The Braille Spectator Spring 2010


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The Braille Spectator

The Newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland

Spring 2010




From the Editor
You will read the presidential report given by Melissa Riccobono at our State Convention, learn about our legislative activities in Annapolis, discover the varied and interesting activities in which our affiliate is involved, and rejoice with several Federationists who have received awards for jobs well done.

Beginning with this issue, the Spectator will no longer be recorded and distributed on cassette tape. In addition to print, the newsletter will be posted on our website, www.nfbmd.org. We are exploring the possibility of creating a downloadable audio edition. We hope you enjoy reading this issue of the Spectator!

Presidential Report 2009

From the Editor: Every year at our State Convention, the President of our affiliate gives a speech summarizing the year's activities. Our members look forward to this part of the convention because we can see how far we have come, understand better the ongoing work that still needs to be done, but most important, to bond us together in a unified purpose to "change what it means to be blind." Here is Melissa Riccobono's first presidential report, and I am sure you will agree it is a good one.


Past Progress, Present Planning,

Future Promise: The State of the

Maryland Affiliate


Dynamic: adjective. (of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress: e.g. a dynamic economy. (of a person) positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas. (of a thing) stimulating development or progress: e.g. the dynamic forces of nature.

The NFB of Maryland is truly a dynamic affiliate, made up of dynamic people. We are constantly moving forward and making progress, and we do so only because we are made up of members with energy, new ideas, and positive attitudes. The progress we have made during the past year should be celebrated. We have passed key legislation, welcomed a new chapter, worked to improve education for blind children, and strengthened our presence on the internet. But, while we are celebrating our past progress we are constantly planning to make things better in the present, and looking forward to the promise of even better, more dynamic things to come in the future.

In January, as usual, the NFB of Maryland brought over 50 members to Annapolis in order to advocate for and educate state legislators about our legislative priorities. This work continued throughout the winter and early spring as we made phone calls, wrote letters, and attended hearings regarding our three bills.

Our efforts were first rewarded on May 7, when Governor O'Malley signed HB 367 and SB 370 into law. These bills extended the Maryland Quiet Vehicles and Pedestrian Safety Task Force until December 31 of 2010. This task force is charged with finding and recommending a solution to the problem of quiet cars, so quiet cars in the Maryland state fleet can be fitted with a device which will emit a sound so blind and sighted pedestrians and bicyclists will know the car is coming.

Federationists Michael Gosse and Marco Carranza are members of this task force. At present the task force has become aware of a study completed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, which states pedestrians are twice as likely to be hit by a quiet car when that car is turning in front of them, than they are to be hit by a car with a normal combustion engine. Surprisingly, the study found no difference in likelihood of being hit by a car traveling in a straight line. But, the findings of the study have served to make everyone agree that quiet cars are truly a danger for all pedestrians, including the blind, and that something needs to be done to solve this problem.

To this end, the task force has contacted and met with some vendors interested in marketing or designing some type of sound solution. One of the proposed solutions was immediately considered unacceptable. It involved having a blind person carry around a key fob and pressing the button every time he or she wanted to know if a quiet car was in the area. If a car was in the area, the car would emit a loud screeching sound. Luckily, there are other solutions which seem much more palatable. By this time next year the task force will have sorted through all of the available options, made recommendations, and, with any luck, we will be well on our way to outfitting state purchased hybrid vehicles so they can be heard by all Maryland pedestrians and bicyclists.

May 19 was an extremely important day for all blind and physically disabled Maryland parents. This was due to the signing of HB 689 and SB 613--bills which protect the rights of blind and physically disabled parents in custody, adoption, and Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) cases. Too often blind parents in Maryland have been prevented from adopting a child, had to fight against stereotypes and false allegations in order to maintain custody of their children in divorce cases, or been denied the chance to care for a niece, nephew, or grandchild on a permanent basis solely because of blindness. Due to the work of our legislative chair, Sharon Maneki, brave parents and caregivers such as Mike Bullis, Marsha Lindsey, and Ilene Rivera-Ley who shared their stories, and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, it is now illegal to deny custody based solely on a parent's disability, including blindness. I am sure this new law is helping blind and disabled parents in Maryland every day, and it will continue to protect them far into the future. This is one victory of which we should be extremely proud.

During this year the NFB of Maryland has done a great deal in order to improve communication among our members, and with people in need of information about our organization. We updated our website, and with the help of our webmaster, Steve Brand, our website continues to reflect the most current information about our organization.

We also now have an email list for the NFB of Maryland, which can be used to share information and ask and answer questions. In addition, the NFB of Maryland is on Twitter as well. This is yet another way to update members about what is happening in our dynamic affiliate.

In the summer of 2009, for the first time in two years, the NFB of Maryland published an issue of our newsletter, The Braille Spectator. Unfortunately our former newsletter editor, Renee West, was unable to continue in this position due to a change in life circumstances. However, our state secretary, Judy Rasmussen, stepped up to the plate and did a wonderful job editing her first Spectator issue. Not only is the Spectator an important tool for keeping members informed of affiliate news and activities, it is crucial for outreach efforts. We plan to publish another issue of the Spectator early next year.

With the help and expertise of Tony Olivero, the NFB of Maryland is streaming our state convention for the first time on the World Wide Web. This is a pilot project, and we will certainly explore continuing this in future years. Tony is also working to come up with a better membership database and online convention registration system. These are exciting future projects which will surely make record keeping and convention registration much easier and more streamlined.

If you have any ideas for Spectator articles, ways we can improve our website, or suggestions for other communication strategies, please do not hesitate to come to me or another board member. This will ensure we continue to communicate effectively well into the future.

This year, the NFB of Maryland made progress in membership building by welcoming the Upper Chesapeake Chapter into our Federation family. The chapter began in April, but many of us were finally able to meet and talk with Upper Chesapeake Chapter members at Maryland Day, which was held at the NFB headquarters in August. Maryland Day provided a time for us to come together, tour our National Center, and participate in various workshops. But, this day was made much more special because we were able to present the Upper Chesapeake Chapter with a charter of affiliation during a lunchtime ceremony.

The Upper Chesapeake Chapter has certainly been busy over the past few months. Its members have participated in various community outreach events, and they are looking at ways to carry the message of the NFB to eye care professionals in Harford and Cecil Counties. Certainly they are coming up against problems common to many chapters--most of all, a desire for more active members, and a vehicle for raising the funds needed to do the work of the Federation. I have no doubt however, that under the capable leadership of Dan Cook, and with the help of all of us, the Upper Chesapeake Chapter will continue to grow, and will add new ideas, energy, and depth to our affiliate. Let us all think of ways we can help this new chapter, and all of our other chapters expand in the upcoming year.

