Vol. 31, No. 6 August 1988
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
to the President, address changes,
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should be sent to the National Office.
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Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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WorldWide Web: http://stage.nfb.org
Vol. 31, No. 6 August 1988
"WALK A MILE IN MY
SHOES" GIVES US SORE FEET
by Lauren L. Eckery
IEP'S: NO BRAILLE, NO CANE,
by Patti Gregory
BRAILLE: PEDAGOGY, PREJUDICE,
AND THE BANNER OF EQUALITY
by Fred Schroeder
BLIND STUDENTS' PARENTS CHARGE MEETING ILLEGAL
THE 2:00 A.M. BLUES
by Loraine Stayer
by Darrell Shandrow
TROUBLE SHOOTING INFOCOM
GAMES WITH SPEECH
by Michael J. McDermott
FEDERATIONIST WINS BATTLE
IN JOB DISCRIMINATION
by Cheryl Livingston
SENATOR THURMOND COSPONSORS S. 2098, THE AIR TRAVEL RIGHTS FOR BLIND INDIVIDUALS ACT
HANDICAPPED FLY UNFRIENDLY
by Senator Howard Metzenbaum
ROUTINE AIRLINE EXPERIENCE
OF DOG GUIDES AND WHITE
by Cherie Heppe
FLY LIKE A BUTTERFLYSTING
LIKE A BEE
by Larry Lorenzo
BARTON GETS THE BOOTMAYBE
by Kenneth Jernigan
SID ALLEN DIES
by Kenneth Jernigan
INDIANA REHAB FOR THE BLIND IN TURMOIL AGAIN
WILL THE NEW JERSEY COMMISSION
FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED GET BACK ON TRACK?
by John J. Dragona
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1988
by Lauren L. Eckery
This article appears in the Summer, 1988, News From Blind Nebraskans, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. I always look forward to an article by Lauren Eckery. What she says is so real and poignant that I wait to see how she, Jerry, and Lynden are meeting each new challenge and problem. I feel that I know Lynden personally, and if sensible upbringing gives a child an added advantage in adulthood, Lynden's future looks bright. We have often said that the National Federation of the Blind is not an organization but an attitude, a belief, and a way of life a faith in the innate educability and goodness of people and of the capacity of the individual. Nowhere is all of this better exemplified than in the life and writings of Lauren Eckery. Here is what she has to say:
One day last October a neighbor stopped by one who had seen us around but had never met us. This woman's Camp Fire group was studying disabilities, and she wanted us to talk to the seven-and eight-year-olds about blindness. This we did in January, and we enjoyed it immensely. Back in September we had also been approached by the president of the PTA of Dundee Elementary School, who had seen the Channel 7 series we did with the Robinsons and Hank Vetter. The Girl Scouts would be doing a badge called Walk a Mile in My Shoes, which was intended to teach the girls to empathize more with people who have disabilities. We were asked to give a presentation in March. In the meantime I had been asked to talk to several Brownie and Girl Scout troops at the school.
One invitation led to another, and the girls were going home to tell their parents what they had learned. These were the same parents who would not invite Lynden over to play with their kids because they didn't want to reciprocate they believe that Lynden is specially trained to live with blind parents. Reaching the children first looked much more workable than dealing with the parents directly.
March came, and we were indeed invited to participate in the badge program. Jerry specifically mentioned that we did not want to be a part of a program that involved blindfolds, tying a hand back, using ear plugs, etc. We were assured that this was a teaching workshop and that we would not be doing these things. We attended, with Lynden, who has attended almost all of the speaking engagements we have done, so that she will know what her friends are being told. We allowed her to go off and take part in the workshop at which girls, in groups of ten, visited different classrooms and learned abaout various disabilities at least, that's what we believed when we allowed her to go.
We made a ten-minute presentation twelve times that day, using part of the Channel 7 video for some of that presentation. This was not enough time for information and questions, and we were very rushed. No other group seemed as rushed as ours. At lunchtime our stomachs turned and our feet hurt as we discovered what was happening, not only at lunch but in the other classrooms. The girls were to choose a disability and simulate it during the day to find out how difficult it was to be disabled. This was to help them empathize with disabled people. We also discovered, much to our dismay, that in the other classrooms the girls were not given presentations by other adults with disabilities. They were given experimental exercises, such as speaking into a computer and watching their speech patterns on the screen, drawing with a stick held in the mouth, traveling in a wheelchair, etc. These experiences themselves are fine. Lynden was fascinated by them. However, they were not accompanied, in most cases, by role model disabled adults who could explain how they function in life, what they can do, and what their problems really are, etc. We realized that our presentation was unique in its kind, much more positive and informative, and it allowed at least minimal opportunity for direct questions. The Federation can be proud of its being several steps beyond the other disabilities represented at the workshop. Once we were aware of the simulations, we spoke directly to that issue. At lunch we sat with a troop whose member, Molly, chose to be blind. She was yelling for her mother, asking where people were, asking what she was eating, standing up and stumbling into and on people and things until out of fear and frustration she sat down and said, I wouldn't want to be like that ever! We tried to explain what sounded like a good idea to most people but turned out to be frightening and frustrating for the girls to the extent that they saw disabilities as worse than they really are. Do these experiences evoke empathy or pity? The answer was clear. We explained that empathy involved not experiencing blindness as they see it as having just gone blind but as we see it as having skills in alternative techniques which can take us beyond the fear and frustration. We also explained that how we are treated is much more of a problem for us than the everyday how-to's of blindness.
It would be very difficult for these girls to experience the rejections, isolation, insults, doubt, fear, and general underestimation that we receive from the general public for at least two reasons: 1. Most of them could not practically simulate the disability experience long enough to observe this; and 2. They would always know that they could instantly break out of the simulation. Therefore, the chronic endless nature of the negative treatment could not be perceived realistically. When we raised questions at lunchtime about the disability simulations, the leader at our table, whose troop had not visited our room yet, grouched: Well, we always do something wrong. Others were somewhat more receptive to our perspective. Whether we will be invited next year or not, the program will continue, not only here but all over the country since the badge is of national scope the directions for earning the badge are in the Girl Scout handbook.
We tried to empathize with the Girl Scout council who obviously approved this badge and is proud of its addition to the more long-standing badges. We are not sure if we can do anything to make the earning of this badge more reasonable for Girl Scouts nationally, but possibly here in Omaha the Federation can have a positive impact. We hope so, for our feet were very sore from trying to wear the shoes they wanted us to wear. We were glad that we could wear our own shoes in our own classroom.
We were very grateful to be Federationists, to have the knowledge we have, to have the skills to present that knowledge, and the opportunity to change people's attitudes about blindness. Finding ourselves part of a questionable workshop is part of what we do as long as we are able to make a positive contribution with positive results. Our experience at this workshop did, indeed, have positive results, one which was very personal. As many of you have read in previous articles, we have had quite a problem getting parents to bring their children to Lynden's birthday parties without their supervision. Several times we have feared that we would have to tell Lynden that she could not have a birthday party, because no one would come. This was a real fear.
The attendance at our afternoon sessions at the workshop was doubled. Word had spread that ours was the presentation to see. Our last group of girls was from Dundee School, and they were assisted by parents. Some of these girls had heard me speak. One little girl asked the question of the day: How do you have birthday parties? I believe that this question came from one of the little girls Lynden had invited to her seventh birthday party, which was to occur in one week. Possibly her mother had told her she couldn't go because we were blind and couldn't watch her. Finally, sensing that we had a reasonable audience, we explained the entire problem of the past several years, and we were relieved when we noticed the shock and then the support from parents. Some of the parents in the room had no idea we were having such a ridiculous problem. Others who were sitting there were part of the problem. They saw their comrades' reactions. Interestingly enough, two of the parents whose little girls had been invited to Lynden's party immediately responded to Lynden's invitation, and their daughters were allowed to attend the party. This was a direct and surprising personal response from this workshop.
There are now plans in the works for us to speak about blindness at the PTA-sponsored workshop next fall at Dundee School. This is a goal we have wished to attain for at least a year and a half. In spite of some of the bizarre events of the day, we did indeed receive some amount of empathy. This is important. Not only do we want to educate others so that they will not fear blindness so much, but it is also perfectly okay for us to reap some of the benefits from the education we give. This will make our feet more comfortable we deserve that comfort. We deserve equal and reasonable treatment. If more people walk with us rather than away from us, this equality is much more possible.
by Patti Gregory
(This article appears in the June-July Month's News, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Patti Gregory is one of the leaders of the NFB of Illinois and of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is her article.) The mother of a blind child called me this morning. She said, The school says no Braille. Larry, her son, can read print laboredly with a CCTV, so the experts are saying no Braille. Larry has RP and is certain to lose the remainder of his vision.
Last week another mother of a blind child called me. She said, They say no Braille. Her son can see letters, and the school says no Braille despite the fact that his field of vision is limited to less than twenty degrees because he can't move his eyes.
Many parents have called me with variations of the same problem.
Schools say no Braille and no cane all the time. In rare cases a child is given Braille and cane training because that child has absolutely no vision. Even then our kids are expected to do less than their peers.
Yet, another mother called me recently. She told me that her second grader reads from a primer. She found out from another source that a primer is intended for kindergarten or preschool use. No one was concerned that her child was reading two years below grade level. No one thought enough of it at the school to tell this mother that her child was behind. Our children are not being educated. They are systematically pushed away from Braille and the use of a white cane. Even when they are taught these skills, blind children are held to a different standard of achievement.
Many blind people (especially those of us who have some vision) are forced to go back as adults and try to relearn or learn the skills that should have been taught in the first place. Blind people should not be compelled to wait until they are adults to learn to use a cane or read Braille. Like many things, both are easier to learn as children. Incalculable costs are paid for years spent without mobility or ability to read. Many of us have been victims of the double standard. When I reached college, I realized I had never learned science. I think I rode along on my partner's work in experiments, and I am sure my teachers knew it. I am equally sure that I have still not reached my potential in that area.
We, the members of the NFB and parents of blind children, must take an active role in the education of blind children. This article outlines the process in place under federal law for determining how to educate handicapped children. I have for a year now acted as a parent advocate in the area of special education. I write to share some of my experience and knowledge with you. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act is a federal law which provides for the education of all handicapped children in the U. S. and its territories. It mandates that first and foremost all handicapped children have the right to be educated. The law states that handicapped children are to be educated in the least restrictive environment. To determine where and how a handicapped child should be educated, the school and other interested parties, including the parents or guardian of a child, decide what the child's needs are. The school then decides which environments provide the most contact with nonhandicapped peers, the education which the child needs in the least restrictive environment, and thus the proper placement for the child.
The least restrictive environment for a blind child is often a public school. Services are provided by itinerant teachers, teachers who cover several schools, or by resource room teachers, teachers who have a classroom in a specific school and who work with individual children for part of their day. In either case a teacher who teaches blindness skills such as Braille and cane travel should be trained to teach blind children. School districts sometimes try to have unqualified regular education teachers teach such skills. Decisions concerning the eligibility of a child for special education services and the general needs of the child are made during a meeting which should be attended by school officials, parents, and any other interested parties. The meeting at which a child is first determined to be in need of special education services is called a multidisciplinary conference or a staffing. This meeting is not usually complicated where blind children are involved, because the handicap is obvious. After a child is determined to be handicapped, specific goals and objectives are decided upon. Goals and objectives are developed during a meeting much like the staffing or conference. This meeting is known as an IEP meeting. In fact, the staffing and IEP meeting can be held at the same time and often are. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be developed at least annually for every handicapped child. An IEP can also be requested at any time by a parent. The goals which the law contemplates are long term and general while objectives are shorter-term and specific. For example, a goal might read like: Sally will add two-digit numerals, or even Sally will complete grade level math on schedule. An objective reads more like: Sally will complete thirty two-digit arithmetic problems in thirty minutes with ninety percent accuracy. It is important for parents to have an active role in these meetings to insure that their children are being taught what they need to be taught and to guard against improper expectations on the part of school districts. A program cannot be put into place without the signature of a parent except in very limited circumstances. A bad program should not be signed. By signing, however, parents do not bind themselves. If a poor program has been signed, another can be developed simply by calling for a new IEP meeting.
