Vol. 31, No. 8 November 1988
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
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Vol. 31, No. 8 November 1988
FROM THE EDITOR
BLIND PEOPLE SHAPING THE
A PANEL DISCUSSION AT THE MEETNG OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION OF THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED
by Gary Magarrell
From the Canadian Council of the Blind
by Geraldine Braak
From the American Council of the Blind
by Oral Miller
From the American Foundation for the Blind
by Susan Spungin
From the National Federation of the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan
From the Canadian National Institute for the Blind
by Euclid Herie
Discussion of Issues by the Panel
CHILDREN OF MINOR WIVES
by Euclid Herie
A PROFILE OF SERVICES TO
BLIND PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA
by David Blyth
THE BLIND PEOPLE OF THAILAND
by Wimon Ong-Amporn
GREETINGS FROM THE CANADIAN
COUNCIL OF THE BLIND
by Geraldine Braak
WORLD BLIND UNION NORTH AMERICA/CARIBBEAN
by Kenneth Jernigan
AND PROMOTING EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
by Kenneth Jernigan
REFLECTIONS ON MADRID
by Kenneth Jernigan
SMOOTHER WATERS AHEAD FOR
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Fred Schroeder
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1988
Sometimes we devote all (or almost all) of an edition of the Monitor to a particular topic. This issue is a case in point. It is largely taken up with international matters. A few years back, as Monitor readers know, the American Association of Workers for the Blind and the Association for Education of the Visually Handicapped merged into a single organization, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). As the name implies, this organization is primarily composed of professionals in the field of work with the blind. It has members both in the United States and Canada. AER holds a convention every other year, and in 1988 the meeting occurred in Montreal shortly after the NFB convention in Chicago.
On July 13, 1988, at the AER convention an event took place which promises to have considerable significance in the lives of the blind of this continent. AER Division 1 (Administration) and Division 17 (Personnel Preparation) held a joint meeting to conduct a panel discussion entitled Blind People Shaping the Blindness System. Represented on the panel were the Canadian Council of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Because of the tone and substance of the panel we are printing the formal presentations of all of the participants, along with some of the exchanges which occurred afterward. That the organizations involved could come together for such a panel at all is noteworthy; but if that is everything we get from it, its momentary news value will soon be forgotten, like yesterday's headlines. It was agreed that there will be a follow-up meeting by the same five organizations next spring at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. Again, the very fact of this meeting and of its location underscores shifts in emphasis and thinking. But Monitor readers can examine what was said and judge for themselves. The moderator of the panel was Gary Magarrell, Executive Director of the Ontario Division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. To continue the international theme we are also publishing in this issue certain items from the 1988 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Chicago presentations from: Dr. Euclid Herie, Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; Mrs. Geraldine Braak, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind; Mr. David Blyth, President of the East Asia/Pacific Region of the World Blind Union from Melbourne, Australia; and Mr. Wimon Ong-Amporn, an official of the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand.
Finally, we are printing material concerning the meeting of the World Blind Union in Madrid, Spain. At the time of this writing (September 8, 1988) the WBU meeting is still in the offing, less than a week away; and the NFB delegation is making plans to attend. President Maurer will lead a sizable contingent of Federationists, and (as President of the North America/Caribbean Region) your Monitor Editor will give a regional report, chair one of the sessions of the General Assembly, and deliver an address. The regional report and the address appear in this issue.
There will also be two articles on the conference on Braille in London September 19-24, 1988. One of these articles, Smoother Waters Ahead for Braille Maybe, is being written before the conference. The other, Braille Unscathed, will be Fred Schroeder's report of what actually happened at the conference. Let me step out of my role as Editor for a moment to talk about the significance of the Madrid meeting. In 1984 we of the National Federation of the Blind did not attend the founding meeting of the World Blind Union. Although we felt that the International Federation of the Blind had largely ceased to exist as an independent organization, we saw no advantage in merging it with the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind. Moreover, the meeting was being held in Saudi Arabia, and Israelis (particularly, our own Rami Rabby) were being denied the right to come. The argument was that Israel did not exist, but we felt that whether it did or not, Rami existed and we had no intention of attending any meeting which said that he didn't exist. However, we accepted membership in the World Blind Union, and a great deal has happened since that time. Whatever may be the situation in the rest of the world, our regional meetings have brought Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean close together in a working partnership. Speaking personally, I have found warm friends in Dr. Euclid Herie, Mrs. Geraldine Braak, and a number of other Canadians, as well as Mr. Wilbert Williams and others from the Caribbean.
So we go to Spain, and by the time you read this, the Second General Assembly of the World Blind Union will be history. What will it amount to? Will it be the beginning of new opportunities and progress, or simply a waste of time? At this stage no one knows, but we of the National Federation of the Blind are going with a large delegation and the intention of doing everything we can to make the meeting harmonious and successful. But, of course, we will attempt to balance our hopes with objectivity. We will try to recognize opportunity but also to keep perspective. I am deliberately writing this before the meeting to give you the feel of the way it is as we pack our bags.
When we return from Spain (just as the Monitor will be going to press), I will doubtless include a report of what happened. I will not only tell you who got elected but also what we observed and who said what. Enough of us are going to permit the gathering of data to form the basis for future Federation action. At any rate that is for later.
Although (as I have already said) this issue of the Monitor primarily deals with international matters, there are a few other things which have to be included. We must begin planning for next summer's national convention in Denver, and so we are printing an article about it. Please read it carefully and take action. It is not too soon to begin sending requests for hotel reservations. You will observe that you are to make hotel reservations through the National Center for the Blind here in Baltimore. Do not contact the convention hotels.
This has been a tremendously productive and successful year for the National Federation of the Blind, and that fact is reflected in the articles which appear in this issue of the Monitor . We are closer than we have ever been to our goal of equality and first-class citizenship for the blind. Surely no one can doubt that we will go the rest of the way.
MONTREAL, CANADA, JULY 13, 1988
by Gary Magarrell
My name is Gary Magarrell, and I have the very real privilege of moderating this panel on behalf of the two divisions. On behalf of the chair of Division 17 (Bill Graves) and of Division 1 (Kirk Walter) we welcome you, and we hope this will be a very exciting afternoon. This afternoon came about because of the desire of these two divisions to have opportunities at this meeting for us to be exposed to the thoughts of some of our key consumer leaders in Canada and the United States and because of a feeling that many of us have that it is very important that there be a continuing dialogue between those who represent the consumer groups and those who are within the professions and within the agencies though they are not always mutually exclusive. We believe that dialogue is important in planning, and we think it is important that we have a chance to communicate face to face as we struggle together as to where the blindness system is going in the future. When we began to plan this session, we looked at who was out there and who we would like to involve, and I think the leadership that you see today were the natural ones to choose. We then contacted each one of these people on our panel, who were gracious enough to agree. We had a phone conference; we looked at the issue; we came up with a title; and we are here today. By the way, this session is being taped. It wasn't in your program, but it is tape number 71 if you're interested. I rather suspect a few may be.
Our panel has changed somewhat from the one printed in the program for a couple of reasons: 1) Because Mr. Gallagher, who as you all know is with the American Foundation for the Blind as its Executive Director, injured his back very severely this week and is going to be laid up for at least four to six weeks; and Mr. Otis Stephens, who is the President of the American Council of the Blind, has very serious illness in his family, which he has had to attend to. We are delighted, however, with those who are replacing them, and we look forward to a good program today. May I introduce to you our panel members. On my immediate left is Mrs. Geraldine Braak, who is the President of the Canadian Council of the Blind. Next we have Dr. Oral Miller (who is well known I'm sure to most of you), who is he has another title, but basically he is executive director of the American Council of the Blind. Welcome, Oral. We then have in place of Bill Gallagher, at his request, Dr. Susan Spungin, who again is very involved in senior management at the American Foundation for the Blind. Thank you, Susan. Next to her we have Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who is President of the North America Region of the World Blind Union and Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind. And finally we have Dr. Euclid Herie, who is the Managing Director (which means chief executive officer) of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I want to say, too, that in the program we had Dr. Dickinson, who was going to be introducing it. He will be very much a part of the discussion later, and we thank him for being here as well. The format of the afternoon is going to be as follows. We're going to ask each one of the panel members to give a presentation (eight to twelve minutes at the outside). We will then have a bit of a roundtable discussion with those who are at the table if they want to question each other, and then we will have a good period of time for questions and dialogue with the audience. So I am going to turn over the mike to Mrs. Geraldine Braak, who is the President of the Canadian Council of the Blind.
by Geraldine Braak Chairperson, colleagues, and participants: Unlike in the United States, where there are a variety of service providers, Canada has by and large only one single direct service provider for the blind and visually impaired. The single service model in Canada allows for immediate recognition and referral by health care professionals and effective communication and monitoring of services and programs. Even though the provision of high quality service to all blind and visually impaired Canadians is a challenge that must be met by the service deliverer in order to retain the single service provider status, it can result at times in being apathetic through a lack of healthy competition.
The CNIB in its internal structure constantly monitors the quality of service delivery. Recently it completed a very intensive survey which resulted in a service equity policy, as well, in the past two years. They have also worked extensively on a sight enhancement enterprise, which adequately incorporates people with failing vision but not yet at the level of legal blindness. The responsibility of funding service to the blind and visually impaired community rests with, and is shared by, the federal, provincial, and local governments. The CNIB, through its collective expertise, is recognized as the single service provider. Government responsibilities are exercised by providing funds for services and educational programs. Yet, the level of funding remains inadequate for effective service delivery. Even though there are some smaller, mostly local, consumer organizations, there exists only one national consumer organization of blind and visually impaired persons in Canada, the Canadian Council of the Blind.
Canada has in the past been slow in developing and exercising consumerism and only in the last several years has become active in the area of advocacy and human rights. Now that the different levels of government are recognizing and accepting the valuable input that consumers are providing, it is not only timely but vitally important that the national consumer organization rise to this increased awareness of its role by developing strong leadership. Canadians by nature have been passive, and this is especially true of the blind and visually impaired, who have not adequately expressed their needs and rights. Although this is now changing, much more needs to be done in developing leadership skills. This awareness must be shared on all levels (local, divisional, and national) to have a dynamic impact. In order to be effective, a careful study to examine issues (including education, employment, and access to information) must be undertaken within the blind and visually impaired community, and a consensus-building initiative to outline a plan of action developed to achieve the results that are needed.
As well as leadership training, a mechanism must be established that allows consumers to have direct input and control of programs and services that are presently in place and new ones coming on stream to meet their needs. The role of the consumer must be facilitated, clearly recognized, and accepted by those in the service delivery system. Consumers must accept the responsibility of closely working with funders on all levels to insure that programs truly reflect and address the contemporary needs of the blind and visually impaired community. As federal, provincial, and local governments have a responsibility to be the main funders of services, consumers must effectively advocate for adequate funding to operate and deliver these services.
It's not acceptable for consumers merely to criticise programs or the lack of them. They must accept their role as an effective liaison with funding bodies. In Canada over the past decade several cross-disability organizations have emerged. This cross-disability (or pan disability) movement has a detrimental impact on the blind and visually impaired. What has emerged through this trend is that the immediate perception by government, public, and media is mobility impaired. This is a very real concern as this greatly hinders those issues connected with the uniqueness of blindness and its specific needs. It has been our experience that these cross-disability organizations do not effectively represent the issues, views, and needs of the blind and visually impaired community, nor those of the deaf-blind community. With this is mind, we must either join this cross disability movement and take the risk of losing our distinct identity or develop strong and articulate advocates capably to represent themselves.
In order for consumers to have greater impact over the next decade, the uniqueness of blindness, visual impairment, and its needs must be much more strongly articulated. It is of vital importance that the blind and visually impaired be trained in effective advocacy and leadership and that programs be developed to establish a national network to achieve this. Consumers must be given the opportunity of direct input and control over programs and services designed to meet their needs by all levels of government, especially programs concerning employment, education, and access to information. Consumers must become far more aggressive in raising awareness of their rights and needs not only at the government and service delivery level, but also to the media and the general public. These responsibilities must be cooperatively undertaken by both consumers and care givers. Several vital and successful steps have been initiated. The Canadian Council of the Blind participates in several government committees, submits briefs, and reviews all legislation that affects the lifestyle of the blind and visually impaired community. As well, we initiated a joint committee of representatives from organizations of and for the blind to provide a forum to address issues of common concern. As you realize, we are strongly concerned with cross disability especially, because it has a very strong impact. I'm sure this will come up again. Thank you.
by Oral Miller
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to bring you greetings from the American Council of the Blind and its President, Dr. Otis Stephens, who unfortunately could not be with us today due to the serious illness of Mrs. Stephens. We all sincerely wish Mrs. Stephens comfort and relief from pain. As a sort of last-minute substitute, I can't help but be reminded of the situation the famous Dr. Spooner found himself in a number of years ago when he was invited to a very formal occasion in England an occasion at which it was necessary for people to appear in pairs, whether they happened to be husband and wife, significant other, or whatever. And as luck would have it, at the last minute, Mrs. Spooner felt ill, wasn't able to go, and Dr. Spooner hurriedly raced around and found someone else to go with him. As he greeted his hostess, he said (and in his so popular way of fouling up the language) came up with this particular Spoonerism. Instead of saying Oh good evening, Mrs. Wellsley. I'm so pleased to be here. And you will be pleased to know that I have, due to the illness of my wife, produced a substitute, he said: You will be so pleased to learn that because of my wife's illness, I have managed to seduce a prostitute.
Because of the possibly unfavorable connotations of that particular Spoonerism, I will suggest to you that in the absence of Dr. Stephens today, those of you who do have eyesight simply close your eyes and imagine that you're listening to Dr. Stephens. Some have said that we're not look-alikes but a little bit sound-alikes.
The American Council of the Blind's fundamental objectives include blind people shaping the blindness system. The Braille Forum (which is our national magazine) states on its masthead promoting independence and effective participation in society. The notion that blind people are capable of making worthwhile decisions affecting their own lives is really comparatively recent in history. There were a few so-called educators of the blind in eighteenth- century England and Scotland really they were directors or managers of asylum-type operations. There were a few more in the USA in the nineteenth century as educational institutions were established. And more in the twentieth century. Perhaps this could be equated to the rejection of the notion of divine right of kings in favor of the notion of the social contract. This is relevant in the sense that the social contract theory recognizes that there are rights and capabilities of people who were formerly considered to be helpless, powerless, and certainly incapable of making meaningful decisions about their own lives.
But just as pure democracy can't work in a complex society, and just as dictatorship is intolerable, neither of these extreme positions is acceptable or workable in the blindness system. It's often very hard for many people as professional providers or others as consumers to accept input from the other. Perhaps this is the case with the providers because, first of all, they're paid for the work they do, and they may have (or they may not have) educational and certification credentials. And it may be the case on the part of the consumers because they know blindness firsthand, and they feel that no amount of education or credentials can really qualify providers (and especially sighted providers) to walk in their shoes.
How many here remember that popular song a number of years ago by Joe South and Ray Stevens called Walk a Mile in My Shoes? (We have some good music lovers in the audience, I see.) We absolutely must accept and recognize the role of the other. Because the American Council of the Blind and I happen to believe that blind people are capable of making the blindness system better by providing informed, considered input and providing knowledgeable, capable leadership we ask, we request, we encourage, and, yes, we demand when necessary by advocacy, by the legal process, and whatever other means may be appropriate. We demand that we be included in shaping the system no, not running the system; but certainly in shaping it. Anyone who says that blindness is just another physical characteristic is espousing a head-in-the-sand notion. After all, very few people I know of (at least, since Oedipus) have opted for blindness. I can't help but be reminded of a letter that Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe wrote to his friend Horace Mann in 1839 following his appearance before the Kentucky legislature. At that time Dr. Howe made a presentation when the legislature was considering the establishment of a state school for the blind there. Dr. Howe made a presentation and gave demonstrations. Some of his better students gave demonstrations of the things they had learned, and there was general discussion of an enthusiasm for conditions at the recently established Perkins School.
In his letter to Mr. Mann Dr. Howe said that there was so much enthusiasm and such warm acceptance of all the things he had discussed, he was afraid that some of the mothers in the state would rush out and poke out the eyes of their children so they could live the wonderful lives being lived at Perkins. Obviously there was much tounge-in-cheek in Dr. Howell's letter. Although this respect and acceptance must flow in both directions, I'm afraid that the streams have not really been flowing equally in both directions over the years, as some of the old vested notions have been rather hard to die. For example, it's been rather hard for some providers to accept the notion that blind people may know as much and, yea varily, perhaps even more about a subject than they do. And it's been very difficult for some blind people to accept the proposition that providers (and especially the sighted ones) can (through using sight, education, training, experience, and problem-solving ability) give useful and meaningful help and information. I'm still a bit shocked (some fifteen years later) whenever I recall the first time I had the opportunity to appear before and speak to what was then an AAWB workshop. I'm sure people here remember the organization called AAWB. At that time it was my pleasure to be invited to speak on a panel dealing with recreational activities for blind people. And I was somewhat disappointed at the introduction when the moderator of the panel (who, I believe, had an initial or two following his name, as did most of the others of us on the panel) announced that I had invited myself to speak on the panel although I was not a recreation therapist. That was in spite of the fact that at that point (through participation in, through management of, through very intense involvement of the activities of a national organization which was a consumer organization dealing with the subject of bowling as an activity for blind people). I happened to know at that point probably a hundred times more about the subject than the moderator did, which is another way of saying he knew nothing about it.
