VOICE OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind--it is the blind speaking for themselves
2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708
Published monthly in braille and distributed free to the blind by the National Federation of the Blind, President: Russell Kletzing, 2341 Cortez Lane, Sacramento, California 95825
Inkprint edition produced and distributed by the National Federation of the Blind, 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708
Acting Editor: Jacobus tenBroek
Assistant Editor: Floyd W, Matson
2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708
News items and changes of address should be sent to the Editor.
NATIONAL CONFERENCE: "COM-STACKED" AGAINST THE BLIND
NEW PROGRESS IN AIDS AND DEVICES
IFB MISS-A-MEAL DRIVE GROWS
By Russell Kletzing
TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE IS NO BLIND ALLEY
By Bernice Hamer
By Dr. I.L.D. Grant and Ruth Ashby
DECISIVE TURNING POINT [LA CANNE BLANCHE]
COMSTAC STANDARDS ON SOCIAL SERVICES
By Tom Joe
CREDIT UNION DAY, 1965
By John Nagle
COURT DENIES RENT IS EARNED INCOME
GRANT TAKES DENVER AS GRANT TOOK RICHMOND -- ISABELLE LIKE ULYSSES
CONFERENCE ON LAW AND POVERTY SLATED
By Russell Kletzing
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN PARRISH CASE
DON CAPPS HONORED AS HANDICAPPED MAN OF THE YEAR
RESPONSIBILITY OF RELATIVES IN HOLLAND
MONTANA SUMMER SESSION
By Lelia Proctor
BISHOP PKE WRITES BRIEF IN PARRISH CASE
A DIRECTORY OF BLIND COLLEGE STUDENTS
By Roger D. Petersen
ROLE OF THE POOR AND OF LAWYERS IN WAR ON POVERTY
By John V. Lindsay
JIM FALL: HANDICAPPED MAN OF THE YEAR
TRACHOMA IS TRACED TO SHARING OF EYEBROW PENCILS
By Harold M. Schmeck, Jr.
EUROPEAN COMMITTEE WCWB MEETS
OUR WELFARE SYSTEM -- RADICAL SURGERY NEEDED
By J. R. Dumpson
LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS OF THE BLIND: HOW TO BUILD AND STRENGTHEN THEM
By Kenneth Jernigan
A carefully engineered and tightly controlled national conference on standards, summoned by the Commission on Standards and Accreditation of Services for the Blind (COMSTAC), was held in New York City from October 31 through November 3.
About 300 professional workers and administrators took part in two general sessions and a dozen section meetings at the Statler Hilton Hotel, at which the reports of 12 technical committees were presented for limited discussion.
From beginning to end the COMSTAC conference was characterized by ingenious management and manipulation of activities calculated to give an appearance of consensus and accord while avoiding votes or serious recognition of divergent viewpoints in the field.
The ground had been prepared for the conference by skillfully arranged meetings of committees and of related agencies such as the American Association of Workers for the Blind and the National Rehabilitation Association. However, organizations of the blind were significantly absent from the preliminary meetings at which proposed national standards to govern all major areas of service to the blind were initially formulated.
Only a handful of people were on hand at the COMSTAC conference to speak for the organized blind. Among them were Professor Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan and John Nagle.
Only one week before the New York conference, the NFB's representatives received copies of the draft standards scheduled to be presented for approval. Despite this knowledge gap, the Federation's team prepared critical analyses of the proposed standards and sought to make known their views in section meetings of the 12 technical committees.
The dozen subject areas covered by the meetings and reports were: agency function and structure; education; fiscal and service accounting; fund raising and public relations; library services; orientation and mobility services; personnel administration; physical facilities; rehabilitation centers; sheltered workshops; social services; and vocation services.
The long-awaited COMSTAC conference marked the culmination of a master plan that began with inauguration of the commission in 1963 at the behest of the American Foundation for the Blind, which contributed $225,000 toward the four- year project. Additional funds were subsequently raised from other private foundations and from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Following selection of the 22 members of the commission, and the naming of the American Foundation's Alexander F. Handel as staff coordinator, the commission established 12 technical committees, comprising a total membership of nearly 100, each charged with the preparation of professional standards to govern particular areas of work for the blind.
Contrary to the strong democratic trend in other fields of welfare, notably in the war-on-poverty program under the Economic Opportunity Act, which have encouraged genuine participation by client groups in the formulation of policies and administration of services, the COMSTAC project has avoided any representation of the independent blind in the makeup of its commission and the drafting of standards to be applied throughout the field.
As a consequence increasing concern had been expressed over recent months, among the blind and others watching from the sidelines, that the laudable goal of rational and enlightened welfare standards might be lost through narrow definitions of the accrediting function and one-sided representation of traditional agency views. This concern was reflected last August in a letter by Dr. tenBroek to COMSTAC's conference manager, Huesten Collingwood, which read in part:
"Whether you can establish an accreditation system will depend in large part on whether you can gain general acceptance by those who work in the field of the standards upon which accreditation will depend.Whether you can formulate generally acceptable standards, in turn, will depend in part upon the character of the standards, but also on the degree to which those standards are an expression of the leadership and constructive thought in the field.
I hope you will pardon my candor in saying that the method of organizing the New York conference is not well calculated to gain the adherence of that leadership and the development of that thought. Indeed, on the face of it, the plan seems more geared to gaining and retaining control than to stimulating intellectual processes and productive participation . . .
The plan for the New York meeting . . . seems a close duplicate of that followed at the AAWB meeting in Denver [July 1965]. You cannot be unaware of the fact that at Denver there was widespread latent and articulated hostility to many of the standards proposed and even deeper resentment toward the method of presentation that was employed. It would be unfortunate now to repeat and compound the mistakes of Denver...
I believe that constructive and worthwhile work on raising standards in the field can be of the utmost importance in this country. If these standards are well formulated and move in the right direction, their influence can be boundless and beneficial. If they are poorly formulated and move in the wrong direction, their influence can be equally boundless and detrimental."
At the subsequent New York conference the NFB's representatives felt their apprehensions to be confirmed in the programming and maneuvering of section meetings. Most conspicuously of all in the section on sheltered workshops, but noticeably in other areas as well, the interests of the blind persons to be served by the programs were outweighed and over-ridden by the interests of professionals in the formal and technical concerns of their own employment.
This atmosphere prompted one blind person, emerging from a typical section meeting, to remark that it was impossible to tell from the discussion to what recipient or for what welfare purpose the proposed services and standards were directed.
Detailed critical analyses of COMSTAC's standards in various subjects areas, as these were presented to the conference, have been prepared and will be published in this and later issues of the MONITOR. The analyses represent a distillation of criticism voiced by the Federation's representatives at the New York conference. Although many of the criticisms found support among other participants, their effect upon the tenor of emerging standards and policies will not be known until new reports have been drafted by the dozen committees of COMSTAC.
Meanwhile the importance to blind Americans of this national drive for uniform standards and accreditation procedures in all areas of work for the blind has been underlined by a recent COMSTAC announcement of "a far-reaching decision, to create a new and independent agency to administer an ongoing, voluntary system of accreditation of local and state agencies for the blind on a national basis.”
Although the commission's announcement emphasizes that the "permanent accreditation agency should be organized separate from any existing agency or organization for the blind,” it is also noted that "in the initial phases, financial support will be sought from national agencies and foundations, etc. " The question naturally arises whether an accrediting agency sired and nurtured by agencies and foundations for the blind is likely to become genuinely independent of its professional heredity and environment.
If it does not, independent blind Americans and their organizations may look forward to the systematic harassment and discrediting of their activities and programs on a scale reminiscent of the concerted attack by some agencies a decade ago upon their right to organize and to remain independent.
Following is the roster of 22 COMSTAC commissioners and their professional affiliations:
Arthur L. Brandon, Chairman, Lewisburg, Pa. - Consultant in Education and Former Vice President, New York University
Bertram J. Black, New York, N. Y. - Executive Director, Altro Health and Rehabilitation Services
Benjamin F. Boyer, Philadelphia, Pa. - Dean, School of Law, Temple University and Chairman, Committee on Services for the Blind, Philadelphia Health and Welfare Planning Council
Kenneth W. Bryan, Sacramento, Calif. - Services Coordinator,
California Department of Social Welfare and Former Director, State Services for the Blind, Washington
Thomas E. Caulfield, M.D., Boston, Mass. - Administrator, St. Paul's Rehabilitation Center for the Blind
J. Kenneth Cozier, Cleveland, Ohio - President, Curtis Companies, Inc. and President, Cleveland Society for the Blind
Melvin A. Glasser, Detroit, Mich. - Director of Social Security Department, United Automobile Workers of America and Former Vice-President of Brandeis University
Horace A. Hildreth, Portland, Me. - Attorney, Former Governor of Maine and Ambassador to Pakistan
M. Anne McGuire, Waynesville, N.C. - Consultant in Social Administration and Former Director, New York State Commission for the Blind
John R. May, San Francisco, Calif. - Executive Director, San Francisco Foundation
Murray B. Meld, Seattle, Wash. - Director of Planning, Health and Welfare Planning Council of Seattle
Robert Morris, Waltham, Mass. - Professor of Social Planning, Brandeis University
Homer P. Rainey, Boulder, Colo. - Professor of Higher Education, University of Colorado, and Former President of the University of Texas
Louis Rives, Washington, D.C. - Chief of Program Planning, Vocational Rehabilitation Administration, United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Peter J. Salmon, Brooklyn, N. Y. - Executive Director, The Industrial Home for the Blind
Frederick G, Storey, Atlanta, Ga. - President, Storey Theatres, Inc. and Vice-President Atlanta Community Services for the Blind
Henry A. Talbert, Hollywood, Calif. - Western Regional Director, National Urban League
Warren Thompson, Sacramento, Calif. - Director, California Department of Rehabilitation
McAllister Upshaw, Detroit, Mich. - Executive Director, Metropolitan Society for the Blind, Detroit
John M. Wedemeyer, Sacramento, Calif. - Director, California Department of Social Welfare
J. Max Woolly, Little Rock, Ark. - Superintendent, Arkansas School for the Blind
Norman Yoder, Harrisburg, Pa. - Commissioner, Office for the Blind, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare
Back to Contents
New advances in the development of electronic and mechanical aids for the blind, designed primarily to assist mobility and reading skills, were given an expert and highly critical appraisal by a recognized authority on the subject at the October convention of the Associated Blind of Massachusetts. The speaker was Dr. John Dupress, an electrical engineer and psychologist who is managing director of the Sensory Aids Evaluation Development Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Dupress, who lost his sight and one hand in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, graduated from Lehigh University and earned his doctorate in psychology at Princeton. He has been an electronics consultant, an advisor on international student travel, founder and president of University Recordings, and for several years the director of the technological research division of the American Foundation for the Blind.
While praising various American programs, in the field of technical and instrumental research. Dr. Dupress was sharply critical of resistance in this country to the adoption of two mechanical advances originated in England: the Cassette Talking Book machine and the English solid-dot braille system. Speaking in reply to questions from the floor, he criticized the lag in American development of the Cassette recording mechanism as due solely to a "nationalist pride" which causes Americans to resist any invention not originated in the U.S.A.
"Maybe the early British Cassette mechanisms weren't as storable on our crowded shelves as they might have been; maybe they did use a lot of tape; maybe they were expensive. But they were jolly good books. They were of better quality than the American recorded books; the people who used them quickly grew to like them. The machines were easily modifiable so that a blind person who was further handicapped could have one cartridge put in and play the whole thing; they even had a positioning feature for the cartridge,” he said.
Dr. Dupress has made seven trips to England to observe technical research in that country, and he has noted that the American talking- book machine has more defects and requires more experience to operate than the more compact English version. "If it weren't for our nationalist pride, we would have had them already,” he asserted.
With regard to competing braille systems, the M. I. T. scientist maintained that "for quality production solid dot braille can be read faster than regular braille by some blind people; but nobody has bothered to find out how many. We are just not about to adopt solid dot braille even if it were the best thing in the braille area. Why? Because the English have it already."
Dr. Dupress was critical also of over-enthusiastic claims for mobility devices purporting to enable blind persons to travel efficiently without use of canes or guide dogs. Declaring that "this just isn't going to happen," he said that designers should concentrate on supplementing rather than replacing present skills and capacities, especially for older blind persons with added mobility problems.
Of more than a score of recent mechanical contrivances which have been tried out in this area, he said, only one is currently being used by a significant number of blind people. "It's the K-Ultra Electronics device from England, now being tested in the field with the rehabilitation agency in Kentucky. But we have only second-hand information about how well people use the device, “he said.”It takes a considerable amount of training, and produces considerable stress while learning to use it. Some people think they can use it for terrain changes and step-offs, as well as for locating objects; and it certainly can be used to gain some information about your environment that is, when you have used it for a while you can separate out a bush from a pole and things of that sort."
Dr. Dupress called attention to "another little device which is intended, not to do what the cane is doing well already, but to look where the cane isn't looking -- higher up, for example, where something may stick out from a wall. Thus it adds to what the cane can do by providing extra orientation and information from a distance."
Reinforcing his assertion that mechanical sensory aids should be regarded only as supplementary, the M.I.T. expert recalled that in four separate major evaluations of such devices since 1945, "blind people always did less well with the device than without it. They did a lot less well than they had done before they came in to be tested; and they didn't begin to come up to what they could do with the aid of a dog.
"A lot of time and money have been spent on mobility device research it may go as high as three million dollars in this country so far, and we're not very close to a suitable device yet," Dr. Dupress said. "I think the main reason is that we are not very realistic about what we're trying to do; we haven't really studied what blind people genuinely want, in addition to the regular means of getting about and so we are looking for magic solutions to a very tough problem."
Turning to another research area, he warned his audience not to believe "reports that the computer will provide more braille more cheaply and in greater variety. The only thing the computer can do so far in braille translation is to keep up with the increasing need for transcribers who take two to three years to be trained. "But he expressed hope that within the next decade computers may be developed "permitting us to read the spoken word in auditory form in excess of 500 words a minute; perhaps as high as 1,000 words a minute."
Tape cartridge machines, such as one being tested by the Library of Congress, were said to be almost ready to replace the more cumbersome Talking Books. Another mechanism, under field-testing by Recordings for the Blind, was described by Dr. Dupress as "lightweight, easy to operate with one hand, and you can scan back and forth; the quality is better than embossed disks played on talking-book machines. It's practically idiot-proof and comes in an impact-resistant case."
Among other new devices being developed at M.I.T. is a folding cane weighing less than a pound, "which can be easily taken apart and put together 5,000 times, resists abrasion and is about as strong as a single-unit aluminum cane," he said.
Back to Contents
The campaign initiated by the National Federation at its recent Washington convention-- requesting federationists to forego a meal and donate the cost to the International Federation of the Blind--has gained momentum through a succession of individual and group actions toward that end.
Members and friends of the Yuba-Sutter Chapter of the California Council of the Blind have contributed $40 to support the NFB's "wonderful resolution" according to a letter to IFB President Jacobus tenBroek from Granville Schuster, president of the Yuba-Sutter Chapter.
The Associated Blind of New Jersey in late September voted $5 to the cause and have "agreed that the matter should be given emphasis at our next state convention and hopefully improve prospects for the future," according to Robert H. Owens, executive secretary-treasurer of the ABNJ.
Mrs. E.H. Tremple, secretary-treasurer of the Trenton Association of the Blind, forwarded a $10 donation from that organization for "this worthwhile cause." Mrs. Tremple writes: "Having been present at the first NFB convention in Wilkes-Barre 25 years ago, and again 2 years ago, I was so proud of the progress made for the uplift and betterment of the blind. One quotation stands out in my mind above all the other fine things I heard: A hand up, not a hand out."
