THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 46, No. 7July 2003
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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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
Vol. 46, No. 7 July 2003
Remembering Dr. tenBroek
by James Moynihan
For Diners in the Dark, a Taste of Mystery
by Michael Powell
Is This a Twenty?
by Mary Ellen Halverson
A Touch of Understanding
by T. Keung Hui
The SAL (Speech Assisted Learning): A Review
by Robert Jaquiss
On the High Seas
by Susan Povinelli
Restored by Touch
by Sal Perlman
Why I Am a Federationist
by Tonia Valletta Trapp
Teacher for Blind Joins 7,302 Getting Diplomas at MSU
by James McCurtis Jr.
by Jennifer Dunnam
Nebraska Rehab Center Recognized
Arrogance or Desperation?
by Peggy Elliott
Copyright © 2003 National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Stretching across both pages is a picture of a theater with every seat filled.]
[LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: The evening of May 22 the IMAX theater at the Maryland Science Center was the scene of a sell-out viewing of Farther Than the Eye Can See, the documentary film telling the story of the NFB 2001 Everest Expedition, in which Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest. Blind and sighted, very young and fairly old, people from across the community clearly enjoyed the film of this heart-stopping adventure.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: John Brennan, the NFB staff member with primary responsibility for this memorable evening, introduces Maurice Peret to the audience. Maurice was the Federationist who climbed to the Everest base camp with the team to assist with communications during the weeks they were on the mountain.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Everest team leader Pasquale Scaturro presents Dr. Maurer with the actual permit issued by the Nepal authorities to the NFB 2001 Everest Expedition.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jacobus tenBroek]
Remembering Dr. tenBroek
From the Editor: Jacobus tenBroek, founder and first president of the National Federation of the Blind, died March 27, 1968, bringing to an end the first generation of Federation leadership. We all recognize vaguely the debt we owe to this remarkable man, but not many of us still active in the organization actually remember Dr. tenBroek personally. It seems fitting, therefore, that in the month of the ninety-second anniversary of his birth, we should reprint one of President tenBroek's landmark speeches.
But before we do so, here is a New Yorker profile of Dr. tenBroek, published in the January 11, 1958, issue of that magazine. It provides a glimpse of the man as observed by a stranger. Here it is:
Jacobus tenBroek, a hearty, vigorous man of forty-six with aquiline features, a ruddy complexion, and a carefully groomed reddish goatee, is an authority on government and constitutional law, a field in which he has published a number of highly regarded books and monographs; the chairman of the Speech Department of the University of California at Berkeley; a member of California's Social Welfare Board; and the country's leading lobbyist and campaigner against an adage that he deems mistaken, mischievous, and far too commonly accepted--the one that goes "When the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the ditch." As president and one of the founders of the National Federation of the Blind, Professor tenBroek, who lost his sight when he was a boy, has a formidable spare-time schedule of speeches, conferences, and caucuses, through which he seeks to spread his organization's belief that the blind are much more capable than is generally realized of holding down normal jobs and running their own affairs. "I've had to make ten flying trips throughout the country on the last twelve weekends," he told us when he called on us at our office during a stopover of a few hours in New York, en route from Washington, D.C., where he had been talking with congressmen about legislation that his organization is advocating, to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was scheduled to make a speech before one of the Federation's local chapters. "As a rule I board the plane Friday evening, right after my last class," he said. "I prepare my speeches during the trip and usually manage to pick up a return flight that gets me to Berkeley just in time for my Monday-morning eight-o'clock class." He laughed. "My children, I have three, are getting fed up with this routine. They say they're beginning to forget what I look like."
One of Professor tenBroek's chief ambitions as he flies about the country is to persuade people he meets that he is not exceptional in either talent or character but pretty much an ordinary man who has simply refused to accept the widespread assumption that a blind person must live a dependent and sheltered life. "I've got a neighbor in Berkeley--a blind man I've known since we were classmates at school--who built his house entirely with his own hands," he said. "It's quite a good-sized house, too--about twenty-seven-hundred square feet. He built the forms, poured the cement, put in the plumbing, did the wiring--everything. The place is on a fairly steep hillside, and, before he could start, he had to make himself a large power-operated boom for hauling his materials up to the site. Now there's a man that someone like me--someone who has no aptitude for that sort of thing would call an exceptional person--but he doesn't seem to think he is. He says he just happens to be handy with tools." The professor shook his head in admiration.
"As things are now," he went on, "most of the country's three hundred and twenty-five thousand blind people who work are employed in the special sheltered shops that society with the best and most charitable intentions has set up for us, where we can make baskets and such and come to no harm. Only about two or three percent of us are holding normal jobs out in the world. My organization is convinced at least twenty times that many could be doing so if they had the chance. What we seek for the blind is the right to compete on equal terms. In this the Federation--the only national organization in this field whose membership and officers are all blind--is very much at odds with most of the traditional organizations and agencies set up to help us, which are sure they know better than we do what is good for us. But we've been making considerable progress. In the last few years we've succeeded in persuading the Civil Service to let blind people try out for many categories of jobs from which they used to be excluded."
We asked Professor tenBroek what jobs he himself thinks are impossible for the blind to hold. He laughed, stroked his goatee professorially, and said, "Well, airplane pilot, I suppose, though for that matter planes fly most of the time nowadays on automatic controls, don't they, and someday may be completely automatic. Actually I can't say what the limits are. Every time I think I have hit on some job that a blind man couldn't conceivably hold, I find a blind man holding it. One of my friends in the Federation is an experimental nuclear physicist, and you wouldn't think of that as a promising field for a blind man to be in. Dr. Bradley Burson is his name, and he's at the Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago. When he was working on problems involving the decay of radioactive matter, he invented some devices for himself that measured the decay in terms of audible and tactile signals, rather than the commonly employed visual signals. Some of the devices turned out to be more accurate than the standard ones and are now widely used at the lab. I'd always assumed that being an electrician would be impossible for a blind man, but not long ago I found a blind electrician--a fellow named Jack Polston. I went and talked to his boss, and he told me that Polston does everything any other electrician can do--wiring, soldering, and all the rest. While I was there, Polston was doing the complete wiring for a service station, which I'm told is a particularly complicated job. To be sure, he had been an electrician before he became blind, but don't ask me how he solders without setting the place on fire. I couldn't, even if I had my sight. Anyway, now that I've found him I'm pestering the Civil Service not to disqualify blind people automatically from trying out for electricians' jobs."
Professor tenBroek paused for a moment and then said, "Don't let me give you the idea that it isn't a nuisance to be blind. To bump your head on an overhanging sign as you walk down the street or to fall into a hole that anybody else can see--it's a nuisance, I can assure you, but it isn't a catastrophe." He stood up, buttoning his coat, and picked up his cane and his briefcase. "Well," he said briskly, "it's after two o'clock, and I'll have to step lively if I'm going to make it out to LaGuardia in time to catch the three-fifteen for Springfield. If you'll be so kind as to see me to the elevator, I'll carry on from there."
There you have the New Yorker profile published six months after President tenBroek delivered one of his most powerful and admired banquet addresses. The organized blind had just lost their struggle for the right to organize. Senator John Kennedy had led the legislative fight despite the opposition of most of the agencies in the blindness field, the professionals who distrusted and feared the rise of a consumer movement, and the monied interests who supported those organizations and individuals. The blind lost the battle, but it was a Pyrrhic victory for the agencies, because they gradually found that the consumer voice was increasingly being heard and heeded by the public. The eloquent words and powerful intellect of Jacobus tenBroek and the increasing contribution of his protégé, the young Kenneth Jernigan, provided the inspiration for the next generation of blind men and women, who insisted that they be heard and reckoned with.
Here then is "Cross of Blindness," the speech that Dr. tenBroek delivered on his birthday, July 6, 1957, to the seventeenth convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans, Louisiana. We begin with the introduction to the speech that appears in Chapter 2 of our organizational history, Walking Alone and Marching Together.
The symbolic cross he [Dr. tenBroek] saw the blind bearing was the burden of social stigmas, stereotypes, and superstitions--the dead weight of public prejudice and misunderstanding. In a masterly speech which has since become one of his most famous, tenBroek spelled out in equally vivid terms both the case for and the case against self-organization by the blind. His address, delivered before a banquet audience of 700, stands as a memorial to the high ground--the peak of unity and confidence which was attained by the National Federation of the Blind in that watershed year. That high ground was soon to be lost in the turmoil of civil war and not to be reached again for years to come. But in 1957 the national movement of the organized blind, not yet a score of years old, appeared as firm in its solidarity as it was irresistible in its force. And no one who heard the leader of the movement speak that day could doubt that these newly independent and self-assertive people would forever refuse to bear the stigmatizing cross of blindness. Here is the full text of that speech:
Cross of Blindness
An address delivered by Professor Jacobus tenBroek, President, National Federation of the Blind, at the banquet of the annual convention, held in New Orleans, July 6, 1957
In the short seventeen years since our founding of the National Federation of the Blind, we have grown from a handful of men and women scattered over seven states to a federation of forty-three state affiliates. The first convention of the NFB in 1940 was attended by twelve or fifteen persons--our convention last year had a registration of seven hundred and five from every corner of the Union.
That is rapid organizational growth by any yardstick. Who are these people of the National Federation of the Blind? What is the purpose that has led them to self-organization in such numbers and unites them now with such apparent dedication and enthusiasm?
It is not enough, I think, to answer that the members of the NFB are drawn together by their common interest in the welfare of the blind; for many of the sighted share that too. Nor is it sufficient to say that we are united only because we are blind; many who are affiliated with agencies for the blind have that characteristic also. It is fundamental to the uniqueness of our group that we are the only nationwide organization for the blind which is also of the blind. The composition of the NFB, indeed, is living testimony to the fact--unfortunately not yet accepted by society as a whole--that the blind are capable of self-organization: which is to say, of leading themselves, of directing their own destiny.
Yet this is still only half the truth, only a part of the characteristic which defines our Federation and provides its reason for being. Our real distinction from other organizations in the field of blind welfare lies in the social precept and personal conviction which are the motive source of our activity and the wellspring of our faith. The belief that we who are blind are normal human beings sets us sharply apart from other groups designed to aid the blind. We have all the typical and ordinary range of talents and techniques, attitudes and aspirations. Our underlying assumption is not--as it is with some other groups--the intrinsic helplessness and everlasting dependency of those who happen to lack sight, but rather their innate capacity to nullify and overrule this disability--to find their place in the community with the same degree of success and failure to be found among the general population.
Perhaps I can best document this thesis of the normality of the blind with a random sample of the occupations represented at our national convention a year ago in San Francisco. Among the blind delegates in attendance, there were three blind physicists engaged in experimental work for the United States government. There was one blind chemist also doing experimental work for the national government. There were two university instructors of the rank of full professor, a number of other college instructors of various ranks, and several blind teachers of sighted students in primary and secondary grades in the public schools. There were thirteen lawyers, most in private practice, two employed as attorneys by the United States government, one serving as the chairman of a state public service commission, one serving as a clerk to a state chief justice. There were three chiropractors, one osteopath, ten secretaries, seventeen factory workers, one shoemaker, one cab dispatcher, one bookmender, one appliance repairman, four telephone switchboard operators, numerous businessmen in various businesses, five musicians, thirty students, many directors and workers in programs for the blind, and sixty-one housewives.
At any other convention there would be nothing at all remarkable about this broad cross-section of achievement and ability; it is exactly what you would expect to find at a gathering of the American Legion or the Exalted Order of Elks, or at a town meeting in your community. Anywhere else, that is, but at a convention of the blind. It never ceases to surprise the public that a blind man may be able to hold his own in business, operate a farm successfully, argue a brief in a court of law, teach a class of sighted students, or conduct experiments in a chemistry lab. It comes as a shock to the average person to discover that the blind not only can but do perform as well as the next man in all the normal and varied callings of the community.
But this shock of recognition, on the part of many people, too easily gives way to a mood of satisfaction and an attitude of complacency. After all, if the blind are so capable, so successful, and so independent, what is all the fuss about? Where is the need for all this organization and militant activity? Why can't the blind let well enough alone?
These are reasonable questions, surely, and deserve a reasoned answer. I believe that the answer may best be given by reciting a list of sixteen specific events which have taken place recently in various parts of the country. The events are:
1. A blind man (incidentally a distinguished educator and citizen of his community) was denied a room in a well-known YMCA in New York City--not on the ground that his appearance betokened inability to pay, which it did not; not on the ground that he had an unsavory reputation, which he did not; not on the ground that his behavior was or was likely to be disorderly, which it was not--but on the ground that he was blind.
2. A blind man was rejected as a donor by the blood bank in his city--not on the ground that his blood was not red; not on the ground that his blood was watery, defective in corpuscles, or diseased; not on the ground that he would be physically harmed by the loss of the blood--but on the ground that he was blind.
3. A blind man (in this case a successful lawyer with an established reputation in his community) was denied the rental of a safety-deposit box by his bank--not on the ground that he was a well-known bank robber; not on the ground that he had nothing to put in it; not on the ground that he couldn't pay the rental price--but on the ground that he was blind.
4. A blind man was rejected for jury duty in a California city--not on the ground of mental incompetence; not on the ground of moral irresponsibility; not on the ground that he would not weigh the evidence impartially and come to a just verdict--but on the ground that he was blind.
