Legislators to Participate in National Federation of the Blind of Nevada Convention
Virtual Lunch with a Legislator Takes place Friday, November 13
Thursday, November 12, 2020: Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, Nevada’s civil rights organization of the blind, will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual lunch with members of the Nevada General Assembly at noon on Friday, November 13. Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen (Assembly District 29) and Senator Patricia Spearman (Senate District 1) will join Federation leaders and members to discuss Issues concerning the lives of Nevadans who are blind and how cultivating a relationship with the Nevada Legislature can help further the work of the organization. The media and members of the general public are also welcome to attend. The event will take place via Zoom as part of the agenda of the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, which is taking place November 13 and 14.
“We are delighted that our members from all over the state will have this opportunity to meet their elected representatives and learn more about the legislative process,” said Terri Rupp, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. “We thank Representative Cohen and Senator Spearman, both outstanding supporters of blind Nevadans, for taking the time to participate in this event so that we can all interact with and learn from each other.”
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org.
President, National Federation of the Blind of Nevada
P.O. Box 2041
Reno, NV 89515
Nevada must improve blind people’s access to government websites | Nevada Current
By Terri Rupp -October 14, 2020
The internet has become an integral part of most people’s daily lives. This is truer than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most of us are spending a great deal of time in our homes interacting with the outside world through websites, apps and video conferences.
Unfortunately, despite some efforts by a few officials and agencies and clear state mandates and federal laws, blind Nevadans like me and the thousands represented by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and its Nevada affiliate, of which I serve as president, still can’t access many of the state’s internet resources. This is hindering blind Nevadans’ ability to connect to educational resources during this time of remote learning and access information and services from the state of Nevada, such as registering to vote, procuring and accessing healthcare, applying for unemployment benefits, and much more.
I find this extremely frustrating as a blind mom and as a citizen.
Like many of my fellow blind Nevadans, I use screen reader technology to access my computer, my smart phone, and the digital information to which they provide access. This technology converts the information that is normally displayed on a computer or phone’s screen into spoken words, or into Braille if a blind person has a device called a refreshable Braille display connected to the computer or phone. Although screen readers are very powerful, websites and apps have to be coded to give them information about certain things, such as the content of graphics and images. In some cases, screen reader users can’t locate or input information easily, or at all, if websites are not screen-reader compatible. When a website is not coded to work well with screen readers, we say that it is inaccessible.
Inaccessibility is a problem for blind people across the internet, and it is particularly pernicious when we cannot access crucial information and resources from our government. But it’s not just an inconvenience; it’s a violation of federal law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. State government and other political entities are required to provide access to their programs to people with disabilities on an equal basis and in ways that are equally effective, and this applies to state websites.
The National Federation of the Blind of Nevada has been trying to get the state to act upon this legal and moral obligation since 2018. In May of that year, I wrote to then-Gov. Brian Sandoval and other state officials to express our concern that the vast majority of the state’s websites were not accessible to blind residents and to request the opportunity to discuss a global plan to fix them. The ensuing discussions yielded some positive results; the state issued ADA Technology Accessibility Guidelines and made some improvements to some websites.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Nevada and the nation, some of the most important state websites, including those containing information and services that are critical to all Nevadans during the crisis, remain completely or partially inaccessible.
In April, I asked the national president of our organization, Mark Riccobono, to write to Gov. Steve Sisolak and other state officials — including Linda DeSantis, state web development manager — to express the need for urgent action. Riccobono’s letter pointed to specific examples of inaccessible websites, including the Nevada HealthLink website (the official state healthcare marketplace) and the site where Nevadans apply for unemployment benefits — both obviously of high importance during the pandemic. Riccobono also offered to work with the state to remedy these issues. Our national organization has technology experts on staff who can work directly with state web developers and contractors or refer them to consultants and developers who can help.
To date, however, we have heard only from Deputy Secretary of State Wayne Thorley. While the relationship we have developed with him has been productive, there is still no movement on a global plan to fix all of the affected state websites. This failure to act has probably already resulted in irreversible harm to the physical and economic well-being of many blind Nevadans, and continued inattention to the problem will make matters even worse.
When we raise issues of accessibility, blind people are sometimes told that we should simply get someone to help us navigate the websites and input the required information. While this might be fine for some blind people, others live alone and can’t find or hire a person to help, even assuming they are willing to share with a third party some of the extremely personal and private information that one must divulge in order to access some state services. More to the point, the anti-discrimination provisions of federal law say that blind people shouldn’t have to rely on someone else to access the same programs and services that everyone else can access easily. It’s a matter of basic equality.
Nevada officials have known for at least two years that improvements must be made to state websites, and the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada has been more than patient given that the state is in violation of federal law. We do not seek confrontation and greatly prefer collaboration, but we will not wait indefinitely for what we are legally entitled to have.
I am asking state officials to urgently meet with us to develop a plan to remediate the state websites that are still inaccessible, and appealing to the public to join with blind Nevadans to urge state officials to do what they are morally and legally required to do.