The Winchester Association of the Blind, Winchester, Virginia, collected $14 in the miss-a-meal project. Their president Miss Frances Ebert, forwarded the sum to the IFB president through Marion McDonald, recording secretary of the Virginia Federation.
Among the individual contributions recently received by the International Federation were checks from Judy Young of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recently elected president of the Cedar Rapids Association; Jim Wright of San Francisco; the Manuel Urena's, Des Moines, Iowa; A. Wylaz, New York, all well known state and national federationists.
The most touching letter came to the IFB president from Maude E. Kuborn of Santa Ana, California: "I existed on water the whole day October 5th and here is my contribution for the day, $6."
In another September action, the NFB's proposal to miss-a-meal on White Cane Safety Day, October 15, was adopted as a project by the organized blind of the nation's capital at a membership meeting. (see THE BRAILLE MONITOR, October, 1965) The D.C. Chapter's Tom Bickford pointed out that since blind Americans had benefited so long from the work of their National Federation they should take the initiative in supporting the newly organized International Federation. Bickford’s suggestion was unanimously adopted by the capital group following enthusiastic endorsement by several other members.
Back to Contents
By Russell Kletzing
A frankly provocative article by Simon Olshansky, Executive Director of Community Workshops, Inc. in Boston, first published in March 1965, in "Rehabilitation Literature", was reprinted in the October issue of the "New Outlook for the Blind". It deals with the question of stigma and its effect on clients and agencies. Mr. Olshansky defines stigma as the "marking or characteristic that disqualifies someone from full social acceptance; one with a spoiled identity." It is someone that "we tend to view ... as not quite human."
Three classes of stigmatized persons are discussed: the physically disabled, termed those with "abominations of the body"; those with character disorders involving mental illness, imprisonment, or dependency on public welfare; and the stigma associated with race or religion. He also points out that people may be doubly or triply stigmatized, and that many clients of social work agencies fall in one of these latter classes.
Mr. Olshansky's analysis as it applies to the clients of rehabilitation agencies is largely a priori and without significant supporting research. Many of his conclusions are far too broad to apply to such diverse groups as would be included within his broad definition of stigma definitions that might include up to one fourth of the nation's population. For example, he asserts that a person viewed as stigmatized "may begin to question his own humanness, or at least be puzzled by his ascribed differentness. The result is that the stigmatized is never quite sure of himself and those with whom he interacts ..."
Despite many sweeping generalizations with little evidentiary support, Mr. Olshansky, an agency director, does show an insight into the attitudes of agency staff members which can be corroborated by the experiences of many blind clients. He develops the thesis that agencies that serve a stigmatized clientele generally become stigmatized themselves. He observes that "professional staff in these stigmatized agencies and institutions are generally poorly trained, poorly supervised, and poorly paid. Services not infrequently are perceived by the public to be low quality, and staff within these agencies and institutions often feels almost as 'inferior' as those they serve. In many instances, the staff are in fact, inferior to their colleagues in non-stigmatized agencies and institutions." Mr. Olshansky properly points out that the remedy for these problems involves, among other things, increased training, improved supervision, and higher compensation. Most revealing of all is the author's analysis of the attitude of staff members of stigmatized agencies toward their physically disabled clients.
"The feeling among the public, sometimes shared by the agency staffs, is that for stigmatized persons anything is 'good enough' or even 'too good'. Often, too, both public and staffs express resentment if a stigmatized person 'steps out of line' and expresses criticism or fails to express sufficient gratitude regarding the services offered or rendered him. No matter what, it is expected that he should be eternally grateful, to his 'betters' that he is getting any help at all, or even consideration for the possibility of help."
The staff attitudes epitomized in the preceding quotation have been encountered again and again by the organized blind when we have sought to consult with agencies administering programs for the blind, or when we have raised questions concerning programs that they were carrying out, or sought to bring about changes in them. In part as a method for improving staff morale, the author suggests the recruitment of less stigmatized clients, without, however, abandoning the doubly and triply stigmatized. He feels that less stigmatized clients avoid stigmatized agencies but should be encouraged to utilize them so that staff members could have a higher percentage of success and thus lessen their frustration. He also suggests improvement in physical facilities, reconsideration of counseling techniques, increased research, and affiliation with universities as some avenues of improving the situation.
Although Mr. Olshansky's characterization of the attitudes of disabled people is too broad and sweeping to have much meaning, his position as the Director of an urban agency has apparently given him an appreciation of attitudes of agency staff members. His observations closely parallel those that the organized blind and other disabled groups have made of the attitudes of the staffs of a number of agencies.
Back to Contents
(Paper presented by Mrs. Norman F, Hammer at the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Washington, D.C., July 9, 1965.)
First, to use a term you know "job opportunity." The wiser ones in this audience realize that Opportunity does NOT come knocking at your door. Whether you are sighted or blind in the business world you go out and look for Opportunity.
The Telephone Answering Service is growing into a giant industry. This field is not a blind alley, but rather an avenue for the blind.
WHAT IS TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE?
The mechanics of it are simple. The Telephone Company creates an extension from the client's business phone to the Telephone Answering Switchboard. The phone rings in the client's office--it can also be answered through an individual jack at the switchboard. The operator answers in the client's name, giving the impression that she is his secretary. A more descriptive term for this work is Telephone Secretarial Service.
To give you an example of the system used in handling calls. Our client, Mr. Kletzing, calls his operator saying that he is leaving for District Court and should be back around three. She files in her itinerary sheet, Kletzing, time left, where he is, and when expected back. His phone rings his telephone secretary picks up the call through the switchboard, answering "Attorney Kletzing's office." "No, he isn't in at the moment, May I help you? Certainly, Mr. Nagle, I'll have him call you around three, and what is your number, please?" The call is then dated and timed and placed in Kletzing's file. When Mr. Kletzing returns, he checks back with his operator to find that Mr. Nagle called at 1:22 and would like him to return the call. The card is then marked "given" and at what time, and returned to the file for future reference.
Your next step--how does one start a Telephone Answering Service? Let's scout for Opportunity. My personal advice is to contact your local Telephone Company Communications Counselor. It's this man's job to know the telephone census in his area, the growth potential, how many Exchanges already exist, and also how many of these Exchanges can stand competition meaning, are they poor Exchanges? On one side, if you become an Exchange owner, you will be responsible for added revenue to the Telephone Company. On the other hand, if the Opportunity picture is poor, expensive equipment is going to be poorly invested. Your counselor is going to shrewdly evaluate the complete picture.
We shall surmise there is Opportunity in your area. Next practical question: How much does it cost to get started? Each Telephone System varies its tariff listings. To give you some actual figures to create this picture, let me quote from New England Telephone and Telegraph. Remember, each area has its own listings and this is merely a representative figure.
In some areas, no deposit is necessary for a switchboard. In Massachusetts, it varies according to your credit rating and the judgement of the Telephone Company manager as to your possibilities. I would judge that $500 would be a fair deposit; this will be returned to you with interest when you become solvent.
Board installation - $150; board monthly rental per first 40 jacks - $40; 2 business trunk lines - $32; total monthly rate is now - $72. Now, if you are totally blind, with no light perception, you will also need an electronic jack-finder developed by New England Telephone and Telegraph.
Installation - $60; monthly rental around $20 per 100 jacks; this makes a new total for monthly overhead - $92.
Now the realistic question: What are its livelihood possibilities? This actually gets back to you and your Opportunity area again. From my personal contacts, observations, and educated guesses, the financial range has been from $5,000 to $20,000 per year. You must adjust your individual rates to your local competition. The national average is $20 a month. This is very low for all services received but definitely on the increase. Don't be afraid to charge a few dollars more; but never undercut a competitor's rate. First, you won't make money that way; second, you'll get more of the "junk", shopper type client.
Your commodity is service. That service is YOU. You must give of yourself! If you wish to succeed with your commodity which is service, you must be a little bit better than your competitors. This is not a quick return type of business; but a secure, long-range investment.
Please consider the next paragraph underlined.
Your telephone or switchboard is an equalizer. To your client, when you are answering his phone, you are a voice and a brain. He doesn't care if you are blind, colored, or have three heads. He is putting his business, his livelihood, in your hands. The doctor is putting his patients' lives in your hands; and he will only do this if he feels secure about you. Your mistakes cost him money; or the patient undue pain. The patient calling in with an emergency doesn't even care if you are blind. He is just interested in your ability to reach the doctor or him. You are in the rat race of the business world, and your ability is going to be evaluated without blindness. You can't claim discrimination over a phone; you can't use this for a crutch or cover. You are stripped of using blindness as your excuse for failure.
Is the work interesting or tedious with such long hours? No business is a dream. Certainly there are long hours but one day is never as the day before. Your board educates you to all types of businesses and professions. Emergencies and life and death become routine matters. You are also integrated into the working machinery of your community. You are actually, in your everyday work, making your community better by your service. On our Exchange, we have the local coroner as a client. He is often out of town and we have the authority to release or hold the death calls that come through his line. For him, we take police calls, suspected murder, etc., hospital dead-on-arrivals, and routine death calls. We must analyze each particular case, judge it, and then act quickly upon it. Blindness has nothing to do with it.
Telephone Answering is not a blind alley but rather an avenue for the blind, or even a highway. It all depends on the individual himself--YOU!
Back to Contents
By Isabelle L.D, Grant and Ruth Ashby
With overtones of deep sorrow over the loss of their president, Clifford E. Jensen, the Colorado Federation of the Blind, comprising its two affiliates, the Denver Area Association and the Colorado Springs Council, successfully concluded its eleventh Annual Convention on October 30, 1965, in the American Legion Hall, Denver, Colorado, with a lively participation of well over one hundred members and friends. The theme, "Broadening Our Horizons," was indeed in keeping with Cliff's dauntless spirit and inspiring example.
Following the invocation. Acting President Ray McGeorge conducted the regular business meeting, the roll call, the White Cane Drive report, and other statutory reports. Col. Harold D. Woodruff, N.O.R.A.D. Command, Publicity Affairs Officer, described the activities of NORAD, illustrating his talk with sonic tapes, showing the history of the development of various types of airplanes. Mr. Wilbur Fulker, Principal, Colorado School for the Blind, discussed his experiments with raised line and three dimensional illustrations, and exhibited some of the interesting educational models he had made. Mr. Rubin Ewing, manager of the Eberhart Denver Machine plant, where Ray is employed, gave a stirring address on the employment of blind personnel in his plant.
Mr. Claude Tynar and Mr. Bryant Moore, both of the Colorado State Rehabilitation Department, discussed the growth and expansion of the Department with the present outlook in placement. Mr. Gregg Chancellor of the Governor's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped reviewed the progress of that Committee. Reports on the 1965 Annual Convention of the NFB, on the NFB Seminar, and on overseas activities of the NFB and the IFB, were presented by Mrs. Ruth Ashby, Mrs. Marie Jensen, and Dr. Isabelle Grant.
At a very impressive ceremony during the banquet, a beautiful bronze plaque in memory of Clifford E. Jensen was presented to the Colorado Federation; the plaque was accepted by Mrs. Marie Jensen. A eulogy in the form of a telegram from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek was read by Mrs. Georgia Cox. The speaker of the evening was Dr. Isabelle Grant, who chose as her topic, "Glimpses of the Rim of the World," bringing out social, educational, and political conditions, with emphasis on the situation of blind persons in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Nepal, and India.
Newly elected officers of the CFB for the next two years are: President, Mr. Raymond W. McGeorge, Denver; 1st Vice-President, Mrs. Ruth Ashby, Denver; 2nd Vice-President, Mr. Samuel Matzner, Colorado Springs; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Marie Jensen, Denver; Recording Secretary, Mrs. Bert Johnson, Denver; Treasurer, Mrs. A. H. Cox, Denver; Board of Directors: Mr. Keith James, Colorado Springs; Mr. Wm. E. Wood, Denver; Mr. Bert Johnson, Denver. Delegates to 1966 NFB Convention: Mr. Raymond W. McGeorge; 1st Alternate, Mr. Bert Johnson; 2nd Alternate, Mrs. Bert Johnson.
The following resolutions were passed: 1) that CFB donate $50 to the MONITOR; 2) that we donate $100 to the Colorado Optometric Association in memory of Clifford Jensen; 3) that we donate $25 to Wilbur Fulkner to buy materials he uses to make maps and models for use in his teaching at the school for the blind in Colorado Springs; 4) that President Ray McGeorge be instructed to do what he can to organize a council of representatives from the organized blind and the services of or for the blind in Colorado. The object of such a council to be to make a joint effort toward passing needed legislation and to formulate programs beneficial to the blind of Colorado.
Back to Contents
Reprinted from La Canne Blanche (1965)
Translated by Gerald Neufeld and Karin Gerstung
The improvement of laws concerning the social welfare of the blind has for nearly forty years been the primary objective of the creators of our movement. The establishment of special homes, workshops and rehabilitation centers throughout the country has likewise drawn much of their attention. Without doubt, most of their efforts have been directed at the rigorous enforcement and application of new legislative measures designed to increase the benefits to victims of blindness, and in so doing assuring them of greater independence and freedom of movement.
Some progress has been realized in this direction as evidenced by the following: the establishment in 1930 of increased financial benefits for those individuals in need of special personal assistance (a sighted person employed to assist in such tasks as reading mail, shopping, house-cleaning, etc.); the publication in 1945 of the ordinance on the social protection of the blind, the provisions of which soon after became applicable to all disabled persons by virtue of the "Cordonnier Law" of August 2, 1949; in 1954, the calculation of the rate of increased benefits and the vote on the compensatory allocation of this increase for disabled workers on Social Security, classified under category number three; in 1964, the fifty per cent reduction of the deductions imposed on the compensatory allocation, the amount of said deductions being normally determined by the level of the worker's occupational income..
In spite of these positive developments, the essential aim as proposed by the promoters of our movement--the implementation of measures which would accord to all blind persons adequate compensation enabling them to meet expenses incurred by their infirmity has not yet been fully realized. The assignment of increased monthly allocation for those needing continuous personal assistance as well as work compensation allocations remain inferior to the actual resources legally available to them.
In order to avail themselves of these benefits, our fellow blind are obliged to justify to a certain extent their lack of income; they do not, therefore, exercise a right, but solicit assistance. The fact of the matter is that the problem is due in great part to the antiquated structure of the Social Welfare Code. Applicants for assistance receive benefits based on the rules of 1905 regarding aid to the elderly, sick and incurable.
Since that time, however, new legislation has given birth to Social Security. It applies only to a fraction of the population, that which carries on or has carried on a salaried activity. For those persons recognized to be eligible for these benefits, a disability pension can be obtained inasmuch as they have previously enrolled in the insurance program. This pension is granted, however, only if the applicant is afflicted with a disability diminishing at least two-thirds of his work capacity. The pension is supplemented, should the occasion arise, by an increase in the allotment if the titulary is obliged to employ someone to assist him with his daily activities. The Social Security Code stipulates that the pension be suspended in the event that the disabled individual succeeds in resuming a professional activity which guarantees him a salary superior to the normal level of income of his previous occupation. Similarly, the pension is discontinued if the recipient is engaged in an independent activity producing an income greater than the maximum allocation granted to elderly salaried workers.
We have intimated here (in this journal) that the situation would improve in the near future. Indeed, subsequent to the close of the Supreme Court of Appeal on October 30, 1963, the Ministry of Labor instructed the Office of Social Security to reestablish increased benefits to disabled workers of the third group, regardless of their occupational income. The objective of this measure was to permit the titulary to meet whatever expenses his disability might impose upon him; it was not designed to simply compensate for a decrease in productivity.
Thus, an important aspect of the social legislation which we have promoted, that of the principle of compensation, has been ratified.This initial success is significant not only because of the satisfaction that it brings, particularly to those pensioned by Social Security, but also because of the precedent which it sets. One of our greatest problems is that of procuring such benefits for all victims of blindness.
