Vol. 41, No. 7 July 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
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web HomePage Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the President, address changes,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor
should be sent to the National Office.
Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per
year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the cost. Donations
should be made payable to the National Federation of
the Blind and sent to the address above.
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES.
Copyright 1998, The National Federation of the Blind
Table of Contents
President Maurer Honored
by Barbara Pierce
On Ethics and Maxi-Aids
by Kenneth Jernigan
JOB Employer's Bulletin 1998
Meet Dwight Baum: NEWSLINE® Fan and Loyal
Supporter of the NFB
by Betsy Zabrowski, Psy.D.
Big Enough to Ride the Bike
by Doug Elliott
Audio Description: Accessory or Accessibility?
by Peggy Chong
Teacher Overcomes Obstacles
by Lisa Beilfuss
Meeting the Challenge
by Mary Willows
The Runaway Author
by Barbara Pierce
Love Is Blind
by Liz Corcoran
Concerning Books, Lawn Mowers, and Bus Rides
by Marc Maurer
A Time to Heal
by Greg D. Trapp
Blind Woman Wins, But Wins What?
by Linda L. Rhinehart
Jennings Randolph Dies at 96
by James Gashel
Copyright 1998, The National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO DESCRIPTION: President Maurer stands outdoors in academic gown, hood, and mortar board with tassle. He is holding his cane in one hand and a bound Braille copy of his commencement speech in the other.
CAPTION: President Marc Maurer on the campus of Menlo College.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Left to right Tony Coelho, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities;
James Waddell, President of Menlo College; Jim Willows, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California; Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and President and Mrs. Maurer]
President Maurer Honored
by Barbara Pierce
In the late morning of May 9, 1998, the friends and families of the graduating seniors at Menlo College in Atherton, California, began gathering on the lush campus preparatory to the 2:00 p.m. commencement ceremony. The scene was similar to thousands that took place across the country throughout the late spring.
But for members of the National Federation of the Blind the Menlo College ceremony was different. For one thing Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and Tony Coelho, one of the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Chairman of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, were the most prominent of many dignitaries present from the disability field. Also present was Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, who has written extensively about the blindness field and has drawn on President Maurer's writings.
Menlo College is a small four-year institution founded about seventy years ago in the Silicon Valley. Its emphasis is on business, and it maintains a special relationship with nearby Stanford University in Palo Alto. A member of the Packard family, of Hewlett Packard fame, sits on the college's board of trustees, and the HP Foundation has actively supported a number of college projects through the years.
The commencement speaker at the 1998 Menlo College graduation ceremony was Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind and recipient that day of the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Those familiar with President Maurer's writings would have recognized many of the ideas in the speech, for it was vintage Federation philosophy, offered to the graduates as a way for them to set and achieve their own goals in the years to come.
At 11:00 a.m. the college president, Dr. James Waddell, hosted a brunch honoring the Maurers. Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, shared master-of-ceremonies duties with Dr. Waddell at the event and facilitated group discussion over the meal. A number of NFB of California leaders were invited to this celebration and helped educate college dignitaries about blindness and the work of the Federation.
It was clear from the comments of Menlo College officials and from the text of the citation presented to President Maurer that the members of the Honorary Degree Committee had done their homework. They clearly recognized the importance of the NFB's work and Marc Maurer's contribution to it. They had also read the Kernel Books. Here is the text of the citation presented to President Maurer:
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa
May 9, 1998
Marc Maurer, distinguished graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Indiana School of Law; internationally respected President of the National Federation of the Blind; erudite legal counsel to nonprofit organizations; insightful author and articulate speaker; master of informational technology and chain saw expert; recipient of the United States Presidential Medal for Leadership, the Heritage Award from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Leadership Award from the Black Caucus of Maryland; committed family member and community servant: Menlo College lauds you for your extraordinary educational, legal, and service accomplishments to make our world a place of independence, respect, and dignity.
Menlo College, therefore, with great esteem, calls you into the fellowship of its scholars, students, and alumni by admitting you to the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
We can all feel pride at the honor bestowed by Menlo College upon the President of the National Federation of the Blind and pride, too, in knowing that the NFB's message of hope and opportunity in the future for all people, the blind included, was articulated on that day of celebration with clarity and wit.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stylized Maxi-Aids title]
On Ethics and Maxi-Aids
by Kenneth Jernigan
Some time this spring (I think it was around May 1) an event occurred that deserves comment and careful consideration. Elliot Zaretsky of Maxi-Aids called President Maurer to ask that the Federation sell him Braillers. President Maurer refused to do so, and Zaretsky expressed surprise, which in itself is surprising.
Since we believe that Zaretsky and Maxi-Aids do not behave ethically and are a destructive influence in the blindness field, the National Federation of the Blind will have no dealings with them at all. Even if their prices are lower than their competition, we will not buy products from them. We will not sell them any products, and we will not permit them to exhibit at our conventions. This is a matter of principle.
For background on the Maxi-Aids story see the December, 1994, and March, 1998, issues of the Braille Monitor. Late last year in the Federal District Court of Eastern New York a jury decided that Maxi-Aids was guilty of unethical business practices and assessed penalties of $2,400,000.06 against them. The six cents has special significance, not because of the amount, but because of the message the jury wanted to send (see the March, 1998, Braille Monitor). In the trial the Zaretsky family (Elliot and his children, the owners of Maxi-Aids) evaded, dodged, and weaved. They showed remarkable lack of memory. Among other things Elliot Zaretsky said under oath that he had never given the Department of Veterans Affairs a document concerning ownership of shares in Maxi-Aids by his daughter. Yet that very document was obtained from the VA under the Freedom of Information Act.
Since the trial, which came about because of unfair competition by Maxi-Aids, both sides have presented motions to the court. Maxi-Aids has asked that the jury verdict be reversed, that the monetary penalties be reduced from $2,400,000.06 to $14,132, and (assuming those motions are denied) that a new trial be granted. Independent Living Aids has asked that the Maxi-Aids motions be denied, that it be given more than $400,000 in legal fees, and that all of the Maxi-Aids catalogs and the plates to print them be confiscated and destroyed. Oral arguments on these motions are scheduled for June 19. In the circumstances it seems most unlikely that Maxi-Aids will prevail on any of its motions.
In any case the National Federation of the Blind feels that it must stand and be counted. Neither directly nor indirectly should we support those in this field that we believe behave unethically. In the long run this is a matter not only of principle but also of practical common sense, for if Maxi-Aids can drive its competition out of business, then it can (and we believe will) raise its prices to unconscionable levels and take advantage of blind consumers. We want no part in supporting such practices.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Accompanying this article are several graphics representing businessmen and women.]
JOB Employer's Bulletin 1998
From the Editor: Each year the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Program produces useful publications to educate employers about the abilities of blind workers. These are available upon request from JOB Director Lorraine Rovig at the National Center for the Blind. The materials are packed with useful information and a positive philosophy about blindness. The Cleveland office of the Ohio Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired recently circulated a number of copies of this publication to area employers, who expressed their interest and gratitude. In case Braille Monitor readers are not familiar with this resource, we are reprinting the most recent of these publications. Here it is:
The Blind Secretary-Receptionist:
An Office Guide to Non-Visual Techniques
Are you looking for one of these?
Secretary/receptionist: A motivated self-starter with a pleasant phone voice; demonstrated success in working on multiple tasks to meet deadlines. Duties include general secretarial tasks (sort mail, file, dictation), extensive travel arranging, and scheduling. Must type 50+ wpm, present a good appearance, and deal well with a sometimes difficult public. Must be proficient in ____ [name your computer system]. Occasional evenings/weekends.
Would you hire a blind secretary for this job? How about a blind receptionist or office clerk?
Businessman: Wait a minute. That doesn't make sense! There's no way a blind person can do this job. This is one of those foolish `everybody's-equal' things that goes overboard. I know this job, and I couldn't do it if I were blind!
Of course you couldn't. You haven't had training in blind techniques. However, an executive secretary we know, a woman who is totally blind, has worked very successfully for several different companies in Colorado, Maryland, and Missouri. She is consistently rated "outstanding" on her performance reviews. Currently she is working as a medical transcriptionist for a firm which has a standing offer to her to locate more blind persons with her skills. Here is what she and others like her told JOB about a few of their non-visual techniques:
Mrs. H: I call our travel agency to order tickets and set up the car rentals. When the tickets arrive by messenger, if there are only one or two, I ask the messenger to read the important data to me while I compare it to my Braille notes. If there are multiple tickets or complications, I go over the data with my reader.
For UPS, Postal Express, flower shop deliveries, or such, I'll usually ask the messenger to identify the recipient of the package before I'll sign any receipt form. Then I use common sense and company policy to decide how fast to deliver the package to the correct staff member.
Typing Letters, Memos, and Reports
Mrs. H: It varies. I can work from direct dictation using my portable notetaker keyboard or type directly on my office computer or take down Braille shorthand ormy favorite method work from dictaphone tapes. With dictaphone tapes, my boss's thinking time and revisions won't slow me down.
I have no problem filling out pre-printed forms after I make myself a Braille template, but it's more efficient to fill out forms on the computer.
Mrs. H: I'm a good typist, so I usually know when I've hit a wrong key. Spellcheck helps, of course. Then, with my voice-output device attached to my office computer, I can listen to it read back to me what I have typed: either word-by-word or letter-by-letter. If I type "The" it can say, "Capital-T-h-e-space" and so on. Beyond that, my office has always required that a second person proofread whatever the first person types before the material leaves our office. In every office I've worked in, my boss proofreads my copy before signing it. I expect my bosses to be just as hard on my errors as they would with any other staff person; and, I am glad to say, I miss very few errors.
Miss L: I always preserve the print marking systems used in my office because others in the office are print-dependent. For myself I keep looking for techniques that work to maximize my liberation from print.
Remember the "80-20 Rule"? It generally works out that only 20 percent of something is the essential part that is used most often. For example, in most offices only 20 percent of your files at any one time are in constant use. Those are the files I, as the secretary, will label. If my boss asks me to retrieve the letter she received from John Smith on May 8 last year, I can retrieve it in less than four minutes. If the file is from before I began work here, I will ask the other secretary to retrieve it. We often help each other out.
For the files I keep in my office, I Braille the folder's name on 3-by-5 cards, then staple the card upside down on the back of the folder label area (or consistently on some other chosen spot on the back of the folder).
Mrs. G: The card is upside down because fingers will easily curl over the top of the file to the back of the label. It just doesn't work to staple the Braille label to the front.
Mr. B: I put Braille labels on the front tab of file folders, but only 2 or 3 words will fit. Occasionally I Braille words on a product called Dymotape, which is a clear, plastic, half-inch-wide tape with a sticky back. Print labels can be read underneath the plastic Braille dots. The tape sticks on metal cabinets, paper folders, and plastic report covers. I place Braille Dymotape labels on the vertical file drawers too.
I like to open a file in my computer which lists the names and contents of each folder. For "hot" files that I use a lot, I may place a sheet inside at the front of each folder which lists the folder's contents in Braille.
[Sidebar] It is our belief that equal opportunity is the opportunity to succeed or to fail based on one's own efforts, not society's preconceptions. This applies to the hiring process and the job itself. Equality is supported by the flexibility of the employer and of the employee to use reasonable accommodation for some of the tasks that would otherwise be done with a sighted technique. [End sidebar]
Businesswoman: How will he know what the print says so that he can Braille the label correctly?
When Is a Sighted Reader Needed?
Mrs. H: Good question! Sometimes there is no cheap substitute or any substitute for sight. A blind friend of mine calls mystery print items "UPOs" for Unidentified Print Objects. We will need some print read to us by what we call a reader before we can apply these blind techniques, but less often than the sighted would think.
Mrs. G: What a lot of employers don't grasp when blind persons apply for office jobs is that this is not always and necessarily a monstrous, time-consuming, and expensive proposition. Where there is a will, there is often a way. My alternative techniques for a variety of office jobs have not led to more expense for my company than is received back in value from my work.
Dr. A: (This blind university professor uses the same practical method for dealing with "UPOs" that is used by many blind secretaries.) Usually our first task is sorting what needs to be attended to quickly, what can wait, and what is junk and is going to be thrown out summarily. Anything I'm not going to attend to immediately or anything that I think I'll need to find myself, I try to label in Braille.
Miss L: I Braille and type locator numbers on 3-by-5 cards. My reader takes them, a tape recorder, and a stack of print documents (letters, airplane tickets, incoming mail, staff memos, reports) to the conference room each morning. As she reads into the tape recorder the information I need off each document, she will affix one card to each item and use that number as the key to each of her descriptions.
Mrs. G: It's different when I start a new job than it is later when I have it set up. At first I will likely use some additional time outside of regular office hours, in the evenings or on weekends, to label files I inherit and to work out my systems. Once I have my plan in place, I batch my reading tasks. It's best to schedule my reader at the same time each day. The goal is to function more independently but also to make efficient use of my time. This means that occasionally I will need more reading help, and sometimes I will need less.
If the boss wants a file that I cannot find, I have her permission to request help from a sighted co-worker. This same co-worker will read any mystery print messages that I find dropped on my desk after lunch or breaks. This takes very little of her time. There is no resentment because I often take messages for her and assist her in other ways.
Who Hires the Reader? For How Many Hours of Work?
JOB: This is not set in stone (or in law). In many cases a sighted clerk in the office is assigned a set number of hours for the provision of reading assistance to the blind secretary. In others a part-time worker is hired by the employer for minimum wage and no benefits. In other cases the blind office worker will pay for her own readers. Generally, the higher on the pay scale a blind person works, the more reader time will be supplied by the company. Blind adults who use readers know how to train someone to do this job. In general it is best to give the blind person veto power over who the reader will be, because not everyone who can read will do a good, efficient job reading aloud.
The Blind Receptionist, A True Story
Last summer, as part of her training while learning to handle her blindness at a special summer camp, a totally blind high school girl was placed as a part-time (unpaid, work-study) receptionist on the front desk for a large retirement center and nursing home. As a reader read the print, she Brailled the complete list of telephone extensions the night before she started her job. She memorized the names and extension numbers of nearly all twenty staff persons as she Brailled them. In her first four-hour shift, she learned to run the five-line switchboard plus the fax machine.
By Brailling incoming messages, she always read the right message to the correct person. She kept track of who was in or out with Braille notes. She used a typewriter to type print copies of messages when necessary and delivered them to the correct staff mailboxes thanks to her Braille nameplates. When she heard the fax machine delivering a message, she'd retrieve it. She'd ask the first staff person passing the switchboard to read whose name was on the fax; then she'd deliver the fax.
Her excellent telephone manners, promptness, and efficiency in getting messages to staff and residents (through paging, voice mail, or paper messages) were joined to her blind techniques, her common sense, and her positive, pleasant personality. She did so well that when one of the home's sighted receptionists quit, the home hired her at the standard salary through the rest of the summer.
What Else Can Your Blind Secretary Do?
Greet important visitors
Straighten and clean reception areas
Maintain the office calendar
Make coffee and serve refreshments to guests
Set up a booth at a trade fair and hawk the products
Write copy for a newsletter, and include pictures or
Teach office routines to new staff
Give directions to meeting rooms and offices
Use a computer to create good layout for a newsletter
Follow-up on supply orders with sellers
Set up conference rooms for meetings
Handle petty cash
Use high-speed copiers
Use the fax machine
Be enthusiastic about working
Be reliable, dependable, and prompt
Much, much more
What Can Your Blind Secretary Not Do?
Drive, but non-drivers can hire drivers or use public transportation.
Transcribe handwritten material, but typed or printed material can be scanned into a computer which is accessible to your secretary.
All of us have areas of greater strength and of weakness. In addition to this variation, some blind persons have no sight, while others have enough sight that they will use it for some office tasks. Do all of your sighted secretaries do all of your tasks equally well?
The Bottom Line
Why is hiring a competent blind secretary a logical way to do business? The best secretaries are able to think. Office skills are only part of what's needed. Beyond that, you surely hope to find common sense, a talent for efficiency, some physical endurance, a pleasant personality, a sense of humor, flexibility, and ingenuity. These abilities are independent of sight or lack of sight. If the best candidate to apply for your position is blind while the other less-well-trained candidates are sighted, you will still have the best deal for your money, even after you include the cost of a reader and any other adaptations. (Other adaptations may include a voice-output device to make the office computer system accessible.) Any boss who has hired secretaries knows a good one is worth a degree of flexibility on the part of the business. We encourage you to apply that flexibility to the consideration of blind candidates.
For specific questions related to work and blindness, call JOB at 800-638-7518 (12:30 to 5:00 p.m., ET). Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) is a joint project of the National Federation of the Blind and the U.S. Department of Labor.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dwight Baum]
Meet Dwight Baum:
NEWSLINE® Fan and Loyal Supporter of the NFB
by Betsy Zaborowski, Psy.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, Director of Special Programs for the National Federation of the Blind, first met Dwight Baum when she was working to bring NEWSLINE® to the greater Los Angeles area. She thought other Federationists would enjoy getting to know this energetic, talented member of the Federation family. The following is what she says:
Who would have thought that a young man from the Bronx, a recent graduate of Cornell University, would serve his country during World War II as the chief armament officer for the British Royal Air Force, in charge of much of the armament supplied to Britain during the Lend Lease program of the Roosevelt era. This contribution to the war effort later earned Dwight Baum the honor of being named a member of the Order of the British Empire, a rare honor for someone not a British citizen. This was only the first of many opportunities he has seized through the years with an irrepressible spirit still active today, nearly sixty years later.
I met Mr. Baum last May during a visit to the Los Angeles area. His straightforward enthusiasm for the National Federation of the Blind and charming manner were impressive, but his stories about his life and interests were even more captivating. He described looking up at the mountains four years ago. He closed his left eye and noticed clouding in his right eye. Concerned, he consulted his doctor and was told he had macular degeneration and would soon experience even more vision loss. Sure enough, about eighteen months later he lost the central vision in his left eye as well.
Yet at eighty-five he has not let vision loss undermine his many interests. This past April, when I was in L.A. for the NEWSLINE® opening, I missed seeing him because he was off to Israel on one of his trips with the People to People Program. When I asked what keeps him going, he responded, "I love life, and I am still on my learning curve."
Mr. Baum is an avid user of recorded books, readers, scanning technology, and yes, he is now even trying speech access on his computer. During our visit last year I showed him NEWSLINE®. He thought it was marvelous and soon thereafter gave a grant to the National Federation of the Blind to set up NEWSLINE® in the Los Angeles area. His generosity gives thousands of blind people telephone access to the Los Angeles Times as well as several other newspapers.
Mr. Baum has been a supporter of the National Federation of the Blind for many years, even before he lost his vision. He recalled the inspiration and pride he has felt from reading the Braille Monitor through the years. When asked what it is about the Federation that attracts his interest, he says,"It's the efforts to remove barriers for the blind." He goes on to explain further how impressed he has been with our efforts to challenge rehabilitation agencies and educational institutions to improve services by eliminating waste and impediments to the blind. Most inspirational to him were the profiles of our Board of Directors in past Monitors. He was genuinely impressed by the variety of life activities and the scope of talents represented on the Board.
Mr. Baum grew up in the Bronx section of New York. His father was an architect working with the Rockefellers as they restored Williamsburg and other historic sites. Mr. Baum attended Cornell University during the later years of the Depression. Like many of that era, in recalling the suffering of the Depression he reflects, "Although times were hard, we helped each other a lot more than people seem to today."
After graduating from Cornell in electrical engineering, he went on to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard. This summer he will celebrate his sixtieth class reunion at Harvard. Like many others in 1940, he was interested in serving his country. Because of his background in engineering, he was offered a position in the Royal Air Force as an Armament Officer in charge of all the aircraft ammunition and bombs shipped to the RAF from the U.S. during the Lend Lease era and throughout the war.
He recalls this time in our history as exciting. He remembers walking with his fiancee, his childhood sweetheart, past the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., on December 7, 1941, where the staff was burning documents in front of the embassy. For those too young to remember, the date was Pearl Harbor Day.
After the war his long-time interest in finance resulted in a job offer with an old line investment firm in New York, Eastman and Dillon. He began in the buying department but was soon transferred to Los Angeles and later managed the company's entire western regional operation. Years later this company was merged into Paine Webber, and to this day Mr. Baum holds the title of Senior Vice President of Paine Webber, continuing to work part-time for the firm and spending the rest of his time managing his own investments.
Both the Baums' sons are pilots. Jim, the younger, now works with Mr. Baum as his business manager, and his other son John is a pilot with United Airlines. The Baums have two grandchildren. I asked Mr. Baum why he continues to work so many hours. He said, "It's simple; I am one of the fortunate ones. I love my hobby, which happens to be my work."
Besides his interest in finance, Mr. Baum finds time to travel extensively, converse with people all over the world on his ham radios, and often counsel people who are losing their vision to become involved with the National Federation of the Blind.
He hopes to encourage others to support the Federation's efforts to expand NEWSLINE® throughout the country. For Mr. Baum NEWSLINE® is access. He always turns first to the financial section of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Then he goes on to the Metropolitan section to learn what is happening in his native New York or enjoys general interest articles on topics he would not ordinarily read. Mr. Baum has always been an avid reader. Now, when his wife of over fifty years Hildegarde is watching television, he listens to NEWSLINE® or recorded books.
Mr. Baum is truly a good friend of the blind, a man too busy living and helping others to worry about himself. We salute Dwight Baum and thank him sincerely for his many generous gifts over the years and particularly for the contribution which made NEWSLINE® a reality in the Los Angeles area. We commend him for his willingness to support the blind both financially and personally by encouraging newly blind people to join our organization. He is truly an example to all, a gentleman who values the spirit and mission of the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Doug Elliott]
Big Enough to Ride the Bike
by Doug Elliott
From the Editor: The thirteenth book in the NFB's Kernel Book series of paperbacks designed to educate the public about blindness is titled Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving. The following piece is the final story in the book. Here it is, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's headnote:
Doug Elliott lives in Iowahaving moved there from Nevada, where he was President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. In the following story he revisits a familiar Kernel Book theme: What, beyond the traditional blindness skills, is required truly to overcome the limitations imposed by blindness? Here is how Doug answers that question:
One of my earliest memories is of my fourth birthday, when my parents gave me a new, shiny red bicycle. The bike was medium-sized, but it was still too big for a four-year-old. My father tried to adapt it by making training wheels for the back wheel and blocks for the pedals so that I could reach them. The training wheels caused me to lean either to the right or left of center, and the pedal blocks would spin instead of remaining steady when I pushed them.
I soon lost interest in trying to learn how to ride my new bike. My father removed all the adaptive equipment and told me I could learn how to ride when I was big enough. When I would see other kids riding their bikes, the image of the shiny red bike would haunt me, and soon I was pushing it alongside a rock wall by our house so that I could get on the wall and mount the bike, then push off from the wall. I was determined to be big enough to ride the bike.
At first I would coast just a little and then fall off in the grass. I continued this process, and each time I was going further and further before a crash would occur. Nobody in the neighborhoodparents or other kidsthought this trial-and-error way of learning was unusual or bad or stupid. Bike riding is a skill that everyone has to learn by making mistakes and falling off. And sometimes you have to grow into it. You have to be big enough to ride the bike. It was frightening to me at first, but I didn't get hurt, and I did learn to ride before I was five.
When I was twenty-one I went to Vietnam, where I lost my sight due to a mine explosion. I thought I would never walk downtown by myself again, be able to get a well-paying job, or be able to go out and have fun as I used to doin short, that I would never be big enough to ride the bike.
I received what is called rehabilitationtraining courses in using a white cane and reading Braille and instruction in typing, cooking, and the use of power toolsskills we need as blind people to live independently. I technically learned these skills in the same way I was technically riding my bike when I coasted a few feet on the grass. But, when I completed my training, I knew that something was missing. I was still just coasting, not really using the skills.
I now know that I was not limited by the fact that I could not see; I was limited by my lack of belief in my own capabilities, my belief that I wasn't big enough to ride the bike. And, of course, I thought other blind people were just as limited as I was. I wouldn't have admitted this; I just knew it inside myself.
When I returned home with my new skills, I found that, unlike the experience of learning to ride a bike, the people around me did not believe that the skill of using a white cane should be practiced and perfected. They did not think it would ever be safe for me to walk around freely with a white cane. Neither did I. I was just coasting, not big enough to ride the bike.
My old boss at Sears would not hire me to do the same appliance-repair job I had held before going to Vietnam. He said I couldn't do the job because I couldn't drive to homes where repairs were needed. But he wouldn't hire me to repair appliances in the shop either.
He knew I could do the work, but he didn't think I could get around the shop safely. He hired me back, but the only job he offered was sitting in a chair all day selling soap and maintenance agreements over the phone. I did this for a little while, but I felt my skills and talents were not being challenged, that I was not really riding the bike.
So I quit.
I knew I was missing somethingskills, training, challenges, something. I applied for admission to college and was accepted under probation because they didn't think I could ride the bike. I did the work successfully, earning my bachelor's degree and then master's degree in social work and have worked for the past two decades as a licensed clinical social worker. But, for about half that time, I knew something was missing.
Twenty years after I lost my sight, a member of the National Federation of the Blind invited me to a Federation meeting. I agreed to go but said I was probably not interested because, after all, what could a bunch of blind people offer me? But I went. Afterward, I said to myself, "This is what I have been missing." These people believe in themselves. They are big enough to ride the bike. The Federation message to blind people is that, yes, you will make mistakes and need to practice when learning blindness skills just like everyone practices riding a bike, but that is no reason to stop trying to learn.
When I finally got the Federation message, I started using my cane on a regular basis, started to practice my Braille skills, and started to see myself as a capable human being again.
I now know that, before I met the Federation, I was really going through life thinking that sight was the only way to do things. The Federation provided the missing piecethe strong belief that there are other ways than with sight to do things safely and efficiently. If you have sight, that's the easiest way. If you don't, there are other ways.
This simple but vital perspective straightened out lots of puzzles for me and gave me the confidence that merely learning a skill could not. After joining the Federation, I started practicing cane use and Braille reading with a new viewthese work for other people, and I can make them work for me.
I recently got married and moved to a small town in Iowa where my wife has lived for some time. My wife has been in the NFB for a long time and has set the norm in this town that the blind aren't helpless and can learn with some assistance.
One cold and snowy winter night shortly after I arrived here, I got lostcompletely turned around. Cars passed back and forth, but no one stopped to ask if I was okay or to offer assistance as they would have done where I lived before. And I had no idea how to get home. So I walked out into the street and waved down a car to ask where Broad Street was.
The driver turned out to be the owner of the jewelry store in town where my wife had purchased my wedding ring. He didn't get out of his car or offer a ride home as I expected. Instead he told me to go one block behind me and turn leftthat was Broad Street. I thanked him and left.
The next day my wife stopped at the jewelry store. The owner told her that I had waved him down the night before when I was lost. He said to her that I would have to work on finding my way around here and that he knew he shouldn't give me a ride but rather should give me information, because I would learn faster that way.
With support for each other and the understanding of our sighted friends like the jewelry store owner, we can go beyond coasting, beyond mere skillsto walking outside and going where we want. It's really as easy as that.
I learned it when I was four pushing off of the wall to get my bicycle started. I learned it again on the battlefields of Vietnam. And I learned it once more when I got home and began dealing with blindness. Maybe all of us have to learn it over and over throughout our lives. The problems may seem to be too hard to solve, but if we work at it with determination and if we believe in ourselves and in the innate goodness of the people around us, we will be big enough to ride the bike.
A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:
James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.
For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Chong]
Audio Description: Accessory or Accessibility?
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: Anyone who watches much television or goes to many movies knows that the old technique of starting the plot at the beginning and telling the story straight through to the end is currently out of favor. Today the plot advances by jumping from scene to scene and story line to story line; so, unless one is already familiar with the actors' voices, the program format, or the plot, the narrative is difficult to follow by sound alone. It is certainly helpful to watch such programs or films with someone who can identify the characters and fill in with explanations of inaudible actions. For those who enjoy such leisure-time activities and who don't usually have someone to provide occasional explanations, audio description is certainly a convenience.
In case you have never run into this invention of contemporary entertainment, audio description can be broadcast or recorded as part of a program or movie's audio, or it can be supplied live by a person at an actual performance. The live description service is usually available using special earphones in a theater, and only certain performances are described. Those who supply such services are eager to find new opportunities for providing them in their communities. And, not surprisingly, those who provide descriptive video for television and films are also eager to find the funding to expand the number of movies and programs for which audio description is available.
We might do well to consider what the effect on the lives of blind people the increased availability of audio description is likely to have. This is, in fact, what the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota did, and the answer was disquieting. Peggy Chong, who was President of the chapter at the time, wrote an article that reported on the experience. It appeared in the Fall, 1997, issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, the publication of the NFB of Minnesota. This is what she said:
One of the people who describes plays at many theaters in the Twin Cities came to the June meeting of the Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to tell us what she does and outline her hopes for the future of her business. She began her presentation with the statement that she had heard that the NFB was opposed to audio description. We told her this was not true but that it was not a high priority for us. We pointed out that the Federation had made it possible financially for the most recent inaugural ceremonies of President Clinton to have audio description. We certainly do believe there is some value in audio description of events, plays, and movies, or we would not have put money into this project.
A number of members pointed out that they enjoyed descriptive video, and several of us said we had a DVS movie or two in our collections. However, the lack of audio description does not prevent us from enjoying other videos or stop us from going to the theater with friends.
Our guest tried to get us to understand what we were missing when we did not have an audio describer and how much enhanced our lives would be if audio description were a regular part of them.
At one point she asked if everyone knew what our meeting room looked like. She went on to describe the room, the ceiling, and the seats. She paused to ask if there were other things that were important to know about the room. Someone sang out, "The room was free." I don't think she wanted to hear that. I think she only wanted us to be grateful for her description of the room.
She went on to tell us of the many other activities that blind people would benefit from if a person were present to describe what was going on. One of her jobs was to describe a sixtieth birthday party for a blind person and two blind guests.
Someone asked how she decided what should be described, especially when she is describing parties, where there is no dress rehearsal for her to observe. She replied that she talks first to the people for whom she is doing the description: what are their interests, who is important to them? Then, at the event, she makes a point to get to know the names of as many people as possible at the event so that she can give accurate descriptions of who is leaving early, for example. In other words, she goes around to folks and makes it known that she is there to interpret for the blind guests, who do not know what is going on.
One chapter member told the group about a graduation ceremony he had attended. At one point a dog walked across the stage with the picture of the president of the college on his back. Everyone began to chuckle. A stranger sitting beside our member leaned over to describe the scene quietly, and they laughed together. In addition to informing him about the incident, this impromptu action provided an opportunity for him to get to know the stranger better.
Unfortunately our guest speaker misunderstood the point of the anecdote. She said that it was one more example of a situation in which the college should have provided an audio describer. Otherwise our blind member might have missed this important moment.
The point was that, despite the lack of any professional audio description service, he had not missed the moment. Because he did not have an audio describer talking to him through earphones, he had an opportunity to interact with others at the event. This NFB member has had some adjustment-to-blindness training and knew there were ways to find out why the audience was laughing. He was not embarrassed or ashamed of his blindness. I am sure there were a few sighted people that day who, for a variety of reasons, missed this moment and also had to ask their neighbors what had happened.
At one point our speaker actually equated her job to that of an interpreter for the deaf. We strongly said that we did not view her job as particularly specialized or essential. Family and friends have often described scenery, events, activities, and much more to us without any training and have provided more than adequate information. Moreover, some people just love to talk and describe things in detail without being prompted. She was not happy to be reminded of this truth either.
As Steve Jacobson was trying to explain a point to her and ask a question, she began angrily packing her bag instead of listening to him. She did not describe her activity. But we could tell from the sound what she was doing. Our speaker left in a huff. As she was going out the door, she shouted back over her shoulder that we would never understand and that all the bad things that people said about the NFB were true.
That was an unfortunate way to have the discussion end, but since the meeting I have given a good deal more thought to audio description than I ever expected to. Our speaker had backhandedly raised issues that disturb me. I fear she was arguing that audio description is an accessibility issue.
Today we certainly hear comments to the effect that theaters should offer audio description as a means of providing access to the blind. Increasingly we see audio description being used to promote particular plays and theaters. Some theaters have even designated special days for blind people to attend a play because that is when the interpreter will be on hand.
Movie theaters and playhouses across America and throughout the world have always been accessible to blind patrons. Of course we have sometimes asked a companion or others attending the performance to describe what has just happened, but this has not stopped us from enjoying the play. Countless times sighted playgoers have also asked their companions to explain what just happened. No one has thrown them out of the theater for asking. Could it be that the reason blind people are not at many performances is that we do not yet have the jobs to pay for the tickets? Adding in the cost of audio description to the tickets will not help to bring in blind patrons.
No, audio description is an accessory issue. It is not unlike a CD player in your car stereo. The absence of a CD player in the car does not impede the operation of the car. Nor does it stop you from enjoying the stereo system. It just means that, on any given trip, you may not hear your favorite recording.
It is not a big step from the idea that audio interpreters are a necessary accommodation, important to one's understanding and appreciation of a play, to the conviction that audio interpreters are equally necessary for a blind person to supervise employees. Actually, if a blind person believes that he or she needs an interpreter, then the person's real need is adjustment-to-blindness training. Moreover, anyone with so little self-confidence won't have that or any job very long. Such thinking places a far greater value on vision as a technique for learning about the world than any other technique. Those who are successful in life, both blind and sighted, know that there are many ways, other than seeing, to learn and enjoy what life has to offer.
Several years ago a TV show titled "Mr. Sunshine" had as its main character a blind professor. In one episode Mr. Sunshine went dancing and fell off the dance floor. Not long after the episode aired, a couple in California were denied entrance to a dance club because the manager felt that they might fall off the dance floor. Real life can, and very frequently does, imitate art.
Blind people who have successfully completed adjustment-to-blindness training do not fret about what they cannot see. Our attention is focused on getting the most out of life by using the many skills and problem-solving techniques we learned during training and continue to build upon. Once we have confidence and self-respect, we realize that sighted people get lost; request help in the grocery store; ask directions to the bathroom in a concert hall; and seek explanations when they miss action, plot, or dialog at a play.
Does audio description result in inclusion, or will it gradually separate blind people from the rest of the world? If we have to take a special interpreter to a family celebration, aren't we telling others that our needs are too complex for family members to converse with us or fill us in on the activity without the intervention of a specially trained interpreter?
Should tax dollars be used for audio description? In these days of shrinking public dollars, surely we have many more important issues to work on. Many of our problems are the same as those of other sectors of the publictransportation, unemployment, information access, literacy, and vanishing state and federal programs designed to meet specific needs.