As I mentioned this morning, this year has been a trying one for the Maryland State Library for the Blind. Our library, located in Baltimore, provides a multitude of services for blind residents in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland. The library mails out hundreds of audio and Braille books a day, of course, but it also provides an accessible computer lab, computer training, a technology user group which meets monthly, a digital recording studio in which books about Maryland's history or by Maryland authors are recorded and added to the collection, and a fantastic, brand new children's area, complete with toys, print Braille books, and even a Braille learning wall. (Incidentally, this children's room is one of my son's and my favorite destinations. As a blind parent, I can't think of a nicer place to go--a place where Austin can play and discover, and, more importantly, a place where I can read him any book which strikes his interest.) I know I am not alone in the appreciation I have for the library and all it offers. Unfortunately, the State Department of Education does not share this opinion, or simply does not understand all that the library for the blind has to offer. Earlier this year, the State Department of Education threatened to remove the library from its current location, and house it somewhere with far less space. If this were to happen, the Library for the Blind would become, as it is in many states, simply a warehouse where books can be mailed out and returned.

Although we have avoided this threat for the time being, we will continue to monitor this situation closely. Rest assured that the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will do whatever it takes to keep our library open in its current location now, and for many years to come!

Not only was the library's physical location threatened this year, but its budget was significantly cut as well. We are fortunate that the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) has stepped in and offered funding to the library, in order to combat these budget cuts. This funding allows the library to remain a separate entity, instead of being absorbed by DORS or some other state agency. The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is very appreciative that DORS recognizes the value of the library and has allowed it to remain separate.

In order to receive the needed funding, DORS and the library will collaborate to provide DORS clients with resume writing skills and other Job Readiness training. These skills are certainly needed, and it is desirable to have collaboration among state agencies. However, we are certainly concerned that while library staff is providing these services to DORS clients, they are away from the library itself, and therefore unable to provide services to library patrons. We understand these are tough times for everyone, but we also know that any type of partnership should not diminish the services of either program. Therefore, we will be watching this situation intently, and will do whatever it takes to ensure our library services remain strong.

The National Federation of the Blind believes deeply in the equal education of blind youth. For years we have been aware of and concerned about persistent problems with the education of the blind in Maryland, especially in Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS). The Baltimore City Public Schools have 133 identified blind students. Of these, 53 are identified as having blindness as their primary disability. However, only 11 blind students in the Baltimore City Schools are learning to read and write Braille, and receiving cane travel instruction. This is outrageous and absolutely unacceptable. Because of these, and other problems, blind students are graduating unable to read and write, unable to walk independently at night or in unfamiliar areas, and often unable to attend college or find meaningful employment.

In response to these problems, the NFB of Maryland filed an education complaint against BCPS at the end of July. This action has opened some dialog between the NFB of Maryland and BCPS. Various NFB of Maryland leaders have met with school personnel, laid out our concerns, and listened to their side of the story. Unfortunately, this issue is not one which can be easily fixed legally. It comes down to the fact that, technically, the city schools are following the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process and the IEP for each individual student. The problem is that the students are not being properly assessed to determine which services should be on their IEPs, so the IEPs which are written do not reflect the actual needs of the students. Will this stop the NFB of Maryland? Absolutely not! If we cannot approach this issue in a legal way, then rest assured we will approach it in any other way we can until we get the results we want to see. Blind students in Baltimore City are worth educating. They deserve nothing more, or less, than an education equal to their sighted peers, and the opportunities such an education opens. We will not stand idly by while blind students in Baltimore are being so dramatically underserved, and we will continue to work until the students in Baltimore City, and all over Maryland receive the best education possible.

Speaking of education, the NFB of Maryland once again held the Braille Enrichment Literacy and Non-visual Learning program (BELL) for blind students in grades pre-K through 5. We initiated this program last year, and it was so successful that it became a pilot program for the NFB Jernigan Institute. In addition to the nine students the BELL Core Team served in Maryland, BELL was also brought to a handful of students in Georgia for the first time. We are hoping to provide this program in Maryland again in 2010, and plans are already underway for BELL to be offered in other states around the country. This is a perfect example of how a dynamic idea from our affiliate is shaping a dynamic program for blind children nationwide.

The most recent affiliate accomplishment occurred on October 1. On this day approximately 250 blind and low vision seniors came to the Members Hall of the NFB Jernigan Institute to take part in the first ever Possibilities Fair for Seniors Losing Vision sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. This fair is certainly not new; the NFB Jernigan Institute has been bringing this fair to Maryland seniors for several years. But this year, the Institute said, "If you'd like this event to take place, then the affiliate needs to take it over." This certainly was a daunting task, but with the help of Mike Bullis, Aloma Bouma, Ruth Sager, and many other NFB of Maryland members we were able to put together an event which truly informed seniors and gave them hope. I would be remiss if I did not mention the crucial financial sponsorship we received from the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services, AARP of Maryland, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, and the Maryland Technology Assistance Program. DORS in particular provided us with an extremely generous donation, which allowed this fair to continue when we were in danger of canceling it altogether. The day of the fair went very smoothly, aside from a slight fiasco with goody bags--thanks to those who leapt into action and stuffed those goody bags at the last minute in order to calm all of those rampaging seniors! If we do this event next year, which we will certainly consider, we will make sure to have enough goody bags to go around. Also, we are currently working on contacting the seniors who attended this year's fair in order to be of further assistance, help mentor them, and help them understand the benefits of becoming NFB of Maryland members. We hope these efforts will help keep the message of the Possibilities Fair alive all year long.

The preceding is a snapshot of the activities of the Maryland Affiliate over the past year. Certainly there are things I did not mention here, but there is no way to capture all we have taken on and accomplished. It is easy to see our past progress in this report, and I have certainly touched on present plans. What does the near future for this affiliate hold? Well, first of all we will be beginning work on an exciting new Braille initiative immediately after this convention ends. The NFB of Maryland has received an Imagination Fund grant in order to start a monthly Braille Club for blind students pre-K through grade 8 in Montgomery and Harford Counties, and Baltimore City. This will be an exciting opportunity to help blind students increase Braille skills, expose them to positive blind role models, help them understand the benefits of the Federation, and to pass the message and benefits of the Federation on to these students' parents. If you would like to help with this effort, please let me know as soon as possible; I would love to have you on board!