5. A blind college student majoring in education was denied permission to perform practice teaching by a state university--not on the ground that her academic record was poor; not on the ground that she had not satisfied the prerequisites; not on the ground that she lacked the educational or personal qualifications--but on the ground that she was blind.
6. A blind applicant for public employment was denied consideration by a state civil service commission--not on the ground that he lacked the education or experience specifications; not on the ground that he was not of good moral character; not on the ground that he lacked the residence or citizenship requirements--but on the ground that he was blind.
7. A blind woman was refused a plane ticket by an airline--not on the ground that she couldn't pay for her ticket; not on the ground that her heart was weak and couldn't stand the excitement; not on the ground that she was a carrier of contagion--but on the ground that she was blind.
8. A blind machinist was declared ineligible for a position he had already held for five years. This declaration was the result of a routine medical examination. It came on the heels of his complete clearance and reinstatement on the job following a similar medical finding the year before. These determinations were made--not on the ground of new medical evidence showing that he was blind, for that was known all along; not on the ground that he could not do the job which he had successfully performed for five years with high ratings; not on the ground of any factor related to his employment--they were made on the ground that he was blind.
9. A blind high school student who was a duly qualified candidate for student body president was removed from the list of candidates by authority of the principal and faculty of the school--not on the ground that he was an outside infiltrator from some other school; not on the ground that he was on probation; not on the ground that he was not loyal to the principles of the United States Constitution--but on the ground that he was blind.
10. Traveler's Insurance Company, in its standard policy issued to cover trips on railroads, expressly exempts the blind from coverage--not on the ground that there is statistical or actuarial evidence that blind travelers are more prone to accident than sighted travelers are; not on the ground that suitcases or fellow passengers fall on them more often; not on the ground that trains carrying blind passengers are more likely to be wrecked unless it is the engineer who is blind--but solely on the ground of blindness. Many, if not most, other insurance companies selling other forms of insurance either will not cover the blind or increase the premium.
11. A blind man, who had been a successful justice court and police court judge in his community for eleven years, ran for the position of superior court judge in the general election of 1956. During the campaign his opponents did not argue that he was ignorant of the law and therefore incompetent; or that he had been guilty of bilking widows and orphans; or that he lacked the quality of mercy. Almost the only argument that they used against him was that he was blind. The voters, however, elected him handily. At the next session of the state legislature a bill was introduced disqualifying blind persons as judges. The organized blind of the state were able to modify this bill but not to defeat it.
12. More than sixty blind men and women--among them doctors, teachers, businessmen, and members of various professions--were recently ordered by the building and safety authority of a large city to move out of their hotel-type living quarters. This was not on the ground that they were pyromaniacs and likely to start fires; not on the ground that they were delinquent in their rent; not on the ground that they disturbed their neighbors with riotous living--but on the ground that as blind people they were subject to the code provisions regarding the "bed-ridden, ambulatory, and helpless," that anyone who is legally blind must live in an institution-type building--with all the rooms on the ground floor, with no stairs at the end of halls, with hard, fireproof furniture, with chairs and smoking-stands lined up along the wall "so they won't fall over them."
13. The education code of one of our states provides that deaf, dumb, and blind children may be sent at state expense to a school for the deaf, dumb, or blind, if they possess the following qualifications: (1) they are free from offensive or contagious diseases; (2) they have no parent, relative, guardian, or nearest friend able to pay for their education; (3) that by reason of deafness, dumbness, or blindness, they are disqualified from being taught by the ordinary process of instruction or education.
14. In a recent opinion the supreme court of one of the states held that a blind person who sought compensation for an injury due to an accident which he claimed arose out of and in the course of his employment by the state board of industries for the blind, was a ward of the state and therefore not entitled to compensation. The conception that blind shopworkers are wards of the state was only overcome in another state by a recent legislative enactment.
15. A blind person, duly convicted of a felony and sentenced to a state penitentiary, was denied parole when he became eligible therefore--not on the ground that he had not served the required time; not on the ground that his prison behavior had been bad; not on the ground that he had not been rehabilitated--but on the ground that he was blind.
16. A blind man who sat down at a gambling table in Reno, where such things are legal, was denied an opportunity to play--not on the ground that he didn't know the rules of the game; not on the ground that he might cheat the dealer or the other players; not on the ground that he didn't have any money to lose--but on the ground that he was blind.
These last two cases show that the blind are normal in every respect.
What emerges from this set of events is the age-old stereotype of blindness as witlessness and helplessness. By virtue of this pervasive impression, a blind man is held to be incapable of weighing the evidence presented at a trial or performing the duties of a teacher. He cannot take care of himself in a room of his own and is not to be trusted on a plane. A sightless person would not know what he has put into or removed from a safety deposit box; and he has no right to employment in the public service. He must not even be permitted to continue on a job he has performed successfully for years. Even his blood cannot be given voluntarily for the common cause.
Contrast these two lists--the one of the occupations represented at the NFB convention; the other of the discriminatory activities--the first is a list of accomplishments of what the blind have done and therefore can do; the second is a list of prohibitions of what the blind are thought incompetent to do and therefore are debarred from attempting. The first list refers to the physical disability of blindness. It demonstrates in graphic fashion how slight a disadvantage is the mere loss of sight to the mental capacity and vocational talent of the individual. The second list refers not to the disability but to the handicap which is imposed upon the blind by others. The origin of the disability is plainly inside the blind person. The origin and responsibility for the handicap are just as plainly outside him--in the attitudes and preconceptions of the community.
Let me be very clear about this. I have no wish to minimize the character and extent of blindness as a disability. It is for all of us a constant nuisance and a serious inconvenience. To overcome it requires effort and patience and initiative and guts. It is not compensated for, despite the fairy tales to the contrary, by the spontaneous emergence of a miraculous "sixth sense" or any other magical powers. It means nothing more or less than the loss of one of the five senses and a corresponding greater reliance upon the four that remain--as well as upon the brain, the heart, and the spirit.
It may be said that the discriminatory acts which I have cited, and others like them which are occurring all the time, simply do not reflect informed thought. They are occasional happenings, unpremeditated, irrational, or accidental. Surely no one would justify them; no one would say that they represent an accurate appraisal of the blind and of blindness.
Well, let us see. Let us look at some pronouncements of presumably thoughtful and informed persons writing about the blind--agency heads, educators, administrators, social workers, historians, psychologists, and public officials. What do they have to say about the potentialities of the blind in terms of intellectual capacity, vocational talent, and psychological condition? What do they report concerning the prospects for social integration on the basis of normality and economic advancement on the basis of talent?
First, an educator. Here are the words of a prominent authority on the education of the blind, himself for thirty years a superintendent of a school for the blind. "It is wrong to start with the school," this authority writes, "and to teach there a number of occupations that the blind can do, but to teach them out of relation to their practical and relative values. This is equivalent to attempting to create trades for the blind and then more or less angrily to demand that the world recognize the work and buy the product, whether useful or useless." More than this, it is necessary to recognize the unfitness of the blind "as a class" for any sort of competition and therefore to afford them not only protection but monopoly wherever possible. Declaring that "it must be unqualifiedly conceded that there is little in an industrial way that a blind person can do at all that cannot be done better and more expeditiously by people with sight," this expert considers that there are only two ways out: one being the extension of concessions and monopolies, and the other the designation of certain "preferred" occupations for the blind--"leaving the battle of wits only to those select few that may be considered, and determined to be, specially fit."
The conclusion that employment possibilities for the blind are confined, with only negligible exceptions, to the purview of sheltered workshops is contained in this set of "facts" about the blind which the same authority asserts are "generally conceded by those who have given the subject much thought: that the handcrafts in which the blind can do first-class work are very limited in number, with basketry, weaving, knitting, broom- and brush-making, and chair caning as the most promising and most thoroughly tried out . . . that in these crafts the blind cannot enter into direct competition with the seeing either in the quality of product or the amount turned out in a given time . . . that the crafts pursued by the blind may best be carried on in special workshops under the charge of government officials or trained officers of certain benevolent associations . . . that among the 'higher' callings piano-tuning and massage are, under favoring conditions such as prevail for masseurs in Japan, the fields offering the greatest chance of success, while the learned professions, including teaching, are on the whole only for those of very superior talent and, more particularly, very superior courage and determination to win at all costs."
Second, an historian. The basis for this assessment, and its justification, have been presented in blunt and explicit language by a well-known historian of blindness and the blind in the United States. He says, "[T]here exists in the community a body of men who, by reason of a physical defect, namely, the loss of sight, are disqualified from engaging in the regular pursuits of men and who are thus largely rendered incapable of providing for themselves independently." They are to be regarded as a "disabled and infirm fraction of the people" or, more specifically, as "sighted men in a dark room." "Rather than let them drift into absolute dependence and become a distinct burden, society is to lend an appropriate helping hand" through the creation of sheltered, publicly subsidized employment.
Third, administrators. That this pessimistic appraisal of the range of talent among the blind has not been limited to the schoolmen and historians may be shown by two succinct statements from wartime pamphlets produced by the Civil Service Commission in an effort to broaden employment opportunities for the physically disabled. "The blind," it was found, "are especially proficient in manual occupations requiring a delicate sense of touch. They are well suited to jobs which are repetitious in nature." Again: "The placement of persons who are blind presents various special problems. Small groups of positions in sheltered environment, involving repetitive work, were surveyed in government establishments and were found to have placement potentialities for the blind." Such findings as these were doubtless at the base of a remark of a certain public official who wrote that: "Helping the blind has its strong appeal to the sensibilities of everyone; on the other hand, we should avoid making the public service an eleemosynary institution."
Fourth, a blind agency head. The executive director of one of the largest private agencies for the blind justifies the failure of the philanthropic groups in these blunt terms: "The fact that so few workers or organizations are doing anything appreciable to [improve the condition of the blind] cannot be explained entirely on the grounds that they are not in the vanguard of social thinking. It is rather because they are realistic enough to recognize that the rank and file of blind persons have neither the exceptional urge for independence nor the personal qualifications necessary to satisfactory adjustment in the sighted world . . . . It is very difficult and exceptional for a blind person to be as productive as a sighted person."
Fifth, a psychologist. Even plainer language--as well as more impressive jargon--has been used by another authority who is widely considered the preeminent expert in the field of blind psychology. "Until recently," he writes, "the blind and those interested in them have insisted that society revise and modify its attitude toward this specific group. Obviously, for many reasons, this is an impossibility, and effort spent on such a program is as futile as spitting into the wind . . . it is extremely doubtful whether the degree of emotional maturity and social adaptability of the blind would long support and sustain any social change of attitude if it were possible to achieve it." If this is not plain enough, the writer continues: "A further confusion of attitude is found in educators and workers for the blind who try to propagandize society with the rational concept that the blind are normal individuals without vision. This desperate whistling in the dark does more damage than good. The blind perceive it as a hypocritical distortion of actual facts. . . . It is dodging the issue to place the responsibility on the unbelieving and nonreceptive popular attitudes. . . . The only true answer lies in the unfortunate circumstance that the blind share with other neurotics the nonaggressive personality and the inability to participate fully in society. . . . There are two general directions for attacking such a problem, either to adjust the individual to his environment, or to rearrange the environment so that it ceases to be a difficulty to the individual. It is quite obvious that the latter program is not only inadvisable but also impossible. However, it is the attack that nearly every frustrated, maladjusted person futilely attempts."
Sixth, a social worker. This sweeping negation of all attempts to modify the prejudicial attitudes of society toward the blind, however eccentric and extreme it may sound, finds strong support in the field of social casework. In areas where "such ideas remain steadfast," reads a typical report, "it is the function of the social caseworker to assist the blind person to work within these preconceived ideas. Since handicapped persons are a minority group in society, there is greater possibility of bringing about a change in an individual within a stated length of time than there is in reversing accepted concepts within the culture." The "well-adjusted blind person," it is argued, should be able to get along in this restrictive social setting, and the caseworker must concentrate on his personal adjustment since it is easier to reform the client than to reform society.
Seventh, a blind philanthropist. Let me close my list of testimonials with one final citation. I think it must already be sufficiently obvious that, granting the assumptions contained in all these statements, the blind have no business organizing themselves apart from sighted supervision; that a social movement of the blind and by the blind is doomed to futility, frustration, and failure. But just in case the point is not clear enough, I offer the considered opinion of a well-known figure in the history of blind philanthropy: "It cannot, then, be through the all-blind society that the blind person finds adequate opportunity for the exercise of his leadership. The wise leader will know that the best interests of each blind person lie within the keeping of the nine hundred and ninety-nine sighted people who, with himself, make up each one thousand of any average population. He will know, further, that if he wishes to promote the interests of the blind, he must become a leader of the sighted upon whose understanding and patronage the fulfillment of these interests depends . . . . There is . . . no advantage accruing from membership in an all-blind organization which might not be acquired in greater measure through membership in a society of sighted people."
What is the substance of all these damning commentaries? What are the common assumptions which underlie the attitudes of the leaders of blind philanthropy and the authorities on blind welfare? The fundamental concepts can, I think, be simply stated. First, the blind are by virtue of their defect emotionally immature if not psychologically abnormal; they are mentally inferior and narrowly circumscribed in the range of their ability--and therefore inevitably doomed to vocational monotony, economic dependence, and social isolation. Second, even if their capabilities were different, they are necessarily bound to the fixed status and subordinate role ordained by society, whose attitudes toward them are permanent and unalterable. Third, they must place their faith and trust, not in themselves and in their own organizations, but in the sighted public and most particularly in those who have appointed themselves the protectors and custodians of the blind.
