MINNESOTA BULLETIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Publication of the

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.

100 East 22nd Street

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

Voice: (612) 872-9363

Website: www.nfbmn.org

Ryan Strunk, president

e-mail president@nfbmn.org

Kathy McGillivray, Editor

E-mail gilgal63@gmail.com

 

Volume 85, Number 1, Winter 2018

 

 

 

 

 



 

Table of Contents

Editor’s Note. 1

President's Column. 1

Annual Convention 2017. 2

President's Report 2

My Experience as a Blind Child. 9

If we’d only known. 13

2017 Annual convention Report 15

Resolutions Adopted by the 2017 Annual Convention. 25

Dialog with State Services For The Blind. 31

Update from the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library. 36

What's New At The Academy. 40

Convention Alert! 41

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 42

Background and Purpose. 42

Acknowledgements. 44

 

 

 

 



 

Editor’s Note

 

(Happy 2018! As you can see, this issue of the Minnesota Bulletin is about twice as long as usual. 2017 state convention was jam-packed with informative reports, inspiring speeches, thought-provoking essays, and powerful resolutions. I wanted to cover them all in a timely fashion and this seemed to be the best way to make that happen. I hope you enjoy this issue and please keep those articles coming!)

 

President's Column

By Ryan Strunk

 

I always knew Jennifer Dunnam was an organized person, but I never really knew just how organized she was until I saw two things: her wall of sound—ask her about it sometime—and the multiple, stapled pages of discussion topics she prepared for our chat on what I needed to know as president. In our first meeting after you all gave me the honor of leading our organization, Jennifer filled me in on all the things she did as president, from planning our conventions to working closely with the leadership of State Services for the Blind to mentoring chapter and division leaders across our state. Over the past 10 years, Jennifer has been a tremendous leader in our organization, and I cannot thank her enough for it.

As I sort through my notes, talk with our members, and reflect on the state of our organization, I find myself pondering what I can do that isn’t already being done. We had 99 members in attendance at the 2017 national convention and nearly 150 at our state convention. We have active chapters across the state, strong divisions focused on key areas, and leaders in our state who are nationally recognized for their expertise. We advocate in our state legislature and on Capital Hill. We are well-represented at State Services for the Blind. BLIND, Inc. continues to flourish.

Those accomplishments—along with so many others—humble me. They are a testament to the hard work of all our members who give freely of their time, energy, and experience. They show a level of dedication that can only be found when people are truly passionate about their work. They show me a way forward.

When I moved to Hawaii for my first teaching job, the braille program was in great shape. Even so, I had many, many ideas about how I thought things should be run, and those often buried the questions I should have been asking and the things I should have been learning. I even suggested, on one of my first days, that we should change the entire curriculum to something I was more familiar with regardless of the students who were already doing well.

Brook Sexton, who taught braille before me, gave me a piece of advice that I have carried and used ever since. “You’re new,” she said. “Take time to learn and observe before you just start recklessly changing things. See what is already working and build on that.”

Like the braille job in Hawaii, our affiliate is strong and effective. We have had excellent leadership from Jennifer Dunnam and our board of directors, and we have drive and determination from our hundreds of members across the state. My job, then, is to continue the work already being done and learn from all of you in the meantime.

For me to learn, though, I need to hear from you. I need you to teach me the things I don’t know. I need your suggestions, your feedback, and even your criticisms in order to make the NFB of Minnesota into the strongest affiliate it can be. Email me anytime at president@nfbmn.org with your ideas. Text me. Call me. Come over to my house and we can sit in my kitchen and talk. Just make sure I hear from you.

We have a 98-year tradition of excellence in our organization, and I am honored that you have chosen me to be a part of it as your president. Please help me to do the job well, and together we will continue to do great things.

 

Annual Convention 2017

President's Report

by Jennifer Dunnam

 

As always, I am pleased to be able to reflect with you about what this organization has been up to during the past year. This year, I will also take the opportunity to talk some about the past decade.

 

As we always do in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, we have during the past year participated heavily in our national movement. Around sixteen Minnesotans attended the Washington Seminar this year, to make the case for our legislative proposals (the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act, the Access Technology Affordability Act, the NLS appropriation for refreshable braille displays, and the Marrakesh Treaty). We continued to work on these during the year, and we will keep working to get our congressional representatives and senators to cosponsor these bills.

 

On the state level, we started working on a number of issues in the legislature. Those who have been around a while know that it often takes many years to reach the outcomes we seek. We know that, and we are in it for the long haul. We began working on improving protections for the rights of blind parents, and that work will continue. A number of states have passed bills around the country, and we want ours to be added to that list sooner rather than later. We also worked on raising awareness about the impending shortage of teachers of blind students in Minnesota and plans to ensure blind children will get the quality education they need.

 

Sometimes, we set our agenda, but then things happen such that the needs around protecting the rights of blind people require us to spend our time and energy on different things from what we thought we would be doing. Two such things occurred this session. One was a major threat to the appropriation increase that we succeeded in getting last year for State Services for the Blind, so that seniors who are blind could receive the training and services they need to be independent. We worked hard on that for many years and got it done in 2016, but in this year's initial legislative proposals for the budget, that money was cut out. So, instead of doing things that may have been a little more fun, we were fighting to get that appropriation back into the budget. It took all session long, but by gosh, we got it done. This was an example of how the gains we make can never be viewed as permanent, and why we must remain vigilant.

 

Another matter that required our vigilance in this legislative session was ensuring that the protections provided by the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act were not weakened. We have talked some and will be talking more tomorrow about HR620, a national effort that would put the burden on a person with a disability to prove that the ADA had been violated rather than on business owners to follow the law that has been in existence for 27 years. This legislative proposal has come in response to a few unscrupulous attorneys around the country ginning up ADA violations, and it has been opposed vigorously by the NFB and many others. Here in Minnesota, we encountered our own state-level version of this terrible bill. We had heard that it was also going to include provisions that would have exempted internet commerce from being subject to state and federal regulations requiring accessibility. The bill this year ultimately did not include that, but it did include other objectionable provisions, and we worked with others and succeeded in holding that effort off for another year. It is certain to come back again, though, so we will need to continue to watch it. If any amusement can be had in this situation, we found some humor in the NFB being in the same room with the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), testifying on opposing sides of the same bill.

 

We did have some fun this year, however. Many of you will recall that until about 8 or 9 years ago, we held a monthly Saturday School, working with blind children in the metro area from ages 5 to 12. We have now started that up again, and it is called BLAST (Blindness Learning and Skills Training). You will note that this sounds like the name of another program of the National Federation of the Blind (a conference of the National Association of Blind Merchants), but this one is for kids, so when we talk about our BLAST program, we'll be sure to talk about it in conjunction with children and youth. The next session will take place October 28th, with Michell Gip coordinating and other great Federationists helping out.

 

We held a student seminar on April 1st, the "No Joke Student Seminar", which was a great way to get students together for good discussion and information. Later that same month, we put on a Possibilities Fair for Seniors; for the first time, it took place in Greater Minnesota, in Mankato. I am certain we will continue to try to hold these in various other places in the state, because seniors everywhere need our positive message, and we also need the help of seniors throughout Minnesota to be part of the work we do to protect the rights and improve the opportunities of blind people everywhere. This year we have two state scholarship winners at this convention, and one Minnesotan won a national scholarship at our national convention.

 

We have six steady chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, all of whom have members here at this convention. Some of the chapters have been undergoing changes, and we are all pitching in to be sure the chapters have what they need to stay strong. Two new chapter presidents were recently elected—one in Central Minnesota (Bev Stavrum) and one in our Riverbend Chapter (Chris Murphy). Bev has been serving on the state board as well. We have been working with the Central Minnesota Chapter on membership recruiting and other activities for the chapter, and I know we will continue that work as well as with the Riverbend Chapter. Of course, we always want to bring in more members, but even a small group that is committed and actively working to get things done is very valuable to us all—there is no chapter too small. We need chapters everywhere, and we are so glad to have these good folks who are dedicated to staying organized and working together.

 

The resolutions that we pass at our state conventions are not simply "us talking to ourselves." They are the way that we let the world know the positions that we take about various issues—that is, what the blind people of this state believe, or won't accept, etc. We hash these things out at the convention and then state our position to any and all who want to know (or who need to know, whether they may want to or not). At last year's convention, we passed a resolution that had some things to say about the accessibility of technology procured by the state. In 2009, We were part of getting a law enacted to strengthen requirements for accessibility of software and hardware, front-end or behind-the-scenes, that is purchased by the state of Minnesota. The enforcement of that law and its resulting standards has been lacking at best. When we sent last year's resolution to the head of MN.IT, it caused a bit of a stir, resulting in a meeting with some of the key players there. They have re-organized the advisory committee that has been working on technology accessibility. As people working in state government can tell you, progress toward real results is slow indeed, but we will continue to work on this so that blind people can apply for jobs, get help from the help desk, and work at jobs here in the state of Minnesota. There is plenty of talk in state government about wanting to hire people with disabilities, but the nuts and bolts need to be working well before that can become a reality for those of us who are blind.

 

We are very fortunate in Minnesota to have many activities for transition-age youth, and we have our buddy program at BLIND, Inc. during the summers as well. The members of the NFB of Minnesota are always here and ready to volunteer to work in these programs for children and youth of all ages. Many of us who are more advanced in age know what a life-changing difference it would have made for us to have these kinds of activities in our youth, where we could meet blind adults living normal lives.

