Palmetto Blind

The Palmetto Blind

The voice of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina



Successful Transitions attends the Louisiana Center for the Blind, The students participate in the Washington Seminar,

The July NFB Orlando National Convention,

College tours and Internships –

Quite an educational experience!


Living the Life You Want!



The PALMETTO BLIND, published twice a year in large print, in digital format, email and Braille by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. David Houck, Editor. The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina is chartered under the laws of the state of South Carolina to promote the spiritual, social and economic well-being of all blind South Carolinians. The state organization is an affiliate of the nation’s oldest and largest organization of the blind–the National Federation of the Blind.

The PALMETTO BLIND is the voice of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and is available free of charge to any blind individual or member in large print, Braille online, or text email format. Other subscribers are encouraged. If readers desire to do so, donations to cover the annual subscription cost of $10.00 per year may be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and sent to: Valerie Warrington, Treasurer, National Federation of the Blind of SC, 119 S. Kilbourne Rd., Columbia, SC 29205. Upon request, we can email a color photo version in a pdf format. This version is not useful to adaptive technology like JAWS or Guide.     Braille or large print copies may be retained for personal libraries.

Giving A Dream

One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB of SC is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.

Seize the Future

The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB of SC. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that your gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more.

  • Helping the NFB of SC fulfill its mission
  • Realizing income tax savings through a charitable donation
  • Making capital gain tax savings on contributions of appreciated assets
  • Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or beneficiary
  • Eliminating or lowering federal estate tax in certain situations
  • Reducing estate settlement costs

NFB of SC programs are dynamic:

  • Making the study of literacy and technology a real possibility for blind children and adults • Providing hope and training for seniors losing vision
  • Promoting state and local programs to help blind people become first class citizens
  • Educating the public about blind people’s true potential
  • Advancing technology helpful to the blind
  • Creating a state and national library on the progress of blindness
  • Training and inspiring professionals working with the blind
  • Providing critical information to parents of blind children
  • Mentoring blind job seekers. Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB of SC dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB of SC, 119 S. Kilbourne Rd., Columbia, SC 29205. 803-254-3777 or

Honors and Remembrances


Support the blind of South Carolina by Honoring or Memorializing a Loved One

Please apply my gift to:

__National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina

_Rocky Bottom Retreat & Conference Center of the Blind

_Federation Center of the Blind

Send check payable to the one you chose, address and mail to:

__ (organization name)

119 S. Kilbourne Rd., Columbia, SC 29205


  1. To Honor Someone Special:

I am donating $__ in honor of _ who lives at _ (address)

Please acknowledge me with a copy of this honorary letter:

My Name__


My check is enclosed. (Tax deductible)



  1. OR To Memorialize Someone Special:

I am donating $__ in memory of __. Please send letter to next of kin or:__

who resides at __ address.

Please acknowledge me with a copy of this memorial letter:

My Name __

Address ___

My check is enclosed. (Tax deductible)


Thank You!


For more information regarding these organizations of the blind contact: or call 803-254-3777 for brochures.


Table of Contents



48th Annual Statewide Seminar Successful By David Houck



2018 Washington Seminar Impressive By Frank Coppel



Third Annual Sweetheart Dance By Debra Canty



SC Braille Challenge Outstanding By Rhonda Thompson



2018 Leadership Seminar Well Attended and Informative



18th Annual Vision Summit Informative and Interactive



Longtime Federation Leader Jerry Whittle Dies By Donald Capps



Is the Church Turning a Blind Eye toward the Visually Impaired? By Tracy Spittle



The Louisiana Center for the Blind: Changing What it Means to Be Blind By          Jennifer Bazer



From the Editor’s Desk By David Houck



From the President’s Desk By Frank Coppel



Final Thought





“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.”


48th Annual Statewide Seminar Successful

By David Houck


Picture Captions:

Photo of large gathering at Seminar

NFB of SC President Frank Coppel addresses the delegates

Thom Spittle, auctions off items for Center funmdraiser

Room where Orlando bus fund tickets were sold.

SCCB representative Kyle Walker addresses the audience

SCSDB School President Page McCraw updates the gathering on the School’s progress

Kitchen crew works hard to prepare the luncheon

SC Talking Book Services Director addresses the Seminar

Successful Transitions Director, Jennifer Bazer presents her program

Federation Center Board Chairman Ed Bible speaks about the Center’s programs



The morning of January 6, 2018 was bitter cold with a temperature of only 19 degrees which had followed a week of morning temperatures in the mid-teens. In fact, much snow and ice hit the coastal regions and eastern areas of South Carolina, preventing many from attending the Statewide Seminar. Despite all this, we had an attendance of about 100 from all across the Palmetto State to participate. The Federation Center was warm inside and Isaiah Nelson had coffee prepared for the attendees while he was busy preparing for the upcoming 12:00 noon luncheon.

President Coppel gave everyone a warm welcome to the 48th annual Statewide Seminar. By 10:00 a.m. was a balmy 21 degrees outside. The Pledge of Allegiance was made and the One Minute message was given. It was announced that we need to keep Donald and Betty Capps in our prayers as Betty had recently suffered a mini stroke. Tiffiny Mitchell and Dorothy Barksdale were also unable to be present due to illness or injury.      Representing the Columbia Chapter was its First Vice President Steve Cook who greeted those present. David Houck, Center Executive Director, greeted everyone and explained where to go with bus tickets, dues and what was on the literature table. Thom Spittle operated the Federation Center Auction which took place throughout the day and Gwen Ellenburg displayed each item and assisted with the funds collected which amounted to $571.

