Quarterly Publication of the
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Voice: (612) 872-9363
Tom Scanlan, Editor
Volume 79, Number 3, Summer 2013
WE ARE CHANGING
WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE BLIND
Table of Contents
At this writing, more than 80 Federationists from all over Minnesota have just returned from the 2013 national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida, where we worked, played, worked some more, and otherwise actively participated in the largest and highest-impact gathering of blind people anywhere. The agenda and all space between was packed with opportunities to gain and share information, to celebrate our collective victories, and to plan the work to come.
Just before the convention, a story aired on NBC’s Rock Center program, detailing for a national television audience the effects of Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act that makes it legal to pay disabled workers below the minimum wage. At the convention, we heard from the two workers in Montana who were brave enough to tell their story. See the Rock Center video here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21134540/vp/52280748#52280748
It appears that the proposed section 511 of the Workforce Investment Act (legislation that two years ago caused us to protest in front of the office of Senator Al Franken in St. Paul and of other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee) is back under consideration. This provision would make it easier to place individuals in the vocational rehabilitation program into programs that operate under Section 14C, thereby tracking more people into subminimum wage jobs. We cannot allow it, and we will not rest until people with disabilities receive at least the minimum wage for their work.
The resolutions process is the way in which our organization establishes its positions and policies. This year the 23 adopted resolutions dealt with such varied and important topics as nonvisual access to current and emerging technology, quality braille instruction for blind children, and mechanisms to provide greater access for people who are DeafBlind. One resolution, intended to combat harmful misinformation about blindness which is currently displayed on the popular eHow.com Web site, brought about a good deal of discussion in the committee and on the convention floor (not to mention on social media). Some expressed discomfort with our telling an organization what should and should not be displayed on their Web site, saying it seemed like censorship. The resolution did pass, however. The NFB is our vehicle for working against what holds us back and limits our opportunities. The damaging misconceptions about blindness that still prevail in society translate into real life problems for us — a high unemployment rate, discriminatory and custodial policies being forced on us, low expectations for blind children, and so much more. The presence of bad information on blindness should not inhibit our ability to speak out against it in the strongest terms.
We celebrated the victory at the diplomatic conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, where the World Intellectual Property Organization adopted a treaty that will allow nations to share accessible formats of books. Currently, a country cannot use a transcribed braille book or other alternate format from another country, and so each country must make its own duplicate transcriptions. If a nation does not have the resources to make an accessible version of a given book, then the citizens of that country do not have access to it, even if the book is readily available elsewhere. The treaty has great potential to allow for better use of resources and greater availability of books everywhere. The next step is for each nation to ratify the treaty, and we will be working on this here in the U.S. over the coming months.
We also celebrated the success of our efforts to encourage the Department of Education to issue clarification and guidance regarding braille instruction for blind children. A few weeks before the convention, the Department issued a “dear colleague” letter indicating that schools should teach braille to blind children unless a very rigorous evaluation determines it not appropriate. This guidance will be another tool to help ensure literacy for blind children.
In addition to the live streaming from www.nfb.org, an internet radio station from the UK did extensive coverage of the convention. You can listen to some of the sessions as well as interviews (including some with Minnesotans) at http://www.insightradio.co.uk/podcast-feed.html?category=special_features/nfb_convention_2013
Other highlights of the convention included a presentation about the Braille Enrichment for Learning and Literacy (BELL) programs. These two-week summer programs provide intensive hands-on instruction in braille to help these students hone their skills and learn about ways to use braille in their daily lives. One presenter was a second-grader from Atlanta who spoke eloquently about the high expectations and the effectiveness of the program. We will be exploring the idea of having a BELL program in Minnesota next summer.
We still hold our ranking as fourth in states contributing to the Pre-authorized Contribution (PAC) Plan, which helps fund the operating expenses of the National Federation of the Blind. If you are not yet contributing to this program, please sign up. The minimum contribution each month is $5, and every dollar helps. There was, of course, a great deal of discussion about the continued need for fund raising from both inside and outside of our organization.
