Quarterly Publication of the
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Volume 74, Number 1, Winter 2008
WE ARE CHANGING
WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE BLIND
Table of Contents
Taking Stock and Looking Forward
By Jennifer Dunnam, President
The beginning of a new year presents an excellent occasion to take in an "aerial view" of all the many activities that are going on in our energetic and dynamic organization, and to look ahead at the places where we especially want to focus our energy. As always, we are very busy right now in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. There is much work going on, and if I write about all of it in detail it will at least fill up this entire issue of the Bulletin, so here are only some of the highlights. As you read what follows, think about which of our activities are the most interesting to you and where you would most like to help. We have many capable and dedicated members that make all of our accomplishments possible, yet we always need more ideas and more hands at the tasks.
What Are We Doing?
Children and Youth: Our Minnesota Organization of Blind Parents, under the leadership of Carrie Gilmer, sponsors several monthly events, held at our NFB of Minnesota Headquarters, designed for children and teens. “Teen Night” happens on a Friday night each month. Blind teenagers have the opportunity to get together with blind adults like Jeff Thompson, Deanna Langton, Al Spooner and others, to participate in fun activities while getting exposure to positive attitudes about blindness. "Saturday School” is a monthly session on Saturday morning for younger children to have fun while learning skills of blindness that might not be covered during regular school or at home, like how to carry a lunch tray with a cane or how to pour a drink of water. Steve Jacobson, Emily Zitek, and others have made excellent teachers and role models for the children. These events are beginning to attract the notice of teachers of blind students working in schools—recently a teacher, noticing the positive impact that Saturday school had on one of her students, attended both teen night and Saturday school on her own, and wants to get more of her students involved. Our Rochester chapter is also working on starting a Saturday school, which will be of great help to young people in Rochester who are blind.
Of course, not only do the children benefit from these activities, but the parents do too. The parents have the chance to talk with one another and with blind adults about blindness-related problems and solutions, and they have the chance to tap into the vast, rich network that is the National Federation of the Blind.
Last summer three Minnesota teenagers—Katie Kress, Jordan Richardson, and Anne Naber—joined 200 other youth in Baltimore at our National Center for the Blind attended the Youth Slam to learn not only about science, technology, engineering and math, but also about the truth of blindness. All three of them will be going back to Baltimore in February to attend a follow-up academy.
Seniors: Seniors are just as much a part of the future of the NFB as are the children, because seniors are the fastest-growing group of people becoming blind. A Possibilities Fair is being planned to occur on May 5, 2008 in Minneapolis. The event will be packed with information and resources so that seniors will know that they can still live full and productive lives after becoming blind. Partial funding for the Fair comes from a grant received from the NFB Imagination Fund. Planning for the fair is being done in partnership with State Services for the Blind and Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), and the work of Federationists like Joyce Scanlan, Judy Sanders, and Harry Krueger will make it exciting and successful.
Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc.: A major focus of the NFB of Minnesota is, of course, our support of the work of our adjustment-to-blindness training center, which has so vastly improved the prospects for blind Minnesotans during the twenty years of its existence. BLIND, Inc. literally changes people's lives by immersing them in an environment where everyone believes in them as blind people, often more than they believe in themselves. Graduates of BLIND, Inc.—who have had the opportunity to work with Shawn Mayo, Zach Ellingson, Steve Decker, and all the rest of the remarkable staff—not only have the skills and attitudes to succeed in employment and other endeavors, but they also come to understand the importance of staying connected with other blind people and giving back to the community. People come from all over the country (and beyond) to become students in our top-notch program. We started BLIND Inc. because it was desperately needed, and it has succeeded beyond our imaginings. It is our responsibility and our great pride to work with the staff and the students and support the program in every way we can.
Students: A new president of our Minnesota Association of Blind Students was elected at our most recent convention. Amanda Swanson brings enthusiasm and commitment to her new role and, under her leadership with the support of all of us, there is no doubt the student division will thrive and grow.
We will soon be distributing applications for the 2008 state scholarships, to be awarded at our annual convention in October. Sheila Koenig chairs the scholarship committee.
Fund-raising: We work hard in Minnesota to raise funds to make our activities possible. All of our chapters and divisions around the state are contributing to the effort with candy sales, spaghetti dinners, garage sales, and many other efforts that raise funds as well as educate the public about blindness. Many individuals are contributing through the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) plan, through the bake auction at our annual convention, and through many other donation opportunities. Our annual move-a-thon continues very successfully because of the hard work of all who bring in contributions from individuals and businesses.
Chapters: Our chapters all around the state are active and led well by chapter presidents Charlene Childrey, Pat Barrett, Andy Virden, Dick Sammons, and Jan Bailey. In addition to attending monthly chapter meetings, chapter members make presentations on blindness; attend meetings and write letters to make our voice heard; distribute NFB literature; raise funds; and teach, mentor, support, and advocate for one another.
Legislation: By the time you read this, sixteen Minnesotans will have joined more than 500 Federationists from around the nation for our annual Washington Seminar, where we work to educate our members of Congress about the issues that are important to blind people in Minnesota and the nation. The Washington Seminar is the forum that helped us achieve passage of a bill for a Louis Braille commemorative coin that will promote braille literacy, and it is the forum where we helped convince the Congress that nonvisual access was imperative in when voting legislation was revamped. We are ever active at the state legislature as well, promoting better transportation, electronic access to newspapers, adequate funding for blindness programs, and the like. Our annual Day at the Capitol is held in February this year.
Oh, and did I mention that Melody Wartenbee leads a weekly braille club to give readers a structured venue for practicing their braille skills? Or that Kathy McGillivray is facilitating the re-starting of the computer club with mini-classes on computer-related topics? Is your head spinning yet?
I pause here to emphasize that the names I mentioned are only a small sampling of the many people to whom we are indebted for all that they do to make our organization go. There are many, many others whose names are not listed here but whose commitment and hard work is no less important or appreciated. So many of you volunteer your time and resources in countless ways, large and small, and without you, our organization could never be the undeniable force that it is.
Of course, the activities of Federationists do not always center directly on blindness. We live our positive philosophy of blindness in all aspects of our daily lives. That’s why, not only do we volunteer our time for the NFB, but we are active in the larger community and the world around us. We are people working in all professions; we are bookworms, sports fans, movie buffs, computer geeks, shoppers, dancers, parents and grandparents, cooks, veterans, bloggers, volunteers in churches and political campaigns, crafters, fitness nuts, carpenters, and on and on.
Where Are We Going?
