I will continue to champion the service as much as I always have. But I am intelligent enough to ask for the information I need and use it in a responsible and appropriate way. Aira has made my life easier, and the dual disability has not been a problem for them or for my Federation family.
The 2019 National Fact Sheets
Editor’s note: The following article is one you should keep. We have removed the footnotes and much of the eye candy present to keep sighted readers interested. The result is a document that is easier for screen-reader users to read and master. If you plan to send a fact sheet to a member of Congress, we suggest that you go to the NFB website (nfb.org) and pull down the fancy version and send that.
We are happy to report that on March 15 the Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) was introduced in the Senate as S. 815 by John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) along with eight other Senators from both parties. I regret to say that none was from Ohio. We should all make a point of notifying both Senator Brown and Senator Portman to urge them to cosponsor S. 815, which would certainly assist blind Ohioans. Please save the article below for reference throughout this year. Here are the fact sheets:
Access Technology Affordability Act
THE COST OF CRITICALLY NEEDED ACCESS TECHNOLOGY IS OUT OF REACH
FOR MOST BLIND AMERICANS
The high cost of access technology creates a difficult economic reality. Most access technology ranges from $1,000 to $6,000. For example, a leading screen reader is $900, a popular Braille note taker is $5,495, one model of a refreshable Braille display is $2,795, and a moderately priced Braille embosser is $3,695. According to the United States Census Bureau 71 percent of blind Americans are either unemployed or underemployed. Consequently, most blind Americans do not have sufficient financial resources needed to purchase these items. These financial barriers can ultimately lead to a loss of employment, insufficient education, or even isolation from community activities.
Medical insurance will not cover the cost of access technology. Current definitions of “medical care,” “medical necessity,” and “durable medical equipment” within common insurance policies do not include access technology. These definitions were adopted in the 1960s “when medical care was viewed primarily as curative and palliative, with little or no consideration given to increasing an individual’s functional status.” Many states’ Medicaid programs and individual health insurance plans have adopted similar definitions and likewise will not cover the cost of access technology.
Access technology enables blind Americans to participate in today’s workforce. Blindness is well-defined and measurable, but affects each person differently and at different ages. Since individuals’ needs differ, manufacturers have designed various tools that enable each blind American to perform tasks that they were once unable to accomplish themselves due to their blindness. Braille note takers are frequently used in schools, screen reading software allows workers to check their email at home, and screen magnification software can help seniors losing vision learn about community activities. Access technology equips blind Americans to seek employment and stay employed. For the 71percent of blind Americans who are either unemployed or underemployed, it is a vehicle that facilitates the job seeking process. Despite this critical need however, public and private entities struggle to meet consumer demand. This leads to untimely delays in the delivery of necessary technology and ultimately harms the blind consumer.
Access Technology Affordability Act:
Makes access technology more affordable so that blind Americans can procure these items for themselves. It establishes a refundable tax credit for blind Americans in the amount of $2,000 to be used over a three-year period to offset the cost of access technology. The credit created by ATAA will sunset after five years, and will be indexed for inflation.
Provides flexibility for individuals to obtain access technology based upon their specific needs. Accessibility requires an individualized assessment of one’s own skills and needs. Therefore, blind Americans should be given the opportunity to procure access technology on their own to ensure that they are receiving the tools that are most useful for them.
Historically, Congress has implemented tax incentives (e.g., Disabled Access Credit) for business owners required to make accommodations, including access technology, for employees and patrons with disabilities. Even though Congress created these tax incentives to increase accessibility in the community, these incentives are underutilized. Meanwhile, blind Americans primarily depend on public and private entities to procure access technology for them.
IMPROVE AFFORDABILITY OF CRITICALLY NEEDED ACCESS TECHNOLOGY NECESSARY FOR EMPLOYMENT AND INDEPENDENT LIVING.
For more information, contact:
Kimie Eacobacci, Government Affairs Specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2441
For more information visit www.nfb.org.
