Quarterly Publication of the
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Voice: (612) 872-9363
Web site: www.nfbmn.org

Tom Scanlan, Editor

Volume LXVIII, Number 1, Summer 2003


Table of Contents

Les Affaires

Confessions of a BrailleNote User

The Cane And I

Move-a-Thon Alert

Drowning Highlights Old Debate Among Blind

A Callous Plan

Keeping the Forty Nickels

Convention Alert!

Les Affaires

By Joyce Scanlan, President

The Airline Boogieman is Still Out There, But Federation Unity Again Triumphs

Remember the days when air travel for blind people was a constant hassle? Flight experience in those days conditioned us to anticipate numerous problems as we dealt with airlines. Would we be forced to pre-board? Would flight attendants confiscate our white canes? Would our pre-assigned seats be challenged because we had been placed in an exit row? Would we be forced to listen to a pre-flight briefing, when everything said to us was also repeated to all passengers over the public address system? Since enactment of the Air Carriers Access Act in 1993, air travel for blind people has calmed down, almost becoming tolerable as we were treated with respect and common decency. These routine problems, many of us came to feel, were something from the forgotten past. And yet it all came back for many of us recently as we returned from our 2003 National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

Twenty to thirty blind people were spread out over gates 10 and 12 in the Louisville Airport waiting for our Northwest Airlines flight to Minneapolis to be called. Everyone was happily chatting, recounting the events of another very successful National Convention.

At last the long-awaited announcement of our flight came forth, offering pre- boarding to first-class passengers and those needing a little more time, etc. Because we were all seasoned travelers, we remained seated until our specific rows would be called. Then came a second announcement to the effect that "all those requiring a pre-flight briefing must pre-board." Since this also did not apply to those of us who are blind, we again remained seated.

Then, a very authoritarian male voice came on saying, "We have about thirty handicapped passengers who must pre-board the airplane." This was immediately followed by, "We apologize to our other passengers if this flight is delayed by the refusal of these 'special needs passengers' to pre-board." This tasteless and horrifying statement caused all of us without one dissenting vote to sit tight. The announcer then went on to board the plane in the usual manner from the rear to the front, and all of the blind people boarded when our rows were called.

The plane was fully boarded and departed on time for Minneapolis. There was no delay, except for the delay caused by the panic-stricken ground crew, who called the flight back to the gate because an electrical panel had been left open and needed to be closed.

I have flown on Northwest Airlines approximately once each month for many years and have come to regard that airline with admiration because of the manner in which ground and flight crews throughout the country treated me. Of course, if one lives in Minneapolis, Northwest is the prominent airline to go most places in the United States. I knew that on July 5 as we were leaving Louisville that there would be many blind people returning to their homes on our flight. It never occurred to me that we would be treated as we were by the Louisville ground crew. I found the announcements shocking and appalling.

The reaction of the Federation crowd also caught me a little off guard. In the past, as airline personnel escalated, we too might have escalated. The reaction of Federationists present was to take everything in stride. In a unified manner that was not preplanned, everyone sat quietly as these rude and insulting announcements came over the loud speaker. No one jumped up to confront this attack on blind people. Instead, everyone behaved in an adult and responsible manner so as not to delay the flight or cause undue disruption.

We have, however, written letters to Northwest Airlines officials drawing attention to the incident as one calling for education of ground and air personnel on the courteous and realistic treatment of passengers who are blind. Here is the letter I sent on behalf of blind passengers of that flight:

July 16, 2003 Mr. Richard H. Anderson, Chief Executive Officer Northwest Airlines, Inc. 2700 Lone Oak Parkway Eagan, MN 55121 Dear Mr. Anderson:

Many years have passed since I have felt compelled to write to Northwest Airlines to call attention to a problem involving poor treatment of passengers who are blind carried out by airline personnel. Because I had personally experienced such positive and even-handed treatment by both ground and flight personnel as I travel, mostly on Northwest Airlines, all over the country, I was both appalled and disappointed at an incident which took place as I was returning from Louisville, Kentucky, to Minneapolis recently.

On July 5, 2003, a number of blind passengers had gathered at gates 10 and 12 in the Louisville Airport to await Northwest flight 873 to Minneapolis. We had all attended the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind held at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville during the previous week. Everyone was cheerfully conversing and recounting the events of a very exciting convention. The first announcement of our flight was the routine statement by a female member of the ground crew about pre-boarding. Something about "first-class passengers and those needing a little extra time" being allowed to board at this time was said. Every blind person present quietly remained seated, because as competent and experienced travelers, we saw no reason to respond to that call. Very soon, another announcement came forth, stating "All those requiring a preflight briefing are asked to board at this time." Again, as people who travel by air on a regular basis, everyone remained seated.

The third announcement was given by a very stern and angry-sounding, authoritarian, male voice. This announcement was greatly escalated in tone and said something to the effect that "we have about twenty-two 'handicapped' people who need a special pre-flight briefing. We want these 'special-needs people' to pre-board at this time." Then came the most cutting and rude comment of all. The announcer went on to say, "If these 'special-needs people' do not pre-board at this time, we apologize to all other passengers for the delay this will cause in our flight today." Although I am sure every blind person in the group was thoroughly insulted by this remark, no one rose to board the plane.

Flight officials then began to board the plane in the usual way beginning at the back, and blind people boarded as their rows were called. Everyone was boarded and settled in on time for the flight to take off at its scheduled time. I repeat, THE FLIGHT TOOK OFF AT ITS SCHEDULED TIME. It should be added, however, that the flight was called back to the gate because an electrical panel had been left open and had to be closed before takeoff.

This entire event might be written off as an isolated incident involving panic-stricken ground staff on that day. Blind people were never confrontational; they conducted themselves as responsible citizens and remained calm in the face of uncalled-for rude treatment.

I urge you to provide appropriate education for your ground staff at the Louisville airport and I offer the expertise and assistance of the National Federation of the Blind in providing that education. Regardless of how many blind people may have been boarding that airplane - I heard anywhere from twenty-two to fifty - the behavior of the ground personnel was absolutely inappropriate, insulting to your blind customers, and totally uncalled-for. Such an assault on the dignity of blind customers is not consistent with Northwest Airlines service standards. Thank you for your speedy response to this very serious matter. Yours truly, Joyce Scanlan President

That was the letter sent to Northwest Airlines regarding this unfortunate incident. On August 1, Northwest notified me that they were investigating the incident and would respond within 30 days.

While I am certain every blind person aboard that flight on July 5 was outraged by the treatment we received at the Louisville Airport, every single person deserves commendation for their perseverance and tasteful behavior under most difficult circumstances. I think of how it might have been fifteen or twenty years ago. There might have been some argument or heated debate as to what we should or should not do. There was none of that on July 5. We were, without discussion or disagreement, a unified, cohesive group. We can hold our heads high and feel pride in ourselves and in our unifying organization, the National Federation of the Blind.


Confessions of a BrailleNote User

By Jennifer Dunnam

About six months ago, I acquired a BrailleNote. The University of Minnesota (where I work) had bought it for an employee, and when that employee left, I inherited the machine. The BrailleNote is a personal data assistant (PDA) with multiple functions--much like the PalmPilot that many sighted people use--with a refreshable braille display.

Most of you probably know that I have been an avid user and a zealous promoter of the braille slate and stylus. I constantly make lists of things to do, take notes, and jot things down using the slate--often while riding the bus or waiting for appointments. So why would I want a BrailleNote?

