INK PRINT EDITION
VOICE OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the Blind--it is the blind speaking for themselves
N. F. B. Headquarters
2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, Calif.
THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Published monthly in Braille and distributed free to the blind by the American Brotherhood for the Blind, 257 South Spring Street, Los Angeles 12, California.
Ink-print edition produced and distributed by the National Federation of the Blind, 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, California. Subscription rate--$3. 00 per year.
EDITOR: GEORGE CARD, 605 South Few Street, Madison, Wisconsin.
News items should be addressed to the Editor. Changes of address and subscriptions should be sent to the Berkeley headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind.
Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010 with funding from National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
NEW ORLEANS CONVENTION
FEDERATION CHRISTMAS CARDS
SENATOR KENNEDY, CONGRESSMAN BARING SPONSOR RIGHT TO ORGANIZE BILLS
AAWB AND AFB INITIATE ATTACK ON BLIND RIGHT TO ORGANIZE BILLS
The 1957 national Convention of the NFB is now history. It was a memorable gathering. All forty-three member States were represented by official delegates or delegations. This was the second successive year in which there has been a one hundred percent response to the roll call of the States. The general attendance was second only to the record turnout at San Francisco a year ago. The largest out-of-State delegation came from Missouri, (more than forty), with Alabama second and Wisconsin third.
Even under the most favorable conditions the work which falls upon the local affiliate in putting on a modern NFB national Convention is coming to be more and more arduous. Certain unexpected local developments made the task of the New Orleans chapter very formidable indeed. Many special emergency arrangements had to be made this year. But in spite of difficulties which at times must have proved almost maddening, our local people did such a supremely good job that the Convention moved along smoothly. The heaviest burden of worry and responsibility fell upon Mr. and Mrs. Ufemon Segura. This indomitable team displayed amazing patience, resourcefulness, and fortitude and their performance can be described as nothing less than heroic.
On July 3, the day before the Convention opened, the Board of Directors held an all-afternoon session. The major items on the agenda involved decisions with respect to New Jersey and Michigan.
Our present affiliate in the former State is the New Jersey Blind Men's Association which, as its name indicates, restricts its membership to men. It has one hundred seventy-two members. It has been warned repeatedly that this closed membership, (which has the effect of excluding at least fifty percent of the blind people of the State), is inconsistent with both the NFB Constitution and with our Code of Affiliate Standards. More than two years ago the BMA was notified informally that it must either reorganize or relinquish its NFB charter. The BMA also belongs to a statewide organization of the blind in New Jersey--the New Jersey Council of Organizations of the Blind. A number of letters have been received by the NFB, pointing out that the Council, with its membership of about seven hundred fifty, including many blind women, would be a much more representative affiliate. The BMA had shown a minimum of interest or participation in the National Federation, having been represented at only one national Convention in fourteen years. It was represented for the second time at San Francisco and its delegates were told, in no uncertain terms, that time was running out. At the July 3 meeting of the board, in New Orleans, there was strong demand for immediate disaffiliation of the BMA but in the end it was decided to grant a final six months of grace. This final extension was granted only after the BMA had pledged that it would either reorganize within that time or would throw its full support to an application for affiliation by the New Jersey Council.
The Michigan Council of the Blind-which seceded from the Michigan Federation of the Blind in 1949-had first applied for re-affiliation in 1950. At that time it was told that it must first prove its ability to survive as an effective organization. It did not re-apply until 1956, at San Francisco. It was found to have fulfilled all the necessary conditions but the NFB Board, and later the full Convention, adopted a resolution directing the two Michigan organizations to negotiate in good faith for the formation of a single organization, comprised of the memberships of both. Whichever organization failed to put forth a real effort in this direction during the ensuing twelve-month period was to be held responsible for the failure of the negotiations. Both Dr. tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan, who went to Michigan last October at the invitation of both groups to help with the negotiations, reported that the Michigan Council had shown a spirit of complete cooperation and had made every effort to effect a bona fide compromise. They both reported that the Michigan Federation had been adamant in refusing to make any concessions whatsoever. The NFB Board felt that this left it no real choice and voted to recommend co-affiliation for the Michigan Council.
The first session of the Convention itself opened Thursday morning, July 4, on a note of high enthusiasm. After addresses of welcome by city officials and by the Convention chairman, Ufemon Segura, the chairman of each State delegation answered the roll call by naming those present from his State. This procedure takes a little time but it is well worth it and it is one of our oldest traditions. Then, after a number of announcements, came the recommendation by the NFB Board of Directors that the Michigan Council of the Blind be granted co-affiliateship. The discussion which followed was not very protracted. James Hainer acted as spokesman for the Michigan Federation. In a statement which was notable for its moderation and for the absence of bitterness, he told the Convention that, if it voted to follow the recommendation of its Board, his organization would feel obliged to surrender its charter and withdraw from the NFB. A number of delegates protested against this course of action and pleaded with the MFB delegation to reconsider. Mr. Hainer steadily declined. When the vote came it was overwhelmingly in favor of co-affiliation. Mr. Hainer then stepped forward and laid the MFB charter on the President's desk. Mr. Sanford Allerton, representing the Michigan Council, (of which he is the president), briefly thanked the Convention for its action and pointed out that his organization had never sought the withdrawal of the MFB. He urged the latter to reconsider and to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Michigan Council for the welfare of all the blind of Michigan.
Lest anyone think that it is an easy and simple thing for a splinter organization to gain co-affiliation, it should be pointed out here that our NFB Constitution provides (1) in an affiliate State, no second organization can be considered for co-affiliation unless it was in being prior to 1951, except with the consent of the existing affiliate, and, (2) even an organization which was in being prior to 1951 can be admitted only by a three-fourths vote of all affiliate States. The National Federation has always regarded co-affiliation, as such, with extreme disfavor and this is only the second time in its history that an exception has been made-the other being Minnesota.
