THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 45, No. 1;January/February, 2002
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Louisville: Site of 2002 NFB Convention!
The 2002 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, July 3-9. We will conduct the convention at the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower, together a first-class convention hotel. The Galt House Hotel, familiarly called the Galt House West, is at 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. The Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Room rates for this year's convention are excellent: singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 29, 2002. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the hotel at (502) 589‑5200.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before May 29, 2002, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold the block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, phone (502) 587‑3434.
Those who attended the 1985 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of the Galt House. This hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville Airport.
The 2002 Convention will follow a somewhat different schedule:
Wednesday, July 3:Seminar Day
Thursday, July 4:Registration Day
Friday, July 5:Board Meeting and Division Day
Saturday, July 6:Opening Session
Sunday, July 7:Tour Day
Monday, July 8:Banquet Day
Tuesday, July 9:Business Session
Plan to be in Louisville.
The action of the convention will be there!
Vol. 45, No. 1 January/February, 2002
Maxi-Aids Exposed Again, Part II: Able-Vision Established to Circumvent the VA’s Proposed Debarment
by Barbara Pierce
Elliot Zaretsky Visits the National Center for the Blind..........................................................................
by Marc Maurer
Address to the 1956 Convention of the Tennessee Affiliate...................................................................
by Kenneth Jernigan
Vending Opportunities for the Blind on Military Bases:
A Victory in the Courts........................................................................................................................
by Andrew Freeman
First-Timers' Convention Reports.........................................................................................................
The 2002 National Convention in the Making.......................................................................................
by Cathy Jackson
Dick Edlund May Be Blind, But He Can See Right Through You..........................................................
by Rebecca Shelton
Tapping the Cheese.............................................................................................................................
by John Bailey
Beyond Our Senses.............................................................................................................................
by Chris Kuell
More about SSDI and Retirement-Benefit Computations......................................................................
by James Gashel
Plaque Now Marks Federation's Birthplace.........................................................................................
by Jim Antonacci
Implications of Attacks on the ADA.....................................................................................................
Why I Am a Federationist....................................................................................................................
by Carlos Servan
NFB NEWSLINE® Goes Nationwide on March 1, 2002...................................................................
by Peggy Chong
Does What You Do Really Matter?.....................................................................................................
by Dana Ard
Tim Cranmer Dies...............................................................................................................................
by Buffa Hanse
Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind
Maxi-Aids Exposed Again
Able-Vision Established to
Circumvent the VA's Proposed Debarment
by Barbara Pierce
As reported in last month's issue of the Braille Monitor, early in 2000 Independent Living Aids (ILA) filed a motion in Federal Court in the Eastern District of New York alleging contempt of court by Maxi-Aids and several members of the Zaretsky Family. ILA claimed that the Zaretskys had violated a permanent injunction issued on October 24, 1998, by the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt, who had presided over the 1997 trial of ILA vs Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. The injunction stated in part that "Maxi-Aids, Inc., Mitchel Zaretsky, Elliot Zaretsky, and Pamela Zaretsky Stein. . . and their officers. . . and employees. . . are hereby enjoined and restrained from. . . engaging in any deceptive acts or practices in connection with the advertising or sale of their products."
Based on Judge Spatt's injunction, ILA went back into court claiming serious violations on the part of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. ILA's papers, backed up by a considerable amount of documentation and research, alleged that it had uncovered a successful attempt to circumvent a proposed debarment by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by establishing a company virtually in name only called "Able-Vision." Even more serious, it claimed to have discovered an illegal scheme in which Maxi-Aids has been diverting Perkins Braillers from South Africa, where the Perkins School for the Blind had established a program for the charitably subsidized production of Braillers for sale to and use by blind people and organizations in developing countries.
Just as we were going to press with last month's issue, Judge Spatt denied ILA's motion on a technicality. He seemed almost to apologize by stating "The fault is mine, of course, that I signed an over-broad provision." He did not deny the validity of the issues brought to light and in fact stated in open court that "ILA has presented a thorough and persuasive presentation that strongly suggests the defendants are indeed improperly obtaining subsidized Braillers intended for use in developing countries and selling them at retail prices in the United States."
Having described ILA's "thorough and persuasive presentation" (to use Judge Spatt's own words) of the Perkins Brailler matter in last month's issue, we now turn to the allegation that the Zaretskys set up a sham company called "Able-Vision" in a successful effort to circumvent the proposed debarment by the VA. As we did last month, we will present the actual words of both sides as taken from their own sworn affidavits so that readers can draw their own conclusions. We will include explanatory passages for continuity, but we will reserve editorial comment until the end of the article.
As reported in detail in the December, 1999, issue of the Braille Monitor, the VA issued a proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys on December 8, 1998, shortly after Judge Spatt's injunction of October 24, 1998. This was followed by a directive issued by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), prohibiting state agencies from entering into contracts with Maxi-Aids or the Zaretskys as contractors or subcontractors on contracts of $100,000 or more. The VA gave Maxi-Aids the opportunity to respond to the proposed debarment, and on March 30, 1999, the Zaretskys and their attorney met with the VA in Washington. They pledged that they would adhere to a strict code of ethical conduct, using guidelines established by the VA's debarment committee. At that point they were more or less on probation, could not do business with the VA or any other Federal Agency, and were limited in the business they could do with state agencies as outlined above.
In August of 1999, about four months after the meeting with the VA and Maxi-Aids's pledge of ethical conduct, a new company, called Able-Vision, appeared on the scene. It solicited business from various state agencies and also submitted a substantial bid to the Texas Commission for the Blind on December 1, 1999, during the period when both the VA proposed debarment and RSA policy directive were in full force and effect. Able-Vision's successful bid resulted in an award of a contract with the Texas Commission of $152,575.04, well above the $100,000 exclusion figure in the RSA policy directive. Able-Vision listed itself at a post office box in Maxi-Aids's hometown of Farmingdale, New York, which is perhaps what roused Sandler and ILA's suspicions and resulted in an investigation.
The procedure in a motion for contempt of court is for the plaintiffs (Sandler and ILA) to file a motion outlining the basis for the complaint. The defendants (Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys) then have the opportunity to file a response. Finally, the plaintiffs file a reply, and the matter is scheduled for a hearing in front of the court. Here, then, are excerpts from Sandler's affidavit, followed by the Zaretskys' responses and Sandler's replies.
From Sandler's affidavit: "I submit this affidavit based on my personal knowledge after an extensive investigation revealed that the defendants, Elliot Zaretsky and family, acting through Maxi-Aids, Inc., their family-owned corporation, have flouted the judgment of this Court and continued to engage in nefarious and illegal business practices and charity fraud. Their conduct continues to prey upon and prejudice the blind and disabled population of the United States and to violate the rules and regulations of the various federal and state agencies which purchase and procure products for blind and disabled people throughout the country."
From Elliot Zaretsky's response affidavit: "all the defendants have been both diligent and energetic in complying with . . . the . . . vaguely all-encompassing injunctive provision which enjoins the defendants from . . . `engaging in any deceptive acts or practices in connection with the advertising or sale of their products.'"
From Sandler's reply affidavit: "While it is to be expected that the opposing papers would try to mask and obfuscate the truth, the responses contain evasions, non-sequiturs, half-truths, deceptions, and outright falsehoods that exceed the documents submitted and testimony given at the original trial of this case in November-December of 1997."
From Sandler's affidavit: "Despite the execution of an agreement by Maxi-Aids with the VA to take remedial actions, the Zaretskys almost immediately set about violating their agreement by `creating' a fictitious company called Able-Vision. The purpose of the creation of Able-Vision was to circumvent the sanctions and debarment that had been imposed by the government . . . .
A new name, Able-Vision, suddenly appeared before government agencies. This entity allegedly operated from Post Office Box 3459 in Maxi-Aids's hometown of Farmingdale, Long Island. Able-Vision was never incorporated, thus making it harder to trace . . . .
"Solicitations by Able-Vision were sent to various State Agencies by fax with follow-ups by mail. . . . The fax has been signed by a woman named Angela Giglio. Investigation has proved conclusively that Angela Giglio was and still is an employee of Maxi-Aids! . . . .
"A Certificate of Incorporation was filed with the State of New York for another new company named Ilgar." [Editor's Note: Ilgar was incorporated in November of 1997.] The filing was made by Pescow & Company, 128 Prospect Avenue, Douglaston, New York 11363. By using Pescow and Company to file the papers, the true identity of the person or persons incorporating `Ilgar' remains disguised. On a date that appears to be July 22, 1998, an application was made by Harold Zaretsky for a Post Office Box under the name of `Adaptive Living & Tech,' using Pescow & Company's address . . . . The Farmingdale Post Office assigned Box Number 3459, which is the same box number that was later used by Able-Vision for its solicitations . . . .
"At another point in time, an undated application was made to the Farmingdale Post Office for a mailing permit by a woman named Feige Berlin. Investigation of the identification of this individual has disclosed that Feige Berlin is the maiden name of Feige Zaretsky, who is the wife of Harold Zaretsky and is Elliot Zaretsky's daughter-in-law. The application was made on behalf of Able-Vision but indicated that the company also did business under the name of Ilgar. Thus the tie-in between and among Able-Vision, Ilgar, and the Zaretskys is conclusively demonstrated. It is irrefutable! . . . .
"Not only have Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys engaged in a deceptive act by establishing and using Able-Vision to do business even though debarred, but they have clearly circumvented their agreement with the VA. The assignment of the Maxi-Aids employee, Angela Giglio, to participate in this deception is a clear violation of their signed agreement [with the VA] to develop `a corporate code of conduct and ethics training program.' The creation of Able-Vision and the use of a Maxi-Aids employee and Harold Zaretsky's wife, under her maiden name, as part of the nefarious scheme can only be looked upon as a willful act--as willful as those for which the jury found the Zaretskys guilty at trial."
At this point it should be noted that Sandler's affidavit was the only one submitted on behalf of ILA regarding Able-Vision, but several were submitted by Maxi-Aids, including those by the Zaretskys and also by employees of Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision.
The affidavits of the Zaretskys and that of Angela Giglio responded specifically to Sandler's accusations that Able-Vision was a sham company set up to circumvent the VA's proposed debarment and RSA's policy directive. An affidavit from Mitchel Zaretsky, denying any involvement at all, contained the opening statement that he was the former president of Maxi-Aids. It was submitted with papers from a law firm different from the one used by the rest of the Zaretsky clan. The Braille Monitor has confirmed that Mitchel has left Maxi-Aids and is now running his own company. Feige Berlin's affidavit uses her full name of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky for the first time in this matter.
From Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit: "The connection the plaintiff seeks, but is unable to make between Ilgar, Inc. and Able-Vision is that Able-Vision is a d/b/a [doing business as] for Ilgar. Ilgar was started as a separate company by my daughter-in-law Feige Berlin-Zaretsky because of dissension that developed between her husband Harold and Harold's brother Mitchell (sic) Zaretsky while they were both members of the board of directors of Maxi-Aids. There is absolutely no connection or collaboration between Ilgar/Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids other than the family name, and Ilgar was not created to circumvent Maxi-Aids's proposed debarment by the Veterans Administration. . . . In fact, Able-Vision regularly ordered products from Maxi-Aids."
From Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's affidavit: "I am the wife of Harold Zaretsky and therefore the daughter-in-law of Elliot Zaretsky, and between August of 1999 and January [of 2000], was the sole shareholder of Ilgar, Inc., and (sic) New York Corporation that was doing business as Able-Vision. My father-in-law helped me start this company because, as someone who is deaf, it was important for me to try to build an entity separate and apart from Maxi-Aids that would allow me to help people who are also hearing-impaired. To help me get Able-Vision off the ground, I hired Ms. Angela Giglio, an experienced customer service representative who was working at Maxi-Aids . . . . Able-Vision did use PO Box 3459 as a mailing address. It was a post office box that was opened by my husband Harold, which he allowed me and my company to share."
From Angela Giglio's affidavit: "I was . . . employed with Maxi-Aids in 1999, but on or about August 5 of that year, I left Maxi-Aids's employ to become the operations manager with Able-Vision, a company that was founded and run by Ms. Feige Berlin-Zaretsky. I worked as operations manager and sole employee of Able-Vision until approximately January of 2000 . . . . [after Able-Vision closed] I returned to Maxi-Aids, again as a customer service representative."
At this point we move to the statements made by Marvin Sandler in his reply affidavit to the submissions by the Zaretskys.
From Sandler's reply affidavit: "The establishment of Able-Vision was certainly a deceptive act to skirt the debarment of Maxi-Aids from public bidding. The affidavits of all those involved (false in themselves) provide more questions then they do answers. The affidavit of Elliot Zaretsky states, "Ilgar was started as a separate company by my daughter-in-law Feige Berlin-Zaretsky . . . ." The affidavit of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky states that between August of 1999 and [the following] January, [she] was the sole shareholder of Ilgar, Inc. and (sic) New York Corporation that was doing business as Able-Vision. The papers of incorporation filed by Pescow and Company indicate that Ilgar was incorporated in November of 1997, more than a year and one half before Feige Berlin-Zaretsky became the sole shareholder. If Feige Berlin-Zaretsky started the company in November 1997, but did not become the sole shareholder until August 1999, then who was (were) the other shareholder(s)?
The affidavits of both Elliot Zaretsky and Feige Berlin-Zaretsky aver that Ilgar was started by Feige Berlin-Zaretsky in order to have a company separate and distinct from Maxi-Aids, which she and her husband Harold could operate as an independent entity in order to help people who are also hearing impaired. There is already such an entity, owned by the Zaretskys, named Hear-More. Harold Zaretsky is the president of Hear-More. The question arises as to why Feige Berlin-Zaretsky would start a company called Able-Vision (a direct reference to vision products) `to help people who are also hearing impaired,' when her husband is already the president of a company specializing in products for the hearing-impaired, and which bears a name that clearly states its purpose. Furthermore, the catalog and literature distributed by Able-Vision does not contain a single product for the hearing-impaired. It should be noted that Mrs. Berlin-Zaretsky purports to have set up her company to help hearing-impaired people but submitted a bid to the Texas Commission for the Blind. To add another element to the deception, it must be remembered that everything involving Able-Vision, including the application for the postal permit and the bid submitted to the Texas Commission for the Blind, bears the name of Feige Berlin and not Feige Berlin-Zaretsky."
As mentioned earlier in this article, Sandler and ILA claimed that Able-Vision successfully submitted bids to the Texas Commission for the Blind and was awarded a contract worth $152,575.04. Maxi-Aids also submitted bids but was automatically disqualified because of the VA and RSA debarments. The Maxi-Aids bids were rejected because Maxi-Aids was a "party excluded from Federal programs." The reader should also keep in mind that the RSA Policy Directive prohibited Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys from becoming contractors or subcontractors (as mentioned earlier in this article), yet Elliot Zaretsky, in his affidavit cited above, stated that "Able-Vision regularly ordered products from Maxi-Aids . . . ." Following are excerpts from Sandler's affidavit and responses from the Zaretskys, Angela Giglio, and Teresa Butler, the procurement employee for Maxi-Aids, a position established as part of the meetings between the VA and the Zaretskys. Ms. Butler is the employee who submitted the bids to the Texas Commission for the Blind which were rejected.
From Sandler's affidavit: "The RSA debarment applied to Maxi-Aids and its principals both as contractors and subcontractors. Notwithstanding the Maxi-Aids debarment, both Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision then submitted bids to the Texas Commission for the Blind . . . in time to meet the bid deadline of December 1, 1999 . . . . At the time the bids were submitted . . . both the VA and RSA debarments were in full force and effect. The Maxi-Aids bids were immediately disqualified by the Texas Commission for the Blind, which was aware of the VA and RSA debarments. However, they were deceived by the Able-Vision bid since they were obviously not aware of the Maxi-Aids/Able-Vision connection. They awarded over $100,000.00 in contracts to Able-Vision, an amount that was well beyond the amount prohibited by the RSA debarment of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys.
"She [Teresa Butler]. . . signed a document containing an affirmation . . . that there has been no collusion with another company. An examination of the bid tabulation sheets . . . show[s] . . . . that there is clear evidence of collaboration and collusion between Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision with respect to the bids . . . .
"The tabulation sheets prove beyond any doubt that the Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision bids were not submitted independently . . . . There are 124 items on the bid. Both Maxi-Aids and Able Vision bid on the identical eighty-eight items! Both Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision did not bid on thirty-six–-the identical thirty-six items! Of the eighty-eight items on which they both bid, Able-Vision beat Maxi-Aids by the identical figure of two cents on eighty-five of them (on items #18 and #52 it was three cents, and on #26 they tied). The odds of two parties independently arriving at a two-cent differential on eighty-five of eighty-eight items are so high as to constitute a statistical impossibility . . . . Furthermore, on item #22 the name of the manufacturer is Tops, and Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision have coincidentally both made the identical misspelling of Top . . . .
[The Texas Bid Document] "contains a certification stating that `The awarded contractor certifies, by signing the IFB, that neither it nor its principals is presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from participation in this transaction by any federal/state department of (sic) agency.' Teresa Butler signed the IFB, despite the fact that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were debarred at that time by both the VA and RSA. This brings into question the code of conduct and ethics training to which the Zaretskys pledged themselves and agreed to in their efforts to have the debarments lifted. The falsity of the certification is apparent on its face!
"The Able-Vision bid has been signed by Feige Berlin, who identifies herself as the president of the company and who investigation has shown to be the wife of Harold Zaretsky and the daughter-in-law of Elliot Zaretsky. The contact person is listed as . . . Angela Giglio, who is the same person who signed and sent the faxes soliciting business [back in August]. Like Teresa Butler of Maxi-Aids, Feige Berlin has also signed a document containing the same anti-collusion paragraph and affirming that she has not `communicated directly or indirectly the bid made to any competitor or any other person engaged in such line of business.' The same certification regarding debarment has been signed on behalf of Able-Vision and its principals, who are clearly the Zaretskys . . . .
"The cover page of the bid documents from the Texas Commission for the Blind required all bidders to list a street address. The address for Able-Vision was stated as `200 Rte 110 #2, Farmingdale, New York 11735.' At the time the bid was submitted, 200 Route 110 was a Merrill Lynch Corporate Center, containing offices for their stock brokerage activities plus additional offices occupied by attorneys, accountants, and other professionals . . . . Able-Vision is not listed on the building directory. There are no warehouse or shipping facilities at 200 Route 110. Phone calls placed to the telephone number listed on the Able-Vision literature and fax were never answered even though the calls were made during normal business hours. All calls were answered by a click, indicating a ring-over to another location, followed by an answering-machine message suggesting that the caller leave a message or send a fax . . . .
