Quarterly Publication of the
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota,Inc.
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
(612) 872-9363

Tom Scanlan, Editor

Volume LXVI, Number 1, Summer 2001


Table of Contents

Les Affaires
>Reflections and Photographs
The Discount
Moving Forward
Parent Column
The Film Review
A Poem For Computer Users Over40
Minnesota and North Dakota Hold JointConventionConvention Alert!< a name="01">

Les Affaires
Bonnie Elsey Proclaims SSB Neutrality
By Joyce Scanlan, President

During the 2001 session of the Minnesota Legislature,a hearing on the biennial budget for State Services for the Blind (SSB)was held at which Assistant Commissioner Bonnie Elsey was asked by SenatorDavid Knutson of the Economic Development Finance Committee, "how do youget along with the National Federation of the Blind?" Her immediate andalmost triumphant response was something like "we've had somedisagreements, but I came to this job with a position of neutrality; I amphilosophically neutral." Whereupon there were broad grins of smugsatisfaction on the faces of her superiors, Deputy Commissioner Al St.Martin and Mick Coleman, who sat behind her.

I grinned, too, as I sat in the audience but for avery different reason. It doesn't take great intelligence or muchawareness of Bonnie Elsey's personality or management style to realizethat her claim of neutrality with respect to SSB was anything but truth. This seemed to me to be another Elseyan twist on words, this time on themeaning of neutrality. We are all familiar with her redefinition of theword "choice" as she terminated the older blind program by explaining thatshe did it to provide more "choice" to the older blind. Bonnie Elsey iswell known for making hasty decisions and implementing them with equalspeed prior to understanding thoroughly the facts in the matter and beforechecking out possible alternatives that might moderate the harmful effectsof her decision. She comes in with a whirlwind of activity, makessweeping changes, and explains it all away by declaring that it was allnecessary because things were just so bad before she arrived on the scene. She seizes full license to disregard the feelings and views of blindpeople or anyone affected by her actions. Yet she proclaims neutrality.

My grin at the legislative hearing was more tosuppress deep feelings of sadness, disappointment and disbelief thananything else. This assistant commissioner has done everything possibleto destroy programs for the blind in this state than anyone could imagine. Yet she can sit there and with a straight face say that she is "neutral." A review of her record as administrator of SSB tells a very differentstory. Bonnie Elsey never takes the middle ground as she claims. She isat the very center of the war now in progress in the blindness field inMinnesota, the war declared by her boss, Department of Economic SecurityCommissioner Earl Wilson in his August 31, 2000 letter to the NationalFederation of the Blind (NFB) of Minnesota.

Here are just a few of her "neutral" decisions:

1. Shortly after her appointment as assistantcommissioner of SSB was made permanent, Ms. Elsey announced that the olderblind program, which had received higher customer satisfaction ratingsthan any other SSB program, was too costly and would be discontinued. Shejustified her decision by making the incredible statement that she wantedto provide more choices to the older blind population. If one thinks aboutit, financial matters drive most of Ms. Elsey's decisions. With thissuperficial bureaucratic and shallow money-driven approach, programs andservices mean nothing.

2. This highly regarded older blind program is nowbeing replaced by a pilot program designed by consultants who know nothingabout blindness. The new program has the dubious distinction of beingtitled "The Happy Path." This smacks of the purpose statements ofcharitable agencies for the blind of a century ago when the purpose wasstated to be "to promote the happiness and welfare of the blind." Thesewere custodial agencies in which blind people were regarded as wards ofthe state. Is that what we want today? It also reminds some of us of thesong "Happy Home for the Blind" in which we sing of the traditionalagencies where blind people are treated as second-class citizens with SSIas the only hope. At this point, we have not been informed of the specificdesign of the program being piloted for the older blind people. Whatanyone thinks will make no difference to Ms. Elsey. Her "neutrality"requires her to turn a deaf ear to what blind people want or need.

3. Since Ms. Elsey took charge of SSB, the agency hasbeen reorganized several times. Caseloads have been shifted more oftenthan counselors can keep track of, and blind customers are left sitting athome waiting for services and wondering when the new SSB counselor willcontact them. Counselors, too, are traumatized and unsure of who theircustomers are or when the next reorganization will be announced. ButBonnie Elsey declares that "services" are not her responsibility; shedenies having "reorganized SSB several times." So how did all this changecome about? Truth, truth!

4. New staff with no education or experience doingfield work with blind people come on board, and Ms. Elsey has terminatedthe former staff adjustment-to-blindness training program which waspreviously available to newly-hired people. She now has new supervisorsand counselors taking charge of caseloads of blind customers withoutexpertise in blindness or knowledge of the needs of blind people or theprograms available to them. Ms. Elsey in her neutrality has decided that"new staff don't need to know about blindness." They only need to knowabout the workforce center system. But don't bother to point out to herthat this is wrong. She is the self-proclaimed expert.