Parents need to be informed and need to attend these meetings with a strong idea of what the needs of their children are. Too often the experts concerned with cost or inconvenience to school systems railroad parents into agreeing to programs which are wholly inadequate at best. When an IEP is not signed and the parents and the school cannot come to an agreement regarding placement or an educational plan, the parent or the school can request a hearing at which an impartial hearing officer will preside and decide the controversy.
It is helpful to have an advocate attend IEP's and hearings. Even the most informed parent can benefit from some outside support. I have provided basic legal advice during IEP's and hearings, but this is certainly not the only service an advocate provides. I often express my personal feelings about inadequate training and my knowledge of how it affects other blind people. During the last IEP I attended I listened a lot. I heard that one of the teachers was feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, and I think it helped when I addressed this problem directly during the meeting.
At all stages of the process the NFB can help. The NFB has information about IEP's and the needs of blind children. The NFB often sponsors parent advocates, or its members volunteer to serve as advocates. The NFB provides an essential support system of people who truly care about blind children and want to help their parents. (Editor's note: You may contact Patti Gregory by calling 312-787- 4928.)
by Fred Schroeder
(Fred Schroeder was formerly the Coordinator of Low Incidence Programs for the Albuquerque Public Schools. He presently serves as Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind (a position he took on July 1, 1986). This address was given in Toronto, Canada, on June 1, 1988, at a conference sponsored by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the theme of which was Braille: Future Directions. )
When speaking generally about Braille, it can be said without controversy that Braille represents the means to literacy for the blind. On its face it seems self-evident that for the blind to be literate we must have a tactile method of reading and writing. As with most truths that appear self-evident, our particular beliefs and attitudes color our perception and affect the way in which our beliefs are put into action. Although we flatter ourselves with the belief that we are rational beings, we cannot ignore the impact of prejudice on our behavior. For this reason a discussion of Braille must necessarily encompass a discussion of societal beliefs about blindness, as well as our own beliefs as blind people about blindness.
When I was seven years old, I lost the majority of my eyesight. While not totally blind, I was no longer able to function competitively using my sight. At that time in my life I did not regard myself as a blind person and if asked would have fiercely resisted viewing myself as blind. The intensity of my aversion to thinking of myself as blind was directly tied to my fear of blindness. While recognizing that I was no longer fully sighted, I would not think of myself as a blind person since for me blindness conjured up images of hopelessness and helplessness. I did not know what had shaped my beliefs up to that time, but looking back I can identify many of the events which helped strengthen my negative beliefs about blindness. I was one of four children, and as in most families various household chores were divided up among us. While never explicitly stated, the chores I was assigned were those in which my poor vision would cause me the least difficulty. Both my family and I assumed that the tasks around the house routinely involving sight necessarily required sight and, therefore, none of us sought alternative methods for me to do other jobs. Rather than promoting confidence by giving me a belief that I could contribute, this practice led me to the conclusion that I could function competitively only by means of my remaining vision. When I returned to school, the same pattern continued. If I could not see well enough to do a particular thing, I was either excused from the assignment or paired off with a partner who generally did the majority of the work. Whichever way it went, the belief persisted that to see was to be competent and not to see was to be incompetent.
During the time I grew up, it was believed that the more a person used his or her remaining eyesight the sooner it would deteriorate. For this reason I was not encouraged to use print for fear that it would cause a further decrease in my vision. Since I was not using print, there seemed little need to teach me to spell. As you can imagine, the effect on my academic training of not reading was widespread and damaging. My mother, realizing that I would not be using print and recognizing the need for me to become literate, arranged for me to receive instruction in Braille. It was at this point that my beliefs about blindness began to surface in a tangible way. I resisted learning Braille and applied great quantities of effort to insuring that I would never learn it. I would read the dots with my remaining sight and not by touch. I would refuse to practice between lessons, hide my book before lessons, and in every way possible avoid contact with Braille. I would argue with my mother that I did not need to know Braille since more and more material was being recorded on tape. In short, my beliefs about blindness were governing my attitude toward Braille. By not wanting to think of myself as a blind person, I resisted learning the skills I needed to function competitively. My fear of being less capable prevented me from learning the very skill which would have enabled me to function on a par with my sighted peers. Now that the sight-saving era is behind us, I often wonder what would have happened to me in today's educational system. Would I have been taught Braille, or would I have been encouraged to read print with a closed circuit television or other similar device? Unfortunately the answer is all too easy to predict. The modern-day educational system does not encourage teachers of blind children to concentrate on Braille as a primary reading system for other than the totally blind. Children with any remaining eyesight are pressed to read print long past the point of reason and common sense. In my professional life I started as a teacher of blind children. I have observed children using print in situations and under conditions which defy reason. In particular I can vividly remember watching a child being instructed in print using a CCTV at full magnification. To complicate matters this child could not see well if there was any glare in the room, so before he started reading, the blinds were closed. To complicate matters further, this child could not read letters that were at all stylized. Therefore, the teacher would first retype all of the child's material, using a sans serif large print typewriter which made very plain typewritten letters. After the teacher had retyped the child's material, closed the venetian blinds, and turned the CCTV to full magnification, this child was able to read a few letters at a time with excruciating slowness. Nevertheless, I was told that she was not being taught Braille because her parents wished her to read print. When this child became my student, I set about teaching her Braille and found that her parents came to value her ability to read and take pride in her newfound literacy. I firmly believe that their reluctance to allow her to learn Braille was directly tied to their desire not to think of their child as blind rather than to a belief that print represented a more efficient means of reading for her. I also believe that their negative attitudes were shaped by the negative attitudes of the teacher.
When I first determined to become a teacher of blind children, I took it for granted that Braille reading and writing would be stressed.
My teacher preparation program required a one-semester course in Braille with an optional semester course in Braille math and music notation. This limited amount of training in Braille is disturbing enough. However, my program was, at that time, regarded as placing more emphasis on Braille than most other programs throughout the nation. Quantity of Braille instruction alone was not the problem. Prospective teachers completing the Braille course had only marginal reading and writing ability, and if the course was taken early in their program, they might not use Braille for several years before becoming certified as teachers of blind children.
When I was student teaching, I needed to have large quantities of material transcribed into Braille. To assist me I hired a woman who had just taken the Braille course the previous semester. She had received an A in the course and, therefore, would (I assume) be reasonably facile with Braille. The material she first transcribed for me averaged sixteen Braille errors per page. I was having this woman transcribe my material on eight and a half by eleven inch paper. Figuring two to two and a half Braille pages for each print page, this is analogous to hiring a typist who had just completed a typing course with an A grade who averages thirty to forty errors per typewritten page. I believe it is fair to say that many teachers of blind children are not skilled in Braille and, therefore, seek alternatives to Braille in working with their students. I remember when the Optacon was first introduced. The manufacturer claimed that the Optacon would make Braille obsolete. The manufacturer, in cooperation with leading professionals in the field, developed a reading program adapted for the Optacon. This was not a program to teach a child who was already a skilled reader to transfer that skill to the Optacon. Rather, this was a program intended to teach children the skill of reading by means of the Optacon. If this belief were limited only to the wild exaggerations of the manufacturer, it could be more easily dismissed. Unfortunately, while going through my teacher training, I had friends who seriously proposed eliminating Braille as a requirement from the teacher preparation curriculum since it would soon be obsolete.
Lack of use of Braille by the teachers compounds the problem. I was once told by a leading professional that it is not uncommon for an itinerant teacher to have periods of seven to ten years without a single Braille student. I would argue that this would not be the case if all children who should be taught Braille were taught Braille. Nevertheless, if it is the practice, it is easy to see how a teacher's proficiency could easily deteriorate assuming, of course, that the teacher had such proficiency in the first place.
A fundamental question which must be asked is this: Which children should be taught to read Braille, and which children should be taught to read print? In my professional work I developed a set of criteria which I used to answer this question. I believe that if a child can read standard sized print (holding it at a normal reading distance) and if that child can read for a sustained period of time without eye strain, then it is reasonable for that child to read print. In other words, if a child has sufficient vision to function as a normally sighted person, then it can be reasonably expected that the child will be able to function competitively as a print reader. If the child suffers eye strain and cannot read for sustained periods of time, then it is reasonable for that child to learn Braille. All children must have a reading method which allows them to be fully literate. I believe the criteria I have listed are really nothing more than a functional definition of literacy. While no one would argue against literacy, the fact of teachers not receiving adequate training in Braille (coupled with new technology, such as CCTV's) has steered educational practice away from Braille and away from literacy. Four or five years ago a leading professional organization in the United States circulated a proposed position paper asking for comments from the field. This position paper was intended to establish working criteria to settle once and for all the question of which children should read print and which children should read Braille. I was astonished when I read that one of the criteria seriously being proposed was that a child who was able to read print at ten words per minute should continue to be a print reader and not be taught Braille. To the best of my knowledge this position paper was never formally adopted. However, I was dumfounded that a leading professional would even propose such a criterion.
I believe that there exists a prejudice against Braille and that, as with most prejudice, it is not deliberately intended or, for that matter, even recognized by those who feel it most deeply. I believe the source of the prejudice is nothing deeper or more mysterious than the public misunderstanding and misconceptions about blindness. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, tells of visiting a classroom of blind children and being told by the teacher: This little girl reads print. This little girl has to read Braille. It is human nature that prejudice (while irrational) is defended by seemingly rational explanations. This is certainly true with the prejudice against Braille. We are told that Braille is too bulky and too expensive to produce that it is limited in quantity and that, therefore, to teach a child Braille is to limit what the child will be able to read. We are told that it is better to teach a child print, thereby making available great quantities (virtually endless quantities) of reading material to the child. Never mind that the child may be only able to read at ten words per minute. Never mind that the child may suffer eye strain and only be able to read for a brief time. While Braille is too expensive, never mind the cost of Optacons, talking computers, or CCTV's. While Braille is too bulky, never mind the size and awkwardness of many low vision aids.
Several years ago I attended a professional conference and saw a presentation on the mainstreaming of blind children into a regular public school. One of the slides showed a child with a CCTV mounted on a cart, which he wheeled with him from class to class. Yet, Braille is too bulky, too expensive, and too limited. As an educator, I have seen low vision children with smudges on their noses from trying to read their own handwriting their own handwriting which was done with a soft lead pencil or felt tip pen. Yet, somehow many of the professionals who shape the thinking of society cling to the belief that to read print is inherently better than to read Braille inherently normal. Young blind children must be instructed in the skill of Braille writing, not only by means of the Braille writer but with the slate and stylus as well. Earlier in this century Braille writers were in scarce supply, and generations of blind children grew up learning to write with the slate and stylus from the time they entered the first grade. Now we are told that young blind children lack the fine motor control to use the slate and stylus and, therefore, that this skill should not be taught until middle school. When a child is in middle school, he or she must already have a reliable means of taking notes. It is too late to be introducing a notetaking system. Even though the slate has represented an efficient notetaking system for generations of blind people, modern day pedagogy suggests that the slate is too slow and causes too much confusion to be a useful tool because it teaches children to write backward. Many teacher preparation programs introduce the slate as little more than a relic of bygone days. Instead of being taught an efficient writing method, far too many children are given soft lead pencils or felt tip pens and are taught to handwrite notes which they can only decipher with great difficulty if at all. How will these children compete in today's society? How will they obtain a college education when they are not able easily to read their own handwriting? How will they make a class presentation or deliver a speech without being able easily to read from a printed text? The answer (Braille) seems obvious, and it is certainly available but the simple truth seems to elude many of today's professionals in the field.
