Quarterly Publication of the
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Voice: (612) 872-9363
Tom Scanlan, Editor
Volume 80, Number 3, Summer 2014
WE ARE CHANGING
WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE BLIND
Table of Contents
As I finish writing this column, excitement builds as more than 80 Federationists head from all over Minnesota to join our colleagues in the movement for the 74th Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. There is always much to see and learn, new members to meet, and plenty of work and fun. Much change is afoot as has been the case in Minnesota especially for the last while. We will be learning about new ways to spread the word about what is true and what is not true about blindness. We will be celebrating the work of Dr. Maurer and will be electing a new president and helping him lead this strong, vibrant movement forward. We will focus and make plans for strengthening existing chapters, which are the bedrock of our movement, and starting new ones.
Thank you to all who attended the Semiannual Convention and helped to make it a success. You will read more about the happenings later in these pages. It is clear we have a strong movement and much upon which to build.
Our chapters have been doing a variety of outdoor fundraisers and get-togethers to enjoy the weather and build our movement. We will in the coming months be working on chapter building and on new chapters such as in New Ulm and an at-large chapter.
As was mentioned at the Semiannual Convention, the September gala to celebrate our building and our programs is postponed to next year. A tremendous amount of work has been done on this event and is continuing. Currently two interns are working with other Federationists to research more about the history of our headquarters building.
At this writing, Dan Wenzel has been the director of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) for two months. He is doing a tremendous job managing all the transition discussed at the Semiannual Convention and more, and seeing that the students, youth and adults get the kind of excellent training that only our NFB centers can offer.
We have our Possibilities Fair coming up in August to connect seniors with role models and resources on how they can live the lives they want as well.
We need everyone's help with the Walk for Opportunity on September 6. Please ask your friends and acquaintances for contributions so that they too can be a part of building a bright future for blind people of all ages.
We are always on the lookout for ideas to make our Annual Convention informative and interesting for all who attend — new members and long-time convention attendees alike. For my own part, when I was a newer member, it was the well-thought-out philosophy of blindness and the ways the Federation put it into action that hooked me. However, an essential component of my being interested at first and feeling I could really learn something from the organization was the practical, everyday ideas about how to do things independently and efficiently as a blind person. I learned many small tips that probably should have been obvious to me, but that I had never thought about as a young teenager and one of the only few blind people I knew.
Live the life you want, we say! But how? What kinds of solutions are there to the problems of blindness? If we have an online system that is designed in such a way that it prevents blind people from reading the course material or taking the tests, or doing a job for which she is otherwise quite qualified, this is a problem, needing a more broad-based effort to solve than, say, a large college campus that the blind person doesn't yet know his way around. Sometimes we do need the help of our larger society to solve problems related to blindness, but sometimes we just need an idea from a fellow blind person. Some problems become much less issues when we get comprehensive adjustment-to-blindness training so that we learn the skills we need. And sometimes we just need to draw on the collective experience of our colleagues in the movement — just because I as an individual who has not figured out a solution does not mean that none of us has. Sometimes the solution may involve asking for help from someone with sight, but as we learn more in the Federation, we find that those times, although not a bad thing if done judiciously, are not nearly as necessary as we at first might have thought.
To tap into our collective experience, at the Semiannual Convention we asked several people to share practical tips on ways to do things nonvisually that might be helpful to others. We will do this again at the Annual Convention, so please be there, and if you have an idea for this or any other aspect of the upcoming Annual Convention, please let me know.
I look forward to our continued work, on the big things and on the little things, to build our movement stronger for the future.
The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota is an organization focused on consumer advocacy for blind people and promoting a positive philosophy of blindness. We are also a family. Here is a column that we print from time to time, containing items that would not normally be sent out on our membership listserv but which are noteworthy and of interest to members. Did you or a Federationist you know get a new job? Go on a major trip? Win an award? Have a child? Something else important to you? If you have news you would like shared in this column, send it to the Bulletin editor, Tom Scanlan, and he will pass it along. Here’s the news since our last column:
Welcome to Ronan Miguel Dempsey who was born June 3. We wish all the best to him and his brand new parents, Andi and Frandi.
We also hear that Kallie and Steve Decker are expecting a new little one sometime this fall.
Bryce Samuelson recently got a job as an electronics consultant at Wal-Mart in Rochester. Congratulations!
In late June Kathy McGillivray began her new job as director of Center for Learning and Accessible Student Services (CLASS) Disability Services at Augsburg College. She brings much experience and common sense to the position, and the students and staff will be fortunate to work with her.
During the May 8, 2014 annual Windom Neighborhood meeting at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, Pat and Trudy Barrett received a Windom Neighborhood Treasures Award. Trudy was honored for her participation during the past three years on the Windom Community Garden Committee, the Welcome Wagon Committee, and staffing a table at the Annual Windom Reads event. Trudy and other members of the Minnesota National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPBUB) read and wrote Braille for several students, teachers, and parents at the Windom Spanish Immersion Elementary School. Pat also has been a member of the Garden Committee, the Safety Committee, and the Communications Committee, which puts out the quarterly neighborhood newsletter. Congratulations to the Barretts.
We welcome three long-time Federationists to Minnesota! Brook Sexton, Amber Holladay, and Chase Holladay have come here to assist Target with accessibility issues. We look forward to working with all of them.
By Lori Peglow
Message from the CMC President
When someone says, “I can’t do that, I’m blind,” all sorts of thoughts come to mind. Is this person just rolling up in a ball waiting to die? In days gone by, blind people were more limited than they are today. That’s not true anymore. Sighted people have said they have to do everything for blind people. That’s not true either.
There are organizations such as “Capable Partners” in Buffalo, Minnesota that help disabled people get out and do things, such as hunting and fishing. There is also technology to assist you in whatever you want to do.
In my situation, I was like a hermit before losing my eyesight. Now, the new gadgets and technology have helped me be more active and out in the community more than ever. I enjoy technology such as computers with JAWS and textbooks on digital files. And, the new cell phones have full keyboards, making it easier to text. In the past 20 years, technology has become better and we have more of it, which makes life easier.