Of course, it goes without saying that we will continue to work together in order to build stronger chapters and divisions. I believe the Upper Chesapeake Chapter and the Student Division especially deserve attention in the upcoming year, but this does not mean our other chapters and divisions will be ignored. The NFB of Maryland will work on new ways to fund our movement; any and all ideas in this department are welcome! We will also continue to work toward obtaining an equal education for all blind students in Maryland, especially those in Baltimore City. We will work to craft new legislation to help blind Maryland residents, and are especially excited about pursuing legal standards for Braille education. We will not neglect our library or other state services, and we will continue to serve as advocates, teachers, mentors, and brothers and sisters in the Federation Family.

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is truly a dynamic affiliate, full of past progress, present plans, and much promise for the future. Please commit at this moment to help us throughout the upcoming year. We need everyone to work together so we can fulfill all that we desire and more.

I look forward to presenting another presidential report at convention next year, more full of progress, plans, and promise than this one. Please mark your calendars. Next year's convention will take place October 22-24, at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland! This new convention location is indeed exciting, and provides us with many new opportunities for member recruitment and outreach. I must give thanks for the work of Ronza Othman, the NFB of Maryland Board of Directors, and Sharon Maneki for helping to make this new convention location possible.

Thank you all for your support during the first year of my presidency. We have done many great things. Please join me in shaping the bright and promising future of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.

Day In Annapolis

From the Editor: Every January, Federationists from around the state look forward to visiting their delegates and senators to advocate for issues affecting blind people. Going to Annapolis is a great way to increase advocacy skills and to continue educating our state representatives about issues affecting us. Sharon Maneki has served as our Legislative Chair for over 20 years. Because of the effective groundwork we have laid, many of our representatives expect us and look forward to our annual meetings.

Students and Parents Speak Out for Braille Standards

By Sharon Maneki

One of the main issues for the 2010 session of the Maryland General Assembly was legislation requiring the Maryland State Department of Education to establish Braille standards by September 1, 2012 for blind students to meet as they progress from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The bill also calls for a review of certification and re-certification requirements to make sure that vision teachers have the knowledge to instruct their students according to the new standards. This review must take place by September 2013.

Sighted students must meet standards for each subject in the curriculum. Blind students receive an inferior education because there are no standards for Braille reading and writing in Maryland. Delegate Sheila Hixson, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced HB 413. Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, introduced SB 230. Thanks to our efforts, each bill had a long list of co-sponsors. The passage of this legislation will be a major step forward to make sure that blind students graduate from high school with literacy skills. Denzel Fergus, President of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, gave compelling testimony about why this legislation was needed. His testimony and some of the excellent testimony offered by parents of blind children at the hearings follow.


Subject: Support for HB413, a bill concerning the establishment of Braille standards for blind and visually impaired students.


To: House Ways and Means Committee

From: Denzel Ferges

2806 E. Fairmont Ave.

Baltimore, MD 21224

Date: February 17, 2010

I am asking you to support HB413 because my education was inadequate. I cannot read print quickly or for a long period of time because of my limited vision. I cannot distinguish the words on a page of a book unless the print is very large - 72 font size. I cannot read Braille because I did not have enough instruction when I was in school. I graduated from Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical Senior High School in June 2009. I have had poor vision since I was in the fourth grade. I received services from the vision program throughout my years in the Baltimore City Public School system. I asked to learn Braille when I was in the seventh grade. I was introduced to the Braille alphabet and had Braille instruction for a semester. If there were standards for Braille reading and writing that blind students had to meet, I would be able to read today.


Subject: Support for SB230, A bill concerning the establishment of Braille standards for blind and visually impaired students.

To: Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

From: Bernadette Jacobs
1501 Langford Rd.
Gwynn Oak, MD 21207

Date: February 10, 2010

Please vote in favor of SB230 so that blind children can receive enough instruction in Braille reading and writing so that they can achieve literacy.

My blind daughter, Virginia, is six years old. Last year, my daughter attended kindergarten at Edmondson Heights Elementary School in Baltimore County. When she began the school year, the vision teacher wanted to provide only one hour of instruction per week in Braille reading and writing. I was able to argue for Virginia to receive three hours per week. My daughter did not make the progress that she should have made in Braille reading and writing because there were no standards about how much Braille a kindergarten student should know by the end of the year.

If my daughter was a print reader, she would have been expected to be able to read the entire alphabet as well as sentences with simple words. She would have received more instruction in reading and writing than three hours per week. Blind students need achievement goals just as their sighted peers.

SB230 requires the Maryland State Department of Education to establish standards for Braille reading, writing, and computation by September 2012. This legislation will help me and other parents argue for more instruction time in the IEP process. A vote in favor of this bill will improve the quality of education for my daughter and all of the blind students in Maryland.

Subject: Support for HB413, A bill concerning the establishment of Braille standards for blind and visually impaired students.


To: House Ways and Means Committee

From: Jack Wibbe
20 Ridgeview Drive
Westminster, MD 21157

Date: February 17, 2010

Mister Chairman, my name is Jack Wibbe. My daughter Joli is in the third grade at Friendship Valley Elementary in Carroll County.

Joli’s IQ is off the charts, above the 90th percentile; she multiplies large numbers in her head, she is already mastering the art of parliamentary debate, at the age of eight.

She is loaded with potential: she could pursue any career, achieve any goal – she could be a delegate right here some day. But there’s a fair chance that that won’t happen, because she’s legally blind.

Only one-third of visually impaired adults are employed. Even the ones who are employed, are often under-employed. Wasted potential.

When these people don’t work, they don’t pay taxes to Annapolis – Annapolis spends money on them.

A simple tool to help fix this problem is establishing standards for Braille instruction, to go beyond teaching the alphabet, because you need more than that to read Braille.

The effort needed to draft and execute these standards would be negligible, particularly when you compare that to the prospect of thousands of visually-impaired Marylanders potentially overcoming the odds and becoming wage earners and taxpayers, sending you money every April for police, fire, schools, roads, snow removal.

A number of studies have proven what was already long suspected – here’s a quote from one: “Those who learned to read using Braille had higher employment rates and educational levels, were more financially self-sufficient, and spent more time reading than did those who learned to read using print.”

Braille standards would help us parents too – Joli already reads standard print and is just beginning to learn Braille, but my wife, Lauren, and I can’t read Braille so we can’t measure her progress.

Let’s figure out how to make Joli into the kind of citizen you want most, a taxpayer.

Allow us to ask not what her state can do for her -- ask what she can do for her state.

