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
2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, Calif.
APRIL ISSUE - 1960
THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Published monthly in Braille and distributed free to the blind by the National Federation of the Blind, 605 South Few Street, Madison 3, Wisconsin.
Inkprint 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.
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in 2010 with funding from
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Amendment of Social Security Act to Provide Disability Insurance Benefits for the Blind
"Reflections on Placement"
by Tom Drake
Job Clearing House
"Blind F.B.I. Man Nemesis of Spies"
Here We Go Again!
New Switchboard System Given Real Test in Nevada
"Proudly We Fail"
Outstanding Chapter Program
From Dr. Grant
More Oakland Graduates
From Our Readers
Here and There
Rehabilitation vs. Employment: An Important NLRB Decision
by Jacobus tenBroek
(Speech by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey upon introduction of S. 3067.)
Mr. President, on behalf of myself, and the senior Senator from New York (Mr. Javits), I introduce, for appropriate reference, a bill amending the Social Security Act to provide for full disability insurance benefits for persons who are blind.
The sudden occurrence of blindness is a shocking and devastating experience. It need not, however, be a disastrous one. Loss of sight is merely the loss of a physical sense--but in no other way does this change or alter the individuals. Of course, blindness does impose certain limitations, but today these limitations may be substantially reduced by the prompt receipt of proper adjustment training in the recognized techniques of blindness. Given this training soon after the onset of blindness, many blind individuals are able to return to regular employment, are able to resume their responsibilities as providers for their families; but the road back is not an easy one. Public attitudes toward blindness and those who are blind create roadblocks in their way.
A person who is trained in the techniques of blindness, a person who learns to travel freely with the use of the long cane and who receives sufficient training to qualify for practice of a profession or employment in business or industry, still encounters great difficulty in obtaining employment. Too often, if he is so fortunate as to obtain any employment at all, the work will be of an unskilled and repetitive nature--uncertain in duration, meager in compensation.
Individuals who are blind need the minimum financial security that my bill would provide. Such financial security would serve to encourage and stimulate them to greater rehabilitative efforts. I believe it would help in converting them from dependence upon their families or public assistance to economically self-sufficient taxpaying citizens. The bill which I am introducing contains four provisions:
First, it would eliminate so far as blind persons are concerned the age of 50 as a requirement for the establishment of eligibility for disability insurance benefits.
Blindness is a disruptive and demoralizing occurrence at any time in a person's life; but, it is far more disruptive when it occurs during an individual's working years. It is at such time, during such years, that the financial security offered by disability insurance can be of the greatest assistance in the restoration of disabled persons to lives of value to themselves, their dependents, and to the Nation. To deny the benefits of the disability insurance program to blind persons who have not yet attained the age of 50 is to deny to these persons the help which they need at a time when they need it most, at a time when they can still reshape their lives.
Second, my bill provides for the inclusion in the disability insurance program of the definition of blindness which is generally accepted and employed throughout the Nation. Blindness, according to the terms of this definition, means central visual acuity of 20/200 or less, in the better eye with correcting lenses, or visual acuity greater than 20/200 if accompanied by a limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees. Inclusion of this definition into the disability insurance law would lessen confusion and provide anophthalmological standard for the determination of blindness.
Once a blind person has established his eligibility for disability insurance benefits in accordance with the terms of this definition, he shall be entitled to receive full benefits for the duration of the disability.
This provision seeks to make the disability insurance sections of the Social Security Act a true insurance program for the blind. Benefits would be conditioned upon the existence and continued existence of the disability of blindness. This provision recognizes that an economic loss is sustained when an individual loses his sight, and it endeavors by means of disability compensation to minimize the economic impact upon the individual.
Third, the bill would delete the present requirement that a beneficiary of disability insurance accept vocational rehabilitation from the appropriate State agency before his eligibility can be established permanently. The effect of this requirement is twofold.
The bill negates the insurance concept of the disability insurance program by conditioning receipt of benefits upon a consideration other than the existence of a medically determinable disability.
This requirement also makes of rehabilitation, which by its very nature is brought about by the voluntary action of a disabled person, a compulsory and coercive force--which endeavors by threat of punishment to compel a man to rebuild his life. Rehabilitation can be achieved only when disabled persons are encouraged and stimulated to the efforts necessary for its attainment. Wise and patient guidance and counsel is needed if disabled persons are to be assisted in rebuilding their lives.
Fourth, the bill would reduce the length of time blind persons must have worked in covered employment in order to establish eligibility for disability benefits. The present minimum of 20 quarters of covered employment would be changed, insofar as the blind are concerned, to a minimum of 1 quarter. There is nothing magic in the current minimum requirement. The requirement that an individual must have attained age 50 in order to be eligible for disability benefits fails to recognize the consequences which inevitably occur when a younger head of a house-hold becomes disabled and can no longer support his family. The current coverage requirement has the same impact on the individual who cannot meet the requirements which it imposes. A contributory insurance program which denies benefits to younger members who become disabled does so at a time when they may be responsible for the support of small children. Aside from its economic impact, the loss of sight can have a devastating effect upon the family head. My bill seeks to correct this inequity.
According to the best available estimates the Nation has a blind population of approximately 350,000. Some 50 percent of these men and women became blind after attainment of age 60, and it is anticipated that this percentage will increase gradually. Many of them are already covered by the old age and survivors and disability insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act. Approximately 22,000 American citizens lose their sight each year. If enacted, my bill would make benefits under title II of the Social Security Act available to an estimated 10 to 15 thousand newly blind persons each year.
The bill which I am introducing is similar in all respects to H. R. 8218 and H. R. 8219, introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Victor L. Anfuso and Albert H. Bosch, respectively. It is my hope that the appropriate committees will hold prompt hearings on these bills during this session and will adopt them into law.
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By Tom Drake
(Editor's note: Mr. Drake, himself totally blind, is the director of the famous adjustment center at Torquay, in southwest England. Darlene and I visited there in 1956 and were royally entertained. This was the beginning of a warm and rewarding friendship, which was renewed and strengthened at the World Council meeting in Rome last summer. Mr. Drake delivered an excellent paper during the Rome sessions which I plan to include in the Monitor as soon as space will permit. The article which is quoted below appeared in the December 30th New Beacon. Much of it is painfully reminiscent of certain areas in the United States. At its close he says bluntly: "This is a pertinent and provocative article and it may be thought highly controversial. I make no apologies for its being so.")
...There is unquestionably great benefit to be derived from a residential rehabilitation center. There a degree of restoration of physical and nervous health, the advantages of purposeful living with others similarly handicapped, the learning of techniques and skills--with the accompanying gain in self-confidence and independence--can be obtained. Such a course permits us to assess aptitudes and thus enables us to help in vocational guidance for future employment. This has been said many times before and is generally understood and appreciated but it is not until the individual is finally placed in satisfactory gainful employment that the process of vocational rehabilitation can be considered complete. The time between his loss of a sighted occupation and his return to employment as a blind person is often, we know, long, tedious and difficult, beset by innumerable hazards and frustrations.
Many services play their part--medical, hospital, welfare; adjustment and orientation; vocational training and placement. Important and necessary as is this step-by-step process toward the final goal of employment, if the ultimate objective is not obtained the accrued benefits will be lost, retrogression will take place and he will soon be back where he was immediately following the onset of blindness. His high morale, his self-confidence, his will and determination to succeed and his hopes for the future will be dissipated, giving way to disillusionment, bitter disappointment, demoralization and loss of faith--not only in himself but in all those who have mislead him into the belief that he could work again.
