THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 47, No. 5May, 2004
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
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Atlanta Marriott Marquis Ambassador Albert (Smitty) Smith]
Atlanta 2004 NFB Convention Site
The 2004 NFB convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 29 through July 5 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The overflow hotel is the Hilton Atlanta and Towers, just across Courtland from the Marriott Marquis. Room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $59 and triples and quads $65 a night, plus tax of 14 percent at present. The hotels are accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent will be refunded if notice of cancellation is given before June 1, 2004. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the Marriott Marquis at (404) 521-0000 and the Hilton Atlanta and Towers at (404) 659-2000.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, assuming that rooms are still available. After that the hotels will not hold their room blocks. So make your reservation now.
Both hotels are twelve miles north of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport and are conveniently located off Interstate 85. Take Exit 96, International Boulevard, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Peachtree Center Avenue, and turn right. The Marriott Marquis is on the right in the second block. To get to the Hilton, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Piedmont Avenue, and turn right. The Hilton is on the left. Guest-room amenities in both hotels include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and dataport.
The schedule for the 2004 convention is as follows:
Tuesday, June 29Seminar Day
Wednesday, June 30 Registration Day
Thursday, July 1 Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 2Opening Session
Saturday, July 3 Tour Day
Sunday, July 4 Banquet Day
Monday, July 5Business Session
Vol. 47, No. 5, May, 2004
NAC President's Job Eliminated
by Barbara Pierce
AIDB Board Votes to De-NAC
by J. Michael Jones
Center Helps Those Who Recently Lost Sight
to Relearn Life's Skills
by Sam Tranum
Spring 2004 NAC Membership Report
Understanding the Holocaust
by Harold Snider
Blind Jews in the Third Reich
by Gabriel Richter, translated by Gail Snider
Liberation of a Blind Survivor
by Max Edelman
An Adolescence in Crisis
by Hans Cohn
A Visit to the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel
by Barbara Pierce
Why I Am a Federationist: Both Ends of the Spectrum
by Ryan Osentowski
Another Milestone in Ruston, Louisiana
by Ron Gardner
Copyright© 2004 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: April 7 and 8, 2004, marked the first conference conducted in the new NFB Jernigan Institute. The June issue will include a complete report of the event. In the picture above, conferees were beginning to gather in Members Hall on the top floor of the Institute for the festive closing dinner. The view to the west of the facility can be seen from the windows facing Byrd Street.]
NAC President's Job Eliminated
by Barbara Pierce
Lee Robinson, president of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People with Blindness or Visual Impairment (NAC) discovered the hard way on March 5, 2004, that most of the time the chickens come home to roost. Robinson has been superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) since 1994, and the clouds have been gathering almost from the beginning. In recent months, however, he has faced growing criticism arising from the school's audit, increasing restiveness from the USDB teachers union, demands from the NFB of Utah for change in business as usual at the school, and finally the elimination of his job by the Utah Board of Education.
Since he has served as chief flag waver for professional excellence and ethics during his year and more as NAC president in the accrediting body's efforts to persuade anyone who would take them seriously that NAC accreditation ensures excellence and professional responsibility in the agencies that acquire its seal of good practice, one wonders if Robinson will soon be forced in the name of common decency to resign from his NAC position.
Federationists will remember that on September 10, 2001, President Maurer, James Gashel, and Peggy Elliott met with representatives of NAC, including Dr. Robinson, to explore the possibility of papering over the differences between our two organizations well enough to enable NAC to become a viable accrediting body. The NFB representatives asked the NAC executive director, Steve Hegedeos, and then NAC President Steve Obremsky, if they were aware of the allegations of student abuse at USDB that were then filling the papers in Utah. They denied knowing anything about the problems, and Robinson pooh-poohed the matter.
For many reasons, including the clear message that NAC was no more interested in looking into member agency problems than it had ever been, the talks fell through, and very soon thereafter Lee Robinson became NAC president. Here is an editorial that appeared on February 9, 2004, in the Ogden, Utah, Standard- Examiner. It is particularly instructive because it reviews USDB shortcomings throughout the Robinson administration. The piece appeared before the legislative review committee had done more than take testimony. Here it is:
Make Change at Utah's Deaf and Blind School
Problems at the School Have Been Persistent
during Robinson's Tenure
When a public official is trusted with taxpayer money and charged with the education and care of the most vulnerable children among us, the standard for performance should be high.
The leadership of Lee Robinson, the superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, has set a tone of mediocre management. So it's time for a change.
The laundry list is a long one, including:
* A November 1994 State Board of Education audit released three months after Robinson became superintendent of the USDB questioned whether students were being trained effectively, whether resources were being used wisely, and whether steps were being taken to avoid financial problems. Robinson said no one should be surprised by the findings, but committed to making improvements.
* In December 1995 two dozen parents complained to the schools' Parent Advisory Council about educational deficiencies, including teachers who didn't listen to parents and Robinson's lack of response to parental concerns.
* In September 1996 a lawsuit was filed against the USDB because a student had twice been sexually abused by another student. The suit alleged that a USDB administrator--not Robinson--was warned after the first incident but still failed to stop a second incident two weeks later.
* Years later, after a judge ruled in favor of the school administrator named in the sex-abuse lawsuit, school staff threw a party to celebrate the decision.
* In April 2001 a mother alleged, and a police report substantiated the claim, that a teacher had slapped her disabled four-year-old son in the head. It also alleged another teacher had force-fed the boy. The police report said the teacher admitted hitting two other students too. The teacher eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
* In September 2001 the teacher's aide who reported the physical abuse at the USDB was fired. Robinson said her position was eliminated due to federal budget cuts.
Fast forward to last week and a performance audit of the USDB. It found that in July 2002, when Robinson was queried by lawmakers during the state's fiscal crunch about USDB funds, he failed to include at least $850,000 in surplus funds and told the legislature six positions at USDB had to be cut. Furthermore, the school reported six unfilled teaching jobs when there were really nine. The audit showed as well that USDB had access at the time to considerable federal funds that had yet to be collected and that it had failed to comply with state law regarding salary increases. The audit also found the Utah Board of Education has been lax in overseeing the USDB.
Testifying before a legislative committee on which sat House Speaker Marty Stephens and Senate President Al Mansell, Robinson said he did not intentionally mislead lawmakers in July 2002. He said he simply misunderstood the information about which he was testifying.
Stephens put it bluntly: "Dr. Robinson, why would the committee ever want to have you testify in front of ... (it) again? Why would they believe you?"
Good questions. The USDB serves more than 1,500 students across the state. From the looks of it, it isn't being managed as well as it could be. One reason could be insufficient state oversight. Indeed the State Office of Education in September 2003 approved another year of employment for Robinson after its annual review of his performance.
It's time for the state to put a magnifying glass on the USDB. The students, their parents, and taxpayers deserve better than they've been getting.
That editorial did a good job of reviewing the high points--or, perhaps more accurately, the low points--of the Robinson years at USDB. But what was the straw that broke the camel's back? A number of Utah papers reported the story. Here is the one that appeared February 6, 2004, in the Deseret Morning News:
Deaf, Blind Schools in Hot Seat
by Jennifer Toomer-Cook
The State Board of Education today will discuss whether Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind administrators should keep their jobs in light of an unflattering financial audit.
The action comes at the request of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The subcommittee Thursday discussed a legislative audit that found the USDB had $850,000 it could have used to hire teachers but instead reported the funds were restricted and left the jobs vacant, among other financial concerns.
The subcommittee asked the school board and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Laing to consider and recommend administrative personnel changes.
"When you have children who have so many needs, so many specific needs, and you leave these positions vacant when you have the money to hire the teachers ... I would say it is a gross mismanagement of funds," said Representative Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights. "I have my own personal feelings about (administrative) personnel changes that should take place, but I would like that recommendation to come from (Laing and the school board), and I would like it as soon as possible."
There are perhaps three people at USDB who would meet the definition of at-will administrative employees, including the school's budgeter and its superintendent, Lee Robinson, Laing acknowledged.
The personnel recommendation must be submitted within two months. Today's discussion, under protocol for personnel matters, will not be open to the public.
"I'm not surprised they're asking for it," Laing said.
Robinson declined to comment on Thursday's action.
In summer 2002 legislative budgeters discovered the USDB had a cash surplus of $1.75 million, and recommended half of that be used to help cover the state's budget deficit. In doing so, lawmakers stressed the reduction should not hurt classroom instruction.
Shortly afterward USDB reported the budget cut would end up reducing its operating budget because remaining surplus money was restricted. So it decided to leave positions unfilled--nine in all, the audit found.
In January 2003 legislators requested an audit to see whether those cuts were needed.
The answer: no, according to the audit released this week.
Auditors found the schools had $850,000 in surplus money last fiscal year that was not restricted or otherwise committed and could have been used to hire needed teachers.
The vacancies instead ended up increasing teacher workloads, leading to "difficulty providing effective instruction" and higher class size, the audit states.
In a meeting earlier this week, legislative leaders grilled Robinson over why he reported the funds were restricted.
Robinson acknowledged making wrong claims but said it was not deliberate.
The audit said USDB never misappropriated funds.
But it found the schools shortchanged teachers on pay raises last year and overdid raises this year because they did not follow the legal process for calculating salary increases. The two financially balanced out.
Some of the problems were attributed to "the lack of a well-qualified finance director," the audit states. The current finance director has a two-year degree in accounting, whereas other district finance directors have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees or are certified public accountants.
"Inasmuch as the current finance director is approaching retirement, we recommend that, when the administration hires a new finance director, they select a person with the experience, education, and training needed to navigate the complex finances of the USDB," the audit states.
The school also needs better oversight and needs to improve reporting on student progress toward individual education goals, the audit states.
The State Office of Education, in a response to the audit, agreed with the recommendations. It also mapped an eighteen-month action plan.
"Although there is clear need for major changes in some budget procedures, the acknowledgement from the Legislative Auditor General's Office that neither mismanagement nor malfeasance have played any role in these concerns is welcome news," states the response, prepared by Robinson and associate state superintendents Patti Harrington and Patrick Ogden.
"It appears that, if anything, the concerns identified in the audit are resulting from ultraconservative actions related to budget and the sizable budget reserves that followed from those actions."
In an article titled "USDB Finances under Scrutiny" published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Saturday, February 7, reporter Amy Stewart explained the budgeting practices that brought the wrath of state officials down on USDB:
... At the beginning of a fiscal year, USDB is assured how much money is in its budget and can make hiring and other funding decisions accordingly, Robinson said.
"We bill them (the legislature) and use that money the next year," he said.
Otherwise, if the school used the funding the year it comes in, that money could fluctuate, making it difficult for the school to budget, Robinson said.
But auditors and state education officials say reimbursements should be used in the year for which services were provided.
"This year's money should serve this year's children," said state associate superintendents Patrick Ogden and Patti Harrington, in a joint written statement.
Further, the school's funds need to be represented to the legislature correctly, the statement said.
"Admittedly USDB administration has inappropriately referred to these carry forward funds as ‘restricted' funds. Rather, these are ‘committed' funds to the next year's budget and are not restricted in purpose," it said.
The joint statement outlined future direction for USDB, including requiring the school to turn in monthly statements to the state board. ...
The board of education held a closed-door session on February 6, but the following Friday they invited public comment. Naturally the speakers represented almost every possible point of view, including that of the organized blind. In a February 14 story titled "No Decisions, Many Opinions as Board Discusses Schools for Deaf and Blind," Tanna Barry included some of the comments:
... Some people worried the committee would recommend that USDB Superintendent Lee Robinson be removed from his post while others championed that as the only way to have change.
Tammie Payette, president of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Education Association, told the committee the current school administration has ignored its mission of providing high-quality services to children by leaving teaching positions vacant.
Last year during a general meeting of the association, Payette said many teachers wanted to hold a vote of no confidence in Robinson's administration.
"Now that the audit is complete, the time for change is here," she said. "We're concerned about (Robinson's) business-as-usual attitude. The teachers cannot understand this seeming disregard for the immediate needs of our children." ...
While Sanderson [Robert Sanderson, a member of the USDB institutional council] said the school had erred on the side of caution in its financial practices, he said Robinson has always done his best to manage the school and that maybe the State Board of Education should offer financial education help to USDB.
Robinson told the committee he had not intended any wrongdoing, but admitted to taking an overly conservative approach to how budget money was used. He explained that the funds, deemed an excessive carry forward by the audit, were restricted because they were earmarked for use in the next year's budget.
The audit also suggested the school had about $442,000 in uncollected federal moneys that weren't accounted for in the budget. Robinson told the committee it was the school's practice to collect the federal funds after the end of the fiscal year.
"Some mistakes were made," he said. "There is no question of that. The only thing that has bothered me through this process is that people have questioned my motivation. It has always been my top priority to make children successful." ...
That is the way things stood until the March 6 meeting of the State Board of Education. Here is the March 6 story that appeared in the Ogden Standard-Examiner:
Board of Education Dismisses USDB Leader
Financial Decisions Called into Question
by Amy K. Stewart
Scrutinized for his financial budgeting decisions, Lee Robinson, superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Ogden, will soon be looking for a new job.
The State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to dissolve Robinson's job position, restructure and rename USDB leadership, and provide more oversight to the school, especially regarding its finances.
Robinson has the opportunity to reapply for the school's new leadership position. The board plans to advertise the position immediately, with the search ending in ninety days.
Robinson was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment. He has been superintendent since August 1994.
USDB Assistant Superintendent Linda Rutledge said she hopes he will reapply.
"He's been a strong leader for USDB, and I sincerely hope he will continue to be our leader in the new position proposed by the State Board of Education," Rutledge said.
However, some USDB teachers, who have voiced complaints about Robinson's management for quite some time, support the board members' actions.
"I think they have listened to the many sides of the issue and made a decision in the best interest of the children of the school," said USDB teacher Carol Ruddell.
The board's decision was in response to an audit by the legislative auditor general, who recommended changes to USDB management structure. The decision also followed a series of meetings of the board's audit committee.
The legislative audit alleged Robinson misrepresented the school's financial condition during budget cuts in 2002. Specifically under scrutiny was $850,000 of 2002 USDB funding that could have been used to hire teachers. However, the school left jobs vacant.
Robinson said in earlier interviews his financial decisions were simply conservative budgeting practices in which he chose to wait until he knew how much funding was coming in, then applied it to the next year's budget, instead of spending the money immediately.
The Legislative Auditor General's Office said neither mismanagement nor malfeasance played a role in the audit concerns.
However, the board unanimously voted Friday to issue a letter of reprimand to Robinson and also to restructure USDB administration.
"It's a dramatic move," said Patti Harrington, associate superintendent of Student Achievement and School Success, with the state office.
USDB will be supervised by Carl Wilson, director of At Risk and Special Education Services, in the state office.
The position of USDB superintendent will be retitled Principal Academic and Operations Officer. This person will be under the direct authority of the director (Wilson).
The USDB finance director, currently Vicki Bell, will be under direct authority of the state office finance director. The USDB position will be moved, either part-time or possibly full-time, from the USDB site in Ogden to the state office site in Salt Lake City.
That was the report of the decisions made at the March 5 meeting. Here is a brief synopsis of the Utah Board of Education's final decisions as circulated by Patti Harrington, associate superintendent for student achievement and school success:
The Utah State Board of Education has eliminated the position of superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) and divided the duties among three positions: director of at risk and special education services (an existing position); principal academic and operations officer for USDB; and finance manager for USDB. The board also more closely specified membership on the schools' Institutional Council. Currently there are eleven members, two of whom represent the blind community and two the deaf community. To those four positions, the board specified that the remaining members represent the following:
A local district special educator;
A local district business administrator;
A representative of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing;
A representative of USOR Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired;
Three parents of students receiving services at USDB, one of a deaf child, one of a blind child, and one of a deaf-blind child;
One nonvoting member who is a USDB teacher.