 

Internally, we have had a number of things going on as well. When there is a person who has quietly and efficiently done a great deal of work behind the scenes, and then that person is not able to do it anymore, we find ourselves needing to find new ways of getting the work done. I again have to hand it to Tom Scanlan who was instrumental in keeping up our infrastructure so that we could send out our convention and membership renewal mailings to members, our fund-raising mailings to donors, etc. As we have endeavored to keep these things running smoothly, apologies for any bumps in the road that we have encountered. For example, this year there were a few people that we sent letters saying that they had not paid their membership dues when they actually had; we have sorted that out, fortunately, and we are working to make things go better. Thank you to everyone for your patience.

 

We are beginning to make changes to our Web site, and we will be moving the content into the Drupal platform. Back in August, there was a Webmaster's training in Baltimore, to which we sent Corbb O'Connor, who will become our new webmaster. I will continue to do the updates to the web site until the switch to drupal, at which time I will be delighted to hand it off to Corbb who I know will do a great job.

 

Some may recall that a few years ago, we had a program in which we partnered with the Science Museum of Minnesota to bring blind youth and mentors from all over the region to the museum to learn about accessible STEM. The National Federation of the Blind has received another grant from the National Science Foundation, so that we will be doing similar work for the next five years. In three of those years, beginning in 2018, we will have these programs at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Stay tuned for more details.

 

As most of you know, although I intend to remain active and do all I can to help, I will not be a candidate for president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota this year. The coming transition has caused me to reflect on the last ten years that I have had the privilege to serve as president of this organization. I promise not to take us through an entire chronology of the past ten years, but there are a few things to highlight as I look back thankfully and joyfully on our growth and the things we have accomplished by working together.

 

Many changes have occurred in our world since the year 2007 when you first elected me to serve as president. For example, in 2007, we did not have iPhones—in fact, most of us who are blind did not have access to any type of smart phone or the many applications that we now use as an integral part of everyday life. Independent use of a flat touch screen was unthinkable. A portable print reading solution like the KNFB reader was just barely becoming available, and it cost thousands of dollars. Adoption of Unified English Braille in the United states had been rejected once years ago and was not up for discussion. Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, and the like had barely started, and most of us were not using them yet. It's tempting to wonder how we functioned, but of course we did. It was during this period that we gained the ability to vote privately and independently for the very first time, in 2008, using accessible voting technology for which we had worked for many years through the legislative process.

 

During the past ten years, in this state, we of the NFB of Minnesota identified the need for and executed five different protests. Several of these had to do with the unfair payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities; a couple were in front of one of our senator's offices, and some were at Goodwill. We also had a protest in Rochester Minnesota during a convention, because of a movie called “Blindness” that played upon the worst fears and stereotypes about blindness.

 

In addition to our earlier-mentioned help with legislation on accessible technology in Minnesota, we worked very hard on and were instrumental in the passage of two major pieces of legislation affecting blind Minnesotans. Neither of them happened quickly; both involved years-long processes that were quite harrowing at some points, required active engagement and vigilance at every step, and were uncertain in their outcomes right up until the last moments.

 

First, in 2010, we celebrated the passage of legislation that required counselors who work at State Services for the Blind to undergo a minimum of six weeks in adjustment-to-blindness training with sleepshades. Counselors play a very powerful role in the lives of blind people who are going through the rehabilitation process, and without a firm foundation and positive beliefs about blindness, counselors are not equipped to help the people they counsel to overcome the societal barriers they will encounter. Before this legislation, there was no statutory requirement for blindness training at all; policies on training were completely based on the whims of whichever director may have happened to be in leadership at SSB at the time—and as many are well aware, there were some widely varying whims over the preceding decades. Our efforts to get improvements in this arena go back to a very long time ago, but even this particular language that was ultimately enacted into law took a very labyrinthine path.

 

Second, in 2016, we convinced the legislature to provide funding for training for seniors losing their vision, so that they can learn nonvisual techniques for living independently and can remain in their homes and communities. A drastic increase in the population of seniors has been on the horizon for some years now, with the aging of the "baby-boomers". Since aging often involves decreasing eyesight, without funding for adjustment-to-blindness training, the state would likely have been on the hook for much more expensive services for people believing that loss of sight required them to move to assisted care facilities or nursing homes. Now, seniors all over the state will have much better access to the kinds of services that will help them live the lives they want. Although the case for this appropriation seems obvious, this was another issue that took quite a few years and a lot of hard work from this organization before making it into the legislature's budget priorities.

 

During this ten-year period, we found ourselves in the position of needing to bring on new leadership for our training center, BLIND, Inc. I imagine we all agree we did a fantastic job on that one by bringing on Dan Wenzel who has provided excellent leadership. In 2011, the state government shut down because no budget was agreed upon by the deadline; some temporary funding was made available to continue with critical core functions of government. We testified before a Special Master judge and succeeded in getting adjustment-to-blindness training classified as a critical core function so that it was not stopped during the shut-down.

 

Of course, we had challenges during this past ten years. In March of 2011, we lost the beloved 30-plus-year president of our Central Minnesota chapter, Andy Virden, in a terrible automobile-related accident. We were very concerned to ensure that the investigation would not somehow be done lightly just because the pedestrian involved was an older blind man. It took us ten months to get the police report—with a great deal of pressure, letter-writing and phone calling from us, but they knew we were watching and that they could not simply gloss over it. Because of the groundwork Andy laid through his leadership, the chapter has continued, through various changes in leadership, and remains active.

 

There have been numerous cases in which individuals have needed our advocacy assistance: from college students needing our help to get access to their courses, to newly blinded people of all ages seeking a resource for information and hope, to parents fighting for proper education for their blind children, to people needing assistance to navigate the bureaucracy of rehab services, etc.

Since 2007 we have worked with three different directors of State Services for the Blind (providing input into the process of hiring two of them). We have held seminars for seniors, parents, and students; we have conducted technology trainings, workshops for teachers of blind students, spoken to children in public schools, and more. And of course, there have been twenty state-wide conventions, at which the attendance has continued to increase; at this convention, 130 people have registered.

 

Of course, there remains a long way to go so that we who are blind can gain proper education, literacy, employment, independence, full access to information, and more. Sometimes I think it would be wonderful if, in a hundred years from now, we would not need the National Federation of the Blind. However, given the fact that for the past nearly 100 years we definitely have needed the NFB, I do not tend to believe that the need will be alleviated by the year 2117. The specifics have definitely changed over the last century, but the need for us to strive to obtain and maintain our independence and integration into society has not. Therefore, we must be prepared to keep this organization living and growing and adapting for the next hundred years or for however long it is needed. I am grateful for all of the people who have worked so long and tirelessly to keep the NFB of Minnesota strong up to now. I know we will do that going forward for as long as it takes to improve opportunities for blind people. Thank you all so much for all of the work that we have done together, and for the part you will take in the exciting ways we will shape the future.

 

My Experience as a Blind Child

 

By Rocky Hart

 

(Editor’s Note: In this year’s essay contest, sponsored by our Metro Chapter, we had a tie for first place. This was one of our winning essays. It’s exciting to see teens participating in our contest. Since writing this piece, Rocky has joined the Federation!)

 

“So, what is it like to be blind or visually impaired, and how can you live a productive and independent life?” I know many blind people have probably been asked this question on numerous occasions. Or perhaps, “What has your experience been as a blind or visually impaired person?” As I am well aware, many people who are blind have different stories to tell. Some, like myself, have been blind from birth, while others became blind later in life. We all have had different experiences, and, as I look back on my own childhood, I have had both positive and negative encounters. I believe it is critically important to share our experiences not only with other blind people, but also with the general public, as there are many misconceptions, false assumptions, and superstitions among the sighted population about what blind people are capable of doing, what we can understand, and how we live our daily lives. Although consumer organizations like the National Federation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind, and American Foundation for the blind exist to promote a positive outlook on this disability as well as challenge common misconceptions and superstitions about it, not all of this has been eliminated. In my experience, blindness has been viewed as either something that makes me unique, or a disability that limits what I am capable of. As I reflect back on my childhood, I vividly remember at least one experience of both. This experience started with my parents.

 

When I was about 4 months old, I was diagnosed with Norries Disease, the condition that caused my blindness. My mother was determined to at least attempt to cure my blindness and restore my vision. I traveled to Michigan when I was about 6 months old to undergo a procedure that doctors hoped would restore my vision. When the operation was unsuccessful, my mother wondered why she had a blind child. She waited 10 years for a child, survived a very rigorous 31-week pregnancy, and now her child has a disability. How could this be? None of this, however, stopped her from providing the best life she could for me. She refused to feel sorry for me, and was frustrated by people of the general public who did. She always had high expectations for me and, despite my disabilities, was determined to raise a strong, competent, confident, independent child. In order to accomplish this, however, she knew she would need to make appropriate accommodations for me. For this reason, I began receiving special education services when I was an infant, and both my education team and mother have taken time to teach me basic life skills, as well as working on learning things like braille, orientation and mobility, and other instruction I would need to ensure I had a successful life and education. My father, however, had a very different approach.

