THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 48, No. 3March, 2005
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 21230-4998
telephone: (410) 659-9314
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Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
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Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Louisville Site of 2005 NFB Convention
The 2005 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, July 2-9, at the Galt House West and Galt House East Tower. The Galt House West is at 140 N. Fourth Street, and the Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202.
The 2005 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $59; and triples and quads $64 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2005. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the Galt House at (502) 589‑5200 or the Hyatt Regency at (502) 587‑3434.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2005, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotels will not hold their blocks of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
A covered pedestrian walkway connects the two hotels, and guest-room amenities in both include hair dryer, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, and dataport. Those who attended the 2003 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of both the Hyatt and the Galt House. Our headquarters hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville airport.
The 2005 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:
Saturday, July 2 Seminar Day
Sunday, July 3 Registration Day
Monday, July 4 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 5 Opening Session
Wednesday, July 6 Tour Day
Thursday, July 7 Banquet Day
Friday, July 8 Business Session
Vol. 48, No. 3 March, 2005
by Marc Maurer
Washington in Winter
by Barbara Pierce
2005 Washington Seminar Fact Sheets
2005 Convention Tours in Louisville
by Charles Allen
Blind Dog Sledder on Her Way
A Review of Rehabilitation in America
by Danika Taylor
Talking Sense and Avoiding Platitudes about Blindness
by Gary Wunder
Why I Bought a PAC Mate
by Susan Povinelli
Clarification from Curtis Chong's Email Basket
British Home Secretary Quits
by Glenn Frankel
Copyright© 2005 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: The great gathering-in meeting of the 2005 Washington Seminar]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joanne Wilson]
by Marc Maurer
On February 8, 2005, Dr. Joanne Wilson resigned from her position as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration effective March 1, 2005. Her term in this office began shortly after the inauguration of George Bush in 2001, and her service to the disability community in the office of the commissioner of rehabilitation in the United States might have continued into the future. However, upon sober reflection Dr. Wilson felt that the demands of service required her resignation. Why should this be so?
In the early part of the 1990's a scheme was hatched to eliminate the rehabilitation service from government by creating an entity within the executive branch supposedly capable of serving all people seeking employment. The legislative proposal to create this massive bureaucracy was called the Careers Bill, which would have eliminated specialized rehabilitative programs, establishing instead a one-stop agency that would control all programs for those seeking employment. In the employment arena the disabled are an identifiable minority. Within the disabled community the blind are yet another identifiable minority. Rehabilitation programs were established in 1920 with the avowed purpose to offer specialized service and training to severely handicapped people.
If everyone seeking employment is placed in one pool, the most severely disabled will be served last, because the placements for these people are expensive and difficult. If an abundance of work exists, the placement of handicapped people will almost never occur, because the counselors serving nondisabled people will never have time or expertise to place the handicapped. Furthermore, the specialized training and attention essential for quality rehabilitation will disappear. Instruction in the techniques to use a white cane, to read Braille, and to acquire and use computers that operate with nonvisual commands will no longer be available. Because of the danger that all rehabilitation will be lost, the National Federation of the Blind immediately led the way to remove programs for the disabled from the Careers Bill. The rehabilitation program established in 1920 was maintained in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended.
Some of the people who led the effort to eliminate the rehabilitation program are now among the officials working with the Department of Education in the White House on redesigning the government. Once again the rehabilitation program appears to be on the list for elimination. Dr. Wilson concluded that she could not be a party to the destruction of this enormously valuable program. If she stayed in the Department of Education, she would be prohibited from speaking her mind to members of Congress about the urgent need to preserve this vital part of the government. She resigned from her office as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration to assist in the fight on Capitol Hill to preserve rehabilitation for the disabled of the United States.
Dr. Wilson will also be leading initiatives at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. She will be devising new types of training programs for teachers of the blind, and she will be developing research partnerships with the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and other entities throughout the United States and in other lands.
During her time at RSA, Dr. Wilson inspired tens of thousands of our country's most severely disabled people. Her imaginative guiding hand will be greatly missed in the programs she deeply loved. Working with those who are promoting rehabilitation of people who have disabilities has been a joyous work for Dr. Wilson. Her resignation letter tells of her regret at leaving the committed staff in the rehabilitation effort. Here is what Dr. Wilson says:
It has been my distinct pleasure to work with all of you as the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The time has come, however, for me to submit my resignation effective March 1, 2005.
I want to express my sincere gratitude for your support and commitment on behalf of our nation's citizens with disabilities. I look forward to continuing the journey to change the lives of individuals with disabilities through new avenues in the future. I feel so very fortunate to have worked with such dedicated, loyal, and hard-working individuals who share my passion for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.
Again, thank you for the privilege and the opportunity to work with all of you.
With best regards and affection,
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The renovated lobby of the Holiday Inn Capitol, filled with Federationists checking in for the 2005 Washington Seminar]
Washington in Winter
by Barbara Pierce
The last weekend of January brought snow, slush, and freezing rain to the nation's capital. It also brought well over four hundred blind people to attend seminars, workshops, and committee meetings and to tour the National Center for the Blind and the NFB Jernigan Institute. Some even found time to do a bit of sightseeing before settling down to visit every Senate and House office on Capitol Hill to discuss the issues of concern to blind people this year. In other words, the NFB 2005 Washington Seminar began Sunday, January 30, and ended Thursday, February 3.
We pushed the Washington Seminar back a day this year in hopes of seeing more actual members of Congress by making appointments on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This meant that the students could meet on Sunday, and almost two hundred Federationists could tour the Institute on Monday. At the same time those who remained at the Holiday Inn Capitol, on Monday could attend workshops on mentoring blind children or orientation and mobility as a career. Lawyers enjoyed a stimulating seminar, as did merchants and seniors. Those who wanted an advanced look at the issues for discussion with Congress spent a couple of hours talking with Jim McCarthy, NFB director of governmental affairs, early Monday afternoon.
In short, by the time the gathering-in meeting was called to order at 5:00 Monday afternoon, January 31, everyone had already put in a very full day. President Maurer and Dr. Zaborowski reported on recent activities in the Federation and at the Jernigan Institute, and the two Jims (Gashel and McCarthy) discussed legislative and logistical matters for the week.
Some of us can remember all the way back to a time before the appointment schedule and visit reports were computerized. In those days we picked up our fact sheets from the Mercury Room and then wandered off, sometimes to begin calling for appointments once we were actually on the Hill. For us the structured and purposeful activity of Sandy Halverson and her team of volunteers in the Mercury Room never fails to delight. On one side fact sheets and other materials available for preparing Capitol Hill folders are laid out on a long table. Affiliates supplement these with additional brochures, newsletters, scholarship forms, and other state material that their congressional delegations should have. By the time the folders are assembled, we have a significant amount of material to hand over to legislators.
The opposite side of the Mercury Room also sports a long table. This one has several volunteers seated behind it, waiting to take down appointment lists or write reports in Braille. On the side opposite the entrance are the computer station and the files for the cards on which the reports are written. Phones ring incessantly, and the staff member in charge makes frequent announcements asking people who are finished with their business to move on so that those who are still working can hear themselves think.
This year people found plenty to do elsewhere. The hotel restaurant had again ordered in peanut butter pie. The deli again had Krispy Kreme doughnuts in addition to the sandwiches, salads, and bagels one would expect. The bar (now called the Twenty-First Amendment), which also serves food till midnight, has been expanded in the recent lobby renovation. By the time we return in 2006, a Starbucks will be open in the corner of the lobby. But the only excitement the Starbucks caused this year was a small fire on Tuesday morning that brought out six fire trucks and a lot of police. Happily, it was so quickly contained that hotel guests did not have to be evacuated.
The weather for Washington Seminar this year fell far short of spring-like temperatures, but by Monday the sun was shining, and it continued to shine until we left town. Now that the dust is settling and the House and Senate security guards can again point their directions to visitors instead of putting them into words, we are getting down to the long, slow business of maintaining contact with legislative staff members responsible for the bills in which we are interested. Jim McCarthy will keep us posted throughout the year about what more has to be done. Immediately following this article are the 2005 fact sheets.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine (left) talks in her office with James McCarthy, NFB director of governmental affairs, and Cindy Haley, president of the Maine Organization of Parents of Blind Children.]
2005 Washington Seminar Fact Sheets
From the Editor: Following are the materials Federationists discussed with the members of the 109th Congress and their staffs:
Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 109th Congress First Session
The National Federation of the Blind was formed as the voice of the nation's blind to present the collective views of blind people in all aspects of society. All of our leaders and the vast majority of our members are blind, but anyone is welcome to participate in our movement. Each year 75,000 people will become blind, and there are an estimated 1.1 million blind Americans. The social and economic consequences of blindness affect not only the blind but also our families, friends, and coworkers.
Our priorities for the first session of the 109th Congress reflect an urgent need for action in three key areas of vital importance to blind Americans. (For an explanation of these issues, please see the attached fact sheets.)
1. Congress should preserve and improve disability insurance on behalf of blind Americans by taking the following actions:
* Assure that disability benefits payable under current formulas are not decreased for anyone who is or becomes blind or disabled before reaching retirement age;
* Assure that anyone who is or becomes blind or disabled before reaching retirement age receives the highest benefit payable at retirement age, taking into account entitlement to disability insurance benefits (computed under current law) or retirement benefits (computed with personal investment accounts, if any), whichever is higher; and
* Increase the statutory earnings limit applicable to individuals who are blind to the exempt amount applicable to other individuals in the year they reach retirement age.
2. Congress should amend the Higher Education Act to establish accessibility standards for electronic technology and information and designate a national access center for publishers to provide electronic document files in a standard format.
3. Congress should amend Section 853 of the FY 2005 Defense Authorization Act to resolve conflicts between the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act and the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act in the award of military troop dining contracts. Amendments should clarify that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applies to any troop dining contracts which include obtaining, preparing, or serving food to members of the armed forces.
Blind Americans seek your support to address these priorities during the first session of the 109th Congress. If needed legislation is adopted, the continued integration of the blind into society will be advanced. We urge every member of Congress to help us achieve our objectives during this session of Congress. Our success benefits not only the blind but all of America as well.
Insuring the Future:
A Common-Sense Approach
to Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a vital program for blind Americans. Therefore two objectives are fundamentally important to the blind as lawmakers begin to debate the future of Social Security in the twenty-first century. These objectives are:
1. To assure continuation of disability insurance protection without reducing future benefits as the result of any legislation enacted to change the Social Security retirement system; and
2. To reduce the penalty placed on blind individuals who work.
Individuals who stop working due to disability depend on monthly SSDI payments to support themselves and their families. Disability can happen at any time during a person's working life with significant doubt thereafter that the disabled individual will ever return to full-time employment. In fact, the vast majority of SSDI beneficiaries do not do so. Therefore, when benefits were first made payable based on blindness or disability in 1956, the SSDI program was simply incorporated into the existing retirement system, using the same method for figuring each person's individual benefits based on payroll contributions.
This approach remains in effect today, raising the concern that changes made in the relationship between payroll contributions and benefits could lead to reduced payments to people who qualify for SSDI. This could happen if funds set aside in private accounts do not have sufficient time to grow beyond the amount invested or to recover from short-term losses.
Therefore the rationale used to support a private investment feature as part of Social Security is not relevant to SSDI, where the impact of redirecting an individual's payroll contributions from earnings credits used to figure benefits could reduce future monthly payments and lead to significant hardships for blind or disabled people. According to the Social Security Administration, three of every ten Americans will become disabled prior to attaining retirement age. Under current law these individuals are treated as though they have worked up to retirement and are paid the benefit that they would receive at retirement. SSDI is not constructed as a retirement savings program. As its name suggests, it is insurance for those who may qualify at any time on the basis of blindness or disability. This commitment to insure against the premature loss of income before retirement must not be sacrificed.
Reducing the Penalty for Working: In 1996 Congress first raised the earnings limit, which had been imposed on seniors who continued to work after reaching retirement age. For seniors this limit was later completely eliminated. Although before 1996 the same limit applied to blind people who received SSDI benefits, the changes made for seniors in 1996 excluded the blind. Therefore the earnings limit which once forced seniors into premature idleness still applies to anyone who is blind but not yet old enough to retire. To increase the limit, advocates for seniors made the case that seniors would continue to work, earn, and pay taxes once they could do so without fearing loss of income from Social Security, and the changes have obviously provided a powerful incentive for tens of thousands to remain active and productive.
Today the case for raising the earnings limit for the blind is much more compelling due to the nature of the earnings penalty imposed on the blind, which is far more harsh than the limit imposed on seniors during all the years it existed. For example, during 2005 a blind individual with gross earnings exceeding $1,380 monthly ($16,560 annually) will lose all benefits payable even though the same individual continues to be blind.
Need for Legislation Examples:
Like "retirement age," "blindness" is specifically defined in the Social Security Act and can be readily determined. Monthly benefits are not paid to all blind persons, however, but are paid only to blind persons who, if they work at all, have earnings below an annually adjusted statutory limit. There is no penalty on personal wealth but only on earnings resulting from productive work. Recognition of the earnings limit's impact on seniors prompted Congress to change the law, and the same should now be done for the blind. To reduce the penalty that results from working, the applicable earnings limit for blind beneficiaries should be the annual limit for individuals reaching retirement age in the present year. This amount is $31,800 and is adjusted annually. Presently, for blind people who find employment, earnings seldom replace lost benefits after taxes and work expenses are paid. Therefore most beneficiaries cannot afford to attempt significant work. Those who do so sacrifice income and the security of a monthly check. The following examples illustrate the penalty for working.
A single person with no dependents having annual SSDI cash benefits of $10,700 or roughly $894 per month (an average benefit), with no other income, receives this amount tax-free. To replace these benefits, gross pay must be approximately $18,350, taking into account taxes and work expenses (such as commuting and buying appropriate clothing for work). This is $1,825 above the amount allowed. Earnings below $18,350 result in a net loss. While some people choose to work in spite of this economic risk, some must choose not to work at a substantial level because they cannot afford to lose income.
If the beneficiary has dependents, the situation is more troublesome. With two dependents the family's total SSDI benefit would average approximately $17,900 annually. Therefore earnings of $17,000 (just above the earnings limit of $16,560) will not replace benefits. Using conservative assumptions, such as taxes figured at 25 percent of gross pay and childcare for two children at $500 per month, replacing $17,900 in family benefits requires approximately $29,150 in gross pay. The risk resulting from work for a blind head of household negates any economic benefit derived from most available work. When dependents are involved, the amount needed to replace everyone's benefit far exceeds the average blind person's earnings at the time of initial employment.