It is for this reason that we are approaching the Amitie (a leading French organization of the blind) to inquire if this plan might be considered as possible social assistance legislation. It would appear that the plan would be contrary to the somewhat paternalistic concepts of the Welfare Code as well as to its methods of application. Although the term compensation, for example, appears in article 171 of the Social Welfare Code with respect to the allocation accorded to disabled workers, its effectiveness is promptly nullified by conflicting regulations and restrictions concerning the administration of aid. Again we are faced with the vexatious problem of maximum permissible resources, for an applicant's income is evaluated by calculating first, the amount earned while employed or amount of cash on hand, second, by determining the amount of assistance potentially available from his family and third, by taking into account that aid which might be obtained from other persons or sources.
Following the resolutions as set forth by the third national convention of the Typhlophily (an organization interested in the blind and their movement) in 1963, Monsieur Raymond Marcellin, Minister of Public Health and Population, promised to request of his colleague, the Minister of Finance, that these diverse sources of aid no longer be taken into account. But these efforts--we must state with regret--were not rewarded with success. We must also recognize that even had the suggestion been favorably received, it would have constituted only a half measure, the total abolition of the maximum permissible resources factor being the only entirely satisfactory solution. We are further forced to acknowledge that the abolition of the regulations is in direct conflict with the principles of the Social Welfare Code. Continued efforts in this direction would only result in the reexamination of the basic function and philosophy of the Welfare Code. Consequently, we envisage the institution of new legislation assuring that adequate compensatory allocations would be available to civilians in need of special personal assistance. It would then no longer be a question of challenging the basis and implementation of the Welfare Code concerned with administering aid to a large number of burdened and elderly individuals. It would be the contrary, a matter of improving the outlook for a limited number of severely disabled.
The project was already embodied in the plan of action presented last year at the general assembly of the Amitie' Association of the French Blind. The enthusiasm with which it was received encouraged us to submit it to the National Committee for the Social Protection of the Blind at the time of its general assembly of last November fifth. We had the satisfaction of seeing that all of our colleagues understood its importance and that they agreed to have the project put under study.
This idea seems to be well timed, for the public authorities have at last shown interest and concern in the problem. Their reaction is primarily due to the law of November 23, 1957 on the reclassification of handicapped labor, emphasizing the necessity for vocational rehabilitation with the aim of better equipping disabled persons to cope with their able-bodied competitors.
The problem was again considered at our autumn convention and once more, total unanimity resulted from our various points of view, all in favor of the institution of this new legislation. Although someone might say that we can expect rough sledding, we would assert that our plan is a mature and well conceived one and that its importance can escape no one. It simply marks a decisive turning point in the direction and manner of our action.
Back to Contents
By Tom Joe
Consultant, Assembly Committee on Social Welfare, California Legislature
One of the Committees appointed by Comstac was directed "to develop an authoritative statement of principles and standards for social services which may be used either by agencies for self-evaluation or by a program of accreditation.” The work of that committee will here be summarized and evaluated. The members of the committee are:
CHAIRMAN: Mrs. Edwin Campbell President
for the Adult Blind Boston
VICE CHAIRMAN: Theodore Isenstadt Director, Project on Aging Family Service Association of America New York
Miss Edith Ball, Associate Professor of Education New York University
William Bridges, Director, Division for the
Blind Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Charles Brightbill, Head, Department of Recreation and Municipal Park Administration University of Illinois Champaign
Mrs. Frances Dover, Assistant Director The Jewish Guild for the Blind New York
Miss Sophy Forward, Home Teaching Consultant
Office for the Blind
Mrs. Mildred Kilinski, Director, Department of Social Work Practice National Association of Social Workers New York
Mrs. Gisela Konopka, Professor of Social Work University of Minnesota Minneapolis
Franklin Parks, Executive Director Family
Service Society of
New Orleans Louisiana
Chester Williams, Executive Director
White Plains, New York
Miss Marion V. Wurster, Regional Consultant
American Foundation for
The Blind, New York
Murray Meld, Executive Director Health and Welfare Planning, Council of Seattle Washington
Frederick G. Storey, President, Storey Theatres, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia
Henry Talbert, Director, Western Regional
Office National Urban
League, Los Angeles
I. COMSTAC STANDARDS ON SOCIAL SERVICES
Social services falling within the purview of this Committee are listed as personal needs, communication skills, psychosocial needs, social relationships, recreation, group and residential care, volunteer service, and financial assistance. Health services and mobility are also included among "services needed", but are designated as not within the province of the Committee. For purposes of this report, social services have been divided into six classifications, each of which is discussed separately. The six classifications are: social work, adult education, recreation and camping, volunteer service, group residential care, and financial assistance. In a general statement, it is recognized that these needs may be common to the total population as well as to the blind population. The professionally trained staff providing these services to the blind, however, must have specialized knowledge of the problems of blind persons, as well as knowledge in their particular area of social service specialization. "The focus, however, remains on the person who happens to be blind and not on the handicap itself.”
Each area of social service is then discussed, using an identical outline format. The first area of discussion, social work service, begins with the topic Standards and Criteria, [which is] followed by:
"1. When social work service is provided by an agency, it is an integral part of the overall functional structure.
1.1 Administrative authority and responsibilities are clearly delineated in writing.
1.2 Responsibility for the social work service is assigned to professionally qualified staff.
2. Purposes of the service are stated in writing."
The outline continues and is repeated with only minor variations in each section, with the name of the section topic the only differentiating sign. Thus, section 2, on adult education, begins with "1. When adult education is provided by an agency, it is an integral part of the overall functional structure." etc.
Staff qualifications and ideal physical facilities for each topic are described. Only the section on financial assistance follows a somewhat different format. Finally, the Committee comes up with a page and a half of conclusions and recommendations.
Since the "Standards and Criteria" are identical for each topic, it would have seemed logical to state them only once and to indicate that they apply to social services generally. It should be obvious from the sample cited above that the standards and criteria are so general as to not only fail to differentiate between various types of social services, but to be applicable to any organized endeavor. They seemed to be copied from an administrative handbook. No supporting arguments are given, nor is the opposition given a voice. Furthermore, the term "social services" is never defined; social services are merely listed. Some justification would seem to be needed to lump together under the title of "social services" such diverse phenomena as social work service, adult education, recreation, volunteer service, residential care, and financial assistance. Is the implication somehow that they are all part of "social service" therapy for the blind?
Another disquieting theme is the emphasis on meeting community needs (what about the needs of the blind individuals?) and the prohibition against competition among agencies. The implication is that the function of social services is the adjustment of the blind to society and the harmonious interaction of the agencies providing this adjustment training. No recognition is given to the point of view that society might have to do some adjusting in its attitudes and practices toward persons with visual defects, and that perhaps agencies serving the blind might provide leadership in this regard.
Each section emphasizes that the agency's goals must be written, that the client's individual plan must be stated in writing, but never is there an attempt to suggest what types of goals an adult education program for the blind might have or what might be the desirable elements of a blind individual's adult education plan. Under the guise of individuality and objectivity, no statements are made about what the "written" objectives might include. Nor are the client's own objectives even considered.
Again, in the description of characteristics of persons working in the various social service categories, little mention is made of their skills or personal qualities. Instead, positions are delineated in civil service jargon, in terms of a college degree and years of experience. For example, the Director of Recreation Service should have a master's degree in Recreation for the Ill and Handicapped, plus five years experience in the field. Several questions come to mind. How many colleges have such a master's program? Is recreation for the blind included in recreation for the Ill and Handicapped? Shouldn't the qualities of a recreation director be less academic and more action oriented? Is he a good swimmer, hiker or square dancer? What about the person's philosophy in regard to blindness?
In short, the characteristics of the various types of persons who perform "special service" work with the blind are described in superficial, largely irrelevant terms. The description is either too general or too specific. Paper qualifications are emphasized. These, along with a blueprint of the desirable physical plant for each social service will presumably give an ideal program. Content and quality of social service programs are never mentioned. The special characteristics of blind persons are alluded to, but never defined. It is all framework and no substance. If standards are prescriptions for action, there are no standards here. There are no "thou shalt's" or "thou shalt not's".
The system relies on professionalism. Professional standards are not defined. Instead, the accreditation and licensing procedures of public and voluntary agencies are accepted without debate or description. The Committee recommends reliance on the standards of the American Camping Association, the Child Welfare League, the National Council for the Accreditation of Nursing Homes, etc. in various instances, without even hinting at what these standards might involve. The emphasis is static; accepting what is accepted practice. The fact that the professional social workers, adult educators, and volunteers have failed the blind is never considered. The tyranny of bureaucracy is further sanctioned.
The few attempts to define content or objectives fail miserably. Recreative experience "is mentally challenging, emotionally satisfying, socially constructive and contributes to the total well-being of the individual. The recreation program includes those experiences that satisfy the mental, social, physical, and emotional needs of the participants . . . such as: arts and crafts, dance, and games." To take another example, group residential care is a resource "when such residential care is indicated.” When is that? The answer given is: when the decision "is based on a sound professional appraisal." Blind people placed in residential institutions can rest content knowing that their placement was made by a professional.
The section on financial assistance unlike the others, is short and prescriptive. It begins with the statement that basic maintenance is a governmental responsibility, that assistance should be adequate, in cash, and paid without delay, that relatives' responsibility shall not extend beyond spouses and minor children, and various other statements of a progressive nature. The conclusion apologizes for the lack of detail in the financial section, but there is no need for apology. The rest of the report would have benefited by imitation of the financial assistance section.
Back to Contents
By John Nagle
"The Role of Credit Unions as a Cooperative Effort of Helping People Help Themselves," was the subject of a seminar held in Washington, D.C., October 21, as one of the events scheduled in celebration of Credit Union Day, 1965.
Sponsored jointly by the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Agriculture, the seminar featured persons prominent both in government and in the credit union movement in the United States, who described the effect of credit unions on the daily lives of over 16 million Americans.
The seminar program was arranged to give leaders in government and in the community a better understanding of the nature, functions, and purposes served by credit unions, and to illustrate the social and economic benefits which result to their members and to the Nation from them.
Particular attention was focused upon the credit union as a instrument to combat poverty.
The organized blind movement has long recognized the value of credit unions--established cooperatively by the blind themselves, as a lending resource to which the blind might turn in their need, with the knowledge that their application for financial help would be considered and judged on its merits, that it would not be rejected out of hand, simply because they were blind and considered a poor credit risk.
In recognition of the numerous credit unions which have been organized by the blind and other groups of handicapped men and women throughout the Nation, John Nagle, Washington representative of the National Federation of the Blind, was invited to attend the Credit Union Seminar by Under Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Wilbur J, Cohen.
Back to Contents
A Minnesota district court judge has ruled that income from rent may not be regarded as "earned income" for purposes of Aid to the Blind, and hence is not to be included within earned-income provisions of the law.
The decision by Judge Rolk Fosseen, handed down last August 24, upheld a ruling by the Minnesota Welfare Department that rental income received by Michael Kooreny of Minneapolis was not earned income under state and federal law and therefore was properly used to reduce Kooreny's Aid to the Blind grant.
Earlier in the year Kooreny had received a total of $70, representing two months' rent, from a tenant who was sharing his apartment temporarily. The county welfare department decided that the rent was income of a kind that must be applied to the budget, and accordingly deducted $70 from the monthly grant. Kooreny appealed the decision on the ground that the rental money should be considered earned income and therefore exempted from the determination of need under state and federal statutes requiring that "the first $85 of the earned monthly income plus one-half of earned monthly income in excess of $85 . . . shall be disregarded in determining the need of an applicant or recipient ..."
Even before Kooreny's appeal had been heard by the state welfare agency, Appeals Referee Russell E. Simmons left little doubt as to what his finding would be. In a letter to Kooreny, he wrote: "We see no possibility of finding that the Hennepin County Welfare Department has erred in advising you on this matter, and there is, accordingly, nothing to be gained by holding an appeal hearing on the matter. You may have a hearing if you insist, but we suggest that in order to save your time and the time of several county and state agency staff members, your appeal be withdrawn."
Both the adverse finding by the appeals referee and the subsequent decision by the district court judge turned upon the interpretation of Kooreny's rental income as "an arrangement to share housing" rather than a business venture in the field of rentals. Judge Fosseen concluded his opinion with the statement that "If the $70 can be classified as earned, then it is hard to conceive of any source of income that could not be similarly classified.”
The contestable finding of fact was whether the arrangement was one to share housing rather than a business venture by the petitioner. [In other words, we think] The question pinpointed should be as to whether or not the $35.00 a month rent Mr. Kooreny received for sharing his apartment (for two months) was earned income and hence exempt, or unearned income and nonexempt, in determining his grant of Aid to the Blind.
In the Appeal Hearing, the Appellant testified that he had performed services in connection with renting a portion of his apartment. This testimony was not refuted, but was not sufficiently elaborated to develop to the extent of his effort.
While the record of the Appeal to the state agency, in its Findings of Fact and Decision, quotes a portion of Handbook Section IV, 3162, of the Federal Handbook of Public Assistance, subdivisions (a), (b), and c), [it seems to us that] the portion of Section 3162, which is most pertinent in this situation, was not quoted, and reads as follows: "With regard to the degree of activity, earned income is income produced as a result of the performance of services by a blind recipient; in other words, income which the blind individual earns by his own efforts, including managerial responsibilities, would be properly classified as earned income. Under this interpretation, income received by a blind individual as a result of capital investment in real estate and substantial effort on his own part in managing or giving other specific services in relation to that investment, could be termed earned income. This would be true even when the income is derived in part as a result of services performed by others if substantial personal services on the part of the blind individual are involved and the income belongs to him. To illustrate, income to the blind individual from projects carried on jointly with others, such as the operation of a rooming house or from home production enterprises, is classified as earned income. Conversely, in the instance of capital investment wherein the individual carries no specific responsibility, such as where rental properties are in the hands of rental agencies and the check is forwarded to the recipient, the income would not be classified as earned income."
In other words, the test to be applied to the $70 of income to determine whether it was earned or unearned is this: Is the $70 from rental of room or from purveying of room, a result of an appreciable and continuous effort on the part of the appellant? If so, then the income is clearly earned, and hence, is exempt. On the other hand, if the $70 accrued to the appellant without any appreciable or continuous effort on his part, then the income (or any net portion therof) is no earned and hence must be taken into consideration in determining the grant.
The intent of the earned income exemption provision in Aid to the Blind is, first, to encourage blind recipients to be actively productive and at least partially self-sustaining, and, second, to enable them to improve their standard of living. Can it be said that the Minnesota decision will contribute to these objectives?
Back to Contents
And it didn't take Isabelle all summer. Indeed, she did it in less than a week. Her strategy, tactics, artillery, and munitions of war consisted only of the zeal of a crusader and the wit of a Scotswoman.
Ostensibly, Isabelle went to Denver only to attend the eleventh convention of the Colorado Federation of the Blind. She did that, serving as banquet speaker, reporter on progress in foreign fields, general discussant and all around gadfly. But while she was at it she took over the town as well. The Denver Post of October 28th carried a lengthy article on the CFB and the NFB, together with a write-up on the activities at home and abroad of Dr. Grant. Isabelle also appeared on the Maury Trumbull program "At Your Service", an hour-long telephone program of KTLN. She also participated in the Bill Barker radio show on the evening of October 28th. The parents of blind children met at the home of Mr. W. Peters, with Dr. Grant speaking on the problem "After School, What?" As guest of the Skyline Lions Club of Denver, Isabelle addressed herself to the topic "The New Lionism at Home and Abroad, " while the Ladies Auxiliary of the Lions heard her discuss "Women I have Met Abroad.”
Back to Contents
By Russell Kletzing
An important conference on the law of the poor has been scheduled for next February at Berkeley, California, under the auspices of the University of California's Center for the Study of Law and Society.
The Berkeley conference--which will bring together 2l scholars and experts from the fields of law, social science and social welfare to explore the problem of "how the law may be brought to the poor"--is being planned and coordinated by Professor Jacobus tenBroek. In doing so, Dr. tenBroek is combining his various roles as constitutionalist, scholar, welfare pioneer, and leader of the organized blind.
The projected conference reflects a deepening national concern over inequities of legal protection and social treatment affecting various disadvantaged groups-- including the blind and the physically handicapped. Sinailar conferences have been held recently in various parts of the country, notably by the Office of Economic Opportunity (June 1965) and by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (November 1964), At another level the U.S. Supreme Court has displayed an awareness of the problem of "equal justice" through successive decisions upholding the right to counsel and to appeals in cases of indigent defendants, Meanwhile other aspects of the problem have been tackled by lower courts, as in three recent cases familiar to Federationists: the Parrish case, involving the right of needy recipients of welfare to privacy and other constitutional protections; the Kirchner case, in which the California Supreme Court affirmed the public responsibility (as against relatives' responsibility) for support of mentally handicapped persons in public institutions; and the Chavich case, in which the rights of blind teachers to equal treatment was the subject of extended litigation in the New York courts.
The range of issues surrounding the law of the poor to be examined in separate papers by the Berkeley conferees represents an elaboration of themes first, raised by Dr. tenBroek in an influential series of articles published in the Stanford Law Review (Summer, 1964, and Spring, 1965), under the overall title "California's Dual System of Family Law."
The forthcoming symposium in turn is scheduled to be published (as individual papers) in an enlarged edition of the California Law Review for May, 1966. Subsequent publication of the proceedings as a paperback book is also contemplated.
The purpose of the Berkeley conference has been described by Professor tenBroek as "providing a critical review of the rules and procedures, doctrines and presuppositions of the law of the poor--primarily as that law is found in welfare laws, codes, statutes, ordinances and programs, but also as it is embodied in other conditions of the class generally described as the disadvantaged."
In a letter to the conference participants, Dr. tenBroek observed that "Bringing the law to the poor is very important, of course; but equally or more important is the problem of the character of the law to be brought to the poor. Is that law what it ought to be?"
He defined the objectives of the February conference as broadly those of sharing in the initial steps currently underway about the country: (1) in exploring the scope and nature of the law applicable to the poor, including its constitutional implications; (2) in bringing awareness of the importance and extent of this field of law to the legal profession, to law schools, and to social scientists generally; (3) in providing a foundation of thought, analysis and scholarship for the use of the legal profession and the courts in deciding cases in the field, as well as for the use of legislators and welfare planners."
Each participant at the three-day conference, beginning February 17, will present a paper on the particular phase of the general topic.
Back to Contents
The controversial case of Benny Parrish vs. the Civil Service Commission of Alameda County, now nearly three years old, entered a new stage of litigation in November as sharply worded opposing briefs were submitted to a California District Court of Appeal.
At the same time the district court declined to receive two separate amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs presented in support of Parrish.
The first of the rejected briefs was proffered by Bishop James L. Pike, who is a lawyer as well as head of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. (Because of its forceful character, as well as the special authority of its author, Bishop Pike's brief is reproduced elsewhere in this issue.)
The second amicus brief, drawn up by the California Social Worker's Organization and by various California chapters of the National Association of Social Workers, was rejected by the court on the ground that it had been submitted too late for consideration.
The hotly disputed law suit centers around Benny Parrish, a blind social worker with the Alameda County welfare department who was fired early in 1963 for refusing to take part in pre-dawn mass raids upon the homes of welfare recipients. Parrish appealed to the county civil service commission which upheld his dismissal. Last year his petition for reinstatement was denied by the county Superior Court, and in May 1965 he carried his case to the District Court of Appeal.
The new arguments by opposing counsel were in the form of reply briefs in which both sides sought to refute contentions set forth in opening briefs presented to the court last May. (See THE BRAILLE MONITOR, June 1965.)
In their latest brief on behalf of Parrish, attorneys Albert M. Bendich and Coleman A. Blease struck at the "statement of facts" presented by Alameda County's District Attorney J. F. Coakley as "a pastiche of unsupported, unconnected, illogical and unresponsive half truths and untruths."
They emphasized their earlier contention that "the central issue is whether Americans can be deprived of fundamental constitutional rights as a condition of receiving Aid to Needy Children benefits or other forms of assistance in the war on poverty."
In their opening brief, the attorneys for Parrish had maintained (1) that the county's unannounced "bed-check raid" violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) that the raid also violated Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process of law, and (3) that Parrish's "refusal to violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments did not constitute insubordination justifying his dismissal."
In their reply brief defending the Civil Service Commission, District Attorney Coakley and Assistant D. A. Richard H. Klippert based their general claim that no constitutional rights or provisions had been violated on the ground that the unscheduled visitations upon welfare clients were in the nature of routine administrative checks conducted with the consent of the visited.
By contrast the attorneys for Parrish emphasized: "The record is uncontradicted that the mass 'bed check' raid was conducted in circumstances heavily impregnated with duress, fear, coercion, and fraud. It began in the 6:30 a.m. darkness of a January Sunday morning. It was directed against persons constituting the least educated, most invidiously selected segments of our population; persons wholly dependent upon the searchers for such elementary conditions of existence as food and lodging. It was conducted by teams of two agents, each of whom 'covered' both front and back entrances of the target home in classic dragnet-style.
"It would be difficult to conceive of circumstances more calculated to remove the will to resist and hence better qualified to destroy the meaning of 'consent.’ In such circumstances, the request for permission to enter a home is more akin to the jailor's demand to enter an inmate's cell than to a policeman's request to search a dwelling."
Moreover, the appellant's attorneys argued that "consent" on the part of those raided, even if it were voluntarily given, is not a "justifiable defense for a search implementing impermissible governmental ends."
"When the state asserts extensive power to search, without reason for suspicion ... it smacks of the essence of an assertion of power wholly unrestrained by law, power directly subversive and destructive of the Fourth Amendment, and indeed the entire concept of a government of laws and not of men," they maintained.
"Such power, even in the case of the most petty or heinous criminal, is inadmissible. Its mass character, however, magnifies and generalizes the possibility of error; eliminates all the constitutional standards of reasonableness; reverses the presumption of innocence for all; and places the state over the people as their master rather than keeping it, carefully regulated and restrained, under them, as their servant.
"When used discriminatorily against a defenseless and dependent minority of the poor, the dangers take on a despicable color on unfairness and exploitation foreign to the genius of our Constitution and specifically denounced in the guarantees of due process and equal protection of law".
Parrish's attorneys emphasized the police character of the bed check raids and asserted that "the suggestion of utter police authority over the lives of the poverty-stricken conjures the spectre of the universal spy before our very eyes. Here is '1984,' here is 'Big Brother,' here is totalitarian horror presented in the bland rhetoric of bureaucratic largesse!"
Pointing to the increasing use of snooping and eavesdropping techniques by various government agencies, the Parrish brief declared: "We dare not become complacent about such moral and constitutional atrocities. Here, in this case, we respectfully urge this honorable court to reaffirm that there are still constitutional limits upon the time, place, manner and subject matter of the exercise of official curiosity; that such limits do not stop at the doorstep of the poor; and that it matters not whether the representatives of authority carry the title of policeman, detectives, welfare agents or file clerks."
The attorneys for Parrish maintained that "it is incumbent upon this Court to reaffirm those great constitutional principles upon which this nation has been founded and upon which the dignity and hopes of its people rest. Above all, now is the time, now the necessity and the opportunity to declare clearly and unequivocally that, in respect of their fundamental rights, Americans are no more to be classified or discriminated against for reasons of poverty than for other constitutional irrelevancies such as race, creed or color."
Back to Contents
During a luncheon meeting in Columbia, South Carolina on November 8, Don Capps was presented with a citation as Carolina's Handicapped Man of the Year. In the NFB and in the Aurora Club he is a man of every year. The citation was signed by Harold Russell, chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped and Dr. Dill D. Beckman, chairman of the Governor's Committee.
Don Capps is manager of the Columbia branch of the Colonial Life Insurance Company. Federationists know him as a long-time officer and executive committeeman both in the Federation and its South Carolina affiliate and the battle-scarred veteran of many wars, state and national fought for the welfare of the blind.
Back to Contents
[Editor's Note: Responsibility of relatives, a subject of intense interest to Americans, is of equal concern in European countries. In this article G.E. Langemeijer, the Attorney General of Holland, explains a recent action of the Dutch Parliament. The article was published in 1965 Revue Internationale de Droit Comtare and has been translated from French to English by Professor Gerhard Casper, Political Science Department, University of California, Berkeley, who also called it to the Editor's attention?]
Regarding the development of our social policy concepts, a considerable restriction of support liability is in no way less significant (than abolition of the lex hac edictali). In this respect the government has gone far beyond Meijer's original project. The new code will give support rights only to spouses, children, stepchildren, parents and "parents-in-law"; the term "parents-in-law" carrying the double meaning
of the spouse's parents and the second spouse of one's father or other.
From now on grandparents and great grandparents are excluded. There is no right to support among brothers and sisters. During the debates in the Chamber, the Socialist Party had proposed to restrict support liabilities even more by limiting them exclusively to the obligation of parents toward their minor children. The Chamber rejected the amendment, without much conviction, however, since at that time it was already occupied with a social assistance bill which limited the right of recovery by public agencies as against those liable. In practice, the result of this law has been to award indigent parents a choice between turning to their children for help or to public assistance, while social welfare agencies have no longer a right to recover from children, unless the latter find themselves in comfortable economic circumstances. Here we recognize the influence which the Socialist amendment exercised outside the framework of the new code. The Socialists do not deny the children's moral obligation to support their indigent parents. However, they maintain that the state's obligation to provide for them is even more imperative. Attempts to recover payments made to indigent parents in almost all cases would still lower the children's standard of living, already quite low. But above all, the recovery system would deter many parents from asking for welfare subsidies of which, nevertheless, they have genuine need. As a matter of fact, many would hesitate to knock at the public's door because this would obligate their children to reimburse welfare agencies. The new system puts an end to this dilemma.
Back to Contents
By Lelia Proctor
The Montana Association for the Blind, Box 536, Kalispell, Montana, is accepting applications for the following positions at its 1966 Summer School for the Adult Blind to be held in Bozeman for a period of five or six weeks, beginning June 19 or 26:
Director; School Hostess; Orientation Instructor; and instructors in such courses as braille, typewriting, hand writing, home economics, loom weaving, wood working, and small hand crafts such as ceramics, leather, knitting, etc.
Applicants should be qualified to teach at least two subjects, or be able to assume nursing duties. Applications for Director should be received not later than January 5, 1966. Applications for other positions, by March 1. Applicants should give at least three references. Applications and requests for additional information should be sent to the above address.
Back to Contents
[Editor's Note: The Parrish case is gradually making its way to decision by California's District Court of Appeals, the intermediate appellate court standing between the general trial court and the Supreme Court of the State. Readers of the MONITOR will recall that Benny Parrish, a blind social worker, was fired by Alameda County, Calif., for refusing to participate in a night raid on AFDC families. The question now being settled by the court is whether such raids and the consequent firing are constitutional.
James A. Pike is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, a member of the California Bar, a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, Chairman, California State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. We are herewith reprinting the brief amicus curiae prepared by Bishop Pike and proffered to the District Court of Appeals. The court declined to receive it, presumably on the group that the statement is more of a sermon than a brief. The strength of the arguments, however, will not be denied by the general public or by federationists.]
This case is one which carries significance far beyond the achievement of justice on behalf of one man, for it reaches to the very roots of Constitutional guarantees which apply to the welfare of our society as a whole. We have never tolerated abuses of the people's right to privacy within the sanctuary of the home, nor have we condoned unreasonable searches and seizures at any time since the founding of our Nation.
That the "bed checks" performed by the Alameda County Welfare Department involve exactly such abuses as those historically associated with general dragnet searches, general warrants and the like is demonstrable not only by the fact that the privacy of welfare recipients has been unreasonably abused, but further through the technique of pursuing "bed check" raids in homes on an admittedly random basis, with the implication that guilt is presumed solely on the basis of the indigence of families.
At the same time, this case poses the critical question of a State or County Agency's right to requite an action of an employee which both abrogates the responsibilities inherent in his vocational training and job description, and leads him into jeopardy of civil liability and criminal punishment. Inasmuch as there is grave question as to whether Mr. Parrish might have participated in the "bed checks" without violating the constitutional rights of others and hence opening himself to personal liability and danger, it remains the solemn duty of the court to have as its first priority in its decision the protection of his own rights and the upholding of his appeal.
Apart from Mr. Parrish's personal vindication there remains the issue of the violation of Constitutional rights of all persons who, for reasons not necessarily of their own making, are subjected to unreasonable search, defamation and humiliation by the undue actions of Welfare Department employees. We are faced here not only with the rights of indigent parents but as well, with those of children whose lives are easily scarred by the disruption of the remaining vestiges of decency and privacy within their homes. It therefore falls upon the court to consider not only the welfare of the Appellant, but also in connection therewith to vindicate the Appellant's sensitivity to the situation of a generation of persons who, though not parties to this case, have the right to grow unhindered out of the deprivations which they have already experienced. Scrupulous investigation of the far-reaching implications of this case cannot help but move the Court to find for the Appellant and hence maintain the universal rights which all persons in this free Nation should hold and cherish as their own.
Back to Contents
By Roger D. Petersen
As a service to blind college students, including myself, I have undertaken to compile and distribute a directory of blind college and university students in the United States, indexed by fields of study and also listing each student's school, year in school, campus and home addresses and telephone numbers. To date I have sent over 1,000 business reply cards to state agencies for distribution to blind students whom they serve, and 150 have been completed and returned by students. Owing, however, to the fact that some of the state agencies have not responded at all, while others have responded indicating the unwillingness to cooperate, I have not been able to achieve complete coverage. Therefore, any blind undergraduate or graduate student who has not received on of my business reply cards, but who wishes to be listed, is requested to send the above indicated information about himself to Roger Petersen, Graduate Psychological Labs, Cornell University Research Park, Ithaca, New York, 14850.
Back to Contents
By John V. Lindsay
[Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the "Harvard Law Record" for October 28, 1965. It has obvious relevance to Federation principles and activities; John V. Lindsay served for 7 years in Congress as a Republican Representative from New York and was recently victorious in that city's mayoralty campaign.]
In the seven years I have been in Congress, I can recall few pieces of legislation that have caused as much discussion and controversy as P. L. 88-452, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. In our first deliberations about the bill in the early months of 1964, and again this year as we reviewed the first year of the antipoverty program, we have devoted a good deal of time to consider a broad range of issues growing out of the aims and the experience of implementing this Act.
These deliberations have been worthwhile. They have been crucial to the effective continuation of the nation's war on poverty, for the great potential of this program demands that painstaking attention be paid to the successes and failures in our experience with its first year.
One of the major conclusions emerging from our discussions and the record of the first year is that the role of the legal profession in the war on poverty will be one of the key determinants of the ultimate success of the effort to "eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty," in the words of the Act's preamble.
Repeatedly in my own examination of the provisions of the legislation and the programs which have begun in New York City and across the nation during the antipoverty programs first year, I have been struck by the great potential for lawyers to play major roles in the war on poverty. In this article I would like to set forth some of the areas where I believe lawyers can make a major contribution to this national effort. I hope to suggest some of the unique attributes of the legal profession which offer special promise for the success of the antipoverty programs.
In assessing the role of the lawyer in the war on poverty, we must consider the historical context of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
The background to President Johnson's legislative proposals in early 1964 is a remarkable testimony to the power of ideas to influence legislative action in the United States, for the Act clearly grows out of the writings and critical perspectives of a group of visionary thinkers in the late 50's and early '60's.
