The DSB Buzz
Spring 2022 Edition
- Washington Seminar with the NFB
- WCB 2021 Conference and Convention
- Advocacy Into a Career
- What’s New with DSB Youth Services?
Washington Seminar with the NFB
By May Tran
The DSB Buzz Reporter
The National Federation of the Blind is a long-standing organization devoted to empowering blind and visually impaired individuals through an emphasis on independence and personal ambition. The core principles of the NFB, much like those of the American Council of the Blind, encourage individuals to pursue their personal ambitions without hesitation and to view blindness as a strength rather than a definition to our lives. The NFB has a holistic focus on legal advocacy, and this is particularly demonstrated through their Annual Washington Seminar.
This year, I was given the opportunity to experience Washington Seminar first-hand. The program enables BVI community members to actively advocate for various legislative initiatives to members of Congress. These initiatives tackle a variety of issues – three of which are chosen each year to be presented during a series of congressional appointments in Washington, D.C. Members of the NFB are then given the opportunity to speak on and advocate for these select issues, which can involve initiatives that include but are not limited to education, employment, civil rights, social services, federal funding, etc.
One particular initiative that caught my attention this year during Washington Seminar was the Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA). The Act offsets the cost of access technology by providing blind Americans with $2,000 in refundable tax credit to be used throughout the span of three years. Access technology can range anywhere between $1,000-$6,000: the average braille embosser costs up to $3,695; a refreshable braille display can cost as much as $2,795; and a braille notetaker? $5,495.
According to the fact sheet provided by the NFB, the ATAA is justified by the all-encompassing impacts these high costs impose on the daily lives of blind and visually impaired individuals. Without access technology, BVI community members face roadblocks in their education, employment, and community involvement – all of which formulate our ability to pursue our personal ambitions independently, freely, and to the fullest extent.
The ATAA caught my attention because through it, I learned that up to 69.1% of blind or visually impaired individuals are currently either unemployed or underemployed. Legislative advocacy aside, this statistic itself – which had been provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – was strikingly alarming. I could see why the NFB had chosen this issue specifically to focus on, seeing as the organization prioritizes a higher standard of living, expanded accessibility, and greater opportunity for BVI individuals.
With the outbreak of the new COVID-19 variant, Washington Seminar this year was held virtually through ZOOM. Despite this, the experience itself was still just as empowering. I witnessed a diverse body of people unite together to pursue a collective ambition, driven by the desire to make equality, accessibility, and opportunity come to life. Although I can’t necessarily say that the promise for change occurred instantaneously following the seminar, I can say that the experience opened my eyes to the power of advocacy.
Regardless of what setting you are in – whether it be at Washington Seminar, before the student council at your school, or even behind the screen on your social media platforms – the passion it takes to contribute to the gradual, progressive, and promising momentums of change is something that is admirable. All around me in the BVI community, I constantly encounter young, driven, and ambitious adults that never falter in the face of challenge, so it really is a priceless thing to see when individuals come together to tackle the issues they face head-on with strength, grit, and zeal.
WCB 2021 Conference and Convention
By Theorius Wheeler
The DSB Buzz Reporter
On October 28 - 30, 2021, the Washington Council for the Blind (WCB) held a virtual convention. During the numerous speeches and discussions there was a wide variety of topics covered, including access to medical services and the importance of self-advocacy. Although the conference was virtual both in 2020 and 2021, there were many people in attendance, including Julie Brannon, the president of the WCB, and advocacy committee chair Dorene Cornwell, whom I had the opportunity to interview.
Both of these wonderful women have been deeply involved in the Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) community for many years and have spent their fair share of time as members of the WCB.
In my interview with them we discussed their feelings about their involvement in the WCB, and Julie said that what she enjoyed most was “being involved in an organization that is making changes.”
Dorene shared this sentiment, saying that it's “been important to see the organization evolve,” and that she likes the feeling of being a part of something big.
One of the influential topics covered at this year’s conference was access to medical services. On the morning of October 29 a panel was held that discussed an affordable medical alternative that provides in-home care, and the accessibility of hospital discharge paperwork and medical equipment for people with diabetes.
Another pressing topic discussed was the importance of self-advocacy. When asked about youth involvement in disability advocacy, Dorene said that “there’s definitely a place for [the youth], we want to hear what matters to them.”
Julie agreed with her, adding that it is important for youths to “learn how to lead, [and] learn how to give back.”
These topics, while incredibly important and influential, were just a few highlights of the amazing panels that were offered this year.