Congress should preserve and improve the Social Security Disability Insurance program on behalf of blind Americans by taking the following actions:
1. Assure, as a part of any Social Security retirement legislation enacted, that anyone who qualifies for benefits based on blindness or disability before reaching full retirement age shall be entitled to disability insurance benefits computed under the law in effect prior to any changes that may be made;
2. Provide, as part of any Social Security retirement legislation enacted, that individuals who are blind or disabled before reaching full retirement age shall be entitled to the amount of their disability insurance benefits computed under current law or the amount of their retirement benefits based on revised procedures (including the value of an investment account, if any), whichever is higher; and
3. Increase the statutory earnings limit applicable to individuals who are blind to the annual exempt amount for individuals who apply for Social Security retirement benefits and applicable to such individuals in the year they reach retirement age.
Creating Opportunities for Success:
Access to Technology for the Blind in Higher Education
To improve opportunities in higher education for blind students by ensuring access to electronic technology and information including distance-learning programs, online instruction, campus workstations, and digital texts of printed materials.
Ensuring access to electronic technology and information for blind higher education students is a growing problem in the digital age. Rapidly evolving technology, combined with lack of planning for nonvisual use when developing electronic technology and information, has led to lack of access for blind students. This situation is so pervasive that no remedy short of federal intervention is likely to have a significant impact.
The modern-day education environment has become increasingly dependent on electronic technology and information, and this trend will inevitably continue. New communication methods include email, online instruction, electronic documents, and computer workstations. Much of the software used is not accessible to blind students. While vast resources from America's postsecondary institutions are available over the Internet, blind students are often unable to access them using nonvisual technology. Without access to this new way of learning, blind students will be left behind.
In addition, access to printed instructional materials (including textbooks) is still a challenge for blind students. Although these materials can be scanned into a computer and converted into digital text by use of optical character recognition programs, the accuracy of scanned documents often remains poor, and the scanning process takes a great deal of time. Electronic text offers the ability to make printed materials accessible to blind students, but concerns of copyright holders over protecting their rights could impede these developments.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) clearly establish the policy that individuals with disabilities must have access to higher education programs. However, successful implementation cannot occur without well-articulated standards and systems in place to anticipate accessibility needs. Currently there is no clear requirement that nonvisual access to electronic technology and information be considered when products are developed for use in higher education.
In 1998, when the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was last amended, Congress enacted Section 508, which established a process for the creation of technology access standards applicable whenever technology is purchased. However, these standards apply only to technology purchased by federal agencies for use by employees or the public. Postsecondary institutions are not covered under Section 508.
In addition to these federal requirements, approximately ten states have enacted accessibility laws relating to electronic technology and information. However, postsecondary education programs are often not covered by these requirements. As in the case of Section 508, these state laws generally apply to procurement of technology in order to address access issues before they arise.
Textbooks and Other Instructional Materials
An international consortium of technical experts committed to making printed material accessible to the blind has established the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) standard. This standard provides a navigable and versatile means for the blind to access printed materials. Using books prepared in the DAISY format, the reader can efficiently move among and between chapters, headings, pages, and paragraphs. Placing and returning to bookmarks is also possible. Most important, this standard also permits efficient conversion into audio and Braille formats.
Moreover, the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) advances the goal of providing printed materials to blind elementary and high-school students. This approach should serve as a model for offering blind higher education students access to printed materials (including textbooks) as well. As amended in 2004, IDEA now requires the Department of Education to establish a mandatory National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). It also requires publishers to place electronic files of textbooks in a national access center. These files must be prepared using the NIMAS issued by the Department of Education. Once in the center, the electronic textbooks will be available to all elementary and secondary schools for easy conversion into audio and Braille formats. Based on work done so far, it is likely that the NIMAS will incorporate the DAISY format approach, providing readers and publishers with a consistent design for electronic documents.
Congress should amend the Higher Education Act to promote nonvisual access in the procurement of electronic technology and information (including online instruction) by postsecondary institutions as follows:
1. Require postsecondary institutions receiving federal funds to insure that procurement, modification, development, and use of electronic information technology, for purposes of instruction or otherwise, complies with federal accessibility standards to be established pursuant to the Higher Education Act;
2. Require that wherever computer workstations are provided to students and academic personnel of a postsecondary institution, at least one such workstation must comply with federal access standards established pursuant to the Higher Education Act; and
3. Designate a national access center to receive electronic copies of books chosen for use in postsecondary education and require publishers to furnish electronic text additions to the center in accordance with the Department of Education's National Instructional Materials Access Standard.
Randolph-Sheppard in the Twenty-First Century:
Preserving Business Opportunities for Blind Vendors
To resolve confusion and conflicts in the application of the Randolph-Sheppard and Javits-Wagner-O'Day Acts to military troop dining contracts.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act: Originally passed in 1936, the Randolph-Sheppard (R-S) Act creates entrepreneurial opportunities for blind people to achieve their "maximum vocational potential," through the operation of food and vending service businesses located on any federal property. In 1974 Congress clearly showed confidence in the abilities of blind vendors when it created a statutory priority for the blind and expanded the scope of the act to include the operation of cafeterias by blind vendors in order to demonstrate their capacity to perform management duties. In addition to providing food and vending services in federal buildings in virtually every state and the District of Columbia, these duties now include management of all troop dining services at thirty-eight separate military installations located in the United States. By designating an agency to license the vendors in each state (referred to as the State Licensing Agency), the Department of Education through the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration oversees and regulates the implementation of the R-S Act.
The Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act: Originally enacted in 1938, and substantially amended in 1971, the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act provides employment opportunities for blind and severely disabled persons who work on contracts for products and services supplied to the federal government. The goods and services are purchased from nonprofit organizations that hire disabled people for "direct labor" jobs. A federal agency known as the Committee for Purchase from People Who are Blind or Severely Disabled approves a list of products and services which federal agencies must buy under mandatory, noncompetitive procurement regulations. Most of the contracts for services are awarded through a central coordinating agency known as NISH (formerly National Industries for the Severely Handicapped). NISH is the agency under the JWOD Act that oversees the employment of severely disabled people and actively seeks military troop dining contracts on behalf of its member agencies.
Legislative Threat to R-S Priority:
Although NISH would like to secure exclusive rights to military troop dining contracts, two federal circuit courts have held that the priority for food service provided to the blind under the R-S Act supersedes the JWOD Act in contracts for military troop dining. Therefore, failing in the courts, NISH has asked the Congress to amend the law. Legislation to do this was most recently proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2005, reported to the Senate last May. However, this position was reversed by a Senate floor amendment offered by Senator Ensign with strong support from Senator Dodd. The end result, after conference with the House, was an agreement to continue the blind priority for the time being.
Nonetheless, NISH is likely to renew the effort to overturn the blind priority during Congressional consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2006. In asking Congress to remove the blind priority, NISH is seeking exclusive opportunities to provide these services. This goal is important to NISH because of substantial revenue (approximately 4 percent of the total price paid by the government for each contract). With approximately 105 contracts now in effect under the JWOD Act, NISH currently receives in excess of $12 million annually which goes straight to this nonprofit's bottom line. It is important to note that none of this revenue is paid in wages to people with disabilities.
Rather than overturning the blind vendor priority as proposed by NISH, federal agencies and the Congress should understand both the R-S Act and the JWOD Act and the distinctions which exist between them.
For example, under the R-S Act, contracts for troop dining services are awarded through the competitive bid process, and bids on behalf of blind vendors that are within a competitive range of other offers must be accepted. By contrast, the committee that oversees the JWOD program removes military dining facilities from competitive procurement and fixes the price the government must pay. Once removed from competition, a facility is placed on an exclusive "procurement list," where it remains forever off limits to any other vendor. Contracts awarded under the R-S Act, but not the JWOD Act, are reviewed annually and are open for competitive bidding every five years.
Under the R-S Act blind vendors are in essence business owners. They shoulder the responsibilities involved in running a business--hiring and firing, ordering supplies, accounting, food preparation, etc. Living the American dream, they benefit from the growth and success of their businesses and the resulting profits. By contrast, the JWOD Act supports jobs for people with disabilities in direct labor, but not in management. Unlike the R-S Act, the JWOD Act does not aim at management of an enterprise by persons with disabilities.
Finally, with specific reference to military troop dining, NISH holds almost three times as many food service contracts as do state licensing agencies under the R-S program. Moreover, the JWOD Act provides noncompetitive opportunities for NISH to supply over 3,000 other services (not including food service) to all agencies of the federal government. Therefore, compared to the R-S Act, opportunities available to NISH are secured by a much broader mandate.
Congress should amend the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Reauthorization Act for fiscal year 2005 to achieve the following objectives:
1. Affirm the priority for blind vendors as mandated by the R-S Act when future contracts for military troop dining services are awarded;
2. Clarify application of the R-S Act by codifying the definition of "military troop dining services" to mean any services related to the provision of government-furnished meals to members of the armed forces;
3. Provide for advance notification to be given to the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in order to determine if a State Licensing Agency wishes to have the priority of the Randolph-Sheppard Act applied to any particular procurement of troop dining services; and
4. Ensure that military troop dining opportunities that are placed on the JWOD procurement list are not permanently off limits to blind vendors or other qualified providers.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Racing at Churchill Downs]
2005 NFB Convention Tours in Louisville
by Charles Allen
From the Editor: Federationists pride ourselves on the amount of work we accomplish at our national conventions, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so, if you don’t have schedule conflicts, consider one or more of these Kentucky tours. Remember that Charlie Allen is serious when he warns us to make tour reservations before June 15. This is what he says:
Welcome to Louisville for another NFB family reunion. We have arranged tours for both families with children and those who admit to being at least twenty-one. We are going north to Indiana and east to Frankfort. We have two tours on Saturday, July 2, and five on Wednesday, July 6. Please make your reservations by June 15, well before you get to the convention, so that we can give our buses, vans, and destinations advance notice of the number of people to expect.
When I was making reservations for Caesars of Indiana, I called the Galt House for a suggestion about transportation. The hotel's suggestion was Indiana Express. When I talked with Mr. Cedrick, he expressed interest in taking Federation groups to dinner or other locations throughout the convention. Call him at (502) 550-9458 to make arrangements. He has vans that will accommodate as many as fifteen or as few as seven. Please don't try to book him when we have scheduled tours to Caesars.
On Saturday, July 2, visit Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Cheer the horses to victory from air-conditioned Millionaires Row. Eat all you want from a buffet serving oven-roasted chicken, Caesar salad, country-roasted potatoes, green beans with bacon, and dessert. The $35 price includes transportation, admission, a program, and the buffet (not including drinks). Leave at 12:00 noon, return about 6:00 p.m. Note: Churchill Downs has no races on Wednesday, July 6.
Visit Caesars gambling boat in Elizabeth, Indiana, on Saturday, July 2. Leave the Galt House at 5:00 p.m. and return by 11:00 p.m. We will repeat the tour on Wednesday, July 6, leaving at 12:45 p.m. and returning by 6:00 p.m. The price of $20 includes transportation and Caesars magnificent buffet. You must be twenty-one to take this tour. Indicate Caesars Saturday or Caesars Wednesday, your telephone number, and your date of birth on the reservation form. Remember that you are responsible for your return trip to the Galt House if you miss the scheduled van.
On Wednesday, July 6, visit the American Printing House for the Blind, where you will have the opportunity to purchase products. Depart at 12:30 p.m. and return by 4:00 p.m. The price of $15 includes transportation.
On Wednesday, July 6, travel to Joe Huber's Family Farm and Restaurant in Starlight, Indiana. Enjoy the all-you-can-eat dinner, feed the ducks, and explore the farm on the tractor-pulled wagon tour. You can purchase fruit and vegetables in the gift shop. The price, which includes transportation and lunch, is $25 for adults; those twelve or under may tour for $18. Please indicate the ages of each member of your group so that I can make reservations accordingly. We will leave the Galt House at 12:30 p.m. and return about 4:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, July 6, visit Frankfort, Kentucky's capital city. We plan to stop for lunch in Shelbyville at Claudia Sanders Dinner House, established by Colonel Harlan Sanders and his wife, Claudia. Eat Kentucky Fried Chicken the way the Colonel meant it to be. In Frankfort we will visit the Kentucky History Center, where we have been promised a tactile and auditory presentation of Kentucky history. There is a large gift shop located here. Employees of Rebecca-Ruth Candy will let us know how they make that wonderful candy, let us taste samples, and of course buy or ship candy from their gift shop. Scheduled for remodeling, the old shop building has steep entrance steps. The tour price, which includes transportation, lunch, and center admission, is $30 for adults and $20 for those twelve and under. Half of us will go to the Kentucky History Center while the other half visits Rebecca-Ruth; then we will switch. We will leave at 12:15 p.m. and return by 6:00 p.m. Please indicate the ages of those in your party so that I can make reservations accordingly.
Plan a relaxed, fun-filled Wednesday evening. Attend the Comedy Caravan, noted for booking accomplished comedians. We will begin loading buses at 6:30 p.m. and return about 10:30 p.m. The cost of $20 includes transportation and admission. Drinks and snacks are available at additional cost. The Comedy Caravan can seat only 250, so make your reservations early. You must be at least twenty-one.
Please make your reservations no later than June 15, 2005. Call Charles Allen with tour questions at (502) 875-1413 or email <email@example.com>. Reservation requests with checks made payable to the NFB of Kentucky should be mailed to Charles Allen, 801 Leawood Drive, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-3313.
