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The National Federation of the Blind of Montana Distinguished Service Award, first presented October 10, 2015

This year the National Federation of the Blind of Montana will inaugurate the Distinguished Service Award. This award will be presented to an individual or an entity who is not a member of our organization, but who has made a substantial contribution to improve the quality of life for the blind of Montana. This award will be given by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana at our annual state convention, but only as often as circumstances merit. This recognition represents the highest honor that can be given by our affiliate. The recipient of this award will be an individual or entity that we can regard as a true friend of the blind—supportive of our progressive philosophy of blindness, instrumental in championing programs that will benefit the blind community of Montana, and dedicated to initiatives that will generate hope and promise for the blind of Montana in innumerable ways.

The National Federation of the Blind of Montana is pleased and proud to honor the Disability Employment and Transition Division (DET) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) with our first Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of its decision to provide continuing funding for NFB-Newsline in Montana.

NFB-Newsline began in 1995 as a free electronic newspaper service available to people of all ages who are unable to read standard print due to visual, physical, or learning disabilities. Currently, NFB Newsline provides daily access to six Montana newspapers: The Billings Gazette, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, The Great Falls Tribune, The Missoulian, The Helena Independent Record, and the Montana Standard. In addition, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal are also available on NFB-Newsline, along with over three hundred other newspapers and magazines nationwide, as well as job announcements, local TV listings, and other services. NFB-Newsline is available by telephone, email, on the web, or on IPhone or other mobile devices.

The original funding for NFB-Newsline in Montana was provided by the Montana Association for the Blind, the NFB of Montana affiliate at the time, and the Montana Talking Books Library. Then funding was provided by economic stimulus money through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When those funds dried up, the national Federation of the Blind along with state affiliates carried the service. However, advocates for the service were desperate to find more permanent funding, and in the meantime, the lack of this funding nearly resulted in the loss of NFB-Newsline service in Montana.

Year after year, at annual town hall meetings and hearings, or through direct communications with Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services, Montanans made it abundantly clear that they wanted NFB-Newsline service to continue in Montana. The Disability Employment and Transition Division now funds NFB Newsline through their Services to Groups authority under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The cost is approximately $32,000 per year. Montana became the 47th state to fund NFB-Newsline in this way.

At our third annual convention in Great Falls, Montana, on October 10, 2015, the National Federation of the Blind of Montana takes great pleasure in awarding our first Distinguished Service Award to the Disability Employment and Transition Division of the Department of Health and Human Services, for its responsiveness to its constituents in providing ongoing funding for NFB-Newsline in Montana.

The National Federation of the Blind of Montana Trail Blazer Award, first presented October 8, 2016

According to the dictionary, the definition of a trail blazer is a person who makes a new track through wild country, a pioneer, an innovator, a groundbreaker, a trendsetter. According to Star Trek, a trail blazer is a person who "boldly goes where no man has gone before."

The Trail Blazer Award is given to a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Montana who has taken the road less traveled, who has raised the expectations of society, or perhaps those of his or her own professional colleagues or supervisors, regarding the abilities of a blind person, or has endured prejudice or has overcome numerous obstacles in order to live the life he or she wants to live. The recipient of this awarde may also be a person who, member of the NFB of Montana or not, has cleared such a path of obstacles or barriers, be they physical or attitudinal, or has leveled the playing field for someone who is blind or has low vision. It is not necessarily meant to be given annually, but only when a worthy recipient presents him or herself.

The recipient of the inaugural NFB Trail Blazer Award is a professional who has worked with people who have faced vision loss, and have had to learn alternative techniques of blindness. Upon first meeting the recipient of this award, some individuals have said, "I'm not going anywhere with him. He's totally blind." After working with him, some of these same individuals who were too frightened to leave their homes are confident, capable travelers who aren't afraid to get out there and live the lives they want, day or night, and blaze their own trails, having learned from his example that blindness is not what holds them back. Some have said, "Since he is blind, he knows what I am going through and what I need to know to navigate safely when I can't trust my eyes. After working with him, I wouldn't trust anyone else." Rather than guarantee their safety, which no one can do, he has taught them techniques that they can use in any situation in which they find themselves in order to guarantee their own safety as much as possible. He has said that what he teaches is ten percent technique and ninety percent attitude adjustment.

Although he is not the only blind person in his profession in the United States, he is one of the few in Montana, and one of the few in his field who works with a dog guide. He has worked for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services of the Department of Public Health and Human Services for the past ten years as a certified orientation and mobility instructor, and is also a certified rehabilitation therapist and the regional manager of the Great Falls office.

And so, on October 8, 2016, at our fourth annual statewide convention, in recognition of his perseverance and tenacity in the face of adversity, and his determination to raise the expectations of people who are blind as well as those who work with them, it is my pleasure and privilege to present the first ever Trail Blazer Award to Bruce Breslauer.

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I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

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