Or I can't help but think also about a knee-jerk type reaction I heard yesterday in one of the panels here on the part of one panelist following a rather technical but very incisive comment by a sighted O & M specialist about a particular cane technique that had been shown on a video that had just been displayed. Besides being a nice thing to do and good business, accepting input and leadership of the blind is now a necessity. It's a reality. And, ladies and gentlemen, it's a mandate. It's a mandate whose time has come and whose star is on the ascendancy. Many statutes today, as you are probably aware, mandate that consumers must be on various boards, councils, and planning bodies connected with service-providing agencies. And, yes, I'm familiar with some of the questions and some of the problems that have come up in interpreting these statutes. And I'd like to point out to you that, if enacted, a recently introduced bill in the American Congress called the Americans With Disabilities Act (which is Senate bill 2345 or House of Representatives bill 4498 in case you may want to write that down) The Americans With Disabilities Act, by the way, is the largest and most comprehensive and most ambitious bill ever introduced in the American Congress dealing with handicapped people. You notice it says Americans with Disabilities.
The term now is to refer not to the blind, the disabled, the handicapped, but people with disabilities, or whatever terminology. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (if it is enacted) it would define as an act of discrimination the refusal to allow disabled people to serve on advisory, planning, and other boards, committees, and so forth.
We in the American Council don't believe for a minute that blindness alone qualifies a person for a job or for a specific position. Whenever jobs and positions are considered, consideration has got to be given to the things that are always considered for other people: education, training, experience, judgment, personality, problem-solving ability, skills, and so forth. Likewise, blindness alone doesn't give a blind person all of the information or all of the knowledge he is going to need to make every decision affecting his life. And, after all, when we move this over to another area (such as education), that may be one of the reasons why certain courses in education are required as prerequisites for others. They're compulsory in many specialties.
If the blind system is going to urge concepts like reasonable accommodation, affirmative action, and so forth on employers, educators, government officials, and others, I believe that That is, if they're going to do that in the belief that blind people are, in fact, capable of making important decisions If they do this in the belief that blind people are capable of living independent, productive, fully participating, dignified (and I might say tax-paying) lives, we in the blindness system are going to have to accept the same principles realistically, without stereotypes, without assumptions, and without unrealistic expectations.
My remarks up to this point have been rather general. I have not attempted to anticipate what anyone else says. I have not attempted to comment on what anyone else has said. I'll certainly be very pleased to discuss matters more specifically as we get further in the program. Thank you Mr. chairman, ladies, and gentlemen.
by Susan Spungin
Thank you, Gary. On behalf of Bill Gallagher I send his regards. He is, indeed, in great pain at the moment not only in his back but in his heart, because he truly would wish to be with you today. The reality of his problem was tripping over a vacuum cleaner one Monday on the Fourth of July weekend. And in telling that story to a colleague (a superintendent of a school for the blind, who shall remain nameless) he quickly suggested that I run to the national technology center and start producing talking vacuum cleaners. There is a limit to gadgetry. Over the past fifty years in the United States organizations and associations of the blind and individual blind persons themselves have, indeed, shaped blindness sytems. Historically the consumer movement started with the National Federation of the Blind in the early forties, joined by the World War II Blinded Vets (BVA) in around 1947. ACB, originally a spinoff of NFB, established itself as a separate entity in the sixties, along with the Association of Deaf-Blind People. And the seventies found the low vision consumer becoming more active as a self- determined advocate when establishing the National Council of Low Vision Persons to be joined by parents of visually impaired children in the 1980's NAPVI as one example. Sixty consumer groups over fifty years have, of course, had major impact in influencing the service delivery system in blindness, as well as on the professionals that work within that system. Blind and deaf-blind people themselves also influenced the system, such as lawyers, teachers, university personnel, and the like. Helen Keller is, of course, an obvious example, one of many deaf and blind individuals that served both as leaders and models of excellence, opening doors in American society never before imagined.
But in viewing the blindness system as being shaped by the blind versus shaped by the sighted is to do nothing more than to continue the destructive scenario of the we/they syndrome that has slowed progress in the field over the years. This we/they syndrome goes well beyond the sighted/blind providers/consumer issues to pitting consumer groups against consumer groups to associations versus associations to providers versus providers translated to levels of fighting over clients, Braille versus print, residential versus public school education, etc., etc., etc., and so forth. It is time to stop to realize we agree in principle on more things than we disagree on, to work toward those mutual goals with clear heads and mutual respect, appreciation, and trust in each other. Shaping the blindness system has been and must continue to be a combination of influences from both the consumer and provider segments of our society. One place we always run into problems, however, is in the definitions. In this case the eternal question who is the consumer? The National Rehab Association defines the consumer in three different ways: in the context of the blind segment of our population the blind person him- or herself; the second definition is a group or organizations of blind individuals; and the third (and most interesting) definition is a person speaking for consumers and/or representing a group. The definition demands the cooperation of all concerned parties. And, in fact, one international organization (the World Blind Union) has already implemented the concept of shared responsibilities by establishing a single organization for both providers and consumers formerly two organizations: World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (i.e. providers), and the International Federation of the Blind (i.e. consumers). In fact, two resolutions recently passed exhibit this cooperative spirit, and they are both embraced by the participants of the World Union and include support for specialized service and all meetings to be held in open countries.
Would that we be able to translate into practice in North America the wisdom of the approach taken by WBU. Imagine what could be accomplished if the we/they syndrome at all levels in our field could be chipped away at and demolished. I believe it takes as a first step one major commitment, a commitment to communication. A seemingly simple concept but a giant challenge. Hopefully this panel this afternoon is a step in that direction. Thank you.
by Kenneth Jernigan
Last week at the National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago 2,443 people registered as attendees. In May of this year the Federation distributed (on cassette, on flexible disc, in Braille, and in print) over 28,000 copies of its publication, the Braille Monitor . At my first NFB convention in 1952 barely 150 people were present, and we had no monthly publication. At that 1952 convention we spent more than fifty percent of our time talking about the rehabilitation system what it was doing, how to improve it, and what we wanted from it. At our 1988 convention we had twenty-five hours of program content, and we spent a total of forty-five minutes (or three percent of the time) dealing with the rehabilitation system of the United States. Of that forty-five minutes, fifteen minutes was spent hearing from the federal Rehabilitation Commissioner; fifteen minutes was spent hearing from our Director of Governmental Affairs, who talked about problems blind people are having with the system; and the final fifteen minutes was spent with questions and comments from the audience, indicating their concern with the failure of the system to deliver. In short, only one percent of the program time was used to hear from the rehabilitation system, and none of the time was spent talking about threats to the system or how to save it. Why?
Is it simply, as some have charged, that the members of the Federation (all of the thousands and tens of thousands of them or, at least, their leaders) are radicals and agency haters? No. Such a thesis cannot be sustained. Let us turn again to the statistics of the 1988 NFB convention.
Kurt Cylke, head of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, was with us for the entire week, and so were several of his staff. Day after day they answered questions, talked with our members, and planned with us for the future. There was an atmosphere of partnership and mutual trust. Likewise, top officials of the Social Security Administration were present to speak and participate. The Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs had a forty-minute segment on the program, and other Social Security personnel conducted a seminar and answered questions for most of an afternoon. As with the Library, there was no tension or confrontation only partnership and a feeling of shared interest and mutual concern. Moreover, with Social Security it must be remembered that many blind people throughout our country experience problems with underpayments, demands for return of overpayments, denial of applications, and similar difficulties; and more often than not, the Federation represents those blind persons in hearings to reverse Social Security's actions. Millions of dollars and numerous professional judgments are involved. Yet, there is no hostility only friendliness and joint effort.
In short, our problems come only with the rehabilitation system, with some of the private agencies which function as part of that system, and with a group of the educators. And even here there must be a further narrowing and focusing, for the problem is with the system itself and some of its more vocal spokesmen, not with all of its component parts or personnel. An increasing number of those in the system are beginning to take a new look and work with us. The very fact of this panel is an evidence of the shift in thinking.
This brings me to the topic of today's discussion: Blind People Shaping the Blindness System. I think blind people must have not an exclusive but a major role in shaping the system. Otherwise, the system will die. Moreover, when I say blind people, I mean democratic membership organizations of the blind, not just blind individuals. In a sense, of course, blind people have always shaped the system, as indeed they do today. In most cases blind persons started (or played a major part in starting) the agencies. There have always been blind agency directors, and individual blind persons prominent in the community have from the beginning served on advisory and policy boards and lent their names and prestige to funding and public support. Even so, the system is in trouble. It is in danger of being absorbed into generic programs for the disabled, of starving for lack of funds, and of losing its position of centrality and perceived importance.
I believe this would not be the case if the average, thinking, responsible blind adult felt that it really mattered excluding, of course, the blind people who work in the system. Let me be clearly understood. I am not saying that rehabilitation, training in mobility, assistance for the newly blinded, and education are not important urgently important; for they are. Rather, I am saying that year by year more and more blind persons have come to feel that the system is not effectively providing those things and that it is both unresponsive and irrelevant. Remember that I am talking about the system as a whole, not individual agencies or particular people working in those agencies; and also remember that I am talking about the United States. I am not familiar enough with the situation in Canada to draw conclusions, but I do know Dr. Euclid Herie; and I have a great deal of respect for his ability and integrity. Also, when I visited the convention of the Canadian Council of the Blind last month, I observed the interaction between the Canadian Council and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; and I was impressed. Of course, the principles I am discussing are applicable to the blind of any country. It is not, as a few have claimed, that the organized blind wish to take control of the agencies. It is, from the point of view of the system, far worse than that. It is that more and more blind people are coming to feel that, in the things that count in their daily lives, what the agencies have to offer won't help and doesn't matter.
If I felt that the system was hopeless and that nothing could or should be done to improve it, I would not be here today talking with you. It is late, but if honest evaluation and forthright action occur, I think the system can be saved and that it is worth saving. Certain things must be said without equivocation. As a beginning, the agencies must change their attitudes about criticism and about the role of the organized blind in decision making. The matter of Fred Schroeder is a case in point. As most members of this organization know, Mr. Schroeder is blind. He taught mobility professionally, received all of the academic credentials for doing so, and then was denied certification by this organization. The denial was based on the belief that a blind person cannot safely and competently teach another blind person how to travel or if you like, teach another blind person mobility. The National Federation of the blind as an organization and I as an individual thought you were wrong in that decision, and we were entitled to that opinion. On the other hand, it was perfectly proper for you to believe you were right to attack our position, but it was not proper for you to attack us (as some of you did) on irrelevant grounds denigrating our character and morals. Of course, the same would obtain for our treatment of you. Moreover, workers in the blindness system must resist the growing tendency to hide behind the term professionalism and must stop treating professionalism as if it were a mystery. There is a teachable body of knowledge which can be learned about giving service to the blind; but much of that knowledge is a matter of common sense, good judgment, and experience. Most thinking blind persons (certainly those who have been blind for any length of time and have had any degree of success) know at least as much about what they and other blind people want and need from the system as the professionals do, and it must also be kept in mind that not every act of a professional is necessarily a professional act or based on professionalism. Consider, for instance, the question of whether children with residual vision should be taught Braille. After careful consideration the members of the National Federation of the Blind believe that every such child should at least have the option of being taught to read and write Braille. Some of the educators (especially those who cannot fluently read and write Braille) resist this view. Is their opinion a professional judgment, or is it a decision based on vested interest? Whichever it is, the views of the organized blind are entitled to serious consideration and not simply a brush-off, with the statement that the blind don't know what they are talking about, and that they probably have bad motives and morals into the bargain. This brings me back to what I said about Kurt Cylke and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The libraries are not in trouble, and (regardless of economic conditions or changing theories) the libraries won't be in trouble. They won't because the blind of the United States won't let it happen. We don't control Kurt Cylke or the libraries. We don't want to and besides, he wouldn't permit it. Neither does he control us and for the same reasons. We support the library because we need it, because it gives useful and good service, and because its leaders understand that they exist to give us service, and that they have accountability to us. What I have said about the library is also true of Social Security and an increasing number of agencies and individuals in the fields of rehabilitation and education. But the hard core of the blindness system still resists, to its own detriment and ours. It tries to say that it speaks for the blind because the head of an agency is blind or because blind people serve on a staff or board. No great intellect is required to understand that in a representative democracy only those elected by a group can speak for that group; that the heads of agencies can have vested interests which transcend their blindness; and that when an agency can pick and choose individual blind spokesmen from the community, it can get people who will say whatever it wants them to say. Unless things change, I believe the central core of the blindness system will sink into obscurity, but I believe this need not happen and should not happen. Blind people (and that means the organized blind) must have a major voice in shaping the system. It must be a partnership, and not a partnership of dominance and subservience but of consenting equals a partnership based on trust, respect, and mutuality. Let those things happen, and all else will follow. Let those things happen, and the system will thrive.
by Euclid Herie
I'm pleased to have an opportunity today as a blind person and someone who has worked in this field for about ten years (I've lived with the condition for most of my adult life) to give you my thoughts on blind people shaping the future of the blindness system. At CNIB, where I have spent now eleven years of my working career, I'm always interested here in Canada about blind people having input and opportunity to shape the service organization. Many on occasion have expressed the view that that opportunity is not adequate. It's interesting (as Dr. Jernigan said) that blind people in point of fact in many areas started the system. This was certainly true at the CNIB when Colonel Baker and five people (seven actually, but five of whom were blind) began this organization. Some of you probably know this is our seventieth anniversary. Over the years the organization has grown and flourished and somewhere a decade or two ago did lose touch in some ways with blind people. But blind people didn't wait for the organization to come to its own conclusions but rather shaped the service organization in a passive, but effective, way. Let me give you two examples. CNIB operated twenty-five residences for the elderly blind in Canada for decades. Suddenly (over a decade, which isn't very long actually) blind people stopped coming to live in those residences. The fact today is that the CNIB has two small residences in Newfoundland and three in Ontario five out of twenty some residences.
Workshops: The CNIB operated workshops in probably every part of this country for decades and I would say usefully so. But blind people stopped coming to workshops. We only have three left in the province of Ontario, and really only two sizable ones. Schools for the blind (which the CNIB does not operate): There are two in this country, as opposed to fifty some in your country. Blind parents put their kids into their local schools and insisted that the governments provide the support services. Blind people in our country work for the CNIB probably in the thousands. We made our clients employees and I think, by and large, to a great success. And many had excellent careers. For others it may well have been a disservice. It may have kept them from opportunities that they would have accepted had they maybe felt more secure and confident. Today the CNIB is competing for blind people as employees of this country not because they wouldn't work for us because we're an organization that we believe is on the move (we have strong leadership); but because there are other opportunities out there. And the simple fact is that some jobs pay better, there is a greater variety of careers, and so forth. We operated a food service (and we still do). It employs about 1,200 people in this country. Now, in two of our divisions (Manitoba and here in the Province of Quebec eight years ago) we phased out that operation. It's in serious financial trouble in a few parts of Canada, and it may well be in a very few years to come that we will be out of that sort of operation. Incidentally, blind people are working in fewer numbers in Cater Plan. But I started there as a high school student in the summers. It served a purpose in the past tense.
Those are ways (passive ways) in which blind people shaped services in this country. It may also interest you to know that the CNIB (you'd be interested because of the Gallaudet school incident in Washington) in its charter and by-laws has a requirement that the person who is the CEO in my office be a blind person. That was probably there for the last thirty years. Other agencies and organizations of and for the disabled in our country have come to the conclusion that having someone with a disability might bring a compassion and an understanding that would be different. On the other hand, four of our ten senior executive directors are not blind people Gary Magarrell being one of our competent leaders in our organization on whom I rely greatly. The fact that he is not blind does not mean that he doesn't have sensitivity or caring or understanding. I've always said (because I know this issue comes up) when people tell you about AA (and I think it's a tremendous organization alcoholics helping alcoholics) yes, that's one model. But I wonder about suicide prevention, if you followed that to its conclusion. In our country we have (and I don't say this because I'm in Quebec, as we have great respect for the Queen of Canada) finally after 120 years received our own constitution. We have a charter of rights and freedoms that will, in the long term in Canada, change very dramatically the way in which disabled people will access services. The issue of agencies will be less important than will be the laws and the requirements. That is a significant factor for you and other countries to follow, because a victory won in one country will be well used or followed in another. The world truly is global small. Yes, the blindness system As someone once remarked to me, they said, Euclid, if you think something isn't a system, try changing it. I get very frustrated (and as I'm getting older now, I get frustrated more easily) when I hear people talking about the system and what's wrong with it, what should be done about it, and how we should fix it, and the fact that we don't have enough trained people in this area, or the fact that it's underfunded, etc., etc. I keep saying, If the people who are the system (whether you work for an organization, whether you're part of a consumer group) if we aren't fixing it if we aren't changing if we aren't responsive then it's somehow like we've stepped aside and expect someone to come with a repair kit and do some kind of surgery on the system. No, the ownership belongs with the people who are in it. The control and the money that is required has to come with the efforts of the people in the system. As was recently said by Dr. Jernigan at the Canadian Council of the Blind convention, you can't legislate or demand self-esteem and self-respect. You have to have it; you have to own it; you have to take it. I think that sense of responsibility about the system applies equally.