Address (please include street, city, state, and zip code):
Telephone (with area code):_____________________________
Tour 1: Churchill Downs, Saturday, July 2
Number of tickets: ____ @ $35 each, subtotal: ____
Tour 2: Caesars of Indiana
Saturday, July 2
Number of tickets: ___ @ $20 each, subtotal: _____
Wednesday, July 6
Number of tickets: ___ @ $20 each, subtotal: _____
Date(s)of birth: month/day/year
Tour 3: American Printing House for the Blind
Number of tickets: ____@ $15, subtotal: _____
Tour 4: Joe Huber's Family Farm and Restaurant
Number of tickets: (adults) ___@ $25, subtotal: _____
Number of tickets under twelve ___@ $18, subtotal: _____
Tour 5: Claudia Sanders Dinner House, Kentucky History Center, Rebecca-Ruth
Number of tickets:
Adult tickets ___@ $30, subtotal: _____
Under twelve ___@ $20, subtotal: _____
Tour 6: Comedy Caravan
Number of tickets: ___@ $20, subtotal: _____
Blind Dog Sledder on Her Way
From the Editor: For a couple of years now everyone in the blindness field has been cheering on Rachael Scdoris, a young woman with perhaps a unique dream for a blind person. She has wanted to enter the Iditarod dogsled race between Anchorage and Nome, Alaska. This year, on March 5, she, her dog team, and her lead sled will enter this grueling race of over eleven hundred miles. This is her third attempt to qualify, so she has already won a significant victory before she even crosses the starting line. Here are two stories that describe this remarkable young woman who would not take no for an answer:
Blindness No Barrier for Nineteen‑Year‑Old
by Bruce Ely
This article appeared Thursday, January 13, 2005, published by the Newhouse News Service.
The frost that settled overnight softens in the golden sunlight. As the surface melts, the twenty-five‑mile training trail will get easier on the dogs' feet. The health of their pads, of course, is the lifeblood to a musher such as Scdoris, who tunes in to their paws as a sailor lives for the wind.
In two months Scdoris will begin an adventure on the frozen tundra--the Alaskan bush variety. The high‑school graduate, nineteen, will fulfill a lifelong dream by taking part in the 1,049‑mile Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race, among the most grueling sporting events. And she will do so despite being blind. As much as her story inspires, as much attention as her two‑year quest to enter the "Last Great Race" attracted, the essential chapter unfolds in the dusty dog yard.
Scdoris has congenital achromatopsia, a deficit of rods and cones in her retinas that affects depth perception, light sensitivity, and color recognition. She can see vague shapes out to her lead dogs. She compares it to gazing through glasses coated with a heavy layer of Vaseline.
Her dogs see her energy, strength, and tenderness. This morning she tours the kennel like a politician at a party fundraiser. "Hi, Gary," Scdoris says to a seventeen‑year‑old retired Alaskan husky. "I still love you even if you are senile." "Seth, you're such a cuddler," she says as a dog paws the air for a hug. Romeo, a tan eleven‑year‑old, flexes on top of his house. "Romeo is the biggest jerk we've got," Scdoris says with a laugh. "All the other dogs hate him except Robert." Next door crazy Robert barks at his beloved Romeo.
In the yard the dogs howl a chorus as she prepares them for the morning run. Eighteen dogs will pull an all‑terrain vehicle on a twenty-five‑mile loop through the volcanic badlands that loom around their home. Claude plays with a chunk of ice in his water bowl. Big Boy turns his dish into a Frisbee. Brothers Gus and Rascal howl a duet. Halfway down the dog yard, a quiet, black husky with white stocking feet waits patiently.
Duchess is Scdoris' bellwether, a seven‑year‑old lead dog that snaps to every "gee" or "haw" command Rachael utters. The forty‑pound dog has run in every race Scdoris has entered since she was fourteen. "Duchess is Rachael's soul dog," says Jerry Scdoris, who passed on his passion for sled dogs to his daughter. "Duchess is really strong in the head and an amazing athlete," Rachael says. "And smart, too--sometimes too smart for her own good."
The tethered dogs reach a frenzy as Scdoris selects those who will pull the red Suzuki ATV. It seems improbable that this line of eighteen leggy canines will haul the 600‑pound vehicle, but when Rachael hollers "Mush!" the ATV leaps forward.
The dogs have always loved Rachael Scdoris. They became her refuge during a childhood marked by the cruelty of her peers. "They still are," she said. "The dogs never expected anything but hugs and food and harness."
Her parents split when she was three, but they maintained a good relationship and taught their daughter to focus on what she could do, not what she couldn't. At twelve Scdoris began competing in novice four‑dog races. There was resistance from some race organizers who said she didn't belong. But she never believed that; neither did the dogs.
Scdoris showed grit in the snow. She once entered a six‑dog, two‑day race in Chemult, Oregon, and dumped the sled on the first corner, 100 yards out. The dogs dragged her 200 yards, but she hung on until she could stop them. She lost her hat. Wet snow packed inside her boots and clothing. Ten miles later she began to shake from the cold. She crossed the finish line on her knees, being dragged behind the sled. She had frostbite on her toes and a finger. Her ears were worse. A doctor disqualified her from competing the next day. Her ears turned black. A few days later she wore a headband to cover her ears when she sang the national anthem at a festival.
In 2001 she entered the International Pedigree Stage‑Stop Sled‑Dog Race in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Race promoters were happy to have her. A friend rode ahead on a snowmobile to instruct her by radio about hazards on the trail. She was determined to finish as a tribute to her father, who was forced to withdraw from the 1997 edition. Scdoris celebrated her sixteenth birthday on the trail and became the youngest musher to finish a 500‑mile race.
Her dream has been the Iditarod since John Patten, a friend of her father's, told her Jack London‑like stories about his experiences in the race. The day after she graduated from high school in 2003, she talked to the Iditarod board through a conference call. The members were concerned that approving her request to be led by a "visual interpreter" on a snowmobile would ruin the spirit of an event that prizes independence above all. The board denied her request.
The next year she met with the board in person. She traveled alone to Alaska and fielded questions. The board suggested a compromise: she could run with a second sled dog team that would lead her on the long trail.
On March 5 Scdoris will line up with the other mushers for the grand pageant of the start in Anchorage. "Nobody wins this race the first time," she said. "I just want to finish with my dogs."
On the trail Scdoris's job is to encourage the team to be happy in its work. She does it with hugs and praise, and the dogs respond. She will need all of their exuberance come March when she crosses the Alaska Range at Rainy Pass, braves frozen Norton Sound and the cold, windy coast coming home to the Burled Arch and the finish line in Nome. Paul Ellering, a former professional wrestler, will drive a team ahead of her and be her visual interpreter.
Her goal is simple: Go the distance. With the help of four‑legged friends, Scdoris always has.
Blind Dogsledder Races Toward Victory
by Bob Dotson
On Wednesday, January 19, 2005, Bob Dotson, NBC Correspondent, filed the following story:
A teenager refuses to let disability keep her from the Super Bowl of sled dog racing. That's why Jerry Scdoris is driving 2,500 miles to the top of the globe from Bend, Oregon, in the dead of winter--to help a daughter chase a dream she cannot see.
Rachael Scdoris, nineteen, was born nearly blind but has earned a slot in the Super Bowl of sled dog racing--also known as mushing. She will compete against sighted men on the Iditarod, a daunting trail down mountains and ice floes, where temperatures can drop to forty below. The 1,100 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, winds through a wilderness so vast it could stretch from Florida to Maine.
"I function the same way as a sighted person would. I just walk into a lot more stuff," said Scdoris. But not out on the trail. Two‑way radios alert Scdoris to obstacles in her path, and she is the first Iditarod musher to be allowed a visual aide.
The whole operation is costly. Scdoris and her dad must pack for two teams instead of one, as her spotter must also be a participant in the race. "We do sled dog tours for a living. And we stay broke racing," said Jerry Scdoris.
Scdoris grew up listening to her dad's sled dogs sing lullabies. "He used to take me on runs when I was a baby to put me down for a nap," said Scdoris. At some point she started dreaming of driving her own team.
She even camped outside for an entire year to get to know each of her dogs better. "This boy's always been a challenge to keep weight on," she said pointing to one of the race dogs. "Hopefully I can get him to gain a few pounds before the race."
She will need to; the dogs burn at least 10,000 calories a day, and Scdoris and her father have to pack three tons of dog food to stash along the Iditarod route. "There's only one way to do this--one bag at a time," said Jerry as he filled the bags with feed.
Race rules insist that Scdoris be able to do everything else herself--including changing the dog's protective booties, sixty-four of them every day. "It's basically who can take care--the best care--of their dogs the fastest," said Scdoris.
At first some of the other mushers worried about the safety of Scdoris's dogs over the 1,100 miles, so the race committee turned her down. Scdoris didn't complain. She set out to qualify, mushing nearly 800 miles over mountain passes with hairpin turns, competing in two of the toughest races around and finishing sixth in a field of twenty-eight.
"The guys have to give you a little respect if you've beaten them at the race," she said laughing. Fellow dog racer Libby Riddles should know. She's run the Iditarod six times and was the first woman to win in 1985.
The Iditarod begins March 5, but Scdoris and her dad are already driving--nonstop to the starting line. "I think Rachael's victory is the starting line. And then, every inch along the way will be a bonus for her," said Scdoris's father.
"Just being there will be like, Yes!" said Scdoris. It's a big victory for a woman who sees only possibilities.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Danika Taylor]
A Review of Rehabilitation in America:
Reflections of the Past, Observations of the Present,
and Speculations about the Future
by Danika Taylor
From the Editor: Danika Taylor is NFB copy editor. In the following literature review she lays out the history of rehabilitation efforts in the United States, describes the present situation, and speculates a bit on what the future may hold. It's a valuable compilation of what we know and an indication of the direction the NFB is urging the field to go. This is what she says:
Most blind people of working age in the United States come in contact with the rehabilitation system, and a number of older blind Americans beyond working age are also affected by it. As a result, the rehabilitation system is of vital importance to blind Americans. In some instances it has made a dramatic difference in the lives of its clients. However, at times rehabilitation programs have failed utterly.
What is the history of rehabilitation services in America? How did these services come into being, what are they, what should they be, and how did they get to be what they are? In programs to serve the disabled, rehabilitation may be defined as any activity that elevates individuals with disabilities from dependence to independence. Accordingly schools for the blind are a good starting point because education is basic to gaining freedom, empowerment, and true independence.
The first school for the blind in America, the New England Asylum for the Blind, was chartered in 1829 by the Massachusetts legislature and opened in 1832. Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe was chosen to be the director of this Watertown-based school, which is known today as the Perkins School for the Blind. The New York Institution for the Blind was chartered in 1831; the Philadelphia-based Overbrook School for the Blind was founded in 1832; and the Tennessee School for the Blind, founded by James Champlin, was established in 1844. By 1910, when the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired came into being, most states had schools for the blind.
A few residential schools for the blind have closed. According to Dr. Kay Alicyn Ferrell (2003), the increasing number of blind children being educated in the public school system caused a diminished interest in schools for the blind. Since the 1950's the proportion of blind students educated in separate environments from their sighted peers has decreased significantly. The percentages dropped partly because of the considerable increase in the number of children who survived premature birth and who were blind as a result. In fact, "The known count of children with visual disabilities in the United States grew 158 percent from 1950 to 1960, and another 50 percent from 1960 to 1970, after the rubella epidemic of the mid-1960's" (Ferrell 2003). As these children got ready to attend their residential schools, school officials realized that they did not have the means to support so many children at one time. So, rather than allowing their children to remain uneducated, parents decided to enroll them in public schools.
Statistics published on the University of Colorado Web site by Dr. Ferrell show that 88.4 percent of blind children were educated in residential schools in 1950. Dr. Ferrell also cites research that this number dropped "to 46.6 percent in 1960, [and] to 31.5 percent in 1972" (by Ferrell 2003). Finally, according to statistics published by the American Printing House for the Blind, "by 1999 the number of children with visual impairments being educated in separate school environments had dropped to 15 percent" (by Ferrell 2003).
From the beginning of programs for the blind, significant problems have existed with education and rehabilitation. The majority of problems stemmed from low expectations, which were shared by the public, held by a number of administrators of programs for the blind, and often even by the blind themselves. According to Dr. C. Esco Obermann, author of A History of Rehabilitation in America, the negative attitudes about blindness originated before biblical times, when blindness was considered a blemish and was commonly believed to be punishment "inflicted upon the sinful and the ungodly" (1965, 328). Dr. Obermann wrote that these "Biblical laws and pronouncements have powerfully influenced the attitudes in our Western culture. They have helped to prepare the conditions and roles of blind people and have helped to define some of the problems related to their vocational rehabilitation" (1965, 328). Consider the problems that persist to this day in the unemployment and underemployment rates among the blind and the discrimination that endures because of misconceptions about the capabilities of blind people. With these facts in mind it is not difficult to comprehend that Dr. Obermann's words, although published in 1965, are still relevant in 2005.
Samuel Gridley Howe, the first director of the Perkins School for the Blind, stated a main objective of his school to be "to train blind young people to be able to take their places in the social and economic life of their communities." The 1833 Address of the Trustees of the New England Institution for the Education of the Blind [now Perkins] to the Public recognized that a properly trained blind person could "attain as much excellence in mathematical, geographical, astronomical, and other sciences as many seeing persons, and that he can become as good a teacher of music, language, mathematics, and other sciences, yet all this, and more can he do."
This same document also stressed "the superiority of the blind to seeing persons as teachers of the blind; [saying] we agree with Dr. Howe, that no person can so well understand and overcome the difficulties which a blind child has to encounter in learning, as one who had to encounter and overcome them himself." The document goes on to quote Dr. Howe as saying, "A school for the blind without blind teachers is necessarily imperfect."
However, within a few years of the opening of the school, the trustees of Howe's school reported that his efforts to place students in the academic life of the community were failing. The majority of students were not obtaining meaningful employment upon graduation, and many returned to the school to seek further assistance. The annual report published in 1848 reveals that these goals had not been realized: "It must be confessed, however, that the hopes once entertained of the blind being able to turn their talents and acquirements to account by teaching other branches than music have not been fulfilled" (7). And considering that in 2005 the unemployment rate among capable blind people is estimated to be between 70 and 80 percent, it is safe to say that Howe's progressive objectives still remain to be realized.
Despite the enormous task before him, Howe continued to promote governmental support for programs to help the blind. His 1837 petition to Congress to establish a library for the blind was unsuccessful. However, Howe never lost his determination to secure books for blind readers, and he continued to urge government to help in their production.
On March 3, 1879, the first federal act benefiting blind students was passed. The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind provided funding to the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) for printing embossed books and producing apparatus for blind students throughout the country. Congress allocated $10,000 a year for books for the blind through a grant administered by APH, and this appropriation was later increased. The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind was expanded in 1946 to include large type, and the APH Large Type Department was established.
Today the American Printing House for the Blind provides special educational materials for visually impaired students, offers advisory services for consumers, and conducts applied research. The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind provides funds to APH through a direct appropriation. In fiscal year (FY) 2004 the federal appropriation was approximately 60 percent of APH's $27,850,000 budget. The federal appropriation was used to "provide free educational materials to approximately 57,500 persons with visual impairments at an average per student allotment of $212.23. It also supported initiatives to improve technical assistance and outreach services related to products produced through the Act and to conduct a wide variety of continuing and new research projects" (FY 2005 Budget Summary 2004).
Dr. Tuck Tinsley, president of APH, tells us about a few projects that have been budgeted for 2006. The organization is planning to "design instructional and self-help materials and printing guides to help blind students and adults develop the ability to print legibly; to develop and update instructional materials to help blind students develop skills in sewing, home maintenance, and personal management; and to develop materials to assist blind high school and transition students with decisions about post-secondary education and occupational development."
APH also sponsors an ongoing training program, holds various instructional workshops throughout the year, provides a list of blindness-connected research, promotes studies of product development for the blind, and provides other services intended to help blind people become better educated and more independent.
The Pratt-Smoot Act, which provided for the production of embossed books for adults, was enacted on March 3, 1931. The Librarian of Congress "was authorized to arrange with other libraries to serve as local or regional centers for the circulation of such books, under such conditions and regulations as he may prescribe." The next day Congress passed a joint resolution appropriating $100,000 for FY 1932 "to carry out the provisions of the Act to provide books for blind adults, and the program that would become the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH) was established" (NLS Factsheets 2004).
By 1934 the Talking Book had been developed, and in 1935 President Roosevelt allotted $211,500 to the Works Progress Administration for the construction of 5,000 Talking Book machines. The Library of Congress then loaned the machines to various libraries around the country. By 1946 the Library of Congress was fully committed for the first time to providing machines from its own appropriation (NLS Factsheets 2004). The Pratt-Smoot Act was amended in 1952 to allow for the production of books for children as well as adults. As Dr. Obermann notes, "the increase in books that resulted from the Federal laws greatly expanded the training and vocational rehabilitation possibilities for blind people." (1985, 48)
Although Samuel Gridley Howe had some progressive ideas about improving the lives of blind people in America, his work was by necessity experimental, and he was affected by some negative attitudes about blindness. Howe stated that "the school will offer education that is similar to what seeing children receive, except that music and crafts will be emphasized." In other words the blind would receive an "equal" education, but they should be taught to work with their hands. Students in schools for the blind came to expect training in what became known as "blind trades": tuning pianos, caning chairs, making brooms, and weaving rugs. In the economy of Howe's day, handwork was common. Apparently Dr. Howe believed that blind students needed more intense training in developing handwork skills than the sighted. Because the blind who possessed these skills were not accepted in the employment market, sheltered shops were established in which blind employees often earned only a few cents per hour performing these menial tasks.
The first so-called employment programs for blind adults were established on the campuses of residential schools for the blind. The Perkins Institution, as it was then called, established a sheltered workshop in 1850 to employ former students and other unemployed but capable blind people. After the establishment of this sheltered workshop in Massachusetts, many states followed with their own sheltered shops, thus helping to solidify the notion that blind people could not compete in the mainstream job market with their sighted peers, a problem that persists to this day. Therefore, although these pioneering institutions were established with good intentions and did some exceedingly valuable work, they sometimes felt it necessary to compromise in their support of the blind. Sometimes the compromises negatively affected public perceptions of blindness. Few of their graduates lived up to their full potential--they certainly did not receive all that rehabilitation might have been able to offer.
Following the establishment of schools for the blind, many states organized commissions for the blind to meet the social, medical, psychological, and economic needs of blind adults. Again Massachusetts was a pioneer in this endeavor, opening the first state commission for the blind in 1906; and other states followed. States that do not have separate commissions or departments specifically for the blind rely on other departments of state government to oversee the blindness division, which is sometimes buried too deeply within the larger umbrella agency to get the public attention required to stimulate resourcefulness and effectiveness.
Rehabilitation for the blind was almost exclusively based in state government or private effort until the twentieth century. As already mentioned, a federal law to support the publication of books for the blind became effective in 1879, but no other federal legislation to promote rehabilitation of the blind existed at that time.
Vocational rehabilitation (VR) aims to provide recipients with the skills needed for employment. VR did not receive federal support until the end of World War I, which had created thousands of veterans with disabilities. VR became a serious national effort because of this war; many people believed that veterans with some disabilities could be helped to gain or regain employment.
In 1920 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act into law, the first federal legislative support for programs for adults with disabilities. Under this act the federal government reimbursed 50 percent of the direct cost of VR services (vocational guidance, training, occupational adjustment services, and job placement) provided by a state to physically handicapped individuals. When first established, the federal VR program was not permanent, so Congress voted periodically to reauthorize it. Until 1943, however, blind citizens were left out of the public rehabilitation program because blind people were assumed to be too disabled for meaningful rehabilitation. The notion of feasibility relating to an individual's ability to engage in employment first appeared in the 1943 regulations implementing the amendments to the 1920 VR legislation. Over the years the notion of feasibility was used interchangeably with the notions of an individual's "employment potential," "employability," and "ability to benefit from VR services." The method by which these terms were to be interpreted and applied to individuals applying for VR services was changed in the 1990's.
Prior to the 1992 amendments, the individual had to demonstrate that he or she was feasible for VR services (i.e., he or she was employable). In this context the burden was placed on the individual. Amendments adopted in the 1990's turned this paradigm upside down, with the statutory presumption that the individual was feasible for VR services (i.e., was able to benefit from VR services with an employment outcome). With this presumption the burden was shifted from the individual to the agency. In order to rebut the presumption of benefit, the agency had to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that, because of the severity of the disability, the individual was not capable of benefiting from VR services with an employment outcome.
The Social Security Act of 1935 contained provisions to support aid for the blind with federal money. Prior to the adoption of this act, state or local governments had provided whatever government aid was available to the blind for living expenses. Social Security put more money into the hands of needy blind people than had previously been available. However, the act did little to encourage vocational rehabilitation. The Social Security Act, according to Dr. Floyd Matson, "introduced a battery of conditions and requirements which often bound the blind recipient more tightly than ever in dependency and red tape" (1990, 9).
A 1939 amendment to this act enforced even stricter requirements governing public welfare, and many blind people were left out altogether. The assumption of control by the government brought reaction from the blind. It was the leading topic on the agenda at the founding convention of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. As Dr. Matson puts it in Walking Alone and Marching Together, "The nationalizing of welfare led to the nationalizing of the organized blind movement" (1990, 10)
The Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 gave preference to blind people to operate vending stands on federal property, but in the beginning few blind people were able to secure stands under this act. The Randolph-Sheppard Act was amended in 1974 to include the operation of vending facilities, adding cafeterias and later military mess halls to the program. In FY 2002, according to documents released by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, a total of 2,681 blind vendors operated 3,129 vending facilities located on federal and other property. The program generated $453.6 million, and the average vendor earnings amounted to $37,323, slightly below the median U.S. income of just over $40,000.
The Wagner-O'Day Act of 1938 required the federal government to purchase certain products from workshops for the blind, in an attempt to expand employment opportunities in those workshops. This act was amended in 1971, when it received the title Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. It extended purchase authority to workshops for people with other severe disabilities in addition to blindness.
The first act of Congress that specifically included the blind in vocational rehabilitation was the Barden-LaFollette Act of 1943. It expanded eligibility for vocational rehabilitation to include, among other disabled groups, the blind. Before this act, the blind were not generally considered eligible for services under the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program, although there was no stated prohibition to serving the blind.
In 1975 Congress adopted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, but in signing it the president expressed doubts about its value. On December 2, 1975, President Gerald Ford made the following statement: "Unfortunately, this bill promises more than the Federal Government can deliver, and its good intentions could be thwarted by the many unwise provisions it contains. Everyone can agree with the objective stated in the title of this bill--educating all handicapped children in our nation. The key question is whether the bill will really accomplish that objective" (Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum Web site 2004).
In 1990 this act was reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The act states that all children with disabilities must have available to them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living. With its current budget of 10.1 billion dollars, IDEA provides funds to assist states in the education of students with disabilities and requires that states ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected. IDEA also assists states in providing early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. IDEA authorizes a one billion dollar increase for its FY 2005 budget. If granted, this request would provide an average of "$1,612 each for about 6.9 million children with disabilities" (FY 2005 budget summary).
"At this level of funding," according to the FY 2005 budget summary, "the Federal contribution would equal about 20 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure for all children" (FY 2005 budget summary 2004).
In 1998 the Assistive Technology Act authorized state grant programs and protection and advocacy systems to address the assistive technology needs of people with disabilities. The act also authorized the development of alternative financing mechanisms to assist people with disabilities in purchasing assistive technology. This act is important to rehabilitation because it is necessary in today's workforce to be computer literate and to have access to technology.
To this point this article has been a summary of the history of legislation and other actions dealing with education and rehabilitation of the blind. We began with schools for the blind, moved to the establishment of sheltered workshops, observed the growing importance of reading for the blind, described employment programs in vending facilities, contemplated broad-range rehabilitation, and finally returned to public education of the blind. We must still ask about the current state of rehabilitation for the blind in America.
The idea of having a residential orientation and adjustment center to train and empower blind adults is relatively new. Father Thomas Carroll Jr. was a pioneer, if a sometimes misguided one. Father Carroll was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1909 and ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1938. He was assigned to the position of assistant director of the Catholic Guild for All the Blind, in Newton, Massachusetts, and subsequently held several positions that would involve him in work with the blind. Father Carroll worked with blinded veterans during World War II; he served as auxiliary chaplain of Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital, the U.S. Army's Experimental Rehabilitation Center in Connecticut; he held a similar position at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; and he became director of the Catholic Guild for All the Blind in 1947.
In 1952 Father Carroll introduced to the Guild (later renamed the Carroll Center) the idea that, after receiving proper instruction, blind people could travel safely with a cane. Father Carroll established the St. Paul's Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in 1954, a year after the establishment of the California Orientation and Adjustment Center, which was the first effort to ground an adult training program for the blind in the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. So the St. Paul's program was actually the second "civilian [facility] that provided comprehensive rehabilitation for the newly blinded," according to a statement on the Carroll Center Web site. Father Carroll did not use the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, and many of his ideas were not particularly effective in empowering and teaching independence. He believed that blindness is a tragedy that can be mitigated but never eradicated. In fact, in his controversial book, Blindness: What It Is, What It Does, and How to Live with It, Father Carroll states that blindness is "a dying" (1961, 13).
He used instruction in fencing to teach travel. He believed that the skills of fencing would help blind people develop the balance, dexterity, and coordination necessary for cane travel. Many, many thousands of blind people have learned to travel without being taught to fence. Although fencing is a fine sport and anyone who wants to learn it should do so, there is little evidence to support the notion that fencing is necessary to travel with a cane.
"Visualization" or "videation" was another skill taught at the Carroll Center. Visualization was based on the notion that a newly blinded adult "is a sighted person in his whole physiological make-up, and he will suffer the complete disruption of his ingrained way of learning about and experiencing reality unless he can continue to operate according to such a visual pattern" (Carroll 1961, 119-122).
Father Carroll believed that newly blinded adults could learn to visualize their surroundings based on memories from when they had sight and that this visualization would help them maneuver more easily. One obvious problem with this method is that it excludes people who are congenitally blind. Also we now know that properly trained blind people can travel quite well without developing visualization skills. Dr. Jernigan wrote in the January 1988 Braille Monitor that "This concept [visualization] violated everything I thought I knew about how to teach blind persons to live in the normal world" (1988, 49).
Dr. Jernigan made this comment after a visit to the Carroll Center. He was not impressed with their methods, which included guided walkways, dormitory doors with no locks (apparently for the safety of the blind students, who were adults), a six-week course on how to pour liquid into a cup, and a no-cane policy in the lunchroom so that the students' resting white canes would not impede other diners as they sauntered through the designated traffic pattern in the room (Jernigan 1988, 50).
Certainly the Carroll Center's methods continue the stereotypes that blindness is a tragedy and that blind people are less capable than others, as Dr. Jernigan put it, and the center does not teach the truth about blindness (1988, 50). But while Father Carroll may not have been correct in all of his methods, teachings, and philosophy, he believed in the rehabilitation of blind people before many others in the field.
He also believed in educating the public. He devoted an entire chapter of his book to this very notion. He states the importance of doing away with "the whole idea of the blind as helpless, dependent, pitiable people who are somehow ‘different' from the rest of...society" (1961, 244). He states, "Blind people are individuals of all kinds and types...with a handicap that can be overcome so as to make normal active living not the exception among blind persons but the general rule" (1961, 244).
A few years after Father Carroll established his rehabilitation center in Massachusetts, Dr. Jernigan began a revolution in work with the blind when he became director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1958. He had been a member of the faculty at the California Orientation and Adjustment Center from 1953 until he left for Iowa. He created a residential adult orientation and adjustment center that used the principles of the National Federation of the Blind. The experiment was dramatically successful, and the Iowa model, or the civil rights-based model (as the techniques employed in Iowa came to be known), was recognized all over the world as the most effective and progressive blind service program.
While results in Iowa were overwhelmingly successful, the fact remains that the fundamental undertaking of the program (changing students' point of view) is a daunting challenge, and the techniques employed must be as dramatic as the change being sought. To some the ideas taught at the Iowa Commission were radical. Although the Iowa model was never wholeheartedly adopted by a majority of training programs in the United States, its importance was felt throughout the rehabilitation system, and despite the doubts some people felt about it, its positive effects were clear.
In 2005 every state has some form of training program for blind adults. State agencies are funded partially by Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants, which provide funds to state vocational rehabilitation agencies to help people with disabilities become gainfully employed. Funds are distributed according to a formula that takes into account population and per capita income. Currently the federal budget for VR state grants is just over 2.5 billion dollars, but the budgetary request for FY 2005 is around 2.7 billion dollars. This request, an increase of 113.5 million dollars or 4.4 percent, would "help state VR agencies increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in the labor force" (Vocational Rehabilitation 2003).
Of the existing adult residential training centers, fewer than ten use the civil rights-based Iowa model. Some states have general VR agencies, umbrella agencies that serve people who have any type of disability, and some states have separate agencies specifically for the blind. Because the needs of the blind are unique, a separate, independent agency is best according to many experts in the field, including Jim Omvig, who devoted an entire chapter of his book Freedom for the Blind (2002) to this notion.
Around "one hundred residential programs for persons who are blind in the United States that provide vocational, pre-vocational, and independent living services to consumers of the Title I Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program" exist today (Vaughan 1998, 818). Of this number three are independent, privately run centers that implement NFB training philosophy and the Iowa model: the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB), and Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Incorporated) in Minnesota. Like the Iowa Commission under Dr. Jernigan, these centers have proven to be very effective. Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan (1998) conducted a study of these three centers. The study, "An Organizational Approach to the Evaluation of Rehabilitation Outcomes: Assessing Three Private Rehabilitation Agencies," praises these centers as "offering remarkably effective residential rehabilitation programs" (1998, 833).
Dr. Vaughan observes, "There is a pervasive, upbeat atmosphere which would be hard for any student to ignore. From the board of directors, director, staff, and students there is a strong commitment to the values and importance of these rehabilitation centers. Almost everyone sets high expectations, and everyone wants each student to succeed" (1998, 833). Obviously these centers are promoting high expectations, teaching independence, and empowering blind adults.
In addition a few state-run centers are currently using the civil rights-based model for their programs. These state centers are in Hawaii, Nebraska, and New Mexico. Dr. Pearl Van Zandt, executive director of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, says, "In Nebraska we have used the techniques of sleepshades, blind instructors in every area, and structured discovery for thirty years. It is a very successful model, with excellent results for clients."
Greg Trapp is the executive director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, which was established in 1986. The agency adopted the civil rights-based model from the beginning. Mr. Trapp notes that there is a "clear lineage that can be drawn from Kenneth Jernigan to Dr. Fred Schroeder, who was a student of Dr. Jernigan and the first director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind."
"To create more opportunities for blind children and adults," says Mr. Trapp, "more professionals in the field must recognize the models and the programs that work and engage in a concerted effort to replicate them."
But in the final analysis it isn't the obvious aspects of an agency that make it effective. It isn't the use of sleepshades, although they should be used. It isn't the hiring of blind instructors, although a good center would no doubt employ some blind instructors. And it isn't the implementation of the structured-discovery method, although structured discovery has proven to be the most effective teaching method so far. The difference between a program that works and one that does not is the active participation of the National Federation of the Blind. The fighting spirit of the Federation must be visible within an agency serving the blind in order for it to be truly effective.
A state program for the blind cannot easily reach beyond the borders of the state to take advantage of resources in other parts of the country and to employ the talents of individuals who are engaged in thriving businesses and other energetic activities. Furthermore most programs for the blind would find it difficult to exert pressure on state government or business--pressure that can create opportunities for blind clients and pressure that the NFB often brings to bear. The excitement of the Federation must be infused into the program; without excitement the program is likely to be dull, and the results will be unsatisfactory.
Residential centers around the country employ a variety of professionals. Some are agency trained. They are qualified because of their valuable firsthand knowledge and experience. Others have university degrees that validate their status as professionals in rehabilitation. While having a degree from a university is beneficial, that degree is not much help to the clients if the graduate holding it does not have high expectations for the students in the program. A number of university programs do not teach empowerment and high expectations. As a result the professionals completing these programs do not instill a set of positive beliefs in their students.
Currently nineteen universities have programs that specialize in the instruction of rehabilitation professionals, and these programs are usually part of the institution's department or school of education. They typically offer degrees in orientation and mobility and teaching the visually impaired. In addition some programs offer a degree in rehabilitation counseling. According to Dr. Fred Schroeder, former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and currently a research professor at San Diego State University, training programs offered by universities are sometimes insufficient. "Many programs teach medical aspects [of blindness] and theory, but they don't get to the heart of what is needed," says Dr. Schroeder.
One of the newest university programs training professionals in blindness is the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness [the Institute], a department in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. The Institute was established by the Louisiana Center for the Blind in 1999 and became a department at Louisiana Tech University in October 2001 with Dr. Fred Schroeder serving as its first director.
"The purpose of the Institute," says current Institute director Ron Gardner, "is to provide leadership in creating programs and conducting research that recognize the socially constructed assumptions underpinning the current structure of the blindness system and research being done on blindness."
"Louisiana Tech University is unique for two specific and very important reasons," Mr. Gardner says. "It is the only university that requires every graduate student to participate in an immersion experience in blindness at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. And it is the only university program that prepares blindness professionals in the structured-discovery method for skills training."
Mr. Gardner stresses the importance of immersion: "The immersion experience takes place under sleepshades," he says. "This is designed to demonstrate to the graduate students that the skills needed to be employed and to participate meaningfully in society can be used efficiently and effectively through nonvisual means."
He adds, "The Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University is the only university program that prepares blindness professionals using the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind." Much of the Institute's curriculum is based on the writings, speeches, and research of leaders in the National Federation of the Blind.
The Institute's O and M program instills a positive expectation for independent travel and the technical skills and knowledge to support this belief system. The program stresses nonvisual instruction, structured-discovery learning, and well-developed travel skills. Students in this program are expected to demonstrate proficiency teaching the skills and attitudes of O and M as defined under the structured-discovery learning model.
"By using the empowerment model discussed in Freedom for the Blind by James H. Omvig," says Mr. Gardner, "our graduate students learn to teach nonvisual skills and remove attitudinal barriers. The result is that their clients will move from dependence to independence."
Another distinctive feature of this program is that graduates will be competent in Braille. In addition to the thirty-nine-hour O and M concentration, the Institute offers a forty-five-hour program in TBS, or Teachers of Blind Students. To earn the TBS degree concentration, graduates must read ninety Braille words per minute because the program recognizes that "Teachers of blind children must be Braille literate before blind children can be literate" (Professional Development 2005). Institute students can choose between these two programs, which will provide graduates with a master's degree in educational psychology with a concentration in O and M or TBS. Students may also choose to enter both programs and pursue a double concentration.
Students who complete the O and M degree at the Institute are eligible to apply for the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) assessment offered by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). The NBPCB was created to certify qualified specialists in work with the blind. The NBPCB's stated mission is "to provide the blindness field with certified professionals who believe in the normalcy of blind persons and who possess the knowledge and the skills necessary for the empowerment of blind persons."
The first organization in work with the blind to offer certification for O and M instructors was the American Association of Workers for the Blind, now known as the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Because of long-standing misconceptions AER certification is not offered to agency-trained specialists, and it was not originally offered to blind travel teachers. In fact, most university O and M programs were closed to the blind, and some still argue that O and M instructors need to be sighted.
With some persuasion from both the National Federation of the Blind and the Americans with Disabilities Act, these prohibitions have technically been eliminated. Some blind people have been allowed to enroll in university programs and are certified, but in some cases the traditional training programs and the certification process continue to revolve around sight and to emphasize visual techniques for instruction. A number of years ago AER transferred its certification process to an entity established by a number of AER members. The entity is called the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP). This organization, often called the Academy, does not carry all of the AER baggage, but some of the approaches favored by AER appear to remain in the new certification body.
The creation of the Institute at Louisiana Tech stimulated the need for a new certification. The Institute was designed to be an alternative to traditional university programs. At Louisiana Tech all qualified students, whether blind or sighted, are welcome. Some traditional university programs endorse the principle that blindness is a colossal loss or a tragedy and that no amount of training will enable a blind person truly to compete on terms of equality with sighted associates. The Institute's programs promote the philosophy that blind people are as normal and as capable as anybody else.
Receiving a university degree and passing a multiple-choice test qualifies candidates for AER/Academy certification. Candidates for the NBPCB's NOMC must pass a performance-based certification, which ensures that recipients are well trained in practical O and M skills. As of today Louisiana Tech is the only institution of higher education in which one can obtain this certification.
Until 1992 no requirement existed that state institutions hire counselors who had formal training in rehabilitation counseling. The Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) changed this; it mandated state agencies to hire qualified counselors. State agencies must develop standards consistent with the CSPD provisions for all professional and paraprofessional staff employed by the state agency. One way to be qualified is to obtain a master's degree in an appropriate subject from an accredited university. The law does not require additional certification for rehabilitation counselors, as long as they have an appropriate university degree, but professional certification does exist. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) oversees this certification process, and, according to the organization's Web site, CRCC has certified over 30,000 counselors since 1974 (CRCC 2001). Despite the recent emergence of certifications, standards, and performance-based tests, a piece of paper does not necessarily guarantee that the professional in question is a good role model for his or her clients. Unless the counselor has been trained truly to empower clients, that professional is doing a disservice to consumers and to the field in general. Many professionals in rehabilitation have given attention to implementing methods for empowering clients. Though this trend appears to be relatively new, it promises tremendous advances.
Two different models of rehabilitation are taught on college campuses. Evidence shows that the structured-discovery method of travel is considerably more effective than any other. Rehabilitation programs should examine the evidence and should consider teaching the structured-discovery model to blindness professionals. Proper training leads to empowerment, and empowerment leads to freedom. Highly trained, competent, and motivated blindness professionals who possess the proper attitudes are an essential part of the future for blind people who want to change the myths and misconceptions about blindness and who want to improve the dismal unemployment rate for blind workers.
Louisiana Tech has inaugurated a program with a new discipline that produces astonishing positive results. Those who have graduated from the program have made substantial contributions to the blindness field. "These graduates," says Dr. Schroeder, "can demonstrate in their careers that better strategies exist and that there are better ways to create employment opportunities. These graduates may later start programs of their own [based on the techniques learned at Louisiana Tech]. The traditional programs aren't all necessarily wrong; many are just incomplete."
RSA Commissioner Dr. Joanne Wilson says that she wants to help professionals who either work in the program or are training to work in the rehabilitation system to "develop a philosophy of high expectations and then to give them the tools and the go-ahead to use those high expectations."
Dr. Wilson became the federal RSA commissioner in 2001, when President George W. Bush appointed her to the position. As a former consumer of the vocational rehabilitation system, founder and director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, former chairperson of the Louisiana State Rehabilitation Council, and a previous national and state leader in the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Wilson has seen the rehabilitation system from all perspectives. In all of her roles, she has promoted and emphasized the importance of communication and collaboration between blind consumers and RSA.
According to Dr. Wilson the primary role of the rehabilitation system is "to empower individuals with disabilities by providing the information, skills, training, education, confidence, and support services they need to make informed choices which will lead to truly meaningful employment and independence." The role of consumer groups in this effort is crucial to success. Representative groups, such as the National Federation of the Blind, offer "services that can really make a difference in the effectiveness of the rehabilitation system," she says.
Mentoring and role modeling are among the services that consumer organizations can provide. Dr. Wilson says, "Consumers come to the rehabilitation system because they want the experts on disability to tell them that there is hope for their lives. Who better to give that kind of hope than consumer organizations?"
With respect to blindness Dr. Wilson also believes that residential training centers for the blind must work with the organized blind. Members of the blind community can "help to build up our adjustment-to-disability components in the rehabilitation system through active participation on advisory and policy boards, at local and national conferences, and in volunteer efforts as mentors and successful role models for other blind persons."
Dr. Wilson leads by example, demonstrating how blind consumers can help to improve the rehabilitation system at multiple levels. Members of consumer organizations, through their own expertise and life experiences, can do much to improve the rehabilitation system through active involvement; and, rehabilitation programs throughout the country can significantly enhance their resources and success by inviting participation by people with disabilities in the rehabilitation process.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." With this in mind, members of the organized blind must be active in promoting the changes that need to occur in education and the rehabilitation field in order for blind people across this country and the world to have more opportunities and to continue to change the misconceptions that still exist about blindness. The unemployment rate among capable blind people must be reduced. Some professionals in the rehabilitation field do not hold high expectations for their blind clients, but an increasing number do. More programs to challenge the blind to excel must be built, and those that currently exist must be encouraged. How the laws are interpreted, how policies are made and implemented, and how the rehabilitation programs are operated are not a matter for speculation.
The blind have the opportunity and the responsibility to determine the future of rehabilitation. In the past officials in the rehabilitation system told the blind what was good for them. However, the blind of the U.S. have become partners in the process--sometimes welcomed, sometimes tolerated, sometimes feared. Rehabilitation is a vital element in the future of all blind people, and it must welcome the blind as partners. The blind also have a responsibility to build and support quality rehabilitation programs. If we work together with our colleagues in the programs established to serve the blind, nothing can prevent us from building a bright future.
Brooks, Edward, Horace Mann, and S.C. Phillips. 1833. 1833 Address of the Trustees of the New England Institution for the Education of the Blind to the Public. Boston: Carter, Hendee and Company. http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/lib/docs/1926card.htm. Disability History Museum. www.disabilitymuseum.org, [cited February 15, 2005].
The Carroll Center for the Blind. 2004. http://www.carroll.org/, [cited 15 December 2004].
Carroll, Rev. Thomas J. 1961. Blindness: what it is, what it does, and how to live with it. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. [CRCC] 2001. 2004]. http://www.crccertification.com/, [cited 9 December].
Ferrell, Kay Alicyn. 2003. "Issues in the field of blindness and low vision." University of Northern Colorado. http://www.nclid.unco.edu/BVIissues.html, [cited 15 December 2004].
Fiscal year 2005 budget summary. 2004. Washington D.C.: Department of Education, http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget05/summary/edlite-section1.html, [cited 14 December 2004].
Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum Web site. "President Gerald R. Ford's statement on signing the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975." http://www.ford.utexas.edu/library/speeches/750707.htm, [cited 15 December 2004].
Jernigan, Kenneth. 1988. "The legacy of Father Carroll." The Braille Monitor, 31:48-51.
Lowenfeld, Berthold. 1981. Berthold Lowenfeld on blindness and blind people. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
NLS Factsheets: The national cooperative network. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/nls/reference/factsheets/network.html, [cited 16 December 2004].
Obermann, C. Esco. 1965. A history of vocational rehabilitation in America. Minneapolis: T. S. Denison & Company, Inc.
Omvig, James H. 2002. Freedom for the Blind: The secret is empowerment. Region VI Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program, University of Arkansas Press.
Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness. 2005. "Teachers of blind students." Ruston, LA: Louisiana Tech University Department of Education. http://www.instituteonblindness.latech.edu/tbs_index.shtml, [cited 15 December 2005].