Several weeks ago, I was using a nail gun. Someone asked me what a blind man was doing using a nail gun. Why not a blind man using a nail gun? There are safety features on the gun and all you need to do is feel where you want to shoot the nail. Just because I accidently shot myself in the hand doesn’t mean anything. It’s not going to stop me. The same thing happens to sighted people and they didn’t stop using a nail gun. Life is too short and there is a lot in the world to experience. If you have something you want to do or have dreamed of doing, do it! Don’t let your lack of vision stop you.
Meet the Members
All of us know how life can change in a split second. That’s what happened to Becky Chiado. On July 14, 2008, Becky was attending day classes at St. Cloud State, working on her master’s degree in Special Education. Her three boys were staying at her parents' house that day. She came over for supper and decided she needed to ride her horse and relax. Fifteen minutes later, her saddle had slipped and she fell, hitting her head on the hard dirt road. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. She wasn’t expected to survive the night. Several days later the doctors performed bone-flap surgery to relieve the pressure on the brain. Becky came out of the surgery with cortical blindness, where her brain misinterprets what the eyes are seeing. Often she had no vision, sometimes her vision is blurry and sometimes she’s looking at an object and her brain tells her it’s something else.
Becky spent eighteen months in hospitals and nursing homes and had multiple surgeries on her head. She also suffers from short-term memory loss and has limited use of her left hand due to a stroke. Becky lived with her parents and three boys for four years. However, recent surgeries left her with some medical complications so she now lives in a group home.
While going to college, Becky worked as a Personal Care Attendant in various group homes, and as a paraprofessional in the Rocori School District. She now works at ProWorks. Becky joined the Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB in March of 2012. The members of the chapter have been helpful in sharing about assistive technologies available to help blind people. Becky loves to read, so books on CD, the talking book radio, and the books and player from the National Library Service have been helpful as well. She also uses a talking watch and, because of her short-term memory loss, a small hand-held recorder to remember what day it is and her schedule for the day.
Before her accident, Becky led a Bible study for single moms at River of Life Church. Her former husband, the boys’ father, committed suicide the week of 9/11. She and her boys also survived a house fire in the cities and a move from living in the cities to a small town. But it was a good move for them.
Because of all the surgeries, infections and complications, Becky’s advice for people is never give up. Stay strong, and trust God. He’ll bring you through whatever comes along. She is also now a strong advocate for wearing helmets when riding bikes, horses or motorcycles.
By Tom Scanlan
In 1974, the members of this great organization elected me treasurer, and then reelected me every two years since. For those 40 years, I have been able to give back for so much that has been given to me by the National Federation of the Blind, both nationally and in Minnesota.
I attended my first NFB national convention when it was in Minneapolis in 1970. I have often said that I didn’t come to the NFB; it came to me. I have always been grateful that it did, and that I had the good sense to recognize it and take advantage of the opportunity. An interesting-or-not historical note is that 900 people attended that convention, there were only three divisions (teachers, students, and vendors), and room rates were $7.50. I have been fortunate enough to attend every state and national convention since 1970.
That 1970 convention changed my life, as NFB conventions have for so many blind people. I wrote about that change for the 2006 Metro Chapter essay contest, and was honored to win. I called that essay “The Luckiest Break of My Life,” and it was published in the Fall 2006 issue of this publication.
It is fair to say that my life before that convention was largely aimless and unhappy, despite a good education at the Minnesota Braille and Sight Saving School, a degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas, and a job as a computer programmer with the State of Minnesota. I had the qualifications but lacked the self-confidence for a successful life that I wanted. I lacked that confidence because I did not believe I could succeed as a blind person. That convention showed me that other blind people had, and so could I.
But it also showed me that I couldn’t do it alone. I got involved in the NFB of Minnesota, and that led to many activities and chances to give back for what NFB had given me. Those included two terms as student division president, election as NFB of Minnesota treasurer, plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, a term on the Society board (much against their will), participant in the “Airline Wars” of the 1980s, editor of this publication, and many other things as the needs arose.
NFB also gave me many things in my personal life, especially marriage to Joyce (also in 1974), friendships and the confidence to progress in my career.
Dr. Jernigan said the two most important officers are the president and the treasurer. State law also requires only those two. I am happy to be able to fill one of those critical positions, and thankful to the past and present members who gave me the chance.
However, 40 years is a long time. It is now time for someone else to take over and carry on, so I will not run for reelection this year.
The job of the next treasurer will be slightly different. In 2007, the national office assumed responsibility for affiliate accounting and IRS reports. This was to provide professional accounting, knowledge of increasingly complex federal and state regulations, assistance and advice to state treasurers, and uniform standards. They exempted Minnesota because they felt I had the ability and experience to continue as we were. I expect we will now join the others, and NFB fiscal services will assume much of what I have done. The new treasurer will work with the NFB fiscal services accountants to make that transition and I will help in whatever manner is wanted.
I am not going away. I will continue to do the other things I do, such as editing this publication and maintaining the website, as long as I am wanted. My giving back is not done.
Again, thank you for the chance to serve in exchange for all you have given me in the life I wanted to live.
By Amanda Swanson
(Editor’s Note: Amanda is a member of the NFB of Minnesota, and lives in Bluffton, Minnesota.)
I stand on a crowded city sidewalk and feel that everyone is staring at me. I’m insecure, of whom I was, who I am, and of whom I want to be. I’m not happy. I wanted more when I was younger. I had envisioned my life to be picture perfect. This meant an education, a successful career, marriage to a man who loved me unconditionally, beautiful children, and a house in the country. These things should equal happiness, or so I thought. Since then, I’ve had to re-define the word “happiness” countless times.
Happiness is the one thing I have always wanted. I throw a coin into a wishing well and wish for happiness. I blow away a loose eyelash from my cheek and wish for happiness. I blow out my birthday candles and wish so much to be happy. I’ve even wanted this so bad, I got the word “Happiness” tattooed on my left shoulder in Chinese, just for good measure. You would think for someone who wants it so bad, it would come. But what is happiness?
