THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 41, No. 6 June, 1998
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette, and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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Table of Contents
The Proper Perspective
On the Nature of Mental Discipline and Sonnets
by Kenneth Jernigan
How NAC Has Learned to Help the Blind
by Peggy Elliott
Why Accreditation Failed Agencies Serving the
Blind and Visually Impaired
by C. Edwin Vaughan
Clever Con or Clear Committment?
by Bruce A. Gardner
Blind Woman Couldn't See Living Without Her Baby
by Peter M. Scialli, Ph.D.
From the Technology Department Director's Mail Basket
A Vinegar and Oil Federationist
by Barbara Wallace
What Do You Mean, She Can't Play Soccer?
by Carla McQuillan
Break Dancing-Lessons in Creativity, Initiative
by E. Randy Cox
Copyright 1998, The National Federation of the Blind
During a 6:30 p.m. reception on April 22, 1998, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) honored President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind Kenneth Jernigan with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. In fact, two handsome walnut plaques were presented to Dr. Jernigan, one in Braille and one in print. The text of the award reads:
The National Council of State
Agencies for the Blind, Inc.
lifetime achievement award
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
in recognition of more than four decades
of exceptional leadership, advocacy and unwavering
dedication to promoting the capabilities and fortifying
respect for the rights of individuals who are blind worldwide.
This award is given in celebration of the life of one who embodies the attributes of courage, spirit and devotion.
Know the manknow the legend.
Jamie C. Hilton, President
April 22, 1998
[LEAD PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Jernigan stands, cane in hand, displaying his plaque while he listens to Jamie Hilton read the text aloud. CAPTION: Jamie Hilton, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, presents Kenneth Jernigan with the organization's first Lifetime Achievement Award.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jamie Hilton and Kenneth Jernigan sit chatting at a table during the NCSAB reception.]
The Proper Perspective
From the Editor: On May 1 Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, wrote a thank-you letter to Jamie Hilton, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. On one level the note was a courteous gesture, an expression of personal and professional gratitude for his inclusion in an event which he had very much enjoyed. But the letter he wrote articulates the situation in the blindness field today and describes the startling changes that have taken place in it during the past twenty years. Here is the text of Dr. Schroeder's letter:
Jamie C. Hilton, President
National Council of State Agencies
for the Blind
Commission for the Blind and
New Jersey Department of Human Services
Newark, New Jersey
Dear Ms. Hilton:
I want to thank you for inviting me to participate in last Wednesday's reception honoring Dr. Jernigan. His selection as the first-ever recipient of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind's Lifetime Achievement Award represents an historic moment in the affairs of blind people in America.
Not so very long ago blind people and agencies for the blind
found themselves on opposite sides of many, perhaps most, major
issues. In my own case I remember the resistance and outright
hostility I faced as a young blind person when I sought to enter
the field of Orientation and Mobility. As you know, my interest
in pursuing a career as a cane-travel instructor resulted in a
bitter split between orientation and mobility professionals and
blind people organized through the National Federation of the
But that was twenty years ago, and that time is past. A transformation has occurred in work with the blind, and that transformation is due in no small part to Dr. Jernigan's leadership in bringing cohesive, focused action to formerly disparate elements in the blindness field.
Much of what is central to rehabilitation philosophy today is ideas (often unpopular at the time) which he pioneered decades ago. Indeed it is very nearly impossible to overstate the key role Dr. Jernigan has played in our field. His influence has been and continues to be immeasurable.
Too often the Federation has been viewed as nothing more
than a political action organization; and, of course, in one
respect it is certainly that. However, at its most fundamental
level the Federation is an organization of blind people who
believe in one another and who demonstrate that belief through
action. By believing in me and by standing with me in the face of
bitter opposition, the Federation helped me sustain the
determination I needed to pursue my professional goals. That was
my experience, and it has been the experience of countless other
Through collective action the Federation shows blind people that they need not live in poverty and isolation but instead can live as fully integrated members of society. To speed the day when blind people will attain true social and economic integration, they must begin to work in partnership with the governmental and private agencies charged with providing services. But it must be a partnership based on mutual respect, which means that the governmental and private agencies must also be willing to work in true partnership with organizations of the blind. Dr. Jernigan has taught us the power of collective action, and it is now time to put that knowledge into practice in new ways by extending the power of collective action to the work of organizations of and for the blind.
I was deeply honored to represent the Rehabilitation Services Administration and to stand with my colleaguesyou and the other directors of state rehabilitation agencies; Mr. Carl Augusto, representing the American Foundation for the Blind; Mr. Kurt Cylke, representing the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; Ms. Denise Rozell, representing the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired; and many othersto see Dr. Jernigan recognized for his many contributions. It was truly an historic moment. I know that it must have touched him very deeply to know that his many years of service, of pressing the system to do more, of faithful determination to fight for the rights of blind people (even when his views were unpopular) have resulted today in unprecedented harmony and cooperation in the blindness field. As he said last Wednesday evening, "There is great strength in collective action. Great opportunity comes by working together toward common goals, but most of all great satisfaction comes from knowing that together we have done our individual and collective best to move blind people closer to the day when they will have the encouragement, training, and self-respect to live normal lives as normal people."
I thank you again for allowing me to be part of last Wednesday's celebration. By honoring Dr. Jernigan, you have honored the individual, and you have recognized the emergence of a new day, full of promise, in the lives of blind people everywhere.
Sincerely, Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
cc: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus
National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer (left) and Dr. Jernigan (right) shake hands at the NCSAB reception.]
On the Nature of Mental Discipline and Sonnets
by Kenneth Jernigan
Recently in North Carolina, when I was undergoing cancer treatment and having a restless night, I put together a piece for the Monitor that I have been intending to do for more than thirty years. I doubt that I will ever write such an article again, but at least for once here goes.
From time to time I am asked what technique I use in writing speeches and articles, and I always give a general or cursory response. It is not a question of keeping secrets but of wondering whether the person (even though making the inquiry) would really want a full explanation if one were offered. Of course, I could (and usually do) say that writing requires a lot of time and hard work, but that is a platitude.
Let's get right to the meat of it. If I am to talk about how I write speeches and articles, I must discuss the sonnet, which is the most demanding verse form in the English language. It requires great mental effort while appearing to be amazingly simple. As a starter, a sonnet must have fourteen linesnot thirteen, not fifteen, fourteen. And each line must have exactly ten syllablesnot nine, not eleven, ten. But wait! We are not through. Each syllable must be precisely placed.
To explain, I must leave the world of common sense and go to the rarified esoterica of graduate school literary classes. And more precisely I must talk about poetic feet. A poetic foot is a stressed and all associated unstressed syllables, much like a measure of music.
But there is more, much more! There are several kinds of poetic feet, but for our purposes we will deal only with the iambic. An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. If a line consists of two feet, we call it dimeter. If it has three feet, we call it trimeter. If it has four feet, we call it tetrameter. If it has five feet, we call it pentameter. There is more, but for these purposes that is sufficient.
And now we can deal with the sonnet. As I have already said, it must have fourteen lines of iambic pentameternot more, not less.
And if you think I have finished, be patient. I have only begun. The sonnet must have a particular rhyme scheme. The last part of the first line is called "a"and so is everything that rhymes with it. Thus, if the first line ends with the word "cat," then "that," "hat," "mat," and anything of similar ilk will be called "a."
The last part of the first line that is not "a" will be called "b." Thus, if the line ends with the word "dog," then "log," "hog," "frog," etc. will be called "b." The next line that is not "a" or "b" will be called "c"; the next "d"; etc. And there you have the rhyme scheme for poetry.
In the English language there are two main kinds of sonnets-
-the Petrarchan, which came first and was named for the Italian who popularized it, and the Shakespearean, which is of obvious origin. Each has its own particular and demanding rhyme scheme, but both require fourteen lines of iambic pentameter.
The Petrarchan sonnet has a little (but only a little) flexibility. Its rhyme scheme is "abbaabba, cdecde." The "cde" lines may vary somewhat in placement, but the first eight lines may not. Thus, you may have "cc," "dd," "ee." Or you may have "cd," "cd," "ee." Or you may have any other arrangement you like for the "cde" linesso long as you leave the first eight alone.
As to the Shakespearean sonnet, forget about flexibility. It isn't there. The rhyme scheme is "abab," "cdcd," "efef," "gg." Nothing more, nothing less. Take it or leave it.
Do you think I have finished? Not on your life. There is more. The first eight lines (I won't bother you with the technicality of their name) must pose a question or problem. And the last six (and again I won't bother you with their name) must give the answer or solution.
I first tried to write a Shakespearean sonnet in late 1944 or early 1945 when I was a senior in high school. You will observe that the language is romantic and the sentiment commensurate. Here it is:
From out the distant realm of higher grace
Your passing glance illumines all my thought,
And I do dream of how 'twould be, your face
With all its wondrous gleams of beauty wrought,
If could I but ascend the filmy clouds That do obscure you from my closer view, And pierce each vestige of the mist that shrouds Each soft and perfect tint, each paling hue;
But could I breach the veil of clinging haze That doth impair my vision's clearer sweep, Perhaps 'twould serve but to reveal a maze Of hidden flaws unseen across the deep.
Tis better thus to worship from afar, Where naught but beauty gleams from out the star.
It was not until I was a sophomore in college that I undertook to write a Petrarchan sonnet. You will observe that by that time my language had become more down to earth. In fact, my journalism professor accused me of being a cynic. (I might insert here thateven though Freud would doubtless disagreemy sonnets have not primarily been written for philosophical but disciplinary purposes.) In any case, here is my first Petrarchan attempt:
Often when I hear a great hero praised=20 For some marvelous deed which he has done, And I see him basking in the warm sun Of fame, his name by all so fondly phrased, Or when I see some honest fellow, dazed By jeering insult, slandered, loved by none, Because of failure, or some goal not won, I muse upon the sad prospect amazed.
Cannot mankind this truth of truths perceive, This one mighty immortal lesson learn, That what we have is ours by circumstance, That fate says who shall fail and who achieve, And even Solomon's glory did turn=20 Upon a trick of near inheritance?
In recent times I have written only Petrarchan sonnets. A
few years back, Mrs. Jernigan and I were driving home from one or
another of the state conventions, and I suddenly heard her say to
me: "Are you singing?"=20
"No," I said "I guess I was thinking out loud and trying to compose a sonnet." Here is what I wrote:
There is no slightest way to comprehend The farther reaches of the stream of time, Which is not stream but myth that birthed the slime Which coalesced to form the thought I send To probe the afterwhere of logic's blend To seek to find some underlying rhyme Or reason as a universal prime To answer Einstein's search for means and end.
But if I cannot find the why and how Of distant first and just as distant past
Or, equal chance, of neither then nor now, But circling stream that makes the future past, Still must I seek and probe and try to know, Because there is no other way to go.
My last effort at writing a sonnet was at least a year or two ago. Here it is. You will observe that I even went so far as to give it a name:
Perhaps my final breath will gently go In restful sleep or age or other way, As uneventful as the close of day When only soft and quiet breezes blow To mark the undramatic ebb and flow Of all that lives and turns again to clay. But just as like, my life may end in fray.
We dream and speculate but cannot know.
Yet, if the veil that hides what is to be Could lift to show us at a single glance The full procession of our future time, The knowledge got would rob us of romance, Would trade our will for one compelling prime. We would be slaves, unable to be free.
There are two sonnets by American authors that I regard as outstanding. They are "Nature" by Longfellow and "Tears" by Reese. And even the Longfellow poem is flawed since two syllables have to be run together to make it scan. However, the sonnet that I have taken as my model of excellence was written by a Britisher. I committed it to memory when I was in high school and have referred to it ever since. It is "Remember" by Christina Rossetti:
Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet, if you should forget me for a while And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.
So there you have my favorite sonnet and also some of my
techniques for writing. Of course, there is much more to be said
to round out the picture. I could, for instance, talk about
dactylic, trochaic, and anapestic rhythms; about tercets and
sestets; or about hexameters and other such. But I think I have
said enough to make the point.=20
So what does all of this have to do with mental discipline and writing speeches and articles? If I have to tell you, it probably won't do any good. To those who say that I have gone over the edge and lost touch with reality, I reply that I have not forgotten how to engage in combat or street fighting and that I still know how to relate to the members at the National Convention. It can be put to the test. To those who say that madness is indicated, I respond that everybody has (or probably should have) at least a touch of insanity. If (assuming you choose to do so) you want to remember me in the future, think of the sonnet, for of such is the stuff of lifeat least, of my life.
As A. E. Housman said:
Oh, when I was in love with you, Then I was clean and brave;
And miles around the wonder grew How well did I behave.
And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they'll say that I Am quite myself again.
You can create a gift annuity by transferring money or property to the National Federation of the Blind. In turn, the NFB contracts to pay you income for life or your spouse or loved ones after your death. How much you and your heirs receive as income depends on the amount of the gift and your age when payments begin. You will receive a tax deduction for the full amount of your contribution, less the value of the income the NFB pays to you or your heirs.
You would be wise to consult an attorney or accountant when making such arrangements so that he or she can assist you to calculate current IRS regulations and the earning potential of your funds. The following example illustrates how a charitable gift annuity can work to your advantage.
Mary Jones, age sixty-five, decides to set up a charitable gift annuity by transferring $10,000 to the NFB. In return the NFB agrees to pay Mary a lifetime annuity of $750 per year, of which $299 is tax-free. Mary is also allowed to claim a tax deduction of $4,044 in the year the NFB receives the $10,000 contribution.
For more information about charitable gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: The picture is of the fairy tale and cartoon character Pinocchio.]
[CAPTION: Like Pinocchio, the National Accreditation Council began life as a puppet. Unlike NAC, however, Pinocchio eventually became an independent, living being. You will remember that Pinocchio's nose grew longer each time he told a lie. Here Peggy Elliott points out a related phenomenon which occurs whenever NAC makes its claims of excellence and usefulness.] (Photo adapted from an illustration by Richard Floethe)
How NAC Has Learned to Help the Blind
by Peggy Elliott
From the Editor: For a number of years now NFB Second Vice President Peggy Elliott has been reporting periodically on the slow but steady decline of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). Ruth Westman, Executive Director of NAC for several years, recently retired. Gerald Mundy came out of retirement after years as the director of the Clovernook Center in Cincinnati to take on the leadership of NAC, which means that its address has moved from New York City to Ohionot an acquisition to make Ohioans proud. The 1997 year-end report from NAC is in, and the trends are happily, but not surprisingly, still the same. Here is Peggy's report:
Ah, Pinocchio! You have had a long run as the only person in history or story whose appearance is affected by what you say. Every time you lie, your nose gets longer. Well, move over, Pinocchio. Your legend is about to be replaced by a piece of real history. Tell me, Pinocchio, have you ever heard of NAC?
You say you haven't? And I notice that your nose did not lengthen even one centimeter when you said that. You're one of a growing number of living, breathing souls who have never heard of NAC. In fact, the NAC-free environment is expanding all the time. So let me clue you in. NAC is the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Yes, I know, it's a botherationally long name. That's why everyone forced to speak of it calls it NAC.
NAC was founded in 1966 with great fanfare and grandiose claims that it would soon set the standards for the entire blindness field, accredit all the worthy agencies, be the recognized symbol for excellence in the field. For a time NAC grew. Then, my dear Pinocchio, things changed.
You see, NAC forgot the National Federation of the Blind. Or, more precisely, NAC was founded by people who feared and distrusted the growing power of the organized blind movement.
Their intention in establishing NAC was to insure that the
consumer voice would never be effective in shaping agency policy
in the blindness field. But NAC's founders misjudged one little
thing: the determination of blind people to be free and to have a
say in how that freedom was defined. NAC and its backers thought it should do all the defining.
