Editor: Connie J. Davis
Co-Editor: Deborah Kent Stein
President: Lois Montgomery
President: Lois Montgomery, (309) 762-NFBI (6324), Lmm3527@aol.com.
Editor: Connie Davis, (773) 338-6922, email@example.com.
Co-Editor: Deborah Kent Stein, (773) 631-1093, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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E-mail & Braille subscriptions: Catalina Martinez, (773) 761-8430, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Proof reader: Jean Rauschenbach
I have just returned from an exhilarating TOPS (Training and Organizing People to Serve) seminar, which was held August 12-14 at the NFB Jernigan Research and Training Institute in Baltimore. The seminar was quite intense, with breakout sessions focusing on personality characteristics of leaders; recruiting, legislation and activities for ““Meet the Blind Month””. I benefited greatly from spending time with other leaders in the NFB.
State presidents participate in conference calls on the second Tuesday of each month. Dr. Betsy Zaborowski and Kevan Worley, moderators, update us on the Imagination Fund and activities at the Jernigan Institute. All NFB state presidents are encouraged to take part.
Have you contacted your legislator asking him or her to sign on to bill HR2872? This bill calls for the creation, in 2009, of a commemorative coin to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. The coin would promote national attention of the importance of Braille literacy. Thus far, only four of our nineteen Illinois legislators have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. We have a great deal of work ahead of us to make the Louis Braille coin a reality.
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit BLIND, Inc., in Minnesota, one of our NFB "adjustment to blindness" training centers. Federationist Al Spooner, an employee, gave me a tour of the facility. I also spoke with several of the instructors and students who were participating in the program. The projects, students completed in the industrial arts class, were quite impressive. I observed food preparations in the kitchen area, while others were learning cane travel and mobility skills. If you have a chance to visit one of our centers, I highly recommend it.
Oktoberfest (a fundraiser for our affiliate) will be held on Saturday evening, September 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the home of Patti and Francisco Chang in Chicago. There are still a few tickets left, at $20 each. To confirm your reservation, contact Joe Monti at (708) 383-0577 or Patti Chang at (773) 763-5302. This promises to be an evening filled with great food, music, and fellowship!
On Saturday, August 20, we held our state board meeting at our convention hotel, The Four Points Sheraton in Rock Island. Mark your calendar for November 4, 5, and 6 to attend the NFB of Illinois State Convention. The agenda is nearing completion and is filled with many great speakers and panels. Activities will commence on Friday afternoon and conclude no later than noon on Sunday. For reservations, call the hotel at (309) 794-1212. We have an excellent room rate of $62 per night plus tax. When you make your reservations, you should mention that you will be attending the convention in order to receive the discounted rate.
I am here to serve you. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions, concerns, or comments at:
Phone: (309) 762-NFBI (6324)
Mail: 3527 12th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265
Teenagers often struggle to decide what career path they want to follow, but that was never an issue for Bob Gardner. As a teen growing up in Moline, Illinois, he knew that he wanted to become an engineer. He had always been fascinated by the way things work, and his mind was filled with designs for machines he was eager to build.
Bob earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. Through an on-campus interview, he was hired for a job in the burgeoning aerospace industry. Almost immediately after graduation he moved to Los Angeles to begin his new job with a company that designed guidance systems used by the military.
Bob arrived in California during the early 1960s. The Beach Boys sang of surfing and sun, and it seemed that the nation's youth was streaming to the west coast. "I'd been dreaming of California," Bob remembers "and now I was really there."
From the outside, Bob Gardner looked like a young man who had it all. For years, however, he had lived with a troubling secret. From the time he was sixteen he had been aware that something was wrong with his eyes. When he drove at night, he had trouble seeing signs and landmarks. When he entered a dimly lit restaurant, he had to walk cautiously, struggling to see steps and obstacles. Friends teased him about needing to get stronger glasses. Once an ophthalmologist told him that he had "a narrow field of vision", though he didn't suggest a cause.
While he was in Los Angeles Bob visited an optometrist who gave him a careful examination. "He was the first one who had the courage to tell me what was really the matter," Bob recalls. "He said he thought I had RP - retinitis pigmentosa. He explained that nothing could be done. There was no known cure."
For the most part Bob took the news stoically. He didn't confide his concerns to his family or friends. He was determined to go on with his work and his life, regardless of his deteriorating vision. After two years on the job, Bob enrolled at Stanford. In 1966 he earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering, focusing on the technical aspects of the field. He remained in the Bay area, working for five years in the brand-new field of satellite communications. His vision was declining steadily, but he could still see well enough to do mechanical drawing at a drafting board.