 

Although he knew I could live a productive and independent life, he didn’t know exactly how to provide it. When he learned the operation on my eyes was not successful, he was disappointed because he says he wanted to raise me to become a good hunter and fisher, and then eventually start a father-son tree removal business, and now, in his mind, that plan wouldn’t work. I personally believe this plan not working had nothing to do with my blindness, and everything to do with God having a different plan for my life. Because of my blindness, he has always assumed that I need “special” treatment and was limited in what I could do. For example, when we would go to a restaurant, he would assume I needed special seating arrangements because I was blind, or that I need assistance with simple tasks, such as putting on my own seatbelt, nearly on the grounds that I was blind. Although I still need assistance, to this day, to complete certain daily tasks, what my father thought was helping me was actually hindering my chance to become independent. I thank God that my mother has been in my life and has raised me to be productive and independent. I believe that if my father had raised me, my life would have been significantly different because I may have been raised in a bubble, due to him not having the right ideas, approaches, and accommodations for my blindness in mind. This became more evident to me after my parents' divorce, because they would occasionally argue about how to raise me effectively. Fortunately, when my stepfather came into my life upon my parents' divorce at age 5, he accepted my blindness, and treats me like his own son, and has truly become a father figure for me over the past 9 years, and he and my mother have done everything they could to give me a successful life and education. These experiences also occurred at certain times in school.

 

As I advanced through elementary school, I had both positive and negative experiences. Some of my teachers and several other staff at the school automatically assumed that because I was blind, I was limited in what I could do. Some of my peers were afraid to socialize with me, because they didn’t think I could understand them or, perhaps, because I was blind, were concerned I wasn’t able to interact with them. Part of this problem was also due to me being more withdrawn than my peers. Despite this, many teachers and students treated me like any other student, allowing and encouraging me to participate in activities, and my special education team insured I had appropriate accommodations. I was receiving instruction in braille and audio formats, orientation and mobility services, learned how to use various kinds of adaptive technology, and even learned some daily living skills. It seemed as if I had what I needed to complete a quality education. Even so, it was thought that I couldn’t participate in certain educational and extracurricular activities, and in some cases, I was pulled out of certain classes because of my blindness. Art was one example.

 

I attended art classes up until fourth grade. At that point, my special Education team believed it was in my best interest to pull me out of art class because they didn’t think I could keep up with my peers, partly due to my blindness, because art involved a lot of drawing and painting, and there were concerns from both the art instructor and my education team that I would fall behind in the curriculum. We couldn’t find any other solutions, so I would have to be pulled out, and honestly, I didn’t mind at that time. As I reflect on it, However, I can use that as an example of a misconception, even though pulling me out of the class was in my best interest.

 

One positive experience I had in public school, however, was in physical education class. For the first few months of first grade physical education, it was clear that I couldn’t keep up physically and at the skill levels of my peers. Instead of pulling me out of phy. ed. completely, I was enrolled in Disability Adapted Physical Education, (DAPE). Although the curriculum was modified, it still allowed me to participate in the class. I even became a part of the Special Olympics team for about the last 4 years I was in public school.

 

In September 2015, I transferred to the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, (MSAB). Since coming to MSAB, I have had more opportunities over the last 3 years than I could’ve dreamed of over the entire 10 years I was in public school. One major reason for this is because all of the staff have had training in B/VI, and all of the students are either totally blind or visually impaired. Due to smaller class sizes, I am also able to work at my own pace, receive individualized instruction specific to my needs, and have the opportunity to discover the plan that God has for my life. I have broadened my social experience through participating in many extracurricular activities and serving as a representative for my fellow students on committees within the school. In March of 2017, I had the great honor of testifying before the State Senate educational finance committee on behalf of our school, and in September of this year, was elected president of the MSAB student council, something I am very proud of. I am a freshman in high school now, and my goal is to finish high school, go to College, and start a career as either a politician, author, motivational speaker, minister, teacher, or whatever it is God has planned for me.

 

I believe that my story is one of thousands told by blind people, and I hope it inspires many across this nation. I believe that we are all united in that we all have different stories and experiences with this disability, yet we can come together for a common cause, the cause that brought forth organizations like the National Federation of the Blind. When thousands of blind people are together, living our lives with competence, confidence, the strength to break down barriers, the courage to challenge the status quo, and are united for the same cause, shows the world that people who are blind, and people with disabilities in general, like myself, are capable of living productive and successful lives, making our own decisions, having a job, and raising a family. I also happen to believe that people with disabilities are of God’s wonderful creation. The world is blessed to have us, because we not only make our world more interesting, it also allows God to use us in many ways to accomplish his work. People who are blind have engaged in just about every career known to date. There are blind lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, engineers, and yes, blind parents. What I want to make absolutely clear is that, although you may have a disability, you are still capable of living a successful life. I personally am confident in knowing that, even with my adult life ahead of me, I can choose the path that I want to take for my own life, and that blindness does not and will not dictate my life’s path.

 

If we’d only known

By Judy Sanders

 

(Editor’s Note: Judy Sanders is a long-time leader in our organization. In this winning essay, she shares what a big difference the NFB has made in her life.)

 

When I was growing up my parents knew nothing about the National Federation of the Blind. They really needed to know—there were two of us. I know how fortunate we were that they decided to raise their blind children with the same expectations they had for our older sibling. One of their first decisions was to fold up the play pen. They told me that I never crawled: I scooted on my rear and could explore my environment—at least what I could reach. We lived in a small apartment and there was a narrow passage leading from the hallway. No one ever understood how I managed to clear the corners of the tables I passed entering the kitchen.

 

During our infant years our parents searched for information about blindness; (No internet!) They talked to doctors and resigned themselves to no cure. They also looked for chances to meet blind adults and what they found was a bowling league where they volunteered as drivers. If only they had known about the National Federation of the Blind. I don’t know if the blind bowlers used canes but I doubt it because there was never any talk about my using one.

 

In the early 1950s it was time for us to begin school. Public school was not an option. We lived in Massachusetts which meant we would be educated at the Perkins School for the Blind. My parents were horrified when informed that at the age of four we were ready to live in a dorm away from home. They heard that their four-year-olds could move in and stay there all week long. My mother was the outspoken one and she made it clear that her children were going nowhere! That is how we became the first day students at Perkins.

 

I loved to read and learned braille quickly. But there was no mention of a white cane. I remember going from one building to another walking in a human train hanging on to the kid in front of me. I am sure that the kids with some vision were the front of the train. If only we had known about the National Federation of the blind.

 

When we were nine our family moved to Denver where we learned that the school for the blind was eighty miles away. That was unacceptable to our parents. it was then that they discovered Denver’s public school program for blind students. We all went to the same elementary school and we rode buses that picked us up in front of our houses. Still no mention of a cane. Where was the National Federation of the Blind?

 

My first introduction to the cane came when I was ten. I was given a silver, crook-handled cane that came a little above my waist. My instructor was professional, had a good sense of humor and he taught me not to accept free gifts from a well-meaning public. For instance, there was the time we went into a cleaner’s (I think we were running his errands as a part of my lesson) and the proprietor offered me some clothing that had never been claimed. He gently told the do-gooder that my family took care of my needs. As good an instructor as he was, he left out an important part of effective training: that is, he did not make me feel proud of my ability to go where I want, when I want. Instead, I was ashamed of being seen with a white cane because I knew that blind people stood on street corners with a tin cup and a white cane taking handouts. The only time I was required to use my cane was during my lessons. My teachers and parents should have said, “Where do you think you are going without your cane!” What I heard was: “You don’t need that—you’re with us.” They couldn’t stand people staring at the poor blind girl with the cane. We didn’t know about the National Federation of the Blind.

 

In high school, I traveled the halls without a cane and carried a brailler in front of me which did a pretty good job of clearing a path. However, there was the time I fell down the stairs and dropped the brailler. What a noise! And still there were no reprimands for traveling without a cane. I, my parents and teachers needed the National Federation of the Blind.

 

The good news for me was that in college the National Federation of the Blind found me. There was not an instant miracle but over the years I began to gain a healthy respect for those blind people who were living the lives they wanted without fear or shame and with pride. My parents came to know the NFB and were well aware of how my life changed. I have received many gifts from the NFB but probably the greatest one of all is the gift of freedom. I, too, can say that I am living the life I want and that is why I will always continue to share what I have gained with anyone who will listen.

 

2017 Annual convention Report

 

Friday Afternoon, October 20

Convention-goers came from near and far to the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest for the 2017 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Most had preregistered online or by mail and were able to pick up their registration materials quickly and move on to other exciting convention activities. They perused the exhibits which were available throughout the afternoon and evening, including Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Aira, Gilbert Law PLLC, EZ2See Calendar from Ed Cohen, and BLIND, Inc.

 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Getting and Keeping a Job was a workshop led by nationally recognized experts Dick Davis and Brian Dulude. It featured dynamic presentations on all aspects of employment. The resolutions committee, chaired by Ryan Strunk and also consisting of Dan Wenzel, Steve Jacobson, Jan Bailey, and Corbb O'Connor, met to consider resolutions that had been sent in advance from various Federationists, to determine if they should be recommended for passage by the convention; a large audience was also in attendance.

 

The action-packed Friday evening consisted of a meeting of the Minnesota Association to Promote the Use of Braille, a meeting of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students, and a hospitality gathering hosted by the metro chapter. After the completion of the business meetings, Federationists gathered to join teams and test their knowledge of trivia in a session led by a professional trivia company.

 

Saturday, October 21

Bright and early Saturday morning, the seniors' division held its breakfast and annual meeting. They discussed the happenings of the previous year and heard from various speakers on topics of particular interest to blind seniors.

 

The convention was called to order at 9:00 sharp with a welcome from the president of the host chapter, Ryan Strunk. After drawings for door prizes and an explanation of the rules of the bake auction (both of which occurred all during the convention), convention attendees were treated to a lovely performance of several pieces by members of the choir from the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.