At the Thursday afternoon session, Dr. Bradley Burson, member of the NFB Executive Committee, reported on the work of the special committee of which he is chairman. This committee was created a year ago to plan and direct a research project, the object of which is to obtain a scientifically and statistically accurate answer to the question--"Why are Job Opportunities Denied to the Blind?" Dr. Burson commented briefly on the spirit of the scientific investigator, the magnitude of this particular undertaking, its inherent difficulties and its limited objective. He told us that this is an area which is almost completely untouched because there has never been anything more than desultory spot-checking and a great deal of guesswork. The current phase of the project, he went on, has been turned over to a highly respected organization known as the Opinion Research Center. Although it is costing the National Federation $1,500, this phase is actually only a preliminary survey. When it is completed, the data obtained will be assembled and published and it will then be time to try to interest some of the big research foundations because financial help on a really substantial scale will be required during the later stages.
During my organization trip through upstate New York last May, one of the most delightful persons with whom I came in contact was Mr. Byron Ballard, a teacher at the residential school for the Blind at Batavia, New York. I met scores of his former pupils all over the State and it would be hard to exaggerate the universal love and respect in which he is held. Although he is a great deal younger than Dr. Newel Perry, it would not be at all misleading to say that Byron Ballard's place in the hearts of his former students is quite comparable to Dr. Perry's, in California.
Mr. Ballard came to the New Orleans Convention to explain and demonstrate a little electronic device whiclv it is hoped, will eventually prove to be of real, practical help to those who are totally blind. It is about the size of a fountain pen and emits a sound which varies in pitch according to the intensity of the light to which it is exposed. Even in its present primitive stage of development, it is already possible to sort colored objects and to tell time by moving the little gadget around the face of a fair-sized clock-the sound indicating the position of the hands.
Mr. Ballard came to the Convention early and stayed throughout its entirety, evincing a deep and sympathetic interest at all times. He characterized the attitude of the delegates generally as "real dedication".
Those who attended the Louisville Convention in 1954 will remember Mr. Hiram Chappell, who gave us such a lucid and absorbing account of progress, up to that time, in the training and placement of blind farmers. We were most happy to welcome him back this year and, to many of us at least, his account of certain pilot projects being carried on in several southern States was one of the most exciting and stimulating events of the whole Convention. These projects involved the cooperation of not only State and Federal vocational rehab agencies but also a great many of the Federal farm agencies-for example, the Farmers Home Administration-which had never previously granted a loan to a blind civilian farmer. A number had qualified and applied but had been turned down solely on the ground of their blindness. Those selected for this pilot demonstration of the capabilities of the blind in the field of agriculture included totally blind and partially sighted, owners and tenant sharecroppers, whites and Negroes. One of the features of the experiment was an intensive short course in nursery and greenhouse work. Most of those who went through this training were immediately hired at the same wages paid to sighted workers and a second class of twelve will be given this special training beginning August 1.
The OVR estimates that there are about 43,000 blind persons with rural backgrounds who could be employed in various agricultural pursuits if given proper Training and opportunity. There are now only about 3,500 so employed-mostly at part-time work. The purposes of this pilot project were: 1. To convince counselors, farm specialists, local, State and Federal farm agencies, farmers who are blind, blind persons who could become farmers, of the values to be derived from correlating the services, resources and facilities which could be made available. 2. To demonstrate to all agencies the abilities and capacities of blind persons to assume responsibilities, including financial responsibility, to operate farms independently and to perform a wide variety of farm tasks. 3. To disseminate, on a nationwide basis, the information acquired as a result of the demonstration project. Films and illustrated brochures will be made available. Mr. Chappell feels that all this constitutes a tremendous step forward.
Self-Care and Self-Support. Perry Sundquist, Chief of the California Division of Public Assistance to the Blind, who will be remembered by all who attended the second Milwaukee Convention and the seminar last year, had prepared a brilliant and incisive analysis of the 1956 amendments to title X of the Federal Social Security Law, but was unable to be present and his paper was read to the Thursday afternoon audience. His conclusion-if these amendments are liberally interpreted and properly implemented, it could mean an entirely new and very hopeful concept in the theory of public assistance to the blind. The 1956 amendments, as you know, broaden the purpose clause so as to include self-care and self-support and could result in the gearing of public assistance to rehabilitation-something the Federation has always advocated.
The Convention program listed the final item at this session under the caption "Federation Pins," Kenneth Jernigan. I was inveigled into leaving the auditorium at this point. I was reminded that I was already familiar with what Ken was going to say and that this was a good chance to get a badly-needed haircut. A few minutes later it dawned on me that this was the Fourth of July-no barbershops!
In my absence it appears that a certain project was discussed, the culmination of which will appear in a page or two. A special article on the new Federation pins will be featured in a later issue of this magazine but it seems the three samples displayed at this session were auctioned off at extravagant amounts-Walter McDonald, of Georgia, paying one hundred dollars for his. It is my understanding that Kenneth also had some pregnant things to say about projects at the Chapter and State level. This paper will also appear in full in this periodical.
Among the many events of Thursday evening were a meeting of blind lawyers and a meeting of stand operators.
After the invocation Friday morning, Mr. Augie McCollom, of Kansas, brought us up to date on the research project in the field of electronic aids to travel and communication. This is the one to which each State contributed sixty dollars a year ago. It seems this enterprise is in a state of suspended animation for the moment, owing to the unavailability of qualified manpower to carry on the work at a higher level and the consequent refusal of Washington to put up the Federal two-thirds of the funds necessary for the next stage-until such time as highly specialized research scientists can be found to take charge. Meanwhile the results of the stage just completed are being evaluated, collated and published in useable form. There is no thought of abandoning this and we will undoubtedly hear of further developments next year at Boston.
A. L. Archibald brought in a most encouraging and heartening report on the progress being made in the Civil Service field, with particular emphasis on the prospects for many government jobs for blind switchboard operators. He had high praise for Joe Abel, president of the Arizona Association of the Blind, who is himself an expert switchboard operator and who furnished much data-including moving pictures of himself operating a multi-position switchboard.