My favorite use for the BrailleNote is for reading. The first thing I did when I got the BrailleNote (after I turned off the voice output function) was to learn how to download a book into it. Suddenly I had access to an almost endless supply of braille books--from Bookshare.org, from the National Library Service's WebBraille, and from books I scanned myself. I can put three or four books in at once (I don't have a flash memory card; if I did, I could carry around many more). I have used the BrailleNote to read books for pleasure on buses, planes, etc.; I used it to read, take notes, and study for my history class. The BrailleNote also has added to my versatility at my job. I can use it as a braille display for my computer, so I can proofread foreign language material without having to braille it. My job at the university involves coordination of alternate formats, including tape recording course materials. Student workers do most of the tape recording in our office, but on occasion, if we get into a scheduling bind, the person who coordinates the student workers or other staff will step in and do some taping. I have sometimes thought that I would like the ability to do taping when needed as well, but the only way for me to do that is to read it in braille, and it never seemed an efficient or wise use of resources to use up paper to emboss a braille copy for taping. Now, though, if the print copy is clear, I can help with taping too. I can scan about fifty pages in ten minutes, then download the file to the BrailleNote, and tape away. I only have an eighteen-cell display on my unit, so it took some practice to coordinate the display and my fingers so the reading rhythm sounded smooth and natural, but now it works just fine. Good thing, too, because we've had a number of last-minute requests recently, so I've taped several hundred pages this semester.

My schedule gets ridiculously complicated sometimes, so I have always kept a calendar/planner for my work schedule as well as my personal one. I did this using a spiral notebook and a slate and stylus. There's a planner in the BrailleNote, so I use that these days, and it's quite efficient. There is also a database for keeping people's contact information. Whenever possible, I prefer to use the card file on my desk because it's faster, but when I'm not near the card file and I'm making calls on my cell phone, it is quite handy to have all this information in one small place.

The BrailleNote's features are quite useful to me, but I still never go anywhere without a slate (I carry one in the case with my BrailleNote). Why? First, of course, there's the obvious reason: as a backup. I have needed that backup plan far more often than I expected to. At least four times during the past six months, I have accidentally left the BrailleNote on and let the battery run down without realizing it until I needed to take some important notes. Once that happened during a state rehabilitation council for the Blind meeting. How disruptive it would have been to try to find an outlet and plug in the BrailleNote near where I was sitting. Instead, I pulled out my trusty slate and steno pad and kept right on going. I'm thankful not only that I had the slate with me, but that I had been taught and encouraged to use it well so I could make that relatively seamless transition.

Sometimes, though, my BrailleNote is working perfectly, and I still find I'd rather use a slate. Obviously, if someone hands me a page of print--like a brochure or receipt--I can't use a BrailleNote to label it. Instead, I immediately place a slate over the bottom of the paper and write a few words so I can identify it later. At this year's Washington Seminar during our Minnesota caucus, Joyce read us the names, times, and places of our appointments with the members of Congress. I started to copy them down using the BrailleNote, but then I thought to myself, "we have quite a few appointments per day. If I don't remember a time or a room number while I'm walking around the Capitol, I don't want to have to drag my BrailleNote out of my briefcase, turn it on, and hunt through a file to find what I'm looking for. I'd rather just keep a card in my pocket that I can quickly refer to." So I put away the BrailleNote and copied it all down with my slate.

I enjoy this BrailleNote very much, especially as a reading device; I will be a very unhappy camper if someone decides I can't have it anymore. Devices such as this, with refreshable braille displays, take away an oft-used excuse for people not learning braille--that braille is not widely available. The availability of braille is reaching an all-time high (and will get nothing but better once we get the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act passed). However, what some consider a tiring refrain is still true: technology offers wonderful enhancement, but never an all-out replacement, for low-tech tools and for the skills needed to use them well.


The Cane And I

By Judy Sanders

It all began when I was ten. It should have started a lot earlier but that's easy to say now.

When my parents discovered that their baby twins were blind they were devastated. What kind of future could they envision for their children? To find out, they began looking for blind adults from whom they could learn. They found two sources: a sheltered workshop that gave blind adults very limited opportunities for employment and a blind bowling league. They volunteered to drive people to the bowling alley. Unfortunately, they did not learn much about what the future could hold.

My parents were practical people; they realized the importance of allowing us to explore our environment. The first thing to go was the playpen. We were encouraged to move around the floor and see what we could find. I am told that I never crawled; I scooted everywhere.

It was later that they started investigating our choices for a good education. In the 1950's most blind children were educated at schools for the blind. We were given a good foundation in reading and writing braille and in other academics; however, no attention was given to teaching us how to travel from place to place safely and independently. That is, until I was ten.