The National Federation of the Blind has a very clear purpose; we know the purpose well and have been working very effectively for a long time to achieve it. All of our activities are, of course, about making life better for blind people of all ages by spreading the truth about blindness. We have much work to do, and none of it can wait. Too many Minnesotans, blind and sighted, don’t yet know that sight is not a requirement for success, and that lowered expectations are a far bigger problem than lack of eyesight.
Following are a few areas that we should focus on in the coming year to make our strong organization even stronger and to see even more impact from the great work we are already doing.
Getting to know one another better: Did you know that almost half of the staff of BLIND Inc., who give their all to their jobs and also volunteer for NFB activities, are also raising children? Did you know that many of our members took all of their notes in school and college using a slate and stylus (and were excellent students, by the way)? We are an organization full of interesting people who have chosen to be a part of the community of Federationists because of the shared philosophy of blindness, but we come from all different walks of life. If we learn one another's stories and strengths, not only will we have a good sense of the resources in our organization, but our work will go even better because it is easier to work with people we know.
Letting the public know about us: We work hard to spread the word about our organization and all that it has to offer, through our literature, our website, our Minnesota Bulletin and other publications, through getting the press to cover our events, through presentations, through each of us talking to people we know and people we don't know, and more. There is always more we can do along these lines, and everyone can play a part. It is especially important that anyone who has anything to do with blind people, such as teachers, counselors, etc., is or becomes very familiar with us and all that we offer, because blind people need to know us.
Advocating: As was so succinctly and aptly said at one of the seminars at our recent convention, "The status quo is not good enough." It is not even remotely close to good enough while many factors still exist that contribute to a persistent 74% rate of unemployment among working-aged blind people; not while uninformed members of the public still too often pat us on the head, figuratively or even literally, and tell us we are amazing because we do the most basic activities of life; not while too many who are blind do not know that they indeed can do the basics and much, much more; not while today's changing world of technology threatens to close doors that had previously been open to us if we do not take action; and not while many blind people of all ages have to fight every day for some say-so in both the small and large aspects of their lives.
Later in this issue you will see that our convention passed two resolutions—one dealing with discrimination against those without Class D drivers license, and one dealing with inaccessible electronic documents being produced by the state government. Please read these resolutions again, and if you encounter any situations having to do with these matters, please let us know so that we have as much information as possible when acting on these issues. We also, of course, continue to do our very important and necessary part to work with and help improve our state agency for the blind, so that blind Minnesotans receive good training and other needed services and that those services will be of a high enough quality to be truly beneficial. As members know, there are many issues, on the national, state, local and individual levels, which demand and will have our attention and effort.
Fund-raising: This is, as you know, a place where we will need everyone's help to make things even better. Our annual move-a-thon will be held in the Twin Cities this year, still with help from our New Ulm chapter that hosted it for many years and made it a great success. Plan to participate in it by collecting contributions from everyone you know and by showing up on the appointed day in September to walk or otherwise move along the route and educate the public about blindness. Also, consider contributing to the PAC plan if you don't already, and help out with your chapter fund-raisers as well. The more we can put into our treasury, the more we can put into making our goals into reality.
Strengthening our Members: In the NFB, we offer blind people a defined and positive philosophy of blindness and support that will last the rest of their lives. To keep this organization going and growing, we need our members to gain more experience at the many activities of this organization, to be familiar with the ever-growing network of resources that we have, to be grounded in our philosophy so that we can apply it well in today's rapidly-changing world, to stay informed on issues that matter. We need our members to know our history and see our future, and to know how to get things done. This happens when we all take an active role in the organization, and when we make opportunities to learn from those who come before us and teach those who come after us.
We have much to be proud of in our Minnesota affiliate, and we have much to do yet. There are many ways in which each and every member can help with our work—whether you are stuffing envelopes for a fund-raising mailing, pouring a cup of coffee for a co-worker, writing a letter to a city council member, paying full fare or waiting in line like everyone else must do, giving our NFB literature to people you meet, mentoring a student at BLIND Inc., teaching someone to read braille, or even reading this Minnesota Bulletin to stay connected and stay informed. Working together, we will continue to change what it means to be blind.
By Beverly Collins, MS, RN
Research and Technology Manager
Clinical Decision Support
Allina Hospitals & Clinics
(Editor’s Note: Beverly Collins is a blind registered nurse and technology manager for one of Minnesota’s largest health-care providers. She is also an active member of our Metro Chapter.)
More and more hospitals and clinics are using electronic health record systems. Included in the information they keep is a list of your past and current medical problems, your past and current medications, your allergies, your immunizations, past and recommended health screening exams and their results, lab test results, other diagnostic test results, and summaries of past visits. Law, appropriate technology, and policies and procedures protect access to this information so that only those who have a need to know in order to assist you in your health care have access. You may request an access audit at any time.
Many of these electronic health record applications offer a web-based, secured access patient view. These patient views are called personal health records. You may access this application or set up a proxy allowing a person whom you delegate to have access to your record. You of course may also be a proxy for someone else.
In addition to personal health information, many of these applications offer other services. These include:
· On-line appointment scheduling.
· On-line prescription refill requests.
· E-mail communication with your health care provider.
· Tools for tracking measurements you may take at home such as blood sugars and insulin doses, or blood pressure readings. Your care provider can see this information as well to enhance your communications.
· Reminders to schedule routine exams, screening tests, or immunizations.
· Disease, medication, and testing information and education materials.
· Education materials you may have been given at a clinic visit or hospital stay that have been misplaced.
If you have multiple health care providers within one organization, all of your health information will be integrated into one personal health record. However, if you have multiple health care providers from different organizations or if you change providers from one organization to another, you will have more than one personal health record. Health care organizations are working to resolve this issue. They are investigating ways to securely exchange data while honoring your right to privacy and keeping your information secure. Exchanging data will give your health care provider a complete picture especially if you participate and monitor the information they have.
Fairview Health System, HealthPartners and Allina Hospitals & Clinics share a common electronic health records system vendor. Their records, however, are separate. With the assistance of their vendor, Epic Systems, they are working to implement an application called Care Everywhere. This application will allow them to pass a “Chart Summary” between them. At the time you present for treatment at one organization and with your permission, they will electronically retrieve a “Chart Summary” from either of the other organizations where you have an electronic health record. This summary will become part of the receiving organization’s electronic health record. You will be able to see that summary in your personal health record.
As you can see, it is important that you become an active participant in maintaining this information. MyChart is Epic’s trade name for their personal health record application. Since all three organizations use Epic, all of their personal health records go by the same name. Contact information for signing up for MyChart at each organization is given below.
