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Friday, December 18, 2020

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth; Holiday Issue Blind Coloradan Blog December 2020

 

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Logo including the words Live the life you want.

Writer, aggregator Kevan Worley. 
Contributing editor Dan Burke.

Here is what you need to know

This Issue Is Not Going to the Dogs

From the aggregator: Lisa Bonderson is no stranger to the dear readers of this blog. She is known for her competence, extraordinary kindness, her love of movies, and her cat. Lisa is one of our special members. When I asked members for pics of guide dogs, Lisa sent me this beautiful Christmas cat tableau. Happy Holidays to all of you from your Blind Coloradan.

Dubh-Lisa Bonderson's black cat laying in the middle of ceramic-buildings that create a Christmas village

This is our black cat Dubh lying smack dab in the middle of our Bailey Park Christmas Village. He likes to amuse himself. Every year. He never tires of his visits to the village. He never disrupts anything, and he never catnaps any of the little people. He just visits.

 

What a Year, What a Year! Mountain Time at 5 Series Brought Peace, Information, and Connections to the Blind of Colorado and Beyond by Kevan Worley

Can you believe it? No, I am not talking about how difficult this year has been for everyone. That goes without saying. I am talking about how NFBCO, CCB, and so many of our partners and members have reacted to the toughest year any of us could ever imagine. We should feel pride in the things we have done in 2020 despite all of the challenges we have faced. We will celebrate our achievements and joys together on a special Mountain Time at 5 Bazaar Holiday Show on Monday, December 21st.

In March, one of the programs we established to bring us information and bring us all together in the time of pandemic was our Mountain Time at 5 Zoom programs. Engaging, interactive, and informative; we have now done 70 Mountain Time at 5 sessions, most of which are available on our YouTube channel. We know that many of you were on these calls to talk about issues, challenges, and possibilities. The last Mountain Time at 5 of the year of our Lord 2020 will feature interviews, conversations live over Zoom, and some marvelous performances from our talented members. You will meet the amazing Gospel recording artist Gordon Mote. Last Spring, we introduced you to the incredibly talented recording artist Precious Perez. (We will be debuting her brand-new holiday record this Monday.) You will hear an amazing cello performance from Leslie Hammrich. Hammrich is a blind cellist who plays in a Chicagoland orchestra and teaches Braille music. What an inspiration for our blind children. You will find joy in gospel holiday performances from Tom and Linda Anderson. We will hear of a number of member holiday traditions from Christmas to Kwanza to Hanukah. So spread the word and join us for the Mountain Time at 5 Holiday Bazaar Show! Here are your all-important Zoom coordinates:

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/97417562247

Meeting ID: 974 1756 2247
One tap mobile
+13462487799,,97417562247#

Dial by your location
        +1 346 248 7799
Meeting ID: 974 1756 2247
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/adFt1mXv1s

Join by Skype for Business
https://zoom.us/skype/97417562247

 

Note: Have you ever heard JJ Aragon, President of our Greeley Chapter, sing and play? Don’t miss JJ this coming Monday on Mountain Time at 5. Come and share your traditions with your NFBCO family.  

 

Curbside Holiday Cheer!

The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind is bringing holiday cheer to students, in the regions where they live. The CSDB activity bus, decked out in lights and dazzling decorations (Photo includes decorated bus with Santa), will carry Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as elves and the CSDB Bulldogs mascot, to regions of Colorado Springs, this week.

Set up for social distancing, Santa uses American Sign Language with the children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, while Mrs. Claus talks with other students. The CSDB Bulldog maneuvers through the excitement using his cane for navigation. Gathered students will enjoy treats from Santa.

The Curbside Holiday Bus visited areas around the state, last week, and will focus on the Colorado Springs region, this week. Great job, Student Life staff, for bringing holiday cheer to our students and their families!

Colorado School for the Deaf and The Blind bus decorated with Christmas stockings and lights and wreaths. Santa and his elf are seated on the wheelchair lift

 

The Building May be Quite but the Center is a Hive of Activity by Julie Deden

From the aggregator: I wouldn’t suggest that change and innovation comes easy to the Colorado Center for the Blind. But, as a former CCB student I will tell you that the reason for it’s very existence has been to impart the notion that blind people must and can deal with the ups and downs, the changes and challenges, the victories and defeats of life itself just as our non-blind fellow citizens do. My experience informed the next 28 years of my life. It changed me in fundamental ways. Coping, competing, striving, succeeding. Trying and failing and getting back up to try it a new way. Fundamentally it’s more than learning Braille, how to travel with a long white cane, how to manage a home or cook up a lasagna for 40. It’s more than learning the latest technologies. It’s all of that and more. It’s a structured discovery approach to life. A willingness to innovate, a commitment to endure, and a soul energized by love. Our Center is not just a building. As Julie will tell you, it’s a hive of activity even when the students are studying from home or in our student apartments. Nothing demonstrates the Center’s penchant for innovation and flexibility like a pandemic. Julie Deden is the longest-serving Executive Director of our Center. It did not surprise me at all that when faced with pandemic Julie and her team figured out, developed, and implemented strategies that would inform and inspire this class of students in spite of the year that was 2020. Here is how Julie told the story in a letter dated December 4:

As I sit in my office this afternoon, the center is strangely silent. We do not have students coming in from their first independent travel routes celebrating their return. There are no students at the front desk asking to receive their first slate and stylus because they are mastering Braille. No blind seniors have stopped by to learn how to use their iPhone or to meet others in a group to talk about losing their vision.

Even though the building is quiet, I am so happy to say that the center is a hive of activity online, and our students and staff are all working hard. We are providing classes each day all day via the zoom platform. Our determined students are still working on technology skills and mastering Braille. Though remote physically, today students went outside in their own neighborhoods to explore. This week our students also had an assignment in home management to make burritos. They are also completing a writing assignment outlining their goals. I am looking forward to making clay with cornstarch along with everyone else so that we can all make something to celebrate the holiday season.

Our seniors are busy, too. They will watch an audio described movie through Zoom and many of them will be joining us in a yoga class. Seniors are getting great at using zoom to be part of several weekly discussion groups that we have held on Zoom since the earliest days of COVID-19. Several members have commented about how these groups encourage them to keep challenging themselves. 

Amanda, cane in hand with sleep shades on and a backpack walking down the sidewalk past the "ankle biter"

Amanda heads to the center, maneuvering past the “Ankle biter,” a storm drain in the crook of the sidewalk that drops about a foot. Rather than fostering an atmosphere of trepidation that would steer wide of any perceived hazard, students learn to be aware of their total environment. Indeed, everyone walks past this “hazard” every day when the building is open for the business of blindness.

The skills of independence for our blind students, and indeed for our staff, are more critical in these difficult times than ever before. Even though the world has changed we all at the Colorado Center are still able to work with our students so that they will gain belief in themselves and be able to move forward with confidence and self-reliance!

 

Standing Up for Understanding, Guidance, and Love. A Note from Maureen Nietfeld

From the aggregator: Just as we were about to post this blog, I received a note from the Secretary of NFBCO, Maureen Nietfeld. As many of you will recall, we noted Maureen’s fabulous November Braille Monitor article, A Note to Motive Myself and Clarify My Path in our Thanksgiving blog. If you haven’t read it, we urge you to do so. Maureen is a living example of how one can approach life with grace, common sense, organization, and motivation in a way that allows one to meet every challenge with grace, confidence, and capacity. On Tuesday, December 15th, we posted an open letter of apology from the President of the National Federation of the Blind Mark Riccobono and a very honest, revealing, and reflective open letter of apology from Scott LaBarre, our NFBCO President. As some readers will know, our programs have been criticized in recent days over social media for allegations of our failings with regard to how we protect, nurture, and care for every single member and every single participant of any of our programs. I hope folks will read the letters from Scott and Mark, and I hope you will read the following note from a truly amazing leader of ours. Here is what Maureen says:

Recently survivors have come forward to share their stories of sexual misconduct that have occurred at our NFB training centers and our NFB events. With each story that I hear my heart feels even more shattered. As a woman and a mother, I empathize and as a leader I desperately want to be a part of change. I want to listen with an open heart and an open mind. I want to be a part of the solution. I want everyone to leave a training center or an NFB event filled with hope, excitement for the future, and a passion.

 

I love the work that we do here in Colorado and my wish is for all of us to come together and leave no room for anyone who wishes to hurt a member of our organization. My wish is that accountability is met and that we all can move forward together. My wish is for all of us to participate and any NFB related event and feel nothing but love and the feeling of being included. I stand with the survivors and I am listening. #marchingtogether

 

Katie Goes to Blind School

From the aggregator: My wife Bridget tells me that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. She is a woman of deep faith. I am not sure I completely agree with her. But the following article came to my inbox at the perfect time. Struggling with pandemic implications in my life and in the lives of many friends, relatives, and employees has been ongoing. On top of those challenges came the deeply troubling stories of sexual misconduct and even rape within the organization and within some of it’s affiliated programs, including here in Colorado. These stories of impropriety, misconduct, aggression, humiliation, and pain have bruised my very soul. I was shaken. As I read, I realized that as an engaged member and supporter of our Colorado Center for the Blind programs I should have been much more attentive. Were there signals of inappropriate behavior at a convention, after a chapter meeting, or in one of our program activities that I may have missed. Or worse, that I may have looked the other way. I found recognition, comfort, concern, and commitment in the open letter of apology posted by the President of the National Federation of the Blind Mark Riccobono on December 16, 2020. Knowing and loving our people as I do, I immediately realized that this organization will absolutely take necessary steps to increase transparency, accountability, and stronger governance. But I think what has also troubled my soul is the relentless attacks on some of the brightest, most dedicated, capable, and deeply caring individuals I have ever met. It is one thing to point out our failings. It’s important to demand accountability. It’s critical to ensure that no one is ever placed in harms way or unduly criticized or touched inappropriately. And that’s what this organization intends to do. But it is another thing to demand perfection, insist on the right to shame victims, or implicate individuals without some level of accountability and basic humanity on the part of the individuals who are now leading what has truly become a witch hunt. This, then is the state of my emotions as I received this wonderful piece from one of our talented students.

The heart-felt observations posted below from Katie Carmack spoke to me. Through all of the struggles, no matter who may impugn our motives or attack our leadership, this is what it is all about. Here is how Dan Burke introduces Katie’s remarks.

In the fall we dedicated a couple of days to filming and lots more to editing a video for the 2020 NFB of Colorado Virtual Convention in late October. If you missed that 30-minute video, check out our YouTube site at www.youtube.com/cocenterorg. We’ve posted the full version, and we’ve also broken it up into shorter segments. I mean, who has half an hour nowadays?

If you saw that video, however, you met Katie Carmack, along with our other students. Katie is a Social Worker who has worked in hospice for 15 years. But a degenerative eye condition eventually necessitated that she take a break from her work to work on being a blind person. Thus, she came to the Colorado Center for the Blind in early fall to begin her training. And almost immediately she started a new Face Book page where she blogs about being a student. It’s called “Katie Goes to Blind School,” and it’s targeted toward her friends, colleagues, and family who, like her until recently, really don’t know much about blindness or blind people. Instead of telling you how great it is, we offer some samples of Katie’s observations below.

Katie shopping at Target. She is wearing sleep shade, a mask, and using her long white cane

Katie Shopping in Target

October 25, 2020

“give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”

This proverb has always made sense to me and I have tried to implement it into my social work practice over the years. I’m now understanding it in a whole new way at the School and how it applies to my life.

Most people want to be helpful when they see someone facing a challenge. For example, on my long travel class this week we went to find a Massage Envy (of course this was my request...priorities). When we got off the bus, I had to find a store where I could get directions. The first store I found had a very nice woman working who initially offered to physically guide/walk us to massage envy (giving me the fish). I thanked her for the offer but explained that we would prefer she gave us instructions instead (teaching me to fish). She gave directions and off we went,

I got us lost in the parking lot and we were in the process of backtracking our steps to try again when the same woman shows up, explaining she had been watching us and felt she hadn’t given us very good instructions and wanted to help. She again offered to guide us, we declined and instead asked more questions.

Now that we had explored the parking lot, we had a better idea of our surroundings and could ask specific questions (i.e., is it past the brick wall). She answered our questions and off we went. We found the Massage Envy. It felt good to have found it (booking a massage made me happy too!)

If I’m being honest about how I handled things in the past- I probably took the fish more often than I learned to fish, but that is changing since my time here at school. I will likely still accept fish in the future because fishing can be exhausting sometimes but it won’t be as often!

So, if you see someone struggling with a challenge don’t just offer the fish, offer to teach them to fish. I know it can be difficult to stand by and not step in but take deep breaths and let us do our thing- we will ask if we need more help.

October 26, 2020

One of the most common questions I get asked is “Are you going to learn to read Braille?” 

Before deciding to go to Blind School my answer was “No”. My reasoning at the time was that I was focusing on low vision aides (magnifiers, talking technology, gadgets that helped me use my hearing) and therefore I didn’t need to be able to use Braille. I figured by the time I had lost all my vision technology would be so advanced that it would be unnecessary. And honestly, none of the providers encouraged learning Braille.

When asked the question now- my answer is “Yes”!  At my school it’s one of the mandatory Core classes. I have class every day to learn Braille.

For those of you not familiar with Braille I will give you some basic facts as I have learned them. Braille was initially used by the French military as a code and then modified to be used by the Blind. Each Braille cell has 6 dots- You determine what letter it is by feeling the cell and identifying which of the 6 dots is raised. A= dot 1, B= dot 1 and 2, C= dot 1 and 4, etc.

sounds pretty straightforward, right? The challenge is you have to FEEL the raised dots and that, my friends, is not easy. Tiny, raised dots, very close together. It’s hard to determine one cell from the next and difficult to determine placement within the cell (i.e.- if only 1 dot is raised how do you tell which position it is? Is it 1 or 4?).

Best advice- keep practicing as it does get easier! It’s been 4 weeks and I know the alphabet up to letter P and some punctuation. I know my numbers A=1, B=2, C=3...J=0. The way you determine its a number instead of a letter is a number sign which in Braille is dot 3, 4,5 and 6.

Got it?? I did say this was just the basics ... pretty sure it becomes more complicated once I learn the alphabet, like all languages there are shortcuts and special rules once you get more advanced.

Picture included below is of my new shirt that came in mail today.

my new tshirt, Black background with words BE KIND also written in Braille and print

November 7, 2020

Another class we have daily is Philosophy, which focuses on issues we face as Blind individuals. The topics vary and are led by different speakers and include a group discussion. Sometimes it’s a guest speaker from outside the program, sometimes it’s one of our instructors and sometimes it’s one of the students. We cover a multitude of topics- travel, new technology, our rights, overcoming awkward situations, relationships, etc.

 This week one of the topics dealt with the challenges we face by loved ones wanting to protect/shelter us and how that can impact our independence. It often comes from a place of love and nurturing, but it can end up keeping us stuck.  And the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to change as it becomes our “normal. “

I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes (I love a good quote!).

“A ship in the harbor is safe but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd

Over the years as my vision has been fading, I have been spending more time docked in the harbor and when I leave the harbor the trips have become simpler, shorter OR I become a passenger on someone else’s ship. As the holidays approach I will be seeing loved ones for the first time in months.  I am not the same “Ship” I was when you saw me last. I’m patching up the weak spots, plugging up any holes, repairing my sails and updating my navigation systems. I’m checking the maps and plotting my course. It feels good to dust off my Captain hat and exciting to consider all the destinations I can travel too.

That being said I still need my crew and I’m super fortunate to have a flexible, supportive, knowledgeable, and competent crew that have been encouraging me for years. I know they will follow my lead as we renegotiate our roles and responsibilities moving forward. I will always return to the harbor at the end of my voyage to restock, repair, rejuvenate and plan the next adventure.

ALL ABOARD- independence or bust!

 

Loyalty Runs Deep by Mark Lucas

From the aggregator: This Fall, a good friend of this blog and organization, and to me personally, Mark Lucas stepped down from service as Executive Director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes. We don’t know what the future will look like for USABA. We don’t know what direction they will now travel. We do know that our outreach to the organization subsequent to Director Lucas’s departure has not met with responsiveness. This is unfortunate. Mr. Lucas and his team have worked closely with NFB chapters and groups within other organizations all over the country to break down barriers to fitness and wellness faced by blind people. More than just skiing partnerships, goalball innovation and championships, Lucas’s leadership brought access to fitness opportunity into the day-to-day lives of non-athletes who happen to be blind. For that we thank him for a stellar career. I’m personally grateful for his motivation and mentorship. I’m hopeful that the blind of Colorado and the nation will continue to have opportunity to collaborate with USABA under it’s new leadership team.

Mark Lucas standing on a trail in Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

In the November USABA newsletter, Mr. Lucas wrote, in part:

How do you define loyalty? Perhaps you are loyal to your alma mater, sports team, religion, or party affiliation, for example. Heck, I have been a loyal Cleveland Browns fan longer than I can remember, and they haven't won a championship since 1964 when I was 8 years old! Loyalty or bone-headedness, you make the call. Still, I believe being a superfan or loyal to an organization like the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is a healthy psychological activity that connects us to other like-minded people, thereby satisfying our human need for belonging.

For the past 27 years, I have been proud to work and represent USABA and I recently stepped down as the Executive Director at the end of October. Our staff personifies the motto of “One athlete at a time” in order to grow and protect USABA’s assets and reputation, for our athletes and members. The ability, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and other characteristics of our athletes never mattered, and our goal never wavers as we provide life-changing sports experiences while changing negative stereotypes and perceptions regarding people who are blind and visually impaired.

From 6- and 8-year-old Zoe and Logan Galloway learning how to ski with guides during the Winter Ski Festival in Breckenridge, to athletes Sylvia Perez, Richard Rueda, and Jessica Beecham working hard every day to increase their step count and stay in shape through the National Fitness Challenge program, to the 2008 U.S. Women’s Goalball Team training 365 days a year for four years to stand atop the podium at the Beijing Paralympic Games, every athlete matters. Young and old, competitive and recreational, our athletes and program participants take advantage of opportunities to improve their health and well-being, shattering barriers and misconceptions. Let us all celebrate the many accomplishments of USABA athletes who persevere in a sighted world to overcome many obstacles every day. …

Thank you for being a part of TEAM USABA, empowering people’s lives through your loyalty to this stellar organization. As I discover the next chapter in my life, feel free to keep in touch. My email is mlucas668@yahoo.com, and my phone number will remain (719) 352-9134. Go Team USABA!

Yours in sport,
Mark Lucas

 

National Braille Press Launches Free Children’s Braille Book Club

As many of our dear readers know, the Braille Readers are Leaders Contest is in full swing. Still time for you to get your kiddos registered. Of course, the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults continues it’s 60-year tradition, providing free Braille reading material for blind children. Note: AAF is also the place where I have been receiving a nice, compact Braille calendar since the 1960’s. For information about all the AAF services go to www.actionfund.org.

As we highlight resources for our families with blind children, I want to call to your attention the National Braille Press. They, too, have been providing Braille books for years. Most of their material has some associated fees. However, National Braille Press is now actively recruiting families to take part in a limited set of free offerings for blind children. Learn more about the Children’s Braille Book Club here.

In the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado we sing, Braille is beautiful! And it is wonderful to have more options for free and inexpensive Braille than ever before. Nothing better for the holidays than to sit in a quiet place with a Braille book.

 

Colorado Association of Guide Dog Users Joins National Effort to Push Back on Restrictive Federal Airline Regulations

From the aggregator: As many of you know, the National Federation of the Blind, working through our guide dog divisions, has been working with officials at the Department of Transportation and major air carriers for many years. US Department of Transportation has recently promulgated regulations which, while clarifying restrictions on emotional support animals and providing guidance to the airlines on rules pertaining to guide dogs, nevertheless continues to allow unreasonable paperwork demands on traveling guide dog handlers. The new regulations take effect January 11. Over the next year, President of our National Association of Guide Dog Users Raul Gallegos will be leading efforts to respond to some of these more onerous measures directly to the airlines and through the media. We will also be working with officials at the Department of Transportation and members of Congress to resolve the outstanding issues which are inconsistent with the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is much more to come.

But for now, we thank Cerridwyn Nordstrom and guide dog Iris for sending us this beautiful Christmas picture.


Iris “sitting pretty” in front of the Christmas tree. She has a red collar on and a bandana that’s red with white snowflakes. She is wearing white reindeer antlers with bells on them.

 Smart Cities Summit by Kevan Worley

Extremely excited to attend the January 28 #smartcityiessummit over Zoom. I have a passion for integrating technologies into urban infrastructure. That's what my involvement with companies such as Aira has been all about. It was about 10 years ago at this time when I was honored to be a part of the blind driver challenge test crew, driving around a North Carolina racetrack in an accessible Ford Escape. Of course, I broke the test rules and, had the car up to 40 miles per hour on the backstretch, driving with no sighted assistance whatsoever. "What a THRILL it was!!"

The NFB has always been on the forefront and I look forward to hearing the experts who will assemble the day before the 10th anniversary of Mark Riccobono driving that same Ford Escape in front of hundreds of thousands at the Daytona Speedway. Please let officials in your cities who may have an interest know about the #smartcitiessummit

 

Accessible Pharmacy for the Blind is Now Available Statewide in Colorado!

From the aggregator: When I was contacted by these folks, what? I have been using my regular drugstore for years. Then I looked at their programs. Not that you, dear readers, care but I take 4 daily medications. When you take only 4 meds it is very easy for most of us to remember our doses. We can figure by type of bottle, shape of pills, call Aira, and all other kinds of methods. But why? As I investigated this program, I thought they have the script talk and other methods to make my life easier. So, I called for all the details. I urge you to read the following and see if it is right for you. Sorry Walgreens, I made the switch!

Co-founded by Dr. Alex Cohen, a blind man in Philadelphia, Accessible Pharmacy is a full-service, home delivery pharmacy specializing in medication management for the blind and low vision community. All of their services are free including home delivery, active refill management, medication consultative services, and reminder systems. They offer a variety of free accessible and assistive packaging options including pre-sorted disposable pill organizers, Braille and large print labels, easy-open pill bottles, high-tech label reading solutions, and more. Accessible Pharmacy will work with any insurance provider including Medicare and Medicaid. Finally, they will set all of this up for you! Their Care Coordinators work with each patient through the transition and continuously to find the best solution for their unique medication regimen. Accessible Pharmacy understands what is needed in the pharmaceutical industry for the blind community. By diminishing the existing barriers to medication management, they are increasing independence and safety. Call 215-799-9900 to see if Accessible Pharmacy is a good fit for your needs or visit their website www.AccessiblePharmacy.com to learn more.

 

That’s It for This Edition of the Blind Coloradan

Forward, always Forward!

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Open Letter of Apology from President Riccobono

Content warning: the following letter addresses sensitive topics regarding sexual misconduct and violence.

Dear Fellow Federationists:

Many NFB members, former members, and people within our blindness community are hurting. For some, the pain comes from their lived experience of being abused or violated by one of our members and/or made to feel like no one else was listening or came to their defense at a Federation event or training program. For others, what they feel is empathy for survivors who were harmed by participating in the National Federation of the Blind, recognizing that we have not done enough within our movement and systemically within our community. We are deeply sorry that this is true and apologize for where we have failed. As the elected President of this movement, I carry the responsibility of this pain. I am profoundly sorry that anyone has been harmed by experiences in our movement. As a husband, father of three children, and leader who tries to live by a strong set of ethical values, I hurt for the survivors, and I deeply regret that I have made mistakes along the way. At each opportunity that I have to sit with my young children, I am directly reminded how fragile the balances are in our lives and how much our actions can have a lasting impact on others. I live with the regret and sorrow for the mistakes I personally made in dealing with inappropriate behavior in the past. Sometimes my mistakes have only been illuminated later through the honest reflection of a friend or the vulnerable sharing of someone who has been harmed. How do you adequately write a letter to apologize for that? How do you spread this sentiment to an entire movement of people including those who have left our organization? How do we, collectively, create an adequate action plan to promote healing, prevent future incidents, and continue our development of a culture that is welcoming, safe, and eliminates the barriers to bringing concerns forward for resolution? This letter attempts to explore those questions, but this is merely a single moment in these needed conversations.

Our hearts break for the survivors of abuse and sexual misconduct who have bravely shared incidents that have happened within our organization over the decades. During the past couple of weeks, a number of courageous individuals have shared painful stories about their experiences on social media and in individual conversations. We thank those brave survivors for sharing their stories because we recognize how difficult that is and how each story creates a unique set of emotions and challenges. We deeply regret that over our eighty years we have not handled each situation appropriately or been able to heal the pain that such incidents create. We do not reject these feelings of pain. In fact, we want to find and establish better ways to hear them and continuously eliminate the actions that caused them. We have no intention of debating the circumstances of any instance. Instead we acknowledge that if a survivor was left feeling the situation went unaddressed, then we have failed. The membership demands we do better. I, as President, demand this of myself and expect it from our movement. We will do better. In addition to calling upon all Federationists to listen better, honestly reflect upon your own biases, and to actively align our actions to our words, I call upon you not to dismiss those who cannot believe that our intentions are sincere or those who have had the courage to come forward. It is our individual and collective action, positively focused on making things better that will create belief. That is what has been true for us since 1940, and it will continue to be true for us going forward.

Let us get down to the hard facts. Words appear to mean nothing without actions, so below I’ve outlined six steps that we are committing to in the near future. Before I list them, please understand that these are initial steps, and we are committed to exploring and implementing whatever policies, programs, trainings, or resources necessary beyond these steps to appropriately address these horrible situations.

Improvements to Reporting of Incidents

We are currently thoroughly reviewing the pathways for reporting incidents and how those paths are handled. We are open to revamping all of the reporting mechanisms we have. We are in discussion with outside consultants who are expected to do a complete review of our processes with a specialized emphasize on sexual misconduct and harassment. We will rebuild all of our procedures if needed. We expect our revised processes to involve a third-party entity, but since we do not yet know how that will turn into actionable efforts within our organization, we cannot be specific about that process. Our hope is to be more transparent about our partnership and timelines for action during the first quarter of 2021. We hear you about the uncomfortable position some people feel is created by the current reporting system when a person must report through members they will later need to deal with personally. Regardless of the reporting mechanisms we maintain and create, we must be very clear on one point: Every elected leader of this organization must be prepared to take concerns seriously and to act upon information they are given as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Furthermore, the safety of blind youth who are under our supervision is our highest priority, and any incident that is discovered must be dealt with immediately.

Open Meeting and Supporting Survivors

We are committing to hold an open meeting or series of listening sessions to discuss these issues and solicit feedback on what support and resources victims and survivors need. We have not yet detailed what the open meeting and conversations will be. Because we do not want to unintentionally contribute to further pain among survivors, we want blind people with lived experiences and our consultants to guide that process. In the meantime, we continue to answer calls and emails from Federation members seeking clarity about these issues and offering solutions that we will carefully weigh as our learning continues. We are grateful to those of you who have reached out directly offering your personal experiences as a guide to future development. The members of the Federation are expected to shape what we do, and your readiness to bring solutions makes a big difference. Our goal is to provide support and healing to victims and survivors.

Enhancing the Code of Conduct Work

Prior to recent events and the stories that have emerged, we were in the process of considering and implementing several enhancements surrounding our code of conduct and its related procedures and programs. We have now paused those efforts. Why? Because we are listening. We have done horribly at messaging and sharing our internal procedures and our plans for effectively administering our organization's code of conduct. I say paused because we want to carefully evaluate where we are and our next steps guided by the expertise of anti-sexual-violence experts from outside our movement. If we must completely reset, that is what we will do. For now, our code and existing procedures are in place to set expectations within our organization. We will carefully evaluate current grievances to ensure that they continue to be safely and swiftly investigated even while our procedures are under review.

Illuminating Expectations

You may already know, but the board made its annual revisions to the code and procedures process on December 5, 2020. When we went to post the revisions, we realized that the FAQ we planned to post after the December 2019 review did not happen. No excuses, that was a pretty big dropped ball. That document is intended to answer questions like what happens when a grievance is filed, how is information kept confidential, and what communications can a filing party expect? Overall, we have failed to communicate broadly the procedures we have been using. For example, we allow for advocates to participate with parties who are involved with code of conduct investigations. Moreover, these FAQs will also be informed and expanded based upon questions that continue to be raised. They will also evolve as we implement additional avenues for raising concerns and for training members of the organization. We take ownership for the misinformation that is now circulating. Please keep those questions and suggestions coming.

Continuous Training

Training on issues around misconduct and abuse is something we have only skimmed the surface of in the recent past. We have done a minimal amount of training for affiliate presidents and workshops at our national convention. We were not satisfied that our training was sustainable, so we have been seeking other partners. That has been unreasonably slow. No excuse, we understand. We are going to be putting together training with the specific goal of preventing misconduct and abuse at Federation events and to strengthen the level of comfort with reporting. We have also hired an individual to assist in a number of areas including coordinating training—that person only started on November 30, which is why we had not yet introduced her to the membership.

Consistency across NFB Training Centers

A lack in consistency in practices across the three training centers that are affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind has been raised as a concern. It is worth noting that only BLIND Incorporated, the Colorado Center for the Blind, and the Louisiana Center for the Blind have made the specific partnership commitments necessary to be formally and officially affiliated with the organized blind movement. On a regular basis, I have been meeting with our training center directors with the specific goal of better aligning our practices and policies. There is more work to do there. We expect these centers to fully commit to our code of conduct practices and set the highest standard of professional practice in all programs. During the most recent revisions of our code of conduct, we discussed the topic of consistency in handling and reporting concerns at our centers. We will be conducting a full review and implementing consistent training for the personnel at each of our centers. I stand with those who have been harmed by any employee, contractor, or volunteer at one of our centers, and I am prepared to help eliminate ineffective practices and urge the termination of those employees and contractors (as well as the exclusion of volunteers) who violate our policies in this area.

Let me also add that our training centers have made a great difference in raising the standard of training for blind people in this nation and all around the world. As a graduate of one of our centers, I share that pride for the training I received but also the pain that even one person coming through one of our centers would have had a harmful experience. The employees at our centers are some of the most dedicated and thoughtful folks I know, and they are committed to the safety and wellbeing of program participants. However, that does not excuse harmful incidents that have happened in our training programs. I know our centers are committed to doing better. I know the executive directors and boards of each of these training centers will be prioritizing the advancement of these conversations. Most importantly, I know they feel your pain in a very deep and personal way.

Again, these are immediate actions and commitments. This is not a complete roadmap for the years to come, but it outlines some of the forthcoming actions we are focusing on. We know that we need to examine more ways to support our members such as mental health resources and the expertise of crisis professionals. Members of the Federation have a right to demand information about what is being done, and Federation leaders are expected to share that information. When we committed to the code of conduct in 2018, we made a commitment to a much-needed journey. Our commitment has not wavered even if we have not been outwardly demonstrating a commitment that you can trust. As leaders, we will continue to work to earn your trust and we will remain committed to continuous improvement and an open dialogue for organizational change. We are committed to finding ways to heal that pain, while preventing any future pain that results from unacceptable behavior. We are going to need the ideas and support of the members of this movement to do that in a meaningful and effective manner, so all are welcomed.

You continue to be our wise teachers. You who have shared your personal experiences and who have dared to open yourselves continue to guide us. In the National Federation of the Blind, we value diversity, we strive to be fully inclusive, and we want to be the safe space for all blind people. Every blind person in this nation deserves what this movement has to offer, and we recognize we have work to do so that every blind person feels like there is a place here for everyone. We are going to get there together. We apologize that we have not yet made it all the way, but we pledge that the commitment is deep and it is real. We are not done with our changes.

With love and commitment, we are #MarchingTogether.

Mark Riccobono, President
officeofthepresident@nfb.org, 410-659-9314

The National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors shown below requested that the President write an open letter regarding our commitments.

By signing below, each of us affirms our support and commitment to the content of the letter above. Anybody with concerns regarding the content of this letter, the commitments that have been expressed, or potential incidents that may have happened at Federation events are welcome to contact any of the individuals endorsing this statement.

Pam Allen, First Vice President and Board Chair, pallen@louisianacenter.org, 318-251-2891

Ron Brown, Second Vice President, rb15@iquest.net, 317-213-7031

James Gashel, Secretary, jgashel0923@gmail.com, 808-234-9259

Jeannie Massay, Treasurer, jeanniemassay@gmail.com, 405-600-0695

Denise Avant, davant1958@gmail.com, 773-991-8050

Everette Bacon, baconev@yahoo.com, 801-631-8108

Amy Buresh, amy.buresh74@gmail.com, 402-440-4722

Shawn Callaway, callaway.shawn@gmail.com, 202-352-1511

Norma Crosby, ncrosby@nfbtx.org, 281-968-7733

John Fritz, president@nfbwis.org, 608-622-7632

Ever Lee Hairston, ever.hairston@gmail.com, 323-654-2975

Carla McQuillan, president@nfb-oregon.org, 541-653-9153

Amy Ruell, aruell@comcast.net, 617-752-1116

Joe Ruffalo, nfbnj1@verizon.net

Terri Rupp, terri.rupp@gmail.com, 702-524-0835

Adelmo Vigil, nfbnewmexicopresident@gmail.com, 575-921-5422

A message of apology and hope from the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Scott C. LaBarre

 

My Colorado Family:

I must admit that I come to all of you with a heavy heart today.  As many of you know, a little less than two weeks ago, Friday the 4th of December, to be exact, posts started to emerge on Facebook regarding incidents of sexual misconduct which have occurred at NFB centers and other NFB programs as well as some state run training centers for the blind.  Some of those stories involve our very own Colorado Center for the Blind.  Last Friday we released our initial statement regarding these matters, and today we are publishing an open letter of apology from President Riccobono.  That can be found at:

https://www.nfb.org/blog/open-letter-apology-president-riccobono

You, by now, should have  received an email copy of this letter, but in case you have not seen it elsewhere, it is pasted below.

As some of you might know, I have taken on a new role with the NFB for the last few months, that of General Counsel.  Thus I have been quite involved with our response to these stories and related matters.  I know that in this world of instantaneous communication, people usually demand and expect immediate responses and action.  However, we are taking the time necessary to get all of this right, not just our communications but, more importantly, our action steps.  We are going to be as open and transparent as possible, and we welcome everyone’s advice and input.  Please take note of the action steps outlined below.  Do not hesitate to contact me or anyone else with questions or comments.

In the beginning, I said I have a heavy heart.  That is because I hurt for the survivors and victims, and I join Mark in apologizing for the mistakes we have made.  As you know, I have two children, Alex and Emily, and I hope and pray that they never have to go through the pain and suffering some have experienced.  We must do all we can to create the most welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment that we can to carry on our vital work. 

I should also mention that on a local level, our CCB will be coming out with a statement of its own.  The CCB intends to adopt the same steps as are identified in President Riccobono’s letter as adjusted for our local circumstances as well as others. 

Lastly, I again want to express my sorrow.  I intend to work as hard as I know how to take on these challenges openly and figure out the best way forward to make us stronger and better.  Please help us do that.  I also want to wish all of you peace and joy during this holiday season.

With love, an open mind and heart,

Scott 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

With Humble Thanks Giving We Offer You Our November Blind Coloradan

 

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado logo including tagline Live the Life You Want

Writer, aggregator Kevan Worley. 
Contributing editor Dan Burke.

Here is what you need to know

From the Aggregator:

We are putting this issue of the Blind Coloradan to bed on Veterans Day. We have not the words to express our thanks and profound appreciation for the heroic men and women who have given so much service to this country. A special thanks to our Veteran members and to all who have served or are serving. Thank you for making it possible for us to have the liberty without which there may not be a National Federation of the Blind.

So much to post. We will need a few blogs to catch you up on all the news of importance to the blind of Colorado. As we protect and connect the blind of Colorado through the holidays. We hope you will be informed and inspired by the blogs we post in the weeks to come. With a heart of appreciation for all of our members, allies, friends, Colorado Center for the Blind staff and students, wonderful sponsors, and others who read and contribute to this blog, and service to the blind and vision impaired of Colorado, thank you. Remember that the NFBCO hotline is checked regularly, 303-778-1130 ext. 219. As is our assistance@nfbco.org email address. If you are in need during this time of pandemic, throughout the holidays, please call or email your Federation family. We can offer advice, advocacy, and may be able to connect blind folks in need with helpful resources. We realize most of us are pretty self-reliant blind folks. But these are tough times. We will help if we can.

On October 9, Colorado Center for the Blind staff and students walked from the center to our apartments, a total of 2.2 miles or 3.54K. It was our celebration of October's Meet the Blind Month, White Cane Day and our NFB of Colorado/Colorado Center for the Blind Comcast 6 Dot Dash. Our route took us west to the South Platte River and then across it.

Throughout this blog, our non-blind friends will enjoy a few pictures snapped by CCB volunteer extraordinaire Mike Thompson. Fall is always beautiful in Colorado.


5 CCB students walking on a trail through trees whose leaves have changed from green to yellow and red

A Message of Thanks, Faith, and Love from Scott LaBarre, President, National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

THANKS FEDERATION FAMILY!!

It is, perhaps, in this turbulent year that I am more thankful than ever for my Federation family, and I just want to take a moment to express my gratitude.  Without you, this year would be so much more difficult to navigate successfully.  There are two major reasons why this is so.

First, when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut us down, I did not have to create a new community or find a new mechanism to cope with the isolation that so many have had to face.  My family was already there, ready to support me.  Not only were you there, you were ready to shift to a virtual environment almost immediately with great creativity and love.  In particular, our Colorado Federation was the first to offer Zoom meetings, our now famous Mountain Time at 5.  Many other affiliates recognized our success and copied our concepts. 

The other major reason is that our philosophy is much more than one addressing blindness, it is a meaningful philosophy for leading a successful and enriched life.  Just as we do not let our blindness negatively define us or       artificially limit our futures, we have not permitted this awful Pandemic and all the other strife to hold us back and detour us from our ultimate goal.  In fact we have grown and strengthened our roots during these difficult times.  I think we have proven our belief   that no force on this Earth is strong enough to preclude us from reaching the time when society views us first as fellow humans who simply experience the world in a different way and not as broken sighted people.  This is not to make light     of the serious barriers we face because of our blindness or the tragic loss caused by the events of 2020, but rather it is to say that we have the community and a strong set of values and beliefs that allow us to emerge from tough times prepared to meet the future with hope, love, and success.

Before I conclude these brief remarks and as we greet the coming holiday season, the LaBarre’s want to wish each an everyone of you a    healthy, safe, and joyous season.  We are truly grateful for your presence in our lives.

It is in this troubled year that I find deepening value in some of our core values.  Together with love, hope, and determination, we transform our dreams into reality.  Despite this difficult year, I am filled with that hope, energy, and love by participating in our Federation because my expectations are raised, my contributions make a difference to me and to others, and I can celebrate the realization of my dreams with my Federation family. 

 

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold Participates in NFB State Convention Election Discussion

Friday afternoon, October 30, featured a powerful convention General Session. One of the most anticipated items was a presentation from and a planned Q&A session with Jena Griswold. Her staff has been working closely with our Chair of the accessible ballot initiative to fully implement the 2019 accessible voting legislation. Even with a general election in full swing, Secretary of State Jena Griswold took her valuable time fielding our questions, engaging with our Committee Chair Curtis Chong, and pledging to continue to consider options to make the process even more “blind user friendly.” You can listen to the entire conversation at NFBCO.org.

 

Did You Vote?

We don’t care if you voted for Kanye, Charlie Brown, Pat Paulson, or Paul Sandoval for President. But, in order for us to continue making progress toward our goal for complete accessible secret independent voting, your input is crucial! Blind friends, please take just a few.
Complete our national voter survey today!

 

Going for The Gold!

From the aggregator: you have heard that old great George Jones Country Western song, “The Race is On.” Well, the race is over for 2020. Thanks to all of you for participating in The Dash! We offer a special note of thanks to our Gold Sponsors: Blackstone Consulting Inc., Spectrum, LaBarre Law, First Bank, Philadelphia Insurance.
You can find The Dash results here.

The Monday, November 9 Mountain Time at 5 featured the final pep rally for this year’s Dash. If you missed it, you can enjoy a recording of our revelry on our NFBCO YouTube channel. It was more fun than humans should be allowed to have. Until next year, may the spirit of The Dash be with you.

 

Migs House of Improv

Greetings All,

Sunday, November 15, 1:00 p.m. Mountain time is your opportunity to become a better version of yourself by joining Migs House Improv. Whether you have acted before or just want to experience the fun for the first time, come join us for two action-packed hours of improv hilarity.

Dare to let your fellow improvisors make choices that guide your amusement and growth.

Join us at the Zoom coordinates below, and let the fun begin.

You are cordially invited to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

 Topic: Migs House Improv Zoom Meeting

Time: Nov 15, 2020 01:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

 Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7202842318?pwd=NlJ2NDJIZFk5S2J2MVZHUkVzaklKQT09

Meeting ID: 720 284 2318

Passcode: 632282

One tap mobile

+17207072699,,7202842318#

 

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Met with Mixed Emotions from NFBCO Membership at State Convention

From the aggregator: One of the most interesting discussions at the recent state convention occurred during the presentation by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the CDLE unit, Blindness and Low Vision Services, BLVS. Blind Coloradan readers know that NFBCO has been the spearhead of accountability, efficacy, and change within the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for decades. It was partially due to our efforts along with then State Representative and former rehabilitation counselor, now Lieutenant Governor Diana Primavera that brought about a distinct unit within the administration to focus on the real needs, aspirations, and goals of DVR clients who are blind or low vision. When Joe Barela, Executive Director, of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment addressed the convention during our Friday afternoon General Session, he began his remarks by regaling us with the history of the transfer of DVR from Health and Human Services to the Department of Labor and Employment. Director Barela seemed not to know that we were there at the time, he was not. We worked very closely with his predecessor, CDLE Director Ellen Golombek. After working with stakeholders to guide the ambitious effort to bring the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation from the mammoth agency Health and Human Services, HHS, over to the Department of Labor and Employment, as well as to establish Blind and Low Vision Services with her trademark care and capacity she subsequently left the agency for a position in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Barela seemed unprepared to field substantive questions from blind consumers. He wasn’t there during the time of the transitions that took place 5 years ago. We were. We drove the change and we collaborated with our state partners to implement the change. Following Director Barela’s presentation, we heard from Krista Hedlund who for almost 2 years now has served as Manager of Blindness and Low Vision Services. Leaders of the Federation served with other stakeholders on the final round of interviews that recommended Krista Hedlund for the BLVS manager position. It was an honor as well as a right and a responsibility to be an integral part of the process. After all, this individual would be following the first manager of BLVS, Julia Zanon. Zanon had vast experience working within the division serving both blind and general rehab clients over a long and distinguished career. She was responsible for a smooth transition into the new BLVS unit. Over the past 2 years, it is clear that the unit has been extraordinarily successful in meeting the needs of blind consumers. There is no waiting list. Clients are being served. Wages for employment closures are up. Collaborations with counselors around the state who are not specifically assigned to the unit are working well. The unit is successful by most any measure. Manager Hedlund provided a glowing and rather detailed report during her presentation.

However, when it came to a thorough, responsive discussion of one of the most important employment programs for the blind within her unit, Director Barela and Manager Hedlund were mum! As one Federation member put it, “they both seemed like deer in the headlights. It seemed like they couldn’t get out of our convention quick enough. This lack of responsiveness and lack of respect is something we haven’t seen from agency administrators in a long, long time.” Although both Director Barela and Manager Hedlund had been well advised of the format of the session and the time allotted for their presentations. They both indicated that they had meetings scheduled for 3:00 and had to leave the convention of the organized blind of Colorado without engaging in a full discussion of the problems plaguing the Business Enterprise Program. Krista Hedlund, who has assumed day-to-day management of the Business Enterprise Program following the departure of long-time BEP Program Manager Dan Whalen last Spring, refused to answer substantive questions put to her by our State President Scott LaBarre. When Scott respectfully posed direct questions, she would not provide answers related to the operators’ claim of lack of oversight and active participation. Manager Hedlund hid behind the process fiction that the operators’ appeal was still in progress. Scott rightfully pointed out that this was not the case. She had already formally denied the grievance submitted by the elected committee of operators. The committee had not yet decided whether or not to take the next formal steps to appeal her ruling. Therefore, attorney LaBarre suggested that she was indeed free to comment.

Note, you can read the resolution passed by the convention regarding the disruptions and discord within Business Enterprise Program here. We urge Blind Coloradan readers to listen to the full discussion with CDLE here.

It is important to commend the Division, Manager Hedlund, and her dedicated staff for the great work they are doing to support blind consumers on their path to employment. It is important to recognize the collaboration the unit has with our Colorado Center for the Blind. But it is equally incumbent on the blind of Colorado to point out not only the abject failures now prevalent within the Business Enterprise Program as well as to express our outrage at the way the blind of Colorado, assembled in annual convention, were treated. It is very reasonable to expect the agency to set about making the change demanded in resolution 2020-05.

We urge you to review resolution 2020-05 to gain an understanding of the disfunction within the Business Enterprise Program of Colorado. As Krista Hedlund left the Zoom stage without providing answers to our questions, I received a text from a member that said, “what is she doing? This is the most important meeting of her constituents all year. Unless she has a 3:00 meeting with the Governor she should cancel. She should spend time at our convention and learning from the blind of Colorado who hired her.”

We think it is also important to point out that one of the first items of business for Joe Barela upon his joining the Governor’s cabinet, was to appoint a new Director of Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, DVR. As most readers of this blog know, in spite of precedent to the contrary, consumers were barred from taking part in that appointment process. At that time, we wondered if that would establish a pattern of exclusionary behavior from the new Executive Director.

Note: Following this presentation the convention heard from Lieutenant Governor Diana Primavera. The Lt. Governor reaffirmed her long-standing partnership with the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado.

Prior to their hasty departure from our Convention, Executive Director Barela and Manager Hedlund promised our membership that they would engage in serious discussions about the future of the programs affecting the employment of the blind in our state.  Since then, President LaBarre has been involved in two long and detailed conversations with Director Barela. LaBarre indicates that significant commitments have been made to improve the BEP and other programs but that we must remain vigilant and strong to transform these verbal commitments into reality. 

 

Join Springs Chapter Meeting, Saturday, November 14, 10 a.m. For All The Zoom Info Email assistance@nfbco.org.

 

Now Therefore Be It Resolved by The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Assembled at our 66th Annual State Convention

From the aggregator: WHEREAS, the convention is the supreme governing authority of the Federation; and

WHEREAS, we are a grassroots civil rights movement; and

WHEREAS, resolutions are a way for members to make their thoughts, ambitions, challenges, hopes, and dreams come alive in Federation policy; and

WHEREAS, these policies are the foundation for and guide the effort of the Federation in the months and years to come. We considered a variety of resolutions at the recent convention. The membership passed all 7 resolutions recommended by the committee. We encourage you to read the resolutions in full here. We will be discussing each of these resolutions in future posts of the Blind Coloradan.

 

Getting the Rest, Relaxation, and Mindfulness We Need to Nourish the Body and Spirit

Join co-hosts Maureen Nietfeld, Jessica Beecham, and Clinical Nurse Educator Shauna Jatho for a refreshing Mountain Time at 5 Zoom! Wednesday, December 2nd. The program is just what we need in the midst of the holidays. Learn about and enjoy some mindfulness exercises lead by Maureen. Learn more about Non-24 sleep disorder from Shauna Jatho. Ask your questions about non-24 sleep disorder, mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation. Of course, Jessica Beecham will have some of her famous tips and tricks.

For information email assistance@nfbco.org or call the hotline, 303-778-1130 ext. 219. We’ll get back to you when we wake up.

 

Governor Appoints New Members to Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind Board of Regents

Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, announces appointments to the CSDB Board of Trustees. We welcome Michael Merrifield, of Colorado Springs and Meghan Klassen of Denver. Michael was a long-time member of the General Assembly. Meghan is the Executive Director of the Anchor Center for Blind Children. They are both dear friends of NFBCO. We know they will serve CSDB well.
https://www.stl.news/colorado-governor-polis.../355082/


Headshots of Michael Merrifield and Meghan Klassen

 Calling All Parents! Calling All Parents!

It’s time to celebrate the holidays with the Colorado Organization of Parents of Blind Children, COPBC, and our NFBCO Blind Parents Division. It’s a big family holiday party with raffles, gifts, fun and games, and love Saturday, December 12 from 2 to 4. They will be making two crafts. A Santa Claus and candy canes.

For Santa Claus you will need:

One paper plate,

One red and black crayon or marker and to make it tactile we recommend a glitter pen,

Three buttons to make it tactile,

And several cotton balls.

 

For the candy cane craft you will need:

A package of pipe cleaners,

And a package of pony beads.

For more information and to find out how you can help plan the festivities, and/or if your family needs assistance with purchasing items for these crafts to be able to participate please be in touch with Maureen Nietfeld by November 25th, 215-353-7218.


Bringing Santa’s Magic to Your Blind Children

From the aggregator: So, I asked Siri, “how old is Santa Claus?” Siri said, “I hear you get on the naughty list for asking that.” Hey parents, stay off the naughty list! Request a Braille letter from Santa from the North Pole, the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.

Every December, the National Federation of the Blind helps Santa send letters in Braille to young blind children across the country. 

A young boy with a white cane sits on Santa's lap. 

Nothing promotes reading like a letter from Santa! Last year's letter inspired Louise to Braille her own letter to Santa to leave with milk and cookies, since, as she put it, "Santa must be able to read Braille if he can write it!" Thank you!

How did it start? Well, more than ten years ago, Santa asked us to be his honorary elves. Ever since, we've been helping him send letters in contracted Braille to blind children who are ten years old and younger in the United States. Along with the Braille letter, Santa includes a print letter so that those who might not read Braille can follow along. He also includes other fun holiday activities.

Submit your requests between November 9 and December 16.

Request a Santa Letter

 

Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, CSDB, Celebrates White Cane Awareness Day in Song

The Bulldog Band put their own blindness spin on the classic Journey song, Don’t Stop Believing. It’s all about their journey with a long white cane. If you were not able to join the opening ceremony of our 66th Annual State Convention you missed this joyful version. Check it out! Thanks, and go Bulldogs! 

 

Make a Joyful Noise

We’d like to thank choir director, President of our Mountains and Plains Chapter ReNae Anderson and our extraordinary Producer Engineer Kevin Kovacs, along with all of the members of the NFBCO virtual Convention choir. You guys were almost as good as the Bulldog band. It was wonderful to hear the choir at times during the convention. I can think of no greater example, no greater exhibition of the family teamwork it took to put this performance together virtually. As we often say in the Federation, our movement is made strong through individual actions collectively focused. As we approach the season of giving and thanks it gives us great joy to celebrate the harmony of this affiliate. It took a lot of people working closely together to put on our one-of-a-kind NFBCO virtual convention. In order to present content of substance this year, we needed a different kind of logistical coordination and technical expertise. We are truly in the debt of the team of Curtis Chong, Paul Sandoval, and Kevin Kovacs, among others. And we offer congratulations to the splendid music performed by our choir.

An old barn nestled among trees with changing colored leaves and reflected in the pond

 

A Note to Motivate Myself and Clarify My Path by Maureen Nietfeld

Maureen Nietfeld headshot

From the Associate Editor: The Braille Monitor is the flagship publication of the National Federation of the Blind. We often link you, dear reader, to articles we find interesting in the Braille Monitor. Those of you who read the Monitor will know that the November issue carried an article from our affiliate secretary and sister Maureen Nietfeld. During this time of great challenge and tremendous change we thought you might be interested in reading the entire article. She shows that you can be inspiring and motivating without being maudlin. She shows why she is our brilliant and undaunted Maureen Bassmaster Nietfeld. We offer you this article in love, peace, and Thanksgiving. Here is how Gary Wunder, Braille Monitor Editor extraordinaire began the piece.   

From the Editor: People who remember the scholarship class of 2019 will remember Maureen Nietfeld. She faces more obstacles each day than many of us will face in a lifetime, yet she does not complain. What follows is a diary and a motivational talk she gave to herself. When a friend saw it, Maureen was encouraged to send it to the Monitor to see if there was anything worth publishing. She did, we did, and now you can benefit. When I read this, I think of the number of pity parties I’ve attended on my behalf and how often I’ve seriously considered giving up. Whatever Maureen may have considered, giving up was not what she did. Enjoy! 

I let blindness and many medical problems act as a barrier to my ultimate dream of getting my degree, so in January of 2017, I made the decision that I would no longer let this be. I started going to school at Metropolitan State University of Denver and set my goal to pursue a bachelor’s degree in lifestyle medicine with a minor in pre-healthcare. It was also in January 2017 that a repeat MRI of my brain indicated that I would ultimately need another brain surgery and a treatment of stereotactic radiation. It seemed that my never-ending cycle of barriers was beginning again. I had said to myself that I was going to finish this degree no matter what challenge would meet me in the years to come. My journey began, and the challenges over the next three years were definitely not in short supply.

In February 2017 I had my first round of stereotactic radiation. The doctors assured me that there would be no side effects, and I could go about my life the very next day. Unfortunately, I fell in the 1 percent, and within one hour after radiation my brain began to swell. I had to begin a regimen of high doses of steroids to combat the brain swelling, and for the next two years, due to the brain pressure, I would throw up pretty much every single day. I continued to make it through my first semester. After discussing the need for a very dangerous brain stem surgery, we decided to schedule it in May so I could finish my semester. My plan was to recover over the break and begin summer classes in June.

Around this time, I was also notified that I was selected as one of the thirty finalists in the NFB national scholarship process. This meant that I would be going to national convention in July. I figured that having surgery in May would allow me plenty of time to begin school in June and attend the convention in July. 