Failing that, the only remedy may be costly litigation, unnecessarily placing further strain on Nevada taxpayers because the state failed to follow the law and appropriately protect the rights of its blind residents. Rather than finding itself in a legal battle that it will most likely lose, we urge the state to come to the table immediately and work with us to create a technology infrastructure that equally serves all Nevadans, including the blind and others with disabilities.
Terri Rupp is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada and a member of the organization’s national board of directors. She lives in the Las Vegas area with her husband and two school-age children and blogs at blindmomintheburbs.com
We are thrilled to announce that Nevada is 1 of 15 states to be given the opportunity to participate in NFB STEM2U
In NFB STEM2U, we are bringing what we have learned directly to students and families in their homes. Students of varying ages in fifteen states across the country will receive instruction from NFB personnel and expert instructors via the Zoom platform. November 14, 2020 from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM PST. This program is designed for blind and low-vision students in grades three to high school level who: are interested in STEM, are unsure about STEM but interested in a fun program specific to blind students, are in need of hands-on, nonvisual skills training opportunities from blind role models. There will be two tracks for the program based on grade and experience—basic and advanced. Each student registered for the 2020 NFB STEM2U program will be sent a box of materials containing everything they need to completely engage with the lesson. After the lesson, state coordinator, Regina Mitchell NFBNV Board Member and Southern Nevada Chapter President will connect with the students for additional interaction, in-depth discussion, and an exploration of additional avenues for STEM enrichment and learning. Full agenda coming soon! Please use our online application form to register for NFB STEM2U. This program is designed to include Braille, accessible tools, and digital content. If additional accommodations are needed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 Presidential Greeting
April 3, 2020
Dear friends, family, and community partners of the national Federation of the blind of Nevada,
As we finish up another week of our new normal, I invite you all to like and follow us on our national Federation of the blind of Nevada Facebook page. We will be sharing many upcoming zoom trainings, chapter meetings, and announcements.
We wish the best for you and your family as we enter into spring break. May you enjoy plenty of sunshine and quality time with loved ones, though they may be virtual. As we continue safely social distancing, please do stay connected with us in the national Federation of the blind of Nevada.
President | National Federation of the Blind of Nevada
Board of Directors | National Federation of the Blind
Please complete the Braille Monitor survey
The Braille Monitor is a magazine that the Federation has published since 1957. We call it our flagship publication. In terms not so tied to the Navy, this means that it should be the lead publication of our organization, the one which all of us follow and contribute to in order to share what is going on in our Federation Family, the latest news about blindness-related activities, and the place we record the major milestones of the National Federation of the Blind's progress.
For some time now, we have been seeing Federationists—new Federationists in particular, we believe—who don't seem to know about the Braille Monitor and who have not subscribed because of it. We have assembled a survey that will ask participants a number of things about the Monitor, including whether someone has offered to sign them up for it; whether they read it and why not if the answer is no; and what should change to make the Monitor more the kind of magazine they want to see as the flagship publication of our organization.
The Braille Monitor reflects many of our traditions, but it also must evolve enough to clearly be relevant in this decade and those to come. Please help us by telling us what you want, what you need, and what you will read. Together we will keep making history, and the Braille Monitor will continue to tell our story about defining a problem, talking it through, and doing what it takes to see that it gets solved. Thank you for helping the publication that states boldly "We are the Blind Speaking for Ourselves."
How to Complete the Survey
Peer support group available for those adjusting to blindness
Presidential Note: We are proud of the wonderful things being done by our NFB Nevada vice president and northern Nevada chapter president Mark Tadder, and are northern Nevada chapter members.
Mary Jane Belleza
3:26 PM; Feb 27, 2020
SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - From learning Braille to independent travel, those are just one of the many skills taught at the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living in Sparks.
It's part of support group led by blindness advocacy and resource officer Mark Tadder.
"It's to help people talk about who recently lost their vision," said Tadder. "So, they can talk to other folks who been through or going through it now come to grips with it and prepare for the future."
It's all to help build dependency and create resources in the community.
"I lost my eyesight 6 years ago, my central vision," Tadder explained. "So I wasn't able to drive or read or walk around. I didn't know anybody at that point that was blind or had low vision or been through it. It was a very lonely experience."
Just ask Ramona Coker.
She started losing her sight at 26 years old, Coker is now studying web development to help make websites and documents accessible.
"We want them to know they can be independent and viable," said Coker. "You can be a productive part of society and all that stigma can be cast off."
Ramona admits while losing your vision can be a whirlwind of emotions, it shouldn't stop you from doing anything you want to do.
"Blindness is just a state of being," said Coker. "It doesn't change who you are or what you're capable of. You just have to find a different way."
With over 50 people now involved in their program, their goal is to spread awareness and reach people all across northern Nevada.
"There are others. In fact there are over 100,000 people with low vision in just the state of Nevada alone," explained Coker. "Where are they? Wherever they are, We're here. We're here to help."
Adjustment to blindness is just one of the many programs offered at the Northern Nevada Centern for Independent Living.