Next, National Representative Amy Buresh delivered her report, bringing greetings from President Riccobono. She thanked chapters and individuals for all their assistance to Federationists in other parts of the country whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastation of the hurricanes. Education, she said, is one of the most pressing civil rights issues facing children and young adults today. Some have the good fortune to be given skills, tools, and mentors from a young age, even when they may not understand that they need these things, but far too many do not. We in the NFB are always looking for creative opportunities to improve education for the next generation.

 

Amy next discussed the NFB's activities to protect the rights of blind parents. We work to ensure that we have the tools and techniques to mentor and teach new blind parents, as well as legislative protections. Every state in the country is encouraged to adopt parents' rights legislation.

 

Do You Dream In Color is an excellent documentary detailing the struggles of four blind teenagers to achieve their education despite the low expectations of the system. The creators of this documentary are recent recipients of a Jacob Bolotin Award. The film is available on all streaming services, and chapters and affiliates are encouraged to host screenings.

 

Activity is underway on many fronts on the national level, and it takes the help of Federationists all over the country to accomplish our goals.

 

Next we heard an update, which is printed elsewhere in this issue, from Jon Davis, director of the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind. After that, Tarik Williams, the national student representative, who hails from Pennsylvania, brought greetings from Kathryn Webster, President of the National Association of Blind Students, and gave updates on activities of the division. Students are encouraged to attend the Washington Seminar to help advocate for accessible content in higher education and the other issues we face. The division also hosts membership calls each month, with different themes such as networking and other topics of interest to students. There is also a monthly blog post with stories, information, and advice from various students around the country. The NABS Web site is frequently updated, and there is also a NABS YouTube channel. Tarik commended the Minnesota Association of Blind Students and the state affiliate for the energy, the hard work, and the welcoming spirit.

 

Kevin Phelan, vice president of sales and Marketing at Aira, gave a presentation about the service, which provides a way for blind people to access information using remote humans combined with wearable technology. He gave a demonstration, donning the Aira glasses, connecting them to his smart phone, and through an app contacting a remote agent (in Jacksonville, Florida) who described the view of the convention hall, including people waving, canes lying across the floor, people standing in the doorway in the back, the chandelier on the ceiling, and some people wearing sleepshades. Kevin discussed a program in which college freshmen can have Aira costs covered for a year. He then asked Jennifer Dunnam, who is an Aira user, to discuss her experiences and thoughts. She began using the service in May, and as someone who has worked for many years to help people understand the usefulness of nonvisual techniques, she started out fairly conflicted about the role that Aira should play but wanted to be part of shaping this new technology that may affect our lives in different ways. She first described using a brochure for a self-guided walking tour to take a solitary walk around the large Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, finding the locations where numerous famous people are interred and where events are memorialized. Preparation (locating the brochure and determining the various destinations), good cane travel skills (to navigate around the tombstones and other obstacles), and confidence (that she could still get back if the technology failed) were key ingredients in the successful and interesting adventure. She also described using Aira to find and check off a single checkbox in a PDF form that was otherwise accessible but could not be completed because of the one checkbox. Her conclusion is that the stronger a person's basic skills of blindness, the more that a person can gain from Aira as an enhancement. Kevin then explained that there is a monthly fee, for which the user gets all the needed equipment and a certain number of minutes per month; there is no annual contract. All convention attendees who signed up during the convention received a free month of Aira. They are seeking to build a network of airports and other places to cover Aira minutes for those who use those sites; the Memphis airport is the first to sign on.

 

The remainder of Saturday morning was taken up with the report from Catherine Durivage, Director of the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library, and with the state president's report, both of which are printed elsewhere in this issue of the Bulletin.

 

After the recess of the morning session, many Federationists attended a lunch with a program from BLIND, Inc., where attendees had the opportunity to hear from new staff at our training center and to ask questions. RoseAnn Faber, who served as chair of BLIND, Inc.'s board of directors for many years before her resignation this summer for health reasons, was presented with a Freedom Bell in appreciation of her dedicated service; in her remarks she indicated her ongoing support for the work of BLIND, Inc.

 

Saturday Afternoon, October 21

 

The afternoon began with a panel of students, led by Cody Beardslee, who presented their stories of what draws them to the Federation and then took questions from the floor. It was quite apparent that these students (Kia Yang, Matthew Gip, and Tarik Williams) are dedicated to opportunities for blind people and keeping our work strong for the generations to come.

 

A presentation from Lisa Larges, coordinator of Outreach for Minnesota State Services for the Blind, followed the student panel and is printed in this issue.

 

Dancing Through Life was the title of the next delightful presentation. Alex Loch explained his journey as a dancer, starting out with it as a hobby that he was embarrassed about and hid from others even while pursuing it, to finding a community of other dance enthusiasts who helped him grow and become proud of his passion for dance, so that it became an integral part of his life. He pointed out that his journey with dance ran in tandem with his journey with blindness, which is familiar to many of us. At first he hid blindness, but then, becoming part of the community of the National Federation of the Blind has now embraced it and become an advocate.

 

A short discussion occurred about membership recruiting. Some of our chapters are particularly focusing on this just now, and the convention was asked to think about how they got involved and be prepared to answer a few questions about that on Sunday morning.

 

Shane Buresh talked about the role of high expectations in his own life and in the work he does with youth at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind. Shane's father ran a cement business, and when he was twelve his father took him out on a job and asked him to use a sledge hammer to break up a sidewalk while the father worked on other parts of the job. Shane didn't get much instruction but figured out how to use the sledge hammer and loaded up the cement into a wheel barrow. He was afraid to do it, but he tried because his father expected that he would. At age fifteen his dad took him to a job site again and asked him to saw off some boards to put along the railing. Shane had never operated a radial arm saw before, but his father nailed down a jig so that Shane could pull the saw. The father did not have credentials in blindness but was practical and had high expectations. Sometimes the things we don't say when working with children and youth are more important than what we do say. This background stood Shane in good stead when, as an adult, he received a smoker as a present. After trying several ways of getting others to help him put it together, each of which fell through, he decided not to wait, using his own mechanical skills and resourcefulness to assemble and then cook on the smoker.

 

Dan Wenzel and several staff and students presented about the latest happenings at BLIND, Inc. Chase Holladay began as the industrial arts instructor. David Starnes, who worked as the maintenance man for ten years in addition to working with youth and many other needed jobs, has moved on to be a Business Enterprises Program operator. Dr. Brian Dulude started as the assistant director last November and also teaches the careers class. He works to establish relationships with companies like FedEx and others where graduates may potentially work. Kyle Hanneman now handles the building maintenance as well as exercise classes. Michell Gip began this year as the coordinator of youth services. There are numerous activities for blind school-age children during evenings and weekends so that they can add skills that they may not be getting in school. The summer programs are also going well. The Prep program now involves a work experience component. Jamison Christopher talked about things that he learned in the prep program, including getting more experience working as part of a team. Lamar Hodges Jr., one of the adult students, told his story. AT the age of 16 he was a three-sport athlete, varsity everything, when a terrible allergic reaction took much of sight. He could not play basketball anymore as a result. His sight deteriorated further, so he was encouraged to tour the training centers. He detailed his tour at BLIND, Inc. and how he started out not really wanting to interact with his classmates, but began to warm up to people and get more out of the program with encouragement from the staff and students. His presentation included some humorous impersonations of staff members. Lamar is clearly on a path to be able to live the life he wants.

 

The final presentation of the afternoon was from Ryan Strunk, entitled "The Well-Diggers' Wisdom". Ryan expressed his respect for the Federationists that have worked to provide opportunities for blind people of today, discussed his own journey in the Federation, and made clear his commitment to carry forward the life-changing work and spirit of the Federation. This thought-provoking presentation will no doubt appear in a future edition of the Bulletin.

 

The Saturday evening banquet, led by Master of Ceremonies Sheila Koenig, was lively and full of Federation spirit. Scholarship chair Lori Anderson presented checks to this year's scholarship winners, Hannah Harriman and Wesley Sisson. Rocky Hart and Judy Sanders were this year's winners of the Metro Chapter Essay contest and their stories appear elsewhere in this issue. Amy Buresh inspired us all with her banquet address, and Federationists stayed after the banquet for more time to socialize and get to know one another.

 

Sunday Morning, October 22

 

The Sunday morning session began with a moment of silence to pay respects to Minnesota Federationists who had passed away during the previous year. Megan Bening was remembered.

 

Next, several people who had joined the organization at the convention were voted into membership, including Scott Tokunaga, Pauline Betley, Chloe Wu, Mark Groves, Rachel Kuntz, Susan Burris, Wesley Sisson, and James Smith. The motion to accept these new members passed unanimously.

 

Then, Ryan Strunk, chair of the resolutions committee, came to the podium to give the committee report. Four resolutions were presented to the convention for adoption. Topics included transportation, education for blind children, access to medical assistance programs administered by the counties, and requests for some of our congressional representatives to withdraw their support of legislation that would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act. All four of the resolutions were discussed and then passed unanimously; they are printed elsewhere in this issue.

 

Next, the treasurer's report was presented by Alice Hebert. The report was accepted by the convention and is on file. Alice was again commended and thanked for her dedicated work as treasurer for the past three years. She will be missed when she moves away from Minnesota.

 

A thought-provoking and humorous play written by Jennifer Wenzel was presented by the NFB of Minnesota Players. Entitled "To Train or Not to Train," it detailed the dilemma of a newly-blinded young man wanting to get a job and deciding whether or not to go to adjustment-to-blindness training. Cast members included Chelsey Duranleau as the narrator, Cody Beardslee as the young man, Kebby Young as a student in training, Samantha Flack as a counselor, and Matt Langland as the grandfather. Cody Beardslee presented some fanciful and witty cast introductions. Everyone enjoyed the play, and there were calls for another one to be performed next year.