"A complaint was filed by Independent Living Aids with the Texas Commission for the Blind, expressing concerns that Able-Vision was a sham company set up by the Zaretskys, who are principals of Maxi-Aids, in an effort to circumvent the VA and RSA debarments. In response . . . the Texas Commission for the Blind [contacted] Able-Vision asking for clarification as to whether there was any connection to Maxi-Aids . . . . [in answer] a phone call was made . . . . by Angela Giglio on February 10, 2000, asking that the award be cancelled since Able-Vision was no longer in business."
The attorney for Maxi-Aids responded to Sandler's charge of collusion between Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision by saying that it ". . . is only substantiated by what is called a statistical impossibility. The affidavits of Ms. Giglio, Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky, and Elliot Zaretsky reveal that it is possible for statistics to be misleading, especially in the face of the reasonable explanation that Ms. Giglio, a former and present employee of Maxi-Aids (with experience in preparing bids) prepared the Able-Vision bid." We invite readers to examine the response affidavits in search of these "reasonable explanations" of why statistics may be misleading.
From Angela Giglio's response affidavit: "I prepared the bid that was submitted to the Texas Commission for the Blind by Able-Vision referred to by the plaintiffs. I did rely on both my previous experience as a customer service representative with Maxi-Aids and on consultations with Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky in preparing the bid, but the bid was solely the product of Able-Vision, and there was no input or assistance that was provided by any other company."
From Feige Berlin's response affidavit: "Angela Giglio and I worked together on preparing the bid that was submitted to the Texas Commission for the Blind referred to by the plaintiffs, and we received no assistance whatsoever, nor was there any involvement from Maxi-Aids. Ms. Giglio and I were both able to utilize her past experience at Maxi-Aids, and we prepared and submitted an independent bid on Able-Vision's behalf.
From Elliot Zaretsky's response affidavit: ". . . it was Ms. Giglio, as someone who had experience preparing bids on behalf of Maxi-Aids during her term of employment there, who prepared the bid that was accepted by the Texas Commission for the Blind (the Texas Commission). This would account for the similarities that were bid upon and the fact that Able-Vision was able to underbid Maxi-Aids by the same amount of two cents on eighty-five of eighty-eight items that comprised the competitive bids of Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids."
From Teresa Butler's response affidavit: "I was responsible for the preparation of the bid that was submitted by Maxi-Aids to the Texas Commission for the Blind. I am very well acquainted with Ms. Angela Giglio, who worked for Maxi-Aids as a customer service representative before she left to work for Ms. Feige Berlin Zaretsky at Able-Vision. I am aware that Able-Vision also bid on the aforementioned Texas Commission contract and that its bid competed with the bid submitted by Maxi-Aids. Therefore I can state with absolute certainty that I did not in any way collaborate with either Ms. Giglio or Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky in my preparation of this bid and that the Maxi-Aids bid was the sole product of my efforts, and my efforts alone."
Editor's Note: Having examined the statements in the four affidavits, we have failed to find the "reasonable explanations" that the Maxi-Aids attorney said would support his claim that Sandler's statistics might be misleading. Sandler apparently felt the same when he submitted his reply.
From Sandler's reply affidavit (referring to Teresa Butler's response affidavit): "This is an absolute non-sequitur! In what way does knowing Ms. Giglio and being aware that Able-Vision was also bidding provide a conclusion that the bids were prepared independently? It also defies the statistical impossibility that eighty-five out of eighty-eight items wound up with the identical two-cent differential and does not explain why both bids contain the same misspelling of the name of the manufacturer of Item #22 (Bacon Crisper) on the bid. The Maxi-Aids bid and Able-Vision bid each listed the manufacturer as `Top Mfg. Co.,' whereas the correct name is `Tops' and not `Top.' This identical error is proof positive that there was collusion on the Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids bids, which definitely constitutes a deceptive act under the regulations of the bid document . . . . [Referring to the affidavits of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky and Angela Giglio] Both Mrs. Berlin-Zaretsky and Angela Giglio have submitted sworn affidavits claiming that they prepared the bids independently, and both have denied that there was any `input or assistance provided by any other company,' (Angela Giglio's affidavit) `nor was there any involvement from Maxi-Aids' (Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's affidavit). It's a careful choice of words and avoids mention of whether there was input from another person. The two affidavits make no mention of the statistical impossibility of eighty-five out of eighty-eight items having the identical two-cent differential, nor do they address the identical misspelling of the name of Tops."
Editor's Note: As quoted above, Sandler also claimed that both Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision had violated the Texas Commission's requirement that the bidder certify that the firms bidding and their principals were not debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded by any federal or state agency. Maxi-Aids was clearly not permitted to bid by virtue of the VA's proposed debarment. Able-Vision was also ineligible to bid, since their own bid documents indicated that they intended to supply most (if not all) of the items using Maxi-Aids as the source-–and the RSA Policy Directive prohibited Maxi-Aids from being a contractor or subcontractor. No response was given on behalf of Able-Vision, but Teresa Butler and Elliot Zaretsky did include statements certifying that Maxi-Aids was not debarred or proposed for debarment, when, in fact, it was. The VA's proposed debarment was lifted by the VA's debarring official by means of a letter dated February 4, 2000. The RSA policy directive (which actually governed the Texas transaction) was not rescinded until April 27, 2000.
From Teresa Butler's affidavit: "I failed to realize that there was language certifying the (sic) Maxi-Aids was not proposed for debarment was buried within the attachments. However, now having had this brought to my attention, I can state that I may have signed the bid anyway because I was aware that the lifting of the proposed debarment was imminent as of December 1, 1999, and that it would have been lifted by the time any of these bids may have been accepted and a contract would have been created with said attachments."
From Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit: The "Debarment Committee . . . . intended to lift the proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids prior to December 1, 1999, and . . . the letter dated February 4, 2000, was simply a written confirmation of said intention. As a matter of fact, the only reason that the Texas Commission for the Blind disqualified the bid dated December 1, 1999, is that the VA was extremely lax in notifying other agencies of the lifting of the proposed debarment. Additionally, since Ms. Butler was aware of the Debarment Committee's decision to lift the proposed debarment . . . she did not believe that she was making any misrepresentation with respect to certification regarding the proposed debarment . . . ."
Sandler strongly opposed these statements as follows:
From Sandler's reply affidavit (referring to Teresa Butler's affidavit): "It is not Ms. Butler's place to speculate when or whether the proposed debarment was to be lifted. The fact remains that the VA's proposed debarment was not lifted until February 4, 2000, more than two months after Ms. Butler submitted the bid on November 23, 1999. The debarment was in full force and effect until the day it was lifted, and she failed to disclose this in her bid. Her statement was false when made. In fact, Maxi-Aids remained on the Rehabilitation Services Administration List of Parties Excluded from Federal Procurement and Non-Procurement Programs until April 27, 2000. This was more than four months after Ms. Butler signed the certification and falsely certified that neither Maxi-Aids nor its principals was [proposed for debarment] . . . .
[Referring to Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit] "Elliot Zaretsky states in his affidavit that his attorneys had been notified that the Debarment Committee of the VA `intended to lift the proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids prior to December 1, 1999, and that the letter dated February 4, 2000 was simply a written confirmation of said intention.' Despite Mr. Zaretsky's protestations and attempts to shift blame for his deceptive acts and conduct, the letter from the VA is quite clear. The VA letter . . . is dated February 4, 2000, and advises that the VA and Maxi-Aids executed an Administrative Agreement `which became effective on January 25, 2000.' It ends with the VA's Debarring Official, in his letter of February 4, 2000, declaring `I hereby lift the proposed debarment . . . . ' It is clear that the debarment was lifted on February 4, 2000, as per the Debarring Official's statement. Despite Elliot Zaretsky's claim that the letter was simply a confirmation of the VA's intent to lift the proposed debarment as of December 1, 1999, there is no reference to that date in the letter. As a matter of fact, how could Elliot Zaretsky claim that the lifting of the proposed debarment was scheduled for December 1, 1999, when the Administrative Agreement was not even signed by his son Mitchel, the President of Maxi-Aids, until January 25, 2000?"
The end of Able-Vision provides an almost amusing coda to this part of Sandler's claim that it was a sham company which had been set up by the Zaretskys to circumvent the VA and RSA debarments. Readers will recall that Sandler wrote that Able-Vision went out of business with a phone call from Angela Giglio to the Texas Commission for the Blind in response to an inquiry from the Texas Commission as to whether there was any affiliation between Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids. The phone call was made on February 10, which coincidentally was less than a week after the VA had lifted its proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids. Sandler claimed that the end of Able-Vision came about partially because the Zaretskys had been caught and partially because Able-Vision was no longer needed, now that Maxi-Aids had been reinstated. Three affidavits contained responses to Sandler's claim.
From Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit: "The only reason Able-Vision went out of business was because Feige Berlin-Zaretsky became pregnant and therefore was unable to continue operating Able-Vision. After Able-Vision stopped its operations, Ms. Giglio returned as an employee of Maxi-Aids."
From Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's affidavit: "I found out on or about late December of 1999 or early January of 2000 that I was pregnant. This required me to make the very difficult decision to forego the Able-Vision/Ilgar venture in favor of having and raising my child. This is why Ms. Giglio informed the Texas Commission for the Blind of the fact that Able-Vision went out of business and was thus not able to follow through on the bid that had been accepted."
From Angela Giglio's affidavit: "I worked as operations manager and sole employee of Able-Vision until approximately January of 2000. This is when Able-Vision went out of business because Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky, who is deaf, became pregnant and closed the operations of Able-Vision at which point I returned to Maxi-Aids, again as a customer service representative."
Sandler disposed of the pregnancy story in a portion of his affidavit that indicated he had indeed done his research.
From Sandler's reply affidavit: "The records of the New York City Health Department reflect the birth of Maxine Beata Zaretsky to Feige and Harold Zaretsky on April 18, 2000, in the Borough of Manhattan [Sandler provided the Birth Certificate number]. If we are to believe Mrs. Berlin-Zaretsky, it would appear that she did not `find out' she was pregnant until she was five and one half months into term. If we are to believe Ms. Giglio, it would appear that the birth took place after a three-and-one-half-month pregnancy. These sworn statements are an insult to the intelligence of this Court . . . ."
With the birth of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's child we come to the end of the Able-Vision saga. We phoned Sandler to ask for his comments. He said he thought that it would have been appropriate for the sworn affidavits of his opponents to begin with the words "Once upon a time" since he believed that they were nothing more than fairy tales. Frankly, we are inclined to agree. Sandler's affidavit, as quoted above, claims that the affidavits submitted by the defendants and their employees provide more questions than answers. In reviewing those submissions, we note that at times the affidavits even conflict with each other. For example, Elliot Zaretsky states that Angela Giglio was "someone who had experience preparing bids on behalf of Maxi-Aids." Yet Ms. Giglio twice refers to herself as having been a `customer service representative.' The avoidance of a response to Sandler's collusion charge involving the identical misspelling of a manufacturer's name also raises suspicions. Raising even more questions are the statements in the affidavits of both Elliot Zaretsky and Feige Berlin-Zaretsky implying that the establishment of Able-Vision was a mechanism for getting Harold out from under his brother Mitchel's thumb. Yet in fact it is Mitchel who has left the Zaretsky employment fold.
Elliot Zaretsky and his lawyers were offered the opportunity to comment on the facts disclosed in this article. They declined the opportunity to do so unless they were given editorial control over material contained in the article or portions of it. Of course, as has become tiresomely evident in the Zaretskys' pattern of behavior, Maxi-Aids's lawyers repeated yet again that the company and its principals had engaged in no wrongdoing, and they claimed that the Braille Monitor's reporting was unfair.
At the Braille Monitor we present the facts, and then we take our stand. To paraphrase the words of Judge Spatt in the Perkins Brailler matter, we believe that ILA has presented a thorough and compelling presentation that the Zaretskys did indeed establish Able-Vision as a device to help them circumvent the proposed debarment by the VA and the policy directive of the RSA. Although Sandler referred to the opposing affidavits as fairy tales, we see them as more grim than Grimm. Unlike fairy tales, in which people live happily ever after, a lot of unhappiness has been caused by the Zaretskys, especially in the Perkins Brailler matter, as reported last month. Not only has up to $152,000 of Hilton Foundation money wound up in the Zaretskys' pockets, but hundreds or even thousands of blind kids in developing countries have suffered as a result.
As reported above, the VA entered into a written agreement with the Zaretskys which called for a code of ethical conduct, and the ink was hardly dry when the Zaretskys set about circumventing that agreement. We deplore this behavior, and we go on record as saying so. Those who read this article and last month's story must make their own decision. We hope that people of conscience will join us in our condemnation.
Elliot Zaretsky Visits the National Center for the Blind
by Marc Maurer
On December 5, 2001, Elliot Zaretsky, the driving force behind Maxi-Aids, came to visit me at the National Center for the Blind. He had called earlier to ask if he could come, and I consented to the visit.
Prior to the Zaretsky visit, Maxi-Aids had behaved in ways that made the National Federation of the Blind determined not to do business with the company. We are convinced that Maxi-Aids's ethical standards are at variance with our own, and we believe that a level of trust and confidence in Maxi-Aids cannot be established. Therefore we have determined that we will do no business with Maxi-Aids under any circumstances. In fact, we believe that Maxi-Aids's conduct has been sufficiently questionable that others should follow our lead.
With this in mind I wondered what Elliot Zaretsky would have to say to me. His message was not complicated. He told me that Maxi-Aids had never done anything improper and that it had the best interests of the blind at heart. He said that he and others associated with Maxi-Aids wanted only to support blind people and that he wanted to learn what could be done to create a positive relationship with the National Federation of the Blind. I responded to his question by telling him that we did not trust him. He would have to behave in a way to engender trust. If he did, perhaps our opinion of him would change.
He repeated to me that Maxi-Aids had never done anything wrong. I asked him if he had obtained Perkins Braillers from South Africa at the subsidized price and sold them in the United States at his catalog price of $685. He told me that he had obtained the Braillers from South Africa at a subsidized rate but that he sold them in the United States at a very low price. I asked him how people in the United States had learned about the low price. He responded by telling me that he had informed people about the lower price. When I asked what it was, he said $499 or $549. I did not inquire about the method for deciding which people got the $499 price, which people got the $549 price, and which people got the $685 price.
Elliot Zaretsky also offered to sell products to the National Federation of the Blind. He showed me a small barcode reader which, he said, was the latest and greatest. He said he would give me one as soon as they were available, and he intimated that this product would be a very hot seller which we would want to distribute. I reiterated that we would not be doing business with him because we did not trust him.
I still do not know why Elliot Zaretsky came to the National Center for the Blind. Perhaps he thought that the force of his personality would make me reject the vast quantity of evidence that has raised in my mind so many questions about the character of those in charge at Maxi-Aids. However, the oft repeated recital by Elliot Zaretsky that all is well does not make it so. Our policy about Maxi-Aids has not changed.
Address to the 1956 Convention of the Tennessee Affiliate
by Kenneth Jernigan
From the Editor: We recently came into possession of a recording of an address delivered by Kenneth Jernigan to the Tennessee Association for the Blind on Sunday, June 10, 1956. Unfortunately the quality of the recording is too poor to allow us to dub it into the cassette edition of this issue, but it is a remarkable document. Dr. Jernigan was only twenty-nine when he attended the convention as the national representative. In some ways in this speech one can watch him developing the speaking style that he later perfected. Much of his message is timeless; some on the other hand addresses problems specific to the organization of the day. The solutions he proposes, however, are as appropriate and shrewd as his advice always was.
He refers to a publication called What is the National Federation of the Blind? This is not the brief, one-page brochure we use today. Shortly before this address Dr. Jernigan had gone to President tenBroek to say that in his opinion the organization needed a document that would explain what the NFB was and what it stood for. He said that he would try his hand at writing it unless President tenBroek wanted to do something else. Dr. tenBroek was no doubt delighted to have such an offer, and Dr. Jernigan produced the pamphlet that the organization used until the decision was later made to change its nature. It is this more ambitious publication that is referred to in the speech.
Here then is the transcription of the speech delivered to the Tennessee Association for the Blind:
Fellow members of the National Federation of the Blind, it is indeed a pleasure for me to be at this local meeting of the National Federation of the Blind. Now let me begin again; members of the Tennessee Association for the Blind, it is a pleasure to be at this meeting of the Tennessee Association. And let me begin again a third time: ladies and gentlemen of the chapters of this organization, it is a pleasure for me to be at a meeting of these chapters. Now I have said the same thing three different ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to bring to you as members of the Tennessee affiliate of the National Federation the greetings of the national officers, the national organization all over the country, the other state affiliates. It is a pleasure to meet with our groups in Tennessee and in any other state and to talk with you about some of the things that are common problems to all blind people, some of our aspirations and some of our goals.
Most of you have seen a pamphlet called What Is the National Federation of the Blind? I do not propose to read that pamphlet to you, but I would like to talk to you about one section of that pamphlet. It is the very heart of that pamphlet; it's the heart and essence of the National Federation. And, when I say "National Federation," you already know I mean you, for you are the National Federation; there is no other.
There is a question in the pamphlet, What Is the National Federation of the Blind? which goes as follows: "What is the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind?" And the answer given in the pamphlet is brief, but it is very significant for the blind of this country. If I had to sum up in one phrase or one sentence what the National Federation of the Blind stands for, I think I could do it like this: it is respectable to be blind. Now that is a thing that many people don't believe. Almost nobody would say that he didn't believe that, and most people don't think that they believe that it is not respectable to be blind, but I think that I can prove to you that many people do believe, in fact, that it is not totally respectable to be blind.
Have you ever seen anybody for instance who said, "You know, folks really forget that I am blind or almost think that I act like a sighted fellow." Or have you heard people say, "Really, I feel self-conscious or sensitive to carry a cane." Now I'm not saying that people should carry a cane, but I am saying this: let us suppose for a moment that it was against the law--not just a misdemeanor, but a felony--for anybody to carry a cane unless the person was a member of the Vanderbilt family. And let us further suppose that no Vanderbilt could carry a cane, have this honor, unless he had at least five million dollars in the bank. Do you think then that anybody would hesitate to carry a cane? I doubt it. As a matter of fact, I suspect that there would be people who, in spite of the penitentiary and all the laws would wear canes in their hats. I repeat, "It is respectable to be blind." And it follows from that that we should be proud of our organization. I was especially glad to see tonight that your president could make an award of a watch to a blind person in this state who is becoming successful, that you could honor one of your own members. For in honoring our organization, we honor ourselves.