With the many uncertainties that come with these unprecedented times, it can be nice to know that some traditions will continue to live on. In our interview Julie said that being able to do the conference was “a feeling of both exhilaration and relief” and that she looks forward to next year’s conference, and all that that may bring.
The 2021 conference, like many before it, focused on what can be done for and within the BVI community to better our quality of life, accessibility to our needs, and help us reach our full potential.
Advocacy Into a Career
By May Tran
The DSB Buzz Reporter
Advocacy is a term most people within the disability community commonly stumble across. Self-advocacy, for example, is a core skill that is taught to most BVI youth upon entering school; it’s a skill that enables students to overcome challenges independently and efficiently.
With that being said, this gives the opportunity for some people to turn the skill of advocacy into a profession, whether it be as a lawyer, organization leader, politician, legislature, and more.
Within the BVI community, many people find themselves devoting their careers to the betterment of lives led by disabled individuals. This especially comes in the form of legal advocacy. As seen in the work of the NFB and ACB, the institutions that enable individuals with blindness to integrate seamlessly into society are primarily regulated and supported by those in the legal profession. Many BVI youth grow to become lawyers, non-profit organization directors, campaign leaders, and beyond.
Bennet Prows, the co-chair of the NFBW Scholarship Committee, started off as a lawyer. We interviewed him for one of our previous articles, and throughout the interview he discussed his personal philosophy of blindness and how it empowered him throughout his educational and occupational journey.
To him, blindness is merely a facet to his life; it is neither a burden nor a discouragement, but rather, it serves as an aspect in his life that guides his sense of independence and drive. Bennet noted his skill for argumentation which he refined through his own experiences of self-advocacy as an individual with blindness. He also shared how his parents persistently encouraged him to try every activity that his sighted twin brother participated in, so that he would grow to never view blindness as a roadblock to where he wanted or needed to be.
It was through these experiences that Bennett found himself determined to advocate for not only himself, but for others as a legal profession. Even as he moved on from actively practicing law, Bennett continues to invest himself in the NFB and its collective pursuit of equal access and opportunity.
This goes to show how advocacy is a prominent aspect in our day-to-day lives as BVI youth, and with it comes the skills and knowledge base necessary to make an impact on the communities around us. Whether it be through the pursuit of a legal profession, or something as small as taking on a leadership role at your school or in your community, advocacy is something that ignites lasting impacts and brings us together through our shared experiences and ambitions.
What's new with DSB Youth Services?
By DSB Buzz Staff
Hi DSB youth and families!
DSB has been busy gathering applications for summer programs while continuing to offer both limited in person activities and virtual workshops. Some of our summer programs are still accepting applications! Read on to learn more about programs you can register for!
Meet our new youth services supervisor, Deja Powell!
Hello! My name is Deja Powell, and I am the new Youth Services Manager at DSB! I am blind myself and have been my whole life! I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, but always dreamed of living in Seattle someday…and well, here I am!
I have been a National Orientation and Mobility Certified cane travel teacher for more than ten years—my long, white cane is my favorite accessory (and I love accessories). 😊.
I am a braille reading, fashion loving, craft-doing, glitter guru who is excited for all the possibilities of my new job. I have a special passion for the education of blind youth because I didn’t have many opportunities myself growing up.
Here are just a few of my favorite things:
- Color: Yellow
- Ice Cream: Cookie Dough
- Food: Fried Chicken
- Holiday: Valentines Day
- Author: Dr. Seuss
I am excited for all that is to come in Youth Services 2022, and I hope you are, too!
Coming Events and Activities
Are you between the ages of 18 to 22, currently a student (in a college or high school program) and either attending college or interested in attending college?
Then the DSB’s Bridge program may be perfect for you! The DSB bridge program is 5-week summer program held at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
Students will live in a dorm and learn about campus life in preparation for entering college or university in the future. For more information and registration materials please visit the Bridge College Prep Program on the DSB Website.
Good Vibe Fridays
Come join us on Zoom the 2nd Friday of each month this school year from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. for Good Vibe Fridays!
Blind and low vision peer leaders will lead students through accessible games and thoughtful conversations. These calls will take place over Zoom. If you are interested in joining, please sign up online or contact Jen at 360-999-3138 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See you there!
Spring Scavenger Hunt in Tukwila
Brush up on your Orientation and Mobility skills while having fun and working with your peers!
Students will practice their mobility skills by finding stores and products throughout the mall. Students will increase their workplace readiness and self-advocacy skills while enjoying lunch at the food court and expanding job exploration experience by learning about jobs in the retail industry.
This is an in-person event at the Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila. Learn more and register for the Spring Scavenger Hunt online.