The Braille Examiner
A Publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois
Editor: Connie J. Davis
Co-Editor: Deborah Kent Stein
President: Patti Gregory Chang
President: Patti Gregory Chang, email@example.com.
Editor: Connie Davis, (773) 338-6922, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-Editor: Deborah Kent Stein, (773) 631-1093, email@example.com.
Print & Braille Duplication: Carmen Dennis, (773) 583-0899, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tape duplication & Distribution: Pittman Enterprises & Associates, email@example.com, (773) 779-1856, fax (773) 779-2763, Debbie Pittman
Jennifer Justice & Meghan Joost
Proofreaders: Kelly Doty, Carmen Dennis & Meghan Joost
Address and format changes should mailed, e-mailed or phoned to Connie Davis.
Problems with the print newsletter should be addressed with Carmen Dennis.
Problems with the cassette or Braille edition should be addressed with Debbie Pittman.
Problems concerning the electronic version should be addressed with Connie Davis.
*Issues with this particular issue should be addressed after January 1, 2007.
Members with e-mail addresses are kindly requested to receive their newsletter in electronic format to help defray production costs.
Guidelines for submitting articles for the newsletter:
You may send your articles to Connie or Debbie via e-mail or snail mail. (See contact info above. Please call for our mailing addresses.) Articles should be between 250 and 500 words or less. The exceptions to this rule will be determined by the editors on a case-by-case basis. This organization is not a religious organization. This organization is an organization of the blind. We are a secular organization. Therefore, we will not publish anything with reference to any religion or denomination. We have many religions and faiths represented in NFB. For this reason, we cannot show preference or endorse any belief.
When articles are submitted to us, you submit them with the knowledge that we will edit them as we see fit in accordance with the constitution, policies and philosophies of NFB. Submission of an article does not guarantee publication.
Connie Davis, Debbie Stein and Patti Gregory-Chang
MESSAGE FROM OUR PRESIDENT
Let me begin by thanking you for your trust in me. I am truly pleased to serve as an officer in this affiliate.
Convention was incredible! We have an affiliate that knows how to pull it together and put on an amazing convention full of "Comradery, Collaboration, and Commitment". The list of people, who helped, in large ways and small, is too long to print here, but I extend my heartfelt appreciation to every one of you.
I thought I might take a couple of weeks off after convention, but then I reviewed our "to-do list". Clearly this was no time for a break. We needed to keep the momentum going!
We are already working hard on mentoring those who attended convention. Initial committee appointments are almost completed. Thanks to all of you who gave me your input. Cathy Randall agreed to represent us at an upcoming meeting regarding the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. David Meyer will be our representative at the next Library for the Blind meeting. Kelly Doty is working on banking issues and Joseph Monti is looking into phone transfers.
Our first NFBI Board meeting took place on December 3rd. The board discussed affiliate priorities, committees, and plans for upcoming events. We must move on legislation immediately, given that the legislature is back in session in January. If you wish to be involved in state legislative activity, please contact Bill Reif. As usual, the affiliate will send delegates to this year's Washington Seminar. Let your chapter president know if you wish to attend.
Our Spring Student Seminar, "Opening Doors, Opening Minds," will be held March 30-31. Each of us can promote the seminar by making phone calls to encourage students to register. If you want to assist, call Debbie Stein or Ronza Othman.
We must fund our programs to keep them moving ahead. Our sale of shopping certificates continues to be a steady source of income for the affiliate. In December we placed the biggest order in our history with the certificates program! Thank you to everyone who ordered certificates, and to Joe Monti for all his efforts and reminders.
This year promises to be packed with important events. We are an affiliate on the move and I, as your President, will be looking to all of you to keep it in motion.
Patti S. Gregory-Chang
Phone: (773) 307-6440
Mail: 6919 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL 60656
NEWS FROM THE BLACKHAWK CHAPTER
By Robert Gardner
The NFBI Blackhawk Chapter meets 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. Rides to chapter meetings can be arranged.