The move came in response to an audit by the legislative auditor general, who recommended changes to management structure, and after a series of meetings of the board's Audit Committee. USDB Superintendent Lee Robinson, who was formally reprimanded, will be allowed to apply for the new position of principal. No timeline was established for the change to a principal form of management.
For more information contact Patti Harrington, associate superintendent for student achievement and school success, (801) 538-7515.
There you have the facts of the story in Utah. By early June Lee Robinson's job as USDB superintendent will be no more. He may decide to apply for the replacement position, but with a letter of reprimand in his file, it seems doubtful that he will be an attractive candidate. We can be fairly certain, however, that NAC will stand by its controversial president. After all, NAC stood by when a USDB teacher admitted striking children but retained her job, when the aide who complained about such treatment of young multiply disabled children lost hers, and when USDB engaged in improper budget practices because those doing the work did not have the training or knowledge to do it correctly. Why should we expect NAC to demand excellence in its leadership?
The NFB of Utah has fought for years for the preservation of USDB under reorganized leadership while insisting that more accountability in teaching Braille and protecting the safety of the students be provided. In letters and testimony the NFB has urged reorganization of the school and disassociation with NAC as first steps toward better service to the blind children of Utah. The first of these steps has now been taken.
We rejoice in the possibilities that now exist in the education of Utah's blind students. We can only hope that those dealing with the recent excitement in Utah will come to recognize that the seal of good practice from NAC still means as little as it ever did. We wish those working to restore the good name of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind the very best of luck, and we suggest that the obvious next step in this direction would be to abandon NAC membership and certification. The following article demonstrates how it's done.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michael Jones]
AIDB Board Votes to De-NAC
by J. Michael Jones
From the Editor: Michael Jones is president of the NFB of Alabama and for fourteen years was an employee of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB). At AIDB he served as an instructor/counselor and as an administrator. He resigned in late 2002 to complete his doctorate in vocational rehabilitation and work as a graduate teaching assistant for Auburn University. He is currently writing his dissertation on employment outcomes for persons who are blind and have accessed the public vocational rehabilitation program. He reports in the following brief article about recent positive events at AIDB:
The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People with Blindness or Visual Impairment (NAC) has been reviled for decades by people knowledgeable about the blindness field as an embarrassment to accreditation bodies in America. I had read the literature casting doubt on NAC's competence in evaluating agencies, but I was never able to appreciate fully the truth of this criticism of the NAC evaluation process until I experienced it firsthand as a participant in a program review by a NAC survey team.
The program areas that I was evaluated on while working as an administrator for the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) were reviewed by a NAC team member who reported to me that he was a criminal psychologist who had briefly worked in the vision field some thirty years before. I repeatedly inquired if I should present documents to substantiate what I was reporting orally. I was assured by the NAC reviewer that documentation was not necessary. I spent the bulk of my program review answering questions about how the field of vision had changed over the last thirty years and not on evaluating AIDB's programs.
However, one need not draw on my observations alone to illustrate NAC's incompetence. Consider that in the same review year, 1998, while the NAC team was on the scene conducting its accreditation review, a worker at AIDB was using student records for illegal purposes. This is how the Associated Press recently reported the conclusion of that episode:
Woman Sentenced in Tax Scheme That Used IDs Stolen from Blind
The Associated Press
February 25, 2004
A woman convicted in a $700,000 tax scheme that used identification stolen from blind students at a Talladega school has been sentenced to one to two years in prison. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that former Talladega resident Roshanda Johnson, thirty-three, now living in Plano, Texas, was sentenced on charges of conspiracy to submit false tax claims and identity fraud. U.S. District Judge Inge P. Johnson sentenced Johnson on Tuesday to one to two years, followed by three years of court supervision.
Convicted November 4, Johnson was accused of stealing the Social Security numbers, birthdates, and other information of children attending the Helen Keller School in Talladega and providing it to an income tax return preparer in a false dependent tax scheme. Johnson worked part-time at the school in 1997-98.
NAC might reasonably be asked, don't its teams evaluate for general safe records storage and retrieval processes as a part of the review of agencies? Fortunately the NAC review team that visited AIDB in 1998 will be the last one to extend its probe into Alabama. In 1998 the NFB of Alabama passed a resolution at its state convention urging that AIDB discontinue its affiliation with NAC. AIDB's NAC accreditation was to be up for review in 2003.
For decades the AIDB had continued to pay for NAC accreditation until its new president, Dr. Terry Graham, and its reorganized board of trustees, led by longtime NFB member Mrs. Melissa Williamson, listened to blind people and rejected any further affiliation with NAC accreditation. This move is symbolic and is a signal that services for the blind in Alabama may be moving to a more competent level.
Here is Dr. Graham's letter rejecting NAC accreditation in Alabama:
October 9, 2003
Steven K. Hegedeos, Executive Director
National Accreditation Council
Dear Mr. Hegedeos:
At the September 30 meeting of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Board of Trustees, the Board voted to discontinue our relationship with the National Accreditation Council. AIDB is the nation's most comprehensive education and service program for children and adults who are deaf and blind, and our diverse array of services literally spans a lifetime from infants and toddlers to senior citizens. Regular examination and review of our programs will continue to be a priority for us, but we have chosen to pursue other options for accreditation at this time.
I thank you and your organization for past support of AIDB and for your efforts on behalf of persons who are blind and visually impaired. On behalf of our board of trustees I wish you and NAC the very best in future endeavors.
That was Dr. Graham's letter to NAC. We of the NFB of Alabama are proud to announce that with this decision Alabama can now boast a NAC-free environment. We are also pleased, but not surprised, to report that with NAC accreditation a matter of history the AIDB board has taken other courageous and overdue actions in recent months.
On February 18, 2004, the Talladega Daily Home reported that following a recommendation by the AIDB president and after learning that the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation would no longer share in funding obsolete training programs, the AIDB board of trustees voted to end seven training programs at the E.H. Gentry Technical School. The programs have not shown good results in job placements for graduates seeking employment in these areas. Twelve faithful employees will lose their jobs, which is certainly regrettable, but AIDB now recognizes its greater responsibility to do what it can to help its consumers, students, and workers to work and earn competitively in the twenty-first century.
Also according to the Talladega Daily Home of February 19, the board voted unanimously to raise the hourly pay rate for Alabama Industries for the Blind production workers from $5.98 to $6.28 an hour, the first such actual pay increase in almost fifteen years. Within a few months incentive increases will also begin for workers whose hard work and productivity merit them. Cost-of-living increases have occasionally occurred through the years, but this straight-up pay hike marks a significant shift and was an important decision for the board of trustees to make. Perhaps two such difficult and courageous actions at this time are simply accidental, but I suspect that they are connected in some way with AIDB's decision to step away from NAC. Whatever the case may be, the NFB of Alabama is pleased to give credit to the institute and its board for positive decisions and courageous actions.
Center Helps Those Who Recently Lost Sight
to Relearn Life's Skills
by Sam Tranum
From the Editor: The following article appeared on January 15, 2004, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In a state as riddled with agencies accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People with Blindness or Visual Impairment (NAC) as Florida is, it is not surprising that many blind people are frustrated at the lack of effective skills training, particularly for older people who are losing their sight.
Carolyn Lapp is president of the Palm Beach Chapter of the NFB of Florida. In desperation at the complete lack of effective services, she organized classes for seniors who needed help to learn to live with vision loss. It is also no surprise that the reaction of the NAC-accredited agency in the area would be to bad-mouth the effort and to send the reporter to talk with a blind person who could be counted upon to decry the notion of blind people teaching other blind people. Here is the story:
Two years ago John Trabulsi had 20/20 vision. Today he is blind. Now that diabetes has taken his vision, he must relearn how to make his way through the world. It takes some adjustments, some new skills.
That's why Trabulsi, sixty-two, goes to the Florida Outreach Center for the Blind's classes. On Monday, after some practice reading Braille and a session on dealing with stress, students worked on making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
"I don't know how much peanut butter I have on the knife," Trabulsi fretted. "How am I supposed to figure it out? I like a lot of peanut butter."
Other students and group leader Carolyn Lapp did their best to guide him. It was the often-joked-about situation of the blind leading the blind.
That's just the way Lapp, president of the Palm Beach County chapter of the advocacy group National Federation of the Blind, likes it. That's part of the reason she started the center about nine months ago. She says it's the only place in Palm Beach County where blind instructors teach blind students independent-living skills. The other part is that she simply didn't think there were adequate services for blind people in the county.
Trabulsi goes to four or five classes and groups in an effort to stay busy and avoid sitting home alone. He says learning from blind teachers such as Lapp has advantages.
"There's no doubt about it. When you have instruction from somebody who is blind, they already know what you're going through," Trabulsi said. "The other counselors who just go to school, they don't have that experience."
It seemed to work pretty well Monday. The center still is hunting for a permanent location, so classes are in the Piccadilly Cafeteria in West Palm Beach. About twelve people, with varying amounts of vision, showed up. They sat in front of cafeteria trays loaded with jars of peanut butter and jelly, butter knives, plates, and slices of bread.
Lapp suggested digging a little peanut butter out of the jar and starting to spread it from the middle of the bread outward. Pretty soon everyone was done, and many were munching on their work.
Lapp has big plans for her new center. She envisions a Florida Outreach Center for the Blind that hires blind people to help other blind people. To make it all happen, she is searching for grant money and a 2,500-square-foot location.
Dawn Clemons, a spokeswoman for the Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches, took exception to Lapp's claim that Palm Beach County didn't have adequate services for the blind. She said the Lighthouse had been doing a very good job as the primary nonprofit organization serving the nearly 43,000 blind and visually impaired county residents.
Clemons said having blind instructors is less important than having qualified instructors. She said Lighthouse hires instructors certified to teach people with visual disabilities.
Rosanna Lippen, a spokeswoman for the Broward County chapter of the advocacy group Florida Council of the Blind, also thinks sight doesn't prevent someone from being able to teach blind people effectively. "A lot of times a blind teacher will give a better perspective," said Lippen, who is blind. "But there are times when you need a sighted person. If I was newly blind, and somebody who is blind is going to show me how to get around, I would not have that trust."
Despite the disagreements on philosophy, it's good that Lapp took the initiative to fill what she saw as a gap in services, said Sam Atwood, a client advocate for the Florida Division of Blind Services. "I think that the more people take responsibility for their own progress, the better they will do," he said.
Spring 2004 NAC Membership Report
It's been awhile since we reported on NAC's progress in persuading agencies, schools, and workshops to pay for and receive accreditation from the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People with Blindness or Visual Impairment (NAC). Since the so-called summit in December of 2002, when NAC called together as many folks as they could muster to make the case for its importance in the field of work with the blind, NAC's membership has continued to dwindle. Only six states have more than one NAC member agency, for a total of twenty-six, or two-thirds of the total U.S. membership. Thirteen states have one agency each for a grand total of thirty-nine U.S. agencies on the NAC rolls. That is a net loss of three agencies since the summit. Thirty-three states, counting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are lucky enough to boast a NAC-free environment. Here are the lists as drawn from NAC's own Web site as of March 18, 2004:
The six states with multiple NAC agencies are Florida, 11; Georgia, 3; Illinois, 2; Michigan, 2; Missouri, 2; and Ohio, 6.
The thirteen states with just one NAC member agency each are Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington.
The states now free of NAC incursions are Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: The map of the United States is shown here.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The six states with more than one NAC-accredited agency are shown with solid fill. The thirteen with one each have striped fill. The states with no NAC-accredited agencies are clear.]
We conclude this report with a list of the actual agencies that have decided to maintain membership in the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People with Blindness or Visual Impairment:
The Foundation for Blind Children
1235 East Harmont Drive
Phoenix, Arizona 85020
Lions World Services for the Blind
2811 Fair Park Boulevard
PO Box 4055
Little Rock, Arkansas 72214
Conklin Center for Multihandicapped Blind
405 White Street
Daytona Beach, Florida 32114
Florida Institute of Rehabilitation Education
1286 Cedar Center Drive
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
207 North San Marco Avenue
St. Augustine, Florida 32084-2799
The Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind
8610 Galen Wilson Boulevard, Suite B
Port Richey, Florida 34668
Lighthouse of Broward County, Inc.
650 North Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311
Mana-Sota Lighthouse for the Blind
7318 North Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, Florida 34243
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
601 SW Eighth Avenue
Miami, Florida 33130
Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind
1106 West Platt Street
Tampa, Florida 33806
Visually Impaired Persons of Charlotte County, Inc.
23312 Harper Avenue
Charlotte Harbor, Florida 33998
Visually Impaired Persons of Southwest Florida
35 West Marina Avenue
PO Box 3464
North Fort Myers, Florida 33903
6925 112th Circle, North, Suite 103
Largo, Florida 34643
Blind and Low Vision Services of North Georgia
3830 South Cobb Drive, Suite 125
Smyrna, Georgia 30080
Center for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
739 Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
Georgia Academy for the Blind
2895 Vineville Avenue
Macon, Georgia 31204
The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
1850 Roosevelt Road
Chicago, Illinois 60608
Deicke Center for Visual Rehabilitation
219 East Cole Avenue
Wheaton, Illinois 61087
Indiana School for the Blind
7725 North College Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46240
2301 South Water
Wichita, Kansas 67213-4819
The Iris Network (formerly Maine Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired)
189 Park Avenue
Portland, Maine 04102
The Maryland School for the Blind
3501 Taylor Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21236
Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
215 Sheldon, SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
Upshaw Institute for the Blind
16625 Grand River Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48227
Alphapointe Association for the Blind
7501 Prospect Avenue
Kansas City, Missouri 64132
Children's Center for the Visually Impaired
3101 Main Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
New Hampshire Association for the Blind
25 Walker Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301
The New York Institute for Special Education
999 Pelham Parkway
Bronx, New York 10469
North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind
500 Stanford Road
Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203-2799
Cincinnati Association for the Blind
2046 Gilbert Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
7000 Hamilton Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45231
Rehabilitation Support Services Inc.
16 Elmdale Avenue
Akron, Ohio 44313
The Sight Center Toledo Society for the Blind
1819 Canton Street
Toledo, Ohio 43624
South East Ohio Sight Center
358 Lincoln Center, Unit A
Lancaster, Ohio 43130
Vision Center of Central Ohio, Inc.
1393 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43201
Pittsburgh Vision Services
300 South Craig Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
423 17th Avenue, SE
Aberdeen, South Dakota 57401
Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind
742 Harrison Boulevard
Ogden, Utah 84404-5298
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
2501 South Plum Street
PO Box 14959
Seattle, Washington 98144
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Harold Snider]
Understanding the Holocaust
by Harold Snider
From the Editor: No one with humane impulses enjoys thinking or talking about the Holocaust. We take pride in the relative handful of individuals and groups who did what they could to thwart Nazi cruelty or who risked their lives and reputations to help people escape the genocide. But by and large nations and individuals simply looked the other way or even consorted with the perpetrators to inflict suffering on innocent people.
In recent years many of us have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in our free time during the Washington Seminar. Perhaps we are mindful of the admonition: "Lest we forget." We also remember George Santayana's warning that "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
But why should a consumer organization of blind people in twenty-first-century America devote its time and attention to the Holocaust? Dr. Harold Snider, a longtime Federation leader, explains why in the following article. This is what he says:
I am prompted to write this article as chairman of the National Federation of the Blind in Judaism, an interest group that allows Jewish Federationists to come together to deal with issues of common concern. Although World War II ended almost sixty years ago, the death of more than six million Jews in Nazi concentration camps continues to be an issue of concern to all Jews, blind or not. The hate and prejudice that inspired the killing of more than six million of our people is very difficult to comprehend, even more so because we as blind Jews cannot see the photographs documenting the tragedy and can attempt to understand this catastrophe only by reading Holocaust literature, visiting Holocaust museums, or talking to Holocaust survivors themselves.
This issue of the Monitor, with its articles about the Holocaust, permits all of us, Jews and non-Jews, blind and sighted, Federationists and non-Federationists, to get some small idea of what the Holocaust was really like from the perspective of two blind Jewish survivors. The more scholarly article also illuminates the nature and extent of the attack on blind people. It is important for all of us to remember that Hitler and the Nazi killing machine did not want to eliminate only the Jewish people. Blind people were also high on the list of the defective who were to be eliminated. Therefore to be both blind and Jewish was particularly unfortunate.