In 1970 Bob decided to return to the Quad Cities, where he had grown up. Unfortunately, the economy was faltering and few jobs were available. Furthermore, it was now almost impossible for Bob to conceal his blindness. Some employers told him bluntly that they wouldn't hire him because of his poor vision. Bob might have left the Quad Cities again if friends hadn't introduced him to Nancy Needham, a teacher in the nearby town of Silvis, Illinois. Bob and Nancy were married in 1972.
Eventually Bob obtained a job in engineering design. Many aspects of the work were highly visual, and for Bob every day was a struggle. When the company moved operations to California, only a handful of the employees were invited to go along. Bob Gardner was not among them. Once again he was unemployed. "We had just bought a house, and Nancy had to stop teaching because she was pregnant", he says. "I guess we've lived through some worse times - but not very many." Bob's daughter Abby was born in 1976, and his son Andy arrived two years later.
After several months of searching Bob found work as a technical writer. Technical writing felt like a long step down from the serious engineering he had done in the past. By now his vision was extremely limited, and he could barely keep up with the workload. The company managers were kind and tried to help him as much as possible. They urged him to talk to a counselor at the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation. The counselor had almost no suggestions. He never mentioned Braille, cane travel, or any other skills that might have helped Bob work more effectively.
In 1981 the Rock Island Arsenal was trying to fill several vacant positions, but the pay scale was so low that there were few qualified applicants. At last the Arsenal decided to recruit candidates who had disabilities. Bob learned of an opening through his rehab counselor, and was soon hired. The atmosphere was very supportive. Most of the job was program management, where Bob's vision loss mattered little, while his knowledge and experience counted a great deal. Although he entered at a junior level, he advanced rapidly.
Bob's supervisor was convinced that Bob would benefit from a relatively new piece of technology called the computer. Bob had grave doubts, but his boss was insistent. He bought Bob a speech synthesizer called Dec-Talk - a boxlike device the size of a typewriter. In the years that followed speech technology became increasingly streamlined and versatile.
Despite his early misgivings, Bob discovered that the computer was an invaluable tool. Computer skills made him truly competitive with his coworkers. He was promoted to group leader, and then to division chief.
In 1999 Bob heard that two blind people in the Quad Cities, Lois
Montgomery and Allen Schaefer were forming a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Bob contacted Lois and offered to help. With his computer expertise and successful job history he was certain that other blind people could learn a lot from him. He received a jolt when he began to attend meetings of the Blackhawk Chapter. He met blind people who read Braille proficiently, walked with confidence using the long white cane, and talked about something called "Federation philosophy". He realized that he had built a life, that seemed to be running beautifully, but depended very heavily on Nancy to make it work. He couldn't compete with these staunchly independent Federationists.
After retiring in 2003, Bob decided to study Braille. Lois Montgomery taught him un-contracted Braille, and he began to label CD's and other objects at home. He also started to carry a collapsible cane. At first he hardly ventured to use it. By the summer of 2004, however, he was taking daily walks by himself on a bicycle path near his home. He enjoyed the exercise and loved the new sense of freedom.
In July 2005 Bob Gardner attended his first NFB National Convention. During Convention, people sometimes asked him if he felt awed and overwhelmed. He assured them that he did not. Convention was interesting and fun, but he simply did not find it a life-transforming experience.
Nevertheless, something strange happened when he returned home.
He began to wear the NFB bracelet he bought in Louisville. Somehow the bracelet served as a tangible reminder of the Federation philosophy he had absorbed at Convention. He began to carry and use his cane everywhere he went. He resolved to work on his Braille for at least an hour a day, and to learn the Grade 2 contractions. For Bob Gardner, the 2005 national convention truly changed what it meant to be blind.
Bob has been president of the Blackhawk Chapter since November of 2004. He has a flair for creative writing, and one of his essays was published in Kernel Book 28, "Imagine!" He is an active Methodist and is finance chairman for a group of seven churches.
Each morning when Bob puts on his NFB bracelet he thinks about the changes that have occurred in his life. "It really means something to call myself a member of the NFB," he explains. "I don't just want to be a Federationist - I want to be a GOOD Federationist. I'm trying to live my Federation philosophy every day."
