Vol. 32, No. 9 October
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
The National Federation
of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 32, No. 9 October 1989
by Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
LANGUAGE AND THE FUTURE
OF THE BLIND
by Marc Maurer
1989 NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AWARDS
THE CLASS OF 1989: NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
A MEDITATION ON MOORE'S
by Ramona Walhof
WHITE CANE THE SILENT ANSWER
by Bill J. Isaacs
TOOL OF THE TRADE
by Nancy Scott
A CUT IN THE DARK
by Wayne Davis
CROSSING THE JORDAN: MEMORIES
OF TORGER LIEN
by Steve Jacobson
OF SYMBOLS AND GOOD SENSE
IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU
by Sharon Gold
OF YARD SALES, AIRLINES, AND THE DIFFERENTLY ABLED
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1989
by Barbara Pierce
Every National Federation of the Blind convention has a unique character. In times of particular challenge the mood is concentrated, focused, and determined. Some years the enthusiasm and energy have forced those chairing convention sessions and the banquet to resort to steady use of the gavel. The mood of the 1989 convention in Denver, Colorado, was as clearly defined as that of any recent gathering. It was joy the quiet joy one sometimes stumbles upon in the midst of hard work and challenge, a momentary pause in the frantic rush of activity, during which one savors the contentment of a job well in hand and the love of colleagues who share a dream.
Complications, worry, and deep sadness were, of course, present at the convention. Several conventioneers were hospitalized, including Gerry Burke and Bill Parker, both from Virginia and both requiring emergency gall bladder surgery. The press of Federationists coming and going was so great that the elevators were slow, giving the delegates ample opportunity to get to know each other while they waited. Above all, the deaths during the weeks immediately prior to the convention of Jim Walker (husband of Barbara Walker, President of the Nebraska affiliate) and Connie McCraw (widow of Maryland's Big John McCraw) were griefs shared by the entire assembly. The most poignant moment of the convention (and the one most eloquently illustrating the strength and love which bind our movement together) came during the roll call of states on Thursday morning, July 6, when Nebraska was called. After providing the required information about who would serve on the nominating committee, who was in attendance, and when the next state convention would be held, Barbara Walker (the state president, who with her two young children attended the entire convention) spoke briefly as follows:
I want to say to everyone here, she said, that our Federation family does many things for many people. At this particular time I want to thank everyone for the support that has been shown to my family as we go through the most difficult thing I have ever known. I want in particular to thank Fred Schroeder for the eulogy he delivered on behalf of this organization at the services for Jim. It reached many people. I have received calls from people who have opposed our organization on many occasions who, I believe, were reached (and reached deeply) by the message. As we continue in the various struggles which we have to face, I will pledge to do my best to do the work which Jim faithfully honored all the years of his life. I need our Federation family very much right now, and everyone here is responding in a way that is unbelievable to me. Thank you very much.
President Maurer responded:
We need you too, and we care for you as much as you do for us. Unlike Jim Walker's sudden and most unexpected death, Connie McCraw's had been inevitable for some time. It had become clear to her in May of 1987 that she did not have long to live, so she arranged to take out a policy as part of the NFB's Deferred Insurance Giving (DIG) Program. Connie died on June 1, 1989, only a few weeks after her policy became incontestable that is, after the Federation was assured of receiving the full $50,000 face value.
In her memory the convention decided to establish the Connie McCraw Memorial Fund in the DIG Program with a goal of one million dollars so that chapters, state affiliates, and individuals or groups could purchase $50,000 DIG policies on people under the age of thirty-five at a cost of $3,000, to be paid in full before the end of 1989. Throughout the week announcements were made as policies were bought, and by the close of the convention, the million dollar goal had been reached and surpassed. In fact, the entire DIG (Deferred Insurance Giving) program which at the beginning of the convention had stood at approximately seven and a quarter million dollars was by the end of the convention approaching a record nine million dollars. And there was more good news! The number of those making contributions to the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan increased from 1,164 at the start of the week to 1,255 at the close, and the amount being contributed annually passed the $300,000 mark for the first time ever, increasing from $278,000 to $303,000. Given the expanding demand on our resources, this demonstration of financial commitment on the part of the members was a message from both the pocketbook and the heart.
On Monday, July 3, NFB divisions conducted several intensive seminars and workshops, attended by hundreds of eager Federationists. Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker was a day-long seminar jointly sponsored by the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division and the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program. In addition, the Merchants Division conducted a seminar on communications; and the Writers Division, the Computer Science Division, and the Public Relations Committee all held intensive workshops, which were enthusiastically attended. On July 4 (now that the process has been computerized) Federationists poured through the registration lines faster than ever before. By the time of the Resolutions Committee meeting that afternoon, more than 1,800 people had registered. They came from every state and a number of foreign countries, and before the week was out, more than 2,000 had registered. The exhibits and items for sale this year were so numerous that four large areas were required to contain them. Nowhere in the country can a blind person learn so much so quickly about so many aids and appliances as in the NFB convention exhibit area. Food, clever t-shirts, new equipment, revolutionary software: all these were to be found amid the throngs of Federation shoppers. The NFB store and literature tables did a land-office business this year. One of the most interesting products, however, was not sold in the exhibit area at all. The NFB had produced sixty carbon-fiber telescoping canes as an experiment, and the first sixty people to reach the designated area on the convention floor on Friday morning were able to purchase them. While it would not be accurate to characterize the ensuing rush as a stampede, it could certainly be said that the flow of traffic was lively and congested. The canes are lighter than the hollow fiberglas ones, and they are advertised as being much stronger. They are also more expensive, but eager purchasers were anxious to test them to see if they are sufficiently tough and attractive to warrant our producing them in quantity. Hospitality throughout the week occurred at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Denver, just three blocks from the Radisson, headquarters for the convention. On Monday evening the Colorado affiliate hosted a genuine western hoe-down, to which the Coloradans (and a number of others) wore their finest western duds, and Brian Johnson played blue grass and country music interspersed with favorites requested by the greenhorns. On Wednesday a sell-out crowd enjoyed the music of the Queen City Jazz Band, and Thursday at the annual reception and dance everyone enjoyed the big band sound of a live nine-piece ensemble. Although no hospitality had been planned for Saturday evening following the banquet, an enthusiastic group gathered around the Hyatt's grand piano to sing favorite Federation songs and write a new one to the tune of Yankee Doodle, commemorating our struggle with the U. S. State Department.
The State Department keeps us out;
They say that we're not able;
They won't let our readers in
To read their secret cables.
State Department let us in;
We want to serve our nation;
We will fight until we win
'Cause we're the Federation.
They say that we can't go abroad;
They say we'll be in danger;
They tell us we will be attacked
By every foreign stranger.
The blind have travelled far and wide To every state and nation;
We can serve in every post
And every foreign station.
Thirteen committees and divisions held meetings on Tuesday, July 4, and seventeen did so on Wednesday, with several more meetings scheduled later in the week. The Resolutions Committee recommended nineteen resolutions for consideration by the convention, and the Student Division conducted a workshop that drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 250. As usual, the problem was to decide which meetings to attend.
The annual meeting of the Board of Directors took place on Wednesday morning, July 5, with a large and enthusiastic audience. Peggy Pinder, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, introduced this year's group of scholarship winners. An article about the class of '89 appears elsewhere in this issue. The results of the past year's Associates contest were announced, and the ground rules for next year's were laid down. In fact, the clock is already running to recruit members-at-large as Associates for the new contest. This year gold ribbons were presented to the two best Associate recruiters: one to Tom Stevens, Chairman of the Associates Committee, for recruiting 200 Associates, and one to Kenneth Jernigan for raising $7,856. Eleven people were presented with red, white, and blue ribbons for recruiting more than fifty Associates. In ascending order they are:
11. Norman Gardner, Arizona, 51 Associates; 10. Verla Kirsh, Iowa, 64 Associates; 9. Dottie Neely, North Carolina, 71 Associates; 8. Karen Mayry, South Dakota, 93; 7. Marc Maurer, Maryland, 94; 6. Fred Schroeder, New Mexico, 106; 5. Frank Lee, Alabama, 115; 4. Kenneth Jernigan, Maryland, 135; 3. Bill Isaacs, Illinois, 189; 2. Betty Tetzlaff, Indiana, 191; and 1. Tom Stevens, Missouri, 200.
Members of the NFB Research and Development Committee then discussed two new projects they have been working on. The first is a modification of a piece of equipment called the Pixelmaster, which is used with a computer, enabling the user to draw raised colored dots or lines of any shape. It lays down plastic material on the page and can draw with great detail. With the NFB modifications, it can now write Braille in addition to its other type faces. Probably within a few months the NFB modifications will be available to anyone purchasing the Pixelmaster machine. Dr. Abraham Nemeth was present at the board meeting and briefly described a program written by members of the Research and Development Committee which creates a scientific calculator for use with a talking computer. Dr. Nemeth said that the calculator is so powerful that it can express a ratio greater than that of the mass of the known universe to the mass of a single electron. It expresses numbers to fifteen places, and it is less expensive than other, less powerful scientific calculators on the market. The program, together with Braille and print manuals, is now available from the National Office of the Federation for only $40.
Also present at the Wednesday morning board meeting was Bill Raeder, head of the National Braille Press. He presented Dr. Jernigan with a copy of the new book written by Rami Rabby, one of the leaders of the Federation, and Diane Croft. The title of the book available in Braille, in print, and on cassette is Take Charge: a Strategic Guide for Blind Job-Seekers . Rami Rabby then thanked the Federation, along with a number of other organizations, for its financial support of this project. He explained that the book applies the NFB's philosophy to the specific challenge a blind person faces in finding a job. Mr. Rabby closed his remarks with a reference to Dr. Jernigan's address Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic which points out that though philosophy bakes no bread, without philosophy no bread is baked. Mr. Rabby warmly thanked the Board of Directors for the bread without which this philosophy would not have been baked. The opening general session of the 1989 convention began on Thursday morning, July 6, in the Grand Ballroom of the Radisson Denver hotel with a series of greetings by city and state officials including the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, Mike Callahan; the Attorney General of Colorado, Duane Woodard;
Councilwoman-at-Large for the city of Denver, Cathy Reynolds; and Mayor of Denver, Federico Pe¤a. The remainder of the morning session was devoted to the roll call of states. As is traditional, the Thursday afternoon session began with President Maurer's annual report, printed elsewhere in this issue. President Maurer reviewed the challenges and accomplishments of the past year and charted the course ahead. In conclusion he said: On the road to equality there is frequently confrontation. We regret the necessity for it, but we are simply not willing to tolerate second-class status. That is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. We who are blind can and will help each other as brothers and sisters in the work place, the school, and the home. No one can solve our problems for us; we must do that for ourselves. We have made this commitment, and we intend to keep it....There is a closeness in this organization that is unparalleled. We expect much of each other: ingenuity, energy, commitment, courage, but there is another element. We have the capacity to care. The enthusiastic and deeply-felt response of the audience demonstrated the organization's wholehearted support of the President and its determination to pursue and achieve its objectives.
The Honorable David Skaggs, Member of Congress from Colorado, had the difficult task of following President Maurer on the afternoon agenda. His title was Equality on the Line: Congress Considers the Rights of the Blind in Air Travel. Congressman Skaggs is a co-sponsor of our Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act, and his speech was sensible, eloquent, and filled with commitment to protect the rights of blind citizens.
Dr. Jernigan then introduced his Excellency Sheikh Abdullah M. Al-Ghanim, Immediate Past President of the World Blind Union, who spoke about The Blind in Developing Countries. Sheikh Al-Ghanim spoke in Arabic, and his remarks were simultaneously translated so that the conventioneers could follow them using specially obtained headsets. This is the same system as the one used during the Second General Assembly of the WBU held last September in Madrid, Spain. The only two companies supplying these headsets in the United States had to combine forces to provide the nearly two thousand that were required. Sheikh Al-Ghanim's remarks gave a distressingly graphic summary of the plight of the blind of the third world and described some of the exciting programs that are now being conducted to alleviate the situation particularly projects being undertaken by the Regional Bureau of the Middle East Committee for the Welfare of the Blind of the WBU. Dr. Euclid Herie, Managing Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, then spoke about Blindness The Canadian Story. He gave a short history of Canadian efforts to assist blind citizens and described the work of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Dr. Herie, who has been instrumental in raising funds to support the Louis Braille Museum in France, then presented Dr. Jernigan with a sterling silver medal which was struck in 1952 when Louis Braille's remains were moved from the quiet cemetery in Coupvray, France, to the Pantheon in Paris where France's national heroes lie. In presenting the medal, Dr. Herie said: On behalf of all of us in Canada and the blind in the world, those of us who will continue to work and promote and use Braille, I want to give this silver medal to Dr. Jernigan as a credit to him and his leadership. Dr. Herie went on to say that the medal pictures the bust of Louis Braille with his name written in French Braille below it. On the reverse are the words Et La Lumire Fut ( And There Was Light ). This was an inspiring close to a memorable convention session.
The Friday morning session began with the election of members of the Board of Directors. Six positions were open this year. They were those held by Donald Capps, South Carolina; Joanne Fernandes, Louisiana; Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Betty Niceley, Kentucky; Fred Schroeder, New Mexico; and Gary Wunder, Missouri. All six were re-elected by acclamation. The members of the Board with one more year of their terms to serve are: Marc Maurer, President; Diane McGeorge, First Vice President; Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President; Joyce Scanlan, Secretary; Allen Harris, Treasurer; and at-large board members: Steve Benson, Illinois; Charles Brown, Virginia; Glenn Crosby, Texas; Robert Eschbach, Ohio; Frank Lee, Alabama; and Ramona Walhof, Idaho. It was clear from the consensus that the convention was pleased with the leadership shown by the Board of Directors and looks forward to the year ahead.
Following the elections Dr. Euclid Herie came to the podium briefly to make an announcement of interest to the blind of America. He explained that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has established and will present this year the Winston Gordon Award (a gold medal) together with a $10,000 prize. It will be given for the first time in September of 1989 for contributions to the blind of the world in technology or techniques of assistance to blind people, and the first to be honored will be Dean Blazie for his creation of the Braille 'n Speak . The audience was delighted to congratulate Mr. Blazie, who is one of our members and who was present in the room. The next agenda item was a series of presentations from a distinguished panel of speakers on various aspects of Social Security programs. James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs and perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the country today about the Social Security system, introduced the discussion. Other panel participants were: the Honorable Hank Brown, Ranking Minority Member, Sub-Committee on Social Security, House Committee on Ways and Means; and Rhoda Davis, Associate Commissioner for Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Administration.
The Honorable Patricia Schroeder, Congresswoman from Colorado, then spoke to the convention. She is a long-time friend and supporter of the NFB. Her title was Who Speaks for the Blind of America: Your Voice Counts in Congress. Congresswoman Schroeder began her remarks by paying tribute to Diane McGeorge and the work of the NFB of Colorado. She then presented the NFB of Colorado with a check for $2,000 as her contribution to its work. In accepting the check, Mrs. McGeorge made clear that she would see that the gift would be used to help the blind of the entire nation. Congresswoman Schroeder then delivered an impassioned plea for the blind to continue to make our voices heard in Congress.
The morning ended with a report from Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. Speaking on the topic World Literature and the NLS Book Collection, he described the recorded book exchange among the English-speaking library services around the world that now enables a group of three hundred NLS patrons to read works written and produced in other countries. He said that in about a year this pilot project will be expanded so that all NLS users will have access to these books. As always Mr. Cylke fielded questions from the audience and indicated that he would be available during the rest of the convention for in-depth conversation and discussions. Friday afternoon, July 7, was given over to tours, committee meetings, and social activities. The first item on Saturday morning was a panel with the general title The Blind at Work. The participants were: Homer Page, Commissioner, Boulder County, Colorado; Dale Sheldon, Commissioner, Pondera County, Montana;
Craig Kenna, owner/operator of Craig's Snacks and Catering, Los Angeles, California; and Eileen Rivera, M.B.A., Administrative Director, Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. Both Dr. Page and Mr. Sheldon hold elective office, each being a county commissioner; and although one of them (Dr. Page) must deal with the problems of an urban constituency and the other (Mr. Sheldon) with those of a widely scattered rural population, many of the experiences they described were similar overcoming the skepticism of the electorate concerning the ability of a blind official to perform, handling the details and complexities of the job, and meeting and keeping the voters happy. Mr. Sheldon discussed the challenges of his work and told the audience that without the assistance provided to him by the National Federation of the Blind he would be unable to perform his job efficiently. Mr. Kenna talked of his work as an entrepreneur in the food service industry and made wide-ranging comments on a variety of topics. As to the presentation of Eileen Rivera, it can only be described as scintillating. We hope to bring it to Monitor readers in its entirety in a later issue. After the employment panel, President Maurer then called Patricia Munson of Albany, California, to the platform to present her with a $500 prize as the Blind Educator of the Year. The award was given to recognize Mrs. Munson's twenty-five years of outstanding service as a junior high school teacher.
The remainder of the Saturday morning session was devoted to a discussion of sheltered workshops and the problems faced by blind shop workers. First Glenn Crosby, President of the NFB of Texas and a member of the National Federation of the Blind's Board of Directors, and Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and also a member of the NFB's Board of Directors, described the situation at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas, and our successful efforts to win the workers' right to collective bargaining.
Then, Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio (Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Labor of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources) spoke on Implementing the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1986: Changes in Sub-Minimum Wages for Blind Workers. His remarks, which were spirited and powerful, were followed by a presentation from Beverly Milkman, Executive Director of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped. Mrs. Milkman's title was: Upward Mobility and Employment for the Blind The Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. As with so many other important items on the convention agenda, the remarks of all of these speakers, as well as the discussion that followed, will be printed in the Monitor as space permits.
Dr. Abraham Nemeth (Professor Emeritus, University of Detroit) was the first speaker at the afternoon session. His topic, Teaching Mathematics: One Career for the Blind, was not only informative but also lively and stimulating. Dr. Nemeth was followed by Susan Jay Spungin, Ed.D, Associate Executive Director of Program Services for the American Foundation for the Blind, who spoke on the subject: Braille Literacy Issues for Consumers and Providers. The next speaker was Dr. Tuck Tinsley, Executive Director of the American Printing House for the Blind, who spoke about plans and programs for the American Printing House for the Blind. Dr. Tinsley assumed his duties in January of 1989 and expressed his commitment to serving the blind in the months and years ahead.
After Dr. Tinsley's address, the convention turned its attention to the recent intensification of the conflict between the blind and the U.S. State Department. Rami Rabby reviewed his unsuccessful attempt to become a United States Foreign Service Officer in a speech entitled The Blind Applicant Rejected: Why Not Diplomacy for the Blind? He was followed by the Honorable Gerry Sikorski, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Civil Service of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service of the United States House of Representatives. His title, Blind Persons in the U.S. Foreign Service: A View from Congress, underscored the support which Congressman Sikorski has given to the blind of the nation for many years and emphasized the continuing vigor of that support. It is clear that he has grasped the principle that alternative does not mean inferior and that the State Department cannot be allowed to continue to conduct its business above the law of the land.
In conversations with each of the members of Congress following their addresses, leaders of our movement made one point. The National Federation of the Blind (the largest organization of blind people in the nation) is not currently represented on any of the advisory bodies appointed to assist members of the Executive Branch of the federal government in dealing with the problems of the disabled. Every member was asked to do what he or she could to urge that this situation be rectified and to recommend NFB representatives. Though (as they were each quick to point out) members of Congress do not have the power of appointment to these bodies, their advice is seriously taken. The Saturday afternoon session ended with an interesting and inspiring talk by Dr. John Rowley, a blind research scientist with the Los Alamos Laboratory in Nevada. Dr. Rowley lost his sight several years ago and was on the verge of concluding that early retirement was his only alternative. He then learned about our NFB training programs, and after several months at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, he was able to return to Los Alamos and eventually to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is now working to solve a complex problem which will take him and his staff another year to complete. He concluded his remarks by asserting that without the NFB and its philosophy and training he could never have returned to work. In closing he quoted from the Bible a principle shared by scientists and members of the Federation: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
The banquet was again what the banquet always is for the Federation the apex of the convention, the high point of the Federation year, the very touchstone of our movement. Cambridge Chapter, NFB of Massachusetts, helium balloons festooned the banquet hall, and the overflow crowd not only filled the tables in the Grand Ballroom but also in the hotel lobby area. Television monitors and giant speakers broadcast the proceedings to all those who could not squeeze their way into the room. The crowd was jubilant and strong-minded. At one point close to the conclusion of the festivities Dr. Jernigan, who again this year delighted everyone by acting as master of ceremonies, said: Let me now tell you what's next on this evening's agenda. We'll do these things: We will present the scholarships; we will recognize some other people from the head table; we will draw for the final prizes; we will ask the hotel personnel to take a few minutes to clear the tables; and we will then begin the morning session. A full report of the banquet appears elsewhere in this issue. It is only necessary to say here that this year's address by President Maurer, Language and the Future of the Blind, galvanized the audience. Laughter and pain, outrage and compassion combined in this thoughtful yet impassioned speech to challenge each of us to re-energized dedication and informed commitment.
The Sunday convention session included the Washington Report (presented by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs) and other business. Nineteen resolutions (reprinted elsewhere in this issue) were debated and passed.
And so with the drawing of a trip for two to Orlando, Florida, donated by the Singer Travel Agency, the 1989 convention of the National Federation of the Blind became history. The Mile-High City, the convention hotels, and the Colorado affiliate had all lived up to our expectations. For most of us the joy and excitement of the week were tinged with sadness as we parted to go our separate ways and resume our individual responsibilities, but not for all. Both Joe Triplet and Janet Smith, and Beth Hatch and Enrique Alleyne announced their engagements during the convention. For them and for all of us the Denver convention was memorable. Now begins the preparation for the fiftieth anniversary celebration, the 1990 convention, July 1 to 8, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas. It is often said that everything in Texas is a little (or a lot) bigger than in the rest of the world. Glenn Crosby, President of the NFB of Texas, and the other Texans promise that our fiftieth anniversary will be no exception. Maybe with ten pushups a day and an extra hour of sleep each night till then, we'll be equal to the occasion.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
JULY 6, 1989
Last year, as we came together in our convention (the largest gathering of the blind ever held in the history of the world), it seemed to me that we had completed one of the most successful years the National Federation of the Blind had ever had. As I come before our forty-ninth annual convention here in Denver, I think the same statement is equally applicable. Despite the problems we have had (and there have certainly been many of them), we, the organized blind, are stronger today, more unified in our purpose, and more harmonious than we have ever been. Sometimes we have measured our growth by the increase in the number of our publications, sometimes by the number of new chapters or affiliates that have come into the Federation, and sometimes by legislative or administrative achievements. This year we have not only been successful in strengthening our programs and increasing our membership, but we have also gained a deepened understanding of what we must do and how we must act. Our public education programs (designed to inculcate in the consciousness of the public at large the normality and productive capacity of the blind) have received during the past twelve months growing acceptance and support. For the first time our television public service announcements are being carried on all of the major networks and a number of the cable channels ABC, CBS, NBC, Cable News Network, Greater Media Cable, Manhattan Cable, Tempo Television Network, Trinity Broadcasting, and WTBS Cable. We estimate that our public service announcements are reaching the homes of over one hundred and twenty-five million viewers. In addition, our radio spots are being broadcast on five different networks. There are more than six thousand individual radio stations in these networks three quarters of all the commercial radio stations in the United States. When the subject matter deals with blindness, there is one voice on the airwaves more than any other shaping public attitudes, offering encouragement, presenting information, and providing inspiration. That voice belongs to the foremost leader of blind people in our nation Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. That message belongs to the National Federation of the Blind.