I receive many letters from those who have taken the course here. Some of the writers are elated and eager to tell me that they have work. Others are becoming despondent at having to wait so long. And some are totally discouraged and bitterly resigned to permanent unemployment. It is because of this latter group that I feel compelled to stress the need for a more vigorous, efficient and comprehensive placement service.
How often it is said that public assistance payments being what they are, the motivating incentive to earn a living is so reduced as to make some blind people indifferent as to whether they work or not. I think this only applies to an extremely small minority. From my experience I am convinced that the vast majority are desperately anxious to work. Financial gain is by no means the only motivating factor. They want the satisfaction of being occupied. They want to feel the pride that comes from achievement. They want to live busy and useful lives--back to normal as before, and like their friends.
Now the $64,000 question! Are we perfectly satisfied that in Britain everything is being done that can be done to bring about this all-important culminating stage in rehabilitation of the blind? I do not consider that this is so. At the Torquay center we have clients from all parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I am therefore in a unique position to gauge the placement program as a whole. In some cases the local blind welfare authorities employ their own placement officers. Some others avail themselves of the special placement services provided by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. But in many areas this very important and specialized work is assigned to, say, a home teacher, a workshop manager, or even incorporated in the duties of a general social caseworker. It has become apparent to me that many of these provisions for the placement of the blind are grossly inadequate. Too often the result is that the blind person is either not placed at all or is shunted into a blind workshop, regardless of his desire to go into some form of open employment and despite our strong recommendation to that effect.
In certain areas those charged with the responsibility for placement invariably fill out the information blanks with the words "prospects very poor in open employment but reasonable in sheltered." I have come to know that individuals from these areas will be placed in the blind workshops if they work at all. Our subsequent inquiries as to whether the client can be placed in this or that occupation elicit vague, negative or noncommittal replies. There are areas where a specialist placement service is entirely lacking. A blind person who is fit, willing and capable gets no help in finding a job. Occasionally such an individual will find work entirely on his own.
Sometimes permission is granted by the local authority for a specialist placement officer to come in and undertake investigation and placement action, usually with the result that the blind person is placed in suitable employment. A man, newly blinded, about forty years of age, came to us from an area where there was no specialized placement service for the blind. His papers stated that his firm could not take him back because they had "no suitable work for a blind person and it would be dangerous with so much machinery about." He had been advised to enter the blind workshop fifteen miles away. This man had been employed by the same firm for twenty-three years in an unskilled capacity. The firm employed 8,000 to 9,000 people. We found that he made an excellent adjustment to his blindness and had quite good manual skill. His preference was for open industry. The R.N.I. B., which did not operate in this area, asked and obtained permission to send in a specialist who would try to get re-instatement for this client. The specialist called on the firm. It transpired that they had only been asked on the telephone if they would take the man back. The expert was able to resolve their doubts and skepticism and they became most cooperative. After a short course of training, he was tried out in the machine shop, where he soon proved to be one of their best workers. As a skilled workman he is now commanding better pay than he had ever received as a sighted, unskilled worker.
At Rome last summer Mr. Joseph Clunk presented a paper on the qualifications of placement officers. He included a wide technical knowledge of industrial processes, the ability to make job analyses, the full understanding of each process, and the ability to talk convincingly at all levels. He must be able to observe and evaluate qualities, abilities, aptitudes, personal traits and weaknesses of the clients for whom he is expected to find suitable jobs. Mr. Clunk regards placement as a business--no sentiment, no sympathy, just dogged determination to sell efficient labor units who happen to be physically blind. Everything else being equal, Mr. Clunk feels that a blind placement officer has a distinct advantage in that he can demonstrate how a blind man can perform various jobs and that such actual demonstrations more effectively break down skepticism than any amount of logical argument. In any event, placement of the blind is a full time, specialized job and should never be considered a mere sideline.
Britain today is enjoying full employment and a constantly rising standard of living. "We can and we must see to it that all blind people who are willing, fit and able to work get their chance. Our medical and social welfare services and our pre-vocational training courses are possibly the best in the world. Let us match this by having an equally fine and comprehensive, specialized placement coverage. Only then can we feel that everything possible is being done to give the blind person what he wants more than anything else and what will give him far more happiness than all the benefits of a blind welfare social service--the satisfaction found only in gainful employment, a place in the sun, regained self-respect and independence. As long as we have any employable blind who are condemned to enforced idleness there is no room for complacency.
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The employment committee of the California Council, under the chairmanship of Jack Polston, is setting up a clearing house designed to expedite the placement of blind Californians in suitable jobs. It is assembling a file of blind people who want jobs, with the kind of employment they are seeking. It will also assemble a file of known job opportunities, where the employer will consider blind people. When a job opening which appears suitable for a blind individual is found in its files, those qualified will be alerted and given all available information. All chapters have been sent job application forms and all individual members are urged to be on the lookout for possible job opportunities and to notify the Council of these immediately. Each chapter is asked to contact at least one employer each month and to discuss with him the possibility of hiring blind people in his plant or business, and also to contact county and city officials with the same purpose.
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From the New York Times, February 14:
"One of the most remarkable untold stories in the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the case history of Emory Gregg, who went blind 9 years ago and now uses memory in place of eyes. Mr. Gregg had taken part in some of the biggest espionage and sabotage cases during and after World War II. They included the apprehension of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed for transmitting information to the Soviet Union. His work had brought commendations from J. Edgar Hoover.
"In 1950 and 1951, Mr. Gregg experienced retinal hemorrhages.... He spent a long and painful convalescence, dreading the day he must report back to the Bureau, where sharp vision was a basic requirement. ... 'It turned out to be one of the happiest experiences of my life,' Mr. Gregg said. 'Mr. Hoover told me he wanted me to stay on. He said I would be judged, not on the basis of any medical report, but on how I performed. I walked out of that room determined to do my job better than any other man.'
"Details of the work Mr. Gregg has performed since that day cannot be revealed. Suffice it to say that he has had two promotions and is now at one of the F.B.I,'s most sensitive levels. His present title is Supervisor, Espionage Section, Domestic Intelligence Division.... Written material is read aloud to him, photographs are described to him. His memory, honed supersharp to compensate for his vision, files each fact. At his mental fingertips he keeps track of every known enemy agent operating in the United States. 'He is truly a walking encyclopedia,' one of Mr. Gregg's friends said. 'He can lecture by the hour, presenting the most detailed information from espionage and counter-intelligence files with no prompting and no text.' ..."
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From The Washington Post: "The government is trying to find out how blind people who move about and travel without dogs manage to do it so well. To that end a $37,743 Federal grant has been awarded to the C. W. Schilling Auditory Research Center, Groton, Connecticut, for research into the ways in which these 'expert' blind people use sounds. Gilbert, chief of the Division of Research Grants in the United States Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, said the research center will construct a laboratory model of a city street, with buildings and doorways. Recorded street sounds will be used by 'expert' blind people moving along the simulated street. The study will include interviews and observation of these blind travelers. Barnhart said the project is expected to be helpful in instructing other blind persons."
If memory serves, all of this ground and much more was covered in a long series of experiments which began at Cornell University some 14 years ago and was later transferred to Texas. During the Texas phase, which lasted about 4 years, the locus of the experimental work was at the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. It is at least open to serious question whether this Connecticut project, and the financial outlay which it necessitates, can be justified. The Cornell-Texas series of experiments is reported to have been so exhaustive that it seems very doubtful if any really important new data will result.
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In view of conflicting reports, some of which indicate that the Bell Laboratories' experiments with other than the standard Braille switchboard have not yet been successful, the following item from the Reno Evening Gazette is of special interest:
"A 19-year-old Reno girl, recently blinded, is starting a new career.... This week Miss Charlotte Hunter began work as a PBX operator at the Reno office of the Employment Security Department, using a special 'Seeing Aid' device, developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories.... Several months ago Richard Ham, executive director of the employment department, decided to improve the department's method of developing jobs for the handicapped. 'We were attempting to sell employers on the merits of handicapped workers so I decided that, if handicapped workers were as good as our department believed they were, we ought to be the first to show people,' Ham explained. During her attendance at the Bureau's orientation training course for the blind last September, Miss Hunter had shown fine potential for successful employment. When she completed the course, Miss Hunter enrolled at the Braille Institute of America in Los Angeles for a 9-week prevocational training course. When she finished that she took a 6-week course as a PBX operator. Since a special switchboard was needed for Miss Hunter, Ham talked to officials of Bell of Nevada. They offered full assistance, noting that the 'Seeing Aid' had been recently developed and might be available for a trial here. One was obtained and Miss Hunter started a 2-week on-the-job training program to learn to use it....
"The experimental 'Seeing Aid' is a tiny photoelectric cell which the operator wears on the little finger of her left hand. The cell scans the board until it locates a light indicating an incoming call. When the 'Seeing Aid' locates a light, it sends a tone signal to the operator through her headset. The operator can then handle the call rapidly. When it is fully developed and marketed, it is expected to provide countless job opportunities for the blind."
(Mr. Ham had attended the banquet at the 1959 annual convention of the Nevada Federation of the Blind, held in Reno last September, and had heard Dr. tenBroek discuss the Federation's work with the Federal Civil Service Commission regarding employment opportunities for blind switchboard operators in Federal positions.)
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This year two of the original charter members of the NFB will commemorate the completion of 40 years of existence as organizations of the blind. On March 12 the Badger Association of the Blind (which originally held the Wisconsin charter) plans a dinner at which all former presidents, (including Emil Arndt, the NFB treasurer), will be honored. On June 3, 4 and 5 the Minnesota Organization of the Blind will conduct what will be in the nature of a regional NFB convention, or seminar, at the Andrews Hotel in Minneapolis. Invitations have been sent to the Dakotas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan and it is hoped that many delegates from this North-Central area will be present. The Wisconsin Council of the Blind and one of its affiliated organizations have already elected official delegates and it is expected that at least 2 other Badger organizations will do likewise. In addition, many rank and file members who cannot this year afford the long trip to Miami are planning to be present at the Minnesota convention. The entire program on Saturday, June 4, will be given over to panel discussions of various subjects with which the blind are vitally concerned. Dr. tenBroek will deliver the banquet address that evening and it is expected that he will consent to become moderator of at least one of the panels. Reservations should be sent to the Andrews Hotel, with carbons to President Ben Ystenes, 1099 East Rose Avenue, St. Paul 6, Minnesota.
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Following is a portion of an editorial by Beverly Gladden which appeared in the current issue of the California Council Bulletin.
"...Every blind individual, as he faces the barrier of social prejudice and stereotyped notions about blindness, must early recognize the paradox involved in his ultimate success. That paradox is that, before he can succeed, he must first fail. He must fail to live up to what society expects of him. A blind person, then, must be something of a rebel-- for he must not conform. He must not conform to what is expected of a blind man, unless he would be a nonentity, a thing of clay, moulded into an image upon which society can purge its unfocused emotions. If he would be a man with a heart and soul and mind, as man was meant to be, then he must fail. He must fail to bow down to the agencies who profess themselves his benevolent protectors; he must fail to accept the gift which society offers him--the gift of idleness and uselessness. He must refuse to get out of the way when he is directed to a corner and advised to wait there. He must fail to submit, for it is not yet time for the meek to inherit the earth. He need not, however, carry on his fight alone. The strength of an organization with a single purpose is infinitely greater than that of any individual, regardless of how firm his determination to succeed may be. The ideology of the organized blind movement represented by the Council and the Federation is an outgrowth of a consistent failure to conform to what society expects.
"Ironically, this group of rebels who have failed to conform have contributed considerably to the society which might have rejected them as individuals. The barrier to success which exists for every blind individual is crumbling, indeed, not only from the blows received at the hands of the organized blind, but from the active assistance given to that worthy project of demolition by many sighted persons who are wise enough to realize that the nonconforming blind are in the right, and who stand ready to work with them in their efforts to remove the shadow of the old ghetto and release the blind from bondage."
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The following newspaper clipping describes a recent meeting of the RIFB:
Automation may provide many more jobs in the future for the physically handicapped,' Edwin C. Brown, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO of Rhode Island, said yesterday. Mr. Brown spoke to members of the Rhode Island Federation of the Blind, Inc., at a meeting in the Dreyfus Hotel. He said that modern machinery, operated by push buttons and levers, is ideally suited to the talents of many blind persons. Meanwhile, 'there is still a reluctance on the part of some employers to hire blind persons they don't know intimately and an educational process is needed to change their lack of understanding,' Mr. Brown said. Kenneth Palmer, research assistant of the Medical Service Division of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, said it just isn't true that employers who use handicapped workers must pay higher insurance rates. He said many industrialists believe this but that actually rates are figured on individual experiences and risks involved, regardless of the physical condition of the workers. Harry T. Brett, executive vice-president of the Rhode Island branch, National Metal Trades Association, and a member of the Governor's Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped, said his group runs into two obstacles. He said many employers fear increased insurance rates and others feel they have no jobs which could be handled by the handicapped. He also called for an increased educational program to enlighten these employers. The program was moderated by Miss Elena JLandi, president of the Federation, who told the group that after she was graduated as a fully competent stenographer, it took her 5 years to get her present position--which she has held with no difficulty for 8 years. Miss Landi has been invited to address a meeting of the Governor's Committee on the Employment of the Physically Handicapped."
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New Delhi, India, February 20:
"Six months in Karachi are now over, and with it a very, very interesting period of my trip! ...I shall be visiting Dehra Dun and Joe Royappa this coming week. The following week I make for Bombay, then visit Kingsley Dassanaike in Ceylon. After that will come Madras, then a week in Calcutta, and back into the west wing of Pakistan to hold a four or five day conference there. I do not plan any further than that for the time being. My next permanent address will be in care of Major D. R. Bridges, A.F.O.B., Gochangco Building, San Luis Street, Manila, Philippines. I shall probably be there for two weeks about the beginning of May.
"I conducted four seminars during my stay in Pakistan, with approximately 90 teachers in attendance. It was not easy, but the difficulty was compensated for in the grand bunch of teachers I met and the friendships made with them. The group published its first booklet, called 'New Horizon, the Integrated Program of Education of Blind Youth.' This publication is the first from the new association, the Pakistan Resource Teachers Association, and is a compilation of articles by the participants in the seminar.
"The new Pakistan Association of the Blind, which I wrote you about earlier, is already pushing a program of job placement for blind persons in open industry. Its members are all asking for Braille magazines, so any NFB members who have old editions of the Monitor, or other good Braille material, could do no better than send them along to Dr. Fatima Shah, Kawaja Autocar Building, P-56 Victoria Road, Karachi, Pakistan. How they need reading material--so please help them! They all read English....
"It is much cooler here than in Pakistan and there is at least some grass underfoot, instead of rocky desert. ..." Isabelle.
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The current newsletter of the Oakland Orientation Center Alumni Association reports the achievements of many recent graduates.