In November, eight chapter members attended the NFBI state convention in Chicago. Chapter members participated in the various seminars and business sessions of the convention. They also attended the play, "Wicked", downtown in the Loop. The highlight of the state convention for the Blackhawk Chapter may have been their singing as a group in the "IABS Idol" event on Friday night.
Our Christmas party on the evening of Saturday, December 16 took the place of our regular December meeting. The Christmas party was held at Christ United Methodist Church in East Moline, and featured a terrific dinner prepared by the church's Wesleyan Group. Over forty members and guests attended the event. The bell choir of the church provided entertainment.
Our first meeting of the new year will be on Saturday, January 13. Our program will feature a presentation by a representative of MetroLink, the bus system on the Illinois side of the Quad-Cities. The presentation will give an outline of routes and other information to enable the blind to use the regular bus system for transportation around town.
The NFBI Blackhawk Chapter publishes a monthly newsletter called "Hawk Talk". The newsletter is available on the NFB IL Talk listserv and on the NFBI website. It can also be sent 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.
Chicago Chapter Notes
By Debbie Kent Stein
In October the Chicago Chapter meeting began with Steve Hastalis' reading of a Braille Monitor article, "Cutting the Cake or Copping Out," by Utah Federationist Brooke Sexton. In this piece Sexton talks about attempting an activity she had thought would be hard for her as a blind person - cutting a cake at a party. The article led to a lively discussion. Many of us talked about areas in which we might try to venture beyond our comfort zones.
In celebration of Meet the Blind Month, Joe Monti handed out NFB literature at the Carson's store in Riverside. The Chicago Chapter also shared a Meet the Blind event with the Illinois Association of Blind Students (IABS). Ronza Othman, Steve Hastalis, Joe Monti, and Patricia Fox handed out literature and Brailled people's names on the University of Illinois/Chicago campus. Their booth attracted so much attention that they were able to hand out all of the material they brought along.
After the December business meeting the chapter held its annual holiday season auction, with Anthony Thomas as auctioneer. As usual, home-baked treats brought the highest bids. The Chicago Chapter definitely has a sweet tooth!
Chicago was honored to host the 2006 NFBI Convention, held at the Ramada Plaza O'Hare. Chicago will also be the site of another statewide event this spring. "Opening Doors, Opening Minds", sponsored by IABS and the NFBI, will be held at St. Xavier University on March 30-31, 2007. The Chicago Chapter will pitch in to make this a meaningful and memorable event for everyone involved.
Now that our fall candy drive is over, the Fundraising Committee is busy selling tickets to a Chicago Bulls game to be held on Monday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are going fast! If you'd like to watch the Bulls pummel the Portland Trailblazers, contact Ken Staley at 773-472-3085.
This spring the Chicago Chapter will blend fundraising with old-fashioned family fun. On Saturday, April 28, the chapter will host Games Night at St. Christopher's Church in Oak Park. Tickets go on sale at the January chapter meeting. Join us for an evening of fellowship, complete with snacks and pizza. Revisit the games of your childhood, and try your hand at a few you never encountered before. Build hotels on Boardwalk; rack up points with a seven-letter word; slide down chutes and climb ladders. Checkmate!
Ferris Wheel Chapter Update
By Cathy Randall
The NFBI Ferris Wheel Chapter will meet on January 6, 2007 at 10:00 A.M. The meeting will be held at the Jacksonville Public Library in the lower level meeting room. Becca Ward from the Jacksonville Area Noon Lions Club will be our guest speaker.
Our February meeting will be changed to the second Saturday, February 10, due to a scheduling conflict for both Bill Reif and me. Our meetings will generally be on the first Saturday of each month to better accommodate most of our lives. We will either have a guest speaker, to be announced, or we will read and discuss an article from The Braille Monitor.
We are planning to meet again with Transition Living Program students at I.S.V.I. during the rest of this school year.
KANKAKEE HEARTLAND NEWS
By Michael Doris
On the first Saturday of January and February of 2007, the Heartland Chapter will hold its monthly meetings at the Bourbonnais Public Library, 250 W. John Casey Road. In January, we will be greeting two new members. We hope and plan to involve them fully in chapter activities. We will be working on a plan to educate the public about blindness and how to approach dog and cane users.