The peer support group is held every Wednesday until March 25, 2020 from 9 am to 11 am.
For more information, click here.
Records Broken and USATF Champions Crowned at Jackpot Ultra
What an unforgettable weekend for all runners who participated in the Beyond Limits Running Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. So much gratitude to Ken Rubeli and Stephanie Rubeli, owners of Beyond Limits Running, for the invitation to participate, and for the generous donation to the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada and Achilles Las Vegas. We are excited to see what else will come from this three-way collaboration of big dreamers who believe in inspiring people to push beyond their perceived limits. Together with love, hope, and determination, we transformed dreams into reality.
To learn more about the event, please visit https://www.endurancesportswire.com/records-broken-and-usatf-champions-crowned-at-jackpot-ultra.
Jackpot Ultra Running Festival Welcomes Blind Runners
February 4, 2020
Blind Runners Competing Along USA Track & Field Elite Ultra Runners
HENDERSON, NEVADA – February 4, 2020 – Beyond Limits Running, the owner and producer of the 7th Annual Jackpot Ultra Running Festival (Jackpot), Southern Nevada’s premier ultra-running endurance event, announced today two new partnership with National Federation of the Blind of Nevada (NFBNV) and Achilles International of Las Vegas. The partnership encourages and promotes blind runners to run in one of the country’s preeminent ultra-running endurance events and other endurance events across the southwest. To kick-off the partnership, two local blind runners including Terri Rupp, the President of NFBNV, will be running their first ultra-race when they toe the line to compete in the 12-hour race at Jackpot. The festival takes place February 14-17, 2020 at Cornerstone Park in Henderson, NV, featuring the USA Track & Field 100-Mile Road National Championship race along with 6/12/24/48-hour races, a 50-mile race and standard 100-mile race.
Ken Rubeli, co-founder of Beyond Limits Running and co-race director of Jackpot stated, "My wife, Stephanie Rubeli, and I started Beyond Limits 8 years ago to celebrate a life-saving double organ transplant due to Type-1 Diabetes, and to encourage runners, especially average runners, to run way past their perceived limits. Meeting a couple local blind runners with ambitions to tackle their first ultra-marathon gave me goosebumps as I remembered the day my wife earned her first 50K ultra medal just 4 months after receiving a kidney/pancreas transplant. We are beyond honored to welcome Jackpot’s first blind runners, Terri Rupp and Pedro Navarro, along with their dedicated team of “sighted guide runners” from Achilles International of Las Vegas who will run alongside Terri and Pedro."
Terri Rupp, President of National Federation of the Blind of Nevada commented, "This is not just a run; this is an opportunity to show that with proper training and opportunity, blind people can accomplish anything. I look forward to expanding our relationship with Beyond Limits Running and Achilles International of Las Vegas to encourage more blind runners to compete in athletic events."
John Sterling, President of Achilles International of Las Vegas stated, "At Achilles Las Vegas, we strive to raise expectations. Our goal is not only to raise the expectations our blind athletes have of themselves and their ability to accomplish anything, but also raise the expectations of the sighted community and that the blind can do anything sighted people can do and probably more".
The 7th Annual Jackpot Ultra Running Festival will be held February 14-16, 2020 at Cornerstone Park, a picturesque bird sanctuary lake park owned by the City of Henderson, Jackpot’s 2020 Presenting Sponsor. All races start at 8:00 AM MST on Saturday, Feb 15, except for the 48-hour race and the USA Track & Field 100 Mile Road National Championship race, which both begin Friday, Feb 14 at 8:00 AM MST.
About Beyond Limits Running
Co-founded 8 years ago by a double organ transplant recipient and her husband, Beyond Limits Running was formed to help all runners, especially average runners, run way past their perceived limits by competing in ultra distance running events. Known for its over-the-top festive events, Beyond Limits Running produces the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival, the Beyond Limits Ultra Race, and the Happy Hippie Harvest Run. Learn more at www.BeyondLimitsRunning.com.
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at href="https://www.nfb.org">www.nfb.org.
About Achilles International of Las Vegas
Achilles provides training, support, and guides for blind and disabled runners. It was started in 1983 by Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon. At Achilles, we create an environment of support and community. Within this community, our athletes gain physical strength and confidence, which often translates to other areas of their lives. While our programs focus on running. The truth is that running is simply a tool for accomplishing our main objective: to bring hope, inspiration, and the joys of achievement to all. Learn more about Achilles International by visiting www.achillesinternational.com.
Media and Contact
Co-Owner, Beyond Limits Running
Shaetonna Jackson elected to NFB of Nevada Board of Directors
Shaetonna Jackson, a long time Southern Nevada Chapter Board member and former Student Division leader,was elected to Nevada affiliate Board member #2 position at the 2019 NFB Nevada State Convention in Reno on November 2nd. Shaetonna was elected by acclamation after Thomas Kearns, the incumbent turned down a nomination from the floor. We are proud to welcome Shaetonna to the team and look forward to her positive outlook and reliable contribution to our movement.