Next came a panel discussion of the dual State programs for the blind in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and California. Those participating were A. L. Archibald, Mrs. Laura Welle, of Missouri, and William Taylor and Frank Lugiano, of Pennsylvania. The recent legislative battle to preserve the systems in the last two States was reviewed and all members of the panel expressed gratitude for the tremendous support which came last spring from the blind of all other States. A determined effort will be made during the forthcoming session of Congress to get through a measure which will not only give permanent status to the Pennsylvania and Missouri systems but which will make it possible for any other State to adopt similar programs.
The final program item Friday morning was a demonstration of the so-called "Electric Ear" switchboard, which requires no Braille attachment. It is still in the process of development but it looks very promising. The operator uses an earphone and finds the lighted tube by passing a tiny gadget over her board until the photoelectric cell picks up the light and translates it into sound. We were told that an experienced operator can complete this maneuver in about two seconds. The sighted young lady who was sent for the demonstration took somewhat longer than this but Dorothy Glass, blind delegate from San Francisco, who tried it next, did much better. It has been reported that, in competitive tests with the Braille switchboard, this newer method has been found to be slower than the old one, but if the "Electric Ear" method can be speeded up sufficiently, it will almost certainly prevail because it will be so much less cumbersome and so much less costly.
Friday afternoon was the time set aside for organized recreation and sight-seeing. Most of the delegates who ventured out seemed glad to get back to the air-conditioning of the hotel. A quick shower and they were off again, however, to find out for themselves just what it is that makes the French Quarter and especially Bourbon Street, so famous. No such frivolity, though, for the President, the First V.P., the Treasurer or the Chairman of the Affiliates Standards Committee. Each held an unbroken succession of conferences with delegates, lasting far into the evening.
Saturday morning a panel, made up of Dr. Ben Minner, of Oklahoma, Mr. Matt Schmidt, of Wisconsin, and Mr. Howard Hanson, of South Dakota, presented a highly informative discussion of recent developments in the field of low-vision optical aids. Several of our State organizations are now sponsoring free clinics, in cooperation with ophthalmologists and optometrists who have undergone special training in this field. All reports appear to indicate that a high proportion of those having five percent or more of visual acuity may receive substantial benefits.
The remainder of this day was given over entirely to a discussion of why the National Federation of the Blind must now make a major effort to obtain legislation at the national level which will safeguard our constitutional right to assembly, free speech, and self-organization. Dr. tenBroek led off and electrified his hearers with a powerful and eloquent presentation of our case. He was followed by a series of reports from leaders in States where the conduct of certain officials-who are paid by the taxpayers to serve the blind—has been especially outrageous. Since Dr. tenBroek's address is appearing in this issue, there is no need to go into further detail here.
Happy Birthday/ I was permitted to occupy the chair during the first hour of the Saturday morning session while Dr. tenBroek looked over his "Right to Organize" speech. This made it possible to insert an unscheduled interlude. Walter McDonald came to the microphone and deliverd a glowing tribute to our beloved leader on the occasion of his umpty-umpth birthday. With Arthur Colby serving as a human pitchpipe, Walter then led the audience in an enthusiastic rendition of the traditional birthday song. This last was repeated at the banquet that evening.
The high point of any NFB national Convention is the banquet and the program which follows. This time the food had to be brought into the Masonic Temple by a catering service and it was reported that about forty people showed up without reservations or tickets, which caused much confusion and overcrowding but the delegates understood the situation and preserved the spirit of gaiety and good humor throughout. Once more the Seguras were equal to the occasion. It was thought best to transfer the after-dinner program back to the auditorium on the 13th floor, where all regular sessions were held. We all got there eventually, even though one of the two elevators got stuck while fully loaded.
The NFB President delivered his second major address of the day and it was clear to those with sight that he was near exhaustion but his ringing voice gave no hint of this to those of his auditors who were without it. This speech will be taped, printed, Brailled, and used in this publication in an early issue, so it is enough to say here that it was fully up to the extremely high standard set in other years.
Another featured speaker was the famous star of the Academy Award picture, "The Best Years of Our Lives," Harold Russell, who lost both arms as the result of a parachute jump made on D-Day in Normandy. He has become miraculously dexterous with his "hooks" and, as he puts it, can do anything with them except pick up a dinner check. He spoke of the battle that must be waged by all the handicapped to win understanding and opportunity.
The greatest honor the Federation can bestow upon any non-member in recognition of outstanding service to the blind is the annual award which has been named in honor of the revered California pioneer in our own long struggle for understanding and opportunity, Dr. Newel Perry. This was the third occasion on which it has been presented, and this year it went to Mr. John F. Mungovan, who heads the outstanding program of services to the blind in the State of Massachusetts. He has worked in perfect harmony with the organized blind of his State and has proved himself a wise, able, and liberal administrator. He was very helpful in persuading Senator Kennedy to sponsor our "Right to Organize" bill, S. 2411. (Incidentally, word has just been received that a similar bill has now been introduced in the House by Nevada Congressman Walter S. Baring, H.R. 8609.)
Mr. Mungovan 's speech of acceptance was brief but straightforward and very gracious. He paid tribute to the fine spirit of cooperation shown him by our Massachusetts affiliate.
The affiliation of the Wyoming Association of the Blind as our forty-third State affiliate became official with the completion of the final ceremony, the presentation of the NFB Charter. It was accepted by Mrs. Darken McGraw, of Cheyenne, who expressed the gratification felt by her organization in a graceful and touching little speech.
Mr. Edgar Roy, who is one of the founders of the Louisiana Federation and of the New Orleans chapter and who is regarded as one of the best home teachers anywhere in the country, was nothing short of terrific as Master of Ceremonies. We have had some good banquet M. C.'s in the past but nothing to excel the 1957 performance.