Sixteenth annual report of the trustees of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind to the corporation. 1848. Cambridge: Metcalf and Co.
Vaughan, C. Edwin. 1998. "An organizational approach to the evaluation of rehabilitation outcomes: Assessing three private rehabilitation agencies." Braille Monitor. 41:818-833.
Vocational rehabilitation state grants. 2003. Washington, D.C.: Department of Education. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004/pma/vocationalrehab, [cited 15 December 2004].
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gary Wunder]
Talking Sense and Avoiding Platitudes about Blindness
by Gary Wunder
From the Editor: We all occasionally fall into the temptation of seeing the world in black and white rather than in the shades of color that actually make up our lives and experience. I sometimes fear that the advent of email and its temptation to make instantaneous judgments markedly increases this tendency. I gather that Gary Wunder, president of our Missouri affiliate and secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, happened upon an email exchange moving in this unfortunate direction. At my request, he wrote a brief introduction to his response and sent it along to me. This is what he says:
Whenever blind people gather to talk about common problems and how to solve them, you can bet the discussion will be lively, thought-provoking, and frequently emotional. Quite often these days our discussions are held electronically on lists set up for the purpose of making this kind of communication possible. Never before has it been so easy to talk with so many, but this new technology is fraught with the age-old problems hampering serious communication, in addition to imposing a few of its own. It's hard not to fall into the trap of believing you're not being heard and to send the electronic equivalent of "Yes, but what I am saying is," which, as in face-to-face communication, evokes the same response in the recipient, who is equally sure she isn't being heard. Now remove from this emotionally charged and intellectually difficult discussion the cues given by one's tone of voice and inflection, and it's easy for people to misunderstand what others are trying to convey. Sometimes we are so wedded not only to what we are saying but the way we are saying it that we talk past one another, and our discussion erodes into responses which frequently begin with, "Yes, but what I'm saying is," or "What you seem unable to understand is... "
It was this observation that caused me to chime in on an email discussion about the nature of blindness a few weeks ago in which one of the issues of contention was whether we should work to change attitudes or instead work to tear down the barrier of inaccessibility which now threatens our education, our jobs, and our future.
After reading my post, several people encouraged me to send it along for whatever good it might do in the broader discussion we carry on here in the Monitor. With minor editorial changes on my part and perhaps major editorial changes from Barbara, here is what I wrote:
Sometimes when I preside over meetings, I see people who are very close on issues and yet, because of a word, a phrase, or a tone of voice, are committed to argue their points until the last dog dies. What is blindness--a mighty large question to answer in a phrase, and what is the purpose of any answer which could be so simply put?
To me, whether blindness is a nuisance and an inconvenience has much to do with the way I approach the world and my place in it, but day to day, whether it is a nuisance or something more depends on what I'm doing and to some degree how I happen to be feeling. When I drop something and have to hunt a bit longer for it than the sighted person who has watched me drop it and clearly sees it on the carpet, blindness is a nuisance and an inconvenience. But I'd rather be blind than suffer from a back problem which would prohibit me from bending to retrieve the object. When I'm given the opportunity to be the lead programmer to explore and implement a new piece of software but that software doesn't function at all with my screen reader, then blindness is more than a nuisance. I'd like to live in a world where my blindness is my issue alone, where my resourcefulness is so superb that, other than the physical observation that I carry a cane, no one around me even has to consider that I do not see. The truth I experience, however, is that my blindness is not so well camouflaged. My managers and coworkers understand that my technology allows me to do some things, and some things it does not. I can and do hire sighted assistance out of my own pocket for reading and transportation, but practically speaking this does not meet all the real-world needs I would like to accommodate. I cannot remain economically self-sufficient and hire a sighted reader to be with me throughout my work day. Neither can I hold someone in reserve eight hours a day to be ready for the ten minutes I need sighted help.
Recently an update to our hospital's workstations failed, and my colleagues were dispatched to each floor and to our outlying clinics. Their instructions were to perform a procedure deemed too complicated for the average doctor, nurse, or hospital administrator to perform. Doing workstation maintenance is not something people at my level would normally do--we have too much education and are paid far too much--but when emergencies strike, we don't quibble. I was of no help here. My ability to interact efficiently with the system means modifying one computer for my use. Moreover, the transportation which reliably gets me to and from work could not meet the need filled by my office mate who traveled twenty miles to an off-site clinic.
All I have said thus far would tend to weigh in on the side of blindness being much more than a nuisance and an inconvenience, but generally the nuisance proposition is the one to which I subscribe. A philosophy or an ideology is not something which can be applied absolutely. The world is never that simple. The Golden Rule is one I love, but not only can I not live it as completely as I would like, I'm not even confident that strict adherence to it would produce the desired result in my life. I don't want to kill human beings, but neither do I want to be in a position where an adversary is confident I won't do anything to him I wouldn't want done to me. I hold the Golden Rule as divinely inspired, but its application does not relieve me of the responsibility to decide when I will apply it and to consider whether in every situation its application is possible in the world.
I believe we live in a wonderful country, and when I think of it, I think of representative democracy; the land of the free; a government created of the people, by the people, and for the people; and a nation that values justice regardless of one's social class, race, gender, or disability. When I say these things, I do so knowing they provide the looking glass through which I see my country and my role as a citizen who loves her. At the same time I recognize many realities that suggest my claims for her are at best a dream and at worst an indefensible lie: It is better to be sick and rich in America than to be sick and poor; better to be rich and in legal trouble than poor and in legal trouble; better to walk many of our streets as a white man than to walk them as a black man. Skin color in my country should have nothing to do with the level of suspicion one's presence evokes, but the reality is often very different.
It is better to be a high-ranking official when Enron collapses than to be one of its employees forbidden to trade their stock in the declining weeks and months of the company's existence. A handful lose incomprehensible fortunes when the false claims of the company are revealed, but the vast majority lose everything. A few suffer society's judgment and punishment when they are found to have been dishonest, while those who worked for them suffer the harsher societal judgment that they have not adequately planned for their families' housing, food, medical care, and eventually their own retirement. How can this be so in a nation filled with people committed to seeking and following the will of a just and merciful God and in a land where the law mediates between the stifling of opportunities for business and the uncontrolled greed of a few?
I believe firmly that choices we make result in a real difference in our lives, but no reasonable person can argue that all of the good or all of the bad which happens to us is controlled by our choices or could have been foreseen by a rational person.
For me, saying blindness is a nuisance and an inconvenience is not an absolute, all-encompassing statement about the condition of not seeing or of the social problems which are created from that lack of sight. The statement is not the bedrock of NFB philosophy, and it is not a litmus test to determine whether one is or is not a Federationist. To me the concept of blindness as a nuisance or an inconvenience has value when contrasted with the view that blindness is a tragic condition which is the predominant characteristic of the one who is blind. Does the view I take between these two extremes make a difference? You bet it does. One view leaves me hopeless; the other gives me hope. One view says nothing in my life can be more important than that I do not see. The other tells me there are many components which make up Gary Wunder and that blindness is but one of them. One view finds me expecting the worst because I am the worst, while the other encourages me to use all my God-given talents in the dealings I have each day. One view says stay home and bother people as little as you can because you are, indeed, a bother, while the other says go forth, compete, make a contribution, take on the responsibilities of being a full-fledged human because that is exactly what you are.
Do we work on changing attitudes, or concentrate only on combating inaccessibility? For me the attitude from which one proceeds makes all the difference, for if there is no capability to contribute to the betterment of oneself and the world, then removing obstacles through increased access is both impossible and fruitless. If we talk only about attitudes, we create words without action. Which is more important, the air I breathe or the water I drink? At any given moment the answer depends on whether I'm thirsty or out of breath, but the abundance of one in the absence of the other is deadly.
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or a car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susan Povinelli]
Why I Bought a PAC Mate
by Susan Povinelli
From the Editor: As the electronic notetaker options facing blind consumers proliferate, it becomes more and more clear that each shopper must evaluate his or her personal needs and expertise in order to make a sound decision about which one to choose. Susan Povinelli is a member of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. She has a demanding professional and personal life as an engineer and wife and mother. In the Summer/Fall 2004 issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia, she discussed her personal reasons for choosing the PAC Mate. The issues she considered will apply to other shoppers, even though the decisions they come to may well be different. This is what Susan says:
In today's market you can find several excellent electronic notetakers for the blind. How do you choose between them? Your decision should be based on how you plan to use the notetaker and your personal preferences about the operating system and the vendor. Here are the reasons I selected the PAC Mate QX400 for myself. I hope some of the decisions I made will help you decide which notetaker meets your needs.
First, I considered the physical characteristics of the notetaker. I preferred a standard computer keyboard versus a Braille keyboard. Although I can use a Braille keyboard, I am more familiar and comfortable with the standard (QWERTY) keyboard version; therefore I am more accurate in my typing.
I also chose the PAC Mate because it had a forty-cell Braille display. Even though this would make the notetaker heavier and bulkier to carry, I found the larger Braille display useful at meetings. Listening to the text from a notetaker can be distracting during a meeting. This way I could pay attention and still take notes.
Another consideration that guided my choice was the operating system. I did not want to learn a new operating system, and the PAC Mate is based on the Microsoft Pocket Window system, which works very similarly to the Windows operating system with which I am familiar from both my home and work computers. I also thought that, if I encountered trouble with the PAC Mate, a sighted person with a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) which also uses the same operating system, might be able to help. I was also interested in the compatibility of Microsoft Office software. I spend the majority of my time working on databases and spreadsheets, and I wanted a notetaker that could handle them. The PAC Mate comes with Pocket Excel, which works very similarly to Microsoft Excel. I can transfer the files between my computer and the PAC Mate, which would allow me to work on them or refer to them when I am away from my office.
The PAC Mate could transfer Microsoft Word files and documents scanned by Open Book software, so I can refer to policies away from my desk. It also has another word processing program called FSEdit, which accepts Pocket Word and Rich Text Format files and can be translated into contracted Braille and embossed.
The PAC Mate also has an excellent calendar and task program. This is the first electronic calendar I have ever been able to use. You can also synchronize it with your Microsoft Outlook calendar.
The final reason for choosing the PAC Mate was that I know Freedom Scientific provides excellent online help files, which are easy to follow. They give step-by-step instructions on how to install software and hardware and perform file management. They also supply audible tutorials that provide the necessary information to get started.
I prefer to read Braille instructions when learning how to operate a new device. I was able to print the help files in Braille so I could follow along as I learned how to use my PAC Mate.
I have to confess that the PAC Mate has a few drawbacks. The first is that it does not come with a serial or parallel interface port. You have to use the infrared connector or Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable to interface with your home computer or printers. For example, I had no trouble connecting my PAC Mate to my embosser once I plugged in the infrared connector in the embosser's parallel port. This was not a major obstacle since parallel-to-infrared connectors are readily available from computer supply stores. However, this convenience costs an additional fifty dollars.
The second disadvantage and the one that will probably drive me crazy is that, when PAC Mate freezes up and a warm reset doesn't work, you have to use a hard reset to get the machine started again. This hard reset erases all the files on the PAC Mate, so it is necessary to reload your calendar and files afterward. I have to confess I lost the rough draft of this article because I froze up my machine and hadn't backed up my files. This can be resolved by backing up your data to your home computer or frequently saving it to a compact flash memory card.
Backing up your PAC Mate is easy using the Microsoft Active Sync software. It you have it set to back up every time you connect to your PC, it should help avoid the problem of disappearing files. One other disadvantage I have encountered is that you must turn off the battery saver feature before embossing a document, or your PAC Mate will shut down in the middle of a printing job.
The PAC Mate does not have the capability to print part of a document. You have to start printing all over again if interrupted. This can be really annoying if the document is very large, say forty pages or more. Hopefully this issue will be corrected in future updates to the PAC Mate's software.
If you think that I am putting away my slate and stylus in favor of the PAC Mate, you are wrong. I still plan to use them for quick notes on the go. You can always slip a pocket slate, 3 by 5 cards, and a stylus in your pocket, but for large databases and documents, you need a notetaker.
Before you buy your notetaker, keep in mind the following items:
Where and how will you use it?
Are you willing to learn a new operating system and its commands, or do you wish to stick with one that is familiar?
Does the notetaker come with programs and utilities you can use?
How will the notetaker connect to other devices like computers and printers?
How good is the technical support offered by the vendor?
Good luck with any notetaker you decide to buy.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
Clarification from Curtis Chong's Email Basket
From the Editor: Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, recently sent me an exchange of correspondence that serves to clarify a statement that he made in the article, "Accessibility to Microsoft Products" in the December 2004 Braille Monitor. I invited Doug Geoffray of GW Micro to amplify his response to Curtis's message. Here is Curtis Chong's cover note to me, his message to Messrs. Geoffray and Damray, and Mr. Geoffray's response:
Please find below an exchange of correspondence I had with Doug Geoffray from GW Micro and Eric Damray of Freedom Scientific. It relates to the article published in the December 2004 Monitor about accessibility to Microsoft products and my statement that Citrix continues to be largely inaccessible to the blind. In my message I acknowledge that my statement could have been more specific (see below).
In his response Doug says, in effect, that GW Micro and its screen reading program, Window‑Eyes, are not properly recognized as a pioneer in this industry. I believe this to be true. Window‑Eyes introduced the concept of a virtual cursor on Web pages before JAWS; Window‑Eyes worked with the Acrobat Reader to read PDF documents before JAWS; and Window‑Eyes supported access to the Citrix terminal server for more than a year before it was included with JAWS.
I would point out, however, that JAWS for Windows does tend to work with a broader set of application software and that GW Micro is only now beginning to catch up. Note, for example, Doug's reference to Window‑Eyes' enhanced support for Microsoft Word. This support is now included in a beta version of Window‑Eyes. I do not know at this point whether the support is comparable to, worse than, or better than that provided by JAWS. However, I will be taking steps to learn more about this. Regarding such programs as Microsoft Excel and Access, JAWS still would appear to outperform Window‑Eyes.
In any case, here is the correspondence.
Doug and Eric:
It has come to my attention that some of my comments in the December edition of the Braille Monitor regarding Citrix have caused some concern and perhaps a belief that I am not acknowledging the good work that both GW Micro and Freedom Scientific have done to make it possible for users of their products to run applications on a Citrix terminal server. My statement that "So far Citrix has been inaccessible to the blind despite the best efforts of all screen access technology vendors" seems to have caused the most concern.