I want just to say (and I'm almost at the point of King Henry VIII, who reportedly said to one or more of his wives: Do not worry. I won't keep you long ) The caution I have about ownership and input and participation is, let's make sure that someone worries about the gaps. Let's make sure that somebody worries about the needs of people who can't and won't meet their needs, who maybe are not very likable or very articulate. You see, that is the danger that can happen in trying to do, or have people do, only the things that they want to do or that they're inclined to do. I hope that in the themes for the future as we talk about the pan disability movement (which I happen to believe is the greatest threat to the future) We ought to be saying something about that and we aren't. I hope that in the future we're not going to be talking about stupid terms like visually challenged. Blind is blind. Visually impaired is visually impaired. And, yes, if you're deaf-blind, that's what you are. Not hearing and visually challenged. Euphemisms. Why do people feel they need to say those things? One other thing, too, is the matter of professionalism. As Dr. Miller said, I, too, did not come here to speak on behalf of or in concert with anyone. Yes, I have belonged formerly to a professional organization. I was on the senior executive of the Canadian Association of Social Workers for a decade. I no longer belong to a social work organization, and I'll tell you why. Because the organization is self- serving. It does not represent the clients that we served as social workers.
It never did a damned thing for the kids that I worked with for fifteen years. Yes, it was good (and is good) for professional development, for creating energy, and so on as long as we're clear about what a professional association can do. Two years ago I wrote to the AER board of directors and raised the issue as to whether an association of and for professionals belonged in the certification business that I viewed that as possibly self-serving and a potential (if not actual) conflict of interest. I never received a reply to that letter. I hope that the new board will give it some thought. You see, the conclusion to the future of the blindness system is As I was saying to Pat Vertes, who is trying to start a national parents group in this country (for which, incidentally, the CNIB is providing seed money) I told Pat that because we were providing the seed money, there would be no indebtedness, but you damned well better be sure that we're recognized in the literature. But then I said one other important thing to her and her peers in Canada who want to become a viable voice for parents of blind kids. I said the CNIB will never own the parents group. We will work with you, but we want to work with you in partnership, not in an ownership role. We want to help get it started, but we have no business in running the affairs of the parents group in this country. We will consult with them; we will listen to them; we will cooperate; and I hope we will do a lot of good things together. But they must evolve. And that isn't the way that it happened in our country, because for forty years we funded the Canadian Council of the Blind. In 1988 that financial agreement concluded. Incidentally, the consumer movement in our country started in 1928.
So in all of that, I've concluded about the future and the role of professionalism and what will happen. I had one last thought on that, and that is openness. Whatever does happen will certainly be much more open to scrutiny. It will have to be demystified, and it will have to stand the test. There will be no room for the timid, for the self-serving, or those who seek to hide behind credentials, organizations, or anything else. And, yes, that might even apply to consumer organizations. They, too, will find that they must be accountable. Some are, and some are not. Some will survive, and some will not. But one thing is certain: We have gone to an era (and you know it from the political life in your country and in my own and elsewhere in the world) that there are no longer very many closed doors beyond which the scrutiny of the camera and the microphone and the watchfulness of people will not go. All of us, therefore, have to put aside other issues but stand the watch for what blind and visually impaired people, parents of blind children, the deaf-blind, and multi-handicapped sensory impaired are going to want in this country and elsewhere in the world. I'm delighted that five people (with respect to Susan, Bill would have been here if he could) got together at the invitation of these groups and for an opportunity to give you our message to show you that we agree more than we disagree that we have a great respect for each other. I would invite you to visit the Federation of the Blind in Baltimore. I just attended their convention. I can verify everything that people have said (that you would read in the Monitor ). As politicians in my country say to me, If blind people would get their act together, (it was a doctor who said this) then you could come and tell us what you want. And I said, Is there always agreement in the medical profession? Well, you see, there are going to be differences of opinion, because we're people first.
Thank you for coming to listen. We hope we have some good discussion and questions.
After the formal presentations the panel first discussed several issues with each other and then took questions from the audience. Some of the comments from the audience were not picked up by the tape, and parts of the discussion were repetitious; but here are portions of what occurred:
Cross-Disability and Coalitions
Oral Miller: A couple of comments concerning the pan-disability situation, or whatever. It's quite clear that this movement could endanger or harm the blindness system as we know it. Another aspect we must be mindful of, however, is the reality (at least, in the U.S.A.) that whether we like it or not, many of our government officials, legislators, etc. are thinking in cross-disability terms. This is due, in part, to the increased activity, visibility, etc. of other disability organizations. The blind got there first. The blind were articulate earlier. There were a number of provisions that were very beneficial for the blind. But for whatever the reason that pendulum has swung some, and we have to be aware of that. Therefore, on many issues it is necessary to do some cross-disability coalition-type work. Now, this doesn't mean by any means that an organization must (or should or should even consider) giving up its identity, its own integrity, the rights of its members, etc. But as a realistic matter any more, we're going to have to be spending a lot of our time simply fighting to defend a number of the programs, etc., that were put in for the blind early on. Now these are good programs, good benefits, etc. But other people are wanting a bigger piece of the same pie, and we're going to have to work like hell to hang on to what we have. Kenneth Jernigan: I want to comment on what Mr. Miller has said and to observe that at least in our experience as an organization (and from our point of view) it is a mistake to join coalitions. We have not done so. We believe that every time we have flirted with that particular thing we've lost by it. And the very fact that a number of people now find coalition so attractive (I'm not talking about in the blindness system but other disability groups and legislators) is all the more reason why we should not allow ourselves to be lulled into participating in it. I think that if we play our cards right, we do not have to do that. That doesn't mean we aren't in favor of other people having things. It doesn't mean that we're heartless or anything else. But I think that we are organized for one purpose, and that is to deal with problems of the blind and that's what we ought to do. I think that we can maintain that, and I think that it will make sense to people.
Organizations of Parents
Kenneth Jernigan: I want to ask Dr. Herie if I understood correctly. Dr. Herie, I believe that what you meant when you said that you didn't want to own the parents was that if you continued to fund them, there would be an ownership relation and that if you continued to fund them, they could not truly be independent that, therefore, you don't intend to do it and that they really don't want you to do it. Or if they do, they shouldn't. And if they do, you won't. Did I understand correctly? Is that all implicit in what you said?
Euclid Herie: Did I say all that? Yes, you're quite right. If they want us to fund them, we probably won't; and they don't want us to fund them. I guess the point I was trying to make is that I think there is a role for organizations, governments, and people with resources to assist or to be helpful. And money is one way of being helpful. As once was remarked to me, with money usually goes influence. Yes, that's true. I've made my point about the influence I expected in this instance. But the point is that in our country it's very difficult sometimes to bring people together. It's very costly, as it is in your country. We invited at a children's conference a group of parents to come and have lunch. They set up a committee. I didn't hear from them again. Then one day we talked. And we said: We'd be delighted we'd be happy to provide some dollars for you to get a group together and get your organization going. And that's all that we've done.
I don't know what the future of the organization will be, but however it operates, it would certainly not be as part of a funded program from the CNIB. My president's here. I'm sure he'd support that. That would not be our mandate. It wouldn't be our mission.
Oral Miller: If we are facing an attack or a danger or whatever to the system (and there are several), this is certainly one. Because (I'll put it to you very simply, ladies and gentlemen) involved in education we may have to discuss who should learn Braille (that is, which students), but to the extent you accept the notion that blind children should not be taught Braille and the school system should allow that, and the teachers' colleges should waive the requirement, etc. To the extent all these things happen, you are tying behind their backs one hand of each blind person who goes through the school system. Don't do that. Kenneth Jernigan: This is one of those rare occasions when I agree with the ACB. I certainly think that on the business of Braille there has to be some judgment made, but I have known (and I'm sure the other people on this panel have known and that you in the audience may have known I hope you have) blind people who were not taught Braille as they grew up and then lost what sight they had, or found that the print they had been told to rely on wasn't available to them or found that they read it so slowly that it wasn't serviceable to them. They found themselves effectively illiterate and became quite bitter at the system and everything it involved. I think that shouldn't happen. What we have undertaken to do in a number of the states (and what we will continue to press for) is that the blind child be at least given the option (or the child with residual vision I don't want to quibble over terminology) that every child who has enough visual impairment to fall within the legal definition of blindness be offered at least the option of learning Braille and that the parents have some say in the matter.
I know one case currently in our area in which the parents of a blind child want that child to learn Braille. He was learning Braille. They moved into a new school district, and the school authorities said, You are abusing your child. Why do you want to make him blind? The school authorities positively refused even to let him use Braille in the classroom. If the parents say (as they have) that they will pay for private tutoring, the school officials still say they won't permit that child to use Braille in the classroom. I think that's wrong.
Susan Spungin: Not only is that wrong, Mr. Jernigan, but it is also illegal. In light of 94-142 we have something called due process. We seem to be a country of extremes. We have a history of everyone learn Braille, to the point where people are reading Braille, to then in the sixties with the important work of Natalie Barraga, a high emphasis on visual efficiency and using residual vision, to at this point, I think, needing now to step back and take a closer look and work at looking at the individual child. It's very dangerous, I think, when we make global statements that all children with visual loss (regardless of the limit of that vision) should learn Braille. It is as dangerous to take the position that all children with low vision should automatically not learn Braille. I'm afraid that we always look for the quick fix. And when we find these kinds of statements, we're going to go either one way or the other and do a disservice to both children the low vision child and the potential Braille user.
Kenneth Jernigan: I want to be sure you understood what I said. I'm not saying that all children who are visually impaired should learn Braille but that they should have available to them the option of learning Braille if they want to do it and if their parents want them to.
Comment from the audience by Carroll Jackson of Detroit:
Following up with Dr. Jernigan's comments that this panel may be a start, I'd like to know what each of you as representatives of these consumer organizations are willing to do as the next step to continue this dialogue and make a common statement or position paper, as it were, concerning the needs and wants of blind persons.
Oral Miller: I'll say name your meeting place. Susan Spungin: The American Foundation for the Blind would be very happy to serve as the coordinator of that meeting. Euclid Herie: We don't have a national newsletter at CNIB. The CCB does, and I know that the organizations at this table in the United States do. In each of the newsletters (including AER, by the way) I hope you will print the resolution passed by the North America Region of the World Blind Union having to do with the pan-disability approach which will be considered by the World Blind Union assembly this fall. I think that that should get wide publicity. That would give you an example of people coming together on very major common issues.
The fact is that there are twelve people in the North America Region of the World Blind Union. From the United States we have ACB, NFB, and the Blinded Veterans; AER, AFB, and the National Library Service; in Canada it's the same; and it's the same in the Caribbean region. The twelve of us have been meeting now for almost four years. We meet two or three times a year. Those meetings are harmonious. There has never been anything done at those meetings that has not been unanimous. I think that's wonderful.
Kenneth Jernigan: I think it's interesting to pose a question. There was a suggestion made by Mr. Miller as a follow-up to the question from the audience about what we intend to do to try to continue the start we have made here today. Mr. Miller said, Name your meeting place. Dr. Spungin immediately said the American Foundation for the Blind will be glad to coordinate. I doubt that any of you thought her comment was inappropriate. Would you have felt equally comfortable (and would everybody in this audience have participated as enthusiastically) if the National Federation of the Blind had said, We will coordinate? If not, then we aren't ready for this kind of talk. And if you would, then think about whether that's appropriate. I think that a position paper is not what we need. I think what we need are deeds and action, and I believe that the experience of the North America Region is a good example of that. Susan Spungin: Dr. Jernigan, by that comment (which I think is a very important one) can this panel make the assumption that you would be willing to coordinate such a meeting towards the end of coming to grips with those things that are agreed upon? Kenneth Jernigan: To show you I can give a short answer, yes.
Susan Spungin: Thank you. Great!
Oral Miller: Just an additional comment. I agree with whoever said it earlier. Whatever is accomplished is not going to be accomplished overnight. I've heard of so many conferences where they spend the first three days arguing about whether they're going to use a round table or an oblong table or a square table. Obviously there would have to be some sort of decision ahead of time as to a mechanism for even deciding what the issues are. And another thing to consider: We're not talking about a monolithic system. There is no such thing as the agency or the provider view on a given subject. Mr. Jackson's agency may look one way on a subject, and someone else another. So, if we're talking about a continuing dialogue of a general nature and as specific as necessary, fine. Don't expect results overnight, because (as indicated earlier) we've got a number of long- standing either issues or concerns or factors to be considered; and they are not going to go away overnight.
Kenneth Jernigan: Mr. Miller, what we will do (in follow up to Dr. Spungin's question and your comment) is that before the time of next year's convention of this organization the National Federation of the Blind will issue to the organizations represented on this panel an invitation to come to the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. We will coordinate that meeting. We will provide funding to help it happen, and we will pledge ourselves to deal only with those subjects on the agenda on which we may find possible agreement, and to avoid subjects on which we already have taken such positions that we know we cannot agree. We will not discuss a subject unless there is unanimous agreement to do so. In order to get it off of generalities, that's what we are prepared to do. Would the ACB be willing to participate in such a meeting? Oral Miller: We have always been willing to participate in constructive processes; and if that appears to be constructive, we certainly will.
Kenneth Jernigan: Well, does that appear to be constructive as I laid it out?
Oral Miller: Yeah, I'm not sure that enough parties are included. That's my only concern.
Kenneth Jernigan: Well, okay. But let's start with these five.
Oral Miller: Sure. No problem at all.
Closing Statement by Euclid Herie
Since I'm the last panelist to speak, I want to thank you, Gary, on behalf of my colleagues on the panel for moderating the session today. And I want to say that the point could not have been more clearly accentuated in the remarks that I came prepared to make here today that the people who do something about problems in a system are the people in it. In the future things will be far more open than they have ever been, and we're going to have to be prepared to accept that. Today, just even in the agreement that was achieved (the agreement to meet next spring the one factor that could have very major implications) we did something that hasn't happened in forty years. If you think about it, we did something here today about shaping the future of this system something very significant and we did it in an open forum and not in a smoky back room. Wonderful.
An Address Delivered by
J. A. Euclid Herie, Managing Director
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
At The Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
Tuesday, July 5, 1988
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, as an individual and as the former President of the National Federation of the Blind, has given and continues to give effective leadership to your movement. His commitment to the objectives of your organization is respected throughout your country and internationally. President Marc Maurer, the officers, and you the membership must build on Dr. Jernigan's leadership. The National Federation of the Blind is a formidable resource that can continue to give life and meaning to shape a better world for people who, on a daily basis, must contend with blindness or poor vision.
It is due to my respect for Dr. Jernigan and to the value that he places on the quality of life for blind persons that I was pleased to accept his invitation to address your 1988 convention here in Chicago. An unfortunate conflict in my own schedule makes it impossible for me to be here for the remainder of this week, but you may be certain that I will be most interested in the outcome of your deliberations and in the priorities and plans that you will develop for the coming year and beyond. Throughout my career I have had to write numerous letters, articles, and addresses such as this one. I have never written a book, but I understand that usually when a book has been completed, the author and the publisher sit down and debate over the title of the book.
My approach is usually to start with the title and then try to convey my thoughts and message. It was on that basis that some months ago I indicated to Dr. Jernigan that my presentation to this convention would have the title Children of Minor Wives. To understand my choice of that title you would have to travel with me to Thailand to meet Aurora, a blind woman and mother of two teen-age children. In March of this year I was in that country to learn more about the work of Helen Keller International and to review a Canadian International Development Agency project to train eye surgeons. During a reception and dinner aboard a rice boat on the river in Bangkok, I had a long conversation with Aurora about the quality of life for blind persons and the struggle for full participation and equality in our society, whether in Bangkok, Chicago, or elsewhere. We spoke of differing cultures, religions, and traditions. It was in that sphere of reference that Aurora equated the status of blind people as equal to the children of minor wives. From her description it was my understanding that her reference was to certain cultures where a polygamous marriage meant that the children of the primary wife received priority or privileged status in the home, in education, and other opportunities. The children of the other/or minor wives were secondary in those opportunities and their entitlement to them. That evening the conversation caused me to reflect on the progress that we as blind people have achieved in the past two centuries and in recent years. At the same time it accurately described the secondary status that too many blind people still occupy in 1988. We as blind people are part of society and so part of the family, and to that extent we have achieved some measure of comfort and security. On closer examination we discover that to be full and equal participants in the family we must achieve a higher status by becoming the children of the primary wife. The single and most important difference is that unlike the children born to minor wives, we have the freedom and the opportunity to exercise a mobility toward that higher status. The first and most significant step for blind people seeking equality was a formulation of the alphabet by Louis Braille that would tear back the curtain of illiteracy and darkness. Writing in 1930, Helen Keller expressed it best: Books are the eyes of the blind. The reveal to us the glories of the light-filled world. They keep us in touch with what people are thinking and doing. They help us to forget our limitations. As the twentieth century draws to a close, blind persons have attained freer access to education and gainful employment in an independent and competitive environment. At the same time, we have discovered that the laws of the nation, written and democratically sanctioned, must be changed or declared unjust unless they are applicable to the majority of citizens. As an integral part of the new Canadian constitution, the Charter of Rights contains a specific provision with reference to Canadians with disabilities. This is a complex piece of legislation without precedence in our country, and there will need to be numerous legal challenges and rulings by the courts in order fully to clarify its application and benefit to disabled persons. It is in this broader societal context that all of us are working to achieve security and equal status. In your country the National Federation of the Blind is an impressive force toward the achievement of these twin objectives. In Canada the approach has differed considerably, given the statute of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as a single national service organization that in this, its seventieth year, has had an influence both in advocacy and in service delivery.
