Category Archives: NFB

Blindness (the Film)

Blindness (the Film)

On Friday the film Blindness will be released to general audiences. This film, which is an adaptation of the 1995 Jose Saramago novel of the same name. This film portrays a society afflicted by a sudden onset of blindness that instantly turns the residence into helpless animals. The National Federation of the Blind has released the following information in an attempt to clarify the alarming misconceptions this film may ingender in viewers. Please take a moment to read and consider this information before watching this… thing.

Read the NFB’s FAQ About the Movie

iTunes Accessibility and Other Updates

iTunes Accessibility and Other Updates

On Friday I went to Watertown, MA to participate in an exciting press conference announcing an agreement between Apple Inc., The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and the National Federation of the Blind to make the iTunes software, store, and iTunes U accessible to blind people. It was the first time that I’ve participated in a press conference and I think it went pretty well. You can read the AP story announcing the agreement.

I did learn something from this flight. I should never try changing flights to get back early. I was originally scheduled for an 18:30 flight coming back to Baltimore. My colleague was on a 17:30 flight and I asked f I could change to get back a little faster. There was an open seat and I got on the flight. While we were going through security his wife called and said the 17:30 had been pushed to 19:00. Groan. Sure enough, the flight didn’t get off until 19:45. We ended up having to go through security twice too owing to the fact that the section of the airport we were in had almost no options for food.

Also, a quick update. I finally got the blogroll caught up with reality. Hopefully I haven’t missed anyone.

In other news. We endedup at the Cheesecake Factory Tuesday night since ESPN Zone was closed for a private event. I still need to get my skiball and airhockey game on. 🙂

Wednesday Wackiness

Wednesday Wackiness

I don’t care if today is one day closer to the weekend. I am declaring shenanigans and demanding a do over, or better yet fast forward.

Last night I got home at about 21:30 after working an extra few hours showing products at a technology fair in Columbia. The show was really well attended and we showed off the new KNFB Reader Mobile and a couple of other new products.

Having agreed to go to a congressional hearing today it was necessary to be at the office at 07:00. We loaded up the vans, drove to DC, and spent an hour standing around because the hearing room was locked. No big deal I got the chance to catch up with one of the summer interns who I hadn’t seen in a while and eavsedrop on the US Capitol Police radio traffic. We were let into the room at 09:55 after being informed the hearing would start 20 minutes late.

Our representative was first on the agenda. I expected his testamony to take some time and be followed up by questioning from the committee. You know what I sat through? His 5 minute statement and 3 or 4 minutes of the committee chair saying our issue was basically not important and that we shouldn’t challenge the Librarian of Congress on his assertion that it was acceptable to phase the talking book program from cassette tape to digital books over 6 years instead of 4. Couple of quick facts here before I go on.

Seventeen thousand public libraries exist for sighted readers to obtain books from. Countless numbers of bookstores and websites exist for the same reason. Do you know how many libraries there are for the blind in this country? One. The National Library Service for the Blind. It serves 800,000 patrons throughout the entire country, producing talking and Braille books. Care to take a stab at how many recorded books are made available each year?

One percent.

Yes, a mere one percent of the available print material is made available to blind citizens. In a world where access to information and knowledge is a critical component of becoming educated and getting a job is it a wonder that 70 percent of working age blind adults are unemployed?

No, the NLS isn’t the *only* method for accessing books in alternative format, but it is the primary source for most of America’s blind. Services such as Audible and Bookshare do exist, and are good for what they offer (I use Bookshare heavily and Audible occasionally), but many blind citizens don’t have the funds, skills, or technology to utilize these services.

If the United States Congress does not make the 19.1 million dollar appropriation we are seeking it may be 3 years before some blind Americans have access to new books. That’s three fourths of a teenager’s highschool career. Imagine you walk into your local library or bookstore and see that their once massive collection has been reduced to one percent of what it was. Further imagine the librarian or store manager informs you that no new books will be coming in for another three years. How well would that go over?

Wow. That descended into a diatribe I wasn’t originally planning on writing, but I think I finally put my finger on why I was so annoyed today. It wasn’t that half my day was consumed with an eight minute meeting, or the fact that my sandwich vomited mustard all over my shirt and pants, nor the fact that my stomach almost rebelled on the way back to work from something I ate (TMI? Sorry.), or even the fact that I really can’t get any work done now because the Internets are broken. Really, what’s got me annoyed is the Committee chair acting as if we aren’t important. She commented that the blind are “not being left out.” and that a substantial portion of the budget being considered was going to programs that benefit blind Americans. That’s all well and good, but we are merely asking for a chance at accessing something many people take for granted.


Like I said. Shenanigans.

