SEPTEMBER ISSUE 1961
PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN BROTHERHOOD FOR THE BLIND
A CHARITABLE AND EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
2652 SHASTA ROAD, BERKELEY 8, CALIF.
THE BLIND AMERICAN
Published monthly In Braille and inkprint and distributed free to the blind by the American Brotherhood for the Blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, President, National Headquarters and editorial offices at 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, Calif.
Editor: Floyd W. Matson
Executive Secretary: Anthony Mannino, 227 South Norton Avenue, Los Angeles 4, California
Volume 1, September, 1961
Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010 with funding from National Federation of the Blind (NFB) http://www.archive.org/details/blindamericansep15amer
The White Cane Defended: Letters to THE NEW OUTLOOK
Washington Victory: Congress Passes Blind Education Bill
by John F. Nagle
Newburgh: A Counterrevolution in Welfare?
More on Arizona's "Anti-Blind Welfare" Plan
The Role of the State Social Welfare Board in California: Impartiality and Commitment
by Jacobus tenBroek
Texas Stand Dispute: Blind Widow Versus State Agency
by Floyd Matson
Brothers ... & Others
Contributors to this Issue
Readers of THE BLIND AMERICAN will recall the article in our recent issue — under the title "New Outlook Attacks White Cane" — dealing with apparent efforts by the American Foundation for the Blind and its official publication to minimize the usefulness of the white cane as a traffic aid and as a focus of fund-raising efforts by the blind. The AFB attacks took the form of two separate articles appearing in the May, I96I, issue of THE NEW OUTLOOK FOR THE BLIND.
It is significant that all three letters to the editor published in the NEW OUTLOOK'S September issue commented adversely upon the Foundation's treatment of the white cane issue in its earlier articles. The first letter, signed by Russell Kletzing, president of the California Council of the Blind, follows in full:
"To the Editor:
"I was appalled to read in your May issue two articles attacking the use of the white cane and the white cane laws. It seems to me these articles were filled with nonequitors and unjustified assumptions. The white cane has proven to be one of the greatest benefits that have ever befallen the blind. It has made possible the greatest degree of independence of blind people in history, I wonder at the motives behind such a two-pronged attack on this institution. I note that White Cane Week was May 15th to 21st, and about two weeks after the magazine reached readers. I would like to inquire whether these articles were intended to undermine White Cane Week as a fund-raising activity for the National Federation of the Blind and its affiliates."
The second of the NEW OUTLOOK'S letters to the editor, written by Franklin S. Clark, president of the "Go-Sees" of New York, observed in part:
"I can report from my own experience that an upraised cane with white and red markings constitutes a signal to the motorist who has stopped at an intersection that I wish to cross, and one that he understands and respects... The important thing, I think, is that the white cane has won acceptance both by blind and sighted people....
"The conception of the white cane and the white-cane laws, as well, has served a purpose. Now we are ready to go a step further and it will not be at all inconsistent to retain the white cane as a symbol."
Still more positive testimony to the white cane's value to blind pedestrians was submitted by Octave J. Bourgeois, blind employment counselor of New Orleans in the third letter to the NEW OUTLOOK — the major portion of which follows:
"I do not feel that the variety of legal restrictions regarding use of white canes by the blind is any greater than the variety of legal restrictions on motorists wno travel from town to town and state to state. I know that you and your readers who are drivers of automobiles have had these experiences with various traffic lights, regulations, restrictions, etc., as my wife and I have had when we have traveled in various states.
"I do not agree that the white cane is ineffective in that it calls attention of sighted persons to the need of a blind person for assistance when approaching intersections which are difficult to cross... .But, in discussing this question with our home teacher in New Orleans, who hashed over twelve years of experience in teaching newly blind persons who travel with a cane, we agree that the white cane is most effective for use by the beginner in cane travel technique and for the masses of blind people. We believe that the white cane has replaced the old whistle technique which was so prevalent before the white cane became standardized....
"Let us be practical and face facts. The white cane has been adopted as a symbol of blindness and whether or not we live it we cannot escape it and I certainly believe that the white cane as an aid for the blind is most effective for the poor Joe who wants to travel about independently, but does not have the radiating type of personality or glib tongue with which to request or secure assistance."
