THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 44, No. 5                                                                     May, 2001

                                                           Barbara Pierce, Editor

                                   Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

                                     THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

                                                   MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT

                                                                 National Office

                                                            1800 Johnson Street

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         THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION

     SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

ISSN 0006-8819


           Philadelphia Site of 2001 NFB Convention!

                         

     The 2001 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 1-7. Arrangements have been made to hold our convention at the Philadelphia Marriott, a first-class convention hotel. The Marriott is now full, but space is still available at the Marriott Courtyard, across the street. Room rates at this overflow hotel are excellent: singles $55 and twins, doubles, triples, and quads $65 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 19, 2001. The other 50 percent will not be refundable. For reservations call the hotel and specify the Marriott Courtyard at (115) 615-1900, or call the Marriott toll-free number (800) 118-9190.

     Rooms at the Marriott Courtyard will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before May 19, 2001, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold the block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

     Participants in the 1999 and 1250 conventions can testify to the gracious hospitality of the Marriott. Our headquarters hotel, the Philadelphia Marriott, has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Philadelphia across the street from the Reading Terminal Market, an establishment which combines the sites, smells, experiences, and tastes of Philadelphia cuisine and the Amish Farmers' Trading Center. Other attractions of Philadelphia are immediately at hand, and of course the convention will be occurring in the spacious ballroom of the Marriott.

     The 2001 Convention will follow a Sunday-through-Saturday schedule:

              Sunday, July 1     Seminar Day

              Monday, July 1     Registration Day

              Tuesday, July 3    Board Meeting and Division Day

              Wednesday, July 4  Opening Session

              Thursday, July 5   Tour Day

              Friday, July 6     Banquet Day

              Saturday, July 7   Business Session

                         

                  Plan to be in Philadelphia.

          The action of the convention will be there!


Vol. 44, No. 5 May, 2001

                           Contents

A New Day in Rehabilitation for the Blind....................

Empowerment, Partnership, and High Expectations:

Just Words, or the Foundation of Effective Rehabilitation?...

     by Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.

U.S. Backs the Disabled in Suit against Cruise Industry......

     by Warren Richey

From the President's Mail Basket:

Reflections on Descriptive Videos............................

     by Marc Maurer

Recent NFB Resolutions Concerning Descriptive Video..........

American Council of the Blind Adds Bad Taste

to Bigotry and Self-Deception................................

     by Barbara Pierce

From the Listservs:

More about Descriptive Video.................................

Reflections on the Long White Cane...........................

     by Kevan Worley

Walking with an NFB Cane.....................................

     by John Bailey

Victory in Indiana...........................................

     by Pam Schnurr

Shopping for Braille Notetakers? Take Note...................

     by Brad Hodges

Blind Doctor Sees Patients in a Different Way................

     by Helen O'Neill

Negotiating the Dark.........................................

     by Stephen O. Benson

Interesting Employment Phenomena in the State of Utah........

     by Sherrie Crespo

The Philadelphia Marriott, Your Home for a Week This Summer..

     by Jim Antonacci

Encountering History.........................................

     by Toni Whaley

Recipes......................................................

Monitor Miniatures...........................................

       Copyright © 2001 National Federation of the Blind


[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: The National Federation of the Blind-Allegra 2001 Everest Expedition, with blind climber Erik Weihenmayer as a member of the climbing team, reached base camp at 17,600 feet above sea level on April 6, 2001. During April and early May the team, their Sherpas, and the support crew remaining at base camp have been organizing equipment and preparing for the team's attempt to reach the summit. The team and the Sherpas have carried necessary gear to the camps further up the mountain, and the film crew have worked on their gear and have done what filming they could. Pictured above is a bit of the Khumbu icefall near base camp. It is filled with crevasses, seracs, and large and small blocks of ice that shift unpredictably. The team must climb and reclimb through this ice field, scaling ice faces and crossing crevasses on ladders, to reach the upper mountain. When everything is ready in early May, the team will rest for a few days at a lower altitude to gather strength for the final attempt. Then, perhaps with the full moon on May 7, the ascent of the upper reaches will begin. In large part the timing of the final stretch of the climb will depend on the weather. But the mountain and nature willing, the team will attempt to summit Mt. Everest during the second week of May. The mountain is 19,035 feet tall, and the region above 15,000 feet is known as the death zone because one must use bottled oxygen in order to survive. Follow the expedition on <www.2001everest.com>. This site had a quarter million hits between March 1 and the middle of April. From the details of everyday life to climbing the tallest mountain in the world, the National Federation of the Blind is changing what it means to be blind. Mt. Everest in moonlight is pictured below.]

           A New Day in Rehabilitation for the Blind

                         

     From the Editor: For far too many years the rehabilitation of blind people was conducted by professionals, some of whom were blind, but almost all of whom were quite conscious of their exalted position as professionals. The clients were dealt with, repaired as well as possible, and sent off to the outside world, where they resumed their lives as best they could. If they expressed an interest in establishing a dialogue with the professionals about the services blind people needed and their expectations of the capacities of blind people or tried to get to know and help new clients still in the system, they were firmly discouraged and clearly kept on the outside.

     In recent years the popularity of this model has begun to fade. Clients are now called consumers of services or customers, and the notion that we are all engaged in this effort together is certainly becoming fashionable and is even being acted upon more frequently. Professionals are learning that consumers and consumer groups can actually be of help, and the organized blind movement is coming to hold increasing respect for those professionals who are willing to work with us to achieve common goals in rehabilitation.

     The leadership of the National Federation of the Blind decided that the time had come to call together a group of blindness rehabilitation agency leaders and the NFB affiliate presidents in their states. The result was a two-day conference held at the National Center for the Blind in January of 2001. It provided an opportunity for those who shared a commitment to quality service for blind people and a willingness to work together for common goals to think creatively about our problems and look for constructive solutions. Time will tell whether further such discussions will bear additional fruit. Following are the agenda for the meeting, the participant list, and the address delivered by Dr. Fred Schroeder, who that week was completing his term as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration:

                         

                         

Millennium Symposium on Improving Services for the Blind

January 18-19, 2001

National Center for the Blind

Sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind

Marc Maurer, President

                         

                            Program

                         

1. Welcome and Introduction

1. Report from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder)

3. Structure of Agencies for the Blind--Advantages and

Disadvantages (Jim Omvig)

4. Relationships with Consumer Groups--What Can Consumers Do for Agencies and What Can Agencies Do for Consumers?

(Jamie Hilton and Joe Ruffalo)

5. Services Reasonably to be Expected from an Agency for the Blind (Tom Robertson and Jim Omvig)

     (a) Vocational Rehabilitation Services

     (b) Related Services

     (c) Services to the Elderly Blind

     (d) Nontraditional Services

6. Studies of Rehabilitation Effectiveness (Joe Cordova)

7. Legislative Priorities--Federal and State (James Gashel)

     (a) Medicare in Rehabilitation (James Gashel and Kristen Cox)

     (b) Model State Commission for the Blind Bill (James Gashel)

     (c) State Technology Bills (James Gashel)

     (d) Inequities in the Formula for 110 Funding (Allen Harris)

8. Randolph-Sheppard Priorities (Kevan Worley)

     (a) Third-party Contracts

     (b) Regional Initiatives

     (c) Traditional Approaches

9. Training of Rehabilitation Professionals (Joanne Wilson, Susan Benbow, and Joe Cordova)

10. Operation of Orientation to Blindness Programs (Joanne Wilson, Joyce Scanlan, Diane McGeorge, and Julie Deden)

11. Standards for Rehabilitation Personnel and Programs

11. Technology in Rehabilitation--The Need for Trained Technology

Professionals

13. Future Initiatives

14. Adjourn

                         

MILLENNIUM SYMPOSIUM PARTICIPANTS

Susan Benbow, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, United States Department of Education

Patrick Cannon, Executive Director, Michigan Commission for the Blind, Family Independence Agency

Betty Capps, Member, National Federation of the Blind since 1956

Donald Capps, Board Member, National Federation of the Blind; Senior Administrator, Claims Department, Colonial Life Insurance Company (retired)

Nell Carney, Commissioner, South Carolina Commission for the Blind

Joe Cordova, Director, Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Rehabilitation Services Administration, United States Department of Education

Kristen Cox, Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs, National Federation of the Blind

Richard Davis, Assistant Director, Employment Services, Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions

Julie Deden, Executive Director, Colorado Center for the Blind

Vito DeSantis, Manager, Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center, Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, New Jersey Department of Human Services

Parnell Diggs, President, National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina

Peggy Elliott, Second Vice President, National Federation of the Blind; President, National Federation of the Blind of Iowa

Ron Gardner, President, National Federation of the Blind of Utah

James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, National Federation of the Blind

Bill Gibson, Director, Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Allen Harris, Treasurer, National Federation of the Blind; Director of Field Operations, New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, Office of Children and Family Services

Jamie Hilton, Executive Director, Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, New Jersey Department of Human Services

Ray Hopkins, Visual Services Director, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Visual Services Division

Cathy Jackson, President, National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky

Carl Jacobsen, President, National Federation of the Blind of New York

Mary Ellen Jernigan, Director of Operations, National Federation of the Blind

Ed Kunz, Director, Texas Commission for the Blind, Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center

Melody Lindsey, Director, Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center

Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind

Shawn Mayo, President, National Association of Blind Students

Diane McGeorge, Member, Board of Directors, National Federation of the Blind; Chairman, Board of Directors, Colorado Center for the Blind

Terry Murphy, Executive Director, Texas Commission for the Blind

Noel Nightingale, President, National Federation of the Blind of Washington; Blindness Skills Development Director, Washington State Department of Services for the Blind

Jim Omvig, Administrator of Programs for the Blind (retired)

Bill Palmer, Executive Director, Washington State Department of Services for the Blind

Zena Pearcy, President, National Federation of the Blind of Texas

Mary Poole, National Development Professional and Consultant

Tom Robertson, Associate Commissioner, New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, Office of Children and Family Services

Joe Ruffalo, President, National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey

Joyce Scanlan, First Vice President, National Federation of the Blind; Executive Director, Blindness Learning in New Dimensions

Arthur Schreiber, President, National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico

Fred Schroeder, Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, United States Department of Education

Michael Seay, President, National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee

Carlos Servan, President, National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska; Deputy Director, Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Steven Shelton, President, National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma

Terry Smith, Executive Director, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Tennessee Department of Human Services

Greg Trapp, Executive Director, New Mexico Commission for the Blind

Pearl Van Zandt, Executive Director, Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Barbara Walker, Chairman, Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Joanne Wilson, Member, Board of Directors, National Federation of the Blind; Executive Director, Louisiana Center for the Blind

Betty Woodward, President, National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut

Kevan Worley, President, National Association of Blind Merchants

Fred Wurtzel, President, National Federation of the Blind of Michigan; Program Manager, Business Enterprise Program, Michigan Commission for the Blind, Family Independence Agency

                         

                         

 

       Empowerment, Partnership, and High Expectations:

  Just Words, or the Foundation of Effective Rehabilitation?

                by Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.

                         

     From the Editor: Until January 10, 2001, Dr. Schroeder was Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education. He delivered the following remarks at the Millennium Symposium on Rehabilitation. This is what he said:

                         

     I am very pleased to be here with all of you. This is an historic event. It is perhaps illustrative of the change in the nature of rehabilitation and in the assertion that rehabilitation is not something that is done to us and for us, but rather rehabilitation, as it should be, is a partnership.

     My early experience in rehabilitation was in New Mexico. I was directing special education services for blind children with the Albuquerque public schools at a time when the programs for the blind in New Mexico were not what blind people in the state would have had them be. I had lived out of state for a period of years going to college and had worked for two years in Nebraska. When I went back to New Mexico in 1980, I went to a chapter meeting of the National Federation of the Blind. (Joe Cordova will remember those times.) The chapter meeting had probably twenty-five blind people, and of those Joe was one of the very few who had a job.

     As I worked with the NFB in the state, we tried to encourage the agency to support people in pursuing training and good quality employment, but we were unsuccessful. For example, I remember a person who literally had a job offer, and the only thing needed was a Braillewriter in order to accept it. The agency for the blind in the state said that they didn't have any money for a Braillewriter, so they weren't able to provide that service. I don't say this to be critical of individuals who were there at the time--but it is fair to say, in fact we documented it, that mostly what the agency did was what we call physical restoration. If you came to the agency with a correctable eye condition, there was plenty of money to send you for eye surgery. But if you were a blind person and you needed a Braillewriter, there was no money.

     I remember a young blind woman who had some vision. She wanted a job, and we got her signed up for services. One of the first things they did was to ask her what she wanted to do, and she said office work. So they sent her for a vocational evaluation. Weeks later nothing had happened, and nothing continued to happen, so I intervened in the case to see what the outcome of the evaluation had been. I found out that her case had been closed because she was ruled to be too severely handicapped to benefit from rehabilitation. There was no reasonable expectation that she could become employed. When I asked the basis for that decision, they said, "Well, she indicated that she wanted to do office work. We sent her for an evaluation, and the report came back saying she didn't see well enough to do office work."

     The point of this is two-fold. One is to say we are not talking ancient history. This was twenty years ago. We are not talking about an isolated incident in one state that had poor services. I think we are talking about a condition in rehabilitation driven by a lack of expectations, a lack of belief in blind people. And, as I say, my point is not to criticize or belittle the people who were working in rehabilitation in New Mexico or anywhere else but to stress that there was no fundamental assumption that blind people could work and be productive.

     One of the things I did in trying to make changes in the rehabilitation agency (this was while I was still on the outside--President of the NFB of New Mexico) was to help people file appeals to try to get the services they needed. The appeals were by and large unsuccessful--unsuccessful to the point that I wondered whether anybody who appealed a decision ever had that decision changed. At that time the standard was very simple: you appealed to the very agency that had denied you some sort of service. Not very just, but you went to the local supervisor, then you went to a district-level person, then you eventually went to the state VR director, who looked it over and decided that all the folks along the way had been correct and that you shouldn't get what you had asked for.

     So I wrote a letter to the director of the agency (by the way, this was a combined agency), and I said, "I want to know for the past year how many blind people have asked for fair hearings and how many have been decided in favor of the client." I got a letter back saying that this was confidential information, that they couldn't divulge information about the clients. I wrote back and said, "Perhaps I wasn't clear. I don't want to know the names. I don't want to know any identifying information. I want to know how many blind people who were clients of your agency filed for fair hearings to challenge a decision, and how many determinations were made in the consumer's favor." I got back the same letter saying this is confidential information, and we can't provide it.

     Again, my purpose is not to criticize the director of the agency, but rather to point out again the agency attitude that the consumer as represented by the consumer organization was on the outside and frankly had no business meddling in how the agency did its business.

     Eventually we were able to create a separate agency for the blind in New Mexico. We did this in 1986 with the kind of concerted action the Federation has engaged in for its entire history. We went to the legislature and made the case. We fought a very hard battle. It was what in Washington is called grassroots effort, and it worked. So in 1986 we created a separate agency.

     Now it seemed one of the things we ought to be doing was put blind people to work. So we began emphasizing honest to goodness employment for people, not those who had correctable blindness, but people who would be blind regardless of any kind of medical intervention. At the end of my first year I had the distinction of cutting the number of successful closures in half. It went from 110 to about fifty-five. I wondered to myself how this was possible. Here are the things I uncovered: at that time and previous to my coming, the agency had $730,000 devoted to case service. Of that $730,000, $700,000 had gone for medical procedures, which essentially left nothing for any other kind of service. We didn't reduce that wholly in the first year, but within about three years we were up over $1,125,000 in case service, and we were down under $150,000 in medical procedures.

     One hundred ten people the year before had been placed in employment, and I thought to myself, "I know a lot of blind people in this state, and I can't think of a single one who went to work last year, much less a hundred-ten of them. Where are these blind people who have all gone to work?" Well, as you can imagine, most of them were people whose vision had been corrected. My first inkling of this was when I looked at the occupations of people who had gone to work the year before. One had gone to work as an airline pilot, which alerted me to the fact that perhaps this person wasn't blind when he or she walked out the door.

     So we put an emphasis on really trying to help blind people get serious training and support and get into real jobs. Though there are many strategies for doing this, one of them is very simple. In performance evaluation I quit counting twenty-six closures, the code term for successful closures. I said that we would count only those people who were still blind when we closed them and who were making above minimum wage in full-time employment. Of course that is a standard that you could argue is not sufficiently conclusive, but it seemed to me a simple standard that everyone could understand. The expectation was that we wanted people to go to full-time employment at a living wage, and we wanted them to have been blind when they came in the door and blind when they walked out the door. I'm not against people getting their eyesight back, but I don't think that is why you have a rehabilitation agency.

     When I left to go to RSA eight years later in 1994, I was sitting in a chapter meeting of the NFB. Instead of twenty-five people in the room, there were about seventy-five people. Instead of one or two of them being employed, as I went around the room, I couldn't think of a single person in that room who was unemployed. Let me give credit where it is due: my top rehab counselor was actually not a counselor at all but my deputy director Joe Cordova. We gave awards to our counselors for the greatest number of people placed in employment, and unfortunately, since Joe wasn't a counselor, I couldn't give him such an honor, but had I done so, he would have taken that award every year. People who were difficult to place would end up in Joe's case load, and Joe got them jobs. How? Well, he started with the assumption that they could work, that nobody should be relegated to isolation and poverty. Given the right encouragement, training, and support, they could go to work. And they did go to work.

     We had been told for years that the sheltered workshop could not pay minimum wage. People who worked in a sheltered shop were called clients. They had no benefits whatsoever, no Social Security tax was withheld, and they were paid subminimum wages. As a result, when people left the shop, no matter how long they had been in it, they had no paid quarters into Social Security, so they didn't have access to SSDI, which pays better than SSI. They had no long-term security of any kind. We were told over and over that the shop could not pay minimum wage; the money was not there. I'll come back to that in a minute.

     I remember at a state convention we had Rami Rabby as our national representative. Rami was engaged in a lively discussion with the person who was heading the workshop. He suggested that maybe minimum wage could be paid. This fellow began to pound the podium, and he started saying, "You show me where the money will come from. I defy you to look through my budget and show me where the money will come from."

     Rami said, "Look, are you telling me that, if utility bills go up next summer, you will call up the electric company and say to them, `You come and show me in my budget how I can pay this new expense?'" He said, "I am sure it isn't provided for in the budget, but it is really nothing more than a matter of will."

     The very first policy I issued on perhaps my first day, maybe my second day, effective immediately, was to begin paying minimum wage as a starting salary for all people who worked in a sheltered workshop. Eight years later we had not gone broke although we had to do some things differently. This is really the point. If you are going to pay minimum wage, the money has to come from somewhere, and the somewhere is the productivity of the people who are doing the work and the profitability of the items being made.

     If you pay people on piece work, then it doesn't matter whether you have trained people well. It doesn't matter if the equipment works well. It doesn't matter whether it's an item that can be profitably sold because all of the inefficiency gets passed along through that piece rate. In other words, for some of you who are not familiar with this, you start with the industry standard. Perhaps the industry standard for making mops is ten mops an hour at a wage of five dollars an hour; therefore each mop is worth fifty cents in wages. You say to the blind worker, whether you make ten mops an hour or one doesn't matter. If you make ten, you get five dollars. If you make one mop, you get fifty cents, which some people argued and still to this day argue is fair. They say, after all, why shouldn't you pay people according to their productivity?

     But if the guy in private industry making ten mops an hour is using modern equipment and new procedures, and the blind person is working on antiquated equipment that keeps breaking down, it isn't fair. In fact, in one workshop I knew at peak performance the equipment blind people were working on couldn't produce at even half the rate of the industry standard. So this isn't paying people according to their productivity, according to how much they produce; this is paying people an unfair wage based on poor management practices. Yes, we had to come up with the money, so one of the things we did was change the product line to be more successful. Another thing we did was quit having people do jobs that they weren't well suited to.

     There was a woman--this is another of Joe Cordova's closures--she had a good personality, probably still does. I haven't seen her in a while. She had a college education. She's blind. She also had cerebral palsy, so she had only the use of one arm. In the sheltered workshop they had her assembling heavy rubber floor mats. Now to make minimum wage on these floor mats, you had to make twelve a day. She was able to make approximately one third of one mat a day because she was doing this very physical operation with one arm. In fact she testified when we created the Commission for the Blind. She brought out her paycheck. For two weeks of work her net pay was $5.14.

     Joe thought to himself, a person with use of only one arm is not a good candidate for doing a very physical job. She also lived way up in the mountains and didn't have transportation. There was no good public transportation. We helped her to start a telephone answering service. She signed up a couple of doctors and some real estate agents, and she had all the calls forwarded to her house. She ran a private business out of her home and made a very decent wage.

     What changed was the expectation. If you assume that blind people can be productive and competitive, then your energy is focused in a certain direction. That is to say, you are forced then to look differently at what is needed to make that enterprise work. We looked at modern practices and more successful product lines. We looked at matching people according to their skills.

     It wasn't that the people who were in that workshop management prior to the commission's being created were bad people; they were not. In fact most of them were the same people who stayed on. What changed was the expectation--the fundamental belief in blind people.

     We did some other things. The first was to raise the wages. The second was to go to the state personnel office and have all those positions classified as state jobs. So the people in our workshops were state employees, which meant they also got health benefits. They paid into a retirement plan. Social Security was withheld. These were real state jobs.

     A fellow who had run the workshop years earlier and who was retired--he was a blind person, a decent enough fellow--came to me and said, "You are going to create a place that is so warm and safe and comfortable that nobody is ever going to leave." I call this a concept of rehabilitation through misery--if you make it miserable enough, people will leave. You wouldn't want to have good working conditions because people won't leave. The funny thing is we didn't have records going back very far, but from what we were able to tell, in the previous five years only one person had left the sheltered workshop. That made me wonder if the concept of rehab through misery was really an effective one. Of course the answer is it was not.

     The truth of the matter is, if a person becomes blind in our society or grows up blind, the chances are that not only society around you assumes that you cannot be productive and competitive, but your family probably believes it, you probably believe it, and your friends probably believe it. If you go to the rehabilitation agency, and the people who are experts in employment of the blind also say to you, "Because of blindness you cannot be productive. You cannot compete as others do," why would you question that notion? If they say, "We have measured your productivity, your worth as an employee; and because of your blindness, your production is a quarter or a tenth of that of others," where would you go believing you could get a job?

     About a year after we started the commission and raised the wages, one of our great moments occurred. A woman who had worked in our sewing department a long time and who was making about $6 an hour, which was quite a bit above minimum wage--I believe the minimum wage was about $4 an hour--came to me and said, "You know I'm making $6 an hour, and I'm doing the same operation that they do at the Levi Straus plant here in town. Those people are making $8 an hour." We had done many things to up the productivity in the shop, but we were still government, you know--we weren't going to do as well as Levi Straus.

     I said, "I wish we could pay you $8 an hour. We probably can't, and you are right. You are doing the same job that they do at Levi Straus, and you are doing it as well as anybody they've got in their sewing department, so why don't we help you get a job at Levi?"--another Joe Cordova placement as I remember it. So this proved the lie of rehabilitation through misery. Instead we said to people, "Yes, you are capable." If you treat people as if they're capable, give them training, give them jobs that they are suited to and in which they can be successful, they might start to believe that they can do more than work in a sheltered workshop.

     These are the values that I believe in and that I tried to bring to the work in RSA. There has been a steady progression over the years of elevating expectations. It is never as fast or as dramatic as most of us would have it be, but I think it is there. One evidence is that people are saying that they will not accept isolation, segregation, unemployment, poverty, that people need the opportunity to work. We have tried to integrate that into the work that we have done.

     One of the things I have felt very strongly about is that rehabilitation is not just about employment, but about high-quality employment. Well, that is kind of a vague term. What is a high-quality job? To my mind you cannot look at any job and say it is a good job or a bad job. The fact that a person works as a custodian doesn't tell you whether that's a good or a bad job. It depends on whether that person is suited for the job, values the job, is truly there by choice because he or she would likely have that job with or without blindness or because people have assumed that as a blind person he or she could not achieve more. This isn't to denigrate any job but to say truly, if we have a fundamental assumption of the equality of blind people, that drives the kinds of encouragement, the kinds of training, the kinds of job placements people get.

     In 1991 the NFB got the language about consumer choice put into the Rehabilitation Act for the first time. I suppose one very important sign of the progress that we have made collectively in rehabilitation is that a lot of people only eight years later are taking credit for having put that language into the act. Just about everywhere I go, I meet people who take credit for having thought up the idea of choice.

     Choice was really the first expressed federal policy acknowledging that rehabilitation is not about doing things to or for people, but that rehabilitation is a support to help and encourage and stimulate the individual so he or she can in fact make the kinds of life choices that others make. In 1997 I issued a policy directive called PD9704. We said very radical things there. We said for example that people ought to be able to decide for themselves what kind of job they might want. This was controversial; this was very controversial. Yet it has become less so even over the past three years. In fact in some places it is thoroughly embraced. In many other places people are trying to embrace it, trying to integrate it.

     Yes, there are still a few who feel about it and about me the way they did when it was issued. But essentially the law says that we must make a determination of the employment outcome for each person according to the individual's "strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice." So what do all those words run together mean? They mean the collection of things that make up a human being. The job ought to be one that an individual wants to do, a job that the person values. It ought to be high-quality employment based on the individual's assessment and rooted truly in information and informed choice.

     You could have argued fifteen years ago that blind people working for subminimum wages in a sheltered workshop in New Mexico were there by informed choice, but I would argue they were not. They weren't there based on factual information about blindness and the capacity of blind people to work. They were there based on widespread societal assumptions about our inability and the way those played out in society, in the individual, and in the rehabilitation system in our state.

     Informed choice means fundamentally that a person who becomes blind or even grows up blind first needs to associate with other blind people. The individual first needs to know what is possible as a blind person. The family won't likely know, nor will his or her community. So first and foremost blind people need to have exposure to other blind people, not just for the encouragement from those who have done remarkable things, although that certainly is part of it, but also to gain perspective on how societal attitudes about blindness play out.

     There are people in our society today, bright, capable, ambitious people who are blind whose lives have been devastated by discrimination, by rejection; and that is part of understanding blindness. Yet we must also understand that we as blind people can help encourage and sustain one another through the discrimination, through the rejection, through the diminished expectations that are all around us. Together we have the possibility of success, while on our own we have a very low probability of true success.

     Being around other blind people is the first element, to my mind, of true informed choice. The second is to have the skills to back up elevated expectations. If you do not have the skills, then you cannot sustain the elevated expectations. If you have only a belief in equality, but you really don't have the capacity to go out and to travel and to be literate and to carry out those day-to-day activities, you won't sustain that elevated expectation. And by the way, while we are on that subject, if all you have is skills without the expectation, you will fall short of your potential--far short--because you will simply use those skills to do what you believe is possible for a blind person to do. You need the elevated expectations that come from other blind people, and you need to have that sustained by the skills and the support to back up those elevated expectations.

     Then we need a rehabilitation system that does not view itself primarily as a gate keeper. We, of course, are gate keepers to some extent. There is only so much public money, and it has to be used wisely. But if we approach rehabilitation only as gate keepers, using our authority to hold the line and to prevent the extraordinary, we will lose the chance to help people become all that they can. I can tell you the way state and federal government work, at least in my experience. If you look at the rules and regulations in state government, you often find that one person one time manipulated the system in a bad way, resulting in a whole set of rules and procedures being put into place so that never again would a single person be able to cheat the state out of one thing. And now everybody is scrutinized and held to an oppressive standard.

     Years ago I was at an exit conference with the state auditor as part of our annual audit. In New Mexico in addition to all the written material and review of documents the state auditor had to ask the chief executive of every state agency personally the question, "At any time during the year did you use state money to buy coffee?" Because, who knows when, some agency had bought refreshments for some sort of meeting, and the state legislature thought it was a bad use of tax dollars. Not only did the legislature ban buying coffee, but they put it into law that the state auditor had to ask the chief executive of every state agency to verify that during the year no state dollars went to buy coffee.

     These gate-keeping functions can end up creating absolute dysfunction. We all know of many, many examples. If you have ever tried to buy assistive technology for blind people--in the state where I was, sometimes it seemed likely that the person would retire before you could clear away the red tape to buy the technology. We cannot demoralize consumers. We must not make them feel as if they are being selfish or demanding when they express their needs. Instead, the spirit and attitude of the people who work in the agency must be encouraging--encouraging people to try and explore and develop their confidence and their skills, to stretch themselves to become the very best they can.

     So the work we have put into place, not just PD9704, but the changes we proposed in the 1998 reauthorization, the regulations published yesterday that implement the 1998 amendments, the regulation you have heard about concerning sheltered work that went to the Federal Register on Tuesday of this week and should be published very shortly: all of these are to say to our system and to ourselves that what we are about is encouraging people to seek a place of real integration and get good jobs and that we should stand with them, encourage them in that pursuit.

     Finally I will say to all of you what I said to the group of the CSAVR leadership a number of years ago. I had just met a young blind woman who was very capable; she had just graduated from high school, and she wanted to be a teacher. The rehabilitation counselor said to her, "You really haven't had any experience with teaching, so why don't we start by saying that you want to be a teacher's aide. That way you'll get some experience working with kids and see whether in fact you really want to be a teacher." Well, this eighteen-year-old young woman didn't know any better, so she put down on her plan that she wanted to be a teacher's aide.

     This young woman's family had some money, and she had been accepted at a prestigious private college. The family intended to pay the tuition and living expenses. They knew she needed some technology in order to do well in college, so they went to the agency and said they'd like help in planning what kind of technology she needed (they were willing to pay for it). They requested help in deciding where to buy what she needed and in finding training to help her learn how to use it. The agency said they couldn't provide these services--this is not ancient history; it happened about three or four years ago. The reason the agency couldn't provide the service was that one doesn't need assistive technology to be a teacher's aide. That was her goal, and they couldn't provide a service that didn't support that goal.

     I said to that small group from CSAVR: here is the problem. Let's use the analogy of grades, A, B, C, D, etc. If you think of the very best services that we can provide as A-level services, the problem that we who run public agencies have is that there are always more people who need help than there are resources to help them. It seems to me that there is pressure to say, okay, look, we need to be efficient; we need to economize. But if we do that at the level of the individual, over time we erode the system. It's insidious because, if you first start trimming back just a little bit, you can rationalize to yourself, look, we may not be giving A services, but we are giving B plus services, which are still really good services, and by doing this, we are able to serve more people than we otherwise could.

     And of course the problem is that there are still more people at the door who need help, so over time you go from B plus to B minus services. And you say look, these are still good services--above-average services. By making these economies, we are able to serve more people. Yet there are still more who need help, so you slip to C services, and you are saying, but we don't promise people a Cadillac; these are good services, average, typical services. We can't do more because we have so many people who need the help. Maybe you stay at C services; maybe you slip to C minus or D plus services.

     The problem is that there will still be more people who need the help; yet, when you go to the state legislature, when you go to the Congress and you ask for the resources, where is your constituency? Are people going to stand up and demand more money for the program when they've got C or C-minus or D-plus services? Do you want to have a constituency who stands up and says, "Well, it did take several months to get a plan written, and no, they didn't end up buying me the computer or supporting the training I wanted, but I did get a Braille watch, and the counselor was very nice to me and wished he could do more?" That's going to inspire your legislature or Congress to protect you? Of course not. This is not to be critical. This is politics.

     If on the other hand you give each client A services--now does A-level service mean wasting money, lavishing money?--of course not. These are my tax dollars too--after Saturday, there won't be as many of my tax dollars [laughter]. We're not talking about wasting money or squandering money or being lavish with money. We are talking about taking risks with money, sometimes doing things that we are not entirely certain will work, but, if we give people A services and there is not enough money to go around, then you've got people demanding access to these services, saying, "These are vital services. These services change people's lives, and I need them too." Then you have a constituency.

     So all of this is to say, in my view, that the future of rehabilitation is certainly dotted with many challenges, but they are different only because of the context, the times in which we live, the new environment. There have always been challenges to the system. I can say to you: should I ever find myself running a state rehab agency again, I will seek to build an agency that has a constituency. I want the ordinary consumer, the ordinary blind person to say, "By my coming to this agency, my life was changed." I don't think this is just feel-good philosophy. I think this is good rehabilitation practice.

     I will boast on a bit of data about the New Mexico agency which I came upon after I got to Washington. I didn't know what I am about to tell you when I was there. When we did our first trial run of the standards and indicators, I was very proud of one fact. The New Mexico blind ranked number one in the nation in job placements. (I can tell you exactly how that was calculated.) But it was number one in placements, and it was next to the last in the amount of money spent per case. That is to say, the agency spent more money per case than all but one other agency. Now I consider that a plus. If you don't, then just remember that Art Schreiber was director at that point. If you think that it was a plus, then just remember that he was using the infrastructure I put in place.

     You could say, "Okay, you did get a lot of people jobs. You did it very expensively; yet wouldn't it be a reasonable goal to say let's get that same number of people jobs, or even more, but let's do it less expensively? Isn't that still an important value?" Let me give you one more piece of data--I didn't ask for this; one of my staff came to me and had done a very interesting run. He looked at the proportion of blind people who went off Social Security benefits as a proportion of successful closures in each state. New Mexico did not just rank number one in the number of blind people whose incomes, because of the services provided, were sufficient to get them off benefits. Proportionally, New Mexico was getting blind people off benefits at a rate three times the national average of agencies for the blind because it invested in people. It took risks. Not all the money spent ended up paying off, but in the aggregate the idea of using our resources in partnership with blind people to support and encourage them to live full and normal lives works. It works!

     This is why I started by saying I see today's meeting as such an historic event, such a landmark. As Dr. Maurer pointed out in his opening comments, this is no longer the day when you had the consumers on the outside and the rehab agency on the inside and the two battling one another. Our future in very practical terms depends on partnership, genuine honest-to-goodness partnership. But also our experience shows us that the best rehabilitation practice is partnership, working with blind people in support of elevated expectations, expectations drawn from the collective experience of blind people. The more you do it, the easier it gets because you get the base, the infrastructure of people who can then be the foundation for the next generation.

     A number of years ago I was on the scholarship committee of the NFB, and I met a young man from the state of Wisconsin. He was eighteen years old. He had just graduated from high school. He was going to college that fall to major in composite materials engineering. I said to him, "Chad, when I was eighteen, I didn't even know there was such a thing as composite materials engineering."

     Chad said, "When you were eighteen, there wasn't." Which was not my point. But compare the situations that I described in New Mexico: a person comes into an NFB chapter meeting, that is to say, a gathering of twenty-five blind people, only one or two of whom have a job. Compare that to a person coming to a gathering of seventy-five blind people, of whom virtually all have jobs or are in college preparing for employment. These are very different environments. Success builds on itself, helps sustain it, helps stimulate more of it.

     In conclusion I would say that the perspective I have learned to have on blindness has come through my association with the National Federation of the Blind, from many hours of reading Dr. Jernigan's and others' speeches that shaped my beliefs and attitudes about blindness. It came from being part of the community of blind people, of sharing in our collective successes and bearing our collective failures, from understanding that the real barrier to full equality and opportunity in employment is truly what Dr. Jernigan said many years ago, not the lack of eyesight, but attitudes about blindness--attitudes of society, attitudes of our families, of ourselves, of the rehabilitation profession.

     Our collective challenge is to reshape our attitudes by collectively building on an assumption that blind people can live full, normal, productive lives and then acting as if we believe it through our policies, our programs, our training, and the risks that we take. This to me is what rehabilitation is about. This to me is the underpinning of the success that we have created, and this notion of working collectively has been proven so many times in so many different ways that in my view it is the clear path for our future.

    U.S. Backs the Disabled in Suit against Cruise Industry

                       by Warren Richey

                         

     From the Editor: Those who heard or read President Maurer's 1250 Presidential Report will remember his discussion of two California Federationists, Joy and Robert Stigile, who decided to take a Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) cruise to Alaska on their honeymoon. NCL denied them access to the ship unless they agreed to bring a note from their doctor and have a sighted person stay with them to insure their safety in case of an emergency at sea. Steve Gomes of Denver had also been refused access to an NCL cruise the year before on grounds of blindness. During the Washington Seminar in 1250 Scott LaBarre began talking with officials at the Department of Justice about the Gomes case, and they expressed interest. When the Stigile case popped up in the next several months, DOJ looked into the situation seriously and determined that there was cause to believe that discrimination had taken place. Officials tried to resolve the matter with Norwegian Cruise Lines, but NCL officials had no interest in discussing the matter. So the Department of Justice filed a complaint against NCL, which immediately filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. According to Scott LaBarre the NCL motion is a pretty standard response and is likely to be denied. Although the DOJ suit is based on the individual complaints of the Stigiles and Steve Gomes, the United States of America is the plaintiff seeking to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act. Consequently the Stigiles and Steve Gomes are not actually parties to the matter, but the NFB is now preparing to intervene to make them official parties to the suit.

     The following story appeared March 20, 2001, in the Christian Science Monitor. Except for failing to include the information that the National Federation of the Blind is deeply involved in the suit, the reporter did a good job of telling the story. Here it is:

                         

     When Joy and Robert Stigile were married last June, they thought it would be fun and exciting to celebrate their honeymoon on a cruise to Alaska. But their excitement quickly turned to frustration after the cruise line discovered the Stigiles are both blind.

     Officials with the cruise line said they would not be permitted on the ship unless they presented a note from their physician verifying that they were "fit to travel." They were asked to sign liability waivers freeing the ship of any responsibility should they be injured during the cruise.

     And cruise‑line officials suggested that perhaps it would be best if the newlyweds traveled "with an individual in the same cabin who is not sight‑impaired" so that the Stigiles could be helped in the event of an emergency on the ship.

     The Stigiles promptly made other arrangements for their honeymoon. But they refuse to walk away from what they consider illegal discrimination based on false stereotypes and prejudice against blind passengers. Their story is at the center of one of the latest lawsuits involving the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. Justice Department has filed the suit in federal court here [Miami, Florida] charging that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) violated the 1990 law and U.S. civil rights protections when it imposed different standards for prospective cruise‑ship passengers who are blind.

     "The way I view it, this is a cruise line attempting to impose on a blind person its stereotypes of what a blind person can or cannot do," says Scott LaBarre, a Denver lawyer involved in the case. Mr. LaBarre is president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers.

     "The cruise line may have believed that, when you are blind, you need a lot more assistance than you actually need and that somebody has to be assigned to you to make sure you are safe and not tripping over things and falling off the ship," he says.

     NCL officials have yet to respond to the allegations in the suit. A lawyer for the cruise line, Curtis Mase of Miami, has filed a motion asking that the case be thrown out of court because of what he says are procedural defects in the complaint. But Mr. Mase declined to comment on whether NCL discriminates against blind passengers. He says, if necessary, that issue will be addressed later in court pleadings.

     One issue that may arise in the case is whether NCL, a Bermuda corporation, can be held liable for alleged violations of U.S. law. A three‑judge federal appeals court panel in Atlanta ruled last summer that foreign‑flagged cruise ships that operate in U.S. waters and dock in U.S. ports are subject to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

     That case involved a woman in a wheelchair who was assured prior to the cruise that she would be provided a wheelchair‑accessible cabin. Hers was not.

     At one point, according to press reports, when she complained about being unable to gain access to the toilet without help, a crew member handed her a bucket. That case involved Premier Cruise Lines, which is now out of business.

     "In a lot of ways, this is simpler than a wheelchair‑access case where the person could be barred by the design of the ship," says LaBarre. "When you are blind, your major barrier is not physical mobility. You can go up steps and step over those watertight ledges."

     LaBarre says blind cruise‑ship passengers, even those traveling alone, are no more prone to accidents than any other passenger. "This is simply about being able to enjoy the cruise on the same terms and with the same freedom as any other passenger on board," he says.

     Not all cruise lines treat blind passengers the way NCL allegedly did. Last week, for instance, Costa Cruise Lines hosted forty members of the National Association of Blind Merchants aboard one of its Fort Lauderdale, Florida‑based cruises. The businessmen and -women were holding their midyear conference during a Caribbean cruise aboard the Costa Victoria.

Association President Kevan Worley has never been on a cruise but says that his group neither sought nor desired any special accommodation. "Costa seems to be treating us like guests," he says. "We expect businesses, restaurants, movie theaters, and cruise lines to treat us with the same amount of respect and dignity as anyone else," Mr. Worley says.

     Don Morris, also a member of the blind merchants association, agrees. Mr. Morris has been on a dozen cruises over the years, including a twenty-one‑day sail from Italy to Argentina last fall. "In all our travels, we have never had a problem," he says. "The fact that we don't see is the only thing about us that is unique."

     What if there were an emergency aboard the ship? Morris answers immediately: "I would be willing to help those people who need my help." He adds, "We go through the same lifeboat drill and life‑jacket stuff as everyone else."

                         

                         

 

From the President's Mail Basket:

               Reflections on Descriptive Videos

                        by Marc Maurer

                         

     From the Editor: Several years ago a number of people (notably WGBH‑TV in Boston) developed the Descriptive Video Service, which describes visual aspects of films on a separate channel that does not interfere with the audio channel of the film. This service is intended to provide the blind with enough information to permit blind film viewers to understand what is being presented in visual form only.

     Some blind people have felt that this service should be made a federal requirement. The National Federation of the Blind has supported descriptive video, but it has consistently opposed the notion that audio‑described films and television programming should be required by law. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at the request of a small group of blind people who are apparently more interested in entertainment than information, adopted a rule to require a certain amount of descriptive video on network television as a matter of law. The Federation filed a complaint in Federal Court opposing this regulation. Now a letter has come to President Maurer asking why this was done. This is his response:

                         

April 10, 2001

                         

Dear ______:

     Recently you sent me the following e-mail letter:

                         

Hello,

     I have recently been made aware that you have joined the NAB [National Association of Broadcasters], NCTA [National Cable Television Association] and MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] in a suit to prevent FCC [Federal Communications Commission] DVS [Descriptive Video Service] rules from going into effect. I find this troublesome. Mainly due to the fact that it is you, the NFB, that has underwritten the past inaugurals for DVS on PBS. So in light of that let me make sure I have this right. You are fighting against something you support? So then you would be filing suit against your own beliefs. I would appreciate any response.

                         

Sincerely,

_______

                         

Dear _______:

     This will respond to the questions you raise about the descriptive video argument, which is being so badly misrepresented on the Internet. The National Federation of the Blind is supporting a policy that was adopted and subsequently reaffirmed after thorough discussion at our National Conventions. This policy seeks to advance freedom of expression and equal access to information.

     Let me begin by observing that the National Federation of the Blind is sometimes controversial (from the point of view of the less well‑informed); it is sometimes determined (those who do not like the positions we take would say mule‑headed); but it is never foolish. We do not fight things we support. There are those who say the NFB has, with venality aforethought, joined the motion picture magnates to fight the blind. Sometimes those painting this dire picture allege or suggest that the Federation has taken this mangy position with the prospect of gain in mind-‑financial reward. Those making such charges either do not have all the facts or are willingly misrepresenting the truth. They may think the Federation has as little principle as they do.

     As you point out in your e-mail, the Federation has supported descriptive video in the past, both politically and financially. The organization has never adopted a policy opposing this service and has encouraged its development and promulgation. Every year at the Convention, we provide space and time for the presentation of audio‑described movies, and we print information about the presentation in the formal Convention Agenda. Furthermore, we have supported the service in other ways.

     The policy of the Federation is that we believe matters of commercial interest and matters of information which are presented visually for the public at large should be provided in audible form. However, we do not believe that audible descriptions of entertainment should be mandated by law. The Motion Picture Association is apparently arguing that audible descriptions of visual material (regardless of its importance or purpose) cannot be required because to do so would violate the First Amendment. We believe that audible descriptions are sometimes of sufficient importance that they must be required to give equal access to information for the blind. However, we do not believe everything that is visual must be described. We think access to information is essential as a matter of civil rights, but access to entertainment is not. We also believe that there should be room for freedom of expression.

     It is an oft‑repeated claim that a picture is worth a thousand words. If this is so, descriptive video cannot hope to provide more than a tiny fraction of that which is presented visually. Consequently we in the NFB make a distinction between straight information and artistic presentation. Information such as telephone numbers, names of individuals, warnings about impending bad weather, and the like should be articulated. We think the law should require this. Other presentations, which are artistic in character, should be verbalized if we can persuade the artistic presenters to do it. We believe that artists should have freedom to express themselves. We believe it is not reasonable to demand that Leonardo Da Vinci make an attempt to describe the Mona Lisa so that blind people can get the same impression that sighted people do. Visual art is by its nature visual. Describing it may have value, but the law should not demand it.

     For an analogy consider the situation of the deaf. To provide a visual expression of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with sufficient detail to give a deaf person the same experience that a hearing person gets, would be an impossibility. It would be possible, perhaps, to perform the Fifth Symphony, run it through a synthesizer, and display it as patterns of light on a video screen. However, the essence of the experience would be altered. To demand that an orchestra go to the trouble and expense of displaying the Fifth Symphony visually is unreasonable.

     We believe that prime-time TV entertainment and movies are presentations of artistic talent. We believe it is highly desirable to describe them so that the blind, along with the sighted, may enjoy them. However, we think freedom of expression should permit the artist (if the artist is particularly boneheaded) to leave the description out. In other words, we do not think artistic expression should be dictated by law.

     As you can tell, the National Federation of the Blind is considerably more sophisticated than those who have been telling the public that we don't know what we are doing. Our thousands of members in Convention assembled discussed the position the Federation should take and voted to adopt our current policy more than once. We have taken this position because we recognize that, for every accommodation demanded, a price will necessarily be paid in money, in acceptance of the blind in the greater society, in the influence blind people can have, and in good will. A balance must be maintained which gives the blind what we need for equal access without disadvantages that outweigh it. We of the National Federation of the Blind have adopted our policy with this in mind.

     We have filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to demand that essential information be provided auditorily. Our suit also demands that the FCC not misapply the law by saying that entertainment cannot exist unless it is described. It begins with prime-time TV programming, moves on to the night club, becomes a part of Little League baseball, and expands to all of the millions of visual displays that people watch with such enjoyment. It is important to include blind people in all activities of society. It is equally important to do so in a way that provides blind people with the characteristics that make acceptance and integration possible.

                         

                                                    Sincerely,

                                        Marc Maurer, President

                              NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

                         

                         

      Recent NFB Resolutions Concerning Descriptive Video

                         

     Resolutions establishing the policy of the Federation regarding descriptive video were adopted in 1996 and 1250. We reprint them to give perspective:

                         

                      Resolution 1996-04

                         

     WHEREAS, presentation of information by audio-visual means is now a vital part of modern life; and

     WHEREAS, audio description of visual images is a service that adds oral description of visual images to television and movie programs; and

     WHEREAS, audio description of visual images can be quite useful by adding to the entertainment value of the presentation for blind viewers; and

     WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission is consider­ing the extent to which audio description should be required in television programming; and

     WHEREAS, although audio description may at times make the presentation more enjoyable, this fact alone does not necessarily justify a requirement by the federal government that virtually all audio/visual programming must contain audio descriptions of visual images; and

     WHEREAS, a requirement by the federal government for audio description in virtually all television programming would place an undue emphasis on entertainment as an issue for the blind and tend to draw public attention away from the real and cruel forms of economic discrimination and exclusion of blind people from normal integration into society which exist: Now, therefore,

     BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization support voluntary use of audio description in television programming but oppose the imposition of audio description as a federal mandate; and

      BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, to the extent that a mandate is justified, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to require both audio and visual presentation of essential information for the public such as warnings of hazardous weather or other emergency conditions.

                         

                      Resolution 1250-05

                         

     WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a rule requiring the four networks to offer descriptions of a minimum amount of entertainment programming per quarter, averaging approximately four hours of prime-time entertainment programming per week, provided through the Separate Audio Programming (SAP) audio channel; and

                         

     WHEREAS, the blind are routinely denied access to textual information flashed on the screen such as emergency weather updates, news bulletins scrolled along the bottom of the screen, sports scores, program guides, phone numbers in advertisements, the identities of speakers during news programs, and other data not otherwise read aloud; and

                         

     WHEREAS, making such textual information accessible to the blind in a standardized form through the secondary audio channel would be a relatively easy and inexpensive process to develop and automate if that specific outcome was firmly and universally required by the FCC; and

                         

     WHEREAS, it is doubtful that most networks will address the issue of access to on-screen textual information under the FCC's proposed mandate, which requires only that description be provided for entertainment programs; and

                         

     WHEREAS, the vast array of broadcast information currently printed and not voiced is information far more vital and valuable for America's television viewers than is the entertainment programming targeted by the FCC proposal; and

                         

     WHEREAS, the FCC should handle first things first and move to entertainment programming only after civic, safety, and health-related information including advertising is routinely provided to viewers without sight: Now, therefore,

                         

     BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 1250, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Federal Communications Commission to modify its currently proposed and narrowly focused mandate for descriptive video in favor of one that would prioritize making important on-screen textual information universally available to America's blind television viewers through a standardized audio format.

                         

                         

         American Council of the Blind Adds Bad Taste

                 to Bigotry and Self-Deception

by Barbara Pierce

                         

            The Braille Monitor does not ordinarily reproduce documents from the American Council of the Blind because there is little of value in them, and the Monitor serves as the magazine of record for happenings in the field of work with the blind. Those who wish to know what is occurring in our field routinely check the Monitor.

            However, Charlie Crawford, Executive Director of the American Council of the Blind, has circulated material which merits publication, not for the content of information it provides, but as an explanation of the character of democracy and standard of conduct within the organization he purports to represent.

            Within the field of work with the blind, the desirability of cooperation among entities dealing with blindness is almost a constant theme. Even officials of the American Council of the Blind urge that cooperation occur. However, their notion of cooperation involves having other people permit them to pretend to be the leaders in the field and adopt their point of view. When this does not happen (and very few have been hoodwinked by the histrionics of this small organization), ACB officials sometimes write with vituperation. They engage in name-calling, and they add bad taste to vindictiveness.

            It is worthy of note that the ACB has recently engaged in concerted attacks upon Federation programs such as the NEWSLINE for the Blind® network and the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. It would be difficult to comprehend the depth of hatred certain ACB officials possess for the Federation without reading it in their own words. Consequently, we reprint Charlie Crawford's letter along with an accompanying press release to illustrate that hatred.

            The Monitor is careful to research the truth of the statements it reports. Much error appears in what we are reprinting here, but we do not print it for the purpose of asserting that it is true.

            The ACB repeatedly declares that it is democratic. Nevertheless, it is clear from correspondence emanating from its offices that the elected officials of ACB do not control or direct the organization. Rather Charlie Crawford, who has been hired to serve as executive director, is in control. So much for democracy; so much for being represented by people who are accountable to the electorate.

            One of the more curious arguments contained in this material reveals much about the internal workings of the ACB. Charlie Crawford argues that the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind takes positions not supported by the membership. He urges that the membership rise in opposition to the leadership. The portrayal that he offers is that the leadership is out of touch with the membership and that the leadership is taking a position unsupported by the membership of the Federation. Others have jumped to this unwarranted conclusion in the past. Perhaps the ACB is willing to take positions that its own membership would not support; however, the NFB develops its policies in Convention assembled and counts upon its President to carry them out with vigor.

            Therefore, and in the role of magazine of record, we offer Monitor readers the following documents, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling errors, exactly as we received them. The following e-mail-circulated message was written by Charles Crawford, in his official capacity and conveying his official views concerning a disagreement of policy between the Federation and the Council. Readers are requested to note Mr. Crawford's choice of terms and tone. The Federation's position on this issue is well known; Mr. Crawford's capacity for vituperation may not be.

                                                                   

From: Charles Crawford

                                                                   

            The trust has been broken. ACB has confirmed that the National Federation of the Blind has entered litigation against the requirements for described video on television from the  Federal Communications Commission. We have good reason to anticipate that the corporate entertainment industrial complex of the National Association of Broadcasters, The Cable Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America have or will soon have taken the same or similar action.

            This contemptuous and irresponsible assault on our national blindness community is made only worse by the participation of the Federation. Whatever respect may have existed for the NFB, can no longer be said to exist after this outright and arrogant betrayal of the interests of the clear majority of blind people who simply have sought to gain access to visual information denied us before the advent of video description technology.

            This repulsive treachery to our own community must be seen for what it really is. No amount of philosophical excuse making by the Federation can change it. Whether they did it for money, for pride, for the continuation of their belief that they alone know what is good for blind people and we have to accept their edicts, (whether we like them or not), does not change their treasonous behavior in the least.

            While ACB cannot tell the Federation how to conduct its affairs; we must hold them accountable for their actions. Their membership must now take cognizance of what their organization is doing. We can only hope that this latest example of complete disregard and disrespect for blind people will finally cause the membership of the Federation to rise up in outrage and disgust and demand a complete house cleaning of NFB policy and behavior. Otherwise, they will continue their reckless course of "our way or no way" and its shameful results. Their membership will be then seen as nothing more than unthinking followers of a discredited and foul organization that has lost touch with who we are as blind people and is willing to sell out the integrity of the very people it claims to represent.

            Not their buildings, not their money, not their propaganda, nor all their false self aggrandizement, can hide their obvious contempt for all that we blind people have done in the face of their opposition to secure our own well being and improve the quality of life for our community. Unless they make major changes, to reform their shameful ways; they will be known by all who seriously care about the well being of blind people as, "The National Federation of the Blind; changing what it means to be ethical."

                                                                   

                                                                                                                                 Charlie Crawford.

                                                                   

            That was Charlie Crawford's message; now here is the press release the ACB circulated:

                                                                   

                                               American Council of the blind Condemns

                                                       entertainment industry's Greed

                             Denounces Federation's Failure to Support Access to Information

                                                          for People Who Are Blind

                                                                   

            Reaction was swift from the American Council of the Blind upon learning that the National Association of Broadcasters, The Cable Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America had initiated litigation to overturn a government requirement that the television industry make a portion of their programming accessible to visually impaired and blind people, through a secondary channel that can be turned on by viewers. "After fifteen years of struggle simply to gain access to the same programming that all other Americans enjoy; we can only conclude that this assault on the rights of people who are blind and visually impaired by corporate entertainment has everything to do with their own greed and nothing to do with any principles of decency," said Paul Edwards; President of the Blind council. Edwards continued, " As a group we have few financial resources, but our tens of thousands of members have the conviction that we matter enough as people to defend our rights to information from an industry engaged in selling its entertainment to the general public. We will fight this at every turn."

            " ACB Executive Director Charlie Crawford angrily added, To add insult to injury, we understand that the industry has enlisted the aid of the National Federation of the Blind, as a related plaintiff in their suit. We can only view the Federation as a traitor to our community. We urge their members to exercise their rights as thinking citizens and people who wish to participate fully in their communities, by refusing to acquiesce to the will of their leadership, which appears to be more co-opted by industry than motivated to serve the needs of people who are blind."

            Crawford urged members of the NFB to contact their leaders to express their disapproval of the organization's unwillingness to support the access to information which video descriptive services represent. "

            The battles began last year when the Federal Communications Commission considered the request of a coalition of groups, including people who are blind and visually impaired and their advocates, to require that programming on television be made accessible to people who cannot see what's happening on their television screens, through an inexpensive technology called video description. The technology allows for the creation of a secondary soundtrack, where a narrator describes visual elements of a program during the natural pauses that occur in dialog. In this way, a person who cannot perceive the visual elements of a program or performance can gain a genuine understanding of what is happening and fully enjoy the event. All this comes through the secondary audio channel that is already available on stereo television sets. Making the secondary soundtrack available will be even easier as digital television comes onto the scene.

            Both the industry and the National Federation of the Blind have argued that the television industry should not be compelled by the federal government to provide accessibility through video description. Others, including the American Council of the Blind, point out that the technology has been available since the early 1980s, but the industry has done next to nothing to make their programming accessible to people who are blind.

            "Blind people are tired of waiting for access to entertainment and information that others in our society, including people who are deaf and hard of hearing, can take for granted," Crawford said.

            ACB President Edwards vowed to vigoriously defend the rights of the blind and appealed to other people who are blind and visually impaired and people who care about doing what is right, to join in efforts to preserve the FCC requirement that network television make its programming accessible to everyone who wants to watch it.

 

                      From the Listservs:

                 More about Descriptive Video

                         

     From the Editor: During the past month the various listservs conducted by the NFB have been filled with conversation about descriptive video and what the NFB is or is not thinking or doing about the Federal Communications Commission's decision to mandate fifty hours a quarter of video-described prime-time programming from each of the four television networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Note that the issue has nothing to do with audio-described films, which have been produced now for quite a while and certainly will continue to be so in the future. The matter under discussion and consideration is entertainment television programs. During the FCC's original comment period the staff received hundreds of letters expressing strong preference for spoken weather or news crawls, voiced identification of speakers in news programs, and contact phone numbers read aloud in advertisements.

     In response the FCC added a bit of language to the mandate specifying that, when programming is interrupted for special news or weather bulletins, any facts printed on the screen must also be read aloud, which newscasters almost always do already. Moreover, the stipulation was made that crawls containing information for the public not important enough to interrupt programming must be accompanied by an audible warning tone, which again is no more than current practice most places. Voicing that emergency crawl information was what we were asking for in the first place, so in effect none of the visually available information many of us have been pressing for is actually mandated in the FCC order.

     What follows is a selection of e-mail messages, most from NFB members across the country and all raising important issues for consideration in this discussion. Here they are:                         

     While sounding reasonable enough, your message contains several false premises, to wit:

     (1) You say that leaders of NFB have determined [that is, imposed] the position of the organization. Wrong. Resolutions have been passed at several NFB conventions concerning what policy should be, about descriptive video; Mr. Wales' message gives the history in some detail.

     (2) You say that each person should speak "their own mind" and not have "their position" determined by the leadership. Aside from the grammatical error‑‑mismatched number between noun and possessive, which is regrettably all too common in society today, this is based upon the false premise that we have surrendered our rights to free expression and debate. Wrong. We can debate until the cows come home. But once a decision is made within the organization, we support it to the public until the policy is changed. That's a democratic organization in action. This does not imply that we don't think for ourselves; it merely implies that we close ranks in dealing with the public in our own self‑interest.

     (3) In essence, what we are arguing about is whether descriptive video is a right or a privilege. We of NFB say it's a privilege at best and not a right and that treating it as a right may well lead to a de‑emphasis on the part of the broadcast industry from what really ought to be essential rights‑‑provision of the same information in audio form that is shown in print on the screen.

     And, by the way, how are we taking away what the blind have never had? ACB and others keep framing the discussion in terms of Big Bad NFB depriving the blind of essential rights. We deny that this is a correct reading of the situation. Why are you so afraid to discuss the essential premises, focusing instead upon the supposed sins of NFB leaders? Is it that your case is weak? I shall stop there.

                                                  Mike Freeman                       

     I wholeheartedly agree with what Steve, Mike, and Melissa have already said on this topic. I'd only add to their points that I would consider a blind person in tornado country being unable to have text access to a weather warning of a coming tornado during a sitcom mandated by the federal government to have descriptive video to be the ultimate and certainly an awful and potentially tragic irony.

     As I read the release from the American Council of the Blind as posted on this list, I was infuriated by the arrogance and deliberate ignorance of the ACB leaders quoted in the release. The National Federation of the Blind is a democratic organization, and its leaders don't use arcane parliamentary tactics to manipulate discussion, debate, and decision‑making. Furthermore, our position on descriptive video has been democratically voted on by resolution of our National Convention, most recently our 1250 National Convention with some 2,500 members from all fifty-two affiliates present and voting. Anyone who knows about the history of resolutions at our National Conventions knows that controversial resolutions are discussed and debated both in committee and on the convention floor. Consider the debate on the Unified Braille Code resolutions in 1996 and 1999, the accessible pedestrian signals resolutions in 1999 and 1250, and the two descriptive-video resolutions in 1250.    Yes, two resolutions on descriptive video were proposed last year. One pretty much took the ACB's current position: mandate it for entertainment programs. The second, which was recommended a "Do Pass" by the Resolutions Committee and passed by a vast majority of the convention registrants, is the one we currently stand by: entertainment is nice, but access to important text on the screen (such as weather warnings, newscast information, and telephone numbers in commercials) is much more important and should be the first type of information to be subject to federal mandate. The first resolution could have been brought to the convention floor for a vote by five affiliates after its "Do Not Pass" recommendation by the Resolutions Committee, and its merits over the position of the second resolution could have been debated on the convention floor.

     The Federation's position on descriptive video was arrived at by a democratic process and a democratic vote of some 2,500 members from across the country. If others want to join and let their positions and feelings be known, they are welcome in my mind to do so. Indeed I invite them, and I think all of us would invite them. And if they don't wish to join us and wish to speak for themselves (I wonder how their numbers would compare to 2,500), they can do that too. But I will be damned if they will call this organization a "traitor." I will be damned if they will insinuate that we are not democratic and fair. And I will be damned if they will publicly call for disunity and imply that disunity can be had in this organization.

     At any rate, those are the facts about the process which the ACB's release deliberately misrepresents to the public. And those are my feelings about it.                     

     Since this subject is being discussed on multiple lists by mostly different people, I am taking the liberty to respond on several lists. Hopefully those of you who get this more than once will be forgiving.

     It is obvious that people feel very strongly about this issue, and when this comes up, we always get caught up in whether video descriptions are good or bad, or whether the NFB is in favor or against them. Regardless of what the facts may be, it is obvious that we will have differences. However, my understanding of the issue is that we, the NFB, opposed the requirement that the government mandate descriptions. The opposition was not to video descriptions in general. I personally think there are some very good arguments against mandating video descriptions, but those arguments do not imply that such descriptions should not be provided. Others have even argued in the past that another strategy would have achieved more in a shorter period of time. Therefore, while we may not all agree, it doesn't make sense to argue about something over which there is no serious disagreement, whether they are good or bad.

     As I see it, the questions are more along these lines: Are video descriptions as essential as captioning, especially in entertainment; and is government mandating the most effective approach? Mike Freeman's observations on a couple of the lists that video descriptions are subjective means, in my not‑so‑legally‑informed opinion, that this issue will be a sort of lightning rod for those in the entertainment industry who want to fight any kind of government involvement in controlling the industry as an infringement of their freedom of expression. Even if they are found to be wrong in the end, one wonders if waving a red cape in front of the entertainment bull is the best way for us to get what we want. There is even a chance that they could be found to be right in the courts, that the government can't tell artists how to present their art even to us. Again, is mandating the only strategy?

     I am very much disheartened by the ACB comments on this--not by the fact that they don't see things as I see them--but rather the tone. The information I have on this subject is what all of the participants on these lists have read, so there is nothing new here. When this proposal was discussed originally, the ACB's idea of compromise was to include our concern that textual information needs to be made accessible to us as blind people. I base this conclusion on the fact that ACB members commented on lists that we shouldn't complain since our concern about textual information had been met. This was not much of a concession on their part since they would likely have supported this anyway, yet it was held up as an example of how they accommodated us.

     Nothing was ever said in what I read that indicated there was any room for compromise even though there have been a number of statements over the past few years to the effect that we all need to work together. Further, name‑calling does nothing to resolve the differences at hand, and I consider the statement "We can only view the Federation as a traitor to our community" to be name‑calling. Finally, consider this statement: "We urge their members to exercise their rights as thinking citizens and people who wish to participate fully in their communities, by refusing to acquiesce to the will of their leadership, which appears to be more co‑opted by industry than motivated to serve the needs of people who are blind." Those of us who were members in the 1970's will recognize this approach as one often used by some of the more regressive agencies of that time. Basically one can restate this approach as, "If you don't agree with me, I will reduce your effectiveness by stimulating internal friction within your organization and label you as unthinking." Another version of this approach was "We like your members; it is just your leaders we don't like."

     I had hoped we had left this sort of manipulative behavior behind us, and it really seems to me to be a giant step back in developing some degree of understanding and cooperation. Hopefully we can avoid letting this sort of manipulative and inflammatory language cause us to forget that most of us have taken whatever positions we have taken only after giving the issues some careful and serious thought. We are not always going to agree with the ACB, and we're not always going to agree with one another. However, to write off disagreement as the result of being co‑opted by the entertainment industry is itself simply a way of avoiding serious discussion of the issue.

     Please understand that the harshness that might be read into this message is only intended towards those who believe disagreeing with their personal point of view constitutes lack of thought or being a traitor to one's community. If we disagree on issues, let's discuss them openly and with thought. However, let's discuss the real issue here: what constitutes a right versus what might be advantageous to have. When is mandating necessary and when do we look at other strategies? That is really where there seems to be disagreement; I haven't read anyone saying that nobody should have video descriptions.

                                                Steve Jacobson

             

    I'm going to try to respond to your post as well as I can. Let me just start by telling you all that I'm by no means an expert in this area, but I'm going to present the issues as I understand them. Please, someone correct me if I'm wrong.     First of all, I don't believe the NFB has ever said that we, as an organization, are against descriptive videos or television programs. The position we have taken is only that we believe vital information (weather alerts, information flashed up on the screen during newscasts, and even phone numbers put on the TV screen during commercials), are more important than narration for a sitcom. Some people might not agree with this viewpoint, but personally I would rather know what the weather alert says than what Dr. Mark Green on "ER" just did (I choose "ER" because it's my favorite show).

     It is my understanding that the NFB has said that TV stations should be required to provide all of this important information instead of just having a certain number of hours a week or month of described programs and still have weather alerts and other information blind people want and often need inaccessible. The NFB, to the best of my knowledge, has never said we oppose TV networks' putting described programs on their stations; we just want to make sure important information isn't overlooked in the scramble to get mainstream TV shows described. In a perfect world all programs would be described, just as all, or at least a good number, of programs are close-captioned for the hearing impaired. I believe this will happen eventually, but I think vital information is a good first step instead of having random shows described and then having to fight for weather alerts and phone numbers to be voiced.

     I understand that many might not agree with this position. That's absolutely your right as a citizen. I am posting this message with the facts as I understand them, simply so people can be more informed about what the NFB is standing for and then decide to agree or disagree based on both sides of the story as we know them. Again, if anyone thinks I have the facts wrong, please correct me. I want to understand the facts as best I can so I can make an informed decision on this issue and not react too strongly with accusations against one group or the other with only one side of the story. Sorry for the long post; it's just my two cents' worth.

                                                    Sincerely,

                                                Melissa Lehman

                                          

     Please forgive me if the point I wish to make has already been stated; I have not followed all of the posts on this topic. I have seen a number of e-mails which say, to paraphrase, that descriptive video is just like closed captioning, and, if it is good enough for people who are deaf, it should be the same for the blind. This misses the point. Examine how closed captioning came about. It started on news programs and other information-focused rather than entertainment-focused programming. Eventually corporations and foundations began to realize that providing funding for closed captioning programs was a worthwhile thing to do. It grew from there, and now it is readily available through the entertainment industry and through some continued support from other businesses and foundations.

     I cannot honestly speak to whether this came about because of a mandate, but regardless, I think the process is important. We need to demonstrate that information is important; and, in providing such information, there is also benefit related to the cost. I believe that the point of view which compares closed captioning to the current debate over descriptive video does not take into account the history and the implications being demanded through the FCC mandate as it is stated.

                                                       Thanks,

                                                Mark Riccobono

                         

     There you have a selection of NFB comments about this subject. To end this discussion, here is a post to Paul Edwards, President of the ACB, that was picked up from an ACB list and reposted to an NFB list. Mr. Ducharme is a lawyer who worked for a while for the ACB in governmental relations. His association with the ACB Washington office ended when Charles Crawford arrived.

                         

Mr. Edwards:

     After reading ACB's press release of April 4, I am struggling with your notion that the entertainment industry suit to block the forced provision of DVS services by the federal government is somehow an "assault on the rights of people who are blind." Where is such a "right" enumerated either under our Constitution or in the federal code? With all due respect to your exalted position as President of ACB, I think you are a bit confused about what is and is not a right that inures to Americans. While DVS services may well be a good thing for many of us who cannot see the screen, it is a much worse thing to compel private citizens (whoever they may be, grouped as corporations or not) at the point of a gun to give their private property to another citizen.

     The mere fact of something being "good" does not make it a "right." In a free society respectful of private property and free enterprise, the government simply cannot appropriate the goods of one citizen for the benefit of another just because another citizen may want or need that good. It becomes a very slippery slope when the power of the federal government is used by one group or another to steal private property from one person or group to benefit another person or group. What I am saying here is not exactly radical if you have even the most basic understanding of our republican form of government or our history. If merely being "good" was sufficient to confer a right on a citizen, then we would all have the "right" to free ice cream, government-sponsored trips to Disney World, or for that matter anything considered desirable at the local shopping mall.

     I realize that your comments must be framed as an advocate for your organization, but the intellectual dishonesty is palpable. Wouldn't it be truly better to positively engage the entertainment industry as a consumer group to achieve your goals rather than trying to use the government as a club over their heads? When purportedly educated people like yourself engage in such a dishonest diatribe, it undermines not only your own genuine authority but our very future as a free people.

     I would highly recommend a short treatise entitled "The Law" by Frederick Bastiat for your edification. Please be assured that I am writing you only in response to my personal reaction to the ACB press release as I am not a member of NFB and am in no way affiliated with the entertainment or television industries. Thanks for your time,

                                                   Al Ducharme

              Reflections on the Long White Cane

                        by Kevan Worley

                         

     From the Editor: On one of the NFB listservs recently someone asked people to share their experience with and thoughts about the white cane. Kevan Worley (First Vice President of the NFB of Colorado and President of the National Association of Blind Merchants) was one of those who sat down to reflect on this useful tool and the way his attitudes toward it have grown and changed through the years. The evolution his thoughts and actions have undergone seems healthy and may be useful to those who are still struggling to accept this tool of independence. This is what Kevan said:

                         

     I am forty-four years old and employed as a managing partner of a military dining hall food service operation. I am a long-white-cane user. I am six feet one-and-a-half inches tall, and I use a cane that is about sixty-five inches tall. It comes to slightly above my nose.

     My first experience with any kind of travel aid was when my father cut long tree limbs for me to wave in front of me. I was about seven or eight years old. Dad had me take a step with one foot and put the stick out in front of that foot, just the opposite of the way cane technique is taught today. The tree-limb cane was a neat idea, my dad's attempt to fashion a helpful travel tool. I remember using it some, but mostly I rambled and bounced around the neighborhood, a normal, fearless seven- or eight-year-old. The tree limbs came up to the middle of my chest, and over time they did help me gain some speed of travel and increase my confidence around the neighborhood. Of course, when I returned to the State School for the Blind, I did not use these home-made methods for travel. Instead I shuffled along snapping my fingers and clicking my tongue to provide echoes. I would also trail sidewalks and clap my hands for echoes--not the most effective, quick, or socially acceptable travel techniques.

     In seventh grade we were given training by a university-trained travel instructor. We were given rigid aluminum canes, which came up to our sternums, the lower chest. They had crooked handles with rubbery grips, which had a flat place on the side for the index finger to splay out along as we traveled. We spent a lot of time traveling the already familiar halls of our school. However, I will say that both of the men who taught travel spent time on understanding the environment, listening skills, changing surfaces under foot, keeping a wide cane arc, learning how to choke up the cane across the body in crowded conditions, and other helpful techniques. They spent a little time on sighted guide technique, but not a lot.

     I recall that both instructors were very precise and appropriate in the way they expected us to travel sighted guide, something I never really understood at the time and still don't. For example, I always felt that I was autonomous and should mostly be responsible for my own personal safety. I also felt that grabbing a guide above the elbow and expecting him or her to make fairly large gestures with the elbow and body to warn me of doors, steps, etc., was inconvenient. I felt it was almost a violation of the guide's personal space. It also sent a signal to me that the sighted person was in control, not the blind person.

     It seemed to me that, if I used proper cane technique together with other environmental clues--in short if I used my own wits, my own ability, and paid attention--I could stay with that sighted person by placing my fingertips on the back of the guide's shoulder. That has always been my preferred sighted-companion or human-guide technique. I can in fact gain almost as much information about my traveling companion's body movements just by placing my fingertips on the shoulder.

     Recently I found myself traveling from a parking lot to a meeting in a large office building with a former long-time employee of the agency for the blind in Kansas. We talked as we walked through the crowds, and at some point she delighted in mocking my sighted-guide technique saying, "You know, this is kind of fun for me, you being a long-time leader in the National Association of Blind Merchants [a division of the National Federation of the Blind] and yet you don't know proper sighted-guide technique."

     I was dumbfounded. I did not know her very well and would never have commented on her social graces or lack thereof. I would never have presumed to tell her how to open a door or mount a stairway or drive her car or pour her coffee or comb her hair, yet she was delighted to find some fault with my social/travel skills. I was indeed assisted through the crowds to the elevator and on to our meeting room by my contact with her shoulder. The contact also made it more convenient for us to talk, fingertip-to-shoulder taking the place of eye contact, if you will. Of course, I could have found the meeting room without her and at only somewhat less convenience to myself.

     Back to junior high school. Most of our junior-high travel with the professional mobility instructors was spent traveling the halls we already knew or in residential areas. During the last month of our seventh-grade year and the last month of our eighth-grade year we did some travel crossing traffic-light-controlled intersections. Much of our travel at this particular school for the blind consisted of traveling the four or five blocks along State Street from our residential campus to a restaurant, where we would then have a Pepsi with the travel instructors. Most of the time they would drive us back to school.

     I had no travel instruction whatsoever in high school. When I transferred from the insulated and idyllic campus at the school for the blind to the public school for my senior year, my father and my brother took me to the campus a couple of days prior to the school-year opening so that I could walk around and learn it a bit.

     My freshman year of college I had a wonderful travel instructor, who, as I recall, had a master's in peripatology. I think she was from North Texas State University. She was very supportive and provided a lot of useful information. She also asked me to consider using a slightly longer cane. This one came to a couple of inches below my Adam's apple.

     She was tolerant of my wandering methods but felt that I would do better if I memorized specific routes, e.g., from my dorm room to English 110 or from my dorm room to the library or from my dorm room to the student union. She didn't quite understand that I might want to go from the student union to the girls' dorm.

     A few years later, 1984, I was invited to lunch with the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, Gary Wunder, and a blind attorney who was representing the NFB in a civil rights case. His name was Marc Maurer. Mr. Maurer showed me his telescoping fiberglass cane. Up to that time I had been using the rigid aluminum cane with the old-style handle referred to above. I was fascinated by the length of Mr. Maurer's cane, but I did not know if I wanted a cane that might start telescoping as I was crossing a street. So I ordered a rigid, fiberglass cane a little longer than the one I had been using--this one up to my chin. I found that the greater length and lighter weight of my cane allowed me to travel with more quickness and grace. I remember telling someone that it was like switching to power steering.

     During the 1980s I struggled to build a career in broadcasting and in business. After losing one position, I seemed to lose confidence, so I attended the Colorado Center for the Blind in order to boost my skills and regain my confidence. I believe I was exceptionally fortunate to have the courage and good sense to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind, where I was taught by Trina Boyd. Trina was an NFB-Center-trained cane-travel instructor. She also had a degree in education and seemed to have the ability to blend good teaching with tried and true travel techniques. I gained much from the NFB-Center methods, expertly taught by Trina. She convinced me to use a longer cane (to my nose), and she and the Colorado Center encouraged me to try different kinds of canes and tips.

     They did some teaching of routes in the very beginning, I think to increase confidence and teach basic techniques, but very quickly they expected us to use skills, confidence, and problem-solving ability to plan travel objectives and figure out how to get where we were going and get back.

     During that training and since, I developed and continued to develop and possess a broad range of knowledge and set of problem-solving techniques so that I believe I can travel whenever and wherever I want to with little inconvenience to myself or others. Now I often take a cab to work. Sometimes my secretary drives me somewhere. Occasionally I grab a city bus and meet the boys downtown for a beer and a ball game. Once in a while I grab a bus and change to the light rail to travel down south for a meeting. Maybe I'll call my fiancée for a lift home. In my position as a manager and as President of the National Association of Blind Merchants, I travel once or twice a month to other cities.

     In the seventies and eighties, when I traveled--airports, bus stations, etc.--I became nervous and easily confused. But for the last decade I have actually enjoyed most of my travel experience. Since my training at the Colorado Center for the Blind increased the length of my cane, greatly enhanced my skills, and totally rebuilt my positive attitude, I love traveling around airports, problem-solving my way through the highways and byways of life.

     Of course some people are intimidated or nervous about a rapidly moving two-hundred-pound man approaching them waving a long stick. It is certainly my responsibility to be careful and understanding of others and to use techniques in the appropriate setting. But I also must not allow myself to become daunted or docile, thwarted by the misunderstandings and misconceptions of others.

     Recently I was looking for the baggage carousel at Kansas City International Airport. I momentarily became tangled in the guide ropes that channeled people to the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. After a moment or two I resolved my dilemma. I retreated the few steps back to the main pedestrian thoroughfare, but before I could get many steps along the path, two well-meaning Southwest ticket agents came up and grabbed me on either side. They began to propel me back toward the ropes from which I had just extricated myself. They said, "Southwest is this way. You want to come this way."

     I tried to explain to them that I was not going to Southwest, but they weren't listening to me. In fact, I was trying to be kind. Therefore I allowed myself to be propelled all the way up to the Southwest ticket counter. That is where they left me. I then had to retreat through the ropes to be on my way, but other customers were coming toward the counter, and I found myself moving against the flow of traffic, whereupon a man snarled at me, "If you didn't want a ticket, why did you come in here?"

     At any rate, I ultimately found the carousel, and, exploring the area, I found ground transportation. I never mean to inconvenience others, but I need to be able to travel independently, to understand and enjoy my environment like others in our society. While I enjoy traveling totally independently, tip-tapping around with my cane, listening for escalators, smelling for burger stands, finding a line of people pulling luggage and trailing them to the next landmark or queue, I also enjoy traveling with others. I occasionally seek assistance from fellow travelers or airline personnel, and I greatly appreciate the assistance, suggestions, and directions that I get. I try to be as proactive in my traveling as I can.

     For example, recently on a flight back to Denver's International Airport, the man next to me on the plane struck up a conversation. Now I was exhausted from my trip, and mostly I just wanted to listen to a CD and nod off, but, I thought, he is a nice man. He wants to talk. You never know when you may need something from someone, so I visited with him for a while. When I got off my plane on the C concourse, I traveled alone to the shuttle train which takes people to the main terminal. However, at the A concourse the train broke down. Most people stood there for several minutes waiting for the train to go. I heard a voice coming up on my left that said, "Hey Kevan, did you know you could walk to the main terminal from here?" It was my friend from the airplane. I told him I had not known that.

     I said, "Let's go!" I put my fingers on his shoulder, and he and I struck out. Several people decided to follow us. He showed me the way to the main concourse, where he was intrigued by the alternative techniques to vision that I used to locate my luggage. On our way to ground transportation we exchanged business cards, and I gave him a Kernel Book to educate him further about blind people.

     I know that people do react differently to a person who uses a cane. The reactions may be more negative or more definite than I realize. Since I am blind, I obviously don't see some of the ways people react to me.

     In a conversation a few years ago I once suggested that the ordinary sighted public would react more negatively to a person using a dog than to a person using a long white cane. This was in a conversation I was having with a group of my customers. They quickly debated my assertion. They said, most people like dogs. Most people are not threatened by a dog in a harness. They said that most people are at least slightly concerned when I walk down a hall waving a long stick in front of me.

     Of course I attempt to use my cane responsibly, and rarely do I hit anyone with it. When I do, it is a very light tap on the shoe or lower leg. However, even my children have told me that people sometimes react visibly when I ramble down the street, arcing my cane from side to side. I have also had people tell me that, while occasionally people stare as if their eyes will pop or jump out of the way like a crazy person, mostly there's not much reaction. There's no way to know how much of the reaction is to the wielding of the cane and how much is a reaction to the perceived abnormality of blindness.

     I guess I've come to believe that, if you feel good about yourself as a person, if you are confident and self-assured, if you travel with some sense of your environment, including the fact that other people are nearby, and if you treat them with courtesy, that's all you can do.

                         

                         

                   Walking with an NFB Cane

                        by John Bailey

                         

     From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Fall, 1250, issue of the NFB Vigilant, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. John Bailey is a relatively new Federationist and already president of the Fairfax County Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. John is dealing with gradual sight loss and is doing so by putting our Federation philosophy to work in his daily life. Here is what he says about blindness and getting about in the community:

                         

     When I was a student at George Mason University, I noticed that periodically blindfolded students were escorted about the campus. They tentatively inched forward while the escort stood behind, giving directions by pushing an elbow. As I watched from a distance, the pairs would creep up and down stairs and run into pillars supporting the covered walkways. I was unsure whether or not to stop them with the information that they were doing it all wrong. I found out later that George Mason Disabled Student Services (DSS) sponsored annual activities intended to sensitize the general student population to the day-to-day turmoil of the handicapped.

     I doubt that what DSS thought it was teaching and the lesson actually learned were the same. I am sure DSS's heart was in the right place; however, the only thing accomplished was to further associate blindness with helplessness in the minds of those who participated in the blindfolded exercises. The participants learned nothing from this activity about the way a properly trained blind person would perform in the same situation.

     One of the biggest impediments to the blind participating in society as fully as we are able is the reduced expectation that society has of us. When sighted people see a blind person, they see only the problems blindness can cause. Sighted people believe that blindness is helplessness because, if they suddenly lost their vision, all their old ways of doing things would no longer work. How could they drive or read print? If they were blind, how could they do things the same way? The conclusion: all blind people must have very difficult and limited lives.

     This brings up a very good question, "Is it possible to communicate to the general public how effectively a well-trained blind person can function?" If it is possible, the sensitizing activities of the University haven't accomplished that goal.

     A better way is through personal contact, by personal example and the positive image the Federation teaches. I have just started using a long white cane. I have had proper mobility training, and I am very comfortable using a cane to navigate about the streets. However, I am still uncomfortable having people I know see me with it. This reluctance to be identified as blind is very common, and I am not going to discuss my ongoing struggle with it. Suffice it to say that I am recently cane-enabled and my friends and co-workers now see us (my cane and me) together.

     One thing I have noticed while traveling is that people are curious about the cane and the way I use it. I was not expecting this reaction. People want to ask me questions. This public curiosity gives me a great opportunity to inform them about how a capable blind person can function. A co-worker asked me about colored stripes on my cane. He wondered if the colors represented the degree of blindness of the user. I thought this was a great question. I told him no. The basic cane is white. Other colors don't have any special meaning. He asked several more questions, and we had some laughs. I suspect this simple conversation left a positive imprint on my co-worker since I was the first blind person he had ever met.

     The simple fact is that very few people understand the truth about blindness. A larger number of people have a completely mistaken idea, and the majority hasn't a clue. Being a Federation member has given me the words to express what I know is true: blindness can be reduced to an annoyance. As Federationists we have a great opportunity to make positive changes in people's attitudes about blindness. By our simply being out in public with our canes and dogs, living our lives, we are sending a clear message to others that we are quite able.

                         

                         

                         

     A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:

     James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.

     For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

                         

                         

                         

                      Victory in Indiana

                        by Pam Schnurr

                         

     From the Editor: Pam Schnurr is Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana. In the following article she describes the events of this past winter as blind and deaf people, along with supporters who understood the seriousness of the threat, joined forces to pressure state government to reverse its decision to merge services to the two groups. This is the way it happened:

                         

     On Tuesday, January 9, 2001, members of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana heard for the first time that our state umbrella agency, which houses services for the blind, was planning to combine two separate agencies: services for the blind and services for the deaf. The plan was first described in a letter written December 29, 1250. During the January meeting of the Indianapolis Chapter of the NFB of Indiana we were given a draft copy of the proposed changes in the agency structure. Indiana Secretary of Family and Social Services Administration Katie Humphreys and her acting Director of the Division of Disabilities, Aging and Rehabilitative Services Alex Braitman established the new organizational structure for the Division of Disability, Aging and Rehabilitative Services, which would combine the Separate Blind and Deaf Services. Their plan called for the Deputy Director of Blind Services, Linda Quarles, to be appointed Deputy Director over both blind and deaf services. The resulting fused agency would be called Blind-Deaf Services.

     Needless to say we were outraged that we had not been consulted about this decision. Linda Quarles had already assumed the position as Acting Director of Deaf Services.

     As many of you know, services for the blind in Indiana have left a lot to be desired for a very long time. We knew that, if the state combined deaf and blind services, the outcome would be disastrous. NFB of Indiana President Ron Brown and his wife Jean, Mike Dixon, Marina White, my husband Tony, and I decided to meet with members of the deaf community. January 21 was our first meeting. We soon learned that the deaf organizations felt the same frustration that we were feeling. Together we devised a battle strategy.

     The first order of business was to get the word out to as many constituents as possible. We e-mailed all the blind and deaf people we had addresses for. We asked them please to call, write, or e-mail the governor's office. We also contacted all of the other organizations we could think of that would be interested in helping our cause. Our plan worked well. On Monday, January 22, our President called the Secretary of Family and Social Services Administration, Katie Humphreys. By the end of the day a meeting was scheduled with Ms. Humphreys for January 29.

     We wanted to be prepared for the meeting, so we printed copies of a document I had received earlier from Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the NFB. It was entitled "Separate Agencies Best" by Jim Omvig, and it appeared in the July, 1999, issue of the Braille Monitor. We also took a copy of the model commission-for-the-blind bill. We combined these two documents and a cover letter in a binder. The result looked very professional. We handed these documents to Katie Humphreys, Alex Braitman, and Russell Brown, who was attending the meeting as a representative from the Governor's office.

     Three representatives from the NFB attended this meeting: NFB of Indiana President Ron Brown, Ron Matias, President of the Indiana Blind Merchants Association, and our Legislative Chairman, Joe Money. Other organizations were also represented: the Independent Living Center, Every Body Counts, and several deaf organizations. The meeting began with the state officials telling us why they thought this merger was a good idea. Then they opened the floor for consumer comment. I am sure they were not prepared for the outpouring of frustration and anger they received from every consumer representative present.

     Although I did not personally attend this meeting, I have it on good authority that Joe Money, Ron Matias, and Ron Brown took significant part in the discussion. Ms. Humphreys said she would make a decision on the matter by the following Friday.

     We held another meeting with the deaf community on Tuesday, January 30, to decide what our strategy would be if Ms. Humphreys announced that they would proceed with the merger. We decided to keep the pressure on until Friday by continuing to call and write the governor's and Katie Humphreys's offices until we received confirmation. We scheduled another meeting as soon as we returned from Washington, D. C., to organize either a protest march or a celebration at the government center.

     On February 1 President Ron Brown received a phone call from the Governor's representative Russell Brown saying that they had made a decision to keep the agencies separate. He commented that the documents we had given them had had a great impact on this decision. He also said that they would like to stay in touch with us and our organization. He then asked Ron please to call off the dogs. We were lighting up the switchboards. They had gotten so many calls that they were answering the phones by saying, "We know you don't agree with the merger of blind and deaf services."

     Here is the letter that Ms. Humphreys sent to the NFB of Indiana when the dust settled:

                         

February 1, 2001

                         

     Thank you for expressing your concerns about the reorganization of the Division of Disability, Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DDARS). We understand that your specific concerns address the apparent merging of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) and Blind and Visually Impaired Services (BVIS) into a single unit and the quality of services that will result. At this point, after hearing the concerns of advocates representing those who receive services from both bureaus, the decision has been made to stop the realignment of BVIS and DHHS into one branch of the agency.

     We are interested in sharing with you some of the other changes that will result through the reorganization of DDARS. During this reorganization process we have implemented several new aspects that will support and enhance the services of DHHS and BVIS. Under this plan three new bureaus, Fiscal, Quality Improvement, and Strategic Support Services, were established. Fiscal will support and assist the DHHS and BVIS programs in looking at funding needs as well as fiscal accountability. Quality Improvement will examine the delivery of services and whether those services are meeting the needs of the individuals receiving the services. This unit will investigate complaints about services and make recommendations on improving the quality of services provided. Consumers of DHHS and BVIS will still be able to make their voices heard about the quality of services through DHHS and BVIS as well as through the Quality Improvement unit. Finally, Strategic Support Services will be constantly looking for ways the service delivery systems can be improved. Consumers of DHHS and BVIS will also be able to make their voices heard by making recommendations that will be reviewed by this unit.

     Please rest assured that I share your concerns about quality assurance. This reorganization of DDARS is directed not only to quality assurance but also to quality improvement of services. We hope that you will join with us in our efforts to improve services to the consumers of DDARS through this reorganization effort.

     Thank you for your concern and your passion. I look forward to working with you to make a positive difference in the lives of many that are involved with our agency. I encourage you to remain active in this process and to work with us to serve all Hoosiers better.

Shopping for Braille Notetakers? Take Note

                        by Brad Hodges

                         

     From the Editor: Summer convention season is a great time to shop for all kinds of assistive technology. The NFB exhibit hall brings it all together under one roof. So, if you know what you are looking for or even what questions to ask, you have a perfect opportunity to make an informed decision about what to buy at our National Convention. If you have been thinking about buying a Braille Notetaker, the following article will help you make the choice that's right for you. Brad Hodges is an access-technology specialist in the Technology Department at the National Center for the Blind. He works with Braille notetakers every day. This is his advice:

                         

     NFB Convention week is an exciting time for all who attend. This year's Philadelphia convention is shaping up to be among the best ever. One important activity for many Federationists who visit the exhibit hall is purchasing technology. Whether shoppers order equipment while at the convention or after returning home, the opportunity to see and get a hands-on look at the newest products often leads directly to a final purchase decision.

     No device category has captured the attention or imagination of blind computer users more than Braille notetakers. These popular devices are well-established fixtures in many vender booths at convention. This year's crop of notetakers will offer more variety and more new technology than ever before.

     So then, you ask yourself, is it a good year finally to buy that notetaker? Or should you upgrade your older model or move up to one with a refreshable Braille display? Those questions are not as easy to answer as they might appear at first blush. Why? The answer is much easier: change--lots and lots of change.

     A bit of notetaker history may be instructive at this point in our discussion. Since their introduction over a dozen years ago, the Braille 'n Speak and Braille Lite, both products from Blazie Engineering, have enjoyed the lion's share of the notetaker market. Rival products have been introduced, and while they have had their adherents, it is safe to say that the Blazie family of notetakers has been the dominant set of products in this category. This decade-long position as number one in the notetaker market is now being challenged. Just before last year's convention Pulse Data International, a New Zealand-based manufacturer, introduced the Braille Note, a new and technically advanced notetaker which wowed all of those who read the specifications and list of features.

     From their introduction in the mid 1980s the Blazie products have built their success on the same technical platform as the original Braille 'n Speak. This strategy was reasonable. It allowed software and hardware consistency as products were introduced and features added. Users who learned the operation of one Blazie device could easily move to a more advanced model.

     At the same time radical changes and lightning-speed advances in the world of portable computing for the general public were taking place--remember the Braille notetaker predated the Palm Pilot by at least eight years. This fact notwithstanding, however, the general state of the art in portables soon overtook the Braille 'n Speak and its kin, which means that it has not been simple to connect a Blazie notetaker to a Windows computer for back-and-forth transfer of files. The most problematic area, however, has been the use of peripheral hardware. It has not been possible to use an off-the-shelf disk drive to store or transfer files to and from a Blazie notetaker. The result: extremely high prices for devices which sighted computer users can purchase for a fraction of the Blazie price at the computer store.

     In the months since the introduction of the Braille Note a little more than a year ago, the rate of change in the notetaker arena has caught up with that of portable computers in general. Change has taken place in both the technical and corporate arenas. The most significant corporate change was the purchase of Blazie Engineering by Freedom Scientific. We have all heard the anecdotes and horror stories about the transition, so it is safe to conclude that the change has not been as smooth as it might have been. Simultaneous with these difficulties has been the sudden departure of Deane Blazie. While Mr. Blazie had reduced his day-to-day involvement with notetaker development following the sale of his company to Freedom, many have viewed his complete separation from Freedom as a signal that the race with Pulse Data was now on and that Freedom was not about to take any prisoners in the competition.

     One of the most significant technical changes in the past several years is the introduction of hand-held computers. The most successful of these pocket-sized digital work horses is the Palm Pilot. In order to pack a lot of power into a small package, Microsoft introduced Windows-CE. What on earth is that, you ask? It is the operating system which allows many portable and palmtop computers to look and act like Windows computers with only a fraction of the memory or processor power of a desktop system. That sounds an awful lot like Braille notetakers, you say, and you would be right. But the technology used to operate palmtop computers has left Braille notetakers in the dust, despite the fact that our notetakers have been around for years longer.

     In addition to providing a familiar look and feel, CE-equipped devices can seamlessly communicate information and transfer files to and from desktop systems. As a result you can, for example, read and create e-mail messages on a palmtop, then place them in a small base station connected to your desktop computer. After a few moments of back-and-forth data transfer, your e-mail has been transferred to the desktop and sent to your e-mail service. An understanding of this technological and corporate history may provide a helpful perspective.

     Now here are some factors to consider as you approach the task of purchasing one of these alluring and useful devices.

     Connectivity: Since the notetaker must perform a number of tasks, you may want to be able to share data with other devices such as your desktop. How does the notetaker you are considering accomplish this task? Two approaches are currently being taken. The first is to support the full array of standard off-the-shelf portable peripherals. The PCMCIA card standard is used to provide an interface from the notetaker. Floppy disk drives, ZIP drives, and Super Disks can be purchased inexpensively and connected to the notetaker. Be clear which of these data-storage systems best meets your needs. Remember, if you connect a Super Disk drive to your notetaker, you need to have one on your PC as well.

     The second approach you will encounter is Flash-Card memory. These small plastic cards have been popularized by digital camera users. With no moving parts and the ability to hold over a hundred megabytes of memory, the Flash Card is easy to move from the notetaker to an inexpensive reader connected to your desktop or laptop.

     A final consideration of the notetaker's connectivity is how well it can synchronize the files which you have created on it to your desktop. This technique is sometimes referred to as "hot sync." The software supplied by the notetaker manufacturer as well as the hardware standards will make the task relatively easy or difficult. The trend to standard operating systems such as Windows CE should help to simplify this task dramatically. Look closely at the steps involved in data transfer if you plan to connect your notetaker to a desktop computer regularly.

     In theory the Windows-CE operating system makes this task easier. Individual applications may either capitalize on this advantage or render it pointless.

     Software:Unlike using a PC, with a notetaker you cannot choose from among several software applications to accomplish a given task. For instance, if you like the word processor built into the system, great. If you can't stand it, you're out of luck. So it is critical that you evaluate the software included with the notetaker. Ease of use is the first element to consider. As you approach the device for the first time, do you find the software intuitive, or does it rely on a complex scheme of commands that you must memorize or look up? Can you follow the ideas the software developers have used to design the application?

     Your knowledge of a previous version of a company's software is important. If you have already invested time and effort learning one set of programs, will you need to spend a significant amount of time learning new ones? If you will, what advantages does the system have , and are they worth the trouble?

     Hardware:Remember, these are devices which you will touch. You will handle them for many hours. How does the device feel under the hand? How do the keys feel and act? Note whether the Braille characters you actually produce when you try writing are the ones you expected. How loud is the keyboard? Some users find certain notetaker keyboards inappropriately loud for use in meetings.

     Physical characteristics of Braille displays differ on all notetakers which use refreshable Braille. How does this one feel under the fingers? Will you enjoy reading the display during extended reading sessions? Are the height and size of the dots pleasing? How does the texture of the cell background feel?

     Do you find special features attractive? As the pace of new notetaker development quickens, so will the introduction of new control features. Advance bars are being supplemented or replaced by thumb keys for navigation, whiz wheels for quick movement through a document, and other innovations.

     E-mail and the Internet: You will notice that the current generation of notetakers includes modems. While manufacturers are quick to point out this fact, find out whether the software for sending and receiving e-mail is available for use. If it is, can you connect to your current e-mail account? If you are looking for new service, can you choose among all services, or are you restricted to a shell account, which is a type of service no longer available generally?

     The most advanced palmtop devices for sighted computer users allow limited access to information from the Internet. If this is a feature which interests you in a Braille notetaker, determine whether or not the model you are interested in currently supports data retrieval from the Internet. If not, what are the plans for this feature, and what limitations will there be on the kinds of information you can retrieve? For sighted users of palmtop Internet access, a separate monthly service fee is generally associated with obtaining access to the data service.

     Training:The notetaker is a powerful, advanced piece of technology. It is worthy of your attention in order to exploit all of its advantages fully. As you evaluate the units on display, find out about training. Does one unit require more training than another one because of software design? Do you have access to friends or colleagues who are already knowledgeable in the use of one device versus others? Is tutorial training available to you?

     Current offerings: Two rival product families predominate, Braille Note and Braille Lite Millennium. Each line has notetakers which offer both Braille-and-speech and speech-only configurations.

     In the future: Because the pace of development has increased and because of the popularity of notetakers, we anticipate significantly more powerful devices to be offered in the next nine to twelve months. It is reasonable to anticipate the introduction of a totally new product from Freedom Scientific. Whether it physically resembles the Millennium is difficult to predict. There is no question that the operating system will be updated significantly.

     The Braille Note, on the other hand, is a relatively new piece of hardware. For this reason we do not expect to see radical physical changes in the next twenty-four months or so. We can expect that additional software will be introduced for the Braille Note and that it will take full advantage of the Windows-CE operating system.

     A totally new notetaker product is expected to reach North America from Germany. While we do not believe it will be available for purchase at convention, it is safe to include it on a list of candidates for fall-winter 2001 purchase.

     Now that notetakers have begun to change almost as rapidly as computers in general, what should I do? There is no simple answer to this question. It is important that you evaluate all offerings currently available and judge them based on your planned use. If you have the option of postponing purchase until late summer or perhaps fall, you may benefit from the expected new developments in these devices.

                                                 ]

         Blind Doctor Sees Patients in a Different Way

                       by Helen O'Neill

                         

     From the Editor: On March 18, 2001, Helen O'Neill of the Associated Press put a story on the AP wire that appeared in newspapers all over the country over the next several days. As a result the New York Daily News and "The Today Program" followed up with reporters of their own to talk with Dr. Stanley Wainapel, a blind physician practicing rehabilitation medicine in New York. Dr. Wainapel is a member of the National Federation of the Blind, who says unequivocally that the NFB has made an important difference in his life. Here is the AP story as it appeared around the country:

                         

     Stooped in her wheelchair, the patient grumbles about the pain, the cold, her age, her world. "Some nights I'm screaming in agony," she says. "You gotta help me, Doc."

     Dr. Stanley Wainapel sizes up the problem immediately. Arthritis has eaten away one seventy-one‑year‑old knee and is gnawing at the other. The prospect of surgery terrifies her. Wainapel checks the movement in the patient's arms and legs, prods the left knee until it hurts. "You're made of pretty sturdy stuff," he tells Myra Edelstein, walking back to his desk. "You should come through the surgery fine."

     His voice is reassuring, but he's looking in the wrong direction. "Hey, Doc!" Edelstein yells. "I'm over here, Doc."

     Wainapel straightens his gaze with a slightly embarrassed smile. As Edelstein is leaving, she notices a thin white cane propped beside a bookcase in the corner. "He's blind!" she exclaims." My doctor is blind."

     With his thick silver hair and silver‑rimmed glasses, his staff jokes that Wainapel looks like Andy Warhol. He cuts a striking figure as he strides through the hospital, white coat flapping, white cane tapping out a path in front: past cabinets and counters and bewildered onlookers who quickly step out of his way.

     Sometimes he bumps into patients. Sometimes he bumps into walls. And some days Wainapel, the fifty-four‑year‑old clinical director of rehabilitation at Montefiore Medical Center, has to reassure himself as much as his patients that he was right to choose medicine as his career.

     "You need a lot more than eyes," he says, "to be a good physician." Montefiore is an overwhelming place, even for those who can see. Cabs and buses loaded with patients stream up Gun Hill Road, disgorging a swirling human mass that can make it seem as if all the broken bones and sick hearts of the Bronx have landed at the hospital doors.

     Inside, skillfully negotiating his way through the chaos, is the doctor many have come to see, the blind piano‑playing doctor who introduces patients to Mozart and Chopin even as he prods joints and listens to hearts and diagnoses disease.

     Some patients swear the blind doctor sees their pain better than anyone. "He doesn't judge you from the outside because he can't see the outside," says Maria Asuncion Diaz, a forty-two‑year‑old nurse who is being treated for complications related to Lyme disease. "Because of his blindness I think he really hears what you have to say."

     Diaz is wearing a spotted hospital gown and sitting on a bed. In a few moments Dr. Wainapel, who studied acupuncture in China, will stick fourteen needles into her hands, feet, and neck. Diaz doesn't worry about him finding the right pressure points: it's the spots of blood she must wipe away on her own that bother her.

     Wainapel knew from childhood that he would eventually go blind. He has choroideremia, a rare inherited disorder that causes progressive degeneration of the retina and of cells in the back of the eye.

     He knew he had to fill his memory library before his eyes stopped working. So he did. He traveled. He read. He took photographs: his favorite, taken twenty-five years ago in the Swiss Alps, is blurry and impressionistic, and it is proudly hung above his desk. He played chamber music: other musicians marveled at his ability to sight read.

     And, although his parents tried to persuade him that life as a blind piano player might be easier than life as a blind physician, he went to Boston University School of Medicine. It seemed an obvious choice for the son of a doctor and nurse, even though Wainapel knew he could never hop in a car and make house calls as his father had done.

     "I couldn't be a surgeon," Wainapel says. "But no physician is master of everything." While in medical school he could still read large print, but by the time he started practicing, his peripheral vision was fading.

     So Wainapel specialized in physiatry, in the healing and rehabilitation of patients with all sorts of ailments: lower back pain, hip replacements, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue. He sees up to 125 patients a month. Not once, Wainapel says, has a patient been unnerved enough at his blindness to request another physician. In fact, he says, patients can often be more accepting than peers, who sometimes see only the cane.

     For years he fought using the cane and the Talking Books and the voice‑activated computer that he now relies on to scan reports and write memos and read medical literature. He avoided anything that marked him as a doctor with a disability. After all, doctors aren't supposed to be defective. Patients are.

     And then he reminds himself, as he reminds anyone who asks, that you don't need sight to feel the curve of a spine. "And what is the first thing you do when listening for a very soft heart murmur?" he says. "You close your eyes." But, like any doctor, Wainapel has had emergencies when, despite all his confidence and training, he wondered if he was up to the job.

     A couple of years ago, when the Heimlich maneuver didn't work on a relative who was choking, Wainapel was sure he would have to perform the first tracheotomy of his life. "It's just a question of knowing where to cut," he said. "It wouldn't have been pretty, but I could have done it." Fortunately, the operation was not necessary.

     In the past decade Wainapel's central vision has deteriorated to the point that he can no longer read, and patients seem no more than shadows when they sit across his desk. For all his assurance and acceptance, there are days when the loss has seemed unbearably cruel. Wainapel has raged at the fact he can no longer sight‑read music. And he knows that if he and his wife Wendy are successful in their quest to adopt a Chinese baby, he will never see the child's face.

     Still, these days Wainapel is more at ease talking about his blindness. He doesn't care when patients gasp at the huge black sprawl on their prescriptions: most doctors' prescriptions are illegible anyway, he jokes. And he proudly shows them his Typoscope, a thin plastic wedge that he uses to mark the spot for his signature. But he doesn't do injections anymore. His secretary speed‑reads his mail aloud. And he can't read X‑rays.

     Minor inconveniences, says his longtime friend, Dr. Avital Fast, chairman of the department. "In our society there is a huge stigma to being disabled," Fast says. "And by voluntarily taking on that stigma every time he uses his cane, Stanley becomes an inspiration to others with disabilities."

     Inam Rihan, a thirty-eight‑year‑old mother of six, suffers from lower back pain and a thyroid disorder. After Wainapel has diagnosed a slipped disc, Rihan complains that cataracts are making it difficult for her to read.

     "You don't have to see in order to read," Wainapel said excitedly, pulling out his latest book‑on‑tape: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. "I read all the time."

     By the time she leaves, Rihan is armed with all sorts of information for the visually impaired, including numbers for Wainapel's own ophthalmologist and the National Library Service for the Blind. She's also been introduced to violinist Oskar Shumsky, whose music plays softly throughout her visit.

     Other patients are introduced to Dickens: Wainapel has written about the English author's penchant for disabled heroes in his novels. Or to Beethoven: Wainapel has written about the effect of the musician's deafness on his talent.

     Wainapel rarely gives piano recitals anymore, but that has more to do with a tight schedule than with blindness. And then some days, when there is a lull between patients, he tap‑taps his way upstairs to the hospital community room. The piano is as old and tired as the plastic flowers on the tables. Most in the audience, a dozen or so elderly patients in wheelchairs, are dozing.

     Suddenly a Chopin polonaise fills the room, soft and enchanting and so otherworldly that nurses pause on their rounds to listen and patients take a break from their pain. For fifteen minutes on a busy morning, the blind piano‑playing doctor creates a little piece of wonder in Montefiore

                     Negotiating the Dark

                     by Stephen O. Benson

                         

     From the Editor: Steve Benson has been thinking and writing recently about his experience as a blind person. Steve is President of the NFB of Illinois and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. Here is another of his recollections:

                         

     At the time the NFB of Illinois was founded, in 1968, I was an applicant for a caseworker position at the Cook County Department of Public Aid. Though blind people had worked in that agency prior to that time, the Department balked at allowing me to take the appropriate civil service examination. Agency officials alleged that each blind person previously employed had been hired on an individual, case-by-case basis. The fledgling NFB affiliate swung into action. Letters from President Rami Rabby and television and radio appearances by Rami and me focused the public's attention on the Department's discriminatory practices.

     Reluctantly Department officials backed down, and I was permitted to take the civil service exam, which of course I passed without difficulty; however, that was not the end of the dispute. Ordinarily applicants who passed the civil service exam were interviewed and assigned to a post. The County did not follow its own procedures in my case, so I demanded a hearing to force the County to grant an interview and assign me to a position.

     The hearing was held, and the County Department of Personnel was ordered to conduct an interview and assign me to a post. The entire procedure took several months, and before the interview date was set, I took another job that paid substantially more than the County would have offered. However, given the time and effort the Federation and I had invested in this case and given our objective, to maneuver Cook County into changing its employment policy and hire blind people on the same basis as everybody else, I felt it necessary to participate in the interview.

     On the appointed day I traveled to the Cook County Building and to the personnel office using my white cane. When I was finally ushered to the interviewer's desk, I encountered the reception I expected. The well-intentioned lady on the other side of the desk greeted me cordially and asked the required questions, but then she got down to the core of the issue with which we had been grappling from the beginning. She said: "Now Mr. Benson, you realize that this job will require you to negotiate darkened halls and stairways."

     I let her remark hang in the air for a few seconds, then I said: "Madam, who better to negotiate darkened halls and stairways than a blind person?" It took her a moment to recover; then she informed me that there were no openings at the moment but that I would be called when an opening occurred.

     That interview took place a little more than thirty years ago, but I remember her comment as clearly as though it had happened this morning. The age-old fear of the dark colored her perceptions and governed her reactions to a situation she was not prepared to handle. Darkness was synonymous with danger, and since she couldn't imagine how she could function on a job while blind, she concluded that a blind person simply couldn't perform the necessary tasks. She had no idea that blind people function as well in the dark as in the light.

     Since my encounter with the Cook County Department of Public Aid thirty years ago, the blind of this nation have made enormous progress. We are entering more diverse careers and occupations than in 1969 and certainly more than in 1940 when the Federation was founded. With the establishment of our organization we assumed the primary responsibility for changing the public's attitudes about blindness, blind people, and the word "blind." While negative attitudes remain our most formidable challenge, we are, overall, better prepared to eliminate them today than we were nearly sixty years ago. We have developed a body of literature with which we have informed ourselves and with which we will persuade the sighted public that blind people can work, play, worship, and compete in the full current of life on a basis of complete equality.

     Progress we have made, but the unemployment rate among working-age blind people still hovers between 70 and 80 percent. It is clear to me that all of us must redouble our effort to inform the public of the new thinking about blindness. Each of us must spend some time each day or week reading Federation literature as thoroughly as possible. If there are concepts, policies, strategies, or decisions revealed in that material that you don't understand, ask your chapter or state president or some other veteran member to provide explanations. In order to change the public mind about blindness, it is critical that we have a very clear picture of who we are and where we are going. It is also necessary for each of us to be able to articulate our position in understandable, persuasive terms. It is also important to share this knowledge with other blind people so that we have a steady flow of new faces, fresh ideas, and committed workers in the movement.

                         

                         

     Interesting Employment Phenomena in the State of Utah

                       by Sherrie Crespo

                         

     From the Editor: Sherrie Crespo is an Employment Specialist with the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utah. Ron Gardner, President of the NFB of Utah, reports that she is energetic and dedicated to helping blind people find work. She recently sent us the following article. It is refreshing to remember that dedicated professionals are at work across the country helping blind people find and keep jobs. This is what she says:

                         

     It's been an interesting couple of years for me as the only Employment Specialist specifically working with blind and visually impaired folks here in the state of Utah. I am honestly surprised at the positive and future thinking of many of the employers I have worked with.

     I read the recent article by David Pillischer, "Engineering New Products for the Blind," (see the November, 1250, issue of the Braille Monitor) and found myself agreeing with him regarding the "increased interest in companies that supply products to people with disabilities, particularly blindness." I find that the increased interest is not only with those companies but with all human resource managers and individuals in personnel offices. Many employers and their personnel staffs are coming to find that individuals with disabilities are a great resource pool. The personnel staffs are finding that the fact that people have disabilities does not mean they are incapable of performing much more than essential functions of most jobs.

     With an accommodation (a modification or adjustment that allows an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in an application process or to perform a job's essential functions), many of the individuals I have worked with are more than capable of performing their required functions. Many of the reasonable accommodations for the blind and visually impaired come in the form of adaptive equipment for technology in the workplace. These accommodations include voice synthesizers, magnifiers, and Braille machines. Many of these adaptive devices have never been seen or heard of by the personnel staff or employer.

     Here are the two most interesting phenomena I find on a daily basis in my work: one, employers are extremely receptive to learning about accommodations for people who are blind or visually impaired, and two, employers are "blown away" at how much technology is available to accommodate this group.

     One employer sticks out in my mind. He did not need to use any assistive technology or devices but provided a reasonable accommodation beyond anyone's wildest dreams. This employer had never worked with a blind person. He said he would like to see how the person could do the essential functions of the job (which had been listed with Workforce Services, the local job service).

     We set an appointment for the employer to meet with the applicant. As we arrived at the place of employment, the employer greeted us and said, "There are three different positions available. We would like to extend the opportunity to you to test yourself at each job and choose which one you would like to do." The three position titles were production, labeling, and shrink wrapper. The applicant was eager to try each position. He sat down to each and decided on the shrink-wrapper position. He was hired in August, 1999, and is still there today.

     The employer had never had a chance to work with a blind person and simply needed someone to open the door. He became educated about the abilities of blind people. He provided more than a reasonable accommodation to this client in that he provided the opportunity to choose among three possible jobs, was flexible about the schedule because the new employee was using an alternative mode of transportation, and started him at a dollar more an hour than was listed on the job referral.

     Here is another example of an employer who has gone the extra mile in providing reasonable accommodations to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. We have a large company that provides customer service across the state at six major call centers and offices. Each office handles different accounts. Providing services to each of these accounts, this employer is required to use different applications, hardware, and software supports. Each office has a team of human resource managers and information technology support staff. I have met with all of these teams throughout the state. They have worked to install and use many of the adaptive devices available, sometimes to no avail. I know that even today the Network Administrator from the South Jordan office and the information technology support staff are working to make the adaptive equipment work with the technology provided by their national account. I am impressed with the dedication the Network Administrator has shown in making the adaptive equipment work with these applications.

     I am proud to work in Utah with such a futuristic thinking population of employers. It is a most interesting phenomenon to find them so receptive to working with and learning about people who are blind and visually impaired. It is rewarding to me to know I've provided some positive interventions, not only in the lives of blind people, but to open the eyes of those who can see. The adaptive equipment has only just scratched the surface of technological changes to come. Soon everyone will be dazzled by how much technology is available to accommodate blind people.

                         

                         

  The Philadelphia Marriott, Your Home for a Week This Summer

                       by Jim Antonacci

                         

     From the Editor: In less than two months we will be enjoying the hospitality of the Pennsylvania affiliate and the attractions of the City of Brotherly Love. Our headquarters hotel is now full, but if you hurry, you can still reserve a room at the Marriott Courtyard across the street. The room rates are the same, and the phone numbers for making reservations are also the same. Consult the first page of this issue for details.

     The time has come to tell you something about the layout of the Philadelphia Marriott so that, living there for a week or coming in for meetings and convention sessions, you can hit the ground running. Our tour guide for this exploration is NFB of Pennsylvania President Jim Antonacci. This is what he says:

                         

     In case you've been a hostage on Survivor's Island and haven't heard yet, the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind is being held in Philadelphia this summer. The convention site is the Philadelphia Marriott, which is in the center of the main downtown business and shopping district of Philadelphia, just a few blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Room rates are as wonderful as they can be for a first-class hotel and convention center in the fifth-largest city in the nation. Rates are $55 a night for singles and $65 a night for twins, doubles, triples, and quads.

     In previous months Sue Waters and I have taken you on a verbal tour of the city and its surroundings, given you a taste of the history and language of the area, and helped to guide you from your chosen method of transportation to the city right to the door of our headquarters hotel. Now it is my pleasure to take you on a guided tour of the inside of the Philadelphia Marriott. Those of you who enjoy Web surfing and can make use of photographic images can visit the hotel Web site at <http://www.philadelphiamarriott.com>. Many facts which may not find their way into this article will be available to you there. You can also take a panoramic tour of the hotel by your own computer screen. For those of you wishing a little more description, read on.

     The hotel is a rectangle occupying the space bordered by Market Street on the south, Filbert Street on the north, Twelfth Street to the east, and Thirteenth Street to the west. The hotel has the customary semicircular driveway for vehicular traffic in the middle of its Filbert-Street side. Since Filbert Street is small and there are more readily available doors, you will probably not use this door very much. There are doors on each of the other three sides of the hotel, but be advised that you will need your room key to enter those on Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets. If you were to draw a line between the Market Street door and the driveway door, it would divide the hotel in half along a north‑south axis. If we drew a line between the Twelfth and Thirteenth Street doors, it would parallel Market Street and would be further south than the middle of the hotel. At the point where these lines intersect is a raised, circular platform, which is a lobby/bar/atrium, accessible by three steps.

     If you entered the driveway door from Filbert Street, you would be facing south, and the hotel registration desk and bell stand would be on your right (west). On your left would be the gift shop and a waiting area with seating. Once past the desk, walking south, you pass the concierge desk on the right, and a coffee bar, with a cocktail bar behind it, is on your left. As you walk left (clockwise) around the raised circle, on the east side you will find Allie's American Grille. Past Allie's are two escalators (facing east) to and from the third floor. Along the southern side of the escalators is a hallway along which are the Market Street Express for quick breakfasts and lunches and the entrance to Champion's Sports Bar and Restaurant. The Twelfth Street door is at the end of the hallway, and just before you reach it, a small opening on the right (south) reveals six elevators. The Thirteenth-Street hallway is a mirror-image arrangement on the west side of the lobby, but there are only five elevators in that group. Along the Market-Street side of the hotel west of the hotel entrance are shops such as Starbuck's, a barber shop, a hair salon, and more. Many of these are accessible from both the hotel lobby and the street.

     On the east side of the second floor are the hotel management offices, and on the west side is J.W.'s Steak House, which can be accessed by a private staircase or elevator in the southwest quadrant of the lobby.

     Taking the escalator on the east side of the lobby to the third floor, you arrive close to the elevator pod in the southeast corner of the hotel. The meeting rooms on this level have been given quaint but descriptive names such as 301, 302, etc., and have Braille and raised numeric signs near their doors. On each level, lower-numbered meeting rooms are on the west side and higher-numbered ones are on the east. If you walk to the middle of the east side of the hotel, you can cross Twelfth Street using an enclosed sky bridge to the Philadelphia Convention Center and to the Marriott's Deluxe Concierge Towers. The Convention Center was once the Reading Railroad train shed, which housed sixteen tracks used by commuters each day to travel to and from work. From this point you have direct access to the Gallery: a four‑level shopping mall between Eighth and Eleventh Streets. The concourse level of the Gallery boasts an extensive food court for those looking for a quick meal. The Deluxe Concierge Towers is actually a smaller hotel purchased by the Marriott chain and converted to elegant suites.

     Returning to the third floor of our hotel, you find more meeting rooms and some guest rooms on the north side of the building. If you proceed west from the top of the escalators along their southern side toward the middle of the hotel, you will encounter another set of two escalators leading to the fourth floor. On this level are more numbered meeting rooms and Franklin Hall, which will be used as our exhibit hall.

     A short jog to the left (south) from the top of the pair of escalators brings you to another escalator arriving on the fifth floor and the Grand Ballroom. This escalator faces west and ends almost at the middle of the hotel. If you continue straight ahead from the escalator, you will find its mate traveling back down to the fourth floor. North of these escalators is the Grand Ballroom. If you begin at the northwest corner of the hotel, you can walk around three sides of the ballroom, ending at the northeast corner, passing twenty-four entrances to the ballroom along the way. According to hotel estimates, the Grand Ballroom seats over 2,500 for dinner.

     The pool, in the middle of the seventh floor, is T‑shaped and can be accessed directly or through the fitness room. The whirlpool and sauna are also in this area.

     Most of the hotel guest rooms are located on the sixth floor and above. They offer the usual amenities including coffee makers, irons and ironing boards, and hair dryers. For those not wishing to take the time to make their own coffee, complimentary coffee is available in the lobby.

     Now that you can navigate the Marriott, here is some late‑breaking information about the Welcome America celebration planned for convention week:

Saturday, June 30, 7:30‑10:00 p.m.--Two Cities Two States Concert and Fireworks at Penn's Landing

Sunday, July 1, 3:00‑9:00 p.m.‑-Gospel at the Mann, at Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Monday, July 2, 10:00 a.m.‑5:00 p.m.‑-Kids Day at Penn's Landing

Tuesday, July 3, 5:00‑9:00 p.m.‑-WAWA Hoagie Day and the Summer Mummers' Parade in Center City

Wednesday, July 4, 6:30‑8:30 p.m.--Pennsylvania Memories Parade on the Ben Franklin Parkway

Wednesday, July 4, 8:30‑11:00 p.m.-‑Sweet Sounds of Liberty Concert and Fireworks at the Philadelphia Art Museum

     For more details try the Welcome America Web site at <http://www.americasbirthday.com>.

     And now, for you history buffs, members of the NFB of Pennsylvania have checked out a couple of Web sites and find them quite accessible. For in‑depth information about the historical area known as Independence National Park, log onto <http://www.nps.gov/inde/exindex.html>. In order to get information about the sites that can be visited in the park, try <http:www.nps.gov/inde/visit.html>.

     Now what more do you need to entice you to get your reservations made right now? See you all in Philadelphia July 1 to 7 for the best NFB convention ever!

 

                     Negotiating the Dark

                     by Stephen O. Benson

                         

     From the Editor: Steve Benson has been thinking and writing recently about his experience as a blind person. Steve is President of the NFB of Illinois and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. Here is another of his recollections:

                         

     At the time the NFB of Illinois was founded, in 1968, I was an applicant for a caseworker position at the Cook County Department of Public Aid. Though blind people had worked in that agency prior to that time, the Department balked at allowing me to take the appropriate civil service examination. Agency officials alleged that each blind person previously employed had been hired on an individual, case-by-case basis. The fledgling NFB affiliate swung into action. Letters from President Rami Rabby and television and radio appearances by Rami and me focused the public's attention on the Department's discriminatory practices.

     Reluctantly Department officials backed down, and I was permitted to take the civil service exam, which of course I passed without difficulty; however, that was not the end of the dispute. Ordinarily applicants who passed the civil service exam were interviewed and assigned to a post. The County did not follow its own procedures in my case, so I demanded a hearing to force the County to grant an interview and assign me to a position.

     The hearing was held, and the County Department of Personnel was ordered to conduct an interview and assign me to a post. The entire procedure took several months, and before the interview date was set, I took another job that paid substantially more than the County would have offered. However, given the time and effort the Federation and I had invested in this case and given our objective, to maneuver Cook County into changing its employment policy and hire blind people on the same basis as everybody else, I felt it necessary to participate in the interview.

     On the appointed day I traveled to the Cook County Building and to the personnel office using my white cane. When I was finally ushered to the interviewer's desk, I encountered the reception I expected. The well-intentioned lady on the other side of the desk greeted me cordially and asked the required questions, but then she got down to the core of the issue with which we had been grappling from the beginning. She said: "Now Mr. Benson, you realize that this job will require you to negotiate darkened halls and stairways."

     I let her remark hang in the air for a few seconds, then I said: "Madam, who better to negotiate darkened halls and stairways than a blind person?" It took her a moment to recover; then she informed me that there were no openings at the moment but that I would be called when an opening occurred.

     That interview took place a little more than thirty years ago, but I remember her comment as clearly as though it had happened this morning. The age-old fear of the dark colored her perceptions and governed her reactions to a situation she was not prepared to handle. Darkness was synonymous with danger, and since she couldn't imagine how she could function on a job while blind, she concluded that a blind person simply couldn't perform the necessary tasks. She had no idea that blind people function as well in the dark as in the light.

     Since my encounter with the Cook County Department of Public Aid thirty years ago, the blind of this nation have made enormous progress. We are entering more diverse careers and occupations than in 1969 and certainly more than in 1940 when the Federation was founded. With the establishment of our organization we assumed the primary responsibility for changing the public's attitudes about blindness, blind people, and the word "blind." While negative attitudes remain our most formidable challenge, we are, overall, better prepared to eliminate them today than we were nearly sixty years ago. We have developed a body of literature with which we have informed ourselves and with which we will persuade the sighted public that blind people can work, play, worship, and compete in the full current of life on a basis of complete equality.

     Progress we have made, but the unemployment rate among working-age blind people still hovers between 70 and 80 percent. It is clear to me that all of us must redouble our effort to inform the public of the new thinking about blindness. Each of us must spend some time each day or week reading Federation literature as thoroughly as possible. If there are concepts, policies, strategies, or decisions revealed in that material that you don't understand, ask your chapter or state president or some other veteran member to provide explanations. In order to change the public mind about blindness, it is critical that we have a very clear picture of who we are and where we are going. It is also necessary for each of us to be able to articulate our position in understandable, persuasive terms. It is also important to share this knowledge with other blind people so that we have a steady flow of new faces, fresh ideas, and committed workers in the movement.

                         

                         

     Interesting Employment Phenomena in the State of Utah

                       by Sherrie Crespo

                         

     From the Editor: Sherrie Crespo is an Employment Specialist with the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utah. Ron Gardner, President of the NFB of Utah, reports that she is energetic and dedicated to helping blind people find work. She recently sent us the following article. It is refreshing to remember that dedicated professionals are at work across the country helping blind people find and keep jobs. This is what she says:

                         

     It's been an interesting couple of years for me as the only Employment Specialist specifically working with blind and visually impaired folks here in the state of Utah. I am honestly surprised at the positive and future thinking of many of the employers I have worked with.

     I read the recent article by David Pillischer, "Engineering New Products for the Blind," (see the November, 1250, issue of the Braille Monitor) and found myself agreeing with him regarding the "increased interest in companies that supply products to people with disabilities, particularly blindness." I find that the increased interest is not only with those companies but with all human resource managers and individuals in personnel offices. Many employers and their personnel staffs are coming to find that individuals with disabilities are a great resource pool. The personnel staffs are finding that the fact that people have disabilities does not mean they are incapable of performing much more than essential functions of most jobs.

     With an accommodation (a modification or adjustment that allows an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in an application process or to perform a job's essential functions), many of the individuals I have worked with are more than capable of performing their required functions. Many of the reasonable accommodations for the blind and visually impaired come in the form of adaptive equipment for technology in the workplace. These accommodations include voice synthesizers, magnifiers, and Braille machines. Many of these adaptive devices have never been seen or heard of by the personnel staff or employer.

     Here are the two most interesting phenomena I find on a daily basis in my work: one, employers are extremely receptive to learning about accommodations for people who are blind or visually impaired, and two, employers are "blown away" at how much technology is available to accommodate this group.

     One employer sticks out in my mind. He did not need to use any assistive technology or devices but provided a reasonable accommodation beyond anyone's wildest dreams. This employer had never worked with a blind person. He said he would like to see how the person could do the essential functions of the job (which had been listed with Workforce Services, the local job service).

     We set an appointment for the employer to meet with the applicant. As we arrived at the place of employment, the employer greeted us and said, "There are three different positions available. We would like to extend the opportunity to you to test yourself at each job and choose which one you would like to do." The three position titles were production, labeling, and shrink wrapper. The applicant was eager to try each position. He sat down to each and decided on the shrink-wrapper position. He was hired in August, 1999, and is still there today.

     The employer had never had a chance to work with a blind person and simply needed someone to open the door. He became educated about the abilities of blind people. He provided more than a reasonable accommodation to this client in that he provided the opportunity to choose among three possible jobs, was flexible about the schedule because the new employee was using an alternative mode of transportation, and started him at a dollar more an hour than was listed on the job referral.

     Here is another example of an employer who has gone the extra mile in providing reasonable accommodations to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. We have a large company that provides customer service across the state at six major call centers and offices. Each office handles different accounts. Providing services to each of these accounts, this employer is required to use different applications, hardware, and software supports. Each office has a team of human resource managers and information technology support staff. I have met with all of these teams throughout the state. They have worked to install and use many of the adaptive devices available, sometimes to no avail. I know that even today the Network Administrator from the South Jordan office and the information technology support staff are working to make the adaptive equipment work with the technology provided by their national account. I am impressed with the dedication the Network Administrator has shown in making the adaptive equipment work with these applications.

     I am proud to work in Utah with such a futuristic thinking population of employers. It is a most interesting phenomenon to find them so receptive to working with and learning about people who are blind and visually impaired. It is rewarding to me to know I've provided some positive interventions, not only in the lives of blind people, but to open the eyes of those who can see. The adaptive equipment has only just scratched the surface of technological changes to come. Soon everyone will be dazzled by how much technology is available to accommodate blind people.

                         

                         

  The Philadelphia Marriott, Your Home for a Week This Summer

                       by Jim Antonacci

                         

     From the Editor: In less than two months we will be enjoying the hospitality of the Pennsylvania affiliate and the attractions of the City of Brotherly Love. Our headquarters hotel is now full, but if you hurry, you can still reserve a room at the Marriott Courtyard across the street. The room rates are the same, and the phone numbers for making reservations are also the same. Consult the first page of this issue for details.

     The time has come to tell you something about the layout of the Philadelphia Marriott so that, living there for a week or coming in for meetings and convention sessions, you can hit the ground running. Our tour guide for this exploration is NFB of Pennsylvania President Jim Antonacci. This is what he says:

                         

     In case you've been a hostage on Survivor's Island and haven't heard yet, the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind is being held in Philadelphia this summer. The convention site is the Philadelphia Marriott, which is in the center of the main downtown business and shopping district of Philadelphia, just a few blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Room rates are as wonderful as they can be for a first-class hotel and convention center in the fifth-largest city in the nation. Rates are $55 a night for singles and $65 a night for twins, doubles, triples, and quads.

     In previous months Sue Waters and I have taken you on a verbal tour of the city and its surroundings, given you a taste of the history and language of the area, and helped to guide you from your chosen method of transportation to the city right to the door of our headquarters hotel. Now it is my pleasure to take you on a guided tour of the inside of the Philadelphia Marriott. Those of you who enjoy Web surfing and can make use of photographic images can visit the hotel Web site at <http://www.philadelphiamarriott.com>. Many facts which may not find their way into this article will be available to you there. You can also take a panoramic tour of the hotel by your own computer screen. For those of you wishing a little more description, read on.

     The hotel is a rectangle occupying the space bordered by Market Street on the south, Filbert Street on the north, Twelfth Street to the east, and Thirteenth Street to the west. The hotel has the customary semicircular driveway for vehicular traffic in the middle of its Filbert-Street side. Since Filbert Street is small and there are more readily available doors, you will probably not use this door very much. There are doors on each of the other three sides of the hotel, but be advised that you will need your room key to enter those on Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets. If you were to draw a line between the Market Street door and the driveway door, it would divide the hotel in half along a north‑south axis. If we drew a line between the Twelfth and Thirteenth Street doors, it would parallel Market Street and would be further south than the middle of the hotel. At the point where these lines intersect is a raised, circular platform, which is a lobby/bar/atrium, accessible by three steps.

     If you entered the driveway door from Filbert Street, you would be facing south, and the hotel registration desk and bell stand would be on your right (west). On your left would be the gift shop and a waiting area with seating. Once past the desk, walking south, you pass the concierge desk on the right, and a coffee bar, with a cocktail bar behind it, is on your left. As you walk left (clockwise) around the raised circle, on the east side you will find Allie's American Grille. Past Allie's are two escalators (facing east) to and from the third floor. Along the southern side of the escalators is a hallway along which are the Market Street Express for quick breakfasts and lunches and the entrance to Champion's Sports Bar and Restaurant. The Twelfth Street door is at the end of the hallway, and just before you reach it, a small opening on the right (south) reveals six elevators. The Thirteenth-Street hallway is a mirror-image arrangement on the west side of the lobby, but there are only five elevators in that group. Along the Market-Street side of the hotel west of the hotel entrance are shops such as Starbuck's, a barber shop, a hair salon, and more. Many of these are accessible from both the hotel lobby and the street.

     On the east side of the second floor are the hotel management offices, and on the west side is J.W.'s Steak House, which can be accessed by a private staircase or elevator in the southwest quadrant of the lobby.

     Taking the escalator on the east side of the lobby to the third floor, you arrive close to the elevator pod in the southeast corner of the hotel. The meeting rooms on this level have been given quaint but descriptive names such as 301, 302, etc., and have Braille and raised numeric signs near their doors. On each level, lower-numbered meeting rooms are on the west side and higher-numbered ones are on the east. If you walk to the middle of the east side of the hotel, you can cross Twelfth Street using an enclosed sky bridge to the Philadelphia Convention Center and to the Marriott's Deluxe Concierge Towers. The Convention Center was once the Reading Railroad train shed, which housed sixteen tracks used by commuters each day to travel to and from work. From this point you have direct access to the Gallery: a four‑level shopping mall between Eighth and Eleventh Streets. The concourse level of the Gallery boasts an extensive food court for those looking for a quick meal. The Deluxe Concierge Towers is actually a smaller hotel purchased by the Marriott chain and converted to elegant suites.

     Returning to the third floor of our hotel, you find more meeting rooms and some guest rooms on the north side of the building. If you proceed west from the top of the escalators along their southern side toward the middle of the hotel, you will encounter another set of two escalators leading to the fourth floor. On this level are more numbered meeting rooms and Franklin Hall, which will be used as our exhibit hall.

     A short jog to the left (south) from the top of the pair of escalators brings you to another escalator arriving on the fifth floor and the Grand Ballroom. This escalator faces west and ends almost at the middle of the hotel. If you continue straight ahead from the escalator, you will find its mate traveling back down to the fourth floor. North of these escalators is the Grand Ballroom. If you begin at the northwest corner of the hotel, you can walk around three sides of the ballroom, ending at the northeast corner, passing twenty-four entrances to the ballroom along the way. According to hotel estimates, the Grand Ballroom seats over 2,500 for dinner.

     The pool, in the middle of the seventh floor, is T‑shaped and can be accessed directly or through the fitness room. The whirlpool and sauna are also in this area.

     Most of the hotel guest rooms are located on the sixth floor and above. They offer the usual amenities including coffee makers, irons and ironing boards, and hair dryers. For those not wishing to take the time to make their own coffee, complimentary coffee is available in the lobby.

     Now that you can navigate the Marriott, here is some late‑breaking information about the Welcome America celebration planned for convention week:

Saturday, June 30, 7:30‑10:00 p.m.--Two Cities Two States Concert and Fireworks at Penn's Landing

Sunday, July 1, 3:00‑9:00 p.m.‑-Gospel at the Mann, at Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Monday, July 2, 10:00 a.m.‑5:00 p.m.‑-Kids Day at Penn's Landing

Tuesday, July 3, 5:00‑9:00 p.m.‑-WAWA Hoagie Day and the Summer Mummers' Parade in Center City

Wednesday, July 4, 6:30‑8:30 p.m.--Pennsylvania Memories Parade on the Ben Franklin Parkway

Wednesday, July 4, 8:30‑11:00 p.m.-‑Sweet Sounds of Liberty Concert and Fireworks at the Philadelphia Art Museum

     For more details try the Welcome America Web site at <http://www.americasbirthday.com>.

     And now, for you history buffs, members of the NFB of Pennsylvania have checked out a couple of Web sites and find them quite accessible. For in‑depth information about the historical area known as Independence National Park, log onto <http://www.nps.gov/inde/exindex.html>. In order to get information about the sites that can be visited in the park, try <http:www.nps.gov/inde/visit.html>.

     Now what more do you need to entice you to get your reservations made right now? See you all in Philadelphia July 1 to 7 for the best NFB convention ever!

 

                     Encountering History

                        by Toni Whaley

                         

     From the Editor: Toni Whaley is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania who has been doing some research in preparation for our arrival in Philadelphia. Quoted material in the article is taken from the National Park Service Web site. You can find more information at <http://www.nps.gov/inde/visit.html>.

     As you read this article, keep these directional cues in mind:

     ·    Unnumbered streets run east-west; some are one-way.

     ·    All numbered streets run north-south, and their numbers increase as you proceed west.

     ·    Between Second and Thirteenth Streets traffic travels south on all even-numbered streets and north on odd-numbered ones.

     ·    Odd-numbered addresses are on the east side of numbered streets and the north side of unnumbered ones.

     Market Street is a north-south marker. Thus, 13 N. Fourth Street is north of Market, and 13 S. Fourth Street is south of Market. Now learn something about sight-seeing opportunities just around the corner from the Philadelphia Marriott:

                         

     When you arrive at the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel in July, you will be not only in the center of convention action but also in the center of Philadelphia and USA history. In 1776 the Founding Fathers gathered only a few blocks from our hotel to debate the wisdom of separating from England, to write the “Declaration of Independence,” and to proclaim that independence publicly. Then eleven years later these gentlemen reconvened in Philadelphia to debate and write our “Constitution.” The area now called Independence Historical National Park is where these events took place.

     Independence Historical National Park is operated by the National Park Service (NPS). The park contains approximately twenty buildings, which are open to the public. Most of these are located in an area of Center City Philadelphia bounded by Arch Street on the north, Second Street on the east, Spruce Street on the south, and Ninth Street on the west. Space does not permit a discussion of each of them. This article focuses on some of the buildings usually associated with the struggle for independence. We hope the article will kindle a desire to come to Philadelphia and encounter history.

                         

Independence Hall (500-block of Chestnut Street)

     Begin your encounter with history at Independence Hall. According to information on the NPS Web site, "Tours are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours begin in the East Wing of Independence Hall every fifteen minutes between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily." There is no charge for these tours, and no tickets are needed. You can then visit the West Wing of Independence Hall to see the Great Essentials Exhibit.

                         

Liberty Bell Pavilion (500-block of Market Street)

     View a ten-minute film to learn about the history of the Liberty Bell and the myths surrounding it. The Liberty Bell, according to the film, "is perhaps the most celebrated and misunderstood bell in the world. From its beginnings in the Pennsylvania State House through its christening as the Liberty Bell by the abolitionists in the nineteenth century, [the Liberty Bell] has continued to inspire and remain relevant as a modern symbol of freedom."