Steve Cook, President of the Computer Science and Technology Division and Shelley Coppel, President of the Senior Division both sold tickets for special drawings. Lenora Robertson and her crew did their usual fine job collecting bus fund tickets. Because of the in climate weather, the bus fund drawing will be postponed until the March 17 Leadership Seminar at the Federation Center.

Our first guest speaker was Kyle Walker representing the SC Commission for the Blind. In 2017 the Commission established a new consumer oriented curriculum and a new policy manual. In 2018 the Commission will seek to customize employment toward the consumer’s abilities. A new financial literacy program was also established. Renewed focus will be made toward employing blind persons residing in rural areas. Agency challenges continue due to high turnover because of low staff pay. Mr. Walker stated the blind need to advocate for higher pay for SCCB staff positions. While this has always been the case, many in the audience stated it is important to hire well qualified blind persons to serve as counselors, etc. within the agency, hiring from Louisiana Tech and the Louisiana and Colorado Centers for the Blind, etc.

Page McCraw, President of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind spoke concerning the School’s progress. She stated that the cold weather has hampered school attendance because the students live in areas of the state hit hard by ice and snow. The Walker Foundation has funded a new playground at the School. Food quality has been improved for growing children. Work based learning internships are offered for students. Student focus is on reading and literacy programs. SCSDB needs orientation and mobility instructors and staff pay is low. The School has also implemented several training programs for career development.

Loretta Green spoke about the April 6 – 8 NFB Baltimore trip. The bus will leave the Federation Center on Friday, April 6 at 8:00 a.m., arriving at the National Center for the Blind that evening. Saturday consists of a tour, review of federation programs and dinner out that evening. The return trip will be on Sunday, April 8. A $25 deposit is required with the balance of $100 due by February 26. Applications are available from Loretta Green or Isaiah Nelson.

President Coppel announced the upcoming Statewide Picnic which will be at Saluda Shoals Park in Columbia on Saturday, June 2. There will be a cookout with all the trimmings and plenty of fun and fellowship. March 17 is slated for the Leadership Seminar for chapter and division leaders.

Lunch is provided. Topics will include federation philosophy and history, Commission for the Blind services, Social Security and chapter operations.

The luncheon followed with plenty of hot vegetable soup, cornbread, chicken salad sandwiches and cookies. Hats off to Isaiah Nelson and his kitchen crew for all their hard work! During the two hour luncheon there was a board meeting of RBRCCB and the NFB of SC. Those not in the board room caught up with others they had not seen since last year and purchased drawing tickets.

The afternoon session began with Sandy Knowles, Director of Talking Book Services. She explained that the next generation of talking book will consist of being able to order and download books in an online fashion. An Insight Into Blindness training program will train librarians in working with blind patrons. A BINGO themed winter reading program for children and adults is beginning and a summer program for reading will also take place. The Art Gallery at Talking Book Services will be displayed in April. In 2017 there were 5,466 TBS patrons with over 218,000 items being sent. There were 664 BARD users who used over 10,000 braille and print books. Talking Book Services will attend the Assistive Technology Expo on March 6 as well.

Jennifer Bazer, Director of Successful Transitions was pleased to announce an outstanding trip to a conference at the NFB National Center. Also, four Successful Transitions teenagers will be in the SC delegation at the Washington Seminar. Successful Transitions will be represented at the upcoming Assistive Technology Expo, Vision Summit, Center for Exceptional Children Conference and a Hope and Dreams Conference. Loretta Green and Jamie Allison also spoke on their experiences in the Successful Transitions Program.

Debra Canty arrived in time to speak about the third annual Sweetheart Dance on Saturday, February 17 which will take place between 5:00 to 9:00 the Federation Center of the Blind. Tickets are $25 per person or $45 per couple. Money for tickets is due by February 6. Jennifer Bazer will be in charge of door prizes.

The Rocky Bottom Report was given by Chairman Frank Coppel who stated much work has been accomplished at the camp. Ed Bible reported on the volunteer involvement of church and civic groups to improve the facilities and grounds. Jennifer Bazer reported on Children’s Camp which will take place the week of June 9-16 for children ages 6 to 16. Shelley Coppel spoke on Senior Camps which take place the weeks of May20-24 and September 16-20 for Seniors who are blind and 55 or over. Changes in RBRCCB rules and processing fees were gone over by the Chairman and copies of these changes and reservation forms were available on the literature table.

David Houck, Executive Director of the Federation Center of the Blind reported on the progress in computer training with three blind instructors training the blind on site and off site, both VR students and older blind students. In 2017, fifteen students were trained in computer adaptive software with a total of 1,500 hours of instruction. The Center will exhibit and attend the upcoming Vision Summit on Friday, March 30. Our operations have been in the black this year and future training with businesses is in our future as we have cleaned out a room for more training opportunities. The Federation Center may also host the 2018 Bell Academy in July.

It was announced it is time to make your reservations for the July 3 – 8 NFB National Convention. This will be our last time in Orlando as next year we will be at a location west of the Mississippi River. The NFB of SC state convention will be held at the downtown Marriott Hotel in Columbia. Room rates are $109 plus tax. Tiffiny Mitchell will be Chairperson of the Convention Committee.

As was stated before, because some chapters could not attend due to weather conditions, the bus ticket drawing will be held at the Leadership Seminar on March 17 at the Federation Center of the Blind. Following the final auction item sale, the Seminar was adjourned and everyone headed for home to share what they have learned with their respective chapters.