As an eleven-year-old blind boy in the sixth grade in Jacksonville, Florida, I came face to face with the effect of the Holocaust in my own family. My cousin, Frances Hirschfeld, had survived the Auschwitz concentration camp along with Julian, who later became her husband. Frances was visiting my great-aunt, and I asked my mother if I could speak with her about her Holocaust experience. I was doing a project on Germany in social studies.
In September of 1939 Frances and Julian had been neighbors in Warsaw, Poland. They were each married, and each family had two children. Frances was an accountant by training, and Julian was a research chemist. These families suffered incredible privation and discrimination under Nazi occupation. In April of 1943, after having been displaced from their homes in Warsaw, Frances and Julian along with their spouses and children were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp on the same train.
When they reached the camp, a selection process took place. Frances's husband and two children and Julian's wife and two children were sent to the gas chamber. Frances and Julian themselves were forced to work as slave laborers. Frances was one of the inventory clerks who kept track of all of the items taken from Jews on the way to the gas chamber. Julian worked as a chemist in a munitions factory at Birkenau, a satellite work camp.
After liberation in 1945, Frances and Julian made their way to Paris, where they eventually married. Frances wrote to my great uncle, who assisted them to immigrate to the United States, where they began a new family. Julian was employed as a research chemist and invented many new artificial fibers.
Although I have only briefly recounted their story here, the effects of my interview with my cousin Frances will be with me as long as I live. The Holocaust is personally comprehensible to me as a blind person only because of the love and patience of my cousin in telling me her story. As a trained historian I think that it is important for all of us to understand the lessons which this Holocaust or any genocide must teach us. Like it or not, we as blind people are among the most vulnerable in any such situation. The firsthand accounts of Max Edelman and Hans Cohn as Holocaust survivors should make Monitor readers pause to reflect.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gail Snider]
Blind Jews in the Third Reich
by Gabriel Richter
translated by Gail Snider
From the Editor: Gail Snider speaks German fluently and has taken courses in German translation. She works as a peer counselor and Braille proofreader for Services for the Visually Impaired in Silver Spring, Maryland, and is a longtime member of the NFB. When we decided to address the subject of the experiences of blind people in the third Reich, we were told about the book, Blindness and Eugenics, by Gabriel Richter, published in Freiburg, Germany, in 1986. The book has not been translated into English, and in fact we received only a few excerpts in German from Heinrig Scholler, a blind colleague of the author, who wrote the book's introduction. All efforts to contact Gabriel Richter himself failed. Gail agreed to translate Richter's text about blind Jews under the Nazis in the material we received as well as two interviews that appear, we believe, in the chapter on sterilization law. "Blind Jews and the Third Reich," chapter X, section 3 begins on page 81 of the book, and chapter XI, "Sterilization Law," section 5 begins on page 134. Here is Gail's translation:
The history of blind Jews during the Third Reich is inextricably bound up with that of all the Jews living in Germany and the German-occupied countries. Blind Jews received no special treatment. They could be regarded as special to some degree in that they were more likely to be declared unfit for work and could be found in greater numbers among the elderly. But of the roughly 2,000 laws, ordinances, and regulations passed against the Jews between 1933 and 1945, very few concern the blind in particular.
The "Aryan paragraph" was introduced at a meeting of the Union of Blind Academics of Germany in July of 1933. Chairman Carl Strehl expressed his willingness to go along with the decision to exclude Jews from the union as follows: "For the U.B.A.G. it was a matter of course that we would align ourselves with the fundamental principles of the new National Socialist government and carry them out as they related to the union's day-to-day activities."
In October of the same year the Federation of the German Blind announced an amendment to its constitution which stated in Section 9 that only someone "of German origin" could be a regular member. At the same time the following notice appeared in the Blinded Veteran: "Members of foreign races cannot hold any positions of authority or leadership in state government, and they must be kept out of the teaching profession."
Peter Plein, chairman of the League of Blinded Veterans of Germany, even thought he could see into the future of the Third Reich with regard to special privileges for blinded veterans when he wrote: "It is we, the blinded German veterans, who look to Reichschancellor Adolf Hitler with particular trust; for, since he was deprived of his eyesight for several weeks because of a gas-related injury during that critical November of 1918, he, like no one else, will know how to show his appreciation for the heavy sacrifice that we blinded veterans have made for the fatherland, a sacrifice which we must bear for the rest of our lives." By December 31, 1933, the now 2,884-strong League of Blinded Veterans had thrown out seventeen of its members because of their non-Aryan origin.
Beginning in 1934, a systematic campaign of defamation and hostility was being waged against the Jews, almost exclusively in the Blinded Veteran. In it Richard Kliesch wrote about an incident after World War I. Before then, he said, he had clung to the belief that the war had been lost through "the treason of Marxism," but following the November revolution in 1918, "The people of Israel had triumphed all the way.”
"’The war dead fell on the battlefield of dishonor' is what one teacher, a Jew, had the nerve to say to the young people whose education had been entrusted to him. The soldiers who had come home aged by their experience, those war victims with their bodies shot to pieces--they couldn't understand that. They had fought and sacrificed their health all for nothing. The nation was falling apart. Moneylenders and black-marketeers were getting rich; corruption dominated public life; traitors, Marxists and Jews, were in control."
Elsewhere in the Blinded Veteran of 1934 is a reference to a statistic in the national archive, according to which: "the total number of Jews who had fought and died in the war (was) well below the average for the population in general." As a result it was concluded that Jews would be "systematically pressed into service at the front."
In the same year a renewed attempt took place to portray the Jews as "postwar profiteers," and again the author was Richard Kliesch: "As exploiters of the plundering that went on after World War I, the international Jews triumphed, for they deceived not only our honest, hardworking German boys but also their own German accomplices."
Later, stories written by disabled veterans told how they had become "anti-Semitic." On this subject Walter Mettel described in the Blinded Veteran how a Jewish medical student in a "fit of experimentation fever" had chopped off a wounded soldier's arm. Further examples of hate propaganda against the Jews continued to appear in the Blinded Veteran.
When it came to denying Jews their civil rights, a definite effort was organized to forbid blind Jews to wear the yellow-and-black armband for the handicapped, but this move was rejected on July 13, 1942. At a time when the Jews already had to wear the yellow Star of David, when their extermination had been decided upon long before, and when the deportation and murder of Jews were already underway, allowing blind Jews to wear the armbands for the handicapped comes across as a farce.
Anyway officials ruled that Jews could continue to wear the armband, though not for their own sakes, but because "the protection of other road-users" was "of primary importance": "The truck-driver, bicyclist, etc., must acknowledge and take into account the sensory disturbance (deafness, blindness) or motor impairment of a person wearing this form of identification and must behave accordingly." In any event, it was intended that the protection guaranteed by the legal right to wear the armband should be more rigorously enforced.
The first deportation of German Jews to Poland occurred in the fall of 1939. "Being sent to the East meant nothing less than extermination. Hunger and hard labor were supposed to kill off the Jews; anyone who survived was earmarked for a violent end." They shared this fate with the Jews living in all the German-occupied countries.
A small number of firsthand accounts exist by blind people who either experienced or witnessed the deportation or extermination of blind Jews, and a few documents shed some additional light on the subject. They describe the conditions in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, in which "Jews who were old, disabled, and decorated war veterans" were placed. Because of the "special" status of Theresienstadt there are no actual reports of blind people in the extermination camps.
The first transport from Germany arrived in Theresienstadt on June 2, 1942. The relevant documents confirm the existence of a blind ghetto which was part of the Welfare Unit and was housed in Building Q 319. Before he himself was sent away to die in the fall of 1944, the head of the welfare unit was Dr. Karel Fleischmann, a medical doctor who was also a talented poet and sketch artist. Once he addressed the blind in an attempt to give them a picture of their suffering, their destiny, and their new surroundings:
To the Blind in Q 319:
"We fill up our memory; meanwhile our conscience and intellect remain empty." (Montaigne)
A sighted man is speaking to you: a human being who appears to have an advantage over you, but a human being who is at the same time at a great disadvantage, for on the borderline between light and eternal shade there is a barricade blocking the road. I see you sitting on benches, not smooth, carved ones but rough planks of wood ... Transports arrived and the attics were cleared out and hastily cleaned and detached from the wood-paneled walls. They crammed the attics with people: the old, the frail, the sick, and carriers of infectious diseases.
Here I learned about wretchedness, pain, and misfortune ... I see the grotesque facial expressions of the dying, I see the eyes glazing over, the open, parched mouths gasping in the throes of death ... You did not see all that. You do not see the flights of worn-out stairs; you do not see the narrow courtyards, the stores, the workshops with their sad windows like bleeding, weeping eyes. Nor do you see the trucks filled to overflowing with sick and diseased people. You do not see the mournful battalions of old men and women, driven from their homes, as they arrive, their forms bowed and bent, dragging their pitiful possessions behind them on the dusty road. It must take a certain mental and moral strength not to lose your bearing in such a profoundly altered situation ... Now I am closing my eyes and putting myself in your shoes. You were taken by the hand, led to the train, locked in the compartment, screamed at, and after a while you arrived somewhere or other and got screamed at again; then they made you sit down somewhere or other and proceeded to treat you sometimes well, sometimes badly. Everything was different: different food, a different bed, even the peaceful rhythm of your days had changed.
Among the blind men in Theresienstadt was Dr. Victor Cohn, a welfare officer for the blind from Breslau, who, unlike his wife, survived the horrors of the concentration camps. He left us a poem by a deaf-blind woman, Else Helene Dreyfuss, who also perished in one of the camps. This poem gives us a glimpse into this woman's inner world and, at the same time, gives the thoughts of people with other disabilities a chance to be heard:
I cannot see, I cannot hear,
Yet in my mind it's bright and clear.
The mental powers that give me joy
The evil powers could not destroy.
I see no sky, hear no bird's song,
My sight and hearing both are gone;
And yet my soul is not in pain,
For there I see, I hear again.
By the end of World War II, 139,000 Jews had passed through Theresienstadt. Up to 95 percent of them were deported from there and murdered in the extermination camps.
Between the fall of 1942 and the spring of 1945, 3,200 who were also blind and scheduled for the same end passed through the camp. In September of 1942 about 1,000 blind people were in Theresienstadt; in December of 1943, roughly 600. On October 9, 1942, the Welfare Unit for the Severely Injured and Physically Handicapped was founded. The welfare unit in Theresienstadt housed 565 blind people in July of 1943, 668 in October of 1943, and 333 more on June 30, 1944. Meanwhile, the Nazi authorities were relentlessly transporting Jews from there to the extermination camps, where they killed them.
This genocide, which cost six million Jews their lives and has been called the most consequential in human history, also caused the deaths of 5,000 blind people.
Interview with a Blind Woman
Affected by the Sterilization Law
December 4, 1984
Question 1: What did you know about the Defective Offspring Prevention Act?
Answer: We heard a little bit about the act in class. The way it was presented made it quite clear that I had some vague reason to feel guilty about something. I kept wondering over and over again: "Why me especially?"
Question 2: Did the act affect you personally?
Answer: Yes. I was sterilized on January 23, 1935. It was during Advent, 1934, and we were all sitting in the dining hall, when suddenly I was told to go to the director's office. This was unusual at that time of day. My heart was pounding fiercely, and I kept thinking: "You haven't broken any rules, have you? And you did do all your homework correctly, right?" I was exactly twelve years old, still just a kid. I played and I enjoyed schoolwork; I was happy and mentally up to par. I wasn't exactly enlightened about sexual matters, though. All I knew was that all women and girls menstruate and that babies are not delivered by the stork. So there I was, standing in front of the director.
Director: "Hello. Sit down, please. I have asked you to come and see me because I have something very important to discuss with you. It's this: in the next few days you are to have surgery. But you must not say anything about it to anyone!"
Me: "But why, Sir? After all, I'm not sick, and nothing's hurting me!"
Director: "The surgery is necessary. You don't need to be afraid of it."
Me: "So when am I going into the hospital, and when will I have the surgery?"
Director: "That I cannot tell you exactly. It will be in the next few days."
Me: "But what for? Why?"
Director: "Look here, you've been studying biology in class, right? Surely you must have heard something about nerves and nerve fibers."
Me: "So whereabouts will they do the surgery? On my eyes?"
Director: "No! on your abdomen. The nerve fibers are going from your tummy up into your head and right to the sight center of your brain. Maybe there's a chance you could get some of your vision back after the surgery--not all of it, but perhaps some, at least. And that would be really nice, wouldn't it?"
And that was the end of the discussion. After that I went home for Christmas vacation. My parents said nothing to me at that time about the decision to have me sterilized, although they had been notified of it. The only information they shared with me was that I had to have surgery.
My father did fight the decision, though he didn't say anything about it to me then. As he explained later, he had to go to court. First he asked the judges to postpone the sterilization till I was twenty, but they refused. Then he petitioned the court to wait until I had my period so that he could do a better job of explaining everything to me. Their snap judgment was: "The sooner it's done, the less dangerous it is." I don't blame my father for what happened. Back then, the rationale he gave me for giving his consent went like this: "Look, you're a pretty girl, after all. Perhaps you would like to get married one day. Then it'll be a lot easier for you and a lot better if no children come along." But I myself was profoundly unhappy when I grew bigger and heard that I wouldn't be having any children. And I have been feeling the pain right up to this very day, even though it has decreased somewhat over the years because I didn't find out till later what a big responsibility it is to have and raise a child.
The day of the surgery had come. They brought me to the hospital, a place I had never had to go to before. Even being prepared for surgery scared me terribly. The shock after the operation was every bit as bad; I who had been happy and healthy before was suddenly having dreadful stomach pains. They had made an enormous incision from one hipbone to the other. It was a really difficult and dangerous operation. What can be done today with no trouble at all was dangerous back then. I was determined to get out of bed, but I wasn't allowed to get up even once just to go to the toilet. It took a lot of nurses just to hold me down. I called out over and over again: "I can't see anything at all! Everything's the same as before! Why did you operate on me?"
Whether it was the violent movements I was making or something else that went wrong, by the time I was supposed to get my period, everything inside was all damaged and deformed. I was having a really difficult time, and the cramps were indescribable. I had to have surgery all over again twice. What I had to go through is almost beyond description. In any case, even with all these operations, I never did get my period. I went into a kind of menopause, like a middle-aged woman going through the change. In the end I even had to be treated by a neurologist. It's true that taking hormones helped me somewhat, but even today I still suffer from a lot of health problems.
You have to remember that at the time of the first operation I was still a child, barely twelve when I was sterilized. At fourteen I had to have another operation to correct the position of my uterus, which had fallen and become inflamed, and when I was fifteen, they had to remove my entire uterus and part of my vagina.
Because of the neurological problems and hot flashes which followed the surgeries, I suddenly found my ability to learn and concentrate had become very limited. I just wasn't able to make the grade so I could get into high school, and it was too late to make up what I had missed because the literature I needed wasn't available.
I had been told not to talk about the operations with anyone, but the big girls still managed to get it out of me. The story spread all through the institute like wildfire. I can't begin to tell you how awful it was, being pursued by the boys and even by grown men. After all, I myself wasn't made of wood; on the contrary, because of the fluctuations in my hormones, I was sexually overstimulated much of the time. That got me into situations which brought me nothing but trouble and torment.
Question 3: Do you know anything about the restrictions on marriage in the Third Reich?
Answer: I know what happened to a married couple who are friends of mine. They were faced with tremendous difficulties when they wanted to get married because the husband was suspected of having a genetic defect (he had two blind brothers). The wife was blind too, actually, but her blindness resulted from falling down the stairs. When these two wanted to get married, they had to arrange for a marriage license to be issued by the minister for the Interior, Dr. Frick. Also they had to produce a certificate of fitness for marriage. Finally they did manage to get the marriage license, but only after a blind doctor named Siering, who had some kind of connection with the minister, spoke up for them.