The surgery was definitely more complicated than anyone anticipated, and my recovery was nothing like I had ever experienced in the thirty-plus surgeries prior to this one. The surgery caused severe damage to my right side, and I was left with the inability to use my right hand and arm. Ultimately the function and feeling in my right hand would never return, and I am left with increased balance issues and pain. I attended the national convention in July with the assistance of my mother and a wheelchair. I was awarded the top scholarship that year. To say that I was elated would be an understatement. My colleagues in the organized blind movement supported me again with not only this unbelievable honor but funding that would help me pursue my academic and vocational goals. I was more than elated. But I really had no earthly idea how I would finish my degree. How would I be able to finish school not being able to use a computer anymore, having to relearn so much, and living in this awful pain? I knew that the National Federation of the Blind believed in me, and therefore I had to find the strength to continue to believe in myself. My friends and loved ones rose up to support me as well, and I knew that together we would find a way. 

Learning to type one-handed was not an option because I had already been doing that. Due to a stroke when I was twenty-five, I had limited feeling in my left hand. I had been one-handed typing all these years using my right hand, and now that was taken away as well. I ultimately learned to be left-handed. Through the use of an iPhone, readers, and scribes, I continued with school. One of my dearest and best friends, Erin Daley, has worked tirelessly as my reader scribe. We developed a fantastic way of working together, and I was filled with promise that, with these modifications, I had found a solution. I was able to complete the summer courses that year and continued with the fall semester. I was also able to return to work as a home management instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind. I continued to just slowly figure out my world with this additional disability. Travel became a major struggle, having to use my left hand and dealing with all of the balance issues, but I was able to receive a guide dog. Reilly has been an amazing addition to my life and my family’s life.

Nine months later I was continuing a slow recovery but ultimately felt like I was regaining my life. In February we received the biggest shock of my life—I was pregnant! I was always told that pregnancy would be too risky for me. Pregnancy can cause a progression in my disease and ultimately more tumors could grow. I also have a kidney transplant, and pregnancy could cause my transplanted organ to fail. There were so many fears, but the joy of this amazing miracle stifled all of them.

I continued to go to work, school, and adjust to my new normal. I was a new guide dog handler, a person with a multiple disability, and soon I would be a mom. On August 13, 2018, we went to the hospital, and I was in labor. Logan wouldn’t actually arrive until August 15 due to some major complications. I had become preeclamptic, my brain was swelling, and my kidney was failing. The physicians and nurses worked tirelessly around the clock to keep me stable, and Logan and I pulled through. The next seventeen days were the hardest of my life. Logan had to stay in the NICU because he was only thirty-four weeks. I was sicker than I think I ever had been in my life and was struggling every day. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, that nightmare ended, and we were able to bring Logan home. We had decided that I would leave my job at the Colorado Center for the Blind and stay home to be with Logan. I continued to attend school and was able to find employment that allowed me to work part-time from home. 

Once again, I was adjusting to my new normal. I was no longer a home management teacher at the Colorado Center for the Blind, but I was more than thrilled to be a mom. I loved every minute I got to be with Logan, and I continued to recover and took that fall semester off to adjust to our new life. I returned to school that January, and soon after the terrible headaches began again. It was the summer of 2019. The convention of the National Federation of the Blind was in Las Vegas, and of course David and I attended. It really became evident to me that something was very wrong that week. I constantly had terrible headaches, dizziness, and just knew something was wrong. When we got home, I made an appointment for my routine MRI of my brain. It showed that an existing brain tumor had gotten significantly larger, and we would need to operate. They wanted to operate that September, but I opted to deal with the side effects I was experiencing until December so I could complete another semester of school. On December 5, 2019, I had to get another brain surgery. This would make my thirty-fifth surgery. I was able to work with my teachers that semester and finished two weeks early. I was able to submit all my work in advance and took my finals early. I then had forty days to recover until the next semester. 

The semester of spring 2020 I took eighteen credits, meaning I only had five credits to complete in summer of 2020. August 13 has been an amazing day in my life. That day nine years ago David and I were married, two years ago I went into labor with Logan, and I received an email from my university that my bachelors of science in lifestyle medicine with a minor in pre-healthcare had been awarded.

Three years, two brain surgeries, brain radiation, and a baby later I am finally a college graduate!! I wrote this down as a reminder to myself and one day to Logan that dreams can become reality. No matter what challenges lie ahead, we all have the strength to rise up and face them.

 

#MyCaneMyIndependence An Effort by a Non-Blind Teenage Member

Only a couple of days before this year’s White Cane Awareness Day we received a note from Rishika Kartik. She is a thoughtful, imaginative young woman. She is also committed to equity for all. She had the idea that we could begin using the hashtag #MyCaneMyIndependence during our White Cane Awareness Day activities. Maybe it is something we want to focus on a bit more extensively next October. There just wasn’t time to pull the trigger on such a thoughtful campaign this time. It is all of the members like Rishika who make our Federation family what it is. Thank you, Rishika! #MyCaneMyIndependence.

 

Audio Information Network Brings News, Views, and More to the Blind of Colorado

From the aggregator: as our First Vice President, Jessica Beecham, said when offering appreciation to AIN, “AIN is like a sister entity to NFB-NEWSLINE here in Colorado. They bring content not available from NFB-NEWSLINE. NFB-NEWSLINE brings content that is mostly not available through AIN.” We received the following important notice from AIN’s energetic Executive Director Kim Wardlow. We hope you will participate in the survey. This is what she says;

I enjoyed participating in the virtual NFBCO Conference.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by the AINC booth!  There is still time to participate in the short survey to tell us what type of audio information would benefit you.  We will draw the names of two survey participants who will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.  The link for the survey is here.

 

NFBCO Activist Jennifer Spears Starts Up New Business With 10% of Sales to Benefit Colorado Center for the Blind

From the aggregator: if you are going to shop online, why not support our colleagues and friends this holiday season. At the recent NFBCO State Convention many door prizes and auction items came from La Bella Baskets, “the Spearit of Giving.” We thought you might want to read this announcement from Jennifer Spears.

I am writing to inform you of a fundraiser I have started by means of a nice side business. The company is called La Bella Baskets. My page is called Spearit of Giving. The beginning is spelled like my last name Spears rather than the standard spelling of spirit. Catchy, no? 

La Bella Baskets has products within the following categories:

Gift Baskets

Candles and Accessories

Cookies and Cookie Bouquets

Flowers and Plants

Chocolate-Covered Treats

Jewelry

Personalized Items

There is also a section called La Bella Boutique where customers can find items for $20 and under. On top of that, we offer candle, cookie, flower and discount memberships. 

Please visit spearitofgiving.labellabaskets.com for more details.

Ten percent of sales will be donated to the Colorado Center for the Blind.

Thank you for your time.

Jen

 

NFB-NEWSLINE Mobile 3.0 with KNFB Reader Basic Released

Free iOS App Now Available.

The National Federation of the Blind has released version 3.0 of NFB-NEWSLINE Mobile to the Apple App Store. The brand new, redesigned app not only allows subscribers to access all of the content available through NFB-NEWSLINE from their iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device, but includes a free basic version of the KNFB Reader mobile app. This is a powerful new tool from NFB-NEWSLINE. For information, go to the app store or learn all about NFB-NEWSLINE at www.nfb.org. Are you a subscriber to NFB-NEWSLINE? If so, thank you! I’ll bet there is more content up there that will excite you than you have even discovered. Search around. It is a powerful service. Want to give someone an easy gift this holiday season? Assist your blind brothers and sisters to get signed up for NFB-NEWSLINE. They will thank you, and together we will be building the National Federation of the Blind.

 

Sunrise and golden leaves reflected on the pond with mountains in the background


That’s It for This Edition of the Blind Coloradan.

We wish for each and every one of you a safe and joy-filled giving of the thanks.

Forward, always Forward!