Allina Hospitals & Clinics: 1-888-4ALLINA (1-888-425-5462), www.allina.com/mychart
Fairview Health System: 1-800-824-1953 www.fairview.org/mychart
You may also request a registration packet from your clinic at your next visit.
The National Federation of the Blind has not certified MyChart as web accessible. I am encouraging Epic Systems to go through the certification program. I would like to hear about your experience using screen readers or magnifiers with the application. Please send your stories both good and bad to email@example.com.
By Richard Strong, Director
Communication Center and Senior Services Unit
(Editor’s Note: This presentation was given at the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota annual convention on November 3, 2007.)
Madame President, thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today and share with you recent events at State Services for the Blind (SSB).
It was just a short time ago that I joined many of you in Atlanta, and in the streets of that city for the March for Independence at your annual national convention.
I was alongside Jordan Richardson for part of that march and I want to recognize him today for his most recent giant step towards full independence – selection to the National Honor Society at his school. Congratulations Jordan!!
This has been a very eventful and productive year at SSB. It has also been a year filled with many changes.
A major change took place with the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind. The chairperson’s gavel was passed from Jennifer Dunnam to Rebecca Kragnes in February.
Five members completed their terms and left the Council including Ms. Dunnam. The contribution she and others made the Council’s work during their terms was greatly appreciated. The Governor appointed new members, including Tom Scanlan.
It was a productive year for SSB as we worked towards realizing our mission. The following are some important highlights:
• Achieved significant success at the Minnesota State Legislature: received a $900,000 appropriation to the Communication Center replacing Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) dollars that are needed to provide services to people preparing for employment; a $100,000 increase to match future VR federal funds; and assured SSB’s participation in the study of the open document format by the state. We thank you, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, for your critical support in this effort.
• Reinstituted a major marketing effort by again having a booth in the Education Building of the Minnesota State Fair. SSB distributed 10,000 handheld fans with a message in braille and SSB contact information, braille alphabet cards to 120 teachers, 145 volunteer application packets, and thousands of other pieces of information regarding blindness.
• Negotiated a new 10-year lease at SSB’s present location after evaluating the possibility of relocating to another site in the Midway area of St. Paul.
• Continued to monitor the Minnesota State Capitol restoration project to ensure continued and appropriate space for the Business Enterprises Program vendor - a site SSB has had since the 1940’s.
• Welcomed a new Commissioner to the Department and provided education and information on SSB services to him and other key department staff. I must note that Commissioner McElroy volunteered and served a shift at the SSB booth at the Fair.
• Secured an outside entity to complete the Adjustment to Blindness Vendor Customer Satisfaction Survey, assuring a higher survey completion rate.
• Piloted a survey of Radio Talking Book users.
• We are still refining data for the year that ended on September 30 but we do know:
The Workforce Development Unit assisted a lower number of customers this year than last to secure employment.
The Senior Services Unit served over 3,500 persons in the year.
• Fundraising efforts have resulted in over $210,000 in gifts since October 1, 2006; with a substantial amount (over $21,000) earmarked for the Senior Outreach Program.
We are on the verge of DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) recording of textbooks in our Audio section of the Communication Center. We have completed the first of three training phases for volunteers in that section and are moving into the final two phases later this fall;
We’re about to place a request for bid for new digital radios for the Communication Center.
We are working with the Department of Education here in Minnesota to renew our interagency agreement to continue to provide high quality braille to the children of the state – an essential ingredient to their academic and future vocational success.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of that last item – high quality braille to the success and full independence of blind youth.
Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), commented earlier this summer on the impact of reading on the lives of Americans.
He noted that in its “Reading at Risk” study, the NEA found:
Every group of Americans is reading less than they used to. And there's actually a broader thing that's happening. Because people read less, they read less well; because they read less well, they do less well in school and less well in the job market. Interestingly, because they read less well, they participate in their communities less.
But, he goes on, for those who do read:
Readers are four times more likely to do volunteer and charity work.
The poorest group of Americans who read do twice as much volunteer work and charity work as the richest Americans who don't read.
So it says that reading is something that has more to do with literature and culture; it's a building block of civic life and democracy.
That’s what the NEA reported.
Reading and literacy are assets to all, including blind persons, and I feel strongly that braille is critical to the future success of blind children.
We know that blind persons who are braille readers are more likely to be employed and they earn more than blind persons who are not braille readers.
Last year our braille section produced or provided nearly 900,000 pages of braille from our Center - an increase of over 140,000 pages over the previous year.
All of these accomplishments were possible because of the input and commitment of the Rehabilitation Council, its committees - including active and valued participation by members from the National Federation of the Blind - the quality and dedication of SSB staff and our 640 volunteers, the hard work of SSB customers, and the contributions of other partners-truly a “Formula for Success”.
As some of you know, I’m from New York. I’m proud of New York. New York has a rich history and I like to quote New Yorkers who are part of that history.
Dean Alfange wasn’t a native New Yorker. He was born in Turkey and adopted New York as his home. He was one of the founders of the Liberal Party in New York back in the last century. He said:
“I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk, to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I want to enjoy the benefits of my creations and face the world boldly, and say, this is what I have done.”
SSB believes it can and does play an important role in facilitating the achievement of personal and vocational independence by blind and DeafBlind Minnesotans. It will, working with its partners, continue to assist blind Minnesotans to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed and to say “this is what I have done.”
Madame President, thank you for giving me this opportunity to meet with you today.
By Catherine A. Durivage, Library Program Director
(Editor’s Note: This presentation was given at the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota annual convention on November 3, 2007.)
Thank you for extending an invitation to me to speak at your annual conference this year. It is my pleasure to come here today and let you know what is happening at the library.
Thank you for all your efforts this past legislative session to help secure additional staff for the Library. I want to particularly thank Steve Jacobson and Jennifer Dunnam and everyone else that met with legislators in February on our behalf. I am happy to report that we will be hiring another staff person and are working on getting a second position filled. We will be hiring a Customer Service Specialist. The person in this position answers the telephone and assists patrons with book selections. The second position we hope to fill will be for a librarian that will be responsible for our webpage, assistive technology, and the transition to digital among other duties. While this does not bring us to the staffing levels we were at 2 years ago it is a step in the right direction and we are thankful for all your efforts.
As some of you know, the library changed its name recently. We are now the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library. In 2005 the Minnesota Legislature passed a law requiring state agencies to remove archaic or outdated language referring to people with certain disabilities. The statute identified the term “handicapped” as an outdated term, thus requiring the library to change its name. We sent a ballot in our last newsletter and over 640 were returned. By a margin of 2 to 1 the name Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library was selected over Minnesota Library for the Blind and Print Disabled and any other write-ins. We are in the process of updating our printed materials so for awhile you still may come across materials with our old name on them.