We have never said that audio description is a bad thing as it currently stands. Our concern is that it be kept in perspective. There are many negative repercussions of considering audio description an accessibility issue. It is our responsibility to do as much as we can for ourselves and not to grab everything we can for free. We are far better off when we ask for assistance only when we need it.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Valerie Negri]
Teacher Overcomes Obstacles
by Lisa Beilfuss
From the Editor: The kindest word I could apply to my high school biology course would be "undistinguished." The book was large and uninteresting, and the experiments were boring and smelly. Despite these disadvantages, biology seemed the least demanding alternative when I had to choose a course to fulfill my college science requirement. Imagine my astonishment, then, when I discovered that biology was rivetingly interesting. Swept away in the enthusiasm of this discovery, I actually declared a biology major. Eventually I began to consider what I might do with the major. I recognized that I did not possess the burning passion that would carry me through graduate school, research, and the endless battles for the right to compete in the field. That seemed to leave high school teaching. With dismay I recollected Mosshead Manson, who had put us all to sleep my sophomore year of high school and changed my major to English. But the entire experience left me with a deep respect for anyone willing and able to make a success of teaching high school biology.
Valerie Negri is a member of the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the NFB of Illinois and was a 1989 NFB Scholarship Winner. She is also a high school biology teacher who obviously loves her work. The following article appeared in the March, 1998, issue of Inscape, the newsletter of Mother McAuley High School. Here it is:
Biology may seem impossible under any circumstances, but try studying organisms and plant cells under a microscope without the help of your eyes. Sight may be something people take for granted, but it is one sense that Ms. Val Negri, Mrs. Mary Ellen Clifford's temporary replacement, has learned to succeed without.
The newest addition to the science faculty is an alum of Marian Catholic High School and a biology major/chemistry minor grad of Xavier University. Although she received avid criticism from teachers and peers who called her unrealistic, her dream of becoming a teacher proved unwavering: "I always liked young people. I always wanted to work with them and influence their lives," said Ms. Negri. While studying anatomy in college, she used cadavers and models to substitute for the pictures and diagrams her classmates used. All material was left to memorization; she was even responsible for the unseen physical descriptions of what was placed under the microscope.
The three biology classes she presently teaches are Ms. Negri's first experience operating her own classroom. However, she previously served as a teaching assistant for students with learning disabilities and for abused children and babies born with crack addictions. Working at the Cultural Arts Center at Xavier also provided her with valuable teaching experience.
Teaching biology, Ms. Negri feels, is her greatest accomplishment. Although she finds many parallels between her own teaching style and that of other teachers, Ms. Negri feels the main difference in her classroom has to do with the girls she teaches. She believes they learn to become more responsible, self-sufficient, and independent. Ms. Negri knows that, besides absorbing her extensive knowledge of science, her students are learning a valuable lesson in life: "My students learn about cooperation and teamwork and have experience with someone who is different." McAuley has made some accommodations in order for Ms. Negri to teach. For instance, senior students help proctor tests and assist with other activities. When asked what she likes best about McAuley, Ms. Negri replied without hesitation, "the kids!"
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Willows]
Meeting the Challenge
by Mary Willows
From the Editor: This story first appeared in the thirteenth Kernel Book, Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
I sometimes ask people (both blind and sighted) to list the problems they think blind people face. One that I think is most critical rarely shows up near the top of the list, but Mary Willows, a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of California, zeroes in on it as she talks about meeting the challenge. Here is what she has to say about how she came to believe in herself:
As a child growing up in Chicago, I suppose I did all the things city kids do: Girl Scouts, baton majorette, cheerleader, something of a cellist, violinist, and otherwise an average student academically. I am the second oldest of six and the oldest of the girls. Fortunately for me, my mother always needed help with housework. So I learned early to be pretty independent. This really paid off for me in high school.
It was during my freshman year that I unexpectedly and suddenly became blind in a car accident. I had thought of one day becoming a teacher, but after the accident that just didn't seem possible. I wasn't sure what the future held in store for me. I knew that I had to find something to do with the rest of my life. But what?
As time went on, I decided that being a psychologist seemed reasonable and appropriate for me. I liked working with people and usually developed a good rapport with those I met. Besides, that way I could open my own business and not have to face the rejection of trying to convince an employer to hire me. I just did not believe anyone would want to hire a blind person.
I managed to get a couple of little jobs while I was in college. I stuffed Christmas stockings one year in what I now know was actually a sheltered workshop. I also got a job as a clerk/typist in a company that went bankrupt. So much for that idea. However, I had heard about that job from a blind girl who told me that she knew blind people who were doing all kinds of jobs. "Anything you can think of, there's probably a blind person already doing it," she told me.
She asked me what I wanted to benever mind the blindness. I said that I had thought about teaching. She said she knew several blind teachers, and she would introduce them to me. She offered to let me share a room with her at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in downtown Chicago during July of 1972.
So I went to see for myself. I met teachers, all rightand lawyers, and secretaries and students. Yes, blind students who were pulling straight A's. I met someone who showed me how to use a slate and stylus. He said it was like a pen and paper. It looked like a little metal piece of framework with a hinge on the left. He showed me how to slip a piece of paper inside, close it, and write anything I wanted to in Braille using the notches that were already cut for me in the framework. He used it in all of his classes to take notes.
They used long white canes. They talked about their jobs and their families and their goals for themselves. I was beginning to recognize the challenge, and I started to believe that maybe these things were possible for me too.
I did get my bachelor's degree in psychology, but by that time I was ready for yet another challengemy master's degree. I still never told anyone that what I really wanted to do was to teach children in a regular classroom, because I didn't believe I could do it. About that time I met Jim Willows, a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of California. We were married and now have two boys.
Children ceased being little creatures from outer space to me. Far from it: I have cared for as many as seven at a time in my home. I learned to believe in myself by putting one foot in front of the other. That little flicker had become a burning flame. I was ready to accept the challenge of returning to school for my elementary teaching credential.
I identified three areas of concern for myself: how to get around independently in an unfamiliar environment; how to write things down quickly for later use; and how on earth to control thirty-three youngsters. I believe in taking one step at a time and solving problems as they occur.
My first action as soon as I knew the name of the school where I would be doing student teaching was to investigate the grounds. I recalled that I knew a blind child who attended that school, so I asked her to be my mobility instructor for the day. She was pleased and proud to give me the grand tour.
Many schools in California are made up of small buildings called pods. Since I did not know the classroom I would be in, we located all the rooms. We even found the janitor's office. She showed me where assemblies were held, where the library was located, and how to find the swings on the playground. Since I did not know which grade level I would be working with, it was impossible to obtain any of the texts in advance.
When the time came for me to begin teaching lessons, I prepared myself with Braille notes. I used a slate and stylus for any last-minute instructions from the teacher who was supervising my work. I scheduled ample readers in the evenings so I could preview material for the next day. If there were papers to collect after a lesson, I put them into a file folder with my Braille notes so that I knew what those papers were. That evening I directed a reader in correcting the papers.
Long white cane in hand, slate and stylus in my backpack, I set out finally to become an elementary school teacher. On my first day of student teaching, my heart was pounding. There I was standing in front of a class of thirty-three very intimidating fourth graders.
My master teacher suggested that I take the children one at a time to the back of the room and let them interview me. They could ask me anything they wanted to know. So I did, and they did. They wanted to know about my slate and stylus. So I decided to seize the opportunity and slipped two 3-by-5 cards into my slate and wrote each child's name while we were talking. By the end of forty minutes I not only had all their names written in Braille, but I also had time to connect names with voices. Within my first week I became responsible for the weekly spelling tests.
I also supervised reading and math groups. Each week the teacher read the spelling words to me so I could put them into Braille. This was another time that I was glad I knew how to use a slate and stylus. This is a skill every blind teacher should have.
My third area of concern was discipline. The first time I was left in charge of the students, they were all over the place. I could have died because my supervisor was sitting right there. Of course the other student teachers at the university were having the same problems. The students were having a field day with their new teacher.
Once I demonstrated to them that I could write the names of the guilty on the board, they decided that I was the boss; and they settled down. I do not let my own children get away with anything, so why should these?
The very next day I was put to the test. I had to take many different reading groups over to the cafeteria to practice the plays they had been learning. I had never been in a play, so this was going to be interesting. I knew I could direct these plays, and I did. I sat each group down at the end of the stage and showed them my slate with paper in it. I said I wanted to hear only the actors. If I heard anything else, the guilty person's name would be written down and later copied on the blackboard. There were only two who tested me.
Student teachers typically start off with the responsibility of escorting the class from the playground into the classroom after the morning bell and after recess. This meant locating my students among the nine hundred others. This was no problem, for when they saw me, they all called my name, which made it easy to locate the line. The line of students did not move until I gave the word. I did not give the word until there was silence. Their own teacher was impressed.
Each morning I chose a monitor to assist with the absentee list and the lunch count. I told the monitor what to write on the absentee slip. I had the students look left and then right and tell me who was missing. For the lunch count I had them raise hands; the monitor wrote that count.
I hope that sharing some of my techniques might encourage others who think teaching is impossible because of blindness. In the National Federation of the Blind we say that, given proper training and reasonable opportunity, a blind person can compete with sighted peers and do just as well or just as poorly. The real difference is in whether or not we believe in ourselves. Belief in ourselves is the true key to success, no matter what the challenge, no matter what the task.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce]
The Runaway Author
by Barbara Pierce
Some people harbor a secret passion for the books of Danielle Steele and others for the works of Stephen King. For me it's fast-paced, good-guy-lawyer adventures. Not surprisingly, then, John Grisham is a favorite. So, when The Runaway Jury (RC 42334) by John Grisham spilled out of my mailbox the other day, I was delighted. I have just finished reading itall 401 pages (ten sides) of itand I was both disappointed and annoyed.
There was nothing particularly wrong with the story line though I prefer books in which I can respect someone among the major characters. Without giving away the plot, I can say that the action centers on a tobacco liability trial. The plaintiff is the widow of a man who died of lung disease after thirty-five years of smoking. The lawyers on both sides are pretty unsavory, and the witnesses are all just walk-ons with no personality. In the opening pages, however, a young man gets himself named to the jury and begins manipulating the jurors, the judge, and the trial strategy. All of this, as I say, is clever and fairly well done.
In order to get the plot off to a fast start, the protagonist, Nicholas Easter, has to take control of the jury without calling any attention to himself. Understandably, Grisham wants to keep the reader in doubt about which side Easter is working for, so he avoids telling the story from Easter's point of view. All the lawyers and jury experts are worried because they can't learn much about Easter's past or his prejudices.
So Grisham's literary problem is how to focus attention away from Easter, the true leader of the jury, enough to divert the attention of the lawyers on both sides while maintaining reader interest. Grisham's answer is to introduce a blind man, Herman Grimes, into the jury pool and begin with his threats to sue if he is not allowed to remain in the pool. Then, when he makes it onto the jury, Grisham has the group elect him foreman. It's an interesting solution to the problem, but I'm pretty sure Grisham never bothered to learn anything about blindness or blind people competent enough to be elected foreman of a jury.
Some things about Grimes are plausible and appropriate. He is a computer programmer and a conscientious note-taker during the trial. He adheres exactly to the judge's instructions about jury behavior. He is clearly bright and wants others to treat him with dignity.
But the poor guy never has a chance. Grisham saddles him with a wife from Hell. Part way through the trial the judge has to sequester the jury in a local motel. The sighted wife, who has been delivering him in the morning and retrieving him at the end of each day, insists that she be included in the sequestration order so that she can take care of her husband. During the discussion in which she convinces the judge to include her, the blind man is present, clearly does not wish to have his wife included, and is incapable of arguing his case.
From first to last Grimes is a social misfit. Even when his wife is not preventing him from talking with the other jurors, he shows little capacity for making friends or engaging in small-talk.
The blindness stereotypes are all present. His entrance the first morning is heralded by a thump at the door. When it swings open, he comes in waving his "walking stick." His wife follows him in, providing a description of the size and layout of the room in a rapid undertone. Easter rushes up, despite the wife, and guides him to the table, where he immediately "gropes" for a chair, orients himself to it carefully, and sits down while his coffee is brought to him. Despite the fact that the trial takes weeks, he never does learn, or even try, to get his own coffee in the jury room or do anything for himself at the motel. His only significant interaction seems to be with his "Braille computer" whatever that is supposed to be. A specially assigned court reporter prepares detailed descriptions of the exhibits, which are given to him on disk. But all this detail is inconsistent, as far as I can tell, with actual access equipment. The real purpose of the detail seems to be to construct additional barriers between the blind juror and the other eleven.
I have asked myself how I would have preferred Grisham to resolve his structural problem. The honest answer is that I wouldn't much care as long as he didn't make things more difficult for blind people or members of any other minority. He could have made the foreman a sighted geek, or a fussy university professor, or how about a self-absorbed country singer preoccupied with fan mail and show bookings. I find it significant that Grisham did not make the foreman a woman or a member of a racial minority. The character's narrowness of outlook, inability to deal with relationships, and fundamental helplessness necessary for the plot's development would have been perceived by virtually everyone as an insult leveled at every woman or member of the ethnic group. Only a character from a group generally recognized by the rest of us to be superior in some way could have failed to be an insult to every reader similarly situated.
I feel pretty confident that Grisham never considered these issues before deciding to make his foreman a blind man. After all, poor old Grimes simply embodies a lot of the stereotypes of blindness today. But we know how insidious and damaging those stereotypes can be, and we know just how untrue they are. It's the millions of readers who already share Grisham's prejudices about blindness and blind people who will be all the more grounded in their ignorance for having read The Runaway Jury. And there doesn't seem to be a lot we can do to counteract the damage Grisham has done, except to speak out against the injustice and live, as clearly as we can, lives that refute his foolish notions.
The one mildly amusing piece of poetic justice near the end of the book occurs when the author is forced to remove the foreman from the trial. He has anchored the foreman in such isolated moral rectitude that he has no choice but to get rid of him before he can bring the verdict in. Grisham can think of no better way of removing Grimes, the conscience of the jury, but to drug himhe thought his coffee tasted peculiar but drank it anyway. Grisham couldn't be bothered to create a blind character who could serve as a role model showing what blind people can do, but at least the poor man refused to lie down and be disposed of quietly. In this way, at least, Grimes can serve as an inspiration to all blind people. None of us can be suave, commanding, and independent all the time, but we can and must refuse to lie down and be written off.
Occasionally one comes across a blind character in a book who does not embarrass the rest of us in some way. With The Runaway Jury, John Grisham has not contributed to this small collection of normal blind characters.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: The Yeager family stands beside a huge tree.
Tracy is between her parents.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jerry and Nancy Yeager with daughter Tracy in the rain forest near Cairns, Australia.]
Love Is Blind
by Liz Corcoran
From the Editor: Lots of sighted people, and a number of blind ones as well, presume that no blind person could be a good parent. Thousands of successful blind parents make a mockery of this prejudice every day, but it is important to keep reminding the families of blind children and those who are just beginning to deal with their own blindness of the truth that blindness need have little to do with a parent's ability to rear well-adjusted, capable children.
The following article first appeared in the October 17, 1997, issue of Who magazine. Nancy and Jerry Yeager are raising their daughter Tracy with love and conscientious attention to her needs. They are active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, and their Federation philosophy shines forth in everything they say about the challenges and pleasures of parenthood. Here is the article:
For Nancy and Jerry Yeager blindness is no obstacle to having a happy family life. Tracy Yeager's parents are stricter than most. When they call their bubbly blonde daughter, she must answerno argument.
A simple move from the swings to the slide requires prior warning. Now she's six, she doesn't always have to hold their hands, though she often does anyway.
The rules have been imposed for good reason. Tracy's parentsJerry, forty-two, and Nancy, forty-five, are blind. "We expect kids to do things that are naughty sometimes," says Jerry, sitting at the dining table in the family's modern apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, "but if she does something because we can't see it, something she wouldn't try around another adult, I think we have to come down on her doubly hard."
Not that much escapes them. A barely audible sniffle from Tracy in another room sends Jerry grabbing for a tissue. When she bounds noisily through the apartment, Jerry laughs and exclaims, "Uh oh! Here's a girl with tap shoes!" before picking her up and flipping her through his arms.
In the kitchen Nancy is making breakfast. With half a finger in each cup she pours hot coffee until it hits the tip. Jerry puts Tracy down and reaches into the fridge. He picks up a packet and smells to check that it's bacon and fresh, while Tracy, anxious to get in on the action, lines a baking tray with foil. "She loves to help," smiles Nancy, feeling that the foil has made it to the edge of the tray, but, she adds, "only under supervision."
The Yeagers, who married in 1988, have worked hard to make life normal for their daughter. They are both congenitally blind, so there was a slight chance that Tracy would be born blind, but that wasn't their main concern. "We knew we could deal with that," says Jerry. Rather, they considered the difficulties they would face bringing up a child in a sighted world and how they'd juggle their full-time careers: Jerry as a contract specialist in the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C., and Nancy as a payroll manager for the Farm Credit Administration.
They consulted other blind couples and decided they could pull it off.
"It's a learning project," says Nancy matter-of-factly, "an extension of the philosophy we had that most things you can do without sight. As I go along, there will be things I'm going to have to figure out. But I've been figuring out how to do things all my life, so it's not really different."
As a baby Tracy seemed to know that her parents couldn't see her. Nancy recalls that when her daughter was about two months old, she'd let them know she was hungry by putting her finger to their mouths. Unfamiliar objectsincluding a sticky caterpillar on one occasionwere dumped unceremoniously into her parents' palms for identification. "Nancy noticed it was wet," says Jerry, "so it had probably been in her mouth. That sort of grossed her out!"
The critter was mercifully intactbut what has proved "irksome," according to Jerry, is other people's doubt about their ability to cope. There were those who wondered at the beginning how, being blind, they could possibly care for a child; others who said to Nancy as Tracy grew that the couple were "lucky. I'm sure she's a big help to you."
Jerry laughs wryly at those "who give a five-year-old credit for much more adult-like knowledge and instinct than they would ever possibly have" and cites shopkeepers who give Tracy the change at the till, or passers-by who point to a destination and tell Tracy, not her parents, how to get there. Says Nancy: "I don't want her to have that kind of responsibility. We didn't have her to be a little guide. We had her because we wanted to nurture a child."
And nurture they do, making up for their lack of eyesight in other ways. Jerry concedes that "there are probably cute scenes that we don't see that other parents would think we're missing," but says he loves holding Tracy in his arms and reading to her from one of her Braille books. Nancy supplements Tracy's school lessons at home by helping her cut out shapes and sometimes visits the school to read to her class from Braille books. "All the kids want to feel my book," she says. "It's good for her and good for her classmates to see that her parents do the same kind of stuff that their parents do."
The Yeagers spend as much time educating others as they do Tracy on what it's like to be blind. "I don't want her to grow up thinking that she's amazing because she takes care of her poor, unfortunate parents," says Nancy. "Or that she's deprived and doesn't get things that other kids get."
There's little chance of that. Later that day the Yeagers take Tracy to a birthday party at the local Chuck-E-Cheese'sa kids' mini theme park. It is an aural and physical obstacle course for the Yeagers, who just manage to keep smiling while kids rush pass them and they try to negotiate the scattered tables and chairs. Tracy, on the other hand, is in her element, dragging Jerry around and shouting to him to let her go on more rides. Jerry obliges and slips her a token, but Nancy finds it all a little overwhelming and eventually steps in with an offer of dinner at McDonald's. "A little bribery never hurts," she laughs.
Later Jerry recalls something Tracy once said. "Out of the blue she said, `Daddy, I wish I was blind like the rest of my family.'" Blindness, he says, is something people fear most, second to cancer, "but it's clear from what she said that it's not negative for her." Nor for her parents. "I'm not going to tell you that I wouldn't like it if I could see," says Nancy, but "I was brought up with the idea that you got whatever you got, so make the most of it."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]
Concerning Books, Lawn Mowers, and Bus Rides
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: The following story appeared in Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving, the latest in the NFB's Kernel Book series. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note:
Marc Maurer is President of the National Federation of the Blind. As regular Kernel Book readers know, he has been blind since birth. In this story he reflects upon his own experience growing up as a blind childfrom how he felt at age six when he came home from the hospital totally blind after surgery intended to restore his eyesight not only failed but also caused him to lose the tiny amount of vision he hadto his determined effort to be a fully contributing member of the family. Here is what he has to say:
When I was growing up, it seemed to me that my parents were always telling me what to do. Now that I am an adult with children of my own, I am very frequently required to remind my children to do the things they know they must. Sometimes they pay attention, but sometimes they don't.
The growing-up years are the time for learning how to behave, for experimentation, and for seeking maturity. During this period parents are faced with many decisionsdecisions that won't wait: What discipline should be imposed? How much freedom can the children manage? What experiences should they have? How much direction can effectively be given? And what is the proper balance between encouraging independence and maintaining sufficient control to guard against disaster? Too much protection can stifle initiative, and too little can lead to ruin. This basic set of considerations is as important for sighted parents raising blind children as it is for those raising sighted children.
I was born blind. However, I had a tiny amount of residual vision. Nobody ever told me that I was blind, so I didn't realize it until I was five.
My parents loved me, and they wanted very much for me to be a normal, healthy child. When I was six, they took me to an eye doctor for a new kind of operation, but it didn't work. Worse than that, as a result of it, I became totally blind.
For several weeks I was moody and despondent. Late one hot summer night I was sitting on my father's lap on the front porch swing. He struck a match. The sudden flare startled me, and I jumped. I had been able to see the light of the flame. All of us wondered what it meant, and my father hoped fervently that I would be able to regain the use of my eyes. But this was not to be. I would remain blind, and we must decide how to manage. None of us knew what to do, but my parents were determined that my blindness should limit me as little as possible.
During the next summer (between my first and second grade school years), my mother taught me to read Braille. Reading was part of the accepted pattern in our family, and my mother expected me to read as much as she expected every other child in our family to read. But there wasn't much Braille material available. During the winter, while I was attending the school for the blind, Braille books were fairly easy to come by. But during the summer, the three months that I spent at home with my family, Braille was scarce.
One year somebody put my name on a list to receive the Braille edition of My Weekly Reader. It came in a big brown envelope about a foot across and fifteen inches high. The magazine was about twenty-five pages long, and I looked forward to getting it.
In 1960 Dr. Kenneth Jernigan established a library for the blind in Iowa, my home state. My father read about the library in the paper, and he asked me if I would like to sign up to borrow Braille books. I told him that I most certainly would. The next time my father drove through Des Moines, he stopped at the library to enroll me as a borrower. Soon afterward the first of the books arrived in the mail.
The packages I received contained three or four volumes. Braille books can be long. Gone With the Wind is ten volumes, but Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol is only one. Each volume I got from the library was about twelve inches square and about three inches thick. They came to me wrapped in heavy brown paper tied with string.
I very carefully untied the string and folded the paper both must be saved for reuse in shipping the books back to the library. Books for the blind travel through the mail postage-free. Inside the front cover of each volume was a mailing label containing the address of the library. The label was to be pasted on the package to return it to the library. Storing the books, caring for them, and seeing that they were packaged to be mailed back were my responsibility.
When the books were ready for shipment, sometimes my mother would take them to the post office for me in the car. However, this was not always convenient. Sometimes I would load the bundles onto my red wagon and haul them to the post office. The people in the post office never seemed very glad to see me. They appeared to me to be stern and official. I was glad to get out of there, but I wanted more books, so I was willing to face the officialdom of the postal service.
Because the books arrived by mail, planning was required to insure that there was always a supply on hand. I could get two (or sometimes three) books at a time. If I read them all and sent them back, I would have no books until the new shipment arrived. Consequently, I worked out a revolving book loan system with the library.