On its face this statement is not correct, given the heroic efforts by both of your companies in this area. For the record, I am well aware that as of this writing (January 2, 2005), both GW Micro and Freedom Scientific have implemented and are now distributing versions of their screen access programs with full support for Citrix. In retrospect, what I should have said was, "So far Citrix can only be made accessible to the blind by installing a copy of the screen access program on the terminal server, despite the best efforts of all screen access technology vendors."
I apologize for the misstatement. It was made in the context of a discussion with Microsoft in which I was trying to communicate my concerns about the need to install any screen access technology at all on a server platform. Despite everybody's best effort in this area, if we cannot install JAWS or Window‑Eyes on the Citrix server, there is simply no accessibility to applications running on the Citrix terminal server. Moreover, this requirement does give rise to a host of security concerns that only add to the possible difficulties already in the minds of potential employers who are reluctant to install any so-called foreign technology on their desktop platforms--let alone a critical server potentially threatened by hostile programs rampant on the Internet. If my understanding of what I was told by Microsoft is correct (and it may well not be), in a couple of years there should be no need for any screen access technology on the Citrix terminal server. We all know that this may never happen, but wouldn't it be nice if it did? Please feel free to share this communication with anyone who you think will have an interest in it.
Curtis Chong, President
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
Here is the statement that Doug Geoffray prepared in response to Curtis Chong's message.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Doug Geoffray]
I feel the need to correct some misinformation or perhaps misconceptions about Window-Eyes after reading your article concerning Citrix in the December 2004 Braille Monitor. You made the statement that "Citrix has been inaccessible to the blind despite the best efforts of all screen access technology vendors."
This is a mistake. GW Micro and Window-Eyes have offered Citrix support for sixteen months. GW Micro was the first company to give a live demonstration using Citrix MetaFrame XP and Terminal Services during CSUN 2003. Window-Eyes was also the first screen reader of any kind to offer this support in a public beta (Summer 2003) and a final release (September 2003). Dolphin followed shortly thereafter, while Freedom Scientific released its first official version in December 2004.
We realize that Citrix can only be made accessible by installing Window-Eyes on the terminal server, but this is an issue with Citrix, not with screen readers. That's because Citrix images are pushed to the remote computer as graphic images, not as actual data, which makes them unreadable by any screen reader. It seems unrealistic to assume that an accessible session could be used without installing anything on the server side. Microsoft is looking at new technology (UI Automation) but it scares me to put so much pressure on Microsoft to make this happen without installing anything. To do so forces them to turn their backs on legacy applications. This means that, even if Microsoft comes up with something, it would be usable only with operating systems and applications written to take advantage of it. In today's world this just doesn't seem realistic.
I would rather pressure be put on the corporate world, educational institutions, or governmental agencies that use remote access to be assured that installing stable products like Window-Eyes is not an issue. We at GW Micro have gone to great lengths to make Window-Eyes the most stable screen reader available today. We realize this is important in any environment, but especially when installed on servers for remote connections.
Large numbers of Window-Eyes users use Citrix in corporate and educational settings, and they have been able to do so since September 2003. To say that "Citrix has been inaccessible to the blind" does disservice to the efforts made by GW Micro to create new accessibility to new technology and ignores the hundreds of people who are able to work thanks to those efforts.
The fact that any screen reader can access Citrix results from GW Micro's having blazed the trail. We were asked by Citrix to make it accessible, which in turn helped every other screen reader company. We have made similar advances with and for other software companies, like helping Adobe make PDFs accessible and MacroMedia make Flash accessible.
Ultimately I am troubled when incorrect information is presented to the public. Obviously this hurts blind people's chances for employment when they are led to believe that their potential employer can't make existing technologies work together. People have lost jobs because of technology incompatibility.
I hope you can understand the points I have raised. Access solutions should be criticized when appropriate but should also be praised and recognized when that is appropriate. Let's continue working together to insure that screen reader users are aware of the solutions available to them from all screen reader manufacturers in an accurate and timely manner. Thank you.
GW Micro, Inc.
British Home Secretary Quits
by Glenn Frankel
From the Editor: We have reported on the rise to political prominence in British politics of David Blunkett, who is blind from birth yet has had a long and successful life as local community leader, member of Parliament, and minister in the Blair government. Now Mr. Blunkett demonstrates that in his fall from power, as in his rise, blindness is merely another characteristic. The following story appeared in the December 15, 2004, edition of the Washington Post. Here it is:
One of Britain's most powerful and popular cabinet secretaries resigned his post Wednesday evening after admitting that his office had fast‑tracked a visa application for his married lover's nanny. The resignation of Home Secretary David Blunkett, whose department oversees homeland security, immigration, the justice system, and the national police force, followed a month of open warfare in the tabloid press between Blunkett and his former mistress over his attempt to gain legal visitation rights to her two‑year‑old son, whom he claims to have fathered.
It also creates a political headache for Prime Minister Tony Blair. He had relied upon the outspoken home secretary to shore up his government's support among blue‑collar voters with whom Blunkett's hard‑line stance on law and order, immigration abuses, and other criminal justice issues resonated strongly, although his views have been denounced by human rights groups here. Blair, who plans to call a national election next spring, had expressed support for Blunkett in recent days even as pressure mounted for him to step down.
But it was the human story of the three‑year love affair between Blunkett, fifty-seven, and the married, American‑born Kimberly Quinn, forty-three, publisher of the weekly Spectator magazine, and the affair's bitter and very public demise that has mesmerized politicians and journalists in recent weeks and ended one of the country's most extraordinary cabinet careers.
The story emerged in August when the tabloid press disclosed that Blunkett, who has been blind since birth, and Quinn had conducted the affair, which Quinn was then in the process of ending. When she stopped seeing Blunkett, she and her husband also cut off his access to two‑year‑old William, whom Blunkett had seen regularly and with whom he says he felt he had established a father‑son relationship. The tabloids have reported that Blunkett was persuaded by a preliminary DNA test that William and the unborn child Quinn is currently carrying were both his.
Blunkett then went to family court seeking visitation rights to William. Friends of Quinn and her husband Stephen, publisher of the British edition of Vogue, retaliated by disclosing to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper allegations that Blunkett had abused his office by doing personal favors for Kimberly Quinn, including speeding up the processing of her Filipina nanny's visa application. Blunkett vehemently denied the allegation and called for an independent inquiry.
In his statement Wednesday evening, Blunkett said that Alan Budd, the former civil servant in charge of the investigation, had approached him Tuesday with evidence that his office had indeed sent a fax and email to the directorate that handles immigration matters requesting faster action on the nanny's application.
Blunkett said that, while neither he nor his staff had any recollection of making the request, he felt he must take responsibility and step down. He denied any wrongdoing but said he would not do "the easy thing" and "hide behind my officials" by blaming them for the mistake.
In a series of tearful television interviews Wednesday, Blunkett indicated that his former mistress had made the allegations against him because he had sought access to his son. "All I was seeking was to be able to hold him in my arms again," he told Sky News.
He said he could have walked away in September rather than risk his political career by insisting on his paternity. "Quite honestly, what sort of human being, what sort of man, what sort of politician would people want who would put their career... before doing what a decent human being would want to do?" he asked. "I don't think we want politicians like that, and if people do, they don't want me."
Blunkett conceded to the BBC that he had misjudged his former lover. "I misunderstood what we had; I misunderstood that someone could do this not just to me but to the little one as well," he said.
The Quinns had no immediate comment. Kimberly Quinn, who is seven months pregnant, has spent the last two weeks in the hospital because of stress, according to her husband, who has acted as family spokesman. Newspapers have quoted sources said to be close to the Quinns as claiming that Blunkett had phoned Kimberly Quinn incessantly and pledged to ruin her life if she did not leave her husband for him. Blunkett characterized those reports as among the "terrible garbage" that has rained upon him in recent weeks.
As the scandal unfolded, cabinet secretaries initially rallied around Blunkett at the urging of Blair. But their support had begun to curdle in recent days after a new biography of Blunkett disclosed that he had made a series of critical and cutting remarks about his colleagues. Few expressed surprise at the resignation.
Blair moved quickly to heal the political wound, naming Education Secretary Charles Clarke, another loyalist with a reputation as a rhetorical street fighter, as the new home secretary. But the prime minister also praised Blunkett as "a truly outstanding cabinet minister" and "a force for good in British politics." Blunkett indicated he would run for reelection for Parliament and might seek to return to the cabinet in a new Blair administration.
Blunkett, who as a child had been told he could aspire only to be a janitor or a dishwasher, climbed to the top of the political ladder through relentless determination and hard work. As home secretary he oversaw the enactment of tougher anti‑terrorism legislation and was pushing a new set of proposals, including the introduction of a national identity card.
"David Blunkett was able to articulate the policy direction of the government with a rougher edge than Tony Blair might," said Graham Allen, a Labor Party member of Parliament from a blue‑collar district. "That, along with the remarkable way he overcame his disability, made him a very popular figure in constituencies like mine."
This month's recipes were submitted by members of the NFB of Arkansas.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Maria and Eddie Bell with daughter Victoria]
Lemon Caesar Pasta Salad
by Edward Bell
Dr. Edward (Eddie) and Maria Bell are longtime Federationists who live in Fayetteville. They are both past NFB scholarship winners. Since recently completing his Ph.D., Eddie has been doing contract work with the Iowa Department for the Blind and the NFB Jernigan Institute. Maria is taking care of Victoria, three, and Samantha, three months.
16 ounces bowtie pasta
2 cups fresh green beans, in bite-size pieces (French cut is attractive)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon low-salt Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
salt to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Method: Cook pasta for about ten minutes in boiling water. Add green beans during last five minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain again. Place in bowl and toss with remaining ingredients, except tomatoes and cheese. Before serving, add tomatoes and toss lightly. Serve sprinkled with cheese.
by Edward Bell
6-pound top sirloin roast
2 medium onions, quartered and separated
2 pounds carrots, cut in 2-inch chunks
4 pounds potatoes, skin on, cut in eighths
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Method: Mix all the spices and the salt together. Moisten the roast with a little water so that the spices will adhere. Sprinkle the mixture all over the roast and rub or press it in with your hands. Place the roast, fat side up, in the center of a large roasting pan. Arrange the onions, carrots, and potatoes around the roast. Roast at 375 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes a pound, depending on how well done you like your beef. Stir the vegetables every twenty minutes. This will coat them with the juices and spices. The best bet is to use a meat thermometer. For rare beef we remove the meat from the oven at about 135 degrees, for medium around 145. Then we let the roast rest for ten to twenty minutes. The internal temperature will go up five to ten degrees during that time. If you are cooking a smaller roast or the veggies don't seem done, continue to cook them while the roast rests. Slice and serve with a big spoonful of the vegetables.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Chris McKenzie]
by Chris McKenzie
Chris McKenzie is president of the NFB of Arkansas and a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
1 1/2 sticks margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
Method: Mix these three ingredients together and press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake at 350 for ten minutes. Allow to cool before filling with the salad.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces Kool Whip, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
Method: Beat cream cheese and sugar together and fold in the whipped topping. Spread across the cooled crust.
1 large package strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
20 ounces sliced frozen strawberries (thawed)
1 cup cold water
Method: Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water. Add fruit and cold water. Chill, if necessary, until strawberry mixture begins to congeal and spread over filling. Optional: You can gently spread Kool Whip over surface instead of folding it into the cream cheese mixture. Keep refrigerated.
Rocky Road Fudge
by Donna Birdwell
Donna Birdwell is NFB of Arkansas first vice president and Pulaski County Chapter president.
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
Method: Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with foil; grease lightly. Microwave morsels and sweetened condensed milk in large, microwave-safe bowl on high (100 percent) power for one minute; stir. Microwave at additional ten-to-twenty-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in marshmallows and nuts. Press mixture into prepared baking pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into pieces.
New Orleans Chocolate Cake
by Chris McKenzie
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup oil
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 cup water
2 eggs, at room temperature and slightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
Method: Sift together flour and sugar and set aside. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place margarine, oil, water, and cocoa in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat; quickly stir in flour-sugar mixture, eggs, cinnamon, soda, vanilla, and buttermilk.
Pour into pan and bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes.
About ten minutes before cake is done, begin to prepare the frosting.
1 stick margarine
6 tablespoons milk
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
1 1-pound box powdered sugar
Method: In a medium to large saucepan bring cocoa, margarine, and milk to a boil; remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat with electric mixer till smooth. Stir in nuts. Spread frosting over top surface of cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
News from the Federation Family
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, presents the BLAST Gold Star Award to Allen Harris. At BLAST we teach strategies and inspire attitudes that make it possible to reach for the stars. In 2004, at the Orlando BLAST, we proudly recognized two leaders in Randolph-Sheppard and in work with the blind: Allen Harris, director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, and Terry Smith, director of Tennessee Services for the Blind. Both received BLAST Gold Stars, symbolic of their dedication to progressive advocacy on behalf of the blind in business.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pictured here (left to right) are Joe Cordova, Kevan Worley, Terry Smith, and Jim Gashel. Terry Smith holds his Gold Star.]
BLAST: An Annual Business and Leadership Experience for the Blind in Business:
Business Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST), is not just for blind managers operating businesses in the Randolph-Sheppard program. It is a dynamic three days of curriculum targeted to meet the specific needs of blind retailers. If you are in sales, vending, network marketing, food services, or convenient store operations or own virtually any business, you should join us in Denver, April 12 to 15 for a Mile-High BLAST. At BLAST we inspire blind merchants to reach for the stars, and we provide targeted information to help make your adventure in business a successful and fulfilling one. Teaching customer service, best practices, marketing, team-building, and leadership skills, BLAST teaches blind managers and their teams how best to schedule, direct, maximize, and control labor and its cost.
Solving Problems Through Leadership, Assertiveness, Creativity and Fun. Learn how to stress less, embrace change, have more fun, be a hero to your employees and customers, and make greater profit. Only one national trainer can teach us all of this in one dynamic, three-hour seminar--Michael Angelo Caruso.
The Customer Service Advantage, available on CD at <www.blindmerchants.org>, was written and developed by John Marx. John will lead and facilitate breakouts at BLAST.
