A Publication of the
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Voice: (612) 872-9363
Ryan Strunk, president
Kathy McGillivray, Editor
Volume 85, Number 2, Summer 2018
Table of Contents
(In putting together this summer issue of the Bulletin, I am struck by several of the articles where Minnesota Federationists are getting out there and doing new things, even though they are pushed beyond their comfort zones a bit. Whether it’s a brand new NFB member taking a risk to go to their first Washington Seminar, a long-time Federationist talking with political leaders for the first time, or a blind instructor getting their students safely home at night through busy traffic in the rain, I think you’ll agree we are not letting blindness hold us back in our Minnesota affiliate. I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did!)
By Ryan Strunk
(Editor’s Note: Our state President made the following remarks at our semiannual convention. In hearing such a stirring, inspiring presentation we are reminded of all the powerful ways we as blind people are moving forward to live the lives we want here in Minnesota.)
There is a humbling strength at the core of this organization. It’s a strength rooted in our bone-deep philosophy—the certainty that blindness will not hold us back—but it’s also in the heads and hearts and hands of everyone in this affiliate. Every time one of us helps someone in need, every time we write or call a legislator, every time we step out into our communities with poise and confidence, every meeting we attend, every social media post in support of blind people, every idea we share, brings us another step closer to our dream of true equality.
Let’s start there, in the knowledge that we are doing great things.
Thank you for everything you do every day.
Our organization, however, is more than just our individual actions. It is also the collective force we bring to bear whenever we set our minds to a task. In that spirit, I want to share with you some of the great things we have accomplished over the past seven months.
At our convention last year, we passed a resolution calling upon our legislators to oppose H.R. 620, the Americans with Disabilities Education and Reform Act. The bill, if passed, would substantially weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we were strongly opposed to it and the cosponsorship of representatives Emmer and Lewis.
We fought hard to defeat this bill at the Washington Seminar, at one point having quite the debate with Rep. Lewis’ legislative assistant, and when the call came out to contact our representatives, Minnesota represented en masse.
Unfortunately, however, support for the bill was stronger than we had hoped, and H.R. 620 passed in the house of representatives. The aforementioned representatives Lewis and Emmer voted in favor of the bill, as did Rep. Peterson.
While we’re unhappy about that vote—and we have every right to be—that isn’t the end of the story.
A few weeks later, Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois wrote a letter to her senate colleagues opposing the passage of HR-620. As soon as the letter was published, we sprang into action once more and urged Senator Smith to sign onto the letter. (Senator Klobuchar had already done so.) Within days of our calls and emails, Senator Smith added her name to the list of senators opposed to H.R. 620.
With everything going on in Washington right now, we haven’t heard a whisper about a senate version of the ADA Education and Reform Act being written—which is just fine, but you can bet that if we do, we will be there to oppose it, and we will be there with the support of both of our senators because of the work we have already done.
Thank you, my fellow federationists.
We believe college students should have the ability to access their coursework in an accessible format, so we fought hard for the introduction of the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act—Aim High. We believe that assistive technology can serve as a vital tool in helping all blind people achieve independence, so we fought hard for the introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act. At the Washington seminar, we spoke with our congressmen and urged them to cosponsor these important pieces of legislation. I am pleased to report that Representatives Nolan, Ellison, and Peterson have signed on to both these bills.
We appreciate their support, and we will not stop fighting until both Aim High and the Accessible Technology Affordability Act are passed.
Alex Loch ably led our legislative efforts, and I thank him for all his work, along with everyone else who traveled to Washington DC and helped bring about these changes.
In our organization, we focus on the rights of blind people and helping one another to live the lives we want, and we do that regardless of faith, race, political affiliation, sexual orientation, age, income level, or anything else people might try to use to divide us. In the NFB, we focus on blindness, and we understand that all blind people benefit from the work we do.
In addition, we know that our work requires decorum and poise from our leaders, and we understand that, in order to be effective, we must always represent ourselves well and treat others with respect.
I am pleased to announce that, at our April board meeting, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota board of directors formally adopted a code of conduct which lays out these expectations and sets the standards our leaders will follow. We will carry ourselves professionally, we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and we will not discriminate against our fellow federationists.