What we need and must have is an understanding in ourselves and in society that, as blind people, we must be able to compete on terms of equality with the sighted. To compete we must be literate, and to be literate we must be able to read and write Braille. We must promote a belief and an attitude that it is respectable to be blind and that there is no inherent inferiority or second-class status in the methods associated with blindness. As a child, when I resisted learning Braille, I was resisting conceiving of myself as a blind person. I automatically assumed that to be blind was to be inferior and, therefore, that to use the tools of blindness was an acceptance of inferiority. By rejecting blindness (and with it Braille) I was rejecting the very skill which would have allowed me to compete on an equal footing with my peers.
We cannot allow our attitudes and the attitudes of society to rob us of our right to first-class status. We must press for greater emphasis on Braille among our school children. We must press for greater availability of Braille. Perhaps the greatest gift of our high tech age is computer production of Braille, reducing both cost and transcription time. But above all, we must press for an understanding that the tools we use as blind people are not the badge of second-class status, but rather the banner of equality.
This article by staff writer Bob Forkey appeared in the June 1, 1988, Portland, Maine , Press Herald. It details the ongoing struggle of the National Federation of the Blind and the parents of blind children in Maine to get a decent education for the blind children of that state. Connie Leblond is the immediate past president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. She is also a woman of energy and determination. A Portland couple has filed complaints against the Portland school system charging they were shut out of a meeting involving the education of their blind daughter.
Robert J. and Connie C. Leblond, saying their exclusion from the meeting violated federal law, have asked for investigations of the incident by the federal Office of Civil Rights in Boston and the Maine Department of Educational and Cultural Services. Portland school officials Wednesday denied any wrongdoing, saying the student study, as the meeting was called, is common practice among professional educators.
They were not doing anything inappropriate, said Assistant Superintendent David N. LeGage.
But Connie Leblond said she and her husband think this is an issue that needs to be looked into... The student studies are being held without (parents') knowledge. Leblond said she inadvertently found out about a May 19 meeting where teachers and a representative of the Division of Eye Care of the Department of Human Services' Rehabilitation Bureau were to discuss her daughter, Hope, and her transition from elementary to middle school next year.
Leblond said she was told by both Pupil Evaluation Team chairwoman Bernadine Small and LeGage that she could not attend the meeting. Leblond said she and her husband could not even find out where and when the meeting would take place. And once it was held, she said, they had trouble getting a copy of the minutes of the session. The copy they finally obtained was sketchy, Leblond said. LeGage said Wednesday, I don't know too much about the details of that. But he said, What she was not invited to was what we call a `student study,' which he said is similar to doctors getting together at a hospital to consult about a patient. Professional educators often get together to talk about an upcoming Pupil Evaluation Team meeting, where decisions are made about special education students, LeGage said. But LeGage contended no decisions are made and no votes are taken during a student study, adding, It's not even an official meeting.
LeGage said he took Leblond's calls about the student study in place of Special Education Director Faye Y. Gmeiner, who is on maternity leave. I'm sure that student studies are legal, LeGage said, adding that Gmeiner would not allow such sessions if they were not. But Connie Leblond, who is Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine, contends that other resources have found student studies are very illegal. Contacted in Baltimore, Maryland, on Wednesday, James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, said, I don't care what they're calling it, it's illegal. Gashel said what is important is the nature of the meeting, not what it is called.
The federal Education of All Handicapped Children Act prohibits meetings that involve the assessment of, placement of, or identification of services for a handicapped child unless the child's parents are given notice of the meeting, Gashel said. But Kevin Childers, public affairs specialist at the federal Department of Education in Washington, said, It really depends on the exact nature of the meeting as to whether parents are required to attend. If the session is strictly to determine eligibility for a program or make a placement decision, parents are not required to attend, Childers said. But if the meeting is to develop an individualized education program for the child, parents must be there.
The Leblonds' complaints follow the recent passage of a resolution by the National Federation of the Blind of Maine demanding that the Portland school system be made to abide by the letter and the spirit of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. Parental involvement in educational decisions is the cornerstone of that federal law, the resolution said, and Portland schools should be required to notify parents and include them in all meetings concerning their children.
Patricia Estes of Auburn, President of the NFB of Maine, said the Federation is concerned that meetings such as the one Portland had May 19 will continue and become more clandestine unless this issue is faced squarely now.
Estes said copies of the Federation's resolution were sent with cover letters to Governor John R. McKernan, Jr., Education Commissioner Eve M. Bither, members of the Portland School Committee, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education, and U. S. Senator William Cohen. ____________________ Postscript: It should be noted that in the June 9, 1988, Portland Press Herald an article appeared headlined City Head of Special Education Quits Post. The one resigning was Faye Gmeiner, referred to in the June 1 article. The June 9 article says in part: ____________________ Special Education Director Faye Y. Gmeiner has resigned because of an administrative decision to eliminate special education as a separate division within the Portland public school system. Superintendent Rodney C. Hermes confirmed Gmeiner's resignation Thursday, saying she cited the administrative reorganization as the reason of substance for her quitting.... The special education division also has had its share of controversy during Gmeiner's tenure.
In April, 1987, a mother's charge that her son had been strapped in his wheelchair and tied to a radiator at Deering High School touched off in-house and state investigations that both found, among other things, the student's case managers had violated regulations.
The parallel findings resulted in the development of a range of new policies, and in disciplinary measures for the errant staffers.
Last week a Portland couple filed complaints against the school system charging they were shut out of a meeting involving the special education of their daughter, who is blind. Their exclusion from the student study meeting, as the special education office called the session, violated federal law, the couple charged. They have asked for investigations by the federal Office of Civil Rights in Boston and by the Maine Department of Educational and Cultural Services....
by Loraine Stayer
This article by Loraine Stayer, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, appears in the March-May, 1988, Associate Raiser. It underscores something which we should never forget. Although much of what we say is (and certainly should be) upbeat, not every story has a happy ending. Regardless of what we do from this day forward, it is already too late for many of the blind. Potential careers have been ruined; dreams have been shattered; and spirits have been crushed. Overprotective parents, bad agencies, and wrong social attitudes have so twisted and dwarfed many lives that no amount of enlightened counteraction can undo the damage. This does not mean that it is ever too late to make the situation at least a little better or that we should feel gloom or despair. Far from it. The work of the National Federation of the Blind shows measurable progress every day, and an ever-increasing number of the nation's blind are experiencing opportunity instead of deprivation.
No, we should not despair, but neither should we forget. These, too, are our brothers and sisters. These, too, have dreamed and longed and wanted. These, too, might have had their place in the sun if only But, of course, that is why we have the National Federation of the Blind. Here is Loraine Stayer's article:
I'm restless, desperate, lonely. By night can't sleep, by day can't stay awake. Stay away from the 2:00 a.m. blues if you can. 2:00 a.m. lasts til 4:00 p.m. and may decide to stay forever. With these words, part of a poem she wrote, Ginger Harms describes her life. Because she is blind, her parents made a decision when she was younger to protect Ginger from life. Perhaps they meant well. Almost certainly they meant well. However, the result is a mind- numbing routine of waking up, helping out in the house, and watching other people's lives go by. Ginger is an intelligent young woman of thirty something (I've lost track), who has a college degree, an interest in Ham Radio, and a boyfriend, who will never become a husband. She is also a virtual prisoner in her home, not allowed to do anything for herself, not believing in the things she can do. I don't write about Ginger often, because I get too upset. In her shoes I would long ago have gone insane, or at the least committed suicide. Ginger has a secret life, I'm sure, lived mostly inside her head, or on the Ham Radio network, or in the cassette letters she sends to her friends. Ginger's 2:00 a.m. blues wrecks your mind and rips apart your dreams and your spirit. It long ago ripped apart her spirit and buried it deep within. Is Ginger alone? Distressingly not. The details vary. Tony has no profession and has been placed in a sheltered workshop because the agencies would prefer to do that rather than to deal with his problems. His parents don't let him go anywhere by himself, except to work. They seem ordinary people. If you met them on the street with Tony, you would be surprised that he is their son, because they seem so young and he does not. Allyn lives in my town. She recently put an ad in the paper for a female companion to take her out to dinner on Saturday afternoons, provide transportation, cut her food, and otherwise take care of her. Allyn's parents never let her learn the skills of blindness because they didn't like the Commission for the Blind. Neither do I, but...
Louise would like to get married. She is twenty-four. But she's never lived on her own and gets no confidence vote from her parents, who have turned acid tongues against every man she's ever dated. Why? Protection, of course. How could any man take care of her as well as they? But Louise is unhappy. These are real people. I haven't made up the names or the situations. My imagination isn't that good or maybe I should say that bad. Perhaps if we could take these protective parents aside and put these questions to them: What is the purpose of life? What do you accomplish by protecting your son or daughter? What if you were blinded tomorrow? Perhaps then things might change. But what happens when the people imprisoned by these attitudes are the sons and daughters themselves? The answer, of course, is nothing happens. Ginger says it well: ... I feel too much; too much pain and too little joy; too much emptiness and no fulfillment.... Who has the new hot line number to God? And who put me on hold and unconnected?
by Darrell Shandrow
(This article appears in the Winter, 1988, issue of Future Reflections, the magazine for parents of blind children.)
I was born on August 11, 1973, in Champaign, Illinois. At the time of my birth I was a rubella baby and had congenital glaucoma, a heart murmur, a bone deficiency, and was deaf. Now, the murmur is gone, the bone deficiency is gone, and the deafness is gone, but I am still blind. I have had numerous operations on my eyes and three operations to cure my hearing problem. I attended the Arizona State School for the Deaf and the Blind for six years. After the fourth year in ASDB, I decided that I wanted to attend public school, but the local school district wouldn't allow me to attend their schools. As a result, I am now attending Pallaverty High School. Thanks to the National Federation of the Blind, I am able to fight a case against Maranna School District and hopefully make them pay for my education in Tucson Unified School District. One day at school I got an assignment in public speaking class. I was supposed to choose and write and give a speech on a topic. This speech was to be three minutes long. The topic I chose was the NFB. My grade on this speech was 94 out of 100 points, an A. I am proud of the National Federation of the Blind. I would like to share my speech with the members of the NFB.
What is the NFB? Who started it, and when was it started? Why is there an NFB? What has the NFB already accomplished? What are its future goals? Now, you're probably asking yourself, What do the letters NFB stand for? Well, that's what I am going to tell you all about. The letters NFB stand for the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind is an organization of blind people helping each other. The NFB was formed to fight the everyday discrimination against blind people. The National Federation of the Blind is a nonprofit organization. The NFB is not federally funded. It is funded by its membership and by private donations.
The NFB was started by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, who was blinded at the age of six in a bow and arrow accident. Dr. tenBroek has five college degrees. Two of them are doctorates. He received one of them from the University of California and the other from Harvard University. He was one of the two highest ranking students in the University of California.