NFB of Nevada chapters holding White Cane Awareness Day walks on October 15th
Both Nevada Chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada held White Cane Awareness Day Walks in either ends of the Silver State on October 15. With the weather cooperating each Chapter made large groups of Blind NFB members who walked proudly and independently through the streets of Las Vegas and Reno to bring awareness to the use of the White Cane by the Blind of our Nation. In Reno, City Council Member Jennie Brekhus read a proclamat ion signed By Reno Mayor Hillary Shieve supporting the importance of the White Cane, and also the importance of leveling the playing field for the Blind in all walks of life.
Nevada state treasurer employee prints business cards in Braille
Erik Jimenez, Senior Policy Director for the Nevada state treasurer’s office, a friend of the Federation, is getting recognition in the media for printing his business cards in braille. Erik is scheduled to speak at our 2019 national Federation of the blind of Nevada state convention on Saturday, November 2nd. For more information on the national Federation of the Blind of Nevada, visit www.nfbnevada.org.
When Erik Jimenez of the Nevada treasurer’s office hands you a business card, you can’t help but notice that it’s all lumpy.
That’s because, in addition to the usual name and number, his contact information is embossed into the card in Braille.
“I think I’m the first state employee to get Braille business cards,” he said.
Jimenez, senior policy director to state Treasurer Zach Conine, said he feels the blind community is too often cut off from easy access to government information.
“I do a lot of outreach to the blind community, which I would argue is one of the most underserved communities,” he said.
Whether it’s job postings or laws and regulations, they simply can’t access a lot of state government materials and information.
“I’m hopeful we have a conversation about how we make our materials and outreach accessible,” he said. “It’s a big step, at least with this community.”
Jimenez said the cards are designed to let visually impaired people know that someone is listening.
“If nothing else, they’ll at least be able to contact me if they have questions about government.”
The card includes not only the normal contact information but his name, cellphone number and email address in Braille.
“If we go and take the first step like we legitimately care, they’re more inclined to listen and ask for help.”
Jimenez said his boss, the governor and Legislature are pushing to make state agency websites accessible to the visually impaired. He pointed out that the last Interim Finance Committee approved four positions to begin the process of coding websites to be more accessible to the blind.
He said he has also been contacted by some lawmakers interested in how to make state materials accessible.
“Maybe some one has done this before but I’ve never heard of it,” he said. “It starts the conversation.”
Jimenez thought the Braille was so important, he paid for the cards himself.
Terri Rupp featured on the HOKA ONE ONE Humans of Hoka series
Blindness doesn’t stop us from living the lives we want. Here is a story of NFB of Nevada President Terri Rupp featured on the HOKA ONE ONE Humans of Hoka series.
"For the first 23 years of my life I struggled to fit in with the sighted world as a person living with low vision. I often felt very stuck in the middle. I wasn’t quite blind, and not sighted either. This struggle manifested itself in a constant conversation of self-worth. In my early twenties, I found myself really struggling to 'fake it to make it.' Then I met blind role models who had no reason to 'fake it.' They were actually 'it.' They were living real lives with careers, families, hobbies, and I was ready to be that blind person too. I put life on hold, said good bye to everything I knew, and spent the next nine months gaining my blindness skills at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Since graduating, I moved to Las Vegas, got married, finished school, set aside a professional career to raise my two children, and currently serve as the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada as well as a Board Member on the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors. It wasn’t until adulthood that I discovered the love of running. Never in a million years would the teenage me ever have considered calling myself an athlete, let alone a marathon runner." - HOKA fan Terri Rupp.
Terri Rupp Elected to NFB Board of Directors
Congratulations to Nevada Affiliate President Terri Rupp who was elected to the NFB National Board of Directors at the 2019 National Convention in Las Vegas on July 11th by the assembled Convention. After receiving the recommendation of the Nominating committee, Terri joined our National Board for a 2 year term in the 6th Board seat. Terri, who is serving in her 2nd full term as Affiliate President, oversaw a complex National Convention as Host Affiliate lead while helping Nevada to pass it's first NFB initiated legislation.
Disabled Parents Act passed into law
The National Federation of the Blind of Nevada is celebrating the passage of the Disabled Parents Act by the Nevada Legislature this Spring. The Bill was conceptualized and initiated by the Federation in August of 2018 with testimony presented by Legislative Liaison and Affiliate Board member Dora Uchel and Nevada Affiliate Vice President Mark Tadder at an interim committee meeting. The sub-committee were largely stunned to find out about the recent behaviors of various State agencies and assured that the situation would be firmly addressed this upcoming legislative session. Assembly Chair Leslie Cohen became the defender and outspoken promoter of the Bill and helped sponsor the effort along with the Assembly Judicial committee, at times not allowing amendments presented by some of the same factions who were creating the issue in the first place. After the Bill moved through both Chambers through March and April it was finally approved by the full Senate and signed by Governor Steve Sisolak after the end of the 80th session in June 2019. The grassroots effort put forth by a large number of NFB of Nevada members in passing this Law to address an egregious discriminatory practice by State and County agents, was noted by many State representatives as an example of outstanding citizen participation.