Then, my dear Pinocchio, a funny thing happened. Well, given your own nasal circumstances, you might not consider it particularly funny. But it happened, nevertheless. Agencies started withdrawing from NAC and working with Federationists to make positive change. More and more it became obvious to the blindness community that NAC-accredited agencies were not interested in positive change, in working cooperatively with blind people. As a result NAC standards are now widely viewed as irrelevant. Its old-boy-network method of re-accreditation has become a joke. No one has ever heard of a NAC agency's losing its accreditation because of failure to meet standards. In fact, numerous agencies over the years stopped paying their annual dues, and NAC kept them on its list of accredited members, hoping they would return to the fold.
Here's where you come in, Pinocchio. NAC bragged in its early years, as it worked at spreading itself across the face of work with the blind, that its professionalism was unequaled and its power unstoppable. Its rhetoric has not changed as views about it have altered. NAC still proclaims its virtue, its rectitude, its value for all blind people. But take heed, Pinocchio. Every time such proclamations are made, NAC's list of accredited agencies gets shorter. Beware, Pinocchio. Your legendary nose and your reputation have now been overshadowed by real-world events.
The face of the blindness field has indeed changed in the past thirty-some years. But the change has not been wrought by NAC. With each passing year, NAC's list gets shorter, and the influence of the National Federation of the Blind gets wider and deeper. You see, Pinocchio, the thing NAC was most afraid of is the thing that has happened. Blind people themselves are now decision-makers, the ones in charge, participants seated at the table. The more this happens, the shorter NAC's list grows. Move over, Pinocchio. The increasing length of your nose is no longer the story. Speak up, NAC. Every time you brag, your list gets shorter. NAC, we can't hear you! Speak up, NAC! It helps all blind people to be free.
Notes on NAC: In its thirty-two years of existence, 132 agencies have at one time or another been associated with NAC. Today only fifty-three, 40 percent of the total, remain associated; seventy-nine have dropped NAC. Today only one state vocational rehabilitation agency is accredited by NAC, the one in Florida. The other twelve which were once accredited have now dropped NAC as irrelevant to their mission while the other state agencies never bothered to accredit in the first place. Today eleven schools for the blind are accredited though there are more than seventy in our country. Nineteen others were once accredited and have now dropped NAC. Today sixteen workshops for the blind are accredited by NAC though there are eighty workshops in the country. Twenty-four workshops were once accredited and have now dropped NAC. Of the three mainline types of agencies serving the blind in our country (state vocational rehabilitation agencies, schools, and workshops), NAC has a tiny minority of each on its approved list. Of the rest, a majority of each type never accredited at all, and most of the minority which sought NAC accreditation at one time have now dropped it.
The remainder of NAC's accredited members are smaller agencies, serving cities or regions of a state. This group of smaller agencies is now almost a majority of the entire list of NAC members. NAC's accreditation fees and annual dues are much higher than those charged by other accrediting bodies, so the adherence of these smaller agencies has always been something of a mystery when tight budgets and tough fund-raising are considered. The picture becomes a little clearer when one notes that the states of Florida and Ohio condition or seem to condition many grants and contracts on NAC accreditation. Questioning members of the blind community in these two states does not, however, yield a picture of perfect service and contented blind customers. We can only hope that NAC will make more claims of fine service in these two states so that its list will grow even shorter.
In calendar 1997 NAC lost six more agencies from its accredited list and added no new ones. We can all hope that NAC continues to laud itself and that 1998 will bring about even more departures from the NAC list. In 1990 NAC had ninety-eight accredited agencies with which to begin the decade. In the eight years since then nine agencies, swimming determinedly against the current, have joined NAC for the first time, an average of about one a year, though four of these are located in Florida and Ohio, where misguided rules encourage accreditation, and one of the nine has already dropped back off the NAC rolls again. Starting with ninety-eight and adding nine yields a total number of adherents any time in this decade of 107. But fifty-four agencies associated with NAC at some time during the decade have now dropped that association, leaving a remnant of fifty-three now approved by NAC. I wish that someone could tell me what these fifty-three agencies think they are getting in exchange for their annual NAC dues beyond ridicule and disrupted relations with the blind community in their states.
Finally we should note that half the states are now a NAC-free environment and that seventeen more have only one accredited agency within their borders. Florida has almost one quarter of all the accredited agencies, and six states (Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Illinois) are home to more than half the accredited agencies still clinging to NAC. Check with blind friends in these states to determine the quality of services as compared to national trends. You'll find the picture unflattering to NAC and its talk about quality service. Speak up, NAC. We can't hear you. And move over, Pinocchio. It's likely that 1998 will be another shortening year for NAC.
States That Can Boast a NAC-Free Environment:
District of Columbia
States That Have Only One NAC-Accredited Agency:
NAC-Accredited Organizations: (States listed alphabetically)
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Arizona:
The Foundation for Blind Children Arkansas:
Lions World Services for the Blind California:
The Center for the Partially Sighted
Sacramento Society for the Blind
Center for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Conklin Center for Multihandicapped Blind
Division of Blind Services, Florida Department of Labor and
The Florida School for the Blind
Independence for the Blind, Inc.
The Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind, Inc.
Lighthouse of Broward County, Inc.
Mana-Sota Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
Pinellas Center for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind
Visually Impaired Persons of Southwest Florida, Inc.
Blind and Low Vision Services of North Georgia Center for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Georgia Academy for the Blind
Savannah Association for the Blind, Inc.
The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually
Deicke Center for Visual Rehabilitation
Philip J. Rock Center and School
Indiana School for the Blind Iowa:
Genesis Vision Rehabilitation Institute Kansas:
Maine Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired Maryland:
The Maryland School for the Blind Michigan:
Upshaw Institute for the Blind
Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired The Visually Impaired Center, Inc.
The Lighthouse, Duluth, for the Blind, Inc.
Alphapointe Association for the Blind New Hampshire:
New Hampshire Association for the Blind New York:
Association for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Blind Association of Western New York
The New York Institute for Special Education
North Dakota School for the Blind Ohio:
Cincinnati Association for the Blind
The Clovernook CenterOpportunities for the Blind The Sight Center, Toledo Vision Center of Central Ohio, Inc.
Parkview School (Oklahoma School for the Blind)
Pittsburgh Blind Association and Greater Pittsburgh Guild
for the Blind (both were individually accredited, but after consolidation are seeking accreditation under the name of Pittsburgh Vision Services.
Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired South Dakota:
South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped Tennessee:
The Alliance for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc.
Ed Lindsey Industries for the Blind, Inc.
Lions Volunteer Blind Industries, Inc.
Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Washington:
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
[GRAPHIC: United States map. DESCRIPTION: The states with no NAC agencies are unshaded. Those with one NAC agency have cross-hatching, and those with more than one NAC agency are solidly shaded.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: C. Edwin Vaughan]
Why Accreditation Failed
Agencies Serving the
Blind and Visually Impaired
by C. Edwin Vaughan
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the January/February/March, 1997, issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation. Ed Vaughan is a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and a published authority on the history and sociology of blindness and the blindness field. Many of us in the Federation have lived the history Ed summarizes in this piece, but it is interesting and instructive to review the whole sorry mess that has been made of accreditation in the blindness field. We would all be wise to remember what has happened during the last forty years in order to see that the same mistakes are not made in the future. Here is Ed Vaughan's paper:
Four major organizations provide national accrediting services for rehabilitation agencies. National accreditation becomes increasingly important when both consumers of services and those who provide economic support for these agencies expect increased accountability. The most specialized of these national agencies is the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). NAC grew out of a two-year planning process which culminated in the establishment of the new accrediting organization in 1967. Its founders envisioned accrediting more than five hundred agencies that provided education and rehabilitation services to people who are blind.
Throughout its history NAC has been opposed by well-organized consumers of services and has not attracted the support of most agencies. It has never reached its envisioned goals and is now declining. This article reviews the history of this accrediting organization and discusses the reasons for continuous and intense consumer and professional resistance. It analyzes why different occupational groups within this field failed to unite in support of NAC and provides data documenting its rapid decline during the past decade. The article concludes by exploring available alternatives for agencies in the blindness field when accreditation fails.
Currently there are at least four organizations providing nationwide accreditation services: the Accreditation Council on Services for People with Disabilities (ACD), the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, and the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). These accreditation programs frequently focus on a particular aspect of rehabilitation, such as blindness, developmental disabilities, or medical aspects of rehabilitation not necessarily related to vocational rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation usually involves a continuum of services, and comprehensive agencies try to provide a continuum of care or services. Accreditation becomes a general concern when the accrediting organizations themselves become specialized and may only be able to accredit certain aspects of an agency's complete program (Grove, 1995).
Some states require any agencies receiving state appropriations to be certified. Such certification is sometimes done in house, using state employees for the certification process. Other states, such as Missouri, require that agencies receiving state funding have some form of national accreditation. This brings a national perspective to the state-funded programs and does not require the direct use of state funds, which can then be used for client services (Solum, 1995).
The cost of national accreditation is becoming an issue with some agencies. The cost usually varies with the size and complexity of a rehabilitation program. For example, the Accreditation Council for Services for People with Disabilities may charge as little as $3,000 and as much as $18,000. The larger figure would be for a complex agency with several locations. A typical figure would be $8,000 for a two-year accreditation (Nudler, 1995).
Accrediting agencies are created to assure the public that economic resources are properly utilized, that facilities are both safe and adequate, and that they have a properly educated staff. Duplication of programs can be minimized and, as the process of professionalization continues, task differentiation can be certified (Rothman, 1987). As a profession develops, it tends to seek increasing control over the organizational settings where services are provided (Abbott, 1988; Larson, 1977). This frequently produces internal conflicts as agencies resist external domination. Conflicts within a profession and consumer criticism and opposition may become insurmountable barriers for an accrediting organization. This paper analyzes the sources of the decline of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped and suggests alternatives for a more effective accreditation program.
Following World War II there was a rapid growth in the number of agencies serving the blind and visually impaired. With this growth came concerns about the quality of programs and the qualifications of professional workers. This concern led to the development of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped in 1967. NAC began with great expectations among professionals who work with the blind and visually impaired.
However, it never met the expectation that it would become financially self-supporting and at its height accredited only a small portion of the agencies and organizations in the field of blindness. It has been in decline for the past decade and has been consistently opposed by the largest consumer organization of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). It recently lost the financial support of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The AFB had been crucial in providing the financial and staff resources for the process that led to the creation of NAC and had been its largest single source of financial support for over fifteen years. In 1994 the United States Secretary of Education informed the National Accreditation Council that it had been dropped from the Secretary of Education's list of recognized national accrediting agencies (Pierce, 1995).
As this paper will show, the number of agencies accredited by NAC has been dropping steadily for the past nine years, moving from a high of one hundred and four to its present sixty-four. NAC's decline comes at a time of increasing national concern about accountability and an increasing emphasis upon the outcome of education and rehabilitation programs (Szymanski & Linkowski, 1995).
Origins of NAC
Two years of a carefully planned organizational effort leading to the formal establishment of NAC attracted both consumer and professional criticism. Disregarded criticism led to a lukewarm support from agency professionals and intense consumer opposition; more articles have appeared in the Braille Monitor about the failures of accreditation than on any other single topic. For more than fifteen years large numbers of blind people, usually between two hundred to three hundred fifty, have come from all over the United States to demonstrate publicly against the failures of NAC (Rabby, 1984).
To understand the roots of this conflict, it is necessary to examine some of the developments in the field of work with the blind over the three decades preceding the establishment of the National Accreditation Council. It is then possible to analyze the process by which the new agency was established, along with its goals and early successes. It is also important to consider the reasons it was continually opposed by consumers and why it has been ignored or boycotted by many agencies and professionals working with people who are blind.
Before World War II most teaching of the blind occurred either in special institutions, in schools for the blind, or in a home setting by itinerant home teachers. Beginning shortly after World War II, rehabilitation centers were established in several parts of the United States. The number of blinded war veterans and the financial support from the Veterans Administration were one source of this growth. These centers, sometimes developed in tandem with sheltered workshops, aimed at helping blind people adjust to their blindness, learn skills, and be evaluated for vocational training or educational purposes.
As early as 1932 there was concern about the degree or adequacy of the training of home teachers of the blind. These teachers were mainly women, and the majority were blind. They found themselves interacting with the rapidly expanding profession of social work, which was developing its own standards for educational requirements. In 1932 a regional organization of home teachers appointed its own committee to develop minimum standards of practice (Koestler, 1976).
Further impetus toward standards came from the federal government in the 1939 amendments to the Social Security Act. All persons employed in the federally funded welfare programs would have to participate in a merit system. "In many states the commission for the blind would have to meet the same civil service standards as those of the sighted civil service workers employed in other facets of welfare assistance" (Koestler, 1976, p. 291). As Koestler noted, the question arose whether or not blind people employed as home teachers would lose their jobs or be replaced by more educationally qualified sighted teachers. The possible displacement of blind workers was the earliest source of resistance.
In 1938 the American Foundation for the Blind convened a special conference to work out the philosophy and principles of home teaching. Following this, the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB) appointed a board for certification of home teachers. The new standards were adopted by the 1941 convention of the AAWB and included two levels. Class 1 required two years of college training including courses in social work and education. In addition, Braille, typing, and proficiency in six handicraft skills were required. Four years of experience could be substituted for the college training. Class 2 required completion of the college course work of Class 1 and at least one year of postgraduate training in social work. In 1947 the annual convention of AAWB was informed that sixty Class 1 and three Class 2 certificates had been granted (Koestler, 1976).
Reporting as chairman of a 1952 committee to explore standards, Roberta Townsend stated to the 1953 AAWB convention that a lack of unanimity of thought and standards had resulted in "many sporadic programs" and frequent duplication of services. Following her report, the AAWB adopted a resolution "asking that `a manual be devised of useful criteria and standards for the guidance of agencies' and that it be developed by the American Foundation for the Blind" (Koestler, 1976, p. 340). In the same year the organization issued another blunt report criticizing empty or shallow agencies which provided almost no services but sought funds from the public, ostensibly to provide help to the blind. It noted that more than six hundred agencies for the blind were making conflicting approaches to the public for support with sometimes counterproductive results. Both reports led to a growing concern for standards which would result in a seal of approval for agencies in compliance with the agreed-upon criteria.
In 1956 the Federal Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, with the American Foundation for the Blind, sponsored a conference intended to develop principles and standards to guide proliferation of work for the blind. Development had been rapid because of the increasing support from the federal government in areas such as the Veterans Administration, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Hill-Burton Act, which made funds available for constructing rehabilitation facilities independent of hospitals themselves. Private agencies serving the blind were growing in both number and size in almost every large American city.
The 1956 conference invited carefully selected workers in the field of blindness. As Koestler notes, many of these were the same individuals who had met at previous AFB-sponsored conferences to deal with standards and accreditation. "Out of the work of the seventeen people who spent five days in sub-committees and general sessions came a set of precepts that largely foreshadowed the standards later adopted by COMSTAC" (1976, p. 297). The Commission on Standards and Accreditation of Services for the Blind (COMSTAC) would lead to the establishment of the National Accreditation Council.
Robert Barnett, then President of the American Foundation for the Blind, recognized that a structured process which would involve standards and a method of implementing them would be necessary to achieve the maximum benefits for blind people, given the proliferation of agencies and funds available for rehabilitative services. Following this lead, the President of the AFB Board in 1961 said, "It is not our intention that the American Foundation for the Blind will itself conduct a policing program, but rather that it will arrange to expedite a service program of evaluation and accreditation which would find its authority in a democratic representation of all legitimate interests in this field" (Koestler, 1976, p. 342).
As this article will subsequently show, the conflict that swirled around this accreditation effort resulted, in part, from confusion about the meaning of "democratic representation of all legitimate interests in this field." It later became a central contention of the leadership of the only national organization of blind people existing at that time that, not only were blind people not adequately represented, but the entire process leading to the National Accreditation Council was tightly managed by a small group of professionals and orchestrated by the American Foundation for the Blind (Vaughan, 1993).
