The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of the blind in America. Interested sighted persons also join. Founded in 1940, the Federation has grown to include more than fifty thousand of the nation's blind. The Federation is organized in every state and has local chapters in almost every community of any size in the nation. Where there is no local chapter there are members-at-large. Each year the National Convention of the Federation is attended by approximately 2,500 blind persons, the largest gathering of blind people in the history of the world and growing each year. The Federation is a vehicle for joint action by the blind and parents of blind children. In other words, the National Federation of the Blind is the voice of the blind. It is the blind speaking for themselves.
How do you help people who are becoming blind?
The newly blinded person faces a difficult adjustment. One of the best medicines is to meet other blind people and learn of their jobs and the techniques they use in doing things without sight. Membership in the National Federation of the Blind provides this common meeting ground and, even more important, a sense of participation and restoration of confidence. Members of the NFB contact newly blinded persons to help them with problems of adjustment and orientation. Information is also given concerning available services from governmental and private agencies, as well as facts about laws and regulations concerning the blind.
What is the National Center for the Blind?
The National Center for the Blind (NCB), located at 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland, was established in 1978 and has come to be the focal point of a great deal of the work being done to assist blind people throughout the country and the world. As can be seen from the picture on the front of this book, the Center is housed in a renovated, turn-of-the-century manufacturing facility, giving it ample space for handling the many activities relating to blindness which occur there. The headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind is located at the National Center for the Blind, as is the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind and Job Opportunities for the Blind. Other organizations located at the NCB include the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. It is convenient and efficient to have major programs assisting the blind located in the same physical facility. The concept is much the same as is found in many medical centers, where medical specialists, medical testing laboratories, and pharmacies are housed together in one facility for the mutual benefit of all concerned.
What is the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults?
The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults is a service agency which specializes in providing help to blind people which is not readily available to them from government programs or other existing service systems. The services of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults are provided free and are available especially to blind children, the elderly blind, and the deaf-blind. The Action Fund maintains a free lending library of Braille and Twin Vision books for blind children. It publishes and distributes to deaf-blind persons a free, weekly newspaper in Braille. The Action Fund also distributes free Braille calendars to blind and deaf-blind people throughout the country, gives scholarships and other needed assistance, and provides information to senior citizens to help them deal with vision loss in their later years.
What is the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC)?
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind was opened on November 16, 1990, the fiftieth birthday of the National Federation of the Blind. The IBTC is the only facility of its kind in the world. It houses at least one each of every type of Braille-producing, computer-driven Braille printer currently on the market, as well as computers with refreshable Braille displays, raised-line drawing equipment of various sorts, optical character recognition equipment used to transform printed characters into electronically produced speech or Braille, and a growing array of voice output computer screen reading systems. The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind provides a central location where individuals, blind or sighted, employers or potential employees, can come to experience first hand the various types of Braille and speech synthesis equipment available. Blind job seekers, blind employees, potential and actual employers of blind individuals, and the general public are welcome to come to the IBTC to tour, observe, and test the equipment. The capabilities--advantages as well as disadvantages--of each device can be evaluated in a setting that is completely independent of manufacturers and salespeople. The Center can be used as a tool to enable blind job seekers to become trained in the technology necessary to obtain gainful employment or to enable blind employees to sample and select equipment which would enable them to compete and advance in their current jobs. The Technology Center also provides an opportunity for employers to view and test the various types of equipment available.
What are the mail campaigns of the National Federation of the Blind, and why are they conducted?
The mail campaigns of the National Federation of the Blind help finance the organization, but their basic purpose is to inform the general public about blindness and to let those who need our services know how to find us. Through our mailings the name, address, and service messages of the National Federation of the Blind appear on millions of objects: calendars, pencils, packages of seeds, magnifying glasses, and especially our Kernel Books. We are striving for the day when the name, address, and service messages of the National Federation of the Blind will be on enough items in the home of every American that anybody who needs our help will know how to reach us and that correct information about blindness will have completely replaced outworn notions. You can help us achieve this goal by carefully reading all of our material that reaches you and by passing it on to others. We answer thousands of inquiries each year and to the extent of our resources will respond to every question we get. Much of our public education program is carried out through our mail campaigns.
What are the Kernel Books?
Each Kernel Book is a paperback volume of true stories told by blind persons about how they have dealt with problems and achieved goals. One or two new Kernel Books are issued each year as part of the ongoing series. They are readable and interesting, giving the general public an opportunity to know what blindness is really like and how the people who live it on a daily basis feel. The message of the Kernel Books is that it is respectable to be blind, that (with opportunity and appropriate training) blind people can have as much fun and lead as full lives as others, and that the blind are capable of full participation in society. Let us know if you would like to have any of the Kernel Books. We would be happy to send them without charge. Some of the books in the series are: What Color Is the Sun, The Freedom Bell, As the Twig Is Bent, Making Hay, and The Journey.
Why are your contribution envelopes addressed in care of ADM Security Services in Baltimore, Maryland?
Mail containing donations to us addressed to ADM Security Services is opened and processed for us by an accounting service under very tightly supervised conditions. Deposits are then made directly into our bank account. We believe that this system offers the best possible security for your gifts since many of the donations we receive come in small amounts and in cash.
Do you comply with the standards of the Better Business Bureau?
Yes. We submit detailed financial and program information to the Philanthropic Advisory Service of the National Council of Better Business Bureaus on an annual basis. We have been continuously listed as complying with all standards for charitable solicitations in the Better Business Bureau's publication Give But Give Wisely for many years. Local Better Business Bureaus can obtain any information they wish from their national office. For this reason we do not go to the expense of filling out the individual forms of the hundreds of local Better Business Bureau offices throughout the country.
How is the National Federation of the Blind funded?
The National Federation of the Blind is funded primarily in two ways. Our blind members themselves (even though many are unemployed and exist on very small incomes) give what they can to support their own organization. Many give on a regular monthly basis at substantial personal sacrifice. Although these contributions from blind people come to a considerable amount, we could not begin to do the work we do without the generous support of the thousands who contribute through our mail campaigns, again, frequently at personal sacrifice. In short, our funding comes largely from individuals, who believe in what we are doing and are willing to help us do it.
How much do you spend on fundraising expenses?
The actual amount varies some from year to year, but over the last several years our fundraising costs as a percentage of public support have not exceeded ten percent.
Are contributions to the National Federation of the Blind tax-deductible?
Yes. The National Federation of the Blind holds 50l(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
Can I make a gift to the National Federation of the Blind in my will?
You certainly can, and we hope you do! As a matter of fact many individuals who have come to know us through our mail campaigns have done so. All you have to do is to place the following language in your will: "I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_________ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: ______") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons." If you care to let us know that you have made a gift to us in your will, it is helpful.
What can volunteers do to help the blind?
If you would like to provide direct volunteer assistance to blind individuals, please contact us for information about locating blind people in your area. People who can provide transportation, help with shopping, or do reading are especially needed. It is also important to help in the effort to change public attitudes about blindness and make information available. By reading the materials we distribute in our mail campaigns you inform yourself and can share what you learn with others. Many blind people do not know what services exist to help them. You can make this information available by distributing our materials to schools, church groups, libraries, nursing homes, senior citizens' centers, retirement villages, doctors' offices, low vision clinics, and other community organizations. These are just a few ideas for very much needed volunteer assistance. However, you may have skills or talents that you want to use in a particular way. If another project is better suited to your talents and the time you have available, please let us know.
Can you give me help relating to my specific eye problem?
We are not medical experts. We can help you with problems you have because you cannot see well, and we can provide general information about eye diseases and causes of blindness. For specific medical problems relating to your eyes, you should see an eye doctor or other medical professional.
Do you conduct medical research relating to eye diseases? If so, do you use animals in your research?
The answer to both questions is no. The last section in this book gives information about common eye conditions and causes of blindness in the United States. If you need more specific information we suggest that you contact a medical facility specializing in eye diseases. One such facility with an outstanding reputation is the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 North Wolfe Street, Room B-20, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, (410) 955-9653.
What are your "State Resource Lists?"
We have prepared a fact sheet giving specific information (including addresses and telephone numbers) for services available in each state. A local contact person for the National Federation of the Blind is always given. We hope you will get in touch with our local leaders for further help.
What financial help can a blind person receive?
There are two main sources of cash financial assistance for blind people. They are regular Social Security benefits, also called OASDI payments, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs are administered by the federal government through its system of local Social Security offices. To be eligible for regular Social Security benefits a blind individual has to have had some employment. To be eligible for SSI payments an individual does not need ever to have had any employment but must have limited income and savings. The rules which apply to blind people are often different from the rules for sighted people. The amount of the monthly cash payment is determined individually, and annual increases occur each January. You may qualify for one or both of these programs. In any case the monthly amount will not be lower than approximately $450 for an individual or $670 for a couple. To apply for either program contact your local Social Security office. We also encourage you to contact us at the National Federation of the Blind if you have any problem understanding the regulations relating to blindness, feel you have been unjustly denied benefits, or have other problems about which we may be able to provide information and guidance.
Are blind people eligible for medical assistance?
Yes. A blind person who is under age 65 and who receives Social Security disability benefits is covered under Medicare after a two-year waiting period. There is no waiting period for Medicare benefits after age 65. A blind person who receives Supplemental Security Income payments is eligible for state administered Medicaid assistance without any waiting period. If an individual receives only a very small Social Security disability payment, he or she may also receive Supplemental Security Income payments. In this case the individual would also be eligible for Medicaid benefits immediately. We can provide further information upon request.
What library services are available to people who are blind or who have poor eyesight?
Every state has free library reading materials for blind individuals provided through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. Books and magazines are available on loan and free of charge in Braille and on cassette and records (called talking books). Special cassette machines and record players for use in listening to recorded reading matter are also loaned without cost to blind and visually impaired library users. For details about where and how to apply for services you may contact us or your local public library or call the toll-free library service telephone number: (800) 424-9100.
Who is eligible to get books and magazines through the program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress?
If you cannot read ordinary print because of poor eyesight or because of a physical handicap such as being unable to turn a page, you are eligible to get Braille or recorded books through this service. It is not necessary for you to be totally blind or classified as legally blind. However, it is necessary for someone recognized by the library system as competent to do so to certify that you are eligible for the service. An officer or local leader of the National Federation of the Blind can help you with certification for library services.
Where can I get books, magazines, or newspapers in large print?
A number of libraries for the blind distribute large print books. Those libraries which do not handle large print directly usually can refer you to local sources of large print material. Most regular public libraries have a small collection of large print books. They can order other titles for you by borrowing them from other public libraries. The New York Times publishes a large print weekly summary of its columns and features. You can order it by contacting the New York Times directly at P. O. Box 5792, New York, New York 10087-5792, telephone (800) 631-2580. Reader's Digest Large Type Edition is available by contacting P. O. Box 241, Mount Morris, Illinois 61054, telephone (800) 877-5293. There is also a weekly large type news magazine entitled The World At Large. Contact The World At Large, P.O. Box 190330, Brooklyn, New York 11219, telephone (800) 285-2743. If you want to buy books, check with your local bookstore. Most of the bookstores carry a few large print titles. They also have catalogs from publishers and can order books especially for you. You may also want to request the free catalog available from The Large Print Book Club, G. K. Hall & Company, 70 Lincoln Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02111. For a comprehensive list of materials which are available in large print, contact the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress for their reference circular entitled "Reading Materials in Large Print." This circular is available free of charge from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress; 1291 Taylor Street, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20542; telephone (202) 707-5100 or (800) 424-9100.
Where can I get a Bible in Braille, large print, or in recorded form?
There are many sources. Here are some of them: American Bible Society 1865 Broadway New York, New York 10023 Phone: (212) 581-7400 Christian Fellowship for the Blind International, Inc. Post Office Box 26 South Pasadena, California 91030 Phone: (818) 799-3935 (These Bibles are free of charge to blind and visually impaired persons.) National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress 1291 Taylor Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20542 Phone: (202) 707-5100 (Will provide you with information on Bibles and other religious material available in Braille, large print, or on cassette.)
Can books for the blind and other specialized items for the blind be mailed without paying postage?
Recorded, Braille, and large print reading matter (including library books and magazines) may be mailed to and from blind persons free of charge if the words "Free Matter for the Blind" are written or stamped on the envelope or package. Braille watches, white canes, and other special appliances for the blind are included in this privilege. We will be happy to answer questions about the Free Reading Matter mail privilege.
Where can I get a good magnifier?
You may want to contact a low-vision center in your own community. When you visit them, you can try magnifiers until you find the one that works best for you. Donegan Optical Company, Inc., 15549 West 108th Street, Post Office Box 14308, Lenexa, Kansas 66215, (913) 492-2500 manufactures a large selection of magnifying equipment. Donegan does not sell directly to individuals but will be glad to refer you to a distributor in your area.
Can an older person who is losing sight continue to live independently?
Yes, usually. There is no reason why an older person who is losing sight cannot learn the techniques to live independently: managing a home, doing cooking, and handling the activities of daily living. It is a matter of self-confidence and having some help in acquiring skills. Many of the things we think require sight really don't. They can be done visually, but they can usually be done in other ways as well. In every state there are governmental agencies that have responsibility for assisting older persons who are losing eyesight in acquiring needed skills, but the quality of the services varies widely. Some state programs are excellent, and others are virtually useless. We can provide a resource list and the names of contacts.
Are there special nursing or retirement homes for elderly blind people?
Almost none. In the early part of this century, homes for the blind were quite common, but very few of them are left. Any good nursing home or retirement center can accommodate blind people adequately. For more details on this issue read the section "Older Blind and Visually Impaired Persons" in this book.
What are some common devices and pieces of equipment that people with limited eyesight find helpful?
Some useful items are: needle threaders and self-threading needles; talking alarm clocks and watches; Braille alarm clocks and watches; white canes; large print and Braille playing cards and other games; talking calculators; talking clinical thermometers; print writing aids such as signature guides; check writing guides and grooved writing boards; and Braille writing equipment and supplies. These items, as well as a great many more, can be obtained from the National Federation of the Blind.
Can I continue to play cards now that I am losing my sight?
Yes. There are decks of cards with greatly enlarged numbers. If you can't see well enough to use these, or even if you can, it will be quite easy to learn enough Braille to read the cards by touch. Only a few symbols have to be memorized, and with a little practice you should find it easy and fun. A deck of Braille cards is simply an ordinary deck of cards with Braille markings added. You will be able to play cards with the same people you have always played with. You can get cards by contacting us.
Are there other games that have been adapted for people who are blind or have limited sight?
Yes. Checkers, chess, scrabble, and others. Regular dominoes can ordinarily be played by touch instead of sight by most persons.
How does a blind person identify money?
Coins can be identified by touch. There are only two times when you need to identify bills: when you are receiving them, and when you are spending them. When you are getting money changed or otherwise receiving bills, there is ordinarily no trouble in getting somebody to tell you what they are. Fold them differently, or put them in different pockets. If you have done this, there will be no problem in knowing what bills you are spending. Some blind persons keep one-dollar bills loose in a pocket and fold fives, tens, twenties, etc. differently and place them in a wallet. The important thing to keep in mind is that handling money is no real problem. For blind persons who operate businesses and receive large amounts of cash on a regular basis from strangers, there is a talking paper money identifier. However, this device costs several hundred dollars and is not regarded as necessary by most blind or visually impaired persons in their daily lives.
How can I read the markings on stoves and other appliances?
There are many ways to do it. Some blind persons cut notches that they can feel. Some use tape. Some use a glob of glue or other plastic substance. We make available a plastic marking substance called Hi-Marks. It doesn't matter how you do it. The important thing is to know that you can, and then use ingenuity.
What measuring devices do blind people use?
Braille rulers and adapted tape measures are used for ordinary measuring. When greater precision is required, a tool called a Rotomatic permits measurements to be made to an accuracy greater than one sixty-fourth of an inch. If even more precision is needed, a Braille micrometer can be used to obtain measurements accurate to one-thousandth of an inch.
Where can blind people get specialized training?
There are a number of regional training centers affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind which provide excellent help. There are also some state government-operated centers and private centers. Ask for our state resource list to obtain information about our regional training center serving your state and about your state government services.
Are there government programs to help the blind in my state?
The government of every state operates a program of training and job placement for blind and visually impaired persons. These programs are largely funded under the federal rehabilitation act. They are administered and staffed by the state but governed by federal regulations and guidelines. These rehabilitation programs vary greatly in quality from state to state. Generally the better ones are those administered by separate agencies for the blind as opposed to those that try to lump the blind in with all other disability groups. Even the best of the government programs fall far short of being able to provide all of the assistance that is needed. Through these programs blind persons who want to find or prepare for employment may be able to get financial assistance to attend college or vocational training courses and may be able to get help in going into business or finding a job.
What jobs can blind people do?
Contrary to general belief, there really are very few jobs which blindness itself rules out. There are blind persons working as electricians, auto mechanics, attorneys, carpenters, dishwashers, secretaries, office and corporate managers, teachers and professors, real estate agents, plumbers, computer and technology specialists, actors, and broadcasters and producers, and in thousands of other jobs. Even though this is true, most (about 70%) of blind persons of employable age are either unemployed or severely underemployed. This is so for two main reasons. First, most blind people have not received the kind of training in specialized skills (especially Braille and mobility) which is necessary for a blind person to be a competent employee. Second, and equally important, blind people themselves, employers, and members of the general public do not believe that a blind employee can do work as productively as a sighted person can. The employment situation for blind people will only improve to the extent that good training is received and beliefs and attitudes are changed. This, of course, is what the National Federation of the Blind is working to accomplish.
Can blind people use computers?
Yes. Blind people use computers that have been adapted so that the material shown on the screen can be converted to speech. Such computers are referred to as "talking computers." Material which can be printed from a computer in inkprint can also be obtained from the computer in Braille format.
Can I make a computer I already have into a "talking computer?"
Yes. You will need two things. The first is a speech synthesizer. This is the hardware or device that actually produces the sounds you hear. The second is software called a screen review program or "screen reader" program. This is software that runs on a computer that gives a blind person the tools to use off-the-shelf computer programs. It allows you to get the system to repeat the information on the screen, read by character, line, sentence, paragraph, screen, page, etc. It also is how you control the speech, speed, tone, pitch, volume, and silence. Without such software a computer would be impossible to use. Speech synthesizers come in both internal and external models. The internal kind is an "expansion card" that goes inside of your computer. The external type is a box that hooks to a serial or parallel output port on your computer. The internal variety is generally more responsive and less expensive but takes up an expansion slot in your computer and is more difficult to move and install. The external variety is generally more expensive but is easy to move from computer to computer. Screen review software costs from $75 to $750. Speech synthesizers cost from $100 to $1500. In general, the more expensive models of the synthesizers have more human-like speech. There are over a dozen each of programs and synthesizers on the market. You are welcome to visit the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind to try out for yourself the various equipment which exists.
Do you have a list of specialized computer-related equipment for the blind?
Yes. Ask for our "Computer Resource List." It lists most such equipment on the market today and gives a brief description; cost; and the name, address, and telephone number of the distributor. The list is free and is available in large print.
What is Job Opportunities for the Blind?
Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Labor in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. JOB offers free services to U.S. residents who are blind and looking for work in the United States. Services include a nationwide reference and job referral service, a job hunter's magazine on cassette (the JOB Recorded Bulletin), recorded job information literature, print materials for employer education, local and national career-planning seminars, consultation on low vision aids and appliances, and introductions to blind peers employed in the jobs of interest to the job seeker. For a sample JOB packet, call (800) 638-7518. JOB offers additional free services and assistance to high schools with programs on transition to the world of work, to counselors of legally blind clients, and to other persons assisting a blind applicant. JOB's volunteers are available in every state. JOB offers employers free, nationwide job listings to locate competent workers who are blind, free consultation on cost-effective solutions for reasonable accommodation needs, and free educational seminars on hiring blind employees. Most employers do not want to be unfair to blind applicants or blind employees. Yet, many are over and over again without knowing it. Generally, employers do not treat the blind unfairly from a malicious will to cause trouble or keep blind persons down and out. They do it because they believe blindness is a tragic condition for anyone. They think blindness takes away most of a person's ability to do most of the things that are needed for most jobs. Although it is not true, employers and others often think blindness causes general incompetence. The average sighted person with little experience regarding blindness tends to think: "If I were blind, I would not be able to drive a car or read books, magazines or newspapers. If I were blind, I would be afraid to walk around, especially in areas with which I was not familiar. If I were blind, I would not be able to recognize people and things visually. [And this reasoning continues] If I were blind, I would not be able to function the way I do. If I could not do my job the way I do without sight, then a blind person could not do it." With a little imagination one can apply this type of reasoning to almost any job--probably every job that exists. If this reasoning were sound, then blind people could not be competitive and should not try to compete for jobs. BUT IT IS NOT SOUND. Blind people can compete in a wide variety of jobs in virtually every type of business. The experience of blind persons is that, with proper training and opportunity, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business--and do it as well as his or her sighted colleagues. Techniques and instruments have been developed that make it possible for blind individuals to do most activities for which sight is ordinarily considered necessary. This is not a matter of theory or speculation. The evidence is abundant and continues to accumulate at a rapid rate. Since World War II, employment opportunities for the blind and other opportunities for the blind have been improving. This change has been slow and gradual. For example, in the early 1950's the few blind persons who were even permitted to take and pass examinations for employment with the federal government were likely to have their names removed from the hiring lists because of blindness. Blind persons objected to this kind of treatment, and by the end of that decade, the policy had been changed. It was possible for blind persons to take some tests to qualify for employment with the federal government, and a few--but a very few--were beginning to be hired. For decades an ongoing effort has been made to develop more and better employment opportunities for the blind. Still, for the blind, work opportunities are limited. Often individuals responsible for hiring do not believe most blind persons can handle a given position, even though some blind persons are already doing it. Often promotions for blind persons do not come when they are deserved and when sighted colleagues in comparable situations receive them. Often supervisors do not give challenging assignments to blind employees. In other words, although progress for blind persons working over the past decades has been substantial, there is a long way to go. This is true of employment with the federal government, with state and local governments, and in private business. Blind people are working as farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, assembly workers, secretaries, and janitors. Blind people are social workers, engineers, librarians, printers, salespeople, machinists, dishwashers, managers, and writers. Blind people are a cross section of society; and, as such, they are doing the whole range of jobs. But, for every blind person who is competitively employed, there are nearly three who are equally well-qualified and eager to work but have not yet found an opportunity. Today it is often possible for blind persons to get the training and education they need to become competitive. It is often not yet possible for a blind person to get the opportunity to work in competitive employment. This is why JOB exists: to improve Job Opportunities for the Blind.
Where can parents of blind children get help?
The best source for such help is the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. This organization, headquartered at the National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230 is a national organization of parents and friends of blind children reaching out to each other to give vital support, encouragement, and information. Parents, relatives, educators, blind adults, and anyone interested in promoting opportunities for blind children may join. Local parent support groups are also welcome to affiliate. The goals of the organization are: 1. To create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society. 2. To provide information and support to parents of blind children. 3. To facilitate the sharing of experience and concerns among parents of blind children. 4. To develop and expand resources available to parents and their blind children. 5. To help parents of blind children gain understanding and perspective through partnership and contact with blind adults. 6. To achieve for the blind security, equality, and opportunity. In order to accomplish these goals, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children sponsors national, state, and local workshops for parents; distributes free literature about blindness; co-sponsors (with the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille) a national Braille reading contest; coordinates a number of networking services, including one for parents of blind multiply handicapped children; and provides information, advice, support, and independent evaluations for parents seeking the best services for their children.
Why don't more blind people (especially those who have been blind from childhood) read Braille?
Unfortunately a great many blind people (including most blind children in school today) have not been taught Braille. Many excuses are offered for this shameful neglect of the basic educational needs of the blind, but we believe that the real reason is that most teachers of blind children do not know Braille at all or do not know it well enough to teach it. In fact, the official statistics paint a grim picture. The number of blind children who can read Braille is declining. In 1968 forty percent of the blind students registered with the American Printing House for the Blind enrolled in elementary and secondary schools read Braille. In 1993 fewer than nine percent of the registered blind students could read Braille. This is a disgraceful situation, and we are doing all that we can do to change it.
What are you doing to try to improve Braille instruction for blind children?
We are working to require that all teachers who teach blind children must pass a Braille competency test developed and administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress.
Is there a library where children's story books in Braille can be borrowed?
The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults operates a national lending library for blind children with a large collection (more than 40,000 volumes) of children's Braille and Twin Vision books. Twin Vision books contain Braille and print pages side by side so that parents and children (regardless of which one is blind and which one is sighted) can read together. Library books are loaned free of charge to individuals and schools. For more information write to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Some local libraries for the blind also loan books appropriate for blind children. Most of these libraries are affiliated with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress; 1291 Taylor Street, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20542. Ask for our "State Resource List."
What is the Braille Readers are Leaders contest?
This is an annual nationwide reading club involving thousands of blind children from kindergarten through high school. The program is jointly sponsored by the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Cash and other prizes are given for the amount of Braille reading done; children receive public recognition; and the attention of the general public is called to the importance and usefulness of Braille.
Where can children's story books in Braille or combination print and Braille be purchased?
Such books can be purchased from the following sources: Braille International, Inc. Attention: William A. Thomas Braille Bookstore 3290 Southeast Slater Street Stuart, Florida 34997 Telephone (407) 286-8366 or (800) 336-3142 National Braille Press 88 St. Stephen Street Boston, Massachusetts 02115 Telephone (617) 266-6160 Seedlings: Braille Books for Children P. O. Box 2395 Livonia, Michigan 48151-0395 Telephone (313) 427-8552
Where can I buy toys for a blind child?
You can find many appropriate toys in your regular toy or department store. For a list of commercially available toys which are especially suitable for blind children or for sources of specially adapted toys and games, write to us at the National Federation of the Blind and ask for our "Toy Resource List."
What is the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille?
The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) is a nationwide organization of blind and interested sighted persons who want to strengthen Braille literacy among the blind. NAPUB has the following objectives: To raise awareness (among the blind as well as the sighted) concerning the importance of reading and writing Braille; to promote and support public and private efforts directed toward the establishment and enlargement of facilities for producing and distributing Braille materials; to seek changes in policies and practices in governmental and private agencies which would cause increases in the availability of Braille reading matter in schools, libraries, and the blind community at large; and to raise standards in the teaching of Braille and the training of those who teach it. In conjunction with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children NAPUB seeks to encourage blind children to develop a proficiency in Braille reading skill, which will enhance their quest for knowledge and provide meaningful recreation. This is done through the sponsorship of a national annual Braille reading contest for school children from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
How can blind adults learn Braille?
Braille instruction for blind adults is offered by a number of training centers. Also many members of the National Federation of the Blind who are skilled Braille readers themselves are willing to help other blind people learn Braille. Regardless of where you live we will be glad to try to help make arrangements on an individual basis.
Can older people who are losing their sight learn Braille--and should they?
Most can if they want to. They use Braille for telephone numbers, card games, personal notes, and labeling canned goods and similar items. Some use it for reading books or magazines. Others get information through different techniques: using a tape recorder for messages, reading books and magazines in recorded form, and learning to make efficient and comfortable use of sighted assistance. The important thing is to realize that there is no single right way. It depends on what works best and most efficiently for the individual. Braille can be fun and useful to the older person who is losing sight, but it should not be viewed as an obligation.
How can a sighted person learn Braille?
The best way is by taking the Braille transcription course offered through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress; 1291 Taylor Street, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20542; telephone (202) 707-5100 or (800) 424-8567.
Are there magazines of special interest to the blind and visually impaired?
There are quite a number. The Braille Monitor is a monthly magazine published by the National Federation of the Blind in Braille, in print, on cassette, and on talking book record. The Braille Monitor keeps blind and interested sighted readers informed about issues, news, and events which have special significance to the blind and those who are losing sight. The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children publishes Future Reflections, a quarterly magazine in print and on cassette tape, which provides insight into all aspects of raising and educating blind and partially sighted children from infancy to adulthood. Contact us to receive without charge the special issue for new subscribers or for further information. The Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind produces in newspaper format a free quarterly publication called the Voice of the Diabetic. Almost a hundred thousand copies are distributed to doctors' offices, hospitals, schools, libraries, social service agencies, and individuals to give information about the problems of diabetics who are experiencing loss of sight and how the problems are being met. Encouragement and facts are provided through personal, firsthand experience. For sample copies or to get on the mailing list of any of these publications contact the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
Is there a special organization for blind or visually impaired students?
Yes. The National Association of Blind Students has membership throughout the country and serves as a self-help group and source of information. It holds a meeting in July of each year in conjunction with the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, as well as regional and local meetings and seminars. It holds a national meeting and seminar each January in Washington, D.C.
What scholarships are available to blind students?
Blind students can take advantage of the same scholarship programs that are available to sighted students and should be encouraged to do so. However, there are also scholarships which are only available to blind students. The National Federation of the Blind, for example, awards over $75,000 a year in scholarships to worthy blind students. Contact us for further information.
I have a dog that I would like to donate to the blind. Can you tell me how I can do this?
A guide dog school may train several breeds of dogs to serve as working guide dogs, or it may train only one. In most cases, however, these schools prefer to breed their own dogs. In some instances the school will accept donations of dogs ranging from one to three years old. These dogs are rarely obtained from outside the community where the school is located. It is important for the schools to examine and observe the dog before accepting it to determine the health, temperament, and social interaction of the dog. Guide dog schools conduct what are known as "puppy programs," or "foster home" programs, in which puppies are placed to live with a family until they are one year old. These foster families are generally found within the school's local community since the families typically attend classes several times per month. While some schools have families who traditionally participate in the "puppy program," most of these foster homes are through local Lions or 4-H Clubs.
Are there some things to keep in mind when you see a blind person using a guide dog?
Yes, a few. Here they are: 1. Never call the dog's name, talk to the dog, or make distracting noises while it is in harness and working. 2. Never feed the dog since feeding it may make control of the dog difficult in a restaurant. 3. Never touch or play with the dog while it is working. 4. Never take hold of the person, the dog, or the dog's harness at any time. The blind person has been taught to listen to traffic patterns and to give the "forward" command when it is safe to cross. Although the dog is color blind, it avoids cars as it would any other obstacle. 5. Do not assume that the dog automatically knows where the blind person wants to go. The blind person must know where he or she is going in order to give the dog the appropriate directional commands. If the blind person is traveling in unfamiliar surroundings he or she may ask for directions just as a sighted person would. 6. When giving directions to a guide dog user, speak only to the person. Do not call the dog or try to get it to follow you. Be specific about where turns are to be made so that the blind person can direct the dog accordingly. 7. If assistance is requested by the blind person, allow the blind person to take your arm or the give the dog a command to follow you. The blind person should be the one to choose which method is best.
Who were the pioneers in the organized blind movement?
There were many, but two stand out: Newel Perry and Jacobus tenBroek. Newel Perry was born in Northern California in 1874. He became both blind and an orphan as a child and was taken to the California State School for the Blind at Berkeley. He was the first blind person ever to graduate from the University of California, where he majored in mathematics. By 1900 he was in Europe, working on a doctor's degree in mathematics. He returned to the United States in 1904 and spent ten years trying to find a job as a university professor, a position for which he was eminently qualified. Every door was closed. In 1914 he decided to return to the California School for the Blind as a teacher so that he might help the next generation of the blind have the opportunities that he had missed. During the next third of a century he trained and developed a remarkable group of successful blind persons: lawyers, administrators, a legislator, and a range of others in various walks of life. His most brilliant student was Jacobus tenBroek, who established the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. Totally blind, tenBroek earned five college degrees, including a doctorate from Harvard and another from the University of California at Berkeley. He wrote five full-length books on subjects of constitutional law and at least a hundred scholarly articles and monographs. He taught at the University of Chicago, was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and received many honors and awards. From the point of view of the blind, however, his most important contribution was his leadership in establishing and promoting the organized blind movement in the United States. He helped blind persons achieve hope and self-belief, and he left behind him a strong and enduring organization. The blind of the United States and the world would not have the opportunity and the prospect for full lives that they have today if it had not been for Newel Perry and Jacobus tenBroek.
Was Helen Keller the first deaf-blind person in the United States to be educated?
Contrary to popular belief, the answer is no. It was Laura Bridgeman, who was born in 1829 and died in 1889. She was a student of Dr. Samuel Howe, Director of Perkins School for the Blind. He worked with deaf-blind students and developed the basic methods of communication later used by Anne Sullivan in her work with Helen Keller. Laura Bridgeman lost her sight and hearing after an attack of scarlet fever when she was two. Her teacher began by taking such common objects as a key, spoon, and knife and pasting on each a label with the name of the object in raised letters. By learning to identify first the objects themselves and then the embossed words for them, she was subsequently able to match a correct unattached label with the appropriate object. Later, she was given the individual letters, which she learned to arrange into words. At first she performed these tasks by rote, until she finally perceived that each object had a name, and her understanding was awakened to the concept of communication through language. She was then given a set of metal types with raised letters at the end and a board with holes into which they would fit, so that they could be read with the finger. She never learned to speak but was taught the manual alphabet of the deaf with words spelled into her hand. This became her primary means of communication. In this manner she studied a variety of advanced subjects.
What are some of the accomplishments of Helen Keller?
Helen Keller was born in 1880 and died in 1968. She became deaf and blind at the age of 19 months through a damaging brain fever. In the beginning her only means of communication was through hysterical laughing or violent tantrums. Later with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller learned to read and write Braille and eventually to speak. She gave lectures and did other public speaking and was the author of a number of books. She earned advanced college degrees, traveled to many countries, and became world renowned.