 

After the play, elections were held. Ryan Strunk was elected as the new president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota; Jennifer Wenzel was elected for a second term as secretary; Sheila Koenig and Rob Hobson were re-elected to the board positions they currently hold; Alex Loch was elected as a new board member; and Jennifer Dunnam was elected to the position of treasurer, to complete the second half of Alice Hebert's term.

 

There followed updates from chapters and divisions of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, as well as from other organizations where we have representation. Jan Bailey, president of the Rochester Chapter, reported that the chapter again spent time arranging for the Walk for Opportunity this year; she commended Michaela Moritz for her work gathering door prizes for the walk. They usually have guest speakers at their meetings, and they will be hearing from OrCam soon. Since Jan wears many hats, she then gave a report on our seniors' division on behalf of Joyce Scanlan who was not able to be at the Sunday morning session. At their meeting they heard from Ed Lecher, Charlene Guggisberg, and others. They are still selling their "Seniors In Charge" pins, and they helped with the Possibilities Fair in Mankato this year. Jan also serves on the governance board of the Minnesota State Academies; she had previously served as chair of the board for three years. The meetings are somewhat less frequent now. The previous superintendent of the academies, Brad Harper, died recently from a very aggressive form of cancer. Things are stabilizing at the academies, and the enrollment is increasing; there are around 62 students at the academy for the blind, and 105 at the academy for the deaf. The academies are looking to acquire some property in the metro area and potentially attract more students that way. The new superintendent seems to be doing a good job; he has been working through the process of obtaining a superintendent's license and will have that very soon. Things seem to be running more smoothly, and enrollment is projected to continue increasing.

 

Alex Loch, president of the Twin Ports chapter, reported that for Meet the Blind Month, NFB materials will be distributed on Duluth-Superior Street. In November they will be holding elections. They have been doing work to build bridges with the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind. Ryan Strunk reported that the Metro Chapter reported on the Amazing Race coordinated by Debbie Hobson. Participants are given a set of addresses all around the city and asked to get to all those addresses as quickly as possible and get a business card or other item to show that they were there; whoever gets back first wins a prize. The event raises awareness about blindness among the business owners and also among the people we encounter out on the streets. The first weekend in November will be the second annual craft show, where local crafters in the area display their wares along with blind crafters from throughout the state. Next spring will be a wine, chocolate, and cheese tasting fund raising event.

 

Amy Baron, president of Minnesota Association to Promote the Use of Braille, reported on their meeting on Friday night, with excellent speakers, and a UEB Bee in which participants determined the correct way to write words in braille. The positions of president and secretary-treasurer were not up for election this year; vice president is now Bob Raisbeck, and two new board members are Judy Sanders and John teBockhorst. Amy thanked all who participated in the raffle for an iTunes card.

 

Bev Stavrum, the newly elected president of the Central Minnesota Chapter, said that their focus for the next while will be on membership. They will hold their spaghetti dinner this year on the 4th Friday in January rather than the usual 3rd Friday. They look forward to seeing everyone on January 26th.

 

President Dunnam asked the convention if they had done the assigned homework from yesterday. The first question was "Did you find the Federation, or did the Federation find you?" Significantly more of the members indicated that the Federation found them rather than them finding the Federation. Members were then asked to offer new ideas about how to connect people with the National Federation of the Blind. Ideas included putting announcements in bulletins from insurance companies, local hospitals, and senior centers; Putting out the word to ophthalmologists; finding people on the public lists for the homestead tax exemptions from the counties; setting up tables at community activities. Chapter presidents are encouraged to reach out to people from other parts of the state and use the resources of this statewide organization.

 

Tim Aune represents the National Federation of the Blind on the Site Council for the state academy for the Blind. In addition to the items covered by Jan Bailey, Tim indicated that an additional member is being sought for the academies' governance board. This superintendent is doing a good job of seeking input from the site council. Tim explained the structure: the governance board is basically the school board for both of the academies, in charge of hiring and the like; each school has an advisory council which is called the site council.

 

Tim also mentioned Speaking for Ourselves, the NFB of Minnesota's show on the radio talking book, which airs on the last Sunday of the month at 8:00 PM and also at 3:00 AM the following Thursday.

 

Jennifer Dunnam serves as our representative on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind; she is about to begin the last year of her second three-year term in this position. Since Steve Jacobson currently serves as chair of the council, Jennifer deferred to him to give the presentation. The SRC-B is something that the Federation was instrumental in starting about 30 years ago; since then it has evolved and is now a state- and federally-mandated advisory council. The council includes members from various segments of the community. The council works with State Services for the Blind to set goals and priorities for the agency each year, and also participates in the development of a state plan: business, industry and labor; independent living council, parent training center; community rehabilitation programs; consumer groups etc. The council works with SSB to establish goals, priorities and strategies for the agency, conduct a needs assessment, evaluate the effectiveness of its programs, and provide other advice and recommendation pertinent to State Services for the Blind. This year, the council reviewed SSB's Blueprint for Pre-ETS services, which has to do with the services to transition-age youth under WIOA. Steve was elected as chair in 2016, and as part of that job he is occasionally called upon to write letters on behalf of the council. For example, he wrote a letter questioning certain of RSA's regulations in response to a request from the White House for all agencies to give feedback on existing regulations. A letter was also written regarding barriers to blind venders working in the veterans' administration (in collaboration with SSB because of its administration of the Business Enterprise Program). Steve indicates he has worked to maintain the expectation that the SRC-B does not function in the role of a consumer group; that is what the actual consumer groups are for. Rather, the council generally confines itself to its advisory role with the agency and expressing positions that affect SSB's policies directly. Steve will be chair until February 2018. The next meeting is December 7, and Federationists are encouraged to attend these council meetings which are public.

 

Cody Beardslee, president of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students, reported that at the meeting on Friday, he was elected for a third term; vice president is Lisan Hasnain; Second vice president is Chloe Wu; secretary is Kia Yang, and Treasurer is Robbie Binns. Cody thanked all who helped with the students' coffee fund raiser this weekend. There will be another student membership call in December. This spring the students hope to be involved in another student seminar.

 

Jennifer also noted the at-large chapter and the Riverbend chapters, both of which are going strong. The Riverbend chapter sometimes meets in person and sometimes by conference call. We can be very proud of the fact that Federationists all over the state are working to spread the truth about blindness.

 

Treasurer Alice Hebert reported that $1,802.00 was raised from the bake auction this weekend.

 

National Representative Amy Buresh offered some final words to the convention, indicating that the convention felt like a little bit of home for her and Shane. She challenged those present to ignite the propellant—to take the love and hope from the convention home, and spread it to the chapters and all across the state. On behalf of the convention, Secretary Jennifer Wenzel presented Amy with a gift.

 

National Student representative Tarik Williams also offered words of thanks to the convention, and also displayed his tremendous talents as a rapper, giving a very intricate and inspiring rap about dealing with blindness that he composed himself after he lost his sight at age 16.

Jennifer thanked the convention for the opportunity to serve as president for the preceding ten years. This organization has a long history of making things happen and of finding or making its own solutions to the problems of the day. No doubt, that will continue to be the case as the needs change but the organization remains a constant strong presence. Jennifer encouraged the members to work with and support the new president as he learns the ropes and leads the organization into the future.

 

After the awarding of the final door prize, Jennifer handed Ryan the gavel that she was given at the time of her election as president. A motion to adjourn the convention was approved, and before using the gavel to adjourn the convention, Ryan asked all the members to clap at the same time as the gavel was dropped, to symbolize the shared effort required for the activities of the National Federation of the Blind.

 

Another convention therefore drew to a close, with renewed spirits and enthusiasm for building the Federation and living its positive message in our daily lives.

 

Resolutions Adopted by the 2017 Annual Convention

 

Resolution A2017-01

Regarding paratransit services provided by Metro Mobility

 

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act defines paratransit as “public transit that is comparable to regular route public transit for people whose disability or health condition creates undue barriers to using regular route transit;” and

 

WHEREAS, Metro Mobility is a paratransit service that provides door-to- door service to 20,000 active, certified customers with disabilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area; and

 

WHEREAS, although the National Federation of the Blind continues to promote the view that blindness in and of itself does not restrict a person's ability to use regular route transit, we recognize that some who are blind may use Metro Mobility because of additional disabilities, other health conditions, limited English skills, or other factors; and

 

WHEREAS, Metro Mobility’s service manual states that the length of a shared ride “will be comparable to a trip taken using regular route transit,” but blind customers frequently report that rides last more than two hours, much longer than a trip on regular, fixed routes would take; and

 

WHEREAS, although Metro Mobility’s service manual also states that if a customer specifies an appointment time when booking a reservation, Metro Mobility guarantees timely arrival, customers report arriving excessively early or late to their places of employment, medical appointments, blindness skills training, or other time-sensitive activities, which creates barriers to independence; and

 

WHEREAS, Metro Mobility trip providers are trained to enter a customer’s pickup point and alert them of their arrival, but blindness training professionals and other service providers have observed inconsistencies in both service delivery and recovery that often result in unwarranted “no shows” on a customer’s account, which can lead to suspension of necessary transportation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Metropolitan Council to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to commission an independent audit of the Metro Mobility service to identify existing gaps between written policy and service delivery.