Overall, we want to foster a more positive attitude. To that end, we will have a program in January about the process of obtaining a dog from one of the guide-dog schools. Bill Isaacs will speak on this topic to our chapter members and guests. In February, we will have a discussion about what we, as members, can do to help strengthen our chapter.
We invite Federationists from other parts of the state to attend our meetings. For further information about the meeting or for travel directions, please call Bill Isaacs at (815) 939-1839.
AN OLD IDEA FOR A STRONG NFBI
By Marshall Gisondi
As the saying goes, "There is nothing new under the sun"... How does this apply to blindness and being blind? When we understand this, how then can this perception change our lives?
This past July, Eva and I made our way west to Chicago with our son Mark. The transition between a new career as a piano technician and the desire to establish ourselves, brought about some stress. However through it all, we found a treasure that did not exist back in South Bend, Indiana. In August, I had the privilege to attend my first NFB chapter meeting. Eva, Mark and I also had a wonderful time at the Oktoberfest and the convention. My experience with the NFB thus far confirmed the timeless truths found in this wisdom.
Today, I continue to hold to this quote that "there is nothing new under the sun" and our chapter proves this through and through. We, as blind individuals, have so much to offer through our talents and abilities, and we demonstrate this so well in our chapter and our community. In our chapter we have lawyers, business owners, those with organizational skills, fundraising skills. And the list goes on. When we grasp the fact that we possess talents and abilities that we can share with each other and those around us, we then increase our strength as an organization through our unity and our abilities.
Let us then realize our abilities and strengths, utilize them to build and strengthen one another, the NFB and our community. As we continue to demonstrate this, we show the "sighted" world that "there's nothing new under the sun".
COLLABORATIVELY SETTING POLICY THROUGH RESOLUTION
by Bill Reif, Chair, NFBI Resolutions Committee
Many people outside the National Federation of the Blind who have never attended a state or national convention wonder how our organization formulates policy. Some erroneously believe that the positions we advocate are based on a rigid ideology, or on the preferences of a small group of unaccountable leaders whose opinions can't be questioned. Those who have attended conventions know that policies are formulated through broad-based discussion and collaboration open to all the membership. These policies are eventually stated as resolutions. Those of us who have attended several conventions regard the work of our Resolutions Committee as a highlight of each convention weekend.
I have served on the Resolutions Committee off and on for at least ten years. The practice in past years has been for those who presented resolutions to bring their drafts, in varying degrees of readiness, to the committee for consideration and discussion. The discussion and collaboration all happened at the committee meeting. Often the meeting stretched well into the night as we broke into subcommittees to rewrite resolutions according to suggestions.
Technology, while not eliminating that discussion, now makes it possible for us to collaborate via e-mail. There has been much good collaboration, and less post-meeting rewriting, as a result. E-mail has also made it possible for us to discuss and consider more resolutions, as illustrated by our bumper crop of ten this year. This year, collaboration also took the form of consulting with persons who were not on the committee. Several non-members presented resolutions.
I wish to thank committee members Lori Brown, Mary Grunwald, Dave Meyer, Ronza Othman, Debbie Pittman, Bruce Paul, George Villa, Carmen Dennis and Dave Wright for their contributions and input.
The following resolutions were passed by the committee and the NFBI membership at the 2006 convention:
Resolution 2006-01 affirms our support of those participating in the Randolph-Sheppard program through support of Senate Bill 2330. This bill seeks to expand opportunities for blind vendors to operate on state facilities by establishing a priority, rather than the current "preference" as compared to those outside the program.
Resolution 2006-02 addresses the deplorable lack of current Braille textbooks at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, and requires us to advocate for a line item or other method of assuring that needed books are purchased.
Resolution 2006-03 commends those Illinois senators and representatives who have supported Braille literacy by approving issuance of the Louis Braille commemorative coin. It also affirms our participation in the resulting Braille literacy campaign.