Legally blind UNLV student works to make social media more accessible for the disabled
Gabby Hart | KSNV
Tuesday, February 19th 2019
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Skye Dunfied is a 23-year-old junior at UNLV who is majoring in criminal justice and carrying a 3.9 GPA. Skye isn't your average student, however. She’s been legally blind since she was born.
She has a seeing eye dog named Cindi. Without Cindi, Skye's college experience would be more difficult.
"She’ll take me around things, find things for me, refuse commands if it's dangerous to follow them," Skye explained. "So she's actually helped me a lot, especially commuting to and from school and saving me from cars that are running red lights and all that kind of stuff.”
"People think she can't go on YouTube and enjoy videos, and that's just not true. I have a YouTube account, I have an Instagram, a Facebook and I use all of these by using accessible technology." Skye said.
One of her efforts has been making UNLV’s social media posts more accessible to the visually- and hearing-impaired.
"What we've tried to do is make audio descriptions and video descriptions, so that when there's an image, you're actually able to hear what the image has, so that's describing it through words." Skye said.
Skye has been working closely on this with Afsha Bawany, the Communications Director for UNLV’s College of Urban Affairs.
"She taught me a lot. I think it's important to create accessibility, and we have courses here on the campus. That helps professors and people in my job learn about social media and to create accessible content," Afsha said.
She says she does this because it's important to have an open dialogue.
"When you see someone with a disability we're not scary, you can come and talk to us anytime, I love questions, I just want to fight that perception that we aren't approachable." Skye said.
Skye hopes to intern with our local DA’s office to help her get started on her career path. In march she's set to go to the Nevada Legislature to lobby with the National Federation for the Blind.
You can follow Skye’s Journey on her Instagram handle, Poodle_Eyes.
Speaking Over Me Won’t Stop Me
by Aaron Rupp, reprinted from the February 2019 issue of the Braille Monitor
From the Editor: Aaron Rupp is the husband of Terri Rupp, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. Their daughter Marley is in school, and when you have a blind student in a public school, you have the challenge of working on an individualized education plan (IEP). It can be difficult to be a parent negotiating for one’s child when you feel your comments are disregarded by people who think your lack of professional certification means that your comments weren’t worth the time taken to listen to them. Here is Aaron’s reaction to a recent IEP for his daughter Marley:
Sitting in this chair, my heart is pounding. Seriously pounding, to the point that I have to consciously focus on breathing to stay calm to be able to conduct myself appropriately and stay focused at this critical moment. But the pounding is almost all I hear and feel.
At the table with me is my wife Terri, mother of our daughter Marley, and Marley's educational "team." And sitting across the table from me is the school district's cane travel instructor, discounting me and my wife every time we speak.
The discussion surrounds the selection of which cane Marley is to use. We want the longer, lighter white cane, while she feels that the shorter, three-times-heavier cane with a big ball tip is the best choice. Every time we speak about what the white cane means or mention the philosophy of advocacy and higher expectations/standards we live by and expect for ourselves, including Marley, a look of sheer disgust smears across this teacher's face, followed by a heavy roll of the eyes and pulling of her brows as high as she can, finishing off with a sarcastic smile to the others (Marley's principal, kindergarten teacher, low vision teacher, and special services coordinator) clearly saying, without using words, who the blank do you think you are to make decisions for your daughter, and I can't believe we're wasting our time listening to his rantings, folks.
This is the look, but the words she uses are, "What training and credentials do you have in orientation and mobility (O&M)?" The implied question is, why do you think you should have a say in the course of your daughter's independence development? What she says is, "I have a masters in O&M and years of experience. Marley's white cane with the metal tip is a danger to others."
I look at these divine and almighty credentials of hers as a hindrance. She has had six years of formal training on how a sighted person tells a blind person what's best for them, and she has been teaching subprime methods that do not encourage confidence or allow our children to navigate through life at an equal pace with their peers.
What does the short cane mean to me? Because it is shorter, instead of picking up on obstacles and landscape variations several feet in front of the traveler, they discover steps and walls when the obstacles are literally inches in front of their toes. Short canes set the expectation that safe travel means far slower, less confident walking, and that is a fact. Short canes equal tenseness because the reaction time must be immediate.
The standard cane being pushed by the school is heavier, two to three times heavier than her long white cane, with a weighted stub at the end that is meant to be pushed/dragged, grinding against forward motion with every step. It catches on every crack, rock, and twig the user encounters. This does not allow the cane traveler—including my daughter—to move freely or on par with her peers. Again, it reinforces the foundation of lower expectations and standards. That is a fact.