We learned about inside safety. Trailing the walls and holding our hands in front of our faces for protection from overhead objects was the first lesson. We all felt ridiculous hiding our faces so we never used this technique except during our lessons when we had no choice. To this day, I have not met a blind person who travels in this manner.

My first cane was a short, crook-handled, aluminum cane. It was heavy and I never relaxed while using it. For one thing, I only used it during lessons; no one made me use it at other times and I was not motivated to do it on my own. In fact, I felt very self-conscious when traveling with this cane. I knew people were staring at me. I knew that some blind people made a living by begging on the streets and I had heard that they carried tin cups with a picture of a white cane on them; I did not want to be one of those people.

While telling me it was not necessary for me to use my cane when traveling with other sighted people, I was also told I was amazing for what I could accomplish with the cane. My instructor was invited to speak to various civic groups and I remember being asked to demonstrate the cane. I walked from my chair to the edge of the stage and the audience gasped because I stopped just in time to keep from falling into their laps.

Throughout high school and college I used a folding cane and carried a purse big enough to hide it. My college friends would meet me and take me from place to place. I now know that my social life would have been much more satisfying if I had asserted my independence. I would have been equal with my peers.

Upon graduating from college, I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind. People were talking about going to a national convention in Houston, Texas and I considered joining them. I weighed the pros and cons of this journey.

Pro: I wanted a teaching career and I knew I would have the chance to meet other blind educators.

Con: I would not know where to go upon arrival.

Pro: I knew several people who were going and I could stick with them; at least, I would not be alone when we got lost.

The pro list won the day and I had the time of my life! I cannot say that I magically transformed myself into an avid cane user but I began thinking. I noticed what little effort it took for blind people to get around this huge hotel. They even left the hotel to explore the city. Why wasn't I doing these things?

In the next few years, I came to know all that the Federation had to offer. My Federation friends have given me far more than I can ever give back; with respect to the cane, I have come to value my freedom to come and go as I please; I can take pride in saying to my sighted friends and colleagues that I will meet them somewhere; I now travel thousands of miles each year alone and don't think twice about it.

Times have changed. Not only do we have an organization for parents of blind children but because of the National Federation of the Blind there are now adjustment-to-blindness training centers operated by blind people to teach the use of the cane and make the students proud. Blind people are equal partners in today's society and the cane is one reason why.

I now travel with a lightweight, fiberglass cane and it stands straight and tall. My purse is no longer needed to be a cane holder and I can smile at the people who might be staring at me.


Move-a-Thon Alert

By Charlene Childrey

The 2003 Move-a-Thon will be held on Saturday, September 13 starting at 10:00 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce in New Ulm. The Chamber is located at the corner of Center and Minnesota Streets. The Chamber and the Riverbend Chapter are providing coffee and German coffee cake. For more explicit directions contact Charlene Childrey by telephone at 507-354-2250 or e-mail at childrey@newulmtel.net.

Note that the event is starting one hour later than it has in the last 21 years. This means you have plenty of time to get there so please be on time. For those coming from the Metro area, a bus will depart from the NFB headquarters (100 East Twenty-second Street, Minneapolis) at 8:00 sharp.

Following registration and coffee the walk will follow the busy street of Broadway for approximately 20 blocks. Then we will turn and walk down into Schell's park where we will once again have the opportunity to have a cold drink of 1919 Root Beer for which Schell's is well known. Once this has been enjoyed, the route will continue along Broadway for a short time and then turn and walk through the downtown area. The route passes many specialty shops of all kinds. Many sell collectibles, dolls, bears, German chocolates and a variety of ornaments from Germany. Eventually you will end up at the Kaiserhoff a well-known German restaurant. Here you can enjoy lunch from their menu of German and American foods in all price ranges.

Following the meal, door prizes will be awarded. Remember those who turn in $25 to $99 will be placed in a drawing. Those turning in $100 or more will be in a drawing for bigger prizes.