2018 Washington Seminar Impressive

By Frank Coppel


(Editor’s Note: The following is taken from Positive Notes with an email response from Matthwe Hoffman, a Successful Transitions Washington Seminar participant)


Picture Captions:

Great Gathering In Meeting- Holiday Inn Capitol

NFB of SC Delegation meets with their Congressman



January 31 Positive Note: “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.”

February 7 Positive Note: “I was very proud to have fifteen individuals from the NFB of SC attend the 2018 Washington Seminar. I was especially impressed with the four students from our Successful Transitions program who accompanied our delegation and who participated fully in all of the activities in Washington D.C. The students were Taivon Hardy, from Orangeburg, Wallace Stuckey, from Columbia, Matthew Duffle Hoffman, from Lancaster, and Chase Hanna, from Spartanburg. It was very evident these four young men did their homework as they were very knowledgeable of this year’s legislative agenda and actively participated in our discussions with our Congressional delegation.   I hope that this experience will foster on-going participation with the NFB of SC.”


A Special Note from Matthew Duffell Hoffman dated February 11: “Dear NFB of SC and Successful Transitions:


“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2018 Washington Seminar. I really enjoyed the experience. I met with some of South Carolina’s legislator’s aids to discuss four pieces of potential legislation important to the blind community. I attended a reception at the Newseum for the new tactile photo exhibit containing ten photos from the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam war, as well as participating in a documentary about the exhibit. My favorite event was the NABS Cafe, which was a social event fundraiser put on by the National Association of Blind Students where I met some members of NABS.

I learned about our legislative system of how laws are created, and about four laws important to blind people: the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (Aim High) Act, the Access Technology Affordability Act, The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, and the ADA Education and Reform Act. I had a great time and learned a lot. Thank you for making it possible, – Matthew”



Third Annual Sweetheart Dance

By Debra Canty


It was a beautiful Saturday evening on February 17 in the midlands of South Carolina with temperatures in the mid-seventies in Columbia at the Federation Center. Dr. Tremain and Lakia Singleton welcomed attendees as; they entered the warm atmosphere surrounded with cupid and fellowship among the guests which included officers such as; NFB of SC President Frank Coppel, Executive Director , David Houck, President of the Senior Division Shelley Coppel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ed Bible, Linda Dizzley, Lee County Chapter, President and Board Member, Loretta Green, Upper Dorchester Chapter, President and Board Member Tiffiny Mitchell, Isaiah Nelson Columbia Chapter Second Vice-President and Board Member and Jennifer Bazer, Board Member.

There were a lot of associates that attended the Sweethearts Dance who are not members of the NFB of SC and the feedback was that they really enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to 2019 and having some more fun with the NFB of SC.

There was soft music with surround-sound as dinner was served by volunteers such as; Diana Singleton, Judy Simon, Michael Wells, Dr. Tremain Singleton, James Green and his catering staff who pitched-in as well.

Jennifer Bazer and Valerie Warrington solicited lots of door prizes and most left with a give-a-way for the evening.

Kudos to Corey and Tanisha Gibbons for the gorgeous decorations. All guests entered through the door were welcomed by a red Valentine’s Day Heart Tinsel.   There was a hanging banner with air-filled hugs and kisses or an XOXO red mylar foil letter balloons. The center-pieces were red heart balloons attached to red wooden holders that spelled the word LOVE (the “O” was in the shape of a heart). Glitter heart foam picks centered in glass vases filled with crinkle-cut shreds centered the remaining tables and a red and white Happy Valentine’s Day plastic banner served as a backdrop for photos.

Once dinner was served to all sweethearts, DJ Ernest Gallman turned up the volume and the dancing began with sounds from songs such as, My Girl, the Electric Slide, Jailhouse Rock, The Cuban Shuffle and Blue Suede Shoes kept the dance floor crowded.

There were well over fifty in attendance, so we live the life we want and blindness does not hold us back!!!

Perhaps you attended, perhaps you dined, perhaps you danced, perhaps you sat to chat and chew, perhaps you made a donation of some kind, perhaps you helped clean the venue and left it like we found it, perhaps you were an integral part of the planning committee, perhaps you donated a door prize, perhaps you served as a host or hostess, perhaps you did something to help make this Third Annual Sweethearts Dance a success for all of us in the NFB of SC as $640 in net proceeds was raised.. I really and truly thank you!!!



SC Braille Challenge Outstanding

By Rhonda Thompson


Once again, the SC Commission for the Blind had the opportunity to collaborate with the SC School for the Deaf and Blind to host a successful Braille Challenge. Forty-four youth participated in this year’s event, which took place at the Commission’s Columbia campus on February 1, 2018. Over sixty adult guests, to include parents, teachers, and volunteers were also welcomed to learn about the agency’s programs, meet with staff, and share in the activities.

While the students were sequestered in the testing areas, the Commission for the Blind’s staff offered a variety of agency and community resource information for the parents and other attendees. This year’s guest speaker, Ms. Valerie Warrington, CPA with our state’s Attorney General’s Office, shared her personal experiences growing up with vision loss. Additionally, topics such as living with low vision were discussed, technical equipment demonstrations and 3D printings were featured, and consultation with Children’s Services’ and Transition Counselors was offered.

This academic contest is unparalleled, offering a two-stage competition designed to develop and encourage blind students to emphasize their study of braille, while also rewarding their success. The 2018 Braille Challenge also marked the eighteenth anniversary of the event, with categories including reading comprehension, writing speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs.