In 1962 an ad hoc committee appointed by the American Foundation for the Blind recommended that an autonomous commission be appointed to develop standards and regulations and to create a permanent accrediting body. The American Foundation for the Blind agreed to finance the commission's work partially while allowing it autonomy. Over the four years of the commission's work, the AFB provided $300,000 plus the labor of many of its staff members, while an additional $138,000 was obtained from three private foundations and the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration.
The resulting committee reports were reviewed at a conference attended by more than four hundred people in 1965, and the revised standards appeared in "The COMSTAC Report: Standards for Strength in Services." This report recommended that an organization be established to carry out the accreditation process. Thus the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped was established in 1967 with Arthur Brandon, the former chair of the COMSTAC, as its first president. A. F. Handel, the new executive director, had also been executive director of COMSTAC.
The founders of NAC projected a ten-year plan, which would conclude with levels of economic support sufficient to eliminate external subsidy. The organization would be supported by fees paid by the agencies seeking accreditation. To underwrite the program during the developmental phase, the American Foundation for the Blind and the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration assumed the greatest burdens. By 1972 NAC had accredited forty-seven agencies with approximately fifty more involved in some stage of the accreditation process (Koestler, 1976). By 1972 it was apparent that self-sufficiency was not possible, and it would require an additional period of subsidizing.
The enthusiasm for NAC was not unanimous. Support was concentrated in larger private agencies. Koestler's interpretation of reasons for resistance or lack of enthusiasm on the part of some groups included the following: 1) Professional standards might threaten the positions held by some blind people who might not measure up to new requirements in public and private agencies; and 2) the interests of blind people working in sheltered workshops were threatened by an accreditation process that might ignore their concerns about minimum wage, collective bargaining, and other labor-practice issues (Koestler, 1976).
Consumer literature reflected a concern that a small group of self-designated professional staff people had their own agenda for managing and controlling the field of blindness. Consumer groups particularly argued that they had been under-represented and even ignored in the COMSTAC process. However, before turning to the consumers' point of view, we will review some of the early reported enthusiasm by the officers of NAC as well as some agencies who experienced accreditation.
The first accreditations were granted in 1968 and were lauded in the first annual report of NAC. Its president commented, "The ferment continues. Out of it will come rising numbers of accredited agencies giving even better service to the blind and visually handicapped. And even as the numbers grow, the ferment spreads" (NAC Annual Report, 1968). The first three accredited agencies were proud of their accomplishments and began immediately using the seal of approval on their stationery and in their publicity.
In NAC's first years a three hundred forty-two page study guide was published. The check list and rating scales, intended to guide self-study, covered eleven aspects of agency activity: function and structure, financial accounting and service reporting, personnel administration and volunteer service, physical facilities, public relations and fund raising, library services, orientation and mobility services, rehabilitation centers, sheltered workshops (in multi-service agencies), social services, and vocational services.
The professional literature, as reflected in the two major journals of that time, presented no critique of COMSTAC or the resulting accreditation agency, NAC. Articles extolled the virtues of being accredited. The strongest agencies would be further challenged, and the weakest improved. Through the self-study process staff members would be exposed to national perspectives, and agencies would no longer be isolated. Facility improvements could become the basis of fund-raising appeals based on the need to be nationally accredited. NAC had been created as the only source of the seal of approval.
During the period discussed in this article, the National Federation of the Blind, founded in 1940, was the only broad-based organization of blind people. Its regular publication, the Braille Monitor, focused on the harm caused by "custodialism," any practice which diminished the independent living capabilities of blind people. While a fairly small group of carefully selected leaders in the profession were developing the process and agenda for COMSTAC, the Braille Monitor was publishing articles about agencies and practices which, it alleged, provided either exploitative or unequal treatment to clients receiving rehabilitation services. For example, in May, 1963, the journal described the firing of forty blind people from the Berkeley workshop of California Industries for the Blind. They were laid off because of their demands for better pay and their efforts to organize a labor union. In September, 1964, an article entitled "Struggle Against Odds" in the Braille Monitor described the efforts of its members in New Mexico to obtain an orientation center for their state (Matson, 1963).
During the years immediately preceding the creation of COMSTAC, members of the National Federation of the Blind and of other organizations such as the Blinded Veterans Association were working to improve the economic and social conditions faced by blind people. There were requests for new rehabilitation centers and union recognition of employees of sheltered workshops, demands for better pay for blind workers in these workshops, and the initiation of many types of legislation to benefit blind people. Prominent national political leaders such as Senators Robert Kennedy, Vance Hartke, and Frank Moss spoke at the NFB National Convention in 1965 praising the Federation's efforts on behalf of blind people. More than one hundred Congressmen attended the conference's final banquet.
Clearly the National Federation of the Blind was a strong and growing force in the struggle for equal opportunities for blind people. As its journal suggested, the Federation frequently worked with private and state agencies in mutual efforts to secure improved legislation and new programs. However, there appears to have been almost no relationship between the rapidly growing organized movement of blind people and the relatively small leadership group which had been shepherding the effort to professionalize the field of work for the blind (Vaughan, 1993).
Opposition to NAC had been voiced even before NAC was created. In 1965 tenBroek stated, "Organizations of the blind themselves, such as the National Federation of the Blind, have been conspicuously absent from the roster of groups and individuals asked to formulate supposedly objective `standards' to be applied to all organizations in the field" (1965, p. 25).
Many articles would soon appear claiming that the American Foundation for the Blind and a related social network of professionals were attempting to dominate and control all agencies. The National Federation of the Blind was founded in 1940. Its purpose was to empower blind peopleso that they would not be taken care of but would instead take care of themselves. However, because the COMSTAC Commission and the establishment of the National Accreditation Council occurred in the 1960's, the decade of the equality revolution in the United States, the reaction of the National Federation of the Blind was probably more intense than it would have been at an earlier time (Gans, 1974). Almost every minority and gender group in the United States was demanding equal treatment. The convergence of the interests of these different movements brought political responses leading to the civil rights legislation of that decade. Self-determination and full participation were in the air.
Professionals in the blindness field who were providing leadership during the COMSTAC period could not have picked a less propitious time to launch a new program and organization which did not include the full participation of the consumers in a rapidly growing social movement of blind people dedicated to self-determination. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, President of the National Federation of the Blind during this period, was a nationally recognized scholar in the field of welfare rights, showing interest in and participating in other social movements of that day (Vaughan, 1993). He also served as chairman of the California Board of Social Welfare.
Through 1966 articles appeared in the Braille Monitor condemning a lack of consumer participation in the planning process and the regressive nature of many recommendations being proposed for the future NAC. The Commission was criticized for institutionalizing practices resulting in dependency. To many blind people as well as to several agency directors, a small group of professionals with similar and overlapping institutional affiliations were trying to dominate the field of rehabilitation through a new inclusive organization, which was saddled with negative and regressive assumptions about blindness (Vaughan, 1993).
The gulf between the organized blind movement and the professionals in charge of COMSTAC is perhaps illustrated most clearly in a February 14, 1966, letter from the President of the National Federation of the Blind to Arthur L. Brandon:
Our right to participate in the preparation of plans for our own lives and our own futureor if you will, in the formulation of standards for our institutions and services cannot any longer be casually spurned as if it were an argument about the formulation of a standard or the punctuation of a sentence. That right is not in any sense complied with by a form request to any of us to submit our views, which the professionals then may not pay attention to in their work on our lives (tenBroek, 1966, p. 26).
Koestler observed that opposition to COMSTAC and NAC also came from blind workers whose positions were threatened by professional standards. She noted that some groups objected to work conditions, labor practices, and low wages being paid in sheltered workshops, many of which were or would be accredited and given the seal of approval by NAC.
In a 1971 convention address Dr. Kenneth Jernigan made clear that the NFB's quarrel with the National Accreditation Council was neither over the concept of accreditation nor because of efforts to improve services to blind people. In this same speech Jernigan explained his perception of NAC and the way it operated. Consumer participation was minimaltokenism. To Jernigan, key issues not included in NAC's purview were as follows: "...does the shop pay at least minimum wage? Do its workers have the rights associated with collective bargaining? What sort of image of blindness does it present to the public?" (pp. 21-22). Jernigan felt that board members were not aware of these issues and not aware of the significance of consumers' almost complete exclusion from the board (Jernigan, pp. 21-22).
Over the next twenty years an average of seven articles per year appeared critiquing and exposing alleged and documented shortcomings of NAC-accredited agencies. Up until 1990 the annual NAC board meetings were picketed by two to three hundred blind people who traveled from all over the United States to meeting sites (Rabby, 1984). In almost every state Federation members continually tried, often with success, to persuade agencies to disassociate from NAC. The conflict has become a struggle with no middle ground.
However, the criticism of NAC has been ignored within the professional literature of blindness rehabilitation. The issue was too divisive for a nascent organization of professionals. Some small agencies did not want to incur the cost of accreditation. The various professions comprising the fieldwork for the blindhad long histories of being independent. Although they were now merged in one professional organization, principals and teachers in schools for the blind had different traditions and social networks than the private agencies, which often represent social work activities. Each state also now had its own rehabilitation programs funded with public money and had become yet another stake holder in this field. Many professionals from these three areas saw no reason to incur costs and give up autonomy to a new national accrediting organization.
The Present Situation
However, in the past two years there have been a declining base of economic support and failure to accredit even a small portion of agencies and programs serving the blind and visually impaired. The National Accreditation Council is in crisis and by only a slight margin failed to vote for its own dissolution.
The high point for NAC accreditation, according to its annual reports, was 1986 when one hundred four agencies were listed as accredited. "On February 21, 1991, the National Industries for the Blind officially announced that its funding of NAC would cease in June, 1991, and the American Foundation for the Blind made the same decision shortly thereafter" (Vaughan, 1993, p. 159). On April 7, 1991, the NAC board met to consider its financial crisis. The board then voted by a twelve to two vote to disband NAC. Subsequently, the board learned that a vote by the entire membership was required for dissolution. On May 5, 1991, with ten members present and ninety-one proxy votes, the National Accreditation Council voted fifty-three to forty-eight to continue its accreditation efforts (Megivern, 1991). The president and vice president of the board resigned after this vote.
The Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) is the most influential and comprehensive professional organization in the field of blindness rehabilitation. In her coverage of NAC's problems, Megivern (1991) in her AER Reports mentions NAC's financial problems and its failure to accredit new agencies. She provides no background information concerning these failures but does report that business goes on as usual.
The following table (Pierce, 1995) illustrates the decline in the number of agencies accredited and displays the ratio of accredited agencies to potentially accreditable agencies:
Decline in NAC-Accredited Agencies
1990 1992 1994
Schools for the Blind: 26/71* 20/71 18/71
Rehabilitation Agencies: 10/52 5/52 4/52
Sheltered Workshops: 33/82 21/82 18/82
Regional or City-Based
Private Agencies:** 28 32 29
Total 97 78 69
*X/Y: X equals number of NAC accredited agencies
Y equals total number possible
**The number of private agencies fluctuates from
year to year
The consumer criticism, particularly from within the National Federation of the Blind, continues to include an unrelenting effort of investigative journalism concerning agencies that have come to the attention of the general public for either financial mismanagement practices, endangering the safety of children and students, or sexual harassment and abuse. For example, beginning in November, 1994, the Braille Monitor staff reported newspaper articles from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporting on a series of financial irregularities and culminating in charges of sexual harassment of present employees and former blind female students. The superintendent, Mr. Leonard Ogburn, was suspended June 24, 1994, and resigned on September 23 of the same year. Formal charges were filed, and when his case came to trial, "Ogburn, former superintendent at the school, pleaded no contest Wednesday to harassing a female employee by saying he wanted to spank her. Little Rock Municipal Judge Lee Munson placed Ogburn on probation for one year and fined him $250 court cost" (Pierce, 1994a, p. 128).
The National Accreditation Council's publication, The Standard-Bearer, in its annual report, 1994, lists the Arkansas School for the Blind as one of four schools continuously accredited for twenty-five years. Mr. Ogburn became superintendent of the Arkansas School in 1985 and was a member of the NAC Commission on Accreditation. Following his resignation from the Arkansas School, he was no longer eligible to be a member of the NAC National Commission on Accreditation (Westman, 1995).
The Braille Monitor has reviewed a long history of similar publicly documented abuse or mismanagement cases, all associated with NAC-accredited agencies. To its consumer critics NAC has frequently placed its stamp of approval on some of the more regressive and badly managed agencies in this area of education and rehabilitation. "Three quarters of the residential schools for the blind in this country have chosen to have nothing to do with NAC. Of the eighteen that do find it handy to wave the NAC flag, five (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, and Maryland), which is almost a third, have found their way into the front pages of the newspapers because of some sort of scandal during the last five years" (Pierce, 1995b, p. 294).
Why NAC Failed
Why has the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped not been successful in accrediting agencies? It began with more than two years of preparation. At that time it envisioned accrediting more than five hundred agencies. The initial effort was supported by the prestigious American Foundation for the Blind, originally created to advance the interests of professionals working in the field of blindness. The project also had financial support from the U.S. government and the leadership of many prominent individuals in this field.
First and possibly most important, the originating process, COMSTAC, and the later NAC organization did not significantly involve the organized blind. By 1965 the National Federation of the Blind was a strong and influential organization. Its membership and leaders were committed to full participation in decisions that affected them. They also opposed NAC because, from their analysis and investigations, they concluded that it accredits some of the most regressive agencies.
Second, the profession is comprised of diverse occupations providing educational and rehabilitation services. It represents groups with different historic origins and consequently different social networks and interests, including principals of schools for the blind, staff workers in private agencies, directors in state agencies, and directors of sheltered workshops. Differences between these groups are sometimes greater than concerns that unite them. It may not have been in their interest to have the field controlled or regulated by a relatively small group who created and have continued to support NAC. Many agencies wish to avoid the negative publicity, for fund-raising if nothing else, of the continuing consumer opposition to NAC.
Third, the large, state-funded rehabilitation programs never became significantly involved with NAC accreditation. Such agencies are more vulnerable to consumer opposition. Consumer groups have lobbied their state and national political representatives to "stop wasting money on NAC." Also some requirements associated with licensing are sometimes seen as discriminatory in publicly supported agencies. For example, one state director of rehabilitation services for the blind told me, "We consider applicants for positions on the basis of ability, training, and education, not on their visual acuity" (Vogel, 1992). This is contrary to the requirements of AER, the primary supporter of NAC, that orientation and mobility instructors be sighted.
More recently vision tests have been replaced by functional requirements, which still exclude blind workers. The applicant would need to demonstrate his or her ability to perceive what a sighted instructor would consider a potentially dangerous situation. However, this functional approach is now being debated within the profession. The policy is currently under review by the Certification and Review Committee of AER (Weessies, 1995). The Americans with Disabilities Act requires reasonable accommodations; for example, a blind mobility instructor might well argue that he or she could use an assistant when providing mobility training in a potentially dangerous area.
Consumers have less ability to influence smaller private agencies such as the Lighthouses. Consumers have less leverage in these agencies because the boards of directors are primarily comprised of wealthy or prominent citizens who frequently know little about the issues involved. Management can usually rely on board support to disregard consumer complaints.
If the development of a broadly supported and effective accreditation program for agencies serving the blind and visually impaired depends on NAC, the prospects appear bleak. Richard L. Welsh, President of NAC, in the 1994 Annual Report of NAC makes the following comments, "This heart is still beating strong even though there is less blood flowing through the arteries and veins." He goes on to comment that this national accrediting organization belongs to its volunteers. "As long as enough volunteers and agencies see a value in the process, it will continue to exist and to be of service to schools, agencies, and programs that serve the people with visual impairments." Based on the evidence of decline we have presented, it is unlikely that this relatively small, beleaguered group will be the vanguard of a new accreditation program that could attract broad support in this specialized area of rehabilitation and education.