I must confess that I had felt more than a little irritation at the scheduling of a full-dress convention breakfast at the unearthly hour of eight on the morning following a mass banquet. I felt that very few would attend such an ill-timed function and I was half a mind to stay away myself. But Darlene was very firm in this matter and I had to give in-mumbling protests all the way. I was very much surprised to find the place jammed to the doors, with the speakers' table set up just as it had been the night before. When the excellent food had been annihilated, Dr. tenBroek arose and began eulogizing some of our early Federation leaders who have now passed on--Burlingame, Henderson, Treatman, and others. Then I was utterly dumbfounded to hear him begin talking about me. It became clear to me at last that this was a testimonial breakfast in my honor! The format was very similar to the one used on the radio and television production called "This is Your Life". When Dr. tenBroek finished, a document, composed by one of my younger brothers and purporting to be an account of incidents in my life which allegedly occurred prior to the formation of the National Federation in 1940, was read. Several of the anecodotes he recounted took place before the author of this sketch was born and have become a part of our family mythology but the author dealt with them as historic facts and time and again his audience was convulsed with merriment. If pushed far enough, I guess I would have to admit I found it all as funny as anyone. After that came a number of one -minute tributes from people whose presence I only then discovered at the speakers' table. These were not the State leaders I know so well-they were typical, rank-and-file Federation members-and it seemed to me this was a touch of genius on the part of those responsible for the arrangements. Darlene and her indispensable role in everything I have been able to do was by no means forgotten by the various speakers. At the end Dr. tenBroek handed me a brown paper parcel which, he said, contained the wherewithal to purchase an air-conditioner for our ear-mostly in one-dollar bills. It totaled three hundred fifty-five dollars. It was a wonderful gift from the whole Convention. I was able to get out a very few words of thanks and appreciation and my voice did not quite break-but it was a close call.
I believe that most people go through an entire lifetime without such a supreme experience. Whatever I have been able to do for the Federation has been reward enough in itself but that does not in any way diminish my deep, deep gratitude for what happened to me and to Darlene on the morning of Sunday, July 7, 1957.
Mr. A. E. Hess, a government expert on social security, was the first speaker on the regular Sunday morning Convention program. He did much to clear up the confusion in the minds of many of us concerning the application of the disability insurance law to the blind. Some very searching questions were asked by members of the audience and the answers Mr. Hess was able to supply were, for the most part, quite illuminating.
Walter McDonald, Chairman of the NFB Endowment Fund, exhorted the delegates to become more active in obtaining support for this fund at the State and local level. The report of Emil Arndt, our Treasurer, included the reading of the certified audit of NFB finances during the calendar year of 1956, after which copies were distributed. My own White Cane Week report indicated the possibility that, when all States have reported, we may have an all-time high. A meeting of the national WCW Committee held earlier in the Convention had been attended by more than two hundred.
Sunday afternoon Mr. David Cobb, of Washington, D. C, who has served the National Federation as legal counsel and loyal friend for a number of years, and who addressed our Louisville Convention in 1954, read a carefully prepared and intensely interesting history of the greeting card project, from its inception to the present moment. This report lasted almost an hour but the rapt attention of Mr, Cobb's listeners never flagged.
The Resolutions Committee brought in twenty-three resolutions and all were adopted unanimously. I shall publish two or three of them in each of the forthcoming issues.
The last scheduled speaker was Mr. Bernard Gerchen, of St. Louis, the man who had enough faith in the Federation to continue the greeting card program even though the first test mailings had been rather discouraging and it had become apparent that a large mailing would involve very heavy financial risks on his part. Mr. Gerchen had attended our Conventions at Louisville and Omaha but this was his first platform appearance. He spoke with restrained optimism of future fundraising plans but warned that it may very well take another year before our greeting card enterprise will again be in full stride. His frankness and candor and his obvious sincerity made an excellent impression on the delegates. I know he will not mind my telling you now that, a few minutes before he was due to speak, Mr. Gerchen was in a cold sweat of panic.
The withdrawal of the Michigan Federation had left a vacancy on the Board of Directors and this was now filled by the election of Walter McDonald-by acclamation.
It remained only to choose a site for the 1959 Convention. Since we had gone to the West Coast last year, to the deep South this year, and in view of the fact that we will be in Boston, (Somerset Hotel), next year, (July 4-5-6-7), it was generally believed that the Middle West would get the call in 1959. Kansas seemed to have the inside track-but all that was before a young blind lawyer from the Southwest arose and swept the Convention off its feet by the sheer magic of his eloquence. Common sense went by the board and sober judgment went down for the count when Albert Gonzales, president of the New Mexico Federation of the Blind, launched into a lyrical rhapsody on the beauties and the enchanting climate of the historic old city of Santa Fe. So it is Santa Fe in 1959 and, in all likelihood, Philadelphia or Pittsburg in 1960. Pennsylvania is already insisting that our twentieth birthday must be celebrated in the State where we were born.
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Orders for the special boxes of NFB Christmas cards may now be sent to United Industries, 3828 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri. It is not too early to send in these orders because the height of the buying season comes during the last half of September and the first half of October. The boxes cost you seventy-five cents, of which twenty-five cents goes to your national organization. They sell at one dollar and twenty-five cents and are a good competitive value at that price. This is a way in which you can help your own national organization and make a good profit, either for yourself or your local organization. The cards will be shipped on credit and on consignment to local chapters or State organizations; individuals must send in remittances with orders. When ordering, please specify whether or not you wish the illustrated folder to be included in the box. Boxes will be sent either way, as preferred. It may not be possible to put the NFB insignia on the boxes this year.
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The most important legislation for the blind in recent years-and possibly in the last generation-has been introduced into the present session of Congress by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Congressman Walter S. Baring of Nevada.
S. 2411, a bill to protect the right of the blind to self-expression through organizations of the blind, was presented by Senator Kennedy on June 27, following a brilliant and effective speech describing the present urgency of such legislation. Shortly after, in a letter to President tenBroek, Congressman Baring announced his intention of sponsoring a companion bill in the House of Representatives; his bill, H.R. 8609, has now been introduced. (Congressman Baring's letter, S. 2411, and Senator Kennedy's speech are reproduced below.)