Resolution 2006-04 requests that the Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which sponsors Newsline(r) in Illinois, utilize the local information channel feature of Newsline(r) to make relevant information accessible to the blind.
Resolution 2006-05 expresses our support for increased services to assist blind schoolchildren in transitioning from school to college or employment, and affirms our collaboration with other organizations engaged in similar advocacy. It also recognizes the role that the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired can or should have in such efforts.
Resolution 2006-06 concerns the failure of the Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to make many materials accessible in Braille, calling particular attention to its failure to label cassette books in Braille.
Finally, Resolution 2006-10 recognizes the collaboration of the counselors and administrators at the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services Bureau for the Blind who assisted several Illinoisans to receive quality rehabilitation training from facilities outside Illinois. The resolution recognizes this as an important first step toward the more widely available quality training we are seeking.
NFBI SCHOLARSHIP 2006
By Debbie Stein
The future of our organization rests with the coming generation of leaders. Through the NFBI Scholarship program we annually select a group of outstanding students to receive monetary awards in recognition of their academic excellence. We also mentor the scholarship winners during convention and beyond, helping them learn about alternative techniques, which may benefit them in their studies, and encouraging them to explore our Federation philosophy about blindness. Members of the 2006 NFBI Scholarship Committee were Kelly Doty, Cathy Randall, Patti Gregory-Chang, Lynn Gosling, Debbie Pittman, Pam Gillmore, and chairman Debbie Stein.
Through the tireless fundraising efforts of our members, the NFBI scholarship program continues to grow and flourish. This year the program also received generous grants from two Illinois-based foundations. We extend our deepest appreciation to Mr. Richard Lansden and the Leona Stanford Vollintine Charitable Trust, and to Mr. Harold W. Knapheide of the Mary MacDill Knapheide Foundation. Their caring and commitment helped make the 2006 NFBI scholarship program possible.
At the NFBI Convention Banquet on November 11, six exceptional students stepped to the podium to be handed their awards. Three of this year's winners received Kenneth Jernigan Scholarships in the amount of $1250. The Jernigan Scholarship winners were Laura Booth, Alicia Galasinski, and Michelle Wesley. Laura Booth is a junior at Western Illinois University, majoring in criminal justice. Alicia Galasinski, a freshman at Northern Illinois University, is still deciding on a major. Michelle Wesley plans to go into veterinary medicine. She is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Lori Brown and Stephen Kissel won this year's Mary MacDill Knapheide Scholarships of $1500 each. Lori Brown, a sophomore at Spoon River College, is majoring in history and hopes to teach at the secondary-school level. Stephen Kissel also plans to teach history, preferring a college or university setting.
The Peter Grunwald Scholarship, worth $2000, went to David Harlow. David is completing a Master's in Divinity at North Park College.
Our warmest congratulations go to all of these excellent students!
"COMRADERY, COLLABORATION AND COOPERATION" THROUGH IABS
by Ronza Othman
The year 2006 was very good to the Illinois Association of Blind Students. We accomplished all of our objectives and began looking toward the future. 2007 promises to be just as busy and just as successful for IABS.
In October, we, along with the Chicago Chapter, held a "Meet the Blind Month" event at the University of Illinois at Chicago. NFB members distributed literature, demonstrated technology, and wrote people's names in Braille for them. Special thanks go out to Joe Monti, Steve Hastallis, Patricia Foxx, and Ronza Othman for working this event.
In November, IABS held its first annual "IABS Outing". Thirty-two Federationists attended 'Wicked, The Musical' at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theater in Chicago. IABS provided each NFB member who attended the event with a copy of the soundtrack of the show. This event kicked off the Illinois Convention festivities.
IABS was very busy during the NFBI Convention. We hosted a workshop that involved discussion of blindness-related issues. NFBI Family Feud served as a springboard for this discussion. Thanks to everyone who participated.
IABS held a 50/50 raffle at Convention. We netted $110 from the raffle. Congratulations to John Devine, who won the other half of the pot.