I went to the state of Oregon a couple of years ago. An organization of the blind there was debating whether or not it would come into our National Federation. And one man got up, a very good speaker, and used as one of the planks for not affiliating the fact that, if the Oregon group, he said, "affiliates with the National Federation, people are going to know this. We are going to be associated with the group, and," he said, "there's no way that we can keep from being associated with the things that the National Federation would be for."
And I said, "You are certainly right, and we don't want you to feel that you have to apologize for being a member of the National Federation of the Blind"; we're proud of this organization. We are proud to honor the President of this organization. We are proud to honor every state president because it is respectable to be a member of this organization. So the first tenet of our philosophy is the basic respectability of blindness.
As those of you who have read the pamphlet, What Is the National Federation of the Blind? will remember, the answer to the question, "What is the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind?" is as follows: "the Federation believes that blind people are essentially normal people and that blindness in itself is not a mental or psychological handicap. It is merely a physical nuisance. Legal, economic, and social discrimination based upon the false assumption that blind people are somehow different from sighted people must be abolished, and equality of opportunity must be made available to the blind. Because of their personal experience of blindness, the blind themselves are best qualified to lead the way in solving their own problems. But the general public should be made aware of those problems and should be asked to participate in their solution."
Now I would like to take that statement of philosophy, that announced goal of the organization, and talk about it very briefly sentence by sentence with you and try to tell you what, at least for me, it means and what I think it does in fact mean.
First the belief that "blind people are essentially normal people and that blindness in itself is not a mental or psychological handicap": Blindness means one thing--that you can't see. It means nothing more and it means nothing less than that. Let me differentiate for you briefly between the disability of blindness and the handicap of blindness, for therein lies a problem for us. The disability of blindness is the fact that you can't see, and that can be treated by the doctor. It can be treated medically. You can either cure it, or you can live with it, and that's all there is to it.
Now the handicap of blindness is something else. The handicap of blindness is what people have thought about blindness--what the sighted have thought about it and what the blind have thought about it. Therein lies the problem for the disability of blindness. The physical disability is simply a nuisance. Any of you who have left your rocking chairs, and all of you have or you wouldn't be here--any of you who have got up and traveled at all have bumped your shins on something. That's a nuisance. You may have hit your forehead on an over-hanging bough, and that's a nuisance. But it doesn't make you psychologically different, and it's no more a nuisance than shaving in the morning. There are even times when perhaps you've come into a crowded bus station and you've followed the clicking heels of some lady, figuring that you were going out onto the street and perhaps ended up almost in the ladies' rest room.[laughter] But that is no more than a nuisance.[more laughter]
People very often confuse the disability with the handicap. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Two years ago a young lady in the state of California that I know was teaching in the public schools of that state. She was teaching a fourth-grade class of sighted children. She became blind. She went to her doctor, and he said to her, "Angia," for that was her name, "You have no hope of getting your sight back."
She said to him, "Doctor, you mean I won't be able to teach any more?"
And he said, "I'm afraid that's right, Angia. It may be hard to say to you, but you should prepare yourself now for something which a blind person can do. I would suggest that you try to get a job as a stenographer, that you try to prepare yourself for typing or some other job." He was a doctor. He understood the physical disability of blindness, but he was presuming to advise her about the handicap of blindness, something he knew nothing at all about. She took his word for it. When we of the California organization of the blind met her, she was totally despairing. She said, "I cannot teach again."
And I said, "Why can't you teach?" And she told me the story about the doctor. So I read with her the report concerning the employment of the blind in the teaching profession, and I pointed out to her that thirteen blind people in the state of Ohio alone were teaching in the public schools regular, ordinary classes. I pointed out to her that blind people in other states were teaching in regular elementary schools. Today that girl is teaching again in a fourth-grade class of ordinary sighted students in an ordinary school. She confused the disability of blindness with the handicap of blindness. Blind people, ladies and gentlemen, are normal people. When we say those words, we very often admit them intellectually, but we don't admit them emotionally. They are a fact.
The second item in this philosophy is a three-fold proposition: "legal, economic, and social discrimination based upon the false assumption that blind people are somehow different from sighted people must be abolished." We say those words, you hear people use the word "discrimination," and they talk about legal, economic and social, and they run over them as if they were one word, and most people don't really think about what those things mean.
Sometimes I take a class of students in the agency where I work, and I say to them, "Give me an example of a legal discrimination." I first ask them: "Do you believe that these things ought to be abolished?" And they will usually say, yes. Then I say, "What is it that you want abolished? Give me an example of a social discrimination. Do you know of any?" The answers are interesting. There are legal, economic, and social discriminations. Legal discrimination--what is your National Federation of the Blind doing to abolish legal discrimination? In short, what are you doing?
Well, through your national office, for you are doing whatever the National Federation does, we have had one thing that we call the Civil Service story. A lot of you may immediately say, "But I do not intend to get a Civil Service job, and therefore this doesn't affect me." But it does. Let me first tell you what the Civil Service story is, and then let me try to show you how it affects us. Before 1948 blind people were pretty much excluded from federal Civil Service. There was an occasional instance of a blind person's, because of the goodness of a local Civil Service office, being permitted to take a Civil Service examination, but it was the policy almost universally to exclude blind people.
In that year you, the National Federation of the Blind, succeeded in getting the United States Congress to pass a law that the federal Civil Service Commission could not discriminate against blind people in giving federal Civil Service examinations unless, in the opinion of the Commission, sight was absolutely indispensable to the performance of the duties of the job in question. The commission evaded the spirit of that law by declaring that sight was indispensable to all jobs in the federal Civil Service in effect. Blind people continued to be excluded.
In 1950 a case which most of you know about occurred. A young man named Russell Kletzing was permitted to take a Civil Service examination. He passed it. The examination was for a position as a legal consultant with the federal government. The federal officials in Washington discovered that he had passed it and was a blind person and removed his name from the register on the grounds of blindness and that blind people couldn't perform that kind of work. In the meantime Kletzing had got a job with another branch of the federal government doing exactly the same kind of work.
This was a good case, and you, the National Federation of the Blind, took that case to court. Let me stop right here to ask, "How does that affect you?" I think it affects you like this: the very fact in the first place that we were able to get publicity to the effect that blind people were able to do this kind of work, the fact that, as soon as that case was taken to court, the affiliates all over the country were asked to send in a list of successfully practicing blind lawyers, and we collected a list of over a hundred. That was publicized all over the country. Now that affected you because an employer, a professional man, a businessman, a labor leader--all of those in one way or another were exposed to that publicity. And the next time they met you on the street, although they may not have remembered the publicity, they treated you a little bit differently.
If you doubt that, think for a moment of the effects of advertising. Why does the American business world spend billions of dollars a year on advertising? "You don't know of a man," a person said to me once, "ever who has said to a blind man, `I won't hire you because I have seen blind people on the street begging' or `I've seen other blind people who were helpless and therefore this has had a subtle effect on me.' You don't know of that do you?"
And I said, "I do not." Neither do I know of anybody who smokes Winstons because the radio told him to, but that's the reason he smokes them. If it were not true, the cigarette industry wouldn't spend the money advertising. We are creatures of habit. If we are told a thing often enough, we come to expect it, and we act upon it. The first telling may not do it or the second or the third, but it happens.
Therefore every time a blind man gets a job, it helps you--every one of you, even if, as some of us say, you have it made. None of us have it made. You are exposed to social discrimination even if you are wealthy, if you are a blind person at the current time.
But to go on with the testing case briefly, the Civil Service Commission got scared. They figured that we would win that case, so they abolished the entire Civil Service registry and said that you couldn't restore a man's name to a register that didn't exist and asked that it [the case] be thrown out of court. And the court agreed. We appealed on that case, and we lost the appeal. And a lot of people could have said at that time, and some probably did, "Then what good is this organization to us? What has it ever done for me? Let's pull out of this organization. Why bother with it? We don't need an organization."
But it did do some good because the Civil Service opened up one examination. So much publicity had been given, so much Congressional interest had been aroused, that in the late fall of 1953 the Junior Management Assistant Examination was opened up. Now the Junior Management Assistant Examination is the hardest one given by the federal Civil Service, so there was a good deal of speculation as to the motives of the Commission. If no blind people could pass that examination or if none could qualify for it, then the Commission could say, "You see, we told you so." Of the sighted who took that examination, 3 percent passed. Of the blind who took that examination, 6 percent passed, and we were in business.
Since that time I know of some cases where blind people have actually been employed as a result, and every time one of those blind people has become employed, you individually have been helped, and I have been helped. You can feel proud of the fact that you individually helped to secure it because you are the National Federation.
There is one other case in the legal area that I want to point out along the Civil Service line which is more recent. It only culminated this month, but it proves again the statement that blind people are normal people and that we sell ourselves short far too often. A totally blind boy went through the University of Washington a few years ago as a major in chemistry. His professors in chemistry, the people who ought to know, said to him, "You cannot hope to be a chemist; you would be a hazard as a chemist." And finally they called him down and told him that he could not make ether in an experiment.
And he said,"I intend to do it."
They said, "Then you must sign a waiver that, if you kill yourself, we are not liable," which he did. He came out of that school with good grades and with a Ph.D. degree. This was two years ago this coming June. He had married in the meantime, and his wife was pretty discouraged because nobody wanted to hire a blind chemist. They were polite, but they said, "There's no job in our place that you could do."
His wife said, "We want to live a normal life, and we want to settle down. Just help him get a job as a factory worker; help him get anything." But we kept urging him, no. They had come, by that time, to the Bay Area in California, and we said, "No, let's keep fighting to get him a job as a chemist. He can do chemistry; you know he can do it."
And she said, "Yes, but other people don't know he can do it, and they won't give him a chance." He applied for a Civil Service Examination, and the only examination for Ph.D. chemistry people is that they go down and sign up that they are a Ph.D., and they're on the rolls. They put him on, but then the federal people took him off, and we protested and said, "What about your rulings?" It took us a year, a little over. In February of this year the Federation won its point and also won an admission from the Civil Service Commission that is valuable to you all. In the first place the Civil Service people said that from now on, if any job in any classification is of such a nature that it can be performed by a blind person, that entire classification will now be open to the blind.
Second, Dick Wilborn was given a job by the United States military establishment at Dugway, Utah, at the proving grounds, and he went in at what's called a GS 11 rating, March fifth of this year. I understand that the beginning salary is $6,500 a year. And yet some people say to me sometimes, "What good is this national organization?" There is your answer. That not only helps Dick Wilborn but it helps us all because Dick Wilborn is seen to be working. He is going to be convincing people. Folks will see him at work, and they will believe. They will come to Tennessee, or they'll meet people who are from Tennessee, and all along the strata of American society we'll see the information that another blind man is at work. The advertising effect is there. We are fighting many forms of legal discrimination--and I could give many examples besides the Civil Service story, but there isn't time.
There are economic discriminations. I think I really need not elaborate on those. You know that many employers, in fact, most employers, will not at the present time actually seriously consider giving a blind person a job in regular industry. There are questions of this sort: what kind of jobs can they perform? There are no jobs for blind people and jobs for sighted people. There is almost no factory, almost no office, or almost no plant in these United States that doesn't have many jobs that could be performed by blind people. Many of us really, seriously, down deep inside don't believe that, and until we can believe it and until we do believe it emotionally as well as intellectually, we are not going to achieve real equality. For you can't sell something you don't really believe yourself.
What are we doing to try to sell people on this idea? Well, then we are trying to remove the economic discrimination. And one way that we are trying to do this is to get bigger and better rehabilitation programs, trying to publicize the fact that blind people are working. We are trying to let the public, the average employer know what blind people can do. We are trying to get training for blind people and also let blind people know what other blind people are doing and encourage blind people. All of this is important: economic discrimination.
Now the final one, social: at first the social discriminations seem the most harmless. They are in reality the worst and the most subtle, and the ones that we must remove if we are ever to do anything else. For they are the symptom and the cause of all the rest of our problems. Let me illustrate. Not long ago in one of the cities of these United States a blind man went down to the blood bank to donate a pint of blood. The people at the blood bank, the doctor on duty, said to him, "I'm sorry. You are in good health, but I cannot take your blood because you might get out onto the street and faint." What does that imply? It implies first that blind people are somehow different from sighted people. But secondly it implies that this fellow wasn't capable of knowing whether he could take care of himself or not, that he was a child mentally, that he had something more than blindness the matter with him. He was very indignant about it, but he didn't get to give his blood.
The people who were in that blood bank and who saw that experience went away a little bit more confirmed in their opinion that blind people were different, were helpless. Do you think that any of those people then would turn around and give a blind person a job? Likely not. Advertising. There are YMCA's in the country, and I know of some, where blind people who are unaccompanied cannot spend the night. The theory is that they might hurt themselves, that they might fall down the stairs. Are we really such children that we cannot even be supposed to know whether we can take care of ourselves? Many people would say, "But I was just being kind; I was doing this for your own good." That we call the tyranny of kindness. I'd just as leave not have that sort of kindness.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had somebody say to the person next to you, "Does he want cream in his coffee?"[laughter] That's a social discrimination. It is a thing that robs blind people of dignity. It is a thing that robs blind people of equal treatment in society. It is a thing that robs you of dollars in your pocket, of jobs. I have gone places with a sighted person and had somebody say to that sighted person after we have had some food, "Would he like a second helping?" My escort had no way under the sun of knowing whether or not I wanted a second serving.
But I'll tell you whom that situation might have fit very logically. Suppose I took a three-year-old child, a very small child, to any place where we were eating. Somebody might suppose that that child would not be capable of telling them whether he wanted something else or not. But they would figure that, since I was with him and was a responsible adult and was used to him, I would be able to interpret his needs. So they would ask me, "Does he want so-and-so," and I would turn and ask him by whatever sign language we used, and he would tell me, and I would reinterpret his needs and say that "he does" or "he does not." That kind of question is an insult to every last one of us.
Now the people who do that do not do it maliciously. They do it with kindness. They don't do it because they wish to be mean. They would be hurt in many instances if we told them that this was a discrimination, that it really was robbing blind people, but that's what it's doing. And that's what your national organization is dedicated to try to remove--to try to do something about. It's what you are doing something about by being members of this group and by working together. Social discriminations: they are the most subtle of all, and they are the ones that hurt us the most.
We are sending out in the White Cane literature each year pamphlets that describe to people what blind folks are doing. When you figure the entire, nationwide mailing, they're going out in millions. A few years ago there was a pamphlet sent out during White Cane Week called "The Ten Courtesy Rules of Blindness." Many of you may have seen that pamphlet. If we never get a dime back, even if we had to pay money to send that pamphlet, it was worth it to us because it said this: "When you meet me, don't be ill at ease. Remember these rules; they'll help both of us."
And then ten points were given. I won't give you all of the ten, but see what you think of them. One was: "Don't ask my wife, `Does he take cream in his coffee?' Ask me." Another one was, "Don't avoid words like `see'; I use them too. I am always glad to see you." Another one was, "Don't shout or address me as if I were a child; I'm an ordinary person, just blind." And then another one was, "Whatever I have accomplished I've done by hard work, so don't talk to me about the wonderful compensations of blindness." This kind of thing helps to make people think. It helps to change the social discrimination.
Yet some folks say sometimes, "They (whoever the they might happen to be--I don't know what this they is) They, the National Federation of the Blind, ought to have a positive program. They are too critical." And yet they are distributing--whoever they is--are distributing materials like this through the mail. They are fighting the Wilborn case and the testing case and are establishing the changes in the Civil Service, and I have concluded that the they is you--all of us. We are the they.
Now to move on to the last part of this statement of philosophy then: "Because of their personal experience of blindness, the blind themselves are best qualified to lead the way in solving their own problems. The blind themselves must unite and take leadership in solving common problems."
If it is true that we are normal people, if it is true that we are equal to other people, then we certainly ought to know more about our problems than other people would know. And therefore we ought to unite, we ought to take leadership in solving those problems. This is why every person who is blind ought to be in the National Federation of the Blind. You ought to be in your local groups here. I think one of our great problems in this state--and I have been in this state a long time, and I know some of the problems here. They are not peculiar to this state--but one of our great problems has been that people have been able to divide us and conquer. We have not displayed a common front. People have gone into a meeting and voted, and, if the vote didn't go to suit them, they then have gone out and worked as they pleased anyway.
You have no right to do that sort of thing in my opinion. If we participate in an organization, and we ought to, and if we participate in the vote, then it seems to me that we are honor-bound--and not only honor-bound but, if we've got good sense, for our own preservation we are going to go with the majority decision.
I know that in this state individuals have sometimes got ahead a little bit, and then they have decided, "Well, I believe I'll deal with the Governor or the legislature or with some office-holder on my own. I'm not going to deal through the organization.” Every time that happens, it weakens every blind person in the United States, and it doesn't help the individual who does it in the long run, for he is made the victim of his own strategy. For, if he can do it, somebody else can do it, and somebody else has done it.
I saw a letter not many years ago from a very prominent state official which I think is a classic and which illustrates what I am talking about perfectly. The blind of this state wanted something, so a letter was sent to this official stating that the blind would like so-and-so. The official answered very smugly. (He answered one of our friends, by the way, but the person who wrote the letter was in another city from Nashville.) And this official answered, "As you doubtless know, there are several groups in this state, each of whom claims to represent all of the blind of the state. And, as you probably also know, there are several individuals who are not organized who claim individually to represent the blind of this state. And therefore," politely the official went on to say, "I don't propose to do anything about what you recommend, for the blind don't want it at all."
If a blind man goes to the legislature of this state, if a blind man gets an office in this state, if a blind man becomes prominent in his community in this state, he still ought to feel that the Tennessee Association for the Blind is the voice of the blind of this state, and he ought to come into this organization and work through its channels and let the president and the board of this organization speak for him, for if we cannot delegate to our representatives the right to represent us, we cannot make very much advancement. That is a prime principle, and there is no way around it. Those people who talk of going it alone are either very reckless or very foolish and perhaps both.
It is true that in those states in the United States where the blind have had a united and a strong organization, you came to have more employment of blind people, and you came to have a higher living standard all around. And in those states where you have weak organizations or none, you came to have poor and wretched conditions for the blind.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we go away from this convention with nothing else, I hope that we will go away from this convention each one determined that he will not deal independently with state officials and with all sorts of groups outside and say that the blind want thus-and-so but that he will deal through the duly constituted representatives of this organization. You may not like the officers you elected. If you don't, get out and politic and throw them out. But at the same time, for God's sake, as long as they are your officers, as long as they have been elected to represent the blind, then let them represent the blind.