The Federation was started in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1940. In the beginning it had about twenty-five members from seven states. At the present time it has over fifty thousand members representing all fifty states.
Dr. tenBroek started the National Federation of the Blind because he was blind himself, and he realized the problems that blind people face.
Since the National Federation was started, it has accomplished a lot. It has won many court cases involving discrimination. Because of the Federation the blind have more opportunities for employment than ever before. Now the blind are employed in just about every field imaginable. The NFB has also accomplished a lot in the way of education. More and more blind children are now going to public school. The Federation's accomplishments go on and on. The NFB has not yet accomplished complete equality. The blind are still discriminated against in many ways. The NFB still has many goals that it is trying to reach. One of the problems that still face blind people is education. Although the NFB has accomplished much in this area, there is still work to be done. For instance, some blind children are still denied the right to a public school education in their local district. As a result, the family must move to another school district that will accept blind children. Another problem is the governmental and private agencies who think they know what is best for the blind. The truth is that they hurt the blind more than help. They teach blind people to be dependent. The NFB is making progress in stopping the agencies. They are doing this through the courts. We have come a long way, but we still have many problems to face. The National Federation of the Blind, of which I am a member, fights against discrimination. The Federation wants no confrontation, but the Federation will never give up on its cause. The Federation's philosophy is that the blind should be classified on terms of full equality with the sighted, and I agree with that philosophy.
by Michael J. McDermott
This article appears in the Winter, 1988, issue of Future Reflections, the magazine for parents of blind children. Michael McDermott is the son of the President of the Massachusetts NFB Parents of Blind Children Division, also Michael McDermott. Michael (the son) lost his sight a few years ago. He is now in high school, an honor roll student, and, as his article indicates, something of a computer nut. He hopes to work in the communications field and would like to be a disc jockey some day.
Playing games on a talking computer can sometimes be more work than play. What I mean by this is that ever since I got my job at Infocom as a game tester, it seems as if playing games has become more of a job than just a relaxing way to pass the time. Although I must say the Infocom games are quite interesting, and I enjoy my work. I was told about this job at Infocom by a friend of mine who gave me the phone number of the person to contact. So one day I decided to follow up on this lead and try my luck. I called the person in charge of outside testing at the company. We had a conversation over the phone about my computer knowledge and what type of computer system I had. Everything went well until I told her I was blind. However, I told her that testing these games should present no problem, and this could serve as an interesting experience for both the company and myself. That night I wrote a letter to her:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time, which I am sure you took away from your busy schedule, and for our telephone conversation on February 23, 1987. As I mentioned to you, I am fourteen years old and a freshman at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
I am very interested in your computer game testing program. Presently I work with an Apple II-E computer system, an Echo Plus voice synthesizer system, a WordTalk word processor, and an Image Writer II printer. My visual impairment should not present any difficulties for my testing your games. With my voice synthesizer I can hear what is on the screen just as the sighted see the text on the monitor. I would like to discuss with you at your convenience any questions you may have concerning my computer experience.
I look forward to meeting you in the near future. Thank you again for giving me this opportunity. I am sure this could be a rewarding experience for both of us.
A week later I received a letter telling me that I had the job and would receive a game called Word Play to test. When I got the game, I began to work on it. I found my first bug when I noticed that the script feature on the game did not work. The script feature allows everything going to the screen to go out to the printer. The printer can also be a speech synthesizer like my Echo PC, which I recently bought. The next day I called the company and told them about this problem. They checked it out, and a few days later I got a phone call telling me that this had been a problem with other versions of the game. After they fixed this problem, they sent me the same game for further testing. When I completed my testing of that game, I received a free game and a letter thanking me for my services.
During the summer of that year I got a phone call telling me that I would get another game for testing. When I finished my work on that game, I brought my reports to the company. When I went there, I met the person that I had spoken to on the phone a few months ago. We discussed my work, and she told me that she would like to write an article on me and my testing techniques with a voice synthesizer system. This would be published in their newsletter called The Status Line, which is distributed to all Infocom subscribers.
by Cheryl Livingston
This article appears in the Summer, 1988, News From Blind Nebraskans, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. Cheryl is one of the leaders of the NFB of Nebraska. Here is what she says:
I have worked for a number of years as an employee of the Social Security Administration. I started my career with SSA in 1978 as a teleservice representative after completing a training course for the blind in Los Angeles.
In 1986 I decided that I wanted to advance within SSA, so I began applying for a claims representative position, the next position up from the teleservice position. I applied for approximately sixty claims representative jobs in all. After a while I began to feel that there was a problem somewhere. I knew I was competent in my present job and felt that I could perform the claims representative job as well as anyone. In the spring of 1987 I applied again when several claims representative vacancies were announced. Again, I was not selected for the position. I decided then that I had had enough and that I was going to get to the bottom of why I wasn't being selected. I had two choices. I could file a grievance within the federal employees' union, or I could file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission. I chose the latter, because I felt that discrimination had occurred. In May of 1987 I filed an informal complaint, the first step in the complaint process. I kept every vacancy announcement and every sorry you didn't get the job announcement I had received for all the jobs I had applied for. I showed the whole depressing file to the EEOC counselor and gave him information that I thought would help my case. Of course, I also mentioned the NFB. I was fully prepared for a long, drawn-out battle. I feared retaliation from my supervisors. Fortunately the battle was short only a little over a month. On June 9, 1987, I received a call from the counselor advising me that I had been selected as a Title 15 claims representative in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was so happy, I cried. On June 15 I left for Kansas City, Missouri, to participate in a nine-week training course along with other sighted trainees. I began working as a claims representative on August 17, 1987. My experience is only one of many that have been shared by blind people across the country. We have a choice. We can sit back and believe that sighted people know best what is good for us and that maybe, after all, we do not deserve first-class citizenship with all its privileges and responsibilities. Or we can forge ahead, knowing that we are competent human beings and fight whatever battles we must in order to take our rightful place in society. Blind people have come a long way in employment with the Social Security Administration, and the National Federation of the Blind is the only reason why.
ACT United States Senate
May 5, 1988
Mr. Donald Capps, President
National Federation of the Blind
of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Dear Mr. Capps:
Thank you for your letter of recent date concerning S. 2098, a bill to amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to prohibit discrimination against blind individuals in air travel. I have contacted Senator Hollings and advised him of my interest in cosponsoring this measure. Also, I appreciate your providing me with the affidavit of Miss Peggy Pinder regarding her unpleasant experience at Washington's National Airport on March 31, 1988. I read with interest her account of this incident. Please do not hesitate to contact me any time I can be of further assistance as your United States Senator.
With kindest regards and best wishes,
Columbia, South Carolina
May 10, 1988
Dear Senator Thurmond:
Thank you very much for your nice letter of May 5, 1988.
We are very pleased and grateful for your cosponsorship of S. 2098. Because you are held in such high esteem in the Senate, your cosponsorship of S. 1098 is very helpful and meaningful. On behalf of the blind of South Carolina and the nation, we again thank you for your interest in and support of vital legislation affecting the blind.
Donald C. Capps, President
National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina
by Senator Howard Menzenbaum
(This article appeared in the May 20, 1988, Toledo Union Journal. Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum is one of the cosponsors of S. 2098, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. Step by painful step we who are blind are winning our way to first-class citizenship.)
All we want to do is to be able to travel like other passengers. We're not asking to fly the plane. We just want the responsibility to do what we know we can handle. This is what Judy Sanders told reporters after she was thrown off an airplane and arrested for refusing to leave her seat near an emergency exit. Judy is blind, and like many blind airline passengers, she is angry at the way the airline industry has treated her. Just a few weeks ago, another blind passenger was thrown off a Midway Airlines airplane for refusing to move from her seat in the smoking section to a seat near the emergency exit. This happened right here in our Nation's Capital. A blind couple from Minnesota was thrown off a plane for refusing to move from the seats that had been assigned to them by airport personnel. They were arrested and taken to jail, where the woman was partially strip-searched.
Hundreds of blind airline passengers have been forced off of airplanes, and dozens have been arrested over seating disputes. These disputes have resulted in delays, missed flights, and controversy.
Blind airline passengers should not be thrown off an airplane and arrested because they don't want to change their seat. The airlines wouldn't treat sighted passengers that way, and they shouldn't be allowed to treat blind passengers that way. This inconsistent, arbitrary treatment is degrading to blind passengers. In fact, the only thing consistent about the airline industry's policy toward blind passengers is its inconsistency. Some airlines restrict blind passengers to rows near emergency exits, or to the first row of the aircraft. This limits the number of seats available to blind passengers. Still other airlines don't allow blind passengers to sit in rows near emergency exits, fearing that blind passengers might be a hazard to themselves and other passengers in the event of an emergency exit. These same airlines have no such seating restrictions for small children or adults who have had one too many and would be more hazardous to other passengers in the event of an emergency exit.
We must stop these arbitrary seating restrictions. Blind airline passengers shouldn't be subject to a different seating policy every time they fly a different airline. There shouldn't be a limit on the number of seats available to blind passengers, and there shouldn't be restrictions which only allow them to sit in certain areas of the plane.
I have cosponsored a bill which would resolve this dispute. The bill would specify that air carriers cannot restrict seating on the basis of visual impairment. The purpose of this bill is to clarify and strengthen the existing law which prohibits all air carriers from discriminating against handicapped people. The bill would prod the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop and adopt policies to insure that all handicapped airline passengers including blind passengers are treated in a respectable and dignified manner. A woman put the seating war between blind airline passengers and the airlines in perspective when she told reporters: Our blindness is not what limits us. The impression that people have of our blindness does. But fear and lack of knowledge about the capabilities of the blind should not bar them from enjoying the privileges of air transportation and being treated with respect.
From the Editor : On May 13, 1988, Dr. Stanley Greenberg, Director of Development and Public Education for the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, visited me at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. He had other business in the area, and coming to the National Center was one of several activities. Under date of May 20, 1988, he wrote me about his experience in flying to and from Vermont. As Monitor readers will see, the trip was about par for the course. Here is what he had to say:
First, on Thursday, May 11, I flew from Burlington, Vermont, to Washington, D.C., on USAir flight 687. The flight was scheduled to leave Burlington at 3:00 p.m. and make a scheduled stop in Boston on route to Washington National Airport. Upon checking in at the ticket counter, I was asked by the agent if I had a seat preference. I indicated that I preferred a window seat. When he returned my ticket to me, he advised me that I had been assigned seat 1-F. I asked him if that could be changed since I prefer not to sit in the first row. He indicated that the only other window seat was well to the rear of the aircraft. Since I prefer not to sit back there either, I asked him to reassign me to an aisle seat. Upon checking the computer, he found that there was one remaining window seat further forward, seat 13-F. I accepted that assignment.
The agent then asked me if I needed assistance to the gate, and I told him I did not. I then walked to the gate area, waited for my flight to be announced, and (when my row was called) walked down the jetway and into the plane. The flight attendant greeted me, and I told him that I was sitting in row 13-F. He asked me if I needed assistance to find my seat, and I advised him that I did not. He said that he would follow me just in case. When I arrived at row 13, he said that he was going to change my seat assignment to row 12 or 14-F. I asked him why, and he said that row 13 was an exit row. I said, No problem, and sat down in seat 13-F. The rest of the flight proceeded without incident. I have no idea whether there was any discussion among the flight attendants about my seat assignment. Nothing further was said to me. Secondly, on May 16, I flew from Washington to Burlington on Piedmont commuter flight 5755. The flight was scheduled to leave Washington at 6:10 p.m., make a scheduled stop in Binghamton, and arrive in Burlington at 8:40 p.m. Severe thunderstorms and a tornado warning caused cancellation of some flights and delays of others that evening. Mine was one of the flights which was delayed. Piedmont ground personnel were particularly helpful during the time I spent in the commuter terminal. I asked directions to a restaurant, and since the route was extremely complicated, I asked for assistance to find it. I was given that assistance in an appropriate manner.
