Positive Note 1642

January 31, 2018

Memo To:  Executive Officers, Board Members, Chapter & Division Presidents & Others

From:  Frank Coppel, President

Positive Note 1642

Greetings Fellow Federationists:


Hello from our Nation’s capital where I along with more than five hundred Federationists representing 52 affiliates of the NFB gathered this week for the purpose of descending on Capitol Hill to discuss with their congressional delegation the legislative agenda of the nation’s blind.  The 2018 Washington Seminar officially began Monday, January 29, at 5:00 p.m. with the “Great Gathering In” meeting.  President Riccobono conducted the meeting and there were other Federation officials present informing participants on various NFB activities which will be occurring during 2018.  Tuesday, January 30, was a very busy day for the South Carolina delegation as we met with our congressional delegation at various times throughout the day.  Tuesday evening a reception hosted by the National Federation of the Blind was held from 6:00 to 8:00 at the Newseum which celebrated our partnership with John Olson, cofounder of 3D Photo Works, to promote greater accessibility in museums and to honor the sacrifices of the Marines that fought in the Tet Offensive which occurred during the Vietnam War.  I was extremely proud to have fifteen members of our affiliate who attend this year’s Washington Seminar.  The delegation consisted of Frank and Shelley Coppel, Lenora Robertson, Ellen Taylor, Debra Canty, Dianne Singleton, Linda Dizzley, and six individuals from our Successful Transitions program (Taivon Hardy, Wallace Stuckey, Matthew Duffle Hoffman, Chase Hanna, Pam Schexnider, Wayne Smith, and Jennifer Bazer).  The work we did on Capitol Hill This week lays the ground work for passage of the four legislative initiatives which are outlined below.  All of us need to continue to contact our Congressmen and Senators throughout the year to ensure passage of these four legislative initiatives.

  1. The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (Aim High) Act

Electronic instructional materials have replaced traditional methods of learning in postsecondary education, but the overwhelming majority of ebooks, courseware, web content, and other technologies are inaccessible to students with print disabilities. The law requires equal access in the classroom but fails to provide direction to schools for the way it applies to technology. The Aim High Act creates voluntary accessibility guidelines for educational technology to stimulate the market, improve blind students’ access to course materials, and reduce litigation for schools.

  1. The Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA)

Currently, blind Americans rely on scarce sources of funding to acquire access technology. By providing a refundable tax credit for qualifying access technology purchases, Congress will stimulate individual procurement of access technology and promote affordability of these tools for blind Americans.

  1. Opposition to the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017” (H.R. 620)

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 would undermine the ADA by significantly eroding equal access protections and progress made over nearly three decades.

  1. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled

Despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats like Braille, large print, audio, and digital copies, millions of blind and otherwise print-disabled Americans are excluded from accessing 95 percent of published works. The Marrakesh Treaty will enable the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies, thereby vastly expanding the availability of accessible foreign language literature to blind and otherwise print disabled Americans.

Do not forget to purchase your tickets to attend the third annual Sweetheart dance sponsored by the NFB of SC which will be held on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at the Federation Center of the Blind from 5:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.  The evening promises to be a fun and enjoyable experience with a professionally catered dinner, door prizes, music and dancing.  Tickets to this event will only be $25 for an individual and $45 per couple.  Please make checks payable to NFB of SC and mail to:  NFB of SC, C/O David Houck, 119 S. Kilbourne Road, Columbia, SC 29205.

Please note the memo line for Sweethearts Dance. Please include an address so that tickets can be mailed once payment has been received. Deadline to purchase tickets is Tuesday, February 6, 2018.  Please contact Jennifer Bazer at 803-661-6622 or jhipp25@sc.rr.com if you would like to contribute a door prize.   If you have any questions regarding this fundraising event, please contact Debra Canty, NFB of SC Fundraising Chairperson, at 803-775-5792 or via email at debra.canty@frontier.com.

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future.  Every day, we raise the 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.  Joining me for comments in this Positive Note is the President Emeritus of the NFB of SC.  Here is Dr. Capps.

In this week’s spotlight we are featuring the only remaining charter member of the NFB of SC who was present when it was established in 1944 which is Ruth Weeks of Spartanburg.  Although she is currently 98, we did feature her back in early 2009.  For the benefit of Positive Note readers we are reprinting the 2009 spotlight:

“A very special lady, Ruth Weeks of Spartanburg, truly deserves to be in the “spotlight.”  Ruth will celebrate her 90th birthday in July.  Born in Kershaw, most of her life was spent in Spartanburg.  At age seven in 1926, Ruth enrolled in the School for the Blind.  Herbert Hoover was President and she remembers the 1929 Great Depression.  At School Ruth was recognized for her singing talents.  To the best of my knowledge Ruth is the only living charter member of the Federation, then known as the Aurora Club.  She was present in 1944 when our founder, Dr. Sam Lawton arranged for the first gathering of the blind in Spartanburg.  In the 1920’s and 1930’s when Ruth was in School, there were no televisions, computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, or stereo technology but there was one very valuable program featuring Braille literacy.  When Ruth entered the School in 1926, there were not many automobiles on the road except for the Model T Ford which many of us remember.  Having been a member of the federation for 65 years (1944 – 2009), Ruth only missed a few meetings of the Spartanburg Chapter.  She has attended most of the state conventions and was honored for her years of service in August of 2000 receiving the NFB of SC Presidential Citation and was further honored with a standing ovation from the Banquet audience.  As previously stated, there were very few jobs available to Ruth during her long career but she did assist in jury selections in the courthouse as all prospective jurors were drawn by Ruth.  Ruth is an avid reader and fully utilized Braille when she started School in 1926.  One of Ruth’s favorite activities is attending Senior Blind Week at RBRCCB.  She let me know that she wants to attend Senior Camp this year as well.  Congratulations to Ruth Weeks who has been blessed in living a very long life, making many hundreds of friends both in the federation and in other places.”

To bring you up to date, Ruth is still living and has attended the most recent Spartanburg Chapter meeting.  Spartanburg Chapter member Betty Phillips reports that she still looks to be in good health.  I am told that she used to like singing Christmas carols and especially loved to song “O Holy Night.”  At the conclusion of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind’s anniversary celebration in 2005, she sang “How Great Thou Art.”   She wrote a lot of music for Marshall Tucker as well.  We celebrate Ruth Weeks who dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for generations of blind South Carolinians.


Final Thought:  “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”  –  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.