Agencies which require accreditation or find it otherwise useful may seek accreditation outside the blindness field. For example, the Cleveland Society for the Blind, after dropping its relationship with NAC, sought and obtained accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Many agencies which serve multiple client groups including blind people are already accredited by CARF. Most professionals working in the field of blindness strongly support the need for specialized services for their clients and would probably prefer an accreditation process focusing on their specialized agencies.
Throughout education, for diverse reasons, politicians and educators are demanding accountability. This concern is increasingly focused on the outcome or results of education programs (Loganecker, 1994). Applying these concerns to the rehabilitation of blind individuals, the primary focus will not be on credentials, physical facilities, or rehabilitation procedures. It will focus on the outcome of rehabilitation processes. Are graduates able to live more independently and find competitive employment? Can agencies be compared using these criteria? Measurement and comparison of outcomes in this area are not easy, but it is the direction that CARF and other accrediting organizations are moving. Client participation and client satisfaction will be necessary ingredients.
It is possible that the long-term supporters of NAC may conclude that their organization is not adequately serving their agencies and their profession. New leadership may emerge and begin the process with full consumer participation from the beginning. That might result in a broadly supported accreditation organization that would focus on the results of rehabilitation efforts.
Although this has been an historical analysis of the decline of NAC, the issues raised appear in most areas of rehabilitation services. With one exception almost all of the national accrediting organizations have not been successful in attracting voluntary cooperation from large numbers of agencies. "Rehabilitation agencies face many challenges as they seek to improve their services in the coming decades. Increased demand for accountability and effectiveness, combined with dedication to empower clients, present major program goals" (Mason, 1990;
Emener, 1991). In this context rehabilitation counselors are asking for more autonomy in decision-making to serve clients better (Jackson, 1995). Most states continue to prefer national accreditation, ensuring broader perspective and a basis for making comparisons with programs from similar cultural regions and economic conditions. The most comprehensive and most successful in accrediting programs is CARF. In 1995 the number of CARF-accredited programs surpassed 11,000 for the first time (Galvin, 1995).
The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities recently expanded its acronym to reflect philosophic changes in the organization's approach to accreditation. It is now CARF...Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission. It has avoided many of the problems NAC encountered by incorporating organizational and programmatic changes as the organization evolved. Its large governing board, forty-two members, has significant representation from consumer and advocacy groups. Evaluation includes effectiveness, efficiency, and client satisfaction. An agency is not told what its goals should be, but the agency is expected to attempt to measure or assess the outcomes of its program efforts. The agencies are asked to document the extent to which they have incorporated suggestions from previous evaluations or have developed on going arrangements for self-evaluation.
Accreditation does not disregard structure and organization, but the focus is on the outcome or results of the rehabilitation process. Programs, not agencies, are accredited. The organization provides a comprehensive approach with an ability to accredit all aspects of the rehabilitation process. Its success in accrediting agencies permits a budget sufficient to provide educational materials, conferences and backup support for agencies. Comprehensiveness, consumer involvement, a focus on programs, and a national perspective are important elements in the success of this particular model.
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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bruce A. Gardner]
Clever Con or Clear
by Bruce A. Gardner
From the Editor: Bruce Gardner is a member of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Arizona. He is also a thoughtful and perceptive blind man with much to teach others about coming to terms with blindness.
This is what he says:
Should we who are blind be concerned with our posture, gestures, and facial expressions? If we do pay attention to these things, aren't we just trying to hide our blindness by pretending that we can see? I remember pondering these questions as a blind student in college.
My major was interpersonal communications, which included a wide variety of topics from debate and public speaking to family counseling and organizational communications. I found it interesting and a great preparation for life and the practice of law. As part of the major I took several nonverbal communication classes in which we discussed how things other than spoken words (such as the voice and body language) affect the message that is conveyed. We studied the effects of inflection, pitch, tone, cadence, volume, and intensity of the voice, as well as gestures, posture, and facial expressions. We noted that variations in the voice can alter or even reverse the meaning of words. For example, "thanks a lot" can express genuine appreciation; however, if said with icy sarcasm, the message might actually be one of contempt.
Likewise, in our sighted society body language, along with the voice, affects the meaning of the spoken word. A friend may say she is happy and even do so in a cheerful tone of voice, but the frown on her face and the droop in her shoulders may suggest otherwise. I learned that, although as a blind person I am sometimes unaware of the messages conveyed by body language, most sighted people (usually subconsciously) pay attention and give credence to the messages conveyed through gestures, posture, and facial expressions. For example, if I am gazing into space or looking down at my shoes when talking to someone, he may get the impression that I am not interested in him or what he has to say. I learned that it is, therefore, important to understand basic body language and use it properly when we are communicating in order to convey the intended message rather than mixed or incorrect messages.
Even so, communication is an art, not an exact science, and our best intentions can sometimes fall short. I vividly recall a situation in law school in which that happened to me. I was selected to be on the moot court team representing the Brigham Young University Law School in intercollegiate competition.
Similar to an undergraduate debate team, moot court competition consists of drafting a court of appeals brief and then arguing the case before a panel of judges. In intercollegiate competition a hypothetical legal issue and fact scenario are selected for the year. The moot court teams, consisting of three members each, are assigned to write a brief for the United States Supreme Court, representing either the appellant or appellee in the hypothetical case. A great deal of legal research and analysis is done by the team members in selecting just the right cases to cite and legal arguments to make in each brief. The briefs are then carefully analyzed, critiqued, and scored.
Two members of each team then give oral arguments before a panel of judges as if they were arguing the case before the Supreme Court. Although each team prepares its brief for either the appellant or appellee, depending on the assignment, at oral argument the team must be prepared to argue the case for either side at the flip of a coin. The issues are divided in half, with one of the team members prepared to present oral argument for the appellant on one half of the issues, and another team member prepared to present oral arguments on the other side for the appellee on those same issues. The third member of the team is the swing member who must be ready to present the other half of the issues for either the appellant or the appellee. This meant that the swing member gave oral arguments each time the team competed, sometimes on one side of the case and sometimes on the other. Just before the time to present oral arguments, with a flip of the coin we would find out which side of the case we would be presenting. Because I had won the Dean's Cup that year for best oralist at the Brigham Young University Law School, I served as swing member of my team.
In regional moot court competition each law school in the region sends its two teams to the day-long, multi-round competition. Three practicing attorneys who lived and worked in the city in which the host law school was located comprised each panel of judges. In the semi-final round of regional competition, my team (which had gone undefeated to that point) faced the host law school's remaining team. Each presenter was interrupted numerous times by the judges, asking pointed and difficult questions, and all the oralists deftly fielded the questions and made compelling presentations. After the semi-final round was finished, the two teams sat quietly in the courtroom, awaiting the judges' verdict which team had won. We all knew that each of the oralists on both teams had done extremely well and that the scoring would be close. We also knew that, if the scoring of the oral arguments was tied, my team would be declared the winner because our written brief had taken first place in the region.
When the panel of judges returned, they each gave a critique of our arguments. Each judge identified strengths and weaknesses of the presentations. After the first two critiques it was apparent that the scoring was tied. We all wondered what the third judge would say, particularly because he had not opened his mouth or asked a single question during the entire semi-final round. The third judge made rather routine comments about each presentation, but then, to my surprise and great dismay, he had an additional, unusual and negative criticism for me. He said that, although my presentation was excellent and my arguments compelling, I had not looked him in the eye and convinced him that I was right. He further said that the fact that he had not asked a single question should not have mattered and that I should have looked him in the eye and talked directly to him just as much as I did the other two judges. He then docked my team, which meant that the team from the host law school won by one point.
My teammates and I came away from that experience convinced of two things. First, the judge had no clue that I was blind and was, therefore, not intentionally discriminating against me. After all, he had had no opportunity to see my cane because we simply stood when the judges entered the courtroom and stood again when they left, and I had not needed or used my cane when I stepped from the table where I was sitting to the podium to give my presentation. Second, he (probably subconsciously) had decided that the home town team should win, and he caused that to happen in the only way he could think of. We recognized that this second notion was probably just sour grapes, but it made losing more palatable.
The ironic thing was that, harkening back to my non-verbal
communication classes, I had made a conscious effort to look all
three judges in the eye; but, because the third judge never said
a word, I was not sure exactly where he was sitting or where to
look. I was pretty sure he was to the right of the other two
judges who frequently interrupted my presentation to ask me
questions, so I looked in that general area occasionally during
my oral argument, but obviously to no avail. Oh well, as I said,
communication is an art, not an exact science. You win some and
you lose some.
This incident reminds me of a conversation I had in one of my nonverbal communication classes taken several years earlier in undergraduate school. One day we were discussing various studies that addressed eye contact: how far apart people are when their eyes meet as they approach each other; how long it is customary to look a friend, stranger, subordinate, or superior in the eye before glancing away; how often during a conversation direct eye contact is repeated; and the various messages that are conveyed by these actions. One of the students said that he had noticed that the blind guy in the class (me) looked people in the eye when he talked to them, and he wondered why since he knew I could not see them. I responded by turning my face to the wall and saying, "Because it would look strange if I talked to you like this." He then said, "Yeah, but you look people right in the eye. How do you know where to look?" I teasingly responded, "I don't know about you, but most people's eyes are a bit above their mouth; therefore, I use your voice to determine where to look." The whole class laughed.
Later, however, I did some serious reflecting on his question. Why did I face people when talking to them, and why did I pay attention to my gestures and facial expressions? Was it because I was still trying to hide my blindness by pretending that I could see and was normal as I had done for so many years before I learned the truth about blindness from the National Federation of the Blind?
It had been only a couple of years earlier that I had learned of the NFB and begun accepting and dealing with my blindness. Before that time I had been ashamed of my blindness because I thought blind people were fumbling, bumbling Mr. Magoos or, worse, virtually helpless dependents who sold pencils on the street corner. I did not want to be thought of like that, so I tried to hide my blindness. And, of course, I did not use a cane.
I did crazy things to appear normal. I came to think of these actions as playing "blind man's buff." I would do ridiculous things, such as pretend to be reading a magazine in the barber shop or a doctor's office and turn the pages after the appropriate passage of time; loiter in lobbies outside what I hoped were the rest rooms (sometimes in increasing discomfort) in order to identify a man and then observe which door he went through so I could follow him into the correct rest room; and pretend to be distracted or unfriendly rather than let people know I did not see or recognize them.
But now that I had learned the truth about blindnessthat it is respectable to be blindand was using a rigid, long white cane like a neon sign that said "Look at me; I am blind," hiding my blindness by pretending to see was impossible.
Before I heard of the NFB my actions were motivated by my intent to con or deceive others into thinking I could see. But after a little introspection I realized that, thanks to the NFB, my motives had changed, and I was now simply trying to be a better communicator. I realized that there is a profound difference between trying to hide the fact that you are blind by pretending to see, and understanding and using body language as an important part of communication.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: This is a close-up shot of the faces of a mother and baby. CAPTION: Elizabeth and Miriam Anderson] PHOTO/CAPTION: Elizabeth and Miriam Anderson play on the floor of the baby's nursery.]
Blind Woman Couldn't See
Living Without Her Baby
by Ellen Thompson
From the Editor: What should a Federationist do when a newspaper undertakes to write a story about her but leaves out important information? That's what happened to Elizabeth Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota. The reporter spent a good deal of time with Elizabeth and her daughter but ignored the question of how she had come to deal positively and matter-of-factly with her blindness. The following story is reprinted with permission from the August 24, 1997, edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
This story is for a seven-month-old girl named Miriam. It is for her to read when she is grown up and curious to learn more about her first months of life with her mother Elizabeth Anderson, who is blind and has been from birth.
Miriam, your day begins in a two-room, low-income apartment on Wabasha Street in St. Paul that your mother has furnished cozily with your crib, picture books, and playthings. Your mom wakes up to the sound of your strong, plump, creamy-white legs pumping and kicking against a toy that hangs on the inside of your crib.
Before she rises from the double bed in the next room, she lifts up the hinged crystal that covers the clock face of her watch and runs the fingers of her right hand over it in one deft stroke. It's 6:00 a.m. Snap, she closes the crystal, rises eagerly. Without hesitation, she strides toward the thumping, gurgling sounds that are you.
On the way to your room she trips over a stuffed bear you left on the floor when you were rolling around last night. Otherwise, though the apartment appears clutteredtossed piles of clean laundry along a wall, papers strewn on a tableit is organized in her memory, and she is certain about the locations of hundreds of objects.
"Well, hello little Peanut. Precious. How are you? How are you?" she says in a sweet, sing-song voice as she stoops over the crib and scoops you out. You weigh twenty pounds and are twenty-seven inches long. You are her treasure.
She places you on a mat on the floor and reaches for a package of diapers under a table. Takes the messy diaper off. Wipes you clean. Puts a clean diaper on. Reaches into a pile of clothes and pulls out two pieces of clothing. Perhaps it is the lace-trimmed, pale yellow knit dress with the pink rosebuds and the little bloomers that match. When you are out on the street in your stroller, strangers marvel at how perfectly you are dressed. Each item of clothing feels distinct to your mother's sensitive touch.
Your mom learned colors by associating them with particular objects. She learned shades of color by picturing them as hot or cold, warm or cool. Someone told her your hair is getting a brighter red, but she is not sure exactly what that means. Your eyes are blue, lighter than your mother's. "I think hers...are they like the sky?" your mother asks.
"I know I love you." There is no one else in your mother's life right now. At twenty-four, she is a single mother and estranged from her family. Her life revolves around you.
She left home during her senior year of high school, ran away to a friend's house, and stayed there until she graduated. She loved schoolespecially her English classesbut her family didn't think she could go to college. She figured she never would if she didn't break away.
She became pregnant with you, Miriam, while enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Your father, who is also blind, did not want to acknowledge you. Others urged your mother to put you up for adoption. "You'll be able to go on with your life," they said. But once you began poking and kicking with tiny hands and feet at your mother's ribs, your mother thought, "How can I go on with life and not wonder if what is going on with my child is good?"
It was bitterly cold January 13, 1997, the day you were born. But you entered the world fast, aerodynamically, your mother thought. Out to the end of the berthing bed, kersplash. Everyone in the room was crying, especially your mother. She couldn't wait to hold you.
"I know I love you, Miriam," she thought. "And there are no other guarantees. I could give you up to a couple with a nice income. The couple could divorce. They could lose their jobs. I may not be able to buy you fancy things, but I do know I love you."
She joined a church because of you. She had always had faith, a belief in God, but suddenly it seemed important to have clear values and to have you grow up seeing your mother living the way she should.
She takes you now to church each Sunday. In your small apartment she plays cassette tapes of children's songs and hymns.
She reads to you often, too. Someone somewhere told her about the Red Balloon bookstore on Grand Avenue. She made her way there and bought you five books, including the classic, Good Night Moon. She mailed the books to an organization that translated them into Braille on clear, adhesive-backed plastic cards and mounted the cards onto the pages. She asked for Braille descriptions of all the pictures as well.
Your mother's left hand quickly pushes her right hand into place, and the fingers of her right hand quickly decipher all the little raised dots. She laughs with delight as she reads aloud to you.
"Is she looking?" your mother asks every once in a while.
"Does she like it? What is she doing?"
Of course she means you. And you, Miriam, are looking right at the page of colors and shapes as she holds them up.
If you grow sleepy as she reads, your mother sings. She doesn't see your eyelids drop, but she feels your body grow still and surrender with a little shudder. Your legs and arms grow limp.