 

Resolution A2017-02

Regarding Medical Assistance

 

WHEREAS, Medical Assistance (MA) is Minnesota’s Medicaid program for people with low income, administered through offices of the Department of Human Services at the county level; and

WHEREAS, under Minnesota's Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, governmental services must be accessible to people who are blind or have other disabilities; and

 

WHEREAS, in order to maintain eligibility for MA, beneficiaries are required to complete, in handwriting, a paper form each month, which presents an access barrier for the blind; and

 

WHEREAS, a number of blind individuals who receive MA have endeavored to work with the Hennepin, Ramsey, and other county offices to find alternate methods of completing the monthly form, but these individuals have often received little to no cooperation (and sometimes disrespectful treatment) from the county agencies as they attempted to meet their obligations; and

 

WHEREAS, the refusal of county office workers to assist with the completion of these forms has, on more than one occasion, resulted in an individual losing vital medical assistance for that month; Now, therefore:

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, in convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the county human services offices throughout the state to ensure that all of their staff fully understand their obligations under state and federal law to provide reasonable accommodations so that blind Medical Assistance recipients can access this and other programs of the Department of Human Services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the county Human Services offices to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop an alternative solution that does not involve handwriting and protects the privacy of blind people for the completion of Medical Assistance and other related paperwork.

 

Resolution A2017-03

Regarding the preservation and protection of the rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act

 

WHEREAS, beginning in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Congress worked to codify the rights of people with disabilities by ensuring equal access to education, employment, and community-based opportunities; and

 

WHEREAS, the ultimate expression of this effort was the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a comprehensive civil rights law that revolutionized the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in the United States in all aspects of American life by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a disability; and

 

WHEREAS, over the last twenty-six years of the ADA’s existence, public and private entities have had access to substantial resources to assist them in complying with the law, but despite this Americans with disabilities still confront persistent physical and, increasingly, digital access barriers; and

 

WHEREAS, to assist Americans with disabilities in asserting our rights under the ADA, Congress included a private right of action under this law, which has assisted Americans with disabilities to secure landmark victories that have opened doors to employment, education, commerce, and other arenas; and

 

WHEREAS, this private right of action is now being jeopardized by a small group of attorneys and plaintiffs who are abusing this provision of the law, emboldening restaurant, commerce, and lodging special interest associations to attack this provision by backing federal legislation that will hinder the rights of Americans with disabilities to file suit against businesses that are violating the ADA; and

 

WHEREAS, in the first session of the 115th Congress, Representative Ted Poe from Texas introduced H.R. 620, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017,” which seeks to amend the ADA to require Americans with disabilities first to send a letter to the business in question informing it of the specific title and section of the ADA it is violating, next to give the business sixty days upon receipt of the letter to acknowledge it, and subsequently another 120 days to “remedy” the violation, after which—should the business not comply—only then can a person with a disability file suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

 

WHEREAS, this approach wrongly shifts the burden of compliance with the ADA from the business sector to the people the law is intended to benefit, while creating a greater incentive for businesses engaging in new construction or renovation to ignore the requirements of the ADA, since they would have to comply with the law only if and when a specific person with a disability attempts to access their facility or service; and

 

WHEREAS, Rep. Jason Lewis (MN-02) and Tom Emmer (MN-06), two members of Congress from Minnesota, have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill: Now, therefore,

 

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization condemn and deplore Rep. Jason Lewis' (MN-02) and Tom Emmer’s (MN-06) co-sponsorship of H.R. 620, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017,” and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Representative Jason Lewis and Representative Tom Emmer to withdraw their co-sponsorship of this bill and work instead to encourage the business interests who are pushing this legislative initiative to meet with and listen to the concerns of people with disabilities and to identify any common ground that may exist, while simultaneously eliminating the adverse consequences the bill, as currently drafted, has on the majority of disabled Americans who are not abusing the law.

 

Resolution A2017-04

Regarding the alarming shortage of qualified teachers of blind students and orientation and mobility professionals

 

WHEREAS, the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division has responsibility to monitor and ensure that blind students who attend public schools or the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind that work with teachers of the blind/visually impaired (TBVI) and/or certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists receive the appropriate level and amount of services as determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams; and

 

WHEREAS, blind students often rely on these individualized, specialized services in order to fully benefit from a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that is comparable to their sighted peers; and

 

WHEREAS, currently, Minnesota TBVI and O&M instructors serve an estimated 1,650 students on their caseload, according to the “Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired Fiscal Year 2016 Report to the Legislature;” and

 

WHEREAS, the legislative report further finds that TBVIs represent the highest percentage of shortages among teachers in Minnesota; and

 

WHEREAS, this TBVI/O&M specialist shortages in Minnesota prevents blind/low-vision students from receiving the frequency of instruction required to advance academically and gain the independence skills needed to compete; and

 

WHEREAS, one-third of current TBVIs are expected to retire in the next two to three years without the needed number of professionals to replace these retirees, causing a critical shortage of TBVI/O&M specialists in Minnesota that will have a devastating impact on the education of blind students; and

 

WHEREAS, no university training program exists within Minnesota to train qualified professionals to enter this ever-diminishing workforce; and

 

WHEREAS, even if a university program is established in-state, several years will be required to develop and begin the program, followed by several more years before graduates of the program will be available to provide services to blind students; and

 

WHEREAS, professionals who hold the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) have the expertise using proven methods of instruction to teach blind/low-vision students the skills needed to achieve age-appropriate independence in cane travel, but this certification is not consistently accepted in this state as a qualification for teaching blind/low-vision students: Now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division to recognize the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) as an accepted certification that qualifies professionals to teach orientation and mobility to blind/low-vision preschool through school-age students in Minnesota; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the MDE Special Education Division to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop new and/or partner with available TBVI and O&M university training programs to provide high-quality, flexible programming that will enable Minnesota to immediately address the alarming shortage of professionals with expertise needed to provide crucial instruction to blind/low-vision students in Minnesota; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division and Minnesota school districts to develop partnerships with training centers and qualified contract staff who can provide instruction to blind/low-vision students during the school year and through Extended School Year (ESY) services in order to meet the instructional needs of students as outlined in their annual Individualized Education Programs.

 

 

Dialog with State Services For The Blind

 

By Lisa Larges,

Outreach Coordinator, Minnesota State Services for the Blind

 

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to speak. I bring greetings from Carol Pankow. As you know, she not only tries to be here, but she loves being here. She has it on her calendar every year, but this year she is on a family vacation. I can tell you that she is sad not to be here. I, however, am honored to be here to speak about State Services for the Blind. I will be glad to answer any questions to which I know the answers, and I will be more than happy to bring any other questions or concerns that you have to Carol. I guarantee that she will get back to you. Our partnership with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota is incredibly important to Carol, and among other things it is an important feedback system. She relies on hearing from people about how we're doing, about what is working and what isn't working. If you let me know your concerns, I'll be glad to pass them on, and you can certainly call Carol directly as well. Even though she is not here, she is listening.

 

Among other things, Carol wanted to pass along some of the great things our customers are doing. Some of you know Rakeb Max, who is one of the folks that went to the NFB of Minnesota's Saturday school starting when she was about four, and she is sixteen now. She was just appointed to the Governor's Young Women's Initiative Cabinet, which is a governor-appointed group of about twelve young women, all under the age of twenty, I believe, who are working on addressing the equity gap in the state of Minnesota from the perspective of young women who are most directly affected by it. Rakeb is very impressive, and we just did a podcast about her. I happened to interview her about a year ago for a project I was working on, and here is how it went down: I said, "So what kinds of things are you interested in?" She responded with something like, "I'm reading a lot about macroeconomics and the market system." It was one of those moments when you're talking to someone who is about a third of your age but three times smarter than you—just a tiny bit intimidating!

 

On the federal level, there has been a shift in emphasis to begin really working with students between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, so that the transition from high school into college, then into careers and jobs, is smoother than it has been in the past. We are very proud of the fact that under Carol's leadership, we at SSB have embraced that emphasis wholeheartedly, and we have a great team in place. Tou Yang is fairly new to our staff, and he has been working on connecting students with work opportunities and internships—exploring the kinds of things that they like to do. He has a real knack for it. He has connected kids with hack-a-thons, promoting using technology to make positive changes in society. He has a kid who is working with Computers for People. We've done a lot of programming, such as a College 101 class. We have a series of evening events focusing on various career fields, connecting kids up with not only blind people working in those industries, but also with employers—it is a very hands-on opportunity.

Another thing we did last year (I like to say "we" although I had no hand in it) is a program called Blind and Socially Savvy. As a blind and not so savvy person, it is the sort of thing I so wish that I had had access to as a kid growing up. It teaches kids (and adults, too) the "soft skills" that can sometimes ultimately mean the difference between getting a job and not getting a job. These soft skills include how to present yourself with confidence, how to network, how to navigate tricky social situations, how to feel comfortable in any environment (having a bowl of soup with a potential employer, being in a busy noisy cocktail party)—to be able to walk into any situation and feel at ease and able to present your best self.

 

I want not so much to shine the spotlight on what we at SSB are doing, but especially on the young adults who are involved in our transition program—many of whom are here today. Perhaps this is just a mark of being an older person, but I can't tell you how impressed I am with these young adults. I look back at the kinds of skills I didn't have when I was their age, and it makes me incredibly hopeful about the future and fills me with pride just to watch the changes that are happening. I've been thinking some along the same lines as Jennifer in her presidential report earlier this morning, about when these young adults grow up, head off into careers and have kids of their own, what will life be like for those kids. I imagine maybe there will be video game chips implanted directly in their heads. Maybe one day the chips will malfunction, and they will get so bored that maybe they will start talking to their parents, asking what it was like when the parents were growing up. Perhaps State Services for the Blind will come up in those conversations, and the kids will say "What was State Services for the Blind, and why was it needed?" At our best, we at SSB are working ourselves out of a job. I hope so anyway. I hope that we are working for the kind of world in which agencies, including the one that I work for, are no longer necessary. When I talk to some of these kids, I can see that day coming—I really can. Partly society is changing, but also the caliber of the young people we have coming along is a giant part of what is making that change possible.

