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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Jam-Packed Blind Coloradan. No Foolin, April 1, 2021

 

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

Writer, Aggregator: Kevan Worley.
Contributors: Dan Burke & Erin Daley

Here is what you need to know-

Dear Reader,

Usually I have something silly, witty, pithy, or profound to offer at the beginning of each issue of the Blind Coloradan. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But this time, in a growing, dynamic affiliate like ours. There’s no time for my nonsense! So much to report – let’s get to it!

 

What's My Line? By Julia Zanon 

Headshot of Julia Zanon

From the aggregator: Julia Zanon has been kind enough to write this profile of our colleague, Cody Bair. Many of you will know Julia from her tenure at the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). One of the most respected, knowledgeable, and kind contributors to work with the blind of Colorado for three decades. She served as a counselor, a supervisor, and the first manager of the Blindness and Low Vision Services Unit within DVR. We are running these profiles in conjunction with the Denver chapter’s employment session. Info about these employment sessions found here on the Blogspot. Here is what Julie says:

If you are as old as I am, then you might remember the television show featuring a panel of celebrities asking questions to figure out the occupation of a guest. It was called "What's My Line" and it was a fun way to learn about jobs and the people that do them. Since Denver Chapter is hosting employment workshops this spring, the Mile High chapter decided to help out by highlighting the occupations of some remarkable members. 

Cody Bair, who lives in Denver, became interested in business when he was growing up. His father owned a construction company. After taking an accounting class in high school, he realized how much he enjoyed learning about the numbers behind the business. Majoring in accounting in college and learning about tax law provided him the skills and opportunity to help individuals with the businesses they value. 

Cody states, "I am a first-generation college student so when I was in high school, I didn’t really know what to expect for my career. I knew that I was interested in business and accounting sounded cool; however, all I knew about accountants is that they prepared tax returns. While I did this for several years out of college, there is certainly much more to accounting than taxes and even more to taxes than just completing the tax return."

 Headshot of Cody Bair 

Cody is currently employed as a Senior Associate in the Research and Development Tax Services Group at Moss Adams, LLP. He serves clients throughout the west coast and mid-west in industries such as technology, agribusiness, consumer products, and energy. He had worked as a tax accountant for just over five years, but moved into a consulting role a little over a year ago. Cody is licensed as a CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, and has a Bachelor's in Accounting and a Master's degree in Taxation and has taken advantage of a lot of on-the-job training. Cody stressed that business networking skills are just as important as academic skills. While keeping up with tax law and working long hours can be challenging, what Cody loves about his job is talking with clients, learning about all of the exciting things they are doing with their businesses, and, in turn, being able to provide them with advice that saves them money on their taxes.

Cody would like to continue to work in a large firm and become a partner someday. Cody further states," I have been involved in the NFB ever since I graduated high school. Without the mentors I have gained through the organization, I would not have been able to achieve the success I have today. I currently have the honor of serving as president of the Mile High chapter and hope to see many of you who are reading this at one of our future meetings."

Be sure to check out the employment workshops hosted by the Denver Chapter.

 

Join President Riccobono for the Latest Updates & Perspective on Our Movement

Monday, April 5, 2021 at 8:00 p.m. ET via Zoom | En Español

Join President Mark Riccobono as he delivers the monthly presidential release of the National Federation of the Blind. Members of the Federation are encouraged to attend, and non-members are warmly welcomed. Closed captions will be provided on the Zoom platform, and you may also access the closed captions/transcript through 1CapApp. There are several options to attend the release. Submit questions in advance to cdanielsen@nfb.org and put PR504 in the subject line, or call 410-659-9314, extension 2473.

Join the Zoom (English and Español)

Join the event via the web, mobile app, or dial in. Use the link below to join the webinar which will include closed captions, Spanish interpretation, and the Q&A feature.

https://zoom.us/j/92243777679

Or one-tap mobile: +13017158592,,92243777679#

Or telephone; dial then enter the corresponding webinar ID:

+1 669 900 6833

Webinar ID: 922 4377 7679

More Ways to Access

•          Closed Captions via 1CapApp

•          Shoutcast Stream

•          YouTube Stream

Save the Date: Upcoming Presidential Releases

Mark your calendars! Here are the upcoming 2021 presidential releases that will be live events held at 8:00 p.m. ET. Closed captions will be available.