You and your mother don't go out often. Mostly on errands to nearby city blocks. Your first visit to the Children's Museum was a big trip. That is beyond Walgreen's, where Mom picks up diapers, over a bricked area, past a place where an open door tosses out air-conditioned air smelling of coffee, past a spot heavily scented with popcorn and sugar.
"Here we go," your mother says brightly as you set out. She pulls your stroller with her left hand, arm crooked back at a right angle, out through the apartment. The air in the hallway is stale and smells of grease. The carpet is grimy. Voices, some arguing, can often be heard behind closed doors.
Down the elevator. Your mom stops to fish a brimmed bonnet from a bag and ties it on your head. Her left arm crooks back again as she grabs to pull your stroller along, and her right arm wags her white cane. Back and forth it probes. Brick, carpet, metal bottom of a glass door. Pull the door. Push the next door. Out to the sidewalk.
Kick-kick. Kick-kick. On your back, in the stroller, looking up at the world, people's faces, windows, sky, awnings, you're excited.
Your mom charges along, waving the cane before her. People on the sidewalk scatter. A little boy yelps when she mistakenly bumps him. Near each corner she runs into a collection of newspaper boxes and a trash box. In front of some stores her cane catches and arches on flower boxes.
"I didn't realize it was this close," she says at the museum entrance, which is just blocks from your apartment.
"Are you so happy? Are you so happy?" she sing-songs to you.
Your mother explores the wall of a child-sized castle, brick by brick, tries on a costume, fingers weavings made by children, and shakes sheet metal to create a scary sound like thunder. You roll around in the "pond life" infant play area, where you chew on a fake lily pad and play with a stuffed frog and turtle.
On the way home you stop at Applebaum's grocery store, where an older man named Eddie helps your mom find milk, cereal, and a dozen perfect eggs.
"I can make her laugh, I'll make her laugh," Eddie says, leaning his face in at you.
Folks keep an eye out for you and your mother. Besides Eddie, there's Dick, who operates a little convenience store close to where you live. Dick baby-sits you once in a while when it's cold or raining. You sit with him behind the counter, with the popcorn machine and cigarette cartons, and all sorts of characters who come into his store fuss over you.
Some people worry about you and your mother. When the din of jackhammers in the street confused your mother and she wandered into the middle of Wabasha Street with you one day, all traffic stopped. And your mother got somewhat angry when someone tried to help.
She has little patience with people who threaten her hard-won independence. And she hates those "wishy-washy stories that make someone blind out to be this amazing person just because they are able to do things."
When she became your mother, someone told her, "You are making a big mistake. You are going to have a harder time than most."
"Really," your mother said determinedly to herself. "Want to bet?"
The Pioneer Press article was positive, but Elizabeth believed that very important information had been left out. So she wrote a letter to the editor to fill in the missing pieces. The Pioneer Press published the letter a few days later. Here it is:
September 5, 1997
I want to thank the Pioneer Press for printing my story (Sunday, August 24). I hope my daughter will treasure it as much as I treasure her.
Ellen Thompson wrote a beautiful message that I want Miriam to understand: Because I love her, I will give her the best upbringing I know how to, and my blindness will not interfere with my ability to do that.
There is, however, more to my story that I want Miriam and your readers to know. It is not by accident or luck that I keep my blindness in a positive perspective. Actually it may have involved a bit of luck. When I left home, I knew that I must create a better future for myself, but I did not know how to go about it. I was fortunate enough to meet members of the National Federation of the Blind who helped me realize how much I had to learn about being blind. I was a person with high aspirations but little self-confidence. I was told about a program in Minnesota that was operated by blind people and could teach me what I needed to know. It was called BLIND, Inc. (Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions), and, by moving to Minnesota, I was able to avail myself of this training. I learned to believe in myself.
My friends in the Federation provide constant encouragement. In return I hope that I can do the same for other blind people. A mother has many hopes and dreams for her child. There are also some certainties. Miriam will always be loved; she will know the value of caring and sharing with others; and she will know that it is respectable to be blind.
Windows 95: Removing the
by Peter M. Scialli, Ph.D.
From the Editor: I have vivid recollections of walking around the 1986 National Convention with a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach. That year I must have born some spiritual resemblance to Coleridge's Ancient Mariner as I clutched at every computer user of my acquaintance to demand pointers for getting started with that fearsome machine. When I returned to work in mid-July, I was to begin using an AT&T personal computer hooked up to the Alumni Affairs mainframe computer at Oberlin College. With a talking box and this combination of computers I was to become the first professional in the Alumni Office to work extensively on the new technology. Instinctively I knew that my working life would never be the same; I just hoped I would survive the experience.
I count myself incredibly lucky that during the following year our office employed a temporary secretary to substitute for one who was in Germany on sabbatical with her husband. Bob was a new Oberlin graduate who was staying in town for a year while his fiancee finished her degree. Though he had been an English major, he was extremely gifted in and curious about computers. He found my speech-recognition software and hardware interesting and a challenge to his orderly mind. He liked the fact that I could either work on my PC or log onto the mainframe. When I managed to crash my system, he didn't panic; he walked me through correcting the problem. When my system stopped speaking, he was patience itself in coming to read the screen; and, using questions rather than instructions, he taught me how to get myself out of my messes and prevent them in the future.
Gradually I learned to use the various word-processing programs available to me, the other mainframe programs we used to manage the alumni database, and enough about the Disk Operating System (DOS) to move around and do what I needed to. I don't know what I would have done without Bob. No one else in the college and that included the entire Computer Center staffknew a thing about screen-reading software. The equipment and software more than a decade ago were rudimentary compared to today's powerful systems, but there were times when I thought my head would explode with the new concepts and skills I was forced to master and use.
Years of marching along on the shifting sands of evolving computer technology have taught me that we look back to whatever is old and familiar as easy and relatively simple. Today, as we contemplate the prospect of coping with Windows 95, 97, 98, and who knows what further demanding office products, we are tempted to look back at DOS as the good old days when computers were simple. Those early programs were undoubtedly simpler, but they were not simple to us. We mastered them and came to love their clarity as revealed to us by the speech software developed to deal with them. But they were always a challenge, one that, with the help of gifted programmers in the access-technology field, we met successfully.
Dr. Peter Scialli is by training a clinical psychologist who became interested in computers in connection with his research and work as a psychologist. He has now established Shrink Wrap Computer Products, a company that assembles computer systems and develops tutorials helping blind people use commercially available programs. Dr. Scialli has a refreshingly optimistic outlook about the ability of blind people to use today's computer software. However, his views may be a little too rosy in some respects.
Curtis Chong, President of the NFB in Computer Science, tells me that Lotus Notes for Windows still requires the help of a reader if a blind person wants to use the program. I can personally testify to the frustrations of trying to get a screen reader for Windows to provide information about layout in preparing a document in Word. Things that DOS-based screen-readers volunteered as a matter of course are deeply held secrets withheld from blind users in Windows 95.
Nonetheless, Dr. Scialli's attitude and approach to today's software are positive and encouraging. But remember that he is a bright and experienced user of speech- and Braille-access software, and he understands the Windows products well enough to write tutorials for our use. His knowledge is hard won, and the rest of us will stumble along behind him, often cursing the technology that is changing our lives even while we bless him and his kind for breaking trail for us. Here is what Dr. Scialli has to say:
For the past few years the consensus among people who are blind has been that the Graphical User Interface (GUI) was designed for the exclusive benefit of the sighted, its principal advantage being a pleasing and easy to navigate visual presentation of complex material. While visual appeal is certainly an important part of the advances in PC technology, it does not begin to cover the many other features that technology has provided to the desktop computer user.
Indeed among many blind computer users in the late 1990's, there is a feeling of panic and despair about the continuing usefulness of the technology, which has heretofore helped greatly to break down barriers to productivity and equality in school and the workplace. Unfortunately these feelings have been echoed and amplified by rehabilitation instructors, teachers, employers, and others whom blind people sometimes rely upon for guidance in making school or workplace adaptations. The purpose of this presentation is to clarify the nature of the graphical user interface and to discuss the often disregarded advantages of modern PC operating systems for productive work by people who are blind.
The Graphical User Interface found on modern computer operating systems is popular because, in more ways than in the past, what individuals see on their computer screens mimics what they see in the world around them. The symbols that make up the world at large are now available right on the PC desktop system. This, paradoxically, is good news for blind computer users. Blind people have been dealing effectively with the world at large for centuries. They have been doing so with various forms of alternative access. Every blind person who has achieved excellence alongside sighted peers has used an alternative access technique. As computer operating systems have advanced, so have technological solutions to the access issues thus produced.
The problems that remain are no more or less catastrophic then those which remain for blind people in general. Blind people still can't see colors on a computer screen, just as they can't see them anyplace else. Blind people need a description of a pictorial representation of an object on computer monitors, just as they do anyplace else, and so on. Blindness does not offer any more special disadvantages when dealing with computers than it does when dealing with taking a trip to the local store to buy a carton of milk. Both situations require familiarity with the environment and methods for dealing with graphical representations of important information, methods of following rules, and methods of demonstrating success.
The key in these or other routine tasks is that the blind individual receive proper training and practice in an effective set of alternative techniques. For example, a blind pedestrian must understand the nature of traffic patterns and the consequences of arguing with a truck. Similarly, a blind computer user should possess a proper understanding of what the computer is telling him or her and the consequences of interacting in various ways with the machine.
One may ask why a blind person must learn new alternative computer skills when the text-based operating systems of the past have served well with relatively little special training. While it is true that text-based operating systems such as Microsoft's Disk Operating System (DOS) provided a relatively simple interface for everyone, it is also true that in addition to falling into wide disuse generally, text-based systems have an extremely limited capacity to take advantage of advancing hardware technology. Many blind people think erroneously that their productivity will remain high as long as they can stay with the familiar computing environment.
Depending on the level of productivity required for a given academic or career path, those who adhere firmly to the use of text-based operating systems from the past are not necessarily at a disadvantage. The text-based computers and computer applications that support them are no less useful today than they were ten or fifteen years ago. If a person needs only, for example, to produce competent written material, a word processor from 1986 will likely provide the appropriate level of service. If, on the other hand, a blind person wants to produce a highly formatted document with multiple columns, graphics, and a variety of colors, the older text-editing application will not do the job.
What are the advantages of learning to work in a modern operating environment? The obvious answer to this question is that modern operating systems and the hardware that supports them permit the use of techniques not previously available. Multitasking, multimedia, and memory management are some examples of modern computing techniques with special value to blind computer users; these will be discussed later. Of greater importance than the technical ability to use current computing tools is the necessity for blind people to produce excellent work in a competitive environment.
One need not look far to find blind people performing jobs adequately through the use of computers. An alarming number of these people are working in competitive environments in which they are not expected to excel. Employers often believe that the Americans with Disabilities Act compels them to hire disabled people who possess only a limited ability to produce the work expected of them. Quite often blind people seeking employment believe that, if the employer merely provides a talking computer which uses a text-based operating system, an accommodation has been made. It is all too easy to lose sight of the quality of the work being done by one's fellow, non-accommodated employees. Moreover, when a blind employee is using an accommodation to achieve results that are only satisfactory, the employer is likely to disregard the employee's advancement potential as non-existent. Observing that the employee apparently requires the use of antiquated and unsupported tools, the employer will never view her or him as able to handle innovative projects and will see the blind person as unpromotable.
What then are the special features of GUI-based operating systems that benefit blind people? Largely they are the same features which benefit the sighted user, who ironically may appreciate them less due to the diversion of an entertaining user interface. For the blind, standardization plays an important role in the increased utility of modern operating systems. In particular there is a tendency for one Windows application to look and act like another. While there are always exceptions, the Microsoft guidelines encourage computer applications generally to use similar controls. For example, almost every Windows 95 application installation uses the Microsoft Install Shield Wizard, which guides the end-user through nearly identical steps each time an application is installed. Almost every modern application uses a standard implementation of pulldown menus and dialogues, which enable any user to make some helpful assumptions about how application controls are to be approached and how they will act.
Contrast this to many MS-DOS applications produced in the early to mid 1990's. In an effort to lend an appealing Windows-like user interface to a DOS application, programmers often used creative methods of achieving a particular screen result. Screen-access software intended for use by the visually impaired had no premise for expecting or dealing with graphical elements incorporated into an application idiosyncratically. Contrast this with the standard element classes that are used in the modern operating systems for which screen-access software has a basis for reporting the screen to the end-user through speech or Braille output. While a blind end-user may experience some initial consternation about the layout of a GUI screen, the labeling of graphics is a standard technique for making useful information about the contents of the screen continuously available.
No less important than the standardization of the screen output is the standardization of the computer's keyboard input. Since it is unlikely that a blind computer end-user will use a mouse, it is necessary to find some other way to communicate commands to the machine. Microsoft Windows systems do just this. Because the functions of many keyboard keys and key combinations are standard, it is now easier than ever before for a blind end-user to approach an unfamiliar or difficult application. For example, the combination of the Alt key and the F4 key invariably commands a Windows application to cancel the current task or dialog. The combination of the Control key and the F10 key will always open a Context Menu where one is available. Similarly the F1 key will almost always enter an application's Help System for context-sensitive information about a current task or dialog.
Contrast these maneuvers with many of the more common applications from Microsoft DOS. There were usually standards within a family of products, such as those from WordPerfect Corporation, but there was rarely agreement across software brands about how an installation would be performed or how an application would be controlled. Even those DOS programs which had a Windows-like appearance often did not include keyboard commands for control. They were designed for the mouse and the illusion of Windows standardization.
Blind computer users frequently believe that file management can be best performed under MS-DOS or under DOS emulation by a modern operating system. This may in fact be true, assuming that the user knows the complete DOS path names leading to files of interest and the exact spelling and possible embedded punctuation of such file names. Compare this to Windows 95, in which folders, files, and applications are organized into lists according to function. A user need only pick from a list of options using one of the keyboard commands described previously. This has the potential to improve drastically the efficiency with which a blind person uses a computer.
What about multitasking? The conventional wisdom is that, since a blind person can perform only one task at a time, an operating system such as DOS which enforces this approach to computing does not reduce efficiency. But multitasking applies to the ability of the end-user not only to engage in more than one application at a time but to execute technical computing goals. For example, many are familiar with the need imposed by DOS-based computers to configure and test separately the addressing of peripheral hardware devices in each application. Thus each word processor or text editor must be able to communicate with a particular printer; each application must be independently aware and able to work with a particular modem; and so on. Modern operating systems remove this burden from everyone. Even special peripheral devices such as scanners and Braille embossers can usually be depended upon to work with all the applications running under the same GUI. Surely this represents an increase in efficiency for the blind worker.
A fully sighted person, while possibly using visual cues to remain aware of what is happening in the background of a computer system's operating environment, is not likely to be performing two distinct tasks simultaneously. The blind computer user benefits equally in using the computer for many simultaneous tasks. For example, the blind computer user is free to update information continuously in a spreadsheet application with data from the Internet. Similarly he or she can instruct the computer to perform recognition on a group of scanned pages while using a word processor to create new documents which may reference those being worked on by other processes. This compares favorably with the text-based method previously employed by blind computer users, which involved performing one task at a time, saving the work each time to a known specific file name, exiting an application, starting a new application, retrieving the file previously created, and so on.
A sighted computer user can switch tasks quickly and easily by using his mouse to point to a task of interest and clicking. The click brings the task to the forefront of the computer screen and to the forefront of the operator's attention. Happily a parallel situation works well for a blind person using speech or Braille-access. A task can be instantly called to the forefront of one's attention by simply hitting a hot-key command, which switches the access software's focus to another running task. Users who have not specifically defined hot keys for getting from one task to another can use the Windows standard Alt-plus-Tab-key combination to view the running tasks serially. Unique sounds can even be attached to various tasks to identify what is happening. The blind user thus enjoys the full benefit of an extremely powerful tool which never existed under older operating systems.
