THE BRAILLE SPECTATOR Newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland SPRING, 2012 PRESIDENT'S REPORT 2011: Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going? How Can I Get Involved? Delivered by Melissa Riccobono at the 2011 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, Ocean City. For the third time, I have the privilege of looking back over the accomplishments of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, and reporting these accomplishments to all of you at our state convention. As usual, this year has been a busy one in the NFBMD, and we have done a great many things worth mentioning. However, this year in particular I am struck by the significant amount of work I would like us to tackle during the year to come. I am excited by the challenges ahead, and I hope all of you will be just as excited when you hear my thoughts for the future. More importantly, I hope your excitement will spur you to action ... OK, now I'm getting ahead of myself! Before I get too off track, let's look back over this past year. Then, together, we can look ahead to the future. This calendar year began, as so many years have, with our advocacy efforts in Annapolis. The NFBMD had three bills we worked hard to pass. One bill had to do with extending the Quiet Cars Task Force in Maryland. We had some success with this issue, although we were unable to get everything we wanted. The Task Force became a study group, which has less political power, but its members are still able to evaluate different methods for providing a sound in quiet cars so the blind, seniors, children, bicyclists, and pedestrians in general can hear when they are approaching. Our other two bills had to do with civil rights for the blind and disabled. The first bill would have given a private right of action to anyone who felt discriminated against by a place of public accommodation, whether the discrimination occurred because of race, religion, gender, or ability status. The second bill would have made the Internet a place of public accommodation, and would have helped blind and disabled people to have much more recourse when dealing with inaccessible websites in Maryland. Unfortunately, we were not successful passing either of these bills, but this was not for lack of trying. Sharon Maneki, Michelle Clark, Portia Price, Debbie Brown, and others spoke eloquently at our hearings. Many members of our affiliate wrote letters and made phone calls in order to educate delegates and Senators. We also had members show up for hearings in order to lend their support, and to show how important our bills were to them. This certainly did make an impression. The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will not give up the fight for equal rights for the blind in Maryland. We will absolutely be back in Annapolis this January, and I hope many of you will be able to join us there, and/or write letters, make phone calls, and attend hearings in the coming year. If we continue to work together and don't back down, I feel certain this is a fight we can win. On May 19th, the NFB of Maryland marked the return of a popular event--The Possibilities Fair for Seniors Losing Vision and Their Families. Over 150 seniors from around the state attended our fair at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore. Thanks to Mike Bullis, Aloma Bouma, Jill Lewis, Ruth Sager, Tandra Hunter-Pain, Marie Cobb, and many other committed volunteers, this event went off without a hitch. Those in attendance seemed to learn a great deal from all of the exhibitors and demonstration stations, and NFB Board Member Joe Ruffalo gave an inspiring speech during lunch about the possibilities that still exist for seniors, even if they do not see as well now as they used to. Planning will be underway for our next Possibilities Fair very soon. It will be held in May of 2012. I hope many in this room will consider helping to organize and work this fair, recruit seniors to attend, or attend the fair themselves. In addition, we are looking for new ideas for exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, and activities. I would like to blend the "old" (those things that make this event a success year after year) with the "new" (things we have never tried before that could make this event even better.) If you are interested in helping with the Possibilities Fair, please let Mike Bullis or me know. Thanks to a generous grant from the NFB Imagination Fund, the NFB of Maryland was able to pay two interns in the summer of 2011. Our interns, Candice Chapman and Amber Sherrard, did a great deal of work with our students, the Maryland BELL Program, follow up with seniors who attended the Possibilities Fair, the affiliate website, Twitter and Facebook, and other duties. You heard from Candice and Amber this morning, and it is clear that they benefitted as much from their experiences as interns as we did from the wonderful work they completed. Again, this grant would not have been possible without funds raised for the Imagination Fund. If you have not already done so, please visit Chris Danielsen at the Imagination Fund Table and sign up to be an Imaginator, so we can continue to raise the funds needed for our NFB Jernigan Institute, our state affiliate, and future grant opportunities. I am thrilled to be able to report that the NFB of Maryland has once again received an Imagination Fund Grant for a 2012 Internship Program. I am sure the interns we hire in 2012 will do new and exciting things to strengthen our affiliate and help it to grow. As you heard earlier this afternoon, the NFB of Maryland once again hosted a BELL (Braille enrichment, learning and literacy) program. This year, 8 children participated in BELL; two of them knew no Braille before coming to the program. There is no doubt our BELL Program was successful, but the success of one BELL Program in Maryland is no longer enough. Therefore, largely because of the leadership and energy of Jackie Otwell, and the willingness of other Maryland Federationists to take on something new, the NFBMD is going to follow the example of other state affiliates and host two BELL Programs in the summer of 2012. One program will take place in Baltimore, and the other will be held in either Prince George's or Montgomery County. This will certainly be a challenge, but there is no doubt that exposing more children to Braille, alternative techniques, positive blind role models, and good attitudes about blindness is more than worth the effort. I know many in this room are interested in the BELL Program, and in helping blind children in general. There is a great deal of behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done, along with the day to day student contact, in order for BELL to run smoothly. Please begin to think about what you may be able to do in order to help with the 2012 BELL Programs. Last year during my Presidential Report, I mentioned Michelle Clark, the president of our National Harbor Chapter, and the difficulties she had with Capella University. Michelle was unable to complete online classes at Capella because the university did not have the latest version of Blackboard installed, and the version they were using was inaccessible. Not only would Capella not install the newest, accessible, version of Blackboard, they also refused to refund Michelle's money--forcing her to pay for classes she was unable to take. I am pleased to report that due to the help of the National Federation of the Blind, Michelle Clark received a settlement from Capella University this spring. Although this settlement does not negate the fact that Michelle could not take classes she should have been able to participate in, it certainly does compensate her with funds she can use, if she chooses, toward a degree at another university with accessible software. The NFB of Maryland and the National Office are still helping Yasmin Reyazuddin with her case against Montgomery County. Yasmin is unable to complete tasks as an employee in the Montgomery County 3-1-1 call center because of inaccessible software, and the unwillingness of the County to fix the software issues. It is unfortunate that Yasmin has to go through these difficulties at work, but we are definitely working hard to resolve this issue, and I hope to be able to give you all good news about the outcome of Yasmin's case soon. Speaking of employment, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland certainly believes in equal pay for equal work. Therefore, we showed up at Senator Barbara Mikulski's Baltimore office in force (and in 95 degree heat) on July 26th, in order to educate the public about the minimum wage issue. We were also ready, at a moment's notice, to rush to Washington DC in order to fill a hearing room, although this has proved