I met Rami Atiya on the school bus when I was five years old and he was nine. Our families were from the same Arabic and suburban communities, but we hadn't met before that day. He was blind too, and to my surprise, he was both willing and eager to talk about his disability. I had been raised in an atmosphere where it was taboo to talk about my blindness. This was true in his situation as well, but he defied cultural traditions. He said his blindness was just as much a part of him as his hair color, and since no one expected him to wear a hat to cover his hair, he wouldn't pretend he wasn't blind.
Rami and I were bused to the same school district for four years. It was a magnet school district, catering to blind, visually impaired, deaf, and hearing-impaired children from suburban Chicago. Our commute lasted about an hour each way, so Rami and I had plenty of time to talk. I was initially struck by his energy and enthusiasm. Then I was awed by his optimism and belief that any problem could be solved with a lot of hard work and a positive attitude. He was generous, kind, and absolutely hilarious. He taught me how to walk with a cane and made it look cool. Then he taught me how to use my cane to protect myself when other kids were cruel to me. He gave me the gift of being able to laugh at the world, and at myself in particular.
I transferred to a different school when I was nine, and Rami moved to Florida soon afterward. We exchanged letters for several more years and got together whenever he visited Chicago. Once we talked about how unlikely it would be that either of us would ever get married, given how unreceptive Arabs were to blindness. Rami, with his usual enthusiasm, suggested we solve that problem by being one another's "in-case" person - if neither of us had married by the time I turned 24, we'd defy everyone and marry each other.
Rami wrote me when he was sixteen to tell me that he was undergoing eye surgery. He said that there was a strong likelihood that the procedure would restore his sight. He confided that he only agreed to the surgery because his parents wanted it so badly, but that he was otherwise willing to remain as he was. He talked about how afraid and lonely he felt. But in usual Rami fashion, he told me that this experience would simply give him more material to laugh at when it was over.
I received a letter a few days after Rami's scheduled surgery, but it was from his sister. Rami had suffered a heart attack as a result of complications from the anesthesia. He died instantly.
I will, God willing, celebrate my 24th birthday this summer. I suppose that is why I think of Rami so often, though he has never been far from my thoughts. He was the best person I've ever known, and it would please him to see how far the Arabic community has come in terms of accepting blind individuals. He would have enjoyed knowing that many of us are becoming involved with organizations like NFBI, and I like to think he would be proud of me for not allowing my blindness to impede my ambitions.
I chose to study Health Law and Health Care Administration because I believe that the poor and disabled must have access to high quality health care services and protections. It is our job, as members of these communities, to fight for and attain these rights. Rami taught me that I am the only one in a position to tell others what I need and, similarly, I am the only person who can prevent myself from achieving my goals. If I assist others in meeting their objectives along the way, I am simply repaying the gift Rami gave me.
My name is Lindsay Upschulte. I am twelve years old and in the seventh grade. My favorite part of seventh grade, I know, will be all of the reading we do.
In seventh grade, at the end of every school day, we have a special hour just for reading. Even though seventh grade hasn't started yet, I am sure that this reading hour will be my favorite part of the day. Best of all, each quarter of the school year, we read a different kind of book!
My favorite types of books are adventures and mysteries. My favorite book series is the Alex Rider Book Series. The series only has six books in it. This is a great disappointment for me since I never found a book series that was as well written as this one. I hope that Anthony Horwitz writes more in the future.
Even though The Alex Rider series is my favorite series, I like other books. Another book that I like is The Outsiders. I like the way the author put friendship, bravery and adventure into it.
Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do. When I was little, either my mom or my dad would read to me. Sometimes I would listen to books on tape. Then when I started learning Braille, I began to like reading books on my own. Learning to read Braille was convenient for my parents and me. As I got older my parents grew busier with their jobs. That made it possible for me to read as much as I liked.
I have been in the "Braille Readers Are Leaders" Contest for about six years. I have enjoyed each moment that I spent reading in it. I read so much in sixth grade that I received first place.
Now I would like to thank the person who taught me Braille. Without her, I don't know where I would even be right now. It is hard for me to imagine my life without knowing how to read Braille. I am thankful that I was blessed with the gift of learning how to read it!
May flowers were blooming everywhere in Grayslake, Illinois as I walked into Avon Elementary School to spend the day talking to more than 200 students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, about blindness. I was visiting my good friend Beth Oas, who had worked at the school during the past year as a teacher's aide. Everyone I met, thanks to Beth's advanced public relations blitz on my behalf, warmly welcomed me.
The Media Center was packed with students and staff for each of my four presentations. The kids loved the Braille alphabet cards, and I was mobbed between presentations to write children's names in Braille on 3x5 index cards and to show the kids how the Braillewriter works. Each session ran overtime because there were so many questions.