“In 2017, Braille Institute moved the Braille Challenge finals to the University of Southern California with the purpose to demystify higher education, promote career exploration, and create awareness about all the resources available for visually impaired children and their families. The Braille Challenge finals will be held at USC on June 16, 2018. Any visually impaired student who reads braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Braille Challenge events, which are held from January through the end of March throughout the U.S. and Canada. The contests are proctored by volunteer TVIs and scored locally by volunteer transcribers, based on national guidelines. The preliminary round is open to students of all skill levels, but only the top-scoring 50 contestants nationally are invited to Los Angeles for the final round—two days of competition, camaraderie and fun.”



The 2018 South Carolina Braille Challenge Winners are as follows:



1st: Jenna Cross

2nd: Lily Jayne

3rd: Lily Sanders

Novice I

1st: Riley Berger

2nd: Yolany Romay

3rd: Destinee Hall

Apprentice Level

1st: Landon Bryson

Freshman Level

1st: Lauren Ellis

2nd: Joshua Cross

3rd: Sadie Spence

Sophomore Level

1st: Landon Lipsey

2nd: Elijah Gregory

3rd: Ramsey Parker

Junior Varsity

1st: Riley Crawford

2nd: Jessie Campbell

3rd: Brookelynn Raulerson


1st: Alexis Faulkenberry, SCSDB

2nd: Miller Ballard, Lexington, Richland 5

3rd: Martia Purvis, Florence SchoolDistrict 1



We certainly appreciate each of the contestants, parents, coordinators, TVIs and volunteers who worked to ensure a quality program again this year. Many thanks to all involved for supporting this worthwhile effort and promoting braille literacy.



2018 Leadership Seminar Well Attended and Informative


It was a rainy start to the 10:00 a.m. call to order of the 2018 NFB of SC Leadership Seminar but the Federation Center’s meeting hall was packed with almost 90 chapter and division members of the NFB of SC in attendance from all across the state. The tables were decked in green in honor of March 17 being St. Patrick’s Day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Isaiah Nelson for his great assistance in helping out with the setup Friday, with the serving of lunch along with other volunteers on Saturday and with taking down tables, chairs and cleaning up afterward. I would also like to thank Tiffiny Mitchell for arranging “BC” to come in early on Saturday to get the Public Address system just right for the Seminar and making sure all went well throughout the afternoon session. There are several others who were especially helpful during the Seminar but I’m afraid I might miss someone if I tried to recount them all. The Federation Center of the Blind was pleased to provide the luncheon at no cost to the participants as the lunches were catered by the Garden Bistro through Ed Bible’s advance planning.

NFB of SC President Frank Coppel called the Leadership Seminar to order promptly at 10:00 a.m. There were introductory remarks and everyone in the room introduced themselves as BC carried the microphone from table to table. Literature was on hand in print and braille and Orlando bus tickets were selling up until the drawing at the end of the meeting. Excitement was in the air as the agenda unfolded.

David Houck, Executive Director of the Federation Center of the Blind presented the history and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind nationally and of the NFB of SC statewide.   The historical review began in 1940 with our first President and Founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, our builder of the movement; with President Dr. Kenneth Jernigan who headed up the very successful Iowa Commission for the Blind and established the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, MD; the growth and maturity in the federation under the leadership of President Marc Maurer with the Jernigan Institute; and expanding equal access, the NFB BELL Academy, STEM programs and technology with President Mark Riccabono. There was a time of decision in the 1960’s in fighting those who would oppress the blind as the NFB sought equality. Dr. Donald Capps was instrumental among other leaders in the movement in keeping the NFB from succumbing to the demands of other agencies who wanted the blind to halt in determining how the blind desired their services and treatment. This led the way toward many of the accomplishments we have today. Dr. Donald Capps served on the NFB national board for five decades and also attended sessions of the World Blind Union in Madrid, Spain and Cairo, Egypt. For greater detail you should read “Walking Alone and Marching Together” which can be obtained through the NFB national office. The Federation Center also has a few print copies for sale.

There was a decade by decade review of the NFB of SC which was established in 1944 by Dr. Samuel Miller Lawton as the Aurora Club of the Blind which later became the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in the 1970’s, showed its affiliation with the NFB nationally. Items reviewed included chapter and division growth, legislative accomplishments in the SC General Assembly which benefitted the blind statewide, the establishment and growth of the Federation Center of the Blind in Columbia, Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind in Sunset and the Bell Federation Center of the Blind in Laurens. Dr. Donald Capps joined the Columbia Chapter in 1953 and rose to become the President of the NFB of SC, providing dynamic leadership in the growth and development of the NFB of SC for six decades. There was a question and answer period and President Coppel added greater detail to that which was said. The Federation Center of the Blind has “Under the Apple Tree” books which review the first fifty years of the NFB of SC’s growth and development.

Ed Bible, member of the NFB of SC Board of Directors and Federation Center Chairman of the Board of Trustees, was the next presenter as he discussed consumer rights and responsibilities at the Commission for the Blind. The importance of setting up a proper employment plan contract with the Commission was covered as well as amending the plan when needed. Responsibilities concerning vocational services, transitional services from school to work, youth services and services to the older blind were also covered. There were several questions from the audience as their interest was high.

