Braille Spectator, Fall 2018


A semi-annual publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.

Judy Rasmussen, editor.

Published on and on NFB Newsline by The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.

Sharon Maneki, President.

Comments and questions should be sent to

In this issue:

Ocean City: A Paradoxical Convention.

The Bells Continue Ringing in Maryland!

MSB Appoints New School Leader.

Going Grocery Shopping with Aira.

Perspectives on the National Convention.

Baltimore Orioles and NFB: A Winning Partnership.

Spectator Specs.



Ocean City: A Paradoxical Convention.

By Sharon Maneki.


Every state convention is paradoxical because we celebrate our accomplishments from previous years but also plan for the future. The 52nd Annual State Convention, which takes place from November 9-11, will have more of an emphasis on planning for the future because we will be electing a new President.

The convention takes place at the Carousel Hotel, which provides many paradoxical opportunities. At the Carousel, you can go ice skating, and also walk on the beach. It is great to listen to the ocean, smell the salt water, but you will not be doing it in your shorts or bathing suit. You probably will be in a winter coat.

The convention activities offer interesting paradoxes. On Friday afternoon, you will have the opportunity to learn about the NFB philosophy on blindness by discussing stories from our Kernel book series. On a lighter note, you will have an opportunity to play bingo. We will also offer a workshop on how to keep more of your money for the good things of life by taking advantage of changes to the Maryland Income Tax, and by setting up an ABLE account. There will be lots of opportunities to spend money in the exhibit hall and throughout the convention. You will also have the opportunity to learn about GPS apps and hardware which will enhance your ability to either find places you need or find uncharted territory.

Friday evening also offers interesting paradoxes. Where else can you have a picnic dinner, as you would in the summer, while getting in the Christmas spirit? That is what will happen if you come to our picnic and a play. The Braille is Beautiful Players will perform “Santa Rides Again,” an original play written by Jerry Whittle. Come to Spirit Night. Wear your NFB hats, shirts, etc. You may win a prize for the most creative costume, learn new cheers, while enjoying food and fellowship with NFB friends. You can be a couch potato or take a hockey lesson with the Washington Wheelers. The Washington Wheelers, a blind hockey club, will demonstrate  their audible hockey puck and other equipment. Experience the fun of ice skating with the pros. You can rent ice skates at the hotel for a special rate of $4.

As usual we will work with our partners to ensure better services for the blind. The convention will be a time to have fun and grow, a time to meet new friends and renew old friendships, and a time of inspiration and enthusiasm. Come to the convention to experience the love, hope and determination we need to make our dreams a reality. 





The Bells Continue Ringing in Maryland!

By Judy Rasmussen.


The BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Academy is one of the most important programs held across the country by affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind. Since Maryland was the first affiliate to host the BELL program, we have a high tradition to uphold. In true Federation fashion, we continued to make a difference in the lives of young students across the state in 2018. A total of 25 students (nine of whom were new) participated in our three BELL Academies.

The theme for BELL Academies across the country was "Banking On Blindness skills." Wells Fargo has been a financial partner with the NFB for the past several years. In an effort to get staff of Wells Fargo banks where BELL Academies are held to understand more about the program, the Baltimore and Glenn Dale Academies were invited to visit a bank near the site of their location. It was an education both for the bank staff and for our students.

One activity both programs participated in was a coin sorting contest. Students, bank managers, adult volunteers, and some tellers were asked to sort pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into four bowls. All were under learning shades, and were given 60 seconds to complete the task. I am proud to say that our students usually beat the bank staff. You may think that of course, the blind staff would win. The trick was to remember which bowls you had designated to receive which coins. One bank manager stated that she planned to use this activity as part of her training for new tellers. Students also had the opportunity to visit the bank vault. How many adults have been allowed to do that? The doors are very heavy, and the cabinets where the money is kept were big. Alas, we were given lollipops and potato chips, but no money!

The three Maryland BELL Academy sites were Salisbury, Baltimore and Glenn Dale. Each program was held for two weeks.

Salisbury BELL.

The Salisbury program focused on "What's In our Community?" Every day the students went to the mailbox and each found a Braille letter from someone they were going to visit. Students took field trips to the Post Office, the Mayor's office, the sheriff's office, a police department, and a bank. A paramedic came and showed students items they use to help save lives.

A blind mobility instructor helped kids improve their cane technique and everyone had lots of fun walking on a big trail that runs around the location of the BELL Academy site.

The Salisbury students had a lemonade stand where they made and sold lemonade and cookies to the workers at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. This activity reemphasized money skills, and instilled confidence that a blind person could sell items to the public.

We appreciate Mindy Demaris, who is a certified teacher and gave of her time to teach Braille reading and writing to the Salisbury students. Amy Kraus, Danielle Earl, Heather Guy, and many other volunteers made the Salisbury program a success.

Baltimore BELL.

We were pleased that Treva Olivero returned to be the teacher of the Baltimore BELL Academy again this year. She is very creative and knew many of the students from previous years.

Expanding on the "Banking On Blindness skills" theme, the Baltimore program focused on blindness skills needed to achieve your dreams. After choosing a career, students traced their bodies. The skills needed to achieve the career were written in Braille and placed on various body parts. One requirement was that all participants must have a cane in their hand.

Students could earn dream bucks by completing required assignments. The dream bucks could then be used to buy cool prizes. Earning dream bucks gave students an opportunity to be rewarded for their efforts in reading and writing Braille.

One day was designated science day. Students made a diet coke geyser, paper cup telephones, had a water balloon fight, and swung a bucket in a circle as fast as they could. The idea is that if they swung the bucket fast enough, the water stays inside. Engineering and magic days were also a big hit.

Making yummy Carmel nut sticky buns, dipping vegetables, fruits and pretzels in chocolate, and playing goal ball were other highlights of the Baltimore BELL Academy.

In addition to all the fun, serious time was spent doing a wide variety of Braille activities. On the first day of the program, one student was heard to comment, "When are we going to start reading?"

Glenn Dale BELL.

Rene Donalvo, who had been a volunteer with the Glenn Dale program for the past several years and is a certified teacher of blind students, agreed to be the teacher this year. Rene has been a Braille reader all her life, so she was excited to impart her knowledge and experience to a younger generation of blind students.

This year, the Glenn Dale students took a field trip to NASA where they got to feel parts of a space suit, tried on space gloves and helmets, played with robots, heard planet sounds, bounced gravity balls, and made ice towers out of Legos. They ate space ice cream (it isn't that good) and learned many things about planets based on Braille materials provided to them.

The students drew bells with their Perkins Braillers, made shakers and tamberines, as well as bird callers. The Glenn Dale bell band made loud, joyous music.

The Glenn Dale students enjoyed singing their new Braille song to the tune of "I Want To Be an Oscar Meyer Wiener."

One student, who had become blind just prior to last year's BELL academy and therefore knew no Braille at that time, this year read a story to the other kids during story hour.

Parent Activities.

Every BELL program ends with a parents seminar and student graduation ceremony. The last day is always a fun time for parents and students to come together. This year the parents got to practice some of the skills their children were learning during the program. All parents were under learning shades. They practiced making popcorn for the students' snack, pouring liquids and making sandwiches. Parents appreciated the experience of doing it together. Some felt clumsy at performing tasks at first but gained confidence as they continued practicing, just as their students did.

Thank you.

None of the BELL Academy programs would have been possible without the dedication of the many wonderful volunteers who put in countless hours to ensure that things were prepared ahead of time and were flexible when changes had to be made on the fly. All of our teachers deserve a hearty thanks for their dedication and persistence.

Contributions received from the Baltimore Orioles, Friends of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Central Maryland, Greater Baltimore, National Harbor, TLC and Sligo Creek Chapters were very much appreciated. The BELL Academies are the most expensive program our affiliate runs. However, we will not stop doing it because investment in the future generation of leaders is essential to ensure that blind children grow up to work, serve others, and teach the next generation the skills they learned.


MSB Appoints New School Leader.


(Editor’s note:  The following press release, issued by the Maryland School for the Blind, gives background on the school’s new superintendent.  Congratulations to Mr. Rob Hair.)


The Board of Directors of the Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) has announced that W. Robert Hair will assume leadership of the school effective September 1, 2018. 


Since 2016 Mr. Hair has been the Superintendent of Student Services at MSB.  Prior to coming to MSB, he served as the Lower School Principal and later as the Deafblind Program Principal at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.  Previously he was the Principal and music teacher at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.   


Mr. Hair will replace Dr. Michael J. Bina, who has served as MSB’s President since 2008. Under Dr. Bina’s leadership the school has seen tremendous growth and improvements in both programming and facilities.  In 2016, Bina received the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Migel Medal Award, the highest honor in the blindness field. 


Marion Mullauer, Board of Directors Chair stated, “Dr. Bina has been a transformational leader for MSB.  During his tenure, he led the campus master plan to fruition and the students now have buildings, cottages, and resources appropriate to their needs.  In addition, educational and functional programs have been greatly enhanced to enable improved student independence and achievement.  We thank Dr. Bina for his many contributions and wish him and his family much happiness in his future.  We are confident that Mr. Hair, as the new Superintendent, will continue to build upon the terrific work of the past 10 years.”


Mr. Hair stated, “I am honored to have the privilege to serve Maryland’s students with visual impairments as MSB’s new Superintendent. My predecessor, Dr. Bina, built a legacy of high expectations for student academics and independence, beautiful new learning facilities and excellent itinerant services for students in local schools around the state.  I look forward to building on MSB’s rich history, to help our school continue to thrive well into the future.”

The title of the new leader was changed from President to Superintendent to align more closely with similar positions in the State of Maryland.


Founded in 1853, The Maryland School for the Blind is a private, statewide resource center providing outreach, educational and residential programs to children and youth from infancy to age 21 who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities.  Annually the school serves 56 percent of the 1,700 students identified in Maryland who are blind or visually impaired through its on-campus and outreach programs. 




Going Grocery Shopping with Aira.

(Editor’s note:  We are reprinting the following article because it describes new uses for Aira.)

The Baltimore Sun, September 12, 2018, by Lorraine Mirabella.

“Visually Impaired Customers can use App to Grocery Shop at Wegmans.”

Paul Schroeder strode through the aisles at Wegmans in Columbia, tapping a walking cane in front of him and reaching for the iPhone in his shirt pocket. The 55-year-old Silver Spring resident, who has been completely blind since infancy, was shopping for cherries, cereal and some frozen dinners, and had just discovered the store was selling sugar melons, a type of cantaloupe. He typically shops with his wife, who is sighted, or, when alone, asks store employees to help. But that’s not always ideal. “What that takes away is that sort of serendipitous fun of just kind of wandering and browsing and looking,” Schroeder said.

Wegmans offers Schroeder another option, free access to a new mobile app that helps visually impaired people live more independently. Aira, the brainchild of San Diego-based tech entrepreneurs, uses smartphones or smart glasses to connect people using the app to trained agents, who can see what the blind or low-vision person cannot. Agents offer round-the-clock assistance using live camera streams, GPS, maps and web-based information.

Agents guide Aira users through shopping, traveling, cooking, reading mail or documents or countless other activities or tasks. Aira sells the service as a subscription with plans ranging from 100 minutes for $89 a month to unlimited for $329 a month.

Wegmans, which has eight stores in Maryland, is the first U.S. grocer to offer free access to Aira.

Any customer, with or without a monthly subscription to Aira, can access the service for free in all 97 Wegmans stores in six states, said Linda Lovejoy, a spokeswoman for the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocer.

The access complements other services Wegmans offers customers with disabilities, Lovejoy said. The chain installed hearing loops in stores three years ago, enabling people using hearing aids to hear more clearly at the store pharmacy and at checkout.

“Anytime you provide more access for people who have disabilities, they realize it and they want to go use that place, whether it’s a park or a mall or a grocery store,” Lovejoy said. “It creates more access for people to enjoy their lives. … This opens another tool for those who are blind or low vision to have a great experience in our stores.”

Schroeder and other Aira “explorers,” as subscribing customers are called, describe the app as life-changing. Schroeder has called on Aira agents to read menus at restaurants, help with computer problems, read labels on canned food in his pantry, find exhibits at conferences, direct him to a precise building or just describe the shops he passes walking down a block.

When he first used Aira, “it just blew me away,” he said.

Schroeder, who used to work for the American Foundation for the Blind, recently became employed by Aira, where he develops programs and policies to make the app more accessible.

Aira was launched about three years ago by Suman Kanuganti, an entrepreneur looking into augmented reality applications that could help a friend who was losing vision. He teamed with tech entrepreneur Larry Bock, and they launched Aira in 2017. It has grown from 200 beta testers to thousands of users in the United States, Australia and Canada.

The service has nearly 60 access partners like Wegmans, including universities, airports, municipalities, tourist destinations and individual employers. In Maryland, the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind is also a partner. Aira is in talks with Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to offer access there.

In such partnerships, the business or organization agrees to pay for Aira services within a certain geographic area. The company employs several hundred agents in all 50 states. Agents start at $15 an hour and work in scheduled shifts from their homes.

“We’re about building an accessible world,” said Amy Bernal, Aira’s vice president of customer experience. “Our goal would be that we work to make every place accessible for everyone, providing that instant access to visual information.”

The app does compete with other service, including the free Be My Eyes, which connects users via video calls with volunteers.

Ronza Othman, an attorney at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Woodlawn who has had limited vision since birth, has been using Aira for about two years. The Baltimore resident recently has relied on it more after losing some of the useful vision she’d had for much of her life.

“Aira in general has absolutely changed my life and has made it much easier for me to interact with the world and independently access things that people who are not blind can access with ease and take for granted, like shopping,” Othman said.

Aira doesn’t replace in-person assistance, she has found, but “it does make the shopping much easier and expands the options for me when I need to be able to get things like a gallon of milk or a head of lettuce,” she said.

Before Aira, she said, “routine things people who did not have disabilities would not think twice about would be a tremendous challenge.”

Besides helping her buy groceries, Aira agents read mail or documents,find the proper size clothing at stores and navigate airports. Agents have guided her to airport departure gates and to empty seats at the gates. In the past she would have asked someone around her.

“The problem is you don’t always know if people are willing to help or can help you appropriately,” she said. “You’re interrupting people in their lives. … This way, I can get assistance without being disruptive to other people.”

For grocery shopping, Wegmans has become an attractive option because, she said, “Wegmans has invested in my using Aira at their business.”

During Schroeder’s trip to Wegmans, he used the VoiceOver accessibility tool on his iPhone to open the Aira app and was connected with agent Joanne McIntyre. He has gotten to know McIntyre, who lives in Bangor, Maine, through the app.

“She is calm and doesn't get ruffled by what’s going on,” he said.

Starting in the produce department, McIntyre described the cherries’color and packaging.

“Take two steps to your right,” she said, leading Schroeder next to bananas and helping him choose a bunch that were not overripe. She then directed him to the cereal aisle, describing a multi-grain variety with oats and honey. “There’s whole grain that’s right in front of you. If you reach your left hand out.”

In frozen foods, Schroeder used his phone camera to capture an image of frozen lasagna. McIntyre could study it more closely that way and read ingredients. The agent said she has worked for Aira for more than a year.

“My friends ask me what I do and what kind of calls I take, and I say, ‘I don’t know, what did you do today? Think of everything you did today and I could have helped somebody with that,’ ” she said. “We do a lot of mail. We do a lot of travel — trains, buses, airports. I do a lot of grocery shopping.”

Schroeder said the partnership between users and agents is one of his favorite aspects of Aira.

“It’s not about a sighted person telling a blind person everything that’s around them,” he said. “It’s about the blind person saying, ‘This is what I need information about.’ ”




Perspectives on the National Convention.

By Judy Rasmussen.


Attending your first national convention can seem a little overwhelming when you first arrive. The cacophony of so many canes and maybe a dog brushing your leg makes you feel both afraid and excited at the same time. The hotel seems endless, you wonder how you will find your way around, and you don't really know what to expect, no matter how much people try and tell you ahead of time.

Over 25 Marylanders attended the 2018 convention in Orlando for the first time. Each first timer was assigned a mentor to ensure that, especially at the beginning of the week, people didn't feel so lost. It is always encouraging to see the number of people who return again and again to conventions because they know how essential it is to keep learning and growing. Below are the impressions of three people from different backgrounds and ages who attended the 2018 convention for the first time.

Suzanne Penn was diagnosed with rod/cone dystrophy at the age of five. Growing up, she did not know any other people with a visual impairment. She began losing her color vision when she was 21. Not deterred by her extreme near-sightedness and worsening vision, She pursued a nursing degree at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She worked as a registered nurse at a psychiatric hospital for several years. She worked her way up until she became a supervisor over five departments.

After leaving the hospital, she began selling Beauty Counter products online. She is also a faith-based yoga instructor, and teaches a Revelation Wellness exercise class.

Suzanne says she has always been a researcher. She had a desire to meet other people with visual impairments, so she began searching for information about blindness. She found an article by Chris Nusbaum, who is a member of the Carroll County chapter of the NFB of Maryland. She went to her first meeting and has been going ever since.

Regarding attending her first convention, Suzanne said she enjoyed the diverse culture of the federation. She was very impressed with the number of exhibits to view in the exhibit hall. She joined the Sports and Recreation Division, enjoyed the fund raising seminar she attended, and appreciated the fact that people were trying new things. She especially enjoyed seeing how the resolutions process worked. She looks forward to continuing the work of educating others about the capabilities of blind people.

Brian Holly is a most interesting and determined individual. Many of us learned about Brian at our 2017 state convention when he won the Anna Cable award. The Anna Cable award is given to someone who learns Braille at an older age. Anna was a spunky lady who lived to be 108.
She learned to read and write Braille in her late 60's and was very proud that she did it.

To remember Anna, the affiliate gives a Braille award in her honor each year. Brian was most surprised and pleased that he won the award.

Brian was a truck driver for Entenmann's Bakery for nearly 30 years. He enjoyed his job and would have continued to drive, had not a rare eye disease caused him to lose all his vision in 2010. He did not want to retire, so he asked Entenmann's staff to place him in their warehouse. He was sure he could do many jobs there. However, the Human Resources Department wasn't so sure. For two years, they kept giving him various tests. Brian passed all eight tests, and therefore was allowed to return to work in the warehouse, where he remained for the next five years. He won several safety awards, and proved that with determination and persistence, he could live the life he wanted.

Brian retired in 2016. He said his wife told him he had better learn some more independent living skills, because she wanted him to take care of the house while she continued working.

Brian did just that. He began receiving intensive independent living skills training at the Senior Adult Independent Living program sponsored by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, where he recently completed all of his graduation requirements.

Serving others is an important part of Brian's life. He continues to operate the sound board at his church, and volunteers for other charities.

Brian said that some of the things he enjoyed most about convention were the roll call of states, seeing the 30 students receive their scholarships, attending some of the technology and money management seminars, but most of all, meeting so many people from everywhere. He said that age should not make a difference when considering whether to attend a convention.

TeQuisha Francois is a busy mother of two. Three years ago, she was doing normal activities with her children, and thinking about blindness was not on her radar.

Then her daughter was diagnosed with retinal blastoma, or cancer of the eyes. One eye was removed, and the other had very little sight left. TeQuisha knew that her daughter would need help if she was to succeed in school. Being resourceful, she went looking for information about blindness on the Internet. She found the National Federation of the Blind, and learned about the BELL Academy. She was very excited for her daughter to attend.

For the past two years, we have watched Zanyiah blossom as she learned to read and write Braille and use a white cane.

Regarding her first convention experience, TeQuisha said she enjoyed meeting parents of students of all ages. She said she enjoyed getting to know young adults in their 20's who were helping parents. She especially enjoyed meeting Conchita Hernandez, who grew up as a blind student in the DC school system, and is now a teacher of blind students. TeQuisha stated she really enjoyed attending the Google and Amazon seminars, as well as the banquet. She said her daughter made many friends as well, and is still texting them.

Whether you are a teenager or grandparent or somewhere in between, the national convention has something to offer for everyone.



Baltimore Orioles and NFB: A Winning Partnership.


(Editor’s note: On June 29, 2018 President Sharon Maneki was recognized for community advocacy by the Baltimore Orioles through its Birdland Hero program.  The Orioles also donated $2500 to the NFB of Maryland, which we used for our BELL Academy programs. But there was more to come!

On Tuesday, September 18, The Baltimore Orioles held NFB night at the stadium.  The publicity for this event was terrific.  Read the article from the Baltimore Sun, which describes the planning for this event, followed by Jim Hunter’s description of President Riccobono throwing out the first pitch, then an article the day after the event from the Washington Post outlining the special activities held that evening.)


From the Baltimore Sun, September 5, 2018, by Mike Klingaman.

“Sight to behold: Orioles to wear Braille lettering on jerseys on National Federation of the Blind Night.”

Merle Caples has followed the Orioles for nearly 60 years — first with her eyes, and now with her ears. Caples, 95, is blind. Yet the Orioles remain her team, sight unseen.

“It doesn’t stop you from rooting for them,” she said of her disability. Caples listens to every game on the radio from her home in Ambler, Pa. She hangs on every pitch — and on every word of announcers Joe Angel and Jim Hunter.

“They are my eyes; they paint a picture for me,” Caples said. “It’s like I’m sitting behind home plate.”

In tribute to Caples and others like her, the Orioles will host National Federation of the Blind Night on Sept. 18, when they play the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards. That night, Orioles players and coaches will wear first-of-their kind big league jerseys with their names spelled in Braille, and the first 15,000 fans will receive Braille alphabet cards. Carlos Ibay, a blind singer/pianist, will perform the national anthem and Mark Riccobono, president of the NFB who is also blind, will throw out the first pitch. Established in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind is celebrating its 40th year based in Baltimore. It’s the nation’s oldest and largest organization run by the blind, with about 50,000 members.

The club broached the NFB last winter about paying homage to the visually impaired, said Greg Bader, Orioles vice president of communications and marketing.

“We’ve made a conscious effort to create an environment where everyone feels welcome at the ballpark,” Bader said. “We take our role as entertainer very seriously, but we also want to serve as an escape for some people, and as a platform to highlight the causes and morals that we feel strongly about. A ‘blindness awareness night’ puts it into perspective that there’s more going on out there than just wins and losses.”

After the game, the Orioles’ jerseys will be autographed, authenticated and auctioned off online at All proceeds will benefit the NFB.

“It’s a great idea,” said Chris Danielson, public relations director for the association, which will have about 25 members handing out the Braille cards to sighted fans before the game.

Danielson, who has been blind since birth, has a partial Orioles season-ticket plan himself. While neither he nor the Orioles know how many such followers the team has, he said, “We appreciate their spirit in reaching out to our community and letting the public know that blind people are sports fans, too — and that Braille is a simple yet elegant way for them to learn to read.”

Time and again, Angel said, he’ll hear from sightless listeners, including Caples, and invite them into the radio booth “for an inning or two” when they attend games.

“I’m just grateful that they feel what I’m doing is important to them,” Angel said. “When they say how much you mean to them, it’s like a wake-up call. It makes my focus that much sharper.”

Their words also keep him going in this, perhaps the Orioles’ most dismal season.

“Though the losses pile up, every game is still worthwhile to the blind,” Angel said.

In truth, he conceded, “I assume that anyone listening doesn’t have the ability to see the game, and that it’s my job to put them in the ballpark. As a 10-year-old kid in Chicago, I remember listening to Cubs games while lying in bed with a transistor radio and my eyes closed. In fact, I was blind, and just pretending I was there. Do that, and your imagination runs wild.”

That’s what Merle Caples does, night after night, listening to the Orioles through earbuds in her room at the assisted living facility where she lives.

“If [the nursing staff] sees your lights on after 11 o’clock, they are at your door to make sure you haven’t died,” she said. “I tell them, ‘I’m OK, I’m just listening to the ballgame.’ ”

A Marine who served during World War II, Caples contracted macular degeneration and lost much of her vision 10 years ago. Fiercely loyal, the longtime Westminster resident could name every Oriole until the roster expanded.