In the summers in the middle of Iowa, there were certain activities for entertainment. I could sometimes go swimming, but the pool was more than a mile and a half walk from my house. Occasionally there were picnics, but not often. There were television and radio, and sometimes there were rambles in the park or the woods.
However, in those days I did not believe a blind person could travel through the park or the woods alone. My excursions on the nature trails were restricted to times when a friend or a brother could go with me. My parents bought me a bicycle built for two, which I could ride if I found somebody to take the front seat.
Then there were the projects to make a little money. We collected empty soda bottles because you could get two cents apiece for them if they weren't chipped. One summer my brothers and I started a lawn-mowing business. The local newspaper agreed to help kids try to find summer employment by publishing ads for them at no charge. We accepted.
My father told me that I could use the lawn mower as long as I maintained it in good repair, bought the gas and oil for it, and kept our own yard mowed. We got about half a dozen regular customers, who wanted their lawns mowed every two weeks.
When they called, we would gas up the lawn mower and take it to cut the grass. We liked to do it in the morningsbecause it was cooler. But we would work any time. We wanted the cash that the mowing produced.
My brother was small enough that he couldn't push the mower very well, but he could guide it. I pushed, and he steered. When the mowing had been completed, we both raked the grass clippings and bagged them for the trash collector. We charged four dollars for small lawns and five for large ones.
It may not sound like much to those who have become accustomed to today's inflated allowances and pay for teen-agers, but we could earn twenty dollars in a day if we were lucky. And that seemed like a lot. To me it still does.
All of us in the Maurer family did housework. After the inside chores each of us was assigned yard work for an hour. Once we were directed to tuck-point the foundation of our home. When the mortar between the bricks gets old and loose, it must be scraped out and replaced with new concrete. Of course, not all of the mortar deteriorates. If it did, the foundation would collapse.
The tuck-pointing process repairs surface damage. It is a tedious and messy job. Each morning for several weeks we mixed a batch of mortar and applied it to the foundation, replacing damaged concrete in the joints between all of the exposed bricks.
Even with all of the activities I have described, I had a lot of free time in the summers. I filled it reading. The library was my friend, but it was a mysterious friendone that I had never met. I wanted to know more about it.
I asked my mother if I could visit the library in Des Moines, forty miles from our home in Boone; and she agreed. Two of my brothers and I decided that we would take the Greyhound Bus to get there, and I began saving pennies for the trip. The bus ticket cost $3.30 for adults and $1.65 for children. I qualified for the adult fare, but my younger brothers could get the cheaper rate.
It took me quite a while to get the money together. This particular trip was planned before I had come upon the lawn-mowing business. My father might give me fifty cents a week for my allowance, and there might be some other money from the collection of the soda bottles, but that was about it.
After saving for weeks, we had the money; and we headed for the local bus stationa counter at Eddie's newspaper shop. But when we got there, Eddie told us there had been a fare increase. The spare change we had saved for emergencies had to go. We spent all our money on bus tickets.
The bus ride from Boone to Des Moines took about an hour. When we arrived at the Des Moines bus station, we discovered that it was only a short walk to the library for the blind. I was delighted with all of the books and with the friendliness of the staff members there. They said I could browse to my heart's content and pick out anything I wanted. After a while I found a good book, and I started to read. One of the staff members brought me a chair and asked if I needed anything else. I said that I did not, and I just kept reading.
After a time my brothers got bored with the library. They are sighted, and they cannot read Braille. I was the oldest (thirteen or fourteen at the time), so I was in charge. My brothers asked me if they could visit the state capitol building, and I told them they could. They disappeared and were gone for hours. I didn't care at all; I had the books. Perhaps it is just as well that my mother didn't know about the nature of my supervision that day.
Late in the afternoon my brothers returned; and we headed back to the bus station. All of us were quite hungry. We had neglected to bring lunch, and we didn't have any money to buy any. We had spent all we had on the bus tickets. But the ride home was cheerful, and I carried a book with me to read on the bus.
It was the first trip away from home that I ever planned. I wished that I had thought about the lunch. But despite this mistake, I was satisfied. I had seen the library, and I had a book. Not only that: I had the prospect of hundreds and thousands more.
My parents required me to work, gave me independence, and taught me to read. They let me know in a thousand ways that I was a cherished member of the family. They insisted that I make contributions, and they made it perfectly clear that the standard of behavior and the quality of work required would be no less for me than for the other children in the family. As I look back from the perspective of manhood and with children of my own, this is the way it should have been.
In the National Federation of the Blind we are committed to help blind children get the best education their minds can take. Building the right future demands education, a spirit of self-reliance, and the balance to know when to guide and when to keep hands off.
For those of us who have reached adulthood, the pattern of life is established. However, for the children the dreams for the future can be as broad as our imagination and our commitment permit. We believe in our children, and whenever we can find a way to do it, we will put a book into their hands.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Greg Trapp]
A Time to Heal
by Greg D. Trapp
From the Editor: Greg Trapp has been a staff attorney with the Protection and Advocacy System of New Mexico since 1992. Prior to that he was an Equal Opportunity Specialist at the University of New Mexico. In 1993 he taught Disability Law as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law. He presently serves on the Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, is Chair of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind's Statewide Rehabilitation Advisory Council, and serves on the IDEA State Advisory Panel. He is a frequent contributor to these pages. This is what he says about suing for relief in employment discrimination cases:
My clientI'll call her Susansat across the desk from me. Her case had just settled after three years of bitter legal battles. Susan had been genuinely wronged, and she had won a settlement which reflected that fact. Yet as she talked to me, she hardly seemed like a winner. Susan had been forced to sell her home, forgo needed medical treatment for lack of employer health insurance, and ultimately go on disability benefits due to depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. As we talked, I thought about the last three years and considered what lessons might be learned. I recalled the time early in the battle when this client rejected a generous settlement offer, which I had encouraged her to accept. As Susan left my office, she mentioned that settlement offer and said she wished she had taken it. Her lesson is one from which we can all learn: sometimes it is appropriate to avoid or discontinue the fight and move on to a new challenge or opportunity.
Susan's struggles are far from unusual. I have observed many clients go through tremendous emotional upheaval at the loss or potential loss of a job. This is understandable, since a termination is usually viewed as an attack on an individual's character and self-worth. Given the strong emotions that surround employment, it is easy to understand why some people choose to take a highly adversarial path in attempting to resolve employment problems. However, sometimes there are problems for which there are no legal solutions or for which the legal solution might mean winning the battle but losing the war. At the outset of a case I advise my clients to consider the costs of waging such a legal battle. I advise them to weigh all of the costs, professional, financial, physical, and emotional.
The professional costs will largely depend on the nature of the profession, the size of the community, and the career stage of the employee or job seeker. Although illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), retaliation does happen. Knowing this, I sometimes advise employees facing imminent discharge to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint. In cases of imminent discharge the employer may retaliate and terminate the employee immediately, which could give my client a stronger case. On the other hand, the employer might be extra careful not to appear to retaliate, which might give my client an opportunity to maintain employment.
Retaliation comes in many forms, subtle and blatant. It can mean employment's being terminated or an employee's being skipped over for promotions, being assigned duties which do not lend themselves to career advancement, or being blackballed and labeled a troublemaker. The possibility of retaliation may not be a serious concern for an older person who is fired near the end of a high-paying career. By contrast, retaliation may be a very real concern for a young person seeking an entry-level position in a close-knit profession such as teaching or counseling, and who was discriminated against during an employment interview.
For the older person in this example, the cost of retaliation is relatively small, and there is a potentially large benefit if the legal battle is successful. However, for the young person in this example there is a real risk of retaliation since the person may acquire a reputation as a troublemaker and since there is probably only a small potential benefit. I have seen people who file successful grievances over relatively small employment issues later turned down for promotion and given less desirable job duties. I am persuaded that at least some of these people would have fared better had they worked within the system and applied the energy they used to fight the system to enhance their employment skills.
The financial costs of initiating an employment-discrimination battle will vary depending on the stage of the fight. For instance, no cost is associated with filing an employment-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), though there is still the possibility of retaliation and the corresponding financial harm which may result. To bring a lawsuit under the ADA, you must first file a complaint with the EEOC. You can allow the EEOC to investigate the complaint, or you may request a right-to-sue letter and file a private lawsuit. The EEOC investigation can easily take a couple of years, and they only find in favor of the employee about three percent of the time.
While there is no cost to file a complaint with the EEOC, filing a private lawsuit can be very expensive. Even if you find an attorney to take a case on a contingent fee, you will still be responsible for paying the costs of the litigation, such as copying, depositions, and expert witnesses. These costs can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. I usually tell my clients that they can expect to incur $5,000 to $10,000 in costs, assuming that the case settles before trial. If the case goes to trial, costs can be much higher, and legal maneuvering can even cause a plaintiff to be responsible for some of the costs of the defendant.
Nevertheless, sometimes the decision to litigate is easy, as in the case of a long-term employee who is fired from a unionized job paying $70,000, but who would have difficulty finding a replacement job which would pay more than $25,000. In assessing the costs, consideration must also be given to the potential financial benefit of a lawsuit. However, news reports of multimillion dollar legal awards can lead to an unrealistic expectation of the financial rewards that might be gained by a lawsuit. I usually tell my clients that litigation is a little like buying a lottery ticket, and that a large award may be possible, though such awards are the exception.
Physical and emotional costs also accompany a legal battle. I have seen litigation turn people who were happy and vivacious into lethargic shells of their former selves, dependent on tranquilizers and anti-depressants. Therefore, I always tell my clients that litigation can be very unhealthy. Even in the best of circumstances, litigation can be extremely stressful. The lawyers for your employer will scrutinize your actions and conduct and will dig for anything which could be used against you. For example, an attorney in a deposition can pry into your past and ask questions which would never be allowed in evidence at trial. If you are seeking compensation for mental pain and suffering, the lawyers will be allowed to ask about your mental health history. If your case includes a claim of sexual harassment, your sexual history can be explored.
In addition, lawsuits are normally open to the public, so in a worst-case scenario, private elements from your personal life could be reported in the papers or on the 6:00 news. If you are suing an employer for whom you are still working, then you must face the added difficulty of working in what will likely be a tense and stressful work environment. Litigation can also have a negative impact on home life and can place a serious strain on a marriage.
Unfortunately, some people who take legal action against their employers are motivated primarily by anger and a desire for revenge. These people usually fail to consider carefully the costs and consequences of their actions. As a result, they may incur an additional, often devastating cost: the cost of thinking and acting in ways that can ultimately destroy the self. The Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr., eloquently describes this cost:
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away at its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity, causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
Despite the difficulties of waging a legal battle over employment discrimination, taking a legal stand can certainly be an appropriate choice in many situations. Nevertheless, one of the options I present to my clients is the option to do nothing. I explain to them that they have been victimized and that waging a legal battle might cause them to be revictimized. Sometimes people need a time to heal.
As a blind person, someday you will very likely encounter employment discrimination. How you respond may have lasting effects on your employment career and on many areas of your life.
Blind Woman Wins, But Wins What?
by Linda L. Rhinehart
From the editor: I received the preceding article several months ago and decided to include it in this month's issue. Then, a few days ago, I received the following piece from Linda Rhinehart. Although the case she describes was against an educational institution rather than an employer, it provided a heartbreaking illustration of Greg Trapp's point. Linda is a fairly new Federationist. She is a member of the Capital Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania, itself a new part of the Federation family. It is good to know that at least now Linda is receiving support and advice from Federationists. Here is her story:
I wrote this article about an event that has consumed my life for almost five years. I wanted to share it with my fellow Federationists in order to get a horrible event off my chest, perhaps to find others who have been through a similar experience, and to warn those who may face a similar problem in the future.