Our Advisory Committee was reactivated this past year and we now have a full committee of five members. They are: Craig Anderson of Saint Paul, Juliette Silvers of Minneapolis, Duane Roemhildt of Faribault, Jane Toleno of Big Lake and Adrienne Haugen of Olivia.
Committee terms are for four years. While we have a full committee now, if interested in serving, when future openings occur, please contact me. There is an application process and the Commissioner of Education appoints the members.
The purpose of the committee is to “advise the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library (MBTBL) on long range plans and library services. Quality library service requires consumer support and cooperation among all types of organizations. To fulfill its responsibilities the Advisory Committee shall consider the needs of all MBTBL consumers and shall assist in communicating the goals, plans, and policies to government officials and library consumers.” (MBTBL Bylaws, revised 9/10/07).
This committee is in its infancy right now and one of my goals for the committee for the upcoming year is to have it set its long-range plans and goals.
The library building has undergone some construction recently. The roof of the library was replaced this summer, with work finally completed last month. We had leakage in our main public space and it was critical that the roof be replaced sooner rather than later. The entire roof of the building including the roof over the new addition was replaced.
I recently completed annual statistics for the National Library Service (NLS). We have to submit patron and circulation figures twice a year to NLS. Their statistics are based on the federal fiscal year. This past federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2007 showed a slight decrease in the number of registered patrons when compared to the previous fiscal year. The difference was around 2%. We have over 11,231 registered patrons. In terms of circulation, we experienced less than a 3% decline in cassette circulation but braille declined less than 1% from FFY06 to FFY07. We have 485 individual braille readers and between individuals and organizations over 5,405 braille titles circulated in FFY07. Overall cassette circulation was almost 296,000 titles.
We did see an increase in descriptive video circulation and the Playaways, the self-playing digital talking books continue to be popular. We have more titles coming in our Playaway collection. If you count all book, magazines and catalogs we send out we actually experience a 2.5% increase in circulation figures. We are a busy group!
NLS Digital Transition
I know many of you are anxiously waiting for the new talking books and digital players. NLS is still on track to introduce their new format next year, but because their request for funding in Congress is not yet finalized and is less than they need, the overall transition time from cassettes to digital may take longer than initially projected. Unfortunately, this will mean there may be even fewer new digital players available to each state initially. In Minnesota, our allocation of new digital players stands at 784. By law, veterans will receive first dibs on the new players. After that, they will be offered to people 100 years old or older. From there each state will decide who will receive the remaining players. The library and the Communication Center are working together to come up with a loaning policy. In the meantime, if you are interested in receiving the new player and want your name added to the waiting list, please contact the library. This is also true if you are a veteran and want to be sure this information is noted in our records.
We plan to devote an upcoming newsletter to the digital transition, so stay tuned.
But, in the meantime, NLS has opened up their digital downloadable books pilot project, called NLS BARD: Braille and Audio Reading Download, to those patrons who have purchased or have access to the new HumanWare Victor Reader Stream. To participate in the download pilot project you must:
· Be an active patron of a cooperative network library
· Have access to a player capable of playing NLS-produced digital talking books (currently only the Victor Reader Stream)
· Have high-speed Internet service such as DSL or cable
· Have access to a computer connected to the Internet for downloading and unzipping books and/or magazines
· Have access to an active e-mail address
The website to fill out an application form to participate in this project is located at NLS Downloadable Book and Magazine Service Pilot Test Enrollment Application.
When your application is received, NLS staff will check your information against records of active library readers. If you are approved to participate you will receive an e-mail message with sign-on information. If there is a problem you will receive a message explaining the problem.
As of October 23, 2007, there were over 7,861 titles available to download, with new titles added almost every day.
So far, 13 people have registered for the downloadable project here in Minnesota. If you have questions about the pilot project, please contact us.
If you do not have access to a computer or if you are interested in trying out a digital talking book, you may want to borrow a Playaway. A Playaway is a self-contained digital talking book that was produced for the commercial market. We received a grant from State Library Services at the Minnesota Department of Education to purchase some titles and we recently purchased 100 more. Playaways run on a single triple A battery and a pair of ear buds or headphones is needed to listen to the book. The library will provide you with a pair of ear buds that are yours to keep. All you do to operate the Playaway is to plug in the ear buds, press the Power and Play button and start listening. You do not need any other equipment to listen to the book. We are in the process of updating the list of available titles in large print, braille and cassette, but you can access the updated list via our online catalog at www.klas.com/mnbph or at our website located at education.state.mn. From there, click on the link for the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library.
The library received state funding to upgrade our recording equipment from analog to digital. We are in the process now of investigating options and whether or not we can replace our standalone recording booth with a room with the money allocated. We recorded in-house the Minnesota History and Minnesota Conservation Volunteer as well as books about Minnesota or by Minnesota authors. Volunteers do all the recording.
We also received funding to reprint our large print book collection catalog, record some of our in-house publications into Spanish and upgrade our assistive technology workstation. Our large print book catalog has not been reprinted since the mid-1990s and we have never had any of our in-house publications available in Spanish. Our current assistive technology workstation was installed in 1999 and has not undergone any major upgrades since then. We will have JAWS, ZoomText, Duxbury and Kurzweil 1000 software available on it. These are all very wonderful opportunities and are keeping us quite busy.
I want to close by publicly thanking the staff at the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library. They are the backbone of this service and they make this operation work.
I thank you again for inviting me here today. I know I can speak for the staff at the library in saying that your support of this program is greatly appreciated.
By Jean Martin, Director
Minnesota Department of Education
(Editor’s Note: This presentation was given at the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota annual convention on November 3, 2007.)
Good morning! Thank you for inviting me to share information on the responsibilities of my position and the educational service delivery of children and youth who are blind or visually impaired in Minnesota.
As the Director of the Resource Center: Blind/Visually Impaired and State Specialist: Blind/Visually Impaired with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) my responsibilities and activities continue to focus full time on education services to blind and low vision children and youth.
Minnesota Statutes 2004, 125A.63, set the parameters of my position at the Resource Center. Language referencing the advisory committee was amended in 2006. Original language stated that the Special Education Advisory Council shall establish an advisory council for the resource center. The advisory committee shall develop recommendations regarding the Resource Center. This was amended in 2006 to read, “The commissioner shall establish an advisory committee for each resource center. The advisory committees shall develop recommendations regarding the resource centers and submit an annual report to the commissioner on the form and in the manner prescribed by the commissioner.” Joyce Scanlan is currently serving on the advisory committee.