Every one seemed interested to learn that there are "techniques of blindness" that make it possible for those of us, who happen to be blind, to lead full and productive lives.
You have just become a Newsline® user. Or, you haven't used Newsline® for a long time and want to start using it again. The trouble is, you might have forgotten the number. You might have heard that you must use a local number to call Newsline®. You don't know the local number, and you don't want to call the National office to get it. Don't worry; you don't need to.
Newsline® has a toll free number that you may call from anywhere in the U.S. at anytime. That number is 1-888-882-1629. When you dial the toll free number, the Newsline® system will let you know that a local number should be used. It will then give you a local number that you may use for future calls to NFB Newsline®.
This all sounds simple enough. The problem is, many of us in Illinois may need to worry that the local number, we are asked to use, is prohibitively expensive for us. The local phone company may consider any call made to the listed local number a long distance call. And so here in Illinois, at least, the question still remains, "How do you call Newsline®?"
If you have a basic calling plan, in which you have no long distance, or you can only call someone a few miles away without being charged, then you should use the toll free number. Use the number 1-888-882-1629. If you have a phone plan which includes some long distance privileges, or if you can call someone more than ten miles away without being charged a long distance fee, then it would be best to use your local number for Newsline®. Finally, there is a number you can call which will allow you to use Newsline® where neither you nor the Federation will be charged for your use of Newsline®. That number is 1-202-448-3007.
If you need a source to get the Newsline® number, you will always find it on the front page of your Braille Monitor.
Good luck and good reading.
The NFBI Blackhawk Chapter holds our monthly meetings the second Saturday of each month at 1:30 p.m. Our meeting place is the South Moline Township Center located at 637-17th Avenue, East Moline. Our next meeting will take place September 10.
Last year, our chapter applied for and received a $1000 grant to establish a "cane bank”. Canes of various sizes and styles have been purchased and passed out free of charge to persons ranging in age from teens to persons in their eighties. As part of this program, Federationist Kate Mayer from the Chicago chapter gave a mobility-training seminar on the use of the white cane at our June chapter meeting. The Blackhawk Chapter continues to look for those who could benefit from the cane bank.
Earlier this year, the chapter applied for a $5000 grant to purchase a Braille notetaker or PDA. We have been notified once again that our grant has been approved. We will now select a notetaker, and then choose a chapter member who could most benefit from its use.
The chapter had a swim party at the home of Lois and Russ Montgomery in place of our July meeting. In place of our August meeting, the chapter had its annual picnic.
Chapter member Kathy Kelley and her friend have hand-crocheted four gorgeous afghans, donating two to the Blackhawk Chapter and two to the NFBI to be used in raffles. The name of Helen Sales was drawn at the August picnic as the first winner of a Blackhawk Chapter afghan. Raffles continue for the other three afghans, the winners to be drawn at our state convention in November. The Blackhawk Chapter is also raffling a Telex Scholar CD player, a $200 item, and the winner also to be drawn at the state convention. The CD player is user-friendly, will play all music CDs, and will also play the new Daisy format electronic books.
The NFBI Blackhawk Chapter publishes a monthly newsletter, the "Hawk Talk". The newsletter is available on the NFB IL-Talk listserv on the Internet, on the NFBI website, by E-mail or snail mail. We are the blind speaking for the blind, and are changing what it means to be blind in the Quad-Cities and northwestern Illinois.
The Kankakee Heartland Chapter picnic on August 6 was a great success with many people attending. The only absentee that day was Ray Flesher, who is now recovering nicely from his surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. Even the 3 guide dogs in attendance seemed to enjoy themselves.
We hope to have another excellent showing at our Christmas dinner, which will go into planning very soon.
The River Valley Metro Bus service will devise a schedule for trips to and from University Park. The University Park addition is scheduled to start in the second half of October, pending the readiness of the buses to be used. There will be four trips in the morning and four in the afternoon and evening.
As of now, the rate has been set at $3 per trip or $60 for a monthly pass. It will also be good on the ADA bus, which costs $2 each way. This service will make traveling to and from Chicago much easier and much less costly.
Our Chapter has been involved in several activities during the past months. Although we are still the affiliate's smallest chapter, our meeting attendance has increased much during the past year. Our meetings generally average over 10 people.
Our elections were held during our August meeting, when the following officers were elected:
President: Cathy Randall
Vice President: Bill Reif
Secretary: Charlene Elder
Treasurer: Darryl Darnell
Board Member: Carolyn Nelson.