I have been blind for thirteen years as a result of a drunk driver's getting behind the wheel. I have learned to deal with bad treatment from some folks in society. In January, 1993, I entered York Technical Institute to receive an education and to earn a degree in specialized business/computerized accounting. Nothing prepared me for the events that were to follow. The very first day my instructors began making annoyed remarks about my talking equipment. They did not approve of my readers, and from that day until I graduated they made faces, called me names, and made my experience as difficult as possible. I worked my way through the entire chain of command and never once received resolution of my ongoing problems with the instructors. I was forced to sign a waiver stating that the school was not responsible for job placement assistance because of my physical disability. I finally concluded that my only recourse in the face of the bizarre treatment I received because of my blindness was to file a lawsuit. From start to finish this lawsuit took four-and-a-half years, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of visits to professionals to prove that I was blind. We also had to compute lost wages and the many other damages we were claiming in the suit. My attorney requested all this, and at great cost I supplied it. I grew increasingly aggravated because I continued to hear negative and derogatory remarks about blind people. The defense attorneys kept asking for continuances, and once a judge even lost my case file on his desk. In the end we were ordered to arbitration with a professional mediator from Philadelphia. As far as I could tell, she ran her courtroom fairly. She even requested my attorney to pay close attention to the closing portion of her briefing. This led me to believe we had presented our case well. By the way, I can assure everyone that legal deadlines mean nothing when you are the plaintiff. When I complained to my attorney that several steps in this case had gone past their deadlines, I was told there was nothing we could do.
So what was the final resultthe result we had to demand after the mediator asked for an extension and exceeded the extension by two more days? Her final report was only one page long. It found on behalf of the plaintiff under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Board and under the fraud, discrimination, and breach of contract clauses. The damages awarded to me as the plaintiff were, and I quote, "No monetary damages awarded; defendant will offer plaintiff job placement assistance and re-education at any time in the future."
I cannot express my anger and pain at this decision except to say that I instantly went numb. I had prepared an ironclad case against the school at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars that I still owe and may never be able to completely repay because the only work I have been able to secure is in a sheltered workshop. I graduated from York Technical Institute with honors, and still they would not provide me the services offered as a matter of course to my non-disabled peers. The original contract stipulated that as an alumna I was to receive the services the arbitrator awarded me in the settlement. I find it appalling for an arbitrator to say that the defendant is guilty of all the charges, especially discrimination and belittlement, yet refuse to penalize the institution for such behavior. In other words, enforcing the original contract agreement is sufficient.
The message delivered by this case and this arbitrator is clear: institutions of higher education can belittle and discriminate against blind people and get away with it. I ask myself today whether or not this lawsuit was worth the time and money I have spent and will continue to spend on it. The answer is: not unless my story is told to warn others about our legal system and how it can sometimes fail us.
Because my case went to arbitration, I can never appeal it. I ask my fellow Federationists to write to me with similar situations, job leads, or suggestions about financial assistance. Write to Linda Rhinehart, 50 Saginaw Road, Mt. Wolf, Pennsylvania 17347. You may also call me at (717) 266-5877. We the members of the National Federation of the Blind must stop discrimination like this from taking place. We can only do it by working together.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Senator Jennings Randolph]
Jennings Randolph Dies at 96
by James Gashel
On Friday, May 8, Jennings Randolph died in a nursing home in St. Louis, Missouri, where he had lived for approximately ten years. In the history of American politics, Senator Randolph may be remembered best for serving the people of West Virginia as a member of the House of Representatives from 1933 to 1947 and later as a Senator from 1958 until his retirement at the end of 1984. When he did retire, Senator Randolph was the only member of Congress still in office after serving during President Roosevelt's first 100 days.
His legislative legacy includes leadership on behalf of the New Deal programs of the 1930's and support for building the interstate highway system from the earliest days of its conception in the 1940's. But with all of this, Senator Randolph expressed the greatest pride in his work to provide opportunities for blind people to become productive and self-supporting through the operation of small businesses.
Who but Jennings Randolph could have known in 1936 that the operation of "vending stands" by blind people in public buildings would lead to rewarding, lucrative employment for thousands in the decades since? A measure of our respect for him is shown in the fact that Jennings Randolph as a private citizen was named as the second recipient of the Federation's Newel Perry award, which was established in the 1950's. We presented him with this special recognition in 1956, although at the time he had not served in Congress for many years.
From the day he began serving in the Senate in 1958, he displayed the Newel Perry award in his Washington office with special pride and continued to champion our cause throughout the remainder of his public life. He demonstrated that fact in a tangible way by continuing to work on bills to expand the rights and opportunities for blind vendors, culminating in the Randolph-Sheppard Act amendments of 1974.
This legislation, which is still in effect today, provides a legal priority for blind people over all others in the operation of businesses on federal property. Proving that he could change with the times, Senator Randolph fought successfully to scrap the concept of blind persons' receiving vending stands in favor of far more lucrative opportunities available in vending facilities, including vending machines, cafeterias, and other large-scale businesses.
Much of his philosophy of government in providing support for small minorities has been enshrined in the opening words of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which have echoed down through the more than six decades since its enactment. Although the language may not be of the politically correct style often used and over-used today, the philosophy of this law"for the purpose of providing blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarging the economic opportunities of the blind, and stimulating the blind to greater efforts in striving to make themselves self-supporting"is still sound and up-to-date. This, for blind people, is the greatest legacy of Jennings Randolph and the reason why he will always be remembered.
This month's recipes have been provided by members of the National Association of Blind Educators, the NFB's teachers division.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Ticchi]
by David Ticchi
Dr. Ticchi is a member of the division's Board of Directors and First Vice President of the NFB of Massachusetts. David asked that we point out that both his recipes appear in a cookbook soon to be available from the Massachusetts affiliate.
1 to 2 cups dried yellow or green peas
1 small cabbage, sliced
2 to 3 pounds beef shank
at least 2 quarts water
2 pounds kale (well washed)
½ pound chourico (Portuguese sausage, pronounced shereeso)
5 pounds or more potatoes, cut into small pieces
salt to taste
Method: Rinse peas and cook in two quarts water for thirty minutes. Add chourico and meat, salt liquid to taste, and cook at least forty-five minutes. Remove meat from pot and set aside. Add kale, cabbage, and potatoes. Cook until vegetables are quite tender, thirty minutes or longer. Add more water if needed. (Instead of dried peas, you can use kidney beans soaked overnight. If using beans, you can cook them with the meat and chourico.) To serve, slice beef and chourico and return to soup, or reheat them in the soup before removing them to a platter to slice and pass as a side dish. Served with Portuguese or Italian bread, this hearty soup is a supper in itself.
by David Ticchi
2-1/2 to 3 pounds broiler-fryer chicken
¼ cup hot salad oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-pound can tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano or basil
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 or 2 bay leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
Method: Cut the chicken in pieces and brown in hot salad oil. Remove chicken. In same skillet cook onions and garlic until tender but not brown. Return chicken to skillet. Combine tomatoes, sauce, salt, pepper, oregano or basil, celery seed, and bay leaves. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and simmer thirty minutes. Stir in wine. Cook chicken uncovered fifteen minutes longer, until tender, turning occasionally. Remove bay leaves, skim off excess fat. Ladle sauce over chicken in dish. Makes four servings. For extra sauce, use two cans of tomato sauce.
by Mary Willows
Mary Willows is the Vice President of the National Association of Blind Educators. She currently teaches elementary-aged children at the California School for the Blind. Before becoming certified to teach blind students, Mary taught second, third, fourth, and fifth grades in the regular classroom. Mary has also served as coordinator of NFB Camp, Chairperson of the Committee on Parental Concerns, and Secretary of the Ala-Costa Chapter of the NFB of California. The following recipes were voted by sons Jimmy, sixteen, and Donny, fourteen, to be their favorites.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, cut in wedges
1 package Lawry's fajita spices and seasoning mix
1 package flour tortillas
1 avocado, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 eight-ounce tub sour cream
Method: In a large skillet heat one tablespoon oil. Saute the onion and green bell pepper, until tender. Remove from skillet. In same skillet brown chicken. Add spices and seasonings and ¼ cup water; blend well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered three to five minutes, stirring occasionally. Return vegetables to skillet and heat through; add one tomato cut into thin wedges (optional). Place ½ cup of this filling on warm flour tortillas. Add avocado, cheese, and sour cream, if desired; fold burrito-style. Makes eight fajitas.
by Mary Willows
Note: These are great for chapter potlucks. Make them the night before, wrap in foil, and refrigerate overnight. Slice them about two fingers' width, once you get to the party. Each hye roller yields about twelve slices, so one package will make thirty-five to forty sandwiches.
1 package soft cracker bread Hye Rollers
4 ounces herbed cream cheese
1 tablespoon ranch salad dressing or mustard
chopped fresh vegetables
sliced lunch meat
Method: Soft Cracker Bread Hye Rollers are flat circles of bread, packaged like tortillas, that can be spread with filling, rolled, and sliced. For vegetarian Hye Rollers: whip together 4 ounces herbed cream cheese and 1 tablespoon ranch salad dressing until smooth. Spread evenly across one hye roller. Then have fun sprinkling your favorite vegetables, pizza-style, in a circle. I use whatever is in the fridge. Here are some ideas: ½ carrot, grated; four sliced mushrooms; a few fresh spinach leaves; a sliced zucchini; a couple of sliced olives; a pinch of sliced jalapenos; etc. So you can see, the list is endless. Any choice of four or five will do. Leave about two inches of cream cheese uncovered at one end. Begin to roll the Hye Roller at the opposite end, stopping only to tuck in runaway veggies. The cream cheese will seal the dough. Wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight.
Another variation is to cover the dough with your favorite lunch meats and cheeses. Instead of beating in salad dressing, whip a specialty mustard into the cream cheese to use as a spread.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bonnie Peterson]
Barszcz (pronounced bahshch)
Polish Beet Soup)
by Bonnie Peterson
Bonnie Peterson is President of the National Association of Blind Educators and President of the NFB of Wisconsin. She is an instructor of communication and public speaking at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. This soup is a traditional part of Easter dinner. Bonnie's husband Joel tasted it for the first time when he came to dinner early in their courtship. According to Bonnie, he whispered to her in horror that it was pink, and he didn't eat pink soup. Years later Joel volunteers to make sure the ingredients are on hand when the time comes to make the barszcz. Experienced cooks don't bother to measure ingredients, but Bonnie has tried to give us an idea of how it is done.
5 medium beets
9 cups water
2 links Polska Kielbasa (Polish sausage)
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup horseradish
½ cup sour cream
2 cups cubed boiled potatoes
Method: Put nine cups of water and kielbasa into a soup kettle. Cook meat for forty-five minutes. Remove meat from water and thinly slice. Peel and thinly slice beets into the same water used for meat. Cook beets for about twenty minutes or until tender. Remove beets. Add vinegar and horseradish to water. Stir. Add sour cream. Stir until blended. Add sliced kielbasa, cooked beets, and boiled potatoes. Barszcz is traditional Polish beet soup eaten all year round. This recipe has been in my family for generations. Barszcz is served hot and has a sweet/sour taste. During the Easter season hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced, are substituted for potatoes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John W. Smith]
Sweet Potato Pie
by John W. Smith
Dr. Smith is a professor of communications at Ohio University, Secretary of the National Association of Blind Educators, and First Vice President of the NFB of Ohio.
1 large can yams or 3 medium yams
½ cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup evaporated milk
½ teaspoon lemon juice (concentrated or freshly squeezed)
1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust (unbaked)
Method: Drain away any liquid from yams and thoroughly warm them. Then place yams in large mixing bowl. Beat yams with electric mixer until smooth, then add margarine. Mix well. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. In separate bowl combine eggs, evaporated milk, and lemon juice. Add to yam mixture and mix well. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Place a cookie sheet in the center of a preheated 350-degree oven. Heat cookie sheet for three to five minutes. Bake pie on cookie sheet for forty-five minutes to one hour, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pie from oven and let cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Can be served plain or with whipped cream or ice cream. Refrigerate leftovers.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Patti Harmon]
by Patti Harmon
Patti Harmon is Treasurer of the National Association of Blind Educators, a teacher with twenty-six years of experience at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped and the 1991 NFB Blind Educator of the Year. She serves on the New Mexico Board of Directors and is a past president of both the White Sands and Alamogordo Chapters of the NFB of New Mexico.
Patti says: "New Mexicans add green chili to anything and everything, creating unforgettable flavor! These appetizers are ideal for any gathering, finger food for friends and family. Add jalapenos for zest or red chili for color at Christmastime."
3 small cans of diced green chilis
3 containers of whipped cream cheese
1 12-pack of flour tortillas
Method: In a large bowl mix together diced chilis and cream cheese. Blend well, making certain every mouthful of cream cheese has great chili pieces in it. On each flat flour tortilla spread a thin layer of the mixture. Roll each up relatively tightly. Place each roll-up on a dinner plate, seam-side down, or in a casserole dish. Cover the plate or dish securely with foil. Place in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator. Slice each rolled-up tortilla into individual pieces about one-half inch thick. Place rounds on a serving dish. These are finger food for children of all ages.
Ann Boyd, an active Federationist and 1996 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award recipient, writes to inquire whether anyone knows where she could purchase a gold-filled pin or charm representing a Perkins Brailler. The National Braille Association in Rochester, New York, used to carry these items, but the organization seems to have moved or closed. If you can give Ann information on this subject, contact her at 6602 State Route 588, Gallipolis, Ohio 45631, e-mail: <[email protected]>.
New NFB Listserv:
David Andrews, system operator for the NFB computer bulletin board, NFB NET, recently made the following announcement:
I am pleased to announce a new list called GUI-TALK, the purpose of which is to discuss the use of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) by blind and visually impaired persons. The GUI includes, but is not limited to, Microsoft Windows 3.X, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, X-Windows, and the Macintosh OS. The GUI can also include graphical interfaces used on consumer electronics devices, office equipment, bank machines, etc.
GUI-TALK provides a forum where we can ask questions and get answers. We can share tips and tricks, discuss software and hardware used to access the GUI, and more. This list is sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and will occasionally carry announcements of interest to NFB members and our friends and supporters. GUI-TALK also gives you access to the resources and information provided by the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, the world's largest demonstration and evaluation center for computer technology used by blind people. GUI-TALK will be moderated, and off-topic messages will not be permitted. People violating this rule will be warned privately by e-mail. If violation of this rule continues, their names will be removed from the mailing list by the moderator.
To subscribe to GUI-TALK, send a message to
<[email protected]>. Leave the subject line of the message blank, and in the body write the following: "subscribe gui-talk." If you would rather receive the list in a digest formatone message a daythen put the following line in the body of the message: "subscribe gtalk-d."
To post a message to GUI-TALK or gtalk-d, please send it to <[email protected]>. Use of this address will automatically post your message to all subscribers to the GUI-TALK mailing list on the Internet. At the same time your message will be posted to the GUI-TALK Forum carried on the NFB NET BBS, which is message area 14.
To unsubscribe from this list, please send your message to the address: <[email protected]>. Leave the subject blank and write "unsubscribe gui-talk" in the body of the message. To unsubscribe from the digest, write "unsubscribe gtalk-d" instead. For help with all Listserv commands, send a message with a blank subject to <[email protected]> and write "help" in the body of the message.
If you have any questions, you can send mail to the GUI-TALK moderator David Andrews at <[email protected]>. You can also reach the NFB NET BBS using Telnet now by pointing your Telnet client to <nfbnet.org> or <18.104.22.168>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Braille 'n Speak 640 for sale, asking $700 or best offer.
Call (732) 222-3510 (evenings) or e-mail to
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Navigator LX 40-8, Version 3.2, refurbished with all accessories and latest software, $2,500 with shipping.
Myna Palmtop with DECtalk speech, like new. Comes with 5MB ROM card and floppy, asking $1,500 with shipping. Call Dan Kish at (714) 573-8880, extension 116.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Perkins Brailler in excellent condition. I am asking $300. Contact Tonya McCluskey at (406) 961-4333.
New Employment Web Page:
John Lucas, an IBM employee, recently wrote to Miss Rovig, Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind, announcing a new IBM Employment Site on the Internet. It is for those interested in computer technology jobs and has a jungle theme. The address is <www.empl.ibm.com>.
Ed and Toni Eames report the results of the Fresno, California, chapter elections held in March. They are Jan Kafton, President; Toni Eames, Vice President; Mary Ann Haas, Secretary;
Ed Eames, Treasurer; and Deloris Snorek and Carma Gale, Board Members.
Fordham School of Law Scholarship Available:
We have been asked to announce that Fordham University School of Law offers a need-based three-year scholarship for a totally blind student who will commence law studies in the fall of 1999.
The scholarship will cover two-thirds of the recipient's tuition for the 1999-2000 academic year and will be renewed for each succeeding year of attendance, provided that the student maintains a grade point average of at least 2.3 for each academic year.
This scholarship is intended to facilitate needy blind students' pursuit of careers in the legal profession and to assist them in obtaining a juris doctor degree. This scholarship was initiated through the efforts of Amy Reiss and has been supported by the Law School and many, many friends who are interested in advancing its goals.
The Law School will work with scholarship winners to ensure attention to their needs. Depending on individual circumstances, these efforts include assisting them in acclimating to the physical environment of the school, coordination of classroom requirements, and assistance from the Office of Career Planning. The Law School's library is equipped with an Arkenstone computer and a Braille printer.
Candidacy for this scholarship is, of course, conditional upon the applicant's acceptance for admission to Fordham Law School. Individuals interested in this scholarship should write to the Law School's Financial Aid Office, Attention: Director James A. McGough, 140 West 62nd Street, New York, New York 10023.
Upon acceptance for admission to the Law School, interested candidates should send an essay of approximately 1,000 words addressing why the candidate believes that he or she should be awarded this scholarship to Amy L. Reiss, 150 East 58th Street, Twenty-first Floor, New York, New York 10155.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Employment opportunities in cities of at least 200,000 population, must work full- or part-time during business hours mainly on the phone, no financial investment, does not involve selling products to individuals, good income potential, marketing of new, exciting product to all kinds of organizations, big and small, training available. Openings for adults of all ages. Apply in Braille or print, on cassette, or by fax or phone, to Easier Ways, Inc., 2954 Shady Lane, Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126. Call (303) 290-0987, fax (303) 290-6446, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mountain Time.
JAWS for Windows 95. New, never installed, with all documentation, including registration disk, asking $400 or best offer. Contact Gary Davis, 177 Lake Eden Road, Black Mountain, North Carolina 28711, (704) 686-9180.
Hazel Staley reports with great sadness that on Saturday afternoon, May 9, 1998, Helen Collins died in a skilled nursing facility. She had been battling a congestive heart condition and colon cancer for several months. Helen's husband Clarence was the first president of the NFB of North Carolina after the affiliate was reorganized in 1969. During the 1960's Helen and Clarence attended all of our National Conventions and sat alone in the North Carolina delegation. Clarence preceded Helen in death several years ago. With her passing we feel that an important era in our affiliate's history has ended. Helen was a wonderful person, a faithful friend, and a dedicated Federationist. North Carolina is a far better affiliate for having had Clarence and Helen with us. Now that they are gone, we can only strive to emulate their example.
Lois Montgomery reports that on May 2, 1998, the Bix Beiderbecke Chapter of the NFB of Iowa elected new officers. They are John TeBockhorst, President; Mary Hartle-Smith, Vice President; Lois Montgomery, Secretary; Mike Smith, Treasurer; and Tom TeBockhorst, Board Member.
Literary Works On-line:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Assistive Media is an Ann Arbor, Michigan, non-profit entity producing free on-line audio recordings of literary works for people with text-reading/access barriers. To access this service, go to <http://www.assistivemedia.org>.
Art Appreciation for the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Art History Through Touch and Sound: a Multisensory Guide for the Blind and Visually Impaired is an innovative audiobook series spanning prehistory through contemporary times, including some 600 tactile illustrations of major monuments in the history of art. Direct your librarian to us if you would like your local or school library to acquire copies for its collection. The audiobook series is developed by Art Education for the Blind. OpticalTouch Systems, in New York City, is the publisher.
Baroque Art in the Seventeenth Century, available now, is the first release in the twenty-two-volume series; subsequent volumes are scheduled for publication through 1999. The illustrations use a lexicon of seven standardized patterns, giving readers familiarity with the tactile vocabulary. The companion audio-narrative guides the reader through the illustrations, providing art historical information as well as detailed descriptions of the artworks. Highly regarded art historians collaborated with Art Education for the Blind's development team to create narratives that convey the historical complexity and formal range of some 30,000 years of visual art. Color and black-and-white photographs accompany the tactile illustrations. Captions, including attribution, date, media, dimensions, and the custodian or location of the work, are provided in large type and Braille. Interpretive sound-compositions allow the reader to use hearing in the pursuit of visual understanding. Art-appreciation activities and suggestions for further reading enable readers to build upon the foundation offered by this basic survey of art history.
Contact Art Education for the Blind if you would like to order books in this series. And lobby your librarians to add this audiobook series to their collection.
Art Education for the Blind, Inc. 160 Mercer Street, New York, New York 10012, phone (212) 334-3700, e-mail <[email protected]>.
Ngolela wa Kabongo writes on behalf of a blind friend who is a refugee in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. She likes to read; however, she does not have access to many books in Braille. She would like to have a friend to correspond with in Braille. Her address is Mme Ekoko Kodiemoka, 14 Abidjan Bp 1626, Abidjan 14, Ivory Coast, West Africa.
The Napa Chapter of the NFB of California recently elected the following new officers: Yarl Gerringer, President; Jane Rhodes, Vice President; Irv Krenke, Treasurer; and Diane Cassayre, Secretary. The Board Members are George Blackstock, Addie Wehrman, Martha Kirk, Roby Hayworth, and Virginia Martin.
White Cane Safety Day Fund-Raiser:
Eric Duffy, President of the Capital Chapter of the NFB of Ohio, writes the following brief report on a successful fund-raising idea:
At sometime or other most of us have been told to take a hike. The Parents of Blind Children Division and the Capital Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio have taken that phrase literally. In recognition of National White Cane Safety Day, we have organized a walk in the park for blind children and their families.
Each year a number of blind children and their families gather at Schiller Park in Columbus to walk around the perimeter of the Park with blind adults. Because the kids have gathered sponsors for the walk, they are raising money while at the same time getting invaluable cane travel tips and inspiration from competent blind adults. Since White Cane Safety Day is in October, it is a great time for doughnuts and cider after all the exercise.
This has proven to be a successful fund-raiser for us. We made over $1,000 in both '96 and '97. Last year we had T-shirts available for any child who had $50 or more in pledges. The shirts were also available in adult sizes for purchase. On the front of the T-shirt are two stick-figures with canes. The text is "Take a Hike Annual White Cane Walk Sponsored by Parents of Blind Children and the Capital Chapter." On the back are a cane and the words: "The long white cane, a necessary tool for a blind kid to achieve independence, acceptance, safety, and a future."
This activity doesn't require a lot of work. We simply make up fliers and pledge sheets and send them to members of the Parents Division. It is then up to the kids to get sponsors and collect the money. Blind adults must be on hand to walk with the kids, but that's fun, not work. Someone has to make sure that all of the money is collected, but mostly we have found that the kids bring the money with them.
This is an excellent fund-raiser, so we suggest that you get it together and take a hike.
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.