•          Monday, May 3

•          Tuesday, June 1

We look forward to your participation.

 

How Do You Know If You Are Deafblind?

From the aggregator: Doula Jarboe has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since she was a child. Over the past 30 years, she has taken on a number of roles in the movement. Doula currently serves as President of our NFBCO Deafblind Division. Here is the first in a series of posts we intend to publish about the work of the division, and the possibilities of the deafblind to live the lives they want.

Headshot of Doula Jarboe 

Until a few years ago, I didn’t really consider myself to be Deafblind. However, once I thought about it, the amount of hearing loss I have without hearing aids is enough of a deficit for me to feel like I’m deaf. When I filled out the application for I Can Connect, however, I was very confused about if I qualified for the hearing loss part, because there wasn’t a clear statement for level of hearing loss.

For those of us who happen to be blind, we have a clear legal definition. If your vision is 2200 or less, then legally you are considered blind. This definition exists for the Social Security Administration, SSA, to have a clear cut way of qualifying blind people for assistance. But when it comes to defining deafness, there isn’t anything so clear cut. From a medical perspective, deafness is broken into categories based on levels of hearing loss. As far as a legal definition of deafness, that is a bit more complicated. Such definitions can be different from the ADA to different state laws.

I think this is the other challenge with hearing loss and the word deafblind. Hearing loss is so gradual that it can be difficult to detect. Even for someone like me who has had hearing loss all of my life, my loss is so gradual that it’s difficult to detect. This is why it’s important to get a yearly hearing test, but I think the other issue is the stigma of semantics and what people are comfortable with. Some may be more comfortable with saying that they are hard of hearing or don’t hear well. When someone says they are Deafblind, many times people don’t know what that means. Just like with blindness, it covers a broad spectrum. There simply needs to be more education both within and outside the blindness community so there is a better understanding and more of a comfort level with this subset of the blindness community.

 

Let’s Get Going! By Maureen Nietfeld

From the aggregator: Whether you are an active member or a casual reader of this blog, Maureen Nietfeld should need no introduction. President of our Blind Parents Division, Secretary of our great affiliate, Sports and Recreation activist and proponent, as well as mother of 2-year-old Logan. How does she do it? Read the following for part of the answer.

With warm weather soon approaching and the hope that things will continue to open up, the thought of getting in shape, having more energy, and just feeling healthier may be in the forefront of your mind. This can stir feelings of excitement or feelings of dread. Sometimes knowing where to start can feel like a daunting task. 

People tend to find the most success by starting with goals that are achievable and realistic. Start small! Focus on what makes you feel good. Getting healthy and active should feel amazing. Maybe it’s taking a 10-minute walk – whether outside or in place – after every meal. If you have three meals a day, that’s 30 minutes a day of walking! Maybe it’s telling Alexa to start a 7-minute workout or stretching for five minutes when you wake up. Maybe it’s simply being able to lift your arms and legs or putting focus on mindful eating and breathing. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to get on an elliptical for an hour or spend two hours in a gym to be an active, healthy person. The key is to maintain movement throughout your day. 

Every single one of us faces a variety of barriers when it comes to getting active and being healthy. Maybe it’s work, children, illness, or mental health. I personally believe that removing guilt and shame around what we feel we are unable to do and focusing on what we can do is step one. Trying to make a conscious effort around noticing what you were able to do each day instead of what you weren’t able to do can make a world of difference. Be kind to yourself. 😊 

Having an accountability partner can also be helpful. Having outside support from a friend, family member, or any kind of support group can help sustain motivation. The sports and recreation division wants to remind everyone that the board is here to be a resource to each and every one of you. Please reach out with questions, ideas, concerns, or any of your needs pertaining to health and wellness.

 

One Way to Stay Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise in the Ways of Our Federation is to Read the Braille Monitor. Available in Several Formats. Check Out the Dynamic April Issue Here.

 

Know Your Rights

The second in our series of Know Your Rights on Mountain Time at 5 was a huge success. Currently available on YouTube, more than 135 attended to learn more about the rights of blind travelers with cane or canine. Expert guests included the President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users Raul Gallegos, the President NFBCO Scott LaBarre, NFBCO Wild West Chapter President Paul Sandoval, long-time Federation leader, author, nationally known guide dog advocate, and member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Center for the Blind Mike Hingson. Held March 11, it was the 72nd Mountain Time at 5 and had the highest attendance.

