Quarterly Publication of the
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Voice: (612) 872-9363
Tom Scanlan, Editor
Volume 80, Number 4, Fall 2014
WE ARE CHANGING
WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE BLIND
Table of Contents
By Jennifer Dunnam
Many benefits flow from being a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Some of these are the mutual support and encouragement, the ability to make things happen together that we could not do alone, the sense of community, and the useful information and resources. The collective experience we can call upon is deeper with more of us in the mix, and the more of us there are, ready and willing to participate, the more we can do. There is one aspect, however, that is a bit more complicated to describe, but it can apply to all of us individually — whether we grew up as a blind person or lost sight later in life. Participating in the National Federation of the Blind can help us "calibrate."
The word calibrate has numerous definitions, but here is the one that I (nerd though I may be) find relevant: "To check, adjust, or determine the graduations of a quantitative measuring instrument by comparison with a standard." Certainly, this is not a precisely relevant definition, since we're talking about humans, but perhaps I can illustrate with a bit of personal history, which is no doubt similar in some ways to the experiences of many others.
My parents are the best anyone could ask for. They worked hard to ensure that I, their daughter who has always been blind, would live a normal life, able to take care of myself and to get along and do my fair share in the world. They knew that sometimes toughness was necessary from them in order to achieve these goals. However, they were not with me everywhere I went, could not always influence the ways others treated me, and, with a few rarely-encountered exceptions, did not have exposure to other blind people who could show by example how to live a successful life as a blind person.
There were many other people in my early life, also with the best of intentions, who had little exposure to the truth about blindness and also did not have the same incentive to consider my future as my parents did. Many felt sorry for me or constantly told me what an inspiration I was. Most wanted to do all they could to make life easier for me. Therefore, although I was fortunate to receive a good education at public school, I also received many strong messages that I was not like other people, and that the rules were not the same for me as for others.
For most of my school years, I always sat in the very front of the class (or sometimes at the very back), in a different type of desk from everyone else. I was often allowed to leave class just a little before the end, so that the fellow student who helped me get to my next class would have time to get me there and then to get herself to her own class (no independent cane travel training for me until I was twelve, and even then it was very limited). It isn't that no one ever insisted that I come up to the mark and meet standards like everyone else. I remember how grouchy I was when suddenly I was expected to start doing more chores. I was offended when a teacher said, "You're responsible for cleaning out that desk just like everyone else.” These were important lessons, but they were harder to take because the messages were not consistent and I was so often treated differently from others.
One time there was an article in the town's newspaper about me — all about my good grades in school, my climbing on the playground equipment, my school friends, and on and on. Certainly, it can be argued that there is merit in such an article showing a positive image of blindness, but none of this would have been newsworthy at all if I were not blind. However, as a young child I was not mature enough to keep it in the correct perspective, so I fear I took it all to heart a bit overmuch, thinking that maybe it meant I really was as amazing as everyone said I was.
The other side of the coin of being "different" started to rear its ugly head more as I became a teenager. People my age often did not want to hang around with me much. My younger sisters got driver’s licenses and could drive off wherever they wanted, but I could not have even told you the name of the next street over from where we lived much less navigated around the city. My sisters and friends spend as much time as they could walking around the mall, but it was a struggle for me to just walk around my own school building independently. And if I did go to the mall with them, I spent a lot of time waiting, because, unless I could talk them into going somewhere particular, they set the course. The feeling of powerlessness is hard to convey to one who may not have experienced it, but I imagine many readers here know what I am talking about. I and everyone else assumed this was how it had to be and would likely be so for my whole life. To survive, I simply began to adjust to this way of being — the waiting, the loneliness — and began to stop hoping for better. Because of the mixed messages and relative powerlessness, I did not have a good grasp of how to view myself as just a regular person, not more and not less — even though at the time I might even have been able to say the right words about it. It was all very confusing — to be "special" but also somehow inferior — amazing but also to be pitied and shunned.
During high school, I attended one summer at the school for the blind. In some ways the experience was helpful in that in this setting, I was not so special, weird, or different from the rest of the crowd. However, most of "the crowd" were kids with similar struggles of not being viewed with normal expectations and not knowing how to deal with it or even quite realizing it. Besides which, there was a strong sense that how much sight one had was a primary predictor of how much responsibility one could be expected to take. The experience, although it was not all bad, did not generally present much hope to me.