unnecessary up to this point. There is no reason a blind or disabled person should be paid less than the minimum wage, and I was proud we were able to have such a good turn out to make our voices heard. As reported this morning however, this issue is not over, and we need to do all we can in order to convince our representatives to pass HR 3086. I hope all of you will make a commitment to call or write your representative, and/or journey with us to DC when the time is right in order to advocate for passage of this crucial legislation. Back in February, I had the pleasure of interviewing a young woman named Melissa Burch for an NFB National Scholarship. During that interview, Melissa shared her advocacy work with the libraries in St. Mary's County, and mentioned her feeling that "the blind need something in this area!" Over the next few months, Melissa and I, along with other Federationists, talked about the NFB, the NFB of Maryland, and what would be involved in starting a chapter of the NFBMD in St. Mary's County. I am proud to report that on Saturday, October 15, the Tri-County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland was born! This was a fantastic way to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. Melissa Burch is President, Nikki Tippit (who attended her first NFBMD convention last year) is Vice President, Angela Comings is Secretary, and Ashley Hill is Treasurer. Three of these chapter officers are attending convention this weekend. Please make sure to welcome them, and the Tri-County Chapter to the NFB of Maryland family. The chapter is all ready planning fund raisers, and will be presenting a copy of ZoomText to the Charles County Library system. This is a sensational start, and I know the blind of St. Mary's, Charles, and Calvert Counties will be able to work together to change what it means to be blind in southern Maryland. As you can see, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland has had a year full of accomplishments. As you can also see, if you were paying attention, there are projects such as the Possibilities Fair, two BELL programs, and legislative efforts which will need attention in 2012. Without help, these programs and initiatives will not be successful, period. I urge all of you to consider getting involved in one or more of these efforts in order to make a difference in the NFBMD. I know what you may be thinking. "I work. I can't take off time for the BELL Program. I'm not good with kids anyway. Maybe I can work with kids, but I really don't want to help with the Possibilities Fair; it's just not my thing. I can't write a letter or make a phone call to my legislators--let alone go to see them in person! I wouldn't know what to say! OK, I'd like to get involved, but none of the programs you've talked about are interesting to me. What can I do?" Have no fear; if BELL or the Possibilities Fair are not for you, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland has enough work to go around, and if we are truly to grow, as I hope we will, we will never have a shortage of jobs which need to be done. As for our legislative efforts--this is a place where everyone, and I truly mean everyone, can get involved. Federationists experienced with talking and writing to legislators are here to help you with this work. If you've never made a phone call to your legislator before, there are many members of the NFBMD who have, and we will be more than happy to help you feel comfortable with this process. The same goes for letter writing and visiting legislators in person. Please do not let fears such as not knowing what to say stop you from reaching out and making a difference in our legislative efforts. My biggest goal in the upcoming year is to strengthen the NFB of Maryland, and I feel the best way to accomplish this is to increase member involvement. We have had a great deal of growth over the past few years. We have added two new chapters, and, with a successful student seminar this summer and a great turn out of youth at convention this weekend, the Maryland Association of Blind Students is truly on the move. We also had a successful Guide Dog Committee meeting just this morning, and I know Janice Toothman and the other members of this committee are eager to take on guide dog issues in Maryland. In addition, let's not forget our Senior's Issues Division, and our six other chapters around the state. This year, I plan to hold leadership retreats with all of our chapters, divisions, and the new Guide Dog Committee. Of course I want our Maryland Federation family to grow, but I want to make certain we continue to strengthen all of the chapters and divisions we already have in place. I also want to get to know the strengths, interests, and talents of our chapter and division leaders and members. I hope holding these retreats will lead chapters and divisions to take on new projects in recruiting, community education, fund raising, seminars or workshops, etc. This means you, the members of our chapters and divisions, will have a chance to share your ideas for these new local projects and initiatives, and also you will be indispensable in helping these projects come to fruition. The NFBMD is a grassroots organization; one of the best ways you can help our affiliate stay strong is to work in your own chapter or division. I am sure our NFBMD summer interns will be going out to help chapters and divisions with projects around the state this summer. Chapter and division presidents, start thinking about what you might like an intern to do with your chapter or division. Chapter and division members, start thinking of projects you would like your chapter or division to take on. Let's all get involved in creating strong, vibrant chapters and divisions. I would also like to expand existing committees, and appoint new committees in 2012. For example, Judy Rasmussen does a fantastic job editing our Braille Spectator newsletter, but we are always looking for articles and new ideas for Spectator content. Mark Riccobono has done a wonderful job with the NFB of Maryland Twitter Feed, but certainly there are other ways we could use Twitter to publicize our work. We have a Facebook page, but since our interns left, I'm sorry to say, we have not had much activity on our page. Therefore, I would like to appoint a Communications Committee to help over see these three initiatives. The NFB of Maryland has been working with the National Office in order to educate Maryland public libraries about the inaccessibility of certain eReaders such as the Nook. When speaking with Barbara Cheadle recently, she expressed interest in serving on a Library Committee in order to help with this, and any other library issues. I am excited about this opportunity, but Barbara certainly cannot be a committee of one. I need others to serve on this committee; is this a way you can get involved? This May the NFBMD started a group for blind parents. This group meets the third Wednesday of the month from 9 to 11 at the Library for the Blind in Baltimore. This has been a great outreach tool, but there is more that can be done in order to make this group an even bigger success. Finding different speakers for the meetings, thinking of topics to discuss, finding weekend activities and places for the parents to meet, and recruiting new group members are all vital. So are contacting members to remind them of meetings, bringing snacks to the meetings, or helping with childcare. Does this group interest you? Is this a way you can get involved? Our work can certainly not be done without our fantastic volunteers, but money is also needed. The NFB of Maryland has some very successful annual fundraisers, but I am sure there are other ways to bring in money throughout the year we have not considered. Darlene Barrett came up with our cookbook fundraiser, and Pam Goodman put together a lucrative fundraiser at a Baltimore restaurant. These two ideas are a great start; I hope to be able to continue to build the momentum in 2012 by appointing a fund raising committee. Are you a person who likes to raise money? Perhaps the fund raising committee is for you. There are always hundreds of jobs that need doing in order to keep this affiliate running smoothly. Here are a few more possibilities, just to get you thinking. Our At Large Chapter needs more members, and needs people willing to speak at and help to run meetings. Our Braille Rocks clubs in Baltimore and Wheaton need help recruiting members, planning activities and field trips, and working with the kids at the meetings. There are always phone calls to be made, e-mails to be sent, envelopes to be stuffed, and people to educate at various fairs, schools, and other community events. We are always looking for new people to serve on our current committees such as