We have often said that if the public understood the real problem of blindness, much of the exclusion which occurs would disappear. Our public education programs are central to this effort. Each time we show blind people crossing busy streets, working in offices, and handling all the activities of daily life, some of the prejudice and part of the fear about blindness are eliminated. In the past twelve months we have achieved real progress toward this end. In addition to our public service announcements on television and radio, we have distributed millions of letters describing the work that blind people do. We have placed messages offering assistance or information about blindness in tens of thousands of businesses, and we have issued hundreds of press releases about activities of the organized blind movement. These releases have been carried in newspapers and magazines throughout the country. All of this public education has a direct impact on opportunities available to the blind.
Not only has the significance of the organized blind been recognized in the United States, but our unique programs have also stimulated interest in a number of foreign lands. Between our 1988 and 1989 conventions, approximately fifty foreign visitors have come to our headquarters, at the National Center for the Blind. These guests (from Ireland, England, Japan, Australia, India, Korea, Canada, and the Caribbean) have come to learn from the blind of the United States. How did the blind become organized? What methods did we use to achieve the gains we have made? Why do the blind of our country possess such independence? How did it happen that the organized blind movement is at the cutting edge of change in matters involving blindness? These are the questions that attract interest not only throughout our nation but also from around the world.
Last September the second quadrennial convention of the World Blind Union was held in Madrid, Spain. Dr. Jernigan, President of the North America/Caribbean region of the World Blind Union, headed our delegation. For over a week, representatives from approximately one hundred countries met to consider the future possibilities for the blind. Although these meetings sometimes seemed chaotic, our delegates brought a spirit of self-reliance and self- determination which changed the emphasis and altered the focus of the entire conference. After the meeting in Spain, we mailed several hundred issues of the Braille Monitor to delegates all over the world. The National Federation of the Blind is leading the way for the blind of this country and also for blind people throughout the world who are seeking independence. Dr. Jernigan also traveled last winter to the United Nations to make a presentation on behalf of the Federation. Public documents and other materials are almost never available in Braille. The National Federation of the Blind presented a computer, a Braille printer, and our own Braille translation program to the U.N. These gifts will be used to produce documents in Braille for those who need them. U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar personally accepted the translation system on behalf of the nations of the world. Last summer, shortly after our convention, Dr. Jernigan appeared in Montreal as a member of a panel consisting of representatives of some of the major organizations of and for the blind in North America.
The purpose of the discussion was to consider the present circumstances and future prospects of the blindness system in the United States and Canada. As part of the give and take of the meeting, Dr. Jernigan invited the organizations present to a meeting at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore to consider the possibility of finding common ground and taking (even if only in a limited way and on a few issues) concerted action. The invitation was accepted, and by the time the meeting was held, all of the major organizations of and for the blind in Canada and the United States had indicated their wish to come. Thus, the Ad Hoc Committee on Joint Organizational Effort came into being and met this spring in Baltimore. Those present were: the American Foundation for the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the National Federation of the Blind. A number of projects were proposed and tentative understandings reached. Although it is too early to say what the final result will be, certain things are obvious and beyond dispute. This was the first time since the beginning of organized work for the blind that such a meeting had been held and it will be remembered that it was called, sponsored, and chaired by the National Federation of the Blind. The meeting was historic. It symbolized the new reality in the affairs of the blind of this country the tacit statement of our centrality in charting the future, the recognition in tangible form of our growing prestige, influence, and strength.
We have come a long way since the early beginnings of the 1940's. We are no longer an organization which asks, and hopes it will be heard. We are now a force which must be considered in any decision affecting the blind or the blindness system. This does not mean that we should behave aggressively, arrogantly, or without restraint. Quite the contrary. With power goes responsibility, and we understand that. At the same time we also understand that the governmental and private agencies which provide services in our field have a responsibility not only to themselves and the public but also to the blind, the people who are most affected by their behavior and not just to individual blind people but to the organized blind as well. Individuals can be selected on the basis of docility or willingness to say what is wanted. We cannot. Those agencies which provide good service and treat the blind with dignity and respect can expect similar treatment from us. Those agencies which give poor service and poor treatment to the blind should heed the Biblical injunction:
As ye do, so shall it be done unto you. Indeed, we have arrived at a new day in the affairs of the blind. Approximately six thousand blind people are employed in sheltered workshops throughout the country. Very often, working conditions are poor and wages are low. Nowhere is this more dramatically demonstrated than in the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas. Last September I went to Lubbock to meet with workers from the Lighthouse. I discovered that most of them were being paid two dollars and five cents an hour. A few were receiving even less some as little as eighty-five cents. A month earlier, the Lighthouse president had told the workers that the agency was planning to begin deducting money from their pay envelopes for their health insurance coverage. Health insurance had previously been provided by the workshop. Most of the workers barely had enough for their food and other living expenses. Nevertheless, agency officials insisted that these employees must pay for health insurance or be fired. Instead of handing over a substantial portion of their meager wages, the workers called on the Federation, and the blind took to the streets. The newspaper stories about the injustice in the workshop spread over the nation, and both television and radio carried the news of the exploitation. The Lighthouse president changed his mind. The workers would continue to receive health insurance, and the pay in their envelopes would not be cut. We won the first round.
Before the end of September, we had taken action to begin the next step. We hired a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and helped the Lighthouse workers file complaints with the United States Department of Labor. The minimum wage is three dollars and thirty-five cents an hour. Most sheltered shop workers in Lubbock are receiving two dollars and five cents. Nevertheless, they are expected to work a long day and produce results. The wages are artificially low and shamefully meager. So, we made plans to bring pressure to change them. We submitted complaints to the Department of Labor. These were the first appeals ever filed under the 1986 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and it will be remembered that they were filed by the National Federation of the Blind. Because of our efforts to educate members of Congress in 1985 and 1986, all blind people receiving subminimum wages have the right to challenge the fairness of their pay. The lawyer we hired once served as the Assistant Secretary of Labor. In that position he learned about the workshops and how they maneuver to violate the law.
In October of last year still another element was added to the battle. With our help, shop employees asked that they be permitted to join a labor union. The Lighthouse challenged their right to organize. By November we were preparing for a full-blown hearing before an officer of the National Labor Relations Board. This hearing was of major importance because several months earlier, a judicial decision had been issued by the eighth circuit Court of Appeals saying that blind workers at the Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind could not join a union. The right of blind workers in sheltered workshops to organize was being eroded. After the setback in Arkansas, a highly visible public counterstroke was required. We needed to protect shop workers, and Lubbock was the place to do it. There will be a full convention item to discuss this case later in the week. Without reviewing all the factors involved, let me just say that the National Federation of the Blind knows about blindness and the law. We are also able to get things done.
On December 30, 1988, the workers voted. The question to be answered was: would the workers join a union or not. By the most overwhelming margin ever recorded in any sheltered workshop election, the workers gave their answer. We won that round, too. There is a union at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas. In addition to the administrative and legal proceedings involving the rights of blind sheltered shop employees, we continue to make other efforts to bring about improvements in the shops. Beverley Milkman, the new Executive Director of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped (the agency responsible for distributing federal contracts to sheltered workshops), has met with me at the National Center for the Blind. She will be participating in the convention program. New management brings with it an opportunity for a fresh start and a reappraisal of philosophy. Will this change bring increased cooperation between the blind and workshop officials? The answer to this question is not clear. Nevertheless, the executive director of the Committee appears to be more responsive than those who have held this position in the past. If officials of the Committee for Purchase use their influence to diminish the exploitation of workers in Lubbock and elsewhere, the blind of this nation will be pleased to work with them. If they do not, we will oppose them.
Learning Braille is vital to the education of blind children. Nevertheless, the attitude of teachers of the blind often reflects the public misconceptions about blindness. Because teachers fear blindness themselves, and because they believe that the blind are inferior, they attack (often without knowing it) the special tools and techniques used by the blind. Training with a white cane is often discouraged for blind students, and it is frequently the case that Braille is taught only when there is no alternative. Blind students are sometimes required to learn print when Braille would be more efficient. The Charles Cheadle case is an illustration of the misunderstanding and prejudice against the blind that exist in the schools. Charles Cheadle is the blind son of John and Barbara Cheadle. Of course, as Federationists know, Barbara Cheadle is the able president of the Parents of Blind Children Division and editor of Future Reflections, our magazine for parents and educators of blind children. John Cheadle is employed at the National Center for the Blind. The Cheadles are thoroughly knowledgeable about blindness, and they are prepared to fight for a quality education for their children. Two years ago Charles Cheadle entered the Baltimore County School System. Although he had been receiving Braille instruction from the educational institution he had attended, he and his parents were informed that Braille would no longer be available to him. Not only would he receive no instruction in its use, but he was also prohibited from having it in the classroom. As soon as it became clear that negotiation would not bring results, we began the process of appeal.
School officials said that Charles made impressive scores on achievement tests, that he could see well enough to read print at least for a while, and that he could retrieve a pencil which had been thrown across the room. Therefore, they said, Charles did not need to know Braille. On the other hand, we pointed out that Charles could not read print for very long at a time. After only a brief period of reading, he found it so difficult that his interest in literature was declining. Charles had progressed through the early grades, and his reading and writing requirements had become more demanding. As he continued to advance through school, he would no longer be able to keep pace with the other students. The size of the print in a textbook for the middle grades is smaller than the print in a primer. Nevertheless, personnel in the school system ordered him to read print and stated unequivocally that he would be punished for reading Braille. The school system may try to punish blind students for not being able to see, but we are prepared to take action to prevent it. We proceeded to a hearing before a state review panel in August, 1988, and again in January, 1989. An independent evaluation confirmed our view that Charles must learn Braille to perform well in school. The final order of the state hearing review panel said that Braille instruction is required and that homework assignments should be completed in Braille. There was a time when well-educated individuals were regarded with suspicion, and books were considered the tools of the devil. In our supposedly enlightened age, we assume that this is no longer true. However, if the book is in Braille, it apparently may be regarded as a sign of iniquity and banned from the classroom. This is exactly what happened in the Charles Cheadle case. The representative for the school system asked the hearing officer to believe that Charles Cheadle was being damaged mentally and emotionally by the very presence of Braille. He suggested that teaching Charles Braille was tantamount to child abuse. However, ancient prejudices cannot be permitted to restrict our opportunities. We insist on literacy and the fundamental right of blind children to possess it. That is one of the reasons why we have the National Federation of the Blind.
We have also begun this year to take the issue of Braille literacy for the blind to the United States Congress. In March, I testified before the Subcommittee on Select Education of the House of Representatives. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act has been twisted by some educators so that it no longer guarantees what it was intended to protect. The language of the Act says that handicapped children are entitled to an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Some of those in the field of education claim that it is restrictive to learn Braille because the number of print books is greater than the number of Braille books. Therefore, (they argue) the least restrictive environment requires students to learn print. According to this theory, Braille (being more restrictive) is prohibited unless the student has so little eyesight that print is impossible.
In my testimony, I pointed out the fallacy of this argument and urged the Select Education Subcommittee to amend the law to encourage the teaching of Braille. Some problems with the airlines are still with us, but there are significant developments to report. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a proposed rule seeking to establish a federal prohibition against having blind persons seated near emergency exits on aircraft. The rule would apply to all seats in rows near all exits on all flights. The period for submission of public comments on this issue ended in June. I responded to the FAA on behalf of the Federation. As you know, the rule would violate the nondiscrimination requirement of the law. It would also increase the danger for the flying public especially the blind. Of course, the most significant danger of the proposal is that airline personnel would be sent an unmistakable message by the government that discrimination against the blind is all right. However, prejudice and the hidden fears of blindness harbored by airline personnel cannot be tolerated. S. 341, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act, was introduced by Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina early this spring.
On March 14, Senate hearings were held before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Dr. Jernigan presented perhaps the most powerful statement ever made about the rights of the blind in air travel. On the same day, I appeared for over five minutes on the Today Show. Both Dr. Jernigan's testimony before the committee and my interview on the Today Show have had a substantial impact in raising the consciousness of members of Congress and the public about the urgency of preventing discrimination against the blind. On June 14, less than a month ago, a guest editorial by Dr. Jernigan appeared in USA Today . Next to Dr. Jernigan's striking editorial was a weak (almost apologetic) argument by the Air Transport Association (ATA). Dr. Jernigan's editorial contained a sworn statement by an airline pilot which said that blind travelers present no hazard in flying. The ATA said that it had no evidence, but it hoped that common sense would show that the blind are a threat. When they have no evidence, they call their prejudice common sense.
H.R. 563 (a bill identical to the one presented by Senator Hollings) has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr., of Ohio. It has over 160 co-sponsors. If we take the actions that we must, Congress will pass the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. We have every expectation that the Senate will approve the bill shortly. Senator Hollings has been a staunch and powerful ally. He agrees with us: a person's blindness should not be the basis for discriminatory seating on aircraft. This is what the bill says. Let us work to see that it becomes law so that we can put discrimination in the airways behind us forever. Our efforts to protect the rights of blind vendors are well known. Even the state agencies have learned of our effectiveness in support of the blind vendor program. Two state agencies (one in Michigan and one in Minnesota) are currently receiving our help in arbitration proceedings against federal property managers. Some people have claimed that the Federation is simply anti-agency and that we cannot work with rehabilitation officials. Of course, that is not the case. Here are two examples. The Michigan case involves a large bulk mail facility near Detroit. The Postal Service has refused to issue a permit to bring the facility into the vending program. Vending machines have been placed throughout the building. The machines are currently operated by a commercial vending company, which pays a portion of the profits to a recreation fund established by the postal workers. We think the law is clear. The profits (all of them) should go to a blind vendor. The Michigan Commission for the Blind is pressing forward to obtain a permit to bring the facility into the vending program, and we are helping with the arbitration. When agencies fight for greater opportunities for the blind, they will find the National Federation of the Blind with them in the battle. In Minnesota, officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs (formerly the Veteran's Administration) claimed a virtual exemption from the blind vendor priority granted under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. But last September, an arbitration panel, convened by the Secretary of Education, found that the law applies to veterans' hospitals just as it does to the rest of the nation.
The specific issue in Minnesota involves one location currently operated by Dennis Groshel. Dennis is the only blind vendor at a veterans' hospital. Before this arbitration began, he was in danger of losing the business altogether. He was also being required to pay as much as half of his income directly to the Veterans Canteen Service. Now, as a result of last September's arbitration, the business he operates is secure, and no payments are being made. It is likely that there will be further administrative or legal proceedings, but we will do what we can to help. In the meantime, all of the proceeds from the vending facility belong to Dennis. His income has been doubled. It pays to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind. In California, we are assisting Frank Rompal and Tom Linker with a case against the Department of Rehabilitation, the state licensing agency for blind vendors. Last year, when the Department awarded one of the best vending locations in the state, rehabilitation officials disregarded their own rules. These require the appointment of a selection committee for screening applications and interviewing candidates. This was not done. Those with seniority and demonstrated performance records were apparently not considered in the selection process. A hearing at the state level has been held, and an arbitration is pending. The state agency cannot act in violation of the law or in disregard of its own procedures. When it does, as in this case, the National Federation of the Blind will stand with the vendors and fight for their rights.
The Federation continues to provide personal assistance to blind persons in resolving Social Security issues. The case of Sharlene Czaja is a good example. Shortly before the national convention last year, Sharlene was notified that she had been overpaid $6,495.90 in Disability Insurance benefits. We looked at her situation and decided that the overpayment determination was wrong. A hearing occurred the day before Thanksgiving in New York City.
Sharlene Czaja worked for a time as an investigator with the human rights department in New York. The Social Security Administration said that she had not been entitled to disability insurance benefits during the period of this employment. The judge at the hearing agreed with our argument, and the Social Security Administration was reversed. Sharlene Czaja had not been overpaid.
Sometimes one appeal is not enough, but the National Federation of the Blind is persistent. We never give up. A year ago, Deborah Strother, a blind person from Louisiana, was waiting for the results of a hearing concerning the denial of her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Social Security had refused to pay her because they thought she had too much money. The issue concerned the approval of a Plan to Achieve Self-Support.
The decision issued last July was favorable, but the Social Security Administration would not write the check for the full amount of the back payment. So, we helped with a second appeal. The Social Security Administration finally admitted that it had made an erroneous determination. Deborah Strother has now received over $3,000.
In Florida, Louis Lombardo faced a denial of his Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Louis was not a member of the National Federation of the Blind at the time he contacted us for help. However, he had read some of the articles we have published on Social Security. Louis had received notices requiring repayment of $31,407.80. The Social Security Administration wanted the money within thirty days. When we learned about the case, the initial proceeding in the appeal had already occurred, and the decision had been unfavorable. Nevertheless, we agreed to do our best, and a hearing was held early this spring. If Louis Lombardo, a blind vendor, had not known about the National Federation of the Blind and the work we have done to assist with Social Security claims, it is a virtual certainty that the facts would not have been gathered to present and resolve this case. How often do blind persons fail to understand or appreciate the value of becoming involved with the National Federation of the Blind? Louis Lombardo knows of the power of the Federation. He will not be required to reimburse the Social Security Administration, and he will continue to receive benefits. Gladys Penney, a blind person from Florida, is fully insured under Social Security; but all of her previous claims have been denied. We are currently helping her with an appeal. If found eligible, Gladys may receive disability cash benefits that she should have been paid for a period of more than thirty years. We believe that she became eligible to receive them in 1956. On the other hand, reconstructing the evidence necessary to prove that she was entitled to benefits in 1956 may not be possible. One thing is clear: Gladys Penney is not now receiving disability insurance, and she is entitled to get it. The only question to be answered is how much we can help her recover.
Rami Rabby has attempted to become employed in the service of the United States as a foreign service officer in the State Department. In this position, he would be responsible for working in a number of foreign countries. He has passed all of the required tests. By now he would have been employed in the foreign service if he had been able to see. The only reason for his rejection is blindness. Last November, the State Department announced that it had adopted a new policy. Although the State Department had never hired a blind person as a foreign service officer, it had been accepting applications from blind people and giving them the tests. An official of the State Department said that to deny the blind the right to sit for these examinations would be discriminatory. The State Department declared that it would certainly not discriminate against the blind and that blind people who could take the foreign service test under normal conditions would be welcome to apply. However, the test would not be made available in Braille, and blind applicants could not use readers to take it. In other words, sight is required. If you cannot see, you will not be permitted to take the test. No discrimination, of course. Just a little test to determine your qualifications. It is shallow, twisted logic like this that causes so much mistrust of the government. If the people designing this State Department policy are charged with international relations for the United States, it is no wonder that we find ourselves in so much trouble around the world. We are working with members of Congress to reverse this policy. Congressman Gerry Sikorski is leading the effort. He will be with us here at the convention later in the week.
In Connecticut, Laurie Doyle wanted a job doing substitute teaching in the East Hartford School District. The District hired her over the phone but withdrew the offer of employment when it learned that Laurie is blind. However, Laurie Doyle is not the weak, helpless, insignificant person the school system thought a blind person should be and she has over fifty thousand friends. When we questioned District officials, they sent a written explanation claiming that sight is a bona fide occupational qualification for teachers. Tell that to the thousands of blind people who are teaching successfully in the public schools every day. Tell it to the National Federation of the Blind. Tell it to the judge. It didn't take long for officials of the East Hartford School District to recognize that they had made an error. The decision was rescinded, and Laurie Doyle was paid $3,000 in back wages.
In South Carolina, we have taken action to help Joe Urbanek bring suit against the Carnival Cruise Lines. For some time we have tried unsuccessfully to work with Carnival Cruise Lines to obtain a change in its policy concerning the blind. Carnival Cruise Lines officials insist that blind people may not travel alone on a cruise. Any blind person on a Carnival Cruise ship must be accompanied by a sighted guide. It has been a long time since I have needed a baby sitter, and I suspect you feel the same. We have tried to avoid confrontation on this, but enough is enough. Carnival Cruise Lines must change this policy. In short, a lawsuit has been filed. On land or sea, we will not remain idle while blind people suffer discrimination. That is why we have the strength, the commitment, and the resources we do. It is why there is the National Federation of the Blind. In another South Carolina case, we have helped Michael Young with a custody battle. His right to rear his own children was being challenged on grounds of blindness. Frank Coppel, one of the Federation leaders in South Carolina, testified in court on behalf of Michael Young. The substance of his testimony was that the blind are neither unusual nor abnormal. We have the same capacities, hopes, dreams, and understandings that sighted people have.
Don Capps, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and who has been in the leadership of this movement for over thirty years, also appeared on Michael Young's behalf. Don Capps described to the court his experience as a blind father and his work with thousands of blind people throughout the United States. He told the judge that it is unreasonable to break up a family because there are misunderstandings about the ability of the blind. The love of a father for his children is no less significant because the father is blind. The decision of the court affirmed the rights of blind parents. Michael Young was granted custody. There are new developments to report this year about the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). This so-called accrediting body was created as a political tool and shield for the most regressive and least effective agencies in the country, and it continues to be unresponsive to the needs of the blind and unconcerned about the quality of programs for blind people. NAC's claim that it is a reputable accrediting organization must be measured against the impact of poor service to the blind and the shocking behavior of some of the staff members at NAC-accredited agencies. Disclosures of child abuse at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, (a NAC-accredited agency) are only the most recent revelations. At this school the children were abused physically and sexually. One student died because those charged with her care failed in their responsibilities. We have, of course, been actively working to try to change conditions at the Florida School. We do not believe (as NAC apparently does) that the death of a child can be ignored.
Who with any decency at all would try to defend an institution where such behavior is permitted? Today, most of us in this room are adults. Once, we were children. How many of us had the power to defend ourselves against the abuse that has been exposed at the School for the Deaf and the Blind in Florida? Who will protect the children if the schools won't do it? There is only one answer. We must accept the responsibility ourselves. We have often said that ours is very serious business. It can become no more important than the security and care of blind children our children. There is more about NAC. Many of NAC's adherents are beginning to understand that accreditation by NAC is harmful to the blind. The American Foundation for the Blind has been the principal funding source for NAC since 1967. In all of these years, over half of the NAC budget has come directly from the Foundation. The American Foundation for the Blind has quite literally kept NAC alive. From time to time, there are rumors that the Foundation is ceasing its support of NAC. One can only hope that the administration of the American Foundation for the Blind has the decency to cease supporting programs that defend and protect agencies where child abuse occurs.
