The Braille Examiner
A Publication of the National Federation of the Blind
THE BRAILLE EXAMINER
A Publication of the National Federation of the Blind of
Editor: Connie J. Davis
Co-editor: Debbie Stein
President: Patti Gregory-Chang
President: Patti Gregory-Chang, (773) 307-6440,
Editor & Electronic Edition: Connie Davis, (773) 338-
Co-Editor & Reader: Debbie Stein, (773) 631-1093,
Print & Cassette Edition: Carmen Dennis, (773) 583-
Braille Edition: Debbie Pittman, Pittman Enterprises &
Associates, (773) 779-1856, fax (773) 779-2763
Proofreaders: Carmen Dennis, Meghan Joost
Website: www.nfbofillinois.org, Ruth Anne Wheeler,
Address and format changes should be mailed, e-mailed or
phoned to Connie Davis.
Comments or compliments about the print and cassette
newsletter should be addressed with Carmen Dennis.
Comments or compliments about the Braille edition should
be addressed with Debbie Pittman.
Comments or compliments concerning the electronic version
should be addressed with Connie Davis.
Those receiving the cassette edition are kindly asked
to use the enclosed envelope to return the tape for
recycling to help defray the cost of the newsletter.
Members with e-mail addresses are kindly requested
to receive their newsletter in electronic format to help
defray production costs.
If you wish to submit an article for the newsletter, please e-
mail or snail-mail the article to Connie or Debbie. You may
reach them by e-mail or at the phone number listed above.
By Patti Gregory-Chang
This is my third Presidential Report, and I continue to marvel
at how much we can accomplish by working together.
SB511, our Technology Access Bill, was signed into law on
Monday, August 20. I want to thank Bill Reif, Mary Lou
Grunwald, and everyone else who wrote letters, made phone
calls, and visited legislators to move our bill forward. You
can read more about it later in this issue.
I'm happy to report that we exceeded our goals at national
convention. Sixty-one Illinoisans registered for convention
in Atlanta. On July 3 twenty of us were up and out at 6 A.M.
to take part in the first ever March for Independence. That
was indeed a moving experience.
Dave Meyer continues working to establish an Information
Channel for NFB-Newsline® in Illinois. We consistently rank
in the top ten states when the number of minutes used is
Carmen Dennis, LeAnne Mayne, and Cathy Randall are
working toward improvements at the Illinois School for the
Visually Impaired (ISVI). They serve on working groups,
which have made many excellent suggestions. Right now
the major focus is to select a new superintendent, someone
who can begin putting suggestions into action.
The 2007 NFBI Scholarship Committee met and selected
three internship winners. At this writing the interns are
finishing up their summer projects. Also selected were five
academic scholarship finalists.
Connie Davis, Kelly Doty, and Mary Lou Grunwald
spearheaded the Chicago Chapter's attendance at CTA and
PACE hearings, stressing the importance of public
transportation in all our lives. Many of our members
attended these meetings. Other groups even noted our
participation in their presentations.
Recently I attended a forum at Equip for Equality, which
sought input from the blindness community. I stressed the
need for web accessibility, and we agreed to continue
sharing input with EFE.
As follow-up after Washington Seminar, we are in the midst
of visits to our national representatives in Congress. If you
have not already done so, please contact Syed Yousufuddin
at (773) 814-8556 so he can schedule a visit for you.
Talking to your Congressman is easy to do. We have fact
sheets, which you can discuss with your contact.
Of course, all of what we do takes money. Our next
fundraising event is Oktoberfest. It will be held on
September 29th, 2007 at the home of Patti and Francisco
Chang, 6919 W. Berwyn, in Chicago. To make a
reservation, call Joseph Monti at (708) 383-0577. If you
can bring a food item, call Patti Chang at (773) 307-6440.
We are busy applying for grant money, and decisions will be
made soon about plans for next year. Please attend our
upcoming NFBI Board meeting in Rock Island at the Holiday
Inn to participate in the planning. The meeting will be held
on September 15th, 2007. This is an open meeting and we
encourage everyone to take part.