Fortunately, I soon met the National Federation of the Blind and was very astonished to discover that my own expectations were actually far too low. For example, I got to know people who not only walked independently around their cities, but they took control of things by hiring drivers rather than waiting and hoping people would be willing to drive them somewhere. Not only that, I witnessed blind people taking charge of navigation when riding with a directionally-challenged sighted driver, and knowing precisely where specific locations were, even in a mall. After recovering from the shock, I got to work on improving my skills and learning all I could from my new role models.
No less important than the skills, and probably more so in the scheme of things, were the adjustments I was able to make to my approach and attitude. Learning new skills went a long way to helping me understand that I was not somehow a lesser person than others were. However, it was in some ways a rude awakening to figure out for sure that I was not actually the least bit amazing, either. There were many blind people smarter than I was, more talented than I was, and with better social skills. In this group, one helped with the cleanup regardless of level of sight — no excuses or special treatment for me. People assumed, respectfully, that I was capable of doing a given thing and would ask if I needed help, rather than immediately scurrying to the rescue at the first sign of questions. If I didn't know how to do something, people would teach me rather than just doing it for me, and they kindly but frankly let me know if I did or did not do things that would be detrimental to general life success. I learned, directly and by example, how to fit in in the larger community and to do my share. The messages were consistent in this environment, and so it was possible to learn how to put the views of the larger society into perspective. I have now been a Federationist for many years, and the help of this organization in this respect remains invaluable.
This experience is not unique to people who grow up blind. Many who lose their vision later in life may start out maintaining the independent spirit that they had when they were sighted, but as time goes on without a supportive community and without strategies to deal with the constant barrage of well-intentioned low expectations from others, it becomes just easier to give in — to stop trying to live the life we want, which can make us dependent and disabled in ways that are not really necessary. The Federation can help us get that spirit back, and to get the five ingredients of freedom that Jim Omvig so aptly enumerates in his book Freedom for the Blind: The Secret Is Empowerment:
· coming to believe, emotionally and intellectually, that it is respectable to be blind;
· learning the skills and mastering the alternative techniques of blindness;
· knowing how to cope effectively and unemotionally with things people do and say because of their misunderstandings about blindness;
· having the discipline, the flexibility, and the work ethic, grooming, and appearance to "blend in"; and
· giving back, both to other blind people and to society.
I am grateful to be able to "calibrate" from time to time with my Federation family — people who show by their example how to be a blind person with confidence, class, resourcefulness, and willingness to believe in and help others. We strive to create a space that lets us measure ourselves against normal expectations, to keep low expectations from coming between our dreams and us.
By Lori Peglow
Meet the Members
On February 20, 2005, Jim Cecil was driving home from work. Jim was a distribution manager for the Star Tribune. He was working in Minneapolis the last year of his career there. He made it as far as Clear Lake when the cruise control malfunctioned in his car. Jim veered off into the ditch in order to avoid hitting other cars. He hit a tree head on at a high speed. It took emergency crews almost two hours to get him out of the vehicle and to get help for him. Jim had lost too much blood. He was kept medically sedated for about 50 days. When he was taken off sedation, he realized he was blind. Because of the volume of blood loss, his retinas were dead; the optic nerves in the left eye were dead, and greatly damaged in the right eye.
Jim was in the army for six years. While serving in Vietnam, he received multiple service ribbons, including Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and Army Commendation Medal. He got out of the army in 1967. Jim returned from Vietnam to the US in July 1967. That is when he met Sharon and they were married in July 1968. They spent two years at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Jim was discharged from the Army in May 1969, and they moved to the St. Cloud area. They have two sons and a daughter, six grandchildren and a great grandson.
Jim has been a member of the CMNFB for more than 5 years and is the chapter treasurer. He is a member of the Disabled American Veteran (DAV) and Military Order of Purple Hearts (MOPH). Jim is one of the founding members of Blind Veterans Support Group at the VA Hospital in St. Cloud and belongs to the BVA (Blind Veterans of America). Most of his blindness skills training he received at the Hines VA Blind Center in Chicago.
Jim is very knowledgeable in the technology available to blind people. Some of his aids are a label reader by Envision that reads the labels on his prescriptions (available through CVS Pharmacy), Victor Reader Stream for reading books and HumanWare Breeze GPS system that works both in vehicle and walking. He uses a personal recorder, which also contains his address book and message center. Jim has a product by Envision that reads the bar code on packages and cans and contains preparation instructions. He uses speech-to-text software on his computer, a color reader that tells him the color of his clothing and a digital talking scale and thermometer.