What are the barriers which keep many blind people from using modern operating systems? Sadly, the blind themselves have fallen into an all too familiar pattern of assuming that they are unable to learn and use that which seems to be tailor-made for the sighted. With blind students and employees giving their teachers and bosses the message that modern computers are inaccessible, there is no shortage of opinion once again that blind people may at best perform only adequate work. Since almost everyone agrees that computers will become increasingly widespread and increasingly complex, those who believe that blind workers must use tools dating back ten years or more will not encourage and educate the blind in the use of the tools of the modern workplace. As a group blind people are seriously at risk of facing bare subsistence in the new millennium. As all but the most menial tasks begin to use computers, it is increasingly the blind themselves who are telling the world that those are the only tasks they are capable of performing.
It is time that the blind insist upon receiving the training required for functioning as leaders in the twenty-first century. No special barriers keep the blind from using modern computers and thus holding modern jobs.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tracy Carcione]
From the Technology Department Director's Mail Basket
From the Editor: As a rather recent and still more or less unwilling Windows 95 user, I do my share (probably more than my share) of complaining about Windows 95, JAWS for Windows (JFW), Internet Explorer, and the rest of the graphical complications to the lives of blind computer users. Dr. Peter Scialli's article (see the previous story) gives me hope that the advances being made in speech access to the graphical user interface will eventually trickle down to computer users like me. Then I read correspondence like the following exchange between Tracy Carcione, a computer user in New York, and Curtis Chong, Director of the NFB's Technology Department and President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, and I am reminded that the remaining problems are very real and their impact on the lives of many computer users is always frustrating and often frightening. What follows is a pair of e-mail messages between Mrs. Carcione and Mr. Chong:
From: Tracy Carcione
To: Curtis Chong
Date: Wednesday, February 18, 1998
Hope you're settling in well in Baltimore. From the Monitor it looks like you're keeping plenty busy. Hope you're enjoying it.
I want to harass you in your capacity as President of the computer science division and to express my frustration with Windows. As you may recall, I tried to switch to Windows in the fall. It was a bust, and I'm still on OS/2, thank goodness. JFW sort of worked with the mainframe and not at all with either of the e-mail packages we tried.
Other software I've tried has had even less success. So why do we of the CS Division keep patting Henter-Joyce on the head as though they were doing a good job? I was hopeful about the switch from talking to Steve Jacobson and attending CS meetings where people talked about how well things were working for them, but it wasn't that way for me.
Possibly it would work if we hired a consultant to come in and customize JFW, but there are no guarantees. And why should that be necessary? When my boss buys software, she installs it on her machine, and off she goes. She might have to call Customer Service once or get a little help from a co-worker to learn the system, but she sure as heck doesn't have to hire a consultant to make the stuff work or spend hours on the phone with Customer Service as I do.
Why do we as blind people put up with this nonsense? If so-called access software doesn't work reasonably well with every application a person has, then it's a problem for that person.
Say I have five applications I need in order to do my job:
mainframe connection, word processing, e-mail, online manuals, and scheduling/project management software. Say the access software works well with one or two, sort of works with one or two more, and does not work at all with what's left. That seriously affects my ability to do my job. Depending on which software it works with, I may or may not be able to do my job at all. I've been thinking about looking for another job, but, when I look in the paper, 90 percent of the jobs advertised involve Windows in some way, and it's a good bet that even the strictly mainframe jobs involve Windows to connect to the Network. I feel very nervous going to a job interview in which, when the prospective boss asks me how I'll be able to connect to their system, I have to say that it depends what kind of connection they use, and maybe I can't connect at all.
For instance, there was an opening in another department for which I was qualified, except that the only connection to the system was through Netscape for security reasons, so I didn't even bother to apply.
I know you know this whole song well, but what can we do about it? Are we harassing Netscape to make Netscape Navigator accessible? Can we push Microsoft any harder? Can R&D invent something like Speaqualizer for Windows? Can we push the access software guys to do a better job? Right now I totally agree with a friend of mine who says, "If you have a lot of time to do something and you don't care if it looks pretty, then use Windows; otherwise, stick to DOS." But there's less and less in DOS, and Windows is still not very accessible, at least not with what I need to run, which is what matters to me.
Thanks for listening. Let me know if there's some action I can take.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
From: Curtis Chong
To: Tracy Carcione
Date: February 22, 1998
I am glad that you took the time to write this note. It raises some very interesting points, and it continues to remind me that all is not sweetness and light in the computer worldeven though I would like to think that things have improved.
Where to begin? First, I would say that, if anyone gets the notion that we in the computer science division in particular and in the Federation in general endorse JAWS for Windows as the best screen-access system for Windows 95, he or she should put that notion aside immediately. As Richard Ring and I constantly say to anyone who asks, there is no one best program for anything. The key is to discover the problem which is being addressed and to come up with the best possible solution for it. Sometimes the solution involves JAWS for Windows. At other times it involves another screen reader.
Mr. Ring and I have often said that it would be nice (but not really practical) for blind people to have access to all of the screen readers and Web browsers available because certain software works better in one situation while other software works better in another. For example, while JAWS for Windows works quite well with some e-mail clients (e.g., Eudora or Microsoft Internet Mail), it does not work as well as Artic WinVision 97 when it comes to using Internet Explorer Version 3.02. Just because JAWS for Windows appears to be the most popular program today for Windows access, this does not imply that it is the best program for everyone.
Regarding mainframe connectivity, I know that Steve Jacobson has made considerable progress in this area. While JAWS for Windows (or any other Windows screen reader) may not provide the same high-quality access that you and I both enjoyed with IBM's mainframe communication software, OS/2, and Screen Reader/2, the fact is that blind people can access the mainframe, using a 3270 terminal-emulation package, through Windows 95. The access may not be everything we want and we may have to use a different emulation package than our sighted colleagues, but there is a time when we, as blind employees, must make unpleasant choices. Would you want to be the last OS/2 user in your shop? If you were, then who would support you? Unpleasant as it is to contemplate, the day will come when you will have to switch to Windows 95 (and possibly NT), and, though I personally deplore the circumstances which make this necessary, I recognize the necessity of being flexible in today's high-speed computer age.
Regarding a Speaqualizer for the graphical user interface, in point of fact the Federation's Research and Development Committee is giving this some very serious consideration. Dr. Michael Gosse and I have been looking into the work being done by Dolphin Systems in the United Kingdom to see if the ideas they have tried with Windows and their HAL screen-reading program really work. According to Dolphin, they analyze the actual screen image to determine what is going on instead of intercepting Windows calls which write text and other information to the screen. The down side to this approach appears to be that, while HAL works well with a specific set of applications, it tends to fall down when it comes to generalized access to software for which it has not been configured. Suffice it to say, this will be a large project that will not result in any immediate solutions.
You express some frustration about the fact that we, as blind people, require the services of technical consultants to a greater degree than our sighted counterparts. Yes, I am afraid you are correct. In order to solve our problems in the best possible manner, we often require (but cannot get) technical consultants to configure our systems so that we can use them with the highest degree of efficiency.
Training is another frustration. As we all know, much of the training that people receive for Windows-related software is oriented to the use of the mouse. We are often advised to "point there," "click on this or that item," and to "drag and drop objects." Little of the training available to the general community focuses on the use of the keyboard to execute tasks. While we do have some options in this area, we must always seek alternative ways to accomplish the same tasks which our sighted peers take for granted.
Does all of this mean that we really can't do our jobs? Not necessarily. It does mean that we must try to solve the problem on as many fronts as possible. On the technology front we must try to find the best screen-reading software we can while, at the same time, pushing the large players like Microsoft and the Lotus Corporation to make their application software compatible with the technology we must use to accomplish our jobs.
We must also not forget the basic skills of blindness, which we must use to get along in the world. These basic skills often come in handy when we need to run a piece of software that doesn't work with our access technology. If we are lucky, most of what we need to do with the computer can be done independently without sighted assistance. If not, unfortunately, some of us will become casualties in the never-ending struggle to survive in this technological age.
As blind computer users we often need to figure out ways to get the same work done with different software and approaches.
For example, the job you considered applying for, in which
Netscape was an issue, might have been a good possibility for you
if your employer had been willing to let you use Microsoft
Internet Explorer instead.
When I worked at American Express, everybody else used Microsoft Word or Lotus Smart Suite. Although I used these programs when it was absolutely necessary, I did a lot of my original composition with good old WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. As long as it didn't interfere with the job, nobody really cared, and I got the work done in a highly productive manner.
As far as Netscape itself is concerned, I know that Henter-Joyce has done some work to make it more usable in the Windows 95 environment. I myself have had a few frustrating discussions with officials of Netscape. The problem is finding the right contact and picking the battles that should be fought. We can't beat on every company, and we can't expect to win every battle. Ultimately we must win the war of access technology or we will be relegated to the backwaters of society. But we will never eliminate the need to use alternative techniques and strategies.
At this year's NFB convention we will be conducting a Windows 95 seminar. If you haven't had a chance to read one of the better books written to teach the blind about Windows 95, you may find the seminar of interest. The overall theme of the seminar is that blind people can use Windows 95--often with tremendous ease and efficiency.
On a more optimistic note, you will be interested to know that last week others in the disability community and I had a two-day meeting with representatives of Microsoft. We discussed accessibility, changes to future versions of Windows, and Windows-based applications, and Microsoft's over-all commitment to accessibility. We heard from Bill Gates himself. Mr. Gates has expressed a stronger commitment than ever before to ensuring that Microsoft software is accessible. I would say that I left the meeting with more than a little frustration and just a bit of cautious optimism.
You asked what you could do to help. Here are a few ideas. First, if you are having problems making a screen reader work with a particular program, write a letter to the screen reader vendor and send me a copy. If you are trying to make a mainstream commercial package work with a screen reader and the problem appears to be with the commercial package, write a letter to the company which develops and markets the software expressing your frustration, and send me a copy. Share your knowledge with other blind people. Tell them what works for you and what doesn't. Finally, keep writing to me. I appreciate hearing from you, and, if I have any answers, I will share them with you.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Walker]
A Vinegar and Oil
by Barbara Walker
From the Editor: On Monday morning, June 19, 1989, I was talking by telephone to someone at the National Center for the Blind when I heard President Maurer make the announcement over the public address system of the sudden death of our friend and colleague Jim Walker, a leader in the Nebraska affiliate in his own right and husband of then affiliate President Barbara Walker. Like everyone who knew and loved the Walkers, I was shocked and deeply saddened at the news of Jim's death and profoundly distressed for Barbara and the Walkers' children Marsha and John. Then, two weeks later, perhaps the most moving moment of the 1989 convention was Barbara's gentle and loving tribute to Jim during the roll call of states in which she thanked the Federation family for our loving support of her and her children in their loss.
Throughout these nine years since that terrible time Barbara has learned to stand alone and has continued to provide steady strength to her children and to the members of her Federation family. In March of this year she attended the NFB of Missouri convention, where she made a speech filled with the hard wisdom she has acquired in recent years as well as the Federationism that has characterized her for as long as she and I have been friends. This is what she said:
Recently, during my morning time with God, I read an entry in The Upper Room, a United Methodist devotional, which has provided me with much food for thought. The meditation centered on the word "nigh." The author, Mary Dixon, was surprised to find that this adverb "comes from a primary root word that means 'to squeeze or throttle.'" She goes on to say, "I had thought of drawing nigh as a gentle way of being wooed." I admit to having thought along those lines as well. What she said next has not only changed my approach to God but also has brought into focus some aspects of my life in the Federation.
Here is some of what she said: "I thought about things that are squeezed together, such as forming clay into shapes. But then I wondered, how could something be throttled or shaken together? I do my share of cooking, and it occurred to me that the oil and vinegar that I use in salad dressing can only be mixed together by shaking. When vinegar is poured into oil, it immediately separates. In fact it really does not mix at all. But the shaking creates something new.
"We tend to think of drawing near to God as a gentle experience, but in fact drawing near to God can be a shaking experience. The spiritual life is about radical change and transformation. As our lives are intermingled with God's, we will be changed in ways we may not expect. Maturing in our faith always requires change."
As both a Christian and a Federationist, I have certainly found this to be true. Since our reason for being here centers on Federationism, I'll modify part of the last paragraph to reflect that fact:
. . . Drawing near to (joining) the Federation can be a shaking experience. The Federation life is about radical change and transformation. As our lives are intermingled with one another's, we will be changed in ways we may not expect. Maturing in our Federationism always requires change.
I want today to concentrate on some of the shake-up language we must deal with on a daily basisthe language of grieving and tragedyand some vinegar-and-oil responses to it. I will use as my backdrop an incident in my adult life which changed forever my perspective on these words and those who use them when referring to blindness. I am speaking of the death of my husband and our fellow Federationist, Jim Walker, on June 19, 1989.
From late 1973 through mid-March, 1981, I made my living working with blind adults in the Orientation and Adjustment Center of Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired in Lincoln, Nebraska. I began on contract as an aide and spent the last of my time there as Center Supervisor. The reason for my leaving was our decision that I would be home for the birth and raising of our anticipated family.
During much of that time and continuing to the present, I have been involved in the National Federation of the Blind. One of my current responsibilities is handling phone calls to our affiliate. Many times I have heard people say, when speaking about their blindness, words which bring to mind the grieving process.
First of all I hear words of shock and denial: "I'm not really blind," followed byif given half a chancea thorough description of how shocking it all is, how impossible.
Without being shaken up, the vinegar in me resists this denial of reality. After all, most of the time these statements are made by someone talking to me about the inability to see something visually, someone wondering how to continue as a functioning human being. I bristle at the contradiction. On the other hand, the oil in me wants to smooth everything over, to lead the person gently to identify with and accept the reality of his or her blindness. I may encourage, plead, cajole, or remonstrate, often to no avail. Under the influence of my own shake-up experience, though, I remember: I had already gone into shock before Jim left the house on his way to the hospital the day of his heart attack. When he kissed me good-bye, I prayed that this wouldn't be the last time I saw him alive. As I paced the floor, wondering what to do, I felt him slipping away from me. When the nurse called, urgently pressing me to come immediately to the hospital, I knew I couldn't ask Jim what he would suggest I do. I needed to decide alone. I also had to wake up neighbors to come and be with the children.
Since a sweat suit was the first clothing I came across when I began to dress, that's what I wore. I remember hearing later that it had been over a hundred degrees that day and feeling surprised that I hadn't felt hot. Several days later I noticed the sound of an air conditioner in the limousine at the cemetery, but I didn't feel any sensation of varying temperature then, either.
I think I probably talked more the morning of Jim's death than ever before or since. I told the chaplain, nurses, friends, policemen, minister, and doctors that I felt as if I were in a play enacting a role I didn't like but couldn't change. When I tried to eat, I found it ironic (and said so) that I couldn't swallow Life. (Someone had given me a bowl of Life cereal for breakfast.)
I came to learn that when I misplaced my keys, forgot phone numbers, or felt every muscle hurt with the effort of moving, it was temporary. That was a relief, but it didn't happen immediately. And no amount of talk, however well-meaning, could have changed my suffering at the time. Even now, when people talk about certain events, I feel distant from them. If someone says, "That happened in 1989," I have a sort of cobwebby feeling. I listen with interest to talk about events which I remember in much the same way I revisit recollections of childhood days.
So now, when my vinegar and oil have been shaken together, making a more palatable blend, instead of rushing in to proclaim the good news that blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance, I first listen to my caller. Later there may be an opportunity to offer my wisdom. But unless I am first willing to hear the person out, I probably won't be the one sought when that day dawns.
In these calls I also hear despair: "I've lost so much.
Using a cane makes me look blind. Things will never be the same. I just can't function without sight." Again, my vinegar makes me bristle, while the oil causes me to focus on the ways the person is or could be participating in life with a different outlook.