Most importantly, the difference symbolically from the short, red-ended heavy cane versus the long white cane is immense. The standard cane originates in the UK circa 1921, created by James Biggs, who found himself newly blind and painted his walking stick to become more visible (White cane, Wikipedia.org). The long cane was developed in 1958 by the Iowa chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, designed to "enable us to walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace” (“The Nature of Independence” by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, NFB.org) One was created from a "discomfort from the amount of traffic around his home," and designed for the purpose of "being more visible." From the inception of its development in England in the 1920s to France in the 30s and the Lions Club in America in the 50s, the main theme to its development and adoption into law has been the concept of visibility, alerting others to the presence of a blind person. In contrast, the long white cane was created as a result of dissatisfaction with the, as Dr. Jernigan put it, “the short heavy wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, and being helpless.” This new cane was designed for the purpose of helping blind people advance on the road to freedom and independence. This shift was mentioned many times by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and these are facts.
In short, one symbolizes "Look out, I am a handicapped person, and I can't get around that good," while the other symbolizes "Look out, I'm a handi-capable person, and I'm coming through!"
This lady's perspective and decisions regarding the training and foundation for Marley and countless other children are based on conventional education and only values input that supports her lower expectation standards. Our perspective and decisions are framed from lifetime experience, Terri being blind since childhood, and me having been partnered with her for the past eleven years. As a child Terri went through a system that enforced the negative promotion model of blindness. She learned using a short cane, and Braille was not encouraged. When we got together, she was in college. Staying up all night trying to keep up with the required reading, with her face pressed down into the book on the table, was common. Reading at fifteen to twenty words a minute was why it took so long and caused the physical problems that come with trying to read what one cannot see and therefore cannot read efficiently. Walking into light poles and fire hydrants were a part of her days, all because someone had a different idea—a professional idea—of what a blind person should be and what devices she should use. It wasn't until she adopted a positive promotion model that she dared to have the audacity to live the life she wanted. She got the proper training. Now she runs 5k's, navigates airports solo, is an amazing mom, and reads faster than George W. speaks!
Do you think a formal education experience ever landed this teacher in a room of several thousand successful blind people cheering at the top of their lungs in celebration of their independence, or meeting blind doctors, Harvard graduates, Everest climbers, and elite triathletes? Probably not, which is why her expectations and view of the blind are unwittingly discriminatory and are exemplified by her insistence on subprime and archaic teaching methods.
Cane travel skills are like handwriting skills. Am I to expect my five-year-old to be writing in cursive? Of course not; it is a development of fine motor skills that she is working through. I would be equally unreasonable to expect her to execute impeccable discipline and precision in her cane usage. But forcing her to use a tool that will not serve her in the future will slow her down in the present and set a life trajectory of lowered expectations on a deficiency model. This is like forcing her to learn only large bubble letters before she is allowed to learn Braille. No! We have high standards for our life, and we expect the same for Marley.
I was expecting to be met with a different philosophy and lower expectations for a standard of independence, but I wasn't expecting to be met with condescension and disgust. This is not the first time some stranger in his/her ignorance has attacked Marley's progression. Past actions from the school include refusing Braille, physically taking her cane away, and holding her hand instead of letting her run with her classmates.
At what point does life experience have any validity in the face of a formal education? Are my words worthless because I don't have a degree in O&M? What am I supposed to do, get a masters in every aspect of my life to be able to advocate for my daughter? If there is any term I can think of that depicts what my daughter is up against, it is institutionalized discrimination.
Las Vegas Calls to the Members of the National Federation of the Blind
by Terri Rupp, reprinted from the January 2019 issue of the Braille Monitor
From the Editor: Terri Rupp is the energetic president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. The Nevada and Idaho affiliates are our hosts for the 2019 National Convention, and here is how Terri tempts those of us who will join her in Las Vegas:
We all waited anxiously for the big announcement last July revealing where the 2019 NFB National Convention would be held. I had my suspicions, but I would not confirm them to anyone. At the end of the national board meeting, when the final reveal was made, the crowd erupted with whoops of excitement. During the week of July 7 through 12, 2019, our Federation family will gather at the Mandalay Bay Resort in fabulous Las Vegas.
The first recognizable thoughts to make it out of my head from the news that the national convention was coming to my hometown were, “This is going to be great! Vegas isn’t going to be the same after #NFB19. Talk about an amazing opportunity: I get to welcome my Federation family to my hometown.”
It wasn’t until the excitement fizzled just a bit that the words of the worried ones reached my ears. As blind people, we are all too familiar with the common myths and misconceptions that surround blindness. The same goes for Las Vegas. When I asked my friends and family in Facebook-land what their first thoughts were when they thought of Las Vegas, I heard the typical things like: the Strip, casinos, shows, crowds, etc. Then there were these other responses: endless desert beauty, great healthy food choices everywhere, family, community, home.