Jim’s hobbies are woodworking, camping and fishing. He misses being able to hook up his boat to his truck though. He also was an avid bowler, but had to stop bowling because of balance issues.
His advice for a blind person is don’t give up. Be as independent as you can, but when you need assistance, ask for it.
Annual Events in the Area
We held our annual brat sale this summer at Cashwise Foods in Waite Park. The sale was held on a Wednesday and Thursday rather than the usual Friday and Saturday. The sales were as expected.
Our annual fund-raising spaghetti dinner will be held at the Eagles Club in Waite Park on Friday, January 16, 2015 from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
By Emily Zitek
Many Federationists around the country categorize their lives as having two parts: one that existed before the NFB and the other that still exists after NFB changed their lives. Many of us remember that first person who changed our lives, the one who seemed so confident and positive and had the ambition and drive and enthusiasm we wanted so much but didn't think was possible because we didn't have the skills and confidence to believe it. Many of us are involved or even very successful in work, the Federation, or our interests. Most of the time, we tell people that if it weren't for a certain person or group of people, we wouldn't have gotten to the successful place we are in now. Because of my pride and satisfaction over how far I've come, I have to say that I owe two very special people much thanks and gratitude for the way my life has turned out: Joanne Wilson and Joyce Scanlan. Sometimes when we're caught up in the power of an organization or get so busy in our jobs, we tend to forget about those people who had mentored us when we were no more than a beginning student, being under sleepshades for the first time, not certain if we would make it another day of training. Somewhere along the line, we tend to dismiss those people who were there for us when we were first hired at a job and were feeling so overwhelmed by something as simple as answering a call on the telephone switchboard. Well, I'm here to say that I'll never forget Joanne and Joyce, who should never be taken for granted. In their own way, both of them have set the example that I still follow today.
My life, like many others, had that "before" and "after" the NFB phase. The life I had led before my first summer at the Louisiana Center for the Blind was bleak. I used a white cane, only because my mother and stepfather told me I had to. I didn't see the value, since I thought it was much easier memorizing familiar territory and using sighted guide to get around in new environments. Most of the time I pitied myself for being blind; in fact, one afternoon shortly before I had my first NFB summer camp experience, I remember talking to the family dog, telling it how terrible my life was as a blind person. I hated being different from everyone else my age. I had turned fourteen that summer, and many of my friends were in the planning stages of taking Driver's Ed. I never thought I would be cooking that summer, or walking to the store by myself, and even the thought of living alone one day was just another terrible obstacle awaiting me in this dark tunnel I called life.
I finally began to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel my first night at a five-week-long summer camp for blind children, the Buddy Program. That's when I met Joanne Wilson. She was my first mentor and role model, the person I strived to be like one day. She was a totally blind mother of five children, director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, president of the NFB of Louisiana, and worker in the Buddy Program that summer. I couldn't imagine having so many responsibilities as a regular adult, let alone one who couldn't see. When I met Joanne, I knew she would teach me how to be independent.
Shortly after I arrived there, she handed me a white cane and sleepshades. I knew beforehand that the cane and shades were requirements while going through training that summer. Instead of simply telling me that I had to use the cane and wear sleepshades, Joanne took the time to explain their importance. This made me want to start learning things the way a totally blind person did, in order to become like Joanne. I no longer looked at the cane and shades as dreaded aspects of the training that I absolutely had to use.
We grilled hot dogs that first night, and with Joanne's demonstration and assistance, I overcame one of the things I had always feared until then: cooking over an open fire. The next morning when I told Joanne I wanted bacon and eggs for breakfast, I thought she would simply go in the kitchen and make it for me. But instead, she said, "Okay, Emily, let's make breakfast together.” When laundry needed to be done, she didn't tell us to go and do laundry or assign someone else to help all the time. Most of the time, when her schedule allowed it, she made the time to come down to the laundry room and show us how to use the washing machine and the dryer, and she even taught us to fold clothes and socks.