Enjoy a leadership breakfast featuring the inspiring story of NFB national board member and founder of the Colorado Center for the Blind Diane McGeorge and her perspective on leadership. An insightful luncheon address from former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Fred Schroeder.
Director of Strategic Initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind James Gashel will teach a not-to-be-missed seminar, the Basics of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a Survey.
In or out of the Randolph-Sheppard program, blind women are significantly under-represented in small business. Only 23 percent of Randolph-Sheppard managers are women. Rex Havens uses his laugh-out-loud but cutting humor when he says, "Everything I Know, I Learned from My Wife," presented by the Women's Issues Forum of the National Association of Blind Merchants, because 23 percent isn't good enough.
Integrating a positive attitude on blindness with twenty-first-century principles of business and leadership will educate and inspire all who attend this dynamic and diverse event to ignite a passion for service and success and BLAST toward personal satisfaction and greater profit.
You still have time to join friends and colleagues, make new contacts, and build partnerships at BLAST. To learn more about the tradeshow; the training; the entertaining networking receptions; the leadership breakfast; the luncheon featuring an address by Dr. Fred Schroeder; the Women's Issues Forum; and, did we mention, the trip to one of Colorado's gaming towns or a night of theater in the Mile-High City, go to <www.blindmerchants.org>, or call the Merchant Message Line at (877) 521-8363, or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Rooms are still available at only $69 singles and doubles or $79 triples and quads--an incredibly low room rate at the luxurious Adam's Mark Hotel, 1550 Court Place downtown Denver, just off the always-exciting 16th Street pedestrian mall. The Adam's Mark Hotel is a beautiful facility. It was the site of the 1989 NFB National Convention, though not an Adam's Mark Hotel property at that time. It has been substantially remodeled. Call (800) 444-2326 and inform the agent that you are booking for BLAST with the National Association of Blind Merchants.
It's a good distance from Denver International Airport to the Adam's Mark Hotel downtown Denver, so we have arranged deeply discounted special shuttle services. Look for the BLAST welcome committee when you arrive in the main terminal. Registration is only $160, which includes receptions, training sessions, breakfasts, luncheon, entertaining receptions, all training materials, and some surprises. Registration does not include the mountain town gaming trip, $30 per person, or our evening at the Denver Center for Performing Arts for $50 to benefit the Colorado Center for the Blind. Tickets for those events will be available at the Adam's Mark when you get your BLAST conference packet and name badge.
In a few short years BLAST has grown in size, scope, and significance, providing targeted education and encouragement propelling blind businessmen and women to a whole new level of expectations and achievement. Join us April 12 to 15 in Denver for a Mile-High BLAST.
The National Federation of the Blind of Arizona's Phoenix Chapter conducted an election of officers at its November 6, 2004, meeting. The following officers were elected: president, Vicki Hodges; first vice president, Fred Rockwell; second vice president, Pam Davis; secretary, Tom Johnson; treasurer, Donna Silba; and Arlen Keen and Allison Hilliker, board members.
On Saturday, October 22, 2004, the West Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona was formed. During the first meeting the following officers were elected: president, Marcus Schmidt; vice president, Marvin Rochelle; secretary, Kim Schmidt; and treasurer, Juanita Dominguez.
A Twenty-First-Century Election:
Members of the Fredericksburg Area Chapter of the NFB of Virginia recently used AutoMark voting equipment to conduct their annual election for officers and board members. The results are Michael Kasey, president; Marilee Kenlon, vice president; Angie Matney, secretary; Mark Roane, treasurer; and Reed Smith and Joe Johnson, board members.
The membership was joined by officials from local electoral boards and general registrars. Many positive comments were made about the accessible system by AutoMark.
The National Federation of the Blind of Arizona's Tucson chapter held elections at its November 2004 meeting, and the following people were elected: president, Samira Farwaneh; vice president, Bob Kresmer; secretary, Butch Thomas; treasurer, Jerry Piatt; and Lee Kerr, Michael Zimmit, Janna Payton, and Bob Tullis, board members.
The NFB of Arizona's Prescott Chapter held elections at its November 2004 meeting. The following people were elected: president, Sandie Addy; secretary, Carone Nicholson; treasurer, Diane Barber; and board member, Ann Puskus.
Saturday, February 6, 2005, the Inland Empire chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington held its election. The officers are Maria Bradford, president; Paul Whipple, vice president; John Croy, recording secretary; Judy Croy, treasurer; and Gloria Whipple, corresponding secretary. The board members are Susan Lincoln and Dolores Keyser.
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.
Christian Camping Session for the Blind:
The 2005 Siloam Camp for the Blind will be held Saturday, May 14, through Saturday, May 21, at the Golden Cross Ranch in New Caney, Texas. It is sponsored by the Gospel Association for the Blind and is the highlight of the year for all those attending it.
The campgrounds are located twenty-five minutes from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. The cost for the camp is $200, which includes all meals and activities.
This year the morning Bible study will be conducted by Dr. Don Forester, who founded the Faith Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1974 and has been pastor there for thirty years. Dr. Forester was born in Amarillo, Texas, in 1949. He became totally blind at age nine due to detached retinas. Through this experience God called him to preach. The evening preaching services will be conducted by the Rev. George Gray, camp director for the Gospel Association for the Blind.
Activities planned for the week include a shopping trip to WalMart, feeding animals at a petting zoo, two talent nights, swimming each day, a camel ride, games, a hayride, and a campfire. Join us for an exciting time of spiritual refreshment and renewal and making new friends.
Our theme for the week is "As a Christian You Can Make a Difference!" A $25 nonrefundable camp registration fee is required of all campers to receive the camp application and medical form. Your deposit will be deducted from the camp fee for the week. Make checks payable to the Gospel Association for the Blind, and send along with a three-by-five-inch index card containing your name, address, phone number, cell phone number, and email address (if applicable) to the Gospel Association for the Blind, P.O. Box 1162, Bunnell, Florida 32110.
If you need help with transportation cost or the camp fees of $200, the GAB will try to find a sponsor for you. For further information you can call the Gospel Association for the Blind at (386) 586‑5885 from 9:00 a.m. to noon (Eastern Standard Time). For a voicemail message concerning Camp Siloam, just call toll-free (866) 251-5165, enter mailbox 7128, and press the pound key. Come join us for a fun week you will never forget.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Frank Kurt Cylke]
Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, was awarded honorary life membership in the World Blind Union (WBU) at the sixth general assembly held in Cape Town, South Africa, December 6 to 10. Mr. Cylke was cited as a founder of the WBU North America/Caribbean Region and for "contributions made over the last many years to promote library services for the blind in the United States and around the world which have been significant and reflect deep commitment to ensuring access to literacy for blind and physically disabled people." William Rowland, WBU president, further commented that Mr. Cylke's "leadership in forming the section of libraries for the blind within the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has ensured that this international association would be aware of and give priority to the development of services and programs to blind people." Congratulations to Mr. Cylke.
Tactile Maps Available:
Maps of California contains nineteen maps. The initial maps provide an overview of the state. These maps are followed by six maps on specific topics--rivers, cities, mountains, highways, parks, and counties. All the information is combined in subsequent maps of northern, central, and southern California. About 275 cities are shown and are indexed at the end of the volume. Enlarged views of San Francisco, the Los Angeles area, San Diego, and Yosemite National Park are also included. The maps are detailed, and many have fold-out sections or appear on facing pages. Experience with tactile drawings is highly recommended.
Maps of California is a single volume with eighty-four pages and nineteen maps. It is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. Cost is $15. Allow four weeks for delivery. Shipping is free mail for the blind unless other arrangements are made. To order, please send check or money order to the Princeton Braillists, 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, New Jersey 08540; (215) 357-7715.
Let Braillerman Do It Right:
For the best in Perkins Brailler repair, contact Braillerman, Alan Ackley. He has a complete inventory of factory parts, charges competitive prices, and offers a personal touch that confirms the importance of each customer and Brailler to him. Trained by Howe Press, he has reconditioned more than 3,000 Braillers and become the most trusted name in Brailler repair service. He is a certified Braille transcriber.
For more information, visit <www.braillerman.com>, or call (515) 288‑3931. Braillers may be shipped to Alan Ackley, 4301 Park Avenue, #540, Des Moines, Iowa 50321‑3452.
Pulse Data International and VisuAide Merge:
New Zealand‑based Pulse Data International and Canadian‑based VisuAide have announced the merger of their companies. The new organization will focus on serving the needs of people with visual impairment. The merged entity will be known as the HumanWare Group.
The HumanWare name has been widely used in North America since it was adopted as the name for Pulse Data's North American subsidiary, based in Concord, California.
HumanWare combines two of the industry's most innovative companies, both recognized as world leaders in their fields. Products such as the SmartView video magnifier and more recently myReader (the world's first low-vision auto‑reader) are redefining the way people look at low vision, while the Victor Reader family of digital Talking Book players has been at the forefront of the industry since its inception. The BrailleNote is one of the best‑known solutions in the notetaker market today, a market that will be expanded with the introduction of Maestro, an HP iPAQ Pocket PC made accessible for the blind and visually impaired by VisuAide using text‑to‑speech technology and a tactile keyboard membrane over the PDA touch screen. Finally, the companies produce the world's only commercialized global-positioning-system‑based orientation solutions for the blind--Trekker and BrailleNote GPS.
Dr. Russell Smith, Pulse Data International's chief executive officer, will head the new organization. Following the merger, VisuAide's current president and CEO, Gilles Pepin, will become president and CEO of HumanWare's Canadian subsidiary. Both Mr. Pepin and Yves Boisjoli, VisuAide's CFO, will become significant shareholders of the HumanWare Group. Pepin will also join the HumanWare Group's board of directors.
With a team of over 200 employees worldwide, HumanWare is one of the largest companies in the low vision and blindness industry. Sales offices are located in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, while the parent company will be based in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Blind Interpreters and Translators Group:
Liz Conejo Daniels is a Spanish‑English interpreter who also happens to be blind. She and her husband have recently formed a blind interpreters and translators organization and an online forum for discussing issues specific to them. It will provide support and resources for those working in the field.
Anyone who is visually impaired and speaks English as a first or second language is welcome to join. It doesn't matter what the primary language is, as long as you are fluent enough in English so that everyone on the list can communicate easily and effectively.
If you know of any blind interpreters or translators who might be interested in joining, please have them contact the list owner at <BlindInterpreters‑email@example.com>. Feel free to contact Liz at this address if you have any questions.
Braille Correspondent Wanted:
Susan Wilder has contacted us requesting the names of blind Braille users who might be interested in corresponding with her. She is sighted and would like to practice her Braille. If you would be interested in exchanging Braille letters every month or so with Ms. Wilder, contact her in Braille at 228 W. Dawn Avenue, Spokane, Washington 99218.
Summer Braille Music Institute:
The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians is accepting applications for its seminar for blind college‑bound musicians, which will be held from July 17 to 23 at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Designed for the serious student, the program tailors instruction to each person's need to develop Braille music and theory skills and to use technology to submit written music assignments. Applicants must have already studied some music theory, be willing to put effort into Braille music study, and demonstrate a commitment to use the Braille music and computer skills they will learn at the Institute after they return to school. Applicants must also show that they have the independence skills, social readiness, and maturity to be a contributing part of a close‑knit group.
Space is available for six students. Please contact the Resource Center for information on tuition, scholarship availability, and the application procedure. The deadline for requesting applications is April 15, and completed applications must be submitted by May 1. Options for teachers: School teachers interested in learning should contact the Resource Center to explore opportunities to study and help out during the Institute. Appointments can be made to bring younger students for evaluation and guidance.
Visit <www.blindmusicstudent.org>, which is also a music information resource. Contact David Goldstein at (203) 366‑3300, extension 229, or at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held its fall meeting November 4 to 7, 2004, at the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati, Ohio. The following officers were elected: chairperson, Kim Charlson (Massachusetts); vice chairperson, Warren Figueiredo (Louisiana); secretary, Carol Morrison (California); and treasurer, Sue Reilly (California). Joining the board recently were Judy Dixon (Virginia), Jennifer Dunnam (Minnesota), and Diane Wormsley (Pennsylvania).
Candle in the Window 2005:
Candle in the Window, a small national nonprofit organization building both individual skills and a sense of community among those with visual impairments, welcomes blind people from all walks of life to join us at our nineteenth annual conference entitled "The Leadership Connection: Confidently Influencing People in Our Lives." We aim to address such questions as:
What is leadership anyway, and what is authority?
Why do blind people fear or enjoy acting in a leadership role, especially among those who have more sight?
How can we support ourselves and others to harness our own unique leadership skills, and how can we enhance these skills?
In addition to provocative presentations and stimulating discussions, there will be plenty of time for swimming, hiking, eating, singing, quiet reflection, and just plain hanging out. And we might even get to ride paddle boats around the lake.
The conference will take place from Wednesday, August 24, through the morning of Sunday, August 28, at Lions Camp Crescendo, located just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. The cost is $150 ($15 discount if we receive a $35 nonrefundable deposit by August 1); limited scholarships and payment plans are available.
For additional information contact Peter Altschul at (202) 234-5243, email <email@example.com>, or Kathy Szinnyey at (502) 895-0866, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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 interfaces. Asking $2,000 or best offer.
Thomas Braille Embosser from Enabling Technology, in excellent condition. Asking $1,400 or best offer. Contact Gilbert at <email@example.com>.
I have a collection of seventy cassette tapes of rock and roll from the 1960's and 1970's, soundtracks, and Christmas cassettes. All I am asking is the cost of shipping to you by Fedex or UPS. Just a sample: the whole Beatle Anthology; Freddy Cannon's 14 Booming Hits; Moods by Neil Diamond; Mike Post TV themes; Good Morning Vietnam; Forrest Gump; Phil Spector's Christmas Album; and Elmo and Patsy. Please call (713) 666‑6512 or email Barbara Shaidnagle at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Braille Labeler Needed:
I am looking for a Braille labeler made of metal, not plastic. If you know of anyone who is willing to sell one, please contact Colleen McFadden at (208) 234‑0926 or email <email@example.com>.
Pattern Transcription Available:
I will transcribe any knitting or crochet pattern into Braille. Send the pattern and Braille paper to Linda Hurlock, 312 Clarke, Apartment F, Helena, Montana 59601.
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.