Oh, and I am now on hold with AT&T because they have, once again, deleted my voicemail account. This is still a holdover problem from the night the one support rep hosed one, and consequently the other, of our SIM cards. Cost me a $25 cab ride and two and a half hours on the phone with tech support to get new SIMs too. Yeah, I’m quite thrilled with them right now.

ooh, goodie. Voicemail is back, but I have to recreate my mailbox. Hope noone left me messages I will not get now.

96 Hours In LA, Day 1

96 Hours In LA, Day 1

My watch says 21:30, but my body and the clock on my laptop disagree.

The one thing I’ve discovered about flying west is that you seem to acquire 3 more hours in your day, but you really don’t end up doing anything with them.

The day started when my alarm went off at 05:40 (eastern) this morning. I got up, finished packing, and headed for the airport. After clearing security and buying breakfast we boarded our flight for a 09:10 departure. Five hours later we landed in Los Angeles to attend the annual California State University North Ridge Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN).

This conference is huge, at least for the disability field. It is spread out between 2 primary hotels and a third is being used for some events as well. We are here to relaunch the NFB nonvisual Web Certification Program and to present on low cost verses full featured screen access products.

It’s looking like it will be a fun time, and I’m excited to catch up on the latest in new products.

The only downside to the whole thing is that I’ve spent less than 12 waking hours with Treva in teh past week. She spent last week in Indiana, which was really good for her, but since she got back Monday night and I left this morning, it was a little sad.

I’ll try to cover some highlights of the conference in the coming couple days.

Changes, Changes, changes

Changes, Changes, changes

It has been so long since I’ve written a substantive post, I’m not sure I remember how to do it right anymore. Life is spinning like a whirlwind and and I want to let everyone know what’s going on. So I’ll muttle through the intricacies of language, sentence structure, and punctuation to keep my readers enthralled. 🙂

We have been running around like crazy the past couple weeks getting ready for our move. The Friday before Thanksgiving Treva’s mother and sister came down to deliver some furnature and help pack. We had a chest of drawers and a headboard made to match the dresser and lamp stand turned table that we already had. The craftsman who made them consulted the Amish guy who made the first set. They match nearly perfectly and we think that in a couple years, when the wood fades somewhat, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

We spent that weekend in Goshen with Treva’s family and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with them.

Tuesday we headed to Wisconsin. We had planned on spending the day with friends at the Museum of Science and Industry, but unfortunately they were all sick and had to cancel. We grabbed an earlier train and had the chance to spend more time with my Uncle Darren who would only be in town until the following day.

We were in Wisconsin until Sunday when my Dad and Grandpa drove us back to Richmond. We had a great time and it was good to spent time with everyone since we won’t be able to come home for Christmas this year.

Our friends took us out to dinner Monday which was really nice. We got to spend some more time with them before leaving and they, of course, got to pick on me some more before they had to do it over e-mail. 🙂

Wednesday was my last day of work in Richmond. It was a day of mixed emotions. Excitement over the upcoming adventure, trepedation over the upcoming adventure, and the sadness that comes with knowing you are leaving good friends.

Because of the giant amount of work I still needed to complete before leaving I decided to go in early. Treva and I arrived at the office at 6:30 to discover the phones didn’t work, we couldn’t get to the internet, and we couldn’t access internal web applications either. Muttering a harty, “I love the smell of server crashes in the morning,” I dove into the server room. When all was said and done I had to reboot both servers (a process that takes about 10-15 minutes per box) and reset the Internet gateway. After discovering everything appeared to be functioning again I got about 20 minutes of work in before I had to go get my hair cut.

On the way back from my appointment I called in to talk to someone and discovered that calls were not being forwarded to voicemail if the phone wasn’t being answered. Fine, yet another box to reset when I get back.

After that was all fixed I finally got around to what I was actually supposed to be doing that day and hammered out the end of year grant report for the state. Well, I got done as much as I could anyway. The report form we used last year was different than the one for this year and I had to send some of it to my boss for him to figure out. I never had any training in this report or even a general overview of what the “workplan” really is and where ours even was.

At the end of the day I ended up deleting myself from all network systems. E-mail, user account, and the StatusView software. It was a little weird to be removing myself from the system, but it did need to be done. Finishing the day by having my picture taken several dozen times I headed home with Treva to cram in as much last minute packing as possible.

After a 45 minute nap, some last minute purging of my office space, packing my suitcases to the point of weighing just under 50 pounds each, reprogramming my scanner, talking with our friends on Ventrilo, scouting the Internet again for more possible housing choices, moving Treva’s computer, putting laundry away, and possibly eating a turkey sandwich somewhere along the way I finally got to bed around 4:30.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEEP!” says my alarm at 6:15.

“I hate you.” says I.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEP!” says the alarm with obvious delight.