In early years the Canadian National Institute for the Blind operated a dozen sheltered workshops and over twenty residences and thus became a major employer of blind Canadians. Today, only four workshops remain in Ontario and five residences in Ontario and Newfoundland. These facilities and services have been phased out over the past decade in favor of community-based rehabilitation programs. With fifty-two offices in every part of Canada, including the North West Territories, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind employs 2,200 persons, and there are just under 60,000 Canadians who have voluntarily registered with our agency. In 1985 we adopted the SEE (Sight Enhancement Enterprise) Policy with the effect that we now serve anyone with poor or failing vision. At the same time, the policy was careful to enunciate that those persons without sight or with very limited vision are the individuals whom we serve first and always. In more recent years the consumer movement, as you would understand it in the United States, has accepted the challenge to represent blind and visually impaired Canadians in dealing with major concerns that would be similar, if not identical, to your own. In recent years, as I have traveled to a few other countries and have networked with other individuals in this field, I have discovered that organizations of blind persons are emerging and having an unprecedented influence in policy formation, service delivery, and self-determination. It is not necessary in front of this audience to enumerate what those challenges and priorities are. You will have read in the Braille Monitor a letter written by me concerning my own discriminatory experience with Air Canada. That incident is illustrative of remedial efforts which we in Canada are making to achieve equality in access to transportation in our country. With reference to education, children in Canada are, for the most part, integrated into the regular public school system within their own community. Only two schools for the blind are operating in our country. However, the integrated approach to education can only succeed if the environment truly provides for equal opportunity; that would include such requirements as adequate instruction in Braille, for example. Employment equity is a federal statute in Canada but has limited applicability, and more is required in that important area. Communications and access to information are a major priority and, unlike your service structure through the Library of Congress, there is no effective central leadership in our country other than what the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is able to provide through our National Library Division. In truth we rely heavily on resources from your country for both Braille and talking books and magazines.
You will conclude from these observations that we in Canada share your objectives toward equality and full participation. We can and do learn from one another; a victory won in one country can have a profound influence on another. As an example, the world's first franking privilege for blind persons was introduced in Canada in 1898.
My second and somewhat different challenge today might surprise you. For me, there is the major concern related to the generic approach to disability. At a ceremony in Beijing, China, during the week of March 14th, a national committee was established to place various disability groups under one umbrella. A similar consumer organizational structure exists in our country, although they would acknowledge that they do not adequately represent the needs of blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired Canadians. I am certain that this approach has been repeated in other parts of the world, led by Disabled Persons International (DPI), who are determined to become the international umbrella organization, seeking to speak for and represent all disabilities. We cannot allow that to happen.
To emphasize the depth of my concern, I would refer you to the April, 1988, issue of the Braille Monitor in particular, to two significant articles. The first reference is an article entitled Bill Would Merge Agencies for Handicapped. The following introductory comment summarizes my point:
E. U. Parker, one of the long-time leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi, sent us the following article. It appeared in the February 4, 1988, Clarion Ledger. As will be quickly apparent, there is nothing new or constructive in the proposed bill discussed in this article. Despite the claims of its sponsor, the legislation would not result in savings, less confusion, or coordination of services. It would (as experience has repeatedly shown) achieve the opposite. In the same issue of the Monitor you will have read, no doubt with considerable interest, of the news release concerning the lottery program operated by the blind Spanish organization operated as ONCE. In this article we find that issues among disabled groups have gone beyond rhetoric or the niceties of the board room table. We read of riot police called in to control demonstrations by disabled persons, petitions to the government, and the compromise that ONCE brought in by including a sizable group of disabled persons to resolve the problems in employment and profits relating to the sale of lotteries. It will be interesting to follow these developments, particularly should the non-blind disabled contingent within ONCE become the voting majority. Perhaps they have considered this. In any event, this development underlines the problems that can be anticipated to occur as blind persons seek independence and equality, possibly not only within the dominant society, but as minority members of a numerically larger group in the generic disabled community. While it is not my intention to dramatize the issue by describing it as the enemy within, I want to recommend that any collaborative action with cross- disability organizations, where this is considered desirable or appropriate, must be approached with the utmost caution. On this point there can be no compromises. It is for this reason that the delegates from the North America Region of the World Blind Union recently adopted a firm resolution requesting that the World Blind Union show leadership to the world so that priorities and issues that concern blind, deaf-blind, and persons with poor or failing vision are, and must be, dealt with in a distinct and unique manner. It is out of this concern that blind and visually impaired individuals will not be well served by the generic approach. In fact, there could be an adverse impact since access will mean ramps but may not mean access to print for the non-seeing world. Dr. Jernigan and I, among others in this country and elsewhere, have strongly supported the development of the World Blind Union with the hope that it can be an international forum to balance, or if necessary oppose, the generic approach to disability, should such prove to be counterproductive in resolving our own issues and problems. In the United States your organization (the National Federation of the Blind, and others such as the American Foundation for the Blind) can and must be out front to resist, where appropriate, any attempt on the part of any organization for the disabled that will not serve our interests or falsely claims to speak on our behalf. Be aware that this is a far greater issue than has usually been recognized, with potentially a significance beyond what we have fully understood to date. Within a broader and numerically larger disabled community, we as blind persons must not allow ourselves either to become or to be viewed as the children of minor wives. Whether viewed in the context of our life in today's society to include access to information, employment, transportation, housing, leisure, or other services predicated on equality before the law, our goal must be to enjoy the status of the children of the primary wife. Finally, and most important of all, we should not seek that status in our community, or within our own family, unless we first possess the confidence in ourselves as individuals. Self-confident, we can develop the required ability and full measure of self-reliance to enjoy the status of the child of the primary wife. Where, for whatever reason, our status is that of the child of the minor wife, we must seek the resources and the means to alter that status to first-class citizenship with all that that implies.
To summarize, I have touched on the fundamental priorities relevant to equality and full participation within our society, and the urgency and significance of a focused and concerted approach within the blindness movement. To restate the obvious, self-esteem and self-confidence can and will flourish within a hospitable environment in a nation whose citizens possess the necessary attitudinal and behavioral prerequisites. It is for that reason that I consider it a privilege and an opportunity to have shared these few moments with you at this podium to congratulate you on your success and to urge that you redouble your efforts in order that blind people today, and in generations to come, will never know the status of Children of Minor Wives.
by David Blyth
On Tuesday afternoon, July 5, 1988, at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Chicago, David Blyth was one of the speakers on a panel entitled: The Blind of the World in Collective Action. Mr. Blyth is Vice President for Policy of the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia. He is also Chairman of the East Asia/Pacific Region of the World Blind Union and Director of Community Services for the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind in Melbourne, Australia. Here is what he said:
I would like to tell you a bit about the services in Australia, or the conditions for blind people in Australia. To do this I have to give you a profile of the agency for which I work. I noted and would like to take the opportunity to compliment President Maurer on his report. I thought it was a most magnificent and inspiring report, and I can assure him that if he will waive the copyright on it, we will play it on the radio for the print handicapped throughout Australia. My organization, the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, was established in 1866 as the result of a committee that provided some educational services for deaf people. It considered that blind children and some blind adults living in the area around Melbourne needed an education and employment. So they established a school for children who are blind and a workshop for adults who are blind. This continued in that normal, institutionalized manner, where everyone was brought in and housed and virtually taken away from their families, for a number of years. In the early part of this century things started to change. Probably the first change was the establishment of a blind workers' union, where blind people themselves decided to have some say in their future and what was being provided and how it was being provided. At this time in Australia we were a collection of six English colonies. We did not get federation until the year 1901. And federation in Australia was more of a dream in the early days than an actual reality, because Australia is the same size as the continental U.S.A. However, it is certainly different in its population. Even today we have a population of only 16,000,000. It was interesting to fly into California and find that they've got that much, even more.
The workshops for the blind in Australia did the normal traditional trades. There wasn't much employment in what we would call open industry until the middle and late thirties, and particularly during the Second World War. This created a great expansion with the manpower shortages which came in the 1940's, and that continued until 1945 when the war was over. Then they said, Right back to the institution for you boys. And that's when the blind workers union and other organizations which had been established at that time really fought their fight.
Competitive employment, as we call it today, is the real thing in Australia. Competitive employment has progressed to such an extent that in my state of Victoria there are approximately 1,000 blind people working. Out of that thousand there would be eighty-one in a sheltered workshop, and that eighty-one would be mostly blind people who have other disabilities, and a number of them who have emotional disabilities. So employment is not really an issue with us anymore. Blind people can get jobs in most industries. There is some discrimination, but very little. Australians are protected by award wages so that everybody gets the same wage in a certain industry. In computer programming and all of those technical services, employment opportunities do exist.
The RVIB, or the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, has as one of its main roles today a resource organization. We provide the training, or the assistance for training all of the alternative formatting of material, whether it be computerized or taped or Brailled. And that is provided for students, people who are training for employment, and people who are in employment. We believe that there is not much sense in giving a person the tools if you don't give that person a job. The RVIB has a standard policy that all new technology shall be adapted so that it can be used for the blind. Therefore, RVIB is helping in the workplace. So if a blind person is working as a lawyer or in any other position, the RVIB will make available in a usable format the necessary books and material to help the blind person function competitively.
The welfare services (which were, in actual fact, the mainstream, I should imagine, of the pre-rehabilitation services) are still there to help those who are really needy. Remember that in Australia we have had since 1955 a compensation for handicapped payment. The blind people of Australia do receive twenty five percent of average weekly earnings: as a right, with no means test, no asset tests, and no denial. And that has been since 1955. Besides the welfare services, there are also services to help blind people with housing, because this seems to be a major problem for blind people just about everywhere I have been getting adequate and reasonably priced housing. So interest-free loans are made as bridging finance, and assistance is given for getting reasonably rated loans.
Service for children is probably the thing that causes most concern at this time. We are in the integrated education system, the same as you are. We are also finding that it is not the total answer. We are finding that in some places it works really well and that in other places it doesn't work at all and it also does everything that's in between. We find that there are children who emotionally cannot handle the mainstream educational system, and there are not only blind people who face this issue. It's a common issue in various parts of our country, so at the RVIB we have changed our school from being a school just for blind children to being a school for children who are blind and who have other disabilities or other problems that stop them from being able to use the mainstream educational system. To try to give that some normality, we have what is called reverse integration. We have come to an arrangement with surrounding schools whereby we take several of their classes for a year, and those classes operate with one or two blind children as part of them, working in the segregated school.
I would like to talk now about the organizations of blind people. The Blind Workers Union was the first one. They were ones who pioneered representation for blind people. But they restricted themselves mostly to sheltered workshops. And so in 1911 the first organization of Australia-wide blind people met, and they established the Australian Federation of Organizations of the Blind. That organization survived right through to gain free of means test pension and many other Social Security benefits for blind people. Today it no longer survives, because it could not change its constitution to allow for individual members. In Australia, because of our distances, most blind people are not in local organizations.
So in 1975 an organization called the National Federation of Blind Citizens was established. It was established basically along the lines of your organization. A lot of its preamble is your preamble because people like Hugh Jeffreys and others who had come to America and seen early conferences of this organization came back with the concepts you had tried and found workable. They have been strong and loud in their praise of your work and of the way you work and we have adapted those principles to Australia. There is the exception that we don't vote on state lines, because we only have six states and it's not hard to get a two-thirds majority if you only have to get four of six votes to change the constitution. We decided to have individual voting, but we do give organizations and branches extra votes. It has worked quite effectively. The major things we work on are similar to yours. Fortunately we don't have the trouble with the airlines that you have and we have other things that seem to work for us that you don't seem to like the idea of. But that's the right of free and democratic people, and that's why we have organizations so that we can all be different if we so desire. So there are those things that do work, and work well for us. Our airlines in Australia are very regulated. We only really have two commercial airlines. They both fly at exactly the same time to exactly the same destinations at exactly the same fare. Everything's about exactly the same. That is about to be changed, I understand, and I imagine we are going to run into some of the problems that you have faced. With our two airline policy the rights of all people have been guaranteed, but with deregulation I'm not too sure.
I would now like to mention a few little things that we do that I think work quite well. Sports are a very important part of our life in Australia. We have a pretty good climate, and sports are very popular. Cricket (which is a game that I believe is very foreign to you) is very popular. It started in 1922 with state and national competition played regularly by the majority, I would say, of active blind people. It has also been the training ground for a lot of blind people who have become our leaders. In each club you need administrators, and in each association you need administrators. This is where a lot of our people got their start. We have all the other things tandem bike riding, skiing, and the rest of that.
In Australia we also have another organization called the Australian National Council of and for the Blind. I think the of is a little bit of a misnomer, because the organization is mainly for but it can't be completely all for, because I'm now the president of it. I was the first president of the National Federation of Blind Citizens, so you can see how it is. This organization has some nineteen members and that's the number of agencies that there are in Australia agencies and organizations like agencies. Through that organization the National Federation of Blind Citizens has been able to influence the policies and actions of agencies in our country. In our country we are fortunate in our small numbers, and that is why we have been successful. I believe in partnership, and that is what I think we have achieved. I believe that there are times when one confronts and that there are times when one asks people to yield a little bit more gently, and that is the way we have approached the Australian National Council of and for the Blind. With that we have been able to influence government to look seriously at organizations for blind people and of blind people, because we were facing the issue of the disabled lost in this mire of the disabled. In that mire blind people will lose. There is no doubt in my mind that if blind people cannot stand alone and be recognized in their own right, we will lose and so I would like to finish with that remark and that warning to all of us to be vigilant. I have heard the word disabled being used regularly here today by your representatives. I believe most strongly that all disabled people are entitled to a fair go, but the ones that I'm interested in helping at this point in time are blind people.
An Address Delivered By
Wimon Ong-Amporn Foundation for the Blind in Thailand
At the Annual Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind
Tuesday, July 5, 1988
I would first like to say how happy I am to be speaking with you today. This is the first time that I have attended a National Federation of the Blind convention, even though I have tried to follow NFB activities for many years. It is an honor for me to be here in Chicago and to have this chance to meet so many new and interesting friends.
I would like to give you some background information on the Royal Kingdom of Thailand. Thailand is located in South East Asia and is one of the members of the ASEAN countries. We share common borders with Kampuchia to the east, Laos to the north, Burma to the west, and Malaysia to the south. Our history goes back over 1,000 years, and we are one of the few countries in Asia that was never colonized by a European power. In fact, the word Thai in our language means Free, and Thailand means the land of the free. We are very proud to be a Kingdom, and our King is greatly loved and respected by all the people of my country. In size, Thailand is slightly bigger than the state of California. There are seventy-three provinces, and Bangkok is the capital city. Thailand has a population of fifty-three million people, with most of the population living in rural areas and working in agriculture. Our main religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by eighty- five percent of the population. The rest of the population is composed of ten percent Muslim, five percent Christian, and others.
We are known to be kind people who have a good sense of humor. In fact, we have the nickname of being the Land of the Smiles. And if you ever have the opportunity to visit my country, you will find a land full of warm and loving people. Concerning blindness, there has never been a national survey on blindness done in Thailand, so I cannot tell you the exact number of blind people. Sample surveys have shown a blindness rate of 0.6 percent, which would mean that there are over 318,000 blind people in Thailand, of which 20,000 are school-aged children. These rates are based upon figures from the Thai Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. Although there are a large number of blind people, education, rehabilitation, and social services are still very limited. In fact, it is estimated that less than four percent of blind children have the opportunity to receive educational services. There are a number of reasons that services are so limited. Among these are financial constraints on the part of government agencies. We are a developing country, and the monies needed to expand special services to blind people are not available. Also, there is the problem of community attitudes. Although Thai people are generally noted for their humanitarian actions, they customarily accept disability as a manifestation of wrongful deeds done either in this life or in a previous life. It is part of the Buddhist belief that our present status in life is dependent upon the merit we earned or did not earn in our last life. Therefore, if we are blind in this life, then it is due to some misdeed done in a previous life. This attitude has added to the difficulty faced by disabled people in Thailand who are trying to lead independent lives.
Education of blind children was first introduced into Thailand in 1939 by an American woman named Miss Genevieve Caulfield. Miss Caulfield was a blind woman from the state of Pennsylvania. Beginning with one student in a small house in Bangkok, Miss Caulfield's work with blind children soon became well known, and within a few short years she had over forty students enrolled in what is today known as the Bangkok School for the Blind. This school is now operated by the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand.
Today the Foundation runs five units: a school for the blind, a training center for blind men, a training center for blind women, a library for the blind, and a sheltered workshop for the blind. All five of these units are located either in Bangkok or in the greater Bangkok Metropolitan area.
Besides the Bangkok School for the Blind, there are four other residential schools for the blind. Two of these are government-sponsored schools and are located in the north and south of Thailand. The other two are run by the private sector. One is located in the northeast region of Thailand and is run by the Christian Foundation for the Blind. This school is a preparatory program for students before they enter integrated education programs. The other private school is located in the resort town of Pattaya in the southeast region. The integrated education system was first introduced into Thailand in 1965 with the assistance of Helen Keller International. HKI is again assisting the Ministry of Education to expand on the efforts started in 1965. This is being supported by a grant from the United States government through the Agency for International Development. At the present time there are about 500 blind and low vision children in ordinary school programs. This still means that less than four percent of the total number of school-age blind children are in any school program. Much work is needed before all blind children in Thailand have equal access to education.