I am pleased to be a part of an organization that values dignity, respect, and inclusion. Thank you, my fellow federationists, for making our organization a welcoming place for all blind Minnesotans.
We passed another resolution at our convention last year aimed at addressing the critical shortage of teachers of blind students in Minnesota. We know that a quality education in Braille, technology, orientation and mobility, and daily living skills is crucial to a student’s independence, and we do not want our students to suffer because there aren’t enough teachers to give them the skills they need.
In February, Minnesota federationists took to the halls of the state capitol to urge our legislators to introduce a bill which will help establish a university program to train and license teachers of blind students here in our state. Our initial contact was made on the house side by Steve Jacobson and Rocky Hart, who convinced Representative Ron Kresha to author the legislation. On the senate side, Senator Dave Senjom, from the Rochester area, agreed to author our bill after an extremely positive meeting with our Rochester delegation and a follow-up from Steve Jacobson.
Unfortunately, we did hit a bit of a snag. The education department at the University of Minnesota is undergoing a restructuring, and they cannot take up our program at this time. However, we believe other Minnesota colleges will be interested, and our senate bill has been amended so that funding will be given to any Minnesota state college that will take up this important cause.
Our bill to study and establish a Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired licensure program in Minnesota has been amended, passed through a Senate committee, and is now a part of the Senate Education Omnibus bill SF3656. There is a similar omnibus bill in the House which does not contain Rep. Kresha’s language. Nevertheless, a conference committee has been appointed to resolve the differences, and it is possible that our language could be included in the House bill and become law. Because we have been unable to find a higher education partner, this bill now primarily provides a grant to an institution of higher education to "explore, design and plan" a program and then report back the annual cost of such a program.
This would be a smaller step than we hoped to take, but a positive step nevertheless. The education of blind children is of crucial importance, and we are pleased that our work is gaining traction.
I want to extend my sincere thanks to Rocky Hart and the Rochester chapter for helping to lay the groundwork, and to Steve, who has written numerous emails, taken part in hearings, and spent significant time at the state capitol to fight for this legislation.
Judy Sanders has also been hard at work to ensure that our ability to vote independently is preserved as counties across Minnesota work to update their voting machines. She too has met with legislators and legal aids, and she testified at a hearing to bring awareness to this issue.
At present, our legislation to update nonvisual voting machines with new ballots is stalled in the Senate. While HF3221 passed in the House by a vote of 124 to 1, we know the Senate has not yet voted on their version of the bill and that their version does not include our language.
While we do not yet know what will happen to our provision we have been assured by the Secretary of State's office that they are working to find money to help replace old machines, and they will make sure we have the ability to vote independently in upcoming elections.
I also know that Judy will continue to determinedly pursue this issue, and that we have a whole host of federationists ready and willing to come to her aid when she calls.
Please join me in thanking Judy for all her hard work.
Some of our members, and some of the students at BLIND, Inc. use Metro Mobility to travel around the metro and surrounding areas. The service, however, has been plagued with numerous problems which we sought to address with a third resolution at last year’s convention.
Since then, Briley O’Connor has been working with the director of Metro Mobility to address blind passenger complaints, and I am pleased to report that she is making progress.
In the past, students with an area code from outside of the Twin Cities were unable to receive calls from Metro Mobility, resulting in them being placed on standby. This is no longer the case, and riders with cell phones from elsewhere in the country can now receive calls. In addition, we have been given access to a much more direct complaint process which eliminates multiple levels of bureaucracy. Finally, Metro Mobility would like to work directly with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to conduct in-person and video trainings to teach drivers how to interact with blind passengers.
We recognize there is still much work to be done, though, and to those of you in this room who use Metro Mobility, know that we have your back, and we will get you results. Thank you, Briley.
While we in Minnesota have a core of solid federationists, we also know that we can learn so much from our colleagues across the country. On the weekend of April 20, staff and students from BLIND, Inc. and members of our student division piled into a fifteen-passenger van and traveled to a joint student seminar in Chicago Illinois. There, with Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan, we exchanged ideas, networked, debated philosophy, and learned to salsa.
We set our students up for success when we equip them with the tools they need to compete on an even footing with their peers, and I have no doubt that everyone who attended is better for having done so.