“If you weren’t on the other side of the room already you sure would be now,” I grumble. Stumbling out of I bed I beat the alarm int o silence. Turning the radio on I crawl back into bed for another 15 minutes. When I wake up again Treva is in the shower and I am absolutely shaking. My teeth were chattering and my limbs were trembling. Do I ever wish I was kidding about this too. It was the weirdest feeling. I don’t know if it was nerves, if I was actually cold, or a combination of both. Maybe my body was just mad at me for granting it so little sleep.

Our ride arrived at 7 and we headed to the airport. I think we both pretty much slept the entire way to the airport. I know I slept through the first part of the flight to Baltimore too.

After getting settled in at our temporary accomodations at the National Center for the Blind I talked with my new boss to learn where I need to be and what I need to do Monday morning. We had an enjoyable dinner with our friends Mark and Melissa and headed back to the Center to relax.

Today is day one of The Great Housing Hunt. We have 4 apartments to look at. I found a few more condos on Craig’s List that I think we’ll check out tomorrow. I have to make arrangements to look at them. Hopefully we’ll find something in our price range that is accessible and not too bad of a commute to the office.

I want to heed the advice that was given to me by someone from my Church before I left for the school for th Blind in 8th grade. He told me to journal my thoughts every day so I would remember the adventures in my life. (Yes, I know this was 10 years ago. let’s not dwell on the fact that I’m coming late to the party, but embrace the fact that I showed up at all.) So, I’m going to try and write something in this blog every day. Hopefully the fact that life is going on won’t stop me. I may not make it every day, but I’m going to try. These book-length posts are too hard on my fingers. 🙂

A Quarter of A Century

A Quarter of A Century

That’s right. Today I celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary of life on Earth. I don’t know why, but other than the presents, Treva making me dinner, and practically everyone in my family calling birthdays don’t seem all that much different than normal days. Not that I’m complaining about any of the above activities, I’m just saying it’s not like when I was a kid and anticipating my birthday was done with a level of excitement akin to that at which I accepted the job I was offered last week.

Ha. See how I casually slipped that in there? You want details now I suppose?

Patience my friend. I’m not done pontificating on my fabulous birthday just yet.

It all started at midnight. The witching hour. O-Dark-O’Clock. The time when normal people are snug in their beds, visions of the crap they have to do the next day dancing in their heads. Me. I’m chilling on the couch since I have been unceremoniously kicked out of the office so Treva can finish “the project.”

The project it seems is a treasure hunt. I am offered a choice however. I can participate in the hunt or wait until 2:31 PM. The time, in this timezone, at which I was born. Not being one to wait for 14 hours for no good reason I opt for option A.

After hunting around the house I have found the following items from my wonderful wife:

  • A t-shirt that in SQL basically says the entire world is clueless
    “SELECT * FROM Users WHERE clue>0”
    “0 Rows returned”.

  • A new earphone for my radio gear. It’s pretty cool. It still allows you to hear ambient noise. Plus it’s clear and clandestine looking.

  • A keychain with flashlight, red blinking beacon, alarm, window punch, and seat belt cutter. Let me tell you, that alarm is pretty loud. Treva desperately wants to find out how the window punch works, but isn’t willing to break a glass to figure it out.

  • A Braille Suduku/Rubix cube

  • A 5 gigabyte flash drive which I have already equipped with mobile applications including OpenOffice and XAMPP (a portable web server)

Right now she’s working on dinner. Steak [that I’ll help grill], baked potatoes, corn, apple salad, and chocolate peanut butter pie. Some of my absolute favs. Excellent!!

[Edit: dinner rocked. I will say that not knowing the filets were wrapped in bacon seriously goofed up my cooking times. Oops. Next time I’m sticking with the serloin.]

The rest of the evening was all kinds of fun. I ran out after dinner for a few minutes with Tony and Rett and picked up a For Sale By Owner sign for the house. When we got back I helped finish the dishes and then we watched Blades of Glory.

Blades of Glory. What can I say. It was… insane. When I first started watching it I thought it was going to end up being Nepolion Dinomite meets Dodgeball meets Highschool Musical. Turns out I was pretty much right. I told Treva it was, at the same time, hilarious, stupid, and incomprehensibly bizarre. I’m still working out whether I’d recommend it to others. If you have two hours of your life you don’t care about ever getting back and want to laugh at “men humor” then this movie is for you.

So, about the job…

*** Flashback ***
Previously on Niner and Associates: Niner was headed to Baltimore for a job interview.

Tuesday the 11th I flew out to Baltimore. Indy wasn’t all that busy and BWI was an absolute ghost town. I was talking to one of the security guards at BWI who said the day before was like a holiday, but almost no one was flying on the 11th. I gotta say if we don’t fly that day, they win. I’m all for remembering the tragedy, because it certainly qualifies as one, but using that as a reason not to fly seemes pointless.