When I arrived at the restaurant, my guide asked me if I needed assistance to return to the terminal. I told him that I did not, and he was accepting. Since there were a number of planes on the tarmac, I accepted assistance in locating my particular aircraft. The assistance was equally appropriate. However, things changed when I boarded the plane. The flight attendant, who identified herself as Lia, insisted on instructing me personally about the safety features of the aircraft even though I advised her that I was familiar with them. She said, I have to do it. I simply turned to the window and ignored her.
When we landed in Burlington, she approached me and indicated that I would be de-planing last. I told her that I would leave when I chose, and a rather heated discussion followed. She indicated that I had to do what she said because those were the rules. I told her that I was not aware of any such rules and that I would de-plane when I chose to do so. In fact, I was among the first passengers to leave the plane, and no effort was made to stop me. An agent was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, and I walked with her across the tarmac to the airport building. The agent followed me to the baggage area even though I told her that I did not need or want assistance. I claimed my luggage and left the building.
This, in Dr. Greenberg's words, is what happened during his air travel from Vermont to Washington and return. The fact that there were no serious confrontations and no arrests does not diminish the significance of what he has to say. Indeed, if anything, his understatement emphasizes the unacceptable nature of what occurred. Both he and the airline personnel probably regarded the exchanges as routine. So it was with segregated restaurant seating, separate bathrooms, and mandatory riding at the back of the bus until conscience was raised. Then the world changed, and everybody wondered why the former condition had ever been allowed to exist.
by Cherie Heppe
This article is reprinted from the Fall, 1986, issue of The Federationist in Connecticut, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. The author, Cherie Heppe, is a former NFB scholarship winner and is currently in school studying to become a Chiropractor. She is also a dog guide user of many years.
This fall at our National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut state convention we will be afforded a special opportunity to learn more about traveling effectively as blind people. One of the workshops will focus on good travel, with Fred Schroeder as presenter. Among his qualifications Fred has a master's degree in orientation, is completing a doctorate in education at San Francisco State so he can speak the language of the field, and has some practical knowledge in traveling as a totally blind person. Many of us still hold to the notion that only a few, somehow specially gifted, people can achieve smooth, competent travel skills. Many also believe that long cane travel and dog guide ownership have nothing in common. However, more and more of us are discovering the paradoxes and false thinking reflected in these views.
For example, no one of us starts out knowing how to get around. Sighted or blind, we all have to learn to crawl as babies, then take our first wobbly steps with family members holding our hands and encouraging us. I know of no one who has an instinctual capability to get on a two-wheeled bicycle and ride it perfectly the first time. And consider the attention given to driver's education in high schools. We need proper training as blind people to be able to travel comfortably and effectively in our day-to-day lives. The good travelers have spent time and effort practicing and polishing their travel skills and have retained open minds to learn from others. The first time I traveled using a long cane I felt awkward and out of place, not because my cane use was so bad, but because others I knew who were sighted did not use a cane, and I felt different. I wanted to conform and be just like the other people. In time I discovered that my means of getting around worked well for me and gave me an edge over my previous uneducated place.
We who travel with dog guides need to examine our underlying motivations for owning a dog guide and, perhaps, refresh our skills in long cane use. Many of us took to working with a dog guide because we experienced agency philosophy or training in combination with less effective agency canes. Many of us chose a dog as a buffer between what we or our families considered a crime-ridden and frightening unknown world and ourselves. Unfortunately the insecurity of the owner transfers to the dog and results in nervousness, aggressive or uncontrolled behavior, and lack of direction. Dogs need to look to their human owner for instruction, guidance, discipline, and direction. The dog that does not find this in the owner will take the dominant part in the relationship. In the 1920's when dog guide training first came to the U. S., there was no way for blind people to travel effectively, except on the arm of a sighted friend or companion or, perhaps, a paid guide. The dog guide schools did need to take people very soon after the onset of blindness, before poor attitudes and lack of exercise and training destroyed the individual's initiative.
Time and experience pointed to the success of the dog guide. The public marveled that a blind person could walk down the street, re-learn skills to keep a home, and hold a job. Agencies for the blind envied the way the dog guide schools attracted the financial support of the public and the loyalty and respect of both recipients and the public. Some agencies made an effort to gain control of the dog guide programs, and the dog guide schools, being largely performance oriented and practical, remained autonomous. Word then began to be circulated about the various inconveniences and drawbacks of dog guide ownership. Also, some owners did not maintain their training and added fuel to such criticisms by the evidence of their poor handling. The Veteran's Administration worked to develop the long cane and its use in the mid-1940's. This opened the door for everyone who was blind and wanted to travel independently to be able to do so. However, the long cane travel training fell almost entirely to agencies and service providers, not to practitioners who were blind. So many of limiting attitudes of agencies reflected themselves in the way cane travel was taught. We in the NFB have developed a practical, usable, and effective long cane, as well as various folding canes. More importantly, we are developing a philosophy of using and traveling with a cane that makes all the difference in how we get around. The world has become more sophisticated and demands more of us, because we as blind people expect more of ourselves.
by Larry Lorenzo
This article examines commercial messages and their impact on society. Particular attention is given to attitudes towards blindness which are shaped by these messages. About the author Larry Lorenzo has been blind since age two. He has a degree in computer science and a master's in counseling. He has worked as a programmer, mental health therapist, and clinic coordinator. He is currently writing his first novel. He is President of the White Sands Chapter of the NFB and is a state board member of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico.
Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see. At school, at work, and at play improved vision means improved performance. This was the text of a local commercial promoting contact lenses. Is anything wrong with this message? Surely one cannot object to improving eyesight, whenever such is possible. The catchy wording helps to get one's attention. What is wrong is that the statements are simply not true . An overly zealous blind person can walk into the office and demonstrate that an object can be hit, without benefit of sight. Potentially more damaging is the statement that expresses an absolute relationship between degree of eyesight (visual acuity) and level of performance. While better vision may result in improved visual performance, there is no automatic change in overall or general capabilities. Eye chart results cannot be substituted for IQ or achievement tests. Furthermore, this statement does not acknowledge the efforts of thousands of blind and visually impaired persons people who have attained high standards of performance through alternative techniques. In other words success is determined by hard work, persistence, and innovative thinking not visual acuity. In a commercial, aired frequently during the Mutual Radio news, a mythical Adam and Eve are used to promote a vitamin product for women. Eve states, You know, we are different! Adam responds, Eve, I'm naked, not blind!
Informed persons may recognize this statement as a poor attempt at humor. But the uninformed may not dismiss the implication that blindness equals ignorance or lack of awareness. After repeated exposure to this message, the uninformed may become the misinformed . The effectiveness of a commercial message is due to its repetition or reinforcement. The relentless bombardment of this message impacts the subconscious. When the decision to purchase a product is at hand, something triggers a flood of images and information. Unaware of this influence, we make our decision to buy.
But commercials do not sell products. They promote ideas and concepts. It is easy to imagine a prospective employer reviewing job applications. The top two applicants have similar qualifications. One of them is blind with a very impressive resum . The decision will be made the following day. On his way home the employer listens to the news on the radio. He disregards the vitamin commercial, except for the last line which cues the continuation of the newscast. I'm naked, not blind! When he selects the applicant who will assume the responsibilities of the job, he will share in the success and failure of that employee. While weighing their qualifications, another piece of information will be included. A negative seed had been planted. Blindness equals ignorance... Without anyone suspecting, the commercial message has become a factor.
The biggest obstacle to visually impaired individuals is not their physical limitations. It is the barriers to opportunity and growth which result from negative, regressive attitudes. Society's values and beliefs are learned phenomena. They are reinforced by daily contacts and experiences. The format of commercials makes them effective teaching vehicles. Producers of these idea capsules must recognize this power and responsibility. While negative messages travel the airwaves like harmless butterflies , their impact on some lives may be felt like the sting of a bee .
by Kenneth Jernign
On June 17, 1988, Howard Barton (Administrator of the Idaho Commission for the Blind) was fired. The action occurred in the midst of a rising tide of complaints and discontent on the part of the blind of the state. The decision came at a meeting of the three-member Commission board as the climax to five years of controversy, and even the firing was not unanimous, being accomplished by a two-to-one vote.
Before 1967 Idaho's services for the blind were virtually nonexistent. They were administered as part of a larger department of state government and were generally agreed to be inadequate and spotty. In 1967, as a result of efforts by the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho (at that time the Gem State Blind), a three-member commission for the blind was established. It was responsible for providing rehabilitation and other services to the blind of the state. The new agency came into being in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and hope, and mostly in those early years it lived up to the promise. From the time of the establishment of the Commission in 1967 until mid-1983 two of the three board members were always blind, and the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho was always one of the two. During those formative years an orientation and adjustment center was established; the blind of the state received meaningful training and rehabilitation; blind persons began to find jobs; and Idaho was looked to as a leader and tone-setter in the field. Then, in the 1970's, Howard Barton was appointed as administrator.
He was weak and rather colorless and was at first opposed by the majority of the blind of the state, but the wish not to jeopardize the gains which had been made kept any large-scale overt opposition from developing. The Barton administration began to settle down to what seemed to be a continuation of the partnership which had existed between the the blind and the agency since the late sixties. But the prestige and progress steadily eroded, and in late 1982 Barton resigned.
Ramona Walhof (capable and energetic) was appointed as the new administrator, and almost immediately she found herself coping with the inevitable results of the Barton legacy. Time had begun to catch up with the years of nonleadership. Also, it was clear that Barton hadn't meant it when he submitted his resignation, for he was soon fomenting opposition and joining forces with any dissidents he could find. Events followed in rapid-fire order. Jack Ugaki, a sighted man who had no apparent qualifications except that he was the husband of a former staff member who had left the Commission in unhappy circumstances, was appointed to membership on the Commission board in July of 1983. He replaced one of the two blind board members, thus shifting the balance to a sighted majority for the first time in the agency's history. The other two members were a sighted automobile dealer and Dr. Norman Gardner, then President of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. By late 1983 attempts were being made by Idaho's governor to abolish the Commission entirely. Clearly this was not what the blind of the state wanted, and the effort to scuttle the program failed in part, at least, because of the strong public stand taken by administrator Walhof. Barton and Ugaki were also working behind the scenes, and in February of 1984 Mrs. Walhof was dismissed. The agency now moved toward total chaos and nonperformance. In July of 1984 the president of the NFB of Idaho was replaced on the Commission board by Brian Wardle, a blind man who had been part of the Ugaki- Barton cabal and who was generally regarded as being distinguished only by bitterness and lack of personal success.
The following months may well have constituted the agency's low point. It began to discharge blind staff members and to make war upon the organized blind of the state. In particular Frank Smith and Ray Martin (the only blind persons serving in a supervisory capacity) were dismissed, in what can only be called unusual circumstances. It was announced that an agency consolidation was to occur and that the two supervisory positions were to be combined into one. Martin and Smith (long-time civil service employees) were technically offered demotions but were in reality fired. These dismissals were the subject of a lawsuit, which is still unresolved. And the firings were not all. They were only symptomatic of the disintegration and dissension which tore at the very fabric of the program.