Question 4: Were you able to get together with male peers?
Answer: It used to be that boys and girls could get together for dancing or group games, for example, as long as we were supervised by a chaperon. Suddenly all of that was forbidden. We were punished even if we were seen giving a boy a goodnight handshake or going for a walk in the garden. Anyone who was caught having intimate relations was immediately expelled from school in disgrace.
Question 5: What do you know about the fate of blind Jews?
Answer: I really can't say much of anything about the fate of blind Jews. There weren't any in our school as far as I know. I do know through hearsay that there were a few blind Jews at a different school for the blind, and they are supposed to have been treated pretty well by the nuns there. But I only found out about this secondhand.
Question 6: Were blind people euthanized?
Answer: As far as I know, blind people were not directly at risk if they could practice a profession or were otherwise bright enough to be fully employed. It was only people with mental or other disabilities that went to "X," and their blind friends never heard from them again. The families would receive the news that the blind man or woman had died of some illness or other.
Question 7: What was your employment situation like in the Third Reich?
Answer: I was in the training program to become a telephone operator and shorthand typist. Besides that I had to spend all my free time in the Institute's knitting factory, where we were only allowed to do the most menial jobs. Anyone who got sick even once had to wait till the last minute to see a doctor. If anyone complained of some kind of discomfort, they were simply told, "Oh, that's nothing!" I even know of someone who died. The poor girl looked awfully pale and wasn't feeling well. They hit her and accused her of dusting her face with flour. A few days later the girl was dead.
Question 8: What else happened to you at the Institute?
Answer: We were frequently humiliated and intimidated. If, for example, your stocking had a hole in it or your shoes didn't have a perfect shine or the knot in your tie wasn't perfectly straight, you got punished right there in the dining hall, with all the male and female dormitory staff and school employees sitting round. We always had to submit to these dreadful punishments. We were treated like soldiers in the military, even the girls, and I bitterly resented that.
Question 9: What positive experiences did you have during the Nazi period that you can tell us about?
Answer: The only positive thing was getting to know girls from other schools for the blind and singing with them at the camp sponsored by the League of German Girls. That was really nice. We would do folk dances and sing and enjoy communal activities, and we made friends and had lots of fun playing practical jokes on one another.
Question 10: What did you do after the end of the war in connection with your sterilization?
Answer: I wanted to sue for damages so I could be compensated for all that I had gone through, but I could not get anyone to provide me with the written medical opinion I needed. They said that the damage to my uterus was a birth defect. There was nothing I could do. Whenever I had to get a routine physical, I was always asked, "When did you have your last period?" Each time I had to explain the whole thing. The doctors would get mad and say, "Those criminals!" but if I asked them to give me their opinion in writing, they would distance themselves from me, and nothing was done.
Once when I was hospitalized, it was confirmed beyond any doubt that the damage to my uterus had nothing to do with any birth defect. But in the end, after two attempts to get the required written medical opinion, I lost my courage and didn't do anything more about it.
Letter from a Sterilized Blind Man
In the year 1934 we were each summoned separately to the director's office; none of us knew what this was about. There I was asked by several doctors and party officials how long I had had my eye disease, to which the only answer I could give was:
"Since birth." Not long after that I was taken to the courthouse at (name blanked out), where a judge asked me if I would consent to a voluntary sterilization. I said no, of course, so then a form was put in front of me which required my signature. I did not sign it. Don't make me go into any more detail about that court hearing; it's too painful.
A short time later I got a letter from the Superior Court for Genetic Health telling me I had to present myself there. I did not go, which resulted in a party official coming to the school and forcing me to sign, this time in the presence of the director. At that moment the joy went out of my life because I knew what was going to happen to me.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Max Edelman]
Liberation of a Blind Survivor
by Max Edelman
From the Editor: Since Max Edelman retired fourteen years ago, he has devoted his time to writing and talking to groups about the Holocaust and blindness. He is tireless in working for the right of blind children to learn Braille. By any standard he is a humane and gentle man; to demonstrate these qualities after having been the victim of the kind of hatred and violence he has experienced is truly astounding. Here is the story of one man's survival and ultimate victory over cruelty and bigotry. It gives hope to the world:
The morning was clear and sunny, promising a fine spring day that Monday, April 23, 1945, when the SS guard officer gave the order to continue to march. Little did we realize that this would turn out to be the last day of the most demented, tormented, and barbaric period in our lives. For me that period had started shortly after the German Nazis occupied my hometown in Poland. I was caught by the SS Sonder Commando (special unit) in a roundup of several hundred young Jewish men in our town to be sent to a slave labor camp.
I spent time in several concentration camps, most in Budzyn Camp, a satellite of the death camp Maidanek in Poland, and in Flossenburg, located in Bavaria, Germany, about seventy miles southeast of Nurenberg.
Millions of words have been written about life and death in Nazi concentration and death camps. From my experience the chance merely to survive hinged upon staying relatively well and going to work every day if possible. Under prevailing conditions this was a tall order indeed--too tall for many millions of Jews and non-Jews.
The most devastating day for me in the concentration camp, in fact in my entire life, was April 8, 1944. Two camp guards in Budzyn roughed me up severely and left me for dead. Back on my bunk in the barrack, I was a bloody mess. My brother ran to fetch Dr. Forster, a fellow inmate and good friend. The Herr Doctor, as he was known to most of us, had been a practicing physician in Austria until the Anschluss. He was a superb human being, always ready to help anyone any time. Meanwhile some of my friends gathered around my bunk, expressing sorrow and offering words of hope and encouragement. Dr. Forster cleaned me up and applied a cold compress. Then I heard him say to my brother, "He is young, and he will mend. I am worried about his eyes. The left one looks very bad, and the right one could be injured too. With only my hands to work with, there is practically nothing I can do for him. God only knows how much he will be able to see."
I mended all right, but the little bit of eyesight I still had in my right eye deteriorated so that in a few months I could no longer recognize objects. To continue going to work became too risky, not only for me, but, more important, for my brother and my friends who stood by and covered for me as long as possible.
Unlike the concentration camp Budzyn, where all 3,000 inmates were Jews, the 20,000 prisoners in Flossenburg were from almost every European country the Nazis had occupied.
The winter of 1944 started early and was very harsh. At that crucial time in my life, without the help of Eric, my barrack supervisor, a German gentile national political prisoner, I would not have survived. Eric was intelligent and experienced in the art of survival in a concentration camp. During those dark days I recalled my father of blessed memory, a very devoutly religious man, telling the family time and again, "God acts in mysterious ways." Because Eric was a German, the camp officers and guards trusted him. He used that trust to my advantage. He lied and alibied to them about my whereabouts at every morning's head count and kept me out of sight. He warned the inmates in our barrack not to do me harm or steal my food. Eric was fully aware of the consequences to him if he were caught protecting a blind inmate and a Jew at that. Obviously he decided to disregard that danger and take the risk.
In late March of 1945 Eric's ability to protect me came to an abrupt end. All supervisors were ordered to have those unable to work transferred to the infirmary, one short step from the crematorium.
On the day following the transfer, Eric came to visit me. He immediately sized up my situation there. After a brief conversation and a few words of encouragement, he went to see the supervisor of the infirmary, who was also a German gentile national. Hans promised Eric that no harm would come to me if he could help it. Eric visited me every day. My brother and friends also came to see me every evening after work.
On Sunday, April 15, 1945, my brother told me the news he had heard at work in the Messerschmidt aircraft plant, namely that President Roosevelt had died. After my company left, I walked over to the bunk of my newly found friend, Father Pierre, a French Catholic priest, to share the news with him. While we were engaged in conversation, an SS officer came in and ordered all Jews to report to the camp square within fifteen minutes. Father Pierre suggested that I pretend that I was not Jewish and not go. At that moment Vasily, a Ukrainian fellow inmate, called out to me from his bunk across the aisle, "Aye, Jew, you have fifteen minutes to get the hell out of here."
"I must go, my friend, because, if I don't, he will surely give me away," I said.
"Yes, you are right; I am sorry," Father Pierre said. We shook hands. "God be with you," he added.
"Thanks, God be with you too," I replied. I walked back to my bunk, put on my pajama-like jacket, and made my way to the door. I heard someone passing close by me, so I grabbed his arm and tagged along to the square. My brother was already there, looking for me. We were counted and recounted. Finally, at dawn, lined up five abreast, the 2,500 Jews from Flossenburg started the death march. None of us knew where we were going.
The going was slow. The on-and-off rain showers didn't help matters. The sound of single shots from a handgun became more frequent as the time went on. I walked holding on to my brother's arm on one side and my friend's arm on the other. On Friday, the fifth day of the March, I too was ready to give up. Not that I was hungrier or more exhausted than the others, but my feet were very sore from the ill-fitting shoes I had on. I mentioned this to my brother and my friend. "Do you know what day today is?" my friend Shlomo asked me.
"I don't really care."
Shlomo said, "Today is April 20, Hitler's birthday, and you are going to give him your life as a birthday present? Not if we can help it." My brother offered me his shoes. I obviously refused. My brother then inched his way to where an SS guard was standing and asked him if he could take the shoes off the dead man who was lying at the side of the road just a few yards away. Surprisingly he got permission. A few minutes later he returned with a pair of shoes for me. A steady rain on the following day added to our misery. On Sunday morning a light rain was still falling. The guards wanted time to dry out, so we stopped at a small farm community just outside the town of Schwartzenfeld. A farmer opened the door to an empty barn, and we were ordered in. At least we had a dry floor to rest on.
Early Monday morning, April 23, the barn doors opened, and a guard shouted "heraus schnell" (out quick). The sunshine and the fresh air felt comforting. Many did not move--they were beyond feeling and caring.
Just then an airplane flew over the area and dropped leaflets. We were not allowed to pick them up, but the guards did. About a half mile down the highway we turned off onto a dirt road leading to a forest. As we got close to the woods, the most incredible thing happened. The guards left us and fled into the woods with their machine guns and their vicious dogs. We experienced an indescribable feeling, a combination of fear and hope. Was it for real or a cruel trick?
We broke up into small groups and started to walk back the way we had come. We were nevertheless very fearful that the guards might still come after us. The closer we got to the highway, the more we could hear the sounds of heavy vehicles. Just at that moment someone shouted, "It's the Americans, we are free!" Not until that moment did we dare to believe it to be true.
Some were laughing, others were crying, and others were too numb to express any emotion at all.
The American soldiers threw the food they had in their vehicles, including their own rations, out on the side of the road. As the situation was becoming deeply emotional, a group of American officers arrived and took charge.
I was not feeling well. My brother walked me over to a bench at a nearby farmhouse and went to seek help from an American officer. In perfect German the American told the woman in the farmhouse to let me and several other sick survivors in and to make us comfortable. He provided us with tea and crackers and told the German woman to serve it to us. That officer came frequently to check up on us and to assure us of his concern and care. Late that afternoon he apologized for not being able to take us to a hospital before the next morning. My brother, too, was in and out that day to tell me about whatever he saw and heard. Early in the evening of that first day of my freedom, my hunger temporarily satisfied, I was sitting on a comfortable chair by the open window listening to the sounds of men and machines. The moaning of one of my fellow disabled survivors in the room made me keenly aware of my condition. I became overwhelmed by self-pity. "I am liberated all right, but I am blind." Except for my brother my whole family had perished. I was practically alone. I became very scared--more scared of life than I had been of death in the concentration camp.
The door opened, and I heard my brother saying, "You have company." Immediately I was embraced in a bear hug. It was Eric. "We made it; we have survived; we are free," he exclaimed joyously, then, "Aye, you are crying, are you in pain?" he inquired.
"No, not that kind," I managed to say between sobs. "Yes, I have survived," I continued. "If it were not for the two of you, I would have gone up in smoke long ago. I am liberated all right, but I cannot see the proud liberators and the rejoicing liberated, including you. I am very scared," I admitted. "The two of you have done everything possible to keep me away from the oven, and you have succeeded. Right now I just don't know whether I should thank you or hate you for it." A moment later I heard the two of them sobbing as well. This was my first day of freedom.
The following day an American officer took me to a convalescent hospital in Amberg, Bavaria, Germany, operated by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). A nurse took me to Dr. Hasselt, the only eye doctor in Amberg, a German of course. He examined my eyes for a minute or two and said, "Max, you will never see again."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I became furious. I turned to the nurse and said, "What else can you expect from a Nazi doctor!" The American woman in charge of the convalescent hospital--I don't recall her name--promised me that, as soon as I regained some strength, she would make sure I was taken to Munich to be examined by an eye specialist at the university clinic. Three weeks later my brother and I went to Munich. The conditions in Germany right after the war were chaotic--no transportation to speak of--but we were given priority to travel the 210 kilometers to Munich on an army truck.
I was examined by the head of the eye clinic, Dr. Meisner, a high-ranking Nazi officer. I was admitted to the hospital, and two days later he operated on my left eye. He cleaned out the eye cavity to be fitted with an artificial eye. Two weeks later he started a medication therapy hoping to revive the optic nerve of my right eye. After two months of treatment the result was nil. Dr. Meisner told me that nothing could ever have been done to save my left eye but that, if I had received treatment immediately following the beating, some or all of the sight in my right eye could have been saved. Unfortunately sympathetic ophthalmia set in and killed the optic nerve. Dr. Meisner suggested that my brother take me home and bring me back to see him in December.
Take me home? What a joke! Home was a furnished apartment in Amberg, so that is where we went. The landlady, Mrs. Eichenmueller, greeted me warmly, and in time we became good friends. Everybody tried to help me snap out of my depression. Mrs. Eichenmueller knew a blind music teacher, so she made an appointment for me to meet him. He tried to teach me violin, but that didn't work. Then he tried to teach me the accordion, but that didn't go very well either. Obviously I couldn't read music, and with the hearing impairment that I sustained as a result of a high fever when I had typhus in camp in 1943, I had a hard time recognizing different notes. Besides, I had no musical talent, so instead of being helped, I just became more depressed.
Somebody told my brother about a great eye doctor in Wiesbaden, so there we went hoping for a miracle, only to receive the same diagnosis Dr. Meisner had given us. When we went back to Munich to the University Eye Clinic in December, we found Dr. Meisner gone, replaced by Dr. Wesseli, who had been head of the eye clinic before the Nazis came to power. Dr. Wesseli had been removed from office because he was a freemason. He was a kind, elderly gentleman who spoke to us like an uncle. After a lengthy examination he confirmed Dr. Meisner's diagnosis, adding that in his opinion no eye doctor could do anything for me unless someone in the future were to come up with a technique or therapy that might help.
In the meantime, he asked, what was I going to do? I had survived the Holocaust, but only the first part. The second part was not going to be any easier for me. He told me that I had three options: 1) do nothing and be a burden to my brother and society; 2) since the Nazis hadn't managed to kill me, kill myself; or 3) try to rebuild my shattered life. In my depressed state at that time, I needed this ice-cold shower of straight talk. This no-nonsense analysis of my situation came from a stranger, a German whom I still considered an enemy so soon after the liberation. But he was a kind person who earned my trust. We decided on the third option. If it didn't work, I could go back to either of the first two.
Dr. Wesseli suggested I enroll in the Rehabilitation School for Adult Blind in Bavaria, Germany, to learn independent living. I had to relearn how to use a knife and fork, how to shave myself, how to tie my shoes, how to take care of my clothes, how to walk from point A to point B safely, etc. I had to learn to communicate--to learn Braille and to type. But most of all Dr. Wesseli advised me to learn a skill so that I could earn a livelihood and not have to be supported by anyone. If I regained some sight in the future, he pointed out, I would have lost nothing, but if not, I would have gained much. What a tall order for a twenty-two-year-old with almost no family in a chaotic, uncaring world. But I agreed to his recommendation, so Dr. Wesseli called the director of the school and made an appointment for us.