I have now concluded that happiness is something you create. Let me explain. I am sitting on the bus one day; we pull up to a busy transit station. I see a man waiting to get on the bus. He is clearly homeless, for he has dirty looking clothes, a long dirty white beard, and what looks to be all his possessions with him. He gets on the bus. He shuffles through the seats with his bags until he finds the one open next to me. I have already had a horrible morning and I was not feeling chipper at all. His off-colored bedding happens to find its way to my lap, and the smell of dirty scalp and a garbage dumpster manage to reach my nose. I am truly irritated and disgusted. But to my surprise, this man starts to hum a jazzy little tune, and he hums as loud as one could hum. A baby sitting in the seat in front of us looks past her father’s shoulder in curiosity. The smelly gentleman next to me laughs and hums even louder for the wide-eyed child. I thought to myself, why is HE so happy? He should have NOTHING to be happy about! He clearly does not have a job or even a home for that matter! Yet he was still humming to a beat I could not find. I pulled the cord for my stop, clumsily stepped over this man’s belongings and got off the bus. I stood there at the bus stop and thought: “I have a roof over my head, a job, and a family who loves me and supports me in every way possible.” And I cannot hum a happy tune for the life of me, even to myself! So, my question is, what is happiness?
I lived a mostly normal childhood. I had friends, did okay in school, and did all the things other kids did. Until I reached my teenage years, I was slowly noticing a change in my eyesight and I couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what was happening. For example, I would be outside at night with my friends at a bonfire and somehow everyone could see me but I couldn’t see them. I was clumsy as a bear, tripping over the smallest things. On average, I seemed to trip on or over something at least two times a day! But why? I knew it was time to see a professional.
After multiple visits to multiple doctors who could not figure out what was wrong, I finally came to one who did. I found a nationally recognized retina specialist. I walked into the office expecting another doctor who was just as confused about my vision as I was. I sat in the waiting room with my mother for what seemed like years waiting for the doctor to go over my records and exams. Finally, I heard in a low tone, “Ms. Swanson, you may come back with me now.” I hesitated slightly, but my mother quickly grabbed my hand and led me into the small dark room. The doctor looked into my eyes one last time and sat back quietly for a moment. “I’m sorry, but it looks to me that you have a condition called Usher Syndrome,” he stated.
“What does that mean?” I quickly snapped back.
“Whatever it is, it’s treatable, right!” my mother remarked.
“Look, I hate to be blunt but you need to know the facts. It’s a genetic condition, a rare condition in fact, that has no cure and will lead to blindness.” My heart sank that very moment. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but instead I just blankly stared ahead.
The doctor continued to talk, but it seemed like he was a million miles away. All I could feel was the gentle squeeze of my mother’s hand in mine. All I could think about was how can I do anything now? The thought of only seeing darkness terrified me. The idea of not seeing a mystical pink sunset, or a lake shimmering like thousands of diamonds in the sunlight, or even simply seeing a smile started to seep into my brain. After sitting in the office for another hour with the doctor and my mother getting all the information about this “thing,” I slowly left the office in a daze. The following weeks and months ended up being an emotional roller coaster. How could this happen? I’m already partially deaf, now I get to go blind! All I could think about were my criteria for happiness: an education, a successful career, a husband who loved me unconditionally, beautiful children, and a house in the country. How can I go to school and get a job if I can’t see? I can’t raise any children if I can’t see them! And forget the house in the country; I won’t be able to drive into town! I had every negative thought imaginable, that even a pessimist would have been annoyed.
Throughout the next several years, I slowly dissolved my misconceptions of blindness through education at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) and meeting so many successful blind people in the NFB of Minnesota who appeared to be happy. Through my struggles of how to read again in Braille and simply to cook a meal, I was slowly beginning to hum a happy little tune in my head. I think I have finally begun to “create” my own happiness! Although I have yet to fulfill some of my dreams, I am beginning to hear that jazzy little tune in my head. Through life’s struggles and challenges, life is only what you make it. Through the years, I have felt like I have been bent, stretched, and compressed and now I feel I finally have sprung back and am ready to take on new challenges and new goals. And that’s okay, I am happy.
By Kristin Tillotson, Star Tribune
(Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 22, 2014. George Wurtzel is a member of our Metro Chapter.)
George Wurtzel whistles “Camptown Races” as a high-powered lathe hums a quarter-inch from his thumb and forefinger. Thread-thin streams of sawdust arc like an exploding firework off the small chunk of pine he is fashioning into a sombrero-shaped wine stopper, some of them landing on his “Duck Dynasty”-worthy beard.
“As you turn wood, the sound changes dramatically with the shape,” Wurtzel says. “You can tell what’s happening by the chatter noise and feel of the vibrations.”
Suddenly the half-formed stopper pops out of the vise and rolls under the workbench in his south Minneapolis studio.
“Whoops,” he says, turning off the machine and bending to fumble for his tiny work-in-progress hiding somewhere on the floor. He gropes around with one hand but doesn’t bother to peer under the bench.
It wouldn’t help, since Wurtzel is blind. He gradually lost his sight in his teens to retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease caused by mutated genes.
“It’s very rare, but both my parents had them,” he says. “Better luck next time, I guess.”
A wry sense of humor, a ready, uninhibited laugh and a calm, worldly demeanor are all part of Wurtzel’s effortlessly charming aura. So is the grace with which he tolerates the incredulity of new acquaintances who marvel at his ability not only to create singularly beautiful furniture and art objects in utter darkness, but to do it with giant whirling saws and other dangerous power tools.
“It’s the hands doing the work, not the eyes,” he says. “In woodworking, the visual is actually a very small part of the equation. It’s all about manual dexterity.”
In his case, it’s also about an artistic mind that senses an abstract female form in a sheared-off strip of black walnut, or how markings left by fungi on a piece of spalted birch can be the perfect embellishment for a jewelry box. Prominent Twin Cities photographer Alec Soth recently chose him to collaborate on an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The second annual “People’s Biennial,” the show recognizes work by artists outside the sanctioned art world whose work is relatively obscure but worthy of note.
Wurtzel moved to Minneapolis from Michigan four years ago to teach woodworking to students at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), but was fired two years later following differences with his employer and decided to resume his solo career. His workshop sits behind a pretty storefront on Stevens Avenue in the Whittier neighborhood where he displays his creations, from whimsical wine stoppers shaped like hats and elegantly whorled bowls to rustic coffee tables and shelves and cabinets whose pieces fit snugly into each other without needing fasteners.