The crucial importance of this proposed legislation to all who are blind can scarcely be exaggerated. As readers of Tlie Braille Monitor are aware, the organized blind people of America are today confronted with a critical challenge to their constitutional right of free organization and expression. In State after State, brazen attempts at coercion and intimidation of blind persons have been carried on by officials of State agencies seeking to block or disrupt organizational activities independent of their own control. (The full story of these illegal and nefarious activities by "public servants" is told in "The Blind and the Right to Organize," an address by President tenBroek, published in the present issue of The Braille Monitor.)
In the bitter struggle of the National Federation and affiliated State groups for survival, no more heartening development could occur than the support and advocacy of our cause by two such distinguished legislators as Senator Kennedy and Congressman Baring. Their bills represent much more, however, than mere recognition of the right to organize by the blind, important as such recognition is. More concretely and practically, these bills (1) protect organizations of the blind from interference and obstruction on the part of public officials, and (2) require close and continuing consultation with these organizations by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the formulation and execution of aid and rehabilitation programs for the blind.
Opposition to this proposed legislation, from entrenched interests in public and private welfare agencies, has already begun to emerge (see story below) and may be expected to become much more bitter, powerful, and intense. The success of the Kennedy and Baring bills--and consequently of the free and voluntary organizations of the blind in America-rests as much with the blind themselves as with our sighted friends and supporters in and out of Congress. All who are interested in the preservation of their local, State and national organizations of the blind-and thus in the right of the blind to speak for themselves-should contact their representatives in Congress urging full hearings and final passage of this crucial legislation.
It is urgent that you write Senator John F. Kennedy expressing your support for S. 2411. Address him at the Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. You should also write to the members of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, and the House Committee on Education and Labor, particularly but not exclusively to the members of those committees from your own State.
Lister Hill, Alabama (Oiairman)
James E. Murray, Montana
Matthew M. Neely, West Virginia
John F. Kennedy, Massachusetts
Wayne Morse, Oregon
Pat McNamara, Michigan
Strom Thurmond, South Carolina
H. Alexander Smith, New Jersey
Irving M. Ives, New York
William A. Purtell, Connecticut
Barry Goldwater, Arizona
Gordon Allott, Colorado
John Sherman Cooper, Kentucky
Graham A. Barden, North Carolina
Augustine B. Kell, Pennsylvania
Adam C. Powell, Jr., New York
Cleveland M. Bailey, West Virginia
Carl D. Perkins, Kentucky
Roy W. Wier, Minnesota
Carl Elliott, Alabama
Phil M. Landrum, Georgia
Lee Metcalf, Montana
Edith Green, Oregon
James Roosevelt, California
Herbert Zelenko, New York
Frank Thompson, Jr., New Jersey
Steward L. Udall, Arizona
Elmer J. Holland, Pennsylvania
Ludwig Teller, New York
George S. McGovern, South Dakota
Reprints from the Congressional Record containing S. 2411 and Senator Kennedy's statement may be obtained in quantity from NFB Headquarters.
Samuel K. McConnell, Jr., Pennsylvania
Ralph W. Gwinn, New York
Carroll K. Kearns, Pennsylvania
Clare E. Hoffman, Michigan
Albert H. Bosch, New York
Joe Holt, California
John J. Rhodes, Arizona
Stuyvesant Wainwright, New York
Peter Frelinghuysen, Jr., New Jersey
Donald W. Nicholson, Massachusetts
William H. Ayres, Ohio
Robert P. Griffin, Michigan
Harry G. Haskell, Jr., Delaware
(Not Printed at Government expense)
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 85th CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION United States of America
Protection of Rights of the Blind to Self-Expression Through Certain Organizations
SPEECH of HON. JOHN F. KENNEDY of Massachusetts In the Senate of the United States
Thursday, June 27, 1957
Mr. President, I introduce, for reference to the appropriate committee, a bill to protect the right of blind persons to self-expression through organizations of the blind. I wish to make a statement in connection with the introduction of this bill and ask unanimous consent that the bill be printed in the body of the Record as a part of my remarks.
Organizations of blind persons exist today in many cities and communities throughout the country. Some of these organizations are community groups, some are alumni groups, some are trade and professional groups, some are associations of vending-stand operators, some are organizations of workshop employees. In most of our States today, organizations of the blind within the State have formed one or more statewide organizations. Forty-three of these statewide organizations of the blind are now federated into a single nationwide organization, the National Federation of the Blind.
Organizations of this kind have been formed by the blind to advance their own welfare and common interests. These organizations provide to our blind citizens the opportunity for collective self-expression. Through these organizations, these citizens are able to formulate democratically and voice effectively their views on the programs that our National Government and our State governments are financing for their aid and rehabilitation. It is important that these views be expressed freely and without interference. It is important that these views be heard and considered by persons charged with responsibility for determining and carrying out our programs for the blind.
In some communities this freedom that each of our blind citizens should have to join, or not to join, organizations of the blind has been prejudiced by a few professional workers in the programs for the blind who have allowed their personal views to be expressed in official action for or against particular organizations of the blind. Administrators and workers in welfare programs for the blind possess unusual power to control the lives and influence the conduct of their clients. It is important that our blind citizens be protected against any exercise of this kind of influence or authority to interfere with their freedom of self-expression through organizations of the blind.
The bill I am introducing would do two things. First, it would direct that, to the fullest extent practicable, the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare shall consult and advise with representatives of organizations of the blind in his formulation and administration of programs for the blind and shall take such steps as may be appropriate to encourage State agencies to do likewise in their formulation and administration of the programs for the blind to which Federal funds are contributed.
Second, the bill would require that no Federal officer or employee concerned with the administration of programs for the blind shall exert the influence of his office against the right of blind persons to join organizations of the blind; and would require that the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare shall adopt regulations, and condition grants to State and other programs for the blind on terms, so that officers and employees in those programs to which Federal funds are contributed will refrain from exerting the influence of their office against organizations of the blind.