Besides the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand, there are two other foundations supporting services for blind people. These are the Christian Foundation for the Blind and the Caulfield Foundation for the Blind.
The Association of the Blind in Thailand is the only national organization exclusively run by blind people themselves. The Association was founded twenty years ago by a group of blind persons with the assistance and through the initiative of Miss Caulfield. The Association promotes the equalization of opportunity of blind people in order that they may achieve full participation in society. It alerts the public to the abilities of blind persons and tries to change the sighted public's negative attitudes and stereotypes about blindness. The Association of the Blind, at the present time, can provide only a very limited amount of direct services to its blind members because of a lack of adequate financial resources. But the Association is still trying to provide some services. These services include:
1. assisting its members to make contact with other social service agencies;
2. distributing aids and appliances for blind persons at a nominal cost;
3. setting up a small loan program for its members in health care, education, and self-employment; and
4. providing talking book services.
Benefits to the blind people of Thailand are still limited when compared with neighboring countries. However, through the work of the Association, blind people in Thailand now enjoy the following provisions:
1. free domestic postal mailing of articles for the blind;
2. duty-free importation of aids and appliances for the blind from overseas;
3. the right to vote at local, as well as national, elections (This may sound odd to you here in the United States, where everyone is entitled to vote, but for us blind people in Thailand, it took many years to get the right to vote); and
4. free public transportation by bus in the Bangkok area and fifty percent discount for bus travel throughout the country. Due to the limited resources available, the Association is not in a position to serve all the various needs of its members. However, the members help themselves by organizing specific groups within the Association in order to be responsible for their own special interests and needs. For example, we have special working groups of blind women, blind lottery ticket sellers, blind musicians, telephone operators, and blind students.
In addition, the Association encourages its members to be active in society. These activities include providing musical entertainment programs, organizing a luncheon once a year for the disabled veterans, participating in blood donation programs, and participating in national running marathons. The Association is also involved in public relations. Some of these activities include a weekly radio program, which we host for our members and for the general public. Also every October 15, which is our national White Cane Day, we organize an educational campaign through television, radio, and the press. The Association is a self-sufficient, nonprofit organization. Therefore, fundraising is one of our major tasks. We receive assistance from both national and international organizations. We are also members of the World Blind Union. Although progress is being made, blind people in Thailand still face many problems. Among these are: 1. It is difficult for services to expand because of limited financial resources. Thailand, like most developing countries, tends to put services for blind people at a low priority. 2. Thailand is not a welfare state, so social welfare programs such as special tax laws, unemployment insurance, vocational placement, social security, etc. are not available. 3. Job opportunities for the blind in Thailand are very limited, and most blind people are self-employed. Most blind people make their living by selling lottery tickets. 4. It is difficult for a blind person to enter new professions. We have only a limited number of blind persons working as lawyers, teachers, telephone operators, civil servants, and so on.
But attitudes are slowly changing; services are slowly expanding; and the lives of blind persons in Thailand are improving. Although we are not quite as advanced as here in the United States, I feel that we are making progress. Our future looks bright.
Before closing, I would like to thank you all once again for allowing me to participate in this convention. It has been an honor for me to attend this convention and to be able to share this country report with you. I hope you will all some day have the opportunity to come to Thailand and to enjoy our hospitality. Thank you for your attention. And as we say in Thai, Kop Khun Krup Thank you... and Sawadee Krup Goodbye.
by Geraldine Braak
Mrs. Geraldine Braak is President of the Canadian Council of the Blind. On Thursday morning, July 7, 1988, she spoke at a general session of the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Chicago as follows:
It gives me a tremendous pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to observe a totally different convention from the one that Dr. Jernigan attended. Ours is totally a consumer organization, and we are not involved in services. We are the only national consumer organization in Canada, and our membership structure is totally different from yours. When I tell you that we have ninety-six members, that doesn't sound like very much. But our structure is such that a club is a member, and each and every club can have upwards of maybe five or six hundred members. Yet, in our structure each club is only one member. We represent thousands of visually impaired and blind people, and we are most active in the areas of advocacy, recreation, and rehabilitation but as I have said, not service programs. Our recreation serves as rehabilitation because the club activities are mainly geared to absorbing the people back into the community to involve them in social programs. You can understand how difficult it is sometimes just to go out and have a visit with somebody or to go again into a restaurant. Many times we try very small projects. Yet, they are gigantic to the newly blinded person. Even the effort of going out with a group of blind people into a restaurant and booking about sixty reservations can be a challenge to he newly blinded person. They are scared to come out and be seen, because everybody will see that I am blind. And out of those sixty people maybe eight show up, and you sit there and you think, What have we done wrong? These people are too scared. We have failed to get our message across. But that is only one of the areas. We work with the government, on many levels. I am pleased to see that many of the areas in which we are working are also areas in which you are working. We are proud to be able to say that we achieved last year the requirement that the minimum wage has to be paid to every worker, regardless of whether that worker is employed in a sheltered workshop or not. Another main area of our concern is exactly like what you had this morning Braille, particularly for blind children. On June 1 we had outside of Toronto at Lake Joseph (which is a Canadian National Institute for the Blind center) a giant forum. It was called, Braille and its Future Directions. At that meeting one of the major concerns was Braille for the children. Braille should be taught to the children. One of the speakers this afternoon, Mr. Fred Schroeder, was also a speaker at the Lake Joseph meeting and he most certainly did very strongly express your views. The next day your President (Mr. Maurer, whom I first met at that time) was a participant in BANA, the Braille Authority of North America. At that time I was appointed to a five-member national task force, which will be meeting for the first time in early September. At that time we will most certainly address the problems surrounding the teaching and availability of Braille.
Another area which is of great concern to us (and I know from your President, from Dr. Jernigan, and from the undercurrents in this audience that it is of great concern to you also) is the impact of the cross-disability movement. This movement is detrimental to the interests of the blind, and I can guarantee you that the Canadian Council of the Blind is going to do what it can to prevent the blind from being submerged in the larger disability population. We established about two years ago (and we are very proud of it) a coordinating committee of blind and visually impaired organizations, and at the present time we have about twelve organizations that are participating. We began with four. As I have already said, we have only one national organization of the blind, but there are many smaller ones maybe only city or provincial organizations. These now have become part and parcel of the coordinating committee, and we fight many issues together. Each and every organization has its own goals, its own objectives but we truly feel that the blind together can make many achievements. One of the first things we tackled was the copyright law. In Canada there was a very dangerous movement afoot by authors and artists to protect their royalties, and we all know what an impact that would have on our talking book library. We just could not let them go ahead with it. I will just mention one other area. It is not legislative but the way people perceive us in the community. In Toronto early this year in the March of Dimes, which is a charitable organization which does fundraising for people, there was a week-long campaign. They came out with an advertisement on television. I will describe it to you. I have seen it but I haven't seen it. You know what I mean. It shows a person in a wheel chair, and he is isolated all by himself. All around at a distance are people with blindfolds. The background music is the sound of hell, the sound of fire and there are flames flicking around them and black birds flying around. The message that comes through after about half a minute of this is: Are you going to give this person in a wheelchair a job? If you cannot suit his capabilities, then you must be blind.
You can imagine our immediate reaction. We phoned them, we told them: Take this off of t.v., or we will get after you. We were told that it was none of our business. It cost them $350,000 to have that ad on. And we said: We don't care if it costs you $2,000,000. Take it off.
I know that you are running behind schedule, so I wont' take any more of your time. I am enjoying my stay with you. I am enjoying observing and participating. May you have good deliberations, and good luck.
Tuesday, September 20,
Kenneth Jernigan, President
North America/Caribbean Region
World Blind Union
2nd General Assembly, Madrid, Spain
In 1984 the International Federation of the Blind and the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind met in Saudi Arabia to merge and become the World Blind Union. This coming together was not achieved without difficulty. Many (including my own organization, the National Federation of the Blind of the United States) had serious misgivings about the merger, but we decided to go forward with a positive attitude to participate in the newly established world body. That was 1984, and we now meet in Madrid in 1988 to take stock of the past four years and chart the course for the quadrennium ahead. The numbers attending this General Assembly and the hope and enthusiasm which pervade its deliberations make it clear that the sanguine expectations of 1984 were well founded. The World Blind Union is a functioning reality, already possessing the beginnings of a tradition and the framework of a protocol of operation.
An integral part of that protocol is the regional structure of the Union. Shortly after the Assembly in Riyadh in 1984, the delegates of the then North America Region met in Washington to elect officers and make plans. There were (and are) six delegates from the United States. Three of these (the delegate from the American Council of the Blind, the delegate from the Blinded Veterans Association, and the delegate from the National Federation of the Blind) represent organizations of the blind. Three (the delegate from the Association for Education and Rehabiltiation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the delegate from the American Foundation for the Blind, and the delegate from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) represent organizations for the blind. Of the four delegates from Canada two represent the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and two represent the Canadian Council of the Blind. At that initial meeting in Washington in the fall of 1984 we were seeking a basis for joint action and a means of personal understanding and cooperation. Since that time we have held seven meetings, one each spring and one each fall, and we have had a continuous exchange of correspondence and individual visits.
When we look back over the past four years, the accomplishments of the North America/Caribbean Region have been, by any standard, impressive. Under the leadership of Dr. Euclid Herie, Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, our region has raised $30,000.00 to endow the Louis Braille Museum at Coupvray, France; and we are now in the process of making additional substantial contributions. In cooperation with Mr. Andr Nicole and others we intend to raise enough money throughout the world to insure the permanent financial security of the Louis Braille Museum and to make certain that this monument to one of the principal benefactors of the blind continues in perpetuity. Braille is a significant part of our heritage, and one of the principal yardsticks for measuring the vitality and validity of a civilization or culture is the degree to which it shows respect and reverence for the ancestors who brought it into being. Working with Mr. Nicole and his colleagues, we in the North America/Caribbean Region intend to place the Louis Braille Museum on a firm and enduring foundation. In New York in the fall of 1986 our region hosted the meeting of the World Blind Union Executive Committee. It was the occasion for constructive interaction with the United Nations and increased public awareness of the needs and aspirations of the blind. Our region has now been enlarged to encompass the Caribbean Council for the Blind, and two representatives from that organization currently serve as delegates so that our regional structure now consists of twelve delegates: six from the United States, four from Canada, and two from the Caribbean. Acting through the regional structure, Canada and the United States have provided material and technical assistance to the Caribbean area, and there is every prospect that such assistance will continue. We have established a regional Committee on the Status of Blind Women, and that committee is functioning actively. The Committee met during the time of our regional meeting in Toronto in May of this year and presented a proposed plan of action to the full delegation. The plan was adopted and is now being put into effect.
At the World Blind Union Executive Committee meeting in New York in the fall of 1986 our region presented a resolution to require that all meetings of the WBU officers, Executive Committee, and other committees be open for any member of the organization to attend. We also sponsored a resolution to require that WBU meetings be held in countries which would not exclude for political, cultural, philosophical, or religious reasons individuals, delegations, or representatives of the blind from any place on earth. Both of these resolutions were adopted by the WBU Executive Committee, and we feel that the organization is strengthened (both politically and morally) as a result. Meeting in Toronto in the spring of 1988, the North America/Caribbean Region adopted for recommendation to this Assembly a resolution to require that the World Blind Union not blur its distinctive role by participating in coalitions with other disability groups. As you consider our proposal during the meetings of this Assembly, we ask that you read it carefully, both for what it says and what it does not say. We would not prohibit (where appropriate) cooperation with other groups of the disabled, but we would preserve with unmistakable clarity the concept that the primary purpose of the this organization is to deal with problems of the blind, not the disabled as a whole.
So far, I have talked to you about tangible achievements which we have made in our region during the past four years, but our most important accomplishment has not been tangible. It has been attitudinal and spiritual. The World Blind Union has been the means of bringing us together to work cooperatively as a team. There are, of course, still philosophical differences which divide certain ones of us on particular issues, but those differences have not been emphasized in our deliberations. In fact, they have receded in prominence and have gradually been replaced by an atmosphere of joint effort to reach common goals. And this sense of increasing closeness and community of purpose is spreading beyond the narrow confines of the formality of the regional structure to every aspect of our organizational functioning and our personal and professional relationships. Let me specify. In June of this year I went to Kingston, Ontario, to speak at the convention of the Canadian Council of the Blind; and in July Dr. Herie, Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and Mrs. Braak, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind, came to Chicago to participate in the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Plans are already under way for future exchanges, and the resulting shared information and strengthened bonds of friendship give a new dimension to what we are doing.
Last July (and I think this is clearly the result of our WBU regional contacts) a program of truly historic significance occurred in Montreal at the meeting of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Geraldine Braak, Canadian Council of the Blind; Oral Miller, American Council of the Blind; Susan Spungin, American Foundation for the Blind; Euclid Herie, Canadian National Institute for the Blind; and I, National Federation of the Blind, participated in a two-hour panel discussion. The very fact that such a panel could take place at all (particularly, considering the participants) is noteworthy. It could not have happened four years ago. Moreover, the tone of the discussion was friendly and constructive, and positive developments resulted. It was agreed that the five organizations involved would meet next year at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore for a detailed exploration of common concerns and possible programs of joint action. The meeting will be hosted by the National Federation of the Blind and may (if all the participants agree) be expanded to include the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and possibly others. This, indeed, is progress.
One other item should be mentioned in this report. The North America/Caribbean Region comes to Madrid unanimously urging the General Assembly to elect Dr. Euclid Herie as Treasurer of the World Blind Union. As in so many other things during the past four years, we are unanimous in this action. We know Dr. Herie; we like him; and we respect him. Moreover, his competence and experience particularly suit him for the position. He administers a program with a large budget; yet, he finds time to deal compassionately and sensitively with the problems of individuals. I would like to conclude this report by making these observations:
In a very real sense every day of our lives is a new crossroad, requiring decisions which inevitably lead to advancement or failure, but not all days are equally important. Some stand out above others, representing times of crucial significance in the history of a person or a social movement. Madrid in 1988 constitutes one of these landmark times. What we do here during this brief period may well determine the course of the affairs of the blind of the world for generations to come. There are certain issues with which we must deal, both wisely and decisively. We must decide how we will allocate the resources we have, and what we will do to increase those resources. We must deal with the problems of the blind of the developing countries, and must do it in such a way that we do not give the impression (either to ourselves or others) that there are two classes of blind people in the world, the inferior and the superior. We must recognize that we are brothers and sisters, and our actions must suit our words. Above all, we must understand and support the concept that we who are blind intend to have the major voice in determining our own destiny. Through the centuries others have made our decisions and settled our fate, but that time is at an end. We are determined that it will be at an end. We will have no more of it. The World Blind Union can and should be the vehicle for the emancipation of the blind. Otherwise, we default on our responsibility. If this organization simply becomes another forum for meaningless talk and learned professional papers, it will be one of the tragic lost opportunities of history. The World Blind Union (approached in good faith and properly utilized) can be the key to open the door of first-class status for the blind of the world. My brothers and my sisters, let us work together to make it come true.
An Address Delivered by
President, North America/Caribbean Region
World Blind Union
At the Second General Assembly of the World Blind Union
Madrid, Spain, September 21, 1988
When the World Blind Union came into being four years ago in Saudi Arabia, the question facing the delegates was not purpose or method but whether the organization should be established. Today the question is not whether but why and how. Four years ago the General Assembly was concerned with organizational structure, political viability, and worldwide acceptance. Today it is concerned with the means of achieving its objectives and a clear definition of what those objectives should be. Of course, our Constitution has a statement of purpose. It says in Section 1 of Article II: The purposes of the World Blind Union shall be to work for the prevention of blindness and towards the advancement of the well-being of blind and visually impaired people, with the goal of equalization of opportunities and full participation in society, if necessary by special, legal, or administrative measures; to strengthen the self-awareness of blind persons, to develop their personality, self-respect, and sense of responsibility; and to provide an international forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of blindness. That is what the Constitution says, and the first statement of purpose ( to work toward the prevention of blindness ) and the last ( to provide an international forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of blindness ) are clear and unmistakable. But what about the rest of it in some ways the very heart and soul of it?
No one would minimize the importance of preventing blindness, but this is largely a medical problem; and the World Blind Union will not (and, indeed, should not) ever be the prime mover in this area.
As to providing an international forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of blindness, that is certainly important, but in and of itself it is not enough. It is a means rather than an end. If we are to get at the real problem of blindness, we must (as our Constitution says) find a way to advance the well-being of blind and visually impaired people by equalizing their opportunities; helping them achieve full participation in society; and making it possible for them to have self-respect, self-awareness, and a sense of responsibility. But how shall we do it? First of all, we must be (and, moreover, must regard ourselves as being) an organization of equals. This means that the primary purpose of the World Blind Union cannot be merely to serve as a vehicle for channeling money from those who have it to those who don't. It will be easy for me to be misunderstood on this point, for it is a sensitive area. I am not saying that the members of a family should not share what they have with each other; nor am I saying that the blind of the world should not regard themselves as a family, for they should. Rather, I am saying that the members of a family should first be members of the family and that as a consequence sharing should follow and not just sharing of material things but also of spiritual and intellectual things as well. It cannot be the other way around. We cannot (because of urgent need, feelings of guilt, superiority, or a sense of duty) create an organization for the primary purpose of the one- way flow of money from more fortunate to less fortunate people. We cannot because it will be detrimental to both the givers and the receivers, because it will create acrimony instead of harmony, and because it will not lead to a permanent solution of the problem. Moreover, if the giving of money is the primary purpose and everything else is incidental, there are better and more effective ways of doing it than through the World Blind Union.