Scholarship and Resolutions. And I am positive there are jobs I have not thought of, either, because I just do them automatically, or because they are for projects we have not thought of doing in Maryland yet. I promise to continue to think of jobs that need doing over the next year, and then I would like to find people to do these jobs. I also hope you are thinking of things you would like our affiliate to do, and that you will come forward and give me your ideas so we can try to take action on them. There is no such thing as a "dumb" idea, and no project too big or too small to be considered. So please, do not be shy! I am truly thankful for all of the members who share their time and talent with the NFBMD in so many ways throughout the year. Your contributions are very much appreciated, and I hope you will continue to be active in 2012. I am making a call, however, here and now, for new ideas, new energy, and new members to get involved. We all have something important to give. I want to get to know all of you, your talents, your interests, and your strengths. We have much to be proud of in 2011, but 2012 is a new year, full of new projects and possibilities for the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. I have made the commitment to this affiliate, and I will do all in my power to help us grow by strengthening our chapters and divisions, putting on successful innovative programs, advocating, educating, and more. I am asking all of you to make a commitment to the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland for 2012. Get involved! Propose a project! Join a committee! Ask for or find a job! There is so much that needs to be done. I am grateful for all of the hands who have helped in the past, and the many more hands who will help in the future. Join with us to make 2012 the best year the NFBMD has ever had. We Raise Children, Too Blind Fathers Tell Their Stories By Judy Rasmussen Every year our state convention is packed with information, filled with interesting speakers and often panels that describe joys, obstacles to overcome, and ultimately victory in meeting a particular challenge. Mostly when we hear about parenting as a blind person, we hear about moms and their perspectives. One of the highlights of this past fall's convention was a panel featuring three blind dads who are all at different stages in raising their children. Reading this article won't be as good as being there, but what they had to say was heart-felt and bears repeating. Jesse Hartle, a Government Program Specialist with the Jernigan Institute, is the father of Kayla, who is nearly a year old. Jesse reports that as a teenager, he was definitely not baby-friendly. In fact, at family gatherings, he would avoid playing with his smaller nieces and nephews. Changing a diaper—not happening. However, when he and Mary Jo learned they were expecting, he forgot about all those teenage feelings and was excited to have the opportunity to raise this little one. Knowing that other blind parents had their children taken away at birth, he and Mary Jo were very proactive before Kayla was born. Consulting with other blind parents, having discussions with their doctors and others involved in the birthing process, and demonstrating their competence in general, made the whole process go more smoothly. There was still that moment he dreaded—that first diaper change. He said he practiced on Rustin, a stuffed animal, which was relatively easy. His moment finally came. Kayla was brought to him and in front of two nurses, his wife, and his mother-in-law, he was asked to change Kayla's diaper. Everything went smoothly (he thought) until Kayla decided she wasn't quite done with her business. He described that first diaper change is like changing tar. Since then, he has changed many diapers and no longer dreads the task. Jesse said that the two questions he and Mary Jo get asked most often are: "is she blind, too" and "aren't you glad you will have someone to help you around the house?" Jesse and Mary Jo are determined that Kayla will be a kid first and that their job is to be parents and raise her like any other kid. It will be important for her to know that her parents, though blind, are successful and do the same things other parents do. Hearing your child say "mama" or "daddy" for the first time is pure joy, whether you are blind or sighted. Mark Riccobono, Executive Director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, and father of Austin, Oriana, and a new little one on the way, spoke from the perspective of raising a toddler and a preschooler. He talked about how visual everyone thinks everything about raising children is, and how it can be easy to let others convince you to let the visual model take over when raising your children. He said there are some things he and Melissa do differently than other parents, like putting bells on their children's shoes, so that when they are on the playground, they know where they are. This is one adaptation Mark and Melissa have made as blind parents that let them complete a “visual task”—keeping “an eye on” their children—nonvisually and independently. Mark discussed the importance of teaching your child to read rather than expecting him or her to read things for you. He pointed out that when children learn to read, they begin reading everything in their environment. As a blind parent, it may be tempting to ask your child to locate things for you that other children wouldn't be responsible for. Engaging your child in the reading process, rather than making them feel they are responsible for your well-being is a real key to success as a blind parent. Parents can control what happens in their home and how their children perceive them. However, the public is a different matter. Mark was surprised one day when Austin, who is now five, told him he couldn't do something because he was blind, even though Austin had seen him do that thing many times. On the other hand, Austin said to him one day that he wanted to be blind so he could be a father, too. As blind parents, it is important to learn the visual cues other parents take for granted--like what the umpire does to signal balls and strikes--so you can share this knowledge with your children. As their children get older, Mark and Melissa are aware there will be new challenges to face—video games they can't play with their children because they are inaccessible, driving issues, and things they haven't anticipated yet. As Mark pointed out, no parent has all the answers, so blind and sighted parents are equal in that regard. John Fritz, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, and father of eight (three biological children who are sighted and five who are adopted or foster children) has been through it all. John stated that all of his sighted children wanted little canes so they could follow him around. John's talk focused on his son, Andrew, who just turned nine. Andrew decided he wanted to join the Cub Scouts, so John volunteered to be an assistant leader. One thing the Cub Scouts do annually is to hold a pine box derby race. Each child is given a block of wood, four disks for wheels, and four screws to attach them. The block of wood can weigh no more than five ounces with the wheels on. John taught Andrew how to use a band saw to cut the wood. The problem was that they cut too much wood off the block, so the car only weighed three ounces. Knowing that the car, at this reduced weight, might not go all the way around the track, John came up with the idea to screw 10 washers on top of the car to increase its weight. It may not have looked like the fanciest car, but Andrew took second place and was very proud of his accomplishment. Andrew wanted to learn about fishing, hunting, and what it would be like to drive. John lives in a rural area of Wisconsin, so he was able to teach his son to load a gun and shoot at targets. Recently he and his son went hunting and John shot his first buck. Andrew got to help with the butchering and cleaning process. As for the driving, John and his father took Andrew to an open field and let him drive a truck for about half an hour. Jesse, Mark and John all pointed out that we often focus on the things that will be hardest to do, rather than the joys of parenting. All children know when they are loved and cared for-and you can do that whether you are blind or sighted. Meet Jonathan Lazar Editor's Note: Jonathan Lazar is a bulldog when it comes to educating those who design websites in how to make them accessible. He has conducted surveys using blind people of all different skill levels to review a variety of websites. We are happy that Mr. Lazar and his students have taken such an interest in this issue and that he is on our side and continues to bring web accessibility to the public's attention. The following article is a profile of Jonathan Lazar published on the Towson University website. HERO: Martin Luther King, Jr. I'M READING: Books about disability rights WHAT'S COOL ONLINE: Recipes on www.foodnetwork.com IPHONE OR DROID: Blackberry! WEEKENDS I'M FOUND: Performing data collection with computer users HOBBIES: Playing classical music on my violin or folk music on my acoustic guitar You are conducting some cutting-edge research in web accessibility. Can you tell us about it? “For almost a decade, I’ve worked in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind, getting to know blind individuals and working with them to make the web more accessible for blind users. Right now is an exciting time to be working in the area of interface accessibility, as the federal government is taking a lot of actions to strengthen and clarify legal requirements and enforcement. My team conducts theoretical studies to understand how blind users browse the web, builds and tests new interfaces, and evaluates websites for accessibility.” What are some of your research findings? "We've built and evaluated more accessible CAPTCHAs. We've determined that blind users have optimal performance with the same menu structures as visual people and documented the biggest challenges for screen reader users. We're helping blind users to listen to online weather maps using sonification and more easily access web-based calendars. We've also published numerous studies that examine levels of website compliance with accessibility guidelines, including those of government websites, which by law must be accessible but often are not. My undergraduate students and I examined 15 Maryland state agency websites for compliance with state accessibility regulations, and discovered that all but one had compliance issues of some kind. We also examined federal government websites for compliance with accessibility regulations." It sounds like your students receive a lot of experience outside of the classroom. “In my undergraduate classes, I encourage students to work on accessibility-related projects in collaboration with the local community. I’ve taken students on field trips to the NFB International Braille and Technology Center, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, the Maryland Technology Assistance Program, and the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In one class, I led my students in a research project that documented that, when airline websites are inaccessible, blind people end up paying higher prices for airfares, even though that is against the law.” What is a CAPTCHA? “Traditional visual CAPTCHAs, or twisted text, are supposed to be something that only a human who can see can understand. They are security features, and the visual clutter discourages image recognition by automated viruses and bots. As crucial as they are to thwarting spam, CAPTCHAs also present an obstacle to blind or visually impaired users. And existing audio CAPTCHAs are incredibly hard to use. So our research team developed an earlier prototype known as the Human Interaction Proof Universally Usable, or HIPUU, which has task success rates above 90 percent for both blind and visual users.” Is HIPUU currently in use? “The Information Systems Solutions group, part of Towson University’s Division of Economic and Community Outreach, is working on turning the HIPUU prototype into an industry product. The device is now known as the “SoundsRight CAPTCHA” and it’s currently undergoing more usability and security testing.” You’ve accomplished so much. What is on the horizon? “Research on web accessibility is continuing in my undergraduate classes, with my doctoral students, and with other members of Towson’s faculty. There’s a lot of work to be done, but, the more people I can train in doing accessible design, the more I can bring attention to these design issues. Then, more people in the technology community will be aware of this major problem.” Why is your work so important? “When websites are inaccessible, it’s not just an inconvenience. If you can’t get the lowest fare on an airline website, if you can’t take advantage of Web-only specials on an e-commerce site—it becomes pricing discrimination. If you can’t use the same workplace software tools, communication tools and social-networking software—it becomes social exclusion. Technology should be bringing people together, not increasing existing barriers of discrimination. We have the technical capability and the knowledge to design for accessibility, for inclusion. Why don’t we do it?” The Possibilities Are Endless Come One, Come All to the 2012 Possibilities Fair By Judy Rasmussen When: May 17, 2012 from 9:30 to 2:30 Where: Jernigan Institute, 200 E. Wells St., Baltimore, MD 21230 Cost: $20.00 (includes lunch) Contact: Melissa Riccobono: 410-235-3073 Registration information will be mailed to senior centers and service providers shortly. Goody bags with wonderful treasures will be provided. Don't let pride, fear, or lack of transportation stop anyone from coming. If we have some notice, we will do our best to get people there. Once there, volunteers (who will probably be blind) will escort seniors from table to table so they can visit with all of the exhibitors, collect information about a variety of resources, and, most fun of all, try something they may not have done since losing vision. In 2011, more than 150 seniors with visual impairments attended the Possibilities Fair. We know that people come from all different backgrounds and skill levels—that's what makes the fair so exciting. Construction workers and CEOs need to know the same information and have the same questions. "How can I identify what money I have in my wallet? How will I be able to tell when my food is cooked if I can't see it?" So, do we have any proof that the fair has been successful? Linda Sherrod heard about the 2011 Possibilities Fair from Ray Smith, a member of our National Harbor Chapter, and decided to go. Linda was also encouraged to go by Michelle Clark, President of the National Harbor Chapter, when she met her on MetroAccess. Linda said she knew Michelle when they were both sighted. In fact, she attended Michelle's wedding, and said she had always admired her. Linda began losing her vision in 1984. After spending some time at home with her young son, she wanted to return to work. She was employed as a program assistant with the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. She held this position until December, 2009, when she retired. As Linda stated, she was able to maintain her job because she had technology available to her, but she never really considered learning Braille and seldom went places by herself. What did Linda learn at the Possibilities Fair? She was first introduced to the long white cane. She had used folding canes, but could see the value of the long cane because it was lighter. She was given a free cane through a program sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. What else did Linda like? She said the vegetarian sandwich was the best she ever had, and she liked all the goodies in the bag—especially the talking watch and the American flag. But more important than these things, she met the staff from Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, who told her about a four-day retreat for seniors. She decided to enroll and said it was a life-changing experience. She said she wasn't sure she wanted to be under sleep shades, but it didn't turn out to be so bad. Knowing she couldn't learn all she needed to by attending the retreat and then just going home, she decided to enroll in the SAIL program for seniors, which is also run by BISM. This is a two-year program run three days per week. Since Linda lives in Prince George's County, she takes the MARC train to Baltimore, and then takes a taxi to BISM. She has met some wonderful people and has enjoyed working with the instructors. She said the biggest thing she learned is that she can take her cane and go to the mall by herself. She said her husband is still getting used to the idea that she isn't hanging on his arm. Whether or not she completes the two years, she knows that for now, it is the right thing to do. She credits her attendance at the Possibilities Fair for this new-found freedom . There are many more Lindas out there who need to know this freedom. We are excited to host the fair again this year, and we look for even bigger things to come! NFB of Maryland Plans Hike of the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail By Lou Ann Blake and Maurice Peret As Federationists across Maryland continue to integrate and distinguish themselves in all areas of social life, including their careers, education, and civic pursuits, many also enjoy fulfilled recreational lives in