37, No. 3
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the president,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the editor
should be sent to the National Office.
subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 37, No. 3 March 1994
TO EVADE DUTY: WISCONSIN TEACHERS OF THE BLIND FIGHT
by Barbara Pierce
BRAILLE COMPETENCY TEST READY FOR USE
SEMINAR: HOPE AND HARD WORK
by Barbara Pierce
OF THE BLIND TESTIMONY BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITEEE ON LEGISLATIVE APPROPRIATIONS, COMMITTEE ON
APPROPRIATIONS, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
by Marc Maurer
1994 LEGISLATIVE MEMORANDUM AND FACT SHEETS
WHY I INTERRUPTED
COLLEGE FOR LEARNING IN A NEW DIMENSION
by Doug Lee
EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD FOR 1994
by Sharon Maneki
THE 1994 BLIND
EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
by Stephen O. Benson
AMBITION: BLINDNESS DOESN'T HOLD BACK LEGISLATIVE PAGE,
by Margaret N. O'Shea
WHY GO IT
by Margie Watson
FUN--TOURS FOR EVERYONE
by Don and Sue Drapinski
CAN HELP WITH MEDICARE PREMIUMS
by James Gashel
Copyright 1994 National Federation of the Blind, Inc.
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: On December 3, 1993, Fred Schroeder, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, attended a dinner in Albuquerque in honor of a number of the state's Democratic leaders. He is pictured here with New Mexico Governor Bruce King (left) and President Bill Clinton.]
[PHOTO: Bonnie Peterson walking through hotel corridor at NFB convention. CAPTION: Bonnie Peterson.]
[PHOTO: Blind child in classroom reading Braille book w/teacher. CAPTION: Some children are lucky enough to learn Braille from real experts. Here Kim Hoffman, a life-long Braille reader, teaches Cody Greiser of Montana.]
[PHOTO: Blind child sits on floor, reading Braille book to sighted sister. CAPTION: When blind children learn to read Braille early, they can amuse their younger siblings, as Sora Mindy Cook of Maryland does here, reading a Twin Vision book to her little sister.]
STRUGGLE TO EVADE DUTY:
WISCONSIN TEACHERS OF THE BLIND FIGHT AGAINST BRAILLE
by Barbara Pierce
Some people ask why the National Federation of the Blind is now working for passage of a national law to protect the right of blind children to receive adequate Braille instruction. The short answer is that twenty-eight states have yet to pass any legislation aimed at addressing the shocking drop in Braille literacy among school-age blind children, and even some of those states that have done so have found the legislation undermined by the very educators who could solve the problem but whose poor attitudes about blindness helped to create the low literacy rates in the first place.
Take Wisconsin for example. In 1991 the legislature passed a strong Braille bill. It provided that legally blind youngsters would be taught Braille if their parents requested it; that,if Braille was not to be taught, an explanation for the decision must appear in the Individualized Education Program (IEP); and that teachers of the blind had to demonstrate their competence in reading, writing, and teaching Braille. Once the measure became law, it was then necessary to write the regulations that would implement it, and this is where the trouble started. The Wisconsin chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WAER) took exception to the idea that its members should be expected to know Braille well enough to teach it to children who needed it or whose parents demanded it because they believed that print would not always be an effective method of reading and writing for their youngsters. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the teachers' union in the state, backed the AER position; and the organized blind found that, although they had won the first battle on behalf of blind children, the war was just beginning. Moreover, according to Bonnie Peterson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, because of the complexity of the issues and the power of the teachers' union, the news media in the state have by and large decided to stay away from the story.
Enter the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Charged with the responsibility of promulgating the rules to implement the state's new Braille literacy law, DPI eventually appointed a Braille Standards Advisory Committee to establish the regulations. Bonnie Peterson was appointed to membership, but for the most part her colleagues were unsympathetic to the concept of improving the quality of Braille instruction for blind children in Wisconsin. In addition to fifteen Wisconsin residents, DPI appointed Toni Heinze, Director of the training program for teachers of the visually impaired at Northern Illinois University and a past national president of AER. In addition, apparently afraid that, even though the committee was heavily weighted against reform, the Department might not be able to prevent the adoption of effective and sensible regulations, DPI brought in a facilitator from Ohio State University to conduct the group's meetings. The cost was significant; the obfuscation of the issues in jargon and pseudo-professionalism was easier; and the resulting inaccuracy and absurdity were complete. Bonnie Peterson recounted the story of the committee's work in an article that appeared in the September, 1993, issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. Here it is:
The Wisconsin Braille Bill: Deceit and The Department of Public Instruction
by Bonnie Peterson
If only 4% of sighted children read print and the rest were nonreaders or used tape recorders and if teachers assigned to teach reading and writing of cursive were not able to read and write cursive themselves, no one would dispute the severity of the problem. Decisive action would be taken. Wisconsin has just such a problem with the literary future of our legally blind children. Wisconsin has 907 legally blind children, of whom only thirty-three are Braille readers. The remainder are actually classified as "non-readers," "tape recorder readers," or "large print readers." The number of children who read Braille in Wisconsin is roughly sixty percent below the national average-- which is already a scandalously low nine percent of all legally blind American children.
In 1989 the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin decided to take decisive action by requesting the Wisconsin legislature to pass a law requiring that the teachers who teach Braille in our schools demonstrate some knowledge of the code. The Education Committees of the Senate and Assembly heard testimony stating that some itinerant teachers did not know Braille at all, and questions were raised about how one goes about teaching what one does not know. Testimony from members of the NFB of Wisconsin described how much better it is for a person with residual vision to have the option to use either Braille or ink print as the occasion demands rather than being forced to use print inefficiently because of having been denied Braille instruction. Federationists recounted how easy it is to learn Braille and how they personally mastered it in two to three months. Legislators also heard stories from parents about how hard it is to get adequate Braille instruction for their children. Several teachers from the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped testified that, if they had to upgrade their skills in Braille, they would rather resign. A representative from the Wisconsin Education Association Council said that this legislation was too severe and, if this law were passed, there would not be a qualified teacher in the state.
After it passed both houses of the legislature in April of 1992, Governor Tommy Thompson signed the Braille Bill, Act 164, into law. Basically it requires the following: (1) Every legally blind child shall have the opportunity to be taught Braille, just as every sighted child has the opportunity to be taught print. (2) If Braille is not taught, the reason must be included in the Individualized Education Program (IEP). (3) A teacher who teaches blindness techniques must demonstrate knowledge of reading, writing, and teaching Braille to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction before becoming certified or recertified. Sounds simple, right? No one could argue with this, right? Wrong. Enter the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Almost ten months after Governor Thompson signed the Braille Bill into law, the Department of Public Instruction established a Braille Standards Advisory Committee, whose responsibility was to recommend rules to the Department regarding the Braille Law. A woman could conceive and give birth to triplets in less time than it took DPI to create a committee. I represented the NFB of Wisconsin on that committee. The primary question we were expected to answer was how knowledge of reading, writing, and teaching Braille would be defined.
To make matters easier, a national test had been created by the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), and teachers in Texas and Minnesota are already required to take this test. Representatives from major organizations of and for the blind took three years to assist NLS in creating the NLS literary Braille Competency Test, which takes four to six hours to complete. It tests one's knowledge of literary Braille and can be taken anywhere and at any time the teacher desires with a retake in six months if the test is not passed. Best of all, it is free. It makes sense to expect all teachers to take the same test and to be held to the same high standards for which the National Library Service is known. Sounds simple, right? No one could argue with such a concept, right? Wrong.
Under the watchful eye of the Department of Public Instruction, daylong Advisory Committee meetings dragged on from January 29, 1993, through July 12, 1993. It was clear that DPI had a agenda of its own. The committee was composed of seventeen persons, eight of whom were DPI supervisors or staff, seven of whom were members of the community, one of whom was a director of a program for teachers of the blind from Illinois, and (believe it or not) one of whom was a group facilitator from Ohio--the Department of Public Instruction actually brought in a man all the way from Ohio to run the meetings. With so many qualified people on a committee, it seems to me that such an action is highly questionable to say the least.
Moreover, making an Illinois resident a voting member of a Wisconsin committee was clearly inappropriate and resulted in repeated instances of conflict of interest. She seemed much more absorbed in the advancement of her own career than in what was advantageous for Wisconsin's blind children. She was much more interested in describing the program she runs at Northern Illinois University, the classes in Braille, seminars AER teaches, and the ways we could get grants for AER programs. When committee members recommended that training programs for teachers of the blind have higher academic standards (a discussion that began because she admitted that the final exam in Braille at Northern Illinois University doesn't even have a slate-and-stylus component), she smugly replied that we really didn't have anything to say about training programs.
Decisions about the conduct of committee business, which traditionally are made by a committee itself, were made by DPI. The committee did not ask for a facilitator; we were merely introduced to him at the first meeting by DPI and told we would have one. DPI decided who would direct the committee's work, take minutes, and establish the first agenda. These actions determined the control and the tone of all subsequent meetings.
On February 21 I brought to the second meeting an entire page of undisputed additions and corrections to the January 29, 1993, meeting minutes. Statements made by members of the committee about the importance of Braille, the need to teach it to multiply handicapped children, and the importance of the slate and stylus were missing. Statistics were misrepresented. The committee list was inaccurate, obscuring personal organizational affiliation, titles, and telephone numbers. When I requested that corrections be included in the next minutes, Brent Odell of DPI said "No, we have agreed to informal minutes... you have probably not served on enough committees to know what that means." Despite a letter to Andy Papineau of DPI, who had taken the minutes, and assurances by the DPI attorney and supervisors, corrections never did appear in the minutes. A feeble attempt to achieve the appearance of proper minutes was made; however, additions and corrections, even when requested, never appeared as they had been made.
The final recommendations of the DPI Braille Advisory Committee are mind-boggling corruptions of education and the law, exactly what DPI seems to have wanted. Beginning teachers seeking a new license can choose between taking the NLS Test and demonstrating completion of a four-credit course in Braille, Nemeth Code, and Braille technology, including an evaluation component. In other words, a new graduate wouldn't have to do anything to get a license in Wisconsin because any recent graduate could easily show that sometime during training he or she had taken a four-credit course in Braille and technology. With this alternative available, why should any new teacher ever choose to take the NLS test? Beginning teachers will continue to be as inept as they have ever been. Accepting previous course- work from inexperienced teachers of the kind that is currently available in university programs does not require these new teachers to demonstrate any ability to read and write Braille.
Under the committee's recommendation teachers renewing their licensing can choose either the NLS Test or a DPI-approved two- credit course in Braille, Nemeth Code, and Braille technology or thirty DPI-approved clock hours in Braille, Nemeth Code, and technology with an evaluation component. These DPI rules presume the existence of courses and programs that have not yet been created. Who will teach them? What will their content be? What is meant by "an evaluation component"? An evaluation could be anything from a personal note by an instructor to an eight-day test. What assurances can DPI offer that courses will be developed that lead to better training for teachers when the system has failed so miserably up to now? Is all this stipulation about clock-hours and review courses just more busy work to distract teachers from actual Braille instruction?
It was DPI that encouraged the inclusion of a technology component in the rules for the Braille legislation, which was never intended to be a technology bill. Of course technology is important in the lives of everyone. But these DPI recommendations would force teachers to learn the inner workings of refreshable Braille displays, Braille embossers, Braille translation programs, Braille 'n Speaks, and speech output devices for both IBM- and Apple-compatible computers. Assuming that the teachers actually learn about all this technology, when are they going to find the time to teach Braille? Where will they get the money to purchase the technology to practice on? What about the slate and stylus? Knowledge of reading and writing Braille is distinctly different from the ability to operate the machinery that produces it.
These DPI-encouraged recommendations are an attempt by the Department of Public Instruction to rewrite Wisconsin's Braille literacy law in order to obscure the fact that DPI let the Braille literacy problem reach this magnitude in the first place. These regulations are destined to cause dissension and confusion among already overworked teachers in understaffed programs. Public hearings will soon be held to approve the final DPI rules. You can be certain that the NFB of Wisconsin will be fighting for the National Library Service Test and for one standard of competency for all teachers of Braille in Wisconsin.
That is what Bonnie Peterson wrote in September, and it soon became clear that the article's impact on readers depended on their point of view. Parents jumped on the bandwagon and told their own stories of frustration and ongoing deficits in their children. The following letter is typical:
Monroe, Wisconsin September 12, 1993
Dear Mrs. Peterson:
It was with great interest that I read your recent article on the Wisconsin Braille Bill. I would like to applaud and encourage your efforts to ensure that Braille is taught to all visually handicapped children--whether they are able to read print or not.
Our daughter, who is now almost twenty-two, has no vision in one eye and 20/200 in the other. She has gone through our local public schools with the help of aides who were very good, but not trained in the education of the visually handicapped. She went to some summer programs at the School for the Blind in Janesville and was given some mobility training by a woman the school district brought in from Janesville. She has no Braille skills whatsoever. She is now in college and doing well, but it is very difficult for her. Reading with the page inches away from her face is very slow and tiring, and tape recorders can break down just when you are in the middle of a chapter or studying for a test. It can take weeks to send them in to be repaired.
I have many times wished she had been taught Braille. But, every time we brought it up as she was growing up, the school district would say, "We can't afford to have a teacher just for her when we have no other blind children." She is doing all right. Anyway, where would we get a part-time Braille teacher? We thought of sending her to the School for the Blind, but we knew other children with some sight there who were not being taught Braille either. So each time we concluded that we had come up against a brick wall and let things go on as they were, hoping for the best.
Often I have wondered and continue to worry, what will she do if she loses the little sight she has? She would have to halt her education to learn to read Braille--assuming we could find anyone to teach her.
Since starting college, she herself has realized how much being able to read Braille would help her. She tried through the Disabled Student Services to find someone who could teach Braille to her and another girl with limited vision, but they said there had to be at least four or five students to make it worth a teacher's while. She even tried to learn it by mail from the Hadley School for the Blind but found it hard to learn by correspondence.
Is it possible for an adult to learn Braille? She goes to the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Is there anyone in the area who might be able to teach her and her friend? If all else fails, once she is done with college, are there colleges or other places where she could learn Braille as an adult? Please write and let me know this information. It would be very reassuring to me to know that she could catch up on this crucial knowledge that would save her so much time and frustration at some later point, even though she did not learn Braille as a child.
We are hoping to go to the Saturday, Sunday part of your convention in LaCrosse. Perhaps we will meet you there. In any case, I would appreciate it very much if you would respond to my questions.
I would also like to encourage you in your fight to keep other kids from growing up without the valuable tool of Braille just because their school district is too small, too poor, or too far away from cities or because there are fewer or no teachers who are qualified to teach the subject.
Of course Mrs. Peterson wrote to this mother, giving her the name of a Federationist near her daughter's university who would be happy to assist her in learning Braille. She also told her about BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis, the nearest adult rehabilitation center conducted by the National Federation of the Blind. She also thanked the woman for her encouragement and support.
Not all the letters, however, were sympathetic. Typical of this second sort was one written by a teacher of the blind. Here it is:September 8, 1993
Dear Mrs. Peterson,
I have just finished reading your article concerning the Wisconsin Braille Bill in the September issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle. I could not let your statements contained within this article go without some sort of comment.
Let me first state that I am a certified and qualified teacher of students with visual impairments. My training included instruction in reading and writing the literary code of Braille and the Nemeth Code as well as methods for teaching these. I believe that Braille is certainly a legitimate and functional mode of written communication. I enjoy teaching Braille, although I have no students at this time for whom the M-Team [Wisconsin's name for the group that determines a disabled child's educational program] has decided this mode of communication is the most appropriate.
Many of my students are those you class among the ninety-six percent of legally blind students who do not read Braille. The majority of these students whom I serve are also non-ambulatory and nonverbal. In such a case I do not feel that nonreader is an inappropriate classification. The same decision would be likely to be made if the student had 20/20 vision. Many of these students can be taught to use the vision they do have to help in accomplishing necessary activities of daily living. In this way a teacher of students with visual impairments can be helpful in the education of such students.
As for proving my competence in reading, writing, and teaching Braille--I did so during my program of teacher training. I do not feel I should be subjected to any grueling testing covering Braille any more than an established math teacher should be required to take and pass a six-hour test covering the intricacies of calculus or an English teacher be required to take a similar test covering the intricacies of grammar.
As to the Illinois resident serving on the Braille Standards Advisory Committee--Northern Illinois University is the closest University offering training in teaching students with visual impairments. This is a problem. It is ridiculous that we have no university within our borders that trains such teachers. If we had such a program within our borders, I am sure your input would be welcome when planning curriculum. Thank you for your time.
Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
That is what the teacher wrote, and Bonnie Peterson was quick to answer him. This is what she said:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin September 14, 1993
I have received your letter of September 8, 1993, regarding my article "The Wisconsin Braille Bill: Deceit and the Department of Public Instruction" in the September issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle, and I thank you for it. I find your comments quite troubling.
You say in your letter that you believe that Braille is "a legitimate and functional mode of written communication." Yet you also say, "I enjoy teaching Braille although I have no students at this time for whom the M-team has decided this mode of communication is the most appropriate." Thus you are currently teaching no one the functional and legitimate skill of written communication that you say you care so much about. You don't seem to remember the last time you taught this functional and legitimate skill of Braille. You blame the M-team that Braille is not being taught. Sir, as a professional in the field of blindness, your recommendations carry significant weight in the M-team process. Are your strong recommendations for Braille continually being ignored? If so, I suggest you take courses in assertiveness training. Or are you not recommending Braille and thereby attempting to shirk your own responsibility? If so, I wonder why you chose a career teaching the blind in the first place.
You tell me that many of your students "can be taught to use the vision they do have to help in accomplishing the necessary activities of daily living." Visual acuity is not something that can be taught--you either have it or you don't. Reading and writing are necessary activities of daily living. Blind children need to be taught literary skills that will help then compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers. Feigning sight is not a recognized job skill in the competitive marketplace; however, the speed, flexibility, and accuracy of Braille are.
You also tell me, "I do not feel that I should be subjected to any grueling test covering Braille any more than an established math teacher should be required to take and pass a six-hour test covering the intricacies of calculus or an English teacher should be required to take a similar test covering the intricacies of grammar." Your students are not learning math. Your students are learning grammar. However, none of your students is learning Braille. A problem exists when only three percent of Wisconsin's legally blind children are Braille readers. This is why the Braille Bill was passed. When only three percent of Wisconsin's children know how to add or subtract, math teachers will be tested on their knowledge of math. When only three percent of Wisconsin's children know grammar, English teachers will be tested on their knowledge of grammar. If you wish to be treated like the math and English teachers, you will need to act like them. Math and English teachers are not making excuses or finding ways to avoid teaching math and English. In your letter to me you are making excuses and finding ways to avoid teaching Braille.
Finally, you tell me that it is ridiculous that we have no University in Wisconsin that trains teachers of the blind and, if we had such a program in Wisconsin, "I am sure your input would be welcome in planning curriculum." The National Federation of the Blind is not waiting for people to request input. We have been giving input all along. We help parents advocate for their children at M-team meetings. We teach children the Braille that you say can't be taught. Our publication, Future Reflections, is changing attitudes about blindness throughout the nation. Our Parents of Blind Children Division is a source of cumulative advice and support for thousands of parents throughout the country. Furthermore, it was the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin that worked to pass the Braille Bill, which is now requiring you to reexamine your skills in Braille. Rather than suggest the creation of a multi-million dollar building or program, why don't you come to a convention of the National Federation of the Blind and see how teaching and inspiring blind people really should be done?
Again I thank you for your letter. I appreciate the time you took to respond to my article and hope that you take my comments in the spirit of service and support in which they are meant. I do wish you much success and fulfillment in your career, both for your sake and that of the blind children you have the privilege to teach.
Very sincerely yours,
Bonnie Peterson, President
National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin
As autumn crept toward winter, it became clear that there were very few supporters of the proposed rules implementing the new Braille literacy law. Proponents of the law were angry at the obvious attempt to water down the requirement that all teachers of blind students demonstrate their capacity to read and write Braille well enough to pass the new NLS Literary Braille Competency Test. It became clear that the teachers were prepared to make virtually any argument they could think of that might undermine the regulations or undercut the law. Two members of the Braille Standards Advisory Committee (Lori Loveless of the Wisconsin Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Helen Boduch-Hahn of the Wisconsin Education Association Council) wrote a letter to the Department of Public Instruction official charged with gathering all the comments about the proposed rules for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who has the responsibility of submitting the final rules to the legislature. If one didn't know better, one might have hoped that representatives from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation and the teachers union might have felt some responsibility to improve the education offered to Wisconsin's blind children. Like the NFB of Wisconsin, these two women found fault with the recommendations of the Braille Standards Advisory Committee, but their reasons for doing so could hardly have been more different.
They suggested that research be done to determine whether blind children were less capable of learning to read than sighted and whether there might be a correlation between the children's illiteracy and their teachers' competence. They went on to argue at different points in their letter that teachers can't be expected to maintain skill in reading and writing Braille since there are no Wisconsin universities offering courses in the code and simultaneously that all teachers of the visually impaired knew Braille when they started teaching, because they had had Braille courses, so they shouldn't have to demonstrate their competency later. They also suggested that all current teachers should be grandfathered in and that only new teachers should have to demonstrate competency.
Despite the fundamental role that reading and writing play in every normally intelligent child's education, these teachers maintain that focusing on Braille competency for teachers of the blind is to concentrate inappropriately on one small area of their responsibility. They assume that maintaining Braille competency will take a great deal of personal time and hard work. They then say that it is unfair for teachers to have to devote all their continuing education efforts to this one corner of their teaching responsibility. After dismissing the definition of legal blindness as a reasonable way of determining which youngsters should have Braille considered as a serious possibility for a reading and writing medium, they go on to say that the skilled teacher's individual evaluation of the child's capacity to read print or Braille is the only real way of determining the appropriate medium and that the professional's grasp of the psycho-emotional component of blindness is far more important than skill in Braille.
Almost more distressing than the arguments made by two teachers who are supposed to care about the lives and educations of blind children are the underlying assumptions and misconceptions that support this document: according to them, learning Braille and keeping up the skills associated with reading and writing it are arduous, time-consuming activities. No teacher will ever teach it to enough of his or her students to maintain the skill naturally. Most children with little enough sight to require Braille don't have the intellectual or physical means of using it. Anyone who expects teachers of the blind to avoid making obvious mistakes in reading and writing the code is discriminating against these teachers because no other Wisconsin teachers are required to demonstrate competence in their fields.
Here is the letter submitted by the self-designated spokeswomen of Wisconsin AER and the state's teachers union. Errors in punctuation have been corrected for the sake of clarity, but the sentence structure is exactly that submitted to the Department of Public Instruction:
November 1, 1993
Rules Coordinator, DPI
Dear Ms. Slausen:
We are writing to you to share our remarks regarding the proposed Braille standards for individuals holding the 825 licensure as teachers of the visually impaired.
As members of the Braille Standards Advisory Committee, it is our belief that this group made an honest effort to create proposed rules in response to Act 164, also known as the Braille Bill. After reviewing the October 1, 1993, memorandum, we feel compelled to voice the following concerns regarding Act 164 and the shortcoming of the proposed rules.
1. Lack of Research Research has not been conducted to determine the degree of literacy in the blind population. At this time, there are no answers to the following questions: do blind children differ from sighted children in their ability to read? If so, can a correlation be established between a lack of literacy and the level of teacher competence in Braille? Are vision teachers, indeed, incompetent in reading, writing, and teaching Braille? If so, will additional teacher training in these skill areas prove helpful? Without objective answers to these critical questions any action made to address these issues will be based on hearsay rather than fact.
2. Lack of Training Opportunities Currently there are no training opportunities available in Wisconsin which allow teachers to earn college credit for classes related to the Braille code or Braille instruction. Teachers are forced to take these classes at out-of-state universities. Wisconsin is considering requiring additional training in the area of Braille. How can the state require teachers to take classes which are not available in Wisconsin?
3. Over-emphasis on One Skill Just as reading is only one part of the curriculum which must be mastered by sighted learners, visually impaired children are expected to learn many other skills. Some of these skills are unique to the vision disability; others are not. Teachers of these children must not only be knowledgeable about the skills related to the disability area (or areas) which are affecting the child, but also all the other pertinent areas of education. Many teachers find it challenging to stay ahead of the ever-changing and increasing curricular demands. More than ever before, today's successful teacher must be well-rounded. What will be accomplished by requiring vision teachers to concentrate the majority of their continuing education efforts only on the area of reading?
4. Misleading Definition/Print is Efficient The proponents of this law often refer to a specific number of blind children in the state. When the definition of blindness is carefully analyzed, it becomes clear that simply classifying the children as blind is very misleading. Legal blindness is determined via a measurement of distance visual acuity or degrees of visual field. The acuity measurement is recorded in a standardized unit of twenty feet. Anyone with a distance visual acuity of 20/200 or less in their better eye, after best spectacle correction, is considered legally blind for acuity reasons. These numbers mean that this individual sees an image, when standing twenty feet from a target, as clearly as a person with perfect vision sees the same image when standing 200 feet from the same target. However, when considering the distance at which the majority of reading occurs, these numbers become meaningless. Most people do the bulk of their reading at distances of sixteen inches or less. Reading is considered a near activity. Many persons with 20/200 acuity or less can, in fact, comfortably read newsprint. To be considered legally blind based on degrees of field, the individual must possess no more than twenty degrees of visual field in either eye. Very few children qualify as legally blind based on loss of visual field. Those who do are often successfully able to use print. In some cases, where the loss of visual field is the result of a degenerative disease process, Braille instruction often begins while the child is still in school.
5. Decision is Made Individually Given the above information regarding visual functioning, most vision teachers approach the task of determining whether to teach a student print or Braille with the understanding that a functional vision evaluation must be performed. This evaluation is conducted in an effort to discover what a child can see, at what size, and at what distance. Among the many factors to be evaluated are how the child uses his/her remaining vision, for what types of tasks, how efficiently, and for how long without experiencing fatigue. The stability and prognosis of the specific eye condition is also considered. The decision to have a child read print or Braille is not arrived at arbitrarily but rather through assessments, diagnostic teaching, and observation. Functional vision evaluations are often repeated as the child matures and the educational demands change. Some proponents of this law believe that a visual acuity of 20/200 alone is reason enough to teach a child Braille. We strongly disagree with this practice. Even in certain cases where instruction in Braille is appropriate and recommended by the educator, psychological factors related to the acceptance of the disability prohibit student success. In these instances, a good understanding of the psycho-emotional components of vision loss is much more useful to the vision teacher than any type of Braille skills.
6. Many Blind Students Will Never Read Blindness is becoming more prevalent, and the number of students who are identified as legally blind is on an increase. This is due to the large percentage of multi- handicapped children who are being saved via medical intervention. Many of these children have cognitive deficits which prevent them from ever developing reading skills. Others may have the cognitive ability to learn to read but have physical disabilities which make a Braille learning media inaccessible to them. The educational needs of these children extend well beyond Braille. Even if they were fully sighted, these students would never learn to read. The vision teachers working with this population have neither the opportunity nor the need to practice reading, writing, and teaching Braille. Thus Braille is meaningless to both the teachers and the students in this case.
7. Test Not Available The National Literary Braille competency Test is endorsed as a means for teachers to demonstrate competency in the Braille code. The National Literary Braille Competency Test is currently in development and not yet available. It has yet to complete the validation process. The validation of a test of this nature and scope could be a very long and involved process. How can DPI in good faith require testing with an instrument which does not yet exist for public use?
8. Discriminatory Visual handicap has the lowest incidence of all recognized exceptional education need areas. Yet teachers of the visually impaired are the only class of teaching professionals required to demonstrate competency in a small, specific subject matter. We believe it is discriminatory to single out vision teachers as the only class of teaching professionals required to complete specialized testing every five years to maintain certification.
9. Statistical Information The statistical information on the number of blind students in Wisconsin that was initially made available to the Braille Standards Committee was based on the Federal Quota Account Registry. This information is collected annually and is meant to be used as a justification for the provision of educational materials from the American Printing House for the Blind. We are concerned that statistical citations gleaned from this document do not accurately represent the children. The Federal Quota Account Registry was not intended for this purpose and thus does not readily lend itself to this type of interpretation. For example, the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped was not included in the total count that was shared with the committee. Thirty percent of the students enrolled in this educational setting during the '92/'93 school year are Braille readers. Children who use more than one reading media are recorded only by their primary mode. (A cursory glance at the document revealed two children on the first page, alone, who are learning both print and Braille). Blind children who will never learn to read due to their severe multiple disabilities are only recorded as being blind. For example, 17.7% of the students attending the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped during the '92/'93 school year were actually considered non-readers. Proponents of the law are often heard quoting inaccurate statistics. If we are to use statistical information, we need to all be working with the same, accurate, numbers. It is suggested that a separate tally of blind children be conducted, specifically for the purpose of identifying the number of children who use Braille as their primary and secondary reading mode. In addition, it would be helpful to identify the number of children who are considered non-readers. Proponents of this law have indicated that they believe it will result in more children who read Braille. Without accurate baseline information, how will change be measured?
10. Teachers Have Already Had Braille Instruction All persons currently holding the 825 licensure in Wisconsin have completed an approved teacher training program. As part of all the training programs in vision-impaired education is the requirement that at least one class in Braille code and one class in teaching methodology be included. Therefore, teachers have already had the necessary training and have also demonstrated proficiency in order to complete the class. Why then are we being required to repeat this every five years?
For the reasons stated above, we believe that Act 164 is a piece of ill-conceived and poorly constructed legislation and that the many problems of Act 164 are only compounded by the rules-writing process. Within Act 164 it clearly states that the superintendent is responsible for the establishment of criteria for the demonstration of proficiency in Braille. Rather than further exacerbate the problems with unnecessary and futile rules, it has been recommended by the groups we represent that DPI respond to this law by grandfathering all the teachers currently holding the 825 license. If new license applicants must be evaluated, this process should rightfully be conducted through the teacher-training programs. If the people of Wisconsin cannot entrust the university programs to have adequately trained teachers to read, write, and teach Braille to students, we then need to ask if any degreed professional can be expected to have satisfactory skills in their area of specialization? Or perhaps we should demand competency tests of all professionals every five years.
Lori J. Loveless
Wisconsin Association for Education and
Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Wisconsin Education Association Council
That is what two members of the Braille Standards Advisory Committee wrote in protest. Bonnie Peterson, also a member of the Committee, submitted her objections to the proposed rules as well. Hers took the form of a minority report in which she carefully delineated her objections and proposed what she thought should be done instead. She maintained that the National Library Service's Literary Braille Competency Test was the single instrument that should be used to identify teacher capacity to read and write Braille. She also protested the introduction of technology issues into a piece of legislation which had nothing to do with that important subject. At about the same time the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin wrote a position statement on the rules for implementing Act 164, the Braille literacy law. Here it is:
Position of the National Federation Of The Blind Braille Literacy Act 164
Teachers who teach blind children Braille do not know Braille themselves. You cannot teach what you do not know. Learning Braille is not a mystery but a straightforward matter of study and application. An adult of average intelligence can learn Braille in a few months.
The best way to show you can read and write Braille is to take a test that will assess competency in reading and writing it. The Library of Congress, National Library Service (NLS) Literary Braille Competency Test was developed after three years of intensive effort by experts in reading and writing Braille and unanimously supported by all of the major organizations of and for the blind of the nation.
The Library of Congress NLS has certified the competency of Braille Transcribers since 1943 through its Braille Transcribers Test. Braille Transcribers are volunteers who on their own learned Braille and transform print into Braille for the blind. Their skills in reading and writing Braille are flawless and nationally renowned.
The National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin (NFB-W) opposes the recommendations of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for courses and seminar--or convention--clock hours because:
1. 825 licensure teachers are already required to take courses and continuing education seminars, which have never yet led to teachers who can read and write Braille, nor does DPI give any reason why these classes or instructional programs will work in the future;
2. By the time DPI finally discovers that a course, seminar, or convention does not work, it will be too late.
The National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin recommends that all teachers who wish to renew or be issued an 825 license pass either the Library of Congress NLS Literary Braille Test or its Braille Transcribers Test to demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing Braille.
The law requires that teachers demonstrate proficiency teaching Braille, and an 825 licensed teacher's function is to teach legally blind children blindness skills. The NFB of Wisconsin recommends that, before an 825 license is issued or renewed, teachers must submit to DPI a case study of an actual experience teaching Braille.
There you have the position paper that summarizes the views of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. On January 18 and 19, 1994, the Department of Public Instruction conducted hearings on the proposed rules for implementing Act 164. The weather was unspeakable, but that didn't stop members of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. The lives and futures of blind children were at stake, and a little cold weather was not about to stand in the way of the Federationists determined to change the status quo. This is the way Bonnie Peterson described the experience in a letter to the Braille Monitor:
February 7, 1994
Mrs. Barbara Pierce, Editor
On January 18 and 19 public hearings were held before the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop proposed rules for Act 164, the Braille Literacy Act. Wisconsin's law requires that teachers of the blind demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and teaching Braille to the satisfaction of the Superintendent of Public Schools.
On Tuesday, January 18, a severe cold front was going through Wisconsin. The temperature was thirty degrees below zero with a wind chill of sixty below. Schools were closed. At 1:30 that afternoon the state government officially shut down. Almost everything shut down except the DPI public hearing in Wausau. Bernadette Krajewski, President of the Green Bay Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, had previously scheduled a driver for the hearings. The person who had agreed to drive told Bernadette that anyone who went out in this weather was crazy (it was too dangerous) and refused to drive her at any price. In true Federation spirit Ms. Krajewski took a Greyhound bus for the two and a half hour trip to Wausau. The bus had no heat because of the extreme cold. She waited in a bus depot for an additional two hours until the time of the hearing.
Connie Miller, a board member of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, lives in Antigo, where public transportation is not available to Wausau. Ms. Miller spoke to three drivers who told her that she was insane if she planned to go out in that weather. They also refused to drive at any price. Finally Connie found someone who was just as crazy as she was and was willing to risk the trip to Wausau.
Sam Guelzow has a history of easily catching pneumonia. But nothing was going to stop him from fighting for Braille. Undaunted, Sam took the Wausau city busses (also without heat) to testify. No one but Federationists testified that day; not one teacher attended the Tuesday hearings.
A heat wave of two degrees above zero moved through Wisconsin on Wednesday, January 19. Federationists came from all over the state to testify about the importance of Braille instruction, the terrible problems they had personally had getting Braille instruction in Wisconsin, the need for the NLS Literary Braille test for all teachers of blind children, and the simplicity and ease with which Braille can be learned and used.
Only three teachers had courage enough to testify openly about what they really thought. Teachers said they felt people were pointing fingers at them and blaming them for the small number of blind children who knew Braille. They felt the Library of Congress test was discriminatory since math teachers don't have to take a test. They said we should blame the programs they graduated from. The final statement came from a teacher from Milwaukee who proudly declared that she did care about Braille. She explained that she taught twenty-six legally blind children and that one of them was actually learning Braille, but that she hoped he would never lose the rest of his sight and have to use it. Notice that she never said she knew Braille or that she could pass any test that was put before her--just that she cared about Braille. How much can you possibly care about a subject that you are teaching to only one out of twenty-six students and for which you hope the student will never have a use? Pity us all when the day comes that the math teachers say, "I do care about math...I teach one of my students math, and I hope he never has to use it." Sort of sums up the whole problem with AER, doesn't it?
The Department of Public Instruction has been flooded with written comments in addition to the oral testimony it gathered on January 18 and 19. Predictably that from teachers of visually impaired children has argued against the NLS test and the requirement for periodic competency testing. The teachers have continued to protest that they know Braille well enough to teach those students who absolutely have to have it and maintain that nobody much should learn Braille anymore. Blind adults and parents, on the other hand, have pleaded for Braille instruction for every child who can learn the code and who cannot use print efficiently and effectively.
One of the most interesting letters submitted came from Constance Risjord, who teaches review courses for teachers needing to brush up their Braille skills. She clearly believes in Braille and is knowledgeable. She is convinced that the Braille Literacy Act rules should include language requiring demonstration of competence in Nemeth mathematics code as well as literary Braille. Those close to the situation believe she hopes that her course would become popular if teachers really were required to demonstrate Braille competence. It should be pointed out that Ms. Risjord, like a number of others who have submitted comments to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, is confused as to whether the language of the Act itself is open to revision, which it is not, or whether the rules implementing it are under discussion. Here is the text of her letter to the Superintendent:
January 15, 1994
John T. Benson
Superintendent of Public Instruction
RE: Wisconsin Act 164
Dear Dr. Benson:
As a member of the Wisconsin Braille Standards Advisory Committee and a director on the boards of both NBA (National Braille Association, an educational organization dedicated to aiding Braille transcribers) and BANA (the Braille Authority of North America, the Braille code-setting agency for both Canada and the U.S.), I have a deep interest in Braille literacy and regard the proposed changes and additions to the 1991 Wisconsin Act 164 as extremely important. The drafting of this legislation must be done with great care, and the wording must be unambiguous.
It is obvious that the teaching of Braille has been given a back seat in the education of blind students for the past twenty or more years. As a consequence we now have a blind population with only marginal literacy and teachers who have inadequate training in Braille. Statistics of 1993 from the American Foundation for the Blind show that eighty-eight percent of severely visually impaired students do not know Braille, less than ten percent of adults with severe vision loss use Braille, seventy percent of blind adults are unemployed, and sixty-four percent of the blind unemployed do not know Braille. On the other hand, those fortunate few who had teachers who recognized the importance of Braille and could teach it well have prospered. Of employed blind persons, ninety-one percent read Braille, and of those, eighty-five percent use Braille as their primary reading method.
The National Literary Braille Competency Test was developed by the National Library Service of the Library of Congress to test simple, basic Braille skills. As a member of the advisory committee that developed that test, I feel certain that it is a fair test, not designed to be tricky or devious. This is such a basic test that anyone who cannot pass it should not be employed to teach Braille. Even so, I am told that teachers do not want to be required to take the test. Why is that?
My experience in teaching a refresher course in Literary Braille to ten seasoned Braille teachers last year may provide a clue. At the time they enrolled in my class only one stood a chance of passing the NLS competency test. In their instruction many of them were relying on manuals containing outdated codes that they had used in university courses many years ago. They were unaware that there have been major changes in the Braille code that affect the way abbreviations, symbols, and foreign words, to mention a few, are transcribed into Braille. Most of them had no working knowledge of the Nemeth (math) code, and none of them knew the Braille computer code.
Because there have been no requirements demanding that teachers of Braille take refresher courses and stay up-to-date in the field, they are not preparing blind children for advanced education. Preparing blind students for higher education or jobs must be the prime goal of the teacher. A student in today's world who is not fluent in Braille reading, including math and science, and is not computer-literate doesn't stand a chance of competing against sighted peers.
In my work as chair of the Literary Braille Committee for NBA and as a consultant to the Literary Braille Technical Committee of BANA, I travel all over the country giving workshops on literary Braille. These workshops help keep transcribers up- to-date on the latest thinking and changes in the Braille code. Few teachers attend these sessions, and in fact few teachers of my acquaintance understand the function of these organizations. The fault here lies with the teachers' professional organizations that do not acquaint them with the wealth of help and information that is available. The only state that attempts to combine teachers and transcribers in training sessions such as I give is California.
There are those who say that it isn't fair to test Braille teachers every five years when other teachers don't have to go through the same ordeal. A teacher in the regular classroom teaches the same subjects year after year. On the other hand a vision teacher may not have a Braille-reading student for several years in a row. Nevertheless, this teacher must be prepared to teach Braille whenever the challenge arises. Braille skills are quickly lost and therefore must be practiced constantly. In addition, Braille rules do change, and teachers must be aware of and prepared to communicate those changes.
I favor giving teachers of the visually impaired a choice of either a test or a refresher course every five years as a prerequisite to the renewal of their teaching license. However, the choices must be equitable. Teachers must be able to demonstrate through either a test or a course which culminates in a test that they are knowledgeable in basic literary Braille and the Nemeth code. That is not what the bill says now. The present proposed legislation states that a teacher may either take the NLS test with no math requirement or take a course in which math is required. This is not a fair choice. The teacher without math skills (and therefore unable to teach this essential field to blind students) can simply opt for the NLS test, pass it, and continue teaching.
Another problem I see with this wording is the clouded term "technology." What is that? Does that mean that teachers must know and teach how to use all the Braille direct input and translation programs, scanners, and bridging programs? Does it mean that they should be able to teach the use of devices such as the Braille 'n Speak? Or does it mean teaching the use of the Perkins Braillewriter--or even the slate and stylus?
What exactly is a "student evaluation component"? Is it a test? If it is, the statute should say so. If it isn't, the term should be carefully and clearly explained.
In the copy of the proposed amendments that I received in December, Section 3, PI 3.03 (2) (f) is clearly headed Visually impaired license renewal. In Section 4. PI 3.31 (3), however, there is no heading or lead statement that explains to whom these provisions apply. I assume that they are meant for new graduates or transfers from out-of-state. That too should be clearly stated.
In conclusion I favor the bill but feel that the wording is far too ambiguous and needs a great deal of work to clearly define the requirements. I favor the use of the NLS test, because, as I said, it is a good, basic test. However, I think that the state of Wisconsin should devise and add to the NLS test a test in basic math. Only then will the choices presented to teachers for acquiring or renewing teaching licenses be fair to teachers and assure future blind students the fullest possible educational opportunities.
Soon the Superintendent of Public Instruction will have to make his rule recommendations. Those in turn will face examination and public hearings before the education committees of both the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly. No one can now predict what the outcome will be.
Powerful forces are ranged against blind people and the parents of blind children. No one can remember the last time anyone successfully stood up to the teachers union, which is firmly supporting the teachers who don't want to teach Braille. In recent weeks one newspaper publisher and one television commentator have come out in support of those who believe that blind children have the right to be taught Braille by teachers who actually know the code. If more of the media take courage from these two men, perhaps the children of Wisconsin will not lose out once again.
This much can be said. The lines have clearly been drawn in Wisconsin. On one side are those who believe in the importance, usefulness, and relative simplicity of Braille. They see the literacy rate among blind children in their state falling, and they assume that only when the teachers are confident in their own Braille skills will this trend be reversed. On the other side are those who are convinced that Braille no longer has a place in the education of most blind students. They fear and resent the idea that they could be required to demonstrate competence in reading, writing, and teaching Braille. Bonnie Peterson points out that teachers of multiply-handicapped sighted children in Wisconsin have been supportive of the Federation's fight for Braille. They stress the importance of giving multiply- handicapped youngsters every tool that may help them in the future. Since they teach their students to read print, it seems obvious to them that blind multiply-handicapped children should have the chance to learn whatever Braille they can.
It is regrettable that such confusion has been stirred up by those who profess to have the best interests of their students at heart. It is even more unfortunate that it is the blind children of Wisconsin who are likely to suffer. Regardless of what happens in the Wisconsin Legislature, the National Federation of the Blind has no intention of abandoning its support for Braille instruction and competence for teachers of the blind. The latest skirmish is drawing to a climax in Wisconsin, but as always with the National Federation of the Blind, the war will not end until we have secured the victory.
BRAILLE COMPETENCY TEST READY FOR USE
From the Editor: The following press release was issued by the National Library Service on January ?***, 1994. It marks an important milestone in the blindness field's effort to devise a fair and impartial way of demonstrating the competency of those licensed as teachers of blind children to read and write Braille with reasonable skill. Here is the release:
On January 7, 1994, the National Literary Braille Competency Test was released for use by all interested parties.
The test is intended primarily for teachers of children and adults. It is designed to allow candidates to demonstrate a basic competency in literary Braille. The test is composed of three parts: part one, writing skills, asks the candidate to transcribe materials using a slate and a Braillewriter; part two, reading skills, requires the candidate to identify errors in a brief Braille selection; and part three, multiple choice, presents the candidate with twenty-five questions on the literary Braille code.
Since January, 1943, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, has been responsible for the development of training materials and certification programs for Braille transcribers and proofreaders. These programs were designed for the certification of volunteers producing Braille texts for educational and leisure reading.
For some time educators and consumer groups have been concerned about the quality and quantity of Braille instruction that blind children are receiving in school. In 1989 the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort asked the Library of Congress to explore the feasibility of creating a national certification program in Braille for teachers.
The Library, of course, readily agreed; and our Braille Development Section immediately began the planning process. An advisory committee composed of educators, rehabilitation teachers, transcribers, and consumers was established to study the feasibility of developing a test of Braille competency for teachers. This committee recommended that NLS develop certification tests in the primary Braille codes for teachers.
In 1991 an editorial committee was formed to advise on the development of the test. They developed guidelines for:
Content of the test. It was determined that the test would not attempt to measure teaching methodology but only subject matter knowledge. Universities would be encouraged to continue to address methodology as a part of their teacher- preparation programs. State departments of education and professional standards boards would be encouraged to develop their own tests of methodology as needed.
Credibility protection of the test. Issues included number of equated tests, frequency of revision, and statements prohibiting reproduction.
Reading level of the test. It was decided to create one test for teachers for all educational levels; and
Multiple versions of the test to the same location. The trial test was sent to the editorial committee in the spring of 1992. Ten reviewers in the United States and Canada evaluated the test. After the test and instructions were revised, the peer review took place during the summer of 1992. Forty-five people in fifteen states and Canada, who had been recommended or had expressed interest, were sent copies of the test. Again revisions were made. In 1993 four forms of the final test were developed and made ready for use.
Concurrent with its release, the National Literary Braille Competency Test is undergoing a process of validation. Until the formalities of this process have been completed, all of those who ask to take the test will be informed of the pending validation.
The National Literary Braille Competency Test has been developed with every possible consideration for test content and testing rigor. NLS staff will carefully monitor its use in the field and stand ready to make whatever modifications and accommodations are necessary in order to facilitate the achievement of stated goals.
For further information contact Frank Kurt Cylke, Director, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, 1291 Taylor Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20542; or call (202) 707-5104 or fax (202) 707- 0712.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The seats at the front of the meeting room fill up early for the 5:00 p.m. briefing on the Sunday afternoon of Washington Seminar. Here Federationists listen attentively as president Maurer reports on recent NFB projects.]
THE WASHINGTON SEMINAR: HOPE AND HARD WORK
by Barbara Pierce
Most Federationists who stream into the nation's capital at the end of January each year for the National Federation of the Blind's Washington Seminar come hoping for a preview of spring weather to carry them through the last hard weeks of winter. Those from Florida come with the wish to see a little snow as a change of pace from the sunshine and blue skies of their state. This year it was the Floridians who were gratified by the Washington weather. But nothing could chill the enthusiasm and energy of the more than four hundred people who settled in for seminars, tours of the National Center for the Blind, and meetings with Members of congress beginning January 28 with pre- seminar meetings and ending February 2, 1994.
As usual, the first event on the crowded calendar was the Mid-Winter Conference of students sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students. The theme this year was "Broadening Horizons," and it was filled with inspirational presentations and useful information. President Maurer addressed the banquet Saturday evening and urged his listeners to dedicate themselves to true education and the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
For about a hundred Federationists Sunday began with a tour of the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. Others enjoyed sightseeing during the morning, but most were back at the hotel for the afternoon seminars. At 1:00 p.m. the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, conducted a seminar entitled, "Parents, the NFB, and the Legislative Process." The event drew a standing-room-only crowd. Presenters discussed effective ways of presenting issues of concern to legislators, gave detailed information about the Braille literacy bill we would be discussing on the Hill that week, and provided ideas for building and strengthening parent divisions in state affiliates across the country.
At 2:00 p.m. the annual Associates workshop took place and concluded in time for participants to attend the gathering-in meeting for the actual Washington Seminar, which began at 5:00 p.m. President Maurer reported on recent activities and projects of the organization nationally, and Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, discussed the legislative issues of the seminar in some detail. Copies of the legislative memorandum and fact sheets in print and on cassette had been circulating all weekend long, so many people were already familiar with the issues and could ask specific questions about organizational strategy. The texts of these documents are printed elsewhere in this issue.
As always, Sandy Halverson and her staff of hard-working volunteers did a masterly job of disbursing the material for the Congressional packets and maintaining the schedule of appointments and the reports and assessments of each one as they came in. The result was that Mr. Gashel had revised printouts of the data at his fingertips at the close of each day. The entire operation is conducted in Braille, which demonstrates its effectiveness and sophistication and the importance of Braille technology to blind people.
One of the primary benefits of the Washington Seminar is the increased interest in our legislative concerns that our visits stir up on Capitol Hill. This year, as a direct result of our meetings with Members of Congress, the number of co-sponsors of H.R.794, the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act, jumped during the week following our visit from forty-five to seventy, and the number is still climbing. Several Representatives and Senators expressed interest in introducing the Braille Literacy bill, and Congressman Austin Murphy, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor Standards, Occupational Health and Safety in the House of Representatives, made arrangements to conduct a hearing on amending the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect the right of blind sheltered shop workers to earn the minimum wage. That hearing is scheduled to take place in early March.
One of the matters we discussed with Members of Congress this year was the 1995 budget for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). In addition to individual conversations, well over a hundred Federationists crowded the hall outside a hearing room on the House side of the Capitol Wednesday afternoon to demonstrate their concern about this matter as members of the House Legislative Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony from Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service. On February 8 President Maurer himself offered testimony in support of NLS to that sub-committee on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind. See the following article for the text of his comment.
With the NLS budget hearing before the Legislative Appropriations Subcommittee, the 1994 Washington Seminar ended. A few Federationists went on to keep late-afternoon appointments with Members of Congress, but most people set out for home and the follow-up work that is so important in the ongoing education of our legislators. As always the entire experience was intellectually stimulating, informative, and simultaneously energizing and exhausting. It is deeply satisfying to know that the organized blind have found a voice and that it is increasingly heard and heeded in matters concerning blind people among the nation's legislators.
[PHOTO: Mr. Maurer standing at head table podium microphone. CAPTION: President Maurer addresses Federationists at this year's Washington Seminar.]
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON LEGISLATIVE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
by Marc Maurer
Mr. Chairman, my name is Marc Maurer. I am the President of the National Federation of the Blind. My address is 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. I am appearing today on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind to support the appropriations request of the Library of Congress for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). As you know, the Library has requested approximately $50,000,000 for the NLS program for fiscal year 1995. This is up from $42,713,000 appropriated for fiscal year 1994. The increase, which is certainly not a program expansion, is necessary to maintain this program at its current level and to ensure future viability of this service.
The experience of the members of the National Federation of the Blind (numbering now more than 50,000 people throughout the United States, most of whom are blind) is that the Books for the Blind Program of the Library of Congress is perhaps the most significant and crucial service for the blind that exists. It touches the lives of virtually all blind people. The blind student hunting course material, the blind mechanic seeking background documentation on the modern mechanisms in automobiles, the blind physicist trying to learn of the most recent scientific developments, the blind homemaker searching for recipes and hints for performing household tasks--all of these and thousands more need the services of the Library.
The Books for the Blind Program provides not only entertainment but much more. Intellectual stimulation, access to current events, necessary information to hold a job, plans and suggestions for hobbies, the classics of literature, the histories of nations and civilizations, foreign language materials, music, maps, the latest best sellers--they all come from the Library. The Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Program of the Library of Congress might very well be regarded as exemplary, but it cannot continue to provide even acceptable service unless it receives necessary funding.
Braille books, tape-recorded books and magazines, and books and magazines on record are all part of the program. The tape materials and those provided on record are produced at half normal speed to ensure the protection of copyright. Therefore, the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides small record players known as talking book machines and cassette players to library borrowers so that readers of these books can hear them. The tapes and records will not play on an ordinary stereo or cassette machine.
If a person becomes blind (and it is estimated that there are between six and eight hundred thousand blind people in the United States), access to the printed word is no longer easy to get. The readership of the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped program is currently estimated at 769,000. Readership is increasing. Most blind people in the United States use the Library of Congress program. For the sighted there are newspapers, bookstores, and the mail. Airports have bookstores; shopping malls often have more than one. There are book clubs and public libraries. There are magazine distributors with their million-dollar sweepstakes and door-to-door sellers offering to provide magazines. The racks at supermarket counters are filled with newspapers, magazines, and books. The paper boxes on the street corners offer them to the pedestrian or the driver passing by. The American Booksellers Association estimates that there are 15,000 bookstores in the nation. The printed word is universal--but not for the blind. For us the program to provide books and magazines is the Library. There is no other good source of reading matter. If a blind person wants the written word, the place to get it is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
This past fall my nine-year-old son told me that he wanted to join the Cub Scouts--a new scout pack was forming at his school. The cub master asked me if I could help; the pack needed an assistant scout leader. Although I had never been a scout, I agreed to serve. However, to be an assistant scout leader I needed information. Where was I to get it? The obvious answer was the Library. I borrowed two books to read about Cub Scouting from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
As President of the National Federation of the Blind I am the administrator for the largest organization of blind people in the United States. Although I have been blind all of my life, I received an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from Indiana University. I have been practicing law for over fifteen years. During all of my adult life and almost all of my childhood, I have looked to the Library of Congress for the books I needed. This program for the blind is not merely a convenience; it is a necessity for the blind.
I urge you to fund this program at no less than the $50,000,000 level requested. Although the Library of Congress Books for the Blind Program is vital to the lives of the blind, it cannot offer the service that ought to be provided unless it receives adequate funding. Upwards of a hundred blind people from throughout the United States appeared at a hearing of this committee on February second to listen to the testimony of the director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke. These people were sent by the thousands of members of the National Federation of the Blind to be the representatives of those in the chapters back home who could not come to Washington. More than forty states were represented.
During recent years the funding requests for the Books for the Blind Program have not been met. This has meant that the number of titles that can be produced by the Library has diminished. The small record players and tape recorders used in the program must be maintained, and replacements must be built. The number of these machines which are breaking down is increasing, and the stock of replacements is dwindling. Furthermore, research into the best techniques for providing books and materials in the twenty-first century cannot be pursued without the funding to do it. The $50,000,000 being requested will maintain the program and prevent further shrinkage. With the Library of Congress Books for the Blind Program in place, the prospects for blind people's being able to contribute to our society increase. Providing blind people with the means to get information is not only good for the blind but good for our country as a whole.
Mr. Chairman, we of the National Federation of the Blind appreciate very much this opportunity to come before the Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations. Attached to our written statement is a fact sheet including background material about the urgent need for appropriations to the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped program. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel (left) stands with Melissa Williamson from Alabama; Congressman Peter Visclosky of Indiana; and Paul Howard (right), President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana; in front of the U.S. Capitol.]
1994 LEGISLATIVE MEMORANDUM AND FACT SHEETS
From the Editor: When Federationists gather each year for the NFB Washington Seminar in early February, we can depend upon having copies of our legislative memorandum and detailed fact sheets about each issue we will be discussing with members of Congress. At the 1994 seminar we had four matters of particular concern: sufficient funding for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the introduction of language into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that would provide blind children across the country with the right to Braille literacy, inclusion of severely disabled people on the list of minorities covered by Sections 7(J) and 8(A) of the Small Business Act, and minimum wage protection for blind workers in sheltered shops. Here are the texts of the memorandum and the four fact sheets for 1994:
For more information contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA, 1994
From: Members of the National Federation of the Blind
To: Members of the 103rd Congress
Re: Legislative Priorities of Blind Americans
Public policies and laws affecting blind people have a profound impact on our entire society. Most people know someone who is blind. It may be a friend, a family member, or a co-worker on the job. The blind population in the U. S. is estimated to exceed 700,000. Fifty thousand Americans become blind each year. By themselves these numbers may not seem large, but the social and economic consequences of blindness directly touch the lives of millions. In the form of its social consequences, and to some extent its economic consequences, blindness affects virtually everyone.
Blind people as a group are engaged in a common struggle for understanding of what blindness means and public acceptance of our ability to compete on terms of equality if given the chance. More than a matter of physical disability, the real problems of blindness are lack of good training, lack of opportunity, and lack of correct information about blindness among employers and members of the public at large. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, the physical loss of eyesight itself can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance.
Public policies and laws that result from misconceptions about blindness or lack of information are often more limiting than loss of eyesight itself. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation is a private-sector resource of knowledge, encouragement, and support for blind people in the United States and increasingly throughout the world. The Federation's leaders and the vast majority of the members are blind, but membership is open to anyone who wants to join in the effort we are making to win understanding and equality in society. Blind people are well organized at the community, grassroots level throughout the United States. Our policy positions are developed and determined by vote of the blind themselves. This is why the Federation is known by lawmakers and the public as the "voice of the nation's blind." Our priorities for the second session of the 103rd Congress express our assessment of issues requiring particular action by Congress on behalf of the blind this year.
(1) Congress should restore funding for the "Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped" program of the Library of Congress to meet critical service needs. Access to information is crucial in today's society. Without access to books, magazines, and other materials, blind people will not be able to acquire the knowledge and information necessary to compete on equal terms. For sixty-three years the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress has been producing books for the blind and for others with physical disabilities which prevent them from reading standard print. Currently 769,000 individuals depend upon the NLS services.
There are approximately 40,000 new books published in ink print in the United States each year. Only a fraction of these ever find their way into Braille or sound-recorded forms designed for use by the blind. Apart from volunteer groups and some other specialty producers, NLS is the only book and magazine reproduction source at work for blind people. Because appropriations for the program have not kept pace with inflation in recent years, the number of books being transcribed into Braille or recorded form is declining as a percentage of the total number of books published in the U. S. In a society whose members increasingly depend upon access to information for successful living, blind people cannot afford to endure this growing gap in access to knowledge. Therefore, appropriations for FY 1995 should be approved at a level which is at least consistent with the amount expected to be in the President's budget request. The Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Program of the Library of Congress might very well be regarded as an exemplary program, but it cannot continue to provide even acceptable service unless it receives necessary funding. For more details and an explanation of the need for appropriations, see the fact sheet entitled "Funding Needed for Books for the Blind."
(2) Congress should amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to include provisions for strengthening programs of Braille literacy instruction and the cost-effective transcription of instructional materials into Braille. This can be done by enacting the "Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act." Goal five of the National Education Goals declares that by the year 2,000 "Every adult American will be literate...." For blind people this means having the ability to read and write in Braille at a level of proficiency which makes performance on equal terms possible. Without legislative change today's blind children will not be able to meet this national goal.
As many as thirty-one percent of the blind students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in the U. S. during the last school year were classified as "non-readers." Fewer than nine percent read Braille. Current federal and state laws require that an appropriate educational opportunity must be provided to children with disabilities. Each such child is to have an individually planned program of instruction to meet identified needs, but growing illiteracy for blind children has been the result. Remedial federal legislation, similar to laws now enacted in twenty-one states, can help to reverse this trend. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act."
(3) Congress should enact the Americans With Disabilities Business Development Act. This proposal seeks amendments to the Small Business Act so that programs authorized to assist minority-owned small businesses, conducted under section 8(a) of the Act, will be open to persons with disabilities. The Section 8(a) program is designed to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged and to promote the competitive viability of businesses owned and operated by them. To achieve these goals, Section 8(a) authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to enter into all types of contracts with government departments and agencies for supply, service, construction, and research and development. Small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons can be eligible to receive subcontracts to fulfill SBA's procurement obligations. Technical assistance is also made available to minority small business concerns.
This proposal is simply the recognition of disability as a condition of minority status for participation in SBA's targeted efforts to provide economic and technical assistance to members of minority groups. The social and economic disadvantages which accompany disabilities are well known and beyond dispute. The problem for SBA has been to define disability and the extent of the class of individuals included. To resolve that issue, the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act excludes minor or perceived disabilities from the term "disability," as it is defined in the bill. Another problem has been SBA's lack of legal authority to presume that people with disabilities are socially disadvantaged in the absence of a clear legislative mandate. The Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act will provide that mandate. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act."
(4) Congress should enact amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit paying workers who are blind less than the statutory minimum wage. This proposal is designed to achieve wage equity for blind employees. The proposal would amend section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify that impaired vision or blindness could not be used by an employer as the basis for obtaining an exemption from paying the minimum wage. Subminimum wage certificates, now permitted by law, could be issued to employers for hiring people with "impairments" that actually affect productivity. However, it has never been demonstrated that, in the types of work settings in which subminimum wages are ordinarily paid, blindness has any negative impact on worker capacity to produce.
The passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has granted equal protection under the law to individuals with disabilities. Under the ADA denying disabled employees opportunities based on disability is now prohibited in most places of employment. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act still contains exemption provisions under which approximately 2,000 blind people are paid less than the minimum wage. This occurs in special work settings with employers known as sheltered workshops. These employers pay as low as half the minimum wage or even less for jobs in which sighted people are paid $4.25 an hour or even more. Shockingly, the federal government is behind the discriminatory wage practices through purchasing products made by the workshops and determining the price to be paid. With changes in the minimum wage expected to be considered by Congress this year, these practices must cease. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "Wage Equity For Blind Employees."
People who are blind are asking for your help in securing positive action by Congress in the areas outlined here. Legislative proposals will be offered to achieve each of our specific objectives. Many priorities confront this session of Congress, but the needs of the nation's blind must not be overlooked. We of the National Federation of the Blind stand ready to assist our Representatives and Senators to understand our needs and to take meaningful action to address them. In partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each member of Congress can help build better lives for the blind both today and in the years ahead.
FACT SHEET FUNDING NEEDED FOR BOOKS FOR THE BLIND
BACKGROUND: Due to the inability to read standard printed matter, blind persons of all ages must have access to books and materials especially prepared in formats for their use. The Federal government has recognized this fact by establishing a program through which books and general circulation magazines are reproduced for national distribution in Braille and sound- recorded editions. The program is known as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and is operated as part of the Library of Congress.
The NLS program is the centerpiece of library services available to individuals who qualify in all parts of the United States. The service is provided to those who need it without regard to geographic location. All materials are distributed by mail free of charge to the reader. Those who qualify to receive reading matter through the NLS program are persons who cannot read standard ink print information because of blindness or another physical disability which prevents them from using ordinary print. There are an estimated 769,000 individuals who will use the service during fiscal year 1994. The readership is composed of ninety-two percent who are blind and eight percent who have other disabilities which prevent reading print for education or enjoyment.
SCOPE AND FUNDING OF EXISTING SERVICES: The primary mission of NLS is to select, produce, and distribute books and magazines in Braille and sound-recorded formats. The recorded formats include audio discs and tape cassettes. Disc and cassette players which are especially designed for use with the NLS reading matter are provided to readers without charge. Virtually all readers, including those who borrow some material in Braille, use the recorded media and must have the machines to use the service. To the extent necessary NLS supplies repair parts and replacement machines to minimize service interruptions. Actual distribution of both the reading matter and the machines (including repair and replacement) occurs through a network of cooperating libraries which function at the state and local levels.
Actual appropriations for this program for FY 1994 are $42,713,000. At this funding level 348 books and twenty-seven popular magazines will be reproduced in Braille with sufficient copies made for distribution to the network libraries. Several copies of most books are supplied to meet expected circulation demands. A similar plan is followed for the recorded media. During FY 1994, 1,681 books and forty-four magazines will be reproduced in disc or cassette tape formats. Machines needed for the recorded media will also be purchased and distributed, including 12,000 disc players and 57,711 cassette players. Books and Braille musical scores will also be added to the NLS national collection, which circulates to borrowers anywhere in the country.
REQUESTED APPROPRIATIONS: Congress should restore funding for the "Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped" program of the Library of Congress to meet critical service needs. The current funding level of $42,713,000 is $3,900,000 below the President's FY 1994 budget request and $431,000 below the actual amount appropriated for FY 1993. The current level is only $529,000 above the actual funding level approved for FY 1992 and $1,500,000 above 1991. The 1994 amount appropriated is four percent above the 1991 amount.
Appropriations for books for the blind are included in title II of the bill making appropriations for the Legislative Branch. This title also includes sums for overall salaries and expenses of the Library of Congress, the Copyright Office, and other items, excluding the Congressional Research Service. During the period beginning with FY 1991 through FY 1994, salaries and expenses for the Library of Congress have grown by ten percent. Funding for the Copyright Office has grown by thirteen percent. The Congressional Research Service, funded under another section of the same bill, has grown by eight percent. At the same time the books for the blind program has declined in funding considering inflation.
CRITICAL SERVICE NEEDS: The recent shortfall in appropriations has resulted in a need to repair or replace much of the now outdated equipment used for the recorded disc and cassette materials. Broken machines are the crumbling infrastructure of the NLS program. When these machines do not work, the patron's use of the service stops altogether. Without adequate appropriations for FY 1995, lack of service due to equipment failures will threaten the future viability of this service. As the appropriations numbers show, funding for the books for the blind program has not kept pace with the rate of increases granted to other activities of the Library of Congress in recent years. However, requests for service are increasing steadily from a growing readership. In light of these needs Congress must approve funding for FY 1995 at a level which will help to get this program back on track.
There are approximately 40,000 new books published in ink print in the United States each year. Only a fraction of these ever find their way into Braille or sound-recorded forms designed for use by the blind. Apart from volunteer groups and some other specialty producers, NLS is the only book and magazine reproduction source at work for blind people. Because appropriations for the program have not increased in recent years, the number of books being transcribed into Braille or recorded form is declining as a percentage of the total number of books published in the U. S. In a society whose members increasingly depend upon access to information for successful living, blind people cannot afford to endure this growing gap in access to knowledge. Therefore, appropriations for FY 1995 should be approved at a level which is at least consistent with the President's budget request.
FACT SHEET BLIND PERSONS' LITERACY RIGHTS AND EDUCATION ACT
BACKGROUND: The National Literacy Act of 1991 defines "literacy" as "An individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society; to achieve one's goals; and to develop one's knowledge and potential." This definition points up the critical importance of emphasizing high-quality literacy training programs for all Americans. For blind Americans, especially school-age youth, the need is no less critical. Yet surprisingly few students who are blind or visually impaired receive instruction in Braille as a part of their elementary and secondary education programs.
Blind students are generally defined as those who see less than ten percent of what is seen by someone with normal eyesight. During the present school year there are approximately 50,204 such children enrolled at the elementary and secondary levels in the U. S. Only 4,385 of these students read Braille. The vast majority use print materials even in situations in which reading with sight is an unrewarding, never-ending daily struggle. Educators often resist teaching Braille until students are unable to make any progress at all in school by using print. As a result, Braille has become not the method of choice but the method of last resort.
EXISTING LAW: The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contains federal standards for special education and related services to be provided to children with disabilities throughout the U.S. The most important standard is that each such child is entitled to a "free appropriate public education." Education agencies, both state and local, receive Federal funding to assist in meeting this mandate. When special education services are provided to a child, there must be an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to describe the needs of the child for special instruction, the services to be provided, and the goals to be achieved. The law also requires the use of qualified personnel to deliver services. Federal funds are available to support personnel training programs.
The components of an "appropriate education" are not strictly defined in IDEA. As a result it is easy and tempting for school personnel to determine a child's needs largely on the basis of the school's capacity (or lack of capacity) to provide special instruction or services. This being the case, blind students who may have even a limited ability to read print are guided toward receiving instruction in that form instead of using Braille. Procedural safeguards, including the right to challenge decisions through administrative and court appeals, exist under IDEA, but such proceedings are time-consuming and costly in financial and educational resources.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to include provisions for strengthening programs of Braille literacy instruction and the cost-effective transcription of instructional materials into Braille. This proposal, entitled the "Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act," is patterned after laws with a similar purpose which twenty-one states have now enacted. The following provisions are included: (1) definitions of the terms "blind or visually impaired children" and "Braille Literacy Plan," including a presumption in favor of teaching Braille for such children; (2) specification of requirements for a Braille Literacy Plan to be included in the IEP of each child whose vision restriction meets the definition of "blind or visually impaired"; (3) specification of standards and procedures to insure that qualified personnel are provided for Braille instruction; and (4) specification of purchasing conditions to insure that each edition of a text or other material obtained is also supplied in an electronically stored digital text format.
The Braille Literacy Plan required for each blind student will assure an individualized literacy skills assessment. Braille for many may not be the exclusive literacy tool, but its potential usefulness even to those who can also read some printed matter must not be overlooked. To the extent necessary as determined and stated in the IEP, Braille instruction would be provided so that the literacy skills of blind and visually impaired students are generally on a par with literacy skills achieved by sighted students of comparable ability and grade level. Wider availability of Braille materials and competent instruction in their use will be essential in achieving this goal. Therefore, provisions for teacher training and cost- effective provision of texts on standard computer diskettes have been included.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: It is the policy of our nation as stated in the National Education Goals that by the year 2000 "Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship." In order for blind adults to achieve this goal, literacy instruction must be strengthened for children. The direction of current trends and educational programming shows that this goal will not be achieved without deliberate corrective action. According to official child count figures supplied annually by state and local education agencies, thirty-one percent of the blind students at the elementary and secondary levels are "nonreaders," and that percentage increases every year. The number who read Braille is correspondingly declining.
The experience gathered in many states over several years shows that a legislative response is needed to reverse this trend of growing illiteracy among blind school-age youth. Amendments to IDEA, expected to be considered by Congress during 1994, would provide the most appropriate vehicle for this urgently needed remedial legislation. By passing the "Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act," Congress can provide the leadership to ensure that blind students graduate from our nation's schools literate and armed with the necessary skills to be first-class citizens of our society.
FACT SHEET AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ACT: H. R. 794
BACKGROUND: Persons who are blind and persons with disabilities in general have traditionally had few opportunities to become employed and even fewer opportunities to establish and maintain their own businesses. This does not reflect a general lack of ability among this population. It does reflect a lack of opportunity and financial support necessary to achieve success in the competitive business world. Prejudices and fears of employers have left nearly eighty percent of employable people who are blind either unemployed or substantially underemployed.
Congress has recently sought to address this situation by enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, most employers are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of disability. Regardless of enforcement activities, the ADA is expected to improve work force opportunities for persons with disabilities. But complete equality will require more than employment rights. This fact has been recognized in our government's efforts to underwrite and support economic development programs among members of other traditionally disadvantaged minorities.
EXISTING LAW: Sections 8(a) and 7(j) of the Small Business Act establish a Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program to be conducted by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This program is intended in part to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged and to promote the competitive viability of businesses owned and operated by them. To achieve these goals, Section 8(a) authorizes SBA to enter into all types of contracts with government departments and agencies for supply, service, construction, and research and development. Small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons can be eligible to receive subcontracts to fulfill SBA's procurement obligations. Section 7(j) of the Small Business Act authorizes SBA to provide technical or management assistance to individuals or minority small business concerns.
Participation in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program is open to anyone who can qualify as both socially and economically disadvantaged. Participants eligible by definition include members of racial and ethnic minorities. Other individuals not included by definition may be found eligible upon application to SBA. Criteria for determining social and economic disadvantage are not clearly specified in law or regulations. As a result, program participants are almost exclusively members of the defined minority groups.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should enact the Americans With Disabilities Business Development Act. This bill has been introduced by Congressman Jim Ramstad as H. R. 794 during the first session of the 103rd Congress for the purpose of amending the Small Business Act "to authorize small business concerns owned and controlled by individuals with disabilities to participate in business development programs established by that Act." Mr. Ramstad's bill amends several sections of the Small Business Act to include individuals with severe disabilities as a defined minority group for purposes of eligibility in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program.
This proposal is simply the recognition of disability as a condition of minority status for participation in SBA's targeted efforts to provide economic and technical assistance to members of minority groups. The social and economic disadvantages which accompany disabilities are well known and beyond dispute. The problem for SBA has been to define disability and the extent of the class of individuals included. To resolve that issue, Mr. Ramstad's bill excludes minor or perceived disabilities from the term "disability" as it is defined in the bill. Another problem has been SBA's lack of legal authority to presume that people with disabilities are socially disadvantaged in the absence of a clear legislative mandate. Mr. Ramstad's bill, backed by the impetus provided by the ADA, will provide that mandate.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: Defined minority status is a distinct advantage in obtaining section 8(a) eligibility. Proof of both social and economic disadvantage can be both time-consuming and expensive. SBA appears to have great discretion in determining eligibility based on social and economic disadvantage, especially for applicants who are members of non-defined minority groups. It is difficult to challenge the decisions made by SBA in this area because the eligibility criteria are so vague.
Firms needing SBA's assistance cannot afford the time and expense of application delays and appeals. In the absence of defined minority status, business failures and bankruptcies can result. This has been the experience of an owner of a Tennessee sand and gravel business who is blind and is still waiting after many years for approval of his minority business enterprise application. After finally agreeing that he was both socially and economically disadvantaged, SBA then disapproved his application on the grounds that the business had not been in operation for the past two years. This is only one example of what happens to applicants who are truly disadvantaged but must first prove their minority status before they can even be considered. Congress should resolve this injustice by amending the Small Business Act to include individuals with severe disabilities as a defined minority group.
FACT SHEET WAGE EQUITY FOR BLIND EMPLOYEES
BACKGROUND: The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) enacted into law the principle that individuals with disabilities are entitled to equal treatment in all areas of life. Title I of the ADA mandates that individuals with disabilities must be given equal employment opportunity. But for blind people who work in special work settings, known as "sheltered workshops," the ADA mandate for equality has made little difference in the pay received. This is so because agencies which operate the shops can be exempt from certain provisions of another federal law (the Fair Labor Standards Act) in order to pay employees less than the otherwise applicable statutory minimum wage. An estimated 2,000 blind employees are paid less than the federal minimum wage of $4.25 an hour. Although in theory any employer can qualify for exempting certain individuals from the minimum wage, the practice of seeking exemptions is most commonly found in the seventy-seven workshops which hire blind people to make products bought by the federal government under special procurement arrangements. In spite of some advancements made toward integrated employment opportunities for blind people, these workshops are still the largest single employer of the blind in the U. S. Filling federal orders is a principal activity. For example the workshops are a major supplier of paper pads and ball-point pens used by virtually all government agencies. Few people realize that the workers who make these products are often paid less than the minimum wage.
EXISTING LAW: Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act requires the Secretary of Labor to grant exemptions from the minimum wage to employers who hire workers whose "earning or productive capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency, or injury." The principle stated in the law is that subminimum wages are permitted "to the extent necessary to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment." This principle is largely rhetorical since there has never been a finding that employment opportunities would decline if subminimum wage permission were to be withdrawn.
There is no legal lower limit on wages below the statutory minimum. Employers, not the Department of Labor, determine the pay rates. Affected employees may complain and seek redress of grievances in individual wage disputes after the fact, but recovery of back wages is limited to actual compensation due for no more than two years in most cases. Legal pay rates below the minimum wage are supposed to be based on individual productivity as compared to standard productivity achieved by unimpaired people for essentially the same type, quality, and quantity of work performed.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should enact amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit paying workers who are blind less than the statutory minimum wage. This proposal is designed to achieve wage equity for blind employees. Without the exemption all employers, including the sheltered workshops, would be required to apply the same pay standards to everyone, regardless of sight or the lack thereof. The minimum wage exemption in largely its current form was originally granted in 1938 along with enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Philosophically, if not legally, it is now inconsistent with more enlightened employment policies affecting blind people.
The proposal would amend section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify that impaired vision or blindness could not be used by an employer as the basis for obtaining an exemption from paying the minimum wage. Subminimum wage certificates could be issued to employers for hiring people with impairments that actually affect productivity. However, it has never been demonstrated that, in the types of work settings in which subminimum wages are ordinarily paid, blindness has any negative impact on worker capacity to produce.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: The 1986 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act extended important new appeal rights to persons employed under subminimum wages. In the few hearings that have been held so far blind workers have recovered significant amounts of back pay in some instances. They have done so, however, at great expense. Through the efforts made in these hearings it has been demonstrated that employers control virtually all of the factors which affect worker productivity. Yet the employees who are blind, not their employers, bear all of the responsibility for low productivity and suffer the consequences economically in their pay envelopes. No worker or class of workers in American industry is subjected to such a rigid and unfair work-place standard. It is not uncommon to find that blind workers in sheltered workshops are being paid as low as half the minimum wage or even less.
The pay inequities resulting from the minimum wage exemption policy are particularly odious in view of the federal government's significant purchasing role, including price determinations, which ultimately affect wage payments. In all too many instances productivity records are not maintained to justify wages below $4.25 an hour. Officials of the Department of Labor have acknowledged that violations of the current law are found in over fifty percent of the wage and hour investigations which they conduct. Fewer than six and a half percent of the sheltered workshops exempt from paying the minimum wage are reviewed each year. This leaves ninety-three and a half percent free to pay less than the minimum wage at virtually any level without fear of scrutiny. When employers are caught illegally paying below the minimum, the penalty is only to pay the affected workers the amount due them in the first place. Under these circumstances the present law is unenforceable and must be changed.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Doug Lee.]
WHY I INTERRUPTED COLLEGE FOR LEARNING IN A NEW DIMENSION
by Doug Lee
From the Editor: One of the speakers at the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Seminar at the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas was Doug Lee. Mr. Lee is now a computer programmer for Metro Vision, Inc., in Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois, but he took time out during his undergraduate career for intensive training at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.), the adult rehabilitation center conducted by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Here is his story as he told it to those attending the JOB Seminar:
I suppose technically I could answer the question of why I interrupted college in six words, but every time someone asks me, I miss the mark by several hundred. I'll explain some things that happened before I went to BLIND, Inc., and some that happened afterward, then I'll talk a little bit about what I do now as a computer programmer at Metro Vision. I think you'll see a pattern in what has happened to me.
When I went to college, I assumed a number of things. First of all, during the first semester I assumed it was going to be a little easier than high school because there weren't as many hours of classes. There were, however, a few more hours of homework that I hadn't bargained for, but in the first semester I understood a lot of the material. When finals time came, I thought, "So what's the big deal about finals? You go in and answer a few questions that you know the answers to (at least I thought I did during the first semester)."
Second semester it wasn't quite the same story. I ran into some new material, and I didn't really know what to do with it. I didn't have any readers lined up, for example.
The third semester went about the same way. But in addition I had a few other problems. I ended up going into the hospital for four days for an allergy-related problem, and I came out and thought that I could get by, doing my homework and not going to class. I told myself that I would use the class time to do my homework instead. Between the spring break and summer I think I made about three classes. Little things started to happen that were not part of my plan. For example, I went to my professor and asked, "How come we're not going to cover chapter four?"
He said, "We did cover chapter four."
I said, "How come it's not on the exam?"
He said, "Oh that's right, you weren't here for the third exam."
"This isn't the third exam?"
"No, this is the fourth exam." It seems that I was in the hospital before the third exam, but since I wasn't going to class, I didn't know that the third exam was given during the time that I was trying to catch up in that one class.
Things like this began to make me worry about my ability to do the work and whether I was actually going to graduate with any standing. The other worry I had was that I was going to graduate with an apparent standing but without the knowledge that my grades indicated I should have. I've told a lot of people about the exam I took that was supposed to be a three-hour written probability and statistics exam in mathematics. Probably due in part to my absence and my having missed another exam and all the problems that I seemed to be having, my professor gave me a thirty-minute oral, non-numeric exam for which he gave me an A. That felt wrong, though I did not have the courage to say so at the time. But it stayed with me, and it worried me. It made me think: I'm going to graduate, and maybe no one is going to expect me to know probability and statistics. Besides, I was pretty sure that I didn't know it as well as those other people who got A's and did the numbers because I never did the numbers on that final. As a result I started looking for a measuring stick that I could believe in.
One other important thing happened before I got to BLIND, Inc. I was invited to go to an interview in Maryland for a potential job, and I actually pleaded a little with the people to let me do it after I went to BLIND, Inc., because I was really worried about my performance. Consequently I certainly didn't conduct myself with much confidence. That also scared me.
When I got to BLIND, Inc., I had some expectation that it was going to solve all my problems, and it did help me solve a lot of problems, but it didn't do the work for me. Centers like BLIND, Inc., will teach you the skills you need to know, but they alone cannot teach you to believe in yourself. You have to learn to do that for yourself. But believe me, because the environment is full of positive philosophy, it makes the job a lot easier. Most people assume blind people can't do a lot of things; you know that as well as I do. So, as I say, I had some experiences there that I had never had before. One of them was that the staff assumed I could deal with a lot of things I had never done before.
Just to pull one story out of the air, I remember very well an attempt to canoe down a river. I had been in a canoe before, but I had never tried to be in the back. I had always been in canoes with somebody who knew a heck of a lot more about them and about what they do and don't do and about how to get them to go from point A to point B. I hadn't done this. On this trip I figured out a few things from what people were telling me and by some information passed along most bluntly by some fast-passing tree trunks. But it all happened in an environment in which it was okay to make a few mistakes and to learn from the consequences of those mistakes.
In addition to the special experiences at BLIND, there was also a lot of solid information--Braille, travel, and seminars in which students talk about anything you can imagine from ways to sort things in the kitchen to ways to find a job. The whole experience taught me a lot I needed to know, and it was helpful in building belief in myself and in my way of doing things as a blind person.
I graduated from BLIND, Inc., in 1991. I went back to college and began to apply some of the things I had learned at BLIND in college--getting readers, and using Braille to take notes, for example. I had always used a tape recorder, but I started using shorthand, which saved a lot of time. It also raised a few questions from my classmates, which was fine with me.
I found that I was dealing with things in a different way. Before I went to BLIND, when things happened like being asked to go to Maryland, I tried to duck. But now, when somebody throws me a fast ball, I don't always duck. For example, take my job, which I got because I had contacts. I have a friend whom I've known for about eight years. He was one of the many people I told that I was graduating and was looking for a job. His boss invited me to come out and interview. When I did (it was a very small company), we talked about the things I would be doing if I started working there right away. I did take the job, but let me tell you, if I had not gone to BLIND, Inc., I would not have had the confidence to take it. They were going to have me program in Clipper, a program language I had heard of but had never seen a line of code in. They were going to have me using an application system I had never heard of before and work on a network I had never used before. In short, there was very little about that job I really understood, except that it was a programming job. But that fact meant it was okay. In a previous job I had learned a programming language fast, so I assumed I could learn this one too. With that assumption I went in and did it. But you need that assumption first, or you will never bother to try.
It took me a little while to learn the language, but a lot of that was evening time, because I didn't want to take much work time. Actually, I learned a lot on the job too, and I think my boss was very understanding. I did learn the language. I learned the programming environment. I learned the network. Now sometimes I answer their questions just like they still answer some of mine.
I'd been working there for about three months, and I knew that my boss was going to have to go to Chicago for a demonstration and that my co-worker and I were going to stay behind and keep up with the work and deal with our customers' problems. Part of our business is service contracts. I wasn't really thinking much about the trip until Thursday night, when my boss gave me a call at home about 10:15 in the evening and said, "How would you like to be on a train to Chicago tomorrow morning?" I jumped and tried to think what to say.
In my mind I was saying, "You've been learning. You can try. Don't say `no' immediately. Ask a few questions; don't give up now."[applause]
I was on a 6:30 train to Chicago the next morning. I got there two hours before they expected me. They wanted me to help demonstrate one of the programs. This was a show for educators, and one of the programs we had written maintained the school lunch information for students. We thought that would be a useful program to bring to this demonstration. I had explained to my boss a lot of the things that I had put into it, but he didn't have much time to become familiar with it. Since I had been the one writing the program, I knew more about it than anybody else. That's probably one of the reasons they asked me to go to Chicago. I did demonstrate it, and it went fine. When I got finished, I thought about what had just happened. If I had not gone to Chicago and learned that I could do this kind of assignment, I would probably have stayed in Springfield and wondered whether I could have done it. I had done that many times before.
I have had lots of experiences like this one since I returned from BLIND, Inc.--times when I had to decide something so fast that I didn't have time to plan. Now I have the confidence to try new things.
Obviously my job is programming. I write programs for school districts and various groups and individuals--very specialized programs, mostly database management and other information management. We also do a fair number of service contracts. It's a small business. There are about three of us working in my section, and we overlap. At one point I referred to myself as a programmer/receptionist because I was usually the only one there, so I got to answer the phone. It wasn't in my job description, but it had to be done, and I was the one who was available to do it.
In closing I will say in six words that I left college early to attend BLIND, INC.: to learn to believe I can. [applause]
[PHOTO: Sharon Maneki stands at microphone. CAPTION: Sharon Maneki.]
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN
AWARD FOR 1994
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1994.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1994 convention July 1 to July 7, in Detroit, Michigan. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind children or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD 1994 APPLICATION
Home address: ___________________________________________________
City: _______________________ State: _______ Zip: ________
Day phone: ________________ Evening phone: __________________
City: ________________________ State: _______ Zip: ______
List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you taught blind children?
In what setting do you teach?
* residential school classroom * special education classroom,
* itinerant program * other, please explain.
How many students do you teach regularly this year? _____________
What subjects do you teach? _____________________________________
How many of your students read and write primarily using:
* Braille * large print * closed-circuit television
* recorded materials * small print
Please complete this application and attach a letter of nomination; one additional recommendation, written by someone who knows your work and philosophy of teaching; and a personal letter discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to include such topics as the following:
What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large print, and magnification devices; and what issues do you consider when making recommendations about learning media for your students?
When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille, writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braille writer, and learning to travel independently with a white cane?
How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not?
When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand in typed assignments?
Send all material by May 15, 1994, to Sharon Maneki, Chairman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045; telephone: (410) 992-9608.
[PHOTO: Steve Benson stands at microphone. CAPTION: Steve Benson.]
THE 1994 BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. Here is what he has to say:
Several years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Association of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have nurtured the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information, but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present at the National Convention and at the banquet to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $500.
The members of the committee which will select the 1994 Blind Educator of the Year Award are Steve Benson, Chairman, Illinois; Patricia Munson, California; Homer Page, Colorado; Judy Sanders, Minnesota; and Adelmo Vigil, New Mexico. Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 3032 N. Albany, Chicago, Illinois 60618. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current resume and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 15, 1994, to be considered for this year's award.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Parnell Diggs (right) stands with South Carolina Senator Warren Giese in the Senator's office.]
UNLIMITED AMBITION: BLINDNESS DOESN'T HOLD BACK LEGISLATIVE PAGE, LAW STUDENT
by Margaret N. O'Shea
From the Editor: Parnell Diggs is the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. He is also about to graduate from law school. He is bright, energetic, and determined to accomplish whatever he puts his mind to. Recently, a member of the South Carolina Legislature recognized these characteristics and invited Parnell to become a legislative page for the current semester. On Tuesday, January 4, 1994, The State, a newspaper published in Columbia, South Carolina, printed the following story:
When the Legislature reconvenes this month, Parnell Diggs hopes he'll stand out because he's a good page. But Diggs knows some people will notice him because he's blind.
Born with impaired vision, Diggs is legally blind. He uses a white cane to help him get around much of the time but can see shapes and tell light from dark.
Diggs considers blindness one of the characteristics that make him who he is. But in his twenty-five years he has learned that people with good eyesight have trouble seeing blind people as ordinary.
"Blind people are just like everyone else," Diggs said last week at the State House as he discussed his new job with state Senator Warren Giese, the Republican Richland County lawmaker who hired him as a page for the upcoming legislative session.
"We all have different interests and different talents. Some of us succeed and some of us fail.
"I wouldn't be a good mechanic," Diggs said, "but there are some very good blind mechanics in this state. There are blind cardiologists, and I don't think I'd be very good at that. But, I'm a good law student. I expect to be a good lawyer, and I think I'll be a good page.
"The important thing is that I have a chance to prove the average blind person can do the average job as well as the average sighted person can."
Growing up in Myrtle Beach, Diggs discovered what he was good at by refusing to let his limited vision keep him from trying to do whatever he chose.
At six Diggs told his mother he wanted to be president of the United States some day. Nancy and William Diggs believed their son, she said.
Diggs learned to play football and basketball. He also learned to play the guitar well enough to make money performing while his friends were earning minimum wage at menial jobs.
Diggs figured the folks with enough money to go out to eat were about the right age to appreciate music from the 1960's and 1970's. So he built a substantial repertoire of easy listening songs from those decades, charging $50 an hour to play his guitar and sing in restaurants.
Diggs learned most of the songs by listening to old records. He figured out a few from sheet music, which his girlfriend--now his wife--would help him decipher. She would read the chords, and he would play them, he said.
"Occasionally, I'd try something I'd never heard, and my mother would say, `Parnell, you really need to listen to that song,' So I'd listen to it and do it right," he said.
But Diggs says what he's best at is juggling, juggling time.
He plans to work as page while finishing law school--he graduates in May--and clerking for Irmo attorney Alvin Neal, who is also a member of Lexington County Council.
Diggs, who begins as a page January 11, spent last week at the State House learning the ropes. But a page's job description is about as broad as any lawmaker's imagination. The familiar click of the fingers to summon a page could mean anything.
Giese is known for assigning his pages unusual jobs--like figuring out how to get school buses bought at auction from Spartanburg to Columbia.
Hearing that tale, Diggs said, "I don't think you'd want me to drive a bus, but I think I can handle just about anything else you want me to try."
Giese says he's excited about the chance to work with Diggs, whom he noticed through his interest in the state chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Diggs was elected treasurer of the statewide organization when he was twenty-four.
"What I look for in pages is superior people in terms of brightness and the ability to be creative and deal with whatever comes up," Giese said. "I think Parnell has all those qualities.
"I know he has interest in law, and I see this as a good opportunity for him to see law developed, as well as an opportunity for those of us who make laws to learn from him."
And Diggs is no stranger to the ways of the Legislature. Since he was a teenager, he has been lobbying for Braille literacy and other laws to enhance blind people's lives and opportunities.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Katie Watson walks with her Dad Marc between the towers of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt. Marc is carrying younger sister Elise.]
WHY GO IT ALONE?
by Margie Watson
From the Editor: Margie Watson is the energetic mother of two children, one of whom, Katie, is blind. The Watson family attended the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, and it was an experience that changed their lives.
Katie is a lively pre-schooler who is lucky to have the parents she has. As a result of what they learned last summer, they have fought this year for her right to use her cane in her pre-school classroom. As Bonnie Peterson, President of the NFB of Wisconsin, explains what happened, Katie's mobility instructor advised that Katie leave her cane outside the classroom, despite the changing arrangement of obstacles that characterizes any space occupied by a number of small children. The fact was that Katie made much better use of her cane than this teacher's older students, and apparently the woman could not believe that Katie could use it safely and effectively. After the Watsons and Mrs. Peterson argued the case for using the cane with the pre-school teacher, Katie was allowed to use it, and she and her cane have yet to cause a problem.
The Watsons understand the importance of insuring that their daughter maintain and increase the independence she has already learned. They believe in Braille and will see that Katie gets good instruction in it as well as continuing her cane travel training. These lessons are only a part of what they learned at their first Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is the Watson family's story as told in the Fall, 1993, issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin:
Several years ago my husband and I attended a seminar for parents of blind children sponsored by the NFB of Wisconsin. Federationists shared their insights and personal experience, and the supportive environment of that seminar affected us very positively. In the years to follow, however, our family often went it alone: resolving issues and addressing concerns as best we could. Increasingly, we came to feel a great deal of frustration that we were wasting our time reinventing the wheel. At this time I renewed contact with Bonnie Peterson, President of the NFB of Wisconsin. After I expressed my feelings of frustration and aloneness to Bonnie, she strongly urged me to attend the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind to be held in Dallas, Texas.
When Bonnie learned that, because of limited finances, I would be attending the convention alone for only a few days, she arranged for financial assistance. This meant that our family was able to attend the convention for the entire week. My husband Marc and I were astounded at this unexpected generosity. We were very interested to learn why Bonnie felt the convention was so essential that she would commit limited resources to see that we all got there. The answer became evident soon after we arrived in Dallas.
Like many other parents we felt great pleasure and satisfaction at the warm welcome we received. Certainly Bonnie had meant for us to network so that we could help our four-year- old daughter Katie learn good Braille and cane skills. To be sure, she also wanted us alerted to the harmful and commonly-held attitude that blind children cannot be expected to keep up with and compete with their sighted peers academically or socially. This information and the availability of the National Federation of the Blind as a resource empowered us and undeniably made the convention extremely valuable for us. But I do not think that this was the only reason, or even the most important reason, that Bonnie had wanted us to attend. There was something more that was happening--a kind of magic that is a part of the national convention.
This magic has to do with the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Throughout its literature the NFB repeats its conviction that it is respectable to be blind; that blindness is just one characteristic; and that when a person receives the proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance, enabling him or her to compete on equal terms with the sighted. As parents of a blind child, we said that we believed this philosophy, but I'm not sure whether we really did or whether we just desperately hoped that it was true. The convention changed that. At the convention we saw that these beliefs are undeniable realities.
There were well over two thousand Federationists in attendance at the National Convention. The sheer magnitude of this number made it impossible to stereotype people. Day after day for a week we observed confident, competent blind people successfully achieving their goals. This experience was invaluable in shaping our attitude toward blindness, and we now have no doubt that great things lie ahead for Katie because we now truly share the philosophy of the NFB.
The importance of an organization that promotes positive attitudes toward blindness became readily apparent at the banquet when the student scholarships were announced. The high aspirations of these students underscored the importance of the NFB. Federationists not only encourage students to dream big dreams; we also see to it that these dreams become realities by being successful role models, by promoting good attitudes toward blindness, and by providing financial support to demonstrate the confidence that students will attain these lofty goals.
In 1994 the NFB National Convention will be held in Detroit, and in 1995 it will be held in Chicago. This is a golden opportunity for families who live in the Midwest. When you attend a convention of the National Federation of the Blind, you can have no doubt that the NFB is changing what it means to be blind. Come and share in the magic. Being part of the NFB means that you and your child will never again have to go it alone.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: View of the Detroit Renaissance Center and Westin Hotel from Riverside Park in Windsor, Canada.]
1994 CONVENTION FUN--TOURS FOR EVERYONE
by Don and Sue Drapinski
From the Editor: The members of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan are doing their best to make good on affiliate President Allen Harris's promise that the 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be an unforgettable experience for us all. Here is the tour information you have been waiting for. Please take the deadline statements seriously. Make your plans now to attend the 1994 convention, and take advantage of the following memorable tours as described by Don and Sue Drapinski, who have made these arrangements:
You read in the February Monitor that Michigan ranked first, oldest, or largest in a variety of areas. We hope you'll agree that it ranks best in convention entertainment and tours as well.
Here are some of the things we are planning for convention week. On Friday, July 1, 1994, we plan a Motown Review party with a disc jockey and dancing to lots of the tunes that made Motown so successful. On Monday, the 4th of July, we plan an outdoor picnic on the hotel grounds, complete with dancing and a live band. Be sure to pack your dancing shoes for both these events, as well as comfortable walking shoes for the following tour choices.
Two of the tours take you to Canada, and for them you must have proof of citizenship with you (U.S. birth certificate, voter's ID, alien registration card, or passport). The Toronto theater package currently has a deadline of April 15, 1994, to allow time to secure the theater tickets. All other tour reservations must be in the office of Detroit Upbeat, Inc., Attention M. McGinty, 18430 Fairway Drive, Detroit, Michigan 48221, by June 5, 1994. Payment must be included. Cancellations of reservations must be in the Detroit Upbeat, Inc., office by June 12, 1994, in order to receive a refund. Any cancellations received after June 12 will not be subject to refund. All tours are subject to cancellation if there is not enough interest, so please get your reservations in early. A registration form follows the description of the tours. If you do not have access to a print registration form, just send a typed letter to Detroit Upbeat, Inc. with payment, and include all pertinent information regarding the tours you are interested in. Be sure to include your name, address, and phone number. Pre-ordered tour tickets will be available at the tour desk in the registration area at the convention.
The following tours are being offered Tuesday afternoon and evening, July 5, 1994:
1. SHOP TILL YOU DROP: 1:00 - 6:00 p.m., $15 per person. Transportation from the Westin Hotel to Fairlane Town Center for shopping at one of the country's largest shopping complexes featuring Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson's, Penney's, Lord & Taylor, and Sears, plus over two hundred other stores. Price also includes return transportation.
2. DINNER/THEATER EXPERIENCE: 7:00 - 11:30 p.m., $58 per person. An evening of dinner theater at the Castle, a totally restored miniature Irish castle, for a dinner and murder-mystery performance.
3. LITTLE BAVARIA: 1:00 - 10:00 p.m., $57 per person. Visit Frankenmuth, an historic Bavarian town complete with gift shops, breweries, sausage makers, and cheese makers. You'll enjoy a city tour of Frankenmuth; a visit to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, which has the world's largest year-round display of Christmas gifts and trims; and lunch at the Bavarian Inn, sampling the chicken dinner that made Frankenmuth famous. You will also have time to shop as well as make your own pretzels at the Pretzel Factory.
4. GREENFIELD VILLAGE/HENRY FORD MUSEUM: 1:00 - 6:00 p.m., $35 per person. Visiting Greenfield Village or the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, provides an opportunity to go back in time to the early days of our country. These two adjacent museums highlight the history of American home furnishings, agriculture, industry, and transportation, with antique cars a specialty. On your way to this unique Michigan attraction the tour guide will present information on Detroit, the history of Henry Ford, and a detailed description of both the Village and the Museum so that you can decide which one you wish to visit. Visitors can enjoy a luncheon or light snack at any of a number of food facilities in either the Village or the Museum (cost not included).
5. TIGERS VS. WHITE SOX BASEBALL GAME: 6:00 - 11:00 p.m., $44 per person. Come spend a hot summer night at the ol' ballpark as the Detroit Tigers take on the Chicago White Sox. Your Detroit Upbeat guide will tell you a little about the history of the Tigers ball club and the stadium. Learn what future plans are in store for one of the country's oldest stadiums and the controversial decisions that have to be made regarding a new ball park. You'll be in box seats with Tiger fans who know how to enjoy a good ball game! Food and beverages will be available for purchase either at your seat or at the concession stands.
6. MEET THE FORD DYNASTY: 1:00 - 8:00 p.m., $62 per person. The Ford dynasty stretches from Dearborn to Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. This tour highlights the mansions of two auto barons: father and son, Henry Ford I and his son, Edsel Ford. Henry Ford I and his wife, Clara, built Fairlane Estate in Dearborn, a fifty-six-room mansion styled after a Scottish manor house. The estate includes a self-sufficient six-level powerhouse, spacious rooms where the Fords entertained, and beautiful gardens reflecting their love of nature. Edsel Ford and his wife Eleanor built their home in Grosse Pointe Shores. Designed by Albert Kahn, this home replicates those in the Cotswolds of England but on a much grander scale. What makes this house especially interesting is that it reflects the younger Ford's knowledge of art and architecture. Originals by Cezanne, Matisse, and other great artists continue to grace its walls. This tour includes lunch at Fairlane Estate.
7. DIAMOND JACK'S RIVER TOUR: 2:00 - 5:00 p.m., $14 per person. Experience a unique and exciting way to see Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, and their surrounding waterfronts, while traveling one of the busiest international waterways in the world, the Detroit River. A camera buff's delight. Capture the skyline of two cities in two different countries. While on board the vessel, passengers share spectacular views as a narrator relates interesting, informative, and historic anecdotes. View the powerful Detroit skyline. Pass and learn about freighters, tugboats, and ocean-going ships from all over the world. Pass under the Ambassador Bridge, the longest suspension bridge linking two countries, and the Belle Isle Bridge, entrance to the largest U.S. city-owned island park (also home to the Grand Prix).
8. WINDSOR, CANADA, EVENING: 6:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m., $46 per person. An evening in Windsor, complete with a dinner at L'Auberge, across the border from Detroit in Canada. Our guide will tell you about the history of the building of the underwater tunnel to Canda as well as pertinent facts about Windsor. After dinner we will escort you to the Casino, where you may try your luck. Don't forget your I.D.--only birth certificate, voter's I.D., alien registration, or passport are accepted. Driver's license or state I.D. are not proof of citizenship.
The following tours are offered for July 8, 1994:
1. CEDAR POINT: 7:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., $69 per person. Spend a day at one of the region's most exciting and fun places to visit--Cedar Point Amusement Park and Resort. Your day starts early as your motor coach takes you from your hotel to the Sandusky, Ohio, theme park. You'll visit the world's largest collection of rides, thrill to more roller coasters than any other park, and enjoy a variety of food, shopping, and live shows all available on your own throughout the day. En route (approximately a two-hour bus ride) your Detroit Upbeat guide will tell you a little about the historic park, that has been around for nearly a century and a half. This is a tour that guests visiting the area will be talking about for some time, because there is just no place like Cedar Point! Price includes transportation and all-day admission to the park with unlimited rides and other park attractions.
2. TORONTO THEATER WEEKEND: 9:00 a.m., July 8, through 5:00 p.m., July 9, $255 per person based on double occupancy. This outstanding opportunity provides motor coach to Toronto, a Toronto harbor tour, overnight accommodations at the Royal York Hotel, dinner in the Acadian Room, and a theater performance (selection will be based on ticket availability). Saturday starts at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast buffet at the hotel, a local tour, and return trip to Detroit. Lunch stops will be made both days, but lunch is not included in the price of the package. Because tickets for Miss Saigon and Phantom of the Opera are extremely difficult to get, early response is essential. However, tickets for other shows will be available.
In addition to these tour packages there are many things to see and places to visit within a short distance of the hotel. Specifics will be available at the NFB of Michigan information desk and the tour desk. If you need additional information or assistance, please call Don or Sue Drapinski after 5:00 p.m. at (810) 546-6910 or the NFB of Michigan at (313) 271-8700.
Don't postpone making your tour decisions. Complete the following order form and send it with your check to the address at the beginning of this article. And while you're about it, be sure to make your convention reservation with the Westin Hotel. Certainly our rates (singles $38, doubles and twins $43, and quads $48, plus tax) are extraordinary. There will be no charge for children with parents if no extra bed is required. Make your reservations by writing Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan 48243, Attention: Reservations; or call (313) 568-8000. Do not use the Westin toll-free number. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. The hotel will want a deposit of $45 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $45 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 20, 1994, the entire amount of your deposit will be returned to you by the hotel. Requests for refunds after this date will not be honored. See you in Detroit.
FEDERAL PROGRAMS CAN HELP WITH MEDICARE PREMIUMS
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is the Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind.
Two federally aided programs have been created in recent years to help pay medical bills for people of low income. These are the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program and the Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) program. Both programs supplement benefits available under Medicare. This article explains the assistance available and provides some general information about qualifying for each program.
Participants in the QMB program receive help in paying medical bills not covered by Medicare. This assistance includes paying the beneficiary's coinsurance amount for hospital services provided within a benefit period, paying the beneficiary's coinsurance amount for services received from a skilled nursing facility or the coinsurance amount for other services covered under Part A of Medicare, paying the beneficiary's Part A premium if premium-free coverage has expired, paying the cost of medical services under Part B of Medicare which would otherwise be charged to the beneficiary by virtue of the $100 annual deductible and coinsurance requirements, and paying the beneficiary's Medicare Part B monthly premium. Under the SLMB program the single benefit provided is payment of the monthly Medicare Part B premium. The Part A coinsurance amounts and the Part B deductible are not covered under the SLMB program.
Throughout the United States these programs are administered at the county level. Specific eligibility decisions will depend upon applicable state and county rules. However, the general rule is that eligibility for either QMB or SLMB assistance is based on three factors--Medicare eligibility, low income, and limited resources.
Income limits for eligibility may vary from county to county. Despite some variation, however, it is fair to say that the following income guidelines may be expected: for QMB eligibility, monthly income must be below $601 for individuals or $806 for couples; for SLMB eligibility, monthly income must be below $659 for individuals and $884 for couples. Countable resources must also be within specified limits applicable to both the QMB and SLMB programs--$4,000 for individuals or $6,000 for couples. A home and certain other property are not counted as resources, but savings, stocks, and other things of value may be counted.
The federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) provides funding for these programs but does not administer them directly. However, there is a toll-free hotline which HCFA has established to help in finding the agencies responsible for taking applications throughout the country. The number for the hotline is 1-(800) 638-6833. The operator who responds will need to know the county in which the beneficiary resides.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Priscilla Ferris.]
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Dennis Polselli.]
This month's recipes come from Massachusetts. The Boston cream pie, Indian pudding, and hamburger skillet dinner all appeared in New England Cookery, the cookbook published by the Massachusetts affiliate about ten years ago. The harvest chowder and fabulous chocolate chip cookies will be included in New England Cookery Two when it is published.
HAMBURGER SKILLET DINNER
by Priscilla Ferris
3 slices bacon, cut up
1 pound ground meat
2 large onions, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 potatoes, sliced
1 large green pepper, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 cups cabbage, chopped
Method: In skillet fry bacon until crisp. Add ground meat and onions. Cook until brown. Add soy sauce, water, and pepper. Add vegetables in layers from potatoes to cabbage. Cook over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat and cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes. Serves 6.
FABULOUS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
5 cups oatmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups chopped nuts (any kind)
Method: Cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time; add vanilla. Measure 5 cups oatmeal (put small amounts in food processor or blender and process until oatmeal becomes powder-like), add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together dry ingredients, then add to egg and sugar mixture. Add chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Drop golf- ball-sized spoonfuls of batter, 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375-degree oven for 6 minutes. Makes 10 dozen cookies.
BOSTON CREAM PIE
1/2 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
Method: For cake, cream butter, vanilla, and sugar; beat in eggs. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat into egg mixture alternately with milk. Pour into a greased 9-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until done. Cool 10 minutes. For filling mix sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly stir hot mixture into egg. Return to pan and heat just to the boiling point, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Cover and chill. For glaze, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate. Stir in confectioner's sugar and water. Stir until smooth, use immediately. To assemble, split cake layer in half horizontally. Remove top half. Spread filing on bottom half. Replace top half. Spread glaze on top and sides. Note: store cake in the refrigerator.
NEW ENGLAND BAKED INDIAN PUDDING
4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark molasses
Method: Scald milk with half the sugar. Add cornmeal and, stirring constantly, cook until smooth and well blended and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add rest of ingredients; mix well. Pour into a greased baking dish, about 2 inches deep. Bake about one hour in a 375-degree oven. Serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream.
NEW ENGLAND STEAMED BROWN BREAD
This recipe was passed down to Priscilla from her mother.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup graham or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup dark molasses
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk
1 cup raisins
Method: Set oven at 350 degrees. Mix first six ingredients; add remaining ingredients and mix well. Half fill 3 greased one- pound coffee cans. Cover tightly with foil and secure with rubber bands. Steam for 3 hours on rack in covered pan with hot water in the bottom of the pan. Add small amounts of boiling water as needed. Uncover cans and place in 450 degree oven for 5 minutes. Remove bread from cans.
GRANDMA'S FANTASTIC BAKED BEANS
This recipe also belonged to Priscilla's mother
9 slices bacon
3 cans baked pork and beans
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup catsup
1 pound brown-and-serve sausages
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Method: Cook bacon until crisp; drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the drippings and saut onion in them until tender. Add bacon and other ingredients and mix well. Pour into bean pot or 2 1/2- quart casserole dishes. Place sausages on top and bake in a 350- degree oven for 1 hour. This recipe can be doubled or tripled to serve a very large gathering.
by Donna & Dennis Polselli
Both Donna and Dennis Polselli are longtime members of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts. Dennis currently serves on the affiliate's board of directors.
1 15-ounce can of salmon
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup green peppers
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup potatoes
1 cup carrots
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon each pepper, salt, and thyme
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 8-ounce can cream corn
1 13-ounce can evaporated milk
Method: Drain and flake salmon, save the liquid; saute celery, onions, green pepper, and garlic in butter. Add chicken broth and liquid from salmon, carrots, and potatoes; add salt, pepper, and thyme, and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat; then add frozen peas, cream corn, and salmon. Cook for 10 minutes, then add evaporated milk; simmer for 15 minutes before serving.
** Tactile Cards Available:
Vera Honc, a Federationist who lives in New Orleans, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
I have recently discovered tactile greeting cards which I like very much and therefore wish to introduce to blind people in the United States. I like them because they are well designed and because I can easily recognize the shapes without having to ask sighted people for help. The collection contains several floral, Easter, and Christmas motifs. They can be used for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day, etc. Upon request, we will include text in Braille and/or print, according to specifications. Adhesive paper mailing labels are used for this purpose. The estimated price is $1.00 per card, $4.50 per set of five, and $9.00 per set of ten. The proceeds will be used to help blind people in Prague (the capital of the Czech Republic), who make these cards. Inquiries, orders, and payments can be sent to Vera Honc, P.O. Box 30065, New Orleans, Louisiana 70190.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following Braille cookbooks for sale: The Art of French Cooking, $25; Mike Roy Cookbook One, $20; Mike Roy Cookbook Two, $20; and Sunbeam Frypan Cookbook, $15. I also have a Braille copy of Using the Cranmer Abacus and an abacus for $15, and a New International Version Bible (New Testament) for $70. Unless otherwise specified, all books will be sent free matter. If you wish books sent in any other manner, please enclose additional funds. Please call or write to check availability of items before sending money. Contact Darla Dahl at 366 E. Ackerman, Monmouth, Oregon 97361, in Braille or call (503) 838- 0183 (between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., or after 3:00 p.m. Pacific time). This will ensure a quicker response to your inquiries.
** Editing Services Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Ph.D. in English with twenty years college teaching experience will edit manuscripts, books, articles, proposals, and dissertations. I will accept material on large or small diskettes for an IBM-compatible computer using WordPerfect 5.1 or ASCII. Recorded readings of final documents on cassette tape are also acceptable. I will return the finished copy in print and also in the medium in which the original document was received. Because this new employment will reduce the time I can spend fund- raising, I will donate twenty percent of the income which comes from NFB members responding to this announcement to my local NFB chapter. If interested, call Patricia Morrow at (314) 445-6690.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Charlotte Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina held elections on November 20, 1993. The following members were elected to serve: Pat Robbins, President; Mabel Conder, Vice President; Hazel Staley, Secretary; Lawrence Murphy, Treasurer; and Nell Spiedel and LaVerne Gallant, board members.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Doris Henderson.]
** Energetic Federationist Honored:
Recently President Maurer received a letter from Doris Henderson, President of the Dallas Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Doris's letter is like her. She indicates that her energy is low because she is recovering from the flu, but the letter shows a schedule which is packed to overflowing. Here in part is what she said:
I retired from the Texas Commission for the Blind in September of 1993, many seem to think to a life of boredom and idleness. It's just the opposite. Upon learning of my retirement, several groups approached me to join their organizations to help with speaking engagements. I have no time to be idle. I am President of the Mesquite North Lioness Club; Secretary of the Eva Cameron Homemakers Association; Treasurer and Food Coordinator of the Christian Fellowship of the Blind; and, of course, most active in our movement both at the state and local levels. Our Chapter held elections recently. Those elected are Gigi Firth, First Vice President; Cheryl McCaslin Smith, Second Vice President; Sandra Parker, Treasurer; Rhanda Hasley, Secretary; Kelly Hickman, Era Brown, Allen Vance, and Suzanne Whalen, Board Members; and I am still President. I shall see you at the Washington Seminar. I intend to visit our National Center again. I'll likely see you there, too. Share this with Dr. Jernigan, please. I am recuperating from the flu, so my energy is somewhat low.
Love in Federationism,
The Texas Commission for the Blind published an article about Doris Henderson at the time that she retired. This is what it says:
Pat Westbrook, Director of the Texas Commission for the Blind, presented Doris with a silver platter on behalf of the agency [in recognition of her service at the time of her retirement].
The following week the Dallas District Office held a retirement luncheon for Doris during which she received special recognition from the Mayor and the City Council of Dallas for her many achievements. Doris wrote transportation bylaws for individuals with disabilities. She helped obtain Kurzweil personal reading machines for Texas libraries. Doris pioneered efforts in getting paid drivers as an accommodation for visually impaired Texas Commission for the Blind staff. She is also well known for her work on the Dallas Mayor's Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities.
Doris is president of the Mesquite North Lioness Club, the only chapter in the nation to be comprised entirely of individuals who are blind or have other disabilities. She also serves as First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas (NFB-T) and is president of the Dallas Progressive Chapter of the NFB.
In addition Doris received letters of congratulations from Governor Richards and President and Mrs. Clinton. Staff members arranged for the U.S. flag to fly over the Nation's Capitol in her honor on the day of her retirement.
Doris's colleagues in the organized blind movement join as well in congratulating her on her many years of achievement and in looking forward to many more.
** Cookbook for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Alaska Center for Blind Adults is selling the Braille Sourdough Cookbook for $15. Those interested should send name and address and a check made payable to the Alaska Center for Blind Adults to the Center at 3903 Taft Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99517.
** Matilda Ziegler Magazine Completes Eighty-Seven Years of Publication:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
With its March, 1994, issue The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind has completed eighty-seven years of continuous publication. This monthly magazine reprints articles covering a wide range of interests, including humor, health, animals, science, family life, sports, and travel. These articles are taken from some of the nation's foremost newspapers and magazines and are published in Braille or on cassette.
Each issue of the Ziegler contains a "Readers Forum," in which readers sound off. In "Special Notices," readers can announce items or services they want to buy, sell, swap, or give away. New friends from all over the world can be found in the "Pen Pals" section, and "Bits and Pieces" contains humorous, startling, or unusual items from contemporary life and the past.
Since 1907 The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind has been distributed free of charge to any blind or visually impaired person who requests it. The magazine is published in Grade II Braille and on four-track, half-speed cassette. Call (212) 242- 0263; or write Ziegler Magazine, 20 W. 17th Street, New York, New York 10011.
** West Virginia Directory:
Laura Collier, Chairperson of the West Virginia School for the Blind Alumni Association directory, has asked that we carry the following announcement one more time:
The WVSB Alumni Association is now gathering data for a directory of all students and school employees to be made available in June, 1994. We're sure you will want to be included with all your schoolmates. Please send your name (including maiden and married name), complete address, phone number, and the dates you entered and left school to Laura Collier, 3470 S.E. Cobia Way, Stuart, Florida 34997, as soon as possible.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following items for sale: Versapoint Model D Braille printer (most recent model) excellent condition $3,795 when purchased, asking $2,200; Braille printer sound box with built-in fan, good condition, gray and black, $400 when purchased, all reasonable offers considered; Duxbury Braille translator will sell separately or to purchaser of Braille printer, asking $225; modular three-shelf printer stand on caster wheels like new, $225 when purchased, currently used to hold two printers attached to one computer, middle shelf pulls out to provide easy access to printer, gray, asking $125; data transfer switch with three ports, used to connect two printers to one printer port on a PC, asking $20. Mention the Braille Monitor and I will include free printer paper. Call Mildred, (410) 666-3945 or 433-5176.
Needed: CD Rom player compatible with 286 AST PC with some disks, especially interested in the Bible, Concordance, Bible dictionary, legal materials, standard dictionary, and encyclopedia. Will also buy other disks. Please call Mildred (410) 962-4180; leave message.
If buyers mention that they saw this ad in the Braille Monitor, I will give the NFB a ten-percent donation.
** Writer's Guidelines and Bi-monthly Newsletter Now Available:
Nancy Scott, one of the leaders of the Writers Division, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
A list of writer's guidelines from magazines to submit manuscripts for publication is now available on two standard- speed, ninety-minute cassettes. Compiled by Susi Kraft in fall/winter of 1993, this list provides numerous addresses and information for submission of articles, poetry, and some short fiction. The list covers such topics as plants and gardening, animals, homemaking, and feminism. The cost is $7 per copy and can be ordered from Nancy Scott, 1141 Washington Street, Easton, Pennsylvania 18042. Make checks payable to Nancy Scott. Tapes will be shipped free matter.
This upbeat, lively bimonthly newsletter for the visually impaired and handicapped contains technology, generic shopping tips, unspecified tidbits, gardening details, letters to the editors, reader ideas, pet briefs, poetry, easy-to-learn how- to's, cooking, funding/grant information, country clips, and much, much more. The first bimonthly edition is available in February, 1994. Want-to-buy or for-sale advertising of personal items free to our subscribers. These listings are published as a service to our readers. Inclusion does not indicate endorsement by the publishers. Commercial advertisements not accepted.
Subscription fee is $20 for six issues. Back issues are $3.00 each. Available in large print, 4-track NLS cassette, or IBM 3.5-inch double density disk. Send your name and address with check or money order payable to Exchange Unlimited, P.O. Box 116, Cook, Nebraska 68329.
** Young Correspondents Wanted:
We recently received the following letter:
November 30, 1993
Young disabled people from Russia greet you and wish you robust health. We organize sports competitions, develop new assistive devices, and learn foreign languages. We are also occupied with many other interesting works. We want to make contact with young Americans, especially disabled ones. Could you please give us some addresses of groups and organizations of blind Americans? If you need any information about Russian achievements in rehabilitation, special education, and social work, we would be glad to be useful. Thanks for your help.
The Omsk Club of Young Disabled People
** Alert Federationist At Work:
Recently President Maurer received the following letter:
September 16, 1993
"The Young and the Restless"
Dear Sir or Madam:
I would like to thank you for having a competent blind person on "The Young and the Restless." I have watched this program through a busy life of my own since the day it went on the air. It is good to see a blind person reading Braille, using her cane, and being generally competent with good judgment skills.
My only regret is that, when I called WCCO-TV to make inquiry, I was told it was not a real blind person. If this is true, I want you to know there are competent professional blind people in all of the walks of life dealing with the arts. I hope that you will consider hiring such a competent blind professional, should one apply. I have recording experience myself, so I do know it can be done.
Still, with all the negative stereotypes that have gone forth on TV involving everything from Mr. McGoo to the blind character George on "Good and Evil," it is good that progress has been made to at least this point. I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind and a blind person who has had varied employment experience and furthered myself educationally. Therefore, I wanted to commend you on the good that you have done. But if you hired a competent blind actress--and there are plenty in Los Angeles--it would be still better.
cc: Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind
Providing this kind of feedback to the print and broadcast media doesn't take long to do, but it is vital work. All of us must be on the alert all of the time. Congratulations and thanks to Julie Vogt.
** New Chapter Election:
LeRoy Schaffer, secretary of the newly organized Lakeland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, writes to report the results of recent chapter elections. The officers are Jamie Sommars, President; Dennis Martin, Vice President; LeRoy Schaffer, Secretary; Phil Sommars, Treasurer; and Shirley Earl, Theresa Schaffer, and Richard Stanley, board members. Congratulations to the officers and members of the Lakeland Chapter.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Kurzweil Personal Reader, Model 7315, Software 2.1, hand and table scanners, and case. Asking $1200. Those interested may contact Ted Ward by calling (602) 794-2919 or (602) 299-6567.
** Braille-output Computer Newsletter Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
VersaNews is a technology magazine which covers developments in Braille equipment and the ways in which people use Braille to access the benefits of the computer age. Topics include product reviews, education, tips from readers, and how-to articles on using Braille displays to access such commercially available tools as dictionaries, check-writing programs, and information services. Versanews is privately published and covers Braille products from all American manufacturers and several imported devices. Started twelve years ago for VersaBraille users, Versanews remains one of the few sources of support for teachers and others who may have acquired these machines secondhand. It is read in fourteen countries by educators, writers, lawyers, housewives, and computer programmers who use Braille equipment in their daily lives. In many cases a letter or phone call to the editor can put subscribers with a particular problem in touch with others who have found a solution.
Versanews is published three times a year on MS-DOS disk, on VersaBraille II disk, and in print. Non-print users must have a computer or VersaBraille to read the magazine, because there is no paper Braille edition. Subscriptions, which must be paid for in U.S. dollars, are $25.00 in the U.S. and Canada and $35 elsewhere. Please be sure to specify the format desired. Address orders and inquiries to Versanews, c/o David Goldstein, Editor, 87 Sanford Lane, Stamford, Connecticut 06905; Phone (203) 336- 4330.
** Notice to AT&T Long Distance Customers:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
On February 4, 1994, AT&T filed tariff revisions with the Federal Communications Commission waiving the charges for interstate directory assistance calls for customers with disabilities for up to a maximum of fifty calls per billing cycle. Calls to interstate directory assistance in excess of the fifty-call allowance will be billed at the tariffed rate. This tariff is scheduled to become effective March 21, 1994. Once this tariff is effective, to receive the exemption from directory assistance charges, customers must have an AT&T-approved certification indicating a visual or physical disability that prevents use of a telephone directory. This exemption applies to directory assistance calls for personal use, billed to one residential telephone line per certified customer. This exemption does not apply to calls for directory assistance in Mexico or overseas countries/areas to calls made from Midway or Wake Island or via AT&T USADirect Service to interstate directory assistance, to directory assistance in Canada, or to the international portion of 809 directory assistance.