It is too early to be certain, but the first step on the road back to sanity and normalization may have been the appointment to the Commission board in July of 1985 of Walt Hine, one of the officers and leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. He replaced the automobile dealer and brought personal knowledge and experience to the task. At the time of Hine's appointment this reversal of trend was certainly not apparent since further turmoil was still to come and since, in July of 1986, it was more of the same with the reappointment of Jack Ugaki for another three- year term. But the climate was changing, and matters were beginning to be seen in perspective. In 1986 a new governor was elected in Idaho, and in July of 1987 a major step toward the revitalization of the Commission occurred with the appointment to the board of Marjorie Moon. Ms. Moon (one of the long-time political leaders of the state) replaced Wardle. She was supported by the vast majority of the blind, and she did not disappoint their expectations. At the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho in the spring of 1988 the outrage and determination of the blind of the state finally came to focus. When the Commission for the Blind was established more than twenty years earlier, the Federation had been the only truly statewide, active organization of the blind in Idaho. Such had continued to be the case through the intervening time and was still the case when the members assembled for the 1988 convention. The blind were determined to reform and rejuvenate the Commission and to make it responsible and responsive. They began by passing a very simple and straightforward motion. It said: The National Federation of the Blind of Idaho calls upon the board of the Idaho Commission for the Blind to take action for the immediate dismissal of Howard H. Barton, Jr., as Administrator. That was all but it was enough. Things began to happen. The Federation issued a press release detailing Barton's inadequacies. The release said that Barton should be fired because he had secretly attempted to disqualify certain blind vendors from receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, because he had illegally assigned lucrative vending facilities to certain blind people, and because his testimony under oath had been impeached for contradictory statements. The Federation charged that Barton had permitted an adult male (sighted and single) to live in the women's dormitory at the Commission's training center. The Federation further charged that the Commission no longer had a job placement specialist, that its rehabilitation program was deteriorating, and that Barton had allowed (or forced) eight blind persons to leave the agency's staff during a single year. Moreover, Barton (according to the press release) was responsible for excessive delays in providing services to the blind and for allowing the training facility at the Commission to operate at less than fifty percent of student capacity for extended periods of time. He was condescending in his treatment of the blind, refused to help qualified blind applicants, and lacked leadership and administrative ability.
The board of the Commission held two lengthy executive sessions, at which intense discussion occurred concerning the performance and nonperformance of Barton. Pursuant to the board meetings, the following letter was distributed to the blind of the state:
May 27, 1988
The Board of the Idaho Commission for the Blind is aware of allegations and complaints directed against Mr. Howard Barton, Jr., Administrator of the Idaho Commission for the Blind. The Board has found statements, pro and con, unacceptable as presented; however, the charges are not being taken lightly and are under investigation and consideration by the Board. The Board is interested only in facts. We welcome your personal statement and request that each individual's statement include the following:
1. Blind or sighted; 2. Length of residence in Idaho (present);
3. Dates, times, places for each specific incident; 4. Names of person(s) involved in each incident; 5. Witnesses to each specific incident. Each personal affidavit (statement) should include your address and telephone number and must be signed before a Notary Public. Unsigned statements will not be considered. Your response must be received by June 22, 1988.The affidavits may be in the form of complaints or support for Mr. Howard Barton, Jr., as Administrator of the Idaho Commission for the Blind. However, please stick to the facts and be specific!
Address your response to one of the following:
Idaho Commission for the
341 W. Washington St.
Boise, Idaho 83702
Mr. Jack S. Ugaki, Chairman
P. O. Box 1465
Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402
Mr. Walt Hine, Member
251 Clinton Drive
Twin Falls, Idaho 83301
Ms. Marjorie Ruth Moon
P. O. Box 207
Boise, Idaho 83701
Jack S. Ugaki, Chairman
Idaho Commission for the Blind
Apparently Ugaki still supported his friend Barton, but he was now in the minority. Moon and Hine (the majority) wanted the next Commission board meeting to occur June 23 and 24 so that time would be allowed for the letters and affidavits to be received as announced, but Ugaki still had a trick or two left up his sleeve. After all, he was still chairman of the Commission board. Under date of June 8, 1988, a notice was sent announcing a Commission board meeting for June 17. The chairman was scheduling the meeting in defiance of the will of the other two board members at a time prior to the date the board had set as the deadline for receiving the facts. Perhaps this would cause such confusion that Barton could be saved.
In the context of these shifty tactics and in an atmosphere of tension, the board met at the Commission building in Boise on June 17. The meeting started at 9:00 a.m. and dragged on through the morning. Lunch came and went, and the afternoon session began in the same pattern. Shortly after two o'clock Ugaki asked if there was other old business, and obviously board member Hine had had enough. As had been the case at the state convention of the National Federation of the Blind in April, the action was uncomplicated and straight to the point. Without fanfare or preamble Hine moved for the immediate dismissal of Howard Barton as Administrator, and Moon seconded the motion. The discussion was brief. Moon and Hine voted yes, and Ugaki voted no. The board then held a brief closed session, and when the public meeting was resumed, Jim Monroe (the Commission's accountant) was named interim director. It was announced that a nationwide search would begin for a new permanent director.
With such decisive action it would seem that that was the end of the matter, but things have a way of becoming complicated in Idaho. On July 1, 1988, Walt Hine was replaced on the Commission board by Dianne Milhollin, a blind employee of the state of Idaho whose mother currently serves in the legislature. Ugaki had obviously not given up, and he could count on the fact that Milhollin was probably not familiar with all of the convoluted background of Commission machinations. Ugaki called a Commission board meeting for July 8, 1988, a time when he knew that the convention of the National Federation of the Blind would be in session in Chicago and many of the active blind of the state would not be able to be in Boise.
When July 8 arrived, the Commission board went into executive session, and it was later announced that Barton was now being put on leave with pay, the leave to expire no later than November 11, 1988. It was not made clear whether Barton was being unfired, whether he was still fired but being given a few extra dollars, or whether he was being given a long paid vacation as a bridge back to the position of administrator. The majority of the blind of the state were, to say the least, displeased with the board's action.
So where does all of this tragicomedy leave us? Mostly it leaves us with questions. The general opinion among Idaho's blind is that Milhollin is fair and reasonable and that when she gets the facts, she will be no supporter of Barton. Whether this opinion is right, only time can tell. There is also a very widespread feeling (a feeling which almost amounts to certainty) that Ugaki will not be reappointed to the Commission board at the expiration of his term in July of 1989. Again, we must wait for the answer. In any case the blind of Idaho feel hope and confidence for the future. They believe (and apparently with good cause) that the time ahead will be one of positive growth and increasing harmony. The National Federation of the Blind of Idaho is stronger now than it has been in many years (possibly stronger than it has ever been), and costly lessons have been learned learned well and indelibly imprinted on the collective conscience. One thing is certain. Whatever Barton's fate may be during the next few months, he has no future in Idaho's programs for the blind. He is finished. But meanwhile did he get the boot? Maybe.
by Kenneth Jernigan
At 6:00 a.m. Monday, July 11, 1988, Sid Allen of West Virginia died of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Margie, two daughters, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, who was born the day before Sid died.
Sid's involvement in the Federation goes back to the 1950's when he joined the organization. He served for thirty years as treasurer of the West Virginia affiliate and for two terms (1983-87) on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. At the time of his death he was on the State Human Rights Commission and the State Library Commission.
He was a World War II veteran and was blinded in service. After the War he was active in the civic affairs of his state, and he engaged in a variety of different businesses, the most recent of which was a used car business.
These are the bare facts, but they do not tell the real story or capture the essence of the man. Sid Allen was one of the warmest and most down-to-earth members of the Federation. If the term grass roots has any meaning at all, Sid was it. I worked with him, planned with him, socialized with him, and talked with him about the future of the organization. He cared. He cared personally, deeply, and meaningfully. When something needed to be done, Sid was ready to help do it often with money from his own pocket; but he never asked for credit for what he did. And very often he didn't get credit.
When we needed a truck at the National Center for the Blind, Sid found one. He reconditioned and refurbished it, brought it to the Center, and gave it to us at a subsidized cost taking nothing for his many hours of work on the project. In talking about the truck (the name of which, incidentally, is Bimbo ), Sid never mentioned his contributions in getting it but always spoke as if somebody else had made the whole thing happen. This is how Sid was.
In 1979 he participated in what fondly came to be known as the Yeller Dawg seminar at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. When a hook was needed for the door on the stall in the ladies' restroom, Sid (in the midst of great merriment) volunteered to buy one and he specified that it should be of the finest quality that could be had. We searched hard and found a hook of solid brass and high price. Sid paid the tab and enjoyed the joke at least as much as anybody else. The Sid Allen hook is still remembered, discussed, and greatly cherished. There are many things I could say about Sid Allen but above all, he was my friend. He was loyal and hard-working, and he loved our movement. Sid, may you rest in peace. Your contributions and your friends were numerous. The Federation is a better organization because you were part of it.
Indiana's state programs for the blind (see Braille Monitor, January, 1984; December, 1985; and August-September, 1986) are never tranquil. They simmer along from day to day and then periodically boil over to scald somebody. And when there is a fracas, the names of Jean Merritt and Fred Silver are likely to figure prominently in it. Silver is the long-time, ineffective head of state rehabilitation services for the blind, and Merritt is (in one capacity or another) his perennial boss. And the blind of Indiana are just as monotonously the perpetual losers in the deal.
In 1984 it was an eleven-page letter from federal officials concerning the civil rights performance (or lack of it) of the state rehabilitation agency. In 1985 it was a messy business in which the state agency had to be forced to abide by the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act in dealing with the rights of a blind vendor. In 1986 it was more of the same, with widespread newspaper publicity and hoopla. But Merritt (whether as head of the state department of rehabilitation or its umbrella overlord, the Department of Human Services) and Silver seem always to be present, principal actors in the petty drama. There is only one word for it disgusting!
In the latest razzle-dazzle Merritt catches Silver in what she believes to be a conflict of interest, cuts his salary by $14,300 a year, and demotes him; and Silver fights back with appeals to the state ethics commission, the courts, and anybody else who will listen. In the whole sorry business (and while all of the maneuverings were and are taking place), one has to wonder how much attention is being given to the average blind person wanting to listen to the radio reading service or needing help in getting training or finding a job the person for whom the agency was supposedly established in the first place and for whom Merritt and Silver ostensibly work. Ah, well! Indiana state services for the blind is like that. Here is the way the situation was reported in the July 17, 1988, Indianapolis Star:
Demotion Sparks Agency Head's Ire With Ethics Panel
by Kyle Niederpruem
A boss likes to have the last say in promoting, demoting, and firing employees. But one state official knows that isn't always the way it works.
Jean C. Merritt, commissioner of the Department of Human Services, is still smarting from some second-guessing by an ethics watchdog that monitors state government. In a rare move, the State Ethics Commission lambasted Merritt for going too far in demoting a top administrative aide and cutting his salary by $14,300 because of an alleged conflict of interest. She doesn't like being told she acted improperly. This is why we have mediocrity in state government, Merritt complained. Her demotion of Frederick A. Silver to staff instructor was questioned when Silver asked the commission for an advisory opinion.
The five-member commission issues opinions to state employees and officials questioning possible ethical conflicts. Last fall Silver submitted a grant request to his department on behalf of a charitable group that provides reading services to the blind. He also happened to be president of that group Central Indiana Radio Reading, Inc.