I serve as the Ex-Officio Trustee of the American Printing House (APH). The Trustee is entrusted with the administration of the Federal Quota Program with his or her system. This includes the Federal Quota Census, Federal Quota orders, and management of Federal Quota funds, communication, attending the annual meeting and serving on committees. I currently serve as the chair of the Educational Services Advisory Committee.
I co-manage a two-year Interagency Agreement between the MDE and State Services for the Blind (SSB). The school districts in the state have been asked to agree to withhold $5.00 per special education child count to be held in a centralized account at the MDE. This year there is approximately $475,000 in this account. Districts who have indicated yes to this arrangement will receive braille and “some” audio tapes at no cost. Districts who have indicated no will pay for braille and tape. This is a two year agreement.
The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) & National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) includes:
· A mandate for states to adopt the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) as a source file for provision of student-ready accessible materials to students who are blind or print disabled.
· A mandate for State Education Agencies and Local Education Agencies, two years after the enactment, to ensure the provision of accessible instructional materials in specialized formats for students with print disabilities, either directly through the state or through the National Instructional Materials Access Center.
· The establishment of a National Instructional Materials Access Center at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to process NIMAS versions of Print Instructional Materials.
Minnesota is one of 15 states to participate in a federal grant in regard to the NIMAC. It is expected that a NIMAC Conversation group will meet in November.
The APH/Community of Practice provides recommendations on purchasing resource materials with federal quota monies, and management of the quota system and accessible materials.
The Low Vision/Community of Practice assists with the low vision clinics and provides recommendations in the area of low vision. The group is working collaboratively with Dr. Dennis Siemsen from the Mayo Clinic.
The AT/Community of Practice in conjunction the commitment and funding from SSB and MDE has developed and is implementing an AT Loan/Evaluation Project. Through the project, specific assistive technology can be loaned to the student/district for evaluation purposes. We are excited to work on this initiative.
The State B/VI Test Review Team continues to review new items for bias to blind and visual impairment students in Minnesota. We have reviewed several, perhaps hundreds of items. Because the state science tests this year are computerized, it is my understanding that a hard copy will be available in braille.
The Minnesota Collaborative Teacher Training Program in Special Education: Blind or Visually Impaired is approved by the Board of Teaching. Many students in the first cohort have completed their training and are in the process of applying for a Minnesota License in Blind or Visually Impaired. A second cohort began the training program this summer. I am pleased to announce that Mary Archer from SSB and Judith Normandin from Intermediate School District #287 will be teaching the advanced braille course sometime this year.
I serve on the General Advisory Committee of the National Accessible Reading Assessment Projects (NARAP). This is an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funded collaborative project between the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The goals of the project are: 1) Develop a definition of reading proficiency. 2) Research the assessment of reading proficiency. 3) Develop research-based principles and guidelines making large-scale reading assessments more accessible for students who have disabilities that affect reading. 4) Develop and field trial a prototype reading assessment.
I serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, the Needs Assessment Task Force, the Communication Center, and the Child Services Advisory Committees of State Services for the Blind (SSB).
All initiatives for the 2007-08 school year are not finalized at this time due to a busy beginning of the school year.
It is my hope that every blind or low vision child or youth in Minnesota is receiving and/or will receive instruction in the specialized skill areas that child or youth needs and that every blind or low vision child or youth in Minnesota is receiving and/or will receive instructional materials in the specialized format that is best for that child or youth. We have not completely accomplished that goal but have made great process. As I travel nationally, it feels good to come back to Minnesota. We as a state “walk our talk” in agencies and consumer groups working collaboratively to ensure blind and low vision children, youth and adults have great expectations and receive appropriate services.
By Judy Sanders, Secretary
"Success is born of hopes achieved and dreams realized" was the theme of the 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM) held on November 2-4, 2007. The Holiday Inn, Bloomington, was the site for the convention, ably hosted by our Metro Chapter. This convention once again demonstrated the power of the Federation; through concerted action blind people hope, achieve, and realize their dreams.
Friday, November 2
One activity followed another starting Friday afternoon. If one participated in everything there was no time for a dinner break; it was a good thing that the food was plentiful during the Metro Chapter hospitality on Friday evening. Convention registration and exhibits shared an area outside the meeting rooms. People had the chance to see the latest in assistive technology and ask questions of experts. Steve Zent, blindness products specialist with Freedom of Speech and Greg Stilson, who provides technical support through HumanWare, were on hand to answer all questions. They had the latest products for hands-on examination.
One of the things that the Federation does best is act as advocates for those experiencing difficulties because of their blindness. Whether it is in obtaining rehabilitation services, trying to receive Social Security benefits or dealing with a difficult employment situation, we can all encounter barriers. Advocacy involves being assertive on our own behalf and knowing when to ask for help from the NFB. Scott LaBarre, our national representative, attorney, and president of the NFB of Colorado, conducted a seminar to show us how to be stronger advocates for others and ourselves.
Braille literacy retains its importance to the NFB as demonstrated at the meeting of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB). Creative games and sharing stories of success with braille made for an interesting meeting. NAPUB officers for the coming year are president, Melody Wartenbee; vice president, Tim Aune; secretary, Trudy Barrett; and treasurer, RoseAnn Faber.
Resolutions are the bedrock of Federation policy. The first step in the process of considering resolutions consists of interested members writing them and submitting them to the resolutions committee. Jennifer Dunnam chaired this year’s committee, with Jeff Thompson, Sharon Monthei and Steve Jacobson. The committee held an open meeting where it discussed several resolutions and recommended them to the convention.
If one is looking for energy and enthusiasm, it could be found in the meeting of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students. They elected the following officers: Amanda Swanson, president; Tonia Rabb, first vice president; David Starnes, second vice president; and Ellen Bielawski, treasurer. The secretary's position has yet to be filled.
Our parents are busy as well. At their meeting, they talked about their children's education and how to get the most effective IEP (Individual Education Plan). Their Saturday School for elementary age children and Teen Night is extremely successful and growing.
The Friday night hospitality, hosted by our Metro Chapter, was a place to find lots of food, chatter, and fun. People from throughout the state had a chance to catch up on happenings from their respective areas, and even with all the food, people were promoting their particular baked goods for the next day’s auction. Some hearty souls lasted long past the food and the cash bar.
Saturday, November 3
Members and friends arrived early for the first general session of the convention carrying their donations of door prizes and items for our annual baked goods auction. Amy Baron and her crew organized our door prizes so that we had plenty throughout the convention. Al Spooner and his cadre of auctioneers did such a good job of getting us to open up our wallets and checkbooks that it is certain they could have futures as sales people.