The bill would leave the enforcement of these policies to the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and to the States.
It is my hope that the problems dealt with in this bill will be made the subject of hearings before the appropriate committee as early as possible and that effective legislation may be enacted without delay.
The bill will be received and appropriately referred; and, without objection, the bill will be printed in the Record, as follows:
Be it enacted, etc., That in the formulation, administration, and execution of programs for the aid and rehabilitation of the blind, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare shall to the fullest extent practicable consult and advise with authorized representatives of organizations of the blind; and shall in developing and recommending policies and procedures to State agencies take such steps as may be appropriate to encourage such agencies to consult with authorized representatives of organizations of the blind in the formulation, administration, and execution of any State program for the aid and rehabilitation of the blind to which Federal funds are contributed.
Sec. 2. No officer or employee of any Federal, State, or other agency concerned with the administration of any program for the aid or rehabilitation of the blind to which Federal funds have been contributed shall exert the influence of his office or position against the right of the blind to join organizations of the blind. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare shall adopt such regulations and shall condition Federal grants to State or other programs for the blind on such terms as will prevent the exertion of any such influence against self-expression of the blind through organizations of the blind.
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
House of Representatives
Walter S. Baring Committees:
At Large, Nevada Interior and Insular Affairs
Mines and Mining
Irrigation and Reclamation
July 9, 1957 Doctor Jacobus tenBroek
2652 Shasta Road Berkeley 8, California
Dear Doctor tenBroek:
I have shared with my Administrative Assistant, Tim Seward, the inspiration of witnessing from the sidelines your courageous fight to preserve the right of self-expression which belongs to all of the blind citizens of this Country, and to insure their right to speak in their own behalf through authorized representatives of their blind organizations.
I was elected to Congress as a representative of all of the people of my State, and I am particularly proud of the privilege of representing our citizens who are blind. I am proud of what they have accomplished for themselves in the past few years, and I believe wholeheartedly in their right to organize, as has labor, to advance their own opportunities. I feel very strongly that they should be consulted in planning all programs operated within the State that would concern their welfare. While I have spoken here of the blind population of Nevada, the blind of our entire Country have, and should be allowed to enjoy the same rights.
It is a privilege, therefore, to introduce in the House of Representatives a bill similar to S. 241 1 introduced by Senator Kennedy. Copies of my bill will be mailed to you in the next two or three days when it is in print.
I fully realize that there may be Agencies of our Government that by habit have assumed the role of your official spokesman, and that it may take time to accustom these Agencies to work with your organizational representatives as they do with other accredited organizations. The national labor movement has experienced similar growing pains.
It is not only imperative that this legislation be enacted, but that public hearings be scheduled at the earliest possible moment, so that the general public may know of the road blocks you have encountered in your crusade for social and economic equality.
My congratulations to you and your able staff for the splendid Democratic work you are doing.
Sincerely, /s/ Walter S. Baring
Congressman for Nevada
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The anticipated attack by hostile agencies and administrators upon the bill (S. 2411) recently introduced by Senator Kennedy guaranteeing the right of the blind to organize emerged in full force in mid-July with a bitter resolution from the American Association of Workers for the Blind followed by two expressions of opposition from the executive director of the American Foundation for the Blind.
The AAWB resolution, adopted at the Association's convention July 12, is reproduced in full below. Especially noteworthy is its flat declaration that the organized blind are "professionally unqualified" to speak for themselves on matters directly affecting their welfare, and that S. 2411 granting the blind the right to be consulted on such matters embodies a completely unsound and retrogressive concept of the responsibilities and privileges of blind persons as citizens.
These statements make crystal clear the contempt with which dominant elements in the AAWB regard the capacities of their blind clients. No less striking, but still more amazing, is the philosophy here set forth of the nature of democratic representation and the governmental process. Why is the right of free organization and consultation for the blind held to be a retrogressive concept? Is it because free speech, petition and assembly are themselves retrogressive-or is it because these constitutional and human rights are not deemed applicable to the blind?
We need not, however, speculate as to the opinion of the AAWB concerning the role of the blind in legislation affecting them. Their role, in the view of the AAWB, is simply to accept whatever is decided for them by the "professionals" in the field. Close readers of the resolution will observe that the term "professional" is a frequently recurring theme. It is implicit in the self-congratulation of the first "whereas" with its reference to the "extensive knowledge" of the AAWB and its exclusive function of furnishing "sound social thinking". It is explicit in the subsequent condemnation of the organized blind as "professionally unqualified" in contrast to the "professionally responsible" agency personnel with their "professional processes" who alone are competent to work "for the benefit of the blind population."
In its totality this statement adds up to a graphic and unmistakable expression of the anti-democratic custodial philosophy espoused since ancient times by those who have considered themselves the masters of their incompetent blind wards. It is thus a straight forward announcement of the permanent dependent status of the blind in society; but it is also a depiction of the role of the administrator and of the "professional", not as a public servant but as a public dictator-not as the agent of the people whom he serves, whose own expression of their interests and needs (directly and through their elected representatives) control his actions, but as a member of an elite corps of self-designated experts beyond the reach or consultation of the people.
It might also be noted in passing that, even if this blatantly authoritarian theory of government were to be accepted, a stark factual question would remain of the real extent of "professional" competence possessed by these antiquarian custodians and lighthouse keepers.