Those of you who have attended in the past can tell from reading this article there have been many changes both in the time and the route. This means more fun and many new opportunities. You now have time to venture into the specialty shops as well as sample German sweets and foods. However, most important of all, you have the chance to support the National Federation of the blind of Minnesota. Let us get out there and raise money and join in the walk with our Federation friends. Hope to see you on September 13.


Drowning Highlights Old Debate Among Blind

By Terry Collins, Star Tribune

(Editor's note: On July 18, 2003, Brianna Nelson, one of the participants in BLIND, Inc.'s summer children's program, drowned in Lake Calhoun. We share in the deep sadness of everyone at BLIND, Inc. and all who knew and loved Brianna. The outpouring of support from around the country--including from Brianna's family and the parents of the other children in the program--has been invaluable as we deal with this tragic accident. The following is one of a number of articles that appeared in the media).

Published July 22, 2003

The drowning of a 7-year-old blind girl at a Lake Calhoun beach has focused public attention on a decades-old debate within the blind community:

How do blind people striving to live independently, balance those desires with their need for help in a world where most people can see?

Brianna Joy Nelson of Grant, Mich., drowned Friday while on an outing with a group of campers from Blind Inc., a Minneapolis company that helps blind children learn life skills from adults who, like them, are blind. Three blind counselors accompanied eight blind children to the beach for a swim.

"This is magnified because there was a tragedy in such a public place," said Joyce Scanlan, executive director of Blind Inc. "Unfortunately, these types of accidents do happen, and when they do, it's easy to blame blind people."

While several groups agree that a blind person should be allowed to be as self-sufficient as possible, their philosophies vary, and they seldom reach consensus on the proper balance.

The girl's drowning has highlighted the deep-rooted differences, especially between Minnesota's largest support groups for the visually impaired, the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind, Twin Cities chapter (NFB).

"What you've all discovered is nothing new," said Ken Rodgers, Minnesota president of the Council of the Blind, who thinks that more sighted supervision was needed for the swim outing. "Not all blind people think the same way."

Chuck Hamilton [sic], acting director for the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, works regularly with both groups and is well aware of their differences. Both stress independence in education, employment and living arrangements, he said.

Whereas the Council of the Blind might seek more assistance from sighted people, Hamilton said, the National Federation of the Blind encourages blind people to stretch their independence level to the highest degree.

"I believe there has been criticism because people think the blind ought to be viewed in the same way because of their condition," he said. "In Minnesota, there is a long track record of them not working together."

Hamilton added: "I personally would like to see them work together more on common issues, but they need to reserve the right to see things differently."

Ruth Lundquist, president of 160-member United Blind of Minnesota, an advocacy group based in Minneapolis, agrees. The local groups parallel their national counterparts on differences that have persisted for more than 40 years, she said.

She said she believes that as the Council of the Blind works for the rights of blind people, the group strongly encourages seeking help when needed. Meanwhile, she said she thinks that the National Federation sometimes has a "cavalier attitude that blindness is a nuisance and not a disability."

"That's true to an extent, but while we believe we can do certain things, I'm not going to tell you I can go out and drive," Lundquist said. Yet, the ceiling to what a blind person can do "is much higher" than even 10 years ago, Hamilton said. Given the right training, there are not a lot of things the visually impaired can't do, he said, rattling off examples of accountants, attorneys and doctors who are blind. He said there are an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 blind and visually impaired people living in Minnesota, most over the age of 65. "We think with education and opportunity, the sky's the limit," he said. That is the approach the National Federation of the Blind follows, said Judy Sanders, a secretary for the 500-member local chapter. Sanders said comments by Rodgers could, in a strange way, actually be doing "us a favor because maybe we can educate more people."

Rodgers, of the Council of the Blind, said his 150-member group has no problems using voice-modulated computers, canes, Braille and guide dogs to mitigate the effects of blindness.

Neither does it have problems with asking for help.

"It sounds very altruistic to say that we're blind people, and we don't need help," Rodgers said. "Well, I'm sorry, but sometimes you do."

And he still stands firm that on Friday, Blind Inc., a subsidiary of the National Federation of the Blind, needed more help. He said he is convinced that Blind Inc. and the National Federation think blindness is a trait and "believe that to a fault."