“My grandfather used to make wooden puzzles like this,” he said. “You can take apart or put together my furniture in a few minutes, and there are no bolts to drop and lose.”
Wurtzel has pondered whether he would do things differently if he could see.
“I’d like to be able to read blueprints and make preliminary sketches — I do all that in my head,” he says. “But I don’t think I’d be a better craftsman.” And on the plus side, “I’m not encumbered by other people’s designs in my head.”
In fact, he jokes, part of the reason he decided to grow that full-on beard is that “I get labeled as ‘the blind guy’ when I’d rather be ‘the bearded carpenter.’ I want to be judged by what I do as a craftsman, not be told I’m amazing because I can’t see.”
The middle finger of Wurtzel’s left hand is shorter than the one on his right by about a half-inch, the result of a late-night mishap in the workshop when he was working on about 300 repetitive cuts.
“It had nothing to do with not being able to see,” he said. “I truly think that I just fell asleep. There are a huge number of carpenters out there who are missing fingers.”
Groove is in the heart
Wurtzel’s favorite type of wood is “the free kind,” which usually means pawing through the firewood of friends like Lee Tourtelotte, a fellow woodturner whose back-yard stash is a gold mine for a guy like George.
“You judge a man’s wealth by the size of his wood pile,” he said on a jaunt over to Tourtelotte’s place near Lake Nokomis. “Lee, you’re a wealthy man.”
As the two talked shop about the grain on various pieces, Wurtzel ran his hands up, down and around them. Though he often consults sighted friends on the color contrasts and variegations in wood, he has learned to discern a lot by steaming the surface with a hot wet cloth or in a microwave, which temporarily raises the grain, allowing him to feel its patterns. He can also identify different types of wood from their smell.
“I look for the curly stuff, the crooked grain, or a knot that adds character,” he said. “I’m pretty well convinced that when I put my hands on this, the image I get in my head is close to what Lee sees with his eyes.”
Wurtzel recently sold nearly $10,000 worth of his pieces through a display in an empty downtown storefront, part of the “Made Here” project spotlighting the work of local artists. But while he aspires to make a living entirely on his art, it’s his architectural work that currently pays the bills. He specializes in restoring or reproducing the elegant, complicated kind of doors, columns and trim featured in many old Victorian houses.
Whittier homeowner Tamar Bagley heard about Wurtzel through her neighborhood association and asked him to submit bids on remaking some octagonal columns for a porch and carport on her 1906-built home.
“The cost can get astronomical if you want things redone exactly as they were, but his estimate was very reasonable,” she said. “He came over, ran his hands over the wood and remade them perfectly.”
From camp chief to ski jock
Beyond his artistic accomplishments, the 60-year-old Wurtzel has led a rich and varied life of adventure.
He grew up in Traverse City, Mich., where he opened his first woodworking business right out of high school. He attended the Michigan School for the Blind at the same time as Stevie Wonder, for whom he made a one-third-scale wooden replica of a Steinway concert piano.
He later moved to North Carolina, where his business making triangular wooden cases for U.S. military burial flags was such a success that he sold it and was able to travel for several years on the proceeds. He once ran a summer youth camp. (“Teenagers are like wires,” he quips. “You put two together and they’re going to get tangled.”)
He used to train Arabian horses, taking 50-mile endurance rides on his own trusty steed. A skilled cross-country skier who was on the U.S. Paralympic team in the 1970s, he has skied across Lapland as well as from Fargo to Lake Superior in 1980.
Best-selling author John Camp (better known as John Sandford) was part of the group on the several-day Fargo trek.
“George was a tough, athletic guy, and he’d kind of freak me out on some of the rough trails we took,” said Camp, who was then a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’d be behind him calling stuff like ‘right turn coming up’ but he had a preternatural sense for where the track was, and most of the time he’d stay in it by himself, even down some pretty fast, twisty hills. Once we were skiing down a fairly severe hill when I suddenly saw a log down across the trail ahead. I had just time to call out “Watch it!” when one of his skis slipped under the log, while he fell over the top of it, snapping the ski off. We were lucky it wasn’t his leg. George took a few falls, but really no more than the rest of us did.”
Bon vivant in overalls
Wurtzel is a familiar figure at many of the nearby hangouts along Nicollet Avenue, including the Black Forest and Eat Street Social, for which he made a helix-shaped case to display homemade bitters. A wine distributor from France who encountered him there bought up his entire stock of stoppers.
“George is very charismatic and a real straight-shooter,” said Nick Kosevich, a partner at Eat Street. “We enjoy his company. He’s always got something interesting to say.”
Wurtzel gets around the neighborhood using a collapsible white cane he stashes in one of the cargo pockets of his daily uniform, a pair of faded Liberty brand overalls. He says a guide dog isn’t a good fit for him: “You have to take care of a dog, and I’ve got too much to do.”
One project very close to his heart is the miniature pine sailboat he made for a terminally ill young woman he met last year named Maire Kent. Inspired by a beloved book from her childhood, Kent wanted her ashes to travel on a small boat through the Great Lakes and out to sea. She died of cardiac sarcoma last September before she could see the finished boat, but Wurtzel and a documentary-filmmaker friend — who did a test run on Lake Calhoun — plan to fulfill her wish by launching the boat on its final journey from Lake Michigan in mid-July. Then there’s the upcoming project with Soth for the Detroit exhibition, which opens Sept. 12. He plans to build a series of boxes that will each hold a different aspect of his life. “When you look inside, each will give a glimpse of the things that shaped me into the person I am today,” he said. He’d better get busy. He’s going to need a lot of boxes.
By Paul Levy, Star Tribune
(Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 10, 2014. Jordan Richardson is a member of our Metro chapter, and a past president of our student division. His mother, Carrie Gilmer, is a past president of our parents division and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a Division of the NFB.)
At the start of the school year, Jordan Richardson stored his white cane and Braille laptop and told the preschoolers whom he would teach to read that he is blind.
The kids didn’t care.
Richardson, 23, rejected as a tutor by one local elementary school last summer because of his blindness, on Tuesday completed the year as a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor at the Earle Brown Elementary School in Brooklyn Center.
The 4- and 5-year-olds at Earle Brown apparently saw something that administrators at the other school overlooked.