After calling the 2007 annual convention to order, President Joyce Scanlan turned the microphone over to Kathy McGillivray for an invocation. Pat Barrett, as president of the host Metro Chapter, gave us a unique welcome with the Metro Chapter choir. Their musical career will match those of our sales people.
We were pleased to welcome Scott LaBarre, our national representative, for his report from our national office. Scott urged us to make plans to attend our Washington seminar beginning on Monday, January 28th, 2008. This seminar is a testimony to the strength of the NFB. He also urged us to make plans for our national convention in Dallas beginning on June 29. See the December Braille Monitor for details.
During our next national convention, we will have our second annual March for Independence to raise money for our Imagination Fund that supports the Jernigan Institute and sends money back to our state affiliates. We have a goal to raise $1 million after raising $600,000 last year. Those agreeing to raise money for the Imagination Fund register at our national website. We were asked to find thirteen people to add to the thirteen Minnesotans who were already registered. (It was later announced that we met that goal plus one.) The Jernigan Institute sponsors such events as Youth Slam where several hundred blind youth and their mentors participated in a science and math academy. Next year we will have a junior science academy. It will involve smaller children with adults accompanying them.
We have introduced H.R. 3834 in Congress to raise the earned income limit for receiving Social Security. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who spoke at our March for Independence in Atlanta, has introduced this bill. We must get our members of Congress to cosponsor this legislation. We want to pass legislation modeled after the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) for college students. This Act requires publishers to provide electronic files of textbooks so students can have their books on time. Other legislative issues will emerge closer to our seminar.
Our next speaker was Richard Strong, Director of the Communication Center and the Senior Services Unit for Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB). His report is earlier in this issue. Dick attended the NFB national convention and marched for our Independence along with other Minnesotans. Dick acknowledged Jennifer Dunnam as past Rehabilitation Council for the Blind chair. Jennifer's term on the Council has expired and Tom Scanlan, as the NFB’s representative, has replaced her. Steve Jacobson and Judy Sanders also serve on that council. Dick mentioned that as he was driving to this convention and listening to Minnesota Public Radio he heard Joyce Scanlan as the lead story on the news talking about the convention, quiet cars and accessible pedestrian signals. Dick expressed the view that our positive outlook can only bode well for the future of blind people.
SSB and the NFBM are jointly sponsoring the "Possibilities Fair" for seniors in May. We received a grant from the Imagination Fund of $4,000 toward this effort.
Shawn Mayo asked about the problem of finding qualified rehabilitation counselors. The standards are so strict that few people qualify; Dick mentioned that Nebraska has developed its own standards which involve training their own counselors. This is becoming a critical problem with many counselors reaching retirement age and no one to take their place. Kathy McGillivray, an experienced professional in working with people with disabilities, was disqualified because she had not taken a particular course that is irrelevant to her success as a counselor.
Dick said that we are not only customers or consumers of their agency; we are partners. We have come a long way in our relationship with this agency.
"From The Ukraine To The U.S.: I'm Glad I Found You" was a presentation given by Bogdan Onyschenko who is here as an exchange student staying with the Richardson/Gilmer family. Bogdan says that in his country, braille is uncontracted and they write with a slate and stylus. They can get a scanner with a Russian program for about twenty dollars. Teachers do not always have high expectations for their students and, if you are one of their favorites, they pass you without earning your grades and then you have trouble in college. Bogdan hopes to move to the U.S. because he thinks that job opportunities are more plentiful. If he is still here in July, he hopes to attend our national convention.
Joyce introduced the president of the NFB of North Dakota, Jennelle Bichler and North Dakota's vice president, Maria Vasquez. We were pleased to have them with us at our convention.
Catherine Durivage, director of the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library, was our next speaker. Note the library's new name. Catherine gave special thanks to the NFB for our efforts in the last legislative session to help them come to a full staff. They are heading in the right direction with two new staff members. See Catherine Durivage's remarks earlier in this issue.
Scott updated us on the status of funding for the new digital program for the National Library Service. They are seeking $19 million; they were first given $7 million and, through the work of the NFB and others, their funding is now at $12.5 million. We are still working in the Senate to try to get the full funding.
Jane Larsen, director of Disability Services at MCTC (Metropolitan Community and Technical College), told us that her office serves over 500 students with disabilities within a year. Over 25 students are blind or visually impaired. Besides helping students with access to material in their classes, they are administering a grant that helps students go beyond their academic training. They can get to know their community and learn more about the real world. This project is called service learning. She reminded high school students to do advance preparation for their college career; it will raise their chance of success.
Jean Martin, Director of the Minnesota Resource Center for the Blind, is a welcome fixture at our conventions. Her topic was “Greater Expectations for Minnesota's Students Who Are Blind.” Her remarks appear in full earlier in this issue.
Jean stated that standardized tests for science are computerized this year and that they are not accessible to blind students. Jean negotiated with the appropriate people to allow blind students to take the test using hard copy. Jennifer expressed the view that this should be a temporary solution and that we should not allow blind students to be left behind in this computer age. Jean agreed and asked for that position in writing.
To lead off our afternoon session we heard from Melody Wartenbee, the longtime braille instructor at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND). Braille is a relatively easy system to memorize but when adults learn braille they quickly discover that it takes a great deal of practice to become proficient. To help in their endeavor, Melody started the Braille Club. One not need be a student at BLIND. It is a place where you can read along with others and check your reading speed. It provides the incentive that we need to work hard toward becoming literate in braille. Trudy Barrett, a member of the Braille Club and a braille reader since 1975, appreciates her improvement in speed. She has gone from 35 words a minute to around 70 words a minute. She wants to read 100 words per minute. John Horna, a new member of the Federation, has read braille his whole life. He uses the Braille Club mostly for practice. He has never used a slate and stylus until he came here, even though his braille reading speed is quite high.
Morgan Budreau is in the seventh grade and is an avid braille reader. She understands that braille puts her on an equal playing field with her sighted peers. She participates in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest and the Braille Challenge sponsored by the Braille Institute of America. To qualify for this challenge she must pass a test given at her school. She did so well that she had the chance to go to Los Angeles and participate with kids from all over the country. See the October 2007 issue of the Braille Monitor for a more detailed explanation of the Braille Challenge in Monitor Miniatures.