the outdoors. NFB of Maryland Greater Baltimore Chapter members Lou Ann Blake and Maurice Peret have embarked upon a goal of completing the entire 41-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that traverses Maryland through Washington and Frederick Counties. Starting at the Maryland/Pennsylvania state line, the trail follows the crest of South Mountain until it descends to briefly join the C&O Canal Trail for a couple of miles before crossing the Potomac River, and entering Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Along this scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail, one will pass through the South Mountain, Greenbriar, Gathland, and Washington Monument state parks and the Sandy Hook Hostel. Blake and Peret already hiked nearly two-thirds of the Maryland Appalachian Trail last year. They expect to complete their objective this spring, and then hike the entire 41 miles over a one-week period in July following the 2012 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas, Texas. But Lou Ann and Maurice would rather not keep the awesome experience of hiking to themselves. To give all Maryland federationists a taste of what hiking is like, the NFB of Maryland will co-sponsor with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) a hike for children and adults on Saturday, May 5, 2012, on the Senica Creek Greenway Trail in Montgomery County. The hike will begin at 10 AM and conclude at 2 PM. Bob Pickett, naturalist for the PATC, will lead Maryland federationists on a leisurely stroll along Seneca Creek and help us identify the plants and birds we encounter. Lou Ann and Maurice are working with the PATC to make this a truly inclusive opportunity for the occasional hiker, the nature lover, or anyone who would just like to get a breath of fresh air from time to time. Be sure to mark your calendar for May 5th for a day of fun, exercise, and learning about nature in the great outdoors. If you are interested in participating in this hike, please e-mail or call Lou Ann Blake at email@example.com or (410) 659-9314, extension 2221, or Maurice Peret at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 737-2673. The rain date for the hike will be Saturday, May 12th. Please stay tuned for additional information as planning of this great activity continues! eReader Complaint Filed Editor's Note: For the past several years, the NFB has been in negotiation with textbook publishers to submit their material in an electronic format that is easily converted to Braille or audio format. While this struggle continues, now we have something new to add to the mix. As you read the following press release, imagine that you are in a library completing research, and the only way you can access the material is on an e-book reader that you can't operate because it doesn't have text to speech, or the menus are inaccessible. As school systems find ways to save money, look for this issue to become more widespread. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. CONTACT: Mark Riccobono, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind (410) 659-9314, extension 2368; (410) 935-4019 (Cell); email@example.com National Federation of the Blind Files Complaint against Baltimore City Public Schools Says Plan to Buy Nook E-readers Discriminates against Blind Students Baltimore, Maryland (January 4, 2012): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's leading advocate for access to technology by the blind, announced today that it has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, requesting an investigation of the Baltimore City Public Schools' proposed acquisition of NOOK devices. The NFB filed the complaint because the Baltimore City Public Schools recently announced a partnership with the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to overhaul the school libraries in six middle schools in the district. As part of the partnership's plan, the selected school libraries will acquire an unspecified number of NOOK e-reader devices. These devices are inaccessible to blind and other print-disabled students. The NFB raised its concern with leaders in the Baltimore City Public Schools but has been told that the district is moving forward with its plans to implement these devices while it seeks "alternative emerging technology"--in other words, a needlessly segregated technology for students with print disabilities. Because the NOOK is inaccessible to blind students, the Baltimore schools' use of the devices violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate blind students receiving an unequal education. If e-reading devices are available in school libraries, they must be accessible to all students, not just the sighted. Appropriately, the date of this complaint falls on the birthday of Louis Braille, who first brought literacy to the blind and fought for the right of blind students to read independently. He would not stand for this glaring inequity and neither will we. That is why we have asked the United States Department of Justice to act swiftly and decisively to ensure that blind students receive the same education as their sighted peers." The National Federation of the Blind is represented in this matter by Daniel F. Goldstein and Daniel A. Ross of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP. About the National Federation of the Blind: With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind. Marguerite Woods—A Woman of Courage By Judy Rasmussen Marguerite Woods is a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter. At the 2010 State Convention, she won the Anna Cable Award. She has always been interested in making dreams become a reality and looking at the big picture. When she began losing vision in the 1990's, she continued to work as an electronics technician installing circuits for MCI Worldcom. She remained there until 2002 when her vision grew worse and the circuits became smaller and smaller. Marguerite became totally blind in 2008. She enrolled at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) to receive intensive training in the skills of blindness. Marguerite said that while all of the skills she learned were essential, the one she values most is developing the mindset that your quality of life does not depend on how much vision you have. In June, 2010, Marguerite received an e-mail from one of her BISM instructors describing an opportunity to participate in an 11-month program at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs. One of the criteria for acceptance into this program was that you have had to overcome an obstacle in your life. Marguerite was accepted and in January, 2011, she and 21 other participants from six continents headed for Kerala, the southern-most state in India. The purpose of the program was to develop leadership skills in research and writing, public speaking, and education. Marguerite worked with a team on several projects, including writing and presenting a radio play about a young Arabic girl who was forced to be married at 13, and designed literature to educate women about the dangers of using skin creams containing bleach to make their skin look whiter. Marguerite enjoyed discussing this issue with middle and high school girls at many events. One of the highlights of her stay in India was completion of a two-month program at a company called Terumo Penpol. The company manufactures items needed for drawing blood. One of Marguerite's goals was to mentor entry-level employees and to encourage company officials to consider establishing a blood donor program similar to our Red Cross. Marguerite also researched and wrote a project proposal about a dream she wanted to pursue when she returned to America. Her proposal focused on helping young African American women who are single parents improve their parenting skills, further their education, and obtain jobs other than entry level positions. Now that Marguerite has returned to the states, she still wants to make this dream a reality. Based on the following article from the Focus, an Indian newspaper, it is clear that Marguerite made an impact on those around her. We know she will continue to dream big! Focus: Marguerite Woods did not let her loss of vision bog her down September 29, 2011 Marguerite Woods's story is a tale of courage. An African American, Marguerite, who holds a degree in electronics, was working as a senior technical specialist in a telecommunications company in the United States (in the nineties), when she began experiencing a loss in vision because of a rare disease, when she was in her late fifties. "I don't know whether you have experienced or been near anyone who has lost their vision. I was totally devastated. I couldn't breathe. I had frequent anxiety attacks. From simple things like picking up my clothing