I feel the need to interject one of the lighter moments of the day. I was getting ready to walk through the metal detector and had the following conversation with a TSA employee:

TSA Employee: Sir, I need your shoes.
Me: (removing my shoes and putting them in the bin with my laptop, cell phone, and wallett) No problem.
TE: What kind of belt is that?
Me: (Rearranging my not insignificant ponch so he can see it) Hmm?
TE: You’d better take that off too… and the jacket.
Me: (shrugging) Okay. I just want to say that I have no problem doing this in the name of security, but if you ask for my pants we’re going to have problems…

I spent Tuesday evening with one of the gentlemen from the department I was interviewing with. We had a nice dinner at a local place that was having a killer special on steak. You can’t beat $10.99 for a NY Strip.

Wednesday morning started off in a bit of a panic. I had to reemboss the 3 copies of my resume that I was asked to bring sinceI discovered a horrible formatting error which, if discovered, would have made me look pretty incompetant.

After that, things got better, though not necessarily in the nerve department.

I had 4 meetings that day. One with two people from the department I was interviewing with, one with the head of the Institute that department is under, one with HR, and the final one was with the head of the organization. I have to say the first and last meetings were the most intimidating for me. The first because I was told to, “teach us something,” and the final because I am always intimidated when I meet with this individual.

It turned out really well. I was offered a position and after talking it over with Treva I accepted it.

I will be working for the National Federation of the Blind in the International Braille and Technology Center. This is absolutely one of my dream jobs and I’m so greatful to have the opportunity. It’s going to be a challenge though. Moving across the country, making new friends (we have some out there already which will help a ton) and Treva trying to figure out what she wants to do now. I just keep praying that I’m reading the signs right and we’re heading in the direction God wants us to be heading.

Thursday I flew back to Indiana via Chicago where I spent a fun afternoon with our friend Ronza. We hit up the Cheesecake factory for lunch, did some shopping, and caught part of a random concert in front of the Federal Plaza to celebrate some german restaurant that closed (I don’t really know what the festival was for, someone mentioned October Fest, but I garentee the smell in the air was not sour crout.) before I had to catch my train for the trip to Elkhart.

We spent the weekend with Treva’s family and had a good time. The focus was taken off our moving by other family antics. I’m kind of greatful for that.
*** End Flashback ***

That’s basically the story. I am super excited about the new adventure in our lives. I keep praying for God’s guidance and wisdom in all our decisions though, especially what to do about the house. I’ve got one possible interested party and it would be really sweet if that pans out, but if anyone knows anyone looking for a wheelchair accessible, 3 bedroom house in the Richmond area let me know.

I’ve really got to update more than monthly. These posts keep turning into mini novels.

NFB March for Independence

NFB March for Independence

I know I haven’t written in almost forever, but I have a huge post that I’m finishing up to make up for it. In the meantime I wanted to post this in case anyone is interested in sponsoring us for this exciting event.

As most of you know, Treva and I are active members of the National Federation of the blind and will be attending our annual convention in Atlanta in just a few short weeks. At our 2007 national convention the NFB is going to have a 5K walk to raise money for our Imagination Fund. Walkers must raise at least $250 to enter into this March for Independence. we’re not good at asking for money, but you know that we are firm believers in what the NFB stands for. Would you sponsor either of us by contributing towards our $500 goal? If so, we would be most grateful.

If you would like more information please reply to this email, or call one of us. Your sponsorship is fully tax deductible and a receipt will be provided. Online donations will receive automatic acknowledgements.

Since we are both marching, you can feel free to contribute to whichever of us you like best or just pick at random. We promise we won’t hold any grudges based on who you pick. 🙂

To make an online donation please visit one of the following addresses or give us a call if you have questions.


Thank you for supporting our efforts as part of the nations largest and oldest consumer organization of the blind.

I promise a post about my new job is forthcoming! Don’t yell at me SL 🙂

Maryland Governer Chooses Blind Running Mate

Maryland Governer Chooses Blind Running Mate

Awesome! She’s a great lady too. She’s the former Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs for the NFB.

Md. governor chooses blind running mate
6/29/2006, 12:12 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

(AP) – ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Gov. Robert Ehrlich announced Thursday that Kristen Cox,
the state disabilities secretary, will be his new lieutenant governor running mate.

Cox said she agreed to join the ticket in part because the governor has stepped up for people with disabilities who, she said, “tend to be marginalized, overlooked, diminished.”

Cox praised Gov. Ehrlich for making Maryland the first state in the nation to have a cabinet-level Department of Disabilities. The state’s department was created under Ehrlich in 2004.

Before she joined the Ehrlich administration, she worked for the U.S. Department of Education and the National Federation of the Blind. She is legally blind. She will replace Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele on the ticket;
Steele is running for the U.S. Senate.