That's one phase of uniting and taking leadership in solving our common problems, and it is perhaps the most important phase on a state or a national or a local level. People have been able to play one group of us off against another group. However, there is a corollary of that philosophy. We say that "The blind themselves are best qualified to lead the way in solving their own problems." That's true, but there is something else. "The general public should be made aware of those problems and should be asked to participate in their solution." The first is of little importance or of little benefit unless we can follow through with the second.
It is true, and I suppose that I need not argue with you on this point, that blind people who have actually learned how to be successful themselves ought to know what is involved in a blind person's becoming successful. Therefore they ought to lead the way and point the way in solving their problems, but it is also true that we are a minority group and that we do have to live in a regular, ordinary community, that we want jobs in regular industry, that we want to be interdependent with our neighbors, that we want to be one and the same with our fellow citizens. If we are to do that, we must educate the public. We must make them aware of our problems.
How can we do it? Meetings like this help to do it. Our own belief in the things that we stand for will do it. Distributing booklets like What Is the National Federation of the Blind? will do it. I have distributed about one thousand copies of this book this year. How many have you distributed? They are available. No one need say that he cannot get literature from the Federation office for it is available in piles if you want it in print. All you have to do is write and say, "I'd like to have it." Clyde Ross in Akron, Ohio, has put copies of this book and also "Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind?" which talks about the different jobs that blind people are doing--he's put copies of these out in the public libraries for people to pick up. How many have you put out? That's one thing.
Every radio program, every TV program, every newspaper article that's properly done helps to educate the public. But every fund-raising appeal that goes out that talks about the world of darkness, that talks about, in effect, the helplessness of the blind damages the cause. It reinforces people in their belief that we are basically helpless.
Some people say, "We are all working for the same thing, and therefore let's all get together." That's true, and it isn't true. Every group that is doing work in the name of the blind is not working for the same goal we're working for. If you believe that such is the case, listen just to these two sentences that I copied from a recent publication of one group, which I do not care to name particularly. This is the quote: "A job, a home, and the right to be a citizen will come to the blind in that generation when each and every blind person is a living advertisement of his abilities and capacities to accept the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. Then we professionals will have no problem of interpretation because the blind will no longer need us to speak for them, and we like primitive segregation will die away."
Now you think about that statement for a moment. That is the announced statement of philosophy of one group. I presume that that which will come is not here now, by logic. And, if you say, "in some future generation," I take it that that's a long time off. So notice the things that the blind will someday in some far-off generation get: "a job, a home, and" if you please "the right to be a citizen." I have the right to be a citizen now; don't you?
There's a second part to that statement: "Then we professionals will have no problem of interpretation." If I go to a foreign country and I am so different from the people that I don't speak their language, I hire an interpreter to interpret my needs. I am not so different, I feel, from regular people that I cannot interpret my own needs. "For the blind will no longer need us to speak for them"--do we really need anybody to speak for us now? So I repeat, we are not all working for the same thing, and there are times when, even if it appears to be critical, we must stand up and speak. I do not care to exist as a well-fed slave, and I don't think you do.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I know that sometimes, when you work in a locality, in a state organization, or when you are working in your own community, maybe by yourself, you can feel, "I'm really kind of carrying this fight alone." That's not true as I think has been amply demonstrated in this convention. You've seen leaders of the North Carolina Federation here. In other state conventions your state president has appeared. We are beginning to exchange visitors at these conventions and to swap ideas. And more than that, the blind all over the country have united themselves into one organization, and we are moving, almost forty thousand of us, for that is how many members the NFB has all over the country, forty thousand. We are moving in one common cause, and we are moving together.
It's coming slowly, but we are winning for the blind independence and the right to be normal, regular citizens. The issue is not in doubt; we are going to win it. During this two-day convention I feel that we have had one of the most constructive meetings, perhaps the most, that I've ever attended in this organization. I have seen a kind of enthusiasm here which convinces me that the Tennessee group is on the verge of the biggest expansion it's ever had.
I have known for a long time and respected your president. I still know him and respect him, and the same for the other officers and leaders of this group. Although it has been a pleasure for me to come back and visit you and bring the greetings of the national office to you, I have not felt like a visitor at this convention, for I don't think I am a visitor with you. In California, wherever I go, I am still a Tennessean, so this has really been for me coming home. It's been a real pleasure to be with you. I hope to see many of you in California this summer. I thank you.
Vending Opportunities for the Blind on Military Bases:
A Victory in the Courts
by Andrew Freeman
From the Editor: Andrew Freeman is an attorney with the law firm of Brown, Goldstein, and Levy. Except for Jim Gashel, he probably knows more about vending cases in the United States than anybody else. He was the attorney handling our most recent efforts to protect the rights of blind vendors. He addressed the NFB convention Thursday morning, July 5, in Philadelphia. This is what he said:
Do any of you object to successful blind people? Do any of you object to blind people working hard and running large and profitable businesses? Do any of you object to blind people becoming rich?[cheers and applause in response to each of these questions] Well thanks to the Federation's enforcement of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, there are now blind businessmen and women successfully operating cafeterias and military mess halls throughout the country. Well, thanks to the Federation's enforcement of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, there are now some rich blind people. But it doesn't come easy. It doesn't come without some very hard work by some very talented vendors. It doesn't come without overcoming opposition and jealousy. And it doesn't come without the Federation's clout or without its willingness to enforce our rights in court.
Twenty-seven years ago, in 1974, Congress amended the Randolph-Sheppard Act to give blind vendors a priority to operate vending facilities, including cafeterias, on federal and state properties. The Act was explicitly intended to provide opportunities for blind entrepreneurs. Earlier this week twenty-seven years later, I was given a copy of a letter that complained a blind entrepreneur on an Air Force base in Texas is earning a million dollars a year. The writer seemed to think that it's okay for small business people to get preferences that allow them to work hard and become millionaires. He seemed to think that it's okay for minorities and other disadvantaged groups to get preferences that allow them to work hard and become millionaires, but somehow he was distressed that blind people should be given an opportunity to work hard and become millionaires. Some people think that sort of success is to be ashamed of. We say it's something to be proud of and something to repeat.
Some of our opponents don't like the idea of rich blind people. They prefer to keep blind people in sheltered workshops, but blind merchants in Texas and Oklahoma and Louisiana, blind merchants in Kentucky, Ohio, Colorado, and New Mexico, blind merchants in New Jersey and Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia and states all over America are saying, "Hell, no. Let blind merchants walk through the door that Congress opened over twenty-five years ago. We have the experience and skills to operate multi-million dollar food service contracts. Where we don't have the experience and the skills, we know how to get them." Blind vendors around the country have proved they can offer high-quality food at competitive prices. They have proved and are proving it every day that they have what it takes to satisfy their customers on a large scale, to feed thousands of meals--good meals--a day to military personnel, and to earn a good living while doing so.
A year and a half ago the folks at NISH, who operate sheltered workshops and operated some cafeterias on military bases began to feel threatened. They felt threatened by the idea of blind entrepreneurs, so they filed suit challenging the decision of the contracting officer at Fort Lee, an Army base in Virginia, to apply the Randolph-Sheppard priority to the mess halls at Fort Lee--mess halls that feed several thousand meals a day. Mind you, the contracting officer hadn't just gone out and arbitrarily awarded the mess hall contract to a blind person. After a lot of ground work by advocates for the blind, she had determined that the mess halls are cafeterias covered by the Randolph-Sheppard Act, so when the Virginia State Agency for the Blind and its blind vendor demonstrated that they could provide good food at good prices, they were entitled under the law to operate those mess halls. Well, NISH and Goodwill and the sheltered-workshop folks claimed that the Randolph-Sheppard priority shouldn't apply to those mess halls. For political reasons the Commonwealth of Virginia refused to defend its own programs, so the National Federation of the Blind stepped in to the case and underwrote the legal costs on behalf of the Virginia vendors and others.
A year ago we won the case in federal trial court, but NISH appealed. The NFB kept fighting and sent me to Richmond to argue the case in front of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In April we won a resounding victory. The Fourth Circuit adopted all three of our arguments. The court agreed that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applied to military mess halls. The court agreed that the interpretation of the Secretary of Education and the Commissioner of Rehabilitation Services is entitled to deference, and it agreed that, because the Randolph-Sheppard Act applies more specifically to cafeterias than does NISH's Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, the Randolph-Sheppard Act controls those situations.
The result is the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines are now somewhat reluctantly complying and recognizing the Randolph-Sheppard priority for many, though not yet for all, of their mess halls. We taught the same lessons to the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals a few years ago, and we will teach it again to any other agency or organization that seeks to deprive blind people of their rights.
These victories require follow-up, follow-up by blind vendors, follow-up by the courts when necessary; but we are not going to sit on these individual victories until blind people are operating the cafeterias and the mess halls in VA hospitals and military bases all across America. These victories have established precedents that allow blind merchants to operate those contracts, and where blind merchants have gotten through the door, they are proving that they have what it takes to operate these multi-million-dollar food service operations.
Victory and opportunity--victories in court by which the NFB has made sure that blind vendors had the opportunities that Congress established twenty-seven years ago in the Randolph-Sheppard Act, blind vendors who are making the most of those opportunities. Let's keep up the great work.
First-Timers' Convention Reports
From the Editor: The NFB of Virginia conducts a program which provides assistance for two members to attend the National Convention for the first time. They call these grants McDonald Fellowships in honor of a longtime leader of the affiliate. Chancey Fleet and Joann McSorley were the 2001 McDonald Fellowship winners. These two women, at very different stages in their lives, struck the same note of wonder and excitement. Chancey is a student at William and Mary College, and Joan is a newly blind mother with college-age children. Here is what they had to say as first published in the Summer, 2001, issue of The Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia:
Chancey Fleet: Before I even arrived in Philadelphia, I knew I would be in good company at the National Convention. Standing at the gate from which my flight would take off, I discovered that another Federationist would be on my aircraft. In the few minutes before we got on the plane I learned that this blind Texan was outspoken and independent--just that week she was defending her right to continue her job at a local childcare center despite the doubts of some of her colleagues. She was reasonably upset at the challenge to her competence, but I could tell that she had the resolve to win and the backing of the Federation to help her stay confident.
Once I arrived at the Philadelphia Marriott, I became fully aware of (and a little overwhelmed by) the complexity of National Convention. I was given a several-page pre‑agenda covering just two days of meetings and activities. I found that my hotel and the one across the street were both almost exclusively booked by blind people (much to the bewilderment of a handful of sighted vacationers).
Each day I spent in Philadelphia I expanded my understanding of how the Federation works. I learned that we have fifty thousand members. We have been instrumental in the decline of sheltered workshops for the blind. We have divisions of every kind from one for writers to one for educators and a plethora of other things I hadn't known before. What struck me most about the national organization was discovering that we reach out to every sector of the blind population. During general session I heard about a program called "Braille Is Beautiful," designed to increase the understanding and acceptance of Braille in our society by introducing it to sighted middle‑schoolers in classrooms.
I also heard about our involvement in the World Blind Union and our commitment to working with blind people outside the United States. A bill designed to use Medicare funds for blind senior citizen rehabilitation services and another which would increase the incentive to work for those of us who receive Social Security Disability Insurance were discussed.
I spent a few fascinating hours in the exhibit hall, a huge space on one of the lower floors that was filled to capacity with gadgets, daily‑living aids, books, souvenirs and information of every kind. I have a particular interest in technology and was instantly drawn to booths with names like "Clever Devices" and "Beyond Sight."
The innovation I was happiest to find was the Bank of America's talking ATM, which operated smoothly through a speech interface. I was able to use my Bank of America card to make a bank transaction without sighted assistance for the first time in my life. Thousands of other blind people will be able to experience this financial liberation in the coming months. Talking ATMs are being installed in a few cities now, and they'll be popping up all over the country soon.
The best gadget I discovered was the Atlas/GPS‑Talk, a compilation of nonvisual maps of the entire country (stored on CD‑ROM), a vast collection of points of interest (also on CD), and a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver the size of a cell phone. The CDs alone allow the buyer to explore his or her city from a computer or learn the lay of the land in an unfamiliar area. In combination with the receiver, the maps can be used on a notebook computer to tell travelers exactly where they are and how to get to where they want to be.
Inevitably new technology isn't always what the manufacturers or consumers expect. At one booth I happened upon a little magic wand that didn't work--a small device which purported to know and announce the color of any object. I've never actually observed the color of my hand, but I'm fairly certain that the little wand was lying when it told me my skin tone is "mat‑black."
I spent seven days in Philadelphia, but two moments stand out in my memory like none of the others. The first occurred while I was watching the annual play put on by the Louisiana Center for the Blind. This year the focus was the achievements of the NFB in general, with particular attention to Kenneth Jernigan. Toward the conclusion of the play three children took the stage to sing about Kenneth Jernigan and their desire to "teach the blind like he did." The genuine feeling in the voices of these members of the fourth generation was a strong reminder of how the Federation changes lives.
The other highly memorable moment took place during the banquet, and I can't ascribe my feelings to a single sentence that I heard or a single idea that I gathered. Instead it was Marc Maurer's entire speech that left me feeling both impressed and invincible. His speech was by turns witty and stirring, and his command of language was amazing. I felt as if the power of his speech represented the power of the Federation, an organization of people as competent in their own walks of life as Dr. Maurer is as a leader.
I'm intensely grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Philadelphia and to learn and experience so much in one short week. Thank you to everyone in the Virginia Affiliate who made my trip possible--I hope that the fellowship can be continued in future years so that other Federationists in Virginia can experience the National Convention firsthand.
Joann McSorley: Overwhelmed does not begin to describe my feelings accurately as I entered the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia on July 1. There were hundreds of people, hundreds of white canes, many dogs, and twice as much luggage. This was my first solo trip with my cane, and I admit that I was somewhat anxious. It hadn't occurred to me that I am almost always with a sighted family member or friend, but now I was totally on my own. And I am happy to report that I survived, quite well I think.
Being in Philadelphia was going home for me. It's my hometown, and I still have many family members in the city and the surrounding areas. It just felt right hearing and seeing the sights and sounds of a familiar city.
But I must get back to the convention. Another first for me was that I had never attended a convention of any kind before, and I really did not know what to expect. My education began immediately--people and more people from all over the world, people talking, people laughing, and sometimes engaging in impromptu fencing matches with white canes right before me.
The bustle and activity was stimulating to all my senses. After waiting for a few hours for my room and wandering around the hotel hoping to find members of the Potomac chapter, I finally checked in to my room and relaxed. Later that night I found a friend, and still later in the evening I found myself at the Hard Rock Cafe enjoying drinks with other chapter friends. This is not what I normally do on a Sunday night, but I was enjoying myself.
On Monday I registered and started attending various meetings. I was impressed by the welcoming atmosphere and the relevance of the subjects being covered. The entire week was a learning experience, and I loved the feeling of belonging with these people, truly a brotherhood.
A friend and I spoke of being normal for a whole week and how wonderful it felt. I attended the introduction of the recipients of student scholarships and sat in awe. They were well-spoken and definitely motivated, but the range of subjects being pursued was amazing. There were no slouches here. From archeology to genetic engineering, the list was incredible and the spirits indomitable.
When the convention opened on Wednesday, once again I was very impressed with the speakers. All were inspirational, and the learning process continued. The days were so full and busy that it was hard to believe that the banquet had arrived on Friday night and the week was drawing to a close. As I packed to leave on Saturday morning, I realized that I didn't want to go home and doubted that there would be fresh towels in my bathroom the next morning. My other life beckoned, and I did return home. However, I am really looking forward to next summer and Louisville!
The 2002 National Convention in the Making
by Cathy Jackson
From the Editor: Cathy Jackson is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. She and the affiliate are busy getting ready for the 2002 convention. This is what she says:
Please consider this your personal invitation to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The Board of Directors and members of the Kentucky affiliate have been working hard to make your stay in Louisville a memorable one. A great many of you will remember the 1985 convention. Well, hold on to your hat, because this convention will be every bit as exciting and then some. Committee chairmen have been appointed, and they have taken up their tasks of gathering door prizes, planning tours, arranging social activities, and soliciting help to staff the information tables--all for your convenience and pleasure. We pride ourselves on good old Southern hospitality.
Louisville sits on the banks of the beautiful Ohio River. The metropolitan area is comprised of Jefferson, Oldham, and Bullitt Counties in Kentucky and Clark, Floyd, Harrison, and Scott Counties in southern Indiana, making a total population of approximately one million. You can readily see that we are large enough to promote big-city events, while keeping the charm and sophistication of a Southern town.
You already know that Louisville is the home of Churchill Downs, the American Printing House for the Blind, and the Louisville Slugger bat. But did you know we are also the home of the patented Derby Pie, Rolled Oyster, Cheeseburger, Modjeska Candy (a caramel-covered marshmallow), and the first ragtime hit written by Ben Hainey, "You've Been a Good Old Wagon, but You Done Broke Down." We can also boast that our Seelbach Hotel on Fourth Avenue was the model for the famed Mulebach Hotel in The Great Gatsby.
When you think of Louisville, Kentucky, probably one of the first things that pop into your mind is the Kentucky Derby, "the greatest two minutes in sports." Kentucky is known for its fast women and pretty horses, or is that fast horses and pretty women? You can spend an exciting day at Churchill Downs in the grandstands admiring the horses or visiting the Derby Museum, where you can learn about the history and beauty of the track and the racing industry.
For those of you who want a more relaxing, peaceful time, the oldest Mississippi-style sternwheeler, the Belle of Louisville, is docked proudly at the fourth street wharf, just a short walk from the Galt House. A cruise on the Ohio River on a hot, lazy summer's day might be just the ticket for a perfect family outing.
The city planners have done an excellent job creating our new waterfront park. Take a blanket and enjoy a picnic on the great lawn. The Playscape children's play area will occupy even the most rambunctious youngster for hours.
Louisville provides something for sports enthusiasts as well. Slugger Field, home of the Riverbats, the Triple-A Farm Team for the Cincinnati Reds, is also within walking distance of the hotel. Come alive with the roar of the crowd and the smell of hot dogs in this beautiful baseball park. Before the game parents and kids might want to take a tour through the Slugger Bat Factory and Museum. Just outside the entrance stands the world's largest baseball bat. It is 120 feet tall and weighs 68,000 pounds. Once inside you will see the world's largest baseball and glove sculpture made from 450 million-year-old Kentucky limestone and weighing seventeen tons.