That fact apparently was not known by top officials in the department, including Merritt, although it is listed on Silver's resum . He has also been quoted in newspaper articles as a spokesman for the group.
When his association with the group became known during the application process, the grant for $8,000 was denied. The money was to have been drawn from a private fund for services to the blind that receives an average of $10,000 in annual donations. The group has not applied for a grant since then. I hated this because we denied service to a lot of blind people, Merritt said. I'm sorry about that. But on the other hand, in order for me to stay here and try to affect what I can, I've gotta make sure the perception of wrongdoing is not there, either.
The commission ruled in December that Silver acted unethically. But it also said the demotion was a substantial reduction in position that was grossly disproportionate to the act he committed.
The commission also noted that it has sole responsibility for interpreting the State Ethics Code.
In June the State Employees Appeals Commission found there was a preponderance of evidence to show Silver intentionally withheld information concerning his relationship with the charity when he submitted the grant application.
Silver, who is still president of the charitable group, continues to challenge his demotion. His petition for judicial review is pending in a Marion County court.
I've never made any effort to cover this up, Silver said. The system has not been objective. It's supporting an arbitrary opinion.... We haven't had ample opportunity to go after this and prove the facts.
Merritt is concerned that agency directors, whom she thinks should be solely responsible for employee discipline, are placed in a position of being second-guessed by the commission. If my people don't do right here, I have the authority and the responsibility (to act), said Merritt. In my opinion this commission overstepped its bounds. They had the right to say whether this was an ethical or unethical act, and they did. They went a step further and censured me as the department head. Alan K. Wilson, former chairman of the ethics commission, said Silver's case is the first he can recall in which a disciplinary action has been reviewed retroactively. Wilson served almost a full four-year term as chairman of the commission before resigning recently. He was replaced by James R. Butcher, a former state senator and congressional candidate. Normally employees ask the ethics commission for advice before they find themselves in a compromising situation. Merritt sought an opinion from the commission in August, 1986, about Norma Bradway, a staff attorney. Bradway served on a board for Middle Way House, Inc., a nonprofit shelter for battered women in Bloomington.
The commission ruled there was no conflict of interest for Bradway, but it said she should be prohibited from advising the human services department about matters related to her organization.
Wilson said the Bradway decision was another factor for the commission to consider in the Silver case. We did not want to discourage state employees from donating their time around the state, Wilson said. If we said no, we'd be saying state employees could not serve on not-for-profit boards if there was a chance any of those boards would be going after state money.
A commission that comments on all potential conflicts is bound to draw fire, Wilson admitted, because not everyone will be happy with the outcome.
There will be times when the commission steps on people's toes. What we hope is before any administrator makes a decision based on an ethical infraction, that the commission be solicited for an opinion, he said.
Wilson remembered that in 1985 State Health Commissioner Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., declined to follow the commission's recommendation for an alleged breach an employee committed ten years earlier.
Myers politely informed the commission in a letter that a memorandum would be placed in the employee's file but no disciplinary action would be taken because so much time had elapsed.
At the very least, we'll be getting into some difficult situations, Wilson said.
Merritt initially wanted to fire Silver, a fourteen-year state employee. But she reconsidered and opted for the hefty demotion. Look, I respect the purpose and the mission of the State Ethics Commission, Merritt said. I think it was appropriate even after the fact to determine whether it was an ethical violation. I do not think it was appropriate to decide on the discipline I meted out as being appropriate or not appropriate. That is not their mission.
by John J. Dragona
Why has the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired sidetracked itself by discriminating against its blind staff?
This state and federally funded agency hires a few blind field workers often only because they did better on Civil Service exams than did their fully sighted competition. Then these workers must visit the homes of their clients with an agency-appointed driver, but not until most of them travel to their offices to meet those drivers. Nothing unusual so far, until we note that most of the Commission's sighted field workers are provided (compliments of the Governor) with state cars, fuel, maintenance, etc., and are allowed to take those cars home, eliminating the cost of public transportation to and from work, while those who have no state cars may use their own vehicles and be substantially reimbursed for mileage. Blind field workers, on the other hand, while using public transportation to and from work, are reimbursed nothing.
Most hurt by this unbalance are the blind and visually impaired vocational counselors and home instructors, mainly because the agency has not been hiring blind people to fill other field positions. Blind vocational counselors are a rarity unless they do so well on Civil Service tests as to make it impossible for the agency not to hire them. In all fairness, though, it should be said that home instructors are usually met at their homes by driver/aides; but when they are as is often not available because of absence or other assignments, the blind workers must get to their offices. A blind Hudson County home instructor has to travel to New York City to get another bus to her Patterson, New Jersey, office. Expensive? Not as much as it is for the visually impaired Morris County home instructor, who travels to and from her Newark office five days each week about $50. And how about the home instructor in the southern part of the state, who uses four taxi cabs and two buses for the round trip because she can't see well enough to drive... all at their own expense. Yet, were they sighted, the Commission would give them state cars or allow them to use their own and be reimbursed for the miles they would claim to drive during working hours.
So why is the New Jersey Commission for the Blind treating its blind field workers unequally? Is it: Make it tough for them, and they'll leave? And the state's Department of Human Services allows this; and the state's Department of Labor allows this; and the state's governor allows this; and, unfortunately, most of the blind field workers are running so scared that they dare not buck the system.
I bucked it and was fired, but the Civil Rights suits are still pending. In fact, the investigation for this one has just begun. As part of my settlement I'm asking for retroactive reimbursement for myself and all blind field workers who have been discriminated against by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind in the manner I have described. Now we'll see if civil rights for the handicapped is really what it's cracked up to be.
by Tony Sohl
This recipe appears in the Winter, 1988, issue of Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children. Ruth Swenson, Tony 's mother and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, says that Tony has come a long way. When she adopted him, he was three years and seven months old, but he functioned at a nine-month level. He was mostly bottle-fed, could not sit up by himself, and knew only five words. He was diagnosed as profoundly mentally retarded. He also was blind and had a growth hormone deficiency. Tony is still blind and is shorter than most of his classmates, but he is not retarded. Today Tony is a very typical teen-ager. He attends a public high school; and his hobbies are dancing, football, computers, and ceramics. He enjoys taking his girlfriend to the movies, hates homework, and likes to cook. He reads and writes Braille proficiently and travels independently with his long white NFB cane. Tony is one of the children featured in the NFB Parents Division video Kids With Canes. Here is what Tony has to say:
My name is Tony Sohl. I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona. I am seventeen years old and in high school. I am sending one of my favorite recipes. I hope that you will enjoy this.
4 cans regular refrigerator
biscuits (10 per can)
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 stick margarine
1) Combine sugar and cinnamon in mixing bowl. 2) Open one can of biscuits at a time. Cut biscuits into quarters. Coat well with sugar/cinnamon mixture. 3) Place in tube or bundt pan. Continue until all four cans of biscuits are used. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture evenly over biscuits. 4) Melt margarine and pour over biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Immediately turn on to dinner sized plate.
You may use nuts if desired. A bundt pan is the easiest pan to use instead of a tube pan. Happy Eating!
SEAFOOD SQUASH CASSEROLE
by Pat and Trudy Barrett
Pat and Trudy Barrett, who until recently lived in Idaho, are now located in St. Louis, where Pat is employed at ABLE, Alternatives for the Blind in Living and Employment. The Barretts have been active Federationists for many years. They have had many opportunities to test their recipes at Federation gatherings. Pat writes: The three Barretts are doing just fine in St. Louis. I have been wanting to send this recipe to you for the Monitor . It has been tested safe by many Federationists at various chapter potlucks.
1 7-1/2 ounce can salmon
1 9-1/2 ounce can tuna
1 small can crabmeat (if desired)
1-1/2 cups cooked long grain rice
2 cups squash, fresh or frozen (summer squash flavors best)
1 tear-jerking onion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Thousand Island dressing
1 can cheddar cheese soup
Salt to taste
Cook rice and squash until both are tender. Drain seafood, then combine with mayonnaise, onion, and dressing. In large mixing bowl, add seafood mixture to rice and squash. Mix in remaining ingredients. Place in pyrex baking dish to heat ingredients together in oven for twenty-five minutes at 400 degrees. Yields many servings. Tasty hot or cold.
Some eat meat, and some do not but that's the way we are. Recently Anna Dolceacqua of Santa Barbara, California, wrote as follows:
Visually impaired persons like my roommate and me often compensate by listening to sound. Only five feet away from my bedroom window, in my neighbor's yard, dwells an animal whose name, pedigree, and sex have been unknown to us for the past ten years. We refer to it simply as the dog. The saying barking dogs do not bite is a myth. This canine has been reprimanded by the dog catcher for socializing with passers-by. On occasion it is also known to have scaled a six-foot fence on the other side of which an unsuspecting tenant at the dumpster of our apartment complex becomes rooted to the spot, on the verge of cardiac arrest.
The shrill eardrum-splitting bark of the dog greets the meter-reader once a month as he makes his way with trepidation to the rear of our building, mace at the ready. The clang-clang of the huge garbage truck on Mondays and Thursdays alerts the dog to release its pent-up emotions for at least ten minutes, giving us time to assemble our trash neatly into a plastic bag for pickup.
On rare occasions, generally around midnight, the dog alerts the neighborhood to the presence of a prowler or kinky voyeur. In a second my left hand shoots up to press the lamp button, and my right hand to 911 (our emergency phone number to alert the police). But it was only yesterday I realized how much the dog was part of our lives. When I asked my roommate if the postman had arrived, came the curt reply: `The dog' has not barked yet.
We recently received the following announcement from Science Products:
A plug-in voice module is now available for several popular blood glucose analyzers: LifeScan GlucoScan 3000, LifeScan One Touch, Boehringer Mannheim Accu-Chek. Digi-Voice GlucoModule $420.00. You must specify unit to which the Digi-Voice will be attached: #1522: Digi-Voice GlucoModule/LifeScan both models; #1524: Digi-Voice GlucoModule/AccuChek.
Science Products views the new module as a giant step forward in adaptive technology. It is no longer necessary for our technicians to open the host unit, thereby violating the manufacturer's warranty. Should the host unit fail, it can be replaced without additional cost for the voice adaptation. Units already owned can be used (provided they are the correct model) without the need to purchase a new analyzer for adaptation. The new unit is small, light, attractively housed in an off-white box (6 x3-1/2 x1-1/4 ) with its own battery compartment, making it easy to replace the single rechargeable 9v battery. Considering the fact that one Digi-Voice GlucoModule may well outlast two or three glucose analyzers and can be repaired inexpensively, the price of the new unit is significantly less than previous all-in-one units. In addition, should the voice module fail, the user can keep the analyzer for use with sighted help while the module is returned for repair. Alternatively, should the analyzer fail, a new one can be obtained locally and therefore quickly to replace it.
One of the major reasons we have seen for blood glucose analyzer failure is excessive blood caked in and around the sensor area. Although it can be cleaned, such cleaning is costly and often only partly effective. Because application of blood by a vision impaired person is more apt to be sloppy, this problem has created significant expense in dealing with the old, combined units. It can now be solved for the cost of a new analyzer, or the analyzer alone can be cleaned locally. Our medical products have been registered with the FDA. The talking blood sugar analyzer also has been recognized by Medicare and is listed under Code #EO609. Science Products, for customer convenience, makes blood glucose analyzers available: #2410 GlucoScan 3000 $169; #2411 GlucoScan One Touch $199; #2420 Accu-Chek w/port $189. As a convenience to our customers, test strips for the LifeScan glucose analyzers may be ordered for quick shipment: #2450 One Touch/50 $40; #2451 GlucoScan 3000/50 $40 ($37 per pack when ordered with Digi-Voice Module), includes shipping and handling. To order or for information contact: Science Products, Box A, Southeastern, Pennsylvania 19399, (215) 296-2111.