Michael Harrington's "The Other America", the growing body of practical literature of the civil rights movement, such as Charles Silberman's "The Crisis in Black and White" and Bayard Rustin's "From Politics to Protest", and a number of sophisticated critiques of the existing welfare structure, combined to develop the consensus that eventually led to the passage of the Act.
It had become apparent that the gap between our power to eliminate poverty and our programs designed to that end had grown too great. John Kennedy said in 1962 that "Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life." In 1964 our determination in Congress was that strengthening our capacity to achieve the former required a new and greater emphasis.
The language of the Act is specific. It seeks the elimination of poverty in the United States, and establishes ten programs and an administrative structure to operate the war on poverty. But the two great objectives of the antipoverty program are contained in its key section, Section 202 (a) describing "Community Action Programs."
The first goal is the coordination of all programs which attempt to eliminate poverty in a community, and is emphasized by the phrase "which mobilizes and utilizes resources, public or private ... in an attack on poverty. "
The second aim is insuring that residents of the areas affected by the program will play key roles in policy-making regarding their area, and is emphasized in the language of 202 (a) (1): "[A community action program is a program] which is developed, conducted, and administered with the maximum feasible participation of residents of the areas and members of the groups involved ..."
I strongly believe that the skills of the legal profession can aid greatly in achieving both of these interdependent objectives.
In their excellent article in the "Yale Law Journal" of July 1964, Edgar and Jean Cahn point out the special advantages which a lawyer brings to any effort to improve the social and economic status of the poor. The lawyer, they note, is a respectable source of assistance and thus may receive many inquiries and complaints which ought to be referred to a social worker but end up on the lawyer's desk because he is viewed as a source of impartial assistance.
In addition, the Cahns stress the lawyer's role as an advocate as an asset which is denied other institutional representatives who see their task as one of mediating between social institutions and not one of continually seeking to defend the rights of the poor.
The Cahns also point out that the lawyer is case oriented, enabling him to consider individuals not generalized discontent, in a chaotic neighborhood. Finally, they stress the legal expertise of the lawyer as a special asset for the poor, since so many of the problems of the poor have legal implications: eviction, welfare enforcement, police treatment, installment-buying are but a few examples.
In the effort to coordinate all resources which can be mobilized in the war on poverty, the lawyer's knowledge of legislation is a special attribute, for the Act provides tools for a comprehensive effort by local communities to seek funds from every available program of federal assistance to local communities which can be secured from the federal government.
Under Section 611 of the Act, application for federal funds for programs such as school construction and hospital facilities in poor areas can receive preferential treatment if they are included as part of a total community action program designed to eliminate poverty. Thus far, this "preferences section" has not been widely utilized. When it begins to play a greater role, however, the knowledge of federal legislation and application requirements which a lawyer can supply will play a significant role in broadening a community action program to include relevant federal programs.
Similarly, the effort to coordinate all programs which can be set to the task of eliminating poverty is a task for which the legal profession bears special responsibility and qualifications. Several critics of the present antipoverty programs have discussed the feasibility of a master plan for social services which would be linked with the existing master plans for physical development of a city. Development and implementation of such a plan would be a challenge which the lawyer would be uniquely qualified to accept.
I feel that coordination can also be greatly assisted by the lawyer in an equally important fashion in the long and at times bitter negotiations among various armies united in the war on poverty.
The city's departments and agencies coordinating organizations in City Hall, private welfare and community organizations, and neighborhood organizations formed and composed of the poor--these are social organizations which may seem at first to have little in common and whose interests often appear to be in conflict in the early stages of formation of a comprehensive community development program.
The lawyer's objectivity, his skills at arbitration, and his respect in the community can make unique contributions to progress in bringing greater harmony and coordination among the growing number of groups seeking similar ends in the social services area.
From my own observations, however, it is in the area of the second broad aim of the antipoverty programs--involvement of the poor--where the legal profession may be able to make its greatest contribution. The legislative mandate to broaden the planning, conduct, and administration of the antipoverty programs to include the poor themselves; must, I believe, be considered one of the most far reaching legislative achievements of the twentieth century.
We have recognized for the first time in national legislation that it is not enough to provide the resources for change, but that those who participate in social change often determine the effectiveness of change itself. We have learned that the root cause of poverty is often a fundamental feeling of powerlessness, to use Kenneth Clark's phrase in his monumental report on Harlem youth.
And we have taken the first halting steps in the direction of enabling those whose destiny, after all, we are trying to shape, to have the power and the sense of efficacy to influence the future of themselves and their neighborhoods.
Inclusion of representatives of the poor on the planning boards of the neighborhood and city-wide antipoverty policy-making councils, employment of poor persons as sub-and non-professional employees of the community action programs, and the continuing effort to organize and solicit the reactions of the poor themselves have become crucial strategies in our war on poverty.
I personally view this entire effort as an issue of due process.It seems clear that for too long the voice of those who are affected by federal, state, and municipal policy in the poor neighborhoods of our nation has been stifled and ignored. Those whose lives are dislocated by social change have been the last to be heard from and the least likely to influence the final decisions of major import for the future of our nation.
As a problem of due process, the effort to involve the poor in antipoverty programs is one of great significance for the legal profession. Traditional roles of defending those accused of criminal acts are but one of several ways in which a lawyer can contribute to the effort to insure that the rights of the poor are given equal priority with those of the rest of our society.
Legal aid programs such as those now operating in Harlem, and on the Lower East Side in New York, as well as in Washington, D. C. , and Oakland, California have been among the most effective of the many programs now becoming associated with neighborhood service centers financed by the antipoverty programs.
The Legal Aid Society and student legal aid groups have come to realize that the services of a lawyer are a precious resource and one that is rarely even considered by the poor to be available. These programs have done a good deal to demonstrate the manner in which the skills of the lawyer can be tapped for a segment of the society which needs them critically.
Beyond these legal aid programs, there are several other ways in which the lawyer can contribute. Legal education is an activity which must be broadened in poor neighborhoods if those who are totally unaware of what a lawyer is and what he can do are to be helped.
Mobilization for Youth in New York's Lower East Side has distributed wallet size cards in Spanish which describe the rights of one accused of crime and how to reach a lawyer when one is needed.
Handouts on one page have been distributed also, describing the rights of welfare recipients and persons buying goods on installment plans. These kinds of imaginative ways of communication offer a genuine challenge to the lawyer who is anxious that his services be relevant to more than a comfortable suburban clientele.
All of these activities of the lawyer in the antipoverty program, however, are in areas more or less associated with the present role of the lawyer as a private advocate and counsel.
Indeed, a new concept of the legal profession may be needed. The greatest contributions which the lawyer can make may well be in areas where he can play a role only if he takes an interest as a citizen, and not primarily as a lawyer. 1 am thinking of activities such as representing a neighborhood association of the poor in negotiations with the city administration which is unwilling to live up to the spirit of the Economic Opportunity Act and has refused to share real policy-making power with a spokesmen of the poor.
I am thinking of the role which lawyers have played in the civil rights movement--as individuals deeply committed to social justice and possessing special skills of major relevance to the fight against discrimination--but as citizens, not lawyers under contract or obligation to serve a community.
This kind of initiative seems to me the kind of demonstration of social concern on the power of the "outside" that residents of the ghetto and the bleak countrysides of America can take inspiration from. It is this kind of service out of conviction, rather than contract which truly taps the talents of the legal profession in the neighborhoods where those talents are almost completely irrelevant today.
In my observations of antipoverty programs throughout New York City and my discussions with directors and staff members of local community action programs around the country, I have been most impressed by the caliber of individual which a successful antipoverty program demands.
As I talk with those who have run these programs, it seems to me that three strains are essential for the effective antipoverty warrior. These programs demand outstanding administrative skills, with acute awareness of the ins and outs of all public and private agencies in the city or area, plus the ability to persuade and bargain with agencies to expand or significantly modify their operations, using the prestige of the political leadership of the community, but remaining free of it at all times.
The personnel in antipoverty programs must also be politicians--politicians at least as effective as the best local politicians in this
country, for the staff of such an effort must be able to sense the power and the potential power of all local political groups, as well as what each group will and will not tolerate as public policy.
Finally, the staff of an antipoverty program must be philosophers of a sort, able to keep sight of the sometimes incredible long run aim of eliminating poverty while dealing on a day-to-day basis with the thousand minor details that plague a program which seeks to do so much for so many.
I can think of no group of men and women who combine these skills and values more successfully than the legal profession of the United States. Lawyers possess unique skills and a perspective on social change involved in eliminating poverty from the American experience.
Abram Chayes, in his introduction to the Report to the National Conference on Law and Poverty in June of this year noted that the notion of due process for all citizens and the concept of law as "the dynamic of change" of our society are "impeccably conservative sentiments" which bear the potential for profound social change.
The task before our nation's lawyers is the practical realization of social change in a context of social justice.
Back to Contents
James B. Fall, retiring president of the Arizona Federation of the Blind, has been honored by President Johnson and by Governor Paul Fannin as Arizona's Handicapped Man of the Year.
A long time leader of the organized blind movement in his state, Jim Fall also received a Certificate of Merit from the Phoenix Mayor's Committee for National Employ the Handicapped Week.
Signed by Major Milton H. Graham and officials of the committee; the citation states that "James B. Fall has successfully readjusted himself in the presence of a major physical handicap. This acknowledges his achievement in developing and applying new abilities with the realization of full-time employment. His accomplishment is a tribute as a good citizen.
"He has exhibited the qualities of industry, self-discipline, courage and resourcefulness. His example is an inspiration to others in the application of their available resources."
Back to Contents
By Harold M. Schmeck Jr.
(Reprinted from the New York Times, Tues., Nov. 9, 1965)
Arlington Va., November 8
Indiscriminate borrowing and lending of eyebrow pencils has led to at least one epidemic of a severe eye infection, an eye specialist said here today.
The ancient fashion among girls of outlining the edge of the eyelid with eyebrow pencil is harmless in itself, the specialist. Dr. Phillips Thygeson, said. But, he added, it has led to the spread of trachoma through misuse of the pencils.
Dr. Thygeson is director of the University of California Medical School's Francis I. Proctor Foundation for research in ophthalmology. The foundation is an international reference center for trachoma.
He said that an epidemic of about 80 cases of trachoma in San Jose, Calif., was traced to eye-pencil sharing about two years ago. The origin of the outbreak was traced to one girl who had contracted the infection from a relative in Mexico, he said.
The outbreak, not yet reported in medical literature, was stamped out, but transmission of the disease by the same means has also been seen in sporadic cases elsewhere in the Southwest, Dr. Thygeson said.
Trachoma, although rare in the United States, is considered the world's leading cause of blindness and partial loss of vision. It is caused by an infectious germ of a group lying between viruses and bacteria.
The World Health Organization has estimated that 500 million people throughout the world may be affected, to some degree, by trachoma.
Dr. Thygeson's mention of the outbreak in California came during a talk on trachoma in general.
He said the disease had largely been eliminated from the United States except for regions of the Southwest and Far West where it is still a serious problem among Indians and Mexicans.
It is largely a disease of poverty, he indicated, transmitted through close contact and preventable by good hygiene and sanitation.
When poverty is found in a desert area, where water for washing is scarce, the disease can be extremely hard to wipe out, he said. In its early stages trachoma is insidious and hard to diagnose.
In North Africa, where penciling the eyes with kohl is common among women, the spread of infection through the shared use of the kohl pencils has long been a major source of transmission of the disease, according to the scientist, but this method of transmission is new in the United States.
Dr. Thygeson was among the speakers at a symposium at the Key Bridge Motor Hotel arranged by Research To Prevent Blindness, Inc. The session was designed to acquaint science reporters with recent developments in research on vision and diseases of the eye.
Dr. Thygeson said there were five programs currently in progress throughout the world to develop effective vaccines for trachoma, but that none of these had yet been strikingly successful.
One major problem is that the germ causing trachoma does not excite as powerful and specific immunological response as is true with some viruses. This makes it difficult to produce a trachoma vaccine with a high degree of protective effect.
There has also been some recent evidence that the vaccines themselves may cause harmful allergic sensitization in some persons, the speaker said.
Back to Contents
In an important policy move, the European Committee of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind, meeting at Saulgrub, Germany,
October 2 and 3, 1965, adopted a resolution that the white cane should be a symbol that its carrier is blind. Reference was made to the White Cane Safety Day Proclamation of President Johnson bringing to a head the long campaign of the National Federation of the Blind and the Lions' Clubs for white cane laws in the United States, The European Committee thus adds its weight to that of the International Federation of the Blind, which, last Slimmer, adopted as its first undertaking the introduction of white cane laws throughout the world and corresponding white cane safety programs.
In a second resolution, the European Committee asked equal travel concessions for the blind in all European countries, referring to the Netherlands regulation.
Dealing with internal matters, the committee voted to authorize German and French in addition to English as official languages.
Present at the Saulgrub meeting were representatives from Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Holland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria, as well as observers from Middle Germany and Greece.
The following officers were elected: President, H. C. Seierup, Denmark, reelected; Vice President, Stanislaw Madej, Poland; Treasurer, Archille Dyckmans, Belgium; Secretary, Dr. Alfons Gottwald, Germany.
The European Committee of the WCWB was formed in Paris, France, in 1964.
A few days after the sessions of the European Committee of the WCWB, Saulgrub was the scene of an International Seminar on the Rehabilitation of the "Later-Blinded " Of the 20 nations represented at the seminar 16 were presented by blind persons; and of 23 reports, 18 were presented by blind persons.
Back to Contents
From the "Phoenix Gazette", 23 Oct.:
Bill Gibney, blind freshman at the University of Arizona, Tucson was recently elected president of his class. He defeated 11 candidates in the primary. In the final election, he received 598 votes to his opponent's 333.
Bob Whitehead, Mrs. Whitney, a retired blind insurance executive, and Major Hyde from the Louisville Police Department appeared on an hour-long audience participation radio show over WHAS, Louisville's largest station concerning White Cane Safety Day. The trios got a lot of calls and are still getting letters and cards.
Harry Wells, Washington State Chairman of Ways and Means and past president of the King County Association, Seattle, died suddenly October 23 at the age of 66. Harry was an ardent worker for the blind and served as delegate to several NFB conventions.
The WSAB convention cities for 1966 and 1967 have had to be switched because of convention schedules of other organizations. Consequently Everett will host the WSAB convention next year and Tacoma in 1967.
From the "Palmetto Auroran" Nov. 1965:
Lee Spradley, after attending the hospitality hour of the S. C. Auroran convention on Friday evening, was struck by an automobile and suffered a broken hip and leg injuries. His Seeing-Eye dog Gerda was injured and visits him regularly in the hospital.
From Gwen Rittgers, K. C., Mo.:
"Cotton Busby and Tiny Beedle appeared on a three-hour broadcast together with Mr. Crowe of the Association on the subject of understanding the blind. It was a good broadcast and Tiny got in a lot of publicity for the White Cane, the state convention and the national convention in Washington."
From the "White Cane" (Wash) Nov. 1965:
"Your reporter [John Henry Edwards] believes there are many blind men who, before losing their sight, were firearms enthusiasts. To me it is just as reasonable for a blind man to enjoy shooting as it is to bowl, play golf, etc. One blind man has an elaborate series of different thicknesses of steel; thus each piece of steel has a different tone; that way he can tell which way he is from his main target ... In South Dakota they use a pipe set in the ground with a knocker on it and they shoot at the sound. I still use my quart and a half juice can with a few pebbles in it, slug over a horizontal bar with a 30 foot string attached to it. I jerk the string and shoot at the sound. Recently I got nine hits out of twelve shots. I use a 22 caliber Magnum with a five and a half inch barrel."
Anyone interested in birthday, get well, or Christmas cards in braille and/or ink should contact Harry A. Fribush, Z7 Colonial Avenue, Albany, New York 1220 3. Harry is deaf and blind and runs his own greeting card service.