Last May, the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped took formal action against renewal of its NAC accreditation. The person who was the acting head of the Virginia Department at that time has now become the Federal Commissioner of Rehabilitation Services. The Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in Washington, D.C., (one of NAC's earliest and staunchest supporters) has withdrawn its accreditation. In April, the Michigan Commission for the Blind voted not to put rehabilitation money into agencies that are NAC-accredited. As might have been expected, NAC's supporters (the few that are left) rallied to get the decision reversed. They have not succeeded. At a meeting (billed as a press conference by NAC supporters which, incidentally, was not particularly well-attended by the press) Allen Harris, who is treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind and a member of the Board of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, was asked why the Commission had taken its action. He responded by saying that NAC accreditation has never meant quality service, and he cited the example of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. The NAC treasurer, one Gordon Steinhauer, is employed at a hospital. He was asked if the hospital was accredited. When he said that it certainly was accredited by a commission for accrediting hospitals, one of the NAC officials followed up with this question: Has anyone ever died at your hospital? Such a question is as revealing as any commentary on NAC. People who are terribly ill are taken to the hospital. Some of them recover. Some of them don't. This is understandable but the children at school do not ordinarily die. If they do, something is horribly wrong. Nevertheless, NAC supporters gathered to defend such behavior. As I have said, Allen Harris is a member of the Board of the Michigan Commission. He and the organized blind of that state have every intention of insisting that programs for the blind provide real service, and not just talk. He has every intention of defending the blind of the state against the activities of NAC and its associates. And we have every intention of standing with him to help him get it done. When we are finished, services for the blind will be improved, and there will be no more NAC.
During the past half-dozen years we in the Federation have conducted the most extensive scholarship program dealing with the blind in the United States. This has been one of the most fruitful efforts we have made. The success achieved by those who have received scholarships shows just how effective this program is. Eileen Rivera has received one of them. She is now the Director of Low-Vision Programming for Johns Hopkins University. Christopher Kuczynski has gotten another. He is becoming a lawyer and will soon be taking a job with a prestigious law firm in Pennsylvania. Michael Bailiff has been awarded still another. He has just spent a year in Europe on a Watson Fellowship. Shortly, he will be entering Yale University to study law. There are dozens of other examples. Our scholarship program has helped bring educational opportunities not only to scholarship recipients, but also to those who have been encouraged and inspired by the Federation. This one program is helping significantly to change the meaning of blindness. It is one more reason for the National Federation of the Blind.
Of course, with all of our growth, we continue with the fundamental activities of the movement. We are distributing literature and materials at a record rate. Approximately one and a half million items of literature and other materials have been shipped from our Center this past year. Our distribution of aids and appliances has almost doubled, and we have provided more canes than ever before. We have expanded the number of aids and appliances that we make available to everything from travel aids to writing equipment, from computers to clocks. We now distribute over five hundred different pieces of literature. With approximately 30,000 copies being produced each month, the Braille Monitor (published in print, in Braille, on disk, and on cassette) is the most widely circulated and thoroughly read publication dealing with blindness in this nation. We continue to produce Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children. There are over ten thousand readers. We distribute the Voice of the Diabetic to the blind and to interested sighted people. We circulated over 30,000 copies of a recent issue of this magazine. There are also the Student Division Newsletter, the American Bar Association Journal, the publication of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, and a growing number of newsletters from state affiliates and divisions. A few months ago, our Committee on Research and Development (one of the most able groups of blind scientists ever assembled) developed software which makes a talking computer become a scientific calculator. I have been told that this calculator can handle numbers so big that they exceed the number of atoms in the whole known universe. Blind scientists who need a highly-developed calculator will be able to do much with this new product.
During the past year we have continued to conduct seminars at the National Center for the Blind, bringing state and local leaders from throughout the nation to Baltimore for sessions of intense training. In addition, there have also been seminars for educators of blind children. In June, we hosted, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, a symposium on the perceptual ability of blind youth. It has often been assumed that blind people are severely limited in learning because much of human knowledge is learned through the eye. However, this symposium focused on blind people's learning through raised pictures. The conclusion reached is that whether the perception is visual or tactile, information is gathered in the same way and with the same efficiency. Blind people may learn by using a different method, but the education is just as rapid, just as valuable, and just as effective.
On June 2, 1989, an incident occurred in West Monroe, Louisiana, which outlines with painful force the vital necessity for our movement. JoAnne Fernandes, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and president of our Louisiana affiliate, went with fifteen others to a nightclub called Sugie's. JoAnne is the Director of the Federation's orientation center in Louisiana. She teaches our philosophy there and encourages blind students to become independent. The program she directs has had tremendous success. Fourteen of the sixteen people who tried to enter the nightclub were blind. As they stepped through the door, JoAnne and her companions were met by one of the nightclub's owners. There ensued a confrontation which we had thought was far in the past. Sugie's owner said that the blind were not welcome unless they agreed to be led to the bathroom because he thought they would run into tables and spill drinks. If drinks were spilled (regardless of the circumstances), the blind must agree to pay for them. Finally, the owner said that all blind individuals must sign a waiver of liability holding him blameless in case of injury. As self-respecting Federation members would expect, JoAnne and the students with her refused. When they tried to discuss the matter with Sugie's personnel, the police were called, and JoAnne and three students were arrested. When the newspapers reported the incident, they enlarged upon the prejudicial attitude expressed at Sugie's. Notice the sanctimonious tone of the bar owner. Here are excerpts of his opinions as quoted in the newspaper.
`I was looking out for their behalf, they won't use the aisle. They bump tables and spill drinks. All I was trying to do was help. I even help my drunks to the bathroom and back. I take them home sometimes. That's the way I am. I never told them they couldn't come in at all. I'm looking at liabilities here.'
So, that's what the bar owner thinks that blind people and drunks are in the same category and should receive the same treatment. The bar owner may be expressing his sincere belief, but his attitude does not reflect reality. Furthermore, we are no longer willing to tolerate lack of opportunity based on prejudice. A press conference was held in Ruston, Louisiana, and the Federationists at the Louisiana Center told reporters what had really happened. The word spread throughout the state, and public officials offered support. In addition, a lawyer was retained to defend the rights of the blind to enter Sugie's nightclub. The charges were dropped. Ours is serious business. We know our rights, and we know how to get them. However, on the road to equality there is frequently confrontation. We regret the necessity for it, but we are simply not willing to tolerate second-class status. That is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. When members of the public think of blindness, they should come to recognize that there is one organization in our country speaking and acting on behalf of the blind. We who are blind can and will help each other as brothers and sisters in the work place, the school, and the home. No one can solve our problems for us, we must do that for ourselves. We have made this commitment, and we intend to keep it. As I reflect on the activities of the past twelve months, it is clear to me that the Federation has never been in better health. There is a closeness in this organization which is unparalleled. We expect much of each other ingenuity, energy, commitment, courage. But there is another element. We have the capacity to care. This year is one to remember. All of us have made it that way. As President I have come to know the sacrifice and dedication of the individual members of this organization. Not only do I feel humility at being entrusted with such responsibility, but I hope that I may measure up to the honor you have given. There is one more thing. I believe that everybody in this organization every officer, every member can feel a justifiable pride in our achievements during the past twelve months. If we do our work well (and I am absolutely certain that we will), next year will be even better. This is my report.
An Address Delivered by
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Denver, Colorado, July 8, 1989
One of the most powerful instruments for determining the prospects of an individual, the future of a social movement, or the development of a culture is language the expression in writing or speech of human thought. However, there is at least one theory which maintains that language possesses its power because the relationship between thought and speech is very often misunderstood. According to this thesis these two (thought and speech) are not separate entities at all. They are one. Thoughts cannot occur without being verbalized (either physically or in the mind), and words cannot be spoken or imagined without expressing thought. The words and the thought are the same. The historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle once noted that language is not the garment of thought but the body of it. Modern anthropologists have advanced the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, which declares that all of human culture is fabricated by language. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley said that man was given speech, and speech created thought. Samuel Taylor Coleridge observed that language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests. Socrates asserted that language is the guiding spirit of all human endeavor. Such as thy words are, he said, such will thine affections be; and such as thine affections will be thy deeds; and such as thy deeds will be thy life.
If the language is modified, the thought is also altered. If the thought is shifted, the deed cannot remain the same. Therefore, to change a pattern of behavior, we must change the habit of speech. If this theory is true, patterns of speech are at least as important to the future of the blind as the buildings possessed by the agencies, or the money appropriated for rehabilitation, or the gadgetry designed to lighten the burden of life for us. The policy statements, the laws, the public pronouncements in print and on television, the scholarly papers of those conducting so-called research into the nature of blindness, the thought processes of employers and the public-at-large (sometimes expressed in words but more often simply internalized without being uttered), and our own words and thoughts these will determine the future for the blind. If the language is positive, our prospects will be correspondingly bright. If the words used to describe the condition of the blind are dismal, we will find that our chances for equality are equally bleak. However, this is not a matter to be left to fate. For thousands of years false and downbeat words have been forced upon the blind words like wretched , purposeless , unfortunate . But we are no longer willing to abide such labels. We are not inarticulate. We will write our own story and use our own words. Our thoughts will be the dreams of tomorrow, and the language will say: success, independence, freedom!
In 1940, as the National Federation of the Blind was brought into being, there was almost nothing in the language to combat the erroneous but generally accepted view that blindness meant ignorance and inability. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder and first president of the National Federation of the Blind, and the handful who worked with him to pioneer our movement had to commence the process of altering the patterns of thought by correcting the language. He and those others had to begin to create a literature of independence and freedom for the blind. In the 1950's Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, one of the most powerful writers ever to consider the subject of blindness, joined Dr. tenBroek in building a climate of understanding that would permit the blind to achieve equality. A new language began to appear with new adjectives for the blind. The words employed by Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan were upbeat, shot-through with vitality, and suffused with confidence. This new method of expression carried with it an innovative pattern of thought, and the altered mental process brought action. No longer were the old words permitted to stand alone. No longer were the limitations of those words accepted without challenge. We came to understand that it is with the blind as it has been with other minorities: the liberation of lives begins with the liberation of language.
Today, at our forty-ninth convention, blindness does not mean what it did when the Federation was established. The word itself has changed because the thoughts associated with it have changed. In 1940 the dictionary definition was the only readily available explanation of blindness, and the dictionary was entirely negative. In 1989 there is a substantial body of literature which indicates that the dictionary is wrong. Blindness does not mean helplessness, lack of purpose, inferiority, or absence of intelligence. The dictionary definition will not stand close examination, and we are not willing to let it serve as the definitive statement of our hopes and aspirations. We are the blind, with our own story and our own words and we intend to speak for ourselves. Recently an advertisement appeared from the Carrollton Corporation, a manufacturer of mobile homes. Apparently the Carrollton Corporation was facing fierce competition from other mobile home builders, who were selling their products at a lower price. Consequently, the Carrollton Corporation wanted to show that its higher priced units were superior. In an attempt to convey this impression, the company depicted the blind as sloppy and incompetent. Its advertisement said in part:
Some manufacturers put out low-end products. But they are either as ugly as three miles of bad road, or they have so many defects crumpled metal, dangling moldings, damaged carpet that they look like they were built at some school for the blind. What a description! There is the ugliness of three miles of bad road, or crumpled metal, dangling moldings, and damaged carpet. The slipshod work is all attributed to the incompetence of the blind. It is not a portrayal calculated to inspire confidence or likely to assist blind people to find employment. However, the work that we in the Federation are doing is paying dividends. When it was called to the attention of company executives that the advertisement was negative and harmful, they apologized for its publication and withdrew it. The manufacturer changed its public representation because of the protest of the organized blind movement.
It is not hard to imagine why a manufacturing company might misunderstand the nature of blindness. Such companies do not have routine association with us. Although their misrepresentation of the abilities of blind people must be brought forcibly to their attention, it is reasonable to suppose that the ignorance they sometimes display stems from lack of information. The same cannot be said of agencies for the blind.
They hold themselves out as knowledgeable about blindness and thoroughly familiar with every aspect of our lives and behavior. It is, therefore, ironic that some of the most false and damaging literature written about blindness comes directly from these agencies.
The Delaware Center for Vision Rehabilitation distributes a brochure called Images . This flier leaves no doubt about the opinion of the Delaware Center regarding the ability of the blind. The grammatical construction is that of the agency. Here is a portion of the language used: The eyes and vision are priceless parts of every person, shaping their attitudes, experiences, expectations, and physical and mental capabilities. As I read this statement, I wondered if they could really believe it. Do our attitudes differ from those of the sighted? Do our physical and mental powers change with the loss of sight? If our mental capabilities are altered, do they get better or worse? The brochure from Delaware does not say, but the context leaves no doubt as to what they think. On the other hand, an article appearing in the Columbus [Ohio]
Register about two years ago answers this question differently. The headline says: Nearsighted found to have higher IQs. The article goes on to say: While the nearsighted may need glasses, their lack of perfect vision could be a sign of high intelligence, say researchers who studied myopic Israeli teen-agers. Doctors tested 157,748 Israeli military recruits, ages 17 to 19, and discovered a link between nearsightedness and high IQs. `There can be no doubt about the reality of the correlation between myopia and intellectual performance,' wrote Drs. Mordechai Rosner and Michael Belkin. Still, they wrote, the 'cause and effect relationship is not clear.' This is what the article says and of course, it does not go on to claim that the more restricted your vision becomes, the more intelligent you get until at total blindness you arrive at total genius. But it does suggest that there may be a correlation. Did the learned doctors construct a faulty test? Did they make a mistake in the way they administered it? Or did they simply fall victim to the ancient stereotype that the blind are peculiar and possessed of mysterious powers? Who knows and in a very real sense who cares? We who are blind are neither specially blessed nor specially cursed, and one misconception is as bad as the other. Regardless of that and the claims of the doctors, there has not been, so far as I know, a rush of employers to hire the blind because of our superior intelligence. Even if we were smarter than the sighted (and I don't believe for a minute that we are), the public attitudes about blindness would likely remain just about where they are a lot of superstition, growing enlightenment, and a long pull ahead.
A reporter from the Chicago Tribune recently said categorically and unequivocally that: A sighted person with the IQ of a genius would be hard-pressed to make tuna salad while blindfolded. In other words, even if those who are blind have greater intelligence, it doesn't really matter. Sight is essential. Those who lack it cannot even get around their kitchens to make tuna salad.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently issued a tech brief on its newly developed Public-Facilities Locator for the Blind. This is a device intended to help the blind become more independent in daily travel. The document describing the new aid is suitably couched in technical terms. It says in part: A proposed coded infrared transmit/receive scheme would enable a blind person in a building to detect and locate specific `landmarks,' such as elevators, water fountains, restrooms, and emergency exits. A synthesized voice would announce a landmark. Each landmark (the document continues) has a code. A pulse code modulation (PCM) scheme transmits each one, the code being the binary grey code (a one chip encode/one chip decode). The transmitter gives out a burst of two identifications; for example, `men's room men's room,' and repeats it continuously at an even cadence. That is what the tech brief says, and there is more of this high-flown technological jargon in the NASA report. Computer signals have been devised for the stairwell, the lady's bathroom, the escalator, and the telephone. When we tell these space technologists that their legerdemain is not only unnecessary but harmful to the blind, they will probably say that we are super-sensitive and that they are only trying to help. They will not understand that the presence of such gadgetry will encourage both the blind and the sighted to believe that we need complex adaptations of the environment for the simplest acts of our daily lives and that those who work in such modified buildings will be quietly and inevitably indoctrinated to the conclusion that blindness means abnormality and incompetence.
Of course, there are dozens of ways in which technology can serve our needs. However, if it is truly to be useful to us, its designers must recognize the fundamental capacity of the blind for full integration into society on the basis of equality. Specialized aids and appliances must enhance independence, not stand as a declaration that the blind are so lacking in intelligence that we cannot even find the bathroom or the telephone. How often we have been told that one of the major problems of blindness is being able to find the bathroom. One thing is certain the mickey mouse contraptions and the prejudice against blindness that they represent must go! We will no longer permit the scientists and engineers to imply that we are somehow peculiar and strange. If necessary we will build the equipment we need for ourselves. We the blind are abroad in the land, and we will not remain silent while the technocrats combine antiquated fantasy and modern science to form a spurious portrait of the helpless blind. We have found our voice, and we know how to use it. They cannot tell us how it is for the blind. For we (as was said on another occasion) have been to the mountaintop, and we know how it is for the blind. The technologists can work with us if they will. But we know what we want and how to get it. And we intend to speak for ourselves.
One of the oldest and tiredest jokes about the blind is that the Braille system works better on a date. Now, there is a company that has decided to try to capitalize on that sick so-called sense of humor. An outfit calling itself Valley Enterprises prints T-shirts with easily feelable raised dots. The name they give to this printing is so predictable as to be both inevitable and totally disgusting they call it Body Braille. There are six preprinted messages available on the back of their T-shirts or sweat shirts. They will also print them on the front, if you like. Blind people across the country have heard these messages over and over again. Here are the six: Out of Sight, Keep in Touch, Touch of Class, Hands on Experience, Feeling Good,
and Handle with Care. According to the maker of these shirts, the purpose of the company is not merely to raise money for its owners. Instead, they say: `Body Braille' clothing is a unique means of communicating self awareness and self expression for individuals who are visually impaired, a means to raise the consciousness of the sighted public, and an avenue for all people to demonstrate their support of the visually impaired.
To which I reply: Yuk and double yuk. Why is it that this company (and so many other people) feel that they have to offer a socially acceptable justification for poking fun at the blind? Blind people do not make a practice of feeling one another up, and we are unwilling for any other group to assume that we do or, for that matter, that it would be all right if we did, or that it is all right for them to do so with us as an excuse. Furthermore, I, for one, am tired of the slightly off-colored humor that is so often claimed to be funny. The blind are like others. We will find the times and the places when intimacy is appropriate. Otherwise, leave it alone, and do not talk or act as if we (like the slaves of a bygone time) are generally available. There is a well-known theory which holds that all blind people require psychological counseling and adjustment. This bald proposition has been given sufficient credence by certain agencies for the blind that they have permanent psychologists on staff to minister to the needs of their clients. Blind people seeking assistance from these agencies are not asked whether they want psychological services. It is simply assumed that all who are blind need them. Often those who try to avoid the psychologist are informed that the ministrations of this specialist are part of the package if they want help in learning the skills of blindness (such as Braille and mobility), securing financial aid for college tuition, or gaining assistance in locating a job. If the blind hope to receive any service at all, they may have to endure the testing, the questioning, and the probing into every corner of daily life and personal behavior. Perhaps you imagine that this psychological review is of the standard sort. Don't you believe it. Some of the agencies (no doubt employing their years of experience and so-called research tools) have decided that the usual tests are insufficient. After all, the standard psychological examinations are designed for the sighted. The blind are different. They are blind. Therefore, an alternative series of tests (special tests just for the blind) has been designed and is now in use.
The American Foundation for the Blind has produced a special psychological test called The Anxiety Scale for the Blind. Apparently the putative experts believe that there is a need to measure psychological stress in the blind and that no ordinary analysis will do. Here is a sample of what the test designers say:
Although there are a number of general anxiety measures available, counselors and psychologists working with blind clients may question the use with the blind of instruments that have been constructed for the sighted. The purpose of research on the Anxiety Scale for the Blind (ASB) was, they go on to say, to provide a measure of manifest anxiety which could be standardized on populations of blind persons and which later could have wide applicability in the field of work for the blind. There you have it. It is necessary to test the anxieties of blind people, and this is no ordinary task. The anxiety felt by the blind is special. It is certainly not the same as the anxiety felt by the sighted. And these are the people who are charged with providing services to the blind. We have many hundreds of blind people meeting and enjoying themselves at this banquet tonight. Forget your good spirits for a moment, and ask yourself whether you have special anxiety. Do you feel it? Well, I don't either. And what kinds of services do you suppose will likely be offered with this anxiety scale as a background? The next revelation of these so-called experts (from the American Foundation for the Blind) is that they intend to test us all. Psychological examinations have traditionally been given in this country to select groups to achieve specific purposes. They have not been given to entire populations for nonspecific reasons. However, the designers of the Anxiety Scale for the Blind tell us that its use is to be much broader. Although the authors developed this test with students attending schools for the blind, they say: Local norms should be established for blind persons in various environmental settings such as the home, the sheltered workshop, and the competitive work situation. But this is not all. They go on to recommend that there be, in their words: a study of the effects of manifest anxiety on the academic achievement of blind students; a study of the effect of anxiety on learning mobility skills; a study of manifest anxiety in relation to social behavior in courtship and other social situations; a study of the effects of anxiety on success in the competitive work environment; and a study of manifest anxiety in leadership potential among blind persons. The environment of George Orwell's 1984 has, I am glad to say, not yet been fully imposed upon the general population, and we are not going to have it for the blind either. We don't need special testing beyond that given to others in our education, our jobs, or our social lives. If we have reasonable opportunity and a fair chance to compete for jobs on equal terms with others, we will hold our own as well as the next person. We are not freaks; we are not basket cases; and we are not so fragile that we will break. Our problems are more in the area of civil rights and vocational exclusion than maladjustment and the need for counseling and don't you forget it.
But back to the testers and the anxiety scale. After informing us that there is virtually no aspect of the daily lives of blind people that should not be subjected to the rigors of this mental measuring stick, the testers list seventy-eight statements. The person being examined is expected either to agree or disagree. Here is a sample from the seventy-eight. As you consider these statements, ask yourself how much confidence is inspired by the language employed.
Statement number two: I almost always trust the people who guide me.
That statement assumes that the blind need guidance, that this need causes dependency, and that the lack of freedom of movement results in anxiety. The implication is that the blind person cannot function without the superior knowledge or judgment of somebody else and that a degree of decision-making power and control will necessarily be surrendered. All people require guidance from time to time. This is as true of the blind as it is of the sighted. However, hidden in this statement is the insinuation of an innate helplessness by the blind. If this is what they believe, they are not well acquainted with the energy, the resourcefulness, and the self-reliance of blind people. One is tempted to reply with an answer like this: I do almost always trust the people who guide me, except when the guidance comes from the people who designed this test. But back to the psychological examination. The statements go on. Here are some of the others. Ask yourself what is meant by each and how you might respond.
Number six: I am uncomfortable when I must eat with sighted persons. Number ten: I would say that blindness has completely ruined my life.
Number fifteen: I refuse to carry a cane because it makes me appear helpless.
Number nineteen: I would say that in most cases blind people should marry other blind people.
Number thirty: I don't worry about being blind. I interrupt to ask how could one help it when the psychologists are trying to ram it down our throats? But there is more to the test. Number thirty-one: I would not date a sighted person. Number thirty-seven: I would say that I often feel unwanted when with my blind friends.
Number thirty-eight: Sighted people rarely make me feel useless. Number forty-one: I often find it difficult to express my ideas when in the company of sighted people.