Greater Accessibility and Independence through Nonvisual Access Technology (GAIN) Act
ADVANCED DIGITAL INTERFACES CREATE BARRIERS THAT PREVENT BLIND INDIVIDUALS FROM INDEPENDENTLY OPERATING ESSENTIAL DEVICES THAT ENHANCE QUALITY OF LIFE.
Home use medical devices, home appliances, and fitness equipment are becoming less and less accessible for blind Americans. The rapid proliferation of advanced technology is undeniable. Most new stoves, glucose monitors, and treadmills now require that consumers interact with a digital display, flat panels, and other user interfaces. This new technology is inaccessible to blind individuals and creates a modern-day barrier. Inaccessibility is not a mere inconvenience; it can threaten the safety, health, and independence of blind Americans. Advancements in technology have the potential to transform how people live in a society but are designed for those with no functional limitations. This flaw in product design limits options for blind Americans who need nonvisual access to important devices that are available to people without disabilities.
Nonvisual access is achievable, as demonstrated by a number of mainstream products. Apple has incorporated VoiceOver (a text-to-speech function) into its touch-screen products, making the iPhone, iPod, and iPad fully accessible to blind people right out of the box. Virtually all ATMs manufactured in the United States are accessible, and every polling place provides a nonvisually accessible voting machine. Frequently, a simple audio output or vibrotactile feature can make a product fully accessible at minimal cost.
Current disability laws are not able to keep up with advancements in technology. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws require physical accessibility for people with disabilities (e.g., wheelchair ramps, Braille in public buildings), no laws protect blind consumers’ right to access technology such as home use medical devices, home appliances, or fitness equipment. The National Council on Disability concluded that accessibility standards lag behind the rapid pace of technology, which can interfere with technology access. This trend of inaccessibility will continue if accessibility solutions are ignored. Only a fraction of manufacturers have incorporated nonvisual access standards into their product design while others continue to resist these solutions.
Greater Accessibility and Independence through Nonvisual Access Technology Act:
Calls on the Access Board to conduct a nonvisual access standard review. The Access Board (an independent federal agency and leading source of information on accessible design) will review the current marketplace, consult with stakeholders and manufacturers, and will issue a report with findings and recommendations for a minimum nonvisual access standard for home use medical devices, home appliances, and fitness equipment.
Establishes a minimum nonvisual access standard for home use medical devices, home appliances, and fitness equipment. Six months after the Access Board publishes the above-mentioned report, the Board will begin a rulemaking period, not to exceed 36 months, to establish a minimum nonvisual access standard for home use medical devices, home appliances, and fitness equipment. The final standard will go into effect three years after the final rule.
Authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce the nonvisual access standards for home use medical devices. Under its authority to ensure the safety, efficacy, and security of gmedical devices, the FDA will investigate and prosecute violations of manufacturers who fail to comply with the standard.
Authorizes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the nonvisual accessibility standards for home appliances and fitness equipment. Under its authority to investigate and enforce consumer protection matters, the FTC will investigate and prosecute violations of manufacturers who fail to comply with the standard.
END THE DIGITAL DIVIDE FOR BLIND AMERICANS.
Sponsor the Greater Accessibility and Independence
through Nonvisual Access Technology Act.
For more information, contact:
Stephanie Flynt, Government Affairs Specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2210
For more information visit www.nfb.org.
Disability Employment Act
AN OUTDATED APPROACH TO EMPLOYMENT FAILS TO ADEQUATELY EQUIP WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES FOR THE CHALLENGES OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY.
The Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (JWOD) is a well-intentioned but obsolete law intended to provide employment for people with disabilities through specialized government contracts. Enacted in 1938, the Wagner-O’Day Act required that government agencies prioritize the procurement of products produced by blind people. In 1971 the program was expanded to become the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, and to include nonprofit agencies employing persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities., While the originally intended goals of the program are noble, the current structure falls short of those ideals by failing to equip workers with the necessary skillsets to compete in the twenty-first century workforce.