Get ready now for our Walk for Opportunity in Rochester on September 7. This is a great opportunity to garner support from our friends and acquaintances who believe in the work we do.
Stickers were distributed to help us spread the word that we have partnered with Vehicles for Charity to launch a new vehicle donation program. The NFB's vehicle donation program accepts almost any vehicle, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and recreational vehicles. All donations may be eligible for a tax donation on your federal income tax return. For more information, including how to donate, visit www.nfb.org/vehicledonations or call 1-855-659-9314.
Alex Loch, a student from Duluth, Minnesota, was selected out of over 700 applicants to be one of the 30 recipients of our national scholarships this year. Emily Wharton, Curriculum and Technology Coordinator at Blindness: Learning in Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., received the highest Jacob Bolotin Award for her development of a new braille teaching methodology. Besides this being a good year for Minnesotans to win door prizes, Amy Baron won a new Victor Stream in a drawing from HumanWare, and Sheila Koenig won $2,500 in a drawing from the Jernigan Fund. Next year’s convention will also be in Orlando; as you can see, there are many reasons why you don’t want to miss the national convention in 2014!
By Lori Peglow
Message from the CMC President
A Tribute to an NFB Member
Earlier today, prior to the writing of this article, I had the privilege of attending a funeral service for Alice Kalash, one of our CMC members. It was a beautiful service for a wonderful woman of the faith. The message delivered by the pastor was based upon the text of 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” This very fitting text is very apropos for those of us with visual impairment. Loss of vision can be a burden when it comes into our life, at whatever age it comes.
No matter how long the duration of our life, what really matters is whom we are dedicated to, and the donation we make in life. Alice had a life of 86 years. That which was most impressive was her heart. A heart dedicated to her Lord Jesus Christ, and as a result, she gave loving service and time dedicated to her family, to her church, and to others including the Central Minnesota Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.
Two years ago, at age 84, Alice participated in the NFB of Minnesota Walk for Opportunity in the Twin Cities. There she walked 5K with one of her daughters. After a life-long career as a registered nurse, Alice enjoyed giving of herself to others in many ways, including hand-knitting afghans which were beautifully crafted by using the aid of a visual tech in order to get the stitches right, producing a beautiful finished product.
Largely who or what we have given our heart to determines the donation we make in life. A dedicated heart to God is a productive one in life, no matter in what circumstances we find ourselves. Walking a 5K at age 84 for the NFB was a tremendous accomplishment. However, backing that service in witness was the sure hope she had because of her faith in her Lord Jesus.
As members of the NFB, we have a tremendous mission of love and service. However, that mission becomes even more beautiful when our heart is stayed on the One whose love created us and redeemed us for all eternity. As we focus on the tasks before us, may we be strengthened by the last verse of 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” God's blessings to all!
Have a great month! Rev. Ron Mahnke, CMC President
Meet Members of the CMCNFB
Marvin was born in Long Prairie into a family of second-generation Minnesota farmers in 1930, the depression decade. Growing up the second of seven children in a farming family, he quickly learned about responsibility and work ethic. At home, the expectation was that no one quits until everything is done.
His vision difficulties began in childhood. He was born with double vision and his right eye never fully developed. This made growing up a challenge at times because people tended to think he was stupid instead of understanding he perhaps had a handicap.
In spite of his vision challenges, he had a normal childhood, earning a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State. He was drafted into the Marine Corp, learned to shoot left-handed, and achieved recognition as a sharp-shooter — pretty good for a guy who was visually challenged. After the Marine Corp, he began a teaching career starting in Edmore, North Dakota, and finally to Little Falls, the city that became home. During this time, he married and was blessed with three children, a girl and two boys. As a teacher, he attended two national education conventions and served on the central Minnesota education board of directors. In 1967, he had the honor of being assigned to the committee that revised and updated the English curriculum for the state. After 37 years of teaching English, and a few other subjects along the way, he retired in 1990.
Besides teaching, he was involved in church work, the Morrison County Fair board and the city library board. For church, he directed choir for 34 years, served as a church officer, attended three synod conventions and served as a synod reconciler for eight years.