Ray Atkins, who has become a highly successful marine engine mechanic, had to find the answer to a serious problem arising out of his inability to read the ordinary dial which registers information obtained by testing devices. "It took another totally blind man with exceptional ability in the field of electronics, Bennie Deef of San Francisco, to solve this problem. Ninety percent of engine failures are caused by poor timing, magnetos, improper setting of ignition points, bad coils and condensors. Deef built an oscillator that tied into the testing device and added a Braille indicator over the dials. Now Ray sets the Braille indicator where the reading should be, finds the zero beat of the oscillator, hooks up the motor and can tell by the whining or pitch of the oscillator when he has made a correct adjustment. More accurate than visual readings!..."
Another graduate, Douglas Kinney of San Francisco, is now a field representative for the BVA. "During the past two years he has placed more than 30 blinded veterans on jobs, many in Federal Civil Service. Some of these include: missile mechanic's helper, telephone repairman, motor vehicle dispatcher, cabinet-maker, bicycle repairman, electronics assembler, telephone answering service, laundry loader, X-ray technician, and many others. The minimum wage of his placements is $1.80 per hour, or over $300 per month.
"Mrs. LaVyrl Johnson, a housewife, is an excellent seamstress and for the past two years has designed and drafted the patterns and made the costumes for the outstanding Christmas program presented at the Oakland Orientation Center. She is, Sally Jones says, the only blind student who has mastered the art of cutting out a dress from a commercial, tissue-paper pattern. Usually the thin patterns must be transferred to heavy paper for the blind seamstress."
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"A good year for you and your magazine! I am receiving the Braille Monitor each month and read it with great eagerness. I believe that you are doing a great humanitarian service for the blind throughout the world.
"Mr. Abed Budair's and Mr. Ismael Anati's writings from Jordan got my attention, though I know that the blind persons in Iraq are no less unhappy than their brothers in Jordan.
"I lost my sight 5 years before when I was in the third year of my study in Arts College at Bagdad University. After 7 months of unsuccessful treatment, I returned to continue my study. My readings in the next two years lowered from 4 or 5 hours a day to none, except few reading with some of my generous friends.
"There is not any agency to rehabilitate the newly-blinded person, not any library for the blind and not any agency for the welfare of the blind, except for some two institutions to receive blind children. However, I had finished my study at that college with a degree of 'very good.' After that I faced a great difficulty searching for a job. I found myself, with two other academically-educated blind persons, struggling with the Ministry of Education to appoint us as teachers in high schools for sighted boys. We suffered a great deal from the old idea that the blind should sit in his home, receiving charities from his relatives, friends, and, if possible, from the government! After two years of fighting against the old idea that the blind could not be teachers we succeeded in persuading the Ministry of Education to appoint us as teachers. Since that time I have been teaching Arabic language in a high school for sighted boys here in Mosul.
"Blind persons in Iraq are hoping that our government should take advanced steps to develop the welfare for the blind. There is no Braille press or magazine in Iraq. One Braille magazine is published in Jordan and two in Cairo. There are no more than 100 book titles published in Arab Braille. There are no more than 120 blind children in schools in Iraq, although the blind population is around 40,000. But I do not want to give a dark picture of my country. You must know it is taking great steps to build a new modern society.
"I was greatly interested in Dr. Grant's letter in the October Monitor. I had hoped that I could meet her during her visit in the Middle East." Muhy-Edeen Tawfik, 4-73 Shaikh Abu Aluala, Mosul, Iraq.
"...Like many other readers I was sorry to see the Monitor take such a cut in size and wish it a speedy recovery. I still hope to get an opportunity to translate some of the articles from the Spanish Braille magazines. The June issue of 'Horrizontes,' a Spanish Braille quarterly published in Montevideo, Uraguay, told of the fine work of Senor Walter Serrat of Uraguay, and Professor Adolfo M. Augero of Argentina, in the floods which affected these two countries last spring. Both of them are blind 'ham' radio operators. ... I imagine there are quite a number of 'hams' throughout the country who are members of the NFB My call letters are W 5 AIV." David Ronecker, San Antonio, Texas.
"Will you please print the following notice in the next issue of the Braille Monitor? Any blind person wishing to take a training course on the switchboard, write to Dallas Federation of the Blind, PBX Committee, Box 2387, Dallas 21, Texas." B. W. Durham, Dallas, Texas.
"This is a good time to talk about Miami while we are knee-deep in snow and ice. ... I found that even in the good dining places both men and women wear shorts. My first experience made me feel overdressed when I wore a dress instead of shorts. Men who have always wanted to wear Bermudas can do so in Miami. Women of all ages and sizes can feel well-dressed in either Bermudas or Jamaicas. ..." Matilda Svoboda, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
"Enclosed is a check for the Braille Monitor. It gives me much pleasure to contribute; however, if any part of the Monitor is turned into a fiction magazine, I threaten to become a screaming 'Indian giver,' and I will also exhibit virulent ulcers of the temperament if the eloquent wording is discarded in favor of a grammar-school version. I am fortunate enough to have a job which provides a comfortable income, nor do I have other major financial problems, such as dependents, health problems, etc. I have unbounded admiration for those less fortunate Monitor readers who, in spite of inadequate pensions and straitened circumstances, have given what they could to support the magazine which means so much to them.
"For myself I have no desire for wealth but it would be fun to send a fortune to the Monitor--at least enough so that our magazine could have as many pages as the Readers Digest, preferably more, and be published twice as often. (Naturally we would provide a huge staff of assistants for you.) From this you must realize that I have become a hopeless addict--not to marijuana, opium or heroin--but to our Braille Monitor." June Connelley, San Francisco, California.
(Editor's note: Miss Connelly, who is a graduate of the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped, enclosed her personal check for $25.)
"...We read articles from the Monitor at our monthly meetings of the Allied Workers of the Blind. We are putting on our candy sale from March 11 to April 11. Ethel Beedle will be in charge of the drive, and Herb Getty is chairman of the finance committee. You might guess, and it is true, that I am chairman of the publicity. ..." Gwenne Phillips, Kansas City, Missouri.
"...I would like to have readers express their opinion on a matter which puzzles me. When I take a trip by train, bus or plane, go to the beauty shop, or have to wait for a long interval in a certain place, I try to take something to read, such as the Monitor. I have some very dear blind friends who say they would not dream of reading Braille in public places for fear they might attract attention. I maintain it is far better for people with sight to observe a blind person reading Braille than to observe one sitting idly, doing nothing, absolutely nothing...." Hazel Moore, Nashville, Tennessee.
"Our members here in Roseburg really appreciated the anxious inquiries of many friends and your expressed concern over the disastrous explosion in our little city. We are rebuilding and gradually getting back on the map. With many streets blocked by scaffolding and pipelines torn up, it has been quite hazardous for the blind to get around by themselves.
"I have been elected official delegate to the next national convention and I am happily looking forward to meeting you personally at Miami. ... I like to get the latest NFB news as it appears in the Braille Monitor, and I read a lot of it to the chapter meeting each month." Harold Baxter, Roseburg, Oregon.
"...I think you do a fine job with the Braille Monitor. There is a great deal involved in editing a magazine and compiling the articles which come to you. An organization's publications are, I think, one of its most important functions. They belong to the members, and they serve to make the organization a closer-knit group. When I talk to potential members, I place special emphasis on our own Eyecatcher and the Braille Monitor." Sylvia Burton, Elmira, New York.