We also held our Winter General Business Meeting during the IABS Breakfast at the NFBI Convention. For a schedule of the 2007 meeting dates, please visit the IABS page on the NFBI website by going to www.nfbofillinois.org/iabs.
Additionally, we hosted the first ever IABS Idol. Federationists performed their favorite songs and received feedback from a critical panel of judges. Thanks to Kelly Doty, Julia Chang, Kevan Worley, and Francisco Chang for serving as judges. David Meyer won the grand prize for his talented performances on several numbers. He received $20 cash, $5 worth of raffle tickets, and a shot glass.
Speaking of shot glasses, IABS's inaugural fundraiser is still going strong. We are currently selling custom shot glasses. They are square-shaped and feature artwork by our own Jennifer Justice. The image on the glasses consists of the Braille letters "IL" with the print letters "IABS" beneath them, all of which are surrounded by the shape of the State of Illinois. The image is a unique reddish-orange. Individuals interested in purchasing these wonderful collectibles, which incidentally can double as stylus holders, should contact any member of the IABS Board. The glasses cost $3 each or 2 for $5.
IABS also hosted the Student Luncheon during the NFBI convention. There, Federationists heard from the 2006 scholarship and internship class. Also, IABS presented awards for teaching excellence to two very deserving educators of the blind. Jill Williamson received the "Excellence in Teaching Blind Adults Award" for her work in training blind adults to use computer technology. Anne Dansdill received the "Excellence in Teaching Blind Children Award" for her work as a first-grade teacher of blind students. Both educators work hard to provide their students with high-quality educations, and we appreciate their commitment and dedication.
IABS is working hard to plan programs for 2007. Several of our members will attend the NABS National Meeting in Baltimore in January. There, we will interact and network with other chapters of the National Association of Blind Students. We will also determine the objectives on which we will focus during the coming year. After the NABS meeting, our members will join the Illinois affiliate on the Hill to lobby our Senators and Members of the House of Representatives at Washington Seminar.
In March, IABS, along with the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, will host a Student Seminar called "Opening Doors, Opening Minds". The two-day intensive seminar will take place at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. High school and college students interested in attending can find the registration application on the website by visiting www.nfbofillinois.org/iabs. Registration costs $20 and includes food, transportation, lodging, and access to all seminar programs and workshops. For more information on "Opening Doors, Opening Minds", please contact Debbie Stein or Ronza Othman.
To remain informed about Illinois Association of Blind Students events and activities, and to find contact information for IABS Board members, please visit www.nfbofillinois.org/iabs and click on the "IABS" link. Thank you for making 2006 such a successful year. We look forward to serving Illinois blind students in 2007 and beyond.
ME AND MY BRAILLENOTE
By Lindsay Upschulte
The BrailleNote helps me with so many things. I am not sure how I would get through school without it. I do not even want to try to imagine that.
For one thing, the BrailleNote has a word processor that is set up very well. I had to use the BrailleLite before this, but now that I am using the BrailleNote, I would never want to go back. The BrailleLite just had files, but the BrailleNote has different folders where I can put my files. This helps me to organize my work better. I can also center lines, put text in bold, and use many other commands that help me edit papers that I have to write for school.
Next, the BrailleNote has a planner. The other kids at school have an agenda, but that is really no use to me because it is in print. With the planner on the BrailleNote, I am able to make my own schedules in Braille. The BrailleNote will also tell me when I have an appointment. This makes it convenient because I do not have to keep checking my planner.
Third, the BrailleNote has an address list. I do not have to remember addresses or depend on a Brailler to write them down. Instead I can just put them in my address list. I no longer have to carry a big binder around with addresses, phone numbers, and other information in it.
Another thing the BrailleNote has is Internet and email access. Using the Internet, I am able to look things up for class or just for fun. I do not have to depend on my dad or anyone else to help me with research.
Next, the BrailleNote has a media player. If a teacher is going too fast for me to take notes, I can record the class. I can later convert the memo into Braille by listening to it and typing it. This way, I will be able to keep up in class. I do not have to depend on anyone to help me take notes.