The work experience provided by the AbilityOne Program does not utilize or teach the skills required for today’s fast-paced digital work environment. Many workers with disabilities employed under the AbilityOne Program are assigned menial, repetitive tasks, which do nothing to equip them with the skills needed to succeed and advance in a modern workplace. As a result, many of these individuals find themselves trapped in these jobs for years, if not decades, with no real hope to advance or find new employment opportunities elsewhere.
The AbilityOne Program thrives on specialized contracts while at the same time paying employees with disabilities subminimum wages. Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue Special Wage Certificates to certain entities, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages. The vast majority of 14(c)-certificate-holding entities are nonprofit “sheltered workshops” (segregated work environments) that pay over 300,000 workers with disabilities, some as little as pennies per hour. Additionally, the failure of the AbilityOne Commission to adequately manage its own financial resources and display an appropriate level of transparency has eroded public confidence in the program.
AbilityOne sheltered workshops create a segregated work environment that is antithetical to competitive integrated employment. The current structure requires that the majority of the work performed on AbilityOne contracts is carried out by employees with disabilities at specialized nonprofits. These specialized nonprofits create an artificially inclusive work environment. Additionally, the current structure incentivizes excluding workers with disabilities from advancement to administrative, managerial, or supervisory positions. This results in people with disabilities stagnating in the same job for years or decades without creating opportunities for advancement to employers outside the program. This model also fails by not sharing best practices to employers outside the program in order to broaden its impact.
Disability Employment Act:
Will expand bidding opportunities within the program. The Disability Employment Act will allow for-profit as well as nonprofit entities to bid on contracts through a newly created commission.
Will ensure that workers earn at least the prevailing wage. The bill will prohibit the use of 14(c) certificates and will require employers to pay workers with disabilities at least the minimum wage, or if greater, the prevailing wage.
Will equip employers with the necessary tools and supports to integrate workers with disabilities. The bill establishes an Employment Integration Trust Fund to assist employers to meet reasonable accommodation requirements under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers will have access to financial assistance to ensure that the technology they use is accessible; to train design, development, and manufacturing teams on best practices; and to provide the necessary supports required by individuals with other severe disabilities. This will improve disability employment practices across all sectors of employment.
Will better integrate with the Randolph-Sheppard Program. The bill will honor the Randolph-Sheppard Priority for all military dining contracts, including cafeterias.
Will eliminate the conflicts of interest and lack of accountability in the current program. The bill will change the composition of the commission, restructure the way the contracts are awarded, and create a trust fund to support the organic integration of workers with disabilities into the mainstream workforce.
INCREASE AND ENHANCE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.
Sponsor the Disability Employment Act.
For more information, contact:
Gabe Cazares, Manager of Government Affairs, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2206
For more information visit www.nfb.org.
Washington Seminar Experience 2019
by Andra Stover
Editor’s note: Andra Stover is a member of our newest chapter, the Greater Akron Chapter. She was one of two first-timers from Ohio at the Washington Seminar. It is always good to have new people along because it is such a great learning experience. Ten were in this year’s delegation. We divided into five teams of two each. Ali Benmerzouga, the other first-timer, was paired with Suzanne Turner. Everyone tries to see both Senators, and the House members are divided among the groups. Most of us saw three members this year, so we could get things done pretty quickly. Senator Portman refused to make an appointment to see us, saying that we could drop into his constituent coffee on Wednesday morning. Then he canceled the coffee because of weather. This is what Andra has to say about her experience:
This was my first year participating in what I consider to be one of the most important elements of being a part of change for the blind. Let me start by saying that this was also my first time traveling by myself since I lost most of my sight. While at my first state convention, I learned about the Washington Seminar. I have to be honest; when they first mentioned the words, “going to Capitol Hill,” I pictured a bunch of blind people standing outside on the Capitol steps holding large signs and chanting about equality for the blind or something related to that. When I found out that we were actually going to have appointments with individual Representatives and that we would be armed with a prepared presentation of the legislative issues, I was all in. One of the things that caught my attention and stuck with me was the fact that every one of us on the trip to Washington was blind or low-vision. No sighted people were assisting along the way. This experience has given me even more confidence as I plan to travel more in the future. I would like to thank the National Federation of the Blind for allowing me to participate in such a life-enhancing experience; this far exceeded my expectations. I am excited to take part in the Columbus Seminar in April, as well as returning to Capitol Hill in 2020.
Living With and Without Sight: Stuck in the Transition, the Federation Way
by Sheri Albers
Editor’s note: One of the most moving presentations at the state convention in November of 2018 was delivered by Sheri Albers, NFB of Ohio vice president and president of the NFB of Cincinnati. She told her personal story of coming to terms with blindness, and her honesty and eagerness to help those listeners who were struggling with the same issues captured the attention of the audience. We reprint her talk here in the hope that reading the text will help readers struggling with these issues and perhaps energize those who are grappling with the ideas. This is what she said:
When my affiliate president first asked me to speak on this topic at our state convention, I hesitated and had to ask where this idea had come from. He told me that he had been getting a lot of calls from people who were losing their sight but who did not consider themselves blind. They were struggling because sometimes they thought that everything was perfectly fine, and other times it was not. They also did not know whether they needed an organization of blind people. Before I begin, I want to preface my remarks by saying that this is strictly my story, and I hope you will look for the similarities to your situation and not get hung up on the differences.
I have a weird eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. It is weird because whenever anybody asks what I can see, I say, “Well, it depends.” It is hard for me to answer, because my vision is dependent on many variables: time of day, light, tiredness, etc. They are usually sorry they asked. Sometimes I just say that I have enough vision to get me into trouble.
Another thing about RP is that very little was known about the disease when my sister Lynn and I were both diagnosed at early ages in the 1960’s. My parents were told by doctors that there was nothing they could do, there was no cure, and we would most likely go blind. I think after the words, “there was nothing they could do,” my parents shut down and couldn’t come to terms with the rest.
I began at an early age to develop my own techniques for doing things, all with the purpose of hiding the fact that I had vision loss. Unfortunately, because I cannot see details very well, recognizing faces is very difficult, and everyone thought I was a snob. I would not say “hi” in the hallways at school or wave across the parking lot to people. Needless to say, I never had a large group of friends growing up, and that remained true going into adulthood. The funny thing is, there was a blind guy in my high school whose name was Ricky, and he was even in some of my science classes. He had this cane and used this noisy typewriter to take notes in class. I avoided him like the plague. Now I think he was the coolest kid in school!
For most of my life I have felt more often that I was perfectly fine and that I had everything under control. I had developed quite a system and even had certain people recruited to be my bodyguards. They would look out for potential hazards for me. My best friend Terry, who worked at SEIKO with me, was very good at placing herself at my left side when we walked down the hall. She would whisper to me who was coming towards us so that I could say “hi.” She would always help me to get lunch in the cafeteria or even nonchalantly guide me if we went out with the bosses. She had it down pat. I had learned at work to look directly at the person speaking, even if I couldn’t quite see the face, and I always shook hands with fellow executives, not only because my father taught me that was good business practice, but because it was a great way to know who was in the room. Of course there was also my husband Chuck, who guided me everywhere I went and whom I ended up resenting for having too much control over me.
As I got older, however, I found that the times I felt out of control were markedly increasing. My vision had been changing for the worse, and I found that I could not always rely on other people to provide the information I needed.
What did this mean for me when I had always done things for myself a certain way and now these techniques were not working? What feelings did this bring up that I did not want anyone else to know about because it would mean I was failing or showing weakness? Inadequacy and fear are the two things that come to mind. Living with these ruling my life was no way for me to live.
First was inadequacy, which came from feeling that the techniques that I had always used to get by were still working, but there was always the chance that at any moment they might stop working. Second was fear, which I have learned to call self-centered fear. I define this as “being afraid of losing what I have or not getting what I want.” It comes from not knowing what my vision will be like from day to day and fearing that someday it will be totally gone.