"But we all have our limitations. Three blind counselors taking care of eight small children. You do the math," Rodgers said. "We're not helpless, but we're not afraid to ask for help.

"I make no apologies that if one person's life is saved because they used one of these tools, including asking for help sometimes, then I think it's worth it."

Scanlan, who maintains that her group was not negligent in the drowning, said she feels that Rodgers is reinforcing old images of the blind. Blind people ought to be able to choose their lifestyle, without the need of constant help, she said. "Yes, we need some help. But in the daily course of life, we believe a blind person can be competent and live full lives," Scanlan said. "We know that society has a custodialized, paternalistic view. We're trying to break that stereotype." But it isn't easy, she said.

"The problem is you're not going to resolve it overnight, you explain and keep explaining. You're not going to change everyone's beliefs, especially like those of Mr. Rodgers," Scanlan said. "You're not going to do that in one week. It's an ongoing process."

(Copyright 2003 Star Tribune. Republished with permission of Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written consent of Star Tribune)

A Callous Plan By Tom Scanlan

The article from the Star Tribune reprinted above was the last press item I know about relating to the death of Brianna Nelson and the differing outlooks of blind people. There were also some TV reports along similar lines, primarily on KARE, featuring Ken Rodgers saying there should have been sighted rather than blind supervision.

This coverage was more than the usual human interest engendered by the death of a blind girl. It was generated as a cynical attempt to promote Rodgers' organization at the expense of the National Federation of the Blind. The damage it would do to the public view of the capabilities of blind people, by promoting the idea that we need sighted supervision, was beside the point. The day after the accident, Rodgers sent an e-mail to a group he addressed as "Dear Leadership list." He recounted the details as reported by the press, and says "At the very end of the segment the reporter quoted me, as President of the Minnesota affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, as saying there should have been additional sighted supervision."

He goes on to say that he was quoted correctly, and that he also pointed out differences between his organization and the NFB. He especially pointed out that "there are certain things that blind and visually impaired people should NOT do." In addition to the blind counselors, he said he told the reporter that blind people should not teach other blind people how to travel with a white cane. He considers it too dangerous to place a blind person in charge of another blind person.

He closes by saying, "I know this is going to ground swell into a major challenge again with the NFB spewing their philosophy every chance they get and I am wondering if some of you wouldn't mind sharing some suggestions as to how we might remain seen by the unknowing public, the greater and wiser between the, quote two blind organizations! quote."

So there is the plan in Rodgers' own words. The plan was to use the tragic death of this little blind girl to promote his organization and its ideas of the limitations of blind people.

There was certainly no regard as to how such statements would affect blind people. Nor were there any feelings for the little girl's family. As a result of Rodgers' statements, the press hounded the family about whether they believed the blind counselors were at fault and there should have been sighted supervision until Brianna's father was quoted on KARE as saying it was just an accident and there was "absolutely no blame."

The wide-spread agreement with the father's assessment is shown by public response. Joyce received less than half a dozen negative telephone calls and e-mails. However, she received dozens of positive calls and e-mails expressing sympathy and support.

Rodgers and the American Council of the Blind also had no regard for the feelings of the other children in the program, nor for their families. The children were given the choice of continuing the program or going home after talking to their parents. Every one of them wanted to complete the remaining program in memory of Brianna, and they did so. Despite Rodgers' attempt to spread fear and doubt, all the parents supported their children in continuing the program with the blind counselors as it was.

The reaction of most of the press that Joyce talked to was not what Rodgers had planned. When given the full story, including the positive role models and outlook the children were being given, most of the reporters were sympathetic and understanding. Several of them offered to do stories on the programs of BLIND. It is ironic that Rodgers' callous plan may end up giving more positive attention to BLIND and the NFB.

The fact that the plan did not work as Rodgers hoped shows just how much progress we have made in promoting positive images of blind people. The public and the press know there are positive and negative people with their outlooks on life. The NFB has always promoted the positive outlook and will continue to do so. We are satisfied with the press coverage and the public understanding of this tragic accident. However, we are sorry that anyone would try to use it to promote his or her negative outlook on life and trash our positive outlook.