If the theater is more to your liking, the Kentucky Center for the Arts offers top-notch Broadway performances. It too is just a short walk from the Galt House or the Hyatt Hotel. Or visit the Louisville Palace, a simply wonderful venue for live entertainment. Even though the convention is being held in Louisville, Kentucky, we can't overlook the fun going on across the bridge in southern Indiana. Derby Dinner Playhouse offers some of the best live performances I have ever seen. After eating a scrumptious dinner, you can settle back, relax, and be totally absorbed in a theatrical production.
Three blocks west of the Galt House is the Louisville Science Center, one of our crowning attractions. Curious minds can lose themselves in hands-on displays and the attraction, The World within Us. Also housed at the Science Center is the IMAX Theater.
The Louisville Galleria is three blocks south of the Galt House and a mere hop, step, and jump from the Hyatt. Once inside you will find nationally known stores for your shopping pleasure. After lugging around those heavy shopping bags, you might want to grab a sandwich or a meal at the third-floor food court. A variety of appetizing foods can be ordered from McDonald's to Chinese. For the serious shopper Green Tree Mall in Jeffersonville, Indiana, is quite accessible from downtown Louisville.
There are several restaurants in the downtown area near both hotels. One of my favorites is the Old Spaghetti Factory. I love the atmosphere of this historic building, which once housed a department store, almost as much as I do the food and the prices. It is open for lunch and dinner and is a very popular place for families. The kiddos can order from the children's menu while Mom and Dad choose a glass of wine. Kunz's is a well-established German restaurant strategically located between the Galt and Hyatt. It is a little more up-scale, but well worth the money. Again I have to mention what is available in southern Indiana. Buck Heads Bar and Grill and KingFish Restaurant will appeal to the most discriminating palate.
When you are ready to kick up your heels, look no further than O'Malley's. Five nightclubs under one roof offer a variety of music from one end of the spectrum to the other. Country, disco, karaoke, hip-hop, and top-forty techno-house music just about cover it all. If you lean toward the wild side of life, you may want to live dangerously and visit all five in one evening.
I don't want to leave you with the impression that this is all there is to do in Louisville. I have just touched on some of the most popular attractions which offer a variety of entertainment and are within walking distance of the hotels or no more than a short cab ride away. There isn't enough space in this issue to list everything. But have no fear; our tour committee has much more to offer. These arrangements will be forthcoming in a later issue with all the details you will need to make reservations.
No matter how you say it--Louisville, Looahvul, or Looeyville--plan to make this your home for the week of July 3 through 9, 2002. Y'all come.
Dick Edlund May Be Blind,
But He Can See Right Through You
by Rebecca Shelton
Edlund said he opted to stay clear of state agencies and go off on his own. In 1946 he leased some ground in Muncie, bought an old beat-up truck, and went into the business of cement and sand. He mixed in another business in agriculture and cleared a space by the Kaw River for a small airport. His friends used the airport, and some of them did some skydiving.
"I never saw any point in jumping out of one that was running," he said.
Edlund was in business for forty years. In 1968 he hooked up with the National Federation of the Blind. He became President of the Kansas chapter. When the previous President moved to Missouri, Edlund took his spot. Having been appointed rather than elected, "I felt like Gerald Ford," said Edlund. He helped organize chapters in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Washington.
In 1974 he was elected as National Treasurer with a budget of $12 million.
And he was called to Cincinnati to check out a sheltered workshop. The pay and conditions at this workshop were rated at the bottom. Edlund jumped in the middle and in five years made significant changes. He did the same in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Raleigh, North Carolina. "I beat them every place," he said.
At the time the blind only had to be paid 25 percent of the minimum wage. Still, Edlund said, the blind were doing well at their jobs with very little.
"That's what I objected to," said Edlund, who pushed legislation to change this situation.
Edlund also organized a shop in Fairfax. He got legislation passed to set up a bargaining unit there. The president of the then-welfare system told Edlund he was causing all sorts of problems and wanted him put in jail. But Edlund kept on and did the same thing in other cities around the country.
In 1988 he stepped down from his national position and sold his businesses. He served in the Kansas House of Representatives. Again he pushed legislation to help the blind but also help other people. He made a lot of contacts and was good friends with Bob Dole.
One of the bills he worked on was to make it mandatory for blind children to read Braille. "Blind kids were coming out of school without being able to write a sentence, punctuate, or spell," he said.
He also involved himself in cases where common sense was the answer. Edlund said he was called to South Dakota to see about twin girls who were blind. For two years, they attended a school for the blind in North Dakota right next to the state line of South Dakota. The state wanted to send them to a school for the blind in South Dakota, but it was far away from the girls' home. Edlund told the parents to take the girls to the public school and demand they be educated. The principal said his small school budget could not afford to hire special teachers. And so, said Edlund, the girls were allowed to continue to attend the school right across the state line in North Dakota.
Edlund said cases like this gave him a reputation for getting his way. "I am nice and reasonable," said Edlund. "Do it my way, and that's reasonable."
He continued his work around the world, in Zambia, England, Mexico, and Alaska. He made several trips to Hawaii, but he turned down Bombay. He made two to three trips a year to Washington, D.C. to testify on various legislation. In his years Edlund once logged 300,000 flown miles and 269 nights spent away from home.
But he still lives in Wyandotte County. "I've seen most of the world, but I keep coming back," he said.
He is now vice president for a blind and deaf organization nationwide. He was scheduled to testify before Congress earlier this month until the September 11 attack caused a postponement. And he is working on a training program for seniors who are losing their sight. He wants to see seniors be able to remain in their own homes. Edlund said the biggest obstacle remains attitude on the part of the public.
"Most people think blind people can't do these things, and they are never given a chance to try," he said.
He still works to change the attitude the blind have about themselves. "Blind people need their independence," he said. "You can't smooth a way for everybody."
Edlund said, when people are losing their sight, he tells them it doesn't help to get mad. Patience must be developed. And a job must be found. With a job no social workers are needed.
Tapping the Cheese
by John Bailey
From the Editor: John Bailey is a relatively new Federationist. He has been President of the Fairfax County, Virginia, Chapter of the NFB of Virginia for three years and was recently elected First Vice President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille of Virginia. John is also the father of two young children, who enjoy running their hands over the Braille pages of the storybooks he reads to them. The following article first appeared in the Fairfax County Chapter's newsletter. We think Monitor readers will enjoy it.
I am fairly new to the Federation. Every time I attend an NFB event or meet fellow members, I always learn something. Like most Federationists I know, I look forward to our National Convention. I make sure I don't plan anything else during the first week in July that might interfere with my attending this annual event. This year's convention in Philadelphia was no exception.
The convention lasts seven very full days and nights. last summer my family planned to join me for only the last few days. So, in an effort to keep busy and to reassure my wife that I would stay out of trouble, I volunteered to help with some of the events. Many special activities and exhibits take place during convention week. I signed up to help out at the Presidential Suite for a few hours during one of those mornings. My assigned task was to serve refreshments to guests visiting the suite. Many of them were convention speakers and invited dignitaries. My job was to make sure that they had plenty of coffee and snacks while they waited for the General Session to begin.
Now to the point of this essay. While I was filling bowls of M&M's, Dr. Marc Maurer (President of the NFB) and his wife Patricia requested that I make each of them a melted cheese sandwich with ham. Each of them had a busy day ahead, and this would be their only opportunity to eat for a while.
I jumped into action and just as quickly ran into roadblocks. First the toaster door would not open. Dr. Maurer showed me how to open the stove door with the handle of a small plastic spoon. Then I could not find the country ham. He showed me where it was in the refrigerator. Again he had to stop what he was doing and assist me. (I was so glad I had come by to help.)
As Dr. and Mrs. Maurer sat around the dining room table conversing with their important guests, I determined to get them their food without bugging them any more. That was my plan.
With the sandwiches snugly tucked in the toaster oven, came the challenge of determining when they were done. I fell back on old, inappropriate habits. First I got my trusty plastic spoon/oven door opener and peered into the toaster. I had no idea what state the food was in because I can't see worth a darn. Next I tried to pull out the oven rack to get a better look. I burned my fingers on the tray. So I found a cloth I could use to protect my hands while extracting the food. After wrestling the tray from the stove, I discovered that the only thing hot in the machine was the spot on the tray where I had originally burned myself. By this time the ham and cold cheese sandwiches had spent more time out of the oven than in it.
Needless to say, reinserting the tray was just as awkward as taking it out had been. I was concerned that the only thing getting hot in the kitchen was Dr. Maurer waiting for his meal.
Time passed, along with my chances for a career in the food service industry. Dr. Maurer (no doubt, motivated by hunger) came into the kitchen to inquire about the food. The General Session start time was approaching.
I told him that the cheese had not yet melted, so it might be a few more minutes. He decided to check for himself. He took my Swiss Army plastic spoon and popped open the oven door. Then he turned his hand palm down and brought it over the cheese sandwich at a height of about an inch. He then touched the top of the sandwich with the tip of one finger. He agreed with me that the food needed a little more time. Dr. Maurer closed the oven door and went back to his seat.
What had taken me several minutes and the possibility of a blister had taken Dr. Maurer only a few seconds. This was another reminder of how using the adaptive techniques of blindness can make life a whole lot easier and safer.
When the sandwiches were finally done, I brought them to the Maurers. Fortunately they still had a few minutes in which to consume the food that had taught me so much.
I also used the lessons Dr. Maurer taught me when I returned home. For example, I no longer bend myself in half trying to read the lettering on the elevator buttons. I stand tall and use the tactile landmarks that tell me everything I need to know about which button to push. No more backache! Again and again the little lessons I learn while associating with the members of the National Federation of the Blind continue to pay big personal dividends.
Beyond Our Senses
by Chris Kuell
From the Editor: Chris Kuell is a blind freelance writer from Danbury, Connecticut; First Vice President of the NFB of Connecticut; and Director of Legislative Affairs for the affiliate. Although he has a Ph.D. in Chemistry, he now writes articles dealing with blindness--accessibility issues, Braille literacy, and positive attitudes--as well as other nonfiction articles and short stories. He is married; has two children; and enjoys spending time gardening, working on the house, playing with his kids, and experiencing the great outdoors.
"We do not understand what this means--to `see.'"
"Well, it's what, what things look like," Meg said helplessly.
"We do not know what things look like, as you say," the beast said. "We know what things are like. It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing."
"Oh no," Meg cried. "It's the most wonderful thing in the world."
"What a very strange place your world must be," the beast said. "That such a peculiar-seeming thing should be of such importance."
From A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
As we closed one millennium and opened the next, the media reminded us exhaustively of the many medical and technological advances made by humankind in the last one hundred years. This progressive wave of knowledge and achievement is so impressive that we could spend the next hundred years debating which inventions were the most important. But what really fascinates me is the manner in which knowledge is expanded, being built up from a foundation of basic understanding, one brick at a time, individual advancements contributing mortar and stone to discoveries that alter the structure of our lives.
Prior to the last 150 years or so, human beings relied on our senses to examine, investigate, study, analyze, and understand the world around us. By using sight, sound, taste, smell, feel, and movement, people developed a crude picture of the inner mechanisms that govern life processes. When certain phenomena could not be explained by the science of the times, they would be understood through witchcraft, superstition, and hauntings from the spirit world. Our former need to turn to the supernatural to explain basic natural phenomena illustrates the limitations of our biological detectors.
In order to draw a better picture of nature, we have had to move beyond the power of the senses to acquire knowledge about the physics, chemistry, and biology that make our world work as it does. Thus scientists have spent the last century developing highly refined instruments so that we might better scrutinize our cosmos. The progressive wave of the twentieth century swept in antibiotics and antiviral agents, revolutionary transportation, satellites, computers, the Internet, microwave ovens, and digital technology. Each and every milestone in discovery and technology was presaged by incremental scientific advancements. The invention of better, more precise instruments allowed us to develop new theories about our Earth and its inhabitants. Gaining new knowledge and theories made humankind yearn for even deeper understanding, and we built still better and more sophisticated devices. Technologies such as the electron microscope, the mass spectrometer, the gas chromatograph, the nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, and computerized telescopes have allowed us to see things from the sub-units of our universe to objects far beyond our galaxy. Modern instrumentation allows human beings to transcend our senses, transforming data into information that can be used by our minds first and our senses later.
For example, mathematicians have developed an equation that describes the sound of rain as it falls on the ocean's surface. Using sophisticated microphones sixty feet underwater, Dr. Jeffrey Nystuen, a University of Washington oceanographer and research team member for NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, collects acoustical data resulting from the sound of the drops hitting the surface and the bubbles being formed underneath. With these data he can deduce the size of the raindrops, the amount of rainfall, and ultimately the progress of climate change.
Cancer research and treatment have been forever altered by the use of magnetic resonance imaging technology (MRI). An MRI machine uses a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer to produce electronic images of specific atoms and molecular structures in solids, especially human cells, tissues, and organs. MRIs are so precise that they can be used to find the tiniest of clusters of cancer cells deep inside a patient's brain. However, it should be noted that the doctor does not see the cancer. Rather the doctor interprets a three-dimensional graphical representation of what the human eye could never see in a live patient.
Is anyone in the modern era unfamiliar with Doppler radar? Every local weather station uses this powerful tool to see the weather patterns. How many homes now boast a carbon monoxide detector? Our senses prevent us from detecting this silent, deadly gas, but our technology frees us to learn of its presence.
We live in an era in which our understanding of the world is not limited to our biological connections to that world. Instrumentation and technology that greatly surpass our human senses are commonplace today. Yet the most specialized instrument and the data it records are rendered meaningless in the absence of the most important sense of all--common sense. Our brains and our ability to think logically are the only mandatory link to all the progress humankind has made in the past hundred years. Anyone can see more deeply into the nature of life by putting his or her brain to work; eyesight is not necessary.
Like the beast in L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, I too wonder why we put such importance on sight and the other senses. After all, appearances can be very deceptive. It is far more important to understand what things are like than what things look like.
Did you know that you can make a gift to the National Federation of the Blind and save taxes three ways? Well, you can! With a gift of appreciated stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. For more information, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
More about SSDI and Retirement-Benefit Computations
by James Gashel
From the Editor: Here is another set of e-mail exchanges between James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, and an NFB member with frequently asked questions about the transition from Social Security Disability Insurance to the Social Security retirement benefit. We hope that the information will assist others facing the same perplexities.
November 30, 2001
In the November Braille Monitor (Vol.44, No. 10), you were kind enough to provide information on the Social Security Administration's SSDI [Social Security Disability Insurance] program. One of the questions posed concerned the benefit amount blind persons would be eligible to receive if they retired at age sixty-two (or older). My question is similar but not directly addressed in your article.
I am fifty-eight years of age, on SSDI, and able to work part‑time. My monthly income is less than the amount Social Security considers to be Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Over the last several months I have tried to secure a straight answer from them on what will happen when I turn sixty-two, sixty-five, or an older age. As usual the answers I have received are not consistent with each other.
I have been told that my current SSDI benefit amount will apply (with the increases) when I reach those ages and also that, because my earnings have been so low, I will receive the minimum retirement benefit when I turn sixty-two. (SSDI will automatically terminate at age sixty-two.) Since the difference is significant, it is important for me to learn how, at least under the existing statutes, regulations, codes, and other governing provisions, the benefit amount after ages sixty-two; sixty-five; and, if I can work that long, an older age, will be determined.
Can you provide some advice and counsel? I am most appreciative of any assistance or direction you can provide.
December 3, 2001
Even though you are continuing to work, your benefits will continue without change, other than cost-of-living adjustments. In fact, it is possible, if you have earnings of around $14,000, that an additional increase should be made beyond just the cost of living. The earnings you now have are called "post‑entitlement earnings." If one or more years of post‑entitlement earnings are higher than one or more of the pre‑entitlement years of earnings used to compute your current benefits, the higher, post‑entitlement year or years are supposed to be substituted in your earnings record for any lower years used to calculate your benefit. This procedure is called a recomputation.
The Social Security Administration is supposed to perform the recomputation procedure automatically, but I find that it often doesn't happen that way. Any blind person who is receiving Disability Insurance benefits and still working at below substantial gainful activity should request a recomputation if the only increases have been cost of living over the years. Bear in mind that recomputation adjustments are not usually made at the same time as cost of living adjustments. In fact, they can come at any time. Also no one can lose benefits by requesting a recomputation unless an error has previously been made and is discovered in the recomputation process. In other words, if your earnings for a particular year are not high enough to be substituted for one of the pre‑entitlement years used in the calculation, this will not result in a benefit decrease.
In asking for a recomputation, you should definitely specify that you would like to have all years of post‑entitlement earnings considered. I say this because any adjustments that are due will be made, no matter how long ago the post‑entitlement earnings occurred. This also means that you could receive a very large make‑up payment and continuing higher benefits resulting from a recomputation.
Finally, you asked what happens when you become age sixty-two, and the answer is nothing different. Under the Social Security Act you are still under a period of disability until you become age sixty-five. You are not considered to be under early retirement. You are still disabled, and all of the rules that applied before age sixty-two still apply until age sixty-five.
At age sixty-five all of the disability rules go out the window, and you will be transferred to retirement benefits. In fact, you really won't realize that this has happened since there is absolutely no change in the benefit amount resulting from reaching age sixty-five. However, you should remember that there is no earnings limit at age sixty-five, so it doesn't matter how much money you earn, your benefits will still continue regardless, and, because of recomputations that may be possible, the higher your earnings at age sixty-five and beyond, the higher your benefits above the cost-of-living changes.
Plaque Now Marks Federation's Birthplace
by Jim Antonacci
From the Editor: Jim Antonacci serves as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. On Friday, November 9, 2001, just before the start of the Pennsylvania affiliate's annual convention, a group gathered outside the Best Western Genetti Hotel and Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre for the unveiling of a bronze plaque acknowledging the site of the founding of the National Federation of the Blind. Jim Antonacci reports on the event:
Friday morning, November 9, fifty or so Federationists, joined city dignitaries from Wilkes-Barre and hotel representatives for the unveiling of a bronze plaque marking the spot where on November 16, 1940, a handful of blind men and women from seven states around the country gathered to establish the National Federation of the Blind. Thomas McGroarty, Mayor of the City of Wilkes‑Barre, welcomed the group and acknowledged the city's gratification at being the birthplace of the National Federation of the Blind.
The President of the county historical association and President Maurer both accepted copies of our organizational history, Walking Alone and Marching Together which had been signed by the current presidents of the seven founding states as well as by its author, Dr. Floyd Matson, and President Maurer. We are working with the historical association to establish an ongoing display about Braille and the National Federation of the Blind.
Following Dr. Maurer's remarks, he and I unveiled the bronze plaque, which had already been mounted at the North Pennsylvania Street entrance of the complex, which gets most of the visitor traffic and which is also the closest point in the current structure to where the original Redington Hotel stood. The words, "Birthplace of the National Federation of the Blind, November 1940," appear on the face of the plaque in both print and Braille. The media were present to mark the occasion as they did in November of 1940. Fred Leader, President of the Capital Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania, unearthed two articles that took note of the convention of the Pennsylvania organization and the arrival of visitors from across the country to form the national group.
The first article says that the meetings were to take place in another hotel of the time; we have no idea why the discrepancy should have occurred. But we have checked with Hazel tenBroek, who after all should know, and she assures us that the place of the organizing meeting on Saturday evening, November 16, 1940, was indeed the Redington Hotel. Here are the two articles that appeared locally. The first and longer piece was published in the Wilkes‑Barre Record of Saturday, November 16, 1940. The second article first appeared in the Wilkes‑Barre Times Leader of Thursday, November 14, 1940.
Blind to Form National Group
Seven States Represented at Session
Look to Pennsylvania for Leadership
The distinction of being the founding site of National Federation of the Blind came to Wilkes‑Barre last night when delegates to the fifth annual convention of Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind, meeting in Hotel Sterling, were told that formal action on the founding would take place today.
Mrs. Evelyn Burlingame of Columbia, Pennsylvania, secretary‑treasurer of the Pennsylvania Federation, said the blind in other states looked to Pennsylvania to take this action because the Keystone State has the largest group of organized "blind in the world." She said the state organization has 3,400 members.
Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, blind instructor of law at University of Chicago, spoke for the blind of California. The professor is a native of that state. He set forth many ideas for the creation of the national federation.
Blind of Minnesota were represented by F. W. Hall, president of United Blind Committee of Minnesota.
Mrs. H. M. Arndt of United Blind Association of Wisconsin came as representative of the blind persons of that state.
Miss Mary McCann and Edward Collins, representing the Central Committee of Chicago, presented the proposals of Illinois blind for a national group.
Missouri representatives were Marlow Howell and Ellis Froshes, directors of the Board of Blind Missouri.
Representing Ohio's blind was Glen Hoffman.
Russell Weber, blind field representative for WPA spoke on "Advancement of Blind." Herbert Rummell, DPA representative, explained that department's contacts with blind persons needing assistance.
Guest speakers at the convention dinner were Senators Robert Miller and Leo C. Mundy.
Presiding at the dinner was Robert Brown of Johnstown.
Two outstanding blind personalities largely responsible for the formation of the national body are Mrs. Burlingame and her husband, Gayle Burlingame, who is editor of "We, the Blind."
Mr. Burlingame and his wife have been given the credit for the most outstanding work in the interest of Pennsylvania's blind. They worked for and succeeded in getting the law that sets a pension for the blind.
Convention business sessions will open this morning at 9:30, and elections of officers will take place this afternoon at 4.
Formal action on the forming of the National Federation of the Blind will take place tonight at 8, when delegates from other states meet with executive officers of the Pennsylvania Federation.
Blind Group to Meet Here for Two Days
Session of Pennsylvania Federation to Be Held
at Redington on Friday and Saturday
The Pennsylvania Federation for the Blind, which is responsible for the pensions for the blind being retained in its present form, will hold its fifth annual convention at Hotel Redington on Friday and Saturday.
A number of prominent speakers, some from out of the state, are expected to address the gathering. It is expected that approximately 100 persons will attend and that the group will look toward a national organization for the blind. Luzerne Benevolent Society for the Blind, founded more than a decade ago, was largely instrumental in forming the State Federation.
A dinner at the Redington tomorrow night at 7:30, at which Robert Brown of Johnstown, state president, will preside, will open the session. Attorney William Taylor of Delaware County will deliver the address of welcome. Congressman Matthew Dunn of Allegheny County, who advocated the pension bill, is also expected to attend.
Among speakers will be Gail Burlingdale [undoubtedly Gayle Burlingame] of Columbia, editor of "We the Blind," and his wife, Evelyn Burlingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania Federation. These two have done more than any two other people in the state to improve conditions for the blind, including the establishment by law of a pension for the blind.
Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, blind professor of law at University of Chicago, representing the blind of California, will make the chief address Friday night. Other speakers will include Frank W. Hall of St. Paul, Minnesota, Miss Mary McCann, secretary of Central Committee of the Blind, Chicago, and Ella Forshee of St. Louis.
Implications of Attacks on the ADA
From the Editor: I recently received the following note and article from Scott LaBarre, President of the NFB of Denver and an attorney who frequently does work involving the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is what he said:
The following article provides a nice summary of the overall effect of the ADA. It is by far the most difficult employment discrimination statute under which to operate. People know it's wrong to discriminate against others because of their gender or their race, but people do not automatically think of discrimination against the blind or disabled as wrong. They don't even conceive of it as discrimination. They would say: "It's obvious that a blind man can't work in a dangerous cheese factory," or "It's obvious that a blind man alone on a cruise ship is at risk in heavy seas." The article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on November 25, 2001.
Legal Tide Has Turned Against the Disabled in the Courts
by Lennard J. Davis
Lennard J. Davis is Professor and Head of the Department of English of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Most Americans react to the idea of disability with good wishes and a silent prayer to the effect that "there but for the grace of God go I." With this level of detachment, few may have noticed a disturbing and seemingly ineluctable trend in which the courts have been whittling away at the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, passed with much fanfare and hoopla in 1990 under Bob Dole's stewardship, George Bush Sr.'s imprimatur, and bipartisan Congressional support.
Ten years later it has been estimated that 95 percent of the cases brought before the courts under the provisions of that act have gone against people with disabilities.
The Supreme Court has been steadily hacking away at the provisions of the ADA. Two recent cases could end the effectiveness of that legislation. The first case is one in which an employer wants the right to determine whether the job that an employee may want is a danger to his or her health. Chevron withdrew the offer of a refinery job to a man because he tested positive for asymptomatic chronic hepatitis C. Chevron maintained that the man would be doing possible harm to himself by accepting the position.
While the ADA provides that an employer cannot discriminate against someone with a disability, Chevron asks that employers be allowed to discriminate to protect the person from possible harm.
In bringing this case, Chevron is appealing a decision of a federal appeals court in San Francisco that rejected "paternalistic rules that have often excluded disabled individuals from the workplace." If the case is decided in favor of Chevron, it will weaken the ADA by allowing employers, not employees, to decide health issues.
The second case could have even more profound consequences in dismantling the ADA. In Toyota vs. Williams, the auto company argues that Congress has defined disability too broadly. In this case an employee of the company had carpal tunnel syndrome that limited the use of her hands. She was able to perform her job perfectly well until she was transferred to a different task, which she could not perform.
Her employer claimed she is not disabled because, although she could not perform her new task, she could brush her teeth, pick up objects in her home, and so on. Toyota demands that those claiming coverage under the ADA must demonstrate that they are "severely restricted from using their hands to perform a broad range of basic functions needed to meet the essential demands of everyday life."
The ADA defines disability broadly as "a substantial limitation in one or more life activities." In addition, a person is considered to be in the protected class not only if he or she has a disability but also if the person is "regarded" as being a person with disabilities.
The latitude of this definition has had employers up in arms. They fear they will be beset with requests from their employees for accommodations and will be sued for violations of the act. This, they say, will reduce employers to poverty. However, recent estimates of small businesses calculate that accommodations cost, on average, less than $5,000, of which half can be made up by federal credits.
The Supreme Court, with its new activism, has decided previous cases so that states' rights predominate over federal protections in the area of disability. It has also ruled that people with correctable disabilities, such as hypertension and myopia, are not protected under the law, even if their employer discriminates against them for having such conditions. The net effect of these decisions has been to continue whittling away the protections designed by Congress for people with disabilities.
The lack of knowledge or interest in these developments on the part of non‑disabled people is part of a larger picture. We have created a firewall between them and us. While many white people have embraced the cause of people of color and while many straight people have taken up the cause of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, few have taken up the cause of people with disabilities.
Perhaps the reasons for this are telling. No whites will become black; few straights will become gay; but every person can become disabled. All it takes is the swerve of a car, the impact of a football tackle, or the tick of the clock to make this transformation. Christopher Reeve, one day Superman, next day a quadriplegic, is the most dramatic example of this quick‑change act.
Today's baby boomer generation is fast heading toward disability. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 there will be more than 690 million people older than sixty-five, in contrast with today's 380 million. Two‑thirds of the elderly will be in developing and underdeveloped nations.
The increase in the elderly population will cause a major change in the disease patterns of these countries. There will be increasing rates of cancer; kidney failure; eye diseases; diabetes; mental illness; and other chronic, degenerative illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
Although identity politics is popular these days, what people fear is that disability is the identity one may become but that one didn't want. This is the silent threat that makes folks avoid the subject, act awkwardly around people with disabilities, and consequently avoid paying attention to the backlash against disability rights.
Even without the baby boomers 15 percent to 20 percent of people in the U.S. have disabilities. Add to this caregivers and family members, and about half of the population is dealing with disability. People with disabilities make up the largest physical minority in our country‑‑too large a group to ignore and too large a group to roll back the protections afforded to them.
We have to recognize that "them" is actually "us." If employers are concerned that the protected class is too large, they may have to reconsider their position as more people become disabled.
Effects of Time
Most people would be better off identifying with people with disabilities than fearing them. As you begin to notice your hearing going, your hands stiffening, your eyes in need of stronger glasses, you may well want to rethink what laws are being consigned to the dustbin of history. Would it be such a miscarriage of justice if all of us were protected from discrimination just as all of us are protected from voter fraud and unwarranted search and seizure?
It isn't necessarily bad to be disabled, but it is bad to be discriminated against, unemployed, poor, and blocked by bad laws, architecture, and communication.
One out of five people now living near you has a disability. They are your uncles and aunts, grandmothers and sisters. Pretty soon they'll be you. We need to think twice before we disregard the trend of the courts in eviscerating disability rights. To do so, we act literally at our own peril.
Why I Am a Federationist
by Carlos Servan
From the Editor: The following story is reprinted from News from Blind Nebraskans, 2001, Issue 1, a publication of the NFB of Nebraska. Carlos Servan is the President of the NFB of Nebraska and Deputy Director of Vocational Rehabilitation at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is a native of Peru and immigrated to the United States several years ago. On Saturday, October 7, 2000, he addressed the NFB of Nebraska convention, relating the moving story of the way he came to terms with his blindness and the way he joined our Federation family. Here is his story:
What we believe about ourselves determines the way we act. What society believes about blindness determines the manner in which people are likely to treat us. In order for the blind to be successful we need first to believe in the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Second we must be able to put this philosophy into practice by learning and mastering the skills of blindness. Finally we must be aware of the general public's misunderstanding about blindness. We cannot permit it to interfere with our journey to success.
In April of 1986, while I was in military training in Peru, a grenade exploded in my right hand. I lost that hand and was blinded immediately. I suddenly learned how differently people treat you when you are blind. I was not included in social events; I was not included in my family's decisions. People felt sorry for me, and my girlfriend left me.
My family started to overprotect me. My brother wanted to help me go up and down stairs, shave me, change my clothes, and give me a bath. I did not even have a chance to try to do things by myself. Furthermore, neighbors and colleagues started to talk to me in a different way as if I had lost my brain along with my eyesight. After I realized that I could not see, I tried to get a job in the police department in communications. I was told that a blind person could not work for the police. People suggested that I become a wine taster or taste chips to determine whether or not they had enough salt. The way in which society thought about blind people was the way they started treating me.
Because I was part of society, I also had misunderstandings about blindness. I lost my dignity, my expectations, and my self-esteem. I thought the only way to get them back was to have my sight restored. In an effort to get my vision back, the Peruvian government sent me to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. I arrived in the USA in April of 1989, had surgery the same month, and was immediately given the negative results. I knew that back in my country I would not be able to find training, nor were there any opportunities for the blind. So I searched for help.
Being in a new country and not knowing much about it (only what I saw on TV, including the way blind people were treated), not speaking any English other than saying "good morning," "good afternoon," and "goodbye," I went to church and prayed. I prayed that I could get some help, prayed that I could have the desire to start all over again, prayed that I could work in a sheltered workshop, that I could stay in a residential home for the blind, where people would take care of me.
My self-esteem was down, and I did not have high expectations at all. I thought that all I could do was to work for a sheltered workshop, maybe making just enough to survive. I did not want to go back to my country because I was ashamed that I could not make anything of my life or do anything for myself because of my blindness. I had already experienced the altered treatment.
After some research my church discovered an organization called the National Federation of the Blind, and a volunteer took me to the National Center. Once I was there, a lady approached me and talked to me. I didn't have any idea what she was saying. Just picture this conversation in your mind. I did not speak any English, and she did not speak any Spanish. This was Mrs. Maurer, and after several attempts to communicate, she gave up and gave me a long white cane and a tape with some literature in Spanish. I thought to myself, "Is this what I get from the most powerful country in the world? Is this what I get for praying--a long white cane and a tape?"
When I went back to the apartment, I borrowed a tape recorder and started to listen to the tape. It contained a couple of articles by Dr. Jernigan, "A Definition of Blindness" and "A Left-Handed Dissertation." Can you imagine what I felt? I started to read and pay attention to every word and sentence. The information that I was processing made me think, and I did not want to miss any of it. It was another blind person telling me that blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance, that with proper training and opportunity we can compete on terms of equality, that the real problem was the public's misunderstanding about blindness. He was talking about regular jobs and not just sheltered workshops.
I started to regain dignity. I learned that it is respectable to be blind, that collectively we can change what it means to be blind. Finally, after three years of uncertainty and misleading information, I heard the truth about blindness. Indeed I was making the first step toward success by starting to believe in the philosophy of the NFB. I thanked God for answering my prayers.
I also learned that the National Federation of the Blind is a great family that supports us. Next I was introduced to Eileen Rivera, an NFB member fluent in Spanish, who called me to tell me that Mrs. Maurer had asked her to assist me and inform me that I would be going to New Mexico for training. After all, in New Mexico most people speak Spanish. Each time Eileen called, she gave me more information. I started to wonder how I was going to get to New Mexico. How could I get the money? She told me that she had talked to the Baltimore chapter and that they had collected money from the members to buy me a plane ticket. Also arrangements had been made for me in New Mexico. She told me that the NFB is like a family, and it was conducting itself like one. Even though I never went to a chapter meeting in Baltimore, I felt that I was part of a family.
Once I was in New Mexico, the NFB of New Mexico also collected some money from its members to give to me so that I could attend the National Convention in Denver, Colorado. I did not understand why they wanted to invest time and money in me to take me to the convention. When I arrived in Denver, I understood why. The power of success starts when we care about others.
The convention was full of excitement and things to learn. I met many successful and interesting blind people. I said to myself, "What a great family, and what a powerful and organized collective movement." At the time I did not understand the speeches, but I could feel everything else. As the convention progressed, I noticed the harmonious and enthusiastic feelings and knew that this organization was not passive; a driving force in the movement makes it unstoppable.
Now was the time to put into practice the philosophy, to learn the skills of blindness. I started my training in New Mexico in July of 1989, still not knowing English. I decided to work very hard. I disciplined myself and was determined to learn, worked hard, and had only a few hours of sleep every day. I had to learn English; I had to learn Braille, cane travel and personal independence. I did learn and was ready to start an independent life in America.
In January of 1990 I started an intensive English program at a community college in Albuquerque. During an interview at the college with the office of special services to determine how they could help me, I told them that I wanted to become an administrator and that I wanted to have my law degree. The counselor told me that I would not be able to get my law degree, that it was very difficult to become a lawyer, and that I should think about taking on only a short career. She said that she was from America, English was her first language, and she didn't even think about going to law school. She also said that I seemed intelligent, but I needed to remember also that I was blind. She said, "For a blind person you are doing great, but you have to be realistic." What she meant was that I could not compete with my sighted colleagues, implying that blind people should be measured by different standards, and that I was inferior because I was blind. But this time I was prepared to welcome this challenge and had the tools to deal with it.
Now I knew that it was my choice to determine what would happen with the rest of my life. Once again I worked harder and studied from 8:00 to 1:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1:30 to 3:30, and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Every day I was reading and practicing. By July of that year I learned enough English to pass the English exam for international students and was ready to start college. So I attended college, and my grades were good. Let me tell you, though, during this period I confronted many adversities and obstacles.
However, each time I went to a state or national convention I learned a great deal and recharged my batteries. I became more determined and always tried to remember that "Freedom cannot be given; it must be taken." I became President of the New Mexico Student Division in 1990, and I didn't understand why I was elected. I was ready to decline, but I was told to sit down and shut up. I was honored and privileged to be elected President. This position had a great deal of responsibility, which I was eagerly ready to face. Some leaders told me that the best place to make mistakes was in the student division.
I told Dr. Maurer once, "I was lucky to find the Federation." His reply was, "Carlos, do you know what luck means?" Knowing that he was ready to teach me a lesson, I responded with the usual definition from the dictionary, "Luck means something good that happens to you when you have not planned it or by accident." He paused and said, "Luck is the corner where preparation and opportunity meet."
As an active member of the NFB I was determined to make a difference in my life and the lives of other blind people. In 1990 the University of New Mexico did not permit blind students to choose their own readers, and the recorded books were on two tracks and normal speed. When I asked the counselors about this, they told me that, if I wanted readers, I should take what they gave me. By this time, as you can imagine, I was not prepared to accept this as an answer. The student division organized student seminars to empower our members and educate university officials. We invited the director and counselors of the University of New Mexico Special Services office to discuss issues regarding blind students. They were persuaded, and we were permitted to choose our own readers.
The problem we faced now was that they did not have enough money to buy APH tape recorders and asked us to assist them with many issues regarding blind students. I was a candidate for the Student Senate and was elected. This position enabled me to have more influence with the administration. We approached the president of the university and received the funds to purchase the recorders. Then we approached the other institutions of higher education across the state and accomplished similar outcomes. Needless to say, blind students in New Mexico can now choose their own readers, and university officials are educated about blindness.
However, throughout this time I always remembered that "Freedom cannot be given; it must be taken." As you can see, we can determine our own future. I am a Federationist because of who I am and what I have accomplished. I started out with little or no expectations and absolutely no self-esteem and became aggressively determined and assertive. I completed my bachelor's degree, my master's in administration, and a law degree within seven years and graduated with distinction and honors. In addition, while attending school, I also worked for the Center for the Blind and was active in my community and my family. We of the NFB are seeking complete integration of the blind into society, and in order for us to accomplish this objective, the general public must become aware of the capabilities of the blind.
"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today," said Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Have you made your campaign pledge yet? We need everyone's help. The construction cost of our projected National Research and Training Institute for the Blind is eighteen million dollars. Please take this opportunity to complete your pledge form. Without you our job will be just that much harder.
The Campaign To Change What It Means To Be Blind
Capital Campaign Pledge Intention
City, State, and Zip:_______________________
Home Phone: ________________________________
City, State, Zip:___________________________
To support the priorities of the Campaign, I (we) pledge the sum of $___________.
My (our) pledge will be payable in installments of $ __________ over the next ____ years (we encourage pledges paid over five years), beginning _____________, on the following schedule (check one): __ annually, __ semi-annually, __ quarterly, __ monthly
I (we) have enclosed a down payment of $ ________________
___ Gift of stock: _____________________ shares of _____________
___ My employer will match my gift.
Please list (my) our names in all Campaign Reports and on the Campaign Wall of Honor in the appropriate Giving Circle as follows:
__ I (We) wish to remain anonymous.
Signed: ________________________________ Date: __________________
Goes Nationwide on March 1, 2002
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: Peggy Chong directs the NEWSLINE® program. Here is her exciting announcement:
Developed by the National Federation of the Blind, NEWSLINE® is a free service used by blind subscribers to read newspapers through any touch-tone telephone. Thanks to a one-year grant through the Institution of Museums and Libraries, subscribers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will soon be able to access every newspaper that NEWSLINE currently supports. Although NEWSLINE has covered large population areas in over thirty states for the past few years, over half of our country has not been able to access it without calling long distance. As soon as this service is online, any blind person registered for NEWSLINE can dial a toll-free number to access all the newspapers carried on the service.
Readers already using NEWSLINE will find the new expanded service just as easy to use. Pick up any touch-tone phone, dial the NEWSLINE number, listen to the menu, and choose options by tapping numbers on the phone keypad. Instead of the usual three national papers available each morning, subscribers can read over fifty newspapers across the country. Consider how interesting it will be to read the newspaper for a city in which a big story is breaking. In addition, NEWSLINE's non-newspaper features, which are currently available in each area, will now be available with all of the newspapers.
To obtain the toll-free number for this new nationwide service and to check for updated information, watch for our announcement in the next issue of the Braille Monitor, call the local news option on your local NEWSLINE, or contact a local leader of the NFB in your community.
Have you submitted your application to NEWSLINE yet? If not, get a copy of the one-page form, fill it out completely, and return it to NEWSLINE, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Because NEWSLINE service requires a signature, prospective subscribers must acquire or copy a print NEWSLINE application form. The form follows this article, and the print version may be used. A copy may also be downloaded from <www.nfb.org> (see NEWSLINE); those who read the Monitor on cassette or in Braille may recreate the form as long as it is complete and includes a signature. Forms are often available from public libraries, and they may be requested from local leaders of the NFB or the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.
One last note--this free service has been avidly received by both the newly blind and those who have been blind so long they have never before had the chance to read the newspaper independently. NEWSLINE hereby requests all subscribers to help us to spread the word in their communities about this wonderful opportunity. Please help us announce it in church and synagogue bulletins, senior citizen centers and retirement housing, the social service offices of hospitals, public libraries, libraries for the blind, AARP meetings, and other community outlets. Let's spread the word to special education departments, teachers, or schools serving blind students, and anywhere else Americans can be found who cannot read the newspapers because of their eyesight. National headlines or local stories, sports, Ann Landers, or letters to the editor and social commentary--there is much that our sighted neighbors and coworkers are enjoying, thinking about, and talking about. Now we can too.
Newsline Application/Registration Form
National Federation of the Blind
National Newsline for the Blind Network
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
CITY ___________________ STATE ___________ ZIP _________
HOME PHONE ( )__________________ WORK PHONE ( )__________________
I am registered with a state or private vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind.
[ ] Yes [ ] No If yes, please give name below:
I am enrolled in a public school special education program for the blind or state residential school for the blind.
[ ] Yes [ ] No
If yes, please specify:
I am registered with a cooperating regional library under the program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.
[ ] Yes [ ] No
If yes, please specify:
If you answered no to all the above questions, you must include with this application a letter from one of the following certifying that you are blind.
[ ] Your doctor
[ ] Social Security Award letter
[ ] President of a local chapter or state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind
I certify that I am blind or visually impaired and unable to read a printed newspaper.
Signature and date: _________________________________
OFFICE USE ONLY:
ID# SEC# DATE NUMBERS GIVEN
Please return the completed form to the above address.
Does What You Do Really Matter?
by Dana Ard
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Fall, 2001, Gem State Milestones, a publication of the NFB of Idaho. Dana Ard is Secretary of the NFB of Idaho and editor of the affiliate's newsletter. She works as a counselor for the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This is what she says:
Some time ago I had a discussion with a client about how things were going following her completion of rehabilitation training. "Things are great," she reported enthusiastically. "I still wear mismatched shoes sometimes, but my friends understand. They know I'm blind." Sadly, I fear that this woman has no idea what her friends actually do understand about her blindness.
Our Federation philosophy teaches us that the greatest problem we as blind people face is not our blindness but the attitudes of society, including our own attitudes, about blindness. The attitude of my client's friends demonstrates a two-fold problem. The first part is that of low expectations. The reasoning goes something like this: "Our friend is blind. How could she be expected to wear matching shoes?" I'm sure we can all think of times when friends or acquaintances have expressed amazement over our ability to cook, clean house, raise children, ride public transportation, or hold down a job. In the mind of the average person, blind people can't possibly do all of the things that we find ordinary. The second half of the problem illustrated by these caring friends is that any mistake their blind friend makes is automatically attributed to her blindness.
I have accidentally worn mismatched shoes a few times in my life. The reason wasn't blindness. It was carelessness or perhaps not being very awake when I put the shoes on. Sighted people have a bigger margin for error in this area than blind people. I understand that CBS news anchor Dan Rather came to his interview at CBS wearing mismatched shoes. If the interviewer noticed this flaw, it didn't keep him or her from hiring Mr. Rather. I'm sure a blind applicant wouldn't have gotten off as easily. The error would have been blamed on blindness. The would-be employer's reasoning would then have gone: "If he can't wear the right shoes, how can he be expected to do the job right?"
As Federationists our goal must be to help society raise its expectations of blind people. We can do this only if we raise our own expectations about ourselves. Yes, what we do really does matter.
Tim Cranmer Dies
by Buffa Hanse
From the Editor: For many months Tim Cranmer, a beloved leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky and a distinguished inventor and technical thinker in the blindness field, had been struggling with health problems necessitating his steady use of oxygen. On Thursday, November 15, 2001, Tim lost the fight. Only the day before he had been in his office answering e-mail, but that was Tim all over. If there was work to do, he was right there, ready to help.
On Sunday, December 16, the National Federation of the Blind and the blindness field in general said good-bye to our friend and colleague in a memorial service conducted at the Galt House Hotel at 3:00 p.m. President Maurer was one of the speakers.
Tim is survived by his wife Thelma, his daughter Linda Sparks, a brother and two sisters, hundreds of friends, and thousands of blind men and women who owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his work on our behalf.
Buffa Hanse of the NFB of Kentucky wrote an article the week following Tim's death. It was published in the December DFB Journal published by the Kentucky Department for the Blind. We also print it because it captures the depth and range of this extraordinary man's interests, talents, and commitment to blind people. May he rest in peace.
Louisville Loses Blind Inventor and Advocate:
Tim Cranmer Made The Unseen Visible
by Buffa Hanse
What Tim Cranmer, who died Thursday, November 15, 2001, told the Courier's Bob Deitel (Sunday, February 15, 1998) about the function of science is true of his life. Like a microscope or telescope, Tim Cranmer's tools and personality made "the unseen visible." This principle was at work in his research and his inventions and in the way he helped and influenced people. Tim Cranmer, Louisville's own blind inventor, left the blind of Kentucky and the world a legacy of love and improved Braille literacy.
His research into the creation and production of tactile graphics demonstrates the process of actually making the unseen visible. Through the production of raised objects, the blind may one day observe the world of the untouchable--the very large and very small--the stars and bacteria. Most tactile graphics depend on a blind person's memory of what is represented because the precision and detail of most pictures or objects are not clearly represented by raised graphics. Typically there is either too much detail, resulting in clutter, or only a bare outline, resulting in limited information.
The International Braille Research Center, which Cranmer founded, is engaged in research into the creation of graphics that can convey the most detail and precision with the least clutter. Harold Snider, the current chairman of the Braille Research Center, commented that "Tim advanced the use of Braille and technology more than any other blind inventor of this century, and his spirit sparked others to follow in his footsteps." For example, Cranmer's modified Perkins Braillewriter was the first electronic Braille printer. Today Braille printers, based on Cranmer's pioneering work, print accurate Braille from documents translated by the tap of a key or click of a mouse. Sighted people who do not know the code can now print much of this Braille.
Cranmer was also instrumental in demonstrating the need for one unified English Braille Code. Currently there are codes for literary, mathematical and scientific, and computer Braille, and different symbols in each code represent the same print character. The dollar sign is one good example because it is represented by a different symbol in each code. Having one code would simplify learning Braille, teaching it, and producing computerized Braille documents.
One of Cranmer's best-known adaptations now bears his name. He modified the Chinese abacus so that blind people could use it to do arithmetic. By putting felt backing on the abacus, he stabilized the beads so that they would not move by themselves. Using an abacus makes unseen processes visible and tangible in that students can execute the actual steps of their work. They must understand the manipulations in order to complete problems on an abacus, unlike punching keys on a calculator. Louisville's American Printing House for the Blind sells thousands of Cranmer Abacuses every year.
Cranmer's other inventions show the depth and breadth of a curious mind constantly at work developing tools to make the unseen visible for the blind. He developed a vacuum-curing process for making costume jewelry out of plastic, which he sold himself. He developed audio/tactile Braille displays for use with clocks, stopwatches, clinical system monitors, etc. He created a Braille font with tactile graphics for use with the Pixelmaster. He developed the Speaqualizer Speech-Access program, one of the first effective screen readers.
He made major contributions to electronic circuitry and design for the Braille 'n Speak and the Braille Lite, which are distributed by Freedom Scientific. These notetakers are similar to Palm Pilots or small laptops. The ability to take notes rapidly, download and print out Braille and inkprint material enables blind people to compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers in school or on the job. Again the unseen is visible; the blind are in the workplace and classroom. Blind switchboard operators at the University of Louisville and Kentucky also used Cranmer's talking telephone directory.
Self-educated after completing sixth grade at the Kentucky School for the Blind, the Portland [a neighborhood in Louisville] native worked as a piano technician, pianist, and workshop worker before devoting thirty years to Kentucky rehabilitation for the blind from 1952 to 1982. After heading this state agency, running its newly created technology division, and helping other blind Kentuckians insure the agency's independent status as the Kentucky Department for the Blind, Cranmer retired from one career to continue another.
Working from home when possible, Cranmer brought the International Braille Research Center and the research and development arm of the National Federation of the Blind into being. This group of blind people, which Cranmer credited as having given him his life when he received its prestigious Jacobus tenBroek Award in 2000, is the largest advocacy group of the blind in the country. Cranmer served as the First Vice President of the Kentucky affiliate of the NFB for years, mentored its members, started the first state Computer Users Division, and much more.
In 1979 Tim Cranmer became Dr. Cranmer when the University of Louisville conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Applied Sciences. The National Rehabilitation Association honored him with its Outstanding Service award. Boston University presented him with its Neil Pike Award for Distinguished Service. And the NFB of Kentucky honored Dr. Cranmer with its Susan B. Rarick Award for Outstanding Service to Blind Men and Women. In addition to these awards, he received the Louis Braille Award just last summer from the International Braille Research Center for his advancement of Braille research, production, and literacy.
Cranmer wrote significant scientific materials that have been published in the Braille Technical Press, Popular Electronics, and other magazines. He has made presentations at the International Congress on Technology for the Handicapped, the International Conference on Technology sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind, and a conference at Trace Research Center at the University of Wisconsin; and he presented papers at all four U.S./Canada Conferences on Technology for the Blind sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
Much less well-known than his contributions to the field of blindness technology but much more long-lived and valued as a legacy was his ability to spark visions of the possible in others. In addition to influencing those on the national technology-for-the-blind scene, "Tim always had time, a positive word, and a bit of music and wit for his friends, blind and sighted alike," as Dr. Hilda Caton, Professor Emerita of the University of Louisville, noted. He shared whatever he had with whoever needed it without fanfare or remuneration. In one year he anonymously gave ten state-of-the-art computer systems to blind Kentuckians and trained many of them to use the screen-reading programs that came with them. In the same year he anonymously gave away a Braille notetaker, helped write grants, hired a blind woman, and gave cash to meet the transportation needs of blind people in Louisville. He even loaned out his secretary's talents. For giving this time, talent, and money, "He expected only that the recipient would in turn give whatever he had when asked," said Cathy Jackson, President of the NFB of Kentucky.
Though Cranmer was the "Thomas Edison of the blind" as Lesley Stahl called him on a "Sixty Minutes" broadcast, he was also a “mensch,” a real human being. Though he was not a formally religious person, his actions and character exemplified Judeo-Christian ethics. His modesty and generosity were rare among the brilliant. It was this catalytic combination of love, intelligence, generosity, and wit that was his true genius, a model for the blind to emulate and a legacy to love.
From the Editor: Through the years a number of people have asked me to share some of my favorite bread recipes. This seems like a good time to do it. The following recipes are some of my personal favorites.
Diane McGeorge's Seven-Grain Bread
by Diane McGeorge
Diane McGeorge is the President of the NFB of Colorado and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. She gave me this recipe last year, and I have been making it once a week ever since. Actually this may not be exactly the recipe she gave me, but it's the way I now make it.
1 package or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup (a handful) dry milk powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup seven-grain cereal (to be cooked, not cold cereal)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup hot water (no more than 115 degrees)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
Method: Combine yeast, powdered milk, oil, honey, seven-grain cereal, and salt. Add hot water. Stir well to dissolve yeast and cover bowl. Set mixture in a warm place for about ten minutes to prove. The liquid should be foamy before it is stirred. If the water has been too hot or the spot too warm, the yeast will die and you will see and hear no bubbles. If the yeast dies at this point, the error is easy to fix. Simply add another tablespoon of yeast.
Stir in all four cups of flour or use a mixer with a bread hook to mix the dough. If you are doing this by hand, you will eventually want to turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it for about ten minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a towel. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk. This should take forty-five minutes to an hour.
Knead the dough again to remove all air pockets. Flatten the dough into a rectangle about nine inches long and six inches wide. Then roll the loaf beginning on the long side. Place the formed loaf, smooth side up, in a greased nine-by-five-inch loaf pan. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about a half hour. This loaf will stand about an inch above the top of the pan when it is ready to bake. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for thirty-five minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.
Three Kings Cake
These traditional loaves are served on Epiphany, January 6. A token is hidden in each loaf. You can use an almond or a clean coin as the token, but often people use small symbols such as a baby shoe charm, a tiny wedding bell, or a ring to denote the kind of luck that the finder will have in the coming year.
3 packages or 3 tablespoons of active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of one orange and one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups bread flour
1/2 cup raisins, currents, or candied fruit
Cinnamon sugar for garnish
Method: Sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the warm water. Add two tablespoons of the sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow mixture to prove in a warm place for ten minutes. The yeast will be very bubbly and may overflow the bowl if it is too small.
In a large bowl combine the unsalted butter, the hot scalded milk, and the rest of the half cup of sugar. Stir in the salt and grated peel. Beat three eggs and add them to the butter mixture, making sure that it is no longer very hot. Then add the yeast mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat in the two cups of flour to make a smooth batter. Then add remaining flour using a bread hook on the mixer or kneading the flour in as the dough becomes stiff. The dough should be smooth and elastic when it is ready to rise. This will take about ten minutes of kneading. Place dough in a greased and floured bowl and cover. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down and knead to remove all air pockets. Work in fruit until it is evenly distributed through the dough. Divide dough in half and shape two circular loaves, hiding a token in each one. Place loaves in greased and floured nine-inch round cake pans. Brush tops of loaves with an egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon of water and sprinkle cinnamon sugar across the surface of each. Cover the loaves with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk.
Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for ten minutes and at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks.
This German Christmas bread is the mainstay of my family's Christmas morning breakfast.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup butter or margarine
6 cups flour
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped candied cherries
1 cup slivered toasted almonds
Method: In saucepan combine and heat milk and water and add butter, stirring until butter melts. Liquid should be just warm. Add sugar, yeast, and salt and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add two cups flour and beat until smooth in an electric mixer. Add three eggs and another half cup or so of flour. Beat for two minutes on high.
Using a bread hook, continue beating in the remainder of the flour or stir in flour with a spoon and, when it gets too thick to manage, turn the dough onto a floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about ten minutes). Place dough in a buttered bowl and cover with a towel. Allow dough to rise in a warm place until double in bulk.
Punch down dough and knead to remove all air pockets. Work in raisins, cherries, and almonds until they are evenly spread through the dough. Divide dough into two pieces to make the two loaves. Working with each piece in turn, divide the loaf into three pieces and shape three ropes, each about twelve inches in length. Make a braid using the three strips of dough and pinch the ends together, making a braided loaf. Place each loaf in a buttered nine-by-five-inch bread pan and brush tops with melted butter. Cover loaves with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 325 degrees for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Tip loaves from pans onto a cooling rack. Before serving, frost each with a glaze of confectionery sugar and a tablespoon or so of milk. You may add rum or other extract for flavoring.
Grandma's Sticky Buns
A pan of these rolls makes a wonderful gift. The dough can also be used to make doughnuts.
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup potato water
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup margarine or shortening
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
8 cups bread flour
Butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon
1/2 pound margarine
1 pound plus one handful brown sugar
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1 scant quarter-cup water
Method: Combine mashed potatoes and potato water, stirring over low heat if they are cold. They should be slightly warm to make starter. Add sugar and yeast and allow to stand until mixture is very frothy, about fifteen minutes. Melt margarine or shortening (or combination of the two) in one cup of milk. Add salt and cool slightly if too warm for yeast. Add three eggs and beat well with a spoon. Add one cup sugar and the starter. Then work in eight cups of flour. This can be done with a spoon or with an electric mixer using a bread hook. In either case you will eventually have to turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead well by hand. When the dough is smooth and elastic, set it to rise in a warm place covered with a towel, about two hours.
Meantime prepare five layer cake pans by buttering well. Make topping by combining all topping ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir constantly and cook a little longer after sugar has dissolved completely. The topping will be slightly thickened. Divide the mixture evenly among the pans so that it coats the bottom of each.
When dough is doubled, turn it out onto a floured board and knead thoroughly to remove all air pockets. Divide it into thirds to handle more easily. Roll one piece of the dough with a rolling pin to make a long narrow rectangle between a quarter and a third of an inch thick. Spread the surface with butter and sprinkle over a combination of brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll dough jelly-roll fashion to make a long roll with sealed ends and edges.
Using a sharp knife, cut half-inch slices of dough and arrange in the pans. Rolls should fit snugly together. Repeat with remaining dough. Brush tops of rolls with butter and cover with a towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for thirty minutes. Reverse racks halfway through baking. Allow rolls to cool briefly before inverting rolls and removing pans on cooling racks to cool completely.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter favorite. Buns baked on Good Friday are said to have miraculous powers. The trouble is that, if you bake them on Friday, they will not be fresh on Easter morning.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted margarine
4 eggs, separated
2-1/4 cups scalded milk, cooled
1 package or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup water
7 to 8 cups bread flour
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup currants
1/2 cup candied fruit, optional
Method: A day ahead combine sugar and melted margarine and add four well-beaten egg yolks. Stir in the cooled scalded milk. Dissolve yeast in a quarter-cup water and add to mixture. Sift together one half of the flour with salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Beat into the liquid ingredients to form a smooth batter.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until very frothy or even soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into flour mixture. Beat in currants and candied fruit, then work in the remainder of the flour. Do not knead. Dough will be soft. Allow to rise two to three hours then chill overnight.
Next day remove dough from refrigerator and allow to stand for one half to one hour. Knead dough ten minutes on floured board, adding additional flour if necessary to handle. Divide dough into thirty to thirty-six pieces and form each into a smooth ball. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about one-and-a-half hours). Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven twenty-five minutes. Frost with confectionery sugar thinned with a little lemon juice. You may apply frosting in the form of a cross.
One Million C-1's and Counting:
Telex Corporation built its millionth C‑1 cassette playback machine in Blue Earth, Minnesota, on December 12, 2001. Telex began building these tough and reliable machines for the Talking Book Program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in 1983 and has continued building them ever since. To celebrate this milestone, Russ Groen, Blue Earth Production Manager for the C‑1, presented that millionth unit to the NLS for display in Washington, D.C. Brad Kormann, Chief of the Material Development Division, accepted the gift on behalf of the NLS.
A luncheon for factory personnel was part of the celebration. Glen Cavanaugh, President of Telex Multimedia Division, joined Brad at the luncheon to thank the long-time C‑1-line employees, some of whom were at work in 1983 and have been building C‑1's ever since.
Telex has been a generous supporter of the NFB's capital campaign, and we thank the company for its generosity and for this machine, which has served Talking Book borrowers faithfully for almost twenty years.
Convention Scholarships Available:
Allen Harris, Chairman of the Jernigan Fund, writes to say that the committee has established criteria for the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarships for 2002. These factors will be considered when awarding Jernigan Convention Scholarships:
*attendance at previous National Conventions
*activity at the local, state, or national level
*recommendation from the state president (formal letter not required; we will contact him or her.)
*amount of assistance requested
*other sources of funding sought
When applying for a convention scholarship, please write a brief paragraph on why you wish to attend the convention. Submit your application letter and statement to Allen Harris, 3000 Grand Avenue, Apartment 619, Des Moines, Iowa 50312. The application deadline is May 1, 2002.
The article in the December issue which invited nominations for the Blind Educator of the Year Award incorrectly announced that the amount of the prize will be $500 in 2002. The prize has in fact been raised to $1,000. We regret the error.
New Distance Learning Courses Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Beyond Sight, Inc., a leader in technology for the blind and visually impaired, is proud to introduce an accessible distance-learning program. Veteran Federationist Robert Leblond will conduct courses in JAWS, Window-Eyes, Open Book, ZoomText, Windows, Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, and Internet applications. More classes will be added as necessary.
For more information go to <www.beyondsight.com> or e‑mail <[email protected]>.
Braille Magazines Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Gordon Janz, a deaf-blind man, would like to receive no-longer-needed Braille copies of the following publications: the New York Times, National Geographic, Kiplinger's Personal Financial, Reader's Digest, the Washington Post Book Review, Science News, ESPN Magazine, and Popular Mechanics.
Contact Gordon Janz, 101-2425 Brunswick Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5T 3M1, Canada.
Animal Health Care Community Support for Guide, Hearing, and Service Dogs:
We recently received the following press release of interest to guide dog users:
Corporate America has established a unique relationship with the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a cross‑disability consumer advocacy organization of disabled people partnered with guide, hearing, and service dogs. Under the newly initiated Veterinary Care Partnership program, IAADP members unable to meet the high costs of diagnostic tests, emergency care, chronic-disease treatment, and surgical intervention can call on VCP for financial aid. Bayer, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Friskies, the Iams Company, and Nutramax Laboratories are the corporations supporting this ambitious and far‑sighted effort.
To qualify for support, the IAADP member's veterinarian contacts the VCP coordinator at Bayer with a request for aid in cases in which the disabled client cannot afford the suggested intervention for the canine assistant. Recommended medical procedures must have a high probability of maintaining the working capability of the assistance dog. Ed Eames, IAADP president, says, "As a result of VCP, assistance dog teams will have a better chance of staying together. With VCP removing the stress of prematurely ending the partnership because of financial constraints, both humans and canines can share a better quality of life."
In an additional outreach effort Bayer will provide its flea-control product Advantage to IAADP assistance dog partner members at no cost.
IAADP welcomes assistance dog partners and those interested in supporting the assistance dog movement. However, VCP and other benefits are available only to disabled members working with guide, hearing, and service dogs. Information and application forms can be found at <www.iaadp.org> or by calling (586) 826‑3938.
Piano-Tuning Training Opportunity:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology is seeking new students for the 2002‑2003 school year. Our training program is a twenty-month course in piano tuning and repair for both blind and sighted men and women interested in a career that supports music and the arts.
Our school is located in Vancouver, Washington. We have been training students for fifty-two years and have had students from all over the United States plus Guam, Australia, Belize, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, Iceland, India, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, Switzerland, and Trinidad.
All full-time instructors are blind or visually impaired, and blind students work alongside sighted students as equals in all ways. Students may live in apartments in the community or at the Washington State School for the Blind. If students living at the school wish, they can arrange to volunteer as mentors for the WSSB students.
Federal financial aid and other scholarships are available. For more information call (360) 693‑1511. Send e‑mail to <[email protected]> or see our Web site at <www.pianotuningschool.org>.
Help! Is Any Capital Out There?
Are you an entrepreneur in reality or only in your dreams? Does finding a way to get enough initial capital to get your business off the ground seem impossible? If you are interested in learning about ways to find some of that elusive funding, you are invited to attend "Creative Ways to Capitalize Your Business," sponsored by the National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs, on February 3, 2002, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Capitol Holiday Inn in Washington, D.C., during our annual Washington Seminar.
Space will be limited. If you are interested in attending, please call Marie Cobb at (410) 644‑6352, and leave your name on the voicemail, or e‑mail your information to <[email protected]>. First come, first served.
In Support of Braille Literacy:
January 4 is Louis Braille's birthday. In many areas that week is celebrated as Braille Literacy Week. The presentation described in the following article is the sort of project that could be duplicated for any public library across the country. The story is reprinted from the October 17, 2001, edition of the Arbutus Times, a weekly newspaper in the Greater Baltimore area. Here it is:
Helping to Share the Secrets of Braille Code
Lorraine Rovig of Arbutus, Anne Taylor of Paradise, and Steve Booth of Arbutus, all members of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), gave a free presentation, "Secrets of the Braille Code," to about two dozen sighted participants at the Arbutus Library on Saturday, October 6.
Lorraine explained how Braille works and offered each student his or her own half of an egg carton to use as an example of a Braille cell.
The three teachers took turns demonstrating reading and writing, numbers, and punctuation; talked about the uses of Braille; and gave a short history of the code. At the end they handed out NFB Braille alphabet cards and wrapped up with the new video, Jake and the Secret Code.
Participants in the session, who included youngsters, Cub Scouts, two teachers, parents, two librarians, and a grandmother, stayed enthusiastic to the very end.
Taylor noted that, right after the video, one of the Scouts grabbed a slate and stylus on the display table, wrote two sentences on a three-inch by five-inch card, and asked her if he had done it right. He had done it perfectly. All three of the slates got a workout.
Gail Ross, manager of the Arbutus Library, who was one of the students, said she plans to promote the program to other libraries in Baltimore County.
"Secrets of the Braille Code" was jointly sponsored by the NFB and Soroptimist International of Arbutus (as an SIA literacy project). Lorraine Rovig is a member of both groups.
Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., Out from Under:
The blindness field has been concerned in recent months by the news that Lernout & Hauspie, the company that acquired Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., several years ago, was in serious financial trouble. We recently received the following press release containing good news for users of Kurzweil products. Here it is:
November 19, 2001
Management Team Acquires Kurzweil Educational Systems Group
from Lernout and Hauspie Speech Products
Management Buyout Ensures the Continued Availability of Leading‑Edge Software for People with Reading Difficulties, Blindness, and Low Vision
The management of the Kurzweil Educational Systems Group of Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products (L&H) today announced that they have purchased the business and assets of the group from L&H. Kurzweil Educational Systems is the industry's leading developer of innovative reading software for people with learning disabilities, reading difficulties, blindness, and low vision.
Michael Sokol led the management buyout and will serve in the new company as President and CEO. Sokol was a founder in 1996 of Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., along with technical visionary Ray Kurzweil, who will be a Director of the new entity, and Jerome Elkind, who will be Chairman of the Board. Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., was acquired by L&H in 1998. The new company will resume operations under its original name of Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., and will remain headquartered in Massachusetts. It will also continue to maintain sales offices in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Palo Alto, California, along with its United States and international reseller channels of distribution.
"From the outset we assembled a talented and dedicated management team, which remained intact at L&H and which will now be key to our success as an independent entity," said Michael Sokol. "Collectively we are excited by this opportunity to build on the reputation and leadership position we have established in our industry. This acquisition demonstrates our unwavering commitment to those with disabilities who rely on our products."
Stephen Baum, Chief Technology Officer of the new company, commented, "Few things are as rewarding as applying software innovation to improving the lives of people with disabilities. As an independent company we will be an organization that is totally focused on using our technical resources and skills to extend the capabilities of our products. The ability to continue to provide innovative reading and writing products that fulfill such a vital need in the lives of our customers inspires us and will guide our future success."
The Kurzweil Educational Systems current product line consists of Kurzweil 1000, an advanced reading tool for people who are blind or severely visually impaired; Kurzweil 3000, a reading and writing tool for those who have learning disabilities and other reading difficulties; and MagniReader, for people who have low vision.
Four Utilization Awards for Rehabilitation Practitioners:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Win a $250 award for demonstrating how you have used recent research or training information from the RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision (e.g., research reports or training material) to improve your service delivery to clients who are blind or visually impaired and improved their lives. To apply, complete and return an evaluation form available on our Web site: <www.blind.msstate.edu> or call (662) 325-2001 to request further information.
Convention Scholarships Available:
Allen Harris, Chairman of the Jernigan Fund, writes to say that the committee has established criteria for the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarships for 2002. These factors will be considered when awarding Jernigan Convention Scholarships:
*attendance at previous National Conventions
*activity at the local, state, or national level
*recommendation from the state president (formal letter not required; we will contact him or her.)
*amount of assistance requested
*other sources of funding sought
When applying for a convention scholarship, please write a brief paragraph on why you wish to attend the convention. Submit your application letter and statement to Allen Harris, 3000 Grand Avenue, Apartment 619, Des Moines, Iowa 50312. The application deadline is May 1, 2002.
Research Project on Blind and Visually Impaired Graduate Students:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a blind doctoral student in psychology doing my dissertation on the experiences of blind and visually impaired students in graduate training. If you are a student in a master's or doctoral program in any field or have graduated from one within the past two years, I would like to talk with you. If you are selected, you will take part in interviews in person or by phone to discuss your experiences in your graduate training. Your responses will be confidential.
By participating in this study, you will provide information that may help guide efforts to improve educational opportunities for our community. You will be paid $50 as a thank-you for your time.
If you wish to be considered for participation in this project, please contact Scott Feldman at the University of Illinois at Chicago, (312) 355-1120 or <[email protected]> with your phone number or e-mail and the best times to contact you.
More Research Assistance Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am currently doing research in preparation for a book on the history of orientation and mobility. Included in the book will be an examination of a number of issues and conflicts surrounding the creation of the O&M profession. As part of my research I am interested in obtaining blind people's experiences with orientation and mobility training. Examples could include length of training, instructor's role in teaching, instructor expectations, your level of confidence in traveling independently following training, perceived benefits from having a certified mobility instructor (if you did), helpful or unhelpful techniques taught, type of setting in which training was received, or any other evaluation information. No names will be used without the consent of the author. Please send your recollections to Ronald Ferguson, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, 101 S. Trenton, Ruston, Louisiana 71270, or send e-mail to <[email protected]>.
On November 10, 2001, the NFB of Pennsylvania conducted elections at its annual convention. The results are as follows: Jim Antonacci, President; Judy Jobes, First Vice President; Fred Leader, Second Vice President; Connie Johnson, Secretary; Chuck Morgenstern, Treasurer; and Patricia Grebloski, Gus Jasper, Lisa Mattioli, Rodney Powell, Mark Senk, and Cary Supalo, Members of the Board of Directors.
Research Assistantship Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision, in collaboration with the Department of Educational Psychology at Mississippi State University, is sponsoring a graduate research fellowship emphasizing rehabilitation research in the area of blindness and low vision. Students are expected to pursue and attain a doctoral degree in the Department of Counselor Education and Educational Psychology.
The goal of this fellowship is to produce a scientist-practitioner well grounded in state-of-the-art research methods and practices. The fellowship experience includes a paid graduate assistantship with the RRTC; payment of tuition; participation in ongoing applied rehabilitation research; involvement with professional groups, state agencies for the blind, and consumer advocacy organizations; and involvement in regional and national training conferences.
The deadline for applying to the MSU Graduate School is March 1, 2002. For more detailed information about this fellowship, contact J. Elton Moore, Ed.D., Director, RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Box 6189, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, (662) 325-2001, TDD: (662) 325-8693, Fax: (662) 325-8693.
New Merchant Division:
The NFB of Georgia proudly announces the launch of its Merchants Division. If you are a vendor within the Business Enterprise Program, we welcome you to join. Membership is only $10. We are also offering assistance to vendors who wish to attend the NFB-National Association of Blind Merchants BLAST (Business Leadership and Superior Training) conference in Las Vegas in early March. For more information on membership or grants to attend the conference, call Stephanie Scott at (404)763-1551, or toll-free (866) 999-6324. Stay tuned for details on the upcoming 2002 Randolph-Sheppard Seminar.
We have been asked to carry the following press release:
New Organization Expands Mountain Access for
Blind and Visually Impaired Skiers and Snowboarders
Visually impaired skiers and snowboarders have a new opportunity to hit the slopes thanks to Foresight Ski Guides, a non-profit organization launched in Colorado this season. Its aim is to provide one-of-a-kind, affordable, and flexible services for blind or visually impaired skiers and snowboarders.
"Although a number of resorts and organizations provide ski services for people who are blind or visually impaired, few do so affordably or flexibly," said Foresight founder Mark G. Davis. "Our aim is to provide one-stop service for blind or visually impaired people to fully enjoy a winter mountain experience."
Foresight's focus will be to arrange for trained volunteer guides to accompany the skier or snowboarder on the slopes. For a once-a-season donation of $50, participants will be entitled to four days of guided skiing, with lift tickets, equipment rental, and assistance for lodging and transportation. Grants, corporate sponsorships, and charitable donations cover the remainder of the expenses. Initially services will be available at Vail Resorts, with eventual expansion to resorts elsewhere in Colorado and nationwide.
"Vail has historically supported adaptive ski programs as part of our commitment to our guests," said Bill Jensen, Senior Vice President of Vail Resorts, Inc., and Chief Operating Officer of Vail. "We recognize and understand that snow sports can provide a life-changing experience to visually impaired people, and with Vail Resorts' expanded opportunity to partner with Mark Davis and Foresight, this will only broaden the benefits of skiing and snowboarding to those who are visually impaired."
Foresight was founded by Mark G. Davis, a part-time Denver/ part-time Vail resident and lifelong skier who himself became visually impaired as a result of an attack of multiple sclerosis. He was recently named a Betaseronsm_ Multiple Sclerosis Champion of Courage grant recipient and is applying that grant toward the establishment of Foresight. Various corporations, including Vail Resorts and Vail Sports, have also pledged corporate support.
In addition to notifying blind or visually impaired skiers, snowboarders, and their families, Davis is also looking for volunteers to act as guides and hosts on the mountain. An application is available at the Foresight Website <www.foresightskiguides.org> or by calling toll-free (866) 860-0972.
If I Had Only Known Then:
Mary Brunoli is a longtime Federationist. The events of September 11 have taught us all things about ourselves. Here Mary shares a recollection that demonstrates just how far the NFB has helped us come. This is what she says:
The story of Mike Hingson's escape from the Trade Center reminded me of an incident which occurred during the early days at my little canderia. There was a fire in the baling room, and the fire alarm knelled out its warning. People were rushing out, choking, and crying: "I can't see a thing!"
"Come this way," I called, showing people the way out.
One person shouted, "Oh, Mary, you are a life saver." In fact I led a number of people to safety with no problem.
The next day the newspaper report said that I had to be led out of the building. I was furious, as were some of my customers. One of my very good customers was the mother of the reporter who had written the story, and to my shame I dared not even speak to her about the inaccuracy and injustice of his story. Remember, these things happened before the National Federation of the Blind. If I had only known then what I know now.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.