"I have just now finished the reading of your fine Braille Monitor and to your question I reply: Since 23 years I am teaching to sighted pupils in the Middle Superior School with the public education. It is traditional in Italy to permit blind teachers in the public middle schools, but for the oral disciplines only. My matters are history and philosophy to the classic lyceum. Privately I have pupils for pedagogy, or education, science and psychology. If you want more particulars, I am at your disposal." Professor Corrado Festi, Via Centrotrecento N. 33, Bologna, Italia.
"I am glad to let you know that since January past I have become a member of the Brooklyn chapter of the Empire State Association of the Blind. I am very pleased with copy of the Braille Monitor that I receive every month-- especially the story of the situation that was described about the Jewish Guild in New York. Although I do not work for the Guild, I have many personal contacts with those who do. Everything that was stated in that article is true. I am employed by the Industrial Home for the Blind in Brooklyn, and many of these conditions exist there, also. It is about time that these things are brought to light...." Brooklyn, New York.
"I should like to express my appreciation to Mr. Sladky for writing in my defense. Everyone else who commented on my former letter made me feel just a bit unnecessary. ... I have seen both of the British periodicals which Mr. Sladky mentioned, though not for a number of years. These stories are good, but not like our own. With all good wishes for the continued success of the Monitor--with or without stories--I remain yours very cordially," Dorothy Hanna, South Gate, California.
"...The Braille copies which I receive of the Monitor are a source of pleasant anticipation each time they come. Most of the articles contain information which is not only intensely interesting, but also is information practically every blind person should have. I enjoy your editorials and I especially like hearing about your trips to various parts of the world. You have a real knack for describing such trips, it seems to me. Along with this brief letter comes my heartfelt appreciation for all the time and effort you utilize in making the Monitor possible...." Dorothy Petrucci, Vinton, Iowa.
"Last Thursday our General Assembly closed, taking no action on S.ll. This, you will recall, is the bill sponsored by the Welfare Department, giving them life and death control in the matter of recovery from the estate of a blind person.... While this matter is dead for at least one year, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they don't bring it up at the regular session next year. If this is done, it will keep me on the defensive. ..." Rosario Epsora, Baltimore, Maryland.
"It has been in my mind since the hardship to our Braille Monitor has started, however, old saying goes--never too late. As a believer that action talks much louder than words, therefore, you will find a small token of $5.00 check with this, and hope all our Federationists and all Braille Monitor readers will do their duty. It is the only magazine that brings true news to the blind. I read 3 other Braille magazines every month, but only the Braille Monitor is always fighting for rights for the blind people.
"I feel that the Monitor is ours. It belongs to all blind people. It does not belong to the staff or to the officers! It does belong to all of us and it is our fight, I mean all our blind men and women's fight, and only way we can hold our democratic rights." G. G. Avedik, Oakland, California.
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From The Blind Advocate (London): "Braille publications of the Royal National Institute for the Blind during the past year included 478,000 newspapers and periodicals, 1,470 music volumes, 54,102 volumes of literature and 56,621 music and literature pamphlets--a total of almost 600,000 items. The Institute added nearly 1,000 volumes to its Students' Library, which now contains about 25,000 works. During that same period 400 men and women have passed through the Institute's rehabilitation centres and 247 completed their vocational training and found employment.... The Scottish Braille Press commenced the publication of a new Braille periodical for blind women, 'Home Help,' which has proved popular, having a weekly circulation of almost 700 copies. This is the only Braille magazine of its kind published in the Commonwealth, and it is evident that it has met a long-felt need among women readers.... Under the new British-Soviet cultural agreement there is to be an exchange of visiting delegations between the All Russian Society for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Blind. Each delegation will visit the other's country and acquaint itself with current services to the blind.... Contracts recently awarded to an Edinburgh workshop called for the production of air seals for refrigerators, plastic seals for sausage skins, plastic milk tokens and furniture.... In Malaya's strangest pioneer settlement--Taman Harapan ('Valley of Hope'), in Central Malaya, started by the Malayan Association for the Blind--it has been proved that blind workers can prepare and weed rice paddy fields without difficulty. With their keen sense of touch they will be able to carry out rubber tapping at night, when the yield of white latex is highest." The editorial in this issue protests strongly against a proposed action by the Bank of England to change its traditional policy by issuing bank notes of uniform size. Up to this time the blind people of the United Kingdom have been able to distinguish all denominations of bank notes by their size. The editorial stresses the argument that there should be prior consultation with groups affected by any such change of policy.
Performance (President's Committee on the Employment of the Physically Handicapped), reports that: "The most prominent strip and editorial cartoonists in the nation have enthusiastically joined a new movement to place the tremendous impact of their medium behind the Hire-the-Handicapped program."
From The Braille Cardinal (Kentucky): "The Louisville chapter has sent letters to local churches urging that blind piano tuners be given due consideration.... While the blind population of the state is estimated at 6,000 persons, only 145 are now in active status and receiving services from the Division. Relatively few of the blind persona who have vocational rehabilitation potential are receiving vocational rehabilitation services. Many of the blind persons referred for rehabilitation services have been blind for many years and have become accustomed to a life of sheltered idleness. The families of the blind are often inclined to be over-protective and insist that the blind person live in complete isolation. The family accepts the widespread belief that blindness renders an individual totally helpless and that nothing short of sight restoration can remedy this condition. The rehabilitation counselor enters the home of these blind men and women offering services which the blind person is not capable of using in a constructive manner. The blind person who cannot travel, who cannot read or write Braille, or who cannot attend to his personal hygiene and grooming cannot be placed in a program of training or other vocational preparation. It is proposed that the Division employ at least 4 blind home teachers, each to be provided with a stenographer-driver.
The dates for the annual meeting of the Western Conference of Teachers of the Adult Blind have been changed and are now July 27-29, Hotel Ben Lomond, Ogden, Utah.
Dr. Isabelle Grant was still in Karachi when President Eisenhower visited West Pakistan. She watched the parade with great interest and later in the day she met the President and talked to him. He was very interested in her work.
The current issue of the Vermont Informer announces the birth of the Rutland County Council of the Blind, a new affiliate chapter, on January 31. Its first president is Mrs. Jessie Palmer of Whiting.
The News Bulletin of the South Carolina Aurora Club announces that all 4 chapters have new presidents: Spartansburg, Mrs. John Cooley; Columbia, John W. ("Billy") Potter; Charleston, Mrs. Elizabeth Porter; Greenville, Herman Walker Nodine. The state convention will be held at the Poinsett Hotel, Greenville, April 30 and May 1.
The California Council recently conducted a statewide box candy sale with most gratifying results. President Kletzing reports that the net profit will run between $2,500 and $3,000.
A recent issue of The New Beacon--most widely read Braille publication in the British Commonwealth--reproduces two Monitor articles, verbatim. The January issue contains a 4 1/2 page review of Hope Deferred.
The Montana Observer reports the establishment of the Eye Foundation of Billings, Montana, 937 North 28th Street, sponsored by various service clubs.
Senators Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Hart of Michigan, have introduced S. 2915, which would amend the Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code to provide insurance against the costs of hospital, nursing home, home nursing service and diagnostic out-patient hospital services for persons eligible for old-age, survivors and disability insurance benefits.
In a letter which the California Council Bulletin quotes, Dr. Kingsley Price of Johns Hopkins, writes, in part: "I am not in the least touched by the argument that we should keep clear of asking the Library of Congress to add controversial books to its Braille and recorded collection. Every library has them--the Library of Congress most of all, for its sighted readers. Why should it not contain them in the Division for the Blind? Are the blind some special sort of group who should not be provided with controversial materials? ..."