While all these events transpired and life was moving forward, he was diagnosed with glaucoma when he was just 33 years old. Between 1990 and 2006, he had 22 eye surgeries, including a number of cornea transplants, and was one of the first people at the University of Minnesota to get an artificial cornea.
No vision difficulties and eye surgeries kept him from his hobbies of fishing, gardening and card playing. Card club was a regular event during retirement until he couldn‘t see to play any longer. He has always enjoyed reading and music, especially classical music. During retirement, he taught himself to bake with specialties of rye bread and raisin-filled cookies.
The day before his 80th birthday in 2010, an aneurysm in his optic nerve made everything go dark. Now, he is still an avid reader by way of listening to Talking Book Radio and books on CD. He is more confident in getting around and if someone says let’s go he is usually willing and ready. And, he has three young grandsons that keep him on his toes when they come to visit. It still rings true today, you can’t quit until everything is done.
The CMNC NFB will hold their annual fund raising Brat Sale August 9 and 10 at Cashwise East. Sales start at 11 A.M. and continue until 6 P.M.
Virden Memorial Scholarship
We want to say Thank You to the family of Andy Virden for starting the Andy Virden Memorial Scholarship. Andy Virden, born in 1927, was blind by the time he reached his teen years. But that didn’t hinder his desire for an education. He was the first in his family to receive a college education, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in history and social science, in 1950. He was also one of the first blind students to graduate from Saint Cloud State Teacher’s College. Andy was active in civic affairs and for many years was president of the Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota. In 2011, at the age of 83, a driver struck and killed Andy crossing a street in his neighborhood.
The Andy Virden Memorial Scholarship was established in October 2012. A $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a student attending St. Cloud State University who is involved in community service and is visually impaired or the child of a visually impaired parent. To inquire about the scholarship, please contact Robert Beumer at SCSU at 320-308-3716.
To contribute to the scholarship fund visit www.stcloudstate.edu/foundation/waystogive.
By Patrick A. Barrett
(Editor’s Note: Pat is a member of the NFB of Minnesota Board of Directors, and an active member of the Metro Chapter.)
Too many blind people today are served but not serving others. Their immediate and extended families have not met the great mentors we have in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Minnesota. We NFB members are active in our communities, not captives in our homes from chains of charity. However, changing what it means to be blind must mean bolstering self-esteem and being humble helping others.
First, let’s look at the self-esteem piece. For me, I was a blind kid going to school in the 1960s and ‘70s. I was very aware that I was the only one who “didn’t see very well.” My parents usually didn’t use the word blind. They had not met the NFB with its belief that it is respectable to be blind. The bullies I dreaded each new school year reminded me painfully that it was not OK to be blind. Being bused across town lumped in with the mentally challenged kids didn’t help either.
After high school, I made many long-lasting friendships. Most friends have been blind. I still wonder if I would have made friends sooner going to the Idaho State School for the Blind versus public school.
I met my best friend, Trudy, who is also blind, in 1976. She was going through the comprehensive rehabilitation for the blind program at the Idaho Commission for the Blind. At that time, Idaho was modeled after Dr. Kenneth Jernigan’s great agency in Iowa. Trudy was required to wear sleep shades during the entire 13 months of her training. It was the Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. of its day. I later married my best friend.
I had only attended the Idaho Commission for the Blind during the summers of ’75 and ’76. It was not until 1993 that I took comprehensive training through BLIND, Inc. Blind mentors like Trudy and many other Federation family members have bolstered my self-esteem. Sighted mentors like John and Barbara Cheadle, Dan Harmon, and Dick Davis have been instrumental, too.
Being active in the NFB of Minnesota family gives me strength and personal growth. I am concerned, for their sake, when members are less active, or even don’t renew their membership in such a positive organization. Contributing members help everyone.
Before I go on to the part about helping others, I must emphasize that self-esteem does not mean you feel successful while the world caters to you. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, the president of the NFB and an influential world leader, often quoted author Robert Heinlein; TANSTAAFL; There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.”
Serving others is fulfilling. When 70% of the blind are either unemployed or underemployed, when sheltered workshops pay subminimum wages to the blind in the name of training, and when misguided social workers snatch children from the cradle and their blind loving parents, we have a lot left to do. Doesn’t it take many dedicated and passionate blind and sighted people to do so much?
Minnesota native son Bob Dylan put it this way:
You may be a state trooper, you
might be a young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
Have you ever wanted to serve in your church, synagogue or mosque, but have been turned down politely yet firmly by leaders? Trudy and I certainly have been. In different wards (specific geographic areas of congregations) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have been asked to fill volunteer positions (callings) alongside other church members. Our church has no paid clergy.
Getting access to materials in braille or on tape, serving as greeters at our St. Paul temple open house, and even being taken seriously sometimes in our desire to serve and not be served have been struggles. Through persistence, patience, prayer, and supportive peers in the NFB, we have served and blessed others’ lives. We have grown as well.
Recently, our Lake Nokomis Ward spent part of a Saturday packaging meals with “Feed My Starving Children” in Eagan (a suburb of the Metro area). Trudy measured one of the ingredients into the package for weighing. I placed sealed bags on the table for counting. Every box had to have exactly 36 packages. One hundred one of us packed 78 boxes of lifesaving food to send to starving children in Africa and other parts of the world. It was a joy to be equal partners in that effort!
A few years ago, our Metro Chapter and Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. pulled out the stops in our second annual Toys for Tots drive. We held a fundraiser event in which members brought in toys. George Wurtzel and students made beautiful wooden toys. We raised $300 and provided 78 toys for needy kids.
A secondary goal was to appear on KARE 11 TV to present the check and toys. It would have blown the lid off the misconception that the blind should always receive and not give. Mother Nature blew in 18 inches of snow though, and cancelled our appearance. We delivered the check and toys the following week when the roads were clear enough. Even if the heater had gone out in the van, we still would have been warm.
Believing in ourselves and reaching out to serve others are two major ways to change what it means to be blind. We need many to help in many ways. Ask your state and local leaders how you can get services you need, and how to help others. If we haven’t seen you in awhile, please come back. We need each other!
Basketball is my favorite spectator sport. Thanks to some initial training from my Federation family members Jennifer Dunnam and Steve Jacobson, I am now more proficient at surfing the web as a middle-aged, young-at-heart kid of 56. Here is something from the webpage Quotemountain.com; which talks about self-worth and teamwork:
“One man (or woman) can be
a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man (or woman) cannot
make a team.”
By Chris Kuell
It happens to every blind person, more often if you spend a significant amount of time out in the world interacting with society. A sighted person full of misconceptions says something ignorant to you, or grabs your arm to drag you across the street, or speaks to the person you are with, or is simply amazed at your courage to walk down the street unaided or by your ability to sign your own name. These ‘ignorisms’, as I think of them, come in a multitude of forms. In the last six months, I’ve heard — Who picks out your clothes for you? Who helps you shave? How do you know which shoes you are wearing? Can I cut up your food for you? Who takes care of you at home? Isn’t it sweet you help Daddy cross the street, and so on.
We walk a fine line when encountering ignorisms. The way I figure it, there are three ways to react. The first is to do nothing, which is to under-react. This is easiest, and probably the path most taken by blind folks. Ignore the question, accept the offer to be pulled across the street, and agree to let someone drop you off at the door to the restaurant so you don’t have to cross the vast and treacherous parking lot. While this option is non-confrontational and easy, it’s also not quite a zero-sum gain. You help propagate whatever misconceptions the sighted person has, and you lose just a touch of dignity in the transaction.
The second option is to over-react by belittling the wanna-be helper, or by acting angry. “Yes, I’d appreciate you cutting up my food — and would you mind chewing it for me, too?” “Since I handed you the credit card, and since my name is on it, is it okay if I sign for it?” “Who helps me shave? Your mother!” “Grab me again like that and you’ll be eating your next few meals through a straw.” While responses like these can bring a momentary feeling of triumph, it leaves the sighted person, and likely several other sighted witnesses, feeling as though you, and probably all blind people, are bitter and ungrateful, if not downright crazy. Some blind friends, sick of the constant barrage of ignorisms, tend to over-react like this. It may stop the immediate situation, but will leave the waitress, pedestrian, fellow bus passenger or nurse with a negative impression of blindness, which could be worse than the original misconception.
The third option is to be patient, tolerant, and attempt to correct the misconception. For the most part, these ignorisms don’t arise out of malice or a conspiracy to demean the visually impaired citizens of the world, but are a result of fears and misinformation the sighted world takes in or dreams up about blindness. Blindness is fairly rare, many blind people stay shut in their homes and apartments, so the sighted world doesn’t have much chance to witness a capable, competent blind person in action. The only blind people they know are their 90-year-old granny or their friend’s crazy Uncle Louie who took one in the head back in Vietnam and hasn’t been quite right since.
A good approach is to respond with humor, but good-naturedly. “You never know what name this clown will use, so you better let me sign that.” “Oh, I shave myself. You know, the razor works a lot better when you take that plastic protective cover off first.” “My cat helps pick out my clothes. She’s a tabby, a big fan of Project Runway and rarely steers me wrong.” A friend told me recently that she had a waiter ask if she needed her food cut up. She just laughed and said “No, but if he could please take all the carbs for himself, she'd be very grateful.”
The important thing is to show that you are in control of the situation, even if you need their help. “How about you let go of my jacket and we’ll wait at the corner. When you give the okay to cross, I’ll walk beside you.”
If time permits, it’s always good to educate the sighted public. They are curious and often have no idea about our adaptive techniques. “I have braille labels in most of my clothes.” “I have my home very organized, everything in its place, which makes finding what I need much easier.” “I have a mental map in my head, and since I’ve walked this route numerous times, I’m familiar with most of the landmarks.” “Don’t pull me like that. Here, let me take your elbow. This is called sighted guide, and you can walk faster if you like.” “No, I’m not amazing. In fact, I’m a bit below average from most of my blind friends.”
I don’t anticipate that ignorisms will ever cease in my lifetime — they are just too pervasive. However, if we work together to change the attitudes of our sighted friends, co-workers and uninvited gawkers, maybe we can make it a little bit easier for the next blind person who walks behind us.
By Hannah Furney
Being blind means that I can do anything that I put my mind to except driving. My mother, who was coming to wake me up from a nap, discovered my eye condition, and she had noticed that my eyes were going back and forth, so she knew that something was wrong. My parents took me to the eye doctor and Bilateral Retinoblastoma was diagnosed at age four-and-a-half months. Since 2007, I have been a member of the NFB where I have learned to consider myself blind.
I was a student at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) Incorporated in 2010. I look back to when we were at national convention and all of the staff and students sang a song, in which two words stood out to me. The words were independence and confidence. Those words are the reason that I decided to come to BLIND, Incorporated. I knew that I lacked some of the skills to be independent and have confidence in myself.
Many situations have tested my thoughts and abilities towards independence and confidence, but I will mention two in particular. The first was when I was in industrial arts class, I needed to use a screwdriver, and I have never used one before. I was not sure if I could learn how to use one. However, I was able to learn even though it took me the entire class time to learn how to use the screwdriver. That experience helped to improve my confidence and my independence. Next time I need to use a screwdriver, I will know how to work it and I will not have to ask a sighted person to help me use the screwdriver. I am happy that I learned that skill.
The next situation was when we went camping in the summer. We were to choose between several activities that included tubing, canoeing, fishing, or hiking. I said to myself that I have done all of those things except for tubing down a river, and that it might be somewhat scary, but I would like to try it. When Shawn Mayo mentioned what everyone's activity was going to be, she came to my name and said "Hannah is going to be going tubing.” I was in a group with George, Steve, two students in the Life 101 program, and two from the Buddy Program. The way that the group was set up, I was with Steve. I was happy that my tube was tied to his tube because I was a bit scared about doing this activity.
Well, I was doing pretty well, and trying not to be too scared, and then our tubes hit something. We discovered that there was a tree between our two tubes and one in front of us. I was trying to stay as calm as possible, because I had a bad canoeing experience before, and I did not want it to end up like that again. Steve jumped out of his tube to look at the situation at hand, and so he had to hang onto a tree branch for a bit. We tried to figure out how to get ourselves untangled, while we were thinking about it I was yelling the other group members’ names. Then finally George was coming our way, he was coming the wrong way down the river to help us. Right before he got to us, we figured out that we could get the branch that was between our tubes to go down in the water. Then when he got there he helped to get us untangled the rest of the way. From that experience, I gained confidence and independence. That really showed me a big lesson that if a blind person is stuck in a tubing situation or any type of situation that they are able to get themselves unstuck from that difficult situation.
I know that not many people get to come to BLIND Incorporated, so I am very thankful that I was able to come here. I knew that I needed the training, so I did everything I knew I had to do in order to come. For example, I stopped going to college in Ohio, got up, and moved to Minnesota. In order to go on in life with my plans I knew that I needed the independence and confidence in myself. By coming to BLIND, Incorporated, I gained those two aspects in my life so that I can be a more successful person who happens to be blind.
By Emily Zitek
I work as a sole proprietor at the Department of Health and Agriculture in St. Paul. My job as a vendor exposes me to many different customers a day. Two of the most important factors of working as a blind small-business owner besides customer satisfaction are self-advocacy and educating people about blindness. This has proven to be really challenging for me at times, especially when it seems like I'm not getting anywhere with someone, typically when I think I've done enough to show this person, and they go back to their original ways of thinking.
Sometimes I ask myself, Why should I continue doing this? Am I really making a difference? This was a question that kept assaulting me, particularly after I heard about a seminar, after it happened, that was given during lunchtime one day in my building. Two blind sisters, one of whom had written a book about how she had once been able to see and what a tragedy it has been since losing her sight, gave the seminar. A couple days after the seminar, one of my regular customers came into my store to talk about what she had learned. During our conversation, she stated that someone in the audience had asked one of the sisters, "Do you feel like you're missing out on things because you can't see?” Before the blind lady could answer the question, she teared up and began explaining how tragic her life has become since she became blind as a child. Then my customer had mentioned that one of the blind ladies giving the seminar said that when you come into a room, you should touch the blind person's shoulder, to let them know you are there. I won't go on about other things I heard, but I was appalled about the things I was hearing and explained to my customer that my philosophy was a lot different. I had been running my business in my building for almost three years totally independently, hauling cases of pop through the building day in, day out, showing customers that although I have almost no vision, I could still lead a normal, successful life. I felt like after I had done all that work, answering loads of questions about my philosophy regarding blindness, that seminar that those blind sisters had given had reversed all my hard work. It was hard to want to continue doing things as I had been so enthusiastic about, because God only knew how much of my customer base had attended that seminar and believed that being blind was so awful.
My frustration about this whole education thing increased about a week later. My husband and I frequently go out and do things with another couple on weekends. The gentleman had had adjustment-to-blindness training at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. several years ago, and his wife is from another country and teaches children Spanish. At least twice in the past year and a half of doing things together, all of us have gone to a movie. Both times, I had gotten as much out of those movies as everyone else had, and going to a movie seemed like just another normal activity every group of friends would do. So one afternoon recently, the four of us were eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant when we began talking about the Buddy program for blind children, and the topic of blind children watching movies came up. The husband of the Spanish teacher said, "My wife doesn't understand how blind children can go to a movie and get anything out of it.” I was so frustrated that I pretended to sneeze so that I could hide my face. First, everyone in our group is legally blind except for the teacher. The husband was talking about blindness as though it was something totally new to him, and undesirable, for that matter. After all the time we had spent together as couples, all the questions I'd answered, and after all the movies we'd gone to see, I wondered how this lady, who was a teacher of children, could ask such a question. In addition, I grew very concerned about what might happen if a blind child was put in her class. Would she exempt that child from an assignment after watching a film, assuming that the blind child couldn't possibly do the assignment because he couldn't "watch" the film? Would that child get less out of her class because of her lack of understanding about blindness? And what disappointed me the most was that her husband had spent six to nine months at BLIND, Inc. and was taught everything there was to know about the true meaning of blindness, and he still acted as though he was clueless about it himself. He should have been the one educating his wife, but instead, he chose to feed into the "poor blind people" attitude that we as NFB members try so hard to change in our society.
Two weeks after this incident, I was on the other side of this scenario when State Services for the Blind sent a new staff member to job-shadow me for the day. Steve Larson, then the new Director of Administrative Services at SSB, was born with no arms and uses two prosthetics with hooks on the ends. He does most things with his feet, and right away, I found myself feeling "amazed" that he could do such things with his feet as pulling money out of his wallet, holding a cup of hot coffee, and eating his lunch. But how many times have I gotten frustrated when someone comes up to me and makes a big deal about how "amazing" it is that I can get around so well or run my own business? I just hadn't been sure what Mr. Larson really could and couldn't do, which is the same reason others feel this "amazement.” It's because they just don't know, and this is when and why education is so important. Throughout the day with Mr. Larson, I caught myself having to bite my tongue when I wanted to ask if he needed help with something. Once, I had almost jumped right in and done something for him, without even asking or thinking about what I was doing. So I had to put myself in other people's shoes, ones who might not understand about my blindness. People's lack of understanding, like my own in the beginning, must certainly bring about some frustrations for Mr. Larson, especially when he finds himself needing to repeatedly educate people about what he really can do without arms. Like most blind people, Mr. Larson uses alternative techniques to get most things done but needs help with certain things that we take for granted every day. I felt like the day with Mr. Larson was very successful, and it was an opportunity to educate each other. We were both very open to learning from each other, and it was a positive experience that made me feel like I really am making a difference.
So is educating people worth it? When people are receptive to learning about our blindness or other disabilities, and you can see that what you're saying and doing is making a difference, it definitely is. But there is a point where certain people just don't get it, and they probably never will. Don't put this responsibility on another blind person, because we must work as a team to get the true meaning of blindness out there. All we can do as Federationists is keep working at it, because overall, we are making a difference.
(Editor’s Note: English is the second most difficult language in the world with only Chinese being harder. Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) has the only English Language Learner program for blind people in Minnesota. Sharon Monthei teaches this course to blind immigrants as part of BLIND’s adjustment-to-blindness program. Here are a few examples of what we native speakers take for granted, but Sharon must teach her students.)
Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.
You think English is easy? I think a retired English teacher was bored. THIS IS GREAT! Read all the way to the end. This took a lot of work to put together.
1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
2. The farm was used to produce produce.
3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10. I did not object to the object.
11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13. They were too close to the door to close it.
14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Let's face it — English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?
You lovers of the English language might enjoy this.
There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'
It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
We call UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times, the little word has real special meaning.
People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.
We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.
When the sun comes out we say it is clearingUP.
When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
When it doesn't rain for a while, things dry UP.
One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP,
for now my time is UP,
so.......it is time to shut UP!
Now it's UP to you what you do with this.
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 is October 25-27 in Bloomington. Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.
The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in May 2014 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 the first week of July 2014 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.
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
Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at the American Legion in Waite Park
Runestone Chapter — Alexandria area; meets at 1:30 on the third Saturday of every month at First Congregational Church in Alexandria
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 Monday of the month from 4:30-6:30. Its purpose is to improve braille skills and get better acquainted with other NFB braille users. Attendees bring their own book or magazine or borrow one. Contact Melody Wartenbee at 612-870-9484 or e-mail email@example.com.
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.
· Dave Andrews marks up and posts the NFB-NEWSLINE® edition.
· Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the Compact Disc edition.
· Sharon Monthei transcribes the braille edition.
· Art Hadley reads the audio edition for cassette tape and Compact Disc.
· Judy Sanders proofreads and provides corrections for both the print and braille editions.
· Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.
· Sid Starnes deals with the printer for the print edition and other tasks as needed.
· Emily Zitek embosses and collates the copies for the braille edition and mails all editions.