We thank Mary Grunwald for her service this past year as Secretary, and wish her continued success as she returns to the Chicago area to pursue a business opportunity.
We have done much to change what it means to be blind in the Jacksonville and Springfield areas and to enrich the lives of blind children throughout the state who attend the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. We have delivered a large amount of NFB literature to the school and are working with Vicky Mullis to present, in a systematic way, information to these high school students preparing to transition to college or to employment. We are beginning to develop media contacts, to do more community outreach and fundraising than had been possible with a smaller chapter. In addition to the funds we receive, our chapter's affiliation with United Way has brought us considerable opportunity to network with other nonprofit and community service organizations. President Randall has made presentations to some of these organizations. This included a recent event at a Jacksonville park where several organizations sold or distributed items and literature. The NFBI Ferris Wheel Chapter also held a fundraising dinner on Monday, July 25 at Lonzerotti's Italian Restaurant. President Randall wrote a letter to the Editor inviting the general public to have dinner at Lonzerotti's and outlined the general purpose of the Chapter funding outreach. The letter to the Editor appeared on the Friday before our event. This successful public relations and fundraising event also brought a prospective new member to our August meeting.
With our supply of literature, a new table and banner, we are well equipped to engage in several ““Meet the Blind Month”” activities this September and October, including activities at the Super Wal-Marts in Springfield and Jacksonville.
Our meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 6:30 PM at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 359 West Street, Jacksonville. All are welcome. If you need assistance in arranging transportation to a meeting, or if you would like more information about the NFBI Ferris Wheel Chapter, please feel free to contact President Cathy Randall, 11 Pitner Place, Jacksonville IL. Phone: (217) 243-3529. E-mail: email@example.com
The next meeting of the Chicago Chapter will be Saturday September 10, at 1 p.m. We will meet at the Exchequer Pub and Restaurant located at 226 South Wabash in Chicago. Don't forget our membership reception scheduled for October 8 shortly after 11 a.m. The reception will last until the meeting begins at 1.
We're also gearing up for ““Meet the Blind Month””. We'll be selling Carson's Days Coupons again along with our fall candy sale of World's Finest Chocolates.
We're making plans for the state convention and our bus will be ready to roll early so we can be there for the Friday afternoon seminars. We are asking a $40 donation per round trip to State convention.
Come and join our Chicago Chapter in the fall, in Chicago, our kind of town.
The four Rivers Chapter has had a busy summer of travel and special events. We were especially pleased that two of our members were able to attend the National Convention in Louisville and bring back a great deal of information and enthusiasm to share with the membership. Upcoming events include the Annual Picnic and White Elephant Auction to be held on Saturday, September 10th and the Bus-a-thon fundraiser and public awareness event to be held on Saturday, October 15th. We look forward to working with our friends and fellow Federationists from St. Louis on the Bus-a-thon, which will culminate in a picnic and social gathering under the Arch on the Mississippi riverfront. For further information on these events, please call Paulette at 618.234.0367 during daytime and early evening hours or Annette at (314) 304-9634 anytime.
Oktoberfest: please see Lois Montgomery’s article for details.
The National Federation of The Blind of Illinois is selling gift certificates from over 50 grocery, restaurant, retail and specialty shops. The certificates are purchased from the vendor at a discounted price and you purchase them at the normal price. The difference goes to NFBI. These make wonderful Christmas, birthday and just because gifts. To view the entire vendor list go to: www.nfbillinois.org and click on Announcements and Fundraising Events or call Joe Monti at (708) 383-0577 for the list or to place an order. Please make checks or money orders payable to NFBI.
The National Federation of The Blind of Illinois is selling both T-shirts and sweatshirts. The T-shirts come in red, royal blue and jade. The colors of the sweatshirts are red, royal blue and black. The sizes for both the T-shirts and sweatshirts are small, medium, large and extra large. Both T-shirts and sweatshirts are 50% cotton/50% polyester. On the front of both, above the bust line, the letters, NFB are in Braille and below the Braille is the sentence in 60-point font:
BLIND IS NOT A 4 LETTER WORD THANKS TO THE NFB
The cost is $10 for the T-shirts and $20 for the sweatshirts. We are going to try and keep the shipping costs as low as possible using media mail unless you don't mind paying the regular postal cost.
You can place an order with Lois Montgomery. You can either e-mail her at Lmm3527@aol.com or by calling the NFBI telephone number: (309) 762-6324. When you order, please make sure to include the size and color of the items you want. Please make checks payable to NFBI. We will have these items for sale at Oktoberfest and at State Convention.
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