The abysmal ignorance or cynical disregard--of democratic government contained in this resolution is further illuminated by the charge that the "administrative procedure" contemplated under S. 2411 "would impair the efficiency of Federal programs" such as public assistance and vocational rehabilitation. On the contrary, the principle of consultation called for by the bill is at present constantly and actively in process in the public assistance programs, both at national and State levels, while the Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation has always insisted that her office is closely and continuously in contact with those concerned. Whatever we may choose to think about the veracity of such claims, it is clear that these officials display a powerful respect for what is in fact a universal administrative principle-that of systematic consultation with client groups-and that such consultation and review is everywhere regarded as a means of improving rather than impairing the efficiency of public programs. It could hardly be otherwise, nor has anyone, prior to the present resolution, ever seriously maintained that citizen groups for whom legislation is designed should be excluded from consultation at all stages of its development. Does the AAWB believe that organized labor should have no hand in the policies of the Labor Department? That business interests should not be consulted in the programming of the Commerce Department? That farmers should have no say about the rules laid down by the Agriculture Department? Or do these workers for the blind argue rather that the blind alone are incompetent to have a hand in their own affairs? If the latter is the correct inference, once again no clearer indication could be given of the contemptuous regard in which the blind are held by the authors of this official resolution.
Of the many startling observations in this document, however, the most remarkable is the assertion that "all of the provisions of this bill are already guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States." If this is so, then all the "whereases" of this resolution are an outright attack upon the Constitution! The real significance of the assertion is in the constitutional doctrine it embodies that it is unnecessary and improper to give legislative enforcement to such right. Once more, the lack of understanding of American government and institutions on the part of a group predominantly in the employ of government is little short of overwhelming. For, as every schoolboy knows, the opposite is true: the Constitution is not a self-executing document. Virtually all of its provisions require the support of special laws in order to gain enforcement. Indeed, even the Thirteenth Amendment-one of the few examples of a self-executing constitutional provision-has been implemented by particular legislation, and in fact the Amendment itself calls for just such implementation. By the reasoning employed by the AAWB, all of our murder laws should be repealed, because the Constitution guarantees the right to life. Similarly, all our laws protecting property may be discarded, because the Constitution already guarantees the right to property. Such examples might be indefinitely enumerated, but the foregoing is perhaps sufficient to expose this tortured perversion of the Constitution on the part of those whose real purpose is to find a prop for their hostility to legislation protecting the right of the blind to organize.
In the same clause the AAWB resolution declares irrelevantly that "most federally authorized programs of benefits already provide through statutes or regulations opportunity for fair hearing." Aside from the fact that not merely "most" but all Federal programs should provide such opportunity, it is obvious that the fair hearing thus provided for is reserved to the individual aggrieved, but what is under discussion in S. 2411 is not how an aggrieved individual may obtain a fair hearing but how the blind people of America may gain the right to organize independently and the corollary right to be consulted on policies and programs affecting their lives and livelihood. Clearly, nothing would please the opponents of the organized blind more than their disorganization and consequent reduction to the helpless status of scattered individuals; this yearning is indeed neatly expressed in the comment of the AAWB resolution that "it has been conclusively shown over the years that the great majority of blind persons prefer to be considered as normal members of society..." For the word "normal" in this sentence read "unorganized" and its purport remains unchanged.
One final point in this incredible resolution remains to be noted. The concluding paragraph asserts that any "inadequacies" in present welfare programs would be better "evaluated" through passage of "other bills currently before the Congress ... which would create a Presidential Commission on Problems of Blindness, and favorable consideration of this legislation is profoundly recommended by this Association." It has long been known to the National Federation of the Blind that these bills establishing a study commission on the blind, which weigh the commission overwhelmingly in favor of "professionals," would if approved result in a whitewash of agency policies and practices. Here in the enthusiastic endorsement of the AAWB is concrete confirmation of these fears. These bills are eagerly presented as an alternative to the Congressional hearings contemplated under S. 2411. But why? Do the professional workers for the blind lack faith in the capacity of Congress to carry out an honest and thorough investigation of welfare programs for the blind? Do they believe that this is a job for the "experts" rather than for Congress? If so, it may be wondered who are in fact the real and unbiased experts in this field of investigation: the professionals, investigating themselves, or the experienced members of Congress acting as representatives of the public?
Shortly after the adoption of the AAWB resolution attacking S. 2411, the Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind, M. Robert Barnett, issued two releases expressing opposition to the bill. (The first release, dealing exclusively with S. 2411, is reprinted in full below, the second, which dealt with other matters as well, is reprinted in part.)
In the second release, issued as the July Bulletin of the AFB, S. 2411 was condemned as "administratively unsound" because its passage would, in some unspecified way, "injure the spread" of services for the blind. Moreover, declared the bulletin, passage of the bill "would tend to further the segregation of blind persons, and coerce them into added identification with selected organized groups if they wished to have any voice in affairs affecting their welfare."
That successful self-organization by the blind would further their "segregation" from custodial agencies and dependent relationships need not be questioned; but the suggestion that such organization, carried on for purposes of self-expression and self-determination, would augment rather than diminish the traditional forms of segregation such as sheltered workshops and caretaker institutions is plainly nonsense. With reference to the insinuation that recognition by government of the right to organize would lead to "coercion" of the blind, it need only be noted that the primary and obvious purpose of such legislation is to afford the blind protection from the pervasive and shocking degree of coercion by agencies which presently exists only by virtue of the denial of such constitutional and human rights to the blind.
In his first release, dated July 16, Mr. Barnett characterized the introduction of S. 2411 as "a regrettable incident" because it is "likely to cause one of the most serious philosophical debates yet experienced in our field." We may all agree that the bill is likely to produce such a result; but why should such a "serious philosophical debate" be regrettable? Why, indeed, is it not treated as a golden opportunity to be eagerly welcomed by all who are sincerely interested in the welfare of the blind and therefore in the solution of their present difficulties? One might suppose that no greater contribution could be made in this field than the production of serious philosophical debate. But Mr. Barnett considers it "regrettable." It would appear that there are now those who would deny to the blind not only the rights of free speech and organization but even the right of free thought and philosophical reflection. No doubt such serious discussion would prove "regrettable" to those whose philosophy cannot stand the glare of full publicity and whose practices may be exposed to involve possible derelictions and abuses of public office.