                         

Franklin Court Museum (300-block of Market Street, also accessible from Chestnut Street)

     This is a unique site. At street level you see a steel ghost structure outlining the spot where Benjamin Franklin's house once stood. You'll also see "restorations of five buildings, three of which Franklin had built shortly after his return from France to be used as rental properties. These buildings contain an eighteenth-century printing office, an architectural/archaeological exhibit, an operating post office, and a postal museum. Exhibits are open year round, though hours vary by season."

     The museum itself is underground. It contains displays, interactive exhibits, and a twenty-two-minute film entitled "The Real Ben Franklin."

     If you are at the museum around 3:30 p.m., you can also view a ten-minute film. You will learn about "Franklin's Glass Music" and "hear a demonstration of the sound that captured the imagination of a generation," the Glass Harmonica. "Mozart and Beethoven composed for it, and Marie Antoinette was a student of the fashionable instrument."

                         

Declaration House (southwest corner of Seventh and Market Streets

     Thomas Jefferson lived in this house during June and July of 1776. It was here he penned the “Declaration of Independence.” A film about his stay in Philadelphia is shown at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

                         

City Tavern (Second and Walnut Streets)

     Finally, encounter history and get a good meal at the same time at City Tavern. The building is a reconstruction of the one that stood on this site in 1776. It is an eighteenth century style tavern. Lunch and dinner are served there daily.

     We in the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia this summer. While you are here, we invite you to encounter history and learn more about the issues and events that brought about the birth of a nation and about the individuals who guided it during its infancy.

                         

                         

                            Recipes

                         

     This month's recipes come from members of the NFB of Illinois.

                         

 

              Pork Stew with Black Beans and Rice

                         by Peg Benson

                         

     Peg Benson is the wife of NFB of Illinois President Steve Benson. Steve waxes eloquent about how good this recipe is.

                         

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced

3/4 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 bottle (16 ounces) mild salsa

2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/4 teaspoons each dried oregano and ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 can (15 ounces) low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup frozen corn kernels

1 small zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup water

1/2 cup white rice

1 tablespoon each finely chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice

                         

     Method: Heat olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook five minutes. Add a tablespoon or so of water if vegetables begin to stick. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

     Brown pork in same pan. Return sauted vegetables to pan with salsa, broth, one teaspoon of the oregano and cumin, and all of the ground red pepper and salt.

     Add beans and corn; cook five minutes. Add zucchini and cook five minutes longer. Make sure pork is cooked through; cook a few minutes longer if necessary. Cover and reduce heat to low while rice cooks. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in medium saucepan with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each oregano and cumin. Add rice, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook fifteen minutes. Stir rice into stew. Add cilantro and lime juice. This is good served with lightly buttered flour tortillas sprinkled with fennel, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper and crisped in the oven. Yields four servings.

                         

                         

                Peasant-Style Hungarian Goulash

                         by Peg Benson

                         

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 14.5-ounce can Del Monte FreshCut Diced Tomatoes with garlic and onion

1 8-ounce can Hunt's Tomato Sauce

1 14-ounce can Frank's Bavarian Style Sauerkraut, drained.

1/2 cup sour cream

1 pound extra wide noodles

                         

     Method: Melt two tablespoons butter in a large, non-stick pan. Saute onions in butter for ten minutes over medium heat. Remove and set aside. Coat pork with paprika and pepper. Add remaining two tablespoons butter to same pan and brown meat on all sides for ten minutes. Return onions to pan. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sauerkraut. Cover and simmer for forty-five minutes. Stir in sour cream just before serving over one pound Mrs. Grass extra broad noodles.

                         

                         

 

                    Old English Shortbread

                        by LeAnne Mayne

                         

     Leanne Mayne is an active member of the NFB of Illinois. Her brother was longtime Federation leader Mike Cramer.

                         

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 pound unsalted butter (semi melted)

3 cups flour

                         

     Method: With hands combine sugar and butter until thoroughly mixed. Then work in flour until thoroughly mixed. Dough should be smooth when you are finished. Pat into greased jellyroll pan (10-1/2 by 15-1/2 inches) and smooth surface to uniform thickness. Prick dough all over with fork or skewer to vent.

     If you choose, use fork or knife to draw design on top, but this is not necessary. Bake in 250-degree oven for two hours. Use bottom rack for first hour and a half, then place on center rack for last half hour. Shortbread should be golden brown. When you remove from oven, immediately sprinkle sugar on top and cut into one-inch squares. Let stand in pan until thoroughly cooled.

                         

                         

                       Taffy Apple Salad

                         by Kelly Doty

                         

     Kelly Doty is the Secretary of the Chicago Chapter and a member of the affiliate's Board of Directors. She is also the new editor of the state newsletter.

                         

Ingredients:

4 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

8 ounces Cool Whip

8 ounces crushed pineapple (drained and liquid reserved)

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup salted peanuts, chopped

                         

     Method: Place pineapple juice, sugar, egg, flour, and vinegar in small saucepan and stir to remove all lumps before beginning to cook. Cook stirring until mixture thickens, then cool. Fold in Cool Whip. Then add apples, pineapple, marshmallows, and peanuts. Refrigerate in serving dish overnight. Serves eight to ten.

                         

                         

 

                       Chili Chat Chili

                       by Carmen Dennis

                         

     Carmen Dennis is a longtime member of the Chicago Chapter of the NFB of Illinois. Her home is the hangout location for chapter members. When they have philosophy discussions, Carmen makes a big pot of this Texas chili, which the chapter has renamed Chili Chat Chili.

                         

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1 medium onion (chopped)

2 cans condensed tomato soup

1 can kidney beans (drained)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

                         

     Method: Brown ground meat and onion, draining fat well. Then combine meat, salt, pepper, kidney beans, and tomato soup. Cook covered for thirty minutes. Then simmer uncovered for an additional fifteen minutes.

                         

                         

                       Smothered Sausage

                     by Jean Rauschenbach

                         

     My recipe comes from my German grandmother, who lived in Connecticut. We ate this meal growing up, but I have never had it anywhere else except in our family. I don't know just why. It is wunderbar! This should feed four to six people depending on how hungry they are. Preparing this dish is not an exact science. You add more or less sausage as you like it. This is how I like it.

                         

Ingredients:

4 pounds potatoes

3 pounds mild Italian bulk sausage

1 onion

1 or so cloves of garlic to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Bread crumbs (torn-up bread or store-bought)

1 can peaches or applesauce for topping

                         

     Method: Peel and boil the potatoes. Drain and mash. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the onion and garlic and saute them with the ground sausage meat. Break apart the sausage so that it resembles hamburger and cook stirring about ten minutes until browned. Drain grease well. Mix mashed potatoes and sausage well in a casserole dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350-degree oven for twenty minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another ten minutes to brown the top. Now don't think this next part is strange. It makes the dish delicious. Place a few peach slices on top and drizzle a little of the peach syrup over the surface. If you don't like the result, serve applesauce on the side. But the applesauce alternative is only for the faint of heart.

                         

                         

 

                      NEWSLINE Meat Loaf

                        by Pam Gillmore

                         

     Pam Gillmore is a long-time Federationist. She is Chairwoman of our Chicago Chapter's Membership Committee and is a member of the Illinois affiliate's Board of Directors.

     She says, "One evening, as I listened to the Chicago Tribune using NEWSLINE, I prepared the following recipe, NEWSLINE Meat Loaf

                         

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground chuck

2 beaten eggs

1 cup water

1 six-ounce package stuffing mix

1 small onion, chopped

seasonings to taste

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

                         

     Method: Mix together all ingredients except barbecue sauce. Pack mixture into five-by-nine-inch loaf pan. Pour barbecue sauce over top and bake at 375 degrees for fifty-five to sixty-five minutes.

                         

                        

                      Monitor Miniatures

                         

Correction:

     In the April issue we listed dialysis sites in the Philadelphia area for use during convention. Our designations about which site was closest to the hotel and which furthest away were incorrect. In fact, the dialysis site at the corner of 7th and Spruce Streets is closest to the hotel, and the one at Spring Garden is further away. We regret the error.

                         

Convention Travel Arrangements;

     We are delighted to report that Sue Kable, our travel agent for many years, is back working with us to make travel arrangements for members of the National Federation of the Blind. She now works for Brunswick Travel, Inc., which has negotiated a special arrangement with U.S. Air for 2001 convention travel of 10 percent below any published fare for tickets purchased more than sixty days in advance and 5 percent below published fares for all other tickets. Call Sue to make your airline reservation, (800) 852-2736. If she is not available, ask for Elsa or Eike. Be sure to mention that you are with the NFB and attending our convention. To get the best fare, call today.

                         

Historic Philadelphia Streetcar Charter:

     Don Gillmore and Steve Hastalis cordially invite fellow mass transit and railroad enthusiasts to join them for a ride on one of Philadelphia's historic streetcars Thursday evening, July 5, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. The trip will begin and end at the Juniper Street Subway-Surface Terminal, under Market Street about a half block west of the Marriott. We are selling tickets for $20 per person for a group of thirty to forty people to cover the cost of chartering the streetcar. We will refund everyone in full if we do not sell enough tickets to cover our cost.

     The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) now operates PCC (Presidents Conference Committee), cars from the late 1940s through the subway and over portions of other routes for charters such as this trip. You can open the windows and enjoy the breeze as your air-conditioning. These cars once provided all the regular passenger service on the Subway-Surface routes.

     For further information call Don Gillmore, (773) 685-1893. If you leave a message on his voice mail, he will return your call. Otherwise, contact him by e-mail: <gillmore@pcc.net>.

                         

Peanuts and Crackerjacks Anyone?

     The NFB of Pennsylvania is getting a group of tickets to see the Phillies play the Florida Marlins on Saturday evening, June 30. If you are interested in attending the ball game, contact the NFB of Pennsylvania at (215) 988-0888 for information. We will go in a group on the subway, which is only two blocks from the hotel and one block from Veterans' Stadium. Play ball!

                         

 

Wedding Bells:

     We are delighted to announce that on May 14, 2001, Andrea Gashel and Jeremiah Beasley, both leaders of the Colorado affiliate, exchanged wedding vows in Denver. Many Federationists were present for the celebration. Congratulations to the newlyweds.

                         

Jobs Available:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     Freedom Scientific, Inc., a leading international software developer and hi‑tech hardware manufacturing company, has immediate requirements for the following positions, all of which require computer literacy and two years of assistive-technology experience:

Technical Support Specialists in our Stuart, Florida, location--answer, evaluate, diagnose, document, and prioritize incoming telephone and voice mail. Must be fluent in Grade II Braille; Inside Sales Representatives in our St. Petersburg, Florida, location--receive, solicit, and answer prospective customers' sales inquiries and qualify leads by explaining types of service and products; and Software Engineers-‑compile code in C++.

     Comprehensive benefits package and competitive salaries. Send resume and salary history in confidence to Human Resources, Fax: (727) 803-8001, e-mail: <HR@freedomscientific.com>, <www.freedomscientific.com>. An equal opportunity employer.

                         

Elected:

     The Cumberland County Chapter of the NFB of North Carolina elected new officers for the coming year. They are Amelia Skipper, President; Levon Harris, Vice President; Judy Bordeaux, Secretary; Boyce Locklear, Treasurer; and Roxanna Clark and Betty Savage, Board Members.

                         

 

New Baby:

     We are delighted to report that Tom and Eileen Rivera Ley of Baltimore have a brand new baby boy, born on Wednesday, March 21, at 6:01 a.m. His name is JonCarlos Rivera Ley. He weighed seven pounds, fourteen and a fourth ounces and was twenty-one and a half inches long. Everyone is doing well. Congratulations to the entire Ley family.

                         

Elected:

     The Austin Chapter of the NFB of Texas elected officers at its January meeting. They are Margaret Craig, President; Jeff Pearcy, First Vice President; Angela Sasser, Second Vice President; Norma Gonzales Baker, Secretary; Jim Shaffer, Treasurer; and Brandy Wojcik and Diane Domingue, Board Members.

                         

Self-Defense for the Visually Impaired:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     Cory MacDonald made a big splash at last year's Foundation Fighting Blindness Conference in Orlando, Florida, with his demonstration on innovative self-defense techniques designed for the visually impaired. Now the founder of the Blind Justice System of Self-Defense is offering free seminars to groups of visually impaired people. The seminars will focus on basic techniques for self-defense, both with and without the cane, as well as street smart tips. Mr. MacDonald is legally blind and holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. For more information contact Cory MacDonald at (413) 781-2274 or e-mail him at <BlindJusticeSD@aol.com>.

                         

Elected:

     Janet Triplett writes to say that the Tulsa chapter of the NFB of Oklahoma held its annual election on Thursday, November 9, 1250. The following officers were elected: President, Joe Triplett; Vice President, Nannnette Murrin; Secretary, Janet Triplett; Treasurer, Arthur Murrin; and Board Member, Sherry Martin. We would like to welcome our new Board member Sherry Martin, who brings a new perspective and enthusiasm to the Board.

                         

 

In Memoriam:

     Mark Riccobono, President of the NFB of Wisconsin, recently wrote the following: On Friday, January 26, 2001, Sam Day had a massive stroke and died in Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of seventy-four. Sam was a vital force in the NFB of Wisconsin. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dane County Chapter and in November was elected to the state Board. Sam was a fighter for the Federation up until his sudden death. That same week he had completed an article thoroughly blasting the Wisconsin Rehabilitation System for its lack of adequate training for the blind. He will be deeply missed.

                         

NPR Expert:

     On Friday, March 16, National Public Radio's morning news program, "Morning Edition," did a story about the worsening political and military situation in Macedonia. The story consisted of a live interview with a Fulbright Visiting Professor currently residing in Macedonia. The expert was none other than Federationist Robert Greenberg, a 1984 NFB Scholarship winner and now a professor of Slavic linguistics at the University of North Carolina. We are proud to report that Robert's comments were lucid, balanced, and articulate, just like Robert. You can never tell where you will run across a Federationist next.

                         

Attention Individuals and families with Usher Syndrome or Combined Hearing and Vision Loss:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     We are conducting a study to find the genes responsible for Usher syndrome (hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa--vision loss) in Ashkenazi Jews. If a member of your family or you are an Ashkenazi Jew or of Ashkenazic heritage and have Usher syndrome or both hearing loss and vision loss that have no other known cause, you and your family member may be eligible to participate.

     Participation may be as simple as a phone call and giving blood locally or may involve spending a few hours at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for vision and hearing tests at no cost to you. There may be no direct benefit to you as a participant other than the possible medical advances and greater understanding of Usher syndrome that may result if causative genes are found.

     For more information please call Drs. Ness or Willner at (212) 241‑6947. Contact us by mail at Judith Willner, Department of Human Genetics, Box 1497, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, New York 12529. Or e-mail Dr. Ness at <nesss01@doc.mssm.edu>.

                         

 

Honored:

     We recently learned that on April 19, 2001, at the Division on Visual Impairments of the Council for Exceptional Children's annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Abraham Nemeth was presented the DVI Exemplary Advocate award by Stuart Wittenstein, President of the Division on Visual Impairments. We extend hearty congratulations to Dr. Nemeth.

                         

Braille and Large-Print Production:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

 Braille Enterprises is pleased to offer Braille and large-print menus, certificates, programs, brochures, and other service literature. Ask your favorite restaurant to get its menu transcribed into Braille and large print. Reasonable rates and money-back guarantee. Operated by a fellow Federationist. You can check out <www.brailleenterprises.com> or e-mail <Bob@brailleenterprises.com>. You can also call Bob Watson at (410) 612-1252.

                         

Seiko Audible Levels for Sale:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     Fred Leader, President of the Capital Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania, writes as follows:

     The ProLevel is a 6-inch audible and visual precision electronic level. In audible mode a high tone indicates left side of level is high; a lower tone indicates right side of level is high; no tone indicates dead on. Similarly, in visual mode LEDs indicate high left, high right, and dead on.

     I bought the remaining inventory after Seiko discontinued manufacturing the levels. I am now selling the ProLevel HC125 for $15 plus $5 shipping and insurance. To order, use Paypal online or send check or money order to Fred Leader, 45 Thundergust Mill Road, Wellsville, Pennsylvania 17365. Now accepting Paypal; phone: (717) 432-4822, e-mail: <fleader@epix.net>.

                         

Elected:

     On April 7, 2001, the following officers were elected at the NFB of Oklahoma convention: Steve Shelton, President; Donna Jackson, First Vice President; Joe Triplett, Second Vice President; Janet Triplett, Secretary; Kathy Maria Badalamenti, Treasurer; and Cordelia Sanders, Nannette Murrin, and Sue Kendall, Board Members.

                         

Queen‑Size Quilt Drawing:

     The Idaho affiliate is conducting a drawing for a queen-size quilt. This hand-made quilt includes many colors and materials. The NFB logo appears in the center block. The quilt is absolutely beautiful. The drawing will take place on July 6 in Philidelphia. You need not be present to win.

     If you can't attend the convention, you can purchase your tickets now. They are $1 each or six tickets for $5. You can enter this drawing by sending your name, address, and phone number along with payment to Paula Achter, 5800 W. Northview Street, Boise, Idaho 83704. If you are attending the convention, you will be able to find tickets in the Idaho delegation by asking for Mary Ellen Halverson, Ramona Walhof, Paula Achter, and others. If you win, the quilt will be shipped to you. I guarantee that this quilt will be a wonderful addition to your home. Be assured that, if you purchase tickets by mail, I will personally add your name to the drawing. Make checks payable to the NFBI (National Federation of the Blind of Idaho). If you have any questions, contact me at <pmachter@juno.com>.

                         

For Sale:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     I would like to sell a Romeo RB-25 Braille embosser. It is about five years old. I purchased it when I was attending college, and less than a box and a half of paper has run through it. It is in very good condition, and I have the manuals and cable for it. I will also include three‑fourths of a box of paper. I would like to get $1,800 or best offer.

     Please contact Terra Syslo at (402) 498-4359 or e-mail <tlsyslo@home.com>.

                         

Participants Needed for Sleep Research:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     The Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital seek men and women ages eighteen to seventy who do not have light perception for a sleep study. Spend a total of thirty-eight days at the hospital and fifty-six days at home during the ninety-four-day study. Participants can earn up to $5,540. The project is headed by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The project leader will be Dr. Steven Lockley, Research Fellow in Medicine. For more information contact Jamie Isaacson, Research Assistant (617) 732-7294; e-mail: <jisaacson@rics.bwh.harvard.edu>.

 

Talking ATM Testers Needed:

     We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

     Blind people are needed to test PNC Bank ATMs in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  This pilot project involves use of a cell phone to obtain assistance with ATM transactions.  If you would like to participate, please call PNC toll‑free at (888) 762‑1252 to register and obtain a PNC cell phone.  If you experience any problems registering, please contact Jana Finder at the Disabilities Law Project, (412) 391‑5225, or e-mail <jfinder@dlp‑pa.org>.  Ms. Finder would also like to record your ATM experiences using the PNC cell phone.  You need not be a PNC customer to participate, but non‑PNC customers will be charged regular service charges for using PNC ATMs.  Those who are not Philadelphia or Pittsburgh residents but plan to attend the NFB convention in July are encouraged to participate and provide feedback during the convention.  Please call Jana Finder with any questions.     

                         

                          NFB PLEDGE

                         

     I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

                         

                                                    Sincerely,

                                               Katie Humphreys

                                                     Secretary

                     Family and Social Services Administration

                         

     That is what the letter said, and with luck the agency has now learned that it makes sense to consult the consumers before making radical changes in the programs that serve them. I wish to thank the deaf community and the other organizations that helped us with this project.

     We have some very strong leaders in our affiliate, which is a good thing because we have an uphill battle in Indiana. But it is truly amazing what the National Federation of the Blind can do when we put our minds to it. Now maybe we should go for that separate commission for the blind!