Imagineering Our Future – NFB Newsletter

 In Advocacy, News and Current Events

Message from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

The year of 2014 has arrived with a celebration of Braille at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Jernigan Institute. Our members did not take much time to ring in the New Year before jumping on planes and trains to come for our 2014 NFB Braille Enrichment through Literacy and Learning (BELL) Program seminar which began on January 2.

As we celebrated Louis Braille’s birthday during our seminar this past weekend, I could not help but recall how important Braille has been in my own growing appreciation of poetry. Poetry can be quite enjoyable when read artfully by a human, but I never gained an appreciation for poetry read by synthesized speech. When I finally had the opportunity to learn Braille, I found poetry to be a different experience. This led me to reflect on the fact that the number fourteen has the significance of being the number of lines in a sonnet. In a sonnet the first eight lines present the problem or question to be pondered, while the final six give the answer.

Thus, maybe 2014 is the year for the solution to the Braille literacy problem in our country to be realized. Maybe this year will be the time when our NFB BELL Program comes to be known all across this country. We need more work on the solution–and it seems poetic to make fourteen our year. During our seminar this past weekend, you could feel the hope and inspiration as Federation members from twenty-four of our affiliates planned and imagined how local communities would be different once the NFB BELL Program was complete in 2014.

Maybe I will make a New Year’s resolution to write a sonnet in honor of the tremendous code that Louis Braille created and that we are now teaching through our NFB BELL Program. Most certainly I will require the use of Braille to complete my task and I think the exercise will help focus my imagination on the innovative solutions that we will forge for the blind in the coming year. I hope your resolutions for this year include a pledge of support to work closely with the NFB to ensure that all blind people can live that the life they want.

Poetically yours,

Graphic: Signature of Mark Riccobono

Mark A. Riccobono, Executive Director
NFB Jernigan Institute

P.S. Check out the video from the Quest for the Salt on the NFB page on YouTube.

What’s News at the NFB

2013 Onkyo Braille Essay Contest Winners

The Onkyo Braille Literacy Essay Contest is administered in the U.S. by the NFB on behalf of the North American/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. The essay contest, which is sponsored by the Onkyo Corporation and the Braille Mainichi, was created to promote Braille literacy and to encourage the sharing of social and cultural information among blind and visually impaired persons.

The essays were required to be written in Braille, and to pertain either to how the individual gains knowledge or independence through Braille, or to an individual concept about world peace from the viewpoint of persons with disabilities. There were two groups of competitors: a junior category for persons up to age twenty-five and a senior category for persons over age twenty-six. Each winner received a substantial cash prize, a plaque, and other gifts from the Onkyo Corporation.

The seven winners from the North America/Caribbean Region were as follows:

Ootsuki Prize
Jerry McKee, Alabama

Excellent Work Award, Senior
Lynn Spittle, South Carolina

Excellent Work Award, Junior
Anna Avramenko, Kansas

Fine Work Award, Senior
Jeremiah Rogers, North Carolina
Carolyn Fish, Virginia

Fine Work Award, Junior
Aspen Poole, New York
Tamer Zaid, Texas

NFB Bid for Equality

Thank you to everyone who supported our Bid for Equality online auction. We are grateful for our members that helped with this effort, including those that spread the word about the auction. And we especially appreciate those that made a “bid for equality.” The package with the highest leading bid was Texas’s two music badges to the South by Southwest Music Festival, including hotel accommodations, which was followed by Indiana’s pearl necklace and earring set and New York’s weekend getaway.

We are excited to report that we received more than $10,000 in bids to support our programs.  We are already looking forward to next year’s auction.

TEACH Act Collaboration

The National Association of Blind Students (NABS) is collaborating with the NFB advocacy and policy department in their efforts to advocate for the Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act. They are collecting stories about blind students’ experiences with higher education, with a goal of collecting stories from constituents living in every congressional district in the United States.

They need stories from current and recent students who are, and have been, affected by the lack of accessibility in the classroom, whether it was through inaccessible instructional materials or a lack of, late, or inadequate accessible materials. Instructional materials could be any form of curricular content, from digital books, to Web content, to PDF, to online digital databases.  If you have information to share, compose your paragraph-long story and send it to Cindy Bennett at Be sure to include a sentence of how accessibility guidelines would have prevented or solved your problem. Please include the school you attend or attended, and any congressional districts that you live in. For example, if your permanent address is in a different congressional district from the district in which you go to school, list both. If you do not know this information, you can use your ZIP code to look it up at

The second way that you can help is by reinforcing the appointments the NFB has with Congress. If someone has an appointment with your congressperson, Cindy will contact you with the date of the appointment, and you can call your congressperson’s office and tell your story. This will show your congressperson that one of their constituents is directly affected by inadequate accessibility and needs the TEACH Act. This part is very important as members of Congress work for their constituents.

If you have any questions, contact Cindy Bennett at or Lauren McLarney at For more information about the TEACH Act, please read the fact sheet found at


Chelsea Cook

Chelsea Cook, who was a student in NFB STEM programs and is now a mentor and instructor in those programs, recently gave a presentation at the Virginia Tech TEDX event.  The link to the video is


The NFB BELL Program

At the NFB Jernigan Institute, we celebrated Louis Braille’s birthday with a planning meeting for our summer Braille program—the NFB BELL program. Members of the NFB, educators, and other leaders in the field of blindness gathered to share information and resources related to hosting engaging and authentic Braille instruction for blind youth across the country. In the summer of 2014, twenty-four states will host NFB BELL programs. Seven of those affiliates—Arizona, the District of Columbia, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Oregon—will host the program for the first time!

Stay tuned for more information about the 2014 NFB BELL programs in the coming months to ensure that the blind children in your life don’t miss out on this exciting learning opportunity. To learn about the NFB BELL programs hosted in the summer of 2013, read the November issue of the Braille Monitor, which contains several articles about the programs that took place throughout the country.


Braille Initiative

Braille Certification Training Program

Under a contract with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (NLS), the NFB administers the courses leading to NLS certification of Braille transcribers and proofreaders. Successful completion of these rigorous courses requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of the students. We congratulate the following individuals who earned certification during the month of October 2013:

Literary Braille Transcribing

Bobby Alan Nunn, Talladega

Jocelyne Cardenas, Pico Rivera
Martin Albert Zahorik, Camarillo

Sean Patrick Murphy, Cheshire

Nola Marie Zimmerman, Richmond

Kim David Archer, Anamosa

Carol Jean Rubin, Minneapolis

New York
Kathy Marie Holden, Hilton

North Carolina
Curtis R. Fields, Laurinburg
Anthony Darrell Long, Laurinburg
Jason DeMartrice Marriner, Laurinburg
Allen Curtis Mayes, Laurinburg
William Jared Rose, Laurinburg
Scott Stephens, Laurinburg

Robert James Loomis, Taft

Ceyma Rena’ Bina, Gatesville
Jennifer Jean Blaschke, Gatesville
Lisa Marie Ortiz, Gatesville
Barbara Leanne Price, Gatesville
Sandra Leilani Reyna, Gatesville
Larissa Ann Saucedo, Gatesville

Therese Beem, Vancouver
Sean Adam Southworth, Vancouver

Traci Lynn McDonald, Cottage Grove

Music Braille Transcribing

Kevin Dyal, Jefferson City


CCSS-Aligned Field Tests Begin in Spring 2014:  Will Your Child Have Access to Accommodations?

Beginning in March 2014, over one million students nationwide will participate in field tests aligned to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will validate test questions and computer-based delivery platforms with students ranging from grades three through twelve when schools administer its Performance-Based Assessment and End-of-Year Assessment.

The NFB is currently investigating the accessibility features available for the impending PARCC field tests, including the availability of Braille and screen access software.  Your feedback on this matter is critical.  School districts were notified in the fall of 2013 whether or not they would be included in the testing.  If your child is scheduled to participate in either the PARCC Performance-Based Assessment or End-of-Year Assessment, NFB needs to hear from you.

Please call Valerie Yingling, paralegal, at 410-659-9314, extension 2440, if your child will participate in the testing.  If you are unsure whether or not your child will be involved, ask your school’s principal.  If your child will not be included in the testing because his or her accommodations will not be available, please call Valerie Yingling.

PARCC field tests may be conducted in the following states and district:  Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.


Product and Access Technology Talk

It is 2014, which means that the access technology team is starting to ready itself for the 29th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, known to its friends as CSUN. We will be presenting at the conference in San Diego, as we usually do. The topics this year are varied: Phones for Low Vision and Blind Seniors, 3D Printing and 3D Creation for Tactile Graphics, Communication Technologies for Those Who are Deaf-Blind, Non-Visual Access to Cloud Productivity Suites on Mobile Devices, and Non-Visual Access to Cloud Productivity Suites on Desktop Computers.

Prior to that in March, Anne Taylor and John Baker, CEO of longstanding ally Desire2Learn, will be on a panel with the title “Education for All – Accessibility Innovations” at legendary tech, music, film, and more festival, South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas. They will be joined by Kel Smith from Anikto LLC and David Rose from CAST. You can find more information on this panel here:

Finally, keep an eye on this space for information about technology day at the 2014 NFB National Convention in Orlando this summer; we expect to be announcing those sessions very soon.


From the tenBroek Library

Are you interested in conducting research at the tenBroek Library?

We are pleased to welcome researchers interested in many of the aspects of blindness, with the exception of its treatment and prevention. Our collections focus on the organized blind movement, the education of blind children, disability law and policy, the history of attitudes toward blind people, and literary works by blind authors. We work hard to preserve the history of blind people in a variety of ways, including collecting NFB literature, maintaining the Federation’s archives, and building our collections of archival papers and published works. We also document the life experiences of blind people in the United States in interviews collected through our oral history program.

Our collections are open for use by all and the holdings of the tenBroek Library can be accessed in three ways:

  • The Blind Cat: Our online public access catalog (OPAC) where researchers can search our collection of published materials. The scope of our published materials, which extends to all facets of blindness except the medical treatment or prevention of blindness, includes print, talking book, Braille, and digital formats.
  • The Cane Tip: Our online finding aid database describes the manuscript and archival collections held by the library, including the personal and professional papers of NFB Founder Jacobus tenBroek, the papers of past NFB President Kenneth Jernigan, and the NFB Institutional Archives, as well as several smaller collections.
  • E-mail: Send your reference questions to and we’ll contact you to discuss your project!

To learn more about the holdings of the Jacobus tenBroek Library, please visit the Blind Cat, the Cane Tip, or contact us by e-mail at to schedule a visit!


Independence Market

If you have left it to the last minute to get a Braille or large-print 2014 calendar, the NFB Independence Market can help. The following 2014 calendars and planners are available for ordering.

2014 American Action Fund Braille Calendar
This comb-bound, pocket-sized Braille calendar measures 6 x 6 1/2 inches. Each calendar page includes the days of the month and lists major holidays. A page for personal notes is in the back. The calendar is available free of charge.

2014 Large-Print Calendar
This spiral-bound, large-print appointment calendar measures 8 1/2 x 11 inches with inside pockets. Each month is displayed on two facing pages and features two-inch blocks for each day of the month. The months are tabbed and include a section for monthly notes as well as a three-month calendar overview. The calendar costs $10.00, plus shipping and handling.

2014 Large-Print Planner
This organizer, designed with low-vision professionals in mind, features easy-to-read large print. The spiral-bound, 144-page planner, with a black leatherette cover, measures 8 1/2 x 11 inches. All calendar views are spread over two pages and include current and upcoming year-at-a-glance views, as well as twelve monthly and fifty-three weekly views. Pages for names and addresses, notes, and personal information are also included. The calendar costs $20.00, plus shipping and handling.

2014 Large-Print Wall Calendar
When fully opened, this monthly wall calendar measures 22 x 17 inches. The daily boxes are 2-1/4-inch squares and the numbers marking the date are 3/4 inch tall. The date markers are in the top right corner. At the bottom, there are four lines for notes between small versions of the previous- and next-month calendars. The calendar also includes an overview for the previous and next years. The calendar costs $10.00, plus shipping and handling.

Products, including the items listed above, can be ordered from the NFB Independence Market online or by phone.  For more information, contact us via e-mail at,or by phone at 410-659-9314, extension 2216.

NFB Calendar

Upcoming Events

Washington Seminar – Great Gathering-In – January 27, 2014

Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, “Disability Rights in the 21st Century: Creative Solutions for Achieving the Right to Live in the World” – April 24-25, 2014

NFB National Convention at the Rosen Center – July 1-6, 2014

Start of the NFB’s 75th year – November 16, 2014


More and more the words (and therefore, the thoughts and the deeds) of the work place and the home, the school and the church, the street and the playground reflect this new mood. And underlying it all, fueling the change and focusing the progress, is (as it has been for the past half century) the National Federation of the Blind. With all of the problems and all of the work we still have to do, we come to this meeting tonight with a feeling of hope and a mood of gladness. We come with a joy and a certainty of triumph. At long last we know who we are and what we must do. We are organized, confident, and prepared for what lies ahead—and no force on earth can turn us back. Our words, our thoughts, and our dreams reach for a tomorrow which is bright with promise, and the heart of that promise is the individual determination of each of us and the unshakable power of our vehicle for collective action—the National Federation of the Blind. The past has belonged to others, but the future belongs to us. Let us speak, think, and act in support of each other—and we will make it all come true!

–Marc Maurer. “Language and the Future of the Blind.” Banquet speech, 1989 NFB National Convention, Denver, Colorado, July 8, 1989.

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