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Friday, November 30, 2018




(Up there on top you got the NFB of Colorado Logo followed by “Live the life you want.”)

Blind Coloradoan Blog December 1, 2018
Here is what you need to know in brief.

Something to Bark About. NFB Newsline has gone to the dogs! No, we are not talking about the trouble we have had with the Colorado Springs Gazette of late. Sorry. We are working on it. We are talking about the availability of the magazine Dog Star. If you are a dog lover, you should check it out. If you have a guide dog, you will likely find pertinent doggie articles. There are dozens and dozens of magazines for our education and entertainment on NFB Newsline. If you are not a subscriber, it’s free! If you are a subscriber, when is the last time you pushed 7 from the main menu to listen to the list of available magazines? NFB Newsline is a service of which we can be very proud. Something to bark about.

They Had A BLAST. Again, this year the Colorado Association of Blind Merchants was well represented at Business Leadership and Superior Training, BLAST. Our crowd joined approximately 700 BLAST participants for an unparalleled tradeshow, training seminars, receptions, leadership development, and networking opportunities. The November, San Antonio, conference featured a tradeshow with access technology, micro markets and vending machines, food service and vending products and services. Brad Basta is President of our Colorado Association of Blind Merchants. Brad also serves as Chair of the Colorado Business Enterprise Program’s elected committee of blind operators. The Colorado BEP has experienced a period of significant growth lately. Growth comes with some growing pains. The training at BLAST allows program participants opportunities to hear from federal officials, leading vend operators from the private sector, colleagues from across the nation, and other subject matter experts. Unfortunately, the vaunted San Antonio weather, typically sunny and warm, was shrouded in chilly, misty, cloudy gloom! The gloom did not doom the conference. For more info about all matters related to BEP contact Brad Basta, bmfvend@yahoo.com.

Where Did They Go? She taught Home Management at the Colorado Center for the Blind, but, she did so much more for our Center and all the students she served. This fall, Maureen Nietfeld went off to have a beautiful, bouncing baby boy. CCB will definitely miss Maureen’s highly creative, open, steadfast, loving presence. Of course, Maureen is not going anywhere. As usual, she takes on more in one day than most of us can do in a month! I am told she is going to work part time, go to school, raise a baby, serve as President of our Colorado affiliate’s Sport and Rec. Division. Congratulations Maureen and David, and welcome baby Logan to the Federation family. You should follow Maureen on Facebook. It’s fun to share her journey.

The Center has also lost the talents of Wayne Marshall. Wayne’s dedication to the seniors he taught and the other students for whom he role-modeled was a joy to observe. And, like all staff members at the Colorado Center for the Blind, his title also included, “duties as assigned.” Wayne established and was President of our NFBCO Aurora chapter. Wayne decided to move back to Georgia to be closer to family. Enjoy the family, Wayne. You are welcome here with your Colorado Federation family anytime!

I Wish I Had Received A Braille Letter from Santa When I Was A Wee Blind Lad. I know we mentioned this item in the last blog. If you know of a wee blind lass or lad, please tell Santa. I never got a letter in braille from Saint Nick. So, feel free to let Kriss Kringle know that he could make up for it by bringing little Kev a new braille note. To make a request, fill out the online form located at www.nfb.org/santa-letters. Requests must be received no later than December 14 so that Santa’s letter will arrive before Christmas.

Strike Up the Band! Seeking blind musicians, singers, songwriters, performers. Will you be playing for your holiday supper this year? We are assembling a directory of musicians. Amateur or professional. Sing it sister! Bring it brother! Are you looking for a gig? Are you performing a recital, providing music for a holiday gathering? Do you publish your songs? Do you know of a blind child taking lessons with an interest in performance? Please, lay it down for us. Send me name, phone number, email, experience, current effort, and aspiration. NFB of Colorado has often been treated to the National Anthem sung by Jen Spears at State Conventions. We often hear from Eric Woods and his collection of Stray Dogs. So, what’s your tune? Contact me, kevan@wefitwellness.com, or call 303-929-2369.

Blind Coloradoan Centerfold. Va-Va-Va-Voom! Ok, no hot pictures of guys or girls. I just wanted your attention. As many of you know, I graduated from the Colorado Center for the Blind many, many, many years ago. The Center changed my life. Over the past 30 years it has changed the lives of thousands. We are blessed to have this resource here in the beautiful state of Colorado. We love Colorado and we love our Center. So, forget Giving Tuesday, Black Friday, Wacky Wednesday, Throw Back Thursday. Please, please give to the Colorado Center for the Blind on Colorado Gives Day. Please urge your family and friends to give at least a few dollars to a cause as big as our Rocky Mountains. The more money we can raise, the more we will be eligible for some matching dollars. In recent years we have raised as much as $15,000 through Colorado Gives Day. I will be making my contribution before this letter goes to press. Support Us on Colorado Gives Day Dec. 4.

Who’s Your Santa? Come On! Who’s Your Santa? Who’s Your Santa? Dan Burke, co-aggregator of these blogs, posted about the Denver chapter’s upcoming holiday party to be held on Saturday, December 15th, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Colorado Center for the Blind. He said that blind Santa will be in attendance. He said that there will be eats, Christmas songs, and the white elephant scrum. Colorado Springs chapter is having one of those get togethers on December 8th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Old Chicago on Academy and Austin Bluffs. For info about other NFBCO holiday events read the Blind Coloradoan posted on November 21st. Remember that these blogs are also posted on NFB Newsline for your edification.

Here is some good cheer from our Grand Valley chapter; President Margaret Williams and Chapter Marketing Maven, Rob Harris. On Friday, December 7th, be sure to join us for our monthly meeting, from 10 a.m. to noon at Mesa County Independence Center, 740 Gunnison Avenue. But wait! There is more! Parents, families, friends, and volunteers! The Parents of Blind Children gathering hosted by the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Grand Valley Chapter will be happening Tuesday, December 11th, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mesa County Arc, 845 Grand Avenue. Eats provided!

Steppin’ Out! WE Fit Wellness and NFBCO Sports and Rec. Division invites you to step out with us! For the next six months, USABA will partner with 17 organizations across the United States to provide more than 450 blind and visually impaired youth and adults with opportunities to increase their physical fitness levels and live healthier, more active lives. WE Fit Wellness will be partnering with USABA and the Anthem Foundation to develop events, offer coaching, and support to those of us here in Colorado. Participants get their own Fit Bit. Check your eligibility and get assistance. Email Jessica Beecham, Executive Director, WE Fit Wellness, jessica@wefitwellnes.com. Come on, Colorado! Go team, go! Join us for the National Fitness Challenge!

Blue Wave? Red Wave? Blind Wave? Join Us on The Hill. The Great Gathering In at Washington Seminar will take place at 5 p.m. January 28th. It will be an interesting time in our nation’s Capital. Click the link, get the scoop at www.nfb.org/washington-seminar.

Walgreens Joins the Aira Access Network to Provide Free Aira Service in Stores Nationwide. Walgreens, one of the nation’s largest retailers, is the latest to join the Aira Access Network to provide free Aira service to shoppers who are blind or low vision. Shoppers can take advantage by downloading the Aira app on their Apple or Android phone, completing a quick registration, and placing a call when visual assistance is needed. Read the full press release, www.aira.io/walgreens.

Before putting this issue to bed, I tried to reach my partner in rhyme, Dan Burke. But I was told that he was elbow deep in pizza dough. “Duties as assigned.”

We aren’t promising a regular publication schedule, but we are working with our social media and NFB Newsline teams to bring you greater access to more current information about items in which you may have interest. We will be finding a space on our website and in social media and we will be posting all this information on NFB Newsline. We will also post on Colorado Talk and we will be developing other channels as we move forward. We will need your announcements and any brief observations. Just send me a note and we will get started.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Your Thanksgiving Blind Coloradan




(Up there on top you got the NFB of Colorado Who’s It)


Blind Coloradoan Blog November 21, 2018

Here is what you need to know in brief.
The most recent state convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado was one for the history books. One of the highlights was the seminar entitled “How Did We Get Here?” The attendees were able to interact with a distinguished panel facilitated by Dan Burke, co-editor of this Blind Coloradoan Blog. The powerful panel included Dr. Marc Maurer, President Emeritus and the longest-serving President of the National Federation of the Blind; Diane McGeorge, Founder and now Chair of the Colorado Center for the Blind Board of Directors and long-time President of the NFB of Colorado; Peggy Chong, the Blind History Lady and Recipient of a 2018 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award; and Madeline Williams, Ph.D. candidate in history at Harvard. The Blind Coloradoan will feature pieces of that history in future additions. 
In last month’s Blind Coloradoan, we wrote of the Mission to Nocterra, a pitch-black puzzle room intended to put sighted and blind people on equal footing. As you walked in you were told about how we found an alien vessel containing samples of the Nocterran planet, whose sun emits all wavelengths except light.  Each of the five walls inside had a unique puzzle to explore and solve and each person entering got one wall for herself for the 10-minute allotted time. This exhibit was brought to the convention by the Colorado Center for the Blind. I am sure it won’t be the last time people will be able to enjoy this escape room. The lines were long, so I did not get a chance to try it. During October and November, one fun Fall adventure often taken by some of my friends is to ramble through a corn maze. I have always wanted to try it. I wonder how me and my trusty guide dog, Onyx, would do? 
And now, for audience participation, we describe the escape room as a pitch-black puzzle room. I am curious, if someone asks you what you see as a blind person what do you say? Being totally blind I am often asked, well what do you see? One response that often occurs to me is, “well, interested sighted person, what do you see out of the back of your head. It’s not dark. It’s just nothingness.” Dear reader, does that make any sense to you? Thoughts? 
Speaking of seeables, a.k.a., pictures, I need yours. We have colleagues and friends who would like to see pictures of the things we do. So, take some pictures. Send them to me. How about a selfie with you and your turkey. Just an idea. Seriously, I need pictures! Otherwise we have five or six pages of unbroken text. Makes your eyes hurt, your ears ache, and your fingers blistered with all that text. 
Let’s chat chapter. Don’t miss upcoming chapter meetings and holiday parties during December. Below, find a brief list for your consideration. 
·      Colorado Springs will have its annual Christmas part at Old Chicago on Academy and Austin Bluffs on Dec. 8th from 11 am to 2 pm. If you want to participate in the white elephant gift exchange, bring a wrapped gift valued no more than $10....that's right, $10 or under! 
·      Boulder Valley Chapter will have a Holiday Open House at Maryann Migliorelli’s house starting at 3 p.m. on December 8th. Contact her for more information, mrsmigs@mirgliorelli.org
·      Grand Valley Chapter will have its annual Christmas party December 7that the Center for Independence, 740 Gunnison Ave. They will also be gift wrapping at Barnes and Nobel. Contact Margaret Williams for more information about the dates and times, 970- 314-7676. 
·      Pueblo will have its annual Christmas party December 8thstarting at noon at 85 Stanfort Ave.
·      Denver invites you to their chapter holiday festivities, Colorado Center for the Blind, 2233 West Sheppard Saturday, December 15th from 10 a.m. until whenever. They will wrap it up around 1 or 2. Cheers!  
If you would like us to chat about your chapter send me the information. 
Next Fundraiser for the Blind Parent Division. A Christmas Carol. Date: Sunday, December 16, 2018. Time: 1:30 pm. Place: Stage Theatre. Ticket Price: $35. The show will be 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission. Essential to the holiday season in Denver, A Christmas Carol is a joyous and opulent musical adaptation that traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge's triumphant overnight journey to redemption. For information, I am told you can contact Lorinda Riddle, 303-778-1130, or email, lriddle@cocenter.org
Do you have an Ebenezer Scrooge Award nomination? Which Ebenezer Scrooge do you hope will find redemption? Here is my list: National Accreditation Council (NAC), The AbilityOne Commission for deciding to establish a third central non-profit agency without consultation with the organized blind. How about Wal-Mart for their inaccessible self-checkout stations. What about Goodwill for continuing to pay many employees with disabilities sub-minimum wage. I look forward to hearing about your Scrooge Award nominations. 
And then there is this. Some have begun calling this the social event of the season. You can get the information by contacting Brad Basta, bmfvend@yahoo.com. The Wild West Chapter and the Colorado Association of Blind Merchants invite you to their Holiday Soiree. Advance tickets are a must. Make your reservations with Brad, learn about the meal and ticket pricing. You never know who will attend. Last year I saw the power couple David and Maureen Nietfeld, and NFB of Colorado State President Scott LaBarre and First Lady Anahit LaBarre. And this year I saw the name of Steve Anton, Director of the Colorado Department of Vocational Rehabilitation on the guest list. 
Speaking of Steve. At the recent NFBCO Convention, we passed 7 resolutions. One of which offered our appreciation and congratulations to the Director of Vocational Rehabilitation Steve Anton and the soon-to-be retired Julia Zanon, Manager, Blindness and Low Vision Services. Almost three years ago they made it happen. They worked to ensure that Colorado now has a unique unit to provide targeted services to blind and low vision citizens. Resolution 2018-03 Regarding Colorado Blind and Low Vision Services reads, in part, “WHEREAS, this  unit  stood up  under  the leadership  and  stewardship of  the  Director of  the  Division of  Vocational  Rehabilitation  Steve Anton;  and  WHEREAS, the  unit  was nurtured,  developed,  and supervised  by  its first  manager  Julia Zanon  along  with her  team  of committed  professionals;  and WHEREAS,  Julia  Zanon has  served  the blind  of  Colorado with  professionalism,  grace, and  distinction  for almost  30  years; and  WHEREAS,  Blind and  Low  Vision Services  (BLVS)  Manager Zanon  will  retire at  the  end of  2018;  and WHEREAS,  BLVS  has garnered  acclaim  from clients,  employers,  and stakeholders  including  the National  Federation  of the  Blind  for the  immediate  impact the  unit  has  had  on the  lives  of hundreds  of  Colorado’s citizens  who  are blind  and  low vision:  Now,  therefore, BE  IT  RESOLVED by  the  National Federation  of  the Blind  of  Colorado in  Convention  assembled this  twenty  sixth day  of  October, 2018,  in  the City  of  Lone Tree,  Colorado,  that this  organization  commend the  Director  of  the  Colorado Division  of  Vocational Rehabilitation  Mr.  Steve Anton  for  his community  spirit,  dedication to  the  Blind and  Low  Vision Services  mission,  and his  unwavering  quest to  understand,  communicate, collaborate,  and  lead with  kindness  and warmth;    and BE  IT  FURTHER RESOLVED  that  we applaud  our  blind sister  and  first manager  of  the Blind  and  Low Vision  Services  unit Julia  Zanon  for more  than  29 years  of  dedicated service  to  the blind  of  Colorado; and    BE  IT FURTHER  RESOLVED  that this  organization  pledge to  continue  working closely  with  BLVS to  ensure  that all  Colorado  citizens are  given  the opportunity  to  open the  doors  which will  allow  us to  live  the lives  we  want.” The entire text of resolutions can be heard on NFB Newsline and you will soon find them up on the NFBCO website. There is even one about blind hockey! Big thanks to the NFBCO Resolution Committee co-chairs Dan Burke and Brent Batron. Big thanks to Chris Parsons for her help with proofreading and other tasks. 
I challenge you! The National Federation of the Blind Braille Readers are Leaders contest is now open! So is the Braille Challenge. The Braille Challenge: Students in grades 1-12 are invited to compete in a series of five skills contests demonstrating braille reading and comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading, and tactile graphics. Colorado Regionals. Students test your skills at one of two locations!   
Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind Regional Braille Challenge
•          Thursday, January 17, 2019
•          9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
          Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind
           33 North Institute Street
          Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Denver Metro Regional Braille Challenge 
•          Thursday, January 24, 2019
•          9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.           
Colorado Center for the Blind
2233 W. Shepperd Avenue
Littleton, CO 80120 
Permission forms must be signed and returned by January 10, 2019.
Please contact Diane Covington with questions and for the permission form, dcovington@csdb.org or 719-578-2225.

Calling all kids, teachers, and parents! The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, in partnership with the NFB Jernigan Institute and The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, announces the annual Nation-wide Braille Readers Are Leaders (BRAL) contest for kids. Entrants compete to read the most Braille pages, going against other students in similar grades across all participating states. The contest runs for seven weeks, encouraging students to be proud of their Braille reading ability and to work to improve their Braille skills -- while possibly winning prizes in the process. For each student who enters, a certifying official (parent, teacher, etc.) must fill out and submit a registration form, https://www.nfbofillinois.org/BrailleContest/NationwideBRALREGISTRATIONFORM2018-2019.rtf

In the words of that fun NFB song, sung to the tune of Jingle Bells, “Braille is here. Braille is here. Braille is here to stay!” Once again, the National Federation of the Blind is helping Santa Claus send letters in Braille to young blind children across the country. More than ten years ago, Santa asked us to be his honorary elves. Ever since, we have been helping him send letters in contracted Braille to blind boys and girls who are ten years old and younger in the United States.  Along with the Braille letter, Santa includes a print letter so that parents who might not read Braille can follow along.  He also includes a fun tactile coloring sheet. To make a request, fill out the online form located at www.nfb.org/santa-letters.  Requests must be received no later than December 14 so that Santa’s letter will arrive before Christmas.

Washington Seminar is just around the corner. A number of NFBCO members will be heading to visit our Colorado Congressional Delegation in D.C. Festivities kick off on Monday, January 28. We will be on Capital Hill trying to educate members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation on Tuesday the 29thand Wednesday the 30th. The planning begins now! For information about the work we will do you can contact Dan Burke at 303-778-1130. If you have a personal connection with one of our Colorado members of congress talk with Dan about it. There may be some funding available to help members defray costs. Stay tuned for further information. Just one more good reason to read your Blind Coloradoan. 

Here is a note from the National Federation of the Blind President Mark Riccobono. Scholarship Application Now Available. Every year through our scholarship program, we award more than $120,000 to blind scholars from throughout the United States in recognition of their achievements and professional aspirations. The scholarship application period opened on November 1 and runs through March 31, 2019. To learn more and to apply, please visit our new scholarship webpage at www.nfb.org/scholarships. 
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado State Scholarship chair-person, Jessica Beecham, tells Santa that our state scholarship application form will be available for distribution December 15. Let’s make sure all students know about our robust! State and National Scholarship Programs!  

Thanksgiving Traditions. On Thanksgiving I will often watch the classic concert movie, The Last Waltz. I usually find time for the famous WKRP episode, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” And I always play Arlo Guthrie’s 25-minute anti-war folk ballad, Alice’s Restaurant. For those of you who do not know that song, it is all about Thanksgiving dinner, being busted for littering, and the draft board. It’s a great sing along! You ought to try it! But here is another tradition. You can listen to some of the most iconic NFB banquet addresses on NFB Newsline. Enjoy the spoken word version or the text version. The system currently is featuring speeches by Kenneth Jernigan, Marc Maurer, and Mark Riccobono. 
Start by pressing one off the main menu and enjoy. I mean, how much football can one person endure?! 

Who’s up for a little flag football sometime this weekend? I am reminded of the Jerry Whittle article about the flag football played at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Yes, the blind can play football as adapted. Read all about it in the December 2012 Braille Monitor or the Summer 2013 Future Reflections. 

Scott LaBarre will be honored on November 29 at the first annual San Francisco Lighthouse Gala. Scott will be honored for his work to combat the book famine through the recently passed Marrakesh Treaty. NFBCO President LaBarre was appointed by Doctor Marc Maurer to lead our effort back in 2009. The President of the United States signed enactment legislation into law last month. Simply put, the treaty and related pieces of legislation will make it possible for more blind people of the world to access literature. Negotiation and passage of this far-reaching treaty was not an easy lift nor was it a forgone conclusion. On Thursday the 29th, our President LaBarre and our Federation will receive a well-deserved award. Congratulations President LaBarre! At this time of Thanksgiving we are grateful for the hard work you and your family do for the blind of Colorado and the world. 

I am making a personal appeal to you. It goes like this: 
1) Reach out to the parent of a blind child and tell them about Braille Readers are Leaders, The Braille Challenge, and how they can get their child a letter in Braille from Santa.
2) As you know, the Colorado Center for the Blind is a sister organization. We need to find ways to fund our CCB programs. I invite you to consider contributing to our Center on or before Colorado Gives Day. Spread the word. When we contribute on or before December 4, our contributions allow the Center to secure matching dollars from the Colorado Gives fund. I will be making my contribution before this newsletter is even published. Join me won’t you. www.cocenter.org. If you have trouble making an online contribution call the Center and someone there can help you do it on the phone. As easy as pumpkin pie! Almost as sweet as Diane McGeorge fudge! And much better than Worley’s turkey! 

Did you vote? What was your experience? The Online Survey of Blind and Low Vision Voters Closes November 30th! Please complete the blind and low vision voter experience survey, the link to the survey is www.nfb.org/votersurvey. Red, Blue, or Purple if you voted we need to hear from you. There is no rhyme for purple. I was thinking that orange was the only word without rhyme. My Google search turns out that there are many. My favorite, you might imagine, is discombobulate. Whether your voting experience was easy or discombobulate we want to hear from you.

The Blind Coloradoan is aggregated by myself and Dan Burke. We need your feedback and material. We will edit as appropriate. I will make snide observations about it. And we will all be thankful for it. We aren’t promising a regular publication schedule, but we are working with our social media and NFB Newsline teams to bring you greater access to more current information about items in which you may have interest. We will be finding a space on our website and in social media and we will be posting all this information on NFB Newsline. We will also post on Colorado Talk and we will be developing other channels as we move forward. We will need your announcements and any brief observations. Just send me a note and we will get started. 


Saturday, November 10, 2018

I Voted Twice

I wore a sticker on Election Day that said "I Voted", but it should have said "I Voted Twice!" I know a handful of other blind Coloradans who also voted two, sometimes three times.

Maybe a sticker saying, "I voted - again and again ..."?

This isn't about voter fraud. This is about the failure of equal access to our right to vote privately and independently. This is about blind voters standing firm in the face of this failure.

You see, our first times through the ballot were not recorded. The problem, and the reason we all voted again, was that the electronic voting system deployed across Colorado that the law requires to ensure our right to vote privately and independently failed us. Once, twice, and in at least one case three times it failed individual blind voters in Arapahoe County. And it happened in at least four different polling locations. One blind voter tried two times and the system crashed each time. Finally, frustrated and worn out, he made the unhappy choice to revert to the dark age of voting for the blind - he told a poll judge what his votes were and trusted that they would be recorded accurately.

Those days should be behind us. As of 2006, all polling places were required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to have electronic voting machines. That was in response to dimpled, pregnant and hanging chads in Florida 2000. But the law also required that those machines - or at least some of them in every polling place - would be accessible to voters with disabilities, including blind voters. We in the National Federation of the Blind made sure that last was true - that a blind person could vote privately and independently with nonvisual access. That is the America we envisioned. And it's almost come true.

Frustratingly, it's only almost. It's only sometimes.

For years Colorado left the choice of accessible voting systems up to each county. In 2015 it decided to pick one vendor and have all the counties use that same system. That's how we got the present Dominion voting system. The trouble with the selection process was that blind people weren't at the table. We didn't even get a call until the field testing of the four finalists. On a day or two's notice, the NFB of Colorado was asked to send testers to three of the four locations testing individual systems. Another blind person had been found to test the system tested in Denver County. As it happens, that was the machine that was chosen. But blind people were just an afterthought. Not actually at the table, we were tossed table scraps. And then Colorado's Secretary of State made an eight-year agreement with Dominion.

Some counties just rolled out their Dominion systems this election, but Arapahoe deployed it in 2016. So far, I only know of Arapahoe County problems in 2018, which seems counter-intuitive. But the fact is that Julie and I voted in the primary in June without incident. The Wednesday before Election Day, we went to a nearby polling place and the judges couldn't get the system to the first contest, even with two phone calls to the elections help desk. We left after 45 minutes without voting. Monday, the day before Election Day, we went to another polling place. We sat side-by-side at different machines. Julie's machine worked fine. Mine crashed after I completed all 45 contests. By crashed I mean it reset itself. The poll supervisor was like an ER doctor trying to resuscitate an accident victim. Valiant, but no hope. In Colorado, our ballots are not recorded electronically. There is nothing to count until the ballot has printed and you can drop it in the slot. For me, and all of my friends who voted more than once, the system crashed before we ever got to the point of printing the ballot. They too had to vote again. And maybe again.

In the twelve years since HAVA put accessible voting machines into polling places, I think I have experienced problems in voting as many as half the times I've been to the polls. And I go to the polls for every election. So this means the past five years since I moved to Colorado, and the preceding seven years in Missoula County, Montana. This just isn't good enough and I hope by now you, dear reader, have the feeling that I'm mad as hell.

It only took a few swipes through my Face Book feed on Election Day to see that things are much the same with blind voters across the country. Many experienced flawless access, voting privately and independently. Many others experienced barriers. Nationwide, it seems, the promise of private, independent access for the blind is not yet fully realized.

I know we can work with our County Clerk and Recorder to figure out where the problems are and take steps to fix things that are within the county's control. But this is a statewide system, so we also need to contact Secretary-elect Jena Griswold. Dominion, the company who has our Colorado contract for 6 more years needs to step up. We want and deserve a system that does more than go "clunk" half the time. And one of the ways to ensure that is to have blind people testing and evaluating the system and modifications long before they hit our polling places.

We need to fix this, because we're not going away. All of us blind Colorado voters whose franchise was jacked around this week kept coming back, kept voting until it counted. That's because we count, and we will be counted. And I'll be damned if I report my vote to someone else to mark down ever again.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our 2018 Legislative Memorandum & HB1104

Editor's Note: Below is the Legislative Memorandum we distributed on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 to all 65 members of the Colorado House and 35 members of the Colorado Senate. We hold a Day at the Capitol every year. This year's Valentine's Day at the Capitol focused on passing HB 18-1104, the Family Preservation Safeguards for Parents with Disability, sponsored by Rep. Jessie Danielson. The first hearing on HB 18-1104 will be held on Tuesday, February 20 at 1:30.

MEMORANDUM


To: The Members of the Colorado General Assembly
From: The Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Date: February 14, 2018
Re: Legislative Concerns of Blind Citizens

GENERAL BACKGROUND


The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in the United States and in Colorado. The primary mission of the Federation is to allow the blind to live the lives they want in all areas of life from ensuring basic civil rights to securing employment and education for the blind. Founded officially in 1955, the NFB of Colorado engages in several programs specifically designed to create greater opportunities for the blind. For example, the Federation is the chief sponsor of the Colorado Center for the Blind. The Colorado Center provides training in the alternative skills blind people need to become fully participating members of society. Additionally, NFB offers national and statewide scholarships. We also provide a free talking newspaper called NFB-NEWSLINE® which allows the blind of our state to read the daily newspaper just as easily as their sighted peers. We advocate for the rights of the blind in all areas ranging from education to employment. Where positive changes are happening in the blindness field, there is a good chance that the Federation is involved.

2018 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA


First, we urge this Assembly to adopt H.B. 18-1104, The Family Preservation Safeguards for Parents With Disabilities Act, to create protections for parents who are blind or otherwise disabled from losing their right to parent based on their disability. Second, we strongly support increased state funding for NFB-NEWSLINE® which brings daily newspapers and other periodicals to the blind of Colorado in accessible formats. Third, we would like to make the Assembly aware of important programs of the Federation such as our Colorado Center for the Blind and our academic scholarships.

For further information contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com 

SUPPORT THE FAMILY PRESERVATION SAFEGUARDS FOR PARENTS
WITH DISABILITIES ACT, H.B. 18-1104


The United States Supreme Court has avowed continuously and with conviction that parents’ rights to the care and custody of their children are protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Beginning with the seminal 1923 decision in Meyer v. Nebraska. Far too often, however, this fundamental right has not been extended to the millions of parents who are blind and who have other disabilities. In Colorado, current law allows disability to be a factor on which important parental rights can be denied. That is why we urge you to adopt The Family Preservation Safeguards for Parents With Disabilities Act, H.B. 18-1104, introduced by Representative Jessie Danielson.

The problem with current Colorado law is that a parent’s disability can be used to limit important rights such as parenting time, the ability to serve as a foster parent, or to adopt. Additionally, disability can also be used to remove a child from a parent or to appoint burdensome guardianships when not truly necessary. This creates a situation where the parent must then prove that his or her disability does not negatively affect the parent’s ability to insure the best interest of the child. Often times, decisions limiting the right of parents with disabilities are founded on misconceptions and stereotypes about disability and such decisions do not take into account support services that can be offered and adaptive techniques that allow parents with disabilities to care for children safely and meaningfully as others without disabilities. This results in over thirteen percent of parents with disabilities reporting significant forms of discrimination like a child’s removal from the family.

H.B. 18-1104 protects against unfair and unlawful discrimination based on disability by reversing the legal burden necessary for making decisions limiting the right to parent and by requiring that courts and other decision makers consider support services and alternative parenting techniques before making the ultimate decision in all matters affecting parental rights. Because the right to parent is fundamental and afforded great protection, misconceptions and prejudice about a characteristic like disability should not be used to limit this Constitutional right. Under H.B. 18-1104, those arguing that a physical or mental disability does in fact negatively affect the welfare of the child must prove, through clear and convincing evidence, that a parent’s disability does in fact endanger the child’s welfare. In making such a decision, the availability of support services for the parent with a disability and the use of alternative parenting techniques must be considered. Nothing in this legislation will limit the ability of decision makers to protect a child’s safety and well-being if a disability is in fact threatening same. The bill merely creates an environment where the true effect of a parent’s disability will be determined as opposed to the current environment which too easily permits decisions to be made based on both explicit and implicit bias about disability.

For these reasons and others, the Members of the NFB of Colorado urge you to adopt H.B. 18-1104 without delay! Being a parent is one of the most significant and precious gifts that creation bestows upon us as humans. Now it is time to eradicate discrimination based on disability which unfairly interferes with the right to parent.

For further information regarding H.B.18-1104 contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com


INCREASE FUNDING FOR NFB-NEWSLINE® SERVICE


For more than a dozen years, the Colorado General Assembly has funded Colorado’s NFB-NEWSLINE®, providing blind Coloradans the same daily access to newspapers and magazines as their sighted neighbors and family members enjoy. This year, we request that the General Assembly increase its financial support, currently at $60,000.00 a year, of this project so that more publications can be offered and more blind people can access the service. Because NFB-NEWSLINE® is funded through the Disabled Telephone Users Fund (DTUF), Increased funding to NFB-NEWSLINE® does not impact general funds. The DTUF’s funding comes from a very small fee on Lan lines and cell phones in Colorado.

Access to information from the newspapers and magazines of our nation and state play a critical role for each of us as informed and participating citizens. Recognizing this, the National Federation of the Blind created NFB-NEWSLINE® for the blind in the mid-1990s. With this revolutionary system, the blind are able to pick up their touch tone phone, call a toll-free number, open an app on their iOS or Android device and select from more than 450 different newspapers and magazines including the Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette, Fort Collins Coloradan, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and many other national newspapers. Today the phone-in option is still in place, but access via the NFB-NEWSLINE® mobile app has comparable usage statistics. Additional options include online on-demand reading with a web browser, email delivery and, remote content download via specialized devices used by the blind and others with print disabilities. Thus, subscribers have access to the three Colorado newspapers offered, national papers as well as 75 magazines – everything from AARP publications to Time and Wired. There are even accessible and locally-relevant television listings – something impossible to find in an accessible form for the blind otherwise. Additionally, the system provides current weather conditions as well as watches and warnings. Currently, over 1300 blind Coloradans have access to the 450-plus newspapers, 75 magazines, and other publications on the system. About every two minutes, a blind Coloradan is tapping into the vast wealth of information provided by NFB-NEWSLINE®.

With increased funding, the NFB of Colorado will both maintain the system and expand its reach. We will create even greater opportunities to share NFB-NEWSLINE® on additional web based and other technological platforms; expand the number of publications available; train more blind individuals to use the system; and work with the Audio Information Network of Colorado (AINC) to provide more information to the blind of Colorado. AINC is another service funded by the DTUF providing other timely publications and information to our state’s blind and the NFB of Colorado supports increased funding for AIN as well.

For further information regarding NFB-NEWSLINE® contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com

SUPPORT THE COLORADO CENTER FOR THE BLIND AND OTHER NFB PROGRAMS


In your packets, you will find brochures on the Colorado Center for the Blind and fliers for National Federation of the Blind national and local scholarships. These and other programs are of great importance and therefore deserve a specific mention.

Founded in 1988 by the NFB of Colorado, the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) offers world class rehabilitation and adjustment to blindness training to blind/visually impaired individuals in our state and from all over the world. The CCB believes that with the right kind of training and a positive attitude, blindness need not be a tragedy and should not artificially limit a person’s hopes and dreams. The program serves all ages from kids as young as elementary age to seniors. CCB teaches cane travel/orientation and mobility, Braille, technology, independent daily living skills, employment skills, and much, much more. Nearly all of the teaching staff is made up of blind instructors who serve as excellent role models. Please read the CCB brochure in your packet for more information or go to www.cocenter.org. Our Center is located in Littleton and you are always welcome and encouraged to visit.

SCHOLARSHIPS


The National Federation of the Blind, on a national basis, offers thirty scholarships to talented blind men and women attending a post-secondary institution. Over a hundred thousand dollars are awarded each year and provide real opportunity for deserving students. On a state level, the NFB of Colorado offers up to five scholarships to blind men and women attending a post-secondary institution and scholarships range from $1,500.00 to $5,000.00. More information on how to apply is contained in your legislative packet. Please inform your local high schools, colleges and universities as well as any blind/visually impaired post-secondary student you know about these valuable scholarship opportunities.

For further information on any of these issues contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com