NFB of Maine News Matters for November, 2012
Vol.2 Issue 11
November 27, 2012
editor: Patricia E. C. Estes
First Vice President, NFB of Maine
PR & Information
"The Voice of the Blind in Maine-Changing What it Means to be Blind"
President, Leon Proctor, Jr
This month marks a full year of monthly newsletters for the NFB of Maine since we were newly organized in October 2011. You can read past issues and Maine NFB of Maine Affiliate happenings at our website: www.nfb-me.org Note our growth at our two state conventions, one in 2011 and this past one last month. Listen to our first meeting to organize our NFB of Maine Lighthouse At Large Chapter and check out our BETA program. If you have any comments or questions or helpful suggestions, please write: Patricia Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org
-December 6, Thursday, 7:00 pm-NFB of Maine Board Meeting by Conference Call
-December 12-demonstration by Federationists from across the country at Amazon's headquarters' in Seattle to protest Amazon's big push of their Kindle e-reader into the public school systems (for more info, read below)
-December 20-Lighthouse At Large Chapter Meeting for all members and interested parties-Thursday at 7:00pm by toll free conference call(see web site for number if you do not receive an e-mail reminder or you can contact a board member)
-December 28, Saturday morning-BETA planning meeting for BETA leaders and interested students and parents. Even if you can't be with us that day, please share any possibilities that you can think of for a location where we might meet on a Saturday morning once a month for a gathering time and an activity. (free, of course! We are a current 501 c3 and can acknowledge any donation as tax deductible)
IN THIS ISSUE:
*NFB Partners with Santa
*What's the big deal with Amazon Kindle e-reader?
*"the Blind Robber Hamilton" chapter #?, continued
*needed: recipes & ideas
NFB PARTNERS WITH SANTA CLAUS:
National Federation of the Blind Partners with Santa to Promote Braille Literacy
Baltimore, Maryland (November 19, 2012):
Once again, Santa has enlisted the help of the elves at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Jernigan Institute to get Braille letters out to hundreds of blind boys and girls this Christmas season.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Santa approached the National Federation of the Blind several years ago and asked us to be his helpers. I’m quite fond of the fellow and was delighted that we could assist him in his work. Braille literacy is the key to success and opportunity for the blind, but unfortunately too few blind children are learning it today. This program will not only spread holiday cheer but will also serve an important educational purpose, as blind children will be able to practice reading Braille as they enjoy their letter from merry Saint Nicholas.”
Between November 19 and December 17, parents can go online at www.nfb.org and fill out a Santa Braille Letter request form. The form can also be printed and faxed to (410) 685-2340. Beginning November 27, the Braille letters from Santa will start going out to blind boys and girls around the country. The Braille letter will also be accompanied by a print copy (for mom and dad to read). Requests for letters must include the writer’s name, the child’s name, birthday, gender, mailing address, a telephone number, and e-mail address in case Santa’s helpers at the National Federation of the Blind have questions.
The deadline for letter requests is December 17, to ensure that a return letter in Braille is received before Christmas.
The National Federation of the Blind needs your support to ensure that blind children get an equal education, to connect blind veterans with the training and services they need, and to help seniors who are losing vision continue to live independent and fulfilling lives. To make a donation, please go to www.nfb.org.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL WITH AMAZON'S KINDLE E-READER?
Many of us Old Fogies gasped when Governor Angus King placed Apple computers in the hands of every middle school student in Auburn as a pilot program. Now most Maine K-12 schools use Apple products. But apparently the rest of the country is a wide open market and the Amazon company has launched a large and serious campaign to get their Kindle e-readers into the public schools and into the public libraries. This sample letter that you may use, describes the problem very succinctly. Amazon will also argue that schools "can't afford the Apple Voice over platform", which I am told is not what makes Apple products price-y.Nevertheless, you read and you decide and watch for reports of our protest on December 12 and write letters to support our position.