Number forty-nine: Frequently, when I am with sighted persons I have trouble with my words.
Number fifty-one: In familiar surroundings, I sometimes have a feeling of being absolutely lost.
Number fifty-five: I have about the same number or fewer fears than my blind friends.
Number fifty-six: I have to be cautious in the company of sighted people.
Number fifty-seven: Because I cannot see, life is a constant state of stress.
Number sixty: I constantly think and often talk about being able to see well.
Number sixty-four: I am more irritable when I am with sighted people than when I am with blind people. Number sixty-five: I frequently feel uneasy about competing with sighted people.
Number sixty-eight: I am overly sensitive about my physical condition. Number seventy: Frequently, I feel that a familiar room has changed shape.
Number seventy-three: I do not mind asking sighted people for help.
Number seventy-four: I often worry about looking ridiculous to sighted people.
Number seventy-five: Often I am not polite to sighted people. There is one statement among the seventy-eight which exemplifies the approach of the whole miserable examination. It reads: I often feel under strain because I must stay alert. Now, I ask you, why is it necessary for the blind to be more alert than others? Are blind people more likely to get into trouble? Are we more accident-prone? Is there something about the blind that makes us miss factual information if we do not concentrate more diligently than others? What could possibly be the need for this extraordinary vigilance? Have the testers really met the blind and worked with us on a daily basis? Can they truly understand our fundamental ability, our wishes, and our aspirations? There must have been some reason for including this novel suggestion. Perhaps the explanation is contained in statement twenty-nine. It says: I would say that blindness is a personal punishment. Did these psychological experts learn their scientific principles from ancient mythology or venerable lore? Blindness, a punishment? From whom does the retribution come? Such a statement, in a supposedly even-handed psychological test, puts one in mind of the old Middle Eastern proverb: When you see a blind man, kick him. Why should you be kinder to him than God has been? Dependence, rejection, uncertainty, frustration these are the words associated with the portrayal of the blind in this test. The Anxiety Scale for the Blind is certainly not a document that will engender peace of mind. The set of idiotic statements is well named. It will certainly cause anxiety in the blind, in those, at least, who are gullible, inexperienced, or beaten down enough to take it seriously. And it will also cause anxiety in the rest of us an anxiety to eradicate such misbegotten notions as those advocated by the test.
The blind are not less secure or more sensitive than others. It is not reasonable to suppose that lack of sight indicates mental imbalance. The experience of tens of thousands of us shows that it is not so. This so-called scientific test is not really based on evidence at all. It is a sham dressed up in the jargon of science, and its image is harmful to the blind. Its symbolism is the archaic language of deprivation and fear. We reject this prejudicial, ridiculous document because it does not represent blindness as it is. We will not permit it to stultify our hopes and curtail our opportunities. Instead, we will build our own images and use our own words. The language will be ours, and we will say it like it is. For the blind there will be success, independence, freedom!
So often those who consider the subject of blindness focus on the dining table. Everyone must eat, and the blind are no exception. One company, Liblan, Incorporated, of Wheeling, Illinois, has designed and patented a special dish and spoon for the blind. In a letter to me Liblan's president says that his company has developed a special Plastic food container and utensil construction designed for manipulation by the sense of touch only. I was asked to send letters of endorsement to major manufacturers so that they would produce this special bowl and spoon for the blind. I leave it to you to determine whether I did.
A report in the Tulsa (Oklahoma) World states that a nonprofit organization called New View, Incorporated, has established a program to encourage awareness of blindness by inviting public officials to breakfast and insisting that they eat blindfolded. The results are predictable. All the misconceptions of blindness are enhanced and reinforced by the brief experience. Why are supposedly knowledgeable people willing to believe that blindness can be understood within half an hour? The alternative techniques required for a blind person to function (not to mention the philosophical implications of blindness) are far more complex than the skills required for perhaps a hundred other tasks. Nevertheless, it is assumed that blindfolding a group of public officials for an hour or less will teach them about blindness. These same public officials know that it takes longer than that to learn how to drive a car or shoe a horse. Still, they are urged to think that they know all about blindness with absolutely no training. Here is the way it appeared in the Tulsa World :
If you want a lifetime appreciation of sight, try life without it for half an hour.
A dinner fork becomes a spear when you can't see it coming toward your face. Rich foods make you thirsty, but you don't drink. A glass is a water tower. A reach through the darkness could be a spill and flood everyone's meal.
Coffee is drunk with hesitation. A sip can become a gulp. A gulp can become a scald.
You make a lot of noise with eating utensils when you're blind. You stick your fork heavily onto empty china, and with your increased sense of hearing, it sounds as if you're beating drums to everyone's annoyance.
You don't talk as much during a meal when you're blind. The loss of one sense amplifies the others.
You hear more, and restaurant background music becomes blaring.
You think you're shouting just to speak above it. You eat less when you can't see. To hunt for food is to push it off your plate, onto the table, onto your lap. Scambled eggs can burn like a brand.
One napkin isn't enough when you're newly blind. You wipe food onto the napkin, then you wipe it back onto your face. You know you're blind and suspect you're bothersome. People who involuntarily lose their sight have a problem with sorrow about what they can't do. People who voluntarily lose it have trouble with guilt about what they can. When you're blind you no longer care that the Russians boycotted the Olympics. You can't even cut your food. Yet the real blind people shave and brush their teeth. You finally think more about their braveness and bravura than your own blindness.
The newspaper reporter tells us that the blind are brave for shaving; that blind people cannot cut their food; that one napkin is not enough for the newly blinded; that blind people eat less, talk less, and make more noise than the sighted; that the loss of sight heightens the other senses; that the blind are full of grief, and the sighted full of guilt. All of this occurred because an agency for the blind wanted to impress (and doubtless get money from) public officials by frightening them into believing that it was dealing with a catastrophic situation. The inevitable result is that the agency will receive deference and (no doubt) more sympathy for its fund-raising efforts. But what will the blind receive? More public misconceptions to overcome; more difficulty in finding jobs; and more problems in having the opportunity to live normal, ordinary, everyday lives.
If these misstatements, false notions, and devastating descriptions were not so serious, they might be downright funny. However, they have a dramatic impact on the lives of each of us. With this kind of public perception about blindness the job market is closed. The professors at educational institutions may not turn us away, but they will not regard us as serious students. Service in positions of responsibility in government or the private sector will not be available. However, the article in the Tulsa World , with its mistaken notions about blindness, is only one of the public utterances about the blind. There are many others. Our work in the Federation has continued for forty- nine years, and there are measurable changes.
For a number of years one of the problems facing the blind was that we were banned from jury service because of blindness. Indeed, in some states the laws still specifically restrict us from being selected. However, the work of the Federation is bringing change. In many states the laws now say that the blind cannot be categorically excluded from jury service. One indicator of our progress is shown by a poll conducted recently by radio station WBZ in Boston. Ninety-five percent of those questioned said that blind people should be allowed to serve on juries. One word, one image, one symbol, one thought at a time we are changing what it means to be blind. One word, one image, one symbol, one thought at a time we are achieving independence, self-sufficiency, and equality. The day when the blind can no longer be excluded from jury service is not a dream for the distant future. It is within our reach. First, jury service. Then, other rights the right to employment on terms with others, the right to live peacefully in our homes without unwanted interference from government officials, the right to travel without harassment or intimidation the right to participate fully in all the activities of daily life.
The psychological tests, the blindfolded public officials, the patented dishes and spoons for the blind all of these have an impact on our personal lives. Shortly after last year's convention I received a letter which describes eloquently in unadorned prose the problems we face. The Federationist who sent it knows disappointment and frustration firsthand. The letter contains an exceptional poignancy, more for what it does not say than for what it does.
Here it is:
September 30, 1988
Dear President Maurer:
Two years ago I decided to move back home for convenience reasons. In the past few months I have been treated worse by my mother than by airline personnel or a stranger on the street. Let me give you a few examples. I was asked to take a pot of coffee from the house to my father's machine shop, which was only about a four minute walk either by the road or through the trail in the woods. Well, by the time mother had the coffee ready, and I was ready to go, she changed her mind and said I might fall down with it and hurt myself. Mr. Maurer, I have never fallen down on my way from the house to the machine shop.
Another incident: Every time food is served at the table, whether it be spaghetti or hamburger meat, it comes to me in a bowl. Not only that, but with a spoon. I asked once, why the spoon? She replied, `I thought you could handle it better that way.' The other night was better than that. I was served soup with several sheets of newspaper under the bowl. I wanted to say something about this, but we would both just get mad and have a fight. I threw a spoon at her one time. And then, of course, I felt embarrassed and humiliated afterward. I am tired of my mother's negative remarks toward me as to what I can and can't do as a blind person. It seems like, after 37 years, she ought to know damn well what I can and cannot do. Just what can I do to change her attitude about blindness? Well, tonight for dinner fried fish was served with tartar sauce. Then, I noticed she was laying paper down before she served the plate. I asked my father, 'Where is your paper for your plate?' He explained he didn't need paper. So, I just got up and walked away.
What can I say to this Federationist? How can I answer his letter? It is bad enough that the agencies promote negative attitudes about us, that the advertisers belittle us in order to sell their products, and that the newspapers misunderstand and compound the problem. But it is even worse when the members of our own families (conditioned by the words and thoughts of society) do the same. It makes little difference that more often than not the members of our families put us down and treat us like children for motives of love. The tragedy, the pain, and the loss hurt no less for the lack of malice. Sometimes, in our humiliation and frustration, we may think the first best step is to leave the table hungry for a night but this is no answer, no remedy, no solution to the problem. There must be concerted action and coordinated effort to change public attitudes and improve the social climate. And we are taking those actions. We are making those efforts. The members of our families are part of the general public, and so are the agencies and their psychologists. For that matter, so are we. For thousands of years we who are blind have been regarded as incompetent, and for the most part we have accepted the legends we have been taught. But that time is at an end. It is true that some still tell us that we cannot perform in the factory or workshop; that we have an altered mentality; that we are unable to handle routine tasks in the kitchen; that we require extraordinary technological devices to help us find the bathroom; that we need raised dot T-shirts to enhance our self-awareness; that we suffer from special anxiety; that we cannot use ordinary tableware; that, when we finally get to the table, we will eat less, talk less, and make more noise than others; and that our lives are filled with grief. But it is equally true that these are not any longer the predominant elements of our lives. In 1940 we organized to speak for ourselves through the National Federation of the Blind, and in the intervening half century the blind have achieved more progress than ever before in all previous recorded history. We have replaced the ancient terms of negativism with a new language of hope, and society has increasingly come to accept us for what we are normal people with normal aspirations and normal abilities.
More and more the words (and therefore, the thoughts and the deeds) of the work place and the home, the school and the church, the street and the playground reflect this new mood. And underlying it all, fueling the change and focusing the progress, is (as it has been for the past half century) the National Federation of the Blind. With all of the problems and all of the work we still have to do, we come to this meeting tonight with a feeling of hope and a mood of gladness. We come with a joy and a certainty of triumph. At long last we know who we are and what we must do. We are organized, confident, and prepared for what lies ahead and no force on earth can turn us back. Our words, our thoughts, and our dreams reach for a tomorrow which is bright with promise, and the heart of that promise is the individual determination of each of us and the unshakeable power of our vehicle for collective action the National Federation of the Blind. The past has belonged to others, but the future belongs to us. Let us speak, think, and act in support of each other and we will make it all come true!
An organization says much about itself by the awards which it presents. Elsewhere in this issue you will read about twenty-six of the nation's most extraordinary post-secondary school students, the 1989 NFB scholarship winners. Here is a summary of the other awards presented at this year's national convention:
The Blind Educator of the Year Award
Patricia Munson of Albany, California, has taught in a public school system for twenty-five years. In presenting her with this award during the Saturday morning convention session, President Maurer said in part:
Patricia Munson is a writer. She has written numerous articles about blind people: their anxiety to do well and their capacity to achieve. She is also a leader, not only in California, but throughout the United States. This week she has been elected President for the coming year of the National Association of Blind Educators, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. And the National Association of Blind Educators in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind has awarded her the Blind Educator of the Year Award for 1989. I would like to add our recognition in convention assembled to that of the National Association of Blind Educators. And to demonstrate that we mean what we say, I would like to present to you, Patricia Munson, a check for $500 as the Blind Educator of the Year. Mrs. Munson responded as follows:
I accept this check, not for myself, because I would not have this job if it had not been for the National Federation of the Blind. It was Dr. Perry, Dr. tenBroek, Muzzy Marcelino, and Dr. Jernigan, who opened up the teaching profession to the blind. In the mid-fifties blind people could still not teach in public schools. I came along later. I did not know about the Federation, and I got a job. I thought I was wonderful; I had done it on my own. But I had not done it on my own, and I would not have been employed for twenty-five years had it not been for all of you and all of those who came before who helped make this possible. And believe me, I have taught in every aspect of education. When you are a junior high teacher, you fill in for your colleagues, you teach physical education, you teach art, you teach driver ed, you teach whatever it is that has to be covered. We can do it. I've done it, and you can too. In concert we work together. Thank you very much.
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
At the banquet Saturday evening Dr. Jernigan called Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland and Chairman of the committee making this year's selection, to make the presentation. She said: It is most appropriate that we in the National Federation of the Blind recognize a distinguished educator of blind children. The blind children of this nation belong to us. Their future is of prime importance. Tonight we honor Mrs. Kim Bosshart, a vision teacher in the public schools of Fremont, Nebraska.
Kim Bosshart is a person who is changing what it means to be blind for the children of Nebraska. She is a model for the teachers of the entire nation. Tonight we present Kim Bosshart with a $500 check and with a plaque that symbolizes our confidence and support. The plaque reads:
National Federation of the Blind honors Kim Bosshart, Distinguished Educator of Blind Children, for her skill in teaching Braille and the use of the white cane, for generously devoting extra time to meet the needs of her students, and for inspiring her students to perform beyond their expectations.
Kim Bosshart responded:
Thinking back on my first year teaching blind children, I remember sometimes feeling very angry and frustrated with teachers and parents. Of course, he can use the stairs; he doesn't need to use the elevator. Yes, she can participate in P. E. and Home Ec. It just seemed so logical to me. Expect from these blind children what you would from any other child. But it didn't always happen. Then the realization came to me that this was not entirely their fault. I needed to take a leadership role to help educate them about the abilities of blind people. It was at that point that I began to develop a more community-based program which culminated in my selection as the 1989 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. I am extremely grateful for this award, and I know that it will serve as an inspiration for me to continue to improve the quality of education that I provide to blind children. Since you bestowed this honor on me, I would like to share with you quickly my approach to the education of blind children. It's based on the mission statement of the Fremont, Nebraska, Public Schools, which reads as follows:
`The mission of Fremont Public Schools is to produce creative, adaptable, productive, self-sufficient citizens, who are committed to life-long learning and capable of effecting responsible change, by providing a quality education that is designed to meet the needs of individual students.' How will these needs be met? Well, after having been at this convention all week, I can list three areas in my curriculum that will definitely continue to remain strong. First, it will be imperative to continue having realistic but very high expectations, not only from the students I teach, but also from their parents, the school staff, and the community in general. Second, I will continue to seek out competent blind adults to be role models for the students I work with and sources of valuable information in the schools and community. And third, a well-rounded curriculum will continue to be offered; very specifically but not inclusively this will include Braille reading, beginning with toddler youngsters; Braille writing, using a slate and stylus first and then the Braille writer; and also, with support of the services in Nebraska, continuation of early cane travel for students.
The end objective will be for the students to have a sense of self-esteem and dignity that will inspire their own motivation to achieve. So with combined effort of all people who work with blind children, we will ensure that every child is provided the very best education possible, and we must all work together to help produce creative, adaptable, productive, self-sufficient citizens of the future. Thank you.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award
In making this presentation Steve Benson, Chairman of the Jacobus tenBroek Award Committee and member of the Board of Directors, said: In 1940 the founding of the National Federation of the Blind ignited the torch of freedom for the blind of this nation. That torch was carried high by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Dr. tenBroek was an extraordinary man. His achievements as a scholar, teacher, author, and civil rights advocate are part of what he was. He was compassionate, tough when he needed to be, a man of high good humor and dedication to improving the lives of all of us. His concern about the condition of the blind was exceeded only by his love for his blind brothers and sisters. There is no doubt that Dr. tenBroek's writings and speeches represent a very significant chapter in the history of the blind of this nation. The impact of his work is still being measured for his work ( our work) is not yet complete.
Since 1974 the National Federation of the Blind has upon occasion presented the Jacobus tenBroek Award. It is the highest honor we can bestow upon one of our own members. Recipients of this award must have demonstrated consistent, long-term commitment to the philosophy of the Federation and to the challenges that Dr. tenBroek so clearly defined for us to fulfill. Recipients of this award must view our organization and our work from a national perspective. Most of all, recipients must love our movement and the blind of this nation. All of this is a reflection of the character and spirit of Dr. tenBroek.
It is unusual for this award to be presented in two successive years. However, the committee determined that one individual is so extraordinary that the award should be presented again this year. Our winner has extended herself far beyond the expected to change what it means to be blind. She has built and strengthened chapters, worked to improve educational opportunities for blind children, and begun to reshape the rehabilitation program in her state. A resident of one of the thirteen original states, she exhibits the resilience and determination of the hearty frontier stock from which she comes. Over the past twenty years she has carried the torch of freedom high, in the manner and spirit of Dr. tenBroek. She finds strength in our movement and in her God. Her favorite Biblical verse is, `I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.' It gives me great pleasure and genuine honor to present the 1989 Jacobus tenBroek Award to my colleague in the movement, Hazel Staley.
The plaque presented to Hazel Staley reads:
National Federation of the Blind Jacobus tenBroek Award Presented to Hazel Staley for your dedication, sacrifice, and commitment on behalf of the blind of this nation. Your contribution is measured not in steps but in miles, not by individual experiences but by your impact on the lives of the blind of the nation. Whenever we have asked, you have answered. We call you our colleague with respect. We call you our friend with love. July 8, 1989.
Hazel Staley, who was overcome with emotion, responded: Thank you. I can't believe that this is really happening. For almost fifty years many, many people have labored long and tirelessly to bring about equality, opportunity, and security for the blind of our nation and the world. I feel very proud and honored to be deemed worthy to be numbered among that group. Ever since Don Capps recruited me twenty years ago, the Federation's philosophy and its programs and activities have been top priority with me, and they will continue to be top priority as long as God lets me live. I feel very honored to receive this award. I can't talk anymore. Thank you.
The Newel Perry Award
Donald Capps, member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of its Newel Perry Award Committee, presented this award toward the close of the banquet. He said:
Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, distinguished guests, fellow Federationists Like the Nobel Peace Prize, the Newel Perry Award is granted only as often as outstanding and distinguished accomplishment merits. This highest award is given only to those persons who have made significant contributions toward the progress and independence of the blind. Since the Newel Perry Award is the highest honor which the organized blind of this country can bestow, it is treated accordingly. It is given sparingly with appropriate care and with selectivity. The last time the Newel Perry Award was granted was seven years ago in 1982. This highest recognition is truly reserved for those distinguished Americans who genuinely merit the honor. Tonight we are pleased and privileged to have this opportunity of honoring another distinguished American. We take justifiable pride in presenting the Newel Perry Award in 1989 to the Honorable Gerry Sikorski.
Congressman Sikorski is a distinguished member of the United States Congress and proudly represents the great state of Minnesota. Throughout his brilliant service in the United States House of Representatives Congressman Sikorski has clearly demonstrated complete faith and confidence in the abilities of the blind. In 1985 when leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota called upon Congressman Sikorski during the annual Washington Seminar, he expressed interest in hiring a qualified blind person to serve on the staff in his Minneapolis office. A few months later, in October of 1985, our own Judy Sanders was hired by Congressman Sikorski. Judy Sanders did not remain in this position for very long, however, because she progressed rapidly, competing successfully with others in the process. Judy Sanders is now the director in Congressman Sikorski's Minneapolis District Office. In this capacity Judy has overall office responsibility for supervising eight additional staff members and scheduling all of Congressman Sikorski's appointments and activities while he is in the district. Congressman Sikorski chairs several House committees, including the Sub-Committee on Civil Service. In February he held a hearing before this committee for the express purpose of focusing Congressional attention upon the State Department's discrimination against our own Rami Rabby. The Braille Monitor very proudly featured the entire hearing, and the transcript was read by thousands across the country and throughout the world. Congressman Sikorski is pledged to remain steadfast with the Federation in its fight to obtain from the State Department for Rami Rabby the non- discriminatory treatment accorded other qualified applicants and candidates for the Foreign Service.
Congressman Sikorski has been in the forefront in the National Federation of the Blind's struggle to have all blind Americans treated as first-class citizens in air travel by the airlines. He is a proud co-sponsor of the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act and is working actively with other members of Congress seeking further support for this meritorious legislation. At this midpoint in Congressman Sikorski's distinguished career of public service, characterized by solid and noble accomplishment, he joins with us in changing dreams into reality. Congressman Sikorski, this is why we honor you tonight. We want you to know we want everyone to know that we thank you for having joined with us on the barricades. And as a tangible and lasting expression of our deep appreciation of your service it is my distinct privilege and honor at this time to present this beautiful plaque inscribed:
Newel Perry Award National Federation of the Blind
In recognition of courageous leadership and outstanding service, the National Federation of the Blind bestows its highest honor upon the Honorable Gerry Sikorski, our colleague, our friend, our brother on the barricades. He champions our progress. He strengthens our hopes. He shares our dreams. July 8, 1989
Congressman Sikorski responded as follows: A Polish thank you is three things. It's an expression of words, and I give that to you with a `thank you.' It's a feeling in the heart, and I truly have that. It's also a promise of giving in return. I promise to continue to be a brother on the barricades. I don't know when I've had as much fun and as much education at one time as I've had today and especially tonight in the wonderful words of Marc, and of many, many others.
You know, number 51... [Congressman Sikorski is referring to a passage in the banquet address concerning a psychological test for the blind.] You know, a lot of people in Washington feel confused in familiar rooms. And several of them have been elected President of the United States.