5. Today, blind people cannot get services from SSB;yet Ms. Elsey can continue to use Public Strategies Group (PSG) andGilmore and Associates to be consultants and tell her how to run theagency. Oh well, they really are legitimizing what she wants to do anyway.Neither group has dealt with administration of an agency serving blindpeople or had responsibility for employment programs for the blind. BonnieElsey admits openly that she doesn't know what to do; thus her rationalefor hiring these consultants, who also know nothing. But don't questionany of this, because Ms. Elsey is in charge, and she will have things herway. All is ruled by "neutrality."

6. SSB staff, who were hired to serve blind people,are still required to spend time at the workforce centers, where theyrarely see a blind person. They bring their paperwork and sit there toinflate the workforce center staff. They are also forced to attend monthlymeetings of the workforce center staff, which most counselors find to beirrelevant to their work responsibilities. And we cannot know how much SSBfunding is going to support the workforce centers. But don't ask about it,because Ms. Elsey takes a neutral position and just won't answer. Shecomplains that SSB hasn't enough money to do everything it has done in thepast. That's her justification for scrutinizing every detail of everyservice--to squeeze out more money for her pet projects. She told the truestory of the funding problem at the SSB council meeting on August 2, whenshe stated that only in the 1999 Legislature did SSB get some fundingbeyond its usual flat appropriation of the previous ten or more years. Andwe will all remember that 1999 was the year in which the NFB publiclysupported SSB's appropriation all down the line. Ms. Elsey said that shehad tried to seek additional funding for the SSB Communication Center inthe 2001 Legislature but had been turned down. Perhaps if she had hadsupport of the blind community in requesting the appropriation, the resultmay have been different. Don't waste time wondering why we weren't askedto help. Bonnie Elsey is neutral.

7. Ms. Elsey has terminated the longstanding SSBpolicy of funding taped and brailled textbooks for blind college students.This was a valid vocational rehabilitation service of SSB. Now it has beendecreed by Ms. Elsey in her neutrality that SSB can no longer afford tofund such a service and that Minnesota colleges and universities will fundthe taping and brailling of college texts. The Communication Center willcharge exorbitant fees for its taping and brailling services, fees whichwere based on many Communication Center expenses unrelated to taping oftextbooks for students who are blind, including the cost of Radio TalkingBook operation and the cost of providing taped books to people with otherdisabilities than blindness such as those with dyslexia. Prices have beenadvertised at $56.45 per cassette tape and $5.40 per braille page. Is thisreally fair? Or are the colleges and universities even aware of how thefees for these services were established? Did Ms. Elsey inform them thatwhen they purchase taped books, they are funding the operation of theRadio Talking Book? Bonnie Elsey needs the funds for employment services.How are blind customers supposed to prepare for employment withoutappropriate college textbooks either brailled or taped? Oh, they won'tattend college for vocational training. Entry-level jobs will do foranyone who is blind. That is exactly what we are already seeing; blindpeople are quickly placed in dishwashing jobs without any consideration oftheir need to resolve blindness issues. Never question Ms. Elsey; this wasa neutral decision on her part--nothing extreme or aligned to give aid toany side. It only takes away a very valued vocational rehabilitationservice once enjoyed by blind students of the state, and it sets verydefinite limits on career options for blind customers.

8. While serving as administrator of an agencyproviding specialized services to blind people, Ms. Elsey has been formingalliances with national administrators of general rehabilitation programsby participating in the abandonment of membership in the Council of StateAgencies for Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and founding a neworganization. This neutral action has the potential of reducing thevisibility and the effectiveness of programs serving blind citizens. Italso makes a very public statement concerning SSB in Minnesota. It says,"Bonnie Elsey has her sights set on more generic services and less onspecialized services to blind people." This is an extremely dangeroustrend against which Minnesota blind people have fought for years. BonnieElsey is impervious to what blind people think or need. She simply doesn'tcare about anything except the organizational chart, position descriptionsand shifting the dollars spent away from blind people's services andtoward the workforce system. Where is neutrality to be found?

9. Bonnie Elsey has been in her current position sinceFebruary 7, 2000; she was named permanent in September 2000. In that19-month-period of time, she has made no effort to learn about the purposeof the programs she administers and just why programs were established andoperated as they were. She has come to SSB with a broad broom and hasswept away most of what blind people valued in the agency serving them.She has come in and instead of making even an attempt to learn what andwhy of the programs being provided, she has foisted upon blind people herown personal background from a totally different field--not rehabilitationbut the generic workforce system model. Is this neutrality? Ms. Elseycomes from a background as a project manager. Never before has she hadresponsibility for administering a broad range of services. Theadministration prior to Commissioner Earl Wilson recognized Ms. Elsey'segotistical tendencies and transferred her to some remote area where herarrogance would not pose a problem to those around her. Then whenCommissioner Wilson needed a new assistant to administer SSB, he broughton Bonnie Elsey. That is more evidence of his true disdain for SSB than ofhis high regard for Ms. Elsey.

10. Perhaps the most clear-cut picture of the realproblem with Ms. Elsey's conduct as administrator of SSB can be seen inone specific incident. When the National Federation of the Blind ofMinnesota asked that its announcement of a schedule of training sessionson how to write your own Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) bepublicized on the Radio Talking Book, Ms. Elsey intervened and would notallow the announcement to be aired. The 1998 amendments of the federalRehab Act provide that customers should be trained in how to write theirown IPE.

This is the Elsey style of neutrality. We would morecorrectly call it censorship. She has excluded blind people in every waypossible from having a voice in the decision-making process. Even theRehab Council for the Blind is not involved in the process; they areinformed after decisions are made and sometimes already implemented. Ms.Elsey has chosen to snub the very people who could help her most, theblind of the state. She arrogantly bypasses blind people as she goesabout replacing a service-providing agency promoting independence andemployability of blind people with an old-fashioned welfare approach inwhich the customer is regarded as an object of charity with no potentialfor advancement. Again, where is neutrality in this scene?

No, no, no, neutrality is not a factor in BonnieElsey's management style, in her concept of services SSB should provide,or in her attitude toward customers. The more correct term for her entirecode of behavioral ethics is anti-blind or anti-consumer. She is morehostile than neutral. She opposes modern concepts promoted in therehabilitation system, partnerships, informed choice, upward mobility,career development. Her approach is in fact hostile and controlling.

Most people engaged in providing meaningfulrehabilitation services to blind people in this country would not use theword "neutral" in describing their outlook or their operating approach. Only an organization with a negative philosophy toward blindness or withno positive programs to propose, such as the American Council of the Blind(ACB) would utter the word as anything about which to brag. Tom Heinl, aleader in the ACB of Minnesota, has been heard to call for SSB to be"philosophically neutral." All ACB proposals are based on whatever isanti- NFB, nothing more. The local ACB does not base its decisions onwhat is most helpful to blind people. Whatever position NFB of Minnesotatakes, you can count on ACB to take the opposite. The only reason TomHeinl would support Bonnie Elsey is that he sees her as anti-NFB. Thefact is she is also anti-ACB.

Those proclaiming neutrality or the virtues thereofshould pay heed to a long-ago piece of history. When the PeloponnesianWar between Athens and Sparta in ancient Greece ended in 404 B.C., therewere three groups of people: the victors, who enjoyed the spoils of war;the losers, who were sent into exile; and the neutrals, who were shot. Inwhich group would you choose to be? Neutrality, in my book, is nothing tobe proud of.

Blind people from throughout the state will not buyMs. Elsey's claim of neutrality. We have a proud and productive past inwhich we were not just included in the decision-making process; we werewelcomed into it by everyone involved, including the administrator. Andin having the opportunity to participate, we learned to care about ourbrothers and sisters who are blind, people we have never met, blindchildren not yet born, anyone struggling with blindness. We haveexperienced good services, and we will not stop until such services arerestored.

And we know when an administrator is being honest withus and when she is not. Bonnie Elsey has probably never before worked inan agency with a well- organized constituent group. If she had behaveddifferently, she might have left a proud record of achievement as SSBadministrator. As it is, she leaves devastation, anger, and despair. Bonnie Elsey is anything but neutral. She would do well to move on to anew career where she can no longer pursue the path of destruction she ison.

I would prefer to have something positive to writeabout SSB. At the moment, this is all there is.

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Reflections and Photographs
By Jennifer Dunnam

Every Christmas, when my two younger sisters and Iwere growing up, our family drove to a small town forty miles away fromour home to exchange gifts with several sets of relatives who lived there. The Christmas I was twelve years old, one of my grandmothers gave each ofmy sisters a small mirror with her name embossed on the handle. I do notremember the gift I got; all I remember is that it was definitely not amirror with my name on it, and I wasn't happy about that. By the age oftwelve, I knew that it was inappropriate to express displeasure about agift, so I kept my disappointment well hidden for the rest of the visit.

My interest in having that mirror had a lot to do withmy upbringing. When I was a child, my parents maintained the sameexpectations for me that they did for my sighted sisters. There was notiptoeing around visual words or concepts: I learned what color thingswere, I watched TV, and I turned on lights when it was dark. My parentsnever tried to hide or deny my blindness or the fact that there werethings I could not do in the same way as other people did, but they alwaysstarted with the assumption that I would participate in all aspects ofboth working and playing. For instance, I got coloring books the same asmy sisters; the crayons were labeled with the names of their colors inbraille, and often someone used a tracing wheel from a sewing kit to makethe outlines of the pictures tactile. (Sometimes, no one had time to tracethe pictures before I wanted to use the coloring book, but I used itanyway, delighted not to be restricted to coloring between the lines).

So on the way home in the car that Christmas day, Istewed. Why did my grandmother think that just because I couldn't lookinto the mirror I shouldn't have one? I had a mirror in my bedroom, and Istood before it every day to brush my hair and get ready for the day. Itfelt strange to me not to do so, and I wasn't concerned about seeing thereflection. Besides, my friends frequently borrowed each other's mirrorsto check their appearance during the day; how impressed they would surelyhave been if I had my very own personalized mirror to lend them!

Finally, with the miles between our car andGrandmother's house increasing, and with Becky and Angie ooh-ing andaah-ing over their stupid mirrors, the ungrateful brat in me won out. "It's not fair!" I blurted. "Why didn't I get a mirror, too?" my parentspointed out - quite reasonably - that my grandmother may not have beenable to find a mirror that said "Jennifer." That possibility hadn'toccurred to me, and after a little more thought, I came to accept it asthe most likely explanation. But I still couldn't help wondering ...

I have been blind since birth, and it took some timefor my understanding of certain visual concepts to evolve. Even with theexcellent foundation my parents laid for me, my grasp of my relationshipto certain visually-oriented objects has not always been very accurate. Ican still remember the time one of my sisters, hardly more than a yearold, poured a bowl of mashed potatoes over her own head. Photographs havealways been taken copiously and valued highly in my family, and thisoccasion was no exception. As the photo of the mess was passed around ata family gathering, I joined everyone else in clamoring for a look. Whenthe picture was finally handed to me with instructions to touch only theedges, I held it a few minutes, but I couldn't tell what all the fuss wasabout. I didn't quite understand that everyone else could see the pictureand I couldn't; I thought the picture was just one of those things I wasstill too young to understand.

As I grew up, however, I learned that most otherpeople could get information from pictures more readily than I could. Atthe same time, I began to understand that photographs were of greatervalue than just for seeing. The summer I was eight years old, I went tothe zoo with some friends. My favorite part was the elephant ride, andwhen I learned that photos were available, I asked our chaperon to let mebuy one of myself on the elephant. The chaperone was doubtful, wonderingwhy a blind child would want a picture. After I explained that I wantedto take it home and let my family see me riding the elephant, she agreed. At home, everyone exclaimed over the picture: my parents were proud, mysisters were envious, and I wanted a camera of my own!

In school, class pictures were a very big deal amongthe students. Each year almost everyone at the public school purchasedpackets of individual school pictures of themselves to exchange with theirfriends. I gave out plenty of photos and got quite a collection ofpictures of my school friends, often with messages written on the backs. Junior high and high school yearbooks were filled with pictures and alsowere vehicles for messages. There were times at school when I felt leftout or couldn't participate in something because of issues relating toblindness, but I could always fit right in during the great pictureexchange.

In college, I spent several summers abroad, and Ialways took along a camera so I could bring home images to share withfriends and family. I tried at first to keep a list in braille of theorder of the pictures as I took them so I could explain them to peoplewhen I showed them later. But then I found a better solution: I got a veryhigh-quality Polaroid camera. Soon after the pictures came out of thecamera, I used a slate and stylus to make braille dymo tape labels andstick them on the bottoms of the pictures.

I now live far away from the rest of my family, andit's nice on occasion to share photos of the people and things that areimportant to me now. The pictures are also a quick way to connect thepeople in my life with those from my past; I can say to an interestedfriend, "This is my sister and her new husband," or "here is the housewhere I grew up." Recently I had a photo taken of my new kitten, scannedthe picture into a computer, and sent it to my sisters via e-mail.

Now, at gatherings of friends or on special occasions,it is instinctive for me to bring a camera and make sure that pictures gettaken. Usually others take the photos, but when the need arises and thesubject is not too complex, I take them myself. (It took some practice tolearn to aim correctly and hold the camera straight; I'm no professionalphotographer, but I can usually do a decent job of getting the subjectcentered enough in the frame so no heads are cut off.)

I am grateful to my family for making sure early onthat I participated in all the normal activities of our daily life - eventhe sharing of photographs, which some might have considered unnecessary(not to mention inaccessible) for a blind person. Their positive,practical attitude fostered in me the expectation that I would be treatedas an equal in society, and therefore went a long way toward giving me thetools I needed to bring that expectation closer to reality.

The matter of the personalized mirror, as it turnsout, was not entirely closed on that long-ago Christmas day. When mygrandmother died about four years later, I helped with the sorting of someof her belongings. I was surprised when I found, deep in one of herboxes, a small mirror, identical to the ones my sisters had received thatChristmas four years ago - but with my name on it. Since I am the onlyJennifer in my family, it seems fair to assume that the mirror was boughtfor me, and then for some reason reconsidered. Did my grandmother stopshort as she wrapped our gifts and redden as she realized what she thoughtmight be a cruel faux pas? Did someone who went shopping with her realizethe "mistake" and tell her it made no sense to give a mirror to a blindchild? Or did she just misplace the mirror and not find it until afterChristmas? I will never know. I do know for certain that, regardless ofwhat made her choose a different gift for me, she acted entirely out of awish to be kind and supportive. I am sure she never dreamed that, inbuying a gift for her blind granddaughter, sticking to traditionalthinking about blindness actually meant going against the grain.

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The Discount
By Judy Sanders

The one good thing about the end of summer is the"Great Minnesota Get Together" otherwise known as the Minnesota StateFair. As I walk through the fair, I hear a variety of sounds: all kindsof music, people hawking their products, the laughter of children, and thewild sounds on the midway. Even better than the sounds are the smells;the combination of fried food, sweet food and grilled food lasts in mymind for the entire year.

So that I can rationalize attending the fair severaltimes, I volunteer my time at a variety of booths. Whether it is for afavorite political candidate or through work, I find a need to be at thefair. The work goes much easier if I can sip on a large soft drink. Thisis the story of the purchase of one such drink.

Having received directions from another fair-goer,with my white cane out in front, I went purposefully to the drink stand. My question to the proprietor was: "How much is a large drink?"

"Normally," he said, "they are $2.50, but for you,$1."

What to do? Do I accept this discount withoutquestion? Are there any consequences that come with the cheap drink?

As a child, I loved to go to amusement parks. Occasionally, my parents would be offered a free ride for their littleblind girl. I was, of course, their first real experience with blindnessand they had no way of knowing what the implications were in these offers. Therefore, they politely accepted the rides and my day at the amusementpark was longer than it might otherwise have been. As a young adult Iwanted to be a teacher in a classroom of sighted children. I saw noreason why I could not excel in this field; but I quickly discovered thatothers with more say thought differently. I found that while people werewilling to give me a free ride they were not willing to pay me to work. Here was a consequence that neither my parents nor I had foreseen.

It was about this time in my life that I firstlearned of the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation memberstaught me a new way of thinking about my blindness. I slowly learned thatblindness did not entitle me to special things--especially if I wanted toearn my way in society. It is difficult to have it both ways.

My response to the proprietor: "Here's five dollars;If you'll give me $2.50 in change that will be fine. Thank you." He said,"You mean you will not let me buy a pretty woman a coke?"

Whether he was correct in his assertion regarding myattractiveness, it was evident to me that he was not buying every "prettywoman" a coke. He could not have stayed in business. Therefore, Ireaffirmed, with a smile, that $2.50 in change would be fine.

I mentioned that at one time in my life I wanted to bean educator. I was given that chance because of the National Federationof the Blind (but that's another story). For some time I worked withnewly blinded senior citizens. When I asked them what they would have doneabout such an offer most said they would have accepted it withoutquestion. They would have recognized it for the kindness that it was andenjoyed the discount. They, like my parents, did not yet have theperspective of other blind people so that they could assess this questionmore clearly. As we talked about consequences, most of them readily sawthat more thought needed to be given to such situations.

I then posed a different question. What about seniordiscounts? We find them in many businesses: Tuesday is Seniors' day,menus especially for seniors, and airline special senior fares. If weagree that blindness is not an excuse for accepting such discounts shoulda senior accept them? The seniors hardly know how to respond, except tosay that for years they have been using them. To arrive at my feelings onthe subject, I gave thought to the basis for the discounts. In the caseof blindness, the person offering the discount pities the receiver of it. The discounter offers it to make the day a little brighter for the poorblind person. On the other hand, senior citizens are regarded withrespect and our society wants to say "thank you" for all that they havegiven throughout their lives. No one wants to be blind--but everyonehopes to make it to being a senior. When I am eligible (and that time issoon) I plan to use my senior discounts.

If there is any doubt about the motives of theproprietor his last words to me were: "you must have a good job!" He'sright. I do.

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Moving Forward
By Charlene Childrey

September 8, 2001 will be the twentieth annualMove-A-Thon in New Ulm Minnesota. The event will begin at 9-00 a.m. atHarmon Park. This year there will continue to be a $5 charge that willcover a pizza lunch and refreshments at checkpoints along the route. Breakfast of muffins and coffee are provided in the morning as well.

The route is a 10-kilometer walk through a scenic andhistorical part of town. There will be three checkpoints along the route. One of them is a stop at the local brewery for a cool drink.

This year there will be door prizes for those who turnin $25 to $99 cash the day of the event. If you turn in $100 or more youwill be entered in a drawing for bigger prizes.

There will be a bus from the Metro area, which willleave at 7:00 a.m. sharp. Please call in your reservations to our stateoffice at 612-872-9363 no later than Thursday September 6 to place yourreservation to ride the bus with the metro chapter. Tom Mertesdorfwill collect your lunch money when you arrive in New Ulm.

If one stops to look back at this past year and whathas happened and continues to happen within State Services for the blind,it is more important than ever that we all join together and work as ateam to see that the needs of the blind citizens in Minnesota are met andwill continue to be met.

Remember this is our only state fundraiser. Therefore, come and walk with us as we continue to move forward in 2001. The added bonus is that you have a chance to enjoy fun with yourFederation friends.

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Parent Column
By Barbara Schultz

Hi parents! If you are waiting for information on ourannual seminar, don't give up yet! I have just completed my collegedegree, and am running way behind in the planning. I hope to have detailsout to you by mail soon. Meanwhile, if you have questions, concerns,needs, or ideas for the Minnesota Parents of Blind Children please contactme at (651) 772-4093 orbjanschultz@aol.com. I alwaysenjoy hearing from each of you.