A few simple observations are in order. First, as to the immutability of social attitudes and discriminatory actions towards the blind, we know from intimate experience that the sighted public wishes well for the blind and that its misconceptions are rather the result of innocence and superstition than of deliberate cruelty and malice aforethought. There was a time, in the days of Rome, when blind infants were thrown to the wolves or sold into slavery. That time is no more. There was a time, in the Middle Ages, when blind beggars were the butts of amusement at country fairs, decked out in paper spectacles and donkeys' ears. That time is no more. There was a time, which still exists to a surprising extent, when the parents of a blind child regarded his disability as a divine judgment upon their own sins. But that time is now beginning to disappear, at least in the civilized world.
The blind are no longer greeted by society with open hostility and frantic avoidance but with compassion and sympathy. It is true that an open heart is no guarantee of an open mind. It is true that good intentions are not enough. It is true that tolerance is a far cry from brotherhood and that protection and trusteeship are not the synonyms of equality and freedom. But the remarkable progress already made in the civilizing of brute impulses and the humanizing of social attitudes towards the blind is compelling evidence that there is nothing fixed or immutable about the social status quo for the blind and that, if the blind themselves are capable of independence and interdependence within society, society is capable of welcoming them.
Our own experience as individuals and as members of the National Federation of the Blind gives support at short range to what long-range history already makes plain. We have observed and experienced the gradual breakdown of legal obstacles and prejudicial acts; we have participated in the expansion of opportunities for the blind in virtually every phase of social life and economic livelihood--in federal, state, and local civil service; in teaching and other professions; in the addition of a constructive element to public welfare. Let anyone who thinks social attitudes cannot be changed read this statement contained in a recent pamphlet of the Federal Civil Service Commission:
Sometimes a mistaken notion is held that . . . the blind can do work only where keenness of vision is not important in the job. The truth appears to be that the blind can do work demanding different degrees of keenness of vision on the part of the sighted. If there is any difference in job proficiency related to a degree of keenness of vision required for the sighted, it is this: the blind appear to work with greater proficiency at jobs where the element is present to a noticeable extent in the sighted job than where vision is only generally useful.
Second, are the blind mentally inferior, emotionally adolescent, and psychologically disturbed; or on the contrary, are they normal and capable of social and economic integration? The evidence that they are the latter can be drawn from many quarters: scientific, medical, historical, and theoretical. But the evidence which is most persuasive is that which I have already presented: it is the evidence displayed in the lives and performance of such average and ordinary blind men and women as those who attended our national convention last summer. It is the evidence of their vocational accomplishments, their personal achievements, the plain normality of their daily lives. To me their record is more than an impressive demonstration: it is a clinching rebuttal.
It would, of course, be a gross exaggeration to maintain that all blind persons have surmounted their physical disability and conquered their social handicap.
It is not the education of the sighted only which is needed to establish the right of the blind to equality and integration. Just as necessary is the education of the blind themselves. For the process of their rehabilitation is not ended with physical and vocational training; it is complete only when they have driven the last vestige of the public stereotype of the blind from their own minds. In this sense, and to this extent only, is it true that the blind person must "adjust" to his handicap and to society. His adjustment need not--indeed must not--mean his submission to all prevailing social norms and values. His goal is not conformity but autonomy: not acquiescence, but self-determination and self-control.
From all of this it should be clear that it is a long way yet from the blind alleys of dependency and segregation to the main thoroughfares of personal independence and social integration which we have set as our goal. And I believe it is equally plain that our progress toward that goal will demand the most forceful and skillful application of all the means at our command: that is, the means of education, persuasion, demonstration, and legislation.
We need the means of education to bring the public and the blind themselves to a true recognition of the nature of blindness--to tear away the fossil layers of mythology and prejudice. We need persuasion to induce employers to try us out and convince society to take us in. We need demonstration to prove our capacity and normality in every act of living and of making a living. And finally we need legislation to reform the statute books and obliterate the legal barriers which stand in the way of normal life and equal opportunity--replacing them with laws which accurately reflect the accumulated knowledge of modern science and the ethics of democratic society.
This final platform in our program of equality--the platform of adequate legislation--is in many respects the most crucial and pressing of all. For until the blind are guaranteed freedom of opportunity and endeavor within the law, there can be little demonstration of their ability and little prospect of persuasion. What is needed is nothing less than a new spirit of the laws, which will uproot the discriminatory clauses and prejudicial assumptions that presently hinder the efforts of the blind toward self-advancement and self-support. The new philosophy requires that programs for the blind be founded upon the social conception of their normality and the social purpose of their reintegration into the community, with aids and services adjusted to these conceptions.
These then are the objectives of the self-organized blind, goals freely chosen for them by themselves. And this is the true significance of an organization of the blind, by the blind, for the blind. For the blind the age of charity, like that of chivalry, is dead; but this is not to say that there is no place for either of these virtues. In order to achieve the equality that is their right, in order to gain the opportunity that is their due, and in order to attain the position of full membership in the community that is their goal, the blind have continuing need for the understanding and sympathy and liberality of their sighted neighbors and fellow citizens. But their overriding need is first of all for recognition--recognition of themselves as normal and of their purposes as legitimate. The greatest hope of the blind is that they may be seen as they are, not as they have been portrayed; and since they are neither wards nor children, their hope is to be not only seen but also heard--in their own accents and for whatever their cause may be worth.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Moynihan ]
by James Moynihan
From the Editor: Jim Moynihan is a longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind. He and his wife Jana are active in the Kansas City, Missouri, chapter, where Jim is now a member of the board. The couple have two almost-grown children. In the following story Jim reports on his experience as a member of a jury. As a federal employee he was allowed to take administrative leave to perform his civic duty. That meant that he could continue to draw his salary and was therefore required to turn back his juror's pay of a princely $6.48 a day. No wonder serving on a jury is a financial hardship for many people. Here is Jim's story:
I have often wondered what it would be like to serve on a jury, and I finally got my chance on August 5 and 6, 2002. After receiving my summons to serve, I reported at the courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, August 5, 2002. When I reached the desk, the clerk told me that I was excused. When I asked why, she said, "because you are blind."
I informed her that I did not wish to be excused on the grounds of blindness and would serve if selected. The incredulous clerk directed me to the room where the panelists sat waiting to be culled for jury duty. The lucky twelve would be selected for the jury, and the rest would be sent home.
I assumed that I did not have much to worry about since I would not be selected. I completed the form telling the judge and attorneys for the prosecution and defense that I was a civil rights investigator working for the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. Knowledgeable coworkers had told me that I would automatically be rejected for jury selection because attorneys did not want people on the jury who could separate fact from fiction. Attorneys want dummies who might be persuaded in favor of their client.
During the next few hours I tried to read Syndicated Columnists Weekly, attempting to blot out the loud television programming. Then about fifty of us were sent to the room where the jury selection process began. We were told that this case concerned the XO club. A woman had fallen and had then filed a personal injury lawsuit. This information immediately set my teeth on edge.
My detestation of lawyers is exceeded only by my revulsion at the frivolous lawsuits filed by whining plaintiffs that are clogging our court system. So much for that noise, I told myself. Then the lawyers began explaining the details of the case, so I decided that I had better listen.
The woman, in her twenties, was employed as an airline attendant. She was socializing with a group of friends at a nightclub in Westport, and the rest of the group left. She struck up an acquaintance with a young man, and they shared several cigarettes--the regular kind. They decided to go to the XO club, which specializes in dancing and serves drinks.
The couple danced for a while and then decided to have drinks, which were served upstairs. When they reached the landing, they came to a ledge, which overlooked the dance floor. The building had been inspected, but the ledge did not meet building code and should have been eighteen inches higher.
Somehow the woman fell over the edge, and, though the man tried to stop her from falling, he was not successful. As a result the young woman suffered a broken wrist, a broken shoulder, and a broken pelvis. She also incurred an indentation on her left hip, which is permanent.
I do not recall all the details, but I think she had about $6,000 in medical expenses. She was cared for at her mother's home and returned to her airline attendant's job a few months later. The plaintiff then moved to California and has a live-in boyfriend, who fathered her child, now about a year old.
The plaintiff sued the XO club and also the building's landlord. Fellow jurors informed me that the landlord slept through the trial, but he was represented by an attorney who spoke on his behalf.
The attorneys for the plaintiff and the defense questioned the panelists to make the jury selection. We were asked whether we knew any of the doctors who had treated the plaintiff for her injuries. I was surprised to find and acknowledge that I knew the orthopedist, who treated my daughter Jeanene after she jumped from a trampoline, injuring her knee.
One of the attorneys for the plaintiff referred to my occupation as a civil rights investigator and asked me if I thought too many lawsuits were being filed. I agreed that there were too many lawsuits, but I had learned that in my job my opinion did not matter. In fact, a supervisor once told me she did not give a damn about my opinion. My training required me to keep digging until I was satisfied I understood the facts of a case so thoroughly that I could explain it to team leaders and attorneys. After that response I thought to myself, you're a goner.
The questioning continued until the judge finally pounced on one unlucky soul, observing that this man was the only panelist who had remained totally quiet during the selection process. The judge commented that nature abhors a vacuum. The judge asked this man if he thought there were too many lawsuits, and he agreed that there were. He then asked the man if he could keep an open mind if he were selected, and he said that he could, to a point. I was not surprised when this man was not selected.
The judge told us to go to lunch and report back at 1:30 p.m., when we would be told whether or not we would be on the jury. This gave me the opportunity to eat lunch with my wife Jana in the federal building cafeteria. The judge admonished us not to discuss the case with each other or with outsiders.
When I returned from lunch, I was surprised to learn that I was one of the twelve jurors selected. The judge admonished us not to discuss the case until it was time for the jury to deliberate. The trial would begin that afternoon and conclude on Tuesday, he hoped. It might continue on Wednesday with the jury handing in its verdict that day.
The trial was straightforward, and the facts were not in dispute. The plaintiff and her attorneys agreed that she had been able to return to her occupation as a flight attendant but had to be careful lifting bags that might weigh up to seventy pounds.
The plaintiff said she was living a normal life but sometimes experienced pain in her shoulder when putting on her seat belt or doing other tasks. Her attorneys stressed that the indentation in her hip was a permanent disfigurement. They asked the jury to award her $125,000 for punitive damages based on her injuries and medical costs. Now here comes the kicker. They also asked the jury to award an unspecified amount based on the plaintiff's pain and suffering because she had endured pain and humiliation and has a permanent disfigurement, which for a woman is devastating.
The defense did not dispute that the plaintiff had fallen at the XO Club and had suffered injuries. The XO attorneys said that of course they were sympathetic but that the injury to the plaintiff was not their fault. She had been drinking before she arrived at the XO Club, but they did not say she was drunk. The building had been inspected and was given a certificate by Kansas City.
Thousands of patrons had observed the ledge, but it had not raised any questions about safety. The violation of the building code became a factor only after the shallowness of the ledge was discovered by engineers hired by the plaintiff's attorneys during the lawsuit. The implication was, okay jurors, give her something, but don't go crazy on us.
The trial ended late Tuesday afternoon. I wanted to get started, but a number of my companions required a smoke break. We all agreed that the plaintiff should get something; the question was how much. Being a conservative fellow, I threw out a figure of $50,000. I have often been astonished to read of smokers or people paralyzed in auto accidents being awarded settlements in the millions of dollars. I could never fathom how this happened, but I was soon to find out.
Several jurors maintained that this woman had suffered a devastating injury and that no price tag could be placed on her pain and suffering. One juror suggested a figure of two million dollars. Some of us pointed out that she had returned to work and was leading a normal life. The jurors expressed their opinions strongly but remained goodtempered throughout the deliberative process.
The jury foreman went around the table trying to reach a consensus. Pressure was building to wrap things up on Tuesday to avoid continuing to deliberate on Wednesday. I was enjoying myself and was not averse to continuing on Wednesday. The Department of Education was paying my salary, but I had to return my $6.48 per day jury stipend.
Other members of the jury were not being paid for taking off work to serve on this jury. I was impressed that these citizens were making a real sacrifice to serve.
We finally reached a consensus that the XO club and landlord were guilty. We agreed that the plaintiff should receive $120,000, which was close to the amount requested by her attorneys. I believe that most of us were reasonably satisfied. I thought the settlement was somewhat excessive but was pleased that we had avoided the astronomical sums suggested by some of the jurors.
We repaired to the courtroom, where the jury foreman handed in the verdict, which was read by the court clerk. The expressions on the faces of the attorneys for the defendants indicated that they were not happy. But I believe that one of the treasures of our democracy is the right to a jury trial. It bothered me that the clerk was willing to excuse me from serving on a jury based on blindness, and it shocked her that I wanted to serve if selected. Yet other citizens are expected to serve on juries unless they come up with a legitimate excuse. We all know that blind people are excused from working because others expect that society will take care of us.
I was impressed that the people on my jury took their task seriously. They grappled with the issues presented by the attorneys and tried to arrive at a fair and equitable solution. We came from all walks of life and had never met before. We were of different races and levels of education. We tried our best to hammer out a reasonable and fair settlement. We even accommodated the smokers; how about that?
The XO case will probably not be remembered as a monumental case in the annals of legal jurisprudence. Thousands of such cases may be heard across America every day by average people like me who serve on juries. Sure beats Communist China, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, or Iran. I would do it again if called upon. You can turn me down for any of a number of reasons, but don't let my blindness be one of them.