Again I reflect on my own history:
It took me a long time to acknowledge my changed status. The day Jim died I told God that, not only did I not want to be a widow or a single parent, I didn't even want to minister to such people. Earlier that year, when I commented to a friend that I didn't know how single parents managed, she, a single parent herself, said, "You do what you have to do."
Her words felt heavy as I stepped from the sterile bustle of the hospital intocould it really be?--a sunlit morning, complete with singing birds! I paused, trying to brush aside that Skeeter Davis song. You may know it. "Why do the birds go on singing? Why does the sun shine above? Don't they know it's the end of the world? . . ."
That night I couldn't sleep in our bed. I couldn't sleep anywhere, even with the pills the doctor had given me and insisted that I take. I just couldn't bear life this way, but I had to. They all said I had tofor the children, they said. But how? And why?
The silence swallowed the questions before anyone could answer them. Or was it only holding them and waiting politely for one of us to bite into one of them? I couldn't deal with that either. So a friend and I filled the silence with words helpless, inadequate soundsuntil, in heartsick exhaustion, I dozed my way into another day. About two weeks later I sat in the meeting of the Committee on Parental Concerns at the National Federation of the Blind Convention in Denver, surrounded by parents of children of all ages. One who stood to raise a question identified herself as a single parent. I cringed as she spoke, knowing that I had not yet audibly voiced my status in that way, and wondering if I ever would think or speak of myself as single. It was a long time before I did.
On Wednesday, July 22, 1992, just over three years after Jim died, I decided to take off my engagement and wedding rings and put them away with his. That morning, before Bible School, I did it. As I turned to leave the room, I realized that I needed to talk to the children first. I put the rings back on.
When we got home later that day, I talked to each child privately. Marsha, who had just turned eleven, said she didn't want me to do it. She said I wasn't single; I was still married because we had never divorced. John, who was eight-and-a-half, didn't want me to take them off either. He said he was very upset. The rings looked nice, and my husband had given them to me.
After those individual conversations we discussed the subject together in the living room. I told them of conversations that their dad and I had had in which we had told each other that, if one of us died, we wouldn't expect the other to remain single. I emphasized my love for Jim, his for me, and the fact that I had not expected ever to be in this position.
I then explained that I thought it would be wrong for me to go out with someone as a married person, but that, if someone were to ask me out, I didn't think it would be wrong to go as a single person. I added that the wedding ring is a symbol of marriage, a condition which would last, according to our vows, "as long as we both shall live."
They both again expressed their concerns but agreed that it was my decision to make. I thanked them for their opinions, invited them to talk about it further any time they wanted to, and said I had decided to take my rings off. I knew that day that I had finally completed my transition from wife to single woman and from partner to single parent.
You may wonder why I have said so much about this experience. I have done so because the difference between before the shaking together and after consists largely of time and effort, give and take, loss and redirection. The person who speaks to me now of an unwillingness to change internally and the struggle to incorporate external symbols finds not only a listening ear but also a comprehending heart. In my case it was the putting away of rings. In the case of many blind people it is the use of a cane or Braille. But for all of us the transition is far from instantaneous. It also doesn't happen in a vacuum. Family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintancesall participate in some way. And the path is seldom smooth or straight.
I also hear anger in my phone calls: "I hate being blind, and I hate living in a world like this!" Often angry actions also occur. I have taken part in many conversations in which people both yelled and destroyed things. My response to this reaction also varies. Although my vinegar identifies somewhat with both vocal and physical outbursts of anger, the oil in me recalls that I was raised to control, subdue, bury, or ignore anger. Because without the blended tartness of vinegar the expression of anger often frightens me, I tend to counsel people toward the choices of my childhoodoften pointing out how little anger accomplishes. But when I confront the fury and resolution of adult grief, I remember this:
Almost a year after Jim died, a wave of emotion surged through me one evening, straining every fiber of my being. My children were making ordinary kid noises, but it felt to me as if one more sound from either of them would blow me apart. I fled to the garage and, oblivious to close neighbors, screamed at the top of my lungs. Before long I was squatting unsteadily on the floor, the tension gone. I was limp with exhaustion. As I finished my evening duties with the children, my muscles ached as if from overexercise. I went to bed that night thinking that I had wasted much-needed energy on pointless anger.
I vividly recall another evening when anger flung me into action. The children and I had been at odds about something. With a rush of adrenalin, I burst into John's room emphatically insisting on silence. To give emphasis to my words, I thrust my hand forward, ultimately breaking a panel of his window. The sound of shattering glass brought me to a standstill. I didn't feel the pain in my bleeding wrist and fingers until the children's voices, tight with shock and concern, penetrated my pulsating head. I felt ashamed and humiliated as we cleaned up the mess and fastened a piece of cardboard over the opening.
On the first anniversary of Jim's death, I went on what seemed like a fast replay of the emotional labyrinth of the past year. The anger that day was brief and furious. I remember snatching off my rubber thongs and throwing them across the room. I was later glad that I hadn't done anything harmful. But again I felt the waste of energy and the seeming pointlessness of my outburst.
I did eventually feel and express anger toward Jim. The children were not at home. I yelled at Jim for dying, for not letting us have a final good-bye, for leaving me to take charge of things by myself. I was glad the children hadn't heard me but hoped Jim had. Afterward I lay for a long time on the bed feeling spent. Then I said how much I loved Jim, acknowledged that neither of us was in control of these events, and asked God for the strength to continue.
I felt lighter when I got up, as though a weight had been lifted from me, and my memories of Jim were more complete after that. I had at last spoken aloud the anger I sometimes felt, and it had not consumed me.
At that moment I began to understand the purpose of releasing such anger. In so doing, I felt the struggle to stand firm, to breathe, to reach for life and freedom. When I shake together my vinegar and oil, I'm no longer afraid of someone else's anger about blindness. I know that, with support and direction, the person can release and learn from it.
I certainly don't want to imply that all of the calls I receive center on shock, denial, anger, or despair. Nor do I want to leave you with the impression that I continually flash back to one event in my life as the source and explanation of my vinegar and oil's being blended. As the single parent of two teenagers, I have many opportunities to be shaken up. I also don't want to suggest that vinegar and oil have no value unless they are shaken together. There are certainly recipes, and life events, in which one or the other is appropriate, either alone or in combination with other ingredients.
My reason for using Jim's death, and not my own blindness, to express myself here is that, among other things, it is the deepest, most encompassing experience of loss in my adult life. And as a friend's minister put it: "You will not always be grieving, but you will always know that you have grieved."
I have always been blind; and frankly, when people have told me what a tragedy that is, I really don't understand emotionally what they are saying, and I don't believe that my having been born blind is a major determinant in that reaction. Instead I thank God, my family, my education, and the National Federation of the Blind for it. In my experience the point in life at which one becomes blind isn't nearly as significant in forming a perspective on blindness as is the overall environment. What is different since Jim's death is that I no longer have to reach for isolated small griefs in my own life in order to identify with those who do initially find blindness to be an unbearable loss.
I have fielded calls and entered into conversation with many, including some of you, who accept the presence of blindness in life as a characteristic which can be reduced to the level of a nuisance. In a similar way I have now come to terms in some ways with Jim's death.
As you may have read in the Braille Monitor, we put a Braille plaque on Jim's grave marker. The Braille is not, as some have conjectured, there so that I can read the tombstone. I can easily read the print tactilely. It is there because, when I thought about what I could do to have the marker reflect something important to Jim without putting words in his mouth, I decided that to have his name and dates in both Braille and print might be the best legacy a slab of granite and a plate of stainless steel could convey. I hope it will stand as a symbol of our changing what it means to be blind in a positive way.
My children and I are also donating copies of each of the Kernel Books to our church library in Jim's memory. As I said in the memo with the first installment: "These books embody the struggle, progress, and hope we experience."
Personally I have found a description of Jim's constant place in my heart. It is, of course, not really possible to put either Jim's life or his memory into words any more than it is possible to put a value on sight or a price on its absence. But in November of 1990, about seventeen months after Jim died, I ran across the lyrics to a song which I had written down from dictation in high school (rather sloppily and unwillingly, as I recall, thinking then that it was a bunch of romantic drivel). It comes closer, even with the old-fashioned language, than anything I have read or written, to expressing his presence in my life now. It's called "A Spirit Flower," and the author is noted only as Campbell-Tipton:
My heart was frozen, even as the earth That covered thee forever from my sight. All thoughts of happiness expired at birth.
Within me, naught but black and starless night. Down through the winter sunshine snowflakes came All shimmering, like to silver butterflies. They seemed to whisper softly thy dear name.
They melted with the teardrops from mine eyes. But suddenly, there bloomed, within that hour In my poor heart, so seeming dead, a flower Whose fragrance, in my life, shall ever be The tender, sacred memory of thee.
Acceptance of the loss or lack of sight does not compare in every way, of course, to acceptance of the death of a person. But some of the feelings are, I think, more similar than we may want to believe. And the potential for understanding one another is also, I think, less elusive than we may suspect. In both cases it's attitude that makes the difference. It's remembering how to use the ingredients of our personalities, including our vinegar and oil, in ways which will bring us toward greater tolerance and more complete acceptance of each other and those with whom we interact collectively.
We know as Federationists that it's respectable to be blind. But we didn't just wake up one morning knowing that. Most of us, blind and sighted alike, have learned it from Federationists who have shaken together their vinegar and oil and shared the blend with us over time. I am grateful to them.
I would like to say something about time, though, which I think applies to both the resolution of grief and the acceptance of blindness as a respectable characteristic. I think Earl A. Grollmann says it well in his book Living When A Loved One Has Died:
"Time heals," many people say. It may. It may help to dull the pain. But the medicine of time is not sure. Time is neutral. What helps is what you do with time. . . . You must help time to do its healing. Do something. Even routine things will help. It's hard to begin a new way of life.
But that is what vinegar-and-oil Federationists are all about. We are creating a new way of life for blind people, mostly through very routine things. And nothing that any of us does, however great or small, is irrelevant to our movement.
Mr. Jernigan had been living out our philosophy of blindness within the Federation for almost twenty-five years before the day in his office at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1974 when my understanding of it began to take root and my willingness to find a place in its work began to take shape. And now, more than twenty years later, still finding strength in his love, life, work, and words, I have come before you to share some of what striving to be a vinegar-and-oil Federationist has meant to me. I invite you to come with Mr. Jernigan, Mr. Maurer, Bruce Gardner, Gary Wunder, Barbara Cheadle, and tens of thousands of us whose earthly journey is not yet complete; and with Dr. tenBroek, Jim & Dave Walker, and countless others who continue to make their mark through us as we press on toward first-class citizenship for blind people everywhere. Together, I know, we can and will find the way.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: The picture is of a little girl in a soccer uniform, holding a soccer ball. CAPTION: Jessica Rasmussen ]
What Do You Mean, She
Can't Play Soccer?
by Carla McQuillan
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Volume 10, Number 1, of Skipping Stones, a children's multicultural magazine. Carla McQuillan is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, and Jessica and her family are members of the affiliate. Here is the story:
Jessica's family has always been involved in sports, particularly soccer. When Jessica was in the second grade and wanted to play soccer, her family was delighted. The coach and her team were glad to have her, but before she could play, she and her family had to determine how she would get around the field.
Jessica has been totally blind since birth. She uses a white cane to walk everywherebut that could be a hazard for the other players on the soccer field. She tried playing without assistance but didn't know which way to go and missed a lot of the game.
A teammate volunteered to hold Jessica's hand, giving verbal directions and a play-by-play description of the game. This worked beautifully. The coach was happythe entire team was more attentive to the game. The parents of the other children were happytheir children learned new skills for working as a team. And Jessica was happy because she was able to play soccer with her friends.
When Jessica entered the third grade, she signed up for soccer again. Many teammates were the same kids Jessica had played with the year before, but the coach was different. The new coach refused to allow a blind child to play on his team.
The policy of the soccer organization is that everyone is permitted to play. There are no tryouts at this age. But the new coach felt justified in saying, "Everybody plays, except you."
Jessica's mother contacted the National Federation of the Blind for help. It is an organization that works hard for all blind people to be treated just like everybody else. They asked the coach why Jessica couldn't play and were told, "Because she's blind."
"But she played last year, and everyone had fun. Why can't she play this year?"
The coach said, "Because she might get hurt."
"But lots of children play soccer, and many do get hurt. Will you prevent a clumsy, sighted child from playing, just because he or she might get hurt?"
The coach said, "No."
"So why can't Jessica play?"
"Because the team will blame her when they lose," said the coach.
"At this age the most important thing is learning how to work and play as a team. Surely you aren't saying any one child should be held responsible for the team's winning or losing. Will you exclude sighted children who don't play well?"
"Of course not," said the coach.
"Then why can't Jessica play?"
The coach became angry and said, "You're acting as if it is normal for a blind child to play sports!"
It should be normal for a blind child to play sports and for every child to be permitted to be a child, regardless of the physical challenges he or she experiences. All children should be permitted to play, to get hurt, to fail, and to succeed, without an adult asking them not to try.
Childhood is for exploring and falling down and getting back up again. This is true whether the child is blind or sighted, deaf or not, and whether he or she gets around on legs or wheels.
Jessica is in the third grade nowand she is playing soccer. And maybe the coach has learned a little more about teamwork in the process. Jessica and her mother spoke about their experience at the recent state convention. When she was asked how she plays soccer, she said. "I was left-forward, and left-forward has to be out in front, scoring goals."
Jessica and her family know that in the future there will be tryouts for positions on the team. They know at that time she might not be able to play. They also know there will be other things she will never be able to dolike driving a car. But they also know most things she wants to do in her life will be possible with a little creative adaptation.
in Creativity, Initiative, and Leadership
by E. Randy Cox
From the Editor: Randy Cox is the husband of the newly elected President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, Kristen Cox. He is himself an active and thoughtful member of the NFB. This is what he says about membership and leadership in the organization:
Some of you may recall a young man in his mid to late twenties instigating limbo contests and occasionally break dancing at the dances held during the last two national NFB conventions.
That was me. Although break dancing (breakin' as it is referred to by its practitioners) used to consume several hours of each day when I was in junior high and high school, nowadays I find courage and agility to attempt such antics only when I'm with friends at NFB conventions.
This is not to say that I have left the lessons of my hip-hop days behind me. In fact, as odd as it may sound, break dancing has some lessons for all Federationists.
For those lacking in hip-hop culture, I will explain some of the basics of breakin'. The most difficult aspect of breakin' is not learning how to balance and spin around on one's back, hands, or head. It isn't even learning how to move one's arms and torso in such a way as to look as though a wave of electricity has just passed through one's body. The hardest part of breakin' is being uniquedoing something that hasn't been done before. In fact, the highest compliment one breaker can pay to another is to say that he or she was "fresh," meaning that he or she had done something new.
When learning how to break, you first observe and mimic the movements of others. After you obtain some proficiency in the basic movements, it is time to begin creating some trademark variations. Failure to be creative at this point means relegation to the position of passive onlooker, rather than inclusion as a member of a crew.
To understand breakin', you must understand crewsloosely organized groups of break dancers. Each crew has its own name and usually has eight to ten members. One crew often challenges another to a contest at dance clubs.
The contests, or battles, go like this. A member of the first crew goes to the center of the dance floor and performs a movement, say a back spin. This is followed by a member of the opposite crew also doing a back spin but with a variation of some kind. The cheers and yells of the onlookers determine whose effort is best. Another member of the first crew then comes out and performs another movement. It is now the second crew's turn to send forward the member who can best perform that movement.
When I was breakin' regularly, my specials were the back spin, the hand spin, "combat uprockin'," and "pop-lockin'." When someone from an opposing crew did any of these movements, I knew it was time for me to break. However, if an opposing crew member did anything other than my specialties, I remained an observer.