I don’t want Joli to be babied and mollycoddled by the government all her life; I want her unleashed in all her potential.

For all these reasons, Lauren and I are asking for your support for HB413.

Let’s give Joli the tools to be all she can be – it’s an effort that will pay off a thousand-fold.

Subject: Support for SB230, a bill concerning the establishment of Braille standards for blind and visually impaired students.


To: Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

From: Jill Richmond
2826 Ivory Lane
Port Republic, MD 20676

Date: February 10, 2010

Please support Braille Standards SB 230. My son, Aaron, who happens to be blind, is a 12th grade student currently attending Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, Maryland. As Aaron was going through school, it would have been very helpful for me, as well as Aaron's classroom teachers, to have had guidelines to know if Aaron was learning all he needed to learn at an age-appropriate, grade-appropriate level. Just as the school monitors the standards and core curriculum in English, science, mathematics, etc., there should be standards for teaching children Braille.

Having Braille standards would have helped me tremendously in my efforts to advocate for my son and he would have received a better education.For example, I tried for five years to get the school system to teach my son the Nemeth Code, (the Braille code for mathematics).Due to his lack of vision, he was unable to learn mathematics in print, yet the school was not providing Nemeth Code instruction and the teachers all believed he was just a very poor student and unable to learn math.If there had been Braille standards already established, my son would not have had to endure these struggles, which affected him greatly.Also, I would have been able to better advocate for what he needed to learn and the school system would have had guidelines established to show them what instruction blind students need. When Aaron was finally taught Nemeth code, he caught on to math quickly and his grades and self-esteem improved dramatically.

The Department of Education should establish standards by 2012. The Board of Education should look at the certification and re-certification requirements for vision teachers to see if the requirements need to be revised so that these teachers can teach their blind students, according to the new Braille standards.

I urge you to vote in favor of SB 230. Thank you.

Possibilities Fair

For the past several years, the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute has sponsored a Possibilities Fair for visually impaired seniors throughout Maryland. On October 1, with support from the staff of the Jernigan Institute, the first Possibilities Fair organized by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland was held. This fair was very successful. The purpose of the Fair is to expose seniors to the resources available to them, teach simple non-visual techniques for such tasks as pouring, cutting, traveling with a cane, and to meet others experiencing vision loss.

Over 250 seniors from around the state as well as neighboring states attended the Fair. Seniors had the opportunity to learn more about the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, (LBPH), transportation options, programs designed to teach independent living skills, and examine a wide variety of low and high tech items. It is sometimes a little intimidating to walk into a huge room where voices are coming at you from all directions. It seems so much easier to sit at a table and wait for someone to come to you. The beauty of the Possibilities Fair is that the majority of the volunteers who ran the event are blind and know what it feels like to be in an unfamiliar place and not know what to expect. Our Federation members escorted seniors around the room and made sure everyone received the information they needed. It was a great time of interaction and much knowledge was gained by seniors, service providers, and our own members. Giving seniors confidence to try new things, realize that life need not stop because of vision loss, and encourage people to support each other are all reasons why having the Fair is so important, and why we plan to continue having such events in the future. Plans are now under way for the next Fair which is tentatively scheduled for May 19, 2011.

The Fair would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors. A big thanks go to: The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) of Maryland, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, the Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Maryland Technology Assistance Program, the Partnership Board, and many other individuals.

New Chapter – National Harbor

Having Federation chapters in easy access of all Marylanders who are blind has always been one of our goals. In November, 2009, Michelle Clark began contacting people to determine if there was enough interest to form a new Chapter in Prince George's County. Because of the overwhelming response she received, an initial organizing meeting was held on January 23. We are pleased to announce that on February 27, the National Harbor Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland was born with over 45 people joining. The following officers were elected: Michelle Clark, President; Cheryl Young, First Vice President; Raymond Raysor, Second Vice President; Priscilla Lockhart, Secretary; and Clarence Lockhart, Treasurer. Michelle says their main goals initially will be advocacy, membership and fund raising. The Chapter will meet the fourth Saturday of the month at 1:00 p.m. at: 10201 Martin Luther King Jr. Highway, second floor; Bowie, Maryland. Two members who attended the last meeting already knew each other because they had attended high school together. However, neither knew the other had lost their vision. We look forward to working with this new Chapter to help others obtain the resources they need to live as independently as possible. For more information, contact Michelle at mcikeyc@aol.com or 301-583-8585. Good work Michelle and others!

Going for the Gold

From the Editor:

We are all proud of Clark Rachfal's accomplishments. Several years ago, Clark was a recipient of a National Federation of the Blind of Maryland scholarship. Each year, the Maryland affiliate awards at least two academic scholarships to outstanding blind and visually impaired Maryland students. Scholarships are provided with funds raised from various events held around the state. As you will see from the press release below, all of our efforts are worth it when scholarship winners achieve their goals and set high standards for themselves in the employment arena.


Annapolis Capitol
PRESS RELEASE
Blind Annapolis Paralympic Cyclist Wins World Championship Gold Medal

ANNAPOLIS, MD, Nov 18, 2009 – Annapolis resident and Paralympic tandem cyclist, Clark Rachfal, returned home Monday after winning his first World Championship. Rachfal, 26 years old, and his tandem pilot, Dave Swanson of Tucson, AZ, took the gold medal in the men’s tandem 4km Pursuit at the indoor velodrome of the Manchester cycling Center in England the night of November 7.

Rachfal, a graduate of Towson University, deferred his fall 2009 enrollment in the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University for a year to compete for the U.S. at both the 2009 UCI Road and Track World Championships. Riding together since 2007, this year marked the first time the pair competed internationally. At the Road World Championships in September, the team took 5th in the road time trial and crashed out during the second lap of a ten lap road race. Fairing better on the track last week, the pair took 4th in the 1km Sprint before shaving twelve seconds off of their personal best in the preliminary round of the pursuit, posting the fastest qualifying time on the day (4:27.133). In the evening’s gold/silver medal final, Rachfal and Swanson dug deep and bested their earlier time by another half a second (4:26.472).

I knew we could do it,” Rachfal said. “I just didn’t expect it to happen this year…and now the pressure is on. Now everyone is trying to knock us off the top step and we need to take another 8.5 seconds off our time to capture the 4km Tandem Pursuit world record.”

Rachfal believes winning a World Championship is sweeter for U.S. Paralympic athletes, because they aren’t salaried. When he isn’t training, Rachfal finances his cycling by working in the public policy office of Verizon Communications. “In addition to working in an exciting and challenging office, I’m fortunate to receive support from private sponsors and the Verizon Foundation.”

For more information, Clark Rachfal may be reached by e-mail at clarkrachfal@aol.com or via his mobile, 443-838-9552.

Braille Rocks

In an effort to expand the outreach efforts of each affiliate, the National Federation of the Blind established the Imagination Fund grant program. A portion of the money raised through our fund raising efforts at each summer's convention is allocated for affiliates to submit specific grant proposals which are reviewed by a committee and then distributed based on the amount available for the request. For the past several years, Maryland has been the recipient of these Imagination Fund grants. In the past, we have used these grants to create and maintain our NFBMD website, and run a two-week summer program, Braille Enrichment, Learning and Literacy (BELL) for elementary school students who are receiving inadequate Braille instruction in the public schools.

In 2009, the Maryland affiliate was again awarded an Imagination Fund Grant. Expanding on the BELL theme, we felt it was important to reinforce Braille skills not only in the summer, but throughout the school year. This year, we are focusing on the establishment of Braille Rocks clubs. Thus far, clubs have been established in Baltimore City and Montgomery County. The clubs meet on a monthly basis and are designed for students from Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade. Each month, activities are planned around a different theme. Dance Dance Revolution, the Winter Olympics and St. Patrick's Day have been featured so far. Blind adults plan the activities and run the clubs. Students have a chance to practice their Braille skills but also to participate in relay and other competition activities they are often left out of.

Each student and adult pick a “Braille Rock Star” name by which they are called during club activities. One benefit for students is they have an opportunity to interact with adult blind role models and to ask questions they can't always ask like: do you live alone and do your own grocery shopping? It is exciting and rewarding to watch students improve in their reading and writing and to build on what was learned from previous club activities.

The Braille Rocks Club in Baltimore City meets the third Saturday of the month from 1:00 to 3:00 P.M. at the Jernigan Institute, 200 E. Wells St. at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD. The Montgomery County club meets the fourth Saturday of the month from 10:00 to noon at the Davis Library, 6400 Democracy Blvd., in Bethesda. For more information about the Baltimore City club call Melissa Riccobono at 410-235-3073; for the Montgomery County Club call Debbie Brown at 301-881-1892. Students who do not live in either of the places where clubs have been established but want to participate in Braille reading activities should contact Sharon Maneki at 410-715-9596.

BELL 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 one certified teacher, and many committed and qualified volunteers.


Program Dates: August 2 - August 13, 2010 (weekdays only)

Time: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Locations:

Week one of program (August 2–6) -
Maryland State Library for the Blind, 415 Park Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201

Week two of program (August 9-13) -
National Center for the Blind, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230

This program is sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and the Maryland Parents of Blind Children. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Maryland Library for the Blind for the use of their facility and resources throughout the program.

For further information contact Melissa Riccobono at 410-235-3073 or email president@nfbmd.org.

You may also download a BELL application by visiting http://www.nfbmd.org

Lawyer Spotlight: Mildred A. Rivera-Rau, Esquire

Mildred A. Rivera-Rau, Esq., Blind Latina employment lawyer, helps promote diversity in the federal workforce.

From the Editor: Those of us who know Mildred (Millie) Rivera-Rau were proud to see her receive the recognition she deserves for her hard work at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) and for helping to change what it means to be blind in the work place. Millie has not only chaired our Youth Empowerment Committee but is currently serving as our scholarship Committee chair.

With the recent rise of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, Mildred A. Rivera-Rau, Esq. has a great deal of which to be proud. Just like Justice Sotomayor, Millie is a Puerto Rican woman with a disability who works for the federal government. There are important differences, however, as Millie makes her impact via the federal government as an award-winning Attorney Advisor for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, DC.

Millie was born legally blind with 20/200 vision in both eyes. After spending some of her high school years in Puerto Rico, she attended Cornell University and then the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Shortly after taking the bar exam in 1990, she was diagnosed with a brain disorder that severely impacts her mood without medication. For the first two years of her career she worked in a large San Francisco law firm practicing labor and employment law. She was then recruited by the EEOC and worked as a trial attorney in Baltimore for 12 years before being asked to serve as a Special Assistant to Former EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez.

During her career, she received awards from the EEOC for work on a class action sexual harassment lawsuit, EEOC disability initiatives, and the Commission's Spanish-language website, as well as an award from the Maryland affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind for her outstanding volunteer activities with blind youth. Millie recently served a three-year term as a Commissioner for the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law.

Currently, Millie leads a team of EEO Analysts that review federal agencies' equal employment opportunity programs for compliance and provide technical assistance. She also analyzes statistics regarding workforce composition with regard to gender, race, national origin, and disability status. Basically, she and her team make sure that federal entities have the programs and policies in place to ensure a barrier-free workforce. At work she accommodates her disability with a reader and ZoomText, a software program that enlarges text and serves as an audible screen reader. She also is permitted to work from home when necessary.

Becoming an employment lawyer was not a certainty. Before her first encounter with lawyers in a courtroom during college, Millie did not think she could be an attorney. "After watching them litigate, I discovered that lawyers are just regular people doing regular things. I honestly thought 'Hey, I can do that!'" she noted, "And the same thing applies to individuals with disabilities: we are just regular people who are capable of doing regular things. Sometimes people have to simply get past personal preconceived notions to appreciate the opportunities that are out there."

When comparing her two roles at the EEOC, litigation and agency oversight, Millie finds they each have their own unique benefits, whether for her or the diversity movement. "Litigation was more fulfilling for me, because I was able to see the result after the proceedings," she stated, "but on the other hand, agency oversight has the ability to affect more people across a broader spectrum."

Either way, Millie says she has her dream job.
Web site: http://www.abanet.org/disability/spotlight/sept09.shtml

NFB Newsline Online: Information on New Initiatives

From the Editor: In 1995, the National Federation of the Blind leadership had a vision--access to newspapers over the telephone. The technology was created, and a pilot program began in January, 1996. The first newspaper available on NFB-Newsline® was USA Today. The New York Times followed shortly thereafter. Now more than 300 newspapers and several magazines are available. This article will describe some of the new and upcoming features of NFB-Newsline®. As technology changes, so does access to the printed word. We can look forward to more exciting features in the future. Happy reading!

By Renee West

Early last year, NFB-NEWSLINE® created a new Web site, www.nfbnewslineonline.org, which serves as the portal for the ground-breaking new initiatives, NFB-NEWSLINE® In Your Pocket and Web News on Demand, and offers venues for better communication with our subscribers. To access these new features, select the “Log In” link from NFB-NEWSLINE® Online’s Web site, and on the next page provide your subscriber ID and security codes in the user-entry fields. You will then be presented with the NFB-NEWSLINE® Online Main Menu, and from there choose the initiative you wish to use. We hope you find the availability of these new access methods increases the value you find in NFB-NEWSLINE®, and makes it easier for you to access the news you need.

NFB-NEWSLINE® In Your Pocket is a free software application a subscriber installs on his or her computer that automatically downloads up to six newspapers or magazines of the subscriber’s choice to his or her Victor Reader Stream, Icon/Braille+, or BookSense. With the application installed on a subscriber’s computer, the subscriber retrieves his or her favorite content by plugging the portable device into the computer (through a USB cord) and launches the application. Once launched, the application connects to a server and retrieves new publication content automatically. A subscriber can connect with the server at any time of the day to retrieve publication updates and get the latest breaking news. To obtain the NFB-NEWSLINE® In Your Pocket software and learn about how to use this feature, please visit www.nfbnewslineonline.org, log in, and from the main menu select “NFB-NEWSLINE® In Your Pocket.” Please note that to use this access method, you will need to have set up your favorite publications list on the phone prior to launching the NFB-NEWSLINE® In Your Pocket software.

With Web News on Demand, subscribers visit a secure, text-only Web site that offers the ability to view the entirety of any publication offered on the service; this ability affords an enhanced search capability as a subscriber can search for, and find, a term throughout the entire paper. A subscriber using Web News on Demand can view a particular section listing with details of the available articles and can have a full publication, a particular section, or a single article thereof delivered via e-mail on demand.
Two other new initiatives, Podable News and KeyStream, will be available later in 2010.
Podable News offers publications and their individual sections as podcasts; subscribers subscribe to have their podcasting client retrieve their preferred content each day. Possibly the neatest thing about Podable News is that subscribers can, cafeteria-style, cobble together a newspaper that consists of just the material that is of interest to them, for example, just the sports section from USA Today, the Section A from the Washington Post, and the business section from the Wall Street Journal. These podcasts, available as MP3 audio files, can be played on the computer or downloaded to any MP3-playing device such as an iPod or to some digital talking-book players.
With KeyStream, subscribers can access NFB-NEWSLINE® over their computer’s Internet connection; this initiative offers the same usability and functionality offered through the traditional, phone-based, NFB-NEWSLINE® service. KeyStream will be very easy to use, even for those who are less than proficient with computers or access technology, and has the added benefit of not tying up phone lines.
For more information about NFB-NEWSLINE® or the new features, or to become a subscriber, please call (866) 504-7300, e-mail nfbnewsline@nfb.org, or visit www.nfbnewslineonline.org.


Lydia Grier Receives Distinguished Educator Award

From the Editor: Providing quality education to Maryland's blind and visually impaired students is often a daunting task when you consider that most teachers travel from school to school, must meet the needs of students of all ages, and juggle deadlines to ensure materials are provided to everyone in a timely manner. The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is proud to recognize the work of people who go beyond what is expected to help their students keep up academically with their sighted peers while learning the braille and technology skills needed to be successful. As you will see from the press release below, Lydia Grier is one of those teachers. Congratulations Lydia!

Prince George’s Gazette

Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009
By Liz Skalski, Staff Writer

With the help of a hardworking instructor, 7-year-old Kayla Harris is excelling at Lake Arbor Elementary School in Mitchellville, along with the rest of the first-graders in her class — even though she can't see them.

Kayla's parents, Sharonda Baker, 31, and Kevin Harris, 32, of Lanham nominated their daughter's vision teacher, Lydia Grier of Lanham, for the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children award. Grier received the award Nov. 14 at the federation's conference in Ocean City.

"Grier has just been a great key to Kayla's success for her to be as far as she is," Baker said. "She knows exactly how to get Kayla motivated to get her to do what she needs to do."

The award recognizes Grier's skill for teaching Braille and other related subjects and her dedication to her students.

"She always puts in the time and the extra time with Kayla," Harris said. "She has always gone above and beyond, always had a plan for where she wanted Kayla to be, always keeps her one step ahead — she's a key component of Kayla's success."

Grier has been a Prince George's County Public Schools teacher since 1986, teaching special education in the county since 1998 and a county teacher of the visually impaired and blind since 2000. Grier isn't blind, but has an aunt who is.

"When I told her I was going to be a vision teacher, she was proud," said Grier, who says her job is rewarding.

"I was surprised because I felt there were people in the field much more qualified," she said. "I am [thankful] to the kindness of Kayla's parents for thinking I was worthy of being nominated for the award. Kayla's success is because we work together as a team, along with the other school professionals, and the support of the federation."

Melissa Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, said Grier was chosen in part because Kayla's parents recommended her so highly. "They were very insistent that Lydia has gone above and beyond their expectations as a teacher," she said.

Grier was selected for the annual award out of a pool of about six nominees from across the state, Riccobono said. The award has been given for at least 10 years.

Grier, whose office is in Oxon Hill, travels around to county elementary, middle and high schools to work with students in one-on-one and small group settings at upwards of 15 schools at any given time.

Grier teaches students Braille; assisted [sic] technology skills, which includes keyboard use and audible computer programming; independent living skills such as tying shoes and using scissors; and reading, science and math. She also uses light boxes with low vision students, textured materials and audible dictionaries.

Nancy Patton, a PGCPS vision instructional specialist and Grier's supervisor, said Grier's dedication to her students and their families sets her apart.

"She is a very, very dedicated educator, making sure the instruction carries into the home, that there's follow-through and collaboration between parents and children," she said. "She's highly knowledgeable in the field of special education and early childhood education."


E-mail Liz Skalski at eskalski@gazette.net.


Resolutions

From the Editor: Every year our State Convention passes resolutions on various issues affecting all of us in some way. Passage of these resolutions determines our policy and often affects the specific legislation we seek to get passed. The 2009 resolution topics ranged from creation of standards for Braille literacy, to accessibility of textbooks, voting machines and web sites.

National Federation of the Blind of

Maryland

Resolution 2009-01

Regarding Braille Literacy

WHEREAS, literacy, the ability to read and write proficiently, is essential to effective communication, to highly skilled and highly paid employment, and to full participation in the life of ones community; and

WHEREAS, more than 70 percent of blind people nationwide are, but of those blind people who are employed, 85 percent or more use Braille in the workplace, demonstrating a clear relationship between literacy, confidence, and success; and

WHEREAS, in 1992, the Maryland Literacy Rights and Education Act, which requires that instruction in the use of Braille be offered to a child who is blind or vision impaired, became the law in Maryland; and

WHEREAS, although this law has caused more blind students to be introduced to Braille reading and writing, too many blind students do not receive enough instruction to use Braille effectively or efficiently, and thus these students never achieve literacy; and

WHEREAS, to promote accountability in education, Maryland created a state curriculum that consists of content standards to measure student achievement in core subjects, such as English, reading, and mathematics, but no standards in the state curriculum exist to measure student achievements in Braille reading and writing; and

WHEREAS, if reading and writing standards are necessary to promote greater achievement for students whose primary reading and writing medium is print, such standards are equally necessary for students whose primary reading and writing medium is Braille; and

WHEREAS, to meet the requirements of the Maryland Literacy Rights and Education Act, new standards for certification and re-certification of vision teachers were enacted, but these standards have not been updated for approximately fifteen years; and

WHEREAS, the certification and re-certification requirements for vision teachers should be reviewed and revised to take advantage of objective tools such as the National Literary Braille Competency Test, which measures an individual’s skill in Braille reading and writing: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this 15th day of November, 2009, in the City of Ocean City, Maryland, that we urge the Maryland General Assembly to amend the Literacy Rights and Education Act to instruct the Maryland State Department of Education to adopt content standards in Braille reading and writing by the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year to afford blind students the same opportunity to achieve literacy as their sighted peers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the State Board of Education and the Professional Standards and Teacher Education Board to revise certification and re-certification requirements for vision teachers to ensure that blind students will be able to meet these Braille standards and attain literacy skills.

Resolution 2009-02

Regarding Provision of Readers and Textbooks

WHEREAS, blind students in Maryland need easy and reliable access to high-quality readers and greater availability of accessible books to manage the volume of printed material encountered during their academic studies and preparation for employment; and

WHEREAS, resources exist through the rehabilitation program and among Maryland's institutions of higher education to provide needed reader services to blind students; and

WHEREAS, provisions in Maryland state law also exist to facilitate increased availability of accessible textbooks for blind students, but the Maryland Department of Education has been quite slow in providing adequate funding to implement this state law; and

WHEREAS, despite the existence of these resources, blind students in Maryland continue to struggle with limited availability of reader services and accessible textbooks, particularly production of textbooks in Braille for disciplines such as mathematics and science in which written exposition of materials is critical to maximum learning; and

WHEREAS, one of the reasons for these continued challenges stems from the long existing dispute between rehabilitation providers and institutions of higher education as to which entity bears primary responsibility for providing reader services and for producing or purchasing accessible textbooks; and

WHEREAS, another challenge to ready availability of reader services and accessible textbooks may be attributed to the uncertainty of blind students about which entity they should approach for support, since representatives of the rehabilitation establishment and institutions of higher education regularly refer inquiries from blind students to one another for response: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in convention assembled this 15th day of November, 2009, in the City of Ocean City, Maryland, that we strongly urge officials of the Office of Blindness and Vision Services of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Maryland Department of Education, to take the lead in identifying strategies for developing partnerships and collaboratively working with the state's institutions of higher education to create a common procedure for providing timely and effective reader services and access to college-level textbooks (including establishment of clear rules for who will be responsible for funding and producing Braille materials) so that all involved parties have a clear expectation of who will provide these services, and delays in offering such support will not continue to be caused by conflicting organizational procedures and beliefs about which entity should fund and manage these services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that rehabilitation and higher education officials in Maryland work with the Higher Education Textbook Access Coordinator at the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to develop efficient processes and procedures for creating or locating accessible textbooks--particularly those that need to be produced in Braille--for Maryland's blind students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we demand that the Maryland State Department of Education honor the spirit and letter of the adopted higher education textbook law by immediately providing adequate and distinct funding for the administration and practical implementation of this statewide initiative rather than simply exploring cost-saving measures between the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and the Office of Blindness and Vision Services of the Division of Rehabilitation Services that promises only to maintain a minimal effort to render textbooks accessible to students in higher education and, more important, compromises the ability of both programs to devote existing resources to their primary missions.

Resolution 2009-03

Regarding Dr. Jonathan Lazar and Towson University

WHEREAS, the Universal Usability Laboratory (UUL) in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University does cutting-edge research on computer accessibility for people with disabilities, focusing particularly on blind people; and

WHEREAS, the UUL is nationally recognized for its contributions to universal accessibility, not only for blind people but also for computer users of different ages and users with motor and cognitive impairments; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Jonathan Lazar, the UUL’s Director since it was formally created in 2003, has adopted a sensible approach to conducting research by seeking the opinions and advice of the beneficiaries of the UUL’s research projects; and

WHEREAS, under Dr. Lazar’s leadership, the UUL has demonstrated its commitment to performing relevant research by not only consulting with disabled consumers at the beginning of each project but also by continuing these consultations through the projects' completion; and

WHEREAS, among its crowning achievements, the UUL has completed research on replacing CAPCHA graphics with more accessible security technologies and studied methods that blind users employ to interact with Websites through screen readers to purchase items online; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland has been pleased to work with Dr. Lazar and his students and staff since 2002, a year before the UUL was formally organized, in a continuing partnership to achieve full accessibility to computers and other digital technologies for blind people; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Lazar has publicized the need for universal access by presenting his research in the most prestigious national and international forums such as the Cambridge (U.K.) Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology, held in London in 2008: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this 15th day of November, 2009, in the City of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization commend Dr. Lazar and the Universal Usability Laboratory in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University for their outstanding research contributions in the arena of universal accessibility to computer and digital technology; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization especially commend Dr. Jonathan Lazar for his unwavering commitment to working with the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to achieve nonvisual access to all computer and digital technologies.

Resolution 2009-04

Regarding Accessible Voting in Maryland

WHEREAS, Maryland made a commitment to its blind citizens guaranteeing the right to a secret ballot; and

WHEREAS, in 2001 the state of Maryland was among the first states to authorize a fully accessible voting process, which included uniform systems for voting in polling places and for voting absentee through enactment of H.B. 1457; and

WHEREAS, all voters in Maryland were using the uniform systems as of 2006, with some beginning as early as 2002; and

WHEREAS, legislation enacted during the 2007 legislative session and additional legislation passed during the 2009 session creates a primary voting system that uses optical scan voting equipment, including a voter-verifiable paper record but also maintains the Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) voting system previously purchased by the state for blind or otherwise disabled people and any others who prefer it over the newly mandated optical scan system until an optical scan system can be made accessible to many more blind and disabled voters than is presently possible; and

WHEREAS, though blind Marylanders benefited from the uniform DRE voting system for all Maryland voters, not one election occurred without numerous instances when poll workers failed to properly prepare the machines to be used by blind voters even though we used the same machines as all Maryland voters; and

WHEREAS, the practice of now using two different voting systems will inevitably lead to greater confusion for poll workers and election officials as well as frustration of Maryland voters unless specific, comprehensive training on DRE machines and their accessible features is mandated by the State Board of Elections; and

WHEREAS, to avoid misinformation, state and local boards of elections should widely advertise that all voters have a choice between the two voting systems they use to cast their ballots and that accessible machines remain available to blind and other disabled voters: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this 15th day of November, 2009, in the City of Ocean City, Maryland, that we insist that the State Board of Elections ensure the right to a secret ballot for blind citizens by developing strong guidelines that assure that poll workers receive comprehensive training on the Direct Recording Equipment voting machines that remain available to Maryland’s blind and nondisabled voters alike; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call on each of the twenty-four voting jurisdictions in this state to provide meaningful training of poll workers and voting officials on the proper use of the DRE machines and their nonvisually accessible functions; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization direct every election board in the state to advertise the choice in voting equipment available to all citizens and to promote in particular the availability of accessible equipment for blind and disabled citizens.

Resolution 2009-05

Website Accessibility in Maryland

WHEREAS, all Maryland citizens, including the blind, need full access to government information and services; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all state services be accessible to people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the state of Maryland adopted legislation in 1998 and 2000 to require state government to make all of its public information and Websites accessible to the blind; and

WHEREAS, in 2008, to highlight the importance of information technology and to provide better policy coordination, Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly created a new department in the executive branch to specifically handle information technology issues; and

WHEREAS, the duties of the Information Technology Department include, “developing, maintaining, revising, and enforcing information technology policies, procedures, and standards,” as well as “adopting by regulation and enforcing nonvisual access standards to be used in the procurement of information technology services by or on behalf of units of state government”; and

WHEREAS, Governor O’Malley stated in a public forum, "Fully accessible websites should be the standard for all of us," yet information from numerous departments of state government remain inaccessible to the blind; and

WHEREAS, a recent analysis by the Department of Computer and Information Sciences And the Universal Usability Laboratory at Towson University, found that fourteen out of fifteen Maryland state agency Websites studied violated at least one accessibility guideline; and

WHEREAS, the Maryland Department of Information Technology was found in that same study to have two accessibility violations on its own home page; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Information Technology should be a leader in web access by setting an example for all other state agencies; and

WHEREAS, the Maryland Department of Disabilities is charged with ensuring that state policies and practices do not conflict with the needs of disabled people, yet this department lacks the staff to ensure nonvisual access to public information; and

WHEREAS, Maryland’s state agencies have already had nine years to comply with federal and state accessibility guidelines; and

WHEREAS, blaming non-compliance on the poor economy and the shortfall of tax revenue is penny-wise and pound-foolish, because redesigning existing Websites and defending lawsuits for violations of state and federal laws are always more costly than initial compliance: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this 15th day of November, 2009, in the City of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization condemn and deplore the failure of Maryland state government to provide access to information and services for its blind citizens; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the O’Malley administration to immediately enforce state and federal laws requiring that Websites be accessible to the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Governor O’Malley to provide the Maryland Department of Disabilities with the resources to consult with and train personnel in state agencies so that the promise of access to public information stated in law becomes a reality for blind citizens in Maryland.

Specks

W e d d i n g B e l l s

On Saturday, December 19, Marsha Lindsey and Joseph Drenth were married in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Marsha was a member of the Greater Baltimore chapter. She and Joe met at the 2009 Youth Slam where they both served as mentors. This is another example of an NFB romance. Marsha was always a willing capable volunteer. Maryland’s loss is Pennsylvania’s gain. Congratulations to the newlyweds.


N e w F a m i l y A d d i t i o n s


Bernice Lowder proudly reports the birth of her eighth grandchild Laela on December 4, 2009. Her parents are Raymond McCraw Lowder & Katrina Lowder. Three generations of Lowders regularly attend state conventions and many other NFB functions. Congratulations to Bernice, Raymond and all the Lowders.

Lydia and Johnny Grier adopted a baby boy named Jeremiah. Jeremiah was born on February 11 and came to his new home at the end of the month. Lydia won the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award at our 2009 Convention. She is also a member of our new National Harbor/PG County Chapter.

R e t i r e d


Longtime Federationist, Ron Metenyi, retired from BISM’s Baltimore facility in the fall of 2009. Ron had 40 years of service with the company. May Ron have as long a career in retirement as he did working for BISM. Congratulations!


G r a d u a t i o n s


In the last issue of the Spectator, we inadvertently missed two 2009 graduations. Courtney Curran graduated from Severna Park High School. Courtney is currently attending Anne Arundel Community College. She hopes to major in broadcasting and become a news anchor.

Jennifer Suchan graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. Jennifer is attending Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She is majoring in music. Congratulations to the graduates!


D e a t h s


In the fall of 2009, Clara Andrews died. Clara belonged to the Central Maryland chapter. She enjoyed attending senior activities and fiercely maintained her independence after losing her vision.

In December 2009, Mary Lopez died. Mary was a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter and the mother of Jennifer Tyndall. Mary came from Trinidad and wanted to promote a better life for her daughter and all blind people.

After a long battle with cancer, Crystal Hardy died on February 8, 2010. Crystal was only 17 years old. She was an active member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter, the Maryland Association of Blind Students, and the Transition Club. Crystal attended several national and state conventions. She maintained her enthusiasm for the Federation despite her long struggle with cancer.

On February 27, 2010, Richard Bennett, President of the NFB of Delaware, died suddenly. Richard had many friends in Maryland because he was an alumnus of the Maryland School for the Blind and attended state conventions for the NFB of Maryland. Richard and Pat Sunderland were avid supporters of our annual crab feast. As an independent businessman, Richard was a role model for many people. Richard was a devoted Federationist and we will miss his enthusiasm and his caring personality.

C a l e n d a r
NFB Cane Event: May 1.

Independence 2010: Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, June 20 -
August 1.

National Convention: July 3-8, Dallas Texas

BELL: August 2-13, weekdays only

Crab Feast: Saturday August 7 6 pm

NFBMD State Convention: October 22-24 at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis