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:

Celebrating Service in the National Federation of the Blind, 2017 Presidential Report.

Together With Love, Hope and Determination We Help The Newly Blind.

Exploring the Landscape of Braille Literacy: Where have we come from and where do we need to go?

Who was John T. McCraw?

Accessibility Matters: Victory in Annapolis.

Exercise Apps and More Fitness Resources.

 Spectator Specs.





Celebrating Service in the National Federation of the Blind.

By:  Sharon Maneki.

(Editor’s note; Sharon Maneki gave the following presidential report at the 2017 NFBMD convention.)


Fellow Federationists:

Service is one of the core values in American society.  The Peace Corps, Teach for America and AmeriCorps VISTA are examples that indicate the importance of service.  In Maryland, students are required to perform 75 hours of student service learning before they are eligible to graduate from high school.  Everyone can provide service to others because the methods of service are endless.


The motivation to provide service comes from many sources.  Some people serve because of their religious beliefs; others are motivated by the benefits of service.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Let us look at the variety of services that the people in this room have performed and continue to perform.  Let us then ruminate about our motivations for performing this service.


Even entertainers recognize the value of service.  As Aretha Franklin stated:

“Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well.”

We are fortunate to have many public servants in our midst. Public servants rarely get the recognition that they deserve.   If you work for the federal government or are retired from there, please stand.  Give them a round of applause.   If you work or are retired from the state of Maryland, please stand. If you are a service provider in the field of blindness, please stand.  As Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a public servant for a time, explained:

“Help others and give something back.  I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives of the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”


My favorite definition of service comes from Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.  Here is what she said: “Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time."


The National Federation of the Blind has many characteristics.  Because of the Federation, we know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.  Every day we raise expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back!   Blindness should not keep us from serving others. Although many in society shun our offers of service, we must persevere.  In his 2005 banquet address entitled “The Edge of Tomorrow,” President Marc Maurer summarized the purpose of the Federation as: “The reshaping of the patterns of thought of our society to recognize the ability within us, to value the talent we possess, and to welcome the contributions we have to make.”   The National Federation of the blind is really a vehicle for service.  Because of our federation experience, many members gain confidence and perform service both inside and outside of the Federation. 


In Maryland, during the past year, we have demonstrated that service to others is a core value of the Federation.  Our organization thrives because of effective leadership. Effective leadership is crucial, because if the Federation fails to achieve its goals, the lives of blind persons will be diminished.


 Let us extend a special thank you to our state officers and board of directors for their dedication and support of our movement.  As a grassroots organization, our local chapters and divisions play an essential role in building our membership and in educating the public about the truth of blindness.   Will all of our chapter and division presidents please stand. All you have to do is look at the list of meet the blind month activities on our website to see that we have vibrant chapters.  For instance, between September 30 and November 10, 2017, we held 7 screenings of the movie “Do You Dream in Color?”  Some of the places that held screenings were Mc Daniel College, Towson University, and University of Maryland, College Park, and the Peale Center in Baltimore.  Think of the number of people who now hold a different view of blindness.   More screenings are planned for the coming months.   


The division meetings held at this convention also demonstrate the level of service that we are providing to each other about how to live the lives we want as blind people.  Let us extend a special word of welcome to our newest division, The Maryland Association of Blind Merchants.  We look forward to working together to strengthen the Business Enterprise Program in Maryland and to increase opportunities for all blind entrepreneurs statewide.


This convention is a great example of service.  We have parents who welcome new families into our movement.  We have marshals who direct us to the locations of all convention activities.  I want to personally thank Ronza Othman for her tireless efforts in assisting with convention arrangements. 


We owe a special thank you to Holly and Rebecca Mooney who are taking convention pictures, and to our sound man Will Schwatka for recording convention general sessions and tonight’s banquet.  Let’s give a shout-out to our friends who are listening to this convention on the internet.

Rachael Olivero who makes this possible deserves a round of applause.   Rachael does a great deal of behind the scenes work for the affiliate, from creating our registration system to training folks in Drupal so that we can maintain our website. 


Our new web committee is definitely increasing our presence on the web.   This helps the people who need us to find us.  Let us recognize the members of this committee, Steve Brand, Ellen Ringlein, Beth Fogle-Hatch, Graham Mehl, Lloyd Rasmussen and Scott White by asking them to stand.  Please stay standing until you receive your Braille magnet of appreciation.  We also want to thank Karen Anderson for leading the effort to keep us active on social media.     


Because of the service that we provide to strengthen our organization, we are able to serve the blind community as a whole.           


It is most appropriate that we have three pages of pictures in our agenda from our 2017 NFB Braille Enrichment Literacy and Learning (NFB BELL) Academy.  We devote a great deal of energy, money, time and love to our three BELL academy programs in Baltimore, Glenn Dale and Salisbury. We teach the alternative techniques of blindness, raise expectations and serve as role models for these children.  We are proud of our NFB BELL Academy service.  Will all of our NFB BELL volunteers please stand.  They deserve a round of our applause.  It is most fitting for us to have a song in honor of NFB BELL:  “Braille is Beautiful”.   


José Antonio Bowen, President of Goucher College, has written a book, “Teaching Naked”, in which he outlines his philosophy on education.  Bowen has created a new program at Goucher called The Three R’s of Education.  These are Relationships, Resilience and Reflection.  He believes that these three R’s are not only the best predictors of success in college, but also are predictors of success in life.  In the National Federation of the Blind, we practice the three R’s.  We know how to build Relationships; our Resilience is demonstrated by our staying power; Reflection is an ongoing process for us.


Blind people benefit when we build constructive relationships with the service providers in our state.  On August 10, we welcomed most of the staff of the Office on Blindness and Vision Services in the Division of Rehabilitation Services to the Jernigan Institute.  We shared our goals and philosophies and talked about how we could better work together to serve the blind community.  We must have a service delivery system that is more responsive to consumer needs.  While we appreciate the need for rules and regulations, these should be applied with common sense.  If a client’s case has been closed after services were delivered, and if that client then needs additional services after additional vision loss, why should that client have to establish eligibility again?  If the individual was blind the first time, the chances are very high that this person is still blind.  Who is really going back to DORS if sight has been restored?


We want the director of DORS to run the programs, not the auditors.  Auditors certainly have their role, but they should not prevent older blind people from attending the diabetes education/management classes that are conducted at the Workforce and Technology Center because the Independent Living Older Blind program has no money.  If the classes are there anyway, all the clients who need them should be able to attend them.  We look forward to more opportunities for dialogue and for building a stronger relationship.  Thank you again to all of the DORS staff for joining our Convention.


Last year at our convention, I told you about Max Elia who was dismissed from a daycare center after a half a day because supervisors believed they could not provide him with a safe environment since he used a white cane.  There was no process in Maryland to settle disputes between parents and daycare providers.  We joined with the Developmental Disabilities Council and Disability Rights Maryland to convince the Maryland General Assembly to protect parents and children from such discrimination.  Our advocacy work led to the enactment of HB456, in 2017.  This legislation instructed the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to develop a dispute resolution process that must include:

“a process for investigating complaints, a written report on the findings of an investigation; and if there is a finding of discrimination on the basis of disability, a resolution of the complaint that includes: an agreement with the child care provider, detailing the requirements for remedying the violations, and appropriate remedies that support children with disabilities, their families, and the child care provider.” 

By October 2017, MSDE was to submit a report to the Maryland General Assembly which includes the dispute resolution process and draft legislation or regulations to implement this dispute resolution process.  Our relationship with other partners and the Maryland General Assembly is definitely protecting the rights of all parents of disabled children to access daycare.


Building relationships does not mean shying away from doing what needs to be done.  That is why we passed resolution 2017-01 this morning.  We will not allow the Maryland State Board of Elections to take away our right to a secret ballot. 

Here are some other examples of our forceful advocacy.  More students, especially those with some vision, will have orientation and mobility training for the first time when HB535 is fully implemented.  This law presumes that all blind or visually impaired students need mobility.  If the IEP team disagrees, they must back their decision up with appropriate assessments and documentation.  The MSDE was to develop the necessary regulations and technical assistance by March 2017.  Although MSDE made progress with these regulations, the job is not completed.  You can be sure that we will continue to remind these officials that they cannot keep blind students waiting.  Students need orientation and mobility training now!


For the past several years, MSDE has been in turmoil with personnel switching jobs or leaving the organization altogether.  In 2014, to comply with the Braille Standards legislation, MSDE issued regulations that revamped certification and recertification requirements for vision teachers.  Vision teachers must take a Braille competency test by the time they are eligible for the renewal of their first five-year credential.  We recently learned that the Department never decided which Braille competency test teachers should take. Consequently, MSDE ignored their own requirement. We have already had two meetings this fall to remedy the problem.  You can be sure that we will continue to advocate with personnel at MSDE until vision teachers in the state are competent in reading and writing Braille.         


 The Braille in the 21st Century Literacy Conference, jointly sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the Maryland School for the Blind that was held on October 19-20 is a good example of both building relationships and resilience.  Before I discuss this conference, I want to recognize our staff at the National Center for the Blind.  We could never have hosted this conference for vision teachers and blindness professionals without the help of this dedicated staff.  Please stand for our applause.  I want to especially recognize three unsung heroes and thank them for their service:  Patricia Miller who has been with the NFB for 31 years, Joe Miller for 30 years, and Marsha Dyer for 27 years. 


We decided to have the Braille literacy conference to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Maryland Literacy Rights and Education Act, better known as the Braille Bill.  At the conference, we recognized Delegate Sheila Hixson who sponsored this bill in the House in 1992.  We also recognized Senator Joan Carter Conway, chairman of the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee for her leadership in sponsoring all of our bills about Braille and accessibility since she joined the Maryland Senate in 1997.  It is most appropriate that we have a picture of these education champions in our agenda. 


 We will need to demonstrate more resilience to achieve literacy for all blind and visually impaired children.  However, this conference was a step in the right direction.  For instance, the presentation on how to assess which students should learn Braille, who should learn print and who should learn to read both by Conchita Hernandez from NFB, and Michelle Horseman from MSB, provoked meaningful dialog.  They discussed how a learning media assessment and the National Reading Media Assessment compliment each other.  Because of this discussion, there is a better chance that vision teachers in Maryland may really assess a student’s future literacy needs as the Braille Bill specifies. 


Another highlight of the conference was the presentation by Eric Guillory and Jacky Anderson on achieving the integration of both print and Braille into a student’s life. Jacky and Eric related how they use both print and Braille.  Jacky Anderson encourages her students by explaining “you don’t know what you can’t see because you can’t see what you don’t see; so you must explore so you can see.”   


For decades, we have been resilient in promoting better library services in Maryland.  Our latest venture was to join with the library community to urge the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan to move library services out of MSDE and to create a new service delivery structure, the Maryland State Library Agency.   Now that we have accomplished this goal and helped to garner a funding formula and adequate staff for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, it is time for LBPH to increase its role in eliminating the book famine experiences of the blind in Maryland. 


Many thanks to everyone for their service in Annapolis this year.  Visiting legislators in their offices, sending letters, making phone calls and sitting through long committee hearings makes our success possible.  Let’s especially give Clarence Hennigan a round of applause.  I called Clarence a couple of hours before our library bill hearing to tell him that someone cancelled and I needed him to testify.  He was nervous but agreed to do it.  He spoke from the heart about the importance of library services to the blind and the need for change.  This was the first time Clarence ever testified in his life.  He understood the value of service to his fellow blind. 


I was recently appointed by Governor Hogan to serve on the Maryland State Library Board.  Many Federationists serve on boards, commissions and advisory committees concerning transportation, rehabilitation and other disability issues.   Sitting on these bodies can be torturous. But this donkeywork is important because it can keep bad things from happening.  Sometimes it can even do some good.


The performance of service can be inconvenient.  When the call came on short notice to run down to Washington, D.C. to tell the Asian American Hotel Owners Association to quit telling Congress to reform the ADA as proposed in HR 620, many Federationists answered the call.  Let’s ask Karen Anderson, Sarah Baebler, Getachew Temare, Millie Rodriguez, Barry Hond, Ellana Crew, Antonio Mendoza, Miranda Williams, Steven Booth, Eric Duffy, and Ellen Ringlein to stand accept our appreciative applause. Please remain standing until you get your Braille magnet of appreciation.


Sometimes the performance of service requires courage.  As a state employee, Judy Rasmussen displayed courage by testifying before House and Senate committees of the General Assembly about how state government officials prevented blind employees from doing their jobs because of the lack of non-visual access to technology tools.  For instance, all Maryland state employees are required to use an email encryption tool made by Virtru of Washington D.C. to encrypt email messages. Since emails were encrypted by Virtru, and since Virtru was inaccessible to blind people, blind counselors at DORS and their clients could not read any of the encrypted emails they received.  Although Virtru has made improvements to the accessibility of its encryption tool, this inaccessible product should never have been purchased for statewide use. The state of Maryland needs to enforce its accessibility laws vigorously.  There should be consequences for state officials and for vendors who violate these laws.               


In the agenda, I have reprinted Governor Hogan’s executive order 01.01.2017.23 entitled “Maryland Disability Employment Awareness Month.”  Promotion of the employment of people with disabilities by the chief executive of our state is definitely significant.  There are five directives in this executive order to promote both the employment and the capabilities of persons with disabilities.  I want to highlight what I believe is the most significant directive of this executive order for blind persons:

“(4) To promote individuals with disabilities' access to technology, the Department of Disabilities shall:

a. hold special events, including those advancing assistive technology that expands employment in community integrated settings; and b. recommend the designation of a State agency, entity, or staff person to 1. provide accessibility technical assistance during State procurement processes; and 2. address any accessibility concerns of State employees.”


We commend Governor Hogan and the Maryland Department of Disabilities for this progressive action.  Do we have the resilience to put an end to lip service on accessibility by the state of Maryland?  You bet we do.   


Access to state government is not the only type of access that we seek.  We conducted a national campaign to determine whether Cardtronics really made their ATMs accessible as they promised they would in the settlement of our lawsuit.  We extend a big thank you to the eleven individuals who tested 25 machines in Maryland:   Karen Anderson, Aloma Bouma, Tyron Bratcher, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Heather Guy, Terry Hall, Bernadette Jacobs, Melissa Lomax, Graham Mehl, Arielle Silverman, Hindley Williams.  Please stand to be recognized.


Because we are raising expectations, blind people will no longer tolerate discrimination.  In August, 2017, when Cindy Morales made a purchase at Walmart, the shopping assistant took her to a self check out station.  Since this register was inaccessible, the “assistant” had to complete this transaction for Cindy.  The assistant clicked on cash back and pocketed $40 of Cindy’s change.  Cindy did get her $40 back because she had the gumption to call the police and refused to leave the store without her money. Walmart must learn that they are required to treat blind customers with dignity and respect.  


In the Federation, we are very fortunate to have many opportunities for reflection.  We share our reflections through our speeches at state and national conventions.  In his 2017 banquet speech, entitled Innovation, Blindness, and the Emerging Pattern of Thought, President Riccobono urged us to take action.  He states:

“In the past we have taught each other how to effectively compete as blind people using a variety of tools and techniques.  We must continue to teach each other, but we should explore the effectiveness of new technologies to perform some of those same tasks.”

We intend to do this exploration in Maryland.


Maryland does not have a statewide service support provider (SSP) program for deafblind people. Up to now, an SSP has been a person physically located with the deafblind person, to provide situational awareness so that the deafblind individual may participate in all aspects of community life.  We want to explore whether the Aira technology would be a better way to provide this service.  We must convince state officials of the need for an SSP program and determine the advantages of using technology to deliver these services.


As we celebrate our service to the Federation and to each other, let us be mindful of the founding principles of the National Federation of the Blind. 

“We think for ourselves, we speak for ourselves, and we act for ourselves to create understanding through our authentic experience.  Individually we seek to live our lives fully, and collectively we mobilize the machinery to transform our dreams into reality.”

As we continue our quest to improve education, rehabilitation, library services and accessibility while tearing down the barriers of discrimination, we must continue to serve each other and the Federation. We must continue to reflect on our actions, build relationships and maintain resilience.   I know that we have the love, hope and determination to reach our goals.  We can live the lives we want!    


Together with Love, Hope and Determination We Help The Newly Blind.

By Judy Rasmussen.

Having full sight and taking for granted that you can go where you want, cook what you want, and read what you want, whenever you want, is normal. However, when a significant amount of vision is lost, alternative techniques must be learned to perform these tasks in a different way. As federationists, we understand the necessity for serving as role models, being patient with those who are learning, and encouraging their successes as they move from dependence to independence.

The following is a summary of a panel presentation by three newly blind people at the NFB of Maryland 2016 state convention. The information is as relevant as it was in 2016 because reaching out to newly blind people is a core value of the National Federation of the Blind. President Mark Riccobono was the panel moderator and asked each person several questions regarding their overall adjustment to blindness.

The panel members were Luzanne Moses from Hagerstown, a member of the At Large
Chapter; Alison Baptiste from Baltimore, a member of the TLC Chapter; and Brian Altman from Gaithersburg, a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter. Alison, Luzanne and Brian have each been blind for four years.

When asked how they met the NFB, Alison's response was that a nurse who lived in her neighborhood saw how much difficulty she was having crossing the street. The nurse suggested she obtain a cane. Alison said that she didn't need a cane yet. The nurse told her that she should get a cane to let other people know she has a vision impairment. Because it was presented to her that the cane was really not for her, but for other people's benefit, she thought she could accept that using a cane was a good idea. She soon learned that using a cane was a wonderful idea for herself, too.

Brian said his mother was in town, and he was trying to think of something to do during her visit. He found the NFB online and learned that a holiday open house was being held at the NFB headquarters in Baltimore. He attended presumably for her benefit, but as it turned out, it was one of the best things he ever did.

Luzanne said she found the NFB through Cindy Holden, who runs the senior program at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland.

The next question asked was "how has the NFB's philosophy helped you in your journey?"

Luzanne said she has five children. They wanted to wait on her hand and foot. She said if they could, they would have followed her into the bathroom. They were determined that she wouldn't have to lift a finger. Luzanne said she was determined to cook again, not to just heat up food in the microwave. She wanted to be able to cross streets in her neighborhood. Joining the BISM program allowed her to meet other newly blind people and to gain the confidence she needed to resume her normal life activities. She felt it was important that, once she learned these skills, she needed to give back to others. She is living out that philosophy today.

Alison said she had always been fiercely independent. She determined that once she had gained some confidence, she traveled to New York by herself. Her family was most concerned that she would fall, but she didn't, and felt good about the experience.

Brian said he was determined that he would be an "awesome" blind person. He was determined that he could learn to shop, be active in the community and to vote.

All panel members were then asked what one piece of advice they would give federationists to reach out and help newly blind people.

Alison said that when we hear about a newly blind person, we should never stop calling them because it takes a while to respond and accept your situation.

Brian said that chapters should be especially welcoming to someone who is there for the first time.

Luzanne and Alison both said that chapters should be visible at community events.

The last question asked was what one practical thing had they learned since becoming blind.

Brian said that Lloyd Rasmussen and Terry Powers had taught him to carry a tray in one hand and a cane in the other.

Alison said that Eileen Ley told her that there were dots for everything.

Luzanne said that when she was presented with the concept of a braille cell by using an egg carton, things began to click for her.

We congratulate all three of these individuals on the progress they have made, and know that they will continue to give back to the community and to the federation.


Exploring the Landscape of Braille Literacy: Where have we come from and where do we need to go?

By: Lisa Wright.


(Editor’s Note: The Braille Literacy in the 21st Century conference was jointly sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the Maryland School for the Blind on October 19 – 20, 2017. During this conference, we celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the Maryland Literacy Rights and Education Act, better known as the Braille Bill. During the opening session, Lisa Wright gave the following presentation. Over the years, Lisa Wright has been both a teacher of the visually impaired and an administrator of vision programs.  Lisa Wright currently serves as Vision Program Instructional Specialist with the Prince Georges County School District.  Because of her experience and expertise, Lisa was the perfect choice to present a historical perspective on Braille literacy in Maryland.



I want to take you on a little journey back to the beginning of my career.  Not to let you know how old I am or how things were “back in the day”, but to explore the landscape of how far we have come.


As a graduate of Kutztown University of PA in the 1980s, I had a strong foundation in both teaching reading and in braille. I had teaching experiences in a first grade, sixth grade, at a residential school for the blind, and as an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments.   I had been instilled with a love for braille and I was well-prepared to begin my teaching career as an itinerant teacher.  For the first several years, I had four braille readers on my caseload, in addition to a few other students. One middle school braille reader, one kindergartener, and two preschoolers.  All at different schools, all in different parts of the county.  Each one was seen on a daily basis. Caseloads were smaller back then, with much more of a focus on direct teaching.


 In order to ensure that my students had their classroom materials in braille, I needed to braille everything.  At that time, we didn’t have desktop computers, braille translation software, braille embossers or machines for making graphics. I prepared all of my student’s classroom materials on the Perkins Braillewriter.  Mostly after school hours. The strong foundation I had in braille helped me through the many hours of material preparation, which also increased my braille proficiency.  At the same time, I worked with four fabulous paraprofessionals and began to teach them braille to assist me with preparation of materials. We made tactile diagrams on a Sewell Kit or with diagramming foil and a stylus. 


We used a tape recorder for recording some assignments or tests.  To order textbooks, The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) had a hardcopy catalog that was about 4” thick.  We would look up textbooks that were needed, and IF they were in the book, we attempted to call the mostly volunteer braille agencies (if we could actually get someone on the phone) to check the price and ordering information and then a purchase order had to be issued for each book. Once books were used, they often sat on a shelf, never to be used again.  We used audio textbooks from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic that played back on four-track cassette players. We taught students braille reading and writing using the Patterns Braille Reading Program, which first came out in 1983. Other braille literacy skills we taught were slate and stylus and braille dictionary skills.  I had a braille dictionary for each of my students ranging from 10-50 volumes.


The 1990s brought much focus on braille literacy at both state and national levels.

Maryland was one of the first states to pass a “Braille Bill”.  Maryland’s bill that was passed in 1992, 25 years ago.  This bill was called the Blind Students’ Literacy Rights and Education Act.   It focused on three areas for improving braille literacy – textbooks, teachers, and students.

  • This act required the MD State Department of Education to develop procedures to coordinate the statewide availability of textbooks and supplementary materials.  As a result, the partnership between MSDE, the MD School for the Blind, and the Local School Systems began through the first Memorandum of Understanding in 1996.  The MD Instructional Resource Center for Students with Visual Impairments was established as a repository/loan and purchasing agent for braille and large print books throughout the state.  The MIRC, funded by MSDE, MSB, and the MD State Government had a significant impact to improve braille literacy.  Books purchased by other counties could be loaned throughout the state. No more calling transcribers ourselves. Or getting purchase orders for each book and counties receive discounts on new purchases.  The MIRC also coordinates the APH Federal quota registry and the purchasing of instructional materials through those funds.  As a result of the MIRC, textbooks and instructional materials became more readily available to students.
  • This act also focused on braille literacy by holding TVIs to higher standards for braille proficiency.  It required MSDE to revise teacher certification requirements to include braille proficiency.  In this revision, all teachers of the visually impaired issued new certificates in MD were required to complete two courses in braille in their training programs.  And all teachers renewing certificates were required to do professional development activities related to braille proficiency. As a result of this requirement, many professional development trainings were focused on braille proficiency and literacy. I especially remember one weekend Nemeth Code workshop taught by Susan Milloway.


  • The third part of this act focused on the braille proficiency of students.  It required that, in developing an IEP of a blind/visually impaired student, braille instruction would be presumed, unless an assessment proved that braille instruction was not needed.

As a result of this act, MSDE created a task force that produced a document in 1992 called, “Selection of Reading and Writing Media for Students with Visual Impairments, Print, Braille or Both? This document outlined guiding principles for learning media assessments.  It included factors to consider such as medical diagnosis and prognosis, physical factors such as fatigue and working distance, environment, print reading efficiency, handwriting, and technology dependency. But most importantly, the document identified that students with visual impairments often profit from knowing both print and braille and that any choice in learning media should the student to participate independently and fully in activities of their choice and permit a successful transition to employment and/or post-secondary education.  A focus on college and career readiness back in 1992 as well.


In 1997, IDEA was reauthorized and included that same language for the presumption of braille. This created the IEP Special Considerations box we have today.


In 1999, the MD State Department of Education held another task force that produced the document, “Ensuring the Production of Quality Braille Materials” to address the production of classroom materials at the state and local levels.  This document established characteristics of quality braille, provided recommendations for support personnel who produce braille, and recommendations for ongoing training in braille for all staff. Due to this document, some counties created a job description and salary scale for a braille transcriber.  This demonstrated the value of the skills of some of our dedicated paraprofessionals and their dedication to the work they do to promote braille literacy.


The 1990s also brought changing demographics of students, with an increase in the number of students with additional disabilities served and the need for functional literacy programs.  Teacher caseloads grew but, unfortunately, the number of graduates did not. Maryland’s own graduate programs for vision certification at Johns Hopkins University run by Dr. Cay Holbrook came to an end. For those of us who received graduate degrees under Cay (such as myself) were sad to see her go but her love of braille continued through all of her research and work in the field of braille literacy.


The 1990s also brought an explosion of technological advances to the field. Desktop computers, braille embossers, braille translation software, and braille notetakers.  Maryland’s own Dean Blazie, produced the first notetaker on the market – the Braille and Speak.  And many Maryland teachers had the opportunity to learn this device directly from Dean and his son.  APH created their “Louis” database, which is a searchable database of all accessible media books produced by any agency.  These significant advances improved the timely production of braille materials and student access to materials through electronic means.


In the early 2000s…

The 2004 Reauthorization of IDEA included the provision for the timely delivery of textbooks.  The establishment of the NIMAC and Bookshare provided increased availability of books in electronic formats.


In the 2000’s, many TVIs were trained and certified through cooperative programs with Johns Hopkins University and Salus University of PA.  How many TVIs went through those programs?  They certainly helped fill the need at the time, but unfortunately the sustainability of those programs did not allow them to continue in state.


In 2010, legislation passed in Maryland that required the Maryland State Department of Education to develop standards for the mastery and application of the braille code for English/Language Arts and Mathematics.  After two years of work, the MD Common Core State Curriculum Frameworks for Braille was published and it established grade level standards for literary braille, Nemeth Code, and textbook formatting.  After the Braille Authority of North America voted to adopt Unified English Braille, this document was updated in 2015 and is now called the MD College and Career Readiness Standards for Unified English Braille. This document has been used in Maryland, as well as nationally, by teachers and parents to clearly identify the braille expectations for students to access grade-level curriculum.   This legislation also included the requirement to revisit certification requirements for teachers of the visually impaired.  Revisions were made to make a vision certification a stand-alone certificate, hopefully opening the door to more people who do not have special education certification.  Other revisions also included a requirement for TVIs to pass a braille proficiency test prior to renewing their certificate of the first time.


I have seen so much progress in braille literacy during my thirty two year career here in Maryland.  There are drastic improvements in the availability and access to braille textbooks and instructional materials, resources, professional development opportunities for teachers, and technology that all contribute to the improvement in braille literacy.  But we still need more progress. 



Where do we need to go from here?

  • We need continued recruitment efforts and in-state courses/program to continue to fill the need for TVIs so we can always provide direct braille instruction to all students who need it.
  • Teachers need more training in the use of technology tools, both in teacher training programs and for professional development for practicing teachers.
  • We need more technology advancements to more efficiently produce braille materials and tactile graphics for greater and more timely access, especially science and mathematics materials.
  • We need to conduct quality assessments to examine the literacy needs of all students with visual impairments.
  • We need to promote literacy at early ages and instill a love for reading.
  • We need to provide the time to instruct dual media learners and incorporate innovative strategies and practices for instruction, integration and use.
  • We need to utilize best practices for teaching functional braille literacy to students with additional disabilities.


Twenty five years ago, the Blind Students’ Literacy Rights and Education Act was passed in Maryland.   We hope that you will take away information from this conference that will help promote a landscape for a brighter future for braille literacy.


Who was John T. McCraw?

(Editor’s note:  In honor of Black History Month, the following biography of John T. McCraw was posted on the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland’s Facebook page.  John served as President of the newly organized NFB of Maryland from 1969 to 1978, and was also a member of the National Board of Directors.  One of John’s many accomplishments as president was to make sure that all of the workers at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland made at least the minimum wage.  We are reprinting this post here since spring is the time when we raise money for, and select the winners of, our John T. McCraw scholarship program.  Be looking in the summer spectator for information on the scholarship winners.) 

As a part of #BlackHistoryMonth, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland would like to pay tribute to one of our first Black leaders. John T. McCraw, the second president of the, then, Free State Federation of the Blind was described by Dr. Jernigan as a man who was an asset in every situation. “if one had to describe in a single word the feeling of the blind of the nation for John McCraw, that word would be love. He gave it; he received it; he lived it. And the blind of the nation and the world have better lives as a result,” (The Braille Monitor, October 1978)

Born in Norfolk, Virginia on October 4, 1921, Mr. McCraw lost his sight in 1932. Not letting blindness stop him, he continued his education, first at the Maryland School for the Blind, and culminating in his graduation from Morgan State College in 1944 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. His professional career spanned several vocations including travel teacher, medical transcriptionist, public school substitute teacher, musician, and Recreationist. As a Recreationist for the Baltimore City bureau of Recreation Mr. McCraw broke a barrier for the blind, becoming the first blind person employed by that agency. His work with the Bureau saw him planning and executing programs for youth and seniors including activities like music, physical movement, and field trips. An article printed in the September 1969 Braille Monitor describes how Mr. McCraw used public transportation to travel to his job.

In addition to his day job, Mr. McCraw was the musical director for an after dark club in Baltimore. He was the band leader for the John McCraw combo and, “…has been widely acclaimed as a leading exponent of jazz and a top-flight pianist.”

In an article announcing his death in the October 1978 Braille Monitor, much credit for the strength of the Maryland affiliate is given to the hard work of John T. McCraw.

To honor the legacy of this outstanding Federationist, the Maryland affiliate gives annual scholarships in Mr. McCraw’s name to a Maryland student. For more information on the scholarship program visit


Accessibility Matters: Victory in Annapolis.

By Sharon Maneki.


On May 15th, 2018, Governor Hogan signed HB 1088/SB 296 into law. Maryland is the first state that provides for civil penalty against vendors who sell inaccessible information technology and information technology services to the state. The state has 18 months to identify accessibility barriers and to inform the vendor of those barriers. The vendor has a year to remedy the problems. For the first offense, the vendor may be given a fine up to five thousand dollars. For subsequent offenses, the vendor may be fined up to ten thousand dollars. Vendors do not have to make their products accessible if the cost of accessibility is too high. The law also raises the exemption from five percent to 15% of the cost of the product. To read the full text of the law, go to Look under the Right to non-visual access to public information section. How did this law come about?


Making government information that is available to the general public accessible to the blind and ensuring that state employees have the information technology tools they need to do their jobs has been a long struggle undertaken by NFBMD. Policies and actions of the Federation are determined at the State Convention by passing resolutions. This article demonstrates how we have carried out our resolutions, as well as the persistence we have to achieve our goals.


In 1998 and 2000 legislation was enacted guaranteeing nonvisual access to State government information and to information technology used by State employees. Over the years these laws were ignored and never enforced.  In 2014, at the NFBMD State Convention, we passed resolution 2014-06 concerning the inaccessibility of the Hub.  The Hub was created by the State of Maryland as a central data sharing and storage system.  It is a multimedia web portal that contains mandatory statewide training, and an electronic time keeping system, and was intended to be a seamless way to share data between agencies, thus reducing paper and travel costs.  In this resolution we urged that “procedures be established and rigorously enforced to ensure that future updates to the Hub and other electronic information be accessible to all of Maryland's employees and citizens.”


In 2015 and 2016 we worked with the Department of Information Technology and other state agencies to try to resolve these problems. Although we made some limited progress, accessibility barriers remained.  In 2017, the General Assembly considered legislation that would have created a specific manager with responsibility for enforcing accessibility within the department of Information Technology.  Although the legislation failed, the Hogan administration created a position under the Department of Disabilities to work with the Department of Information Technology to ensure accessibility. 


Although we were moving in the right direction, problems remained. At the 2017 State Convention, once again we passed a resolution about the Hub.  In resolution 2017-03 “this organization demand that The Department of Budget and Management make the necessary investments in the Hub to assure that not only the structure remains accessible but that all content placed on the Hub also be fully accessible.  This organization insist that the Executive Branch of Maryland State Government establish procedures that are rigorously enforced to ensure that future updates to the Hub and all other electronic information provided by the state is accessible to Maryland's blind employees and blind citizens.”

In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly enacted HB 1088/SB 286. Many thanks to Delegate Bonnie Cullison and Senator Joan Carter-Conway, who were the prime sponsors of these bills. Every member of the House Health and Government Operations committee and 44  of the 47 members of the Senate cosponsored these bills, which indicates the strong support of the Legislature.


Many thanks to the Access Technology Team of the National Federation of the Blind for producing a video that demonstrated the barriers that blind people face when websites are inaccessible. We also appreciate the excellent defined testimony that dr. Jonathan Lazar presented to the House Health and Government Operations committee. Here is what Jonathan had to say.




Testimony on HB 1088, February 22, 2018.

Jonathan Lazar, Ph.D.

Professor of Computer and Information Sciences, Towson University.


Testimony to the House Government Operations Committee.

“I am here today to state my support for HB 1088. In the recent past, the State of Maryland has procured technologies that are inaccessible for people with disabilities. This has led to 1) increased costs for the state of Maryland as those technologies must then be remediated, 2) Maryland citizens and state employees with disabilities having unequal access to technology until the remediations are made. Simply put, it does not make sense for the state of Maryland to acquire inaccessible technologies and then spend extra money to make these technologies accessible for people with disabilities. Maryland state government needs to enforce accessibility requirements with their information technology vendors, requiring that the vendors build technology to accessibility standards in the first place, and requiring that the vendors assume any costs for any mistakes made.

HB 1088 is both a cost savings bill, and a civil rights bill. Maryland has laws already in place, requiring accessibility for technologies developed or procured by the state government, but these laws are not being properly implemented. HB 1088 would create the procurement processes needed to ensure that Marylanders with disabilities will not face barriers when interacting with information technology purchased by the state of Maryland. As a Maryland taxpayer, I do not want my tax dollars used to create barriers to access which I know, as a computer scientist, are unnecessary. As a computer scientist, I want Maryland to copy the existing best practices used for procurement, which 1) save money and 2) ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to technology.

Procurement is the best way to ensure equal access to technology. The core approaches proposed in HB 1088 (requiring accessibility details in procurement contracts, and requiring indemnification by vendors) are best practices for improving accessibility in state government systems (1). When an organization or state agency acquires technology and later determines that it is inaccessible, it often requires extra expenses, as well as a time delay in access for people with disabilities. Yet, the state agency should have never procured the technology in the first place, if the technology was not accessible. By having formal processes in place, the cost, risk, and responsibility are transferred to the vendor, rather than the state government. Furthermore, procurement processes already exist, to ensure that state funds are spent responsibly, in a manner consistent with laws and the best interests of the state taxpayers. Why should information technology be procured any differently?

There are many existing resources for accessible procurement.  Because procurement is a very effective method for ensuring accessible technology, there are a number of existing resources to help with the process. At the Federal level, the General Services Administration, has a number of resources to support the accessibility of technology in procurement (2). A partnership of industry and government created the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), to help vendors provide clear details about the accessibility features of their information technology products (3). The National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) has clear guidance on including IT accessibility in procurement processes (4).

Inaccessible technologies can lead to various forms of discrimination, and barriers to employment for people with disabilities. When technologies provided by government are not accessible, often, there are no accommodations in place, or the accommodations are “separate but unequal.” People with disabilities then have unequal access to government information, and are unable to work for government agencies, despite having the skills to do so. The legal case of Yasmin Reyazuddin, a blind woman and a Montgomery County employee, helps demonstrate why appropriate procurement processes are needed. Montgomery County procured software, Siebel CRM software (Public Sector 8.1.1) from Oracle, but did not inquire about accessibility, despite Ms. Reyazuddin’s request that they do so (5). The county wound up implementing the software without the appropriate accessibility features, leading to Ms. Reyazuddin being unable to work due to the software, and also leading to a lawsuit. While this was an example at a county level, not a state level, given that other cities and counties were using the same software, without any accessibility barriers, this highlights the need for appropriate procurement processes to eliminate accessibility barriers.

I support HB 1088 because it helps remove barriers for people with disabilities, while at the same time saving the state of Maryland money, by utilizing existing best practices in information technology procurement.”


1. Lazar, J., Goldstein, D., and Taylor, A. (2015). Ensuring Digital Accessibility Through Process and Policy. Waltham, MA: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

2. U.S. General Services Administration. (2017). Procuring Accessible Information Technology. Available at:

3. U.S. General Services Administration. (2017). VPAT/GPAT. Available at:

4. National Association of State CIOs (2017). Accessibility in IT procurement. Available at:

5. National Federation of the Blind (2017). Victory in the Yasmin Reyazuddin Case. Available at:

- - - - -

Dr. Jonathan Lazar is a Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University and served as director of the Undergraduate Program in Information Systems from 2003-2017. He also founded the Universal Usability Laboratory at Towson University and served as director from 2003-2014. In the area of human-computer interaction, Lazar is involved in teaching and research on web accessibility for people with disabilities, user-centered design methods, assistive technology, and law and public policy related to HCI. He has previously authored or edited eleven books, including Ensuring Digital Accessibility Through Process and Policy (coauthored with Dan Goldstein and Anne Taylor), Disability, Human Rights, and Information Technology (co-edited with Michael Stein), and Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction (2nd edition, co-authored with Heidi Feng and Harry Hochheiser). He has published over 140 refereed articles in journals, conference proceedings, and edited books, and has been granted two U.S. patents for his work on accessible web-based security features for blind users. He frequently serves as an adviser to government agencies and regularly provides testimony at the federal and state levels, and multiple U.S. federal regulations cite his research publications. Dr. Lazar has recently been honored with the 2017 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Research, and the 2016 SIGCHI Social Impact Award, given annually to an individual who has promoted the application of human-computer interaction research to pressing societal needs.

This is an important milestone on the road to equal access to information. Many thanks to everyone who made it possible.


Exercise Apps and More .

Fitness Resources.

(Editor’s note: At the 2017 Convention we had a workshop entitled Accessible Wellness at your Fingertips-Apps and Beyond. The facilitators were: Jessica Beecham, Eileen Rivera-Ley, and Mika Wills. After the Convention, Jessica Beecham, Program Director, WE Fit Wellness and President of the NFB Sports and Recreation Division, put together the following description of accessible fitness apps and resources. We were pleased that Jessica was able to be a part of our Convention. She came all the way from Colorado. We were also pleased that Mel Scott, from Blind Alive, was able to exhibit and participate in the convention. We hope you enjoy these suggestions and that you will stay fit and stay well.)

Apple Health

The Apple Health app utilizes the iPhone to track your steps as well as the number of flights of stairs you climb. If you have an apple watch you can also track your heart rate and sleep. If you are using the phone to track steps, remember the phone must be on your person in order to track effectively so if it is in your purse across the room, it will not pick up your steps. If you have the apple watch, you do not have to have phone in hand to track steps. The apple health program allows you to enter personal emergency information as well.


My Fitness Pal

My Fitness Pal is an application that allows you to track calories in verses calories out through food and exercise journaling. Simply search for the food you eat and enter it into the system. The system tracks breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. Enter your exercise type and duration. The system tracks how many calories you take in verses how many calories you burn and helps you stay on track for weight loss goals. It also gives you feedback on the nutritional content of the food you eat so you can tell if your diet is high or low in key areas including fat, sugar, sodium, carbs, and more. You can also pair your step tracker with My Fitness Pal to track yours steps through the app.


Aaptiv is a subscription-based audio described workout service. The cost is $9.99 per month and it includes a seven-day free trial. Aaptiv includes workouts in the following areas:

  • Outdoor running.
  • Treadmill.
  • Walking.
  • Elliptical.
  • Indoor cycling.
  • Stair climber.
  • Stretching.
  • Meditation.
  • Yoga.
  • Strength training.
  • Training for races from 5k to full marathon distances.


Charity Miles.

Charity Miles is a free app that allows you to use your sweat equity to donate to charity. Simply choose from the list of charities then choose indoor run, outdoor run, or cycling. For every mile you complete, the Johnson and Johnson foundation or one of the sponsoring entities donates .25 per mile for run/walk miles and .10 per mile for cycling miles. This is a great way to give back while getting fit.


FitBit is an app that works with the FitBit activity tracker. You can purchase FitBit activity trackers for less than 50.00 and as much as 250.00 depending on the model you choose. When you wear the FitBit, it syncs with the application so that you can access your step count and information about calories burned.

Yoga Studio.

Yoga Studio is a subscription-based app ranging from $1.99 per month to $19.99 for the year. It provides described yoga poses as well as classes in audio format. There are classes at all levels. There are also pose blocks to help you with certain goals like balance and core strength. You can add favorites to the pose section so if there are poses you want to learn you can add them to the favorites section and you will not have to go through all the poses to find them. The pose section gives benefits as well as a great description.  The app includes a 14-day free trial.


7 MINUTE Quick Fit.

Seven Minute Quick Fit has free workouts as well as paid workouts. There is a subscription service that is $9.99 per month that will give you access to all of the workouts and exercises. Voice over describes the exercises and the app has a built in feature to call out each exercise and time it. You can listen to the description of the next exercise during the rest break between exercises you get a rest in between each exercise. There are different categories like get fit, get strong, lose weight, get focused so you can find workouts that fit your needs.


Interval Timer.

The interval timer app is great if you want to create your own high intensity interval workout. You can set the number of sets and the low and high intensity interval. You can also add multiple interval sets so if you are doing two intervals of 2 minutes on and two minutes off and then 5 sets of 1 minute on one minute off you can easily set it up.  It is also easy to play music through this app if you wish.


Other Resources.

National Federation of the Blind Sports and Recreation Division.

The National Federation of the Blind Sports and Recreation Division is a membership organization of blind people that support one another in the pursuit of sports and leisure endeavors. We advocate for the rights of blind people to participate in all areas of sports and recreation. We also serve as a network of knowledge for blind people who are interested in sports and recreation. For more information, contact Jessica Beecham 615-497-0435 or


Blind Alive Eyes Free Fitness.

Eyes Free Fitness workouts are described audio workouts. There is a catalogue of all of the moves if you need to go back and learn them specifically but the workouts are also described all the way through. There are a variety of workouts including cardio, strength training, yoga, and more. There are workouts for individuals at various levels of fitness. Also check out the BlindAlive Podcast.


WE Fit Wellness Total Fit Pack.

The total Fit Pack is an exercise kit that can grow with you at every stage of fitness. There are 30 described exercises that are combined into five short workouts that include upper body, lower body, core, and two interval workouts. This kit also includes a cookbook of healthy recipes and other great information like how to eat healthy on the go and tips and tricks for sticking with your workout. It is sold through WE Fit Wellness. Also check out the Find Your Fit Podcast


United States Association of Blind Athletes.

United States Association of Blind Athletes is a great resource for information about sports for individuals who are blind and low vision. They are the U.S. Governing body for Paralympic goalball.


Achilles International.

Achilles International has chapters across the United States and in several other countries. They are a great resource for information about guide running. If you are interested in running or walking with an organized group find out if there is an Achilles International chapter in your area.



DEATHS:  On January 6, 2018 Ken Canterbury lost his long battle with the complications of diabetes. Ken was one of the early presidents of the Baltimore county chapter and served on the board of directors of NFBMD for many years. He helped establish the tradition of our crab feast fundraiser in Maryland. Ken was also a big supporter of our activities in Annapolis. We will miss his enthusiasm and can-do attitude.

Eolyn Kimbro died suddenly in January 2018. Eolyn was a member of the Central Maryland chapter for the past 10 years. She was passionate about educating the public about the real capabilities of blind people.

On February 12, 2018, Sharon Haskins-Brown also died suddenly. Sharon was a charter member of the At-Large chapter. She was a source of inspiration and encouragement to newly blind people. She also worked tirelessly to educate medical personnel, such as physical therapists so that more blind people would have access to a white cane.

Long time federationist Greg Miller died suddenly on February 7. Greg was a member of the Sligo Creek and National Harbor chapters.  Greg fought valiantly to maintain his independence. He was proud to obtain jobs where he was paid the minimum wage and helped with our quest to eliminate the practice of paying people with disabilities less than the minimum wage in Maryland.

May they rest in peace.


GRADUATIONS:  Congratulations to the following graduates who achieved their degrees in December 2017. Autery Weekes received his BA in Sociology from Bowie State University.  He plans to get a job.

Nathan Clark received a BA degree in Criminal Justice from Towson University.  He also plans to get a job.

Erin Daring received her Associates Degree from Montgomery Community College.  She will continue her studies at Towson University.

In May 2018, Dammie Onafeko received his BA degree in Broadcasting and Audio Production from Howard University. He will continue on to American University for graduate studies.

In June 2018, Nesma Aly will graduate from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.  After she completes the BISM core rehabilitation program, she plans to attend George Mason University.

Shawn Abraham will graduate from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. He hopes to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind rehabilitation program and then go on to college.


ACHIEVEMENTS: Congratulations to the 6 students who entered the NFB National Braille Readers are Leaders (BRAL) contest.  We are especially proud of the 3 Maryland students who won in their grade level.  Aisha Safi won 1st place in the 2-3rd grade level for reading 1860 pages!  Jonah Rau won 1st place in the 4-5th grade level for reading 991 pages! Isaiah Rau won 2nd place in the 4-5th grade level for reading 779 pages! These 3 students also received The Kelly Doty Awards of $25 which was given to students who overcame special challenges to achieve fluency in Braille reading.  All 3 students are reading in English, which is their second language.  Aisha has an additional challenge, because she only has one hand to read Braille!  The Rau boys are making remarkable progress, since they only came to the United States from China in August 2017.   Keep up the good work.