Keeping the Forty Nickels

By Patrick A. Barrett

I am writing this on October 15th, 2002, which is National White Cane Safety Day. I am also trying to get it in on time to meet the deadline (today) for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Minnesota Metro Chapter's annual essay contest. Given the proper training in alternative techniques of blindness, and a can-do attitude about being blind, the blind can go to work, school, worship in synagogues, mosques, or churches, take their families and pets to picnics at parks, and go to restaurants, and concerts. White Cane Safety Day is about the rights and freedom of independence of the blind. Yet, it is also about depending on each other in the melting pot of their communities.

I am blind, though I have some remaining vision. When I ride the bus, I use my long, white cane. It lets the car and bus drivers know that my vision is limited. If memory serves, the white cane law in Minnesota has a provision that drivers need to come to a complete stop when they see a white cane. However, this does not mean stopping and blocking the crosswalk at the same time. This is one of my pet traffic peeves, and really sets off my wife Trudy, who is also blind.

I heard a funny story about a car in a crosswalk and a blind travel student. It is more legendary, really. Trudy and I had received previous training in alternative techniques at the Idaho Commission for the Blind in the mid-seventies. The story went that a student who was blind and had a very commanding appearance was out on a travel route one day. Like Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), the Idaho agency used the valuable tool of sleepshades to train students to rely on their other four senses. The sleepshades take the often inaccurate and sometimes fatal guesswork out of using any remaining vision.

The student went to cross the street and could tell from the sound of the car that it was over the crosswalk. He walked up to the back of the car, opened the back door on the passenger's side, crawled through the back seat with limited nonchalance, exited out the opposite door, and finished crossing the street. I must admit, I have been tempted to try it. But this was in the days before road rage.

One evening, I boarded a bus to return home. I believe in paying the full fare versus the limited mobility fare because I feel it is more appropriate given my skill level of travel, and I believe the service is worth it. Bus drivers, for the most part, are friendly and courteous. Generally, I do not sit in the front seat. No matter how insistent bus drivers are, sitting in the front (usually sideways) seat is an option for people with disabilities, not a requirement. I must admit that at times when people on the bus have been unruly on a Saturday night, I have sat in the front seat. I hasten to add, though, that if an individual with a physical disability, (using a walker or crutches, for example), would be welcome to my seat, and I would move back farther in the bus. On this evening, I paid my fare, and sat in the seat just behind the sideways seat.

A couple of stops later, I could see someone getting on the bus with a stroller. I vacated my seat to let them have it, as it has more room for the stroller. I found a seat two rows back. A man got on with his baby, and took the seat. In a few minutes, he came back to me and said, "I think you dropped this." He handed me two dollars.

"No," I told him. "I don't remember dropping it, thanks." I went to hand the money back to him, but he walked away.

I thought about going up to him and returning the money. But just then, I remembered Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's story in an address to an NFB convention years before. He told the story about how a woman at the bus stop had wanted to give him a nickel. He insisted that he did not want it, thanking her politely. She insisted, and he equally insisted against it. She finally shoved the nickel into his hand. He promptly threw the nickel down the street. What they both came away with, two members of the same community, was hurt feelings. After that incident, Dr. Jernigan realized with wisdom that he had the independent travel skills to get around, but needed to make a choice, depending on the circumstances, to accept the goodwill of others.

I kept the forty nickels. And, I had extended charity to the man with the baby. I believe he knew that, and wanted to repay that charity. We both went away feeling good about the exchange. By the way, I used the money for bus fare as my stored value card had run out shortly after that.


Convention Alert!

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

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be held October 31 through November 2 at the Four Points by Sheraton St. Paul Capitol Hotel in St. Paul. The base room rate is $89 for up to four people. Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention.

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be held in April or May 2004 in Greater Minnesota. Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention.

The National NFB Convention will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia from June 29, 2004 through July 5. This is a whole 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 base room rates are $59 for singles and doubles, and $65 for triples and quads. The hotel will accept reservations after January 1, 2004. The full convention bulletin will be in the December Braille Monitor.