Here are a few pregnant statements from another California Council Bulletin article: "I believe we are placing too much stress on academic education in determining the qualifications of placement officers. I wish to make it clear that I am not discouraging the pursuit of a college education. I merely wish to point out that, in the case of placement officers, the best qualified person may be one without a college degree. In Missouri our 3 most efficient placement officers were men without a college degree. One of these men, while teaching shop at Missouri School for the Blind, was successful in placing 22 blind workers. With blind people, as with sighted people, the kind of agility and dexterity which is conducive to an aptitude for manual arts is more prevalent among those who are not the studious type. ... I believe it is unwise to place several blind persons in the same department of a factory. Any group of handicapped persons, by virtue of common interests, tends to become clannish. Having a number of blind persons in one department may also border on a nuisance situation and may cause resentment on the part of their sighted fellow workers. It is my opinion that this actually happened during the war. Indeed, in factories where many blind persons were employed, I feel that this may have been the reason why they were among the first to be laid off.'
The South Austin Lions Club, 5920 West Madison Street, Chicago, Illinois, made a contribution to the NFB of $135 in December, 1958, and of $325 in December, 1959. Earl Wilcox, well-remembered by many early Federationists, is president of this club, which has only 24 members.
The triennial meeting of the Alumni Association, Minnesota Braille and Sight-Saving School, will be held at the school from Friday afternoon, May 27, through Sunday noon, May 29. It will be possible to accommodate 125 to 150 alumni as overnight guests and for meals. The central office has approved a schedule of charges which will hold the 3-day cost to $4.50.
From a Springfield, Massachusetts, newspaper: "Complaints indicating that some motorists are not observing the blind pedestrian law today led Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Clement A. Riley, to warn drivers that they will lose their driving privileges for violations reported to him by enforcement officials. The only penalty mentioned in the law (Chapter 90, Section 14-A) is a fine of not more than $25 for violation. The threat of loss of license hanging over violators represents a new step in the prosecution of such an offense. The targets of the warning are the drivers who fail to come to a full stop when a blind person is attempting to cross the roadway."
Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, Indiana, now has 7 blind typists in its stenographic pool. The medical records librarian says: "I find that employing the blind in our stenographic pool has been a very wise move. In them we have loyal, steady employees, who are not looking for another job after learning medical terminology. It is also good for the other personnel to observe how the handicapped can produce the same kind of work as the seeing, and sometimes even work of superior quality."
Writing in The New Beacon, Sheila Rees describes her visit to a Moscow workshop for the blind. "Expecting to see traditional trades, I found that the workshop produced small electrical motors and fittings. It employed 400 blind persons and, with the exception of some small bakelite parts, the entire process went on in the establishment. I watched the cutting of metal pieces and all the other processes, including the final assembly. I learned that the average wage was 800 to 900 rubles per month and in addition all workers receive 800 rubles pension as blind persons. This wage is earned for a 6-hour day, with an annual paid holiday of 4 weeks. During sickness the worker is paid 90% of his wages. Hostel accommodations cost only 30 rubles a month. The superintendent stated that many blind persons are also employed in open industry in Moscow."
The Summit County Society of the Blind (Akron chapter of the Ohio Council) has begun publication of a quarterly newsletter.
The Kent County chapter (Grand Rapids), Michigan Council of the Blind will be host to the MCB convention, Bantland Hotel, May 14-15. John Luxon of Detroit will be banquet toastmaster.
The March issue of The Lion features a prominent member of the Abilene chapter of the Lone Star State Federation of the Blind, Dr. Leonard Burford, head of the music department of Abilene Christian College. The article points out that Dr. Burford holds a Doctor of Education degree with a major in music from Columbia University. He has a brother and sister who are also blind and, together with the former, carries on a woodworking hobby, using much power equipment."... 'The neighbors seemed quite upset when they heard the screech of our power saw at night, especially when our workroom wasn't lighted,' smiles Leonard. 'They were afraid we'd cut ourselves, so we turned on the lights to give them more security.' For awhile he scheduled his lawn mowing for the evening hours, since daylight or darkness made no difference, but this, too, made the neighbors unhappy. ..."
In its report of the hearings on the administration of the disability benefits program, November 2-12, the National Rehabilitation Association Newsletter states: "The AFL-CIO and apparently the General Accounting Office favored federalization of determination of disability. NRA, state rehabilitation officials, the AMA and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare felt that determination should be left to the states.... Members of the subcommittee were concerned with the numbers of severely handicapped persons who have been denied benefits under present law and regulation. The impression was left that there has been a gradual liberalization of the standards for determining whether a person is under a disability.... Almost every witness was asked if he wanted to defend the 50-year age limitation for benefits. No one defended it, and HEW will probably recommend removing it.... The Secretary of HEW can now reverse a state's determination of disability, but he cannot reverse a denial of benefits. HEW is recommending that he be given this power. Speeding up the processing of cases was the main reason given for this proposed change. ..."
Writing in We The Blind (Pennsylvania), Josef Cauffman, principal of Overbrook School, who was an official observer at the Rome meeting of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, says: "As to the importance of belonging to this organization, it would seem that acquaintance and fellowship with workers around the world should be a link in the great pattern of peace. The more we work together for similar goals, the better we shall understand each other, and the brighter the prospects for peace. Concentrating on the other fellow's problem is a stimulating experience for it causes us to re-evaluate our own methods. ..." And also from We The Blind: "The Reading chapter gleefully reports that the Blind Artists' Concert recently performed there gave such a tremendous 'shot in the arm' to their starving treasury that it is to become an annual affair. Most PFB chapters are now sponsoring an annual concert by this group with extremely good financial results.... Last year the Lehigh Valley chapter sent delegations to the state legislature no less than 3 times and its members kept up a steady flow of letters and cards urging favorable action of PFB sponsored legislation. ... At a meeting of the Blind Merchants Guild on December 15 State Legislator Mullen said, 'Without properly equipped, well-ordered and diplomatically alert representation of the blind, the most progressive, constructive legislation is doomed to drown in the ink in which it is written."...During 1959 President Frank Lugiano spent an average of 3 1/2 days out of each week away from home--legislative work at Harrisburg, attending chapter meetings and organizing new chapters." This issue of We The Blind quotes from the pledge taken by Philadelphia Lighthouse volunteer social workers: "I will try to be free of false feelings about blindness; feelings that blind persons are strange or different; feelings that they have a sixth sense, or a miraculous compensation--feelings that they are geniuses, or that, on the other hand, they have warped or twisted personalities. I will attempt to know completely what I am now beginning to recognize--that there is no common personality pattern among blind persons. ..."
The current issue of Information (Swiss) tells of the formation in 1955 of the Union of the Roumanian Blind, which now has 60 locals. Its president and secretary are paid officials. A Braille publication, Vista Noua, ("New Life"), averaging 150 pages, appears monthly. The 3 Roumanian residential schools employ a total of 16 blind teachers.
A somewhat startling example of the pitiful amounts recovered through the application of the lien law to blind recipients of public assistance was brought to light recently when a bill to repeal Virginia's lien law was introduced. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1959, the total amount recovered was only $1,733.77, of which $1,301.73 went back to the Federal Government, only $270.02 to the state and only $162.02 to the county. The cost of recovering this paltry sum was not given but it may very well have amounted to more than the state and local shares combined. In view of the hardship which such laws impose, it would seem difficult to defend them on any grounds.
Another 1959 legislative achievement at the state level which has not previously been reported is a South Carolina law granting an additional $1,000 exemption to blind income tax payers.