If we are to succeed in our efforts, we must carry out the purpose clause of our Constitution. We must help the blind of the world achieve equality of opportunity, self- awareness, and self-respect. Of course, this necessarily means the provision of resources (more resources than have ever before been provided); but it means more than that. It means opportunity as a matter of right, not charity; and it means opportunity stimulated and provided from within each country as well as from external sources. It means that we who are blind must be members of a family (equals), sharing and working throughout the world in a common effort for the salvation of each other, and the salvation of all of us. It means action, not just words. It means recognition of the fact that we who are blind are brothers and sisters facing a common problem, which requires a common solution, achieved through joint action.
There is something else. We must not try to impose our own political systems or cultural values upon each other. Societal norms are different in almost every part of the world, and if we wish to change them, this is not the forum for doing it. Instead, we must strive to see that the blind of every country have the same opportunity, economic base, social recognition, and civic responsibility as others in their culture. This means more than money, but it means that, too.
If we are to deal with each other as equals and work together to solve our problems, we must understand that those problems are essentially the same for all of us whether we live in the East or the West, the industrialized or the unindustrialized, the developed or the underdeveloped countries. There are, of course, individuals who are exceptions; but as a general rule the blind of every nation on earth (the most developed as well as the least developed) are when compared with others in their culture economically and socially disadvanaged. Let me give you an example from one of the most developed countries, my own. Recently I read a poem by an American writer, a writer whose name I don't know. Here it is:
When the playful dawn came down to the sea,
I ruffled its hair with gladness. I saw the waves and flexed my soul in freedom.
Humanity comes through the optic nerve, And justice lives in the eye.
Not creed or law or politics
But curvature and the nature of light. The blind man yearns in a land apart, Slave though richest king.
Not for him the full broad sweep of mind and spirit
Dark the channel, nerve and tissue; Long eternal through the night.
Day comes down to touch the ocean, And I stand up to look and live. Books of science unromantic freedom's passport to the soul.
When I first read that poem, I thought: how literate, how polished, how skillfully written how absolutely gross and totally false. Poetry is the art of saying so much in so few words that prose will not work as a means of expression. It does for language what the computer does for science and what the aerial photograph does for a landscape. On nothing more than a sheet of paper you can do any calculation which the most up-to-date computer can do, but if the problem is complex, you will do it more slowly so much so that you will never live to finish it. You will not understand the patterns and relationships or, for that matter, even know they exist. They will be buried in minutiae and lost in delay. Likewise, you can walk the earth and map a continent, but you can never see its patterns and perspectives. There is too much detail, and it will take too long to put it together.
Poetry (properly used) cuts through verbiage and speaks to the soul. Like the computer and the aerial photograph, it condenses time and reveals patterns. But we must not be misled. There is no magic in sophisticated tools. They are only as good as our understanding. Ancient astronomy predicted quite accurately the course of the stars and the date of eclipses, but it was based on the mistaken notion that the earth is flat and the center of the universe. In the absence of understanding, a computer would not have brought enlightenment. It would only have reinforced the misconceptions. Aerial photographs are equally subject to misinterpretation. They give us data but not the wisdom to comprehend it.
Poetry is the same. It does not live in a vacuum but is built on a frame of accepted values and assumed truths. Therefore, when the poet tells us that humanity comes through the optic nerve and justice lives in the eye when he speaks of freedom as a product of sight he is not proclaiming new discoveries but repeating old superstitions: our common heritage man's ancient fear of the dark, the equation of sight with light and light with good. He is doing what the perceptive poet always does. He is resolving contradictions and distilling (whether true or false) the essence of cultural consensus. He is going to the core of our inner being and making us face what we truly believe. But, of course, an increasing number of us do not believe it. In fact, it is not a question of belief. As we go about our business from hour to hour and minute to minute, we know from personal experience (those of us anywhere in the world who have had any type of reasonable opportunity) that it is false. Blindness does not mean dehumanization. In our homes and our offices, in factories and laboratories, on farms and in universities, in places of recreation and forums of civic accomplishment we who are blind live the refutation of it every day. While it is true that an overwhelming majority of us do not have jobs and that all of us are routinely treated like children and wards, it is equally true that many of us do have jobs and that all of us are coming to realize that the problem is not blindness but mistaken attitudes. If even one of us can be a scientist (and many of us are), that does not prove that if an individual is blind he or she can be a scientist, but it does prove that blindness will not prevent a person from being a scientist. In short, it proves that blindness is not the barrier. Sight is enjoyable; it is useful; it is convenient. But that is all that it is enjoyable, useful, and convenient. Except in imagination and mythology it is not more than that. It does not have mysterious psychological implications; and it is not the single key to happiness, the road to knowledge, or the window to the soul. Like the other senses, it is a channel of communication, a source of pleasure, and a tool nothing less, nothing more. It is alternative, not exclusive. It is certainly not the essential component of human freedom. The urge to liberty and the need to be free are commodities of the spirit, not the senses. They divide civilization from savagery and human beings from animals. Liberty has been the focal point of more study and comment than perhaps any other idea which has ever troubled, motivated, or inspired mankind. It is the stuff of dreams, not optic nerves and eyeballs. The effort is always to understand and, by so doing, make life better and more in tune with ultimate reality a combination of bread and the prayer book, food for the body and food for the soul. Liberty and freedom. Two words, one concept. Always noble, always imposing ever the dream, ever the mover of nations. And while we cannot capture freedom in a rigid cage, we can describe it, seek it, and recognize its transcendent power. Harold Laski said: We acquiesce in the loss of freedom every time we are silent in the face of injustice. Daniel Webster said: God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it. Benjamin Franklin said: They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. John Dewey said: Liberty is not just an idea, an abstract principle. It is power, effective power to do specific things. There is no such thing as liberty in general; liberty, so to speak, at large. Cicero said: Freedom is participation in power.
Herbert J. Muller said: Freedom is the condition of being able to choose and to carry out purpose.
Herbert Spencer said: No one can be perfectly free until all are free. No one can be perfectly moral until all are moral. The nineteenth-century German writer Max Stirner said: Freedom cannot be granted. It must be taken.
So the tapestry of freedom is constantly being woven, and we are part of the fabric; but there is something beyond. There always is. Each minority (each underprivileged group) has its separate pattern, its road to freedom, its task to be done. And for the blind (who constitute regardless of differences in economic status, nationality, religion, political allegiance, or cultural values a worldwide underprivileged group with a common problem and an urgent need for collective action) that task is monumental. It is nothing less than the total redirection of society's effort and perception for we are not patients, and (contrary to popular belief) our problem is not lack of eyesight or inability to perform. What we need most is not, as many would have it, medical help or psychological counseling but admission to the main channels of daily life and citizenship, not custody and care but understanding and acceptance. We want meaningful jobs, opportunity, and full participation in society. Give us that, and we will do the rest for ourselves. Give us jobs commensurate with our interests and abilities, equal treatment, and a solid economic base; and we will do without the counseling, the sheltered workshops, and the social programs. We will not need them. We have the same medical, vocational, social, and recreational needs as others; but our blindness does not create those needs, and it does not magnify or enlarge them. It does not make them special or different. We are neither more nor less than normal people who cannot see, and that is how we intend to be treated. We want no strife or confrontation, but we have learned the power of collective action, and we will do what we have to do to achieve first-class status. We are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens. So what must we do as a World Blind Union? How shall we achieve our objectives of equal opportunity and first-class status? For answer let me call on the experience of the organization I represent. When Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and those who joined with him organized the National Federation of the Blind of the United States in 1940, they did what every minority does on its road to freedom. They shifted emphasis from the few to the many, from enhancement to basics. In our country in the pre-1940 era those who thought about blindness at all (the blind as well as the sighted) put their major effort into helping the gifted and promoting the exceptional. We of the National Federation of the Blind took a different course. We started with the premise that until there are food, decent clothing, and adequate shelter, there can be no meaningful rehabilitation, real opportunity, or human dignity. It was not that the few or the superior were to be neglected but rather a recognition that none can be free as long as any are enslaved. The Federation's top priority in the early 1940's was to get (not as charity but as a right) sufficient governmental assistance to provide a basic standard of living for the blind who had no way to provide for themselves.
There was something else: The Federation said that the blind had the right to speak for themselves through their own organization and that no other group or individual (regardless of how well-intentioned) could do it for us whether public agency, private charity, blind person prominent in the community, or blind person heading an agency. The right was exclusive, and only those elected by the blind could speak for the blind. The test was not blindness, and it was not connection with an agency. Instead, it was self-determination. That is what the National Federation of the Blind of the United States stood for in 1940; that is what it stands for today; and that is what I believe the World Blind Union must stand for, now and in the years to come. The blind of the world are a distinguishable minority with identifiable problems which can only be solved through collective action. Therefore, the blind must have the right of self-determination, the right to speak for themselves with their own voice.
It is true that the World Blind Union not only consists of organizations of the blind but also organizations and agencies for the blind, but it is also true that many of these organizations and agencies for the blind are controlled by the blind and that their leaders are chosen by the blind. We must deal with substance instead of form, reality instead of shadow, and fact instead of terminology. The World Blind Union must either be truly representative of the will of the blind themselves, or it cannot long survive. That is not to say that we should not have sighted members or agency members representing only themselves or their programs. Rather, it is to say that the organization must be controlled by the blind and representative of the blind. This can be determined not only by its structure but also by its programs and behavior. If the World Blind Union is to be meaningful, it must deal with basics. It must address the needs of both body and soul. We who are blind are like all of the rest. When we are hungry, we want to eat; and until that need is satisfied, we have difficulty thinking about very much else. But food is not enough. As I have said, we are like all of the rest. After we have eaten, we want meaningful jobs and useful occupation just like the rest. And after food and jobs, we want equal participation and human dignity just like the rest. The blind of the world have waited long, but the waiting must now end. Yesterday and tomorrow meet in this present time, and we who are assembled here in Madrid (we who are blind and those of you who are sighted and have committed yourselves to work with us) have an unavoidable responsibility and an unparalleled opportunity. What we do in this Second General Assembly will have consequences for decades to come. Our task will not be easy, but we must make this organization succeed. The stakes are too high and the alternatives too unacceptable to allow it to be otherwise. If we fail to meet the challenge, the present favorable circumstances may not come again for another generation. If the blind of the world are to have meaningful opportunity and if discrimination is successfully to be resisted, we must have a world mechanism to focus the energy and muster the resources to make it happen, and the World Blind Union is the only mechanism we have. To build another would be difficult at best. If all of us who are here today come to the task with good faith, true commitment, and real determination, tomorrow will be bright with promise. Let us put the past behind us and work together to make it come true.
by Kenneth Jernigan
In the editorial at the beginning of this issue I told you that upon returning from Madrid I would give you my impressions of the World Blind Union General Assembly. It has now been two weeks since the end of the conference, and I am now settling down to keep my promise. The first thing I would say is that Madrid was a mixed bag. It was a living study in the most extreme contrasts I have ever seen extreme poverty, extreme wealth; superb planning, poor planning; and understanding and good order, lack of comprehension and total chaos.
There were several days of preliminaries, but the formal agenda got under way on Sunday morning, September 18, and concluded on Sunday morning, September 25. There was a large delegation from the United States (including thirteen from the NFB), a large delegation from Canada, and two delegates from the Caribbean. Therefore, our North America/Caribbean Region was well represented. There was a ceremonial opening of the General Assembly on Sunday evening, September 18, with music, speeches, and an appearance by the sister of the King. Incidentally, the King's sister is herself blind. On Monday morning, September 19, the Executive Committee met, and from Tuesday through Saturday there were sessions of the General Assembly. The official list of voting delegates indicates that ninety-one countries were represented. Before talking about the specifics of the meetings, let me give you a few overall impressions. Many of the people in the United States could profit from studying the behavior of the Spaniards concerning their country. Shortly after we got to Spain, most of the NFB contingent visited the Royal Palace in Madrid. We were given a guided tour and allowed a good deal of leeway in touching and examining objects. Although the architecture and furnishings were magnificent, the thing that impressed me most was the attitude of the guide regarding Spain. I happen to know something about Spanish history, and some of the rulers were less than model citizens. Yet, our guide spoke with great respect about the past kings and queens, the present government, and the country in general. She told us with real pride how fortunate Spain had been to have such good and wise rulers, and she clearly meant it. Although I did not agree with her assessment, I had nothing but admiration and respect for her behavior. It was in sharp contrast with what many people in this country do and say, and I hasten to add that it was not a demonstration of repression but of dignity and pride. While I am talking about other countries, let me say a few things about the Russians. We could learn something from them, too. They had a sighted interpreter with their blind delegates, and she knew what she was doing. She spoke English flawlessly, and she was warm and charming not at all argumentative. Nevertheless, she promoted her country's image and ideology.
One day at lunch I asked her to tell me what the Russian words for Mister, Miss, and Mrs. are. With all friendly innocence she told me something to this effect: After 1918 the people in our society decided that everybody should be friendly with each other, so we did away with those titles. Now we call each other `Comrade' to show that we care and are friends. It didn't come off in a preachy way, but it was not less effective for that. It made me wonder how many of our people who attend international meetings go with such purpose and ability and are so well equipped.
As to the meeting itself, one's first impression had to be of the tremendous wealth of ONCE, the Spanish National Organization of the Blind. After reading the April, 1988, issue, Monitor readers know that ONCE has hundreds of millions of dollars of net income each year, and during the meeting of the World Blind Union they spent with unbelievable lavishness. There were estimates that just the transportation, food, entertainment, and other hospitality cost over a million dollars, perhaps two million dollars. It was all very impressive, very magnanimous, very generously done And yet And yet On the day before the first meeting, Mrs. Jernigan and I walked through the halls of the residential facility on the ONCE grounds (where many of the delegates were being housed) and we found a delegate from one of the third world countries standing alone. His ticket had been provided, but he did not have one single piece of money with him. He had no mobility skills and no contacts. He could eat plentifully at the dining hall, but he could not leave or make contacts not because he was forbidden but because he lacked the means and the know-how. He said he was trying to teach other blind people in his country and that if he could get only a few dollars, he might be able to construct a chicken coup or two for the project he was attempting to start to help his blind students begin to earn a little money. Not only we but also others in our delegation bought some of his craftwork and did what we could, but our efforts were part of a mosaic of sharp contrasts. There were over 600 people attending the conference, and on Monday night, September 19, ONCE divided the entire group into fifteen subgroups and chartered buses to take them all to the best restaurants in Madrid. There was no stinting on the best food and drink, and all free. This was not the exception but the rule. Every night the food and drink were abundant and free; and the same was true of the breakfasts, the lunches, and the breaks. During the closing session on Saturday afternoon, September 24, Tom Parker of England wondered aloud whether precedents were being established which would make it impossible for the WBU ever to meet in any poor or developing country. His was not the only comment. At the beginning of the week there was nothing but wonder and admiration. By the end of the week a great many people were asking how much work could be done in the developing countries with the amount which was being spent on the conference.
Entertainment and hospitality are one thing. Policy and politics are another. An individual may say: If you will vote with me for this candidate or issue, I will vote with you for your candidate or issue.
Or an individual may say: If you will vote as I want you to, I will give you money for your organization or project. In both instances votes are traded, but there is a vast difference. If you doubt it, ask any court or newspaper. In the first instance both parties come to the bargaining as equals. Combinations are put together to elect candidates or pass resolutions, and what is being exchanged is relevant to the business at hand. It happens every day in legislative and executive bodies throughout the world.
In the second instance, however, (especially if you are dealing with blind in stark poverty in underdeveloped countries) both the buyer and the seller are damaged. They do not come to the bargaining as equals, and often more than the vote is sold dignity and self-respect and basic human worth. Am I saying that money was promised to countries in exchange for votes in Madrid? No, that is not what I am saying, or I don't know. I do know that some people felt that that was exactly what was happening. As Monitor readers know, the North America/Caribbean Region went to Spain with the intention of getting Dr. Euclid Herie, Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, elected Treasurer of the World Blind Union if we could. We could, and we did. Of the 255 votes cast for treasurer Dr. Herie got 218, and his opponent (Mr. Pradilla Cobos of Colombia) got 37. This was a bigger majority than was received by either the winning candidate for president or vice president.
Duncan Watson (chairman of the board of the Royal National Institute for the Blind of England) was elected president. His opponent was Dr. Rajendra Vyas of India. Dr. Vyas, who was one of the original founders of the International Federation of the Blind in 1964 and who worked closely with Dr. tenBroek, was support by our region, but he was defeated by a vote 154 to 108. For Vice President David Blyth of Australia ran against Enrique Elissalde of Uruguay. We supported Blyth, but Elissalde won by a vote of 142 to 119. Without significant opposition Pedro Zurita was re-elected as Secretary-General. When considering the results of the election, it is perhaps well to keep in mind that Europe has over eighty votes while, as the membership is now constituted, the entire North America/Caribbean Region has only twelve.