Dick Davis moderated a panel entitled “New Jobs: This is How They Came About.” Deanna Langton works at Project for Pride in Living where she helps to facilitate a professional program for those in the healthcare field. These people are looking for promotions in their field. Tom teBockhorst works at Apogee Retail where he seeks donations for a thrift store. He is one of those dreaded telemarketers, but he is a polite one. Charlotte Czarnecki is an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigator. She learned about this position from the NFB's jobs list. She does everything from intake to conciliation. All the panelists credited the NFB for helping them in one way or another; one credited SSB and her teachers; and one gave special thanks to Dick Davis and his work at BLIND, Inc.
“English Language Learners: What Can Be Done to Help” was a topic presented to us by Sharon Monthei. Sharon works at SSB to, among other things, coordinate services to SSB customers who were learning English as an additional language. Most instruction involves pictures and teachers are not equipped to teach blind students. Sharon traveled to Seattle along with Emily Zitek to receive special training in how to teach blind students to succeed in these classes. Sharon's sharing her newfound knowledge with teachers in this community.
"The Federation in the World Today: Meeting the Challenge" was a dynamic and thought-provoking presentation given by Jennifer Dunnam. She discussed how different our challenges are today compared to 1990 when she heard Dr. Kenneth Jernigan talk about our first fifty years. Many of the problems are the same—but who would have thought that we would be suing Target for access to their website? We must expand our tools to succeed today while remembering our roots and our objectives.
"Silent Zones and Quiet Cars: Problems We need toFace" is one of those topics that we did not face in 1990. Bunny Tabbat, a member from Little Falls, presented this issue to us as it affects her. A silent zone is an area where trains are not allowed to blow their whistles. This often happens at night because citizens complain that they cannot sleep. Bunny pointed out that as we travel throughout our community we may not have enough warning that a train is coming. Scott LaBarre suggested that we must find a compromise between the silence that society is demanding and the sound that we need for our safety.
Shawn Mayo introduced two students to present "Looking Forward to a Fulfilling and Challenging Life." Ellen Bielawski spoke about her experiences in travel class. It meant a great deal to her to have a blind instructor. She is the only student to have been stopped by the police while on travel. A kindly citizen called and reported that there was a woman wandering aimlessly wearing a blindfold. She explained what she was doing and they let her go on her way. Ellen came here from Indiana. Bill Henson is from California. He was told that he could not take his GED (General Education Diploma) because he is blind; he is now studying for his GED and wants to become an advocate for others when he returns to California. He described his experiences in home management.
Accessible pedestrian signals (APS) are a current issue with which we must deal in our local communities. Jennifer Dunnam gave the history of what is happening in the metro area with respect to these signals. We must concern ourselves with these signals on a statewide basis because MnDOT may start putting them on all new construction without criteria to determine whether they are needed. We are working diligently to develop reasonable criteria. A discussion followed with recommendations as to how to make these decisions. Jennifer read a letter which we all signed explaining our position. This letter was forwarded to the Minneapolis City Council to help them in making their decision about how to deal with these things.
"Changes at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and Plans for the Future" allowed us to meet Dr. Robert R. Duncan, the interim director at the Academy in Faribault. Dr. Hunter has served as superintendent for several rural school districts and served for six years on the Academy's Board of Governors. The Academy has about fifty students. Dr. Hunter wants to revitalize their transition program for students between the ages of 18 and 21. He wants to make sure that they not only have a good academic education in the subjects learned by all students but that they get a good background in their blindness skills. They have a new assistive technology instructor on campus. Currently a student can only attend the Academy if referred by their school district. While parents can choose a public school, a charter school or a private school they cannot choose the Academy. Dr. Duncan would like to see a rules change so that the parents and children have the Academy as an option. He would like to do more marketing and public relations for the school. Dr. Duncan joked that he would have to be careful about what he said at our convention because Nadine Jacobson was in the audience and she serves on the Board of Governors.
The highlight of all NFB conventions is our banquet. As special as they all are, this year's banquet will long be remembered as historic.
We began our evening with an invocation by Reverend Michael Brands, one of our members from St. Paul. Pat Barrett, our emcee, kept the banquet going at a lively pace with door prizes and baked sale items interspersed throughout the evening.
Another of our members, Maureen Pranghofer, who sings professionally, entertained us and brought CD's to sell.
Joyce Scanlan has been president of the NFB of Minnesota for 34 years; she had announced before the convention that she would not be seeking reelection. With this in mind, Federationists wanted to say thank you for her many years of dedication and service to all of us. Jennifer Dunnam, Steve Jacobson and others put together an audible presentation cataloguing the history of Joyce's accomplishments over the years. Beginning in the early '70's with her election to the presidency and ending with the ringing of several Freedom Bells at the grand opening of our BLIND, Incorporated headquarters, which jointly houses our NFB offices; we have a record of growth, positive change and a spirit of self-determination that Joyce led. After we listened to the audio presentation Jennifer presented Joyce with an engraved crystal gavel sitting on a glass base to show appreciation for her dedication, friendship and leadership. The engraving reads:
You have changed What It Means to be Blind."
Several other awards were presented at the banquet. Each year the Metro Chapter sponsors a writing contest. This year's winner was Sharon Monthei. Her winning essay appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin. Jeff Thompson presented a recognition award given by the Minnesota Association of Blind Students (MABS) to Amanda Swanson for her leadership and work in the NFB. She received $500.
Sheila Koenig, chair of this year’s scholarship committee, presented a $2,000 scholarship to Mohamed Abdel-Magid. Mohamed is a student at Winona State University majoring in management information systems.
This banquet had so many highlights that it was amazing to watch and listen to Scott LaBarre give his banquet address and hold our attention after a rather long banquet. His entire address was printed in the Fall 2007 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin.
The banquet closed with a raffle drawing sponsored by MABS. They awarded $35 to Ellen Bielawski from their 50/50 drawing. The energy of the convention continued with hospitality and karaoke late into the night.
Sunday, November 4
Early Sunday morning Federationists gathered for the traditional Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) breakfast where we received an update on its activities and were introduced to all the students and staff.
Our general session began with a memorial service for those Federationists we have lost in the past year. Fern Aune, Tim Aune's mother, was a longtime Federationist. She was an avid braille reader who read approximately six books per week. When poor health prohibited her participation in our activities, she still took an interest in our successes.
Many of us knew another Federationist whom we lost this year. Marie Whitteker was 93 years old and still living independently. She still came to meetings and conventions. At our annual conventions, she was known for her divinity that raised lots of money at our baked sale auctions. She was a Federationist since the 1940's and was one of the best we had.