I want to personally thank Cody Beardslee for all the work he did, both here in Minnesota and in his role as a member of the National association of Blind Students board, to make the seminar such an empowering experience.
Every day, we work in this organization to strengthen our movement and improve the lives of blind people, and we do so in so many ways. When members of our Rochester chapter throw their annual Christmas party and celebrate volunteer drivers, they strengthen transportation opportunities for all rural Minnesotans. When our Twin Ports chapter puts pedestrian safety fliers under drivers’ windshield wipers, they make life safer for blind pedestrians. When our Central Minnesota Chapter hosts the annual spaghetti dinner, they demonstrate the capabilities of blind people to members of the public. When our Metro Chapter holds its annual craft fair, people from all over the Twin Cities get to see the capabilities of blind artists. When our At Large Chapter discusses philosophy and technology, they provide a place of growth and a sense of empowerment to blind Minnesotans from across the state. When the members of our River Bend chapter support one another, even with the physical distances between them, they show us a model of community that we can all learn from.
It has been a true honor to work with you as president over the past seven months. Thank you all for your ideas and your energy. Thank you all for your advice and your feedback. You inspire me to be better.
As we look toward October and beyond, I know that we will continue to be successful. We will make progress and change lives because of all of you who share your energy and determination. If you want work to do, there is work to be done. If you have a story to tell, I will find you a place for that story. If you have ideas, let’s work together to turn them into reality.
My brothers and sisters, thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do. Thank you for being part of the National Federation of the Blind.
By Rocky Hart
(Editor’s Note: If you’ve never attended a Washington seminar before, reading this account of Rocky Hart’s first trip to Washington might just give you that necessary nudge.)
During the week of January 28-31,
would definitely consider a godsend, and an activity I can cherish and will
pursue whenever I get an opportunity. Over the course of 3 days, I attended the
National Federation of the Blind Washington Seminar in Washington, D.C.! The
event was jam packed with workshops, presentations, meetings on capitol hill,
and many networking opportunities. It was also a chance to speak for my own
rights as a blind person in America and I
do not regret it for a second. Since I am only fifteen years old, and had only
joined the federation just weeks before, you are probably wondering how I got
invited to this in the first place.
In October 2017, I was invited to the National
Federation of the Blind of Minnesota state convention in Brooklyn Park,
Minnesota. It was a wonderful experience to network with other blind youth and
adults. At the Sunday morning general session, the federation considered and
Three weeks after the convention, the Youth Services Director from Blind, INC, who also noticed my passion for the issues the federation was working on, sent me in invitation to attend the 2018 Washington Seminar. When I first read the invitation, I was very skeptical and not very confident I was ready for this. I said to myself, “I don’t see myself doing this quite yet, but I would never rule it out for some time in the future.” But then I thought, “Well, I’ll send the information to my mother just to see what she has to say about it.” To this day, I am glad I did. My mother was immediately excited for me when she saw the invitation, and said she was proud of me and would make sure I could get there! I was excited about the prospect of going to our nation’s capital, meeting with my elected senators and representatives, but still was not overly confident. I knew, however, that I could muster enough courage to go on this adventure, and in my mind, opting out was no longer an option. I was going to D.C. no matter what.
weeks later, I
I would say the first day was perhaps the most overwhelming for me. Although my mother made sure I was supervised and prepared for this event, it was still a new experience and I was nervous because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had only flown once or twice in my life prior to this trip, but not since I was 2 years old, so that was definitely an adventure! Not only was the flight a new experience, I also learned very quickly that the people who were supervising me, including Mr. Wenzel, were all either totally blind or had low vision. Here I was, on a plane to Washington D.C. at fifteen years old, with people I didn’t know very well, and I didn’t have any of my family traveling with me. Although I knew these “Strangers,” who were supervising me would insure I had what I needed and would be with me throughout the trip, I felt as if I was on my own. I boarded the plane to Washington with feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and was very overwhelmed. No one would have noticed, because I was able to cover it so well. I kept reminding myself that, ultimately, I was in God’s hands, and it was He more than anyone else who put me in a position to attend this incredible event.
The two hour flight went better than I expected, and
we safely landed in D.C. at about 1:50 P.M.