“Does being blind really have anything to do with reading?” asked Richardson, who grew up in Blaine, graduated from the University of Minnesota a year ago and plans to attend Chicago-Kent College of Law this fall.
“The children and I have talked about it,” he said of his disability. “To them, it wasn’t a big issue. Being blind has no relevance to reading.”
Richardson was told that he had less than 5 percent vision — making him legally blind — when he was a preschooler. He was diagnosed with an eye-movement disorder called nystagmus and learned that he has cone-rod dystrophy, a degeneration of nerve cells within the retina. Both eyes have continued to deteriorate. Richardson says he has 20/400 vision now, but there’s no guarantee he’ll have sight by the time he completes law school.
“It’s impossible for me to describe what I can and can’t see because I can’t compare my vision to anyone else’s,” he said. “I can read some print, but prefer Braille. I can see people. I just can’t see them well enough to recognize them.”
Richardson says he can make out words if they’re right in front of him. He can write.
When teaching children to read, he relies on a packet of handmade cards marked both visually and in Braille. He will place the card by his nose, so he can see its image, before showing the children. Each card carries a picture and description — a pig, for instance. He also relies on sounds, using rhymes and alliteration.
In some situations, he pulls children aside individually, showing them a picture and a word, defining the word verbally and then asking the child to repeat that definition.
“It would be no different than if I was doing this in Braille,” he said.
Richardson is a gifted communicator. His mother said he worked two summers for Gov. Mark Dayton’s campaign staff and, later, citizen-outreach staff. He spent last summer in Baltimore as an intern for the National Federation of the Blind. Back in 2008 and 2009, he worked two-week programs in Philadelphia, where he taught blind kids how to use a cane and read Braille on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind in Pennsylvania. And in 2010, he taught high school students to read Braille in Towson, Md., through Blind Industries and Services of Maryland.
Teaching children who can see to read presented a different challenge — one that a Minneapolis elementary school was reluctant to embrace, said Richardson’s mother, Carrie Gilmer. She said that Richardson, a member of the National Honor Society at Blaine High School, had “super” interviews with Minnesota Reading Corps, a division of AmeriCorps that provides literacy tutors for kids from age 3 to the third grade. Gilmer said her son’s meeting with the school’s program director seemed to go equally well.
Then the school, which both Richardson and his mother declined to name, became concerned that he might injure himself, tripping over a toy, Gilmer said. The school asked how Richardson would be able to check kids’ handwriting, or teach children to read vocabulary words that he couldn’t see.
Just a big kid
But to the preschoolers at Earle Brown, Richardson was just a big kid who sat with them in miniature chairs, talked enthusiastically about “The Ugly Duckling” and adhered to fashion on pajama day. When kids sat in a circle with their legs crossed, Richardson did so, too. He only drew the line when one of the girls in the class offered her hula hoop.
“That’s too small for me, Bella,” he told her. He then twirled his hips to an imaginary hoop. “Sometimes, you have to improvise,” Richardson told a visitor.
He’s done so most of his life.
“On Friday, when I picked him up, he was leaving the school and a little girl sitting outside, 30 feet away, was waving at him,” Gilmer recalled. “He couldn’t see that — both that it was somebody he knew and that she was waving. It never occurred to her.
“That happens to people his own age.”
Gilmer marvels at the way he has adapted and the way the children this year seemed to understand what adults often cannot. They seemed fascinated by the way Richardson often touches things they merely look at.
Abraham, 5, who graduated from preschool this week, didn’t seem to notice or care that Richardson never looks him or anyone else in the eye while conversing.
“He makes reading fun,” Abraham said.
Last week, Richardson was about to introduce a visitor to a staff member passing in the hall, but first had to ask the teacher who she was.
“Preschoolers don’t have any preconception about disabilities and what you can and can’t do,” said Michelle Trelstad, director of the Early Learning and Community program at Earle Brown Elementary.
“The children have had a year to observe Jordan,” Trelstad said. “What a great opportunity for them.”
Like the children who held their graduation ceremony Monday, Richardson moves on. He hopes to one day become a judge and is already bracing for all the blind-justice comments that surely will come with his robe.
“I’m nervous about the prospect of law school,” he said. “I feel like I’m being dropped into the center of a foreign country and I need to learn the language.
“I’m going from reading Harry Potter to reading Supreme Court opinions.”
By Judy Sanders, Secretary
Seventy-six Federationists gathered at our NFBM headquarters for our 2014 semiannual convention on May 17, 2014. It was a rare beautiful spring day, but these Federationists were dedicated to working together to change what it means to be blind.
Because of the many people who preregistered for the convention, the line moved quickly, allowing everyone to get to the coffee and doughnuts sooner. Thanks go to the NFBM Seniors Division for the breakfast.
Our morning business session began promptly at 9:30 a.m. with the call to order by President Jennifer Dunnam. She began by reminding us that because we were in our own building we had the opportunity to help put the building’s furniture back in order at the end of the day.
Rob Hobson, our Metro chapter president, welcomed all to Minneapolis, gave a special shout-out to the staff and students from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), and introduced us to BLIND’s new executive director, Dan Wenzel.
President Dunnam challenged us to do three things during the day: meet someone that we had not known previously, learn something we had not known before, and teach someone something new.
Throughout the morning, we were given pro tips that were hints from blind people sharing how they accomplished particular tasks:
Jan Bailey presented Pro Tip #1. Ms. Bailey told us about the one-second needle for sewing. Sold at fabric stores and online it is very simple to use. Bailey had one with her to demonstrate. (Note: This needle is different from the self-threading needle.)
President Dunnam began her report to the membership by introducing suggested ways of encapsulating the NFB message into thirty-second sound bites. How can we improve our first contacts with people so they will want to know more?
Example: “The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can have the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.”
We will be introducing a new logo at the national convention. There is a contest to create a new NFB song.
We continue our advocacy efforts, and Dunnam will be attending a hearing where the district is doing everything it can to keep a student from receiving Braille material in the classroom.
Candice Chapman is a national scholarship winner for this year. She will be attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Ms. Chapman has been organizing our NFB literature so that we know what we have and can make good use of it.