In lieu of their usual large supply of MONITOR items, the Henry Sloan's of New York City sent the editors a card from Israel where they are enjoying a well-earned vacation.
On Tuesday, November 5, 1965, Dr. Isabelle Grant was hostess to three distinguished guests interested in the education of blind children: Dr. Iriyagolle, Minister of Education, Ceylon; Dr. Guruge, Secretary for Education, Ceylon; and Dr. Becker, State Department of Washington, D.C. who accompanied the visitors. The educators both knew Mr. Rienzi Alagiyawanna, First Vice President of the International Federation of the Blind, and spoke very highly of his work.
Back to Contents
By J.R. Dumpson
(Reprinted from Public Welfare Oct. 1965)
The National Administration has recently the War on Poverty. This is good in that it has focused greater attention upon the impoverished among us ho need help to emerge from their hopeless state. If the War of Poverty is to be effective and lasting, we have yet to clarify what we mean by and how we shall develop techniques for involving the recipients in our efforts. In the process of helping, we must rearrange our institutional forms, accelerate many of the changes under way in our social and economic practices, with particular reference to implementation of our human rights effort, and be prepared to pay the cost in the use of material and human resources. Probably the most significant aspect of the War of Poverty to date is the fact that for the first time, by defined national policy, as a national policy, as a nation we are committed to the elimination of poverty. Our task is to hold fast to the policy declaration and dare to do those things we know must be done and those we yet must learn to do in order to implement the policy. To do anything less will bring bitterness and disillusionment to those whose hopes we have stirred, and the “long hot summer" experience will become that of the long four dreadful seasons. The second state will be truly worse than the first.
The War on Poverty, in its present form, unfortunately has introduced bitter controversy over the form of organization it will take. Nation-wide dissension between those who want it decentralized in private organizations and among the poor has raised an unnecessary issue. I suggest that this particular controversy arises out of a disregard for the evolving American system of social welfare administration.
Ihe fact is that there has been for decades in our country a growing partnership, rather than a conflict, between public and private voluntary effort in helping those in distress and unable to help themselves. I suggest that the issue is not whether control shall rest with local government or with voluntary agencies in the war against poverty, but whether the institutional rigidities of each can be overcome; whether the distance between the masses of the poor and the voluntary agencies can be shortened; whether social workers in and out of government can give up their preoccupation with the techniques of the professional processes of problem solving strategies and rather provide leadership in a social change strategy.
In the past, neither government nor voluntary agencies have displayed either willingness or an expertise in involving the poor in the planning or administration of health and welfare services. It must come as a shock to those desperately in need to learn that each of the traditional partners is waging battle over the extent of representation of the poor in the antipoverty councils, when neither has sought to admit them in the past to their own councils, boards, and committees.Perhaps we can learn from community development efforts in Southeast Asia the most effective way to involve those who are to be the recipients of helping efforts. One of the surest ways to assure failure in the war against poverty is to ignore the importance of the knowledge and understanding required to plan and administer the programs that must be launched in behalf of the rediscovered poor. Involving those whose life experiences have been little more than economic and social disenfranchisement in the traditional patterns of community committee planning, with obvious attitudes of superior know how even among professional peers, will be cruel to the poor and spell failure to their efforts.
Radical changes are required in our definition of the poor. We must search for clarity concerning the areas of deficit insofar as the poor are concerned. Maybe we need to reassess strengths of the underprivileged in terms of the goals we have set, and with them determine exactly where and how those strengths can best be used in the prosecution of the war on poverty. But, as we consider the involvement of the poor in this war, let us not perpetuate the tendency to compartmentalize human experience. Involvement of the poor, if we are in earnest, cannot be restricted to those efforts specifically related to the poverty war. If the concept of involvement is sound, and I believe it is, it must include involvement in all of our community activities and efforts. This will require that we tear down the walls of the psychological ghetto that have blocked participation of the poor and underprivileged in our religious, educational and political institutions, as well as in programs conceived within the limits of the Economic Opportunity Act. Those who are rightly pressing for involvement of the poor in the poverty war must ask whether they and the interests they represent are ready to carry the concept into every area of community and human relationships. This is not to suggest that the poor should not be involved in all of our efforts to open every known exit from isolation and alienation. But changes must accompany that involvement in our institutional forms, in our patterns and processes of planning and helping and in our use of ourselves and all people in the full gamut of communal and interpersonal relationships. Undoubtedly, there are natural leaders of the poor who can serve a real function in interpreting their needs and in suggesting improved methods to the agencies charged by law and to voluntary agencies, for the administration of programs designed for their benefit. However, most of the antipoverty programs will have to be administered through the public agencies working in concert with the network of voluntary agencies. If these agencies are to assume this task, they must be prepared to change to meet the changing needs of people and the changing concepts concerning the most effective way of helping people.
It is to change in public welfare that I wish to address myself in this paper. Indeed, I wish to suggest for careful study and consideration basic changes that must be made in public welfare if it is to fulfill its function in modern industrial America and make its rightful contribution toward implementing our national policy to eradicate poverty.
Let me begin by affirming my conviction that the problems of administering public welfare in the largest city of our nation and that bring me to propose radical surgery for public welfare are substantively the same wherever people are in need and wherever public welfare is called upon to help people find solutions to needs. It has become a cliché to explain the problem of a core city like New York by coining a new social axiom which runs as follows: "The flight of the affluent suburbia and their replacement by the impoverished explain the decay of the core city." While this may explain some of New York City's social problems, it does not explain the social problems of other parts of the country which are increasing along with those of New York City. The problems of the poor are equally acute whether they live in other urban communities, in small towns or rural areas. Proportionately, our welfare burdens may be heavier, but yours are increasing just as ours are, and they must be of equal concern to your public welfare officials and to the leaders of your voluntary social agencies, as they are to officials and to those who represent the leadership in voluntary agencies in New York City.
For example, I asked my Statistical Division to give me a comparative analysis of the New York City and Westchester County welfare caseloads in the past five years. In New York City, the caseload rose by 56.3 percent from 320,000 persons to 500,000; whereas in Westchester it rose by 57.6 percent from 11,000 persons to more than 17,000. Proportionately, Westchester County's welfare caseload is lighter, standing at 2.1 percent of the total Westchester population as compared with 6.4 percent in New York City. However, if we add to the public assistance caseload those of the population who are dependent upon Unemployment Insurance and Social Security, Westchester has more than 110,000 persons dependent upon these public social programs or almost one-seventh of its population as compared with New York City's 1,600,000 or more than one-fifth of its population.
Both New York City and Westchester apply the same state budget standard to their public assistance cases. From data submitted to me, I believe this standard is 25 percent below the established poverty line. The recipients of Social Security benefits, including those in receipt of Unemployment Insurance compensation, are not at a much higher income level. By definition, therefore, most of these people are living in an impoverished condition. If we add to this number the family men with a $50 weekly pay check, the percentage of Westchester impoverished population exceeds 15 percent. Since this is a growing number, Westchester County, as well as New York City, can look forward to an increasing volume of economic poverty, and with it the social and psychological companions of economic deprivation that follows in a money economy.
The national government's war on poverty has posed a whole new set of questions for all of us. Is the nobility of the proclaimed goal matched by the imaginativeness of our total effort? Have the administrators of the established welfare programs really failed as is so often alleged, or are they working within a structure that cannot contribute to the national goals that have been set? Unless we find honest answers to these questions, we will soon discover that we have not used all of our social armaments and the war may not succeed.
I welcome the new Antipoverty Programs with their emphasis upon Youth Employment and training through the Neighborhood Youth Corps and Job Corps, the training of AFDC mothers to prepare for more successful motherhood and possible constructive employment as homemakers, the courses for eliminating functional illiteracy. I expect that these programs will, in the long run, reduce intergenerational dependency. At the same time, I fear that we may be diverting our energies from the need for more immediate reforms in our established welfare, housing and social insurance programs.
We should never forget that the human race lives in the short run and not in the long run. Moreover, deprivation in the short run may cause irreparable damage in the long run. Therefore, we must move on many fronts in the established areas of social legislation. There is no single panacea for the problems of poverty.
Poverty is not just the absence of money. But I suggest that the adequacy of money income in a money economy may be one of the first considerations in our war against poverty. The minimum annual income required for a family of four to be above the poverty line is $4,000. This is little enough since a figure in excess of $6,000 has been set for a family of four to purchase those goods and services required for decent living in New York City. Again referring to Westchester County, I have read with great interest the excellent summary called "Some Facts About Poverty in Westchester County," prepared by its Council of Social Agencies. This study indicates that 10 percent of the people there live under abject poverty standards measured by the number of families with incomes under $3,000 a year and the number of unrelated individuals with incomes under $1,500 a year. I was glad to note that Westchester County rejected this standard as too low and used as a measuring yard a standard of $5,000 for families and $2,500 for unrelated individuals. Based on this standard, 23 percent of the people in Westchester County are living under conditions of deprivation. For the purpose of my paper, I prefer to use as my criterion a $4,000 income for families of four, lowering this by $500 for each person below four and raising it $500 for each person above four. I believe that at this time it would appear to be a more realistic standard by which to measure the effectiveness of our minimum wage standards and the adequacy of our public assistant grants.
To eliminate poverty for all of the unemployed and for the employed in the lowest income groups, more must be done to establish full employment. A very important corollary step would be to raise the minimum wage to $2.00 an hour. This would result in an annual income of $4,000 for a wage earner with a wife and two children, raising such families barely above the poverty line. It would be a required first step in providing one exit from poverty for many of our poor. The chances of raising the minimum wage to $2.00 an hour in this state in the near future are practically nonexistent. The Governor of New York recently vetoed legislation raising the minimum wage to $1.50 an hour. He insists that the legislation must carry a provision that postpones the increase in the state's minimum wage until the Federal Wages and Hours Act is amended to raise the minimum wage nationally from the present level of $1.25 an hour to $1.50 an hour in order not to place New York at a competitive disadvantage with other stales. Obviously, we must press for higher minimum wage legislation at both levels if employment is to be the chief source of income for adequate maintenance for many poverty stricken families.
While we struggle for full employment, higher minimum wages, and for ending employer and union discrimination against minority groups in the better paying jobs, we must not overlook the fact that even full employment will leave between 15 percent and 20 percent of the population living below the poverty line. I believe that the most efficient and most rapid mechanism for eliminating the worst aspects of poverty for the aged, the dependent children, the unemployable, the employed at low wages, the disabled, the wife or mother abandoned by husband and father, is through an adequate public assistance grant. Even for the employable, work that has been defined in traditionally economic productive terms may not in the future be the chief source of their income for maintenance. This will require a revolutionary change in concepts and attitudes toward those who are dependent and major surgery in restructuring public welfare policies and practices in order to bring them in line with these new concepts and attitudes.
I propose that we update our public welfare concepts and practices in order to make the public welfare agency an important tool in the war against poverty rather than an institution which by its concepts and practices tends to perpetuate the dependency cycle among families and individuals. Public welfare in the 1960's still is mandated by Federal, state and local laws, rules, and regulations to operate under the mentality of the old English Poor Law. It was that mentality that in effect held that any decent person could manage in the labor market, support himself and his family, and even prepare for old age. Failure to fulfill these expectations was interpreted to mean that the person was lazy, and lacked motivation, or that something was wrong with him morally and psychologically. There were always the "worthy" or deserving" poor — the decent, respectable widows and their dependent children, and they were the proper responsibility of private philanthropy. It was a mentality that sanctioned the punitive approach to people who became dependent because it was held that this was the only way to motivate them to support their families and to earn their own keep. Public aid or assistance as a right was alien to the old English Poor Law philosophy.
It is the remnants of this old English Poor Law mentality that pervades public welfare philosophy and administration today. We hold fast to the meanest possible application of a means test that strips those in need, and who muster enough strength to apply for public assistance, of the last vestiges of dignity and self respect by requiring that they, in fact, be paupers. We seek to restrict mobility of people by residence requirements in determining eligibility for help, ignoring the fact that our economy requires a mobile labor force. We limit the amount of money we finally grant in the mistaken idea that to give adequate financial assistance would crush individual initiative and encourage dependency as a way of life. We mandate administratively costly legally responsible relative requirements without any consideration of familial relationships or social responsibility, and in so doing, we most frequently destroy existing family relationships. We ignore the fact that poverty and dependency are not necessarily related to human motivation or morality but most frequently are due to industrial "accidents," economic policies and practices, illness, injury, and the denial of full social and economic opportunity.
Most recently, in 1962, we proclaimed rehabilitation and self dependency as the goals of public welfare. Indeed, we mandated social services in public welfare as the means to those ends. But we refused to mandate adequate public assistance grants in terms of what people need in money to maintain themselves at a minimum standard of health and decency. In the 1962 mandate, while proclaiming our rehabilitation goal, we refused to finance the provision of staff with the understanding and skills that come from training and the salaries and working conditions that would make it possible to initiate a meaningful rehabilitation process with the dependent. While we proudly write and speak about rehabilitation and not the dole as the end goal of public welfare, we refuse to take those steps to create the kind of physical and social environment for those who are in need, required as first steps in any rehabilitation process. I refer, for example, to our refusal to finance an adequate supply of low cost housing, to move to eliminate the racial ghettos of our cities, to eliminate discrimination and segregation in housing, employment, vocational training, and in all areas of human activities. We prattle about strengthening family life, yet we continue in public assistance practices and regulations to humiliate parents in the process of attempting to help them, embarrass the children of these families by our regulations, and destroy their respect for their parents. Whenever and wherever we do these things, we perpetuate the dependency cycle and we waste the money we spend by not having it in sufficient amounts and under appropriate policies, rules and regulations to do what needs to be done for those who are economically dependent. We continue to express our contempt for the poor and dependent, not withstanding our expenditures of huge sums of money through public welfare to care for them. These are the things that are wrong with public welfare and they exist because we have not yet separated this program of great promise from the philosophy that underlay the old English Poor Law with its punitive, humiliating, degrading approach. We have not adjusted our public welfare philosophy to the fact that the national unemployment crisis of the 1930's is not the precipitating cause of dependency in the 1960's. We have not brought public welfare into the system of armaments we are assembling to wage the war against poverty. Simplified public welfare procedures is an acceptable goal as just are goals for reduction of public assistance caseloads and supervisory control, better pay for public welfare staff, and a better use of voluntary agency services by public welfare personnel. But, if our announced social goal for people is to be realized and public welfare is to carry its proper function in assisting its seven odd million recipients to become participating members of the Great Society, then radical surgery is required on the public assistance titles of the Social Security Act rather than more and more amendments on what may be an already outmoded structure.
I believe that the public assistance grant should be used to raise every man, woman and child in the United States to a minimum standard of comfort and decency. The eligibility to receive such a grant could be readily determined without an elaborate humiliating means test by the application of a simple income test similar to the one administered by banks in an application for a loan. Dare we move to treat the poor with this measure of respect? The Congress of the United States should declare as a matter of national policy that it will provide matching funds to every slate welfare program which sets as its goal the use of public welfare funds to raise all families to an approved minimum standard of living. Such a declaration of policy would end the stigma of receiving a welfare grant. There is no reason in modern affluent America for a family to suffer because the husband and father has limited earring powers. The man who has a useful job and is doing necessary work need not feel ashamed at the receipt of a supplementary public assistance grant to raise his family's standard of living. The ability of an industry to pay a living wage depends upon many complex factors. Until such time as the breadwinner can earn that living wage, his children should not be denied the diet that they need or the adequate housing in which to grow up to be healthy and strong adults. For the benefit of these families, as well as those without an employed breadwinner, I propose a wholly new and, possibly, radically different approach to the public assistance program in the United States. I propose for public discussion and consideration the following:
1) That the present multi categorical system with its bewildering variety of formulas, rules and regulations be completely eliminated by Federal mandate, and that there be substituted in its place a single system of welfare aid under which the states either directly or in cooperation with their local governments administer all welfare programs on the basis of meeting human needs adequately without categorizing people. Under this proposal, established need in accordance with standards already established by the Office of Economic Opportunity, would be the criterion for eligibility.