I started school in January of 1946. The school was located in Tegernsee, a small lakeside resort town forty-five miles south of Munich. It was a residential school. We were seventy students in all, sixty-nine former Nazi officers and soldiers and one Jewish Holocaust survivor. I was assigned to a room with two former soldiers. How did I feel in such a school atmosphere so soon after my years in concentration camps? Dr. Wesseli guessed what was going through my mind and told me not to let what anyone said or did bother me but to pay attention to my studies, learn as well and as fast as I could, and get out of there. He was right of course.
I chose to study physical therapy. The school days were long, from 8:00 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., plus Saturdays from 8:00 to noon. There were no Talking Books in those days. Actually most of the textbooks were in Braille or in print, and someone had to read them to us. The schedule was deliberate, so as not to give us much time to feel sorry for ourselves. Every Saturday afternoon and Sunday young ladies from the town volunteered to take us to a movie or concert, for a walk, or to a cafe for a coffee and cake. They also read the print homework to us. School vacation was two weeks in the summer and ten days around Christmas and New Year.
The long school days and the hard work eventually paid off, and I graduated with a diploma in physical therapy and passed the state board examination in August of 1948. The head of the examining board and Dr. Wesseli made a few calls on my behalf and found a job for me at the Bogenhausen Hospital in Munich. I started my first job ever on September 1, 1948. I wish I had framed my first paycheck. I enjoyed my work there and the people I worked with.
Some time later a young sighted lady decided to take a chance on me. Fifty-three years later we are still married and have raised and educated our two sons and now have five grandchildren, bless them all.
But back to the late forties. The nightmare of my life continued unrelentingly. My wife and I decided to emigrate to America, where we arrived in December of 1951. I started with two strikes against me: I didn't know English and I was totally blind. I had a hard time finding a job.
One day my wife noticed an ad in the newspaper for a masseur in a health club. I decided to give it a try. We went to the health club, and I applied for the job. After introducing myself to the manager and answering a few questions, I learned that another person was also applying for the job. The manager said that she would notify me once she had made her decision. She then put a folded piece of paper in my hand. On the way out I asked my wife what it was, and she said it was a five-dollar bill. I was offended, humiliated, and furious. I went back into the office and said to the manager in broken English--mostly in German--that I hadn't come for charity but to apply for a job. I put the five-dollar bill on her desk and walked out.
A mobility instructor named Jim from the Cleveland Sight Center taught me how to use a white cane. He was blind and knew the city well. Jim was a chain smoker, and he always had a cigarette in his hand or mouth. He was taller than I am, and one day he got too close to me with his cigarette in his mouth. Suddenly I smelled something burning, but I didn't say anything. When I got home, my wife asked who had burned a hole in my hat. The expensive hat I had brought from Germany was ruined, but I never mentioned that incident to Jim.
An opening for a physical therapist became available at Mount Sinai Hospital. I applied for it. I took my diploma and the letters of recommendation (all in German) when I went for the interview with the personnel director. She was fluent in German. As she finished reading the documents, she commented that I was qualified for the job. In order for me to be hired, the department supervisor had to agree. The director introduced me to the supervisor and explained my qualifications to her. Before she even finished the sentence, the supervisor said, "I don't care how qualified he is; I don't want a blind man in my department." Then she walked out of the office.
Not since the Holocaust had I felt so humiliated. It was perhaps a good thing my wife and I didn't have enough money, or we might have considered returning to Germany. I had to learn English fast. I read a lot and listened to good English. Among other things I listened to many recorded speeches by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, president of the National Federation of the Blind. His eloquence was unmatched. I came away from his speeches encouraged and inspired. Some of his speeches I read in the Jewish Braille Review, edited by Dr. Jacob Freid, an ardent Federationist.
With my language skills getting better, I was ready to tackle any job. An opening for an X-ray darkroom technician became available at the Veterans Hospital in Cleveland. I couldn't apply for it because I wasn't eligible for a civil service test. Lee Feldman, the placement counselor at the state vocational rehabilitation service for the blind, offered that job to a visually impaired man who worked at the Cleveland Clinic; the man applied and was hired at the Veterans Hospital, which was not far from his home. Mr. Feldman engineered the whole thing in order to create an opening for me at the Cleveland Clinic, and he introduced me to Dr. Hughes, head of the X-ray department. Again with Dr. Hughes I had two strikes against me because I was totally blind and Jewish. At that time not a single Jew was in the X-ray department. Dr. Hughes insisted on a six-month probation period instead of the customary ninety days, and he offered me a dollar an hour. Lee Feldman advised me to take the job.
I started to work at the clinic on October 20, 1952. When I arrived on the first day, I was greeted by a fellow employee, Art Hayes, a sighted man who had been working there for six years, asking me, "You are a Jew, right? We here don't like Jews and don't like niggers; got it?" By then I understood enough English to say yes. I was the first Jew and the first totally blind employee in the department and had the feeling everybody was staring at me and sizing me up. Of all the people in the department, only one technician asked me if I would like him to show me where the washroom was. I really appreciated his considerateness.
Lee was frank with me; to get an employer to hire a blind person had not been easy. Therefore, he told me, "When you get a job, you have to make an extra effort to hold on to it. Work harder than your sighted coworkers, do a better job than they do, don't ever be late to work if you can help it, don't leave until your work is done, even if it takes extra time to finish what you have been doing, and show loyalty to your employer. If you practice all these things, the employer might come to consider you a good employee, but never an excellent one. These are the facts, and don't forget them."
I took Lee's advice seriously. I was determined not to give Art or my supervisor a chance to complain to Dr. Hughes about my work or behavior. Six months later Art Hayes was fired for repeated negligence, and, because I had been doing a creditable job, Dr. Hughes hired another blind man to replace Art.
By then my wife and I had begun to know people and had made some friends. One German-Jewish lady, after she found out that I was a physical therapist, asked me if I would give her a therapeutic massage, and before I knew it, I had five customers for therapeutic massages.
It was difficult to find an apartment in those days, since rent control was in effect and apartments were scarce. One day we responded to an ad in the paper. When we checked it out, the apartment owner asked us if we were saved. I didn't know what he was talking about; then he asked if we were born-again Christians. I replied that we were Jewish, and he said, "no apartment." We eventually found a nice apartment. I didn't go with my wife to see it. I had made the mistake once; the apartment manager refused to rent to me because I was blind. My humiliating experiences seemed to have no end.
Dr. Hughes was a strict boss, but he was not a bigot. In 1959 an incident happened that almost cost me my job. Inside the darkroom was a view box. In that box was a bright fluorescent light bulb enabling a technician to look quickly at a film as soon as it was processed. One day the on and off switch broke. An electrician from the maintenance department came to replace it. The convention is that a switch in the down position is off and in the up position is on, but the electrician installed the switch upside-down. Obviously I didn't know this, flipped the switch down, and started to process films.
Mr. Williams, the chief technician, walked by, noticed it, and shouted, "Max, the light is on!" By then I had ruined three cases; three patients had to come back to have their X-rays retaken. Mr. Williams, a reasonable man, tried to reassure me that it was not my fault. He said, "We have dumb electricians in this place." In no time the whole department knew about that incident. We had a bigot in our department, and he tried to use that incident to get rid of "that blind Jew." By then, though, I had established a reputation as a reliable and loyal employee, and Dr. Hughes did not allow himself to be persuaded by bigotry.
In 1970 our living-room furniture needed reupholstering. In those days many high schools offered adult education courses in the evening. Collingwood High offered a course in upholstering. I signed up for that course. The instructor was skeptical about a blind man learning to reupholster. I asked him to give me a chance, and if I failed, it wouldn't be for lack of trying. A couple of times I needed sighted assistance, but other than that, I mastered the job quite well. When I was done reupholstering our sofa and the two chairs, I invited my teacher to come and take a look at them. He commented that never again would he doubt a blind person's ability.
While recuperating from cancer surgery in 1983, I had time to reflect and reconsider the advice of my friend, Dr. Freid, editor of the Jewish Braille Review, who had time and again urged me to come out of my self-imposed isolation. Silence, he argued, was no longer an option; it was a luxury I and the other Holocaust survivors like me could no longer afford. We must tell the world the truth about the Nazi Holocaust; otherwise the Holocaust deniers would have a green light to continue to disseminate their lies and distortions.
Of course Jacob Freid and others were correct. My surgery convinced me that, if I ever intended to talk about my experience, now was the time. It was perhaps later than I thought. For almost forty years I didn't talk about my Holocaust experiences even with my family. I kept my emotions bottled up inside me, unable to put the horror into words. It is easy to share joy, but I found it very difficult to share with the people I loved such deep-seated pain. But I forced myself to put down on paper the experiences recounted at the beginning of this article. Writing down these unforgettable memories has been emotionally painful. It is, however, even more painful to realize that now, more than a half century later, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, some people in America and elsewhere still deny that the Nazi Holocaust ever happened.
I am often asked how I managed to survive in a Nazi concentration camp after I was blinded, when thousands were dying every day. The simple answer might be by the grace of God, but that is too simplistic a response. I have no illusions; if it had not been for my brother and several friends, I would not be here to describe my experience. But I did manage to avoid the rifle barrels and the crematorium fires thanks largely to my brother and friends who truly were their brother's keeper.
During the darkest days of my life, when the pit of my despair seemed bottomless and hope wafer thin, my friend Eric often quoted the words of the German philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche to me: "What does not destroy me makes me stronger." Over the past sixty years I have remembered that quotation whenever I have felt humiliated and degraded as a blind person.
These days I often speak to high school students about the Holocaust. In January of this year, at a very difficult time in my life, I made one of these presentations because the coordinator could not find a substitute for me. In the question period a student asked me why I came to America. After a brief pause for reflection, I said something like this: What does freedom mean to you? Is it a birthright, like air, for example, free for you to breathe? Let me tell you, my young friends, it is not. As we are assembled here in this room, millions of people in this world of ours don't know what freedom is.
From the day I was born until I arrived in America at the age of twenty-nine, I had no idea what freedom really meant. During those years I was kicked around, beaten up, forced into slave labor, imprisoned in a concentration camp, blinded, liberated, sent to a rehab school, graduated, got a job, married, and still had no idea what freedom was. For years nightmares in living color tormented me almost every night. Then I woke again, drenched in sweat and enveloped in perpetual darkness.
My wife said, "We can't go on like this; we have to get away from here." That's why we decided to immigrate to America. We were eternally grateful to the American people for giving us a chance for a new start.
One who has never had freedom but one day attains it or one who lost and then regained it truly knows how to cherish freedom.
Freedom is not free, my young friends; freedom must be protected and defended. If I were called to defend it, I would gladly do so with everything I have in order to protect it for my children and grandchildren. That's why my late wife and I came to America. Yet in this wonderful land of the free and home of the brave, blind people are still engaged in a struggle for equality of opportunity.
Since my wife and I arrived in this country fifty-three years ago, with the dynamic leadership of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer, the blindness community has made remarkable progress. Yet we still have a long and hard road ahead. God willing, we shall overcome.
Editor's note: On January 3, 2004, Barbara Edelman, Max's wife of fifty-three years, died after a long illness.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hans Cohn officially launching the Holocaust Memorial Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London in February of 2002]
An Adolescence in Crisis
by Hans Cohn
From the Editor: Hans Cohn is well known to many Federationists, having attended several national conventions. He addressed its CEIP Committee forum in Dallas in 1991. He was particularly friendly with the late Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who spent a day relaxing in Hans's house and garden during his last European trip. In the United Kingdom Hans has been a volunteer and activist in the blindness field most of his life, as a member of the Royal National Institute for (now of) the Blind and its standing committees since 1973, International Officer of the NFB of the UK between 1984 and 1996, and editor of Viewpoint, the NFB-UK's journal, since 1982.
As many of us know, adjusting to blindness is a challenge. Coping with the growing anti-Semitism of Germany during the 1930's was a nightmare for all who endured it. In the following memoir Hans Cohn recounts what it was like to deal with the two crises simultaneously as a teenager. Here is his story:
This piece of writing is not spontaneous; nobody spontaneously chooses to recall memories that are bound to be painful. Moreover, too much repetitive material has already been written and published about the experiences of blind people. Nothing equals Jacques Lusseyran's book And There Was Light; it displays a spiritual equanimity unmatched in the literature. However, perhaps my experiences are sufficiently singular to throw light on the problems of blind people of a certain age and may be of interest for that reason.
The Early Years
I was born in 1923, the only child of a well-to-do Berlin lawyer. My father was a stalwart member of the Central Union of German Citizens of the Jewish Persuasion, a civic organization whose members professed a strong loyalty to the state which sometimes exceeded that to their faith. He had been a front-line soldier throughout World War I, finishing up as a lieutenant with the Iron Cross. We belonged to the Liberal Jewish community, which meant that we observed the Jewish festivals and attended weekend services at the local synagogue down the road in which we lived, but my father worked on Saturday mornings, and we did not keep kosher.
I was born with what is considered to be normal sight, although I had to wear glasses for myopia from the age of eight. I had a slight hearing defect which worried my parents, until one day I heard a specialist say to them, "Forget that he is your only child"; it certainly did not affect any of my normal activities. Perhaps I was spoilt inasmuch as I had no sibling with whom to share my parents' affections, but I grew up with a fair smattering of German-style discipline and would call myself a conformist rather than a rebel. I received my elementary education, from age six to ten, from a private rather than a public school, perhaps because it was just across the river Spree on whose banks our block of flats stood, but more likely because by the end of the 1920's anti-Semitism was beginning to rear its ugly head ever more prominently under the influence of the Nazi party, which was on the rise.
Blindness and Hitler's Accession to Power
I choose the above subheading because unquestionably those two events not only were intimately connected but encapsulate the future events that shaped my life. Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933. I heard his storm troops tramp past the hospital in which I was recovering from a minor operation. That was the year my parents had to find a Gymnasium, a grammar school in which I would continue my education. Because my father had been an active soldier in the First War, we were exempt from the government decree forbidding Jewish children from attending Aryan schools. They chose a school which had been founded by the Great Elector of Brandenburg and future first king of Prussia in 1686 to accommodate the influx of French Huguenots after the abolition of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV, which ended religious toleration in France.
Their reasons were twofold: 1) though German, the school had a lot of diplomatic pupils, children of ambassadors resident in Berlin--the son of the French ambassador among them--and they hoped that this would protect the Jewish pupils from the worst excesses of discrimination; 2) they reckoned that fluency in a foreign language would stand me in good stead. The school taught French intensively for the first three years, after which French itself, Latin, history, and geography were taught in French.
My early days at the school were untroubled. Before the decrees of 1935 anti-Jewish measures were introduced gradually in order not to alarm the foreign community while the regime was still establishing itself.
Then came one fine day in September of 1934. I was sitting in my assigned place in the school assembly hall waiting for some official occasion. Next to me was another Jewish boy in my class. Suddenly he was physically attacked by a classmate in a brown uniform, the symbol of the Hitler Youth. In the subsequent fight between them--in the early years of the Nazi regime Jews had not yet learnt that passive submission to any humiliation inflicted was the best course of action--I received a direct blow to my left eye. I was cleaning my glasses at the time, a crucial factor because, had I had them on, the blow might have shattered the glass and possibly injured my face, but the glass would most likely have warded off the worst of the damage to the eye. As it was, the blow caused an internal hemorrhage, which detached the retina.
The attacker was the son of a high official in the Nazi party, and the possible political ramifications convinced several eminent ophthalmic specialists not to get involved with my case--a fine example of adherence to the Hippocratic oath! Among those that did examine me, there was a division of opinion, some saying that operative procedures should be undertaken immediately, others that the surgery should wait until the blood had dispersed.
Eventually the eye physician to the Dutch royal family, Professor Wewe, agreed to operate immediately, and my mother and I were shipped off to what turned out to be a four-week stay at his university clinic in Utrecht. The two surgical procedures I underwent there were probably the most traumatic experiences of my life. Being wheeled fully conscious into a brightly lit room full of strange gadgetry, surrounded by people dressed from head to foot in black (the color of death in Western culture), not understanding the language, having things done without previous explanation--all this would be bad enough experiences for anyone, but I was a child of eleven.
The first step of the operation, the injection of a local anaesthetic into my eye (a general was out of the question because in those days one vomited after waking up, and the success of the operation depended on complete prostration for a week) destroyed whatever courage remained. My tantrums went into overdrive, and I had to be physically restrained by several people throughout the operation, which consisted of cauterization of the eyeball, literally burning a piece out of it in the hope that the stretched retina would re-attach. It felt like having a burning cigarette held to my eye for minutes on end.
Needless to say, the operations were a failure: you cannot keep an eleven-year-old lying completely still for days on end without medical personnel to cover. My mother was with me during the day, but I was left alone at night. No wonder, then, that one morning they found me with my head at the foot of the bed.
They decided on a second operation, and my pitiable lamentations before it was performed must have further jeopardized my recovery. Blindness of the right eye followed a year later from sympathetic ophthalmia, which could have been prevented by removing the injured eye immediately.
The effect of my total blindness on my parents was shattering. The first thing my father did was to remove me from Hebrew lessons to prepare me for my Bar Mitzvah: How could a just God do this to a child! The only advice they had from the Berlin professor who treated me at the time was that, apart from the traditional occupations such as brush making and chair caning, there were the slightly more prestigious professions of perfume smelling or chocolate tasting.
On me the effect of sight loss was negligible. The headmaster of my school felt responsible because the initial accident had occurred at his school, so he arranged for me to continue attending; I must have been one of the first recipients of mainstream education. My resource teacher was my father, whose clientele was by now contracting. I attended school in the mornings, did the written work in Braille that German students are often set to do in class under supervision, took it home to type, and handed it in the next day. Because my marks remained roughly the same as they had been before, the teachers trusted that I had received no help.
All my spare time seemed to be taken up acquiring new skills, such as learning and practicing Braille and typing, so I had no time to get depressed. Of course I lost all my friends because they didn't know what to do with me. I continued being sheltered and perhaps spoilt. My father was legal adviser to one of Berlin's theaters and a friend of Max Reinhardt, who revolutionized the German stage between the two world wars. Among his clients were some of the leading actors of stage and screen, and they liked to pamper me, probably to curry favor with him.
In any case, adapting to altered circumstances is infinitely easier at a young age. But undoubtedly the main reason that I did not suffer from depression was the deteriorating situation of the Jews in the mid-thirties. After 1935 we had all our rights as citizens progressively removed, which meant, for instance, that we had no expectation of legal redress against any civic wrong. My family was never personally molested in the streets as long as I was there because we were not conspicuous. Middle-class people who, unless they were party officials or members, remained indifferent to the regime and its racial excesses were mainly the people who occupied the block of flats where we lived. What happened after I left, my mother always refused to tell me.
By 1937 my parents, after desperately trying various quack cures to improve my remaining vision, came to accept that I would be totally blind and that I needed to attend a special institution to acquire the skills to equip me for a meaningful existence. The school at Marburg refused to accept me as a Jew, and by now it was becoming clear which way things were going for Jews in Germany. By now I was fluent in French, but somehow my parents learned only about French schools for the blind under monastic control. Nobody told them about the Institut National, which is secular. This was just as well, perhaps, because I would have been unlikely to survive to tell this tale. We were all beginning to learn English by now, and our teacher was a blind man who, knowing of our predicament, described in glowing terms the school he had attended. This was Worcester College, which prepared pupils for entry to Oxford or Cambridge University.
In May of 1938 I departed for England with my mother, who went only to deliver me safely to my new school. Here was my second crisis, psychological rather than physical--away from home and family for the first time I was plunged into a strange, unknown environment. Once again I let the experience pass over me without panicking. It was just one of those things that had to be if life was going to continue.
My first term was anything but promising. The headmaster was in his last term and wasn't about to be bothered over a new arrival. He put me in the senior dormitory--a fifteen-year-old with boys of eighteen and over, and didn't they just take it out of me! My poor English and general helplessness were prime targets for bullying, which is what boys love doing, especially in a crowd. The sexual innuendos that have been reported in English boys' boarding schools at that time certainly went on at Worcester, but they got short shrift from me, if only because I was totally ignorant of what they wanted.
Worse still, they goaded me with the exploits of a Nazi boy who had been there just before me and had splashed his money around, while I didn't have a bean. Because this was the last term of that school year, I didn't have to attend classes regularly, which meant that I could concentrate on my English. Most of my fellow students were anxious that the first words I learned and used were a select few beginning with the letter B, but I was lucky in sharing a common room with a boy of nineteen who was at the school to get used to recently acquired visual impairment prior to going up to Oxford to read English. He provided some balance to my growing vocabulary.
I went home to Germany for the summer holidays in the company of one of my teachers whom my parents had invited to stay with us. Then, during the fall term, Kristallnacht1 took place. If I had gone home at Christmas, I could not have been sure they would let me out again. So the headmaster had to appeal to the families of the students for someone to take me in for the Christmas holidays. I spent them at the home of a boy rather younger than me whose father was a butcher. What I remember most about that tine was eating well and learning to kiss my friend's female cousins under the mistletoe.
My mother came to England for good in February 1939, and I spent the rest of my holidays from school with her. It must have been a terrible wrench for my parents to break up a happy marriage because they felt that at least one of them should be in England to look after me. To my shame I never fully appreciated this sacrifice or expressed my thanks to my mother, to whom I did not relate well. I have inherited her sense of duty, of obligations to be discharged.
She tried hard to get my father out of Germany in time, but as a lawyer he had no prospect of finding work abroad, and the policy of offering asylum to victims of persecution was not as well established then as it is today. Besides, he wanted to go on paying my school fees, which he could do only from Germany. Even after the outbreak of war he could still do this through the International Red Cross. In 1941 he was rewarded for his patriotism by being deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he died a year later--according to the official report, "from the consequences of a medical experiment." He was a wonderful man with a wide humanist education; he used to quote Homer in the original Greek and went on several archaeological digs in Greece as a student.
From 1941 until the end of my vocational training, I was a beneficiary of the Jewish Blind Society in England. Even my mother could find refuge in England only on a domestic permit, a guarantee of employment as a housemaid by a well-to-do family. However, by that time the Kindertransport2 had started, and she successfully applied for the job of matron of one of the hostels.
Per Aspera Ad Astra
"Through darkness to the stars" goes an old Roman proverb. Was it simply insensitivity that kept me on the straight and narrow throughout these personal crises and those still to come? I like to think it was the example of those around me, the realization that I had my own life to live, and most of all the determination to prove that my parents' despair at my future prospects was misplaced.
The new headmaster at Worcester College was too busy reestablishing the discipline that had been allowed to lapse under his predecessor to make many changes; consequently I was left in the class which was too far ahead of my as yet insufficiently adjusted performance, and it was no surprise that my first shot at matriculation ended in failure. It was not until September of 1939 that I got into the class I should have been in from the start and began being treated as one of the group.
The outbreak of World War II that month brought new complications. In common with all other central European refugees, I was technically an enemy alien, a situation exacerbated in my case because I was discovered to be without a passport, which had recently gone up to the German embassy for renewal. The local police wanted me interned--provincial forces often like to be seen as more enthusiastic in such matters than their more relaxed metropolitan colleagues--and I was saved only through the intercession of former British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, a patron of my school.
However, I remained subject to the provision that enemy aliens had to get police permission to travel more than five miles from their registered addresses, which meant that I missed out on most school outings such as concerts and visits to the Shakespeare Memorial Theater at nearby Stratford-on-Avon. However, the headmaster's wife often took me on my own when the permission belatedly arrived. As it was, I had to report to both Worcester and London police at the beginning and end of every holiday.
After I successfully got through matriculation into Worcester College in the summer of 1940, a choice had to be made regarding my future career. Based on my academic achievement, I should have been heading for Oxford and the law, but these were the darkest days of the war--Dunkirk, the Blitz, and the constant threat of invasion. The authorities thought that as an alien I would not be able to practice law. This was shortsighted because, if England lost the war, I would not be left alive, and if she won, I was hardly likely to remain an alien.
In any case, physiotherapy was chosen for me, and I was too conformist to object. At one time I had been sure that I was going to work with animals. I had a season ticket to the Berlin zoo and was a daily visitor there, so much so that I was allowed to handle some of the animals. Of course those hopes vanished with my sight, and after that it hardly seemed to matter what I became. Yet I can scarcely complain: physiotherapy was an expanding profession, much in demand because countless soldiers and civilians had to be rehabilitated after injury.
After qualifying in 1945, I worked for twenty years in a general hospital before settling down to a thriving private practice in the house in which I live, but not before overcoming another crisis. At the age of nineteen I caught the measles and on recovering found my hearing further damaged. Scientific trials have proved that spoken information is more efficiently processed if the listener can watch the speaker. Blind people compensate by sharpening their hearing with practice, a blessing denied to the hearing impaired. However, willpower and the steady improvement in the quality of hearing aids have meant that this has not been an insurmountable additional handicap, as those who know me can testify.
What sort of person have all these experiences, fairly untypical in combination, made of me? The complete answer should probably be left to others, but some things others cannot know. These might better be left unsaid, but any history, even a personal one, should be a mixture of fact, analysis, and interpretation. However, I am not a psychoanalyst, and it is a contradiction in terms to be objective about oneself; so I can only present the facts as I see them and leave others to judge the outcome.
I would label myself an optimistic fatalist, meaning that I think things will turn out well but accept the inevitable without protest. Some of my acquaintances call me combative. Maybe so, because I am outraged at the public attitude about blindness and those who must cope with it: there, but for the grace of God, go they. Yet legislation is required (and none too readily approved) to stop society from relegating us to a lower substratum of humankind. I fiercely resent being labeled deaf-blind, considering it a linguistic outrage peculiar to English speakers, although to my knowledge only German has a single word for hard of hearing.
With hindsight I realize that I missed my father greatly. I had no instruction in sexual matters, probably because he believed that I would never have a chance to express myself: where ignorance is bliss, it's folly to be wise. The senior boys at Worcester had monthly dances to which they could invite their favorite partners. I asked the same girl for years, but if anyone had suggested that a physical element existed in this relationship, I would have been incredulous and bewildered. At age nineteen I learnt the facts of life from a book by a clergyman.
My father would have been a wise and sympathetic counselor during my emotional crises. At twenty-three I was married; my wife was twenty-five. She was a refugee from Vienna. We married mainly to get away from unsympathetic home environments. Our marriage was doomed before it started: a friend of my mother, a doctor's wife, told my wife-to-be that we should not have children because of my sight defect, but to keep this advice from me. This was a dastardly thing to do, but she no doubt acted from a sense of duty. My wife could have ignored this advice on the strength of the argument that there should be no secrets between husband and wife, and I could have probed more deeply than I did. As it was, her answer to my questions about children was always "not yet"--she was developing an ultimately very successful business in ladies' fashion.
We split up after ten years, and not until then did I go for genetic counseling. Of course this provided good news, but by then it was too late. At a time when young people sort out their emotional lives, in the second decade, I had other priorities and problems which left me seriously immature for a long time. My mother used to say to both my wives, "Don't expect too much love from him; he has had too hard a life." If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, love must surely be in the perception of the recipient. My answer to the age-old question, "do you love me?" is "that's for you to judge."
With my second wife, also from Berlin, the problem is different: she has retinitis pigmentosa, and there was no question of children. We have now been married for over forty years, and she has recently become almost totally blind. I cannot help her because I am too far ahead on the road to adjustment, and she is too fearful of taking a step in the dark, although she manages kitchen and household affairs very well. We have no social life and few friends, just plenty of people who help us with reading, shopping, and guiding, which is not a basis for true friendship. On gloomy days I often have the I-feel-like-the-eternal-outcast blues--a foreigner among the English, a Jew among Christians, a blind person among Jews, a deaf person among the blind, who are often quite intolerant of people with other handicaps.
If I were given the choice, I think I might prefer things to people. However, apart from my two inconveniences, as the late Kenneth Jernigan liked to call them, I enjoy good health at eighty plus, go skiing in winter and walking in summer, enjoy music, including playing classical piano, chess, and reading, and get great satisfaction from the time I spend helping to improve blind people's lives.
There you have it--much too long, but how could I have shortened it without making it less effective? If you find it distressing, blame the editor, not me.
1 Kristallnacht: On November 9, 1938, Nazi stormtroopers ransacked Jewish houses and shops all over Germany as reprisal for the death of the German chargé d'affaires in Paris, Von Rath, shot by a demented Polish Jew.
2 Kindertransport: In the spring of 1939 the British government decided to give refuge to 10,000 Jewish children and have them placed with foster families.
A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:
James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.
For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The spectacular fifty-story atrium of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel, headquarters for the 2004 convention of the National Federation of the Blind]
A Visit to the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel
by Barbara Pierce
From the Editor: In 2000 we carried an article describing the layout of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Some names have changed, but by and large the layout is the same. So, with adjustments to the names, we reprint the May 2000 article for your use again this year to prepare for our national convention.
I don't know about you, but I always find it helpful to know something about a convention hotel before walking into it for the first time. Several people who have already visited this year's convention headquarters hotel have pooled their information to give you a preview of the beautiful Atlanta Marriott Marquis, and I have tried to present the material in a way you will find useful. I am grateful to them for their help, and I take full responsibility for any errors or confusion that may have crept in.
The main entrance of the Marriott faces Peachtree Center Avenue, which is west of the hotel. To reach the Marriott from the street, you walk east through a covered courtyard formed by the Marquis One Office Tower on the south and the Marquis Two Office Tower on the north. At the east end of the courtyard are the main entrance doors.
The hotel lobby is long and narrow along its east-west axis. The bell stand and hotel registration desk are on the north side of the lobby at the west end, and the concierge desk is between the main entrance doors on the west end. On the south side at that end is access to the Executive Center, a complex of meeting rooms named for wines and wine-growing regions--Bordeaux, Rhine, Chardonnay, etc. To the east of this area are the health center (free to hotel guests and open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.) and a locker area. At the east end of the building on the south side of the lobby are more meeting rooms, this time named for rivers--Tigris, Danube, Thames, etc. Along the north wall of the lobby are hotel offices. Two elevators connecting the lobby level with the Convention and International Levels and the parking garage are located at the east end. Stairs and escalators leading down to the Convention Level and up to the Garden Level can be found at the west end of the lobby (south of the hotel registration desk).
The elaborate set of glass elevators in the spectacular fifty-story atrium pictured in the accompanying photograph occupies the center of the lobby and can be reached on every floor by crossing any of up to four balustraded bridges. A word should be said about the elevators. All fifteen are located in the center of the atrium and stop at the Convention, Lobby, Garden, and Skyline Levels, but it is important to board the one traveling to the guest-room floor you are hoping to reach. They divide like this: floors 1 to 17, 18 to 30, 31 to 41, and 42 to 47. If you should find yourself heading to the wrong part of the hotel, press the button for the Skyline Level, which is the tenth floor. Stairs connect the Skyline Level with both the ninth and eleventh floors.
The Garden Level is immediately above the lobby. Several restaurants are located on this floor. The west portion of the Garden Level is connected to the larger east side by walkways on both sides of the escalators and stairs that lead down to the main entrance. The courtyard in front of the hotel is beneath this west end. Access to the two office towers is from the south and north sides of this central space. Several retail shops, including a gift shop, are located in the center of this west end, and a group of four meeting rooms occupies the far west end and northwest corner of the space. These rooms are named for glamorous get-away spots--Shangri La, Riviera, South Hampton, and Monte Carlo.
The entrance to the Peachtree Center Mall is on the south side of the west section. Access to the food court, a number of shops, and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system is from this point on the Garden Level.
If you walk east a bit you will come to the two curving staircases leading to the Grandstand Lounge, which is partially suspended over the west end of the atrium. You can enjoy a casual drink while viewing the fifty-story atrium from this comfortable lounge. Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 12:00 midnight.