For Diners in the Dark, a Taste of Mystery
by Michael Powell
From the Editor: For several years now stories have been appearing in newspapers around the country about restaurants serving meals in the pitch dark. The fad began in Europe and jumped to Canada before arriving in the United States. The first experiments provided jobs for blind people, who acted as guides and servers. All sorts of high-flown justifications circulated about how uplifting it was to experience a social encounter without the distractions of vision. Participants in the experience declared themselves helpless in the dark and newly appreciative of the skills of those who manage without vision every day.
Like most blind people I know, I thought all this just so much silly posturing and assumed that the fad would quickly disappear. The nonsense about providing uplifting experiences and jobs for blind people does seem to have vanished, but the concept of dining in the dark is apparently still alive and well. On April 18, 2003, a reporter for the Washington Post wrote a story about his experience in a New York restaurant that serves a black-out meal once a month. Gone from the event is anyone capable of placing the experience in perspective. The sighted waiters wear night-vision goggles, and the lights come on in time for dessert. The reporter maintains a refreshing degree of cynical amusement as he observes his fellow diners. I, at least, find his attitude refreshingly no-nonsense. Here is the article:
So we're sitting in a trendy little restaurant on another of those Lower East Side streets best known to smack dealers a decade ago, eating tasty dishes that could come with the Ruth Reichl‑Gourmet Magazine stamp of approval.
If only Ruthie could see them.
The lighting in this restaurant is not subdued, shaded, or hiply shadowed. It's nonexistent. We eat in can't‑see‑your‑fingers‑in‑front‑of‑your‑face inky darkness. "Oh damn!" says the female voice next to you, as a handful of croquetas de Bacalao apparently collides with her cheek. "I forgot where my mouth was."
It's known as Dining in the Dark, and it's the latest groovy thrill in a city that feels more and more like Imperial Rome circa the Caligula administration. We are among twenty-eight people‑‑most an unfortunate decade or two younger than your correspondent‑‑who have paid $89 per head for the pleasure of groping for our dinner. This restaurant, Suba, serves one such dinner each month.
The evening begins with a $10 drink in the lighted ground‑floor sitting room. Then you clomp down steel steps into the basement of this former tenement. There's a thick black curtain and waiters outfitted like très downtown cyborgs, with their black‑on‑black clothes and night‑vision goggles. One takes your hand and leads you into the darkness.
"The short highball glass is the wine," whispers the now‑disembodied voice. "The long and slender one is for the water." You don't say.
The trend toward inky eating began in Berlin and jumped the Atlantic in the person of Jerome A. Chasques, whose event‑planning company is known as Cosmo Party. He's small, red‑haired, and cherubic, an unflappable man with an accent more Paris than Manhattan. He embraced the idea last year, as he and friends hopped aimlessly from one hip East Village restaurant to another. The free‑range New Zealand quail, the saffron‑soaked Ukrainian artichoke hearts: so predictable. Darkness, he decided, might improve everything and prove profitable.
"It really started like a little game," he explains. "Something out of the ordinary." The search for food edge is relentless in this age of global cuisine. In Europe the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra has taken to blowing carved‑out carrots, tapping turnips, and clapping eggplant cymbals before serving their instruments à la carte to packed concert halls. And for several years now a few of New York's hipper sushi restaurants have been serving up blowfish, a tasty delicacy whose internal organs‑‑not least their ovaries‑‑harbor a potent neurotoxin that's 1,250 times as powerful as cyanide. Bon appétit.
At Suba we sit at two long communal tables (night‑vision goggles are not flawless, and management endeavors not to have the waiters tripping over themselves). Our neighbors across the table announce themselves by grasping for‑‑I hesitate to use the word "fondling"‑‑our hands. Their voices are high and squeaky and dissolve into gales of giggles. Their dining experience will prove to be . . . nocturnal.
"There's your first course coming over your left shoulder," says the disembodied voice. The waiters don't tell you what's on the plate. Dining in the Dark is all about the sensuality of the texture and palate. The quiver of the unknown makes senses jump like live electrodes. Whatever. Right now that young couple across from us are squealing.
It's just as well they don't give us forks. The first course is‑‑como se dice-‑definitely aquatic, with a piquant hint of something (croquetas de Bacalao with chipotle aioli). In the Stygian dark a glass breaks. Everyone applauds. There are no oils, no soups, and nothing terribly solid served. Knives are out. "For a brief moment," Chasques says, "I thought of serving steak for an April Fool's dinner." Liability issues and an inability to master the Heimlich maneuver dissuaded him.
The wineglass mysteriously refills once, twice, three times during the evening. "Am I drunk?" a male voice asks.
"Aren't you always?" answers a female voice.
Cosmo Party caters to singles, although in fact more than half the diners this night are couples. Chasques says his couples get along better after they've been in the dark together‑‑something about the art of tactile listening. Perhaps. Right now the male voice and the female voice continue to hiss about his drinking.
The second dish comes over the right shoulder. It's phyllo dough and something delicate and‑‑to this diner's view‑‑cheesy (queso de cabra). I identify the third dish as unequivocally fishlike, accompanied by unidentified fungi (salmon à la Plancha with sautéed shiitake). To know whether you're done, one must wave the hand in inelegant circles over one's plate. Should your fingers hit something that moves, eat it.
The finale slides in. A waiter's disembodied hand guides yours to the fork. There's munching and more guessing. "Meat." "Steak!"
"No, lamb!" It's charades at the Helen Keller cafeteria. This is Buñuelos de Cordero, a roasted baby lamb in a phyllo dough beggar's purse. Across the table our giggling young couple has gone entirely silent. The lights go on for dessert, a host of small candles and champagne traipsed in by the waiters. An Israeli film crew has filmed the dinner with an infrared camera. A grinning cameraman walks over and congratulates our young couple. "You looked," he says, "like you were in the back seat of a Chevy on Saturday night."
They smile back beatifically. The undercurrent among the younger diners is unmistakable at Dining in the Dark, if generally PG in content.
Two young men chat about their dinner as they step out onto Ludlow Street. "Dining in the dark was great," says the one.
"Yes," replies the other. "Though normally I know what I'm eating."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Halverson]
Is This a Twenty?
by Mary Ellen Halverson
From the Editor: Mary Ellen Halverson is a longtime leader of the NFB of Idaho. She is a mother and grandmother, and she is also a thoughtful and competent blind woman. Here is her story:
We have all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the event I am about to describe, a brief question revealed a whole history and painted a clear picture of what individuals and society believe about blindness.
One summer several years ago I was working in the Summer Youth Program at the Idaho Commission for the Blind. We had ten lively students between the ages of fourteen and sixteen who were attending a four-week program to learn or brush up on the skills of blindness and to receive a healthy dose of positive philosophy about blindness. The teens took orientation classes from 8:00 in the morning until midafternoon, when they left to take part in other activities. We soon discovered that most of the kids had poor Braille reading and writing skills, very poor spelling, and inadequate cane-travel skills. Despite all this, they were typical active and fun-loving teenagers. As the days went by, we learned many things about their real beliefs about blindness and about themselves as blind people. The following is an example of what I mean. What appeared to be a simple question revealed much about one young woman's perception of blindness.
As the Summer Youth kids arrived on the first morning of training, we all gathered in the rec room for an introductory meeting and to hand out class schedules. I was the Braille instructor and had been assigned to run this first meeting and distribute schedules. Of course I had them all written out in Braille so that I could tell each student his schedule. We also discussed housekeeping items, our expectations of the students, and the way the day would unfold.
All the students and teachers introduced ourselves that morning before beginning our day. After addressing questions from the students, we were off to class. All staff members helped show students where their first classes were located, since most of them had never been in the building before. Each would then get a thorough introduction to all classrooms in his or her first cane-travel class.
Two or three days later one of the girls, Amanda, came into Braille class and asked, "Is this a twenty?" At first I wasn't sure what she meant, then it dawned on me. She thought I could see. She was holding up a bill across the room. I am totally blind and had been using my cane and Braille notes all week. I said to her, "Amanda, I can't see it either."
She responded, "Oh, I thought you could see." At first I wondered how she could have missed the fact that I was using a cane and reading the class schedules in Braille. She and I had also discussed some personal grooming questions, and I had given her some new ideas and suggestions.
As I pondered why she had thought I could see, a clear picture began to take shape in my mind. There were several reasons why Amanda thought I was sighted. First of all, and I think most important, I had been in charge of the meeting the first morning. These young people were definitely used to sighted people being in charge. I had read them their class schedules fluently and easily from my Braille notes. They had never had the opportunity or experience of observing blind people reading Braille quickly and efficiently. Also I had been moving around the room easily, without stumbling over furniture or kids. I had shown several of them where their first class was or shown them to the travel classroom to pick up their new canes.
I think the truth is that Amanda just didn't expect a blind person to be in charge or to operate efficiently and responsibly. Her personal experience had taught her otherwise. She had accepted the ideas and beliefs of her family, friends, teachers, and society in general that blind people will never quite meet the standards of those who can see. This kind of thinking is subtle and sneaks into our minds as we go through life. It clouds our perception of the truth about blindness. This is exactly why we who are blind need intensive training programs based on the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. We need to be awakened and jolted out of old beliefs and stereotypes about blindness.
Who would have thought that the simple question, "Is this a twenty?" could be so revealing and significant? I am deeply thankful for the founders, leaders, and members of the National Federation of the Blind who continue to teach the truth about blindness.
Pooled Income Gifts
In this plan money donated to the National Federation of the Blind by a number of individuals is invested by the NFB. Each donor and the NFB sign an agreement that income from the funds will be paid to the donor quarterly or annually. Each donor receives a tax deduction for the gift; the NFB receives a useful donation; and the donor receives income of a specified amount for the rest of his or her life. For more information about the NFB pooled income fund, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
A Touch of Understanding
by T. Keung Hui
From the Editor: The following story appeared on May 23, 2003, in the Raleigh, North Carolina, News and Observer. It reports on the positive things that can happen when creative teachers make use of the NFB's Braille Is Beautiful curriculum. Here it is:
Preston Davis can shuffle and split a deck of UNO cards like a cardsharp. It wouldn't be hard to overlook that Preston, eight, is visually impaired and relies on Braille dots on the cards to see them. He was among a group visiting Davis Drive Middle School on Thursday as part of an effort to help sixth-graders learn more about the world of the visually impaired.
"Preston is cool," said Kimmy Lockhart, eleven, who acted as one of Preston's guides. "It's fun seeing things that are different from us."
The visit by Preston and sixteen other students from the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh culminated two months of study by 130 students at Davis Drive. Through the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum of the National Federation of the Blind the sixth-graders have learned to read and write simple Braille letters and numbers. Braille uses patterns of raised dots to represent characters; the dots are felt with the fingers.
"This is an opportunity for the students to work with kids they normally wouldn't meet," said Marnie Utz, the Davis Drive sixth-grade teacher who involved the school in the program. "This is a service opportunity."
One of the Braille curriculum's main themes has been that blind people can do anything sighted people can do. "It's cool seeing that people with eye disabilities are no different than us," said Alex Morrison, twelve, as she played UNO with Brandi Hunter, eleven, a visually impaired student. The Davis Drive students visited Morehead in April and learned what it is like to walk with a cane, listen to a computerized voice, and play a game of goal ball, where participants detect the ball's presence through the ringing of a bell inside.
During the reciprocal visit by Morehead students, the Davis Drive students showed how they could spell their names in Braille and play UNO on specially modified cards. For the Morehead students the visit was just as rewarding. "It's nice meeting people who want to learn Braille," Brandi said. "It's fun because in middle school you don't get to go out on field trips often."
Preston said he enjoyed the change of pace from life at Morehead, a boarding school. "It's good being around sighted people instead of blind people all the time," Preston said.
Hazel Staley, past president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, said the activities build bonds between sighted and visually impaired people like herself. "Blind people are out in society more and more," Staley said. "If they can communicate with us in a way we can read, it's nice."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Jaquiss uses SAL.]
The SAL (Speech Assisted Learning): A Review
by Robert Jaquiss
From the Editor: Robert Jaquiss is a member of the technology department staff of the National Federation of the Blind. He is a lifelong user of and advocate for Braille. Here is his report on an exciting new piece of learning technology that will interest every parent or teacher urging a child to master Braille:
Years ago, when I learned Braille, all the materials I used were handmade, most of them by my mother and by my teacher. About the time I started third grade, I began receiving books from volunteer groups and a few that had been produced by the American Printing House for the Blind. But my mother made most of my beginning Braille books. She didn't know Braille, but she had a Perkins Brailler and a copy of the 1959 edition of the Braille rules. She figured that she could Braille my books because she only needed to know a bit more Braille than I did. My pre-Braille materials were strings, rick-rack, and other materials glued to pages in a book. Soon I could read Braille far faster than Mother could produce it. Mother would Braille for four hours, and I would come home and read all her work in less than thirty minutes. When I learned Braille, 30 percent of blind children learned Braille.