We all have our expectations of what something might be like based on things we may have heard from others or watched in movies. Before my first trip to Las Vegas, I had those same thoughts. I had no idea that the city was more like a large, spread-out suburb. I naively thought the famous Las Vegas Strip sat in the middle of a sandy desert. I paid no attention to who those people might be that worked in those big fancy casinos. Those people who clean the rooms, prepare and serve the food, perform in the shows: those people are people just like you and me. They go home to families, take their kids to school, spend time outdoors in the gorgeous hills that our valley is nestled in, and go on vacations to national parks, Disney World, and other typical tourist attractions. These people are part of what make up my community. The community where my children were born, the community that came together and healed together after tragedy struck our loved ones on October 1, 2017. This is the city I am proud to call home.
If you are wondering what an NFB National Convention will be like in Las Vegas, you are not alone. We have grown quite accustomed to planning our convention week in Orlando. It’s about time for some change. For instance, travel to Las Vegas is extremely inexpensive by air and can easily be made by road from our neighboring states of Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. We will no longer be limited to the same food choices we’ve been eating. Get your taste buds ready to experience an explosion of flavors from simple quick-service food to extravagant fine dining prepared by famous chefs. Are you wondering if convention in Vegas will be family-friendly? I’d like to point out that I have two young children myself. This convention, like every other convention, is an event for the entire family, from the young to the old. Just like the Federation has something to offer for everyone of all ages, so does Las Vegas. When you’re not busy soaking up what you can in our seminars and workshops, when you’re not in general session with a few thousand fellow Federationists, soak up the sun in the lazy river or wave pool at the Mandalay Bay. Just be sure to remember the sunscreen and stay hydrated. Not a fan of the heat? No problem. I actually highly recommend keeping a sweater with you at all times because the hotels are kept quite cold. You can spend your down time with the kids touching sting rays and sitting inside a sunken ship with sharks swimming around you at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium. Want to venture off the resort property? Your choices are endless. Take Uber or Lyft to get up Las Vegas Boulevard to downtown where you’ll find famous Fremont Street, and hop on one of the double decker busses known as the Deuce. Many hotels are connected by sky bridges and a monorail as well. Whatever your pleasure, just be mindful that you’re not the only tourist. Most people you encounter on the Strip will most likely be visitors just like you and won’t know where they are going either.
As you make your plans for the 2019 NFB National Convention, I suggest planning an extra day for your stay for play. Lastly: don’t forget the sunscreen.
Blindness Can't Stop Me from Living the Life I Want to Live on goodhousekeeping.com
Please read this article regarding to Terri Rupp at www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a23132554/terri-rupp-blindness-optic-nerve-atrophy.
Facing discrimination, blind moms and dads seek parental protections
By April Corbin - September 4, 2018
Terri Rupp, a blind parent of two, blogs about her life at www.blindmomintheburbs.com. She is also president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada.
Kids get bruises. It happens.
Most of the time, outsiders think nothing of it, or assume they’re the result of simple playground tumbles. But when that child has a blind parent, minor scrapes and bruises are often seen by judgmental neighbors, social workers and family court judges as the red flags that prove they are incapable of raising a child.
“My biggest fear as a blind parent is that my kids will go to school with a bruise and someone will assume it’s from neglect,” says Terri Rupp, a legally blind parent of two.
Her fears are justified.
While specific data is hard to come by, parents who are deaf or blind “report extremely high rates of child removal and loss of parental rights,” according to the National Council on Disability. They have child protective services called on them at disproportionately high rates, and the resulting social service visits end with children being removed at disproportionately high rates. In divorce proceedings, a sighted parent is far more likely to be granted full custody of children over their blind or visually impaired partner. Similarly, adoption agencies regularly discriminate against the blind and refuse to consider them as prospective parents.
Here in Nevada, a local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind assisted a Virginia City woman who was deemed unfit to be a parent to her newborn daughter.
“Her baby got taken away at 1-month-old. She didn’t even get the opportunity to learn,” says Rupp, who served as an expert witness in the hearings and helped create a parenting plan for the woman.
Reunification of the child and mother happened this spring, but it took three years and a lot of jumping through hoops.
One oft-cited case in the blind community comes from Missouri, where a blind couple had their 2-day-old daughter taken from them in 2010. The event that triggered the removal: The mother was having difficulty breastfeeding, an issue experienced by many first-time mothers. The newborn was reunited with her parents after 57 days.
It shouldn’t come to these extreme measures, say Rupp and other advocates for the blind. And they want the Nevada Legislature to put in place parental protections to ensure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Blind advocates have been working with a legislative committee focused on senior citizens, veterans and adults with special needs to draft model legislation that would prohibit discrimination against the blind in guardianship, adoption, custody or visitation proceedings. Ten other states, including Utah and Arizona, have already passed such legislation.
The committee, which is chaired by Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen, voted unanimously to submit the bill draft request.
Angela’s House, the only blindness skills training center in the state of Nevada, advocated for the bill, as did several blind parents and their children.
Raquel O’Neill, a licensed social worker who works at Angela’s House, told the legislative committee during a meeting last month that more could be done to educate social workers and others involved in the child welfare and court system about the blind.
For example, a social worker may be using a form that determines whether a child and parent are bonding by using criteria such as eye contact, eye gazing or eye tracking.