The Special Events Committee and the NFBI Board are
planning our State Convention. As usual, the agenda is
packed, and we will be trying some exciting new things.
Please register as soon as you can, and encourage others to
do the same.
On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who serves
the NFBI and the blind community by working with us. No
one can do it alone. The movement together is so strong
that it is bigger than any of us standing by ourselves.
MY FIRST CONVENTION
By Alyson H. Slaughter
I arrived in Atlanta for Convention on Saturday afternoon.
Though I found my way to the hotel on MARTA and had a
nice dinner with an incredible group of NFB members, I still
called my mom that night crying. I wanted to go home; I
just did not feel like I belonged there - I was an outsider.
Growing up as a high partial (a term I learned at
Convention), I have always felt stuck between the sighted
and blind worlds. I have never used a cane, although I have
been told that I should. I always have depended on my
sighted family and friends to help me. Now that I have
finished school and am beginning my life in the "real" world,
I have discovered how much I need (and yearn) to be
independent. For this reason I contacted some members of
the Chicago Chapter of the NFB and attended one of their
meetings. My journey toward accepting my blindness had
As I am sure most newcomers to the NFB and to Convention
can attest, it was extremely overwhelming for me those first
few days. I had never been surrounded by so many blind
people, canes, and dog guides. There were so many choices
of meetings to go to - and since it was my first time, it was
hard for me to choose which to attend. I ended up
attending the Mock Trial and the Lawyers' Division meeting,
the NABS meeting, the Illinois Caucus, and of course the
General Sessions. I also participated in the March for
Independence and worked at the Illinois table in the exhibit
hall. Thus, I felt as though the few days I was there, I was
able to get a sense of what Convention was all about.
With each passing day, I became much more comfortable
about being at Convention. Everyone I met was extremely
friendly and very patient with my numerous questions and
insecurities. Three people who were especially instrumental
in helping me feel accepted were Patti Chang, Ronza
Othman, and Rob Hobson. Their kindness and support really
eased my anxiety and awkwardness in this new
environment. I met a lot of other fantastic people as well
and got better acquainted with those I already knew. It is
mainly due to these members of the NFB that I desire to
become more active in the organization. For instance, I was
recently elected Treasurer of IABS, and I also plan on
attending more meetings of the Chicago Chapter. I am very
grateful for the new friends I have made, and I look forward
to seeing everyone again in Rock Island!
MY EXPERIENCES AT THE 2007 YOUTH SLAM
By Eduardo Martinez
My name is Eduardo J. Martinez and I attended the historic
Youth Slam with 200 blind teens and their blind mentors. It
was held at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
When I first arrived in Baltimore I was amazed by how many
blind students and adults there actually were. I was very
excited for the week to start and the learning to begin.
I was part of the Slam News. This track was intended to
teach us how to conduct interviews, think on our feet, face
the unexpected, and work with a team to finish on time for a
deadline. There were many tracks that a lot of kids and
adults would like. For example, they had rockets, air
balloons, windmills and other engineering tracks.
We met so many interesting people, such as a blind chemist,
Mr. Nemeth, Dr. Maurer, and so many more. We got the
chance to interview them and make podcasts. On our last
day we had the Independence March. We started in
Baltimore's Inner Harbor and marched to the NFB
headquarters. There we heard speeches from our fellow
For me it was a wonderful week with so many awesome
experiences. I learned that if you put your mind to whatever
you want, you can achieve your goals. Never let anything or
anyone discourage you in any way. I would recommend for
any person who is blind or visually impaired to attend Youth
Slam. Some words that I live by: THERE IS NO SUCH WORD
You can learn more about what we did by going to
www.blindcooltech.com or www.blindscience.org
CHICAGO CHAPTER NEWS
By Debbie Kent Stein
Late in May we learned that once again public transportation
in the Chicagoland area is in critical need of funding. Unless
money is found to meet the system's massive shortfall,
riders will face fare hikes and severe cuts in service in
September. The public transit crisis was the focus of our
June meeting, and we have been attending CTA and PACE
hearings and writing to legislators all summer. Connie
Davis, Kelly Doty, and Mary Lou Grunwald have coordinated
our efforts and gathered information to keep us informed of
each new development. We appreciate all of the help we've
received from Federationists in other parts of the state as
we worked for the passage of SB572, a bill which would
have provided the necessary funding.
Our first-ever summer picnic was a wonderful way to take
our minds off our transit woes. On July 28 eighteen
Federationists gathered for an afternoon of food and fun at
the Lincoln Park Zoo. While some sat and relaxed on the
picnic benches, others wandered off to visit the lions and
tigers and bears. We were especially pleased that some of
our newest members were able to join us. The picnic was a
great success, and we hope to make it an annual event.
At our August meeting Connie Davis read an excerpt from
Dr. Jernigan's groundbreaking speech "The Nature of
Independence”. The reading sparked a lively, even
passionate discussion. Members shared many thoughts
about when it is appropriate to accept or refuse help.
Following the meeting, a group of chapter members and
their friends and families traveled to Cellular One Park to see
the Chicago White Sox play the Seattle Mariners. Our Sox
ticket sale was our summer fundraiser.
Speaking of fundraisers, chocaholics be on the alert! If you
have a taste for the World's Finest Chocolate, flag down your
nearest Chicago Chapter member! The chapter is pondering
some new fundraising ideas for the near future, so stay
Carmen Dennis has arranged a charter bus to take us from
downtown Chicago to the Holiday Inn in Rock Island for the
2007 NFBI Convention. The bus will leave at 8 AM on
Friday, November 2, from the northwest corner of Clark and
Lake Streets. Tickets are $45 round trip or $22 one-way.
To make reservations, call Carmen at 773-583-0899.
NFBI FERRIS WHEEL ADVENTURES
By Cathy Randall
NFBI Ferris Wheel Chapter members took a canoe trip in
June instead of holding our regularly scheduled meeting.
Therran Hobson, steward of the Spunky Bottoms Nature
Conservancy refuge near Meradosia, Illinois told us the
history of the former farm, which is quickly reverting to
wetland along the Illinois River. Therran then took us on a
two-hour canoe trip through the refuge. Three chapter
members learned to paddle a canoe for the first time. We
heard birds sing, touched numerous water plants and
touched a beaver's lodge as we paddled through the refuge.
It was great for chapter members to share this unique
KANKAKEE HEARTLAND CHAPTER NEWS
By Bill Isaacs
The Kankakee Heartland Chapter will meet on Saturday,
September 8, due to observance of Labor Day. The program
is still in the planning stage. Our October meeting will take
place on September 29. We will combine our efforts with
the Independent Living Center to have a booth at the mall.
Members of our chapter will distribute literature and answer
questions about blindness. In November, we will meet on
the 10th, which is the second Saturday, due to a scheduling
conflict with the library. The program will be announced
later. In December, members will gather at the home of
Ray and Carol Kwaak for our annual Christmas party.
By Ronza Othman
Following our successful student seminar, "Opening Doors,
Opening Minds," IABS immediately began planning for
National Convention. Several IABS members and friends
participated in the March for Independence; our team,
"Oreos for Independence," raised over $2300 for the
Imagination Fund. We also sold shot glasses and raffle
tickets in Atlanta. Congratulations to Amber Grant, a Life
101 Student at BLIND, Inc., on winning $71 in the 50/50
A number of IABS Board members attended the annual
NABS (National Association of Blind Students) Seminar in
Atlanta. Among them were Ronza Othman, Lori Brown, Rob
Hobson, Bruce Paul, and Alyson Slaughter. The seminar
featured informative presentations from Bookshare,
Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and other
organizations that provide valuable resources for students.
Additionally, current and former NABS Board members led
discussions on NFB philosophy and avenues for obtaining
blindness skills. The 2007 Scholarship Class introduced
itself, as well. The individual chapters of NABS presented a
plaque to outgoing President Ryan Strunk for his service to
the organization and its members. Perhaps the most
moving portion of the program occurred when Georgia
President Anil Lewis presented Peggy Elliott, long-time
Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, with a personalized
award in recognition for her work in promoting educational
excellence in the blind community. Anil represented
scholarship program alumni from virtually each of the 24
years Peggy has chaired the committee.
The IABS board has recently experienced some changes.
Jennifer Justice stepped down from her position as Secretary
due to work obligations. In addition, David Harlow resigned
his post as Treasurer and Tiffany Jolliff stepped down from
her position as board member due to work and school
obligations respectively. We value their contributions and
wish them all the best of luck in their endeavors. We are
confident that each of them will remain active in the work of
IABS and the NFB. The position of Secretary has been filled
by Megan Joost, a student at the University of Illinois at
Chicago. Alyson Slaughter, a recent law school graduate,
has taken on the duties of Treasurer. Michelle Wesley, a
student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and
a 2007 NFBI internship recipient, has succeeded to the
position of board member. Congratulations and welcome to
the newest members of the IABS Board.
IABS is currently holding a fundraiser through Schwans, an
online company that delivers food to customers' doorsteps.
The fundraising campaign takes place from August 20
through September 7, 2007. IABS will receive 30% of the
total sales. To order online, simply go to
www.schwansfundraising.com, click on Start Shopping"
(near the truck on the left side of the screen). You will then
be asked to enter a Campaign ID. Enter Campaign Id
1004140. Click the "Start Shopping" on the welcome page
and begin placing your order. (Try their cookie dough! It's
great!) Thank you for supporting IABS and helping change
what it means to be a blind student in Illinois.
IABS members are encouraged to pay their dues for 2008 at
this year's NFBI convention. Membership dues are $5, and
IABS will forward $2 to each member's local chapter. IABS
will once again host “IABS Idol”. Come and showcase your
talent Friday night after Resolutions! A panel of judges will
critique performances, and the most talented act will receive
a prize. Participants must pay $5 per person per
performance. Please contact Ronza Othman by phone at
708-829-0523 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org no later
than October 15 to make your reservations and to indicate
what your act will be. Good luck to all!
IABS will also be hosting the Student Luncheon at
Convention. Once again this year we will present Excellence
in Teaching Awards to two deserving educators. IABS will
be accepting nominations between September 1 and 30.
Please download a copy of the nomination form from
http://www.nfbofillinois.org. If you do not have access to
the Internet, contact Ronza Othman with your nominations
IABS will also hold a General Business Meeting at the IABS
breakfast on Saturday, November 3, 2007. We will be
selling our famous shot glasses and tickets for a 50/50
raffle. We will also host a workshop on Friday afternoon.
We look forward to seeing you there.
In October, IABS will hold a Meet the Blind Month activity at
Northern Illinois University. We will distribute NFB
literature, interact with students, and promote the
philosophy of our organization. We will demonstrate
technology such as screen reading software, Braille display
devices, and the KNFB Reader. We will also write names in
IABS continues its campaign to promote educational
excellence among the blind in Illinois. Our goal is to provide
every blind student in the state with a means for finding the
resources he or she needs. Members of IABS serve as
mentors, make referrals, provide advice, and work diligently
to encourage others in their endeavors. We know that
obtaining an education is riddled with obstacles. We also
know, and are determined to convey, that those who
overcome such obstacles triumph for themselves and for the
betterment of the world. We will continue to lead the charge
to prove that our future begins now.
MEET A FEDERATIONIST: ALL ABOUT ALEX
By Carmen Dennis
How much can one say about a five-year-old child? Well, let
me get started!
Young Alex Gamino will be six years old on October 28 and
is starting kindergarten on August 29. This isn't his first year
of school. He already has two years of pre-school behind
him. He can read and write in both Braille and print. He
reads English and Spanish. He uses a computer and sends e-
Alex was born with a rare eye condition called microphalmia,
along with another condition called coloboma. He has some
vision in one eye. He knows that a CCTV makes reading
print a bit easier, but he is also learning that he can sit and
read for longer periods of time when using Braille. He is
already learning Braille contractions. Now he says that he is
ready to start learning French. There is no stopping this
(pictured Carmen Dennis, Alex and Noeila Gamino.)
Those of us who attended the first annual Chicago Chapter
picnic had the pleasure of meeting Alex. He was an absolute
joy to talk to. We also met his mom, Noelia, and his seven-
year-old brother, Nicky.
For kindergarten Alex will be attending Salt Creek School in
Elmhurst, where he went for pre-school. The school has
resource classes for the blind, but he will be mainstreamed
as he has been for the last two years. He went to school
three full days a week his first year and five his second, so
he's ready for a full-day program this fall.
We hope that we will be seeing him again at our state
convention--that is, if he isn't too busy with school!
USING THE NEWSLINE® TUTORIAL
By David Meyer
Are you a new user of NFB-NEWSLINE®? Have you had a
desire to become a more efficient Newsline® user? Is there
a feature in NFB-NEWSLINE® you would like to use but you
don't quite remember how to do so?
NFB-NEWSLINE® has had an online tutorial for quite some
time now. It is concise and covers all NFB-NEWSLINE®
features. It is organized into nine lessons which can be
viewed in the same way as individual newspaper articles are
accessed. I have personally found this tutorial to be quite
instructive and easy to understand.
From the Main Menu you can reach the tutorial by pressing
9. You can also access it from anywhere in the system by
pressing the star key. Each time you press the star key it
brings you back one menu in NFB-NEWSLINE®. In other
words, if you are reading an article and you've suddenly
decided you want to know how to spell something, and you
need to learn how to use the spell feature in order to do
this, press the star key four times. This will bring you back
to the main menu. Once you are in the main menu, press 9
to get to the tutorial.
The first article in the tutorial is an introduction which
introduces NFB-NEWSLINE® and provides a table of
contents for the Newsline® system. You should then
advance the system one section at a time by pressing 3 on
your telephone keypad until you get to the section on the
spell feature. The spell feature can be viewed as many
times as one needs to in order to learn how to use it
efficiently. The same thing can be said for all other features
covered in the tutorial.
I hope you all find the tutorial as helpful as I have. If you
have any questions, you can call me at 708-209-1767, or
you may e-mail me at email@example.com.
CELEBRATION ON THE LEGISLATIVE FRONT
By Bill Reif
It is my pleasure to announce that our Information Access
Technology Bill is now Public Act 95-0307! Governor Rod
Blagojevich signed our bill into law on August 20, 2007.
Many thanks go to all those who assisted in this effort by
contacting legislators and the Governor's Office.
We still have plenty of work ahead of us. The Legislative
Committee will have to insure that the Department of
Human Services convenes a task force on the bill's
implementation. The task force must represent the views of
the blind, develop effective standards, and do all within its
power to see that those standards are enforced. If this is
done correctly, the standards developed through this bill can
serve as a guide for units of local government, school
districts, and entities not included in amendments to the
original law. We will keep you updated regarding significant
Thanks again for your collective efforts that have made this
THE GREAT UNSUNG HEROES OF THE NFBI-Part 2
By Connie Davis
You see many of our names on IL-talk or in the Examiner.
You hear many of us speak at meetings, conventions or
hearings. However, there are some who work in the
background and do not seek the spotlight. In my last
article, I wrote about our NFB children. This time, I will
focus on the adults; Linda Villa, Mary Monti, Francisco
Chang, Nancy Gardner, Russ Montgomery, Ruth Isaacs and
Dick Stein. But we can't forget Mari Burda (wife of Tony
Burda), Peg Benson (wife of Steve Benson), Roberta Reif
(wife of Bill Reif), Teresa Meyer (wife of Dave Meyer), Carol
Seiler and Bob Randall (husband of Cathy Randall), who
have also contributed much.
Linda Villa and Mary Monti have organized and planned the
Significant Others Breakfasts for the past two years. Linda,
Mary, Nancy, Francisco and Russ have helped cook and
serve at our fundraisers. Linda helps send out the
convention registration forms and bulletins every year for
our state convention. Francisco has served as a shuttle
driver for some of our fundraising events. He certainly is
supportive of Patti in her role as state president. Nancy
Gardner is the First Lady of the Blackhawk Chapter and
helps provide transportation to chapter meetings. Ruth
Isaacs is not only the first lady of the Heartland Chapter, but
also serves as treasurer for the chapter. She has also
served as state secretary, worked in registration at state
conventions, is a staunch fundraiser for the chapter and
assists Bill in his duties as Heartland Chapter President.
Russ Montgomery has driven many Federationists to chapter
meetings, fundraisers, state board meetings, state
conventions and NFB centers around the country; not to
mention the miles he put on his car driving Lois to events.
Dick in his own quiet manner supports Debbie in her role as
Chicago Chapter President and First Vice-President of the
state. And who can forget all of the great dinners Mari
Burda prepared when she and Tony hosted fundraisers in
their home? Peg Benson was supportive of Steve in his role
as State President. She ran registration at State Convention
for many years and has hosted fundraising dinners in their
home. Bob Randall, at one time served as State Treasurer
of NFBI. He also has been very supportive of Cathy in her
roles of President of the Ferris Wheel Chapter, State Board
member, and State President.
All of these people have helped our organization grow and
thrive. They work quietly behind the scenes to ensure that
things go smoothly for us. They do not seek recognition for
their work. But it's time we recognize them and thank
Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.
We embrace you as a part of us!
FAREWELL TO A TRUE FEDERATIONIST
By Carmen Dennis
Who knows, maybe it is only once in a lifetime when you
make a friend that touches you in the way Norman Bolton
touched me. I never met anyone else who loved life like
Norman did. I met Norman when we were teenagers. We
both went to the school for the blind in Jacksonville, Illinois.
I graduated from 8th grade when he graduated from high
school. We lost touch for years, but guess where we met up
again--in 1973 on the way to a National Convention in New
York! I knew then that we would be friends for a long time.
Norm was an active member and President of the NFBI
Rockford Chapter. Recently I learned that he wanted to train
to swim Lake Michigan, but discovered that he would have
trouble having to swim close to a boat--Norm was
claustrophobic. He also thought about being a jockey. His
schoolmates talked him out of that. Then he went to a junior
college and studied computer science. He next tried his hand
at the vending stand program for the blind here in Illinois.
Norm got married in 1976. Marilyn, his wife, passed away
five years later from complications of diabetes. After that
Norm lost his mother and father.
Norm decided to move to Tennessee in 1983. For a while he
ran a tackle shop. He followed his heart again and went back
to the vending stand program for the blind in Tennessee. He
finally found the perfect spot. He ran a small rest area in a
welcome center on the Tennessee-Georgia line.
Two years ago, right after spending a weekend with us at
our state convention, Norm became very ill with a staph
infection. He had to be rushed in for emergency heart
surgery. He made it through that ordeal, but he still needed
another heart operation. He chose to have it done at
Northwestern Hospital here in Chicago so he could be close
to his family. They almost lost him twice while he was in
surgery, but he made it back once more.
That was in March of 2006. In July, I called and asked him
how he was doing. From his voice I could tell that he was in
trouble. I kept him on the phone while I called 911 in
Chattanooga, and I waited on the phone with him until he
got help. I talked to him the next day and he said they told
him that I saved his life. It was another staph infection.
One year later Norm was in the hospital again. Last year I
promised him that he would be dancing at our school
reunion, but this year I knew that I couldn't make the same
promise. All he talked about was getting to convention. In
fact the nurses all knew about the Federation.
Norm was a man of many stories. He would call a lot of
times and tell me all about the legislative work they were
doing in Tennessee. The next time I talked to him I would
make him repeat it all over again, and he never complained
that he had told me before.
I'm sure I left out a lot of wonderful things about Norm
Bolton. He was a very quiet man, but when he talked he
had something to say. I still find myself wanting to pick up
the phone and call him when I need an answer to a
question. He was a man of great wisdom. Norm, you're still
my number one special friend.