Immediately after the election ONCE announced that it was giving $122,000 to the World Blind Union. A number of people felt that it would have been wiser if this gift had been announced earlier in the week, or at least prior to the elections. As to the meetings themselves, they were held in an auditorium at the ONCE facilities. The room was luxuriously plush with every modern convenience, but it was not as serviceable as many less opulent facilities might have been. The seats were fixed to the floor and very close together, and on each side of the auditorium the seats went all the way to the wall with no aisle. There were only two aisles in the center. Because of the steep slope of the floor and the close-packed arrangements of the seats, it was not possible to have floor microphones. When someone wanted to speak, an attempt was made to pass a microphone across the seats. This was inefficient and very nearly impossible.
On the other hand there were individual radio receivers for each person, and professional interpreters translated the proceedings into six languages English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, and Russian. There were also special translators for the Japanese delegation. Not a single meeting started on time, and there was an ongoing sense of chaotic disorganization. I chaired the session dealing with constitutional amendments, and the amendments were never discussed or voted on at all. Instead dealing with the substance of the amendments some of the north Europeans who opposed them undertook to get their way through parliamentary maneuver. On a technicality they challenged Dr. Franz Sonntag's status and, therefore, his right to sign the proposed amendment which would have permitted the president to run for a second term. I also opposed the amendment, but I felt that fairness required that it be discussed and voted on. When a demand was made from the floor that the required seven signatures to the amendment be produced, the WBU Paris staff said there was one signature they could not find this in spite of the fact that we had discussed the amendment at the officers' meeting, the executive committee meeting, and in informal meetings throughout the week. It was, therefore, ruled that the amendments could not be put. In a few minutes it was announced that the lost signature had been found, but by this time the meeting had degenerated into such chaos that there was no point in trying to proceed. Earlier in the week Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghanim had publicly said that, regardless of the outcome of the voting on the amendment he would not be a candidate for re-election. One would have thought this would have taken the heat out of the issue since it is highly questionable whether it makes sense to impose artificial limitations on the caliber of leadership available to an organization, but this did not seem to matter to some of the more dogmatic delegates. As I have already said, the final official activity was a meeting on Sunday morning, September 25, of the executive committee. Very appropriately this meeting was conducted in a manner consistent with what had arted late; there was troublbeen happening all through the week. It started late; there was trouble with the translation equipment; and after a challenge was made, the meeting adjourned for lack of a quorum. The business of the quorum was most interesting. Arne Husveg (a delegate from Norway and the President of the European Blind Union) had already lectured Duncan Watson, the newly elected president, on the fact that in the future Watson should be certain that he had a sighted person to tell him who was asking for recognition. I was the one who said that I did not believe there was a quorum present, and Mr. Watson had replied by assuring me that he had just had a count made and that there were nineteen committee members present. Then, David Blyth challenged this announcement by the chair, and we insisted that a roll call be taken. The roll call revealed that there were only sixteen committee members in the room. At this stage Mr. Husveg, who had been the king-maker orchestrating Mr. Watson's election campaign, said to Mr. Watson that he wondered how we could trust what he said in the future since he had just assured us that a quorum was present when it wasn't.
The President, the Vice President, and the Secretary-General are planning to go to Toronto during the next few weeks for a planning session with the Treasurer. It was indicated that there will be a meeting of the officers (who are the four I have just mentioned and the regional presidents) some time in March, place not yet determined, and that the executive committee will probably meet sometime late in 1989 or early in 1990. It is planned that there will probably be another executive committee meeting some time in 1991. The place and the exact time of the next WBU General Assembly has not yet been determined, but the constitution requires that it be some time in 1992. There are many who hope that it may be possible to hold it in one of the developing countries.
So that is how I saw what occurred in Spain, and the question remains: Where does it leave us? For one thing, we made many friends in Madrid. People from other countries got to know more of us than ever before, and we got to know more of them. Whether the World Blind Union can truly be a mechanism for making the lives of blind people better will depend upon the actions of the leaders during the next four years. We felt that Duncan Watson would not be able to relate to ordinary blind people as well as Rajendra Vyas would, but Watson was elected. We participated in that election. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to work cooperatively and with good temper to try to help Mr. Watson succeed. That is what elections are about. But it is also incumbent upon Mr. Watson to do his part, to work toward harmony and provide constructive leadership.
Of course, there are those who think of the World Blind Union as nothing more than a vehicle for channeling money from those who have it to those who don't. As I have said in the speech that is printed elsewhere in this issue, I think this is not a valid or a workable objective.
As I also said in that speech, it will be easy for me to be misunderstood (either deliberately or otherwise) on this point. We of the National Federation of the Blind should do what we can to help other countries, but we should also be mindful of the tremendous needs which still remain unmet here at home. We should balance our approach and always remember that our actions must be geared to the long-range improvement of the condition of the blind everywhere. Sometimes that means working in other countries, and sometimes it means working here.
by Kenneth Jernigan
A number of leaders of work with the blind in England acting through the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom (BAUK) have for a long time been advocating major changes in the Braille code. At least some people in the United States and the rest of the world have agreed with this move for sweeping change. However, the overwhelming majority of blind people throughout the English-speaking world seem to favor no radical alterations in standard Grade 2 Braille. At the time of this writing (early September, 1988) we are less than three weeks away from a major conference which is to be held in London to consider these matters.
When I was in Britain in the fall of 1987, I went to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish Braille Press. At that time I talked with the head of the Press, Jake Adams, about the London conference which is now approaching, and he told me that he was strongly opposed to any major changes in the Braille code. I agreed with him and said that I would discuss the matter with people in the United States, which I did.
It will be remembered (see Braille Monitor for September-October, 1988) that the National Federation of the Blind passed a resolution opposing radical changes in the Braille code at our 1988 Chicago convention, and our representative to the London conference (Fred Schroeder) will go to the meeting so instructed. However, the July, 1988, New Beacon (the magazine published by the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the United Kingdom) makes it seem likely that the upcoming London conference will be smoother and less controversial than had been anticipated. By the time this issue of the Monitor reaches the readers, the question will presumably (at least, for the time being) be settled but I am sure it will rise again. At any rate, here is what the New Beacon says:
Braille Reform Withdrawal of New Contracted Braille
Bill Poole (Chairman, Braille Authority of the United Kingdom) writes: At the annual general meeting of the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom on June 13, I moved a resolution, which was seconded by David McCann, the Secretary of BAUK, and carried unanimously, to the effect that New Contracted Braille should be immediately and unconditionally withdrawn on the grounds that public opinion is clearly overwhelmingly against the adoption of this code as a replacement for Grade 2 Standard English Braille. It was further agreed that the widest and speediest publicity should be given to this important decision. This means that there will be no further campaigning activities, and the national ballot will be canceled. The time, money, and energy that will be saved can all be put to better use, and public anxiety about the future of the Braille code should now be laid to rest. The British delegation to the International Conference on English Literary Braille in September will not support as an alternative to New Contracted Braille any proposals for a major reform of the contraction system of Grade 2 which may be brought forward by other countries. I intend to write at greater length in the next issue about the wider implications of this decision.
by Fred Schroeder
As noted elsewhere in this issue, the article Smoother Waters Ahead for Braille Maybe was written prior to the London Meeting; and this one by Fred Schroeder is a report of what actually happened. Fred Schroeder (NFB Board Member and Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind) is not only an expert on Braille but also one of the most promising of the group of our recently developing leaders. Here is Fred's report of the London conference.
At this summer's national convention in Chicago, Federationists were made aware of an upcoming International Conference on English Literary Braille. Of chief concern was the news that a number of delegates to the conference were actively promoting radical changes to the existing Grade 2 Braille Code. Wholesale change of Braille would result in making Braille virtually unreadable by present readers throughout the English-speaking world. The ensuing chaos which would occur would unquestionably have resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of Braille readers overall. In addition, availability of Braille (already in scarce supply) would have been further reduced since many transcribers would likely not have undertaken to retrain in a significantly different code.
After considerable discussion, it was agreed by the nearly 2,500 blind men and women from throughout the country that the Braille Code, with all of its imperfections, represents the means by which blind people can attain true literacy, and, therefore, efforts at substantial Braille reform should be resisted. The position taken was not simply a conservative clinging to the familiar for the sake of the status quo. Instead, the opposition to Braille reform emerged from an understanding that the real problem facing the blind stems from a lack of availability of Braille and a lack of adequate Braille instruction for blind children and newly blinded adults throughout the United States. The convention adopted a resolution expressing this view in opposition to proponents of large-scale Braille reform. The International Conference on English Literary Braille was held in London, England, the week of September 19 through September 24, 1988. Delegates from nine English-speaking countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Zambia, and South Africa) participated in the conference. In addition to delegates, approximately forty observers attended the conference and participated in discussion of many of the papers. In order for a delegation to be recognized, at least half of its members had to be representatives from organizations of the blind. I served as one of the U. S. delegates, representing the National Federation of the Blind. Michael Baillif (President of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind) was in London on a research fellowship and attended the conference as an observer. The London conference was a follow-up to a conference held in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1982. During the Washington conference much emphasis was placed on unifying the Braille Code internationally. A number of differences exist in North American Braille from Braille produced in the United Kingdom. For example, in North America we routinely use the capital sign to indicate capital letters, whereas in the United Kingdom this is not the practice. In addition, North America and the United Kingdom reverse the signs for outer and inner quotation marks. In North America the outer (or double) quote is a one-cell Braille sign and the inner (or single) quote a two-cell Braille sign. In the United Kingdom the outer quote is the same one-cell Braille sign as ours and the inner quote the same two-cell sign as ours. The difference is that they represent the opposite print symbols. A print book produced in the United States uses a double hash mark for outer quotes and a single hash mark for inner quotes. In the United Kingdom print books regularly use a single hash mark for outer quotes and a double hash mark for inner quotes. To the Braille reader the use of quotations will look the same in the U.S. or the U.K., while the Braille symbols used are reflecting opposite print symbols. Another difference exists in the use of decimals in literary Braille. In the U.K. the symbol used for the decimal point is the same symbol we use for the comma. For this reason the number 4.123 produced in England would look like the number 4,123 to a Braille reader in the U.S. The task of unification is much bigger than it might first appear. This is not surprising in view of the fact that differences between North America and the U.K. are more widespread than simply in the area of Braille. During the London conference members of the U.K. delegation found great amusement in our use of the term certified to describe Braille transcribers since in England the term certified means that a person has been certified to a mental institution. In the U.K. Braille transcribers are certificated.
At the 1982 Washington conference it was agreed that neither North America nor the U.K. would adopt any code changes until the London conference, allowing time for research internationally for the purpose of unifying the Braille code. The London conference was originally scheduled for September, 1987. In the summer of 1986 it was announced that England was developing a radically different Braille code intended to replace the present Grade 2 Braille system. The new code, known as New Contracted Braille, was touted as having significant advantages over the Grade 2 system. Proponents of New Contracted Braille sought to have the London Conference postponed a year in order to have time to further develop new contracted Braille and to test its acceptance by Braille readers. Although many opposed postponing the London conference, particularly for the purpose of promoting a code intended to replace Grade 2, it was eventually agreed that the London conference would be held in September of 1988.
In the preparation for the London conference Bill Poole, Chairman of the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom and the Developer of New Contracted Braille, surveyed Braille readers throughout England. The responses he received were overwhelmingly against the adoption of a replacement code. For this reason this past June Mr. Poole announced that he was withdrawing New Contracted Braille from consideration as a replacement code to Grade 2. Citing the survey, Mr. Poole gave as his reason for withdrawing New Contracted Braille the fact that it had failed to gain widespread acceptance among Braille readers. This left nineteen papers to be considered at the London conference, many proposing significant changes to the current Grade 2 Braille Code, yet none as sweeping as the changes included in New Contracted Braille. As the London conference opened, it appeared as though Braille would be changed. The only question left to be settled was in what ways and to what degree. Numerous proposals were introduced, ranging from suggestions for a simplified code and introduction of new signs to changes in or elimination of certain existing signs. It was proposed that signs be created for words such as is and at and that the current symbols for the slash and parentheses be changed from one-cell signs to two-cell signs. Others proposed adding a number of new short form words, while still others proposed eliminating many of the short form words in current use.
In the July, 1988, issue of the New Beacon , a publication of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the Federation's resolution concerning Braille, along with a letter from President Maurer, were published. President Maurer's letter rang out as the voice of reason, calling for restraint by would-be reformers in order to preserve Braille in its present form. As the conference progressed, the wisdom of President Maurer's words became increasingly evident. As each new change was considered, it became clear that unforeseen consequences would inevitably follow. The change in the slash from a one-cell sign to a two-cell sign (dots 5, 2) while eliminating confusion in one context would have caused confusion in others. The two-cell slash would certainly make the writing of fractions more cumbersome and would introduce new confusion since the proposed two-cell sign is the same sign presently used for the ditto mark.
By Friday, September 23, discussion of conference papers was coming to an end. The next step was to agree on any changes by means of resolutions. At the end of the Friday morning session (which, incidentally, I chaired) the Federation's resolution opposing radical change was read to the conference delegates. It was pointed out that the overwhelming sentiment of blind people is to promote Braille in its present form. The need is for a renewed emphasis on the importance of Braille resulting in better teacher preparation, better training for blind children and newly blinded adults, and greater availability of Braille overall. As the Friday morning session came to an end, delegates prepared to consider resolutions summing up the work of the conference.
As resolutions were presented, they reflected a continued commitment to unification of both North American Braille and Braille produced in the U.K. An international council will be established to serve not as a worldwide rule-making body but rather as a means of coordinating the work of Braille authorities in English-speaking countries. In the spirit of unification, some minor changes were agreed to, such as eliminating the natural pause rule used in the U.K. This rule was eliminated in North America a number of years ago because of its ambiguity and the difficulty which it presented in computer translation of Braille. The natural pause rule required that the words and, for, of, the, with, and a not be written together without a space when there was a natural pause between any of these words. The resolution eliminating the natural pause rule brings the U.K. into conformity with North American practice. As anticipated, a compromise was reached on the adoption of the capital sign in the U.K. It was agreed that its usage would be studied. However, it was generally acknowledged that the U.K. is moving in the direction of eventually using the capital sign in literary Braille. The only change agreed to, which is likely to result in a difference for the average reader, concerns the writing of unit abbreviations. In Braille, unit abbreviations such as inches, pounds, and degrees are written preceding the number. It was agreed that it is preferable to follow print convention in the writing of unit abbreviations.
Now that the London conference has come and gone and with it the latest threat of radical Braille reform, blind people can rest easier knowing that Grade 2 Braille has once again escaped unscathed. The preservation of Braille represents tangible evidence of the power of collective action. We as blind people chart the course and determine our own future. We recognize that the real problem of blindness stems not from blindness itself but rather from public misunderstanding about blindness. Similarly, the problem of literacy for the blind stems not from problems in the Braille code but from a lack of emphasis on Braille and a lack of understanding that Braille enables blind people to function on terms of real equality with the sighted. If it is believed that blindness represents inferiority, then it follows that the techniques and tools used by the blind are likewise inferior.
By changing societal conceptions of blindness, we promote an understanding that as equals the tools we use represent the means to that equality. That it is respectable to be blind and that Braille is the means to literacy for the blind must be cherished and protectively defended as the twin symbols of our equality.
The time has come to plan for the 1989 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Chicago in 1988 was perhaps the most successful meeting we have ever had, and 1989 will be even better.
We are going to Denver. We have not been to the Mile-High City since 1949, and as Federationists know we are now a totally different organization many times bigger, more complex, and more mature. The convention will headquarter at the Radisson Hotel Denver, located at 1550 Court Place. Because of our growing numbers we will use three other hotels, all within a short walking distance from each other. The other hotels are: the Hyatt Regency, the Holiday Inn, and the Comfort Inn. Our hotel rates continue to be the envy of all who know us. They are the same for all four hotels: $26, single; $28, double and twin; $30, triple; and $32, quad all plus tax (currently 11.8 percent). The NFB of Colorado is planning an exciting array of tours and hospitality, and the program agenda will be vintage Federation. Make your reservations early. Also remember that we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Please remember that prizes should be relatively small in bulk and large in value. Cash, of course, is always acceptable. In any case we try to have no prize of less than $25 value. Drawings will occur constantly throughout the meetings, and the prizes will aggregate many thousands of dollars. In Chicago in 1988 the grand prize, which was drawn at the banquet, was $1,000 in cash. We are not certain what Colorado will give for the grand prize in 1989, but you can be certain that it will be worthy of the affiliate and the occasion. If you have door prizes, bring them with you to the convention or send them to: Jon Deden, 1000 South Clarkson Street, Denver, Colorado 80209; telephone (303) 722-2529.
The displays of new technology, the meetings of special interest groups and divisions, the hospitality and renewal of friendships, the solid program items, and the general excitement of being where the action is and where the decisions are being made all join together to call the blind of the nation to Denver in the summer of 1989. Come and be part of it.
For the past few years (Chicago in 1988 was an exception) we have been handling convention reservations through the National Office, and that is what we are doing for the 1989 convention. Room reservation forms have been widely distributed, and all you need are available from the National Office. In addition, we are printing the form as part of this article. There is every indication that we will break all attendance records at the 1989 convention. Therefore, even though we have a large block of rooms you should not delay making your reservations. Those who did not heed this warning had to scramble for rooms in 1988 because of the record-breaking attendance. Denver in '89 will be the best we have ever had. Come and help make it happen.
Mrs. Karen Gastel, who works in the accounting department at the National Center for the Blind, is an active member of the movement. She recently submitted the following four recipes.