On July 3, Caples’ family took her to Citizens Bank Park in nearby Philadelphia, to see the Orioles play the Phillies. Beforehand, she met manager Buck Showalter, players Adam Jones and Caleb Joseph, and Angel, who gave her his floppy Orioles hat and a big kiss. Though she is legally blind, Caples’ eyes glistened.

The Orioles lost the game.

“Yes, the team is doing terrible, but you know what?” she said. “I’m still a fan and you can’t change an old gal like me.”


President Riccobono threw out the first pitch.  Here is the link to the video as described by Orioles announcer Jim Hunter.


From the Washington Post Wednesday, September 19, 2018, by Des Bieler.

“Orioles become first U.S. pro team to incorporate Braille on uniforms.”


The Orioles are having a season that local fans will try their hardest to forget, but on Tuesday the team commemorated a Baltimore event in history-making fashion. The O’s became the first U.S. professional team, they claimed, to use Braille lettering on their game-day uniforms.

During a game against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, Braille dots spelled out the word “Orioles” on the fronts of players’ jerseys, and the lettering was used to denote their names on the backs. In addition, Braille alphabet cards were handed out to fans at the ballpark.

The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the move to Baltimore of the National Federation of the Blind’s headquarters. According to an account on the team’s website, the O’s had initially discussed honoring the NFB on July 26, to mark the 28th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, but when they learned of the upcoming date, they came up with a new, and unprecedented, approach.

In addition to the uniforms and Braille lettering in the O’s lineup graphic, the team invited a blind concert pianist, Carlos Ibay, to sing the national anthem, and NFB President Mark Riccobono threw out the first pitch. Riccobono described throwing out the first pitch as “a little bit nerve-racking,” but he said it helped that he’d “done a lot of nerve-racking stuff” in his life.

“It really means a lot that the Baltimore Orioles are acknowledging [the anniversary], and not just in a way that says, ‘It’s nice to have you,’ but in a real way that’s authentic to blind people, by including Braille, which is the means that blind people use for literacy all across the world,” Riccobono said before the game.

He added that when the team said it could use the lettering on its uniforms, he and others at his organization thought it was “a fantastic idea” and suggested distributing the alphabet cards to help fans learn “what Braille is, and how to recognize the characters.”

“We enjoy visiting the parks,” said Chris Danielsen, the NFB’s director of public relations (via “For a totally blind person like myself, there are different things to enjoy about the ballpark other than the visuals of it.

Of course, it’s important that baseball and all sports were broadcast on radio before they were broadcast on television, and both blind and sighted fans have always enjoyed baseball games on the radio when they could not come to the ballpark.”

“They’re acknowledging that you’re there,” Erik Rodriguez, a visually impaired baseball player, told ABC News before the game. “Sometimes that’s the biggest step.”

Unfortunately for all the O’s fans in attendance Tuesday, the team could not avoid notching its 108th loss of the season, the most in the club’s 65-year history in Baltimore, breaking a dubious mark set in 1988. In its previous incarnation as the St. Louis Browns, the franchise lost 111 games in 1939 and 108 in 1937.

The Braille-adorned jerseys are set to be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefiting the NFB, while one of the jerseys will go to the Baseball Hall of Fame.




DEATHS:  We are sorry to report the death of Renee Douglas.  Renee lost her battle with the complications of diabetes in July.  Although she was a relatively new member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter she had great enthusiasm and interest in learning about blindness.  May she rest in peace.


GRADUATIONS:  Brian Keseling, president of the Greater Carroll County Chapter, received his AA degree from Carroll Community College.  He plans to become an entrepreneur after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in business.


ACHIEVEMENTS:  Sherria Young published her first book entitled, “God Ain’t Done with Me Yet Uniquelyblessed!”  Contact Sherria directly if you wish to purchase this book. 

Congratulations to Meredith Day and Khloe DeLeon, who were finalists in the National Braille Challenge contest.  In June 2018, they went to Los Angeles, California to compete with students across the nation in Braille reading and writing.  Khloe was in the Apprentice level (1st and 2nd graders), and Meredith was in the Freshman level (3rd and 4th graders).  Keep up the good work!