In the twenty-first century things have changed. There are fewer volunteer Braillists, and we have a shortage of Braille teachers. Only 10 percent of blind children are taught Braille. Dr. Sally Mangold, the developer of a new product, SAL (Speech Assisted Learning), hopes to improve this situation. SAL is a teaching and learning aid that will assist blind children and adults to learn Braille and good reading habits. SAL is sixteen inches long, thirteen inches wide, and one-and-a-half inches high. Most of the top surface is a touch screen that will hold an eleven-by-eleven-and-a-half-inch piece of Braille paper. In front is a keyboard like that on a Braille 'n Speak. On the right side is a floppy disk drive for loading lesson materials. SAL uses a combination of synthesized speech, standard paper embossed sheets (eleven-by-eleven-and-a-half inches), and barcode identification technology. The speech is used for tutorials, posing questions, or providing spoken feedback to the user about his or her performance.
To use SAL, a user places a bar-coded SAL worksheet on the touch screen and then closes a latch. SAL has a barcode scanner that reads the print barcode on the underside of each page. The built-in computer uses the barcode information to identify an electronic copy of the embossed Braille page under the latch. The system will then respond correctly to the user. The user listens to spoken instructions, presses a prompt button when a request has been completed, and changes pages when requested. SAL responds when a student presses points on the lesson. A student might hear requests like the following:
"Press all the letter G's in the first column."
"Press on the end of the third line."
When a student responds correctly, SAL makes encouraging comments. If a student responds incorrectly, SAL will say "wrong answer." When a lesson page has been completed, SAL gives a score so that the student knows how well he or she has done. The student can press on a word when reading a book, and SAL will voice the word. Press on the same word again, and SAL will spell the word and describe Braille contractions. The keyboard allows a teacher to perform administrative functions such as setting the language and backing up records and allows a student to enter answers for math and advanced courseware.
When a new lesson is used for the first time, the user is asked to insert the diskette that comes with the lesson. SAL reads the diskette and loads the appropriate files. A teacher can load all the needed lesson materials before a student starts using the equipment. SAL also helps teachers by recording student responses. A teacher can upload these responses to a computer for further analysis.
In the future software will become available for the creation of materials so that teachers can create customized materials as needed. The first version of this software is expected to be released by July 2003 and an enhanced version by December 2003. In order to create courseware, a teacher will need a Braille embosser and a wide-format inkjet printer or a printer that can print on sticky labels. The print printer produces the barcode information.
SAL is well designed. A lot of thought has gone into designing the hardware and courseware. The SAL firmware is stored in flash memory, so it will be possible to upgrade the SAL without returning it to the factory. The SAL hardware costs $4,500, so its purchase is more feasible for a school than for an individual. While it is too soon to know what impact SAL may have, it is a well-designed tool with a lot of potential. SAL will not replace a Braille teacher, but it certainly can help reinforce good reading practices.
Exceptional Teaching Aids, Inc., 20102 Woodbine Avenue, Castro Valley, California 94546; toll free (800) 549-6999; phone (510) 582-4859; fax (510) 582-5911; e-mail <[email protected]>; http://www.exceptionalteaching.com>
Freedom Scientific Inc., <http://www.freedomscientific.com>
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sue Povinelli]
On the High Seas
by Susan Povinelli
Susan Povinelli is a longtime member of the Federation and the wife of NFB of Virginia treasurer Larry Povinelli. Sue is a frequent contributor to these pages. The following article first appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. This is what she has to say about a recent cruise that she and her family took:
Lately cruise lines have gotten a bad reputation for activities from spreading food-borne viruses to acts of discrimination and humiliation against blind passengers. Luckily, during my recent trip I suffered from none of these. During last year's Christmas holiday, my family sailed on a Royal Caribbean cruise that carried us around the islands of the Western Caribbean. I would like to share my experiences and impressions of a most memorable and enjoyable cruise.
My sister promised her children that, if any of them could maintain a 4.0 grade point average all the way through high school, she would take them on a cruise. Luckily for the Povinellis, one of her sons accomplished this great feat, and my sister invited our family to join them on their sea journey.
It was snowing big, fluffy flakes as my daughter Michelle and I landed in Pittsburgh to transfer to the plane that would take us to New Orleans. Pittsburgh seemed extremely beautiful. It might have been the weather, or perhaps it was the thought that we would be spending Christmas on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, where the temperature would be in the eighties.
A few hours later our plane landed in New Orleans, where we met the rest of my family. We were greeted by a representative from the cruise line whose job was to help us and the other passengers through the boarding process. The cruise staff tagged our luggage with our stateroom number then handed it over to the porters. We boarded the bus for the short ride to the pier. It was wonderful not to have to worry about our bags; they would be in our stateroom when we arrived on the ship.
As we approached the pier, we at once noticed our ship, Grandeur of the Sea. She was beautiful. We stopped for a few minutes to watch the porters load the luggage onboard.
The check-in process went very smoothly and efficiently, and we were aboard in no time. We were impressed by the beautiful ten-story atrium in the center of the ship. It was as magnificent as many of the beautiful land hotels we have stayed in. We proceeded to our stateroom to find our luggage waiting for us.
I had heard that ship staterooms were small, but this one was quite roomy, with lots of cupboards and drawers in which to put our clothes. My daughter slept in a wall-mounted bunk bed prepared for her every evening by our steward.
We had read on the cruise company Web site that the daily schedule would be available in Braille. I asked my steward about this. He didn't know about the service and had never seen Braille before. I pulled out a Braille magazine and showed him. Unfortunately Braille was missing on this beautiful ship, but it was the only thing. I had my husband read me the print schedule every morning. Then we would decide which events we wanted to attend that day.
The steward and other personnel were very friendly and helpful. They provided assistance when needed in a courteous, non-patronizing way. During one meal my sister started to read the menu to me. The headwaiter stopped her and said that it was his responsibility to explain the day's menu. He was excellent at describing the wonderful food selections. When I couldn't decide because everything sounded delicious, he would recommend his favorite. In the case of desserts, he brought us both of them. The food was excellent and plentiful.
It seemed strange to have the waiter place the napkin on my lap; this is proper etiquette at a five-star restaurant. Also I was taken aback when our waiter asked to cut my meat the first time. My initial response was to say no. As usual, I thought he believed I was unable to cut my own meat because I was blind. Then I looked around and noticed that other waiters were cutting meat for their guests. So I agreed since the staff were also doing it for other, sighted passengers. He sliced the meat into lovely long, slender pieces, not into small pieces as one would for a very small child. He did it with both grace and style. After he finished, he went over to another table and cut someone else's meat.
There were many, many activities on board. Special programs were designed for small children, teens, and adults. Most days I didn't see my daughters until dinner time. They were off having fun and meeting new friends. They went to teen dances, pool parties, and scavenger hunts, to mention only a few of the activities. Larry, my sister, and I attended lectures on shopping and excursions; watched a towel-folding demonstration in which they made an elephant, a swan, and a dog from bath towels and washcloths; attended evening shows, including comedians, magicians, and Broadway-style shows; walked the deck (usually two or three miles a day); and tried our hands at bingo.
My family took several excursions or tours during our cruise. They were all excellent. The tour guide or the tour bus met us once we landed in port. In the town of Progresso, Mexico, we toured a Mayan ruin. It was only thirty minutes from the port. There we climbed to the top of one of the temples.
In Cozumel we rode a boat called Catch the Wave that anchored a few miles from shore. There the children and my sister went snorkeling and explored the beautiful coral formations and observed the tropical fish. Meanwhile Larry and I sipped drinks on the sundeck and watched family members snorkel below us. I am not much of a water lover and had no urge to try snorkeling.
My husband Larry and I rode a glass-bottom boat. This enabled us to explore the sea bottom and watch the fish as they swam underneath us. Although the guide assigned to us had a limited English vocabulary, I got a lot of helpful additional information about the color and shapes of the fish from a couple of young children who were sitting next to me. The children became excited when they saw a fish. They would shriek with glee, "There is a yellow one!" or "Look how big that blue one is!" Then the guide would tell us what type of fish it was.
Also the diver on board went down and brought up a very large starfish for me to hold. It must have been a foot in diameter. I learned that starfish have only one eye and can live out of water for only ten minutes.
The tour in Key West, Florida, was a walking tour. The guide was excellent as he described the plants and buildings in great detail. We visited the Key lime store and the rumcake store in order to bring a taste of Key West home with us to share with our friends.
In our last port of call, New Orleans, we took two tours. The first was a semi-private van tour of the city of New Orleans. Some of the highlights included the French Quarter, the Garden District, and the cemeteries. The guide was very good at explaining the sites and the history behind them. The second tour was probably the most exciting for us. We took an air-boat tour of the Louisiana swamps. The boat vroomed across the water at forty-five miles per hour until we arrived at the spot where alligators were sunning themselves on the shore. Of course a trip to New Orleans would not be complete without a walk down Bourbon Street.
But I think my favorite memory of the trip was on Christmas Eve when Larry and I were standing on the deck, leaning against the railing, staring out at the nearly round moon that shimmered across the beautiful blue water near Cozumel, Mexico. In the background I heard the words to "Let it Snow." It seemed strange and wonderful.
It did not feel much like Christmas with the balmy weather, yet it was peaceful and wonderful to listen to the waves lap against the ship as it glided across the water. My family will look back on this vacation with fond memories for years to come.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: A side view of Joe Naulty's completely restored Model A pickup truck]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: With hood up the entire engine of the rebuilt Model A is visible.]
Restored by Touch
by Sal Perlman
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the April 2003 issue of Car and Driver magazine. Joe Naulty was president of the Deaf-Blind Division for a number of years. He is a dedicated restorer of old cars. We reprint this article about Joe and his hobby with permission:
Restoring a car is tough. Imagine doing it blind. Imagine having to work on your car blindfolded--not just changing the oil or upgrading the exhaust system, but restoring it completely. No peeking allowed.
That's what Joseph Naulty, who lost his sight in 1996, was up against in his quest to rebuild a 1928 Model A Ford pickup.
"For me, restoring old cars is what keeps me motivated," says the sixty-eight-year-old retired businessman, who lives in Wellington, Florida. "I could sit here and whine all day about my condition, but that won't help me. I have a life to live, and these cars keep me going."
Naulty's passion for automobiles is even more fascinating considering he has never actually driven one. Following an accident in 1948 near his hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the age of fourteen, he was diagnosed with so-called tunnel-vision syndrome.
By the age of eighteen he was already legally blind, although he still retained about 25 percent of his field of vision. As a result he could never obtain a driver's license. For nearly forty-five years his wife Arlene has been the family driver.
After attending a technical school, he worked for several years as a draftsman and then started JBN, an electrical parts manufacturing company in New Jersey. He got married and had three sons. During his twenty-two years as the company's owner, Naulty used to take a taxi on Saturdays to the junkyard and return in a wrecker with an old car towed behind, which he would then fix. He bought, restored, and sold nearly 100 American and British cars this way.
As time moved on, though, his peripheral field of vision narrowed gradually until finally he lost his sight completely in '98. But that hasn't deterred him. The 1928 pickup--the fourth car he has restored since turning blind--sits in the center of Naulty's narrow one-car garage. In working on it, Naulty utilizes his senses of touch, hearing, and smell to make up for vision.
He locates the truck by brushing his hand against the front bumper, then passes his fingers over the hood, inspecting the gray primer coat that he applied the day before. "I prime by feeling the edges, masking around them, then going back and forth and up and down with the primer. I let it dry and then feel it to check for missed spots. If you understand the mechanics of paint layers and how they work, it's easier to do. You see the paint; I feel it."
Along the garage wall a metal shelving unit holds what appears to be a jumbled collection of boxes of all shapes and sizes. One realizes there's a method to this apparent madness when Naulty feels around for a particular box and fishes out a rear signal light. "Once the bed comes back from the shop, I'm going to install new signal lights." He feels his way back, finds the mount, and holds the light against it to demonstrate the look.
He bends down and gropes for something under the chassis, then finds it--a white electrical wire attached to the frame, its end hanging off. "This will be the signal's juice line. I rewired all the truck's electrical myself, which was difficult but fun. I know the A's system like the back of my hand. The only thing is, whenever I'm ready to hook up something, I call my son and ask to borrow his eyeballs and tell me which wire is neutral. But I do all the rest." His son William, forty, also resides in Wellington.
Unlike some of us, Naulty can't afford the luxury (or bad habit?) of leaving tools around. "I keep all my tools and parts organized," he says, pointing to his workbench and the two sets of red toolbox drawers under it, and then pulls one of the drawers open. "Here are all my wrenches and Allens. I have to put things back where they belong if I want to find them later."
Buddy Pearce, Naulty's restoration cohort and engine consultant, says whenever they attend an auto show, Joe is always asking owners of unique vehicles if he could check out their cars. "He feels and touches every inch of the car. And when he's done, he's usually quite greasy but knows more about the vehicle than the owner."
Naulty completed the truck in time to participate in the local Christmas parade last December, and he already has an idea for his next project: a Model A woody station wagon. "Restoring old cars is in my blood and in my system. I can't help it. I will do it till the day I die."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tonia Trapp]
Why I Am a Federationist
by Tonia Valletta Trapp
From the Editor: Tonia Trapp is the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico and president of the Albuquerque Chapter. She works as an advocate for the New Mexico Protection and Advocacy System. At the 2002 convention of the NFB of New Mexico Tonia delivered the following speech telling her audience why she is a Federationist. This is what she said:
Before I talk about why I am a Federationist, I would like to tell you a little about myself. I have been totally blind since about the age of two, and I am almost twenty-nine years old now. I was fortunate to grow up in northern Virginia, where services for totally blind children were fairly good. So I attended public schools from kindergarten through high school, college, and beyond. I know that many blind children do not have that opportunity, so I consider myself blessed.