“The assumption is because you can’t see, you wouldn’t be able to do this,” says O’Neill, “but there are alternative ways.”
Children also bond through physical touch and sound. O’Neill knows firsthand. She and her husband are blind parents. While they were welcomed and supported by their Summerlin hospital during and after the birth of their son, she says she went to the hospital early, prepared to reassure the doctors and nurses of any concerns they might raise.
Blind parents shouldn’t have to do that, she says.
“As new parents, you’re already scared. To have a social worker come in and question your biggest fear. Am I good enough? Do I have the skills? Am I enough?”
She added there are can be valid reasons for removing a minor from the care of a blind parent, but the starting point of any evaluation should not be that the blind person is unfit. Protecting a blind person’s right to have a family and maintaining safety of children are not mutually exclusive.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against the disabled but its focus is on public spaces and access, not private homes and families. This leaves parental rights for disabled people in a grey zone that needs strengthening through additional protections, argue advocates.
“The ADA doesn’t talk about parenting as a life function,” adds O’Neill.
The question that comes up most often in conversations about blind parenting is this: How does a blind person know when their child is doing something wrong or unsafe?
Rupp, O’Neill and other blind parents say it comes down to knowing what’s normal for your child and using adaptive tools. Talking thermometers help monitor temperatures. Smart lights in the home can be put on timers and connected to audible noises to ensure that sighted children are receiving proper lighting. Specialized strollers allow blind parents to pull their child behind them (a safer position for the child than being pushed in front).
“People always go, ‘What if… What if… What if…'” says O’Neill. “There are always ‘What ifs.'”
Rupp says when her children were infants, she could hear whether they had something in their mouths based off their gurgles and giggles. As they became mobile, she tied bells to them so she could hear where they were in a room. When she began taking her kids to the park and her youngest thought it was funny to hide under the slide from her, she just listened for those bells.
The bells are no longer needed but mom still knows when something is up.
“You know when they’re acting abnormally,” says Rupp. “If they are normally really loud and always talking and always engaging but now they’re being quiet? You know.”
Rupp says every parent — sighted or totally blind or somewhere in between — does things in his or her own way. Kids understand and adapt to it. She believes her children have better verbal skills than their peers because they learned from an early age that they couldn’t just point to things.
“They know mommy sees with her hands,” she adds. “They bring it to me. They know.”
(This is the first of a two-part exploration of the rights and resources available for blind people living in Nevada. Later this week: A look at the challenges blind students can face in schools).
BELL 2018 Conclusion Thank You
By Terri Rupp, NFBNV President
June 22, 2018
This week, the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada rocked #NFBBELL thanks to the support of the Nevada Blind Children's Foundation. Six students had fun learning Braille, daily living skills, how to use the long white cane, and that blindness does not hold you back to living the life you want. We could not have pulled it off without our teachers and volunteers: Aaron Rupp, Jason Alamillo, Megan Bolton, Kimberly S Bolton, Terri Rupp, and a special thanks to Conchita Hernandez Legorreta.
Visually impaired Las Vegas-area woman finds ‘zen’ running
By Mark Anderson | Las Vegas Review-Journal
May 28, 2018 - 2:56 pm
When John Sterling read an article last summer in “Runner’s World” about a blind runner who competed in the New York City Marathon, he identified with how the athlete trained for such an important race.
Inspired and wanting to help other visually impaired runners, Sterling called Achilles International, which is dedicated to assisting such athletes.
Sterling was told no Las Vegas chapter existed, so he created one.
Then he called the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, and President Terri Rupp answered. Getting back into running already was on her mind, and they began to run together in December.
“I love running because to me, running is my zen,” Rupp said. “Running allows me to get out of my head and get out of my to-do list. Along with being a stay-at-home mom, I teach Braille; I am constantly planning events. I’m very Type A where I’m a goal-setter, and when I run, I’m able to just be and just not to have to worry about everything else.”
Rupp is fairly new to running but is hooked. She competed in a recent half-marathon in Henderson, finishing 37th with a time of 2:49:09.5.
Rupp, 35, is training to compete in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on Nov. 11 on the Strip.
“I’ve always had a bucket-list item to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and being a local Las Vegan, I would love to have that be my first marathon to check off my list,” said Rupp, who lives in Southern Highlands.
She is mostly blind and might eventually lose all of her vision because of degenerative condition called optic nerve atrophy. Rupp, who began to see the effects when she was 8, can sometimes make out colors and shapes as well as “contrasts of movement,” but details are difficult.
Rupp, married to a Clark County firefighter, has an 8-year-old daughter, Marley, and a 6-year-old son, Jackson. Marley also has the condition.
“I notice all the time what she can see and what I can’t see,” Rupp said. “So it wouldn’t really bug me all that much if I lost all my eyesight, because the only thing that really sets me apart is I can’t drive. That doesn’t hold me back from doing what I want to do. I still get around well. I’m more active than most people I know.”
Contact Mark Anderson at email@example.com.Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.
Achilles International Las Vegas Chapter
Contact: John Sterling