National Federation of the Blind Holds Annual State Convention

National Federation of the Blind Holds Annual State Convention

The National Federation of the Blind celebrated their 75th anniversary and their Connecticut affiliate held their 44th annual state convention in New London in November.

From Nov. 6 through Nov. 8, the annual convention consisted of several vendors and activists who collectively came together to hold this informational event at the Holiday Inn.

Logan Tech, a design and manufacturing company focusing on assistive technology for the visually impaired and non-verbal community, was represented by their sales manager Gary Tilbe. Glenn Dobbs, CEO of Logan Tech, was inspired to further develop this idea of technological assistance through his son Logan who has severe autism.

“Whether it’s the blind community, autistic community or non-verbal community; Logan Tech has helped many,” Tilbe said. Tilbe served as an advocate for the visually disabled at the NFB-CT convention, showcasing a few of the company’s latest technological advancements. One of their latest achievements, the Braille Label Maker allows for simplistic embossing in braille; useful for people of all ages who are learning braille as well as those who are already familiar with the language. The device also has a keyboard input for individuals who do not understand braille, but still have the need to use the braille labeling system.

Technological advances such as the ones Logan Tech offers, help the blind community live independently. “Expectations are very low in society; people will see someone who is blind and assume they can’t do certain things,” Erin Guillory, an advocate from the Louisiana Center for the Blind, said. He explained that positivity is key when coping with the stereotypes that fall onto those with visual imparities. “My wife is sighted,” Guillory said, a testament to the fact that human nature and compassion can transcend these disabilities.

“We need to be treated with dignity. We’re people like anyone else,” said Esther Levegnale, a board member with the NFB-CT Greater Hartford chapter, as well as secretary for the organizations Board of Directors. “The only difference is that we use alternative techniques,” Levegnale said.

Levegnale explained that the NFB advocates in a lot of areas in education and employment. “We speak to our congressmen in Washington about different issues,” Levegnale said, such as having all technological devices accessible for everyone and employers paying no lower than minimal wage regardless of the employee’s disability.

Federal programs such as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, NLS, provide service to assist people who are unable to read or use standard print. “It brings the world to those who are blind,” Gordon Reddick, director of the Connecticut State LBPH, said. This service is accessible without costs through postage-free mail to people who meet the eligibility requirements.

“Just like a public library,” he said. Those that are visually impaired can experience literature through braille format and audio material.

Those various technological advancements and services bring more opportunities for growth and learning for people that are blind, helping to bridge the gap between the quality of life of visually handicapped citizens and our general populace. Education and literacy are essential for people regardless of any imparities.

Gradually, with the advocates from the National Federation of the Blind and the many services reaching out to the blind community, the nation is shifting toward enabling a more open minded and proactive approach to raising the standard of living for those affected by visual and audio related conditions.

©Angela Angulo

Refusing Refugees, Limiting Freedom

We’re not against the Syrians, we’re against ISIS. Connecticut’s positive decision of bringing Syrian refugees into the state is one that I agree with.

If our borders are closed and we refuse refugees, we are limiting the freedom we claim to provide. What freedom do these oppressed refugees have? Many of them will suffer and parish, among them children and women. We can at least alleviate some of the pain by providing them with a haven.

Agreeably, this decision seems worrisome considering the facts brought to us from the attack in Paris, Nov. 14. It had been reported that one of the suicide bombers was found with a Syrian passport, but this does not mean all Syrians are terrorists. While people do have the right to be upset we need to realize that Syrians are not the problem, the ISIS members are.

It’s not ethical to group together Syrians and Muslims with the ISIS groups. Just how it is not ethical to group together the Ku Klux Klan with all Christians.

We cannot condemn Syrians for the horrendous acts that occurred. These refugees are not coming to destroy out homes but to make new ones for themselves. They are broken down families who have fought and are still fighting. They are simply trying to save themselves and receive the freedom they deserve as human beings.

I am confident that our security system is up to par with checking up on these newcomers. The refugees must undergo a rigorous application in order to be accepted into the United States. INSERT PROCESS. According to Malloy this security process takes 12 to 18 months.

There are far easier processes to go through with entering the United States. Terrorists trying to infiltrate the U.S would most likely come through working or student visas, or as tourists.

Before thinking about this as a crazy, irrational decision, we need to remember who we are and where we all come from. We are a country that has grown exponentially due to the many refugees and immigrants who have come to better their lives as well as their families. Our ancestors came wanting freedom for themselves, who are we to shut out the Syrians who beg for the freedom of themselves and loved ones?

Of course there are always some risks, our ancestors themselves weren’t always easily welcomed. There is always a risk, but we should not be afraid while doing the right thing. “Women were raped. Children were damaged. People have lost limbs. We have an obligation as Americans to do our part in those situations,” Governor Malloy said, and I agree.

With over half of the nation’s governors stating that Syrian refugees are not welcomed, I am proud to be a resident in Connecticut. According to United Nations, Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population. It’s a shame that because of the tragic event in Paris we would stop allowing Syrian refugees to enter our states.

ISIS has instilled a fear on many across Europe and now the United States which is unfortunately affecting millions seeking out freedom. Refusing Syrian refugees is like limiting the freedom we claim to provide. When we’re not letting them in, we’re proving to be a nation that isn’t free.

©Angela Angulo