Following the lunch break, Sabrina Sanders, Benefit Coordinator from the Commission for the Blind spoke about Social Security benefits. Topics discussed included the difference between SSI and SSDI, earnings limits and Substantial Gainful Activity, Social Security appeals and hearings, work related expenses, how being a college student applies to your benefits, using parental Social Security benefits, and the ABLE Act (not to be confused with SC Able) which allows for savings limits which will not affect Social Security earnings limits. There were several questions from the floor on this interesting and informative topic. Ms. Sanders left copies of Social Security benefit information behind. Contact the Federation Center if you would like a copy.

President Coppel expounded on upcoming events like the April 6-8 NFB Baltimore bus trip, the April 21 Rocky Bottom and NFB of SC board meetings at the Federation Center, the May 20-24 Spring Senior Camp at Rocky Bottom, the June 2 Statewide Picnic at Saluda Shoals Park in Columbia, the June 10-16 Children’s Camp at Rocky Bottom, the July 3-8 NFB Orlando Convention, the July 23 to August 3 NFB BELL Academy Program to be hosted at the Federation Center and the August 10-12 NFB of SC state convention at the Columbia Marriott. This does not even cover the RBRCCB Labor Day weekend Fun Day Festival or the Fall Senior Camp! By the way, state convention exhibits will run from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, August 10. The differences between the entities of service to the blind in South Carolina were also discussed within and outside the NFB of SC.

Suggested Guidelines for the operation of a local chapter and fundraising information was also reviewed and discussed. Chapters presented their fundraising methods and talked about other chapter issues. Chapter growth and recruiting of new members was also emphasized including the succession of leadership in the chapter. Free white cane letters were discussed as well as sending recipients of white canes information on who we are, local chapter contacts, etc. Shannon Cook spoke about NFB of SC scholarships and getting national applications in before March 31 and state applications in before June 15. Should you like to receive a copy of Suggested Guidelines and Fundraising Helps, contact the Federation Center of the Blind.

Finally, there was the Orlando Bus ticket drawing of which 2,310 tickets were sold.. The chapter selling the most bus tickets was Columbia with 875 who won the $300, second place was Sumter with 309 sold and third was Upper Dorchester with 163 tickets sold. The buyer of the winning ticket was Carter Monteith of Rock Hill who received $300 and the seller was Jim Carter from Rock Hill who received $100. When the meeting adjourned, the participants fellowshipped together and made their way home to share and implement what they had learned with their respective chapters.



18th Annual Vision Summit Informative and Interactive


Picture Caption:

Vision Summit Partnership Partners



On Good Friday, March 30 at the SC Department of Archives and History Building the 18th annual Vision Summit took place. It is to be noted that the first Vision Summit was hosted at the Federation Center of the Blind on Friday, February 23, 2001 and the details of that first meeting can be read about in the May 2001 edition of the Palmetto Blind. There were several vision partnership exhibitors including the NFB of SC Successful Transitions program and over 80 participants. The SC Commission for the Blind provided refreshments prior to the start of the program.

As things got underway during the morning session, Sara McKay, Education Associate from the SC Department of Education welcomed the large audience. Marty McKenzie did a great job presiding over introductory remarks. A group photo was taken of the representatives for the Vision Partnership agencies and organizations. Marty also read awards presented by member agencies during the past year including 2017 NFB of SC Convention scholarships and other award winners.

Many of you who attended the 2017 NFB of SC Statewide Seminar will remember Erica Powell who was a visually impaired cheerleader from Clemson University. Now a national spokesperson, she spoke concerning the Power to Empower, or standing up for your blindness in educating and receiving accommodations. She also headed up a panel discussion entitled a My Perspective Panel which included NFB of SC Treasurer Valerie Warrington, Casey Eubanks with Successful Transitions and Patrick Mack, a senior from Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5. Each answered questions about adjusting to blindness and achieving career goals from their own experiences.

Following the luncheon, afternoon sessions were designated as breakout groups on different topics. Dr. Justin Kaiser, Assistant Professor at USC Upstate spoke on Orientation and Mobility for students who are blind and visually impaired. Dr. Laura K. Reynolds, Dean of the School of Education at USC-Upstate, discussed Empowering Play Spaces for Children Ages 0 to 5. Erica Powell addressed Empowering A Vision which continued from her morning session. Finally, Alicia Pugh (COMS) and Shea Dukes (Family Trainer) expounded upon Empowering Early Intervention for Children with low vision. All of the above topics were themed around getting the earliest adjustment to blindness and proper attitudes concerning adjustment to blindness so that every blind or visually impaired child receives an equal chance to succeed with their sighted peers or classmates, etc.

I want to express great appreciation to all who played an important part in making this 18th annual Vision Summit a real success. If you are not already aware, the Vision Partnership consists of the following agencies/organizations:   Hosted by the SC Vision Education Partnership: University of SC Upstate, SC Department of Education, SC School for the Deaf and the Blind, SC Commission for the Blind, National Federation of the Blind of SC, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the

Blind and Visually Impaired, SC Chapter, SC State University Orientation and Mobility Program, Medical University of SC, Storm Eye Clinic, and The Vision Institute of SC. A group photyo of these partners is shown below:



Longtime Federation Leader Jerry Whittle Dies

By Donald Capps


(Editor’s Note: The following is taken from the November 15, 2017 Positive Note. It is to be noted that this Oconee County blind resident was the first Resident Manager at Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind in its early days.)