When I returned to the hotel, it was still fairly
early in the evening, so
The next day consisted of workshops to prepare for
going to capitol hill. The first of these was the NABS Winter Seminar. I
our national governmental affairs meeting to discuss the four legislative
priorities we would be focused on. These priorities were: the Aim High act,
which would provide voluntary guidelines for accessible technology in
post-secondary education, the Access Technology Affordability Act, which would
provide accessible technology for the blind in the workforce, opposition to the
ADA Education and Reform Act, which would undermine the rights of people with
disabilities, and The Marrakesh treaty,
which has been ratified by 34 countries and would allow the distribution of
braille books across borders without having to get permission from the
copyright holder and/or publisher.
We discussed these issues, and how best to present them to our elected officials, both at the governmental affairs meeting and then again at the Great Gathering In meeting later that evening. The next morning, we were off to the hill!
The very first
Later that evening, I attended the congressional reception and thoroughly enjoyed the program. I was then invited by our affiliate president to dinner at an Italian restaurant, where I had a chance to network with other federationists and spend almost $50 on Italian food. This was my second favorite part of the trip, only behind going to capitol hill.
The next day would be my final day in Washington
D.C. We had one more appointment with Congresswoman Betty McCollin. As with
Congressman Emmert, we only had the opportunity to meet with her office, and
discussed our agenda with them. They said they would speak with her about
gathered our belongings and headed to the airport to catch our flight home. I
could now say I officially survived the trip to Washington, feeling much
In reflecting on this
experience, I am asking myself a rhetorical question. “where did my ability to
go to capitol hill with confidence and without fear come from
and where did I get my strong, creative mind?” The answer is simple; it was all
By Ryan Strunk and Tom TeBockhorst
Note: At our semiannual convention, we
had the fun of listening to an interview our affiliate president, Ryan Strunk,
did with Tom TeBockhorst about his first Washington seminar. As you’ll read,
this was quite an adventure for Tom.)
Ryan: You’ve been a member of the NFB for 28 years. What made you finally decide to go to Washington Seminar?
Tom: I’ve heard about it so many years from other
people. In the past, I didn’t have a job so I
Ryan: Were you nervous?
Tom: No, I wasn’t nervous. I was really excited. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to get to go and talk to our representatives and senators about the issues.
Ryan: How did it feel when you finally got there?
Tom: It was totally awesome! I ended up being on the
same flight as Judy and Sharon so we
were able to share a cab from the airport. Once I got to the hotel, I really
found out what we mean when we talk about a Federation family. There had
somehow been a mix-up with my room and I wasn’t on the hotel’s list. A
Ryan: What was your favorite part of the trip?
Tom: My favorite part was getting to meet people from all over the country.
Ryan: How did you feel actually talking to senators and representatives?
Tom: One of the first people I talked with was Representative Nolan and he agreed to co-sponsor one of our bills, the Affordable Accessible Technology Act. We got to meet with Keith Ellison and he was willing to support our issues, too.
Ryan: If there are other people who want to go to Washington Seminar, what would you tell them?
Tom: I’d suggest doing it because it’s a great way to meet with our legislators and they may just end up supporting our issues. If you are a first-timer, our state affiliate may be able to help pay the cost.
By Kia Yang
(Editor’s Note: Kia Yang gave the following presentation at a conference this past fall called “Dare To Be Remarkable.” Through our structured discovery training, Kia has become self-confident and is not letting blindness hold her back from living the life she wants. Here is what she said.)
Training was not something I had ever considered until I went to college. Growing up with 3 blind siblings and 6 sighted ones, I always assumed I had all the skills I would need to be successful. Training was for other blind people, not for me. My parents always made us do household chores such as washing dishes. However, when they had guests over, we were told to sit still in one spot so that we wouldn't bump into anyone. My parents did the best they could, but the mixed messages were confusing. On one hand, we were held to similar standards as our sighted siblings, but on the other hand, our blindness was something that needed to be managed.