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By John F. Nagle
A large-scale increase in braille textbooks and educational materials for nearly 16,000 blind children during the present school year has been assured by the last-minute congressional passage of amendments to the "Act to promote the education of the blind"- popularly known as the American Printing House law.
The new changes, which authorize an amount of $270,000 to bring the per-capita outlay under the program from $35 to $40 per pupil and to cover expenses of special consultants, are the product of a mutual agreement and pooling of efforts by major national organizations working for the blind — including the National Federation of the Blind, the American Association of Instructors of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the American Printing House for the Blind,
These groups, during the course of the congressional campaign, voluntarily put aside their differences, gave up their divergent amending proposals, agreed upon a compromise — and then worked unitedly and successfully for its adoption by Congress.
The new APH law makes three changes of far-reaching significance to blind elementary and high-school students. First, available federal funds will be increased by the removal of the present fixed ceiling ($4lO,000) on the authorization of expenditures. In the past, as the needs of blind school-children have grown over the years, administrators have been forced to go to Congress periodically to seek an increase in appropriations. Unfortunately, congressional action has usually lagged several years behind the need, and the education of blind children has suffered in consequence. Thus, for example, when the present ceiling was established, braille books and other materials worth about $50 could be provided for each student; but as the number of children covered by the program has increased the value of educational supplies to each has been cut approximately in half. Under the new provision, for the first time, federal funds will be appropriated in sufficient amounts and with no fixed ceiling arbitrarily curtailing necessary expenditures.
A second major change in the law expands the ex officio board of trustees of the American Printing House to include the heads of state departments of education or their representatives, along with the heads of public residential schools for the blind. Thus the braille textbook program now gives recognition to the particular needs of those blind children educated in local public schools for the sighted.
The third improvement introduced by the amendment allows the use of federal funds for salaries and expenses of consultants and experts, and of special committees, created as a part of the administration of the overall program.
The campaign for the new amendment began in the early weeks of the 87th Congress's first session. A bill (H.R.39) submitted by Congressman Frank W. Burke, Jr., of Kentucky, and supported by the NFB, the AAWB, the AAIB and the APH sought to make modest changes in the existing law. More sweeping alterations were proposed in an alternative bill (H.R.5872) introduced by Congressman John E. Fogarty of Rhode Island with the support of the AFB and others.
As the legislative campaign warmed up and the issue was joined, prospects of securing any advances whatsoever in the blind education program grew dim. Congress was preoccupied with other momentous matters of state, and the representatives of blind organizations were privately advised that the time was not available to hold public hearings in order to settle the school-bill controversy.
Ultimately, a compromise plan was developed — offered by the AFB and accepted by all the interested parties. The plan was incorporated in identical bills introduced into the House by Congressmen Burke and Fogarty (H.R. 8207 and 8212). On August 22-23, the Special Sub-committee on Education of the House Conunittee on Education and Labor held public hearings on these and related bills — hearing favorable testimony from a solid phalanx of representatives from the major agencies and organizations in the field of blind welfare. Shortly thereafter, the subcommittee approved an identical bill (H.R. 9030) introduced by Congressman Neal Smith of Iowa, a subcommittee member. The House and Senate both subsequently passed the bill without a dissenting vote, and in the final week of September the measure was signed by the President.
The newly amended law "to promote the education of the blind," originally enacted in 1879, clearly represents a great stride forward toward the goals of security, opportunity and a richer life for the blind youth of our nations.
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By F. W. Matson
Since Joseph M. Mitchell, city manager of Newburgh, New York, announced his "tough" 13-point plan to cut down on welfare expenditures last July, nationwide curiosity and controversy has come to focus upon the unusual developments taking place in the modest-sized eastern city of 30,000 population.
The immediate aim of the Newburgh economy program is to reduce municipal outlays for home relief and aid to dependent children — but Manager Mitchell has made clear that the blind, aged and disabled will in due time be similarly affected. In their relentless pursuit of the goal of local autonomy and tax reduction, Mitchell and his allies among city officials have been willing to violate a host of state and federal requirements and so to cut their community off from the principal sources of funds supporting its programs of social security and rehabilitation.