Congratulations to Minnesota's participants in theBraille Readers are Leaders reading contest. They are: Morgan Budreau ofApple Valley, age 6; Shelly Christner of St. Paul, age 17; NicholasCocchiarella of Cottage Grove, age 8; Michael Hutchens of St. Peter, age15; Troy Larson of Burnsville, age 14. We are proud of you!

The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adultshas a free braille books program. For information contact them at (410)659-9315 or 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.

State Services for the Blind is developing a list toform possible mentorship connections. If interested contact Ruth Wilkmanor Dawn LaRue-Whittwer at (651) 642-0500 or 1-800-652-9000.

The 2000-2001 Guide to Toys for Children Who Are Blindor Visually Impaired is available free from the American Toy Institute,1115 Broadway, Suite 400, New York, New York 10010. It lists 100commercially available toys for all ages arranged by category.

We are in the process of updating our MinnesotaResources Guide for Parents. If you are interested in helping, or haveresource information to contribute, please contact Barb at the number ore-mail address above. Thanks!

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The Film Review
By Kasondra Payne

"We are watching Casablanca tonight and Iwould understand if you don't want to stay." My English professor's voiceon the answering machine brought me back to reality! There was the oldstereotype that blind people didn't watch television, movies, or doanything that could be considered remotely visual. I had been lookingforward to our film review assignment because I love a challenge. WatchingCasablanca was only part of the assignment. Later we wouldhave to watch and review another film, and this counted for a largepercentage of our final grade. Besides, I wanted an "A" in this freshmancomposition course, and I wanted to get it fairly without any specialfavors. I knew what I had to do!

I walked into class that evening as though nothing hadhappened. At the break, my professor again gave me the option to leave. She would change the assignment to a book report if that would make memore comfortable. I calmly informed her that I was staying, and I wasprepared to do the same assignment as the rest of the class. I watchmovies all the time, and I had always wanted to seeCasablanca. I watched the film with the rest of the class,and it was great! Since it was mostly narrated, a lot of visual clueswere explained. I rented the film later, and my husband explained thevisual things I had not understood. I was able to finish the assignmentlike everyone else. I disproved the stereotype for my professor, and Ireceived the greatest accomplishment for myself -- an "A" in the class.

Unfortunately, the public doesn't always expect blindpeople to participate equally in normal society. We aren't supposed towatch movies, television, plays, or do anything else that is visual. Those things must be too difficult for us. Since I belong to the NationalFederation of the Blind, I know differently. I have watched television,movies, or plays with other blind people, and it is normal. Often thevisual things in a program can be understood from the dialogue or action. When I was a student at BLIND,Inc., we watched a play on our annual trip to Iowa. We didn't needto see the play to know what was going on. This was just normal.

The issue isn't just watching movies or TV. It iswhether blind people can and should participate equally in society. Oftenthe public's expectations of us are too low. That's why we need to teachthem. Sometimes, that requires us to make a speech or participate in anational event. However, most of the time we change the expectations ofsociety quietly. When I did the film review, I didn't just change myprofessor's expectations -- I changed those of the rest of the class. Iparticipated equally in society. Yes, blind people can do film reviews.

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A Poem For Computer Users Over 40
Contributed By David Anderews

A computer was something on TV
From a science fiction show of note
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the father of a goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend

And gig was a job for the nights
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment
A program was a TV show
A cursor used profanity
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age
A CD was a bank account
And if you had a 3-in. floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to garbage
Not something you did to a file
And if you unzipped anything in public
You'd be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire
Hard drive was a long trip on the road
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived
And backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife
Paste you did with glue
A web was a spider's home
And a virus was the flu.

I guess I'll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head,
I hear nobody's been killed in a computer crash
But when it happens they wish they were dead.

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Minnesota and North Dakota Hold Joint Convention
By Judy Sanders

Federationists from throughout Minnesota and NorthDakota gathered in Alexandria, Minnesota for the first joint convention ofthe organized blind in this area. Our two presidents, Joyce Scanlan andJennifer Kotaska, shared chairing duties for the day.

We were pleased to have Peggy Elliott, second vicepresident of the National Federation of the Blind, as our nationalrepresentative. Her husband, Doug and their colleague, Brandy, joinedher.

Our day began with a report from Peggy regardingnational issues of concern to all of us. Minnesotans were proud to hearthat we have 100 per cent co- sponsorship of our disability insuranceearnings limit bill.

We need co-sponsors for H.R.881, a bill that wouldguarantee blind employees the minimum wage. Although less than 200 blindpeople work for sub-minimum wages in this country, the current exemptionin the Fair Labor Standards Act is obsolete and needs to be eliminated. Our fiercest opposition comes from the general disability community.

We are also working to get Medicare funds torehabilitation agencies for the provision of services to seniors. Theyare the fastest growing population in the blindness community.