Carrie Gilmer, president of our parents’ organization, began her remarks with a memorial to her brother-in-law, Sam. He loved his nephew, Jordan, and had the highest expectations for him. Carrie talked about growth; we cannot stop growing and would not want to do so. Our Saturday School is growing partly due to the publicity given to it by its own participants. Teachers are talking about it because their students are. We also have a teen night that the teens greatly enjoy. Carrie ended her remarks by introducing her son, Jordan, who would be installed into the National Honor Society the following evening. He had the opportunity to recognize one teacher who helped him along the way and he chose Emily Zitek, his life skills instructor from BLIND.
Jordan told us about his experience in participating in ILab created by Carey Sapalo designed to teach blind students how they could function in a chemistry lab. He also joined in the activities of Youth Slam and was the emcee for the banquet at its end. He said that he learned to get around limitations put on him by teachers by saying, "Slam that!" and then asking the teacher to work with him to creatively find a way to involve him in overcoming the supposed limitation. Jordan closed by quoting himself, "If you take away taste, sound, smell and independence it is like taking the BLT out of your sandwich; all you have left is the bread and it does not taste good."
The minutes from the last convention as printed in the Minnesota Bulletin were approved.
We dealt with three resolutions. The first objected to requiring a valid Minnesota driver’s license for jobs that do not require driving. This is discriminatory and we will work to rid ourselves of such requirements. The resolution passed unanimously.
The second resolution dealt with quiet zones discussed previously in this report. There was some question as to whether we had enough information to know what direction to take. The resolution was tabled and it was made clear that it should be revived later after further study.
The last resolution dealt with the lack of accessibility to many documents produced by the state of Minnesota. We will join efforts to fix this problem. This resolution passed unanimously.
The two resolutions adopted by the convention are at the end of this report.
Our elections brought the following results: President, Jennifer Dunnam; Vice President, Steve Jacobson (filling out the term of Jennifer Dunnam); Secretary, Judy Sanders; board members, Jan Bailey, Charlene Childrey, Jeff Thompson, and Joyce Scanlan (filling out the term of Steve Jacobson). Those not up for election were Treasurer Tom Scanlan and board member Pat Barrett.
Scott LaBarre gave us thanks for an enriching weekend before he left for the airport and reminded us to fill out our PAC (Pre-authorized Check Plan) cards so that we can contribute to the NFB. Joyce added her encouragement to signing up for the PAC plan. Several members started new plans and some increased what they were already giving.
Shawn Mayo, as executive director of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) expressed her eagerness to continue hard work in the Federation and told us to look forward to a big party for BLIND's twentieth anniversary.
Closing announcements and thanks from the Metro Chapter president ended the convention with one final announcement. The bake auction netted us $2,946.01.
The last act of the convention closed an era and transitioned into a new one with Joyce handing the gavel over to Jennifer who adjourned the convention.
WHEREAS, for generations blind employees have worked effectively in jobs that required travel, using mass transit, taxis, paid drivers, or a combination of these; and
WHEREAS, using these transportation modes makes it possible for blind employees to read, write, make telephone calls, and do other tasks that sighted employees, who must pay attention to their driving, cannot do; and
WHEREAS, this increased productivity can more than compensate for any increased transportation cost that may occur; and
WHEREAS, employers in the state are increasingly requiring a valid Class D Minnesota driver’s license as a condition of employment where the position is not a transportation job such as bus or truck driving; and
WHEREAS, this requirement discriminates against blind people as a class because blindness makes a person ineligible to receive a valid Minnesota driver's license; and
WHEREAS, this requirement also discriminates against blind people as a class by excluding them from jobs that they otherwise could perform using mass transit, taxis, or paid drivers; and
WHEREAS, requiring a driver’s license for jobs in which driving is not an essential function is a violation of Minnesota statute 363A.08 (Subd. 2), the Minnesota Human Rights Act; now therefore
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this fourth day of November, 2007, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota that it is the position of this organization that requiring a valid Minnesota driver's license in non-transportation jobs constitutes illegal discrimination against blind people as a class; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization do everything in its power to insure that such discriminatory language is stricken from job descriptions and replaced by non-discriminatory language such as "must be able to travel", "must be able to provide transportation to residents", or "must possess a valid Minnesota ID"; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in furtherance of this goal, this organization contact employers, employment agencies, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations, the Attorney General of the State of Minnesota, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, counties, municipalities, other governmental and private bodies, and news organizations; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if necessary, this organization engage in any legal action necessary to end this discriminatory job requirement in Minnesota.
WHEREAS, the movement from paper documents and forms and the introduction of computer software to handle many tasks has resulted in blind persons having better access to documents than ever before; and
WHEREAS, the use of computer software has, in many cases, allowed blind persons to perform many aspects of our jobs more independently than was previously possible; and
WHEREAS, the ability for us to directly access and convert documents and use software does not require that document writers and software developers have specific knowledge of blindness but rather that they simply follow some guidelines and rules; and
WHEREAS, we are receiving reports and complaints of documents from the state of Minnesota, such as PDF documents containing images of pages rather than text, that cannot be read using technology that we commonly use to read documents; and
WHEREAS, the provision of accessible documents is required by various federal laws and regulations; and
WHEREAS, the state of Minnesota is required to purchase accessible software by Minnesota statute 16C.145 "NONVISUAL TECHNOLOGY ACCESS STANDARDS", which we were instrumental in getting passed in 1998; and
WHEREAS, some communication has begun between Minnesota State Services for the blind, the Technology Task Force of the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, the Department of Administration, and the Office of Enterprise Technology on these issues: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota assembled this fourth day of November, 2007, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization call upon Minnesota's Office of Enterprise Technology and the Department of Administration to review how accessibility is considered in the purchase of current software and in the creation of documents and to publish their findings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Office of Enterprise Technology and the Department of Administration to implement changes in existing processes to guarantee that purchased software and documents are accessible in accordance with statute 16C.145.
Exciting times are coming in NFB conventions. Keep these in mind as you plan your activities throughout the coming year.
The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention is May 3, 2008, at our NFB headquarters. 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 National NFB Convention is June 29 through July 5, 2008 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas. This is a whole week of friends, fun, and serious business. It is a chance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world. The full convention bulletin is in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.
The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention is October 3-5, 2008 at the Kahler Grand Hotel in Rochester. Room rates are $69.00, plus tax. 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.
Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 2:00 p.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 Charlene Childrey at 507-354-2250 for meeting location
Rochester Chapter — Rochester area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at Peace Church in Rochester
Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at Old Chicago Restaurant in St. Cloud
Runestone Chapter — Alexandria area; meets at 1:30 on the third Saturday of every month at First Congregational Church in Alexandria
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.
Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition.
Jennifer Dunnam 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 the website edition.
Emily Zitek runs the copies for the braille edition, deals with the printer for the print edition, and mails all editions.