I believe Joanne was a perfect example of a great leader. Sometimes we get busy in our line of work. I'm an employer myself, so I understand this all too well. But I never ask people who work with me to do anything I'm not willing to do myself. No matter how tired or busy Joanne was that summer, she had an undying love for the Buddies and the Federation. She got out there on her hands and knees, rolled up her sleeves, and worked right along with the rest of us. That made me stop feeling sorry for myself and believe that I could have the confidence and independence that made Joanne shine. I had no more excuses for myself.
I moved to Minnesota in 1996 and joined the NFB of Minnesota. A couple years later, Joyce Scanlan hired me at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. It had been a hard two years since moving to Minnesota, and I needed to find a job where I could grow and learn new things. I began my employment by working the phone switchboard and watching the front door. Over the next few years, Joyce gradually increased my job duties, which became more challenging as old staff left and new ones were hired. Through my first few years, Joyce was my mentor. She believed in my abilities in the beginning and gave me the chance to grow from being just the receptionist into someone wearing many hats.
By the time Joyce retired from being the director of BLIND, Inc., I had learned to do the class scheduling and take over the transcription of documents into Braille, and then I was the life-skills instructor and office manager, all at the same time. Joyce treated me as a part of her team, from day one.
There was a time when Joyce had difficulty finding a suitable secretary who would work well with her. As office manager, I had to help train several people before we found a secretary who would work well. When something wasn't working out with one of those potential hires, Joyce would pull me into her office and explain the reasons why that person wasn't working out. She communicated with her staff during difficult times so none of us was ever in the dark about things. She proudly recognized and praised us when we accomplished something or were doing an exceptional job. There were unfortunate times when issues arose, and she was straight to the point with her students and staff.
What meant the most to me was that despite her very busy schedule of being president of the NFB of Minnesota and directing BLIND, Inc., she made sure to ask, on a regular basis, how I was doing, if I had questions about a new job duty, or concerns about a certain issue. She took extra time out of her day to make sure I was holding out. She provided guidance and a friendly ear when my grandmother died of lung cancer. She recognized my good performance and told me that she believed in me when I was afraid of teaching my first life-skills class shortly before she retired.
After working at BLIND, Inc. for ten years, I decided to make a change in my career, and now I'm a self-employed blind vendor. Since I have one convenience store to run, in addition to almost 40 vending machines around St. Paul that need servicing several times a week, I have to hire employees. I have followed Joyce's example and still call on her for advice when dealing with hiring new people and breaking through the difficulties current employees might be experiencing.
Even though she has retired from being the director of BLIND, Inc. and is no longer the NFBM president, I believe that her wisdom is still important and that we shouldn't dismiss her because her era of power is over. In fact, I believe none of us should ignore or turn down her wisdom and knowledge, especially those of us who Joyce has taught. We always need new people, but I don't believe we could be successful without learning from our predecessors.
I have to remember that if it hadn't been for Joyce and her willingness to give me a chance to prove myself, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. I will pass on the things she taught me in order to teach others. Like Joanne, Joyce didn't just tell me to go and do something without explaining why. She made me believe that I could do it. She led by example, which was proof enough to help me believe in myself. I follow Joanne's example, just by educating the public and teaching students pursuing vending as a potential career that blindness isn't going to get in the way of being successful.
In the town where I grew up, it has always been hard for anyone to find employment. Unfortunately, the people I grew up with weren't very educated about the true meaning of blindness, so had I chosen to continue leading the life before I met the NFB, I would probably still be living at home with my parents, being driven and led around from place to place, and may not have a very bright future. So I want to give a special thanks to my heroes, Joanne Wilson and Joyce Scanlan. They have been longtime leaders in the Federation who have changed the lives of many and we should not forget them.
By Nancy Burns
(Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Que Pasa, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico.)
It has been written about the ancient poet Homer that he was compensated for his blindness with the gift of poetry. Such reflections are made all too often about those of us who happen to be blind. Is it possible that Homer was a talented poet and just happened to be a blind guy?
Such attitudes and beliefs about blindness and vision loss have been handed down through the centuries. The disturbing factor is that even today too many of these misconceptions are still alive and well. For example, the sixth sense is an attribute often given to blind people. Much of society seems to believe that if a person is blind, this person's other senses are greatly improved. Of course, this is not the case. We simply learn to use our other senses more effectively.