I received a B.A. degree in religious studies from the College of William and Mary in December of 1995, and I completed my master's degree in social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May of 1998.
I have been married for almost five years to Greg Trapp, the current director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Greg is also blind. For the past three years I have worked as an advocate for the New Mexico Protection and Advocacy System, a private, nonprofit agency devoted to protecting and securing the rights of people with disabilities. I really enjoy the work that I do.
If I were to describe myself in one word, it would be "driven." I set goals, and I work hard until I achieve them. I take on challenges, and I strive to conquer them. One of the challenges I have had the joy of taking on is my recent election as president of the Albuquerque chapter of the NFB of New Mexico. After I was elected, I started thinking hard about these questions: Why am I a Federationist? Why should people come to our meetings? What are we trying to accomplish?
The NFB has a catch-phrase that expresses very clearly what the Federation is all about. The phrase is, "Changing what it means to be blind." Now if that isn't a challenge, I don't know what is. In fact, the challenge of changing what it means to be blind is irresistible for me. I have to be part of it. I want a piece of the action.
So what does it mean to change what it means to be blind? Well, I look at it this way. Society in general contains many myths about blind people. I am not saying that everyone everywhere believes these myths, but in general many people do. The Federation, on the other hand, teaches the truth about blindness. Let me give you some examples.
Myth: Being blind is a bad thing, a sad thing, and something to be ashamed of. Sometimes this idea is expressed in words, such as when someone comes up to you and places a hand on your shoulder and says, "I'm so sorry that you're blind." Have some of you had that experience? Sometimes the idea is expressed more indirectly, through attitudes. Consider the parents who say to their blind child, "It's perfectly all right for you to use your cane at school, but you're with us now, so you don't need it. Put the cane away." One is likely to acquire some cuts, bruises, and scratches from following that advice. Or consider the teacher of a blind child who says, "You don't need to learn Braille, because you still have a little bit of sight. We'll have you read large-print books. What's that you say? You have to put your nose to the book in order to read it? Well, that's all right; you still don't need Braille."
The truth: It is OK to be blind. There is no shame in being blind--no shame. And as a fellow blind person, I encourage you to swing that cane. Your cane gives you independence. Don't be ashamed to use your cane. Learn Braille, and use it. Braille is your key to the world of printed material. Don't be ashamed to use Braille.
Here's another myth: Blind people are helpless and totally dependent. In fact, we are so helpless that we cannot so much as tie our own shoes. And we certainly cannot go anywhere by ourselves. We must always have someone with us.
The truth: Blind people can do for ourselves. We can take care of ourselves. All we need is confidence and good training in the skills of blindness. The Federation says that blind people are not pitiful; we are powerful.
Another myth: Blind people cannot work.
The truth: Blind people can do just about any job--well, maybe not airplane pilot or taxi driver. Blind people work as engineers, lawyers, scientists, receptionists, mathematicians, social workers, writers, and just about anything else you can imagine.
Many of these myths about blindness pervade society, so I will mention just one more before closing. This last one is one of the most tragic. The myth is that, if you lose your sight, your life is over. You may as well throw in the towel because it's all over.
The truth is that, if you lose your sight, you can learn to do most or all of the things that you used to do when you were not blind. You just learn to do things differently. Becoming blind does not mean that your life is over.
The Federation is all about destroying society's myths about blindness and instilling truth about the worth and abilities of blind people. With every person we reach with the truth about blindness, we are changing what it means to be blind. That is why I am a Federationist.
Teacher for Blind Joins 7,302 Getting Diplomas at MSU
by James McCurtis Jr.
From the Editor: Debbie Robinson is a longtime, dedicated Federationist. She is one of those quiet people who are always ready to do what needs to be done, whether it's selling candy, teaching Braille, babysitting for the kids, or sending a casserole. Now that her children are almost grown, she returned to school in order to become an effective teacher of the visually impaired. This spring she graduated from college. Here is the story that appeared in the Lansing State Journal on May 2, 2003:
East Lansing--Two years ago Deborah Robinson walked into her first college class since 1976 because she was on a mission. Robinson, who is blind, wanted to teach blind children. So she enrolled in Michigan State University's College of Education. Previous credits helped cut her time there to two years.
On Saturday the nontraditional forty-nine-year-old will walk down the aisle with a bachelor's degree in special education from the College of Education. Robinson, who's graduating summa cum laude, is one of 7,302 undergraduate and advanced degree students graduating from MSU [Michigan State University] this weekend.
"I decided that was a field I could make a good contribution in," Robinson said. "It's important for blind adults to be good role models." Governor Jennifer Granholm will address undergraduates during a universitywide ceremony this afternoon. She also will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.
Graduates can choose to go either to their individual ceremonies or to the universitywide commencement. Granholm received twenty requests to speak at commencement ceremonies this year, said Elizabeth Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman. "She is looking forward to addressing the graduates in what she hopes is an uplifting speech," Boyd said.
Robinson, a wife and a mother of two children, Gina, eighteen, and Daniel, sixteen, worked at various agencies for the blind in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Nebraska before moving to Lansing in 1999. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1976. When she planned to return to college, she thought of the parents at her former agencies who complained about not having effective teachers for their blind children.
"They wanted teachers that understood the needs of blind children," she said. Robinson will intern at Lansing's Cumberland Elementary School for one year before becoming a certified teacher.
Fred Wurtzel, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, said Robinson's social work and her life experience as a blind person will be good assets for teaching children who are blind. "She will be a person who will be able to help blind children gain the skills that they need to be successful blind adults," Wurtzel said.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jennifer Dunnam]
by Jennifer Dunnam
From the Editor: Jennifer Dunnam is a leader in the NFB of Minnesota. She now works as a document conversion specialist at the University of Minnesota. The following story first appeared in Oh, Wow!, the eighteenth in our Kernel Book series of paperbacks while Jennifer still worked at BLIND, Inc. Here it is, beginning with President Maurer's introduction:
The National Federation of the Blind operates a number of training centers for blind youth and adults. One of our most effective training techniques is to teach a student to do something he or she believes to be virtually crazy for a blind person even to try. Success at something truly unthinkable causes the student to begin to re-examine all that was previously thought to be impossible.
Jennifer Dunnam is a teacher in one of our centers, and one of the things she teaches is rock climbing. Unthinkable? No, not really. Here is her story:
One of the many joys of being an instructor at BLIND, Inc., (one of the National Federation of the Blind's training centers) is that the students and staff have the chance to participate in rock climbing several times a year. Not all of us look forward to ascending walls of rock with equal eagerness, but I, for one, am energized every time I do a climb or work with someone else who is climbing. Sometimes I am reminded of my early childhood when I was willing to try climbing on just about anything taller than I.
My parents did not learn that I was blind until I was seven months old, by which time I knew how to crawl and could pull myself into a standing position. The doctor told my parents that, since I was blind, they would need to keep me in a playpen and do everything humanly possible to protect me from harm.
Despite their disappointment upon learning of my blindness, they saw no reason to follow the doctor's advice since they had so far treated me as they would any other child. I also believe that by that time my parents already had a pretty good idea that trying to keep me in a playpen would probably not have accomplished the protection that the kind but misguided doctor had intended.
One of my earliest memories is of climbing a chest of drawers. I am sure I remember hearing the half-open drawers call out to be climbed like a ladder; being a most agreeable child, I obliged--my fingers gripped the top of the upper drawers as my feet stepped on the lower ones.
I almost made it to the top before the chest and all its contents fell on top of me. My fingers still smart whenever I think about it. My pain and humiliation were sufficient to ensure that I did not try climbing on drawers again; my parents could see that I had been well-taught and did not need them to put any additional restrictions on my movements.
During most of my childhood my family lived in a house located on property owned by the natural gas transmission company that employed my father. My two younger sisters and I had twenty-seven acres of land at our disposal for play--including such useful structures as trees, a pond, an empty house similar to our own, and the compressor station where my father worked. We children were disappointed that we had no stairs inside the house, but we were delighted when we discovered them on the sides of the compressor station.
We (or at least I) could spend hours just running up and down those metal stairs--a pastime to which my mother never expressed any objection. It seemed very natural to my sisters and me, therefore, to entertain ourselves in a similar manner the day we discovered stairs during a visit to the home of a friend of our parents. My mother did not see the connection at all, but she couldn't stop us quite in time to prevent my sister Becky from somehow breaking an expensive statue that stood near the stairs.
At a very early age I graduated from stairs to the monkey bars in our backyard. I got to be rather good at climbing on them and was thrilled on my first day of school when I found out there were higher monkey bars on the playground. What a shock I got during that first recess when I tried to join the other kids who were climbing on the bars! As I approached, the children jumped off as fast as they could, screaming, "Don't touch her! You'll go blind!" It felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me. Was it so bad to be blind?
Fortunately, when I went home that evening (and every evening after), I found my world was still normal, my family didn't think I had suddenly gotten a terrible disease, and, best of all, my sisters were still willing to join me on the monkey bars.
My family did their best to help me keep my expectations of myself high despite the misconceptions of many others around me. That basic support was invaluable to me as I went back to school each day and gradually made friends and acquaintances who, even if they did not always treat me as an equal, were not afraid of me and would share the monkey bars with me.
At home we had a swing set, which, together with several trees perfect for climbing, consumed much of my free time. My sisters and I, like most kids, were pretty good at thinking up alternative ways to use the swing set--like walking up the slide or standing in the seats of the swings while swinging. The caps had long since fallen off the ends of the crossbar at the top of the swing set, so we liked to climb up the side poles and use the long pipe as a communication device.
Other creatures apparently made use of the open-ended crossbar as well; on at least two occasions bees came out to express their anger at me for disturbing their home. The bee stings were nothing, however, compared to the time I put my mouth up to the pipe, and a little frog took the opportunity to jump in. All I can say is that a frog--at least in living form--most assuredly does not "taste like chicken."
When I was about twelve, my sisters and I began incorporating the huge pipes behind the compressor station into our games. They were several feet in diameter, and some of them slanted upward from the ground at angles that were deliciously dangerous if you were trying to walk up them. (Oh, and did I mention that we were expressly forbidden to go near them by my parents?)
For months and months my sisters and I enjoyed the pipes; they could not be seen from the house, so we could play without any annoying interference.
Or so I believed, until the day my father suddenly hauled us all into the living room and yelled for what seemed like hours about how we should never, never play around those pipes. How he could have found out was beyond me, especially since we had not been near the pipes since the week before when we took all those pictures of each other . . . Sudden dread shot through me as I racked my brain to recall what we'd done with those newly developed pictures.
It wasn't long before that question vanished into irrelevance; my dad held up an envelope, from which he removed a series of indisputable photos of his three daughters in various poses on the pipes behind the compressor station. He stopped yelling; and, fortunately for us, his amusement at our humiliation tempered his anger somewhat.
As the years went by, I became far too cool and mature ever to think about such childish exploits as climbing. Then, when I was fourteen, I joined the National Federation of the Blind--one of the best decisions of my life. I found new friends and learned that I did not have to be alone in dealing with the problems blind people face in our society.
It was with a group of Federation friends that I had my first experience with rock climbing and immediately abandoned my notion that climbing is for kids. Here was something much more real and challenging than monkey bars or natural gas conduits.
Now as a teacher I am pleased to have the chance to help students believe in themselves and their abilities as blind people. Rock climbing is one of the ways in which our center challenges students to go beyond what they believe is possible. I treasure the time spent in such productive fun.
Nebraska Rehab Center Recognized
From the Editor: The Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired conducts an adult training center that embraces the principles and teaches the philosophy and healthy attitudes that characterize all the training programs influenced by the National Federation of the Blind. This is hardly surprising since Federationists have been active in this program for years. On May 20, 2002, Cory Golden devoted his monthly column in the Lincoln Journal Star to the center. This is what he said:
Dave Samson stood on the corner of 48th and O Streets in Lincoln. He held his breath. He thought, "I am going to die."
"Let's just stand here for a while and listen to the cycle of the lights," instructor Jeff Altman said.
Six lanes of traffic, rumbling and breezing by. When the cars next to you stop, you stop too, because then the cars in front of you will be moving. Simple, right?
"I have a pit in my stomach the size of a basketball," Samson said.
"That's good," said Altman. Then Samson stepped from the curb, cane arcing back and forth. He made it.
"It's the neatest thing in the world to have your freedom," Samson said last week after three months at the orientation center for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. "I don't get led around like a dog anymore."
Recently Samson walked alone from the center at 4600 Valley Road to 11th and P Streets, where the center's students live in apartments. That's more than three miles.
"He's going to do what? How?" asked twenty-four‑year‑old Amy Purdie, a newcomer to the center, when Samson left that day. Samson, thirty-one, is from Nebraska City; Purdie is from Grand Island; nineteen‑year‑old Christina Georges is from Schubert. Each has vision of 20/400 or worse, but they are a typically mixed group of center clients.
Georges lost her sight as a premature newborn. Her parents, she said, gave her freedom others might not have-‑letting her become a barrel racer, for one, despite days she has to trust her horse as much or more than her sight.
Samson has a degenerative condition that began a steady march to darkness when he was a child. He gave up studying medicine only to realize, as a husband and father, that he "still needed to be Dad."
Purdie had 20/20 eyesight as recently as five months ago, only to have pressure on her optic nerve steal her vision. A painter and sculptor, she was studying psychology and commercial art.
The government estimates 7.9 million Americans are blind, 48,190 of them Nebraskans.