A bill to reform the administration of the Georgia workshops which was strongly supported by the Georgia Federation--has just become law. Paul Brown of Griffin writes: "The Welfare Department managed to insert a provision giving the Governor power to abolish the board of managers at his discretion but it is believed this power will not be exercised. They also got the minimum wage clause eliminated but we think the board of managers will give us the minimum wage when the factories are straightened out. This was not accomplished without a great deal of hard work. Our Griffin chapter bought time on the air, wrote a lot of personal letters and got up petitions. I feel that we accomplished a tremendous amount."
From a Burlington, Vermont, newspaper: "Trial of the $100,000 damage suit of Walter W. Hollister, 59, of Bennington against the Hoosier Engineering Company of Delaware was recessed Friday in United States District Court... Hollister, a blind man who uses a 'seeing eye' dog, claims his hearing was damaged by a dynamite blast near his home. He charges because of this he can no longer use the dog and his sense of balance has been affected. ..."
From the Downey Skywriter (published by North American Aviation, Inc.): "A man who doesn't care for 'do-gooders' but does a little good himself is Roy H. Trumbull, research engineer in autonetics inertial navigation test equipment manufacturing. What started as a one-shot effort to be of service to others has evolved into a regular spare-time activity.
"It all began a few years ago when Roy, an undergraduate of Heald's Engineering College in the greater San Francisco area, heard through a friend that tape recorders in the Oakland Orientation Center for the Blind were out of alignment. Roy figured that part of a Saturday's effort would set them in order and that would be that. Things didn't work out in quite that way....
"In the process of unlearning his misconceptions about the blind and their problems Roy found a need among the sightless for college textbooks recorded on tape. Roy convinced authorities at nearby San Quentin Prison that some of the inmates could put their time to good use by talking whole textbooks into recorders.
"Roy is now working with the Orange County Federation of the Blind and hopes to institute a similar project with various prisons in the Southern California area."
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by Jacobus tenBroek
The National Labor Relations Board last month handed down a decision which will have far-reaching repercussions upon an increasingly controversial question in work for the blind: are sheltered workshops places of employment, or are they training centers for vocational rehabilitation?
By a majority ruling of three-to-two, the NLRB held that sheltered shops are properly classified as rehabilitation centers rather than as employment establishments, and therefore that they do not come within the Board's jurisdiction with respect to enforcement of collective bargaining and other conditions of normal labor-management relations. In sharp contrast, the dissenting minority held that the workshops should be regarded as places of employment, and thus subject to the National Labor Relations Act, regardless of their incidental roles in rehabilitation or therapy.
Readers of the Monitor will need little reminder that the National Federation of the Blind has consistently contended, along with the NLRB minority, that sheltered workshops are demonstrably places of employment (often permanent employment) for their handicapped workers and are accordingly subject not only to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act but also of the Fair Labor Standards Act, from whose minimum-wage provisions the workshops have always been exempted.
The NLRB decision was handed down in connection with a petition filed against the Sheltered Workshops of San Diego, Inc., by the United Association of Handicapped. Although addressed specifically to the San Diego Workshop, the ruling will of course be applicable to other private shops in similar circumstances--including the private sheltered workshops for the blind throughout the country.
The finding of the Board, following its review of evidence in the case, was that since the San Diego "Workshop's purposes are directed entirely toward rehabilitation of unemployable persons, its commercial activities should be viewed only as a means to that end. Based on these considerations, as well as the limited effect on commerce of labor disputes involving such rehabilitation centers, and the Workshop's close affiliation with state agencies and philanthropic organizations, we believe that it would not effectuate the policies of the [National Labor Relations] Act to assert jurisdiction here."
In flat contradiction of this opinion, the two-man minority held in its dissent that "the Workshop is an employer substantially engaged in commercial activities, and since a basic policy of the Act is to encourage collective bargaining, we would hold that it is better effectuated by asserting jurisdiction than by not asserting it."
It is significant that the Board's ruling opinion avoided a direct decision on the employer status of the Workshop. "In view of our determination... not to assert jurisdiction," the majority stated, "it is unnecessary that we decide whether the Workshop is an employer under the Act in relation to its clients." Despite this statement, however, the majority gave major emphasis in its opinion to the arguments advanced by the Workshop itself that it is not an employer but "is engaged in providing work experience under controlled conditions for persons unemployable elsewhere because of their physical, mental, emotional, or social capabilities. ... It does this by providing an environment which will prepare them as soon as possible for regular employment in the business community.... The Workshop contends that it is not an 'employer' within the meaning of the Act, or alternatively, that it is not engaged in commerce, or is not engaged in such purely commercial activities as would also warrant assertion of jurisdiction over a non-profit organization."
Although this finding was directly challenged by the NLRB minority, neither the majority nor minority opinion questioned the claim of the Workshop that it prepares its workers "as soon as possible for regular employment in the business community." Nowhere, despite the volume of statistics on other points, is proof advanced of this alleged total turnover of the Workshop clientele. Indeed, the San Diego Workshop would be virtually unique in its field if it did not constitute a place of permanent and terminal employment for a significant proportion of its handicapped work force. But the claims of the Work-shop for consideration as a rehabilitative and non-employing agency are recited without apparent question by the Board majority:
"The Workshop presented testimony in support of its contention that it is not an 'employer' in relation to its clients. Among other things, it pointed to its objectives of placement and training, the criterion of unemployability which is used in selecting participants in its program, the amount of time spent in counselling for which the participants lose no pay, and the absence of compulsion or direction over the participants by creating an atmosphere in which they will voluntarily agree to perform whatever work is assigned to them as part of their rehabilitation program."
Admitting that "a combined work and training program, as here involved, necessarily contains some elements ordinarily existing in an employment relationship," the NLRB majority opinion maintained that "the emphasis which is placed on training, counselling, rehabilitation and placement tend to establish that the Workshop's essential purpose is to provide therapeutic assistance rather than employment." It was further stated that "during their period of rehabilitation at the Workshop, the participants are paid on an hourly basis without regard to the quantity or quality of their production."
The last allegation--that participants are paid without regard to quality or amount of output--was directly questioned, along with nearly all other claims, by the minority report filed by the NLRB chairman and one other member. Declaring that "we do not consider the arguments advanced by our colleagues for declining to assert jurisdiction as persuasive," the dissenting members noted that "the majority finds it unnecessary to decide whether the Workshop is an 'employer' within [the terms of] the Act, or whether it is an 'employer' in the generic sense of that term, as meaning that the legal relationship of master and servant exists between the Workshop and the participants. We believe that the Workshop is an employer in both senses."
The minority opinion stated that not only does the Workshop "not meet any reasonable definition of a hospital nor... conform to any of the other specific exclusions" of the National Labor Relations Act, but: "We are also satisfied that the relationship between the Workshop and the participants is one of employment. The Workshop requires regular and sustained work from the participants in its rehabilitation program. That program is largely dependent on the income derived from the services performed by the participants. The Workshop provides the facilities for such work, utilizes the clients' labors in producing a work product or service which is saleable in regular commercial channels, regulates their hours of work, and pays them at rates which take into account to some extent differences in proficiency and productivity. It pays them for vacations, it docks them for time lost from work, and it lays them off when work is slack. In general, it expects them to work, and pays them in accordance with their capacities." (In an acute footnote, the minority report also noted that the very "exemption from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act which the Workshop enjoys is granted by the Wage and Hour Division on the premise that an employer-employee relationship exists.")