Picture Caption:

Jerry Whittle



I was in real shock to be notified by our good friend Marshall Tucker of the death of Jerry Whittle, age 70, occurring last Friday, November 10. It’s my understanding his sudden death was due to an eruption of a cerebral aneurism. He and his wife Merilynn were residing in Ruston, Louisiana at the time of his death. It’s my understanding Jerry had been retired just a short while ago. We first met Jerry in the late 1970’s when we were attempting to organize a chapter in the Oconee County area. A dinner meeting was held in Westminster on December 3, 1977 and Jerry was in attendance. Not only was he present for the dinner meeting, he wound up being elected President. Prior to this dinner meeting, I had talked with Jerry about his discouragement concerning his blindness. He soon snapped out of his discouragement to become a federationist for life. He was in the federation for 40 years from December 1977 to November 2017. Jerry loved Rocky Bottom having served as the first voluntary caretaker in 1979. He used room 5 in Osterneck Cottage which became known as the Oconee Room. Demonstrating his acting skills, he participated in the “Glass Menagerie” written by Tennessee Williams, which was performed by an all blind cast in the historic Dr. Samuel Miller Lawton Hall. A happy incident occurred involving Jerry when he accidentally got two inches too close to the edge of the stage, but he hopped up so quickly I hardly noticed the difference. Jerry worked at the Federation Center a short while but recognizing the need for a maximum education, he graduated from Clemson University and subsequently received his Masters from the University of Tennessee. By that time Jerry had many successful blind acquaintances including Joanne Wilson who headed the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was these contacts which would mold the highly successful career for Jerry. He also became the First Vice President of the NFB of Louisiana. He wrote a play which was performed at the NFB national convention which provided much needed funding. Jerry was known nationally for his federation activity. He would go on to be the recipient of the highest NFB award at the 2016 NFB convention banquet, the Jacobus tenBroek Award. As he often did, he gave credit to others, whereas it was apparent he was primarily responsible for their success. Even during the presentation of the Jacobus tenBroek Award at the NFB convention in 2016, Jerry gave credit to others including myself. We are very appreciative of this incident. While we certainly will miss Jerry, he had been a beloved figure to his friends nationally. We extend condolences to his lovely wife Merilynn who was always at his side.



Is the Church Turning a Blind Eye toward the Visually Impaired?

By Tracy Spittle


(Editor’s Note: This article by Tracy Spittle was printed March 2018 edition of Reach Out Columbia, magazine. Tracy is a member of the Columbia Chapter and teaches in Richland County School District.)


Beep. Beep. Beep. There goes the alarm clock. I snuggle deeper into the covers, putting off the moment I know is coming. Ready or not, it’s time to get up.

Then I remember that today is Sunday, and my husband, Thom, and I are going to visit a new church this morning. Flinging the covers back, I swing my legs over the side of the bed. We’re excited to try this church. It’s in our neighborhood, so transportation cost to get back and forth won’t be bad. It isn’t long before we’re dressed and waiting for our Uber driver to arrive.

As we make our way into the church, a cheerful “Good morning,” greets us. Someone presses a bulletin into my hand. We return the greeting as I tuck the paper into my purse. I won’t be able to use it here, but I’ll scan it at home to see what information it contains.

The same cheerful voice offers us a seat on the back row. This is not our preference, but we choose not to protest as we hear others coming in behind us.

Soon the service begins. Someone recaps highlights from the previous week and makes reference to upcoming events. “See the bulletin for a comprehensive list,” he says.

When it’s time to stand and sing. Thom and I only know one of the three songs. “Turn to page 89 in your hymnal,” the worship leaders says, “or follow along on the big screen.” Both are inaccessible to us.

The pastor begins his sermon, telling us he’ll continue preaching from the book of John, where he left off last week. Hoping for some clarification, we wait. “You’ll see today’s key verses on the screen.” We still have no idea what verses are displayed, but we relax and listen to God’s word, putting the pieces together as best we can as the sermon progresses.

Later that day Thom and I share our thoughts on the new church.

“The people seemed friendly.” I say. “Many stopped to say hi and shake our hands.”

“And it was close to home,” he says, “which is helpful.”

“The music was great, even though we did not have access to the words.”

Neither of us enjoyed being seated in the very back of the church, but that was a small thing, really. We agree our next step will be to call the church. We want to find out what the church has to offer, share what we can bring to the church, discuss some of the issues we encountered, and offer possible solutions.


Growing Up Blind


Growing up blind in the small town of Lake City, South Carolina, I attended a small church. The issues I’ve described never entered my world.

As is the case with many small churches, I was either related to or had known everyone there since birth. To these people, the fact that Tracy did things differently was no big deal. Accommodations were made within the church as a matter of course, often times without conscious thought.

I took part in Sunday school, singing, and Vacation Bible School with no difficulties. Congenital blindness has never stopped me from living a full life, including being active in the church.


Trouble in Paradise


It wasn’t until I moved away from home and my little church that I realized my blindness could pose some difficulties. These challenges to fully integrate into another church came about not because the churches didn’t care or wanted to exclude the blind. Despite the fact that 1.3 million legally blind live in the US, most churches have never encountered a blind person and don’t know how to accommodate them.

Because I believe most churches want to be open and accommodating to everyone, let’s examine a few situations that might arise and explore ways individuals and churches can work together so all parties can have an insightful time of worship.

Practical Suggestions

Marshal Tucker, a long-time member of Calvary Baptist Church in Columbia, has this suggestion. “One of the biggest things is to make the blind person feel welcome. Speak, introduce yourself, so they can put a name with a voice. Getting to know the people in the church and having them get to know you is critical.”

“You should treat the person just as you would any other newcomer to your church,” he said. “It’s okay to acknowledge their blindness, but be careful not to define the person by it or base your expectations for them as a church member on it.”

Shelley Coppel, a member of Trinity Baptist Church in West Columbia, believes it’s helpful when the pastor and other members are willing to open a dialogue to find out what a blind member’s needs might be. This may include transportation, access to information, or opportunities to both meet others within the church and contribute to its ministries. It’s important to realize that the needs and abilities of blind people differ depending on their degree of vision and experience.

A big concern of mine is that of expectations. I’ve been in situations where a job needed to be done, and no one was stepping forward to do it. When I offered, however, I’d often hear something like, “Oh no, Sweetie. Thank you for the offer, but we’ll take care of it.” A response like this left me feeling that my abilities were not respected or valued. To this I say, “Give us a chance.” You may not understand how we, being blind, can handle the task, but I assure you we can. Our method might look different from yours, but in the end, we’ll get the work done.

Marty McKenzie has played the organ in his church, Cornerstone Ministries, in Lake City, South Carolina, for 32 years. He’s also in charge of written communication for his church. It was his ability to play the organ which helped him to begin to find a place within the church, but he worries that other blind people without a similar talent or skill might struggle. “Let’s help each another find our fit within the church, and grow the talents that God has given us,” he said.

Accessing information is usually a key concern for the visually impaired. Make sure the blind have access to the same printed information their sighted counterparts have, in a format that’s useful to them. Because most blind have special software that converts text files to audio ones, this can be as simple as emailing them a copy of a bulletin, newsletter, or lesson. Others may need a volunteer to read the information aloud, something that many church members are willing to do. Communicating Bible verses and song selections prior to the service is also helpful. This provides the opportunity to read the verses or learn the songs in advance.


My Challenge to You


Being a member of a church is an important part of life. Participating, contributing, and growing within the family of God should be everyone’s focus, whether blind or sighted. Attending a church that sees us as another one of God’s children, not as the poor blind person deserving pity and constant help is essential.

We all have new things to learn and to teach. Instead of limiting a person because of their lack of sight, open your eyes to new ways of thinking, experiencing, and doing. If you get the chance, give that person who happens to be blind a chance to grow and thrive alongside you within God’s church family.



The Louisiana Center for the Blind: Changing What it Means to Be Blind

By Jennifer Bazer


The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina (NFB of SC) Successful Transitions took a road trip to Ruston, Louisiana in order to tour the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) in mid-February 2018. The center is one of three National Federation of the Blind training centers along with the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton, Colorado, and Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “I wanted Successful Transitions to learn what LCB provides so they can share with their blind students first-hand knowledge of the facility, “said Jennifer Bazer, Director of NFB of SC Successful Transitions.

LCB is a comprehensive residential training facility where students enroll, on average, between six to nine months. Intensive skills instruction is provided in Braille, cane travel, technology, home management, college readiness and exploration, industrial arts, and a positive philosophy of blindness which emphasizes an evidence-based belief that, given proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a mere physical nuisance and that blind people can live independent, fulfilled lives. Students live in apartments owned by LCB one half mile from the classroom building. “I am learning how to be independent in the apartment and walking to and from class each day,” said an LCB student. “We believe in extraordinary training to live ordinary lives,” said Pamela Allen, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

Successful Transitions was greeted warmly by an LCB student who began the tour in the woodshop. This industrial arts’ area was a very large room with cement floors, divided into various sections. “I never thought I could use a radial arm saw, said one of the LCB students.” Students plan, cut out, and assemble their own projects with the appropriate tools. “The only instrument that is adapted for the blind is the click ruler,” said Jerry Darnell, lead industrial arts instructor.

The tour guide showed Successful Transitions a Braille class where students were learning contracted and uncontracted Braille in Unified English Braille (UEB). In technology, Jewel Ardoin explained that students learn how to use adaptive technology including, but not limited to: iDevices, computers with speech software, and Braille displays. “It is important that students can edit documents on computers as well as on iDevices,” she explained.

Next, it was off to cooking where students were preparing dishes they wished to eat. “Nothing is from a box,“ said one of the students. In order to graduate, they have to prepare a full sit-down meal from scratch for 8 guests, as well as a buffet for 40 individuals.

Successful Transitions then went downstairs to observe orientation and mobility with Roland Allen. All students begin with basic navigation when they first arrive at LCB, and as they become more self-confident, students are given progressively more challenging assignments in various areas in Ruston and other nearby cities. The final cane travel requirement is the planning and execution of an overnight out-of-town travel assignment, the culmination of skills acquisition and implementation.

“It was great to have Successful Transitions visit the center,” said Eric Guillory, LCB’s Director of Youth Services. “These Federationists understand the importance of ensuring that students are equipped with the skills and attitudes necessary for success in the classroom and in life.”



From the Editor’s Desk

By David Houck


Wow! It’s been quite a start to the first half of 2018. The Federation Center of the Blind is constantly expanding its adaptive computer training, on-site and virtually. The number of blind instructors continues to increase as well as we expand our outreach in this area. Successful Transitions is quite busy mentoring blind high school students, preparing them for college and the work force. In fact, some of these students even went to Washington DC and did a great job in presenting legislative issues on a federal level. The 48th annual Statewide Seminar on January 6 was most successful and well attended. The end of January featured the aforementioned Washington Seminar with fifteen SC delegates dealing with four pieces of legislation in one day contacting all nine SC Congressmen.

On February 17 we had the third annual Sweetheart Dance at the Federation Center with over fifty people in attendance. There was great food, dancing, fellowship and door prizes galore!   On a more educational note, the March 17 Leadership Seminar was well attended and the participants learned much about Federation history, accessing Commission for the Blind services, Social Security, upcoming federation events and a host of local chapter business was discussed. The 18th annual Vision Summit held on Friday, March 30 was impressive with over 80 participants sharing their knowledge concerning many aspects of blindness and developing correct attitudes early on as a student in order to succeed.

The weekend of April 6 to 8 there were 52 federationists who took a charter bus to visit our NFB National Center which also involved touring the Library, the Braille and Technology Center and the Independence Market. There was time to get to know about how the national headquarters operates and we had dinner in the Harbor area Saturday evening. April 13 and 14 brought on the Santee Fishing trip which has been going on for a quarter of a century. A dozen Columbia members attended this event. The Upstate fishing trip took place in the first part of May. Board meetings of the NFB of SC and RBRCCB took place on April 21, taking care of upcoming state and national conventions, Fun Day at RBRCCB and much more. On May 1, the Midlands Gives project gave an opportunity for everyone to support the NFB of SC and/or RBRCCB. There was $1,954 raised for RBRCCB and the NFB of SC. Thanks goes out to the 53 who contributed an average gift of $36.87!

That still leaves the Upstate Leadership Seminar, the Columbia Chapter 65th annual Barbecue, the Sumter Chapter Barbecue and the Lee Chapter’s Black and White event, just to name a few. And we still have the second half of the year to go!



From the President’s Desk

By Frank Coppel


The first five months of 2018 has been a very busy time in the NFB of sc. On Saturday, January 6, the 48th annual Statewide Seminar was held at the Federation Center of the Blind in Columbia. Due to inclement weather primarily in the lower half of the state, the attendance was somewhat smaller than usual. Although there was only approximately 100 people who attended the seminar this year, their energy and enthusiasm was at a high level throughout the day.

On Sunday, January 28, a large delegation from the NFB of SC travelled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 2018 Washington Seminar. I was extremely proud to have fourteen members of our affiliate attend this year’s Washington Seminar. The delegation consisted of Frank and Shelley Coppel, first vice president Lenora Robertson, Ellen Taylor, second vice president Debra Canty, Dianne Singleton, NFB of SC board members Linda Dizzley, Ed Bible, and Julie Bible. I was also very proud to have six individuals from our NFB of SC Successful Transitions program students: Taivon Hardy, Wallace Stuckey, Matthew Duffle Hoffman, Chase Hanna, and chaperones: Charles Robinson and Wayne Smith. In March, 85 individuals attended a very informative Leadership Seminar sponsored by the NFB of SC which was held at the Federation Center of the Blind from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. As a result of the positive feedback received, the NFB of SC will again sponsor a Leadership Seminar in 2019. In April, 52 members of the NFB of SC travelled to Baltimore Maryland to tour the Jernigan Institute and to learn how all of us can benefit from the programs of the NFB.

In looking ahead, many of us will be traveling to Orlando Florida to attend the 2018 NFB national convention July 3-8, which will again be held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. This will be the last time the national convention will be held in Orlando Florida and I believe it will be many years before the national convention returns to the southeast portion of the United States. Let’s do all we can to have a large turnout in Orlando!

Please make your hotel reservations for the 2018 NFB of SC State Convention which will be held at the Marriott Hotel in Columbia August 10-12 as soon as possible. Room rates are very affordable. Rates for this year’s convention are $109 per night for up to four in a room. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 14 percent. The deadline to make reservations will be July 15, 2018. There will also be a limited number of rooms available for the $109 rate Thursday, August 9, for those individuals wanting to arrive to the hotel a day prior to the official start of the convention. You can make your room reservations by calling the Marriott toll free reservation telephone number (800) 593-6465 or (803) 771-7000 and inform the reservationist you are reserving a room for the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina state convention.

We are now accepting your $80 preregistration fee for this year’s State Convention. Please send your $80 preregistration fee to the Federation Center of the Blind, 119 S. Kilbourne Rd. Columbia, SC 29205. As we did last year, we will be offering a discount for families with children regarding the preregistration fee. Parents will pay the $80 preregistration fee and each child eight teen years of age or younger will pay $20. We also will be offering a discount to college students in the amount of $50 during the preregistration period.

All preregistration fees are nonrefundable and nontransferable. As in past years, the $80 preregistration fee will cover the reception on Friday evening, continental breakfast Saturday morning, the luncheon and banquet on Saturday and a continental breakfast Sunday morning. The deadline to accept your $80 preregistration fee is August 3. If you wait until after the deadline of August 3, the registration will increase to $100. Save $20 and preregister early!

As you can see, it has been a very busy time in the NFB of SC. By all of us working hard and working together we can make it possible for the blind to live the lives we want!



Final Thought


            Suggested Reading: As most of us who are blind know, we do travel quite a bit, by jet plane, train, bus, cab or car, not to mention on cruise ships. International travel is made by the blind as well. Imagine being a blind schoolteacher living in 1959 and deciding to travel worldwide on your own to study how other blind children are taught. This was before the white cane law and the ADA (which now applies in the United States). The author, Isabelle L. D. Grant wrote “Crooked Paths Made Straight” which detailed her travels across the globe.

The title is based upon Isaiah 42:16, “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”

You can purchase the book through the NFB Independence Market, 200 E. Wells St., Baltimore, MD 21230 or call 410-659-9314 or email to order the book for $18 plus shipping and handling. At this time it is only available in print but it can be read by several assistive reading deices like the KNFB Reader.