Further, Mr. Barnett stated that the AFB, "on the face of it, cannot help but be opposed to the measure (S. 2411), because we believe its basis to be emotional rather than logical and thoughtful." This gross slur upon the integrity and intelligence of Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts, sponsor of the bill, cannot be permitted to go unchallenged. However, since neither argument nor evidence is advanced in support of this flat assertion, it is impossible to know what grounds may be thought to exist for the charge of emotionality. Those acquainted with the urgent need for such legislation in the face of concerted attack might well consider that the emotional feelings of the blind are inevitably involved-along with their mental powers and spiritual resources-but that, far from discrediting the proposed measure, this emotional commitment and moral sensibility is to its everlasting credit. If the AFB opposes such a bill "on the face of it ... because we believe its basis to be emotional," how many of the stirring landmarks of American political history, from the Declaration of Independence onward, can have the AFB's support?
Witness, finally, the abrupt transition to judicious caution of the closing remark that "we at least believe that no such measure should be enacted into law without intensive study and patient deliberation." On this we may all agree, for it is precisely what is contemplated by Senator Kennedy and Congressman Baring in their plans for exhaustive hearings and investigation in connection with S. 2411 and H.R. 8609. But it may be doubted whether "intensive study and patient deliberation" are possible on this issue without the simultaneous production of a "serious philosophical debate."
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND, INC.
15 West 16th Street, New York 11, N. Y.
July 16, 1957
FROM: M. Robert Barnett
The American Foundation for the Blind, a national research and information agency, has demonstrated for years its very keen interest in all proposed legislation which would affect the lives of blind persons in the United States. Recently a Bill was introduced in the United States Senate (S. 2411) which should not be ignored by us as an organization, but also should receive the very careful attention of every person who has responsibility for or interest in the question of extension of benefits and services to blind persons.
The American Foundation for the Blind has not, as of this writing, expressed its formal opinion with regard to S. 2411 in full. We have, however, viewed the introduction of the Bill as a regrettable incident which is likely to cause one of the most serious philosophical debates yet experienced in our field. On the face of it, we cannot help but be opposed to the measure, because we believe its basis to be emotional rather than logical and thoughtful.
We would like to be of service to anyone concerned with either the specific content of the proposed law or with the underlying reasons which have made it come up for consideration. Meanwhile, we think that the attached copy of a Resolution adopted by the American Association of Workers for the Blind will serve to indicate that we at least believe that no such measure should be enacted into law without intensive study and patient deliberation.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF WORKERS FOR THE BLIND
July 12, 1957
WHEREAS, the American Association of Workers for the Blind has long demonstrated that one of its principal functions is to provide the benefit of its extensive knowledge about the problems of blindness to those leaders in our American society who are responsible for the reflection in legislation of sound social thinking; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Senator John Kennedy, United States Senator of Massachusetts has introduced Senate Bill S. 2411 entitled "Protection of the Rights of the Blind to Self-Expression Through Certain Organizations" which, in the opinion of this Association, is not only unnecessary and unjustified but also is a Bill which embodies a completely unsound and retrogressive concept of the responsibilities and privileges of blind persons as citizens; and
WHEREAS, it has been conclusively shown over the years that the great majority of blind persons prefer to be considered as normal members of society who with the special aid which our government has made possible can pursue lives free of dependency; and
WHEREAS, public and private agencies serving the blind seek and use at every opportunity the advice of professionally responsible blind persons as a guide in the development of services as a supplement to their professional processes for determining the needs and problems to be met; and
WHEREAS, the proposed legislation, if enacted, would create an arbitrary and unwieldy system of review and supervision of all federally-financed benefits or services on behalf of blind persons by professionally unqualified groups; and
WHEREAS, such reviews would in effect make these blind persons supervisors of the federal agencies and programs authorized to make grants-in-aid to the states, or other services such as research and expansion of professional personnel, for the benefit of all the blind population; and
WHEREAS, such administration procedure would impair the efficiency of federal programs concerned with the general welfare of blind persons such as the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, with its components, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Public Health Service, Office of Education, Social Security and Public Assistance with particular reference to Title II and Title X; the United States Library of Congress, Services to the Blind; the Wagner-OT)ay Act as administered by the Department of Labor; The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind as administered by the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Association of Workers for the Blind in Convention assembled this 12th day of July, 1957, in Chicago, Illinois, communicate to the Honorable John Kennedy, United States Senator of Massachusetts, and such other of his colleagues who might be immediately concerned, the fact that he or they either are not fully informed or have been improperly advised about the alleged basis for such legislation as reported; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Legislative Committee and the Membership of this Association take whatever steps are necessary and feasible to provide Senator Kennedy and any others concerned with authentic information concerning all phases of social, educational, and rehabilitation services for the blind, and to provide them with an opportunity to understand that all of the provisions of this Bill are already guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States, and furthermore, most federally authorized programs of benefits already provide through statutes or regulations opportunity for fair hearings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Senator Kennedy and all other members of the United States Congress be advised that inadequacies both in quantity and quality of this nation's programs for prevention of blindness and services to blinded individuals could more effectively be evaluated through the passage of other bills currently before the Congress (HR. 1955 and S. 2385) which would create a Presidential Commission on Problems of blindness, and favorable consideration of this legislation is profoundly recommended by this Association.
S. 2411--A Bill to protect the right of the blind to self-expression through organizations of the blind. (Introduced by Senator Kennedy of Mass.) Attached herewith are other materials concerned with this measure. The Foundation is in no way opposed to the right of blind persons to assemble into groups or to be active in any group they wish. Neither does the Foundation believe that any person in any professional position is justified in efforts to prevent such organizations or such membership. However, the Foundation does not believe that this measure is necessary in order to protect these rights. Furthermore, the measure is administratively unsound. Its passage would injure the spread of proper educational, social and ehabilitation services for and to the blind. It would tend to further the segregation of blind persons, and coerce them into added identification with selected organized groups if they wished to have any voice in affairs affecting their welfare. The Foundation is strongly opposing this measure.
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