We have been working with an organization called Minnesota Association of People Supporting Employment First. They are affiliated with a national organization that has signed on to support HR831, our bill to eliminate subminimum wages. We look forward to working with them at the state level to pass legislation preventing Minnesota from contracting with holders of special subminimum wage certificates. As a result of our Day at the Capitol, such a bill was introduced during the last legislative session and will be the basis for further action. Two other issues were discussed on that day: expanding monetary resources for services to blind seniors and support for funding of public transportation.
Congressman Keith Ellison is a sponsor of HR831; we must continue to seek additional cosponsors. The TEACH Act (Technology, Education and Accessibility in College and Higher Education) HR3505 has two cosponsors: Representatives Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan. We need to meet with members of Congress when they are home to garner further support for our issues.
We were urged to submit articles to Tom Scanlan, editor of the Minnesota Bulletin.
There is a Minnesota discussion listserv where we can share thoughts about the Federation and blindness issues.
The Imagination Fund is a way to ask the public for contributions to our national organization — some of that money is funneled back to state affiliates. For a short time, Minnesota has a web page that facilitates donations. People can also text their donations. These methods are valid until the end of May.
Stickers are available in abundance to advertise our vehicle donation program.
NFBM’s annual convention will take place on October 31-November 2 in New Ulm.
Sheila Koenig presented Pro Tip #2. What do you do if you want to read aloud in public, your Braille is not up to the speed you might want and reading print is awkward? Ms. Koenig uses Braille in the classroom where she teaches ninth-grade English but does not feel her speed is up to oral reading. She is using an app on her iPad mini called “Plain text” which allows reading her document line by line. She has turned her iPad into an audible prompter. While she does not feel this replaces Braille, it works for her.
Our treasurer, Tom Scanlan, presented his yearly treasurer’s report and a proposed budget for the coming year. Our fiscal year begins on April 1 and runs through March 31. Because of a large bequest, our year ended in the black. The budget, which reflects many of the same expenses we incurred last year, along with the treasurer's report was approved. In the motion to approve the budget, the state board of directors was given permission to make any necessary changes during the year.
Much thought is being given to how to best make use of our generous bequest. Our goal is to spend it on sustainable projects that can be continued once the bequest is gone. We have a supplementary budget to consider in the following categories:
· conducting organizational and membership development
· sponsoring parents of blind children to attend activities of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and bring back ideas to empower Minnesota parents
· increasing our scholarship program
· exhibiting at expos such as Education Minnesota
· transforming our written archives to a digital format
· purchasing a projector to use at conventions and meetings
· setting up procedures for online registration for conventions
· conducting a BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) program
· investing in building upkeep
· conducting outreach to all parts of Minnesota
· conducting seminars on such subjects as leadership, senior issues, employment, or technology
· finding future funding.
At the end of his report, Mr. Scanlan announced that after 40 years of volunteer service to the NFBM as treasurer, he would not be seeking reelection. He attended his first national convention in 1970 and every one since. He credits the Federation with positively affecting his career, marriage, friendships and life. He considered it an honor to give back to the NFB from his education and experience in business, finances, and management. He will continue to be active in the NFB in many other ways. Dunnam expressed for all of us praise for all the behind-the-scenes work Scanlan does; for his reliability and integrity; we will be forever indebted for all that both Scanlans have contributed to this organization and for all they will continue to do in the future. Scanlan was given a rousing ovation from the audience.
Our Walk for Opportunity is entering its 33rd year. Once again, we will head to Rochester on September 6 for our 10-kilometer event. Bryce Samuelson, president of our Rochester chapter, gave us details about the route and urged everyone to work hard getting pledges from family, friends and businesses.
Ben Moser presented Pro Tip #3. When walking the streets with our white canes and dog guides we are often given unwanted advice: “You can cross now.” “You can make it.” Mr. Moser suggested that we ignore the suggestions and actions of other pedestrians and listen to the traffic. Our judgment is usually sounder.
While Smart Phones are all the rage there is a segment of the population that wants a phone that is just a phone and they want an economical pay-as-you-go plan. Most of these phones are not accessible to blind users; with this in mind, Odin Mobile has developed the Odin Mobile VI — a simple to use talking phone with a large display screen and easy to dial buttons. President Dunnam demonstrated the phone and introduced us to the partnership between this company and the NFB. Odin Mobile will donate to the NFB every time a member makes a purchase.
Federationists were pleased to welcome the new director of State Services for the Blind (SSB) to our convention. She is Carol Pankow and comes to the agency from the Department of Labor. Her complete remarks will be reprinted in a future issue. Dunnam began the question and answer period by complimenting Ms. Pankow on her understanding that public attitudes are the biggest problem that blind people face. She praised SSB for its recent hires of blind employees; she emphasized that blindness by itself is not enough. They must be qualified and it is best if they are actively involved in the blindness community. Others reiterated the importance of counselors working with blind people as examples of what can be done. Ron Poire asked that the Radio Talking Book newsletter be sent by e-mail. Dick Davis expressed the hope that SSB could do more with helping employers know how they can make sure that accessible equipment is available on the job. Pankow said that the new assistive technology work group is undertaking that very thing. We look forward to working with Pankow and SSB on all their new approaches.
Possibilities are endless for blind people who want to lead full, independent lives. Those possibilities diminish when one is not aware of all that blind people have accomplished. With that in mind, we heard a report from Judy Sanders about the upcoming “Possibilities Fair” for blind senior citizens and their families. It will take place at the Radisson Roseville on August 12 and is being sponsored by the NFB of Minnesota along with State Services for the Blind and BLIND, Incorporated. The keynote speaker will be Diane McGeorge of Denver, Colorado who is a vibrant, active blind senior and will motivate the audience to explore all kinds of possibilities. Federationists will be asked to help with exhibits and making seniors feel welcome. Full information on the fair, including a registration form, is on our website at www.nfbmn.org/fair.
Bob Raisbeck, chair of our PAC (Preauthorized Contribution) plan committee, reminded us that giving begins at home. We can authorize an automatic contribution from our bank account to our national treasury. We especially hope that first-time contributors will join those already giving.