In sharp rebuttal of the Workshop's claim not to be engaged in commercial transactions which was incorporated by the NLRB majority in its report, the two dissenters wrote: "We assume that the majority agrees that the Workshop is engaged in commercial activities. Indeed, these activities are the heart of its program. Rehabilitation through work must supply the participants with a feeling that their activities are useful. The Workshop does not ask them to expend energy on products which are to be destroyed; it utilizes their labor in normal commercial channels. The participants also regard their work as useful because they are paid for doing it. In fact, they can be paid only because their labor produces goods and services which are required by commercial users. One need only compare the $560,000 which the Workshop has received from industrial firms since 1955, with the donations and fees which have amounted to less than $30,000 in the same period, to recognize the extent to which the Workshop is engaged in commercial activities."
Conceding the argument that "the Workshop's rehabilitation work benefits the entire community"--which the majority Board members made the basis for their decision not to assert jurisdiction--the minority dissent went on to "reject the implicit corollary that a non-profit organization engaging in socially beneficial activities therefore owes its employees less than other employers do. The right of employees to select a representative and to bargain with their employer concerning their grievances and work conditions should not be so lightly disregarded."
In a still more direct reproof of the majority for its neglect of the primary responsibility of the NLRB for the protection of the rights of workers and the encouragement of normal labor relations, the two-man minority stated that "the majority has balanced the Workshop's commercial activities against its rehabilitation program and has decided that the latter outweighs the former. We would balance the Workshop's total program, commercial and rehabilitative, against the rights of these unfortunate and disabled employees, and would find that the latter is equally important."
In summary, it may be said that the NLRB, by majority decision, has upheld the claim of sheltered workshops to be regarded as instruments of vocational rehabilitation rather than as commercial establishments affording employment to disabled workers unable to meet competitive standards. It does so, not by deciding that such employment is not offered, but that the provision of vocational rehabilitation services (such as counselling, training and placement) establishes that the "essential purpose is to provide therapeutic assistance rather than employment." (The majority does not question whether such "therapeutic assistance" is directly related to the goal of returning shop clients to normal competitive employment.)
In contrast, the Board minority argues that the Workshop is in the fullest sense an employer, that it is directly and substantially engaged in commercial activities, and that its employees have therefore the same rights and the same need for protection--if not an added need--as do workers in other fields of commerce and industry.
Unfortunately for the many thousand blind and other handicapped persons whose conventional source of employment is the sheltered shops, it is the majority opinion of the NLRB which will be put into effect. Its consequences are certain to be as retrogressive as they are far-reaching. Among other things, the decision will greatly encourage the utilization and support of sheltered workshops within the public program of vocational rehabilitation, with negative effects upon the counselling, training and placement of blind clients of the program. More immediately, of course, the ruling sweepingly destroys the efforts of shop workers to gain recognition and amelioration of their sub-marginal conditions through collective bargaining; it sanctifies their exemption from the minimum-wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and, by denying the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act it throws them literally upon the mercies of workshop managers and controlling agencies. In a word, the NLRB action not only perpetuates but greatly intensifies the economic dependency and personal helplessness of workshop employees. It does so, moreover--thereby adding insult to injury--in the name of the high purposes of personal and vocational rehabilitation.
There have always been serious dangers involved in the proposed use of sheltered workshops in any program of rehabilitation, vocational or otherwise--dangers which the National Federation of the Blind has consistently and systematically pointed out in legislative testimony and public discussion. With the new ruling by the NLRB, these dangers are rendered both more urgent and more acute. It may therefore be pertinent, as information to our readers and as ammunition to our friends, to enumerate the most serious of the considerations which should be taken into account in connection with the use of sheltered workshops as instruments of vocational rehabilitation.
1. In their traditional--and still too often their characteristic--role as permanent employment outlets for the disabled, the sheltered workshops are fundamentally opposed to the goals of modern vocational rehabilitation. Under no circumstances should they be utilized as "dumping-grounds" for clients of vocational rehabilitation, such as the blind, for whom normal job placement is a difficult but essential prerequisite to proper rehabilitation. By the same token, vocational rehabilitation agencies should be discouraged from regarding the option of sheltered employment as a "closure" for their clients, however convenient such a solution may be in terms of economy and rapid turnover of the caseload.
2. Because of their customary role as sheltered (i.e., segregated, covered and noncompetitive) employment retreats, the social and psychological environment of the workshops is often not conducive to the paramount objective of vocational rehabilitation--that of restoring the disabled person to a vocational status of normality and equality. Where "feasible" rehabilitants are thrown together with the "non-feasible"; where working facilities and methods are geared to outmoded and unproductive handicrafts such as broom-making and chair-caning, and where the working atmosphere is commonly one of defeatism if not of despair, the overriding purposes of modern vocational rehabilitation cannot be served but only undermined.
3. Apart from psychological and social factors, the economics of sheltered workshops equally tend to militate against their successful adaptation, as presently constituted, to vocational rehabilitation goals. First, they are in most cases at least partly subsidized, and so removed from the normal incentives and competition of ordinary industry. Second, insofar as economic considerations enter, workshop managers are tempted to retain their ablest and most productive workers permanently rather than risk a financial loss by graduating them into normal employment. Finally, the economic and working conditions within sheltered shops (in terms of wages, hours, perquisites, labor-management relations, and the like) are consistently below minimum standards in normal industry, and often below the subsistence standards of relief. Sufficient evidence of this fact is seen in the continued exemption of sheltered workshops from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The existence of such conditions strongly argues against the public support of sheltered workshops, under any circumstances, as training centers for vocational rehabilitation clients.
4. The historic associations of sheltered workshops with the work-house, almshouse, asylum and church of the middle ages have left conspicuous traces upon the majority of present-day shops, giving them often the character of agencies for moral uplift and salvation rather than that of means to the restoration of productive capacities. The goals of spiritual regeneration, however valuable, are not the same as those of vocational rehabilitation. Institutions which are primarily concerned with the souls or morals of their clientele are unlikely either to be sufficiently motivated or professionally qualified in the mundane areas of vocational guidance, training, and selective placement.
The foregoing considerations refer to the usefulness of sheltered workshops within the public program of vocational rehabilitation. Their relationship to other rehabilitative programs of a non-vocational nature is substantially different, but scarcely less in need of protection against abuses and dangers.
First, if the proposition is that sheltered workshops may be made to serve a basically therapeutic purpose, then all relevant conditions (psychological, social, and economic) must be clearly adapted to that purpose. Such shops cannot be, as traditionally they have been, merely terminal workhouses in which "unemployables" may find a drudge's niche at the work-bench. Something other than the deadly monotony of the stereotyped trades is required to provide incentive and interest, and so to serve a genuine therapeutic purpose. Moreover, the clinging heritage of the almshouse and asylum, in which the so-called "derelicts" of society were dumped and forgotten, must be wholly eradicated in favor of a liberating atmosphere encouraging to personal freedom, independence and productive activity. Given such a basic reorientation of values and purposes, the "workshops" under a new name may find a modest and constructive place in programs aiming at the goal of "independent living" for the totally and multiply disabled.
Finally, under the new therapeutic conception of sheltered shops, the alternative error should be avoided of permitting them to fall into the category of mere recreation centers. Although such centers have a legitimate role elsewhere, they can have little value as work therapy. This function can be served only through devising a variety of work opportunities and favorable conditions directed toward stimulating these special clients to the full expression of their work capacities and abilities--with the prospect of modest remuneration and the satisfaction of productive effort. One possible function of the sheltered shops for the competitively unemployable is the provision of an opportunity for creative leisure.
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