Finally, the BrailleNote has a book reader. I can download books off of the Internet. I can just read them through the book reader. It makes reading books for school much easier since I can read them on my BrailleNote instead of carrying so many big books around.
In conclusion, the BrailleNote helps me with so many things. I am very glad that I have one. It has made school easier for me. I am sure it would make things more convenient for you as well.
CONVENTION THEN AND NOW: A PERSPECTIVE OF VETERANS AND NEOPHYTES
By Connie J. Davis
I have attended numerous state conventions over the almost twenty-seven years I have been in the Federation. Recently I have had conversations with several veteran Federationists, in which we discussed how conventions have evolved over the years. We also talked about the evolution of our own attitudes toward convention.
Two members admitted they mostly remember the parties at their early conventions. One Federationist admits that she attended her first convention because a friend convinced her to go. She says she went only to the banquet and the parties that were going on. Much the same was true for me. One former party-goer stated that she's much more serious about conventions now. When asked about the change in attitude, one person explained that she had grown up. Others admitted that they became more serious when they were given responsibilities. With jobs to do they felt more like participants than spectators.
Back in the infancy of the state organization, we had resolutions, representatives from Rehab, state legislators, a national rep, the banquet, Midnight Madness Auction and scholarship presentations. However, our scholarship program has expanded. We now have Friday afternoon seminars. It seems that more people attend the resolutions committee meetings than when I first joined. We have added the scholarship dinner. This year, we had IABS Idol. I believe the student organization we currently have is more active than others I remember.
When I communicated with IABS members, they shared their memories of their first conventions. Ronza Othman says, "I attended my first NFBI convention as a scholarship winner in 2004. I was surprised at how many successful blind people there were in Illinois. I was a little intimidated by the level of discussion, and I was blown away by how independent everyone was. I sat and listened for three days, to stories and insights and experiences. By Sunday afternoon, I was convinced that I wanted to be like the people at the convention, and the scholarship money, by that point, was just an afterthought".
Chris Garcia says, "I attended my first convention when I was a really short person. I am not sure how old I was. I didn't understand the philosophy at that time, but I was happy to know that I wasn't the only blind person in the world. That convention didn't mean a lot to me, but it was definitely beneficial for my parents. They got a lot of support from the Federation, which allowed them to foster a positive attitude about blindness in me. I am a Federation baby."
Dave Wright says, "I attended my first convention as a scholarship winner. My first exposure to the NFB came as a result of an internship I applied for with NASA. What I can remember of my first convention is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I noticed right away that I was among reformers and thinkers."
TRIBUTE TO SOME OF THE GREAT UNSUNG HEROES OF NFBI
By Connie J. Davis
We, the officers and leaders of NFBI, get recognition because we're out front and center. However, there are some who work in the background to help the rest of us do our jobs. This article is dedicated to some of our younger members.
Let me name just three: Kristy Dennis and Johnathan and Julia Chang.
Kristy has driven her mom, state secretary Carmen Dennis and friends to conventions, out-of-the-city chapter meetings, board meetings and other events. She also helped with an affiliate mailing done this past August at state treasurer Kelly Doty's house. She takes the print newsletter to be duplicated. She sometimes delivers labels, envelopes etc. to Debbie Pittman to ensure that Debbie receives them in a timely manner. She helps her mom and LeAnne Mayne with production and mailing of the print newsletters.
Julia and Johnathon Chang have helped prepare, set up, serve and clean up at fundraisers held at President Patti Chang's home. This year at state convention, John and Julia helped with childcare. Julia was a judge for IABS Idol. And what a judge she was!! Julia also volunteered to help with an affiliate mailing for the scholarship committee and IABS, which took place at the home of state first vice-president Debbie Stein on December 17.
These are young people who have grown up in the Federation. They make our jobs easier with their selfless support. We just want to say thanks and we love you!
Next issue: PART 2: SPOUSES AND SIGNIFICANT OTHERS
Happy Holidays from the Braille Examiner Committee:
Connie Davis, Debbie Stein, Carmen Dennis, Debbie Pittman, Jennifer Justice and Meghan Joost
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