Literature, television, and movies have, unfortunately, played a role in perpetuating many of these negative stereotypes. These industries want stories that will sell and consequently, reality is often missing. Granted, we live in a visually oriented world. Generally, when people close their eyes and try to imagine how they might function as a blind person, they conclude that they could not. This is in fact, true, because blindness-related training (such as the use of Braille and mobility skills) accompanied by a positive attitude are essential for a blind person to live a successful and independent life. But it takes something else: it takes open-mindedness from others. It also takes realistic expectations. The role of the parent of a blind child is critical. If low expectations exist, it is doubtful that this child will become a highly functioning adult. These expectations, or lack thereof, play a significant role in the attitudes towards people who happen to be blind.
Society has opted to perpetuate these inaccurate and damaging stereotypes about any person with a disability. Myriad commercials are cranked out portraying the beautiful, perfect person who wears the trendy designer clothing and brushes with the most popular toothpaste. What has happened to reality? Is there no room for individuality in this world? Since societal attitudes have created this distorted picture of reality, it is now society's responsibility to correct these false images and to promote a more accurate definition of a person who happens to be "different.”
An ongoing goal of the NFB has been, and is, to bring these very important issues to the world around us. Each member of this organization is an ambassador of the truth as we take our message to the public. These stereotypes have existed for centuries, and the harsh reality is that change cannot happen overnight. All of us, as blind or visually impaired people, bear the responsibility of assisting in this process of changing what it means to be blind.
By Patrick A. Barrett
Several years ago, my wife Trudy and I wanted to get more involved in that year’s election. We are both blind. We rode the bus to our local caucus meeting in February, and called a cab to go home afterward. We voted for the candidate of our choice. We asked the officials for help if we needed it for the small amount of print material.
Two years ago, I thought I would go further than just getting my feet wet, and jump into the political process pool. Trudy was in Idaho for an undetermined amount of time helping her dad take care of her critically ill mom. To those of you who have devoted a lot of care to be there for a relative suffering a long illness, there is no award in the world with enough value to recognize your selfless service!
At my caucus meeting, I showed up early and volunteered to check folks in for our ward. I also was in charge of the list of those who wanted to serve as election judges. I have a friend at my church, Pam Howell, who has served as an election judge for years. She participated in the arduous but necessary recount process of the Al Franken and Norm Coleman U. S. Senate race of 2008. I had always wanted to try it, so I signed up. An election official would contact us if we were selected to help with the primary and general elections.
During the caucus meeting, several were elected as delegates and alternate delegates for the upcoming local convention. I became an alternate delegate. As the buses were running less frequently at that time of night, I started to call a cab. One of the caucus officials overheard me, and offered me a ride home.
I started thinking later that night, though, if I could do all the duties of an election judge. What alternative skills of blindness would I need? Would my participation as an election judge be limited or even denied?
I drew upon my well of self-esteem for assurance. I’m not boasting I have a deep one, mind you. I grew up “legally” blind, or not seeing very well, because my parents had not known about the National Federation of the Blind in Idaho. Verbal and physical abuse from my dad also diminished any reservoir of self-respect.
When I was a student at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. in 1994, though, Dan Harmon taught me a valuable lesson about life. He was my Careers instructor. He was one of the few sighted teachers, yet he was a great blind guy in his Federation philosophy. He said, “Pat, everyone needs to take risks in this life. You need to have more faith in yourself.”
Sure, I will try it! And through the effort, I might pave the way for other blind people who might want to be election judges. My friend, Pam had seen me over the years be active in our church and carry out volunteer assignments successfully. I quizzed her on what all an election judge did, and we picked some tasks that I could do.
Carol Strong, the election official, notified me via email that I had been selected to work as an election judge. I was excited to get the word, and shortly after called Pam. Pam shared with me that Carol had contacted her with some questions on how I would be able to serve. Pam advocated for me, assuring her that there were tasks done by election judges that did not require sight, including instructing voters how to use the AutoMark® voting machine, handing out ballots, and overseeing voters inserting their ballots in the ballot counter.
Sheila Bruce, our hired and skilled reader for the past seven years, who has read mail, assisted with navigating more complex web sites, and sometimes has done shopping with us, filled out the paperwork for the election judge training. On the form, you could choose whether to volunteer or receive $8.75 an hour. Going to school and not working at the time, the choice was obvious. I signed up to work both the primary and general elections.