2) That the Federal government establish a system of block grants under which it matches local funds at the rate of dollar for dollar for the high income states, gradually increasing its contribution to, say, $4.00 for each dollar in the low income states. In other words, I would establish a variable reimbursement rate beginning at 50 percent and rising to 80 percent of all necessary costs, including medical care and administration, to meet the needs of all persons and families who lack the means to provide these commodities and services for themselves on a minimum adequate basis.
3) That the states be required to establish a comprehensive system of welfare services, including the guarantee, as a right to people in need, of an adequate minimum budget geared to the cost of living in each state. Included in this standard should be a requirement that employed persons be allowed to keep $50.00 of their monthly earnings as an incentive allowance if their families require supplementation. This is equivalent to one week's pay under prevailing minimum wage in most enlightened states. It is little enough to encourage welfare recipients to accept employment, to realize immediate benefits of self effort, and to support their sense of dignity.
4) That public welfare agencies experiment with eliminating the present detailed eligibility investigation and utilize a sworn affidavit of need for public assistance based on clearly stated criteria. This would not only reduce administrative costs, but more importantly, it would remove the presumption that the poor are cheaters and that they must constantly prove that they are not.
5) That the Federal government, on the basis of estimates predicated on these standards and needs, pay over to a welfare trust fund the required sum which would then be matched in accordance with the required formula fixed for that state. Such funds then could be spent only on welfare purposes and would be subject to audit to make certain that they were not diverted to other purpose. This would revolutionize the administration of public welfare by eliminating the onerous and costly case count for the purpose of financial reimbursement.
6) Simultaneously, that all state residence requirements for welfare aid and the obligation of relatives other than spouses for spouses and parents for minor children be eliminated. With these changes, most of the onerous features of the present means test would be eliminated and we could establish an income test for eligibility similar to that now prevailing, for example, in public housing. This would enable the state welfare departments and their local counterparts to meet all the needs of their indigent citizens and increase their capability for rehabilitation of the welfare client.
7) That within and outside of government, serious and detailed consideration be given to establishing a guaranteed minimum income for all citizens of this country. As one views the growing impact of technological automation on economically productive employment possibilities in the future and the humanistic goals of our society, one cannot ignore consideration of a guaranteed national income as the basic and essential income maintenance scheme for all simply because some have labeled it "socialistic." Whether the guaranteed minimum income should be achieved by some kind of reverse income tax system or through some other method deserves the best thought of our economists, but it deserves our consideration of approval as a national policy. Mobilization for Youth in New York City and the New York City Department of Welfare are exploring the possibilities of a five year demonstration project whereby they will guarantee income for a group of families who apply for the first time to the Department of Welfare for assistance. It is my hope that the means of financing this project will be found in order to evaluate what happens in every area of a family's functioning when income is guaranteed, as well as compare the cost of such a plan with the cost of administering our present system of public assistance.
It is my conviction that public assistance cannot be used to raise standards and take its rightful place in eliminating poverty and toward achievement of the Great Society without these basic changes. Under the present system. Federal aid is on a per capita basis and bears no relationship to the standard of living. In our state, for example, we receive $54 per month from the Federal government for the cost of assistance for each of the Federal categories, OAA, AD and AB, and we receive $20.50 per month towards the cost of assistance for each individual in each family in the AFDC category. The latter group, as you know, represents families with children. In spite of our proclamation of interest in strengthening family life, there is no Federal aid for large families where the father is working and is in the home. This is one of the paradoxes of the Federal AFDC law. We are, in effect, saying to the hard working father of a large family who wants to stay with his wife and children, that the price for Federal aid is that he either lose his job or that he abandon his family.
My proposal would make it possible to raise every family in the United States above the poverty line immediately. It would also make possible assistance in those states that have no general assistance program, for those not eligible for one of the Federal categories. In other words, it places the emphasis on family need and adequate income to meet it, rather than on a state's ability or willingness to finance an adequate public assistance program.
I would like to call attention to the fact that my proposals for revising the public assistance provisions of the Federal Social Security Act are no longer entirely revolutionary. Many of them have, in substance, been adopted in the new Federal legislation for Medical Care which became law on July 30, 1965. This law, at long last, provides a Hospital Insurance Program for the Aged under Social Security and also provides for an expanded program of medical assistance under the public assistance provisions of the Social Security Act, to cover the entire low income population of tile United States.
This legislation sets minimum standards for medical care, establishes a simplified income test for determining eligibility, including elimination of responsibility of legally responsible relatives, other than a spouse for a spouse or a parent for a minor child, and provides for a system of matching dollar for dollar in the highest income states rising to a matching formula of approximately four Federal dollars for every state and local dollar in the lowest income states. This is all set forth in Title XIX of the law which supersedes all other provisions for medical care. By July 1, 1967, it will be financially mandated upon the states by eliminating other provisions for Federal medical subsidy. It wipes out the categorical differentiation for medical care, creating one type of medical assistance to cover every man, woman and child in the country who cannot provide medical care for themselves. The Federal government has set liberal standards and liberal matching conditions to insure the adoption of these standards.
I submit that adequate medical care is no more important than an adequate healthful income maintenance standard. It obviously does not make good sense to starve people and then to provide them with the finest of medical care. Good nourishment and the elimination of the tensions of poverty are indispensable to the prevention of disease or after its onset to effect a rapid recovery. While we are applauding the new Title XIX, we should demand that its principles be extended to cover all required public assistance, regarding medical care as one facet of public assistance, no more important than food, shelter, and similar basic items. I know of no more important immediate step to reduce poverty in this country than the application of Title XIX of the 1965 Social Security Amendments to the whole program of public assistance.
When I think of changes in our welfare practices that must be made, I cannot ignore reference to housing. No rehabilitation is possible for any family without making available to it adequate housing at a cost it can afford. To illustrate, there is no greater unmet welfare need in (he Slate of New York today than a plentiful supply of good low cost and middle income housing. At least 400,000 families in this state live in dilapidated houses under conditions of congestion which are destructive of normal family development—a cause and effect of perpetuated poverty. If we could make it possible for these and all ill housed families to move into decent housing at reasonable rentals, we would advance the realization of our social goal. Unfortunately, such housing docs not exist. The best source for such housing in the past has been public housing constructed by local Housing Authorities with the aid of state and Federal subsidies. However, at a time when these services are needed most, when we have rediscovered the relationship of housing to family well being, public housing has almost ground to a halt because of lack of funds. The state and Federal governments have failed to continue with their subsidy programs on an adequate basis.*
Even if welfare standards for food, clothing and other basic needs are raised, this would not automatically provide for decent apartments unless, in addition to increasing substantially the building of low-cost housing units through an expanded program of construction, welfare funds also can be utilized to subsidize higher rentals in middle-income housing for those who cannot afford to pay such higher rents from their own funds. There appear to be almost unlimited funds in the State of New York, as in other localities, for middle-income housing. Developers of these projects, as a condition of receiving tax and mortgage benefits, should be required to accept tenants whose rents are guaranteed by the welfare authorities. Thus, we could achieve a better mix of the ethnic groups in all subsidized housing and put an end to a situation in which low-income housing tends to be a Negro ghetto while middle income housing tends to become a white ghetto. This ethnic stratification in subsidized housing is inevitable because of the disparity between white and Negro income. While we are seeking to raise the income standards of all low-income groups, we can hasten housing integration through this method.
*The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965, enacted August 10, 1965 provides for 240,000 low-rent public housing units in the next four years, roughly double the present rate of construction. In addition, the rent supplement portion of the Act is expected lo generate some 375,000 units of nonprofit, cooperative, or limited dividend housing over the next four years by attracting private enterprise into housing market for low income families.
Finally, we should bring our social insurance system into conformity with the social and economic realities of the 1960's. Many of the beneficiaries of this program are locked below the poverty line and are unable to maintain even a minimum level of health and decency. They, too, are in the poverty statistics. The increase of these benefits by 7 percent, in the recent amendments to the Social Security Act, will for the most part be absorbed for medical insurance. This does not deal adequately with the need of our senior citizens for more maintenance income. Social Security benefits should be such that its beneficiaries should not have to seek supplementation from public assistance. A method must be found to have benefits automatically adjusted to cost of living changes. Social Security benefits are the major source of income maintenance for four out of five of the system's beneficiaries. Here again, recognition must be given to the importance of adequate income to the aged as we seek to add life to their years and talk about their involvement in community activities. Consideration might be given to including as insurable those social and economic disasters that render people dependent. Is it beyond the realm of possibility, for example, to insure a child against a one-parent family, whatever the reason for the incomplete family?
Surely, we can include as part of our Social Security system a comprehensive system of family health and maternity benefits. Many of our applicants for assistance today consist of women who are married or unmarried, who have had to stop work because of pregnancy. During their period of incapacity, they are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance or Disability Benefits. It should be possible for these women to draw the equivalent of unemployment compensation so as to render unnecessary their applications for assistance. Serious consideration should be given as to whether upon the birth of their children, these mothers should not receive an automatic cash insurance grant to help rear these children. Again, these proposals are less questionable if we make sure that our public social policy is designed to strengthen family life, break the dependency cycle and provide to all individuals the fullest possible opportunity for self-fulfillment.
New Concepts and Approaches
Clearly, the War on Poverty must be multifaceted. It must be waged through many existing organizations and programs as well as through enrichment of these programs and strengthening of their administrative organization. But, it will require new concepts and approaches, not only in new programs but in old ones as well. It will require action on many fronts. Above all else, it will require that we give up our fear of the government we have created and which we so fervently support. We, in public and voluntary agencies, must learn well that we cannot afford to dissipate our energies in fratricidal conflicts. Neither of us has all the knowledge and skill to meet the needs of people; neither of us has more integrity than the other; neither of us is above the frailties and errors of all human beings. And neither of us has a monopoly on interest in and concern for the poor.
There is a spirit of reform in the air which should result in much new progressive social legislation. But we must dare to seek change, dare to effect change if it is required to meet our social goals. It is to be hoped that this spirit will gain momentum and that legislative bodies, voluntary agency boards, professional staffs and organizations will hew out new tools, new uses of ourselves and of those we seek to help, in order to conquer poverty in our lifetime. More of the same in social welfare in or out of government will not bring this hope to pass.
Back to Contents
By Kenneth Jernigan
[Editor's Note: From the time when Ken Jernigan first prepared his paper on how to build local organizations of the blind and delivered it at the New Orleans Convention in 1957, it has been one of those select documents of our movement which have served as guides to federationists all around the country. The ideas expressed are as good and as important today as they were eight years ago. The demand for copies continues unabated. We have, therefore, asked Ken to make the paper available for re-publication at this time.]
At the close of the Federation convention in Washington a seminar was held for the discussion of general organizational problems. State and local leaders of the blind from all over the nation exchanged ideas and talked about ways of strengthening our movement and making it grow. One topic which received a great deal of attention was the question of how to build strong local organizations. It was generally recognized that the Federation can be no stronger at the state or national level than it is locally and that the very future of our movement is largely dependent upon the kind of local chapters which we now have and which we develop. My purpose here is to continue what was begun at the seminar, to discuss local organizations of the blind -- how to build them, what projects they can undertake, their purpose for existence, and their relation to the state and the national organization.
In the first place Shakespeare's question, "What's in a name" has more than an academic significance for us. Our name -- perhaps I should say our names -- has presented us with a real problem. If you should go into a strange town in the United States tomorrow and ask a local member of Kiwanis where the Kiwanis met and when its next meeting would be held, he would, without hesitation, give you a local address and a particular date. If you should then register surprise and tell him that you thought Kiwanis was an international organization and that you had wanted the date and the place of the international convention, he would probably be considerably amazed and think you quite odd. He would likely tell you that Kiwanis is organized into local clubs, that the local clubs are grouped into districts, and that the districts combine to make up the international organization. He might then give you the time and the place of the next international convention and also of the district meeting if you were interested; but his first thought when you asked him about Kiwanis would not be of his local club as one organization, the district as another, and the international as still another. He would think of Kiwanis as one organization, and he would primarily think of it as his local club, with himself as a member.
If instead of asking him about the time and place of the next meeting, you should begin your conversation by making unkind or critical remarks about Kiwanis, he would resent your statements and take them personally. It would do you little good to explain to him that you did not mean him or his local club, but that you were referring to the district of the international. He would probably only become angrier at such a sophistry and tell you that a criticism of Kiwanis was a criticism of him.
The same is true of the American Legion, the Catholic Church, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and a hundred other organizations. There is uniformity of name and no confusion. With us, however, the situation is different. Recently I spoke at a meeting of a local chapter of one of the Federation's state affiliates. I began by posing a question to the group. "If, " I asked, "someone had met you on your way to this meeting and inquired of you when and where the next meeting of the National Federation of the Blind would be held, what would you have told him?"
One man in the back of the room replied, "New Orleans, July 4."
I then asked the same question again, substituting this time the name of the state affiliate, and the same individual gave me the date and the place of the next state convention. He did not think of his local chapter meeting as being a meeting of the Federation or the state organization; yet, such was in reality the case.
The different local and state organizations of the blind throughout the country have grown up with all sorts of names, and it is not now practical, even if it were desirable, to achieve uniformity. It is necessary, however, for us to keep at a minimum the confusion which this multiplicity of name tends to create. If every meeting of every local chapter throughout the Federation is regarded as a local meeting of the National Federation and also of the state affiliate, the activities of the local will take on new meaning and importance.
This leads quite naturally into a discussion of specific projects which a local can undertake. Perhaps I should begin by describing a typical meeting which might occur in a local. The president calls the meeting to order. The secretary reads the minutes of the last meeting. The treasurer reports, giving the current bank balance and itemizing all money which has come in since the last meeting and all expenses. Then come committee reports. These can be interesting or dull depending upon how they are handled. If each separate project of the chapter is handled by a committee which reports at every (or almost every) meeting, the broadest possible participation and interest can be achieved. The following are examples of committees which may be established:
1. Membership Committee: Any chapter will be stronger for having a good membership committee. This committee should probably not contain fewer than three nor more than nine members. It will work better if it holds at least one formal meeting before each regular chapter meeting--probably about a week or ten days before. It should secure a list of the names, addresses and (when possible) phone numbers of every known blind person in the area. This list should be divided into three sub- lists: Members in good standing, delinquent members, and nonmembers.
Each member in good standing should receive either a phone call or a card or letter before every meeting, reminding him of the time and place and telling him something about the program. This will provide a project for the committee and will also stimulate interest among the general membership, giving each person a sense of belonging and participation.
Members who are not in good standing, who do not attend meetings, and are apparently losing interest in the organization, should receive special attention. Different ones of the committee may call or visit them. Writing will be less effective. Perhaps they are dissatisfied with something a chapter is doing. Perhaps they do not properly understand the real nature and purposes of the organized blind movement, what it is accomplishing and how it affects them personally. Perhaps they have never felt that they were really part of the group or that they were needed. In any case, they should be talked with. If possible, a member of the committee might offer to come by the home of such a person on a meeting night and accompany him to the meeting.
The great problem with non-members is finding them. Local doctors may be willing to help--in some areas they make regular referrals to the Federation's affiliate. The postman and the minister are excellent sources of names. Sometimes (but only sometimes) the local welfare department will send out announcements of meetings along with aid checks. Notice of meetings in newspapers and on radio may be tried. The important thing is to make a determined and sustained effort to locate every blind person in the area. The rest is simply a matter of persistence and enthusiasm, coupled with a real understanding of our movement, its purposes and objectives.