Even though my sister and I both had RP, we were not very close growing up. Lynn was eight years older than I and was out of the house when I was nine years old. Anyway, in 2003, after I had already been out of New Jersey for 10 years, she invited me to my first NFB national convention. This is where I found out what it really meant to be blind. This started one of the toughest journeys of my life, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Why was my introduction to the NFB so difficult? For one thing, I realized that everything that I knew about blindness and how I was living my life were completely messed up. I faced the jumping-off point: either I got on board and made changes to the way I thought and the way I did things in order to be able to live an independent life, or I remained living with feelings of inadequacy and fear. Next I saw the potential of what I could achieve, but I had absolutely no idea of how to get there. I had given up on so many of my dreams of ever having another career or going out on my own that to conjure them up again was just inconceivable.
Making the necessary changes was not going to be easy. You see, living the life I was living had been all I knew for so long that it was sickly comfortable. Now I could not claim ignorance; I have seen that there were solutions, and the possibilities were endless.
So I started with the long white cane. “Go big, or go home,” I guess. By this time, most people knew there was something strange about me, so what was the big deal if I broke out the cane? I actually had a twisted thought that, when they finally saw the cane, they would feel ashamed for the mean things they had said behind my back. So I got good mobility training, and I could now travel independently.
I registered with our state rehabilitation agency in order to get back to work. I received technology training to learn ZoomText, not JAWS, because of the amount of vision that I still had. This opened up the technology world for me, and, if I had had this assistance available when I worked at SEIKO, maybe I could have stayed longer.
I then took it upon myself to learn Braille, because at age forty-five it hit me that I could not read or write. Being illiterate was no longer acceptable. I had ambitions of getting back to work or seeking another degree. I traveled an hour and a half by bus to visit Bernie Dressell, who taught me Braille. I then had a means of reading and writing. I was able to go back to college and successfully take notes in school. Unfortunately, I preferred electronic formats of documents, so my Braille got rusty.
Today I am completely immersed in the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and have taken on a lot of responsibilities. I have met many, many blind people in the past fifteen years, but I still feel that I do not totally belong in the blind world, and I definitely do not belong in the sighted world.
This is not all in my mind. Unfortunately, among the Federation a hierarchy of sorts exists that I had let influence my thinking, especially in my early years. For instance, I had a good friend who used to tell me that I did not “look blind enough” when we went shopping, so therefore I should stand away from the clerks, or we would not get any help from them.
Another example of feeling that I did not belong was when I would be introducing myself at an NFB event. Sometimes people would be curious and ask about my blindness. Knowing that I did not look blind, I would sheepishly say that I still had a little bit of sight, and the friend, who was totally blind, would say, “Well, you have the real deal with me!” In other words, I was not blind enough. Oh, but wait, if there were a situation where sight came in handy, such as finding the bar, I was your woman! Now all these resentments, real or imagined, imprinted my brain.
I still have feelings of inadequacy and fear, and they were never stronger than when I was at my last job interview, which was with OOD, our state rehabilitation agency. The first thing they said to me was, “Sheri, did you request reasonable accommodations for this interview?”
As an intense feeling of panic washed over me, I said, “No, why would I have needed it?” I looked down at the table and noticed a packet of print material, a pad of paper, and a pen. For the next hour I answered a series of essay interview questions that the three OOD representatives scored. I walked out of there feeling as if I had been in front of a firing squad. Here’s where the problem came in, and it was my problem, not theirs. I let my insecurity and fear overwhelm me. I could not see will enough to read the print copy of the questions in the packet in front of me; I could not see well enough to write notes on the pad of paper as the questions were being read to me in order to answer them better. I was afraid that if I asked them to repeat the questions too many times, I would seem stupid. I was afraid that I did not know Braille well enough to get out my Apex and try to use it in front of them. I was not sighted enough, and I was not blind enough.
What do I mean when I say that I was not blind enough? I feel deep down in my soul that if I had allowed myself to be blind instead of fighting it for so long, I could have been living my life as a successful blind person with all the proper blindness training. I wasted so much time trying to fit into both worlds that, instead, I did not have all the skills needed to kick ass at that interview, to have a fair shot at getting the job.
I now know the meaning of why I am here to speak to you today. In our one-minute speech, we say, “You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.” These words cannot be truer in my life. It has been my sight that has been holding me back, not blindness. I am holding on to something that keeps letting me down time after time. I just didn’t want to admit it. I do not know how I could have strayed from my life-long mantra, “I walk by faith, not by sight.” I am going to close with a great quote that I heard while binge watching one of my favorite TV shows, Criminal Minds: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light”—Helen Keller.
Aira at the Columbus Airport
by Marla Matzer Rose
Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the March 1, 2019, edition of the Columbus Dispatch.
Like a lot of people, Eric Duffy used to dread going to the airport. His foreboding wasn’t because of the lines or a fear of flying. Duffy, 56, hated the frustration of navigating a busy airport as a blind person. On Thursday Duffy and his wife Shelley were able to walk through the airport, check the flight-status board, and use a check-in kiosk by themselves. That’s because John Glenn Columbus International Airport has become one of a small but growing number of airports around the world that have partnered with the California tech firm Aira, enabling Aira’s remote agents to “see” via a small camera built into glasses worn by their subscribers and to talk those subscribers through tasks that sighted people take for granted.
“This is so liberating,” said Duffy, who started using Aira in its beta phase in 2016. “Now, instead of being led by my arm or offered a wheelchair—I say, ‘I don’t need a wheelchair, I can walk’ — I can choose where I want to stop for food, see what my flight status is, and check in by myself.”
Duffy, who’s lived in central Ohio most of his life since growing up in Newark and attending the Ohio State School for the Blind and Otterbein College, has become such a fan of Aira that he’s started doing demonstrations and sales for the San Diego-based company. The company doesn’t disclose its number of subscribers, though it’s thought to be in the thousands; users pay $600 for glasses and earphones and a monthly subscription fee of $100 to $200 for 120 or 300 minutes per month. Sight-impaired military veterans can get the service at a steep discount through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Airports are one of the most popular places to use the service, which is now also available in El Paso, Texas; Houston; and London’s Heathrow Airport, among others. David Whitaker, chief commercial officer for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, said the only cost to the airport is partnering with the American Association of Airport Executives to cover fees for Aira members using the service while on airport property. No equipment had to be installed for the “geo-fencing” that allows Aira to direct a customer through the airport.
Sitting at a computer miles away, Aira agent Janelle on Thursday told Duffy when to turn and what to do as he made his way through the terminal at John Glenn Airport. As he faced the flight-status board, she told him that his flight was running on time and what gate it was leaving from. Aira is available 24/7, providing a much-appreciated assist to subscribers to do everything from reading their mail to sorting laundry.
“I only hope this is the first of many places in Columbus that will get on board with this,” Duffy said. “We’d like to see this at restaurants, museums…. It would make a tremendous difference. The airport doing this says to me that they care about accessibility.”
Membership Lessons from Humpty Dumpty
by Suzanne Turner
Editor’s note: Suzanne Turner co-chairs the NFB of Ohio Membership Committee. She recently posted the following thoughts to the Ohio listserv. Here it is again:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Today I heard this from an inspiring leader. It appeared to me that Humpty sat on that wall all by himself, and, when he fell, a lot of horses and men must have rushed to put him back together again. Although I feel for Humpty, I cannot help thinking that, if I were to fall, my National Federation of the Blind family, who look like me, would know just what to do to put me back together and return me to that wall.
You see, Humpty was an egg and not a horse or king’s man. So who better to put him back together than another egg? Just think of that. Aren’t you glad that we, the National Federation of the Blind, have a network of tens of thousands of blind members who are living full lives, who look like you and share your experience? These members are not broken sighted people. So, if you need to be put back together again, the blind have your back.
These are blind members who are living the lives they want. And these blind members are willing to come to your aid. These are mentors, ministers, students; they are teachers, federal workers, and business owners. They even engage in recreation. But never doubt that they are brothers and sisters who are bound with us in a collective and unified way.