The Newburgh program was launched following a fanfare of pronouncements by local officials concerning the city's "plight" in the face of rising immigration of "undesirables" and an exorbitant welfare burden. Significantly, the Newburghers rejected offers of help and counsel issued by the New York Board of Social Welfare. "They cancelled that appointment," the state board later reported, "and subsequently embarked on a publicity campaign." That campaign involved such claims as these:
1, Great numbers of "undesirable newcomers" come to Newburgh in order to get on the aid rolls, "In point of fact," the state board has replied, "in all of I960 the total spent by the city for home relief for newcomers was exactly $205 and the state reimbursed Newburgh in full for that expenditure. Not one cent was spent for newcomers on ADC in I960,"
2. Newburgh gives welfare aid to "many ablebodied recipients" who should be placed on work relief. But this, says the board, has always been an operative principle in the state, which currently administers scores of work-relief projects employing hundreds of aid recipients. Newburgh itself has done so in the past, "and the 'many able-bodied recipients' affected by the Federal work ruling are less than 10 persons."
3, Newburgh is suffering from an unusually heavy burden of welfare costs and five percent of its population is allegedly on public assistance. Not so, says the state board: only 2.9 percent of the population was on the rolls in I960; and total costs for all city welfare programs have amounted to 1 l/3 percent of the per capita income of city residents.
U. "Mustering" of welfare recipients at police stations is necessary to detect fraud. "However, not a single case of fraud was uncovered by this spectacle," according to the New York board, "although every adult who could walk was put through this police procedure."
Newburgh, the board's report concluded, "may have some governmental problems but public welfare is not one of them."
Despite the demonstrably flimsy character of their charges and complaints, the city fathers of Newburgh proceeded last summer to set in motion a revised welfare code consisting of the famous "13 points." Chief among these points are: cutting off aid to unmarried mothers who bear another child out of wedlock; shifting responsibility for determining ADC eligibility from the welfare director to the city's Corporation Counsel, with mandatory placement of children in foster homes in case of unsatisfactory home environment; aid payment by voucher instead of by cash; monthly visits to the welfare office by recipients for review of their status; limitation of relief payments to a 90-day maximmii in one year, with further restrictions effectually cutting aid to one or two weeks at a time; and a requirement that relief recipients accept any city laboring job that might be offered to them.
Moreover, the city has established, in the words of the New York Social Welfare Board, "a local immigration service designed to restrict, harass, and intimidate United States citizens by compelling then to submit to tests that are said to be 'required of foreign immigrants.'" Such purported "reforms" as these clearly run afoul of federal-state provisions that public aid must be given where need and eligibility exist. More fundamentally, many of the above points appear to violate constitutional guarantees of equal rights and treatment for all citizens.
The central justification offered by Newburgh officials for their "tough line" toward welfare recipients has been that the city is plagued by "migrant types" from the South who immigrate to fulfill seasonal labor demands and then remain in order to reap the benefits of public relief. But the fact is that since 1957 the city has been officially classified by the U.S. Labor Department as an area of substantial unemployment. In short, Newburgh's problems--of which welfare costs are surely a sympton rather than a cause — arises from a cluster of economic and social factors which have become familiar to increasing numbers of American cities in recent years. Among those factors, to quote from a recent study in THE REPORTER (August 17), are "almost every one of the well known urban ills and frustrations that have developed since the war — a rapidly growing Negro slum, a declining business section, a rising crime rate, and increasing school costs."
The prevalence of similar conditions in other communities across the country has given rise to widespread demands for "crackdowns on the welfare chiselers" which, as in Newburgh, have tended to concentrate on the programs of aid to dependent children and on campaigns for stricter residence laws and other punitive measures. Despite this hue and cry, instances of actual fraud in such programs have turned out to be extremely rare (Newburgh's crusading manager, for example, was unable after weeks of scouting to find a single case to corroborate his own charges). In Cook County, Illinois, after popular pