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.
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:
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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!
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com, and my phone number will remain (719) 352-9134. Go Team USABA!
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.
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!