On the south wall of the Garden Level at about this point is Champions, the American Sports Bar. Choose from a wide assortment of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Champions is open for lunch, dinner, and late-night entertainment. It also offers wine, cocktails, and beers from sixteen countries. Entertainment includes twenty-six televisions with satellite technology, two big screens, basketball, football, and eighteen-hole putting games, pool tables, and more. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
At the north side of the Garden Level at the west end of the atrium is the entrance to the Marquis Steakhouse: great steaks with a southern flair. Dinner is served nightly from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and features traditional steakhouse fare with southern culinary accents complemented by an outstanding wine list.
One of the most attractive features of the Marriott Marquis is the Atrium Express, located southeast of the Steakhouse. Quick fare includes specialty coffee drinks, breakfast pastries, juices, fresh fruit, sandwiches, and sweets. Hours vary. You can order quick-to-prepare items and carry them to nearby tables.
Almost in the northeast corner of the Garden Level is Allie's American Grille: traditional American cuisine, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It features a hearty breakfast buffet every morning. The hours are breakfast: 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.; lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; dinner 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight. In the southeast corner of the Garden Level is the indoor/outdoor swimming pool, but please note that access to it is from the health club on the Lobby Level.
The Convention Level is one floor below the lobby. The west end contains several meeting rooms named for world cities--Sydney, Bonn, London, and Zurich. The State and Cabinet Rooms are also in this area. The Marquis Ballroom occupies the north wall of the Convention Level across most of its west-to-east length. The smaller Imperial Ballroom, which divides into Ballrooms A and B, occupies the south wall across from Marquis Ballroom 2. Two smaller meeting rooms (the Consulate and Summit Rooms) extend a bit to the north at the east end of Imperial Ballroom B, forming a shallow alcove at this entrance.
The southeast area of the Convention Level contains a number of meeting rooms named mostly for Canadian and European cities. An escalator connecting the Convention Level with the lobby of the International Level is at this east end of the hotel along with the two elevators already mentioned.
The International Level (formerly known as the Exhibit Level) is immediately below the Convention Level, on the hotel's east and south sides. The Courtland Street entrance is also in the International Level lobby.
If you are among those who made your room reservations early, you will be glad to know that guest rooms at the Marriott are equipped with irons and ironing boards, coffee makers, and hair dryers. If all the information about this year's convention opportunities has convinced you to join us in Atlanta but you haven't yet made your reservation, the Marriott may still have space by the time you read this, but our overflow hotel, the Hilton Atlanta and Towers, certainly does have room just across Courtland Street. The rooms at the Hilton are beautifully appointed. They are also equipped with hair dryers, coffee makers, and irons. The Hilton, too, has wonderful restaurants (five of them, including Trader Vic's), and its elevators are likely to be less crowded.
To make your room reservation at either of our hotels, call their direct numbers: for the Marriott (404) 521-0000 and for the Hilton Atlanta and Towers (404) 659-2000. Like those at the Marriott, NFB convention room rates at the Hilton are singles, doubles, and twins, $59; and triples and quads, $65, plus tax of 14 percent. Both hotels will want a $60 deposit, for which you can use a credit card, and the charge will be made against your card immediately and then applied to your hotel bill. Please note that both hotels have designated guest rooms for smokers and a lounge in which smoking is permitted, but otherwise they are smoke-free facilities.
The 2004 convention will be like no other we have ever conducted. You won't want to miss the event, and it won't be the same without you. So make your travel arrangements and room reservation at the hotel of your choice, and join us June 29 to July 5 for the most exciting and informative gathering of the blind to take place in 2004. See you in Atlanta.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ryan Osentowski]
Why I Am a Federationist: Both Ends of the Spectrum
by Ryan Osentowski
From the Editor: The following speech was delivered at the 2002 convention of the NFB of Nebraska. Ryan is now a junior philosophy major and is still a Federation leader: secretary of the Nebraska affiliate, first vice president of the Lincoln Chapter, and NFB-NEWSLINE® coordinator for Nebraska. I uncovered this document the other day and remembered why I had thought it would be a fine addition to the Braille Monitor sometime. This issue seemed to need some leavening of hope and inspiration. So here it is:
In considering why I am a Federationist, my train of thought began with the obvious reasons. The National Federation of the Blind is the largest, most powerful movement of the blind in the country. We're doing more for the blind than any other consumer organization for and of the blind. We've developed NFB-NEWSLINE, America’s Jobline, and the Kernel Books. We have built the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore; training centers in Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana; and now the NFB Jernigan Institute. We work every year to pass legislation that benefits the blind at the local, state, and federal levels, and we come together annually for our national convention so that we can be heard en masse. Then we have the Braille Monitor, divisions of all types, and a plethora of historically important speeches by such greats as Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and President Maurer.
I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to describe my ascent to the Federation and throw those facts in along the way so I could demonstrate how great the NFB is. Then I realized that most of the people in this room already knew about those things. Those who don't will come to know about them during the course of this convention. I decided that my speech might seem redundant and I would have to throw in some jokes just to keep the crowd awake.
Then my mind turned to more personal reflections. I thought I would talk about what I have benefited from in the Federation. But as I thought about that, one of the many voices in my head broke free of the chaos and said to me, "Easy there, Ryan O. You don't want to come off looking too selfish." I agreed with Mr. Voice, knowing that I shouldn't take this opportunity to stand before a convention audience and look like a golddigger. Yet for some reason the word "selfish" stuck in my head, and I began to ponder the concept of selfishness. What is it, and what does it truly mean? So I ran with the idea of selfishness.
When we think of selfishness, we view it negatively. We think of selfish people as putting themselves first, people who are egocentric, self-centered, and greedy. Those traits are often present, but is that all there is to the picture? What would happen if none of us ever acted selfishly? The chances are that our lives would go nowhere. When Jacobus tenBroek founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, what were his motives? Were they entirely selfless? Probably not. He surely wanted a better life for himself. He would not have been content to spend his days as a blind man begging for food and money just to live. He wanted more than that.
When Kenneth Jernigan became involved in the Federation, was he doing it just because he had nothing better to do with his time? Not very likely! He did it because he wanted to improve the quality of his life. He believed that there was more to life than making furniture at home to help support his family. When our own state president, Carlos Serván, was blinded in a military accident in his home country of Peru, he could have stayed home and become a wine taster. But he wanted more for himself as a blind person, so he came to America and achieved it. Didn't these men do what they did for selfish motives? Wasn't a great deal of self-interest and self-preservation involved? Of course!
When I was growing up in my hometown of Kearney, my parents pushed me to strive to be better than average. They wanted me to be happy and successful in life. Were they wrong to teach me these things? I firmly believe that my parents are a big part of the reason I am standing before you today. They taught me to some degree to be selfish in my life.
Let me expand that idea. Many of us have selfish motives for being part of the Federation; let's admit that. We all love socializing with our friends, throwing parties at conventions, traveling to places like Washington, D.C., and rubbing elbows with the folks on Capitol Hill. Many of us get a kick out of those things, and nothing is wrong with that. Yet something beneath those superficial desires also drives us. We all want better lives for ourselves as blind people. We all want to be employed and work at a decent job, making decent money. Many of us want to go to school and acquire a quality education. We all want to live in a world where our dignity as blind people will be protected from humiliation and discrimination.
Isn't it selfish to want these things for ourselves? Yet they are positive, healthy things to strive for in our lives. How would it be if we all just wanted to sit home with no job, no education, and no goals in life, indulging in simple, everyday pleasures? I say that this would be selfish, but not nearly selfish enough to be constructive.
If we were an organization of people focused only on ourselves, we wouldn't get very far. What about the other end of the spectrum? What about selflessness? We all know what that term means, don't we? A selfless person is someone who does for others or puts others ahead of him- or herself. Isn't that also a large part of what our movement is about? I mentioned Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan earlier and the fact that they were probably fueled by selfish motives when they founded and built the National Federation of the Blind. Yet it only makes sense that a large part of their motives were selfless. They were wise enough to realize that life does not exist in a vacuum and that their actions would affect many others. Sure, they wanted a better quality of life for themselves, but they also wanted a fuller, richer quality of life for all blind people.
If you doubt that, just look at history. Dr. tenBroek endured a civil war within his own organization and stepped down as president for a time. Yet he stayed. Dr. Jernigan endured public abuse from his enemies and the media during several years as NFB president in Iowa, but he kept on fighting for the blind. Could you continue in a job where you were assaulted every day? Would you want to continue when everything from your character to your personal life was attacked from every angle? Wouldn't any self-absorbed man say, "Enough! I've had it! You go your way and I'll go mine, and that's the end of it. Starting right now, I'm looking out for number one!" If you can say no to that, than you are a stronger person than I. Most people would walk away, but these men didn't. They stayed because they realized that the welfare of the blind was more important than their own self-interest.
That spirit of selflessness is still with us today. I recently attended a leadership seminar in Baltimore, and Dr. Maurer told us about his upcoming schedule. He read his calendar to us, and we all noticed that he didn't have a free weekend for at least three solid months. Can you imagine working a full-time job with no free weekends? That would be tough on us and our families, wouldn't it? Yet he does it without complaint because he realizes that it is necessary for him to work tirelessly for our cause.
Our movement is so successful because men like President Maurer, Dr. tenBroek, and Dr. Jernigan were selfish enough to want more for themselves, but selfless enough to want and work for it for others as well. As it is with so many things, a healthy balance must exist between the two. If we leaned too far in either direction, our efforts would stall, and we would become bogged down.
The selfish and selfless motives of our past great leaders are still remembered today through many of our actions in the Federation. Take, for example, our scholarship program. We're giving money to students so that they can improve themselves, thereby improving the quality of their lives. We also do it in the hope that they will come back to us and give the Federation the time, effort, and love a movement like ours requires of many.
America’s Jobline is a service for people to use to gain employment so that they can achieve the same result. When more blind people find jobs, it makes us all stronger. Those training centers I mentioned earlier are there solely to teach blind people to do for themselves, but they also help more blind people to become independent and demonstrate a more positive image of blindness that will benefit all of us.
I could go on, but I think you understand. The Federation continues to teach blind people to strive to do better for themselves. We have our own motives that are both selfish and selfless. Whatever our members' personal motives are, we have plenty of altruism to go around. Thousands of people dedicate their time, energy, and loyalty to this organization, and they don't receive monetary rewards for it. The rewards are intrinsic, knowing that we are building a better life for blind people in our country. People join together each year to help raise funds, spread our positive message about blindness, take minutes, balance the treasury checkbook, lobby for new and better legislation, spend time on the phone with newly blind people, bring people to chapter meetings, chair committees, and do countless other things that benefit our organization. They do these things because they are selfless.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am a Federationist. I've gained a great deal personally during my time here. I've had a lot of fun, but I've also had the chance to grow as a blind person. My confidence has increased, and my attitudes about blindness have improved. My goals for myself have expanded. Yet while I have taken my share of what the Federation has to offer, I would be remiss if I didn't realize that I must give back as well. When the day arrives that all blind people can work in an atmosphere of fairness and equality; when everyone, blind and sighted alike, comes to know and respect our philosophy about blindness; when people are not ruled by their fear and ignorance of blindness, my time as an NFB volunteer will be over. Until that day comes, I will stand proudly upon the barricades with my blind brothers and sisters, helping to make our positive vision of the future come true.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kaye Bullard and Brook Sexton in academic regalia]
Another Milestone in Ruston, Louisiana
by Ron Gardner
From the Editor: Ron Gardner is director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, the institute created by Joanne Wilson in collaboration with Louisiana Tech University officials before she left for Washington. Ron has some exciting news to announce. Here is what he says:
Our Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University is committed to achieving academic excellence dedicated to blind empowerment. Our first graduate degree program established at Louisiana Tech through a partnership with the Louisiana Center for the Blind was a master's degree in educational psychology with a concentration in orientation and mobility (O and M). We strongly believe in nonvisual instruction and structured discovery learning, and it has been a resounding success. Our O and M graduates are being sought across the nation. Ninety-five percent of our graduates are currently working as blindness professionals, using their master's degrees in O and M.
Our second master's degree program-–a master's of education with certification in teaching blind students (TBS)--has just graduated its first class of students. Our graduate students earn forty-two credit hours and meet rigorous standards for certification in teaching blind students. They also have the opportunity to earn a second certification in O and M.
Brook Sexton of California received her master's of education degree and is currently employed at the Institute on Blindness, working on research in the area of education of blind children and conducting in-service training for teachers, parents, and para-professionals in the education of blind children. She is also helping to teach here at the university. She will continue working at the Institute on Blindness and plans to pursue a doctorate in education.
Kaye Bullard is currently working as a special education teacher in the state of Louisiana. She has identified visually impaired students in her new job and is striving to raise the standards for blind students in her school as well as in the state. Kaye is also contemplating pursuing a doctoral degree.
As with our first master's program, the TBS master's degree rests firmly upon the foundation of the truth about blindness as identified and articulated by members of the organized blind movement-–the National Federation of the Blind.
The TBS program is analogous-–in name, not in content-–to other university programs which refer to the preparation of "Vision" teachers; that is, we are preparing special education teachers who will work with blind students. Our TBS program, however, includes a huge plus-–our master's students can receive credentials in both TBS and O and M. As a result they will be a highly valued commodity in the blindness field. Both Brook Sexton and Kaye Bullard completed both programs-–TBS and O and M--and are eligible for teacher certification as well as NOMC (National Orientation and Mobility Certification).
We are educating highly qualified blindness professionals and helping to provide employment opportunities for blind people. We presently have twelve students in our master's degree programs. If you or someone you know, blind or sighted, is interested in earning a master's degree in the area of blindness, please contact the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University at (318) 257-4554 or visit our Web site at <www.instituteonblindness.latech.edu>.
We congratulate Brook and Kaye for their commitment to achieving academic excellence dedicated to blind empowerment.
This month's recipes were submitted by members of the NFB of Tennessee.
No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
by Linda Crisp
Linda Crisp is the secretary and public relations representative for the NFB of Tennessee. A mother and grandmother, Linda leads a busy life. She is a member at large of the NFB of Tennessee. She works for Western Mental Health in communications.
1 stick margarine
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick oatmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Mix the margarine, sugar, cocoa, and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter, oatmeal, and vanilla. Stir until blended and drop onto a cookie sheet or pack into a cake pan and cut into squares.
by Linda Crisp
1 pound sausage
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 onion, diced
2 cups instant rice
2 cups water
16 ounces cheddar cheese
Method: Brown sausage and onion and drain. Add soups, rice, and water to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer twenty minutes. Add cheese. Pour into casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees until mixture bubbles and cheese is melted. Can be made ahead.
Seven Layer Salad
by Linda Crisp
1 head lettuce, shredded
1 can green peas, drained
1 onion, diced
3 boiled eggs, diced
1 pint mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
16 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
Method: Layer ingredients in order listed, but combine sugar and mayonnaise before adding. Chill for several hours or overnight before serving.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Earlinia Lindsey]
by Earlinia Lindsey
Earlinia Lindsey is the wife of NFB of Tennessee leader Reggie Lindsey and mother of two adopted children and one foster child. She became a member of the NFB of Louisiana in the seventies and moved to Tennessee and joined the Volunteer chapter in 1984, where for several years she served as secretary and treasurer.
4 cups fresh yellow squash
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 to 5 cups bread crumbs
Method: Sauté squash and onions for five minutes. Drain. Mix in carrots, soup, and sour cream. Line a large baking dish with half of bread crumbs and drizzle with half of butter. Pour vegetable mixture on top of bread crumbs. Sprinkle second half of bread crumbs over vegetables and drizzle with remainder of butter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for forty-five minutes.
Jerry Wilson's Peanut Butter Pie
by Earlinia Lindsey
1 graham cracker crust
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
9-ounce container Cool Whip
Method: Blend all filling ingredients well with electric mixer. Pour mixture into pie crust. Refrigerate several hours before serving.
by Earlinia Lindsey
1 can cream corn
2 cans whole corn
8 ounces sour cream
1 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
Method: Mix all ingredients together and place in greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Cook at 350 degrees for thirty to forty-five minutes.
Breading for Fish
by Melba Hardin
Melba Hardin is a charter member of the Reelfoot Chapter of the NFB of Tennessee and also a state board member. She is the wife of Roy Hardin and the mother of two children and grandmother of one.
2 cups corn meal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
4 tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
3 tablespoons lemon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Mix all ingredients together and dredge fish in mixture. Drop into deep hot grease or oil to cook. Fish pieces will rise to the top when they are done.
Baked Country Ham
by Melba Hardin
Ham, any kind will do, but a country-cured ham is best
2 cups Coca-Cola
Method: Wash country ham. Place in roaster with two inches of water. Bring to boil for thirty minutes. Add Coca-Cola, cover with lid, and place in 200-degree oven for eight hours.
News from the Federation Family
Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB Resolutions Committee:
Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution.
At the 2004 national convention the Resolutions Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 30. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. These resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.
To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 16, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you miss this deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <[email protected]>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045. Remember that resolution sponsors or someone prepared to speak for them must be present during the debate on the resolution during the meeting.
The Inland Empire Chapter (Spokane) of the NFB of Washington recently elected the following officers: president, Maria Bradford; vice president, Russ Smith; treasurer, Paul Whipple; recording secretary, John Croy; corresponding secretary, Gloria Whipple; and board members, Dolores Keyser and Erick Fornof.
New Student Division:
The NFB of Alabama now has a new student division, the Alabama Association of Blind Students. According to President Michael Jones, on March 6, 2004, at its annual convention the Alabama affiliate's board of directors approved a constitution for the student division and is thrilled to welcome this new group into the movement to change what it means to be blind.
The officers and board members are president, Maria Smith (Auburn); vice president, Apryl Stringer (Birmingham); secretary, Alice Hebert (Birmingham); treasurer, Chiara Smith (Talladega); and Jennifer Norwood (Talladega) and Kassie Taylor (Tuscaloosa), board members. Congratulations to the newest state division of blind students and to the entire Alabama affiliate.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lola Pace-Wilson, May 18, 1926, to February 2, 2004]
Lola Pace-Wilson, seventy-seven, died Monday, February 2, 2004, in Wichita Falls, Texas. Mrs. Pace-Wilson was a retired employment counselor for Sheppard Air Force Base Civil Service. While employed there, she was selected as handicapped employee of the year. She was president of the Wichita Falls Chapter of the NFB of Texas for twenty years as well as serving on the state board of directors. She especially enjoyed her work on the NFB of Texas Scholarship Committee. Her many Federation friends and colleagues will miss her.
All Aboard, Federationists in Mississippi and Tennessee:
In an effort to assist Federationists to attend the sixty-fourth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, a chartered bus is scheduled to pick up Federationists in Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee. The bus schedule is as follows:
Departure June 29
Pick-up, Jackson, Mississippi, 8:30 a.m.
Pick-up, Memphis, Tennessee, 11:00 a.m.
Arrive, Atlanta, Georgia, 7:00 p.m.
Departure from Atlanta, July 6
Pick-up, Atlanta, 9:00 a.m.
Arrive Memphis, 4:30 p.m.
Arrive Jackson, 8:00 p.m.
A round-trip ticket costs $25 for Federationists only. Tickets for all others are $35 a person. Make checks payable to the NFB. Riders in Mississippi should send their checks or money orders and names to the attention of Sam Gleese, president, NFB of Mississippi, 268 Lexington Avenue, Jackson, Mississippi 39209‑5431, phone (601) 969‑3352 or (601) 969‑0601 or email <[email protected]>.
Riders in Tennessee should send their checks or money orders and names to Michael Seay, president, NFB of Tennessee, 1226 Goodman Circle West, Memphis, Tennessee 38111‑6524, phone (901) 324‑7056 or email <[email protected]>. Space is limited, so make your reservations today. You don't want to miss this opportunity.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Doug Elliott]
On March 31, 2004, Doug Elliott's appointment to a three-year term on the board of the Iowa Commission for the Blind was confirmed by the Iowa senate. Congratulations to Doug, one of the leaders of the NFB of Iowa, and congratulations also to the commission and the Iowa Department for the Blind, which it supervises.
At the January meeting of the Capital Chapter of the NFB of New Jersey, new officers were elected. They are Mary Jo Partyka, president; Ben Constantini, vice president; David Mostello, secretary; Jean Cannella, treasurer, Larry Morgan, historian; and Henry Ingra and Sue Tillett, board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Seville Allen]
On the evening of March 24, 2004, as part of Women's History Month, the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women presented its Vision Awards. The theme for the 2004 award was "Women Inspiring Hope and Possibility," and the commission honored six women who made significant contributions to the community. Our own Seville Allen, a longtime leader in the NFB of Virginia, was one of the six, each of whom was allowed three minutes to address the gathering. This is what Seville said:
When I was told I had three minutes to talk, I tried to decide what was the most important message I wanted to get across. The words that kept playing in my mind were, "No woman is an island; we are not successful on our own."
My friends know I often say God intended that we work in teams. So I've decided to talk about the teamwork that has made me the person I am today and made it possible for me to receive this award as a woman of vision. I have received my inspiration and hope from two major sources: the National Federation of the Blind and my church.
The NFB has taught me that it is respectable to be blind, and my colleagues have showed me that we too are normal people who happen to have no eyesight. This is important since we who are blind are usually seen first as blind and are measured by our blindness, not our actual skills and abilities. I saw myself this way until I met competent blind people who were not ashamed of that characteristic and did not measure themselves according to their degree of eyesight but by the same standards by which we measure our sighted peers. Some people in this room taught me to respect myself and move beyond my blindness to develop my real skills and abilities.
The other place I gain strength is from my church, St. George's, right up the street here, and some of those colleagues are here too. Fellow parishioners have helped me grow in my spiritual beliefs, giving me a firm foundation for the way I act on my values.
So what about this team stuff? I recall one of my first experiences as an Arlington resident was to join with many others to oppose I-66 coming through the county. I was impressed with how responsive county officials were, actually returning my phone calls. While we ended up with I-66, through this teamwork I made new friends and became involved in other county activities.
Within the National Federation of the Blind I've been invited to be a part of several teams. Whether it be advocating for blind kids in the schools, helping senior citizens receive training to live independently in their homes, or pushing a bill through a legislative body, I've been a part of teams that pool their talents to do the job.
And it is from being a part of St. George's Church that I've learned how to appreciate people's strengths and forgive their errors and weaknesses. I am a leader because people have believed in me and have forgiven my errors and called on my strengths. I am blessed with so much that I believe it only appropriate to give back to my community; that's what life is all about.
Agriculture and Equestrian Division Tours:
In the April issue readers were promised that the May issue would include more information about some special tours. Here it is:
The Agricultural and Equestrian Division will sponsor two tours at this year's convention. The first is Tuesday, June 29, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. We'll visit a small hippotherapy/adaptive riding center, an alpaca ranch, and a surprise destination, but we will not be riding at the hippotherapy center. Suggested donation is $16, which includes transportation and snacks.
Tour Day, Saturday, July 3, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. Polo anyone? We've been invited to take polo lessons. The Chukkar Farm and Polo Club is intrigued by the idea of adapting the game of polo for blind riders. Be sure to respond fast. This tour will sell out. Suggested donation is $23, which includes transportation, polo lessons, and picnic.
Deadline for tour registration is Monday, June 14. Some seats may still be open, so please contact us before you leave for Atlanta or upon arriving at the hotel. Reservations may be made by contacting the tour coordinator below. Please make payments by charge or check using PayPal, to [email protected] He can also be contacted for additional information. Tour coordinator and aquaculture researcher is Fred Chambers, phone (760) 505-8500; email <[email protected]>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joe and Lora Van Lent]
The Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa held a chapter banquet on Saturday evening, March 27. Though Joe Van Lent didn't know it at all and Lora thought the honoree was Joe, the chapter had secretly planned a banquet to honor the long service and loving persistence of two of its very finest members, Joe and Lora Van Lent.
The name of the award from the Des Moines Chapter was the Jacobus tenBroek Award, given rarely and not given at all for a quarter of a century. Longtime Iowa Federation leader and fellow vendor Bob Ray ably chaired the banquet, and newly elected chapter President Peggy Chong closed the festivities with an elegant tribute to Joe and Lora. Allen Harris, director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, added to the many accolades with a certificate of distinguished service from the department, along with a commemorative picture of the Van Lents.
Dr. Maurer sent warm words, and two state legislators who have known Joe and Lora for years, Representative John Connors and Senator Jack Holveck, attended and gave moving tributes, as did many Federation friends, including state President Peggy Elliott. National Association of Blind Merchants President Kevan Worley keynoted the event, and former NABM President Charlie Allen and his wife Betty made the long trek from Kentucky to join in the festivities. Many chapter members noted that this was one of the few times Joe has been caught speechless, to much warm merriment from the many friends and admirers present.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
New Publications Available:
Arc and Bark and Blindcites are new subscription quarterly publications available in both large print and standard cassette formats. Arc and Bark is for guide dog users. Blindcites publishes high-quality fiction and poetry by blind writers. Both these magazines are mainstream and pay contributors upon publication.
The cost of each magazine is $25 a year, and both publications seek contributions. To submit or subscribe, contact Dennis Holter, 1000 Kiely Boulevard, Apt. 21, Santa Clara, California 95051, or email <[email protected]>.
Washington Center's Public Service Internships for Students with Disabilities:
The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in conjunction with the American Association of People with Disabilities introduces a new initiative to help increase employment for students with disabilities. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Washington Center is working to help students with disabilities develop leadership skills and gain valuable work experience in public service. The Washington Center complements students' professional experience with solid academic training for credit from highly qualified instructors. In addition, students will be exposed to community, national, and international leaders through workshops, seminars, lectures, embassy visits, and networking events held throughout each semester.
For more information about the scholarship program and eligibility requirements please visit our Web site at <http://www.twc.edu/diversityingovernment.htm> or contact J.T. Taransky, AAPD/TWC Internship Logistics Coordinator, phone/TTY (202) 457‑0046, fax (202) 336-7609, email <[email protected]>, accessible format application <http://www.aapd.com/Internships/washintern.html>.
Helpful Partnership for Students:
We recently received the following press release:
Indiana University Partners with Bookshare.org
to Expand Access to College Textbooks
for Students with Disabilities
Indiana University, one of the nation's leading alternative-text production facilities serving students with disabilities, has partnered with Bookshare.org, the leading online library serving individuals with reading-related disabilities, to make college textbooks available to students with disabilities nationwide.
Under the terms of the partnership, Indiana University will contribute all textbooks scanned in its production facility to the growing Bookshare.org library, the largest contribution of education-specific materials to Bookshare.org to date. These materials will be made available only to individuals with qualifying disabilities, including visual impairments, mobility impairments, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Qualifying Bookshare.org members may access the materials online by becoming subscribers themselves or through access sponsored by an organization such as a university or college.
The arrangement ensures that Indiana University students with qualifying disabilities will receive full access to the Bookshare.org collection of more than 16,000 books, including required course materials, reference books, and the latest best-sellers.
The Bookshare.org collection consists of books scanned by individuals and schools, making print materials accessible using scanning and optical character recognition technology, as well as books contributed directly by publishers and authors in original digital forms. Indiana joins a number of schools nationwide in the effort to maximize the educational impact of Bookshare.org by sharing the textbooks they have scanned for their students. The scale and history of Indiana's book-scanning operation-–which has produced more than 1,800 books to date-–promises to make Bookshare.org a key resource for students at postsecondary institutions.
Transitional Youth Program for the Blind:
Applications are now being accepted for Winning Independence Now Guarantees Success (WINGS). This five-week work program for blind youth begins July 11 and ends August 13, 2004. The all-inclusive program fee is $3,375. For more information contact Shirley Riffle <[email protected]>, or Robin Zimmerman <[email protected]> at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM); phone (410) 233-4567 or (888) 322-4567, toll free. You may want to contact BISM to find out about its numerous summer camps for kids.
Deep Sea Fishing Opportunities:
Join the Helen Keller Fishing Club for a day of fishing. The club is scheduling trips aboard boats for the 2004 season from ports along the north and south shores of Long Island.
This unique club is now entering its fifty-sixth season and is known to be the only deep sea fishing club in the United States for men and women who are blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind. If you would like to accompany the club for a day of fishing and excitement or would like information on becoming a member of the club, contact Walter Bach at Helen Keller Services for the Blind (718) 522-2122, extension 347.
Braille Magazines Wanted:
As Monitor readers know, materials produced for and circulated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) are available only to citizens of the United States. Members of our sister organization, the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom, would appreciate receiving copies of NLS magazines in Braille when American readers are ready to discard them.
Anyone interested in passing along Braille magazines should send them to Hans Cohn, 128 Walm Lane, London NW24RT, United Kingdom. Braille materials may be sent using the Free Matter privilege. For further information, contact Mr. Cohn at <[email protected]>.
Panasonic Soliciting Consumer Advice:
Ray Slaton of Florida writes to say that he has just learned Panasonic Corporation has created an access and compliance office. The company invites blind people to phone or email with ideas about how it can make its products--VCRs, telephones, DVD players, and such--more accessible. Contact information is as follows: email Robert Wegner at <[email protected]>, or phone (201) 392-6115.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Ultra Pro Aladdin closed-circuit TV, bought in 2001, is now for sale, hardly used. It originally cost $2,395, now asking $1,800. If you are near enough, come see it, operate it, and take it home. Contact Bonnie Dwork, 6810 108 Street, Forest Hills, New York 11375-3367.
I am seeking a copy of Braillables: A Manual for Parents and Teachers, published at one time by the Guild for the Blind of Chicago. Any reasonable offers will be considered. Please contact Shelley L. Rhodes at <[email protected]> or by phone at (814) 323-3533.
Telesensory Aladdin Ultra CCTV in excellent condition, used only a few times, fourteen-inch black and white monitor, asking $850. Original price, $1,845. Magnifies letters up to two inches in black text on white background or vice versa. Shipping cost is $65 paid by buyer. Call (215) 568-6232 and leave message.
Handheld Braille labeler with raised letters next to Braille letters, includes instructional cassette. Asking $140, plus shipping and handling.
Also woven cane carriers for sale.
For further information contact Tina Hubley at (207) 448-2719, 97113 Ancroft Road, Weston, Maine 04424.
Alexandra Bradstreet has the following items for sale:
1. Magni-Cam, a portable CCTV system that can connect to any TV and is easy to install. It is in excellent condition. Small and light, it is very portable. You can read anything from books to medicine bottles. Asking $600 or best offer.
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in four Braille volumes. Asking $20.
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in ten Braille volumes. Asking $40, or best offer.
4. APH Handi-Cassette II. 4- or 2-track recorder/tape player in pretty good working condition. Asking $120.
5. Braille 'n Speak 640 that has just been repaired and is in like-new condition. Asking $110 or best offer.
6. Braille 'n Speak 2000 that has just been repaired and is in like-new condition. Asking $1,200 or best offer.
7. APH Handi-Cassette II, brand new and in excellent condition. Asking $130 or best offer.
8. APH Scholar that has just been repaired and is in like-new condition. Asking $1,100 or best offer.
9. Black talking watch with digital read-out and black leather band. It has an alarm, stopwatch, hour report, and set time. it is in pretty good condition. Asking $30.
10. Quartz talking watch with large-print dial, white with black numbers. It has Seiko movements by Marcel Drucker and features three alarms with either a rooster, cuckoo, or beep. It speaks the time and has an on/off switch for hourly time announcements. This men's or women's watch has a clear, audible voice and an expandable silver bracelet. Asking $60.
If you are interested in any of these items, please email Ms. Bradstreet at <[email protected]>.
Handmade tissue box covers, placemats, coasters, and many other items in various designs and your choice of colors. All items are woven yarn. Contact Henry Osborne in any format at Hands-On Crafts, 127 Platt Street, Apartment D, Milford, Connecticut 06460-7542. For pricing or other information, call (203) 876-1696, home, or (203) 809-4781, cell.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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.