Now repeat after me: we are blind, not broken sighted people. We are blind, but that is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. We are blind, and we will not be stopped. We are blind, and we pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. We are blind, and we do not all sing and play the piano. We are a cross-section of the broader society; therefore we are not all alike. We are blind, but with proper training and opportunity we can live the lives we want.
Ohio, let’s work together to remove low expectations and misconceptions about the blind. We must denounce and combat those who do not understand us, their prejudices and fears. We cannot allow these obstacles to stand between blind people and our dreams and drive us off course. Dr. Jernigan said, “We are the National Federation of the Blind, and we will never go back!” Go back where, you ask? Back to working in sheltered workshops and being paid less than the minimum wage; back while manufacturers build inaccessible digital interfaces for products like home appliances and diabetes management equipment; dealing with increasingly inaccessible software, hardware, and websites for students, employees, and seniors; being forced to accept unreadable print prescription leaflets, dosage instructions, and other health warnings from local pharmacies; and stand by helplessly while physicians, social workers, and the legal system prevent blind parents from nurturing and caring for their children. We will continue to fight for equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. This is why the Washington and Columbus Seminars are crucial for you and me to participate in. We do it for all blind children, blind teenagers, blind seniors, and our blind sisters and brothers.
Finally, we can do this together. If you can’t walk, call. If you can’t call, email. If you can’t give financially, you can give your time, dedication, and commitment. Let’s go build the Federation!
On Monday, March 4, Sherri Albers began training for a new job with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) as a vocational rehabilitation caseload assistant. She is involved with the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board Contract. She promises to do her best to make us proud. We know that she will, and we wish her all the best.
Andra Stover and Dave Bertsch, president of the Akron chapter, addressed the Summit County Council. After speaking with a Council member a few weeks ago, they had been asked to come in and talk about the new NFB chapter. Dave started with some info about how the chapter has grown since its formation last summer and a description of the NFB’s mission to advance the social and economic equality, security, and opportunity of the blind in the Akron area and how they achieve these goals, touching on scholarships and training programs, advocacy, and legislation. Andra then spoke about her experience in Washington and the legislative issues the NFB championed there, such as the Greater Accessibility and Independence through Nonvisual Access Technology (GAIN) Act, the Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA), and the Disabled Employment Act (DEA), and for Columbus they named the primary initiatives this year, including the rights of blind parents, modifications to service animal legislation, and accessible medications and prescriptions. They stressed the importance of all these issues. They ended by asking the eleven members of Council and the county executive to take what they had learned and the printed information Dave and Andra passed out back to their districts and the community. The Council president commented at the end that he had learned a lot of things he did not know, and the Council promised their support.
The NFB of Springfield announces a fundraiser concert Friday, May 24, 2019, at Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company, promoted by Kevin Loftus, co-owner of Mother Stewart’s, 102 W. Columbia Street, Springfield, OH 45504. The concert performers will be vocalist and instrumentalist Michael Cowan, husband of Gail Cowan, secretary of the NFB of Springfield, and our own Dr. Feelgood, JW Smith, past president of the NFB of Ohio. Admission is free, though donations are welcome. The concert is from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Mr. Loftus has also agreed to donate one additional dollar per beer ordered to the NFB of Springfield.
Eric Duffy writes: in late January the Capital Chapter celebrated Louis Braille’s birthday with many of the students at the Ohio State School for the Blind. We talked about the history of the Braille code and the importance of Braille today. We also talked about the work and programs of the National Federation of the Blind. We heard from some of the students regarding activities they were involved in at the school and their future plans. Of course there was plenty of pizza to go around.
State Representative Erica Crawly came to the Capital Chapter’s March Chapter meeting. She is a freshman legislator with a lot of energy and compassion for her constituents. We are proud to report that she said she would take the lead on our parental rights legislation.
The Capital Chapter is selling phone pouches for $7. These pouches will hold your iPhone or your Horizon Phone if you are an Aira user. They have a lanyard that you can wear around your neck. We will have them available during the April training weekend in Columbus. You may also call Shelley Duffy at 1-614-579-0974 to complete your purchase.