Jennifer Wenzel presented Pro Tip #4. Mrs. Wenzel taught us how to keep track of rambunctious children. She and her husband Dan are raising three boys who are now long past being toddlers. Her first tip was to put bells on their shoes. Later, she discovered children’s leashes that she assured us are far different from those used for animals. As they grew somewhat older, she played Simon Says to keep them close. Simon says to jump up and down or sing a song. All her instructions forced her children to create noise, making it easy to find the kids.
The convention elected Jennifer Dunnam as delegate to our national convention with Steve Jacobson as our alternate delegate.
We were introduced to Dan Wenzel, the new executive director of BLIND, Incorporated. He thanked Dick Davis for his service as interim director and expressed appreciation that Mr. Davis would return to his position as careers instructor and assistant director. There are currently 18 full-time students and 10 of them are Minnesotans. Al Spooner, the other assistant director, is outstanding at recruiting new students. Mr. Wenzel acquainted us with some staff changes. Rob Hobson has worked as the residential manager, but now the Hobsons (Rob and Debbie) are buying a new home. BLIND has hired Mark Erickson, a graduate of the program, to fill that position. Mr. Erickson will have the assistance of his wife, Michele Jackson, who is also a graduate.
Zach Ellingson has been a cane travel instructor for about 10 years; he has decided to move on and teach privately. He will continue to spend 60% of his time working for BLIND during the transition to a new instructor. Quinn Haberl will also be helping teach during the interim.
Helen Stevens will be working more with BLIND’s internal computer network so Martha Harris, another graduate of the program, will begin teaching communication skills in August.
Wenzel introduced Chelsey Duranleau, the other new communications instructor. She replaces Chris Foster, who is moving back to California. After graduating from her training at BLIND, Ms. Duranleau decided she wanted to stay in Minnesota and find work. She was first hired in a temporary position when Mr. Foster took over teaching in the English Language Learner program. This seemed a perfect fit for her because she wanted to enroll in graduate school after some work experience. She discovered that she loved teaching — interacting with students and finding that she continues to learn as well. In particular, she thanked Helen Stevens for her mentorship.
John teBockhorst explained a new learning tool established by Mr. Wenzel. The more experienced students become guardian angels for the newer students. Their status as such is acknowledged with a black beret worn by the angel. The angels do such things as help the new student get to class and answer any questions that might arise.
A tradition at our semiannual conventions is that Minnesota Federationists make pledges to the Jacobus tenBroek Fund, which owns our National Center for the Blind. The NFB of Minnesota matches these pledges. This year $1,515 was pledged by our members and a motion was passed to match that amount from our state treasury.
Steve Jacobson presented Pro Tip #5. Mr. Jacobson called his tip presentation “Of Mice and Men and Women” and he wasn’t talking about computers. He referred to those critters that occasionally inhabit our homes. He offered three suggestions for doing away with these creatures. He recommended the mousetraps that have jaws that open when you squeeze the other end of the trap. Second, tie your trap with string to something stationary so that the mouse doesn’t drag it off somewhere. Tugging on the string also lets you know if the trap is empty or full. When there is a mouse, empty the trap by putting your hand in a zip lock bag, reach into the trap and lift your gift out of the trap and into the bag. Don’t forget to zip it back up.
Dick Davis gave one last announcement reminding us to purchase Louis Braille coins with the motto that “We are blinding what it means to be change.”
Kathy McGillivray announced that she has accepted a position at Augsburg College where she will direct the Center for Learning and Accessible Student Services (CLASS). Ms. McGillivray further announced that we are restarting what used to be called the Computer Club, and is now the Technology Group. This will give the chance for everyone to explore what’s new in technology. People can have their questions answered and new attendees can be introduced to the NFB. These sessions will occur on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at our building. We hope to find a way to involve people around the state.
Final door prizes and announcements led to our lunch break and the afternoon workshops. Our student division once again provided their famous “academic” lunch as a fundraiser.
In the afternoon, we divided into four workshops. Below are reports from each of them.
Workshop for Braille Readers on Unified English Braille
By Jennifer Dunnam
(Sponsored by NAPUB in Minnesota)
English Braille is an update to the Braille code which
become the standard for Braille in the United States as of January
2016. During this lively two-hour workshop, attendees learned about
and discussed the specifics of the changes as well as the reasoning
for them. Those present received several handouts prepared in UEB,
including a short list of new symbols and a copy of A Definition of
Blindness (a speech by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan), and they had plenty of
opportunity to read and ask questions. Two prize drawings were held
with the winners each receiving a one-volume book in UEB. Participant
comments following the session included “This will take some getting
used to, but I understand the logic of it,” and “I'll miss some of the
contractions, but this isn't so bad.” More information about Unified English Braille is available at http://www.brailleauthority.org
Navigating Minnesota’s State Employment System
By Steve Jacobson
of the challenges we face as blind people is finding a job.
This workshop, facilitated by Carol Pankow, SSB Director, and Dacia Normandin, Job Placement Specialist, was a one-hour session designed to make that task just a bit easier. They reviewed the associated web site, discussed how to enter resumes on that sight, described the overall hiring process, and explained the importance of carefully matching the data presented about oneself with the requirements of the job.
There were numerous questions from the audience, some of which
reflected experiences and concerns that have surfaced in the recent past as expressed in our convention resolutions. Some of the questions raised were:
· Why do some announcements require a driver's license for jobs having duties that do not include driving? There is an internal effort underway to explain to those creating positions that requiring travel is not the same as requiring a driver's license, and that the potential employee should determine the method of travel.
· What specifically constitutes "a related area of study?" The definition of a related area of study for a given job is not defined in a way that is readily available to a job applicant. If an applicant is counting on a related area of study or experience to be considered for a particular position, one should contact the hiring manager for that position to be certain they meet the criteria
· Why do some position descriptions specify, "Must be able to do the job with or without accommodations?" It was explained that the intent of such language is strictly to clarify that the applicant can perform the position, including doing the job with the assistance of accommodations. It is not an attempt to force the applicant to disclose the need for accommodations at that point.
This is just a sample of the wide-ranging information and discussion.
Those attending left with a significantly clearer picture of how to present themselves on an application for a job offered by the State of Minnesota.
Minnesota Association of Blind Students
By VaNasha Washington, President
The Minnesota Association of Blind Students convened an informal meeting. At this meeting, we had BLIND Inc.'s new director talk about this year's summer programs that it offers for kids. We followed this with an icebreaker that was more of an introduction for getting to know everybody who attended the meeting.