to so many things that one takes for granted, I had to depend on someone. I was defeated," says Marguerite. But a plucky Marguerite found a way to overcome her circumstances. "I had to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I had to first accept what I was and then decide where I wanted to go." She underwent a training program at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. She also drew on her deep spiritual faith. "I was not a stranger to the concepts of self-awareness and self-development. They had always fascinated me. Now I found them to be of greater relevance. I could not change my circumstance but I could choose how to relate to it." Marguerite became a volunteer at the National Federation of the Blind. She worked with small and large teams using exercises that enhanced self-awareness and relationships with self and others. Student of IISC When Marguerite heard about the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurship (IISC) in Kerala, she wanted to join to learn how to create a social program for African American women. She is currently a student on the campus of IISC at Vellayani. This is her first visit to India, although she says she has a romantic relationship with this country, inspired as she is by the inherent spirituality and philosophies of India. Marguerite did her internship at Terumo Penpol. She is helping to develop a mentoring programme for the employees and how to fully utilize the counseling centre. Marguerite may not be able to see the things that we see every day but she sees the big picture. I had to first accept what I was and then decide where I wanted to go. PARATRANSIT CERTIFICATION Editor's Note: Rather than wait until our state convention in the fall, the NFB of Maryland Board of Directors felt it was important to pass this resolution so it can be presented to the Maryland Department of Transportation to begin dialogue on an issue that affects hundreds of blind and visually impaired people. Resolution 2012-101 Regarding Certification for Paratransit Services WHEREAS, if persons with disabilities are to fully participate in all aspects of community life, we must have access to public transportation; and WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires local jurisdictions to ensure access to public transportation, including provision by these jurisdictions of paratransit services to eliminate a variety of public transportation barriers; and WHEREAS, while most blind persons can and do use public transportation, there are circumstances in which blind persons must depend on paratransit services; and WHEREAS, local jurisdictions have established a variety of requirements that paratransit riders must meet to demonstrate their need for this specialized service; and WHEREAS, such certifications are reasonable because of the cost of running paratransit services and because there is an increasing demand for these services; and WHEREAS, nevertheless, these certifications become cumbersome for customers who need paratransit services in multiple jurisdictions when these jurisdictions do not accept initial paratransit certifications from other jurisdictions, thus, forcing customers to seek multiple certifications; and WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland has documented numerous instances of required multiple certifications including cases in which residents of Howard County who must travel from their homes into neighboring Baltimore County via paratransit must obtain certifications from both counties instead of permitting the initial certification to suffice; and WHEREAS, these multiple certifications cost customers time and money since medical records must be duplicated, personal interviews must be repeated, and separate forms must be filled out, all asking for identical information, which in reality violates the spirit of the ADA by unnecessarily burdening individuals with disabilities who require services; and WHEREAS, multiple certifications are always a waste of resources for the respective jurisdictions, and these resources could be better spent on improving the quality and quantity of paratransit services; and WHEREAS, in Maryland, the Maryland Department of Transportation has funding responsibility for public transportation including paratransit services, and the Maryland Department of Disabilities is charged with streamlining services by eliminating redundancy and encouraging coordination: Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Board of Directors this seventh day of January, 2012, in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization strongly urge the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of Disabilities to take all necessary steps to ensure that paratransit services do not squander valuable transportation dollars on redundant certifications, and instead concentrate their efforts on providing better transportation; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urges local jurisdictions throughout the state to institute reciprocity agreements that recognize each other’s certifications so that customers can use paratransit services run by multiple jurisdictions as needed. Working to Return to Work By Michelle Clark Editor's Note: I met Michelle when vision loss was very new to her. She did not want to sit around the house and do nothing, because she had been active in her community and her job for many years. She knew she lacked the assistive technology and independent travel skills needed to return to work. Michelle participated in the training program at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland and is now employed as an IT Specialist at the Department of Agriculture. She is also president of our National Harbor Chapter in Prince George's County, and was recently elected to the NFBMD Board of Directors. When people look for jobs, they often want a magical solution to help them find employment without putting forth the effort necessary. The simple truths in this article are timeless! Vision loss as a working professional comes differently. In my situation, it came after putting in 25 years of work. Although I had sufficient time and title to retire, I simply believe, "I am too young not to be working". After floundering several years with diagnosis and rehabilitation, I found a job that matches my qualifications and skill level. Here is the path I found that worked for me: Determine if you really want to return to work. Full, part time or other variations may fulfill your needs. Obtain a recording device and use it until better skills emerge. Join and become active in area and national blindness disability organizations. Volunteer your services in some manner when possible. Contact city and state rehabilitation departments to assist with needs assessments, training, and purchase of adaptive equipment. Seek to learn at least uncontracted Braille reading and writing. This will help with taking short notes, managing labeling of items and food. Reach out and participate in community activities that serve blind and visually impaired persons. Local libraries can be good resources. Some manner of rehabilitation is a must if one wants to return to an office situation or do work such as on a computer and take notes. Mobility is also essential if you want to maintain independence in work life. In all, as skills are being acquired, it is good to maintain a schedule similar to that of the type of job one is looking toward. Maintaining daily practice regimens will help speed the journey and sharpen skills as time progresses. NETWORK. NETWORK. NETWORK. BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Summer Program Are you the parent, guardian, or teacher of a low vision child who is just learning Braille? We have a wonderful opportunity for him or her this summer. The BELL summer program is a two-week day program (weekends not included) designed to offer pre-kindergarten and elementary age low vision beginning Braille readers an opportunity to be immersed in Braille and increase the use of tactile skills for reading Braille. Children will receive Braille instruction daily as well as learn alternative techniques through arts and crafts, games, field trips, and other fun activities. A parent seminar will be held to offer parents practical strategies to incorporate non-visual learning and Braille into their children’s daily lives. This program will be led by at least 1 certified teacher, and many committed and qualified volunteers. Program Dates: July 30-August 10, 2012 (weekdays only) Time: 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Location: National Center for the Blind 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place Baltimore, Maryland 2123 OR Program Dates: July 30-August 10, 2012 (weekdays only) Time: 