President Carolyn Peters reports upcoming events for the NFB of the Miami Valley: 23rd annual fundraising spaghetti dinner, Saturday, May 11; Miami Valley chapter vision fair-Wednesday, June 26, with Goodwill and Easter Seals; annual chapter picnic, Saturday, August 10.
The NFB of Springfield elections were held last December with the following results: president, Debbie Baker; vice president, Susan Day; secretary, Gail Cowan; treasurer, Crystal McClain; and Board member, Hans Wagner.
We are sorry to report that the Greater Akron Chapter’s vice president Kiana Hill is hospitalized with a recalcitrant form of pneumonia. She still intends to be in Columbus for the seminar in early April. Our prayers and best wishes go out to Kiana.
Suzanne Turner reports that the Cleveland chapter has sixty-three members with three people looking to join. Cleveland began rolling up our sleeves starting in January, celebrating Louis Braille’s birthday with over forty elementary children at St. Adalbert Elementary School. Cheryl Fields and Ronnie Leath distributed Braille cards, introduced guide dog Peaches, and the white cane, demonstrating how the blind travel independently. Also Theresa McKenney, Cheryl Fields, and Jerry Purcell from the Cuyahoga chapter visited several community centers, passing out literature, introducing hand-held assistive devices, and communicating the attitudes of the National Federation of the Blind.
Suzanne Turner has ensured that new members are welcomed into a loving and strong organization by encouraging them to attend the new member orientation conference call that she facilitated last year.
In February the chapter celebrated Black History Month by focusing on Two Federation leaders each week, including Ron Brown, who is second vice president of the NFB, and Richard Payne, who is our Ohio affiliate president.
In March Cleveland is celebrating Women’s History Month by honoring female leaders in the movement, such as Barbara Pierce, who is the Ohio President Emerita, and Ever Lee Hairston, who sits on the national Board of Directors. You can read all of their biographies on our Cleveland Chapter Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/NationalFederationOfTheBlindOfOhioClevelandChapter/. Stay tuned for April’s celebration. It will prove to be the best month yet.
In February the Cleveland chapter was ready when a legislative alert from the national legislative team called on everyone to contact their Congressional Representatives to cosponsor the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act. Cleveland immediately gathered together for a conference call to discuss the necessary information to contact Ohio’s Senators to support S. 260 and our Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 873. About 18 Cleveland members emailed and made those critical telephone calls. These efforts have taught Cleveland to be alert, knowledgeable, and readily available to make needed contacts when called upon at the state or national level.
We congratulate four members–Shirley Patterson, Lillian Brown, Theresa McKenney, and Gloria Conway, who have been accepted into the Ohio Braille literacy class. Owen McCafferty will have several pieces of his artwork featured at the Beck Center from April 12 to July 30. Regina Mason has been chosen as an aide in the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy this summer. We also congratulate Alexis Tyson, who has accepted a position with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). We wish her well, and we know she will make us proud in her new endeavor.
Cleveland members Joann Williams, Frankie Jones, Cheryl Fields, and Suzanne Turner participated with a Read Across America event. We met with sixty school-age children reading print books while we read along in Braille in recognition of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Each child was given a Dr. Seuss pencil and a tag with the National Federation of the Blind logo inscribed for their book bags.
Delcenia Brown and Suzanne Turner met with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge’s aide to discuss the NFB’s national legislative initiatives and to develop a disability advisory group at her initiation. The meeting went well, and the office manager Clifton Williams undertook the project. We are hopeful that the Congresswoman will cosponsor our bills.
March 31, Deadline for national scholarship applications
April 7, NFB of Ohio Board meeting and leadership seminar, Columbus
April 8-9, Columbus Seminar
April 15, Jernigan Scholarship application deadline
May 15, NFB of Ohio scholarship application deadline
June 30, BELL Academy student applications deadline
July 7-12, National convention at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV
July 21-26, BELL Academy, OSSB campus
November 1-3, NFB of Ohio convention, DoubleTree, Worthington
December 1, Deadline for expressing interest in Washington Seminar
February 10, 2020, Great Gathering-in, Washington Seminar