Leave GMS Alone, Already!

Good afternoon! I wrote the following entry in collaboration with a good friend of mine, Kristin Miller, who also attended GMS. This entry has been adapted, with permission, for this blog. Feel free to read the original entry, as well as her other posts on Kristin’s blog. 🙂

For many years now, the fate of The Governor Morehead School for the Blind (GMS) has been unknown, due to financial concerns, a decline in the number of students, and the beauty and location of the campus. It’s prime real-estate, so people are constantly trying to find ways to shut down the school, or even to just snatch the land from those who rely on it. Not only does the GMS campus house the k-12 program, but there is also a pre-school, and a rehabilitation center. Division of Services for the Blind is also housed on the campus, making obtaining services much easier for students and those who attend the rehabilitation center. None of this seems to matter to those who wish to close the school, and it also doesn’t seem to matter that the campus is historic. Those who are involved, and are letting greed get the best of them, aught to be ashamed of themselves.

People will note that there has been a decline in the number of students at GMS, and they will note that more and more students prefer to stay in public school. However, what they’re not telling you is that students who meet the qualifications to attend GMS have been being turned away for many years. Combine this with the instability of the school, and the fact that most parents would rather have their children with them anyway, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s about time blind students in North Carolina feel they have a reliable place to go if they aren’t receiving a decent education in public school, and for those who do attend not to have to worry whether or not their school will exist next year, after break, or even next month.

By law, schools are supposed to provide materials and resources for all students, regardless of whether or not they have a disability. Unfortunately, visually impaired students rarely receive a good education in public schools, due to lack of resources, and funding. In many cases, students are denied access to braille instruction, computer and mobility training, and access to printed materials. I have first-hand knowledge of this; I attended a public elementary school. I was lucky if I had the right books, and very few teachers seemed to care if I kept up with the class and understood the material. I wasn’t taught braille or mobility skills, but I still had to attend a school located on the other side of town to receive even minimal services. This is no way for a child to get an education.

I’m proud to say, I graduated from GMS knowing I received the education I deserved. Not only was I surrounded by students who were just like me, the teachers and other staff members were dedicated to providing the best education possible for all students. All of my teachers knew braille, which meant that I could learn and submit assignments in the way that worked for me. Every student had access to braille, large print materials, and accessible computers. Everyone was able to learn in the way that suited them. Not to mention, the school’s location allowed for valuable mobility training, which, as an independent woman, I rely on everyday.

People need to take a step back, and focus on the purpose of GMS, instead of how much value the land holds and other plans for the land. It’s already being put to a very good use, and I believe doing anything else with the land would be a disgrace. I’m thankful my parents sent me to GMS, because without the help of The staff at GMS, I wouldn’t have received the education I deserved. I wouldn’t be the independent person I am today, and life wouldn’t hold quite as much for me. I really hope the school is able to remain open, and to continue to serve the disabled students of NC. It truly would be a shame if such a good thing was shut down.

WIPO Treaty

Good afternoon, everyone! Today, we have another beautifully written blog post to share with you all. It is important to note that this post is about a time sensitive issue; you’re support is needed. At the end of this post, we’ve added links to articles where you may get more information about the treaty, and sites that provide opportunities for you to help. As always, thank you for reading! Enjoy Daria’s post below:

Ever since I was a child, reading has been something I loved to do. I loved being able to escape from the world I lived in, in favor of another world that was much more adventurous. (I once read forty-five books in one year while in the fourth grade). The older I got, the more reading served different purposes in my life. I was no longer reading solely for the purpose of escaping; I now read because of my eagerness to learn. For instance, when I read books like All Quiet on the Western Front, I learned what it was like for soldiers to serve their country.

While in college, I majored in English, and I read novels such as Franny and Zooey and Invisible Man. But also, I read about disability theory, and have applied that theory to papers I had to write. I write all this to convey that I would not have been able to read all of this material had they not been adapted to accessible formats.

Websites such as bookshare.org have over a hundred thousand books available in accessible formats for people who are blind and for people with print disabilities; magazines and newspapers are also available in alternative formats such as Daisy and digital Braille. The Treaty for the Blind makes this possible because it allows us to have access to materials in alternative formats, regardless of where they are. These materials are needed for an education, employment, and for inclusion in society. Eventually, blind people and people with print disabilities from all over the world will be able to have access to this information. (This is the international treaty’s goal).

However, private interests are trying to make changes to the treaty that could adversely affect our ability to get access to these books. One of the ways they want to make changes to this treaty is by altering its language. The phrase “If you can buy it, you can’t borrow it” could have a drastic affect on future access to books. This means that websites like Book Share may not be able to continue providing accessible materials for people who are blind or who have print disabilities in the US and other countries. Other libraries for the blind could also be affected. For me, this means not being able to just download a book when I wish to read, or have access to magazines that I enjoy perusing.

Though we may have access to some accessible materials, we do not have access to every book or every magazine. If alters to the Treaty for the Blind are made, this access could disappear. This will cause people who are blind to be further isolated from society because they will no longer have access to the materials that will allow them to have an education, nor will they have access to books that can provide a way of escape from their routines. I was fortunate to have that access all of my life, and I want me, and my fellow blind peers, to continue having that access. I also want those people who don’t yet have access to these books to finally be able to read a book or a magazine in a format that will suit them.

For more information about what private interests are trying to do to the treaty for the blind, here are some links to two articles. The first is an article that’s posted on The Huffington Post:
Poisoning the Treaty for the Blind

The second link is to an article on Wired Magazine:
Obama Stops Championing Treaty That Gives the Blind Better Access to E-Books

How you can help:
Sign the petition on Whitehouse.gov to support the treaty: Sign the Petition

Let your voice be heard by submitting a video about the WIPO Treaty to the NFB. WIPO Video Submission Instructions

Our Introduction

Jessica, Ashley and I (Daria), also known as BlinkieChicks, met at different times in our lives. I have known Jessica since I was ten years old. (Wow, we go way back). We attended the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. We met Ashley through twitter, in Winter of 2012. Jessica and I kepy tweeting her about how nice it would be when she came to UNC Pembroke. We could not wait to meet her and her guide dog Landon.
In August, she became a student at UNC Pembroke, and we started hanging out at each other’s dorms. We hung out with one another just about every chance we got.
I say this to point out that, one day In November, Jessica and I were hanging out in Ashley’s suite, and we came up with the idea of creating a twitter account for the three of us. We also wanted to create a Spreaker account, so that we could post podcasts of our presentations.
We decided to call ourselves BlinkieChicks. “Blinkie” is used as a slang term for a blind person. We have used (and still do use) this term in playful ways. For example, one of us may say something silly, and another of us might respond with “Silly blinkie.” Anyway, when we created our twitter account, we did not know what to say in our bio. We didn’t even know exactly why we created it. All we knew was that we wanted to create an account that kepy the blind community updated on different happenings that took place. Also, we updated our community about apps that may or may not have been accessible.
This past Tuesday, Jessica, Ashley, and I had a discussion via skype about the direction in which BlinkieChicksb should go. One thing we noticed was that our biography did not match what we were actually doing, which was presenting to the public, making podcasts, etc. Our biography said that we’re three college students who love Starbucks and Apple products, but we rarely tweeted about those things. When we first started, not everyone was fully active. Now, we will be, and this blog is one of the ways in which all of us will contribute. Nice to meet you, dear reader!!! Pease, don’t be a stranger.