In March, I attended my first local meeting as an alternate delegate. I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota board of directors, and our quarterly board meeting was scheduled for the same day. I apologized to our state president, Jennifer Dunnam, but thought it necessary to pick the alternate delegate duties. It was tough choosing between the two, but I felt it would be good for folks to see a blind alternate delegate.
I checked in at the desk. I entered the room, and asked one of the delegates where my ward was seated. She showed me, and I was the only person on that row. An hour later, I was still the lone representative. I checked out at the desk again. They told me that since none of the delegates had shown up, I was now the sole delegate. Listening to the candidates and the issues was very involving!
On July 11, I rode the bus to the election-judge training site. It was 85 degrees and probably that high of a dew point at 10:00 that morning. Pam had told me that this building was difficult to find, tucked away in an industrial park. So, I had given myself an extra half hour to find it.
The bus part was easy. The four blocks getting to the address was a challenge. There was no sidewalk on either side. Street intersections and driveways seemed the same with the lack of traffic and curbs. I must have asked six different people where this was. One business I went into, I gave her the map I had printed out. She gave me directions. I was so nervous about being late that I promptly exited and ran with my cane loudly into the window adjacent to the front door. Score one for bad impressions about blind folks! No damage to the window; only to my pride.
Hot and sweaty, I finally got there ten minutes late. Fortunately, they had just started. The training was for two hours. It was a PowerPoint presentation. I listened to this. When the trainer brought up specific forms with which we needed to be familiar, though, I used a hand-held computerized magnifier to view these. When Sheila came the following week, we started reading over the thick handbook, and reviewed the forms, too.
Tuesday, August 14, I woke up at 5:00 AM to be at the polling place by 6:00. I am the kind of person that does not like to be late, and gets impatient with others that are. My wife has accepted this for 35 years: that’s love. Shaving in the shower, I cut myself in a small spot that insisted on bleeding for a long time. It wasn’t profuse, just persistent. I apologized to all the election judges there when I finally arrived at 8:15.
Luckily, this was the primary election, where voter turnout was usually lighter. They had only had a few voters so far. I checked in with Brian, the head election judge. I went over with him the duties I thought I could perform. He agreed with me, and started me out at the ballot box. I was in charge of collecting the privacy shields that go over the ballots, advising voters how to insert the ballot, and listening for the “thunk” to announce it went in successfully or the “beep, beep, beep” that alerted us to a problem. Oh, yes, and I got to hand out the “I Voted” stickers.
If you are going to be an election judge for the first time, I recommend working the primary election. It is a good way to learn from the more experienced judges the ins and outs of the job in a slower-paced environment. This is helpful training for the more harried general election.
I learned later that morning that the other election judges had brought snacks for the day. The polling place was only six blocks walk from home. When I went home for my hour lunch break, I made sure I had enough time to pick up some munchies at Cub Foods to bring back.
That afternoon, Brian switched up our roles for variety. I was then handing out the ballots, and reminding every voter to only vote for one party. Even with this caution given, we still ended up with 13 ballots at the end of the election that had to be thrown out because someone had voted across party lines. Of course, when we determined this at the ballot box, we provided a fresh ballot to vote again.
Speaking about counts, Brian had asked each of us that morning to estimate how many voters would have voted by 5:30 PM. Being green, my estimate was 2,200. I also did that tongue-in-cheek, as that is the visual acuity measure for legal blindness. Seemed appropriate with a blind judge, right? He let me revise it, though, because he informed me there were only 2,400 registered voters in the precinct. I took off the last zero to make 220.
One of the veteran judges won the contest. No prize, just bragging rights. He had estimated 100, and we had 96. Later when the polls had closed, only 9% of registered voters in the precinct cast their ballots. Wouldn’t it be super, if during the general election the percentage for those voting in every precinct in Minnesota were even 89%? I have no patience for voter apathy either.
I should share with you an anecdote involving two experienced election judges that were working the registration table across from me at the ballot box most of the day. They were dedicated volunteers, and probably in their mid-sixties. I will call these women Lily and Millie. They were like inseparable Siamese twins. I’m not sure how they managed to go to the ladies’ room apart.
Lily and Millie were grousing (definitely not in a whisper) about how last year’s polling place was better;
Lily: “They gave us free coffee at the church last year.”
Millie: “They sure did. And there was a lot more room there.”
Lily: “And they gave you free cookies, too!”
Millie: “You bet! And the chairs were more comfortable.”