Peggy discussed the status with mandating DescriptiveVideo Services. We are asking that printed emergency warnings betransmitted orally and that infomercials and commercials verbalize phonenumbers that are flashed across the screen. It is our position thatfrivolous information (such as the color of the dress being worn by theheroine) should be voluntarily described by television stations. TheFederal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a rule requiringstations to provide four to six hours a month of description. We areseeking to have the rule reconsidered to remove the mandate and add therequirement about emergency information.

After President Kotaska reported on growth andprogress in the NFB of North Dakota, President Scanlan gave us an in-depthreport on our myriad problems with Minnesota State Services for the Blind(SSB). The difficulties come because Assistant Commissioner Bonnie Elseyhas no background in blindness and her solution for upgrading services toblind Minnesotans is to seek help from outside the blindness system; inparticular, she does not want assistance from the blindness community. The St. Paul Foundation has provided money for consulting services fromPublic Strategies Group to redefine and reorganize how services aredelivered to SSB customers. This redefinition has resulted in turning SSBupside down; customers report frequent changes in their counselors;services have come to a standstill while SSB figures out how to run itsbusiness; and the staff would appear to be as unhappy as the customers. Bonnie announced recently that the St. Paul Foundation has given anadditional grant to Public Strategies so that they could continue theirwork. In addition, SSB is using training funds (we do not know how muchthis is costing and if there are other monies involved) to provideplacement training to vocational rehabilitation counselors. While weapplaud the idea that more blind people need employment, Gilmore andAssociates, the training provider, knows little aboutadjustment-to-blindness training that must precede any job placementactivities. Bonnie may be beginning to realize her mistake in notfurthering communications with those involved in the blindness community. She has set up monthly meetings with Joyce to discuss current problems andsolutions. The NFB of Minnesota has been sponsoring seminars on "How ToWrite Your Own Rehabilitation Plan." We tried to run an announcement ofthese seminars on the Radio Talking Book and to have counselors tell theircustomers about them. Bonnie put a stop to all of that. She said that SSBwas to remain neutral on all activities and positions involving theblindness community. We did not ask SSB to endorse these seminars; wemerely asked that people be allowed to know of their opportunity to decidefor themselves whether they wish to participate in this free service.

Joyce talked in great detail about our activities atthe Minnesota Legislature toward getting a separate agency for the blindin this state. Governor Ventura is trying to reorganize the Department ofEconomic Security and he has given us an opportunity to determine whatwill happen to services to people in the disability community. We wereable to get an amendment to his reorganization bill to ensure that theorganized blind will have a say in what happens to SSB under this newplan.

In her legislative report Judy Sanders reported thatthe reorganization bills with our amendment has been included in theomnibus funding bill for the Department of Economic Security. Ourseparate agency is not dead because we are only through with the firstsession of a two-year cycle and our bill carries over to next year. We canadvance it at any time after we see how the reorganization is coming.

Two other matters were dealt with during this year'ssession. The first was our support of a bill to make it a crime to harmor kill a service dog for people with disabilities. The bill has passedand there will now be a fine and prison sentence for this crime.

Voting reform was a subject of great interest to theSecretary of State and the Republicans in the Legislature. We supportedthe idea that if there was to be reform and money for new voting machinesthey should be accessible to blind voters. This provision was included inat least one of the voting reform bills. The Secretary of State isinterested in the possibility of doing a pilot project to determinewhether paper ballots can be made accessible. We have put her office intouch with the Rhode Island Secretary of State and the Federation in thatstate where they have conducted a pilot with the very ballots that we usein this state. We will continue to pursue this issue.

Jennifer Dunnam hosted our luncheon program. Sheintroduced Steve Jacobson to present this year's Minnesota scholarship. The winner is Michael Brands who is working toward his doctorate intheology. In his thank you to us, Michael not only expressed gratitudefor the scholarship but said how grateful he is for all the friendship andencouragement he has received through being a part of the Federation.

In her luncheon address, Peggy Elliott introduced usto the "principles of Dr. Doug" which effectively caused us to reflect onour responsibilities as Federationists. Dr. Doug's first principle isthat it is hard to be a Federationist. We set high standards for ourselvesand do not allow our blindness to become an excuse for failure. Does thismean we are all perfect? Of course not; it does mean that we keep tryinguntil we succeed--one way or another. The second principle is that it isharder not to be a Federationist because we have then resigned ourselvesto mediocrity at best. His last principle is that we should always takesomeone with us through our Federation experience. We have an obligationto each other to share the rewards of being a Federationist.

After North Dakota's elections, we were inspired bythe courage and commitment of current and former students fromBLIND, Inc. Each told a story ofhow his/her life has changed because of the experience. Jennifer Kotaskareminded us that we never stop learning. She said that she has a muchgreater appreciation of her white cane, but that she still has much tolearn about its importance in her life. Michael Brands has always been aFederationist. He just didn't know that there were so many people whothink as he does. His belief in himself and other blind people has beenreaffirmed through the Federation. Gina Munnelly, an energetic graduate ofBLIND, Inc., is finding herreward in speaking throughout the state about her experience. JackieBatista, a current student who came here from New York, told us a story ofher determination to overcome a lack of educational opportunities and herfrustration with traditional programs for the blind. She, like the otherpanel members, understands how the National Federation of the Blind is thekey to our future as successful blind citizens.