Hazel Staley writes: Bylaws were adopted, and the Twin Rivers NFB of New Bern, North Carolina, was formally organized on June 9, with thirteen members. Its officers are: Diane Clark, President;
Peggy Sydnor, Vice President; Francetta Guion, Secretary; and William Howard, Treasurer. Barbara Hansen is a board member. This is a very enthusiastic group which seems genuinely interested in the Federation. We believe that they will be a real asset to our movement, and we welcome them to our state affiliate and our national movement.
**A Role Model and a Civic Leader:
Writing in the Spring, 1988, Barricades (the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa) Doris Willoughby says:
Recently I went to visit our President, Peggy Pinder, at her law office. I took with me one of my young students. I had arranged for him to talk with Peggy about her work as a lawyer and about her use of Braille and the white cane. It is extremely important for young blind students to meet blind adults as role models. As Peggy was describing her use of the white cane, I asked her to name some specific places she might go, to help my student think in specific terms. She mentioned airports, stores, banks, and... the Grinnell City Council chambers.
Did you know the NFBI President is a member of the Grinnell City Council? I did not know until she mentioned it, casually and modestly, as she described her daily activities to my student. We were most impressed. My student had, moreover, looked at the room where the City Council meets, when he was practicing travel in the community building on another day. All of this helped make the daily use of a cane a reality for my student, along with the understanding that a blind person can be a respected leader in the community.
**Help Needed in Eye Research:
We recently received the following letter:
June 24, 1988
To The Braille Monitor:
I am conducting a research investigation for visually impaired infants and children, searching for the gene or genes which affect certain specific hereditary diseases. We are searching for families in which there are two or more affected individuals and both of their parents are living and available for blood sampling.
The diseases which we are covering include:
1. The Laurence-Moon-Bardet-Biedl syndrome (with developmental and intellectual retardation, retinitis pigmentosa, extra fingers and extra toes, and kidney disease);
2. Stargardt's disease/fundus flavimaculatus syndrome (a form of juvenile macular degeneration);
3. The Usher syndrome (with either preverbal hearing impairment or postverbal hearing impairment and the subsequent development of retinitis pigmentosa);
4. Rod monochromacy (complete congenital achromatopsia); and
5. Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (a variety of disorders affecting infants and children with severe visual impairment from birth). Again, we are looking for families in which there are two affected individuals, and both of their parents are living. Such families are extremely difficult to find, and I would be grateful if through your readership or communication with families you would make my interest in them known. I am available to you and to such individuals and families at the Cullen Eye Institute, Baylor College of Medicine, 6501 Fannin Street, NC-206, Houston, Texas 77030, Attention:
Richard A. Lewis, M.D. (713-799-5942, central time, usual business hours).
**Sense-Able Braille Books:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Sense-Able Braille Books is a recently formed nonprofit organization founded by a transcriber and his wife. Its aim is to produce Braille books for young adults specifically seventh grade through high school. Books are produced on computer, and all copies are paper originals no thermoform. If you would like to receive our first catalog in September, please send us your name and address, stating whether you would like our catalog in print or Braille. William Peary, Director/Manager, Sense-Able Braille Books, P. O. Box 333, Ludington, Michigan 49431.
We are asked to carry many announcements. Here is one of them:
Inventor looking for blind professional people to test, at no cost to them, a wardrobe organizing system that will tell the wearability status of clothing on hangers. If you are interested, please contact C. Mason at P. O. Box 1409, Murphys, California 95247, giving name and address (I'm sighted no Braille, please). Or you could call my voice-activated answering device at 209-728-3718. (It will give no introduction and will buzz if you pause too long.) If you don't hear back from me, I have enough testers.
**AER But, Of Course:
WOMA (the Washington Orientation and Mobility Association), which is affiliated with the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), publishes a newsletter which is sent to District of Columbia-Maryland members. The June, 1988, WOMA newsletter carries the following item:
A Canine Cane
When Cinder, a ten-year-old black Labrador Retriever, became blind from retinal atrophy two years ago, her owner Richard Ettelson could not stand to watch her bump into things. As a result, he created a cane to help her get around. The design consists of two semi-rigid plastic canes that are mounted to the dog's collar. The canes extend past the nose on either side of the head, making the dog feel a slight pressure against its collar and hear a scraping sound when it's about to walk into something. As for sudden drops such as stairs and porches, the dog learns to point its head down and drag the canes on the floor when approaching a drop-off. When the canes lose contact with the ground, the dog knows to stop short, realizing that some sort of drop-off is at hand. It took Cinder two weeks to learn how to use her canes. Anyone wanting further information about how to construct a special collar for a blind dog may write to: Richard Ettelson, Box 54C, Waiteville, West Virginia 24984.
Science Products recently sent us the following material:
Science Products has developed the Desktop/Business Calcu-Talk, a talking 12-digit calculator with high speed printer, which will be available June 1, 1988. This new talking calculator is a Canon CP1211-D electronic model voice adapted in our shop. The Desktop/Business Calcu-Talk is not a mass produced item. The custom speech modification is done unit by unit by Science Products' technical staff, implementing our Digi- Voice technology.
When the calculator is in the talk mode, the Digi-Voice will announce each numeric key (zero through nine) as entered as well as the plus, minus, subtotal, and total functions. And with the simple pressing of the speak button, the contents of the digital display will be given.
The calculator will have an earphone jack for the convenience of private listening. Cassette operating instructions also will be included.
The Desktop/Business Calcu-Talk (#1510) sells for $649 (plus $11.50 shipping/insurance). To place your order simply send your check or official purchase order to: Science Products, Box A, Southeastern, Pennsylvania 19399, or call our toll- free hotline 1-800-888-7400 to place your Visa or MasterCard order.
Under date of May 31, 1988, we received the following communication:
The National Federation of the Blind of Alabama has a new chapter.
On Saturday evening, May 28, the North Baldwin Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama came into being. Sixteen enthusiastic members comprised the new chapter, located in Bay Minette. The new President is John Black, who along with his wife Dorothy will attend the Chicago convention. Other officers include Vice President, Mrs. Lula Faye Bramlett;
Secretary, Mrs. Pearl Martin; Treasurer, Mrs. Dorothy Black; and Board Member, Doc Johnson. National board member Donald Capps and his wife Betty were on hand for the joyous occasion.
**Horses and Federationism:
Here is how Federationism works. Hazel Staley, President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, says:
On May 6, 1988, I received a call from Mr. Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs in our National Office. He said that a student from Rutgers University in New Jersey had called him to report that her roommate Kristen Knouse, who is totally blind, was at the moment on her way to Laurinburg, North Carolina, with her equestrian team to ride in a collegiate horse show to be held on Sunday, May 8. However, people at Rutgers had just received word that Kristen was not going to be allowed to participate because she was blind. I called the Laurinburg newspaper, the Raleigh News and Observer , Human Relations, the Governor's Council on the Disabled, and radio and t.v. stations in the Fayetteville and Raleigh area to get as much coverage as possible of this situation. After considerable effort, I was finally able to talk with Bob Caccione, director of the Collegiate Horse Association. He said that the board of directors of the Association had decided that it would be unsafe for Kristen to ride; that there were trees in the ring; and that there would be eleven other riders in the ring. I said that she had participated in a number of horse shows without an accident and that they had no right to exclude her without even seeing her ride or talking with her. I said that just because he did not feel that he would be able to ride if he closed his eyes did not mean that Kristen couldn't do it; that she had been blind all her life and had been riding horses for ten years and had developed techniques that he could not possibly know or imagine. He finally agreed to let her do a trial ride Saturday morning. Apparently she impressed them with her ability, as we were confident she would. She won fourth place in the show. This is just one more reason why we need the National Federation of the Blind.
**A Leg Up:
For more than three decades Ray McGeorge of Colorado has been one of the most active and dedicated members of the organized blind movement. Whether working as President of the Denver Chapter, handling the operation of the overseas Braille book project, or taking time from his job to come to the National Center for the Blind to organize and package material as a volunteer, Ray is always busy and always doing something to help others. Moreover, although he would probably deny it, he does not seek the limelight and, therefore, is rarely at the center of the stage. Yet, he is one of the staunchest and best people we have. On May 24, 1988, Ray had surgery to straighten his leg. The operation involved breaking and repositioning the bone. Even so, Ray (complete with crutches and cast from toe to hip) was an active participant in the national convention at Chicago. In a few days (this is being written in mid-July) Ray is scheduled to have similar surgery on the other leg.
Constance Griesmer, 836-C Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, California 91101, writes: For Sale: 12-volume hardcover thermoform modern Hebrew-English dictionary, $100; 10-volume Bible Concordance, hardcover, $50. Best offers accepted. Letters may be sent on cassette, in Braille, or typed.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The 1988-89 Option Central catalog is available in all formats. Large print is free, Braille costs $1, and the cassette version also costs $1 (or it is free if a blank C- 60 cassette is supplied). The catalog includes: greeting cards, housewares, cassettes, Braille writing supplies, and talking products. To obtain a catalog, contact:
Option Central, Fred Sanderson, Proprietor, 1604 Carroll Avenue, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54304, telephone (414) 498-9699.
We recently received a press release from Telesensory Systems, Inc., which said in part:
Telesensory Systems, Inc., and Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Foundation have announced a joint project which will result in a new TeleBraille, a communication aid for deaf-blind people. The current TeleBraille was introduced by TSI in 1984 and has been of help to many deaf-blind people. Production of the current TeleBraille was put in jeopardy last year when a critical component became unavailable. This made redesign necessary before production could be resumed. The small size of the deaf-blind population appropriate for the TeleBraille precludes redesign on a commercial basis. The TeleBraille enables face-to-face communication between a deaf-blind person and a sighted person, or telephone communication with anyone using a TDD for the deaf or another TeleBraille at the other end of the line. In California TeleBrailles are provided to qualified deaf-blind individuals under the Deaf Equipment Acquisition Fund (DEAF), which is funded by a monthly charge of ten cents per end user access line. Several other states (among them Washington, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan) have similar funding programs, while others are in the process of developing a system. Smith-Kettlewell will design the TeleBraille, and TSI will sell it. Certain new features will be incorporated in the redesigned product. TSI says that the new TeleBraille should be available some time in 1989. For information contact: Jane Mott-Smith, Telesensory Systems, Inc., P. O. Box 7455, Mountain View, California 94039, telephone (415) 960-0920.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The seventh Canadian interdisciplinary conference on the visually impaired child, November 12-15, 1989, at the Skyline Hotel, Toronto, Canada. The themes for the workshop (The Child Options and Responsibilities; The Child Holistic Approaches; The Child Challenges of the Future) were selected to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of working with sighted and visually impaired children. Conference highlights: keynote address by David H. Warren, Ph.D., author of Blindness and Early Childhood Development; keynote addresses by leading international professionals in the field of blindness and visual impairment; daily parents-meet-the-speakers sessions; simultaneous French translation; exhibits of state-of-the-art technology, toys, and adaptive equipment. This conference will offer a wealth of exciting and innovative concurrent sessions that will appeal to parents, educators, and professionals alike anyone working in the field of blindness and visual impairment. For information contact: Kaleyedoscope '89, Program Committee, 1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4G 3E8, telephone (416) 480-7618.