This hearty, homey stew combines well with dark bread and beer when celebrating Oktober the German way.
1-1/2 pounds cubed beef
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups meat stock
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup burgundy or other red wine
Heat oil. Add beef and onion, saut until meat is browned. Add tomatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and paprika. Add bay leaf. Pour in stock, cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours or until beef is tender.
In cup or small bowl, mix flour and wine, stir into goulash. Continue stirring until thickened. Serve with dumplings, potatoes, pasta, or rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
I suggest serving these beef rollups with red cabbage and boiled potatoes or dumplings.
3 pounds chipped steak
(about 12 slices)
½ pound bacon
4 onions, divided
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups water
2 tablespoons flour
About ¼ cup water
Lay out the steaks flat. Cut bacon slices in half. Cut 3 onions into quarters. Place a piece of bacon and a piece of onion on one end of each steak. Spread mustard (as thickly as you prefer) on remaining part of meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll up from onion end and secure with toothpicks. Slice remaining onion and brown in oil along with rolled steaks. When evenly browned, pour 2 cups water over meat. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 2 hours. Combine flour with ¼ cup water. Add to pan, cooking and stirring until thickened. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Makes 6 generous servings.
REAL GERMAN POTATO SALAD
This is the real thing, unlike what passes for German potato salad in your typical supermarket deli department. What Oktoberfest celebration would be complete without this authentic item?
2 pounds boiling potatoes
1/3 cup salad oil
1/3 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped onions
Salt and pepper
½ pound bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
4 hard cooked eggs, cubed
Boil unpeeled potatoes until tender. Drain, peel, and thinly slice or cut into bite-size pieces.
In a large bowl combine potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, onions, bacon, and eggs. Mix. Serve hot or cold.
Light-as-a-cloud chewy bites these are. Purists will want to use blanched almonds or hazelnuts with the skins rubbed off, but it really doesn't matter whether you grate the nuts with the skins or not. A food processor is very handy for that chore.
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
2 cups shredded hazelnuts or almonds
Whole hazelnuts or almonds, optional
Melted dark chocolate, optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with wax paper or kitchen parchment.
Beat egg whites and lemon juice until stiff peaks form. Add sugar very gradually, beating continuously. Fold in shredded nuts until evenly blended.
Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls onto lined baking sheets. Top each cookie with a whole nut, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes. If cookies start to brown, slightly reduce oven temperature (cookies should not brown). Let cookies cool completely on paper before removing.
If preferred, instead of topping cookies with whole nuts, cooled cookies can be dipped, upside down, in melted chocolate. Makes about 30 cookies.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Please tell your members that I have for sale for $3,760, including insurance and postage, a VersaBraille P2C. Contact: Julie Addington, 103 West 7th Avenue, Easley, South Carolina 29640.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
David Milner, 2001 Ader Road #114, Fort Worth, Texas 76116, would like to correspond with blind people interested in photography. Both professionals and amateurs are asked to write to him.
**Free Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Slaughter Enterprises, 8053 South Phillips, Chicago, Illinois 60617, sells a variety of gift items through the mail. Free large print or Braille catalogs are available. Requests for catalogs may be sent in handwriting or typing, but Braille is preferred.
Stewart Prost writes:
The Tidewater Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia elected the following officers for the coming year:
President, Deborah Prost; First Vice President, W. T. (Bill) Parker; Second Vice President, Harry Vandevander; Secretary, Stewart Prost; Treasurer, Willard Nichols; Board Members, Robert Southard and Carrol Brooks. **VersaBraille and Accessories:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For Sale:
Model P2C VersaBraille from TSI, in good condition. Included are the AC power unit/battery charger, Braille and print manuals, overlay tapes, back issues of VersaNews on VersaBraille tape, as well as various computer manuals and books, also on VB tape. There is also a service agreement good through April of 1989. Cost, $1,500 or best offer. Contact: David Andrews, 1012 Hilltop Drive, Lawrence, Kansas 66044, or call 913-864-4600 (days) or 913- 843-0351 (evenings and weekends).
We regret to report the death on September 7, 1988, of Bruce Gibson, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware. Bruce died of complications from diabetes. He was formerly president of the Wilmington Chapter and first vice president of NFB of Delaware. He was liked and respected and will be greatly missed.
**Free Bible Cassettes for Blind and Visually Impaired:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Free Bible cassette tapes of the New Testament in 27 languages are available as a gift free of charge to every person who is visually impaired or blind. These audio cassette tapes run at commercial speed (4,8 cm/s), and are provided to those who desire the Scriptures and furnish valid certification of the visual impairment or blindness. Portions of the Old Testament, Bible Studies, and Bible Messages are also available in several languages. This is not a lending program! All materials are free of charge and meant to be kept. One set of Bible cassettes is offered to each eligible person in the language of his/her choice. All that is needed is a request from the individual with a certification of the visual impairment from a doctor who specializes in eye care. Certification can also be provided by an organization, library, or agency that is recognized for its work with the blind. The certification should be written on doctor/agency letterhead stationery, give the full name and address of the individual, and verify that the person is legally blind. We will ship directly to the recipient. Contact:
Bible Alliance, Inc., Post Office Box 621, Bradenton, Florida 34206, a non-profit and non- denominational organization. Telephone (813) 748-3031.
Helen M. Smith, Corresponding Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Marion County (the Indianapolis chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana) writes to say that recently the following people were elected as officers of the chapter: Jim Peterson, President; Pamela Schnurr, First Vice President; Jean Brown, Second Vice President; Tony Schnurr, Recording Secretary; Helen Smith, Corresponding Secretary; Diane Griffiths, Treasurer; and Bill Cameron, Representative to Chapter at Large.
**Large Cell Braille:
Under date of September 12, 1988, we received the following letter:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Our volunteer group has been developing a library of large- cell stories for the touch-impaired Braille reader. There is very little available in this medium. The large-cell machine became available only last year. It is an improvement over the older jumbo Braille, because the cells are large but the dots are regular size, giving more space between dots therefore, more tactile sensation. We would like to reach the people who need this to enjoy reading. Since they themselves cannot read the Braille Monitor, please ask your readers to notify those who need the large cell about our offer. We will send either a list of available stories and articles, or samples, or new volumes as they are done. We are still able to send them without charge but are very grateful for all tax-deductible donations to help with the expenses of producing the books, which are duplicated on thermoform.
This is one instance where I believe the thermoform is actually preferable.
People can contact us for the list or for us to send a sample story by writing to: Northern Nevada Braille Transcribers, 1015 Oxford Avenue, Sparks, Nevada 89431, telephone (702) 358-2456 Voice or TDD.
We regret to report the death on September 16, 1988, of Paul Cromwell, one of the staunchest and most dedicated members of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Although Paul did not hold office in the chapter and was not a leader of national prominence, he was known and liked by Federationists throughout the country because of his volunteer work in food preparation during seminars. Quiet and unassuming, Paul was one of our best. He died from pneumonia after a very brief illness.
Mary Beaven writes: At its state convention held in Louisville September 9-11, 1988, the NFB of Kentucky elected the following officers: Betty Niceley, President; Tim Cranmer, First Vice President; Robert Page, Second Vice President; Mary Ruth Maggard, Third Vice President; Robbie McClave, Recording Secretary; Mary Beaven, Corresponding Secretary; Dennis Franklin, Treasurer; and Orville Phillips, Chaplain.
There are probably more state conventions in the fall than at any other time of the year. At the time of this writing we have heard of three changes in state presidencies. Ed Meskys replaces Theresa Herron as President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire; Wendy Bybee replaces Karl Smith as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah; and Mike Smith replaces Dick Porter as President of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia. Congratulations to the retiring presidents for jobs well done and to the new presidents upon their election to office.
**Mild Heart Attack:
We have just been informed that Robert Winn, head of the Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka, Illinois, has suffered a mild heart attack. Apparently he was mowing his lawn when he was stung by several bees. This caused a sharp increase in blood pressure. He was taken to the hospital and was diagnosed as having had a mild heart attack. We understand that Dr. Winn is now at home recovering.
**North Carolina Convention:
Hazel Staley writes: The National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina held its annual convention at the Holiday Inn in Goldsboro September 9-11, 1988. It was our biggest and best yet. We registered 150 people. The major emphasis of the agenda was the importance of Braille to blind persons, the importance of having Braille properly taught to blind children in the public schools, and the importance of establishing in one of the state universities a program to train teachers to teach blind children. Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for state school superintendent were present and spoke to the convention. Also on the convention agenda were the director of the newly organized preschool program for blind children and an attorney who has done considerable advocacy work for handicapped children. A proclamation signed by Governor Martin declaring September as Braille Month in North Carolina was read and presented to the affiliate. Our national representative, Glenn Crosby, participated in our convention and was very helpful to us. A fun feature of the banquet agenda was a group of singers from Raleigh, who call themselves The Exit Row . They sang four Federation songs and were loudly cheered by the audience. We raised our PAC pledge $75 per month. The following officers were elected for two-year terms: President, Hazel Staley of Charlotte;
First Vice President, Wayne Shevlin of Raleigh; Second Vice President, Patricia Tessnear of Wilson; Secretary, Mabel Conder of Charlotte; and Treasurer, George Best of Charlotte. Board members elected for two-year terms are Jim Rowell of Greensboro, Jim Mitchell of Durham, and Byron Sykes of Greensboro. Carry-over board members are Danny Herring of Tarboro, Pat Coley of Goldsboro, and James Benton of Raleigh. Our 1989 convention will be held in Raleigh.
**World Literature to be Offered:
We recently received the following release from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped:
Bestsellers and long-time favorites from other English-Speaking countries will shortly be available to patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, through a World Literature Book Club that will begin operation in the spring of 1989.
The club will give people the opportunity to read and experience more books, and different books, says NLS director, Frank Kurt Cylke. It's a way to broaden what the Library of Congress can offer and at the same time take advantage of material already recorded for blind and physically handicapped readers. The book club will begin on a trial basis to determine reader interest and establish procedures. It will operate for a two-year period, offering books recorded in English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa. The club was made possible through the cooperation of libraries in these countries serving blind and physically handicapped individuals.
Books in languages other than English will be added in 1991, when the trial period is completed and evaluated. Club members will receive monthly print brochures announcing main selections for that month, plus one or more alternates and other titles still available. They will be asked to select up to three titles in order of preference.
This concept is a new one, in a way, says Mr. Cylke. It's based on book clubs print readers are familiar with, but it's for library patrons, not purchasers.
As Monitor readers know, Mrs. Evelyn Riggan received the Distinguished Teacher of Blind Children Award at the National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago last July. Under date of August 29, 1988, she received the following letter from Verne Duncan, Oregon State Superintendent of Public Instruction:
Dear Mrs. Riggan:
Congratulations on your selection as Teacher of Blind Children of the Year. I am proud, but not surprised, that a teacher from Oregon was selected for this honor. Your outstanding abilities and caring attitude throughout your career has greatly benefited the children you have taught. Additionally, your efforts to provide the best education possible for visually impaired and blind students has contributed to the quality programs available in Oregon.
Thank you for all you have done for these young people. I wish you the very best as you continue with your career. The world is fortunate to have the footprints you leave behind and the vision of the future you see ahead for all students, whether sighted, visually impaired, or blind.
We recently received the following information: The Siouxland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa was organized recently and elected the following officers: Richard Crawford, President; Dorothy Westin, Vice President; Karen Clayton, Secretary-Treasurer; and Laurel Bohlander and LeeAnn Back as board members. It will serve the Siouxland areas of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Its purposes are to be a support group for the blind and their families and friends, to further the rights of the blind, and to promote public awareness of the abilities and needs of the blind.
**AFB Receives Grant to Make Tactile Exhibition:
In a news release dated August 24, 1988, the American Foundation for the Blind said: The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a $40,000 matching grant to the American Foundation for the Blind to construct and install tactile scale models of historical Washington, D.C., buildings and monuments so that blind and visually impaired visitors can appreciate their architectural design. Called `Capital Sights Not Always Seen,' the exhibition is scheduled to open at a yet undesignated permanent location in downtown Washington in the fall of 1989. It will include tactile scale models of such major buildings and monuments as the U. S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, while additional information about the historical, political, and cultural forces that shaped the nation's capital will be provided through an audio component and brochures in Braille and large print.
**Cassettes for Humor and Food:
Computer Crackup is a stereo cassette filled with a pleasing plethora of pungent puns, wonderful one-liners, and just general jokes, all to lift the spirits of the commuter, patient, and everyone else. It contains no ethnic slurs or obscene language. Copies are $4 each.
D.E.A.N. stands for Delicious, Easy, Affordable, Nifty. The D.E.A.N. Microwave Compendium is a voice-indexed cassette of the best microwave recipes known to the compiler, along with useful hints for microwave use. Most of the recipes contain fewer than eight ingredients.
To order copies of either of these cassettes write to: Dean Martineau, 6809 Sacramento Street, S.W., Tacoma, Washington 98499; (206) 581-3622.
I have an Echo Speech Synthesizer which works with an Apple 2E Computer. The Echo is in good condition, and I would like $150 or the best offer for it. If interested, contact: Dave Roberson, Post Office Box 955, Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa 52314; or call (319) 895- 5815.
Barbara Fohl writes: The Members at Large, NFB of Ohio Chapter, elected officers by mail during the summer months, and the following were voted into office: President, Elizabeth Haag; Vice President, Steve Alspach; and Secretary-Treasurer, Barb Fohl. The editor of our cassette newsletter, which we send out monthly to our members, is Wayne Ingle.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Would you like to know more about prayer and serving God through the Catholic faith? We have available twenty- three sets of tapes at fifty cents per tape on a variety of subjects, including prayer and meditation, retreats, talks about outstanding Catholic priests, and many others. We invite you to send for our free listing of tapes by contacting: Catholic Inquiry for the Blind, 228 North Walnut Street, Lansing, Michigan 48933; (517) 342-2500.
Lois Nemeth writes: On September 24, 1988, the Milwaukee Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin held its annual elections President, Cheryl Orgas; Vice President, Bonnie Peterson; Treasurer, Debbie Jacobson; and Recording and Corresponding Secretary, Lois Nemeth. The two board positions will be held by Vicky Collins and Mike Hall.
Richard Gaffney, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Rhode Island, writes: On Wednesday, September 21, 1988, Stephen Garabedian died after a short illness. He entered the hospital the Saturday before for the removal of a lump from his arm, and the doctors found that his body ws full of cancer. Steve has been a member since our organization reorganized in 1970. He served as treasurer from that time until 1972 when he left for open heart surgery. He returned to the same position in 1974 and remained there until 1981, when again he left because of illness. For the past eighteen years, he remained a good, hard-working member and was very instrumental in much of our fund raising. He will be deeply missed by all the members of our affiliate.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The Crystal Connection is proud to announce its second fall catalog on audio cassette tape ($2.50, or free if blank C-60 cassette supplied) of our various goodies. We have astronomical t-shirts (S - XXL), new age items, 70 kinds of thirty-six-inch endless chip necklaces and earrings, stained glass suncatchers, custom jewelry work, and lots more. The Crystal Connection is owned by NFB member Jane Sibley, 28 Avon Street, #3, New Haven, Connecticut 06511. Please consider us when doing your Christmas or Hanukkah shopping.
A recent release from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues announces the publication of the book Women With Disabilities. The co-editors of the book are Michelle Fine and Adrienne Asch. As Monitor readers know, Adrienne Asch is a long-time Federationist from New York. The release announcing the publication of the book says in part: Twenty-two researchers and therapists have contributed to the new book, Women With Disabilities, focusing on problems that face disabled women in American society and suggesting possible directions to integrate them more completely in the arenas of intimacy, work, and politics for the benefit of disabled persons and society as a whole. The book follows recent trends away from medical and rehabilitative models to focus on the total interaction of disabled persons with their cultrual and social surroundings. This feminist anthology covers psychological, political, and cultural issues affecting 18 or 19 million Americans with disabilities.
Lisa Warner, Secretary of the Capital District Chapter of the NFB of New York, writes: The Capital District Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York is proud to announce the marriage of our treasurer Bill Schultz to Emma Sanders on May 28, 1988. We wish them success and happiness in their life together.
Kim Hrubes writes: The National Federation of the Blind of Washington, Spokane County Chapter, held its yearly elections on August 2, 1988. Those elected for the next year are: Albert Sanchez, President; Gloria Whipple, Vice President; Kim Hrubes, Secretary; and Paul Whipple, Treasurer. The two board of directors positions were filled by John Croy, former secretary, and Bill Tubbs, long-time member.
Lora Van Lent and her husband Joe are two of the mainstays of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. On Monday, October 3, Lora stepped into a hole on a sidewalk in Des Moines and fell and broke her leg. It was a serious compound fracture, requiring her to spend a week in the hospital. She is now at home recovering, and the doctor says that she may have to be off of her feet for from four to six months. She says that before the accident she often wished she could have time off from work but not like this.
**When Vice Presidents Confer:
At the last election Nancy Painter was elected First Vice President of the Potomac Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, and Jerry Yeager was elected Second Vice President. Apparently vice presidents do not always discuss political matters for on Friday evening, October 7, 1988, at the Carlisle House in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia, Nancy Painter and Jerry Yeager were wed. The reception was held under a canopy tent on the terrace, where Federationists and other friends and family gathered to listen to a string quartet and wish the happy couple well.