Then college happened! I realized quickly that my vision teacher had done so much for me that I didn't have the skills to advocate for myself. Contacting professors to acquire accessible materials, getting my textbooks on time, and pushing for equal access were not tasks I'd ever done before. Needless to say, it was definitely a shock to the system, and I started failing classes! I had never, ever failed a class before! I was always an A student, so I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. I also struggled to make friends. Now I can look back and see that I didn't have confidence in myself or my skills, and so this made me reluctant to approach other students. As a result, I spent a lot of time feeling very alone. I hardly stayed on campus. I went home every chance I got, and I even spent a lot of time isolating myself in my room from my family. The online world became my escape from the reality that I was living.
helped me hone my skills, however, what the structured discovery method of
instruction did the most for me was increase my self-confidence.
At Large Chapter — statewide, consisting of those who live outside a chapter area and/or cannot attend a meeting in person; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month by teleconference call. The telephone number for the call is 605-475-6700 with access code 9458023.
— St. Cloud area; meets at 12:00 on the second Saturday of every month (with an optional lunch for purchase at 11:00) at Pizza Ranch, 110 2nd street south Suite 119 in St Cloud.
— Twin Cities area; meets at 10:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis. Come at 9 a.m. for social hour with coffee.
— Mankato area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month by teleconference call. The telephone number for the call is 1–515–739-1032 with access code 1005345.
— Rochester area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester.
— Duluth area; meets at 6:00 p.m. on the second Monday of every month at Pizza Luce, 11 E Superior St, Duluth.
Braille Club — Any National Federation of the Blind member who uses braille is invited to attend. This group meets on the first, second, and third non-holiday Tuesdays of the month from 4:30-6:30. Its purpose is to improve braille skills and get better acquainted with other NFB braille users. Attendees bring their own book or magazine or borrow one. Contact Melody Wartenbee at 612-870-9484 or e-mail email@example.com. .
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is two-fold — to help blind persons achieve self-confidence and self-respect and to act as a vehicle for collective self-expression by the blind. By providing public education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, literature and publications about blindness, aids and appliances and other adaptive equipment for the blind, advocacy services and protection of civil rights, development and evaluation of technology, and support for blind persons and their families, members of the NFB strive to educate the public that the blind are normal individuals who can compete on terms of equality.
No one understands blindness as well as those who live with it daily. To apply this knowledge to solving the problems of blindness, blind people formed the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM). NFBM is the state's largest and oldest organization of the blind. It provides self-help programs for blind people of all ages and activities.
As blind people, we know the loss of eyesight is not the major problem of blindness. The real problem is the misunderstandings that surround blindness. The NFBM overcomes this problem through education of the sighted to the reality of blindness and through mutual help among blind people. Such activities make blind people fully‑participating members of society. They earn their living, raise families, and take full responsibility for their own lives.
The NFBM began in 1920 as the Minnesota State Organization of the Blind. It is a membership organization open to everyone who believes in the capability of blind people to help himself or herself become full participants in the community.
In 1940, Minnesota and six other states founded the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Today, the NFB numbers over 50,000 blind people. It has organizations in every state, and local chapters in almost every sizable community.
During these many years, we have made strong progress toward equality. We have improved employment opportunities and education for blind persons in the state of Minnesota and in the nation.
Most of our members are blind, and their knowledge of blindness comes from their personal lives. Other organizations get their information on blindness through the reading of textbooks or other secondhand techniques.
For a complete listing of the NFB of Minnesota board of directors, visit .
There are several ways to keep up with, as well as interact with, the most active group of blind people in Minnesota:
· Join the discussion list for Minnesota on NFBNET at
· Follow @nfbmn on Twitter at
· Like us on Facebook by searching for National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota at
Many people are involved in getting this issue to you. The writers can write and the editor can edit, but until the material is printed, brailled, recorded, and distributed, it is just a computer file. Therefore, we owe great thanks to the following people for the work they do in producing this publication.
· Judy Sanders proofreads and provides corrections for both the print and braille editions.
· Jennifer Dunnam transcribes the braille edition, makes corrections to the braille and print editions, and marks up and posts the website edition.
· Caitlin Baker formats the layout of the print edition.
· Art Hadley reads the audio edition for cassette tape, Compact Disc, and audio download.
· Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the Compact Disc edition.
· Dave Andrews marks up and posts the NFB-NEWSLINE® edition.
· Sid Starnes deals with the printer for the print edition, mails the print edition and other tasks as needed.
· Sharon Monthei embosses the braille edition.
· Emily Zitek collates the copies for the braille edition and mails the braille and audio editions.