As the owners of a historical building, the NFB ofMinnesota and BLIND, Inc. are tackling an ambitious capitalcampaign that will enable us to make necessary repairs. Shawn Mayo chairsa committee to spearhead the campaign. She urged all of us to join in andmake a donation toward this effort. In addition, members ofbuilding-trades unions are volunteering their time to make repairs to thebuilding.

Turning to financial matters, Tom Scanlan reported onthe state of our treasury. Among other methods of raising funds chapterswere asked to remember that our state treasury needs their support.

Each year the NFB of Minnesota members pledgecontributions to the tenBroek fund. As explained by Jennifer Dunnam, thisfund gives us the means to maintain our National Center for the Blind. Andy Virden moved and Bob Raisbeck seconded a motion to have the NFB ofMinnesota match our contributions. At the end of the convention we hadpledges in the amount of $1,550. Therefore, Minnesota will becontributing at least $3,100 to the tenBroek fund. That amount could behigher if more pledges are made.

Jennifer Dunnam gave us background information onSSB's plan to start charging colleges and universities for the textbookstranscribed by the Communication Center. Up to this point funding hascome from donations and vocational rehabilitation money. Not only isthere a concern about the high cost to higher education, but it is a validresponsibility of vocational rehabilitation to cover the cost of textbooksas a part of a student's Individual Plan for Employment. Peggy Elliott,who is an attorney, offered the opinion that it is not a violation of theAmericans with Disabilities Act if a college were to refuse to pay. Another concern is that students will be forced to deal with Offices forStudents with Disabilities whether they want to or not. (See attachedresolution).

Peggy Elliott gave us exciting news about Newsline(R)having a four million dollar appropriation from the federalgovernment that will allow all blind citizens to use the service. We willestablish one toll-free number and states can sign contracts to have theirpapers on the system. The first year will be free of charge for thestates with future funding needing to be found.

The PAC plan (Preauthorized Check Plan) was our nextitem of business. At last fall's Minnesota convention many people pledgedto increase their contribution but we have been unable to obtain PAC cardsuntil just recently. Therefore, we were urged by Joyce to remember ourpromises and fill out our cards now. In addition, we found newcontributors who were willing to invest in the Federation.

Joyce Scanlan, reporting on BLIND, Inc.'sprogress, said that there would be ten students in the Buddy Program thisyear. The Life 101 program for high schoolers is still taking shape. Onestudent will be coming from Guam. All of us should keep time this summerto volunteer to work with the students.

Those who are having trouble with obtaining servicesfrom SSB were urged to write to their legislators describing the problem. Remember to share a copy of your letter with the Federation because ithelps in coordinating our legislative efforts.

Dick Davis reminded us that the Federation issponsoring seminars to learn to write your own Individual Plan forEmployment. They are held every two months and there is no charge forthem. Just call the Federation if you wish to attend one.


WHEREAS, the Communication Center atState Services for the Blind (SSB) has for over forty years been theprimary source of textbooks and other material in braille or on tape forstudents and others who are blind in Minnesota; and

WHEREAS, services provided by theCommunication Center have until now been funded mainly by money allocatedfor vocational rehabilitation of the blind; and

Whereas, the management at SSB hasrecently determined that paying for school books in accessible formats isnot an appropriate use of Vocational Rehabilitation funding, and, in thename of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has instituted a newpolicy for the Communication Center, wherein, over a three-year period, the full responsibility of paying for education-related materials inbraille and on tape will be transferred to individual institutions ofhigher education and to the Department of Children, Families and Learning(for K-12 students); and

WHEREAS, this shift will likely produceconsequences which fly in the face of the spirit of the ADA and runcounter to the precepts of rehabilitation in general: (1) college studentswill now be forced to work through Offices for Students with Disabilitiesin order to obtain course materials in braille or on tape, which willfoster greater dependence on others for making these arrangements; (2)institutions with less resources may, instead of paying the high fees setfor the Communication Center's services, resort to less costly (andperhaps inferior) methods of producing course materials on tape or inbraille, not only affecting the quality of students' course materials, butalso endangering the centralized, statewide services currently in place;(3) students' choices of college may become limited by the resourcesavailable at the various colleges/universities; Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federationof the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this twelfth day of May,2001, in the city of Alexandria, that this organization express itsposition that the provision of education-related materials in accessibleformats is properly the responsibility of State Services For The Blind andis a legitimate use of Vocational Rehabilitation funding.

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Convention Alert!

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

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be heldOctober 26-28 2001 at the Clarion Hotel Airport in Bloomington. Memberswill receive a letter with details about a month before the convention.

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will beheld in May 2002. Members will receive a letter with details about a monthbefore the convention.

The National NFB Convention will be held at the GaltHouse Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky during the first week of July 2002. This is a whole week of friends, fun, and serious business. It is achance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world. Full details will be in the Braille Monitor.