One final thing should be said about membership and attendance. It will stimulate interest if the number of those present at each meeting is recorded in the minutes.
2. Committee on National Legislation: This should be separate from the committee on state legislation. Otherwise one of the two will be lost in the shuffle. It should be the duty of this committee to see that letters are written on Congressional bills affecting the blind, and each bulletin from NFB headquarters should be studied carefully and acted upon promptly. In no single instance have all NFB affiliates throughout the nation ever combined to carry out a really intensive letter writing campaign on a Congressional bill. Instead, the response has always been excellent in some areas, spotty in others, and totally non-existent in far too many. A real, united intensive campaign by all of us in every locality would bring unbelievable results.
It should also be the duty of the committee on national legislation to try to become personally acquainted with their local Congressmen. In most instances it will be possible to arrange to talk with him when he comes home. He should be made aware of the NFB and of the fact that he has constituents who are members. The job in Washington will be much easier and much more successful if even a few affiliates will do this. Personal contact should also be made, of course, with United States Senators when they are in the locality and can be reached.
As one example of an immediate problem, consider our bills on the right of the blind to organize just introduced into the Senate (S. 2411) by Senator John F. Kennedy and into the House (H. R. 8609) by Congressman Walter Baring. The passage of these bills will be virtually assured if the local affiliates of the Federation will launch a real campaign of contacting their own local Congressmen; and I think we ought to do just that, immediately after we go home from this convention.
3. Committee on State Legislation: It should be the duty of this committee to do on a state level what the committee on national legislation does on the national level. At least one major difference exists, however, between state and national legislation insofar as the local affiliate is concerned, and a word of caution should be said concerning this difference.
It is not as far to the state capitol as it is to Washington, and some locals, failing to get the state organization to support a particular measure which they want, introduce it and lobby for it on their own. This is necessarily a self-defeating practice, for if the blind have more than one voice in the legislative halls, their effectiveness is drastically curtailed if not destroyed. Especially when competing groups of blind persons go before the legislature and oppose each other, the results are disastrous. It is difficult enough under the most favorable of circumstances to get legislators to understand our needs and problems; and when the blind themselves are not agreed, the situation is likely to be hopeless.
If the state organization as a whole cannot be persuaded to sponsor a particular bill which a local chapter wants, of if the state organization votes to oppose a measure which a local strongly feels should be supported, the chapter will be well advised to swallow its impatience and go along with the majority. If its position has merit, the rest of the state organization can likely be brought around sooner or later; and if in the meantime it is in a better position to demand and get support from the entire state organization on those matters in which it is in the majority. Not only is this a prime principle of survival, it is the very essence of true democracy.
4. Publicity Committee: Besides getting announcements of meetings on radio and good newspapers, publicizing special activities of the chapter, and seeing that occasional articles appear about successful blind persons in the community, this committee can undertake a variety of other activities.
It can place Federation material in local libraries and waiting rooms of doctors' offices. It can communicate from time to time with the BRAILLE MONITOR and other magazines. In short, it can and should be constantly on the lookout for new ways of acquainting the general public with the existence and philosophy of the organized blind movement.
5. There are several other committees -- Ways and Means, Nominating, and the like -- which are more or less standard with all local chapters and require no comment. It is rather with the specialized committee that I should now like to deal, for there are in every locality peculiar opportunities for chapter projects which should be recognized and developed. Each local affiliate will be able, with a little effort and ingenuity, to come up with its own list, and no two will be exactly alike. This is as it should be, for the situation varies from community to community, and the activities should fit the need. The following list is, therefore, not complete. It merely gives examples of the kinds of things which may be done:
a) Education of blind children: If there are public school programs for the education of blind children in the area, or if a residential school for the blind is near, or especially if both are at hand, a committee may be established to visit the schools and make a study and report. It is important that the members of the chapter know what is being done to education blind children and how effectively.
b) Parents of blind children: Because of the widespread occurrence of retrolental fibroplasia in recent years there are blind children in almost every community in America. They are the future members of our organization, and we have a responsibility to see that their parents get a proper understanding of blindness and its problems. A committee may be established to seek out and visit parents and to work with them. The committee may wish to help them organize a parents group. Speakers can be provided from among the local blind for the meetings of this group. Parents should be given Federation material and thoroughly acquainted with the organization. Above all, they should be encouraged to attend meetings of the local affiliate and to realize that they have a stake in its activities since its actions now will affect so vitally their children's future.
c) Proofreading: In many communities there are groups which transcribe material into Braille; especially is this true of the Red Cross, certain Jewish groups and parents of blind children. Often they are very much in need of good proofreaders and will welcome the opportunity of developing a cooperative project.
d) Speaker's bureau: A committee can be established to contact local civic and church groups to get time on their programs for speakers from the chapter. If this is done on a continuing year-around-basis, not only will acquaint many people with the existence and purposes of our movement, but it will also make fundraising much easier. Public education about blindness is an important aspect of our work, and the speaker's bureau is one of the most effective ways of bringing it about.
e) Visiting other chapters: If there are other affiliates of the state organization or of a neighboring state organization near enough to make such a project possible, intra-chapter visiting will be very worthwhile. A committee can be appointed to make the contacts and arrangements. Then, as many members as can do so should be encouraged to make the trips. Within the limits of its financial means, the chapter will do well to pay travel expenses for such occasions. The results will more than justify the expenditure--an interchange of ideas with another group the observation of that group in its meetings; and, perhaps, most important of all, an increased sense of being an integral part of the over-all blind movement.
f) Candy sale: Some local chapters have been quite successful with candy sales, especially at Mother's Day. Arrangements are made with the manufacturer, and specially designed boxes are procured. Consignments of the candy are placed in banks, stores and especially in manufacturer establishments and other such business houses; and a telephone sale campaign is also usually carried on. A committee of chapter members should be made responsible for placing the candy conducting the telephone sales, and coordinating the work generally.
g) Federation greeting cards: Specially designed greeting cards, each individual box containing Federation literature and being stamped with the Federation emblem, were made available for the first time last year to local affiliates and individuals for re-sale. These cards are purchased from the national office of the Federation for .75 cents per box, .25 cents of which is net profit to the national. They are resold for $1.25 per box, with the chapter of the individual making .50 cents profit. They are attractive cards, well worth the purchase price; and those chapters which did not participate last year missed a good bet, both for fund raising and for advertising the organization. This year's cards are now available for purchase -- as a matter of fact, they will be available from now on, on a year-around-basis. They may be ordered by writing to United Industries, 3828 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri.
h) Blood bank: A chapter can establish a blood bank, either exclusively for the use of members and their immediate families or for all blind persons in the area. Arrangements can usually be made with the local county blood bank, and a chapter committee can handle the details of securing donors, providing transportation, and making withdrawals.
i) NFB endowment fund: The long-range financial stability and strength of the national organization depend upon the endowment fund. Only a few local and state affiliates have so far established continuing projects for its support. One state organization levies an annual assessment from all members. Another held a raffle at its last convention and raised more than $100 on a transistor radio. So far as 1 know, only three local chapters have, to the present time, established continuing projects. One makes a lump sum annual contribution. Another gives one half of the proceeds from the raffle which it holds at it's regular monthly meetings (usually about $10). The third makes a memorial contribution for each deceased member.
In time every local chapter should devise some regular means of support for the endowment. Our national organization can be only as strong as we make it.
j) White Cane projects: The immediate fundraising of the organized blind movement at both the state and the national levels is still largely a matter of the unordered greeting card mailings and and White Cane Week. Most of the state affiliates carry on a White Cane mail campaign, but in addition, many local chapters have set up projects -- raffles, dances, dinners, card parties, and similar activities. Usually the chapter keeps none of the proceeds from these White Cane projects, one half of the money going to the state organization and the rest to the national. This is not always the case, however.
k) Aid appeals: In almost every area there are blind persons who have been unjustly denied aid payments from the state or had their grants reduced. The chapter should establish a committee to acquaint these persons with their rights and to help them with appeals. Not only should the member of this committee study carefully their own state welfare laws and regulations, they should familiarize themselves with the federal law and regulations. This is a difficult task, and most chapters will have to start from the beginning, but no other project can be more beneficial to the blind of a locality. The national office of the Federation will lend whatever help it can to any chapter establishing such a project.
1) Many other projects could be added to the list given here. Each chapter can and should develop its own. The important thing is not that we have uniformity, but that we have vitality and growth. In addition to its regular standing committees every chapter should always have several special committees working, and at least one new project under way.
To return now to the typical meeting of a local chapter which I began to outline earlier, the committee reports are usually followed by old and new business. Here a great variety of matters can be discussed: new projects which the group is considering, information from the national or state, or local happenings which affect the blind.
In one community a blind man was denied the right to serve on a jury. The matter was considered by the local affiliate, and it was decided to help him with an appeal to the courts if satisfactory arrangements could be made. In another case it was discovered that a large public building had excellent facilities for a vending stand but that the location had not been secured, A committee was established to investigate the matter, and if possible, to help a blind person get the place.
In still another instance a fund appeal letter put out by a local sighted group to raise money to provide recreation for the blind was considered, and it was decided to write a letter of protest to the group, with copies to the mayor and the Better Business Bureau, explaining the harm which is done to the blind by appeals which portray blindness as helplessness. The chapter did not really expect the fund appeal letter to be withdrawn as it requested, but it felt that its protest might cause the next appeal to be more restrained.
After old and new business adjournment generally occurs, unless there is what might be called the day's program: a guest speaker, or refreshments, or some recreational activity. These items require some comment.
Guest speakers are not only desirable but necessary at state and national conventions, but they should be used sparingly on the local level. It all depends on the purpose. If there is really someone that the chapter members want to hear, enough to shorten or eliminate business which they want and need to transact, then by all means the speaker. If, on the other hand, a speaker is invited simply because it seems the thing to do or worse yet, perish the thought, because filler is needed and there is not enough business to take up the time, the danger signs are easy to read, and the chapter should examine itself carefully to see if revitalization is not in order.
As to dances, coffee and cake, dinners, and recreational activities generally, the question is once again one of purpose and proportion of chapter time and energy. An occasional dance or dinner, a picnic or other outing, can be a positive means of stimulating interest in the organization. Some chapters have dinner with every regular meeting, and many serve coffee or some other refreshment. If these things are properly subordinated, if they consume a relatively small amount of the total time and energy of the group, especially if they are kept from becoming the real purpose of the meetings, they may be pleasant and, in some instances, even help. "When, however, these things are not kept properly subordinated; when the members begin to get fidgety to have the business over so they can get to the social hour, especially when the coffee and cake are regularly provided by some outside organization which does all the preparation and serving; then the danger sign is flashing again, and the chapter may find, too late, that it is helping to promote the very things it is trying to overcome.
Having discussed specific local projects and activities in such detail, I should now like to make these additional remarks:
1. The chapter should serve as a general clearing house. It should assume responsibility for seeing that the names, addresses, and changes of address of all known blind persons (members and non-members alike) are on file in the state office of the organization. It should see that local blind persons receive NFB bulletins and those who read braille get the MONITOR [in braille]. It should report local happenings affecting the blind to the state and the national, and in turn it should keep its members and other blind persons in the area informed of happenings elsewhere. The chapter is the first link in our bond of unity.
2. Some local leaders say that they have difficulty in raising funds when any part of the money is to go outside of the local area--that is, when a percentage is to go to the state or the national. Perhaps the problem is one of approach. If a local leader goes to a businessman in the community and tells him that the chapter is made up of local blind persons and that there is a state organization of the blind and also a national organization, and that "those organizations" do good work and that the local tries to help them when it can and with any money it can spare for that purpose, the businessman is more than likely to insist that "I want my money to stay in this community and be used exclusively for local blind persons."
If, on the other hand, the local leader talks to the businessman about the organized blind movement as a single entity, if he draws no distinction between his chapter and the state and national but refers to them as one thing, the question of percentages will probably not occur at all. The businessman will be giving his check to the Federation, and he will know that it is helping the local blind.
Is it really that local businessmen, newspapers, radio and television stations, and others want their money to be physically spent in the community, or is it rather that they want it spent anywhere so long as the local blind get the benefit? Obviously the latter is true, for no one would object to buying a braille watch for a local blind man even though the money had to be spent in New York, or a braille book even though it came from Kentucky If the chapter should send the man to another state to investigate job possibilities for one of its members, or to represent one of them in a legal matter, or to learn about some new aid or piece of equipment, no one would object and if the chapter did not have enough money to pay all of the expenses and pooled its funds with the neighboring chapter to make the project possible, still no one would object. This, of course, is exactly what we have done by uniting into the National Federation of the Blind. Sometimes the problem is not with the local businessman but with the local leaders of the chapter. We must constantly bear in mind what the real problems of blindness are and how those problems can be solved. "Localitis" is one of the worst diseases which can occur in our movement.
3. A chapter should be willing to pay the reasonable expenses of its committees and officers in the performances of their duties. This should be done without so much red tape and bickering that incentive is stifled and interest killed. The purpose of fundraising is to improve the welfare of the blind, not merely to build larger and larger treasuries.
4. The tape recorder is coming to be more and more of a factor in the dissemination of information. Recognizing this, the national office of the Federation has launched a project to make available to anyone who is interested in tapes of Federation materials, bulletins and reports. A number of such tapes have already been prepared and are now available. They may be secured by writing to Dr. tenBroek at 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley California 94708. Local chapters should take full advantage of this opportunity. A tape recorder should be high on the list of musts for every chapter.
5. The broadest possible democracy should prevail at every level of our organization. In this connection chapter presidents should be careful to avoid the mistake of insisting too much on the strict observance of all of the technicalities of parliamentary procedure, textbook style. If we were a high school debating society, the situation would be different; but as it is, we have better things to do with our time than to study the intricacies of Roberts Rules of Order. If a chapter president is really fair in his presiding, if he sees that everyone has a chance to be heard and order is kept, and finally, if he moves the meeting along and gets the business transacted, the general membership will support him and he will get little criticism for avoiding the technicalities. Besides, he will be practicing that democracy, for few indeed are the people who are really well versed in the complicated maneuvers of parliamentary procedure. And parliamentary procedure can be used as a weapon to defeat the will of the majority. Fair play and common sense are the best foundations upon which to build a good organization.
6. At this convention we have adopted an official Federation membership pin. Its cost to the national office of the Federation is .75 cents. As you know, we have voted to sell it to individual local members for $1.50, the .75 cents profit on each pin going into the endowment fund. Every member of the Federation throughout the entire country should be encouraged to buy and wear one of these pins, thus emphasizing in a visible way our unity of purpose as a part of the over-all organized blind movement. The Federation membership pins are now available and can be had by writing to the national office at 2341 Cortez Lane, Sacramento, California 95825. They are available either as stick pins with safety clasps or as screw-type lapel buttons.
During these remarks I have tried to summarize what I believe to be the principles of strong and effective local organization. Our Federation is now seventeen years old. It has grown from a handful of small state organizations in 1940 to the powerful force which it is today. It has given the blind, for the first time in history, an effective way of making known their needs and desires and working toward the solution of their problems.
Because of the very nature of our movement we have inevitably made many friends. Also, because of the very nature of our movement (and again inevitably) we have made enemies. There are those who would like to see the Federation destroyed and they are at this very moment doing what they can to see that it is destroyed. It must be our task to keep the Federation strong--strong at the national level, strong at the state level, and above all, strong locally. It is no game we play, this business of organization. It is a matter as serious as human dignity itself, with the stakes as high as the independence and self-respect of us all.
We cannot all be the president of the national organization or a national board member. We cannot all be state presidents or state board members. We cannot all even be chapter presidents or board members. But we can all be workers in our local chapters, and by so doing, we can determine the very nature of the entire Federation. The Federation can never be weakened or destroyed unless it is first destroyed in the hearts of its local members.
Back to Contents