Interesting, you say, but what does all this have to do with creativity, initiative, and leadership? Plenty. First, let's compare a break dancing crew to a chapter, division, or affiliate of the NFB. In a crew each member has particular strengths and is needed to play his or her part. Chapters, divisions, or affiliates are no different.
Some Federationists are good at using various types of technology. Others are wonderful at interacting with legislators. Some are best at mentoring those who are new to the Federation. Still others find their niche in communicating with and organizing members' ideas and talents to create the cohesive whole. In both crews and Federation groups each person's contribution is necessary.
A corollary to this point is that to be on a breakin' crew means to be consistently practicing and creating new movesin other words, always to be stretching and growing. As each breaker improves, the crew improves in its ability to out-break other crews. Similarly, one cannot be a Federationist and be passive. Rather one must constantly seek ways to add value to one's self, the local organization, and the larger community.
I should add that no one had to tell any crew member what move he or she should work on next. If I observed that we were constantly being beaten by a certain movement, say a hand spin, and if I felt I could excel at that movement, I would begin working on it. Others saw different areas of weakness in which they felt they could excel and began working on those. The NFB is no different.
Implicit throughout this description of breakin' is the underlying premise and lesson that diversity in a group is to be encouraged and valued. When my fellow crew member could perform a movement far better than I could, I didn't feel threatened or feel the need to try to encourage him or her to do it my way. Rather we all applauded such differences as the lifeblood of our crew. We all felt our crew was stronger as a result of such differences. Not only did they give us new movements to add to our collection, but they encouraged the belief in all of us that there were always other variations, always a way to improve. This belief is the very foundation of creativity, and creativity and change are the lifeblood of a healthy, growing organization.
Thus far I've discussed some of the similarities between breakin' crews and organizations of the NFB. One difference worth noting is that crews are generally self-organizing and have no official leader. However, the NFB does have elected officers and leaders. I now want to mention briefly how the breakin' metaphor applies to leaders in the Federation.
To lead a group of motivated and diversely talented volunteers requires a leader truly to value differences. In addition, it requires the leader to have the maturity and the ability to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and different self-interests so that each member feels valued and is supported in his or her efforts to contribute to the organization. The leader must also be willing to allow the group's activities to reflect the complexion of the group as a whole, rather than his or her own personal conception.
In short, Federation leaders must learn to work collegially with everyone in the organization. This is the challenge and the strength of the National Federation of the Blind.
It is helpful to remember that, regardless of the movement each breaker was practicing on a particular afternoon, we were all there because of our love of dancing. Similarly, regardless of the individual roles we play in the Federation, we are all together for a common reason: to change what it means to be blind.
The recipes this month come from members of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), the NFB's student division. As usual, the division will conduct a lively convention seminar of interest to all students on the evening of registration day, this year Sunday, July 5. If you are a student or are interested in student issues, you don't want to miss this event.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Eddie Bell]
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
by Eddie Bell
Eddie Bell currently serves as Vice President of the California Association of Blind Students and as NABS Second Vice President. He was a 1995 NFB scholarship winner and is a 1998 tenBroek Fellow.
6 to 8 potatoes
3 cloves of garlic=20
2 tablespoons butter
½ to ¾ cup milk, heated
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Peel, dice, and boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Dice the cloves and saute with the butter in a separate saucepan. Mash the potatoes using a hand masher or electric mixer and add milk and garlic butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Green Bean Casserole
by Becky Boyer
Becky Boyer is President of the Missouri Association of Blind Students; Secretary of the Springfield, Missouri, Chapter; and a student at Ozark Technical Community College, where she is double majoring in business and accounting. She has three children.
2 cans of any style green beans
1 8-ounce jar of Cheez Whiz
1 package dried Campbell's onion soup mix
1 can of Durkee's French fried onions
Method: Mix together the green beans, Cheez Whiz, and dried onion soup. Heat covered on medium for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Place mixture in a casserole dish. Sprinkle the can of French fried onions over the top. Heat in oven at 350 for five minutes. Serve hot.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Deb DeLorey]
by Deb DeLorey
Debbie DeLorey was a 1996 NFB scholarship winner. That experience was her first introduction to the National Federation of the Blind. She is President of the Massachusetts student division and a member of the affiliate's Board of Directors. She serves as NABS Treasurer and a member of the Board of the NFB Human Services Division. Though you wouldn't know it from her name, she comes by her familiarity with Italian cuisine naturally.
1 pint Ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon or more granulated sugar, to taste
1 package mini chocolate chips
8 cannoli shells
Method: Mix together ricotta cheese, sugar, and chocolate chips. Squeeze or pipe with pastry bag into cannoli shell. Eat and enjoy!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Josh Boudreaux]
Chicken and Spaghetti
by Josh Boudreaux
Josh Boudreaux is a senior computer information system major at Louisiana Tech. He has been a member of the NFB for eight years. He has attended both the student program and the adult training program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Josh is president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students and the North Central chapter in Ruston.
½ bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 8-1/2 to 10-1/2-ounce package spaghetti noodles
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 cups chopped chicken breasts (may chop before or after cooking)
Method: Thoroughly cook chicken breasts (simmer in seasoned water about 45 minutes). Then simmer bell pepper, onion, and celery in chicken broth until vegetables are tender. Boil noodles according to package directions until tender, and drain. Mix together vegetables, broth, salt, pepper, cheese, soup, and boiled chicken and toss with hot noodles. Stir well. Serves 6 to 8.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Shawn Mayo]
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
by Shawn Mayo
Shawn Mayo is First Vice President of the National Association of Blind Students and a Board Member of the Springfield chapter of the NFB of Missouri. Shawn was a national scholarship winner in 1994 and a tenBroek fellow in 1996. She has served as President of the Illinois and Missouri Associations of Blind Students. She graduated from the adult training program at BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis. She is currently completing her master's degree in clinical psychology and plans to pursue study at the doctoral level.
1-1/2 cups crushed chocolate sandwich cookies
¼ cup margarine, melted
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 14-ounce can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon flour
Method: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine cookie crumbs and margarine. Pat firmly into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add condensed milk and beat until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Toss ½ cup chocolate chips with flour to coat; stir into cheese mixture. Pour into pan. Sprinkle remaining chips on top. Bake one hour. Cool at room temperature. Chill. Garnish top, if desired. You may substitute graham cracker crumb crust for cookie crust.
Attention all artists: At this year's convention in Dallas, Thomas Barretta is organizing the 1998 National Federation of the Blind Artists' Exhibit. It will take place on Sunday, July 5, and Monday, July 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Setup for the art exhibit will be Saturday, July 4, from noon to 4:30 p.m. If you are interested in displaying your art, please contact Tom immediately at (860) 582-6703.
Braille Tutoring Project:
Gintautis Burba writes to say that, under the auspices of the Greater Brockton Chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts, a Braille tutoring project has recently begun. Braille is being taught weekly or bi-weekly at the meeting hall of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to noon. For more information about learning Braille or about this project, contact James Daley, project coordinator, 416 Ashland Street, Brockton, Massachusetts 02402, (508) 559-6532.
Making Money at Home:
Bruce Brooks has asked us to carry the following announcement:
Make money in your spare time. A list of over 100 ways to make money at home is available for $2. No experience needed to use this information. Send $2 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to Work at Home, 135 Sherri Lane, Boyce, Louisiana 71419.
Music Instruction Tapes Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
A new guitar course just for the visually impaired has been
released. The all-cassette course (nothing to see or read) was
created by Bill Brown, who has been teaching guitar for over
twenty-five years. The cost is $34.95, which includes shipping
and access to a tuning hot-line in case the student needs help
tuning his or her guitar. After completing the course, the
student will know the basic chords in first position, the most
commonly used rhythm patterns for these chords, several songs
using these chords and patterns, the names of the notes on the
strings, and several songs using these notes. The student will
also be able to access the entire Guitar-by-Ear library of guitar
For all of you piano players, Valdosta Music and Publishing has also released eight piano instructional cassettes for the blind or visually impaired. These tapes use no written music, so they are perfect for any pianist who cannot read music. The only pre-requisite is that the student know the names of the notes on the piano and the location of middle C on the piano. Current titles are "The Old Rugged Cross," the theme from "Love Story," "F=81r Elise," "Moonlight Sonata," blues and boogie styles, "Georgia on My Mind," "Anniversary Waltz," and "Silent Night." Each title is $10 plus $3.50 shipping and handling per order. For more information or to place an order contact Bill Brown, 704 Habersham Road, Valdosta, Georgia 31602, (912) 249-0628.
During its annual election on Saturday, April 4, 1998, the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the NFB of Illinois chose the following officers: Bill Isaacs, President; Dan Boudreau, Vice President; Marjorie Stouffer, Secretary; Ruth Isaacs, Treasurer; and Marcia Beck, Alice Jordan, and David Richmond, Board Members.
1998 Baseball Computer Game Now Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Version 12 of the award-winning World Series Baseball Game
and Information System is now available. The game is being played
in forty-eight states on IBM-compatible computers with screen
readers and synthesizers. Version 12 comes with 139 teams,
including the 1997 pennant winners and all-star teams. There are
two baseball games, nine information programs, and a 1,000-
question quiz. There are many improvements, most suggested by
users of the game. Baseball action during the game is described
in the words of many of the famous radio and TV announcers. The
cost is still only $15 to new users, $5 for updates. Send your
check to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Drive, Akron, Ohio
44319 or call (330) 644-2421, e-mail: <[email protected]>
Pen Pals Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Reola T. Jarrett of 825 East Belmont Avenue, Flint, Michigan 48503, requests pen pals. Reola is deaf-blind, sixty years old, and interested in cooking. Although she is presently in Flint, she hopes one day to be able to take up farming. She prefers letters in Braille, please.
The Tennessee Blind Merchants Division recently elected the following officers: Kim Williams, President; Susan Barnes, First Vice President; Norman Bolton, Second Vice President; Chris Moore, Secretary; and Rick Williams, Treasurer.
Old Braille Watches Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
If you have an old Braille watch, intact but no longer running, would you consider giving it to a blind child? Send watches to Lydia Schuck, 1981 Eden Road, Mason, Michigan 48854-9255. Lydia, the mother of a blind child, will mail the watches to blind children.
New Products from APH:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Braille Connection is a Braille reading and writing program for former print users designed to teach former adult and teenage print readers how to read Braille and how to adapt it to their lives. The result of a joint collaboration of APH and the National Federation of the Blind, this instructional program is designed to be as flexible as possible to meet the needs of each individual student. It moves quickly through tactile discrimination to Grade I Braille and then to Grade II. The program is designed to be used under the supervision of a qualified Braille teacher. The materials include instructional and mentoring guides. Call APH for a complete description. The Braille Connection Kit costs $129 (print) and $149 (Braille). This includes the Teacher's Edition, $40 (print), $60 (Braille);
Workbook, $14.50 (print) $25 (Braille); Student Practice Book, $16 (print) $18 (Braille); and Mentoring Manual, $7.50 (print and Braille).
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) sells the following new products: Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas. This new two-volume set of thermoform graphics aids blind and visually impaired students twelve and up in studying the human body. The Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas is taken from a larger set of anatomy tactile graphics designed at the State University of New York at Buffalo for college-level study. With the permission of the authors, Drs. Judith Tamburlin and Charles Severin, many of the more technical drawings were omitted and the text simplified to make this set accessible to a wider school audience. Volume I includes illustrations of the skeletal, muscular, nervous, and endocrine systems. Volume II illustrates the structures of the cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. Each tactile diagram has Braille and print labels accompanied by a brief Braille description found on the page facing the illustration. A print version of each Brailled text is contained in the included instructional text. The cost is $105.
Money Handling and Budgeting is a resource guide with an adapted practice checkbook that helps adolescents or young adults learn money-handling skills. It is a collection of techniques and resources for teaching blind or visually impaired people (eleven and up) the skills to manage money in daily life. This guide (available in large print and Braille) is based on the premise that daily living skills must be learned in natural settings and with real-life applications whenever possible. The cost is $28 for either print or Braille.
Pairs of tough dark royal blue or clear frosted plastic covers, measuring 11-3/4 by 11 inches, are available to bind 11-½ by 11 inch Braille pages. They are 19-hole punched and may be bound with a 19-ring comb binding or twin loop binding. They will bind tractor-feed, manila, or Brailon 19-hole papers available from APH.
There is no minimum quantity requirement, and each set costs $1.40. For more information or to place an order, contact APH, Inc., 1839 Frankfort Avenue, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085, (800) 223-1839, (502) 895-2405, or e-mail:
<[email protected]>; Web site: <http://www.aph.org>
New Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Give the gift that says something. Speak to Me premieres in its Spring/Summer '98 catalog a generous selection of Christmas gifts and decorations for the early Christmas shopper. Items include a new 50-minute personal note recorder, a voice-recognition cordless phone, a talking heart-rate monitor, and a new caller I.D. box that works with call-waiting. In addition, we have many new children's items from cuddly teddy bears to educational toys (pre-school and up). We also have talking key chains, spatulas, magnets, theme mugs; unique music boxes and musical watches; etc. To request your free catalog, contact Speak to Me, 17913 108th Avenue, S.E. Suite 155, Renton, Washington 98055, (800) 248-9965, fax (206) 227-4892, e-mail:
Talking Book Marker:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Ever fall asleep while listening to a cassette book and have a hard time finding your place the next morning? The Talking Book Marker plugs into a jack near the headphone jack of your cassette player. You hold the switch down while listening to the tape. When your grip relaxes as you fall asleep, the switch releases and the Talking Book stops, marking your place. The cost is $27.95, including shipping. For more information or to place an order, contact Jim Daily, 835 Emma Street, Butte, Montana 59701, (406) 782-2202.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Angela Curvin]
Allen Harris, President of the NFB of Michigan, sadly reports the death of Angela Curvin on April 6, 1998. Angela was fifty-one at the time of her death from cardiac arrest. She had been an active member of the NFB for over twenty-five years. She participated in several Washington Seminars and held positions on the Board of Directors of both the Detroit chapter and the state affiliate. She will truly be missed.
Low-Vision Adaptive Products Store:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Elliot Schreier, former director of the American Foundation for the Blind's National Technology Center, opened a new store called Magnify It, the Low Vision Center, in White Plains, New York. The store is open to the public and carries magnifiers, daily living aids, closed-circuit televisions, and personal computer systems. For more information contact Magnify It, (914)
289-0909, or e-mail: <[email protected]>
Kenneth Jones, Treasurer of the NFB of Kentucky, has asked us to carry the following:
I have found the perfect business in the telecommunications industry in which I am my own boss and can work in my spare time. I am currently a full-time teacher and wrestling coach, so flexibility is essential. The business has no inventory, no deliveries, and no collections. But, most important, you can run it from your home. You can earn immediate and residual income. For information about this opportunity call me at (502) 456-4806, or toll-free (888) 901-5639.
Business Opportunities in Piano-Tuning Technology:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
If you would like to make a living doing a variety of jobs, working in a variety of places, meeting all kinds of interesting people, and being well paid for it, piano-tuning technology is the career for you. The Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology has been training visually impaired people for nearly fifty years. The school was established in 1949 and has prepared hundreds for a career with financial independence and personal fulfillment.
In this training program you will work in an actual piano store and repair-shop environment. You will learn alongside other students, sighted and blind, developing respect for each other's abilities.
Those interested are invited to attend the newly organized NFB Piano Tuners Division at the National Convention at 8:00 p.m., Monday, July 6, 1998. Check your Convention agenda for location. Current catalogs in Braille and on disk will be available shortly.
To learn more about this business opportunity, contact Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology, 2510 E. Evergreen Boulevard, Vancouver, Washington 98661, (360) 696-1985, fax, (360) 693-6891, e-mail: <[email protected]>; Web site <http://www.pacifier.com/~dsmitch>.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.