Center director Fatos Floyd, a Turkey native, lost her own sight when surgeons removed a brain tumor when she was eighteen. She said most blind people lose vision as adults (diabetes is the most common cause) and that about 90 percent have some vision left.
What unites Samson, Purdie, and Georges is a hunger for independence. At the center, day by day, they have learned the five tenets of the program:
· Attitude. Blindness is a characteristic, like being a woman or being Latino. It should not define them, said Floyd: "I don't wake up and say, `Oh no, I'm blind again today,' I think, `Where's my coffee?'"
· Skills. Here they learn everything: how to use the white cane, read Braille, use computers, cook and clean, even build things.
· Dealing with the sighted world. This amounts to educating sighted people that a blind person can do just fine on his own. The blind are neither superhuman--able to hear a pin drop five miles away--nor are they usually deaf (Floyd calls being shouted at by a McDonald's employee, for example, "Helen Keller Syndrome").
· Work. "Airline pilot is probably out of the question," goes a running joke at the center, but few other jobs should be. Floyd said 76 percent of blind people nationally are unemployed, though it takes relatively little to make, say, an office accessible for a blind employee. Just 10.2 percent of center graduates are unemployed.
· Giving back. "It's important for the blind and the community they live in to have them participate," Floyd said.
During their months of study-‑the average stay is seven months-‑center clients wear sleep shades during the day so they can practice their skills without the aid of vision. Along with regular classes like cane travel, seminars cover everything from dating to job interviews.
On group outings counselors aim to explode myths about what the blind can't do, for the benefit of clients and the public. They go fishing. They ride horses. They try archery. Yes, archery. Bells locate the target for clients, Floyd said, who hit more than their share of bullseyes.
The center's unofficial motto, Purdie said, is "Do it your own damn self." It has not been easy. She said learning cane travel at first was "petrifying." But just days ago she had her own breakthrough. She made it to the bus stop on the first try and, in the same week, managed to circle the block on her own-‑a challenge that once nearly drove her to quit.
Samson said his most trying moment came taking a college algebra class using Braille. When he struggled, he went to Floyd. She said gently that he'd make it through, and he has-‑after realizing learning math after years away was the root of his problem, not his blindness.
Along the way they've had to teach their families and friends. Purdie said her well‑meaning mom once put her shoes in front of her and pointed out which was which. Samson caught his wife squeezing his hand when they approached street corners. But friends can learn too.
Samson said on a trip home to Nebraska City he worked up the nerve to see a friend. He walked over. His friend answered the door and said, looking at Samson's cane, "When we go hunting, you're going to have to camouflage that thing. It'll scare the deer."
Another street corner: Samson stands alone, waiting. A man stops his car across the street. He shouts, "Don't go, man, the
Samson yells back: "No kidding!" Moments like that are funny but frustrating. It's someone taking Purdie's elbow or trying to lead Georges by her cane.
"We know where we're going," Samson said. Samson is returning to college and considering becoming a counselor for other blind people. Georges has plans to become a massage therapist for horses. Purdie is considering a career as a recreational therapist.
"Losing my sight is the best thing that could have happened to me," Samson said. "Instead of being caught up in a world of wishes and maybes, it forced me to be who I am. So I can't drive. Big deal. The important part is not how you get downtown. It's what you do when you get there."
Arrogance or Desperation?
by Peggy Elliott
From the Editor: Peggy Elliott is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind and a former member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). Here is her commentary on recent activities by an employee of the board:
Monitor readers will remember that the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) conducted hearings last October in Portland, Oregon, on proposed changes to its regulations that would compel universal installation of audible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings at essentially all intersections at an astronomical and as‑yet‑uncomputed cost to local governments. Sensibly enough, federal agencies normally complete the final rule‑making process as defined in federal law before beginning to train the people to be regulated by those rules on compliance with them.
Put another way, the changes supported by Ms. Lois Thibault, director of research for the Access Board, and nowhere required by federal law, are being sold to the public under false colors. Not only is there no requirement for installation; no rule has yet been formally proposed that would mandate such installation. Last year's hearing concerned a report of an advisory committee of citizens whose recommendations have not yet been turned into proposed regulations. But the proposals suit Ms. Thibault's low opinion of blind pedestrians, people in her view who need her kind and sighted help as well as a vast expenditure of tax dollars to get around the country safely. Federationists know Ms. Thibault's position ignores the overwhelming evidence that blind people get around safely every day, which makes these changes to federal law unnecessary and probably illegal.
Under her guidance the Access Board has apparently decided not to bother with the niceties of federal procedure. On April 16, 2003, Ms. Thibault provided three hours of training to more than fifty employees of Montgomery County, Maryland, on compliance with the proposed changes which will, Ms. Thibault devoutly hopes, eventually become the final rules. To put the matter simply, such training sessions jump the gun and smack of deception. Without actually breaking the law, conducting training sessions on proposed changes certainly violates federal procedures.
Could it be that the Access Board is so unsure of public acceptance of its regulations that it has decided to conduct brief training courses around the country in an effort to convince people that the proposed changes are widely accepted and required by law in order to lend credibility to its final rules, thus shaping the reactions of the local government entities that will have to comply with them? This is particularly unfair to local governmental officials, who typically just want to know what's required. As they usually put it: Don't explain why; just tell us what to do, and we'll do it. Get it down in black and white, in measurements and standards, and we'll build it that way. Ms. Thibault's approach is apparently to disguise her personal opinions as federal law and hope no one asks too many questions. Local governmental officials aren't likely to; they just want the specs, which Ms. Thibault with her prestigious-sounding federal title is seemingly providing.
Federationists will be interested to know that, as part of this training, Ms. Thibault devotes time to attacking and attempting to refute the position of the National Federation of the Blind on the placement of audible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings. One is left to conclude either that Ms. Thibault feels threatened by the NFB's position or that our arguments have such innate sense and attractiveness to the public that getting a head start on imbedding her wishes in the final rules by attacking us is her only recourse.
One can also hope that Access Board members, Ms. Thibault's actual bosses, will put a stop to her running around the country, pretending her opinions are federal law. Unfortunately the Access Board does not have a strong record of controlling Ms. Thibault. This leads to yet another question: why? The blind and local governments everywhere are apparently about to be hoodwinked and our rights as citizens to have a voice in our government trampled by one determined, wrongheaded federal employee. It's democracy backwards--federal employees imposing their opinions on the entire country by guile and grit. And it's wrong!
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sylvia Cooley]
Roast Chicken with Lemons
by Sylvia Cooley
Sylvia Cooley is secretary to the editor of the Braille Monitor. She has worked for the NFB since 1989. She and her family have raised their own chickens for almost twenty years. The chickens roam freely on the property and occasionally feast on Concord grapes and raspberries. Among her numerous chicken recipes, this classic Italian one is her favorite.
1 3- to 4-pound chicken, free-range is best
2 small lemons
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water, both inside and out. Remove all the bits of fat hanging loose. Let the bird sit for about ten minutes on a slightly tilted plate to let all the water drain out of it. Thoroughly pat it dry all over with cloth or paper towels. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and black pepper on the chicken, rubbing it in with your fingers over all its body and into its cavity. Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them with a towel. Soften each lemon by placing it on a counter and rolling it back and forth as you put firm downward pressure on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture each lemon in at least twenty places, using an ice pick or a sturdy round toothpick, a trussing needle, a sharp-pointed fork, or similar implement.
Place both lemons in the bird's cavity. Close the opening with toothpicks or with trussing needle and string. Close it well, but don't make it airtight because the chicken may burst. Tie legs together, making knots at both knuckle ends. Leave the legs in their natural position without pulling them tight. If the skin is unbroken, the chicken will puff up as it cooks, and the string is intended only to keep the thighs from spreading apart and splitting the skin.
Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast side down. Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is self-basting, so it will not stick to the pan. Place it in the upper third of the preheated oven. After thirty minutes, turn the chicken over to have the breast face up. When turning it, try not to puncture the skin. If kept intact, the chicken will swell like a balloon, which is rather spectacular at the table later. Do not worry too much about it, however, because even if it fails to swell, the flavor will not be affected.
Cook for another thirty to thirty-five minutes breast side up, then turn the oven thermostat up to 400 degrees, and cook for an additional twenty minutes. Calculate between twenty and twenty-five minutes total cooking time per pound. Do not turn the chicken again.
Whether your bird has puffed up or not, bring it to the table whole and leave the lemons inside until it is carved and opened. The juices that collect on the platter are delicious. Be sure to spoon them over the chicken slices. The lemons will have shriveled up, but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze them because they may squirt.
If you want to eat the chicken warm, plan for dinner the moment it comes out of the oven. If any chicken is left over, it will be very tasty eaten after being refrigerated, kept moist with some of the cooking juices, and eaten after being brought back up to room temperature.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce]
San Francisco Chocolate Pie
by Barbara Pierce
Barbara Pierce is president of the NFB of Ohio. She recently acquired this recipe onboard an aircraft. She was writing down recipes from the end of a mystery she had been reading when the woman in the next seat asked what she was doing. The Braille slate and stylus had caught her attention, but the fact that the recipe was for triple chocolate brownies was more interesting still. She mentioned that she had a pie recipe that was a chocolate-lover's dream. Taking Barbara's business card, she promised to e-mail the recipe, which she did as soon as she returned home. Here is the simple and delicious recipe:
1 commercially-made Oreo crumb crust, kept frozen
or 18 Oreo cookies, crushed (including filling)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
12 ounces semisweet real chocolate chips
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons Kahlua
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
Method: If making the crust yourself, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter and press evenly across bottom and up sides of a large pie plate. Freeze for one hour or until ready to fill. In blender combine chocolate chips, egg yolks, and Kahlua. In microwave heat cream until it just comes to a boil. Do not let it actually boil. With blender at low speed, pour hot cream over chocolate mixture. The heat melts the chocolate and cooks the egg yolks. Blend until smooth. Pour into frozen shell and chill three hours or until set. Decorate with whipped topping and chocolate curls if desired. Do not freeze. This pie serves fourteen to sixteen people because it is so rich. It keeps well in the refrigerator for days.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Karen Noles]
by Karen Noles
Karen Noles is a member of the Ohio parents division and a member of the Miami Valley chapter. This is her mother's recipe.
2 cups plain flour
1 whole egg
1/2 cup water
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Mix all ingredients together to form a smooth dough. Roll out dough on wooden cutting board with rolling pin to desired thickness. Cut noodles into strips and let dry. If desired, you can substitute any kind of freshly made broth for the water. When ready to serve, cook noodles in boiling salted water. Do not overcook. Drain and use with your favorite sauce or in pasta salad.
Marinated Lime Chicken
by Virginia Mann
Virginia Mann is president of the Lake County chapter of the NFB of Ohio and a member of the state board of directors.
4 fresh limes, halved
1 chicken cut into pieces
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Method: Rub lime halves over chicken pieces. Squeeze lime juice into a resealable plastic bag and add chicken. Add onion slices, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, oil, paprika, salt, and pepper to bag. Shake well. Refrigerate for at least thirty minutes. Preheat grill. Remove chicken from bag and discard bag. Arrange chicken, skin-side down, on grill. Cook, turning several times until juices run clear when meat is pierced with knife, about twenty minutes. Baste with marinade during cooking if desired.
Tip: When you bring the chicken home and before you put it in the freezer for later use, make up the marinade and freeze the chicken in the marinade. Defrost chicken as usual. Discard marinade and grill chicken as above.
Teatime Butterbite Cookies
by Virginia Mann
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all‑purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
Method: Combine butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl; mix well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, a half cup at a time, beating until just blended. Roll dough into a ball and chill in freezer for about thirty minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into one-inch balls. Return dough to freezer if it becomes too warm and sticky. Arrange balls two inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake until cookies are just golden, about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, place confectioner's sugar in a shallow bowl and roll hot cookies in sugar. Cool on a wire rack.
Hamburger Macaroni Casserole
by Bernadette Dressell
Bernie Dressell is an active member of the Cincinnati chapter. Her husband Paul is affiliate secretary. This recipe makes an easy and delicious supper.
1 pound ground meat
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped (about two ribs)
1 clove garlic, minced, or one teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon each thyme, basil, and oregano
1 7-ounce can mushroom stems and pieces
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup macaroni
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (cubed)
A bit of butter
Method: Brown ground meat in large pan and add onion, celery, and mushrooms. Continue cooking for approximately ten minutes. Add all seasonings, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Continue cooking on low, occasionally stirring. Cook macaroni according to package directions in boiling water while continuing to stir sauce. When macaroni is done, drain and place in three‑quart casserole. Sprinkle cheese on top and dot with butter. Pour meat sauce over macaroni. Heat oven to 350 degrees and place casserole in oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. Serves four to six.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pat Eschbach]
24-Hour Cabbage Salad
by Pat Eschbach
Pat Eschbach is a longtime Federation leader in her own right. She is also the wife of past national board member and NFB of Ohio president Bob Eschbach. Pat is a wonderful cook. This recipe is bound to be delicious.