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Location: Reid Temple, AME Church 11400 Glendale Boulevard Glendale, Maryland 20769 Testimonials “BELL camp provided our children with the opportunity to interact with their blind peers. It gave the children exposure to adaptive play games, yet the games were just games in this circle of friends. The camp gave the children a chance to be kids, not special needs, not blind, just kids. From the children's perspective the fun was first and the learning Braille was second. Actually, the learning was equal to the fun. It was also a great confidence builder. After camp, my son was confident enough to go through the cafeteria line at his school.” - Chris, Parent of Derrick and Meredith, 2011 BELL Participants “Caring teachers and volunteers. Many have low vision or are blind themselves. They are great role models for the kids.” “Lots of critical information given to the parents about ways to help your child.” -Michon, Parent of Tiffany, 2011 BELL Participant This program is sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and the Maryland Parents of Blind Children. For further information contact Melissa Riccobono at 410-235-3073 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org You may also download a BELL application by visiting http://www.nfbmd.org Spectator Specks DEATHS: We recently learned that our good friend, Dr. Hilary Connor, died on March 15, 2011 at the age of 89. Hilary was a remarkable individual who learned Braille in his seventies after he suddenly lost his vision. Dr. Connor read Braille every day for the rest of his life. He was so enthusiastic about Braille that he taught it to blind veterans at the Veterans' hospital in Baltimore for many years. Hilary wrote an article, “Medical Doctor Takes Up Braille after Retirement”, that was published both in the Braille Spectator, and in The Braille Monitor, October 2003. This article is still inspirational to both beginning and seasoned Braille readers. In the summer of 2011, Tero Little lost his battle with lung cancer. Tero was a long time active member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter. We will miss his willingness to help others and his enthusiastic spirit. Evelyn Saile, a longtime member of the Sligo Creek Chapter, died after a long illness on November 29, 2011. Evelyn and her husband, Al, who served as president of the Sligo Creek Chapter for a time, were enthusiastic fundraisers and staunch volunteers willing to take on any task. Evelyn was the director of the Internal Light, a program for seniors, operated by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. Through this program, Evelyn encouraged seniors to live life to the fullest despite their loss of vision. Wilma Cater, whose health was declining, died on December 28, 2011. Wilma and her late husband, Bill, were members of the Central Maryland Chapter. Bill served several terms as chapter president and Wilma remained his faithful partner in both chapter activities and life. They were married for more than 50 years. Wilma was a great listener and a kind friend to all who knew her. Howard Stanley, a senior who was always willing to lend a helping hand to other seniors, died on January 18, 2012. Howard graduated from The BISM SAIL program and came back to help others for several years. He had a great sense of humor and a strong can-do attitude. May they rest in peace. WEDDINGS: On October 1, 2011, Dr. Jessica Bachicha and Jason Ewell were married in New Mexico. Jason works in the Affiliate Action Department at the National Center for the Blind. Jessica also works part time at the NFB while pursuing her music career. They are both longtime leaders who met through Federation activities. ACHIEVEMENTS: After 45 years of service at the Salisbury Plant of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, Knowles Hovington retired in the summer of 2011. He is looking forward to lots of relaxation but intends to continue being an active member of the Delmarva Chapter. Darlene Barrett, president of the Central Maryland Chapter, works for the Social Security Administration. In November 2011, she received a citation from the Associate Commissioner in recognition of her superior technical skills and excellent service to the public. In December 2011, Sheria Young, vice-president of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, graduated from the University of Maryland at Baltimore with an MA in Human Services. Congratulations to Darlene, Knowles and Sheria. Resolutions The following resolutions were passed by the 2011 NFB of Maryland convention. Resolution 2011-1 Regarding an Accessible Online Voter Registration System WHEREAS, during the 2011 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed, and Governor O'Malley signed into law, legislation establishing an online voter registration system; and WHEREAS, this particular law does not require nonvisual access to the online voter registration system, but Maryland's Information Technology Nonvisual Access Standards require that electronic information technology procured and used by state government be accessible to the blind; and WHEREAS, the Maryland Board of Elections was a national leader in assuring access to the blind to electronic voting systems before federal law required all elections jurisdictions to offer such access; and WHEREAS, through the online voter registration system, Marylanders will be able to register to vote, change their name or address when necessary, and change their party affiliation if desired; and WHEREAS, many blind Maryland voters would find an accessible online voter registration system preferable to other existing voter registration systems; and WHEREAS, the information required to verify the identity of an individual who uses the online voter registration system, including the forms of signature, are readily available to blind voters, so that all that is now required is nonvisual access to the voter registration system itself; Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this thirtieth day of October, 2011, in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization call upon the State Board of Elections to procure an accessible online voter registration system to assure that all the tasks that Maryland citizens will be able to perform using this system are equally available to Maryland's blind citizens and voters. Resolution 2011-2 Regarding Fair Wages for Maryland Workers with Disabilities WHEREAS, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938 to provide workforce protections to American employees by establishing a federal minimum wage and prohibiting employers from exploiting workers through the payment of wages below this specified minimum; and WHEREAS, Section 14(c) of this legislation permits the Secretary of Labor to grant special wage certificates allowing specified employers to pay workers with disabilities at rates lower than the federal minimum wage, eliminating those workforce protections granted to every other American citizen; and WHEREAS, paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages stems from the public misperception that people with disabilities cannot be productive employees and in addition, this exploitive standard for employment is patronizingly considered a compassionate opportunity for people with disabilities to receive the "tangible and intangible benefits of work"; and WHEREAS, when provided effective rehabilitation services, training, and support, employees with disabilities (even those with the most significant disabilities) can be as productive as nondisabled workers, obtaining jobs paying the federal minimum wage or higher; and WHEREAS, though some employers possessing special wage certificates claim to provide rehabilitation and training to their workers with disabilities to prepare them for competitive employment, the fact that such employers choose to pay their workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage demonstrates that they do not possess the skill to prepare those workers for integrated employment in the mainstream economy; and WHEREAS, there are forty-three facilities that possess a Special "Subminimum" Wage certificate throughout Maryland, which not only allows them to exploit the labor of people with disabilities through the payment of wages less than the federal minimum wage, but it also denies these same individuals the opportunity to receive the training and support to become competitively employed; and WHEREAS, the only way to cease this shameful wage discrimination of workers with disabilities is to repeal Section 14(c) of the FLSA and to revoke every special wage certificate granted under that provision: Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this thirtieth day of October 2011, in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization call upon each of the 43 entities throughout Maryland that currently possesses a Special Wage certificate, from the U.S. Department of Labor, to immediately surrender that Special Wage certificate, and to adopt a business model that values each of their employees with disabilities by paying them the federal minimum wage or higher; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urges each of them to join with the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in our efforts to encourage Maryland's federal congressional delegation to cosponsor the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011 as a part of our efforts toward the United States Congress for passage of this key legislation which provides an incentive for employers to adopt a business model that pays employees with disabilities the federal minimum wage or higher by phasing out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and by revoking the certificates issued under that provision so that workers with disabilities are guaranteed the same workforce protections afforded nondisabled employees; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization condemn and deplore every entity that continues to exploit people with disabilities through the payment of subminimum wages. Resolution 2011-3 Regarding Electronic Readers Supplied By Public Libraries WHEREAS, the purpose of public libraries is to provide access to information for self-education to all segments of the population; and WHEREAS, blind persons have the same rights to information access as other members of society; and WHEREAS, public libraries in Maryland, including the Howard County Library System and the Enoch Pratt Free Library, are beginning to lend electronic readers such as the Nook to patrons so that they may access e-books and other electronic information; and WHEREAS, many of these electronic readers and their content delivery systems cannot be used by blind persons because of inaccessible features, thus, depriving blind persons of access to information; and WHEREAS, nonvisually accessible electronic readers are available, demonstrating that manufacturers can provide accessible products if they choose or are required to do so; and WHEREAS, the denial of access is not only an act of discrimination perpetrated by manufacturers, but also is an act of discrimination perpetrated by the libraries that purchased these products; and WHEREAS, Ms. Irene Padilla, the State Librarian, as Director of the Division of Library Development and Services, Maryland State Department of Education, is responsible for ensuring that public libraries throughout the state are free of discriminatory policies and practices; and WHEREAS, we have learned that when contracts for procurement include requirements for nonvisual access, manufacturers will build accessible products simply because it is good business practice to comply with customer requirements; Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this thirtieth day of October, 2011, in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization strongly urge directors of public libraries and entities that oversee them to include nonvisual access criteria in all procurement requirements and purchasing agreements; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that public libraries work with the National Federation of the Blind in order to gain a thorough understanding of which electronic readers and content delivery systems are truly accessible; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the State Librarian to exert her authority and influence to ensure that libraries provide access to information to all citizens in Maryland, including those who are blind. Resolution 2011-4 Regarding Enforcement of the Maryland White Cane Law WHEREAS, Maryland has laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, yet discrimination against blind persons continues; and WHEREAS, one of the oldest laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of blindness is the Maryland White Cane Law, Contained in HUMAN SERVICES TITLE 7- INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES, SUBTITLE 7- BLIND, VISUALLY IMPAIRED, DEAF, HARD OF HEARING, AND MOBILITY IMPAIRED INDIVIDUALS of the Annotated Code of Maryland; and WHEREAS, The White Cane Law makes it a crime for anyone to interfere with a blind person’s right to enjoy equal access to housing and public accommodations, and ensures access to public facilities, streets, sidewalks, and other public places in the State of Maryland; and WHEREAS, although discrimination against the blind abounds, police and prosecutors have never charged anyone with a violation of the White Cane Law; and WHEREAS, In June 2011, blind persons were denied entrance into a Baltimore County paint ball establishment because of "safety concerns", a clear interference with the rights provided to blind persons under the White Cane Law, yet the Baltimore County police refused to take action claiming that the denial was a civil offense outside their jurisdiction; and WHEREAS, Upon the insistence of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, the police did take a report but no further action occurred; and WHEREAS, this incident is the latest example of many failures to enforce this law; AND WHEREAS, In Maryland, persons who face discrimination by places of public accommodation cannot seek damages or attorneys' fees in state court and thus there is no consequence for the owners of the paint ball establishment who discriminated against blind persons: Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this Thirtieth Day of October, 2011 in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization condemn and deplore the lack of enforcement of the Maryland White Cane Law by all levels of government; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association to work with The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to ensure that every police officer have knowledge of laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability including the Maryland White Cane Law; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, to more effectively execute the intentions behind the White Cane Law, The Maryland General Assembly should enact legislation creating a new statute that will provide a private right of action for recovery of money damages and attorneys' fees in the State's civil courts. Resolution 2011-5 Regarding Local Government Web Site Accessibility WHEREAS, county and municipal governments as well as local school systems now provide vital information to their constituents on their public websites; and WHEREAS, this vital information includes, but is not limited to, the schedules and agendas for public meetings, career and employment opportunities available within their organizations, the ability to apply for permits and licenses, together with information regarding the role each department or agency plays in the governing of the community; and WHEREAS, websites for local school systems provide information that parents need in order to be engaged in their children's educational progress, as well as announcements about school closings and other emergencies; and WHEREAS, all of this information is necessary for citizens to participate fully in community life and vitally affects the lives of their entire families; and WHEREAS, blind citizens and blind parents have the right to receive the same information that is provided to the sighted public; and WHEREAS, state and Federal Laws, such as, Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, offer guidelines on how to make websites accessible to the blind, and these guidelines will also enhance the usability of websites for all of the public: Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this thirtieth day of October, 2011, in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization urge officials of county and municipal governments, and local school systems to implement accessibility guidelines so that all citizens, including those who are blind, have access to public information that will allow them to participate in all aspects of community life. CALENDAR OF EVENTS April 21: Be Okay with Blindness workshop. Sponsored by NFBMD Parents of Blind Children, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, Baltimore. May 5: Hike in Seneca Creek Park for adults and children—Montgomery County. May 17: Possibilities Fair For Seniors Losing Vision and Their Families—Jernigan Institute, Baltimore. June 30-July 5: National Federation of the Blind 2012 National Convention-Dallas Texas. July 30-August 10: BELL Program, Baltimore and Glendale, MD. August 4: Crab Feast—Baltimore. November 9-11: NFBMD 2012 State Convention, Annapolis, MD.
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