I was the fourth of four boys, and then they had a girl. I was in the poor kid's hot lunch line, and that was my major source of nutrition as I was growing up. I went to college on an Equal Educational Opportunity Grant. I feel that it's my role and maybe my chemistry to be a rabble- rouser, so as I was listening tonight I thought of one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It's the story of Joshua as he circles the walls of Jericho with a band of rabble-rousers not unlike us here tonight, but much smaller. He was given Mission Impossible to bring down the walls and take over the city. But on the seventh day, the seventh time around, and the seventh blast of the trumpet, the walls came tumbling down. So I say to you: make the phone calls to those agencies, and knock on those doors in Washington, and call the airlines on the carpet, and take over the workshops or shut them down, and get after the State Department, and take those t-shirt makers and those mobile home manufacturers and the psychological testers and kick their butts, and generally sound your trumpets. For every time a human voice speaks out for human dignity, Joshua's trumpet sounds. Every time a blind person moves from second-class citizen to first-class citizen, Joshua's trumpet sounds. Every time a blind person helps a sighted person and it's done many, many times a day around the world Joshua's trumpet sounds. Every time a blind person is judged for a job she's applied for on the basis of her ability and not the so- called disability, Joshua's trumpet sounds. Every time a plane takes off with a blind person fully capable sitting right there, smack dab by the exit door, Joshua's trumpet sounds. And every time a blind person manages and runs a sheltered workshop, Joshua's trumpet sounds. And every time that age-old myth that blind people live in some separate world of shadows is dissipated, every time you lead us out of the shadows of prejudice and stupidity into the bright sunlight of human dignity, Joshua's trumpet sounds. And all those trumpets from every state in the Union and District of Columbia and many nations of the world sounded together can bring down the mightiest walls of any Jericho, a Jericho of injustice. Thank you. God bless you.
At the banquet of the National Federation of the Blind convention in Denver, Colorado, on July 8, 1989, twenty-six blind men and women received scholarships totaling $69,200. The scholarship awards ranged in value from $1,800 to $10,000, but when one includes the value of the expense-paid trip to the convention, the monetary commitment that the NFB has made to these post-secondary students exceeds $100,000 in 1989. Considering the financial demands always facing the Federation and the desperate requests for our help that appear in the mail to the National Office every day, it is reasonable to ask whether the size of this investment is justifiable each year. The answer from all those who have observed the fruits of the scholarship program over the last several years and who met the 1989 winners is a resounding yes. Each year our past winners take an increasingly active role in the work of the organization. Their commitment to our cause of making life better for the blind and their accomplishments provide a significant part of the energy, direction, and increasing momentum of our movement as it begins its sixth decade of life.
Taken together, this year's scholarship class is perhaps the most impressive group of winners we have yet assembled. They come from or study in twenty-one states, Puerto Rico, and the People's Republic of China. On Wednesday morning at the Board of Directors meeting each winner was given an opportunity to speak to the convention. Here is what they said about themselves and their plans:
Michelle Abadia from Puerto Rico: I'm attending Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. I'll be a sophomore this year. I'm majoring in French with pre-law counseling, and I intend to become a lawyer.
David Arocho from New York: I will begin classes at the Albany Law School, and I hope to become a very good lawyer. Johnnie Burns from Louisiana: I am attending Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. I intend to pursue a doctorate in special education, and I want to give back to the Federation what they have given to me freedom.
Cheryl Cameron from Illinois: I did my undergraduate degree at Princeton University and am pursuing a graduate degree at Tufts University in a program concentrating in Latin American History and Development Economics. Right now I'm doing a summer job in Washington D.C., and I hope upon completion of my program in the next year to return to D.C. and pursue a full-time job in either the U.S. Agency for International Development or hopefully by then the NFB might have persuaded the State Department that they should accept blind people as Foreign Service Officers. Denise Clifton, Oregon: I am attending the University of Oregon. I will be a junior this fall. I am studying journalism, and I plan to write for magazines and newspapers. Currently, I work for the school newspaper, and I'm doing an internship for Oregon Business Magazine .
Christopher Craig, Missouri: I am pursuing a specialist degree at the School of Administration with plans to complete a Ph.D. at Missouri University in Special Education and Administration. John de Benedetti, California: I graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Human Biology, and I've been working in the Biotechnology field. I'm going to Northwestern University to the Kellogg School of Management to receive an M.B.A. degree, and I intend to return to the Biotechnology field. I plan also to be a leader in the blind community as well as the community in general. Ronald Dixon, Illinois: I'm a fourth year sociology student at the University of Chicago. My plans are to go into law. Tricia Ferrell, Kansas: I'm planning on attending Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas. I'm planning on pursuing a degree in Engineering, specializing in Chemical Engineering. Rudy Hirota, California: I'm currently attending the University of California, Bolt Hall School of Law. I will be a third year student, and for at least one year after I graduate, I intend to clerk for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena. If things go well, maybe I'll be able to clerk for the Supreme Court. Konnie Hoffman, South Dakota: I'm attending Dickinson State University in North Dakota, and I'm majoring in Elementary Education. I've been an active member of the NFB for a long time, and I serve as Secretary of the South Dakota affiliate. I know that the NFB can help me become a success in my life, and I'm going to try to help the next generation to do the same. Christopher Hsee, People's Republic of China and Hawaii: I just received my Bachelor's Degree from the University of Hawaii, and I will be a first year graduate student at Yale University majoring in Psychology. Here I would like to thank all of you, especially four people who have made it possible for me to come here, speak to you, and win this scholarship. Those four people are Dr. Floyd Matson, Dr. Jernigan, Peggy Pinder, and Fred Schroeder. This year I have won four national scholarships or fellowships, but this one is the one I am most proud of. Gerald Jeandron, Louisiana: I am currently attending Louisiana State University, pursuing a B.S. in Psychology. After graduating, I plan to go to law school. I serve as President of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and am also First Vice President of the Student Division in Louisiana. Barbara Jonsson, New York: I'm at Columbia University in New York City, and I'm studying Health Administration for a doctoral degree. I've been working for several years in the field of nutrition. I'm a registered dietitian. When I finish my doctorate at Columbia, I've been admitted to a clinical nursing program, which will train me as an RN and nurse practitioner. In the future, I'd like to run a maternal and child health care program.
Sandeep Kishan, Maryland: I am going to be attending my freshman year at Johns Hopkins University, seeking a Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree with a double major in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics.
Marsha Levy, Pennsylvania: I'm a student at Bryn Mawr College, Graduate School in Social Work and Social Research. I'm in the clinical social work track and hope to maintain a private clinical practice as well as teach on the University level. Craig Mallinckrodt, Colorado: I am pursuing a masters and Ph.D. degree at Colorado State University in a branch of animal sciences dealing primarily with genetics. I hope to contribute to that field as both a teacher and a researcher. Brian McCall, Pennsylvania: I'm entering my sophomore year at Yale, and I plan my major course of study to be political science and history. This summer I'm interning for Congressman Kurt Weldon. While at Yale, I live in Davenport College, which is the same residential college that George Bush was affiliated with when he was at Yale, and it's not the only house I plan to share with George Bush. Valorie McMillan, Arizona: I'm currently pursuing a career in psychology, specializing in developmental psychology, and I plan to work with abused children. There are a lot of people I would like to thank, but most importantly the Student Division for last night. All the time that I was in school there was something inside of me that wasn't quite right, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Well, now I know. I'm going to learn Braille until the ends of the earth. Valerie Negri, Illinois: I am going to be a sophomore at St. Xavier's College, pursuing a major in elementary education and a minor in English. For my goal in life, I would like to be the best teacher that I can be because I think it's a great responsibility to teach our nation's young people, and I always hope to be active in the NFB so that I can give back to these people out here what they've given to me.
Tami Rhymes, Illilnois: I will be attending Wichita University this fall, pursuing my graduate degree in opera performance. I'm currently seeking a career not only on the operatic stage, but the recital stage. I am also preparing myself for extensive research in the field of vocal science and its applications to the art of vocal pedagogy. Michael Seay, Tennessee: I'm a senior at LeMoyne Owen College, a small school in Memphis, Tennessee, where I am President-Elect of the Student Government Association as well as a major in political science with a concentration in pre-law. I'm currently doing my internship with the public defender's office of Shelby County, the oldest in the United States. It is my hope and my ambition to become one of the best attorneys this country has ever known. Cynthia Simon, New Jersey: I'm an entering sophomore in the Rutgers College General Honors Program, seeking a bachelor's degree in political science and an associate's degree from the Eagleton Institute of Political Study. I hope to pursue a career in public administration and eventually to be elected to the United States Congress. Mary Ward, Texas: I'm pursuing a degree in linguistics and the teaching of English as a second language. I'm a returned Peace Corps volunteer, having served in Ecuador for two and a half years. I will be able to teach English as a second language, but I intend to pursue a doctoral degree in linguistics and study exotic languages and conduct that type of research. I'd like to thank the members of the National Federation of the Blind for showing me that I'll be able to do what I really like to do instead of what I think a blind person ought to be able to do.
William Warlick, Florida: I'm on my way to the University of Pennsylvania to start work on a Ph.D. in economics with a specialty in international trade and monetary theory. After I've finished, I'd like to pursue a career in University teaching and research. Matthew Weed, Colorado: I will be at Yale College this fall. I will hopefully be receiving my baccalaureate degree in politics and economics in four years. I will then continue on to earn a Ph.D. in political economy.
The Scholarship Committee deliberated long and agonizingly on Friday afternoon, July 7, and during the banquet Saturday evening the following awards were made:
$1,800 NFB Merit Scholarships: Michelle Abadia, Ronald Dixon, Barbara Jonsson, Craig Mallinckrodt, Michael Seay, Cynthia Simon, Mary Ward, Matthew Weed.
$1,800 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Denise Clifton.
$2,000 Francis Urbanek Memorial Scholarship: Tricia Ferrell.
$2,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Konnie Hoffman.
$2,000 Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship: Marsha Levy.
$2,500 NFB Merit Scholarships: Cheryl Cameron, Christopher Craig, Valerie Negri, Tami Rhymes, William Warlick.
$2,500 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarships: David Arocho, Rudy Hirota, Gerald Jeandron, Sandeep Kishan.
$2,500 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Valorie McMillan.
$4,000 NFB Merit Scholarships: John de Benedetti, Christopher Hsee, Brian McCall.
$10,000 Ezra Davis Memorial Scholarship: Johnnie Burns. At the close of the presentation of these awards, Peggy Pinder, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, addressed a few concluding remarks to the class of 1989. She spoke for us all when she summed up for the winners the true significance of what they have been given. Here is what she said:
Now that we have bestowed the 1989 scholarships, I want to say just one final word to this year's winners. We have given to you of our treasure, of our hard-earned income; but we have also given to you something else. We consider our scholarships to you only secondary to this. We have given you another and greater gift as through the week we have spent time with you, attended meetings with you, dined with you, played poker with you, talked with you, laughed with you, danced with you, debated and discussed with you. Through our common experiences we have showed to you that which is most important of all to us, the most precious thing we have, and the thing we now offer to you our organization, the National Federation of the Blind.
We blind people first felt the need ourselves to establish an organization because we did not have a common philosophy, a structure through which to implement that philosophy, or the policies that brought it into life. We have made that philosophy, that organization, and those policies, and we now offer them to you. But we ask you to recognize with us that a philosophy, a structure, and policies in common do not make the National Federation of the Blind. They are merely the building above the ground. Underneath it is our feeling for one another. We do love one another. We do hurt when one of us is hurt. We do comfort one another when hurt occurs. We do fight for one another when one of us is wronged. We do defend one another. We rejoice with one another when achievements occur because they are the achievements of each of us, not in some verbal sense, but really truly ours because we do love one another and feel that strength of attachment for one another on which our philosophy, our structure, and our policies are built. We offer all of these to you, but particularly the love. You have shown great achievement and shown that you can give as well. We give our movement to you and ask you to love it as we have, ask you to nurture it as we have, ask you to make it grow as we have. We are proud of it just as we are proud of you. Scholarship winners, congratulations. Let's work together to make all our futures come true.
Ramona Walhof is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. The following article appears in the Spring/Summer, 1989, Gem State Milestones, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho.
For the past several days I have been in Spokane interviewing for a new office manager for our Community Outreach office. Yesterday I talked with an absolutely delightful gentleman, who began by stuttering and stammering about blindness. I did my best to put him at ease. One thing he told me was that he had seen an area for the blind in a city park. It had special Braille signs. Gently I suggested that it is hard for blind people to find the Braille signs which are scattered in parks. He assured me that there was a rope to follow from sign to sign. I did not (since I was considering the man for a job) philosophize with him about how that had affected his attitude, but I wonder how many sighted people visit that park and learn just a little more to limit their expectations of blind people. And I wonder how few blind people visit that park and enjoy the Braille trail. The rope, of course, is not a solution. It exaggerates the problem and it is right there in Spokane today. That experience reminded me that I had promised Mary Ellen Halverson that I would write about Moore's Mountain and the trail for the blind established by the Department of Forestry (a different kind of trail), so here it is.
One of my first experiences with nature trails for the blind occurred in 1966 in London. I was spending a summer in Europe as part of my studies for a degree in foreign languages, and while I was in England, a friend invited me to go to a famous British park to see a Braille trail. She was proud of it, and I went with her partly out of politeness. I appreciated the interest someone had in the blind in constructing such a trail, but I found what my friend had to say much more interesting and complete than the limited information on the Braille signs. In the United States I have found the same thing to be true. Where there are special trails or areas for the blind in museums, blind persons are often not encouraged to visit the rest of the grounds or facility. Sometimes we are forbidden. Directors and curators feel pride in special adaptations for the blind and often call attention to them for the wrong reasons and in very demeaning ways, implying (even if it is seldom said) that blind persons cannot appreciate museums and nature without adaptations, which reflect negatively on public attitudes and job opportunities for blind people.
Although ropes and Braille signs may not be the best way to help blind persons enjoy nature and museums, often we may wish to use different methods of looking from those employed by sighted visitors. I well remember visiting a place called Living History Farms near Des Moines, Iowa, where I took my children when they were quite small. There were live animals and old machinery to show how farming was done in 1920, 1880, and 1840. I took advantage of the opportunity to look (with my hands) at steers, which were being used and cared for as oxen. They were huge and interesting. I also enjoyed looking at old machinery, hands-on. My kids enjoyed different things (such as pumping water from the well), and they also had a good time. The whole place was accessible and enjoyable to me as well as to thousands of others. When I was working at NFB headquarters in Baltimore, I was contacted about such matters. One call came from Judy Taylor (now Judy Jones of Twin Falls, Idaho). She was then working in Florida for a museum, and she had been requested as a blind staff member to help make a certain area enjoyable for the blind. I think she said they were considering a Braille trail. She had some misgivings but wanted to do what was good for the blind and the museum. If my memory is accurate, she came up with some adaptations which were useful to the blind without changing the character of the area and took the occasion to insure that blind people would be encouraged to visit the entire museum and grounds. We understand that some items in museums are (because of age or other conditions) fragile and should not be handled, but many do not need this protection. Recorded commentaries in art galleries are often as interesting and informative for the blind as for the sighted. Some tour guides give excellent descriptions, which are appreciated by blind visitors. Accessibility for the blind may consist of a variety of different approaches, most of which are not exclusively for the blind.
A year or more ago Jan Gawith of the Western Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho was contacted by staff members of the Forestry Department, which had some money to make a trail on Moore's Mountain accessible to the blind. Fortunately they asked us what to do. Jan and other members of the NFB came up with some suggestions. A tape would be made to carry on the trail, along with a portable tape player, which would be available to borrow at the beginning of the trail. Instead of a rope or hand rail, there would be a rough wood border six or eight inches high along the right-hand edge of the trail, which could be followed with a white cane. The wood would look good since it would be taken from the area and fit into the terrain. This is truly a mountain trail, 5,000 or 6,000 feet high, north of Boise above the Bogus Basin ski area. The trail was nearly finished last fall, and several members of the Western Chapter of the NFB of Idaho went up and walked along it one Saturday in October. I regret to say that I was out of town that day and did not get to go, but I am looking forward to an opportunity to do it. Our members are quite happy with the way it turned out, and so is the Forestry Department. On April 14, 1989, there was a meeting at Boise State University to discuss making the forest accessible to the handicapped. Our member, Dana Ard, who attended the meeting, was pleased with the tone of the discussion. The goal of the group is to make it possible for the handicapped, including those in wheelchairs, to go into the forest to camp and relax with friends and family. That would require leveling, widening, and paving some walkways. Currently most campgrounds could not accommodate a person in a wheelchair.
At the April 14 meeting there seemed to be a good understanding that all handicapped people do not require the same adaptations as those needed by individuals in wheelchairs. Dana felt good about the meeting. A few days later there was a news report on KBOI radio, and obviously the reporter (who had not been at the meeting) did not understand. Her news story indicated that the blind probably could not go into the forest without these proposed accommodations. It is safe to assume that more people heard the news story than attended the meeting, so we have some work to do with the reporter and KBOI.
It is fair to say that some adaptations are useful to the blind. I think of computers, for example. If a person needs to get information out of a computer once a week and a sighted secretary is using the computer frequently, it doesn't make sense to install speech or Braille output. Having the secretary provide the data would be better. On the other hand, when a blind person is using the computer regularly and often, speech or Braille output is the sensible way to go. Perhaps the situation is not exactly the same with nature trails but I wonder. A few years ago I went backpacking and camping with my teen-agers and one of their friends in an area near Red Fish Lake. We had planned to take a six-mile hike up the mountain to a small lake, camp overnight, and come back down the next day. I was not prepared for what I found. I was carrying a forty-pound backpack; was wearing tennis shoes instead of hiking boots; and was somewhat overweight, inexperienced, and physically out of shape and in addition, the trail was six or eight inches wide. On the left was a drop-off toward a large creek or river. On the right was a steep mountain going up. The trail was rough, crooked, rocky, and beautiful. We were 7,000 feet above sea level. The air was thin, and the sun was hot. I was with three sighted teen-agers, and blindness was not an asset. We traveled about two miles along that trail, and for me it was slow and painstaking. I appreciated the assistance of my daughter, who went at my pace just in front of me while the other two covered far more territory on ahead. After two miles of mixed enjoyment and toil, I decided to turn back, to the disappointment of three kids and, incidentally, me. That decision was not made simply because of blindness, but blindness was one factor in my ability to negotiate that trail. Along with my inexperience, blindness helped to slow me down. We camped at the bottom of the trail instead of the top. I expect to find the trail on Moore's Mountain more pleasant. It is wider, and the guiding border along the edge will make it easier to follow. It is truly a mountain trail with all of the rocks, plants, animals, insects, dramatic views, and general atmosphere which cannot be found anywhere else. However, I certainly would not want to be barred from doing backpacking with my kids at Red Fish. Blind persons must insist on their right to be included in all areas, not just certain ones that have special modifications.
Like the sighted, the blind must have the right to make decisions, attempt difficult feats and, yes, take risks. We must insist on the freedom to reach for more than we can grasp, try when we may not succeed, and learn for ourselves with no more interference than the sighted experience. That is the very essence of learning, growing, and indeed a full life. How many sighted mountain climbers would ever have reached the peaks if they had been judged by the standards which society has traditionally imposed on the blind? I wonder how many of those who have been reading this article have already said (either to themselves or others), Well, naturally she couldn't successfully compete on the trail at Red Fish. No blind person could do it. Moreover, this torpedoes her whole NFB philosophy of independence and competitiveness.
Those who have had such thoughts should read again and think again. They have not understood. Let them read on. There are blind people in Idaho who go backpacking regularly and are far more skilled at it than I. There is no question that experience and equipment make anyone far more successful, so I say that there is room for a variety of approaches. Speaking of experience, consider the conditioning and opportunities which have traditionally been available to the average blind child or, for that matter, the average blind adult. My son Chris (sighted) first went backpacking with the Boy Scouts. He has become good at it and has the necessary equipment and confidence. At a young age he learned to enjoy and respect the wilderness and be quite self-sufficient. My daughter Laura (also sighted) went backpacking with a junior high church group for a week and also learned to enjoy the wilderness.
I wonder how many blind children have had these kinds of opportunities, or are having them today, or will have them tomorrow. In our state the Lions and the school for the blind sponsor an annual winter camp for blind teen-agers. Blind kids from throughout the entire state go there and, I gather, have a good time. And they accomplish at least two things: First, they get to know each other. Most have no contact with other blind people in their communities. Second, they get some good outdoor experience, which may be rare for some of them. But I wonder how many of those teen-agers would (even by those who applaud their going to the special camp) be encouraged to go camping in the wilderness with scouts or church groups. To a large degree, wilderness opportunities for blind children and adults will depend on what you and I as members of the National Federation of the Blind do. Working with the forestry department on Moore's Mountain is part of it, and educating news commentators is another. Meeting with other groups of handicapped people who wish to make the forest accessible is still another. Being vigilant about attitudes and living active positive lives will do even more. That is what the NFB is all about. We talk to civic and school groups, sell cookbooks, work on legislation, try to educate the airlines, and build better training and employment opportunities for the blind. And we work to see that opportunities are available for the blind in parks, museums, and the wilderness. It is all part of what we are and what we do. More and more people are coming to Idaho to go camping and backpacking. Wilderness backpacking trails are challenging and scenic, and Idaho provides many unique and interesting experiences. I myself have climbed down rocky and steep slopes to wade in Indian bathtubs, hiked a very easy trail through the Birds of Prey Reserve, walked and crawled in and out of caves at the Craters of the Moon, and climbed the sand dunes at Bruno. There are other places I have visited or still wish to see in Idaho, and I am sure that many other blind people in this state have done likewise. I am equally sure that many blind people have been cautioned, discouraged, and prevented. So while our chapter discussed the trail at Moore's Mountain, I reflected and meditated. When I can find the time, I am going hiking at Moore's Mountain and I may have another try at the trail at Red Fish Lake.
by Bill J. Isaacs From the Editor: There are many different points of view about how to use a white cane and the reasons for doing it. As Monitor readers know, Bill Isaacs is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Here is a glimpse into his past and an account of some of his experiences in learning how to be blind. Not surprisingly, he begins his story at a National Federation of the Blind convention. Here is what he says:
It was on a mid-Saturday morning at a JOB seminar following a week-long convention of the National Federation of the Blind that I heard a young man present the following question to one of the speakers:
Should I bother to carry a white cane during the daytime when I am seeking employment, since my main problem with blindness is after darkness falls? I think I had a plausible, if not a perfect, answer to that question, but there was a line-up at the microphone, and I had a plane to catch. I do not know what advice that young man received that day, but I was left haunted with my unanswered response. Here is my attempt to make up for that information gap, and hopefully it will be meaningful to more than just one young man with a question. I grew up with tunnel vision due to a congenital disease known as choroidoremia. The females are the carriers, while their male offspring are apt to become blind. I had a visual field of about three to five degrees (twenty degrees or less is classified as legally blind). I could see color, I could read, howbeit I could perhaps see only four or five letters at a time. On the farm I milked the cows, I worked in the garden, I hoed in the fields, I set tomatoes behind a planter, I even drove a Ford tractor with the wide front wheels, in which I plowed, disced, and cultivated. Then, after graduating from high school, I went off to the big city, where I attended a business college for twelve months. Following the completion of my work at this college, I worked in a private warehouse office for a couple of years before taking a Civil Service exam, which led to a job in the U.S. Treasury Department, where I served as a claims examiner for corrections on income tax returns. It was at that office that I noticed people who were filing claims for refunds because of blindness, including the restricted visual field. It was not until I was in my early twenties before I was even aware I was legally blind when the ophthalmologist charted my legal visual field.
It's one thing to know that you are legally blind, but it's quite another thing to come to terms with it. I knew I had poor vision and saw virtually nothing after dark. I grew up in a small, quiet, rural community amidst a family of sixteen children, where nearly everybody in the county knew some member of the family. I never felt blind.
I was usually with some member of the family, for everybody else around understood my situation better than I did myself. Later, however, things were different. I faced new situations in the big city, where people didn't know me and I did not understand my own limitations. Later still, seven years after having graduated from high school, I enrolled in an out-of-state college to prepare to become a history teacher. That is when the bombshell really hit me. The college I chose to attend is a church-related college. I was a new convert to that denomination, and I found myself surrounded by numerous strangers and a new environment which I did not know. It was not too difficult at first since my younger brother came to college and shared my dorm room, but after about six weeks because of both homesickness and lovesickness, he returned home and got a job and was soon married. Mind you, I never used a cane, wore dark glasses, or even dreamed of using a guide dog. I told no one that I was blind. I got myself into awkward positions in crowded stairways and hallways. My limited vision did not adjust well from a bright, sunny day to the darkness of a building interior. I could not read room numbers identifying classrooms. I found it embarrassing and difficult to participate in activities after dusk. Games involving motion (such as football or playing tag) were out for me. The real shocker came one day when a veteran student, who had suffered torture in a Chinese prison camp during the Korean War, rather bluntly made the following remarks to me: Bill, why do you come walking into the classroom each day as if you were the king of the walk? You never greet anyone. You march to the front of the room and across the front to the window side without acknowledging anyone.
I had to stop and analyze that comment a bit. I had to admit that what he said was true. I nearly always sat in the front row by the window side to get the maximum amount of light so I could see to take notes. When my body is in motion, such as walking, I have to concentrate all my powers on the small little patch that I see for mobility purposes. Consequently, I did not see anyone or if I did, it was only a small portion of their body, which was an obstacle to be bypassed. Furthermore, when I stopped to look back on the situation, I could never recognize anybody by sight until I had had considerable time to observe them at my leisure. After viewing a person such as a teacher or minister time after time, I could see that person as a total mental image at a casual glance.
I think you can begin to see the picture here. The white cane would have been a silent answer to many questions some of which I was aware and many, no doubt, of which I was not aware. Out of my frustrations I went to my English professor, with whom I had developed friendly relations. She encouraged me to talk about my problem as part of my speech requirement in that class. That was such great therapy! I did that toward the end of my first semester. Immediately thereafter, as news spread by word of mouth to other students and faculty members, my isolation and feeling of blindness evaporated. Whether I was at the college, on a bus, or at a terminal, students and faculty alike understood my situation and often offered their services to help when they thought I needed them. Of course, that sort of thing can be overdone at times, but it can also be rather comforting to know that they know you are blind.
Earlier, when I was working in the U.S. Treasury Department, I had to walk to various offices to obtain appropriate material for the claims and correspondence which I was dealing with. Mailing carts were often left in front of doorways in the hall area, which I banged into time after time and kept my shins constantly bruised. The white cane would have been the answer. I also rode in a car pool at this job, where I was picked up at a busy downtown intersection. One Friday night when I thought everybody else was staying in town, a car pulled up and parked, and I opened the door to enter. Just before getting into the car, I heard a lady running up behind me towards the car, so I let her get in first. Then I got in. After driving two or three blocks, the driver said, Are you going to go to the bank with us? As soon as he spoke, I knew he was not my driver. The lady thought I was with the driver, the driver thought I was with his wife, and I had to embarrassingly get out of the car at another busy intersection and get back to my place in a hurry and with considerable difficulty. The white cane would have been the answer.
While attending the liberal arts college, I located a summertime job in a large trucking company office. I was having some difficulty with the job because there were no windows in the room for one thing, and all the office equipment was electronic. I had been taught on manual typewriters. Before the first week was past, I was asked to stay overtime and work in the evening. It was dark after work, and I had to walk four to six blocks to the bus station. It was a new part of town, I had no cane, it was pouring down rain, and (to complicate matters worse) I ran into road construction. Fortunately a kind soul came to my rescue and got me back on the right course. Needless to say, the white cane would have been the answer.
I finally started using the white cane about twenty years after I should have started with it, and now I wonder why I was so foolish or so ill-informed about it. If one has restricted vision, the general sighted public considers you blind whether you are or not. The white cane is not only a silent answering symbol that goes straight to the point, but it is a very useful piece of equipment. It does, as it were, extend your fingers all the way to the ground. It picks up many more messages and relays them back to you than the shuffling of your feet or the trailing of your fingers. Of course, you will have some embarrassment when you first attempt to use a cane, but after two or three weeks of continual use, picking up the cane becomes as routine as brushing your teeth or putting on your glasses.
My first week in using a white cane was at the University of Illinois during one summer session. The University of Illinois rehab office applied a little pressure to get me to use the cane. Either I used the cane or they would not help me with my other needs there. Perhaps some of you need a thumb in your back such as this to get started with a white cane. Leaving the dorm in which I was living, I got the tip of the cane bent a bit in a revolving door. A day or two later, in crossing a bike path along Wright Street, I caught the cane in a bicycle wheel and threw a girl and her belongings sprawling. A blind friend attending the same class I was in told me I had been duly initiated. From experience, one learns how to use the cane more circumspectly in difficult situations. In recent years I have been using a guide dog considerably. Good cane skills are necessary to be able to use a guide dog to greatest advantage. You pick up your environment much better with a white cane, but the guide dog gets you there quicker once you know where you really want to go. There are times, occasions, and places where the white cane is more practical than a guide dog, or there might be a time when the guide dog is ill or there is a time lapse before a new dog is available as a replacement. In my opinion, if there is ever a time that a white cane would serve a useful purpose for you, you should admit to yourself that this is the case and learn not to be embarrassed about it but to be up front about it with all of your acquaintances.
by Nancy Scott Nancy Scott, an active Federationist from Pennsylvania, was one of the principal founders of the Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind. In the following article (which appears in the June, 1989, Blind Activist, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania) she couples her own personal experiences with common-sense observations about using a cane. Here is what she has to say:
A cane is a piece of equipment designed to assist blind people in finding and dealing with physical objects in the environment. Often, though, the biggest problem for people who need a cane is not their dealing with physical barriers. It is, rather, the mental barrier of understanding that they need to use a cane. It never ceases to amaze me just how far people will compromise their dignity and often their safety not to take advantage of what is, practically speaking, a tool that can make getting around a good deal easier.
How far will people go? I have a friend who is losing her vision. About a year ago, it was suggested that she get some mobility training. She agreed, but expected the instructor to spend a few hours with her and tell her she could use a magnifier and get around just fine. This is not what happened. He almost immediately suggested a cane, and she burst into tears and resisted. To his credit, the instructor talked her into cane training and taught her, he says, to use the cane correctly. And she did use it on lessons and at times when no one she knew was with her. She wouldn't even bring it with her while she walked with friends; not even when she walked with me and I used my cane; not even when she followed me without holding my arm and walked into door frames hard enough to hurt; not even when she fell off a curb while following her niece in bright sunlight. Her niece and I kept pointing out to her that she could minimize these problems if she would just use her cane. Several weeks ago, her niece took her to the drugstore, parked the car, and said she would wait. My friend got out and, after a few feet, walked into a telephone pole. Her niece, who had been looking elsewhere, decided that enough was enough and insisted that my friend carry and use her cane when she is with her. Thankfully, my friend is using her cane much of the time now, but it took a good whack on the head to get her to that point. Even I have had my brushes with stupidity about using a cane. When I first began working, I was told that using a cane would make me stand out as different and that, therefore, I shouldn't use it in the office. I agreed, since I didn't know any better. I spent two years bumping my shins on chairs and reaching for desks and doors.
I am sure that I looked more awkward than I would have using the cane. I certainly did not look any more sighted. I am not sighted, and using or not using a cane cannot change that. Using a cane, in fact, made me much less awkward, but I never used it until we moved to a new building and I had to acclimate myself. It was amazing. No more bruised shins. I could move much faster and with more assurance. Some people may have noticed the cane and may have been more conscious of it (even perhaps a little uncomfortable about it), but that was a problem of their attitude, not my mobility.
I give you these examples so that you can avoid annoyance and perhaps injury by starting out right and using a cane as it was meant to be used. It is a tool, nothing more. It expresses your desire to be as independent as possible in as safe a manner as possible. It expresses your wisdom and common sense. So tap out your message and be proud of it.
by Wayne Davis Wayne Davis is President of the Greater Miami Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. His account of David Melancon's successful effort to engage in the business of his choice underscores the problems blind people face in dealing with society and the agencies established to work with the blind. It is (as the saying goes) an old story but one well worth repeating. Here it is:
I have a story to tell about a young businessman who lost his sight in an accident about two years ago. That's tough, you might say, but a lot of blind people run their own businesses.
The thing that made it hard for David Melancon was that he was a hair stylist by trade. After going through the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind (which is a rehabilitation center in Dade County, Florida), he was referred to the Division of Blind Services. David listened to the negative things they had to say (the talk about being realistic and understanding your limitations), but in his heart he still wanted to operate his own style shop. After much thought, he decided to pursue his dream. You see, several of his old customers came to his house to get him to try to do their hair, because they still believed in him. David picked up his scissors and found that the skill was still there. His fingers now gave him the information he used to get from his eyes. I'm going to open my own style shop, he told me and I must confess I never really thought he could pull it off. Once, twice, he went to the Division of Blind Services, with proposals as to how to set up his business. They turned him down both times. Never one to give up, David worked out a third proposal and took it back to DBS.
To make a long story short, if you're ever in Miami, stop by An Eye for Hair. You'll see David there, with his guide dog Hawk. If you need your hair cut or styled, he'll try to work you in. You may have to wait, though, because David and his three hair stylists stay busy. So before you say you can't, remember David Melancon, who said he could. Then, go give the world a good swift kick in the backside, and fight for your dream. Who knows? You just might win, too.
by Steve Jacobson
From the Editor: One part of my job as Editor of the Monitor is to read the newsletters and other publications of our state and local affiliates. This is a time-consuming but rewarding activity.
It not only gives me material for the Monitor but also acquaints me with facts I would otherwise probably never know. Recently while I was reading the Fall/Winter, 1988, Minnesota Bulletin, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (yes, I got to it late), I read of the death of Torger Lien. The article was written by Steve Jacobson, and it caused me to reflect and remember. I am sure that some of my observations and experiences parallel those of Steve. You see, I knew Torger Lien and he was stubborn, determined to have his say, and not deterred in the slightest if he found himself in the minority. In fact, he spoke his peace even if he knew that he was a minority of one and he would be heard. In short, he had the characteristics which a true Federationist most prizes and should possess.
In the later years of his life Torger found himself at odds with the majority of Federationists in his state and was often a thorn in their sides. I myself have felt the sting of his caustic lash. On more than one occasion I was, to say the least, annoyed by Torger's behavior but all of that has absolutely nothing to do with his sterling qualities and the contributions he made. He was jaggedly honest in his beliefs (even when they were wrong), and he didn't care whether others thought they were wrong or not. In short, I respected Torger Lien not for what he believed on occasion in his later years but for what he was and for what he did to stimulate a spirit of independence among the blind of Minnesota and (at least to some extent) the blind of the nation. We should not forget the pioneers of our movement, and we should not judge their contributions by the fact that their thinking and philosophy were formed in an earlier day a day when conditions were different, opportunities for the blind virtually nonexistent, and organized effort by blind people only a hope and a distant dream. If the blind of that day were to make progress, they had to disturb the status quo and at times that meant being abrasive, stubborn, and just plain muleheaded. Nothing else would work. And Torger Lien fitted the image. As I have already said, he should not be forgotten, and those who did not know him or have never heard of him are poorer for it. If Torger Lien had been born fifty years later, I believe he would today be one of our strongest and most progressive leaders. But whether he would or not, he would have had opinions, and he would have insisted that they be heard. Whatever the circumstances, he would not have been intimidated or cowed. In the life of Torger Lien there is a lesson for all of us who labor in the vineyards of the Federation today not only for the leaders but also for the rank and file as well. Who can say whether fifty years from now our views and philosophy will fit the mood and the needs of the time? I have no doubt that they will but, then, perhaps I have a streak of Torger in me. I remember him fondly. Here is Steve Jacobson's article:
Just keep your tongue straight in your mouth, he would say, as we approached an angled street crossing. Then he might issue what was, to a fourth-grade boy, an awesome threat: If you get off of the crosswalk, I might have to get one of the girls to find you. Of course, it was not a threat, and those of us in Torger Lien's travel class knew it. It was simply an example of his uniquely gentle way of telling us to concentrate. He would jokingly refer to crossing the Jordan, but as children, we could not conceive of it happening. When I heard that Torger Lien had passed away, these memories and more came back as clear as if 1960 were yesterday.
As a capable blind teacher, his impact went far beyond the boundaries of the classroom. He was the first person to make me think that I could travel independently. He taught me the importance of developing a good sense of direction, listening for landmarks, and deriving meaningful information from echoes. We would hear what to us were wondrous tales of how Torger Lien rode alone on Twin Cities buses. Of course, he was not the only blind person who did so, but he was someone that we knew personally. It was through him that we learned to dream that some day, as adults, we could do the same.
My first exposure to the theoretical aspects of radio and electricity was accomplished only through the dedication of Torger Lien, and this gift is one that I still carry with me. Besides teaching me some of the theory, he showed me that blind people could wire electrical circuits, make repairs to electrical equipment, and enjoy radio and electronics as a hobby just as sighted people do. Torger Lien was born in 1898 near Oden in southwestern Minnesota. He would explain that his sense of direction was developed through the crossing of the open fields on his family's farm. He graduated in 1918 from what was then the Minnesota Braille and Sight Saving School in Faribault. After earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota, and after marrying Jennie Anderson in 1932, he returned to the Braille school as an instructor in 1934. Torger stressed the importance of one's sense of direction and one's hearing in the development of alternative techniques for independent travel. As a result of his work in this area, he was interviewed by National Geographic magazine, certainly not an everyday occurrence. After retiring from the Braille school in 1962, Torger and Jennie moved to Minneapolis, where he remained active in the alumni association of the Braille school and his church. In addition, he served as president of the Minnesota Organization of the Blind, which later became the NFB of Minnesota.
Torger died of a massive heart attack on October 13, 1988. The death of my father last March should have reminded me how suddenly death can come. I had always intended to explain to Torger that my strong belief in the ability of blind persons to live independent and full lives came from his example. I had intended to tell him that, even with some of our political differences, I had a great deal of respect for him. You could rightfully say, therefore, that I am not writing this entirely as a tribute to him. No, I have a somewhat selfish reason as well. It is my hope that one way or another he will be able to read this on his side of the Jordan.
From the Associate Editor: Patricia Morrow, the editor of The Blind Missourian, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, had never visited the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore until her participation in the annual Washington Seminar in February of 1989. She wrote about her impressions in the April, 1989, edition of The Blind Missourian. In large measure her description was what one might expect from someone who was seeing the building and meeting our national staff for the first time. The size and extent of the operation surprised her, and she was impressed by the diversity of the things being accomplished for all of us at 1800 Johnson Street. But Pat Morrow is perceptive. She saw behind the surface of the friendly, efficient, dedicated staff and the programs they administer. She perceived the heart and soul of the Federation. In her article she put her finger on a truth and expressed it by using a powerful but down-to-earth symbol. Here is what she had to say:
I still haven't found a word that describes the spirit of the place, [the National Center] but on thinking back I discover that spirit was epitomized by lunch. Now, those of you who know me are loudly laughing because you know that I attach a deal of importance to lunch. And to dinner. And to high tea as well. But if you'll stop laughing, I'll try to suggest why that lunch was symbolic of the atmosphere of NFB headquarters. We didn't know that we were going to be provided with lunch, but someone figured out that our return to Washington would be late and some of us would not have time to eat and still meet our next appointments. So before we were ready to leave we were asked to meet in the large conference room, where we began our tour. I don't know who packed the lunches, but Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer brought them in on large trays. What business do you know where the CEO brings in lunch to visitors? It certainly was not for lack of other things to do. Both of them were traveling back and forth to Washington and working on the legislation and the congressional committee hearing to be held the next day. But it was not only their presence that was significant; it was what was in the brown bags also. Because I go to many professional meetings, I eat a lot of packaged lunches. The last one I recall was packed in a box bearing the crest and name of the organization. It contained a large napkin (another crest displayed on it), a very skimpy slice of turkey on a once-pretentious but now dispirited croissant. It cost over six dollars.
The NFB lunches contained sturdy, freshly-made sandwiches on whole wheat bread, just-ripe bananas, this year's apples, almonds, trail mix, probably something else I've forgotten. Our brown bags were solidly packed and no one went away from that room hungry. The food was not fancy, but it was wholesome and tasty and the best of its kind.
We were not asked to purchase the lunches, but we were reminded that they were provided through the money earned by all of us at whatever money-making project we had undertaken. In fact, the sense of the Federation's belonging to all of us and of our belonging to the Federation was pervasive. The episode exhibited forethought, care, concern the same kind of concern one shows for members of one's family who come to visit. No pretentious offering, but the best of its kind. It is the same feeling that prompts us to stand in the cold to sell candy, that keeps us in communication with each other between cities and across state lines, that suffuses the national conventions the greetings, the songs, the applause for a victory won on behalf of sheltered shop workers or for a major scholarship won by a student who has demonstrated the capacity to use it well. Can all that be symbolized by a brown bag lunch? Well, if you've been welcomed at the national headquarters, you can decide for yourselves whether you agree. If you have not, make an opportunity soon to visit, and let me know what you think.
by Sharon Gold
As Monitor readers know, Sharon Gold is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of California.
The telephone rang at the National Federation of the Blind of California office on May 15, 1989. The caller was excited yet he was obviously upset. The gentleman, who left a message on our telephone answering machine, identified himself by name but gave no return telephone number. He was calling to ask the Federation to do something about what happened to the blind man as reported on the front page of the Daily Review . A search of our computerized list of California newspapers revealed several newspapers entitled Daily Review , which made it difficult to ascertain which newspaper was carrying the story about some apparent mistreatment of a blind man.
By the next day, the story of David St. John was receiving national publicity by the Associated Press. As local media began to carry the story, it was brought to our attention by neighbors of the NFB of California office. Soon Federationists from around the country telephoned their concerns. With the added information from the media, we began an immediate investigation of the incident.
David St. John is a thirty-eight-year-old resident of Hayward, a city in the San Francisco East Bay Area. Each day David leaves his house and goes about his business much the same as the other residents of Hayward; and, when his day is over, David travels the streets and bus lines of the city to return home. The only difference is that David is blind and uses a white cane. As with most people, David's life is a routine and, as with most people, David St. John takes each day with its expectations of sameness and the challenges of the present. May 11, 1989, started much the same as other days, but the events of that day have resulted in lasting and scarring effects on David and the blind of this country, and the sighted public has joined the blind in outrage.
David stood at the bus stop awaiting the approach of the scheduled bus. He was clad in blue jeans and a t-shirt since he was on his way to participate in a sports event. In David's pocket was his folded white cane. Two Hayward police officers spotted the pocketed white cane and thought it to be nunchakus, a martial-arts weapon which is illegal to carry in California and which is made of two stout pieces of doweling connected by a chain.
As we understand the subsequent course of events, two officers approached David. One officer, who is a training officer and is a five-year veteran on the police force, asked What do you have in your pocket? Simultaneously, and without identifying himself as a police officer, the training officer began searching David's waist for weapons. David, who thought he was being mugged, put up a struggle which resulted in the officer using his nightstick to beat David first about the legs and later on the hands. When David took his folded white cane from his pocket, the trainee joined her superior and also struck David with her nightstick. The police only ceased beating David when witnesses began yelling to the officers that David was blind. Throughout the current decade, the NFB of California has received a number of reports of abuse of blind persons by law enforcement officers where there has been a mistaken identity of a white cane. The abuse has usually been in the form of verbal abuse or a roughing-up of the blind person. The David St. John incident is the most brutal abuse of a blind person by law enforcement officers that has been reported to us.
Over the years, the NFB of California has incorporated some public education of the police through our October 15th White Cane Safety Day Awareness Programs. Unfortunately, this program has not had sufficient impact upon the police to prevent such incidents as the one endured by David St. John.
Realizing the additional need for training of its entire police force, the Hayward Police Department contacted Mary Willows, president of the local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, for guidance. Mary, who also serves as an educational consultant for the NFB of California, met with the Director of the Officer Training Program for the Hayward Police Department to discuss a suitable presentation by the National Federation of the Blind of California. Paul Carver, a resident of Hayward and one of our leaders, joined Mary on Monday, May 22nd, to provide a comprehensive demonstration and blindness awareness program for the Hayward Police Department. Mary and Paul spoke of the need for police officers to identify themselves to all persons since it is often difficult to determine that a person is blind and thus unable to visually identify a uniformed police officer. Included in the program was a demonstration of the various types of white canes which police officers could expect to see carried by blind persons and the manner in which those canes are carried. Mary even whipped-out a folded cane from her purse and threw it open to demonstrate the body movements which accompany such an act. Paul, who uses a dog guide, discussed the training of these dogs and the proper techniques to use when approaching a person using a dog guide. The entire presentation was videotaped and will be used as a training film for all officers in the department. Three hours after Mary and Paul completed their training session, David St. John filed a complaint against the City of Hayward claiming $200,000 in damages. One of the demands of David's complaint is that the Hayward Police Department begin training officers in proper methods of dealing with blind persons. Our NFB of California office has now contacted all law enforcement agencies in California suggesting the need of in-service training for all police officers so as to prevent the repeat of such an incident as occurred to David St. John. At the time of the writing of this article (June 5, 1989), law enforcement agencies are responding favorably to our suggestion, and we are receiving telephone inquiries from up and down the state requesting assistance with blindness awareness training for police officers. Mary Willows continues to coordinate this public education program and already has scheduled a number of presentations for police departments in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We are indeed saddened by the treatment of our blind brother David St. John. It emphasizes what we in the Federation have so often said until we are all free, none of us is free. So long as David St. John can be beaten by police officers for doing no more than standing at a bus stop with his white cane folded in his pocket, there is the possibility for each and every one of us who is blind to suffer such abuse at the hands of the police.
June 26, 1989
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
You may wish to know that the semi-annual yard sale of the Potomac Chapter, National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, was very successful. We have found it to be an effective fund-raising tool and a fun-filled day for chapter members as well. One of the highlights of this spring's yard sale was the passing from us, after two years of companionship, of Daphne . The enclosed photograph pictures Daphne (right) and Bill Meeker (left) and assorted yard sale objects (left and background). Lest you draw the hasty conclusion of assuming that Daphne is simply a dressmaker's mannequin, let me explain that she is in reality the airline industry's quintessential handicapped air traveler. In fact, her name is an acronym standing for Disabled Airline Passenger Having No Extremities. Note the travel papers pinned to her left shoulder for easy identification. Daphne is the ideal airline passenger since she never talks back or sits anywhere other than the place where she is put. She is very easy to store. In fact, some of us wondered what she was doing associating with such a group of recalcitrants as the NFB, but she was silent on the subject, and since she was bought (by an FAA or Air Transport employee?), we will never know the answer. We'll be watching for her in the next FAA passenger aircraft disaster simulation.
From the Editor: Two members of my family of whom I am very proud are my daughter, Marie Antoinette Cobb, and my sister-in-law, Mary Jernigan. As Federationists who come to Baltimore know, Marie plans, arranges, and does on a volunteer basis a good part of the cooking and food preparation for seminars and other functions at the National Center for the Blind. I know of my own knowledge (as well as the testimony of others) that she is a good cook.
I can say the same of my sister-in-law Mary, who is the wife of my brother Lloyd. In recent years Lloyd and Mary have been attending NFB conventions, and many Monitor readers have come to know them as friends.
Here are recipes submitted by Marie and Mary. I don't know where they got them, but I am prepared to believe that they are good. If it seems more than coincidental that both Mary and Marie have included recipes for Pear Preserves and Watermelon Rind Preserves, that is because it is more than coincidental. I asked each of them to find recipes for me for these items, and they did.
by Marie Cobb
1 pound watermelon rind cubes
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons lime (calcium oxide)
2 cups sugar
1 quart water
Method: Trim off outer green skin and pink flesh, using only greenish white parts of rind. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and weigh.
Soak cubes for 3-1/2 hours in lime water (2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons lime). Drain and place cubes in clear water 1 hour. Again, drain off water and boil 1-1/2 hours in fresh water, then drain. Make a syrup of 2 cups sugar and 1 quart water. Add rind; boil 1 hour. As syrup thickens, add ½ lemon, thinly sliced, for each pound of fruit. When the syrup begins to thicken and the melon is clear, the preserves are ready. Pack the preserves into hot, sterilized jars. Add enough syrup to cover and seal.
BURGUNDY WINE JELLY
by Marie Cobb
2 cups burgundy wine
3 cups sugar
½ bottle liquid pectin
Method: Combine wine and sugar in top of a double boiler and blend well. Heat over boiling water, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pectin. Stir until well blended. Let stand a few minutes and skim off foam with a metal spoon. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with melted paraffin. Makes 5 6-ounce jars.
GREEN TOMATO CHOW CHOW
by Marie Cobb
1 gallon green tomatoes
1 medium head cabbage
6 pods bell peppers
6 small hot peppers (red and green)
1 cup onion
3 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons plain salt
Method: Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil. Combine other ingredients and add together. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.
by Marie Cobb
The ingredients are pear slices, sugar, and water. The main thing to remember is to use two cups of pear slices to one full cup of sugar. This ratio is really just right.
Pare the pears, slice them, measure two cups of pear slices and one cup of sugar and place in a large pan. (I use the bottom half of my turkey roaster.) Continue adding two cups of pear slices to each cup of sugar until all pear slices are gone. Remember the ratio of two to one if you only have a few pear slices left over. After you have sliced and measured pears, put enough water in the roaster pan to cover pear slices fully. Stir sugar around and place on top of stove. Turn burners on full to begin heating the water, pears, and sugar. After a full boil is reached, turn burners down until a slow boil is reached. Continue stirring throughout the entire cooking time. Test frequently by removing a spoonful of juice and cooling. A rich reddish brown color usually indicates a good jar of pear preserves. The time limit varies depending on how full the pan is. When preserves have finished cooking, run hot water over and in the jars you are planning to use. Pour preserves, while hot, into jars. (Place a spoon inside jar while pouring preserves.) Seal immediately after filling. A gallon of fruit yields about 2 dozen pint jars.
by Mary Jernigan
1 quart pears (sliced or chopped)
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water or juice
2 or 3 slices lemon
Method: Pare fruit (if hard, cook until tender in water). Make syrup of liquid and sugar, add fruit to partly cooled syrup and bring gently to a boil. Add lemon, if desired. Boil rapidly until clear and tender, cool rapidly. Leave in syrup until fruit is plump or semi-firm. Pack fruit into sterilized jars and add reheated syrup to within ½ inch of top. Seal immediately. Note: Honey may be substituted if desired 1 cup honey for 1 cup sugar. Stir frequently during boiling period since sugar substitutes cause more sticking.
WATERMELON RIND PRESERVES
by Mary Jernigan
Peel off all green portions, using only the white part of the watermelon rind. Cut into small pieces. Soak in mild salt water overnight (1/2 cup salt to one gallon water). Remove from the salt water and cook in clear water for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well. For 4 pounds of watermelon rind, make a syrup of 9 cups sugar, 8 cups water, 4 lemons sliced, and add 4 teaspoons stick cinnamon, 4 teaspoons cloves (tie spices in cheesecloth bag). Boil the syrup and spices 5 minutes before adding the rinds. Add rinds and cook until transparent and clear. Remove spice bag, pour into sterilized jars, and seal.
by Mary Jernigan
1 can whole corn (drained)
1 can cream corn
1-1/4 cups milk
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
pinch of nutmeg
Method: Mix flour and sugar. Add beaten eggs, butter, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in milk and corn. Mix well. Pour into buttered dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
by Mary Jernigan
2 pounds ground beef
1 onion (chopped)
1 cup carrots (shaved)
1 cup sour cream
22 crushed soda crackers
A little pepper
Method: Mix together and bake at 350 or 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
From time to time we make goof-ups, and when we do, we try to correct them as soon as we know about them. In August, for instance, we gave the address for Ackley Appliance Service as 627 East 57th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. The correct address is:
627 East 5th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Apologies to Mr. Ackley. Also, we regret the error which we made in the caption for Jim Walker's picture: We said: Jim Walker (1943-1949). We should have said: Jim Walker (1943-1989). We discovered this mistake in time to correct it in the recorded issue of the Monitor , but we were too late to do anything about it in the print or Braille editions.
From the Editor: I make a practice of disregarding all anonymous letters. If an individual is not courteous enough or brave enough to sign his or her name to a letter, that letter (at least, so far as I am concerned) deserves no attention. It is like the coward who strikes in the dark and runs.
All of this was brought to mind by two letters I recently received in the same envelope and presumably from the same author with the request that I pass them on to people who had written articles for the Monitor . Unsigned, the note which asked me to forward these letters bore the initials RLC, and the envelope was postmarked on June 30, 1989, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As to the letters (which were written in Braille), they were filled with Braille errors, characterized by illiteracy, pretentious, cutsie without being witty, and filled with an overblown sense of self-importance. As an example, one was signed "Needa Fax" and the other "William Pitt of London." Not funny, not original, not anything.
In the business of editing one expects a certain amount of crackpot mail, and I have no hope that my comments will dry up the stream. Perhaps, however, they may help keep it to a trickle and cause this latest would-be wit to see things in perspective. After all, those who send me anonymous letters are at a disadvantage, for if I choose, I can respond through the pages of the Monitor , knowing that they and many others will read the answer. Incidentally, I did not forward the letters, so this individual failed all around.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: World Series Baseball Game. For use with IBM PC's and clones, with voice synthesizer and screen reader. Being used by blind baseball fans from coast to coast. Comes with 36 of the greatest teams of all time. Send $15 to: H. H. Hollingsworth, 692 South Sheraton Drive, Akron, Ohio 44319; or call (216) 644-2421. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
We are informed that the following people were recently elected to office in the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania: President, Haydn Wyer; Vice President, Lou McCarthy; Secretary, Joan Myers Goodman; Treasurer, Celia Fowler; and Board Members: Lillian Wyer, Larry Bush, and Judy Williams.
**Winston Gordon Award:
We recently received the following release from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind:
The Winston Gordon Award
For Technological Advancement
In the Field of
Blindness and Visual Impairment
The 1989 Premier Award winner is Deane Blazie for Braille 'n Speak, a portable Braille input, voice output notetaker. Established by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in 1988 in memory of Winston Graham Gordon, a distinguished Canadian.
THE AWARD: consists of $10,000 and a gold medal (24 k.); is presented annually for the development of a technological non-medical device, and/or the application of certain technologies or techniques that provide specific practical and useful benefits to blind and visually impaired persons. ELIGIBILITY: The technological development must have occurred within ten years prior to nomination and have a documented benefit to blind and visually impaired persons. Individuals, groups, or organizations (including corporations and academic institutions) are eligible. NOMINATIONS: must be received by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind no later than January 1 of each year.
For further information and applications guidelines contact: John R. Baker, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, 1931 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M4G 4C8; (416) 480-7580.
Cassette Radio Network (Post Office Box 23276, Portland, Oregon 97223; phone: (503-639-1216) writes to say that it will provide old-time radio programs to blind persons at discounted prices.
**President's Committee/Dart Appointed:
As Monitor readers know, Harold Russell has been the long time chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. Russell, who was known to the post-World War II generation because of the movie The Best Years of our Lives , has now sunk into almost complete anonymity. He was recently replaced as chairman of the President's Committee, and the Committee was given a new name. In the lingo of the times it is now the President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities more words but the same announced functions. The new chairman of the Committee is Justin Dart, Jr., who appeared at the 1987 NFB convention in Phoenix. A recent press release from the President's Committee said in part:
On July 27, 1989, President George Bush appointed Justin W. Dart, Jr. as Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Dart's qualifications for the position include one congressional and four presidential appointments in the area of disability policy. He served as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Adminstration in 1986-87 at the request of President Ronald Reagan.
**Decatur, Georgia, Chapter:
The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, Decatur Area Chapter, recently elected officers. They are: Wayne High, President; Vernon Cave, First Vice President; Annie Pearl Shealey, Second Vice President; Lorie Walters, Secretary; Gladys Taylor, Treasurer; Isabell Cave, Assistant Secretary; Lucille Medlock, 1-Year Board Member; and Leotha Womble, 2-Year Board Member. Our newest members to join the Decatur Area Chapter are Lorie Walters, Max Walters, and Evelyn Cannon. At our 1989 NFB state convention President High was elected to the state board. To increase our membership the Decatur Area Chapter is distributing an informative membership appeals letter, the state brochure ( Where Is Today's Blind Georgian? ), and two national brochures ( Do You Know A Blind Person? and What Is The National Federation of the Blind? ).
We also recently had a baby contest, and first place went to Brandon Wilson, second place went to Christopher Walters, and third place went to Caresio High.
**Want to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I would like to buy a used Perkins Brailler in good condition. Will pay between $150 and $200 for it. For more information you may write to Norm Peters at 618 Trenton Street, El Cajon, California 92019; or call (619) 440-7593.
**Braille Sunday School Material:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Our church is looking into the feasibility of producing our Sunday morning bulletin in Braille. The idea is that we might be able to provide a more meaningful worship service for the visually impaired. The purpose of this correspondence is to ask you to publish our name and phone number and ask people in the North Houston area to call or write if a service of this type would be meaningful to them. Let me emphasize that we are not currently producing such a bulletin but that we are exploring the demand for such a service.
Whether or not we proceed will depend upon the response we receive from the community. Those interested may call or write to: Reverend Darwood K. Galaway, Minister of Evangelism, Klein United Methodist Church, 5920 F. M. 2920, Spring, Texas 77388; (713) 353-8202.
**Contract Held Up:
The following Associated Press story was printed in the St. Petersburg, Florida, Times on June 17, 1989:
TALLAHASSEE The trustees of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind have refused to extend the contract of the school's president. However, William L. Proctor, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, said Friday that the board's refusal to grant a new three-year contract should not be taken as an indication that school president Robert T. Dawson would be fired.
It was not an expression of any lack of confidence, said Proctor. The board has changed appreciably since the president's contract was defined. They (board members) want a chance to review all the occcurrences of the past year. A 9-year-old student, Jennifer Driggers of Ruskin, scalded to death in a dorm shower last October, and in March a former dorm supervisor was sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting three deaf boys in his care.
One of the new trustees, Tallahassee lawyer Craig Kiser, moved to have Dawson fired at the board's meeting last week, but that motion died without a second. A motion was then made to extend Dawson's contract, but it also failed.
Pauline Gomez, one of the long-time leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, writes as follows:
Steve Sandoval, a staunch Federationist, died on May 27, 1989. He resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is survived by his wife Eva, four children, grandchildren, and great- grandchildren. Steve lost his sight as a result of diabetes. Wanting to continue a normal life, he sought the only orientation available at that time. Later he received training with a dog guide. Steve was a positive, responsible person and an excellent leader. He served as president of the Santa Fe Chapter for one year in 1971, and then served as president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, from 1972 to 1976. He was active in promoting our state legislation. He attended a number of national conventions and made many friends. Steve will be remembered for his exceptional sense of humor. He served in the United States Navy during World War II. He was a torpedo man in the U.S.S. Summers , the U.S.S. New , and the U.S.S. Sussigs . He was an administrative assistant for American National Insurance for many years until his retirement.
Dr. Paul Gabias has accepted an appointment as assistant professor of psychology at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, beginning in September, 1989. As Monitor readers remember, Paul Gabias and Mary Ellen Reihing were married in January of 1989 in Baltimore. Mrs. Gabias served as Assistant Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind program from October of 1982 until August of 1989. The Gabiases' address is:
820 Windsor Street, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada E3B 4G5. We wish the Gabiases joy in their new home and only hope that the Canadians recognize their luck in acquiring these fine Federationists.
We have been asked to carry the following item: I have for sale a Wurlitzer organ, model 4480, with full double keyboard and full pedals, in good condition. The cost is $800 before shipping. Contact Winifred Lippon at 3507 2 Mile Road, Bay City, Michigan 48706; (517) 684-1818.
**A Salute to Every-Day Heroes:
The July 10, 1989, Newsweek Magazine included an article paying tribute to one American from each of the fifty states whose volunteer work is both an inspiration and a help to others. The New Mexico representative was Pauline Gomez of Santa Fe, one of the founders of and still a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, who was honored for her work with the NFB and her no-nonsense attitude about blindness. Newsweek called her a role model. We are proud to call her our colleague and friend.
Dennis and Carolyn Ranker, both leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, proudly announce the birth on July 22, 1989, of their son Dennis Paul, who weighed in at five pounds, nine ounces, and was eighteen inches long. Congratulations to all three Rankers.
**To Honor 85:
Long-time Federationist Eve Speciner of New York is one of my favorite people. When (because of health reasons) she could not attend the national convention in Denver, she found a way to contribute just the same. In addition to her own donation, a letter (which arrived too late to be read at the national convention) came from her nephew:
Dear Mr. Jernigan:
My Aunt Eve Speciner is unable to attend the NFB convention on July 5 because her doctor states she is unable to travel due to illness. In honor of her 85 years, I wish to contribute the enclosed check of $85 to be used for parents of blind children. As you are probably aware, Eve is a member of the Sullivan County Chapter of the New York State NFB.
Thank you for your acceptance of the enclosed and please inform those at the convention that my aunt sends her best wishes. As a past attendee of the NFB national convention these past few years, I, too, shall miss attending and do wish all participants a most successful time.
Very truly yours,
BAUMANN & ROSE
Stanley J. Baumann
Attorney at Law
Brenda Williams, who is a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, recently received a citation, which said in part:
Outstanding Rating Certificate
Brenda L. Williams
who has made a significant contribution to the mission of this Agency through exceptional performance for the rating period from April 1, 1988, to March 31, 1989.
Given at VA Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland, this 12th day of July, 1989.
Barbara L. Gallagher
Medical Center Director
The policies of the National Federation of the Blind are established by resolutions adopted by the national convention. Each year the Resolutions Committee meets early during the convention in the presence of hundreds of Federationists, many of whom speak concerning the matters under consideration. Resolutions are discussed, revised, and ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the full convention. Here is a summary of the resolutions presented at the 1989 convention in Denver, followed by the full text of the resolutions which were adopted.
89-01: Expresses support for the Americans with Disabilities Act only upon the condition that it is amended to prohibit rather than legalize discrimination against the blind. When anti-discrimination laws are enacted which lump the blind together with all other disabilities, the result is generally detrimental to the blind. The emphasis of such generic laws is often on physical access rather than attitudinal barriers. The NFB plans to propose amendments to the bill which will give legal recognition to the differences between blindness and other disabilities.
89-02: Calls for the immediate abolition of all work activity centers for the blind. People whose only disability is blindness are sometimes placed in work activity centers rather than sheltered workshops allegedly in order to provide training and therapy for them. Since the U.S. Department of Labor is unable to monitor such placements adequately, many abuses result. This deplorable situation can best be corrected through the abolition of work activity centers for the blind.
89-03: Salutes the Michigan Commission for the Blind for its policy of providing only quality services to its clients and encourages other agencies for the blind to follow the Michigan example. As of 1989 only the least effective agencies for the blind continue to try to hide behind accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) to suggest that they provide quality service, so the Michigan Commission established the policy that it will not contract for services with agencies which are NAC accredited.
89-04: Condemns and deplores the U.S. State Department for discrimination against the blind in its testing for the Foreign Service and calls upon Congress to correct this situation. The State Department says that it does not discriminate on the basis of blindness just that a person must have sight in order to take tests for employment as a Foreign Service Officer.
89-05: Reminds the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped of its obligation to establish clear-cut objectives and upward mobility goals for the industries programs with which it conducts business. Congress has directed sheltered shops to expand employment opportunities for blind employees through improved affirmative action and upward mobility programs. Though the Committee has the responsibility for carrying out this mandate, it has done nothing for more than a year.
89-06: Calls upon public and private agencies to serve blind individuals regardless of the cause of blindness. Some agencies choose not to serve people blinded as a result of grave and life-threatening conditions.
89-07: Urges that state Departments of Education and local school districts give graduation credit for instruction in Braille. Most school districts do not emphasize Braille for blind students. Giving credit for instruction in Braille toward graduation would give blind students a greater incentive to learn it.
89-08: Protests the misuse of public funds by National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and recommends advising Congressional Committees about NIB's actions. NIB derives its funds from the labor of sheltered shop employees. Its Board of Directors has decided to give more than $300,000 of these funds to NAC in order to prop up this failing accrediting body for a little longer and to forestall fiscal insolvency and total collapse. This means that funds raised from the labors of the blind would be used against them.
89-09: Acknowledges the interest of Congressman Steve Bartlett in developing greater Social Security work incentives and invites him to join with the NFB in this objective. Congressman Bartlett introduced a bill purporting to improve Social Security work incentives for blind persons. While his intention was good, he had not consulted with the NFB, and his bill would have resulted in significant losses for blind beneficiaries. By working with the NFB, Congressman Bartlett will have the necessary information to promote legislation with real work incentives.
89-10: Encourages the establishment of business opportunities for the blind at public airports by working with appropriate state licensing agencies and airport authorities. Public airports throughout the nation offer numerous business opportunities but few such locations are occupied by blind operators. If state licensing agencies and airport authorities can be persuaded under existing laws to make such opportunities available to qualified blind persons, many new and lucrative opportunities will result.
89-11: Demands that the Xerox Corporation and the American Foundation for the Blind cease their false advertising by withdrawing advertisements concerning a non-existent loan fund to purchase Kurzweil Personal Readers and sets forth other actions to be taken to achieve this objective. Xerox and the AFB have conducted a nationwide advertising campaign claiming that low-interest loans are available to blind persons for purchase of the Kurzweil Personal Reader. Although these advertisements have appeared for more than seven months, no loans have been made, and blind people requesting applications are told that the loan program will be starting soon.
89-12: Determines to inform the Congress of the Department of Labor's failure to enforce minimum wage law provisions and reaffirms the NFB's commitment to secure minimum wage protection for all blind workers. 1986 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act were designed to give sub-minimum wage employees the right to contest illegal wage payments. However, the Department of Labor has failed to issue regulations to put the 1986 provisions fully into effect.
89-13: Calls for decisive action by Congress in support of air travel rights for the blind. Air carriers continue to discriminate against the blind in air travel. At the urging of the NFB, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act has been introduced both in the Senate (S.341) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 563). This proposed law correctly resolves the safety versus civil rights debate.
89-14: Declares that discrimination against the blind in adoption is intolerable and pledges to eliminate forever this deplorable mistreatment. Even though the NFB has repeatedly established in the courts the right of blind biological parents to rear their children, certain adoption agencies continue to discriminate against blind adoptive parents.
89-15: Condemns the practice of the federal government in requiring that vocational rehabilitation agencies must certify blind persons eligible for excepted Federal appointments and urges that other programs such as Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) be given authority to certify eligibility. Although blind persons may enter the federal service through regular competitive examination, they may also be employed non-competitively through an excepted appointment if a state vocational rehabilitation agency certifies their eligibility. Since not all blind persons are vocational rehabilitation clients, it would be more appropriate for other programs such as JOB to provide such certifications when they are needed.
89-16: Was voted down by the Resolutions Committee and withdrawn by the author.
89-17: Urges the enactment of a bill to improve the availability of educational materials and equipment by permitting schools and institutions to obtain such educational products from the American Printing House for the Blind as well as from alternative sources. Under current law Congress requires that only APH shall provide educational materials and equipment to schools and other institutions throughout the country (the APH quota). However, many materials and pieces of equipment are available from other sources. At the urging of the NFB, Congressman Kweisi Mfume has introduced H.R. 1627 which would broaden this program to include alternative sources.
89-18: Calls for prompt action on proposed legislation which would permit blind persons being rehabilitated through the use of Social Security funds to choose their own training programs. Under current law a blind Social Security beneficiary may be rehabilitated using SSA funds, but the services must be provided by the agency for the blind in the state in which the beneficiary lives. Since many state programs for the blind are ineffective, many blind persons are severely harmed because of their inability to seek more suitable services. To remedy this intolerable situation, H.R. 855 has been introduced in the Congress. This bill would enable the blind beneficiary to choose, design, and pursue his or her own rehabilitation program.
89-19: Was withdrawn by its author.
89-20: Requests a meeting between the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration and the NFB to clear up a problem. Under current law, blind SSDI beneficiaries are subject to the same exempt earnings provisions as retirees presently $740 a month. The NFB has learned that some Social Security Administration personnel have proposed a change in the law so that the exempt earnings for blind recipients would be tied to exempt earnings for other disabilities. This would result in a significant work disincentive. The meeting with the SSA Commissioner will attempt to ensure that SSA personnel do not interfere with current law but rather work to establish greater work incentives.
89-21: Commends Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind for distribution of Grade III Braille materials. The NLS Grade III Braille collection was removed from storage at the request of the NFB's Committee on Library Services so that it is now available for direct borrowing from NLS.
WHEREAS, the blind have long sought coverage under Federal Civil Rights laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, since discrimination against persons who are blind is largely based on social prejudice as is discrimination on race, color, creed, sex, and national origin; and
WHEREAS, unlike discrimination against the blind, discrimination on the basis of other disabilities largely results from conditions that prevent the disabled individual from gaining physical access to the services and facilities available to the non-disabled; and
WHEREAS, laws to provide access for the physically disabled may effectively remove discriminatory physical barriers or may overcome those barriers by providing the disabled with separate services or different treatment; and
WHEREAS, grouping the blind with the physically and mentally disabled for purposes of coverage under a single, all-inclusive, non-discrimination law reinforces existing social prejudices against the blind and leads to discrimination based on the presumption that the blind need accommodation and special treatment rather than full acceptance; and
WHEREAS, separate or different treatment (including modifications to the physical environment) may be necessary to prevent discrimination against some persons with disabilities, but separate or different in the case of the blind is generally in and of itself an act of discrimination rather than an act to remove discrimination; and
WHEREAS, the experience that the blind have had with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, supports the proposition that discrimination against the blind will result from laws that set general non-discrimination standards for the disabled as a single class; and
WHEREAS, examples of discriminatory treatment against the blind resulting from Section 504 include: (1) needless employment of personnel assigned to design special programs for the blind in order to meet their presumed needs without regard to their actual needs, (2) installation near intersections of pathfinder tiles erroneously thought to be essential in showing the blind where to cross the street, and (3) the use of audible traffic signals erroneously thought to be essential in telling the blind when to cross the street; and
WHEREAS, Congress is now considering a new proposal called the Americans with Disabilities Act which follows the harmful approach of Section 504 presuming that the blind are discriminated against by virtue of physical barriers just as in the case of the otherwise disabled; and
WHEREAS, the blind know from long experience that the Americans with Disabilities Act in its present form will become the legal underpinning for discriminatory practices that deprive us of the very independence and dignity that the bill purports to promote; and
WHEREAS, in order to achieve its objective of prohibiting discrimination against all disabled persons without causing discrimination against blind persons, the Americans with Disabilities Act should specify the acts and practices which constitute unlawful discrimination against the blind just as it should and does specify the acts and practices that constitute unlawful discrimination against the disabled: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization insist that the following standards defining discrimination against the blind be included in the Americans with Disabilities Act : (1) that, as a matter of general policy, separate or different services, treatment, or facilities be prohibited whether applied to the blind as individuals or as a class, (2) that, with respect to employment, separate or different services, treatment, or facilities be prohibited except in those cases where alternatives to the use of sight constitute reasonable accommodation, and (3) that, with respect to public transportation, separate or different services, treatment, or facilities be prohibited except for those times and places where mainline transportation services are not available to blind persons; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the support of this organization for the Americans with Disabilities Act be conditioned upon modification of the Act so that it prohibits rather than legalizes discrimination against the blind.
WHEREAS, the United States Congress established work activity centers in connection with workshops for the blind to provide training and therapy for blind workers judged, by agency staff, to be incapable of producing at workshop floor levels; and
WHEREAS, these persons in work activity centers must necessarily be able to produce very little, since the judgment of agency staff has long restricted the productivity of workshop floor workers to a level far below the minimum wage; and
WHEREAS, Congress originally required that work activity centers be physically separated from workshop floor production; and
WHEREAS, Congressional good intentions actually resulted in removing constraints on agency staff, allowing them to abandon all pretense of management; and
WHEREAS, at agency urging, Congress recently abolished the separation requirement; and
WHEREAS, today, in work activity centers, blind workers who have been judged unproductive work a two week pay period for mere pennies, while agency staff draw embarrassingly high salaries (one worker recently received a bi-weekly paycheck for 18 cents, while agency staff undoubtedly drew a bi-weekly paycheck in the thousands of dollars); and
WHEREAS, workers in work activity centers now work side-by-side with workshop workers and draw far lower pay for the same work; and
WHEREAS, the whole work activity center structure encourages laziness, lack of planning, and a general failure of management, resulting in a system riddled with abuses; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Labor is charged with the responsibility of insuring that blind workers are paid for their work; and
WHEREAS, the staff of work activity centers know that the Department of Labor is overburdened and does not really understand the work activity center, since no effort is made to enforce any pay standard, freeing the agency to do whatever it likes: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization demand the immediate abolition of all work activity centers for the blind.
WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind has decided to follow a no-NAC policy for its contracts with other agencies; and
WHEREAS, accreditation by NAC is not a sign of quality service and the use of accreditation by many agencies is often harmful to the interests of the blind by shielding agencies from objective scrutiny; and
WHEREAS, this forthright stand of the Commission to renounce NAC in Michigan is a correct and courageous action, deserving praise and commendation by the organized blind of the United States: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that we salute the Michigan Commission for the Blind and the stand it has taken for quality service; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization encourage all other agencies serving the blind to follow the example set by the Michigan Commission in recognizing that NAC's form of accreditation is a harmful and wasteful use of public funds.
WHEREAS, several blind persons have demonstrated their qualifications for holding positions in the United States Foreign Service; and
WHEREAS, the State Department has consistently refused to employ qualified blind persons as foreign service officers with duties involving overseas assignments; and
WHEREAS, on several occasions the State Department has made commitments to adopt an affirmative action policy for employment of the blind in the Foreign Service, but each of these commitments has been broken the next time a qualified blind applicant appears; and
WHEREAS, Avraham Rabby is the latest in a series of qualified blind candidates for the Foreign Service, having passed all of the required written examinations and oral assessments more than once, but the State Department still refuses to employ him; and
WHEREAS, in refusing Mr. Rabby's latest application for an oral assessment, the State Department introduced a new policy of disallowing readers for the blind during examinations and requiring blind candidates for the Foreign Service to complete their examinations using source (that is, print) documents; and
WHEREAS, the requirement that the blind be able to read print documents is no more than a thinly veiled excuse for the underlying prejudice of the State Department against the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization condemn and deplore the failure of the State Department to work constructively with the blind to achieve a genuine policy of affirmative action and the actual recruitment of blind persons in the service of our country abroad; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Congress to take prompt and decisive action on behalf of the blind, and especially those who are qualified to serve in the Foreign Service, in order that the State Department's position will be reversed.
WHEREAS, the Congress, by a concurrent resolution, has directed sheltered workshops selling products to the United States Government to expand employment opportunities for blind employees through improved affirmative action and upward mobility programs; and
WHEREAS, the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped is responsible for initiating plans and actions to carry out the directives of the Congress; and
WHEREAS, a full year has now elapsed since Congress declared that upward mobility programs in the sheltered workshops should be expanded, but in the course of the past year the Committee has still issued neither policies nor regulations that give even the slightest nod toward affirmative action for the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that we remind the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped of its obligation to implement the expressed will of Congress by establishing clear-cut objectives and upward mobility goals for the workshops to follow; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization offer the expert consultation of its members and leaders in helping the Committee to design the model affirmative action and upward mobility programs envisioned by the concurrent resolution of the Congress.
WHEREAS, a number of grave or life-threatening conditions have in common the fact that blindness may occur as the condition progresses (for example, tumorous cancers, cystic fibrosis, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and renal failure); and
WHEREAS, the onset of blindness in connection with these conditions can occur years before death or recovery from the condition, thus making the teaching of Braille and independent cane travel skills desirable; and
WHEREAS, some public and private social service agencies for the blind regularly and consistently refuse to provide these desirable services to persons whose blindness results from a grave or life-threatening condition: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization call upon public and private social service agencies serving the blind to serve all blind persons who desire to learn the skills of blindness regardless of the condition that brought about the blindness.
WHEREAS, while Braille is the only effective reading and writing method for people who are blind, most schools throughout the nation do not emphasize the importance of reading and writing Braille for blind students; and
WHEREAS, giving credit for instruction in Braille toward graduation would give blind students a greater incentive to learn Braille, which is a skill essential to their future; and
WHEREAS, additionally offering Braille as an elective for sighted students would increase their awareness of blind persons and would facilitate future communication between the blind and the sighted: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization urge state departments of education and local school districts to offer graduation credit for instruction in Braille to blind students; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that instruction in Braille be extended to sighted students as an elective course carrying graduation credit.
WHEREAS, the Board of Directors of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has decided to give financial support to NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped); and
WHEREAS, NIB's financial commitment to NAC includes grants totaling approximately $300,000, plus additional funding of NAC through payment of dues and on-site review expenses by NIB and its affiliated workshops all of which is being done in conjunction with NAC's long-time financier, the American Foundation for the Blind, in order to forestall NAC's fiscal insolvency; and
WHEREAS, the funds which NIB now intends to divert to saving NAC from total collapse come from the labor of the blind themselves but will now be used against the blind in accordance with NAC's harmful and long established policies; and
WHEREAS, NAC has used its resources to support litigation campaigns against blind employees of workshops who want and have sought union representation, and NAC has also continued to support workshops that violate the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as other federal and state laws; and
WHEREAS, the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped, the federal agency to which NIB reports, consulted with NIB and cooperated with NIB in making the decision to finance NAC; and
WHEREAS, the diversion of these funds as herein described is a misuse of public money since NIB is an officially designated entity of the government set up specifically for the purpose of working with the government to distribute government contracts to the workshops and deriving the vast majority of its funds from these government contracts: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization take all steps necessary to protest the NIB decision and the support given to that decision by the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that our protest of the NIB decision to finance NAC include advising appropriate Congressional committees and members of Congress, presentations to the media, and all other actions that may be necessary to halt this misuse of public funds.
WHEREAS, Congressman Steve Bartlett has introduced the Social Security Work Incentives Act (H.R. 8) in the first session of the 101st Congress; and
WHEREAS, in offering this legislation Congressman Bartlett is seeking to rectify the work disincentives that exist in the Social Security Disability Insurance program; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has also worked hard for many years to improve work incentives for blind beneficiaries of disability insurance, resulting in several positive changes in the law; and
WHEREAS, the work incentive factors of H.R. 8 would severely restrict the earnings allowed for blind beneficiaries of disability insurance by reducing an individual's benefit in the amount of $1.00 for every $2.00 earned, with a basic exemption of $85.00; and
WHEREAS, the law currently allows blind persons to earn $740 per month, far more than $85 as proposed in H.R. 8; and
WHEREAS, while Congressman Bartlett met with representatives of the National Federation of the Blind early in the first session of the present Congress on other of our concerns, he did not consult with the Federation in the preparation of H.R. 8; and
WHEREAS, seeking the Federation's advice concerning the harmful affect of H.R. 8 on the blind could have resulted in more positive legislation to provide work incentives for the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization acknowledge the efforts that Congressman Steve Bartlett is making to create more work incentives for Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries while strongly opposing H.R. 8 in the form it was introduced; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization invite Congressman Bartlett to join with us in planning positive approaches that will improve work incentives for all disability beneficiaries who are blind.
WHEREAS, Federal and state laws require that the operators of public buildings and facilities make vending facility space available to the blind; and
WHEREAS, vending facilities operated by the blind in public buildings help to promote employment of blind persons in many areas; and
WHEREAS, airports are publicly operated facilities and generally have one or more food service or other businesses of the type that blind persons normally operate in public buildings; and
WHEREAS, state licensing agencies for the blind and airport authorities should cooperate in opening up business opportunities for the blind at airports in observance of existing laws to expand such business opportunities for the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization encourage the establishment of business opportunities for the blind at public airports; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we work with airport authorities and state licensing agencies to promote employment for the blind at public airports by the establishment of vending facilities.
WHEREAS, it is vital that blind people have accurate information about technological devices designed to assist them; and
WHEREAS, whenever unrealistic hope, false claims, and other inaccuracies contaminate publicity about technology for the blind, the credibility of all suppliers of technology suffers, thereby making it more difficult to gain public support for worthwhile research and development; and
WHEREAS, the Kurzweil Personal Reader (KPR) represents a significant improvement over previous models; and
WHEREAS, while blind persons could benefit greatly by receiving accurate information about the Kurzweil Personal Reader, the Xerox Corporation and the American Foundation for the Blind, rather than helping blind people get the facts about the KPR, have chosen instead to publicize the machine in a way which implies that it is the answer to all the reading needs of the blind; and
WHEREAS, Xerox and the Foundation, through an advertising campaign carried widely on television stations throughout the country, have claimed that low interest loans are available to blind people wishing to purchase Kurzweil Personal Readers; and
WHEREAS, though these advertisements have been appearing for more than seven months, not one loan has been granted, and blind people requesting applications are told that the loan program will be starting soon; and
WHEREAS, such blatantly false advertising represents a cynical disregard for the truth and a willingness on the part of Xerox and the American Foundation for the Blind to exploit blindness and the public fascination with reading machines for the blind for corporate and organizational gain, no matter how much damage such exploitation does to blind people: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this Federation demand that Xerox and the American Foundation for the Blind withdraw all advertising of the Kurzweil Personal Reader which mentions the non-existent low interest loan program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we report the false advertising of the American Foundation for the Blind to the Federal Trade Commission and that we urge the Commission to investigate and take appropriate action; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we inform all stations which air the American Foundation for the Blind advertisement that it is untrue, and urge these stations to cease broadcasting this advertisement.
WHEREAS, subminimum wages paid to blind employees of sheltered workshops are a form of pay inequity that the law continues to permit; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Labor is responsible for compliance enforcement to assure that blind persons are paid at least the wage that the law requires; and
WHEREAS, sheltered workshops that violate legally required pay standards often do so with impunity from the Department of Labor; and
WHEREAS, amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed and signed into law in 1986, were designed to give subminimum wage employees the right to contest illegal wage payments, but the Department of Labor has not even issued regulations to put the 1986 provisions fully into effect; and
WHEREAS, the experience of the blind with attempting to obtain fair enforcement of the law by the Department of Labor (or through hearings required by the 1986 amendments) has been that the exemption from the minimum wage leads to wage exploitation in the case of blind workers, and that the Department of Labor either cannot or will not enforce the law to achieve a contrary result: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization inform the Congress of the Department of Labor's continued failure to enforce existing requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we renew and reaffirm our commitment to the objective of achieving, for every blind worker, the right to be paid at least the minimum wage to the same extent as that right already exists for all workers who are sighted.
WHEREAS, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act (S. 341 and H.R. 563) has been introduced in Congress by Senator Ernest F. Hollings and Representative James A. Traficant, Jr.; and
WHEREAS, opponents of this measure erroneously say that safety in an aircraft emergency depends on passengers having sight; and
WHEREAS, excluding the blind as a class from seats near aircraft exits expresses the false and prejudicial conclusion that the blind as a class are always less capable than the sighted as a class, especially in dealing with emergencies; and
WHEREAS, the ability which the blind have to function confidently without sight would contribute to the safe evacuation of aircraft in many instances; and
WHEREAS, scare talk from the airlines rings hollow in the ears of the blind when the airlines themselves contribute to unsafe air travel in many ways, most notably in serving alcohol to passengers seated near exits, while all the time loudly proclaiming that it is really the blind who are unsafe; and
WHEREAS, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act correctly resolves the safety versus civil rights debate by permitting airlines to apply all reasonable and fair safety standards that do not discriminate against the blind: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization call for decisive action by Congress in support of air travel rights for the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation, together with its affiliates, chapters, members and friends, urge all members of Congress to vote yes for air travel rights for the blind.
WHEREAS, blind persons are successfully raising children throughout the United States; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has repeatedly established in the courts the right of blind biological parents to raise their children without interference; and
WHEREAS, blind adoptive parents, couples in which at least one of the spouses is blind, suffer identical discrimination and adverse treatment during their attempts to adopt children; and
WHEREAS, recent examples include (1) refusal by international child placement agencies (such as the Korean Branch of Holt International) to accept applications from blind adoptive parents, (2) the insistence by agencies placing children nationwide that blind adoptive parents may receive only blind children, (3) the refusal of domestic adoption agencies (such as Western Association of Concerned Adoptive Parents) to facilitate open or semi-open adoption (in which the adoptive and biological parents communicate) on the ground that biological parents would never choose blind adoptive parents for their children, and (4) keeping approved blind adoptive parents waiting years longer than similarly approved sighted couples; and
WHEREAS, this discrimination against adoptive parents who are blind is a pervasive, nationwide problem suffered by blind people and requires the pooling of information and resources to remedy this injustice: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization declare this treatment of blind adoptive parents intolerable; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take all steps necessary to eliminate forever this deplorable mistreatment of blind adoptive parents.
WHEREAS, the unemployment rate among the blind is estimated to be 70 percent; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has established the Selective Placement Program to provide for affirmative action in hiring blind and otherwise disabled persons; and
WHEREAS, the Office of Personnel Management requires that the only means by which a blind or otherwise disabled person may be qualified for federal employment through this program is by certification from a state vocational rehabilitation agency; and
WHEREAS, this certification consists of (1) a letter stating that the blind person is able to perform the essential functions of the job, (2) that the job can be performed by a blind person without the blind person being a safety risk to him/herself or others, and (3) an on-site visit by the rehabilitation counselor to recommend if any job site modifications are necessary in order for the blind person to do the job; and
WHEREAS, the purpose of the federal SF-171 application form is to provide information to hiring authorities of a candidate's qualifications for specific jobs, and, therefore, federal personnel and management authorities will, in all circumstances have the appropriate knowledge to determine if a blind person is qualified for a specific job, just as these authorities determine if sighted persons are qualified for specific jobs; and
WHEREAS, the Selective Placement Program appears to be based upon the negative presumption that blindness or disability make it necessary for a rehabilitation expert to affirm that the blind or disabled person can perform a specific job when, at least for blind persons, experience demonstrates that they can successfully perform most jobs; and
WHEREAS, blind persons do not represent a hazard to others or themselves, rehabilitation counselors do not have the necessary expertise to make safety judgments, and ordinary safety related hazards in an office are already regulated by existing federal standards; and
WHEREAS, there are no architectural barriers faced by blind persons in offices, thus making the site visit unnecessary; and
WHEREAS, since many state rehabilitation agencies will only accept a blind person as a client if he/she is unemployed, the under employed but working blind person seeking federal employment may not be able to secure the needed rehabilitation certification since the rehab agency will say that no vocational handicap exists and, therefore, such a blind individual is not eligible for rehabilitation services; and
WHEREAS, rejection as a rehabilitation client precludes otherwise qualified blind persons from participating in the Federal Selective Placement Program: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization condemn and deplore the practice of the Federal Office of Personnel Management in requiring vocational rehabilitation certification before a blind person may be hired by the federal government through its Selective Placement Program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization do all in its power to remove the monopoly of vocational rehabilitation for certification of blind persons under the Selective Placement Program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization do all in its power to have other programs such as Job Opportunities for the Blind given authority to certify eligibility of blind persons for the Selective Placement Program.
WHEREAS, for 110 years, beginning in 1879, a federal law has recognized the American Printing House for the Blind as the sole supplier of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary educational materials and equipment for the blind; and
WHEREAS, for many years after 1879 the American Printing House was actually the only existing manufacturer and supplier of these educational materials; and
WHEREAS, under the existing law Congress promotes the distribution of educational materials and equipment to the blind by annually appropriating funds (approximately 5.5 million dollars per year) to the American Printing House for the Blind; and
WHEREAS, this appropriation must be used by the Printing House on behalf of qualified schools and other institutions to offset the costs they would have in purchasing items produced at the Printing House; and
WHEREAS, some educational materials and equipment for the blind are now available from manufacturers that compete with the Printing House, and in some instances the Printing House simply does not have the best products for the money, or in other instances the Printing House does not have the desired materials or equipment for any price at all; and
WHEREAS, Congressman Kweisi Mfume has introduced legislation in the form of H.R. 1627, designed to permit schools and institutions to obtain educational products from the American Printing House, as well as from alternative sources: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization declare its wholehearted support for Congressman Mfume's legislation to improve the availability of educational materials and equipment to the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that members and appropriate committees of the Congress be urged to enact H.R. 1627 during the present Congressional session.
WHEREAS, existing funding requirements in the Social Security Act permit rehabilitation services to be financed with payments from the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund or from general revenues appropriated for Supplemental Security Income to the aged, blind, and disabled; and
WHEREAS, blind persons who receive Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income payments are also entitled to rehabilitation services, with the proviso that the rehabilitation services paid for with Social Security funds must be obtained from a state vocational rehabilitation agency approved in accordance with Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
WHEREAS, this limitation often obstructs blind persons in making efforts to become rehabilitated due largely to the preoccupation that state agencies tend to have with protecting their narrow bureaucratic interests, even if this means that the needs of their clients are unmet; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind favors a client-centered approach to rehabilitation, as represented in H. R. 855, introduced in the 101st Congress by Representative Harold Ford; and
WHEREAS, the idea of giving blind persons greater freedom to choose, design, and pursue their own rehabilitation services is gaining support in the Congress, so much so that the Social Security Administration has now offered its own proposal for accomplishing essentially the same objective: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization call for prompt action on H.R. 855 and similar legislation now before the 101st Congress; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation acknowledge the interests of private agencies in providing direct services to the blind under the Social Security beneficiary rehabilitation program and that we support the interests of the private agencies in this regard, so long as the principle is maintained that each person has the right to choose among agencies.
WHEREAS, blind persons who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are subject to the provision of the Social Security Act which establishes the amount of exempt earnings for retirees aged 65 to 69; and
WHEREAS, the present monthly exempt amount, which is not considered to be substantial gainful activity for a blind person, is $740, subject to annual increases at the beginning of each calendar year; and
WHEREAS, plans are underway in the Congress to increase the exempt amount for the next two years beyond the annual inflation adjustments; and
WHEREAS, the changes in law currently under review would continue the relationship between exempt earnings of blind people and those of retirees, however, in some earlier proposals offered to the Congress the relationship would have been broken, and the earnings of the blind would have been subject to greater restriction; and
WHEREAS, the Federation has been informed that the plan to break the legal relationship between the exempt amounts for retirees and for the blind, respectively, originated with the Social Security Administration and not with any particular member of Congress; and
WHEREAS, personnel of the Social Security Administration should not on the one hand promote work incentives for the disabled, while on the other hand seek to undermine the exempt earnings provision for the blind, which is our most significant work incentive in the disability insurance program: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization insist that the staff of the Social Security Administration not attempt to alter the exempt earnings principle for the blind that Congress first directed in the 1977 amendments to the Social Security Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization request a meeting between the Commissioner of Social Security and leaders of the Federation to insure that future actions of the Social Security Administration forthrightly promote even greater work incentives for the blind.
WHEREAS, Grade III Braille is a long-recognized system of contracted Braille used by blind persons; and
WHEREAS, instruction in the reading and writing of Grade III Braille is occurring on an ongoing basis at adult rehabilitation centers for the blind around the country; and
WHEREAS, the National Library Service for the Blind of the Library of Congress (NLS) has a limited collection of books transcribed into Grade III Braille; and
WHEREAS, at the request of the Committee on Library Services of the National Federation of the Blind, this collection of Grade III Braille has been removed from storage and made available for direct borrowing from NLS by blind consumers: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1989, in the City of Denver, Colorado, that this organization commend Frank Kurt Cylke, Director, National Library Service for the Blind of the Library of Congress, for responding to the request of the Committee on Library Services of the National Federation of the Blind by returning to circulation the existing collection of Grade III Braille.