Stay tuned for info about what’s next in our Mountain Time at 5 Know Your Rights series.

German Shepherd laying down in grass in harness.

Izaac, now retired Fidelco guide dog and 11 years old. Photo credit Sue DeMaio

 

Announcing 2021 Summer Programs for Youth at the Colorado Center for the Blind

From Martin Becerra-Miranda, Director CCB Youth Services:

The Colorado Center for the Blind is excited to announce three programs for youth, ages 13 to 21, to be held in the summer of 2021! Two of the programs will be virtual and one will be a day program for students in the Denver metro area. The virtual programs will take place on the Zoom Cloud Meeting platform, which can be accessed using an Internet connection and computer, by iPhone or Android apps, or by dialing in. Students will receive Zoom meeting information before the first day of the course in which they will participate.

 

All three courses address important Pre-ETS skills, such as job and career exploration, college counseling, independent living, self-advocacy, and self-determination. Thus, course costs are eligible to be paid by Vocational Rehabilitation Pre-ETS funding for youth. 

Two smiling blind teenagers at Big Soda Lake near the mountains 

To apply for any of these summer programs, please visit the application page and complete the online form. 

If you have any questions, please contact Martin Becerra-Miranda at mbecerra@cocenter.org or call (303) 778-1130, ext 223. 

World of Work

The Colorado Center for the Blind is offering a two week virtual program to students aged 13 - 21 from across the country. Before the first day of the program, students will receive a materials box that will include a slate, stylus, Braille instructional book, long white cane, sleep shades, tactile graphics, and much more. Students will receive instruction in our four core subject areas of Braille, Technology, Home Management, and Cane Travel. In addition to this, we will hold workshops and activities that focus on career exploration and developing strong employment skills. These workshops include an employer panel, career interest assessment, mock interviews, and one-on-one informational interviews with professionals in the student’s field of interest. 

The program will be held Monday through Thursday, June 7 - June 17, 2021. We will meet on the Zoom Meeting platform from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM and from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM Mountain Time. 

Cracking the College Code

This two week virtual program is being offered to students aged 13 - 21 from across the country. Before the first day of the program, students will receive a materials box that will include a slate, stylus, Braille instructional book, long white cane, sleep shades, tactile graphics, and much more. Students will receive instruction in our four core subject areas of Braille, Technology, Home Management, and Cane Travel. In addition to this, we will hold workshops that focus on preparing for college and student life as well as participate in hands-on STEM activities. These workshops include a college student panel, hands-on chemistry project, ADA workshop, conversation with a Disability Resource Office counselor, robotics project, and more! 

The program will be held Monday through Thursday June 21 - July 1, 2021. We will meet on the Zoom Meeting platform from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM and from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM Mountain Time. 

No Limits to Learning

The Colorado Center for the Blind is offering a two week day program to students in the Denver Metro Area aged 13 - 21. Space is limited to 12 students, and we will take applicants on a first-come first-serve basis. In this program, students will receive instruction in our four core subject areas of Braille, Technology, Home Management, and Cane Travel in a maximum student to staff ratio of 3-to-1. On the first day of classes, students will receive a slate, stylus, Braille instructional book, long white cane, and a pair of sleep shades. We know that using non-visual skills is the most effective and efficient way for a blind person to live a successful and independent life. This is why our blind staff fully implement the Structured Discovery teaching method, which allows our students to learn through their own experiences and problem-solving techniques. In addition to the classes mentioned above, we will hold a daily Philosophy class in which staff and students will discuss a variety of topics that focus on developing a positive attitude on blindness. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in challenge rec activities that will establish and grow their self-confidence. 

Local health department guidelines permitting, the program will be held Monday through Friday July 19 - July 30, 2021 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. 

Register for CCB Summer 2021!

 Colorado Center for the Blind logo

Take Charge with Confidence and Self-Reliance

 

Breaking News! From Kim Ann Wardlow, Executive Director, Audio Information Network of Colorado (AINC)

From the aggregator: Over the long and distinguished tenure of Colorado’s AIN, originally Radio Reading Services of the Rockies, the organization has had many blind employees. We are excited to tell you that AINC currently has one part-time and two full-time positions available. For all the deets: Click here to link to the postings on our website.

Thank you, Kim!

Logo for the Audio Information Network of Colorado

 

Colorado’s Business Enterprise Program for the Blind Announces the Addition of Troy Larson

From the aggregator: We received the following news from Krista Hedlund, Manager, Blindness and Low Vision Services (BLVS). Here it is, in part.

Please join me in congratulating Troy Larson and welcome him to the Business Enterprise Program. Troy was the unanimous and unequivocal choice of the interview panel. The panel included the DVR Director, DVR CFO, BEP Operator, and BLVS Manager. 

Troy joins the team as the BEP Manager and comes to us with 4 years of experience working for the great state of Colorado, and 25+ years of experience working in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. Several of those years were spent operating a family-owned cake decorating business. Troy graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Restaurant and Institutional Management. 

Welcome to the team!

 

My Blind Story, by Sylvia R. Vigil

From the aggregator: The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind comes directly from the lived experiences of blind people. I first met Sylvia Vigil when she was a student at our Center. I happen to be there to enjoy her mini meal and enjoy it I did! I consider myself a bit of a chili connoisseur. The chili Sylvia served was sensational. Look for Sylvia’s sensational chili recipe at the end of this blog. I asked her to write a bit about her life growing up in Walsenburg, Colorado.   Here is what she says. 

I was born into the world on May 2nd, 1975.  I was born with an underdeveloped optic nerve.  So, I have been like this all of my life! 

I lived in the small town of Walsenburg, Colorado. I attended a normal elementary school.  While I was attending that school, I was featured in the local newspaper for receiving a CCTV.   I had really nice friends that didn’t tease or bully me. They were very nice and helpful.  My grandfather worked in the cafeteria as a custodian. He would always help me throw away my trash. They told him to let me do it for myself. I never thought much of it. I guess when you’re little you don’t think about those things and they don’t bother you. So, you just go with it. I’d spend my recesses on the playground listening to music. 

I also went to a normal middle school. I had the same friends there; they never stopped being my friends. I had tutors to help me as the work got harder for me to do. I went to a normal high school for two years. After that, I attended the Colorado School for The Deaf and Blind from 1993-1996. 

While attending CSDB, I lived in a dorm away from my family for the first time. It was a new experience for me. It was the first time I had used a cane. I made a lot of new friends and felt like I actually fit in. I learned the basics of cooking and cleaning. Before going to CSDB, I didn’t know how to turn the stove/oven on. I didn’t even know how to do my laundry. CSDB was also the first place that I traveled for the first time on the bus. Other than my classes, I had different jobs. My first job was at the student center doing concession type work. I worked at a steakhouse wrapping baked potatoes and tending the salad bar. I also worked in the laundry at both the Antlers Double Tree and Embassy Suites – not to mention in a bakery at Cub Foods and in a convenient store on Peterson Airforce Base. I was captain of the cheerleading team and Homecoming Queen. I graduated in ‘96 and then went back to Walsenburg.

 

 LISTEN UP!

Amira Lucas is the dynamic President of the Colorado Organization of Parents of Blind Children. She serves as co-chair of NFBCO Education Initiatives. She is relatively new to the movement, but she has already made her mark. She has a 2-year-old blind son, Kadyn. It seems that Kadyn really enjoyed himself at the zoo.

Kadyn's head peaking through elephant ears sculpture to make it look like his own ears at the zoo


 

Local Chapters and Statewide Divisions Engage for Spring and Summer

Don’t forget your local chapter meeting. Chapters are now in the midst of planning for activities to take place through the fall. Be a part of the planning and learn what your local chapter or state division can do for you. Invite friends and family. Warmly encourage families of blind children to learn more about our parents’ divisions and education initiatives. For information about how you can become more involved, email assistance@nfbco.org or leave a message requesting information on the NFBCO hotline: 303-778-1130 ext. 219.

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

 

Attend 2021 NFB BELL® Academy In-Home Edition: Applications Now Open!

Enhance Braille and nonvisual skills with us. The National Federation of the Blind is offering three virtual programs of the NFB BELL Academy this summer to prepare blind and low-vision children to grow into confident and independent blind people by enhancing their education. Options are available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students for the following dates:

•          Session 1: June 7-18, 2021

•          Session 2: July 19-30, 2021

•          Session 3: August 9-20, 2021 

Receive Braille and other fun materials for lessons. Connect with experienced teachers. Build relationships with other blind students and mentors. 

About NFB BELL

NFB BELL Academy, an annual summer program, is appropriate for blind and low-vision children, ages 4-12, who:

•          Do not receive enough Braille and nonvisual skills instruction in school

•          Could benefit from more Braille exposure over the summer

•          Would enjoy connecting with blind role models 

While the program is typically in-person across the country, we are excited to offer it virtually in 2021. 

Apply Today

Limited space is available. Learn more and apply now!

•          English application

•          Spanish application

 

Bulldog Band Honor Pandemic Heroes Through Song and Pictures

From the aggregator: We received the following joyful piece from Diane Taylor. Diane is a true partner and friend of this blog. Diane manages community relations for the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. 

Attention! Impact to the heart! Students, in the School for the Blind Bulldog Band chose this song, by Alicia Keys, at the start of the quarter to honor community helpers. The students gave their teacher the idea of using pictures of heroes instead of having themselves shown as the singers. Mikayla recorded the piano part and sent the part to all of the students. They recorded their individual parts at homes and sent them to their teacher through email. The students then independently chose who they wanted to thank at the end. How does this performance make you feel?

 

[This video is captioned, and audio described.] 

Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind logo

 Sylvia’s Sensational Chili Recipe

·        2 pounds ground beef

·        2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained

·        1/4 onion, chopped

·        3-5 garlic cloves, minced

·        2 cans diced tomatoes with green chili

·        Flower

·        Water

·        1/4 cup red chili power

·        1 tsp cumin

 

Directions:

1.     Heat a large pot on medium to brown the ground beef.

2.     While ground beef is cooking, measure the chili powder, cumin, and a pinch of garlic salt. Put it in small bowl and set aside.

3.     Drain beef in colander, making sure to reserve the grease in a bowl.

4.     Open the tomatoes and set side.

5.     Pour reserved grease back into the pot and then add 1/4 cup flour to the oil/grease to toast the flour. Stir constantly so flour does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

6.     Add your water to the flour and stir. You will know that you have enough water when the flour stops sticking to the spoon, or you could go by how much juice you want in your chili.

7.     Add beef, garlic, onion, canned tomatoes, kidney beans, and seasonings to the pot.

8.     Stir chili until all ingredients are combined.

9.     Bring chili to a boil.

10. Cover with a lid and turn down to medium-low to simmer.

11. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

12. ENJOY!

 

That’s It for This Edition of the Blind Coloradan

Forward, always Forward!


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Denver Employment Series

NFB of Denver kicks Off Spring Employment Series

COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives over the past year, and not least how we work, whether we have work,  and how we find work during a socially-distanced pandemic. With the vaccine rollouts underway, we can finally anticipate the end of masks and meeting restrictions, but we also know that many of these changes are likely to remain with us for a good while.

And just how do you like  working from home and remote job interviews?

With all this in mind, the Denver Chapter Board put together a three-part employment series to assist our blind members as we all learn to navigate the changing employment landscape. All are welcome!

We started our three-part series at the March meeting. Erin Daley, chapter secretary, and Ryan Adams, a 2017 graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind discussed their very recent experiences out in the job market. Both, in fact, have recently started new positions that represent advancements in their respective careers. Yes, these two were applying, interviewing and finding new jobs as blind professionals even during the pandemic. Their tips about interviewing on the now-ubiquitous medium of Zoom, ensuring the camera is squared up, and universal tips on resume-writing were fresh and exciting.

We hope you’ll join us for our final two sessions in this employment series.

  • On April 17 we’ll continue exploring today’s employment landscape with a panel of blind people that have cool and interesting jobs. We will also hold mock interviews in Zoom breakout rooms so you can get some real practice and maybe work out some of those interview jitters! We’re asking that anyone who is interested in a mock interview sign up in advance. More about how to do that ant the mock job description for which you’ll be interviewing will be released in early April.
  • Our NFB Denver May 15 meeting will be dedicated to Staying Connected through Social Media and Virtual Networking! Our experts will guide us through some indispensable apps and platforms such as LinkedIn, Skype, Clubhouse, Indeed, and other networked tools that can be helpful for the job hunt.

You won’t want to miss these, so come ready to take notes and ask questions.

The Denver Chapter meets the 3rd Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon on Zoom. 

We will hold our regular business part of the meeting in the first hour, and the employment series will be held during the second hour. Watch for Zoom info on Colorado-Talk!

Daniel J. Burke, M.S.
Public Relations Specialist
Colorado Center for the Blind
Phone: 303.778.1130  Ext:  213

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The March is On. St. Patrick's Day Blind Coloradan-- March 4, 2021

 

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

Writer, Aggregator: Kevan Worley.
Contributors: Dan Burke & Erin Daley
Here is what you need to know-




"When Fortune knocks, open the door, they say. But why should one make fortune knock, by keeping the door shut?" A quote by Idries Shah, against a green background decorated with wooden shamrocks colored green.

 
It’s Open, It’s Open! Registration for the 2021 Virtual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind

It’s free for all! Plan to attend July 6 through 10. And we can all start dreaming of our 2022 convention in New Orleans. https://www.nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention

Anywhere and Everywhere #NFB21. 

 

KNOW! YOUR! RIGHTS! Thursday, March 11, Mountain Time at 5 P.M.

The second in our Mountain Time at 5 Know Your Rights Series will focus on the rights of blind travelers with canines or canes. We will talk about white cane laws, Americans with Disabilities Act, the most recent airline regulations with regard to guide dogs on airplanes, and much more. As always, Mountain Time at 5 will feature subject matter experts from Colorado and the nation, including Scott LaBarre, attorney and President, NFBCO, experts from our National Association of Guide Dog Users, TBA, and those from leading guide dog schools. More details coming soon, but please mark your calendars for our March 11 Know Your Rights Mountain Time at 5 Zoom! Closed captioning will be available.

    Here are your Zoom Coordinates:

    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

Ginger Kutsch's dogs from the Seeing Eye, Easton, a yellow Lab, and Willow, a black Lab, curled up together on a plaid dog bed in front of a fire in a fireplace

Ginger Kutsch's dogs from The Seeing Eye®, Easton and Willow. 

THE 2020 ELECTION: HISTORIC YET DISAPPOINTING, By Scott C. LaBarre, President, National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

Anyone who reads the above title may be fearful that I am about to launch into some political rant about the 2020 General Election. Fear not! Instead, the title refers to the fact that the 2020 General Election was indeed historic for the blind of Colorado but also, in my view, quite disappointing.

For a couple of personal reasons, the election was quite significant. Individually, it was the first time that I could vote absentee in a Presidential election and do so privately and independently. This is because we, in 2019, successfully convinced the Colorado General Assembly to adopt S.B. 19-202, championed by our good friend Senator Jessie Danielson, which allows us to mark our ballot online using assistive technology, print it out, and then return it either through the mail or by dropping it off at an official ballot location. 

As I recall, there were 35 different items on my ballot on which I had to vote.  Many of them were ballot issues and local elections. Using my laptop and JAWS 2020, I was able to access the ballot and read every last word on it. Just like my sighted colleagues, family, friends, and neighbors who were voting by mail, I could look at the questions presented, go and study them, and then make my decision. It is an incredibly liberating experience to do this completely on my own and not rely on anyone else. After I had marked my ballot, I printed it out, placed it in the return envelope provided by my county, and then later dropped it off at a ballot box. 

The added bonus for this election was that it represented the first time our son, Alex, had ever voted. We were able to discuss all the issues and candidates, and voting became a family affair. Unfortunately, Emily could not vote yet because she is only sixteen, but she did help. After we had all filled out our ballots, we decided we would celebrate our democracy by going to dinner. First, we stopped by the local library and dropped off our ballots, and Emily was the one who carried them to the box and dropped them in. Afterward, we had a great family dinner at Rice Bistro, a great local pan-Asian restaurant that I highly recommend. 

I was quite cheerful about the election because we as blind Coloradans could use the vote by mail system as conveniently as our sighted peers. I had hoped that thousands of blind Coloradans would join me in taking advantage of the ease and convenience that comes with absentee voting. After all, the vast majority, some 94 percent in 2020, of non-disabled voters in Colorado did, in fact, vote absentee, and I assumed that it would be the same for us, especially during the pandemic where we could vote safely in our homes. 

It is at this point where my disappointment creeps into the picture. According to information from the Secretary of State’s Office, less than 100 of us returned our ballots by using our accessible vote by mail system. We also have evidence that many more individuals attempted to use the system but did not actually complete the process. For example, in Denver, 202 individuals accessed the online ballot marking tool, but only 14 of them actually returned their ballot after using the tool, a staggeringly low 6.9 percent. Now, I suspect that the vast majority of blind voters did vote absentee, but instead of using the accessible ballot marking tool, they relied on someone to fill out the ballot for them. 

This leads us to wonder why the accessible and private system is so underused, and I think we know the answer. The current approach requires us to print out a hard copy of our ballot and then return that ballot like our non-disabled colleagues. We have learned that the major obstacle is that very few folks have either their own or easy access to a printer.  

When we ran our bill two years ago, I never imagined that lack of a printer would become such an issue. Personally, I have always had one or more printers ever since law school – in other words, for over 30 years. I guess, however, I am kind of old-fashioned. Most people don’t own printers any longer and rely on their smart technology to do pretty much everything. It appears to be no different for our community. 

What are we going to do about this problem? Well, we intend to persuade our friends in the General Assembly to revise the law we got passed two years ago to allow for electronic return as well as electronic ballot delivery. We have learned that military and other citizens who live overseas but are still Colorado citizens are able to not only receive their ballot electronically, but also return it electronically via fax, email, or a secure online portal. It should be no different for us. 

Our good friend Senator Danielson is carrying a bill that would allow us to return our ballots electronically. As of the time I am writing this, she has not officially dropped the bill, but I expect it to be introduced the week of March 1st. Once that happens, you can count on the fact that we will be urging all of you to call and email your Senators and Representatives and request that they support the bill.  Stay tuned to the usual NFBCO channels. 

The right to vote privately and independently is fundamental to our democracy.  Because of our advocacy, it is possible for us to exercise that right on terms of equality with our non-disabled colleagues whether we are doing so in person or absentee. We will strengthen our right to vote by revising our law to permit electronic return. Once we make this legislative fix, I urge all of you to vote using the accessible system. In my opinion, it is the most effective and convenient way to fulfill our civic duty and therefore protect our rights. Until we changed the law in 2019, I never realized how rewarding and liberating it is to vote via absentee ballot and to do so entirely on my own.

 

Calling Congress – Is There Anybody Home? By Dan Burke

This year, the Washington Seminar, the annual event of the National Federation of the Blind that sees more than 500 blind Americans traverse the halls of our nation’s Capital with white canes and guide dogs, was instead a Zoom event. Rather than the thrilling sounds of dozens of white canes tapping across the marble floors of Congressional office buildings well-mixed with the jingling of dog harnesses, the most common sounds may have been, “Sorry, can you hear me now?” But that is not to say that there were not many positives. 

First and foremost, our four legislative priorities for 2021 were presented to nearly every one of the 535 members of Congress, or at least their aides. The Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) was reintroduced in both the House and the Senate, and cosponsors to those bills, H.R. 431 and S. 212, were already being added. At this writing, there are 41 cosponsors on the House bill, and eight on the Senate version. Of Colorado’s delegation, Reps. DeGette and Crow are listed again as cosponsors, and both cosponsored the ATAA in the last session of Congress. Along with the ATAA, we brought forth proposed legislation on accessibility for home-use medical devices, for creating federal regulations on web and app accessibility, and for voting access across the United States. 

In Colorado, the seven appointments we had over the week of February 8 on Zoom meant that 30 to 40 Colorado Federationists were on each of those calls, including staff and students from the Colorado Center for the Blind. Of course, to keep things manageable only a handful of us were able to talk at each meeting, but more Coloradans were able to participate than ever before. That also meant that a number of members who might not have otherwise been able to attend in-person or who had never had the opportunity were able to talk about bills close to their hearts. No question, this all makes the NFB of Colorado stronger. 

The downside was that the Washington Seminar week, February 8 to 11, was when the Senate scheduled the impeachment trial. Immediately, we knew our chances were limited of meeting with either Senator. Reps. DeGette and Neguse were named as managers for the House, limiting our chances to meet with either of them, too. In the end, we met with legislative aides in seven of the nine Colorado offices, but not a single actual member of Congress. That was more than disappointing. As for our two new delegation members, Senator Hickenlooper and Congresswoman Boebert, they couldn’t get it together enough to schedule even an aide to meet with us. In the 20 years I’ve been making appointments for Washington Seminar, first for Montana and now Colorado, I’ve never had this happen before. Can you say, “Unprecedented”? 

Well, I know what Kevan Worley would say, and I agree with him, “Forward, always forward!” And that’s how we will continue with the issues that matter most to us as blind people. Thanks to all of you who joined a call and those of you who spoke in a meeting. In the National Federation of the Blind, we take on things that are hard because they are important to us. We never slump back in our chairs and decide they are too hard. Shoulder to shoulder, we continue to press forward, to make progress, and in the process we grow stronger as a movement and as individuals, because we are determined to live the lives we want. 

You can read more about our four 2021 Legislative priorities on the Washington Seminar page. Below is the list. 

Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) (H.R. 431, S. 212)

 

Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act

 

Twenty-First Century Mobile Apps and Website Accessibility Act

 

Americans with Disabilities Voting Rights Act

 

Walking While Blind in Manhattan During the Pandemic, by Peter Slatin

From the aggregator: If one would really like to delve into the philosophy, policies, activities, innovation, and empowerment found in the National Federation of the Blind? I urge the reading of our national flagship publication, The Braille Monitor. March Monitor features a wonderful article from Peter Slatin. Peter is a 2015 graduate of our Colorado Center for the Blind. He also serves with distinction on the Center’s Board of Directors. Here’s how Monitor editor Gary Wunder introduces the article. Then, click that link and enjoy all that the March Monitor has to offer you.


Peter Slatin standing outside the Loews Regency Hotel at 540 Park Avenue in New York City


From the Editor: Peter Slatin is the founder and president of Slatin Group, a New York City-based firm that provides education and training to the hospitality and tourism industry on service to people with disabilities. He is also an award-winning journalist and a 2020-2021 Encore.org Public Voices Fellow. We are fortunate that he is a frequent contributor to this magazine and chooses to lend his talents to the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what he says about dealing with the pandemic as a traveler in New York City.

 

COVID Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws, Create Inequity for the Blind

From the aggregator: When the National Federation of the Blind advocates for completely equal accessibility, there can be lives at stake. Making medical devices completely accessible or insisting on website and app accessibility can be about life and death. This is particularly true during this pandemic, as you will see if you read this story from Kaiser Health News. It is not just about living the life you want; in many cases, it’s about life itself.

Many COVID vaccination registration and information websites at the federal, state, and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability of blind people to sign up for a potentially lifesaving vaccine, a KHN investigation has found. …

 

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Organization of Parents of Blind Children Celebrates Learning Box Program Early Success, Seeks More Families to Participate!

Our first two learning box activities were hugely successful!

 

A student making a self-portrait using different shapes (sparkly blue circle for head, brown rectangle for body)

Your first learning box activity lesson is on us!

Subscription Prices and Options:

$25 for a month to month subscription

$125 for a 6-month subscription

$250 for a 12-month subscription

Note: Scholarships are available. We don’t want any family left out!

We will continue to have learning boxes on the fourth Sunday of each month for students. Here is a tentative list of upcoming learning box activities:

March: Science (fun experiments)

April: Literacy (create your own story)

May: Science (exploring plant life)                                                                          

To join in the fun for our March learning box activity, contact us at coloradoparentsofblindchildren@gmail.com. 

Any donations are greatly appreciated.

We are indebted to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and the Colorado Center for the Blind for their vast knowledge, inspiration, and support for our emerging dynamic education initiatives.

Sincerely,

Amira Lucas-President, Colorado Organization Parents of Blind Children, a proud division of NFBCO.

Michelle Chacon, Teacher of blind students and Chairperson, NFBCO Children’s Education Initiative.

Martin Becerra-Miranda, Director of Youth Services, Colorado Center for the Blind.

 

And, For, You, Older Kids. It’s National Federation of the Blind State and National Scholarship Time! Apply Now!

NFB national scholar deadline is March 31. Many Colorado students have found support and success through our National Program. The state scholarship deadline is April 15. The NFBCO scholarship committee will be hosting an information seminar on increasing scholarship opportunities for blind students in late March. Be sure to check Colorado Talk for further information. In the meantime, apply! And spread the word about our, “robust!” scholarship programs.

 

Don’t Miss Your Next Chapter Meeting!

For a list of chapter meetings, dates, times, and Zoom links, email assistance@nfbco.org, or leave a message on the hotline 303-778-1130 ext. 219. This email address and phone number is one of the best ways to communicate when you have questions about the programs and services we offer for members and non-members. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.

 

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

Forward, always Forward!