We had two panel discussions. Ryan Strunk and Sheila Koenig talked about ways of being a part of your community and socializing outside of the blindness community. They both discussed how they participated in dancing and acting classes. The next panel was related to school with Candice Chapman, VaNasha Washington, and Quinn Haberl talking about ways of being active in school outside of the blindness community. After that, we had the room open for any questions of discussions that they might have. We had one particular new BLIND, Inc. student talk about receiving tutoring on certain subjects that might cause problems. So, Candice and I suggested different ways that we can get involved in study groups. Even though we are blind, we still can receive that type of assistance without having to pay for a reader.
NFBMN Seniors Division
By Joyce Scanlan, President
The meeting of the NFB of Minnesota Seniors Division was called to order at 1:30 on May 17, 2014 in conjunction with the Semiannual Convention. Fifteen members attended.
After introductions of attendees, Linda Povlitski gave a very interesting presentation on baking bread. She has baked all her bread for the past years — ever since she watched her mother do so. Linda brought buns she makes on a regular basis, so everyone could sample her work. Homemade bread baking is a rare activity in our gathering, so Linda’s presentation and samples proved enjoyable and a great inspiration for everyone to go home and follow her example.
Next was an announcement of the upcoming national senior division conference calls with numbers for joining a conversation with Jennifer Wenzel of Minnesota speaking on cooking by touch. This call was the third in a series of calls sponsored by the senior division to bring those dealing with losing eyesight together to learn about the National Federation of the Blind and its activities. Minnesotans were urged to join the calls and participate.
Attendees next discussed the digital players provided by the National Library Service. The basic machine provided to seniors may be simple, but it does not make moving around books and other documents at all easy. The advanced machine should be requested.
Systems Access was discussed as a speech for accessing computers.
Jan Bailey and Monica Buboltz then spoke of their businesses providing services to seniors.
The senior division still has eight device carriers to sell.
We then considered the best possible time and setting for our senior division meeting in conjunction with the state convention coming up this fall. It seemed to be the consensus that we would prefer a breakfast meeting but in a separate room, not in the hotel restaurant.
Steve Jacobson demonstrated the Odin Mobile VI phone.
The meeting adjourned at 3:30.
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 31-November 2 2014, in New Ulm. Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.
The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in May 2015 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis. Members will receive a letter with details, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.
The National NFB Convention will be during the first week of July 2015 in Orlando, Florida. This is nearly a week of friends, fun, and serious business. It is a chance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world. The full convention bulletin will be in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.
Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at the American Legion in Waite Park
Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 10:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis
Riverbend Chapter — New Ulm area; meets at 9:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month in New Ulm; contact Monica Buboltz at 507-354-5680 for meeting location
Rochester Chapter — Rochester area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester
Twin Ports Chapter — Duluth area; meets at 11:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at Jitters Café, 102 W. Superior St.
Braille Club — Any National Federation of the Blind member who uses braille is invited to attend. This group meets on the first, second, and third non-holiday Tuesdays of the month from 4:30-6:30. Its purpose is to improve braille skills and get better acquainted with other NFB braille users. Attendees bring their own book or magazine or borrow one. Contact Melody Wartenbee at 612-870-9484 or e-mail email@example.com.
Technology Group — This group gives the chance for everyone to explore what’s new in technology, and have their questions answered. These sessions will occur on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at our building. We hope to find a way to involve people around the state. For further information contact Kathy McGillivray at 612-822-9174 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is two-fold — to help blind persons achieve self-confidence and self-respect and to act as a vehicle for collective self-expression by the blind. By providing public education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, literature and publications about blindness, aids and appliances and other adaptive equipment for the blind, advocacy services and protection of civil rights, development and evaluation of technology, and support for blind persons and their families, members of the NFB strive to educate the public that the blind are normal individuals who can compete on terms of equality.
No one understands blindness as well as those who live with it daily. To apply this knowledge to solving the problems of blindness, blind people formed the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM). NFBM is the state's largest and oldest organization of the blind. It provides self-help programs for blind people of all ages and activities.
As blind people, we know the loss of eyesight is not the major problem of blindness. The real problem is the misunderstandings that surround blindness. The NFBM overcomes this problem through education of the sighted to the reality of blindness and through mutual help among blind people. Such activities make blind people fully‑participating members of society. They earn their living, raise families, and take full responsibility for their own lives.
The NFBM began in 1920 as the Minnesota State Organization of the Blind. It is a membership organization open to everyone who believes in the capability of blind people to help himself or herself become full participants in the community.
In 1940, Minnesota and six other states founded the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Today, the NFB numbers over 50,000 blind people. It has organizations in every state, and local chapters in almost every sizable community.
During these many years, we have made strong progress toward equality. We have improved employment opportunities and education for blind persons in the state of Minnesota and in the nation.
Most of our members are blind, and their knowledge of blindness comes from their personal lives. Other organizations get their information on blindness through the reading of textbooks or other secondhand techniques.
For a complete listing of the NFB of Minnesota board of directors, visit www.nfbmn.org/board.html.
There are several ways to keep up with, as well as interact with, the most active group of blind people in Minnesota:
· Join the discussion list for Minnesota on NFBNET at www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/minnesota-talk_NFBNET.ORG
· Follow @nfbmn on Twitter at twitter.com/nfbmn
· Like us on Facebook by searching for National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota at www.facebook.com/
Many people are involved in getting this issue to you. The writers can write and the editor can edit, but until the material is printed, brailled, recorded, and distributed, it is just a computer file. Therefore, we owe great thanks to the following people for the work they do in producing this publication.
· Judy Sanders proofreads and provides corrections for both the print and braille editions.
· Sharon Monthei makes corrections to the braille and print editions and transcribes the braille edition.
· Art Hadley reads the audio edition for cassette tape and Compact Disc.
· Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the Compact Disc edition.
· Dave Andrews marks up and posts the NFB-NEWSLINE® edition.
· Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.
· Sid Starnes deals with the printer for the print edition, mails the print edition and other tasks as needed.
· Emily Zitek embosses and collates the copies for the braille edition and mails the braille and audio editions.