Mr. Jeff Bezos
410 Terry Avenue North
Seattle, Washington 98109
Dear Mr. Bezos:
I have become aware that Amazon.com is undertaking a massive effort to deploy its Kindle e-readers and Kindle books to K-12 schools across the United States. Amazon has built a system called Whispercast that allows teachers and school administrators to distribute Kindle content to devices other than Kindles. The problem with all of these plans is that neither the Kindle devices nor the book files used in conjunction with them are accessible to students who are blind or who have other print disabilities. Even if a student has an accessible device like a personal computer, laptop, or iPad, he or she still will not be able to gain full access to these books. Although the books can be read aloud with text-to-speech, the student can't use the access features of his or her device to learn proper spelling and punctuation, look up words in the dictionary, annotate or highlight significant passages, or take advantage of the many other features that Kindle devices and applications make available to sighted students. This is because Kindle books are designed so that the text is not exposed to screenreaders, like JAWS for Windows or Apple's VoiceOver application, which are used by blind students. This also means that the text of Kindle books can't be displayed on Braille devices. Listening is not reading; if students who can read Braille cannot access Kindle books in Braille, they are not reading.
Since school districts have an obligation under federal law to purchase or deploy only accessible technology and content, Amazon must either make Kindle books accessible or cease and desist from its efforts to have them used in the classroom. I sincerely hope that you will make the vast library of Kindle books available to all students, including those who are blind. If you do, you will be making history by providing more access to books for blind students than they have ever had in all of human history.
"The Blind Robber Hamilton" Story Continues:
Our November Lighthouse At Large Chapter Meeting was lively, as those who were on the call will remember! A story had just appeared in the Lewiston Sun-Journal entitled,"Legally Blind Robber Gets No Jail Time." Several on the call had already read the story by reporter Terry Karkos and quickly filled in those who hadn't. This generated some incredulous and angry discussion. Hamilton of Rumford, entered his neighbor's home on several occasions over a period of weeks while the neighbor (a single mother) had been locked out by the bank having gone through foreclosure. Hamilton said he entered by a broken cellar window removing everything from jewelry, family mementos, rolls of insulation, a child's potty training seat and other items adding up to over $11,000. So this took several times entering the house with intent to steal goods, that is why we do not know which chapter this truly is. One would think that each time would be it's own criminal incident, but one would be wrong. The Blind Robber Hamilton only has to pay the victim $50.00 per month for two years, commit no further crime and his case will be dropped and the charged was dropped from felony theft to felony robbery. The victim will receive about $1,100 in restitution and received about one thousand dollars worth of her personal belongings back from the Blind Robber Hamilton, who had given the rest away. The Judge in the case in Oxford County Superior Court said that he based his decision on the defendant's "ability to pay restitution, since he only receives SSI and SSDI for income."
This is what made us all so upset: here we are working so hard to change the perception of blindness in Maine and this Judge allows Hamilton's attorney to play the blind card and get away with it. Either the Judge fell back into all of the mythical stereotypes of the blind and ignored the facts before him or he truly believes that wrong is wrong only when one can afford it. I wanted to get a bit more information before I wrote the paper: was Hamilton also developmentally delayed? Where was the victim's attorney? So, I called the Oxford County DA's Office and explained to the receptionist which case I was calling about. She returned to the phone saying that the DA had never heard of it. I gave her more information, thinking that surely this case isn't a dime a dozen. She came back to the phone saying that "I'll take your number and he will call you back." Right. I thought that would be the end of that, when I took a call from the reporter on the case, Terry Karkos. His editor wanted him to ask me if we wanted to do a "reaction article" since the paper had received "two strongly worded letters" in response to Terry's initial article.Well, of course we would appreciate any opportunity to have our view of the incident out there! One thing has led to another and look for an article by Terry Karkos in this Sunday's edition (most likely) of the Lewiston Sun-Journal with the NFB of Maine members' reactions to the Blind Robber Hamilton and the fairytale plea bargain he was granted.
Holiday Recipes: The December Issue of NFB of Maine Newsmatters will come out mid-month (I promise). It will be all Holiday Recipes by our NFB of Maine Members. The recipes must be yummy and easy (not because blind people need "easy", but because we are as busy as the next guy at this time of year!) and, I guess, if they are "healthy" gift-giving cookies or snacks, that would be acceptable, too. Please send them to me ASAP.
Fund raising ideas: we are literally collecting ideas that work on a limited budget with a few people. Phone calling? Mailings? Partnering with a business? a local Chamber? auction? a dance and social? a pot luck dinner? raffle? a coupon book of services? You may send these to this e-mail address, also. I'll make sure our book keeper gets them!
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF MAINE: WE KNOW WHO WE ARE AND WE ARE NOT GOING BACK!"
Patricia C. Estes
NFB of Maine
207 344 8292