4 pounds cabbage
2 green peppers
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup salad oil
Method: Grate all vegetables into a large bowl. Soften the gelatin in the cold water. Set aside. Heat sugar and vinegar to dissolve the sugar. Add seasonings and softened gelatin. Stir to dissolve gelatin. Cool this mixture to the thickness of cream. Add vegetable oil and mix with grated vegetables. Chill covered at least twenty-four hours. This salad improves as the flavors marry. It will keep for several days.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Pool]
Gallo Pinto Beans
by Mary Pool
Mary Pool is president of the Stark County chapter and a member of the Ohio board of directors. She is a splendid cook, having been a vendor for many years before her retirement. She still lends a hand doing catering for her church. Last June and again this year she has traveled to Nicaragua with a group from her church to staff a week-long medical mission for rural people. Mary went along to help with the cooking. This is one of the recipes she used; she says that it is delicious.
1 cup Gallo pinto beans or small red kidney beans
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, peeled
2 large cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups rice
4 tablespoons oil
1 large onion. thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Method: Soak the beans overnight in water. The next day drain beans, place in large pot with two cups water. Pin the bay leaf to the small onion with a toothpick and add the garlic to the beans. Gradually bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for forty to fifty minutes or until beans are tender, not soft. Add the salt the last ten minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Bring three cups of water to a boil with one teaspoon of salt, add rice, cover the pan and gently simmer for twenty minutes or until grains are tender. Uncover and let cool. This recipe can be prepared to this point up to twenty-four hours beforehand.
When ready to serve, heat oil in large saucepan, add the onions, and fry over medium heat for three to four minutes or until golden brown. Remove onions from oil with slotted spoon. (You can use the onions in soups, stews, or stock.) Add the beans and rice and cook over medium heat for six to eight minutes, or until the rice is golden brown and the mixture is aromatic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves six.
News from the Federation Family
Betty Woodward, president of the NFB of Connecticut, recently wrote to President Maurer as follows:
It is with regret that I tell you of the death of James (Jimmy) A'Hearn on Sunday, April 26. He died peacefully at Yale‑New Haven Hospital after a long illness. Jim served as president of the Danbury Area Chapter for several years as well as vice president of the Connecticut affiliate.
At the service Jim's daughter Kathleen read a letter from his niece, a letter that described Jim as rich according to the dictionary definition-‑valued, magnificent, significant, meaningful, sweet-‑just to name a few of Jim's qualities. He suffered much and is now at peace. He and his wife Pat met at an NFB convention many years ago. Jim will be missed by all.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Left to right first row: Georgia governor Sonny Perdue; Al Tyler; Leo Healey; Diane Healey; Stephanie Scott; Anil Lewis, NFB of Georgia president; Robert Smith; second row: Anne Parker; Cheryl Hodge; Jerry Williams; Lewis Wallach; Louise Pearson; Raj Mehta; Shirley Pittman; third row: Franklin Halsey; Ernie Sledge; Paivy Ballayan; and Wayne High]
Randolph-Sheppard Day in Georgia:
Stephanie Scott, one of the leaders of the Georgia affiliate, reports that on February 18, 2003, the NFB of Georgia conducted its first annual Randolph-Sheppard Day at the State Capitol with state legislators present. The governor issued a proclamation for the event, and vendors were able to make friends and educate legislators about the Randolph-Sheppard program in the state. Congratulations to everyone who worked hard on this effort.
On Saturday, April 26, 2003, the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota held its annual convention in Rapid City. The program was excellent, and the convention was well attended. Elections were held with the following results: Glenn Crosby, vice president; Mike Klimisch, secretary; and Wayne Lyons and Peg Halverson, board members. The following officers and board members continue to serve two-year terms: Karen Mayry, president; Paul Schliesman, treasurer; and Verlin Cavier and Bob Riibe, board members.
On April 12, 2003, the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, Pierce County Chapter conducted elections. The following officers were elected: Chris Jones, president; Neil Vosburgh, vice president; Barbara Johnson, secretary; and George Miller, treasurer.
Members of the Arizona affiliate are saddened to report the death on April 30, 2003, of Wayne Sohl, the father of Jim Sohl, husband of NFB of Arizona president Ruth Swenson.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
John J. Boyer operates the Godtouches Internet Ministry, which is specifically meant for people with disabilities. There are prayers, poems, Bible quotations, stories, and much more. He offers pastoral counseling and discussion of spiritual matters. You can reach him at <[email protected]>. The Web site is <http://www.godtouches.org>.
One Down, Forty-Nine to Go:
For about two years now members of the NFB have been delighted to know that the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) is evaluating and certifying orientation and mobility professionals. Those who pass this rigorous certification process receive National Orientation and Mobility Certification and can use the NOMC denomination following their names. Because this is a new certification board, efforts are now being made to include its certification in regulations and laws where certifying bodies are listed by name.
We are pleased to report that in April Kentucky became the first state to list NBPCB certification in its revised regulations for school-based Medicaid services. The regulations were issued by the Department for Medicaid Services, Division of Medicaid Services for Maternal and Children's Health. The regulation is 907 KAR 1:715, School-Based Health Services (as Amended at ARRS, April 8, 2003). The relevant section reads as follows:
(8) Orientation and mobility services shall be provided by an orientation and mobility specialist certified by the
(a) Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP); or (b) National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB).
Congratulations to the NFB of Kentucky and to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services for including this demanding new certification body in its list.
Here are the results of the election in the Greater Seattle Chapter of the NFB of Washington: Kris Lawrence, president; Jacob Struiksma, first vice president; Josie Armantrout, second vice president; Doug Johnson, treasurer; Kay Burrows, secretary; and Rita Szantey and Robert Guyette, board members.
Salad Dressings Available:
Carmela Cantisani, of Carmela's Gourmet, is proud to announce that some of her gourmet salad dressings are now sold nationwide in the gourmet section of Safeway, Vons, Domenics, Randall's, and Ralph's. These dressings are ideal not only for the gourmet palate, but also for those with dietary restrictions. They are made with all natural ingredients, no sugar, and low sodium and are cholesterol-free. The flavors currently sold are Vinaigrette Authentique, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Low-Fat Provençale Vinaigrette, and Low-Fat Mediterranean Mystique Vinaigrette. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these products is donated to organizations of the blind. If you wish to receive more information, you may e‑mail us at <[email protected]>.
Now you can learn to play the piano, guitar, bass guitar, or five-string banjo without music or any written notation. Bill Brown has created introductory courses for all of these instruments in an all-audio format using tapes or CDs. Once you have completed the introductory course, hundreds of other songs are taught on tape and CD for continued learning.
The courses can be purchased from the publisher for only $39 each, or you can check them out through the National Library Service. For more information or to place an order, call Valdosta Music and Publishing at (229) 249-0628.
New Art Book Available:
AFB Press is pleased to announce the publication of Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment (AFB Press, February 2003, $69.95), a must‑have resource for any library, museum, or center that serves the art community and the general public, including people who are blind or visually impaired. This beautiful volume is of vital interest to anyone who works with visually impaired individuals or who has an interest in art and its expression and meaning.
Based on more than a decade of collaboration among educators, teachers, visually impaired students, psychologists, museum professionals, and art enthusiasts, Art Beyond Sight explores the total human experience of artistry, from the initial motivation to draw to the intricacies of our five senses that help us to understand what objects look like even when they can't be seen. The sense of touch can convey vivid forms and relationships, and the spoken word can describe any item as if it were in plain view. Included in this book are 218 black‑and‑white photos and illustrations, 59 color photos, and research that is presented to readers in a stimulating, insightful, and comprehensive manner.
The readership of Art Beyond Sight is not limited to any one audience. With its reproducible pages, this comprehensive guide to art and visual impairment walks you through widely diverse personal perspectives and practical experiences, thought‑provoking theories and research, and applicable learning tools.
This book is available in both print and ASCII formats. For more information consult the AFB Web site, <www.afb.org>.
Assistive Technology Information Resource Available:
Selecting appropriate assistive technology (AT) that will meet user needs is challenging even for knowledgeable consumers and professionals in the field. For consumers who are purchasing AT products on their own, this task can be even more difficult. Most available information consists of literature created by manufacturers with only general product descriptions provided. It is difficult to find user feedback on the way AT products have performed in actual use.
Tech Connections has developed a resource called the AT Connection that will help to make AT user information more readily available to interested people. The AT Connection is a Web‑based forum where AT users confidentially post product reviews and exchange information with both consumers and professionals in rehabilitation and education. There is no cost or commitment for use of this resource. The AT Connection is not associated directly with manufacturers or suppliers of assistive technology products. The AT Connection is supported by Tech Connections, which is funded through a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).
The AT Connection is an exchange of information that can benefit consumers and professionals who would like to learn more about the experiences of others in using a broad range of AT products. The overall effectiveness of this service will depend on the contributions and involvement of AT users across the country. Posting a product review to the AT Users Forum is easy. You are invited to use any part of the AT Connection. For more information go to the Tech Connections Web site at <www.techconnections.org/forum/index.cfm>.
Tactile Atlas of East Asia Available:
Atlas of East Asia covers China, Taiwan, Mongolia, North and South Korea, and Japan in two volumes of tactile maps and Braille information. China and Japan both present a considerable challenge due to the density of the population and their size.
For China the approach is to show a series of maps of identical size, each treating a specific feature--population, rivers, mountains, natural regions--and then to present two enlarged fold-out maps of coastal China and western China. Additional maps provide further enlargements of three densely populated coastal regions and Hong Kong. A map and some descriptive material are included on the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square in Beijing.
Japan is first shown as an overall map. Subsequent maps divide the island chain into three main parts. Further enlargements are made of three heavily populated areas on Honshu Island. A map and brief descriptive material are included for Tokyo.
Each country has an introductory page of facts followed by the map or maps. Places on the map are generally labeled with key letters taken from the corresponding place-name. The key letters are identified in key pages that precede each map. The maps are detailed, and some experience with tactile drawings is recommended.
Atlas of East Asia contains twenty-six maps, 106 pages total. It is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. The cost is $21. Shipping is by free mail unless other arrangements are made. Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists, 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. Credit card and fax service are not available. Please allow four weeks for delivery. For further information call (215) 357-7715 or (609) 924-5207.
National Church Conference of the Blind:
The National Church Conference of the Blind (NCCB) will conduct its annual Bible conference this year in Colorado Springs. It will be at the Ramada Inn North, 3125 Sinton Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907. You may call (719) 633-5541. Make your own reservations, but be sure to mention NCCB to receive the conference rate. The price will include free breakfast every morning. The dates are September 21 through September 25, 2003. The conference begins Sunday evening with a message and then a fellowship hour. The conference will include Bible teaching and workshops. One evening will be set aside for a talent show and one day for tours. A tour of Focus on the Family headquarters is a possibility. The conference ends Thursday evening with a banquet and a special program. Come join us and find out how God's word applies to us today and how we can be better equipped as His disciples for service. For more information contact Reheba Dunn, membership chairman, NCCB, P.O. Box 196, Grover, Colorado 80729.
Studio Recording Software Available:
Studio RecorderÔ, a powerful new tool from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), includes features not found in audio recording and editing programs designed primarily for music production.
Engineers at professional and volunteer recording studios, teachers, parents, and blind consumers interested in digital audio editing will like Studio Recorder.
"This is the greatest thing since sliced bread," says Roger Smith, entrepreneur and former teacher of the visually impaired; "It's really good." As an experienced recording studio user who is familiar with similar programs, Roger says that Studio Recorder is much easier and "some of the special features are outstanding."
Studio Recorder was originally written by APH for internal use as a tool to create direct-to-digital audio masters produced for the National Library Service's Talking Book program. It contains many features that make recording, editing, and proofreading audio books easy. It has:
· the ability to speed up playback with no pitch distortion,
· three levels of phrase detection,
· index tone generation and removal,
· instant open on large files,
· instant cut, copy, paste, and delete,
· intercom functionality,
· simple user interface,
· accessibility for blind and visually impaired users,
· multiple-user marks and notes,
· external controller support.
The software is the result of extensive field-testing and modifications based on users' suggestions. Testing began in APH studios in July 2000. Field-testing began in June 2002 with an early prototype of the new consumer-based software. Test participants included sighted narrators and monitors, parents of blind children, blind and low vision audio engineers (both professional and amateur), and sighted engineers for a state-sponsored recording studio. Results were so impressive that the decision was made to offer Studio Recorder to the public.
Ralph Merkel, writer and producer at the University of Louisville, Department of Television and New Media, has recently produced a program for the Rauch Planetarium using Studio Recorder. He has found it "incredibly easy to use, even for people who are not computer savvy." He particularly likes the feature that allows a user to pause and restart and then continue adding to the wave file, something you cannot do with most similar software.
Studio Recorder is available now. To order, visit the APH Web site <www.aph.org> or call (800) 223-1839.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Alva 4400 Delphi Multimedia with 40‑cell display and status cells, touch cursor strip, and serial and parallel interface. Asking $3,500 or best offer. Contact Gilbert at <[email protected]>.
Seven-year-old Braille Blazer in good condition for sale. Asking $850. Call (513)522‑2459, or e‑mail <[email protected]>.
In good working condition Compaq Presario 5170 with 350 MHZ processor, 256K of RAM, 10-gig hard drive, floppy drive, CD drive, and 100 MB zip drive. Comes with Windows 98SE, Corel Version 8, MS 2000 Office Pro, Norton 2002, Quicken 2001, JFW 3.7U, Open Book Ruby, and Curio firewall. Also has 17-inch CRT color monitor and surge protector. Asking $500 or best offer. Price does not include shipping. Also have Roadrunner text player in excellent working condition. Comes with case and headphones. Asking $150 or best offer. Call (541) 752-3890 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Pacific Time.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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.