 

Along with that, now, I am going to pile some numbers on you. We finished our fiscal year at the beginning of October, so I am filled with numbers. The transition program is part of our employment section, and we had between 112 and 150 transition students. The key function of our employment section is to empower people to find work that meets their particular life goals. This last year we had 94 successful closures—that means 94 people got jobs and were in those jobs for 90 days or more, so we could close them out of our system. That sounds like a nice number, but in the previous two years, the successful closures were at about 140. Just a few years before that, they were usually around 80 or so. You may be wondering why the drastic change last year, and we are working on sifting through all of the factors as to why the most recent year's number is so much lower, but we do know some of the reason. First, now we have more people in our system who are doing things like going to school, getting training, etc., so there is a smaller pool of potential people ready to get jobs. Second, the way we measure closures has changed somewhat because of government regulations. If someone is new in a job and needs something from SSB during the 90 day period, that 90 day period starts over again. To me that is a good thing, because the closure number is not as important as whether people are getting jobs. We are working to figure out how our numbers really compare from previous years. We are also still under Order of Selection, which means that for budgetary reasons we cannot serve everyone who applies. The Order of Selection requires us to have criteria for who gets services from our employment section, and this has also affected our numbers somewhat.

 

The average wage of those newly employed last year was a little higher—$21.62 per hour for full-time work and $20.10 for part-time. Metro area people earned about $23.60 per hour. Of the 94 successful closures, 54 are blind, 7 are DeafBlind, and the rest identify as visually-impaired/low vision. People got work in a wide range of jobs: for example, counselor/social workers (4), training and library science (5), computer occupations (5), food prep and serving (7), information and recording clerks (8).

 

In addition, our employment section covers our business enterprise program. We are working hard to update what we do so that it will be more in line with the 21st century, such as getting all of our forms online so that the business owners can access those more readily.

 

In our senior section, those of you who were at the breakfast this morning heard that this year we served more seniors than we ever have before—4,167, to be exact. 717 of those met with one of our community partners through the Aging Eyes initiative. As some of you know, this is the initiative in which we have trained some entities who work with seniors in their daily lives, and given them a low vision kit with things like magnifiers and bump dots and check writing guides, so that they can serve people immediately. This helps make it so that people needing more extensive services can work with our counselors, so that the counselors are not needing to drive three counties away just to distribute a 3× magnifier. The 717 number does not include the number of referrals that we got through those community partners in the Aging Eyes Initiative. The Aging Eyes Initiative is reaching people that we at SSB would not otherwise reach. Our senior Services Unit has been able to really give people more extensive, thorough services, so that people can achieve a real level of independence and live the kind of life they want to be living. 48 of our seniors this last year went through group adjustment-to-blindness training —many of those at BLIND, Inc.

 

In our Communication Center, as Catherine Durivage mentioned this morning, we have finally created a catalog, so everything that has been brailled or recorded—about 8,000 titles—is now searchable online. Our consumers never had the ability to just browse around and see what we have or did not have; you had to call us to find out things like that. We have re-tooled the Web site in general; we had been under the Department of Employment and Economic Development, but now we have our own free-standing web site, so it is not so cluttered. If you are a senior, you aren't faced with an employment site that could cause you to think it was not relevant to you and click away from it. We are still tinkering with it and welcome your feedback.

 

We had about 110,000 pages converted into audio and sent out to customers. We are re-evaluating how we look at braille production. We say we get out about a million pages a year to customers, which is right, but about 500,000 of those pages are produced in-house. In our braille section, we have many tactile graphics that have been created over the years, and if anything ever happens to our building, like a flood, or a fire, those tactiles are gone. We have been thinking about how to preserve them and have been working with a group of students at St. Thomas, through the initiative of one of our council members, to get all of the tactile graphics digitized and saved in a way that they can be reproduced.

 

We have a new supervisor of the radio talking book, Scott McKinney. Stuart Holland, who retired in September, was the longest-serving supervisor of the radio talking book. Scott is also the editor of the Braham News, from a little town in Kanabec County. As our staff members do, Scott went off to adjustment-to-blindness training as he began his new job. He wrote a piece about his in adjustment-to-blindness training at BLIND, Inc. I will close by reading a few parts of that. It is worth reading the whole piece—it's a fun read, and I am so glad that the readers of the Kanabec County Times are getting a feel for what adjustment-to-blindness training is like:

 

"I’m in a narrow winding stairwell, and I can’t see a thing.

 

The stairs are steep, and make 90-degree turns. Sometimes it seems like there are two steps to a landing, sometimes eight and sometimes a dozen. There’s no way to tell. I can’t see anything, and the sounds I hear echo in the empty stairwell so I can’t rely on them for direction. I edge cautiously toward what I think is a stair—but instead, I step into thin air and tumble, landing flat on my butt. No one is near so I pick myself up, say a few choice words and start edging cautiously forward again."

 

He goes on to talk a bit about why he is attending the training, about nonvisual ways of learning, and about BLIND, Inc.

 

"[BLIND, Inc. students] not only participate, but thrive in almost every imaginable vocational field. Surprisingly, their biggest challenge is overcoming the perception of blindness held by the sighted community."

 

He then goes on to talk about why adjustment-to-blindness training is so important, and about how Dan Wenzel said to him one day "It's tough for all the newbies, but you do get used to it." Scott talks about how, in fact, during the course of those six weeks, the way he adapted did change, and his comfort with doing things nonvisually increased exponentially. He ends by talking about "Minnesota Nice", and how his thoughts about that have changed some. He ends with another anecdote:

 

"I learned my own lasting lesson one afternoon. Mark and I embarked from the center to practice outdoor cane use. The day was rainy, windy and chilly, and I stumbled back and forth to find the elusive door, and return inside to comfort. Finally I’d had enough. ‘That’s it,’ I say. ‘I give up.’

Mark whirls around. ‘Never say that,’ he replies. ‘Never give up. That’s not an option. I can’t give up, and neither can you. Never give up. No fear.’

 

I’ve stricken ‘I give up’ from my vocabulary. I don’t say it anymore. I’m not blind, but I’m less afraid of blindness than I was before. Blindness changes how we do things, but doesn’t stop us from doing them."

 

Thank you.

 

Update from the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library

Presented by Catherine A. Durivage, Library Program Director

 

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

Since I was here last, our volunteer recording program has been active recruiting volunteers and recording books. We have around 10 volunteer narrators and reviewers. We have recorded following three new books that are now available on BARD.

 

DBC09971  Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman (downloaded 23 times since December 2016)

DBC09973  One-dog collection by Mary Casanova (Includes One-Dog Canoe and One-Dog Sleigh) (downloaded 28 times since July 2017)

DBC09975  The Rockwell Heist by Bruce Rubenstein (downloaded 51 times since April 2017)

 

Also available on BARD are the following books that were previously only available on cassette:

 

DBC09972  Murder in Minnesota: a collection of true cases by Walter N. Trenerry (downloaded 23 times since August 2017)

DBC09974  We made it through the winter: a memoir of northern Minnesota boyhood by Walter O’Meara (downloaded 72 times since May 2017)

DBC09984  A country doctor's casebook: tales from the north woods by Roger MacDonald (downloaded 304 times since October 2017)

 

Our goal is to digitize as many previously recorded cassette titles and make them available on BARD. And we continue to record new content as well.

 

If you know anyone who might be interested in volunteering for our recording program, please have them contact the library and ask for Etta Thornburg or me.

 

I know I mentioned at last year’s convention that we would be offering descriptive DVDs. Well, I’m pleased to finally be able to say that they are available for loan. We’ve have 63 titles available to borrow. Our webpage lists all available titles and you can view the list in braille, audio and large print on our webpage or contact us to have the format you need mailed to you. Because the collection is limited, we will initially send out only one DVD at a time. The loan period is 14 days. We will be ordering additional titles in the future.

 

For those of you that still have VHS players, our VHS descriptive video collection is still available for circulation, but we are not purchasing additional titles.

I know I spoke last year about the library sending out cartridges labeled A Library Book for You, which contains a book that we downloaded from BARD and placed on a generically labeled cartridge and container. Many of you have received one of these cartridges in the mail, but the cartridge generally only included one title on it. This past spring, we did a small pilot project with some of our patrons testing out multiple books on a cartridge. The majority of the response from the pilot was positive, but we still need to work out some kinks in the process. One of the more troubling issues that we discovered was that not all the books duplicated properly, resulting in book error messages. We really want to be sure everything works correctly before moving forward and offering this option to more of you. So, stay tuned.

 

And speaking of BARD, there are currently over 1,100 active individual and 63 institutional accounts. From October 2016 through September 2017 almost 3,200 braille items were downloaded and almost 77,000 audio items were downloaded. During the previous year over 4,800 braille items were downloaded and over 75,000 audio items. I’m not sure why the drop in braille downloads, but audio downloads increased by almost 3%.

 

And speaking of increases, we experienced an almost 7% increase in the number of items mailed out of the library during these same periods of time. Over 294,000 items were mailed out between October 2016 and September 2017. This figure includes all formats. Again, I’m not sure as to why there was such an increase in overall circulation and much of this increase came from audio books loans, but since we are able to duplicate audio books more quickly via BARD, we can response to your needs sooner and get books to you when you need them. I can tell you my staff definitely felt the increase, but this is a good thing.

 

And if you can stand a few more statistics, I looked over the NFB-Newsline® statistics for September 2017. There are over 1,300 NFB-Newsline® subscribers. The average call length is a little over 15 minutes. Minnesota papers are the most frequently accessed content, followed by national newspapers. Local weather and emergency alerts are also popular as are breaking news articles and TV listings.

 

So now on to less statistics, but equally important information. As I have mentioned previously, we have been working with State Services for the Blind on our own joint application for service. We are very close to have it ready for distribution. Many of you might not know, but the state of Minnesota recently went to a statewide brand. This means that every agency has to follow the same format and accessibility for their documents, webpages and logos, etc. Currently, our application is being reviewed at the Minnesota Department of Education to ensure it meets these new branding and accessibility guidelines. We hope to have it available for distribution by the end of the year. The goal with the new application is to have more information about what services are available from each program. The application will be available to fill out online. We still require a signature on the application, but the application can be mailed, emailed or faxed to the library. NLS is looking into offering secure, electronic submission of applications and to possibly develop an automated certification process that allows frequent certifying authorities to become registered to submit electronic applications. We welcome these opportunities.

 

We also having been testing out a new online library catalog. We do have a catalog where you can search for materials in our collection and place orders. Our catalog also offers download links to BARD. The new version will offer better search features and the ability for us to highlight collections, such as large print books or print/braille books so those titles are easier to find. We still have some in-house testing to complete, but hope to have it available in 2018.

 

Before I move on to national news, I did want to mention that our last advisory committee meeting for 2017 will be Monday, November 6 at 1:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Department of Education. Anyone is welcome to attend. For more information about the advisory committee, please contact me.

 

So on to national news.

 

NLS retired the C-1 cassette player this year. Introduced in 1981, over 1.2 million C-1 cassette players were manufactured. Additionally, NLS is wrapping up its analog-digital conversion. More than 95,000 digital titles are now available on cartridge and/or BARD, including more than 42,000 titles on cassette that are now available in digital. If you have a cassette player, you can keep it, but contact us if you want to return it and need a shipping box.

 

NLS is working on the next version of the iOS BARD mobile app. It was supposed to be ready this summer, but has been delayed. NLS is also working updating the Android mobile app and hopefully plans to incorporate many of the iOS mobile app features into app.

 

The publication, Kiplinger’s Retirement Report, is now available on BARD and by mail. Please contact us if you would like to receive this publication or go to BARD to download.

 

NLS will be also be undertaking some wonderful pilot projects in the coming months:

 

NLS will be working with the Perkins Library in Watertown, Massachusetts to study the viability of using braille eReaders to distribute braille materials. The goal is to purchase around 200 APH Orbit Reader 20 refreshable braille devices to test their ease of use and effectiveness. Once the pilot project is completed, NLS will look at producing their own eReader for the program.

 

NLS is also looking at using synthetic speech in the production of some its audio content, especially material that is more time-sensitive or that is supplemental in nature, like bibliographies or endnotes. NLS will still use human narrators for the majority of its audio materials, but feels that synthetic speech will allow for more content to be available sooner.

 

NLS is also exploring wireless transmission of talking-book files directly to patrons' reading devices, creating a loading process that would be similar to the ease of obtaining an album from iTunes or Amazon. While only in early test stages, wireless downloading of NLS material promises significant advancement in ease of use for NLS patrons and the management of the entire NLS system.

 

NLS is also working developing of the next generation talking book devices that will incorporate some of the previously mentioned features, like wireless delivery and synthetic speech.

 

Source: NLS Rolls Out New Digital Initiatives (https://www.loc.gov/nls/about/news/press-releases/nls-rolls-new-digital-initiatives/)

 

So, as we close out 2017 and look forward, 2018 promises to be exciting. I and my staff look forward to these changes and how they will improve our library services to you.

 

What's New At The Academy

by John Davis, Director, Minnesota State Academy for the Blind

 

Good morning, I'm happy to be here. This is my ninth year as the director of the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind. I'm here to give you an update on the busy year we have had at our academy.

 

We had our 150th anniversary celebration last November, and our choir gave a wonderful performance along with the choir from the Faribault high school. Throughout the year we worked on our accreditation with AdvancED; the visit from them occurred in the spring, and we did receive our full accreditation from AdvancED. Kudos to our staff for all the work going through that process.

 

We have had a very busy summer and fall. In our summer programs, this year we had about 65 students—the most students we have had for at least ten years. We are up to 62, plus 1 this week, making it 63 students in the school. I've been quite busy doing in-take meetings in the last couple of months. We lost about 10 but gained almost 24 students, for a net gain of 14. It is the most we have had in quite a while, and it seems to be continuing to grow.

 

We have an ongoing technology updating and improvement program, and this year we are in the process of installing interactive boards in all of the classrooms. We have updated all our iPads for the students, and we are also getting new laptops. Our IT group, led by Mr. Trebelhorn, is busy getting all that done, and I appreciate all their work.

 

For our students of transition age, as part of their evening dorm activities, they have been attending SSB's Career Connections workshops on a monthly basis. Also, we have brought in a group to talk about home safety with our Academy Plus students who are living in the semi-independent apartment and the independent house. The students will be touring BLIND, Inc. in November. Next week we have Joni Werner from SSI, coming to talk with the Academy Plus students to inform them about that process and answer any questions they may have.

 

Agency-wide, we are looking at redoing our strategic plan this year, including our five- and ten-year plan for buildings, as well as what we want to do on campus with respect to programming. This will be a bonding year in the state legislature, so we are looking at asset preservation money on our campus, as well as the ongoing ask for the track that we have discussed previously. The Governor is in support of the track, but it just has not made it through the legislative process as of yet—but hopefully this year.

 

Thank you, it has been great to be here, and I look forward to returning next year.

 

Convention Alert!

 

Exciting times are coming in NFB conventions. Keep these in mind as you plan your activities throughout the coming year.

 

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be held May 19 2018 at a location yet to be determined. Members will receive a letter with details, and the information will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The National NFB Convention will take place July 3-8 2018 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida. This is nearly a week of friends, fun, and serious business. It is a chance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world. The full convention bulletin may be found in the December Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.

 

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember

 

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

 

Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:00 on the second Saturday of every month (with an optional lunch for purchase at 11:00) at Pizza Ranch, 110 2nd street south Suite 119 in St Cloud.

 

Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 10:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis. Come at 9 a.m. for social hour with coffee.

 

Riverbend Chapter — Mankato area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month by teleconference call. The telephone number for the call is 1–515–739-1032 with access code 1005345.

 

Rochester Chapter — Rochester area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester.

 

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

 

Braille Club — Any National Federation of the Blind member who uses braille is invited to attend. This group meets on the first, second, and third non-holiday Tuesdays of the month from 4:30-6:30. Its purpose is to improve braille skills and get better acquainted with other NFB braille users. Attendees bring their own book or magazine or borrow one. Contact Melody Wartenbee at 612-870-9484 or e-mail mlwartenbee@gmail.com.

 

 

Background and Purpose

 

The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is two-fold — to help blind persons achieve self-confidence and self-respect and to act as a vehicle for collective self-expression by the blind. By providing public education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, literature and publications about blindness, aids and appliances and other adaptive equipment for the blind, advocacy services and protection of civil rights, development and evaluation of technology, and support for blind persons and their families, members of the NFB strive to educate the public that the blind are normal individuals who can compete on terms of equality.

 

No one understands blindness as well as those who live with it daily. To apply this know­ledge to solving the problems of blind­ness, blind people formed the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM). NFBM is the state's largest and oldest or­ganization of the blind. It provides self-help programs for blind people of all ages and activities.

 

As blind people, we know the loss of eyesight is not the major problem of blindness. The real problem is the misun­derstandings that surround blind­ness. The NFBM overcomes this problem through education of the sighted to the reality of blindness and through mutual help among blind people. Such activities make blind people fully‑partici­pat­ing members of society. They earn their living, raise famil­ies, and take full responsibility for their own lives.

 

The NFBM began in 1920 as the Minnesota State Organization of the Blind. It is a member­ship organiza­tion open to everyone who believes in the capability of blind people to help himself or herself become full participants in the community.

 

In 1940, Minnesota and six other states founded the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Today, the NFB numbers over 50,000 blind people. It has organizations in every state, and local chapters in almost every sizable commun­ity.

 

During these many years, we have made strong progress toward equal­ity. We have improved employment opportunities and educa­tion for blind persons in the state of Minnesota and in the nation.

 

Most of our members are blind, and their knowledge of blindness comes from their personal lives. Other organi­zations get their informa­tion on blind­ness through the reading of textbooks or other secondhand techniques.

 

For a complete listing of the NFB of Minnesota board of directors, visit www.nfbmn.org/board.html.

 

There are several ways to keep up with, as well as interact with, the most active group of blind people in Minnesota:

 

·       Join the discussion list for Minnesota on NFBNET at www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/minnesota-talk_NFBNET.ORG

·       Follow @nfbmn on Twitter at twitter.com/nfbmn

·       Like us on Facebook by searching for National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota at www.facebook.com/

 

Acknowledgements

 

Many people are involved in getting this issue to you. The writers can write and the editor can edit, but until the material is printed, brailled, recorded, and distributed, it is just a computer file. Therefore, we owe great thanks to the following people for the work they do in producing this publication.

 

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

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

·       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.

·       Jennifer Dunnam marks up and posts the website edition. She also makes corrections to the print edition.

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

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