“Subtle” was not their middle name. That evening, I became the unwitting target of their chatter. I was not straining to listen to their remarks at my expense:
Lily: “I think he’s had two bottles of pop today. One was a Coke and now this one’s an Orange Crush.”
Millie: “No, I think it’s his third bottle.”
Lily: “Has he had two pieces of pizza?”
Millie: “No, I think it is his third now.”
I looked straight at them, and said in a firm voice, “Two!”
Past six o’clock, I knew it would get busier. I asked Brian if it would be OK if whenever there was an error message on the ballot box, then the voter could read me the text of the message. I knew he would be busy with other duties checking on what judges needed with the increased amount of folks voting. He said that would be fine, and so that was the alternative I used. I had my white cane with me visible all the time. The long, white cane told them I was blind, but also showed that a blind person could function as an election judge using alternative techniques of blindness. Usually, the message was that the voter had voted two parties in the primary. I directed them to the other judge to get a new ballot to revote.
At the end of the night, I stayed and helped pack up the equipment, check for signs posted in the halls and on the doors for collection, and stack chairs. As I mentioned earlier, most of the judges had no problems putting me to work where needed. Contributing to the election process, and being paid a fair wage for doing it, was rewarding! Then it was on to the “controlled insanity” (as I had been forewarned by the vets) of the general election!
By Megan Homrighausen
(Editor’s Note: This article appeared in News and Views, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona. I reprint here because it is a good summary of the experience of so many of us, and perhaps an encouragement to others.)
When I first heard about the NFB, it didn't impress me too much. I thought there were too many rules and regulations and I just felt like I didn't fit in. Mind you, I was a lot younger back then and when you're young like I was, the last thing you want to do is follow another rule. I tried to like the NFB because all of my friends had joined and so I went to my first state convention in 2005. I had fun staying at a hotel and I took in all the information that I could. I went to all the meetings and the banquet and had a lot of fun but I still was skeptical. I wasn't quite ready to be independent yet because I didn't really believe that I could be.
Years later, as I got older, I thought to myself, I should go to state convention again; I have the money right now. It literally changed my life and my world. I found out that the NFB wasn't just a bunch of rules, but a way of life.
Because of the NFB, I am feeling more independent than I ever have even though I've lost more eyesight recently. My friends in the NFB teach me the NFB way by example every day. I get the encouragement that I need from the NFB and I've found that I can do more things myself than I ever imagined possible.
I encourage you to do some research on all the things that the NFB has changed over the years. You would be truly amazed.
St. Paul Midway Lions announce openings for Free Beep Baseball — our 12th year — coming up in spring of 2015. Our team will continue to play inter-squad games at Cretin Derham Hall High School in St. Paul with about nine players per session on Saturdays. The players range in age from 15 to 70-something. We invite you to see our website at beepball.webs.com. I am coach Lion Dennis Stern, and please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at 651-452-5324 if you would like more information on playing beep ball.
Exciting times are coming in NFB conventions. Keep these in mind as you plan your activities throughout the coming year.
The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in May 2015 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis. Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.
The National NFB Convention will be during the first week of July 2015 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 will be in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.
The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in October 2015. Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.
Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at the American Legion in Waite Park
Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 10:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis
Riverbend Chapter — New Ulm area; meets at 9:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month in New Ulm; contact Monica Buboltz at 507-354-5680 for meeting location
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technology Group — This group gives the chance for everyone to explore what’s new in technology, and have their questions answered. These sessions will occur on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at our building. We hope to find a way to involve people around the state. For further information contact Kathy McGillivray at 612-822-9174 or e-mail email@example.com.
Activities for youth — Several times a year, the National
Federation of the Blind of Minnesota holds
educational/recreational activities for blind youth. These
activities provide opportunities for the youth to learn new
skills, to connect with one another and with confident,
well-adjusted adult blind role models, and to have fun while
doing so. Meetings and other activities for parents
also take place in conjunction with these events. For more information, contact Charlene Guggisberg at 507-351-5413 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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/
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 and transcribes and embosses the braille edition.
· Art Hadley reads the audio edition for cassette tape and Compact Disc.
· Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the Compact Disc edition.
· Dave Andrews marks up and posts the NFB-NEWSLINE® edition.
· Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.
· Sid Starnes deals with the printer for the print edition, mails the print edition and other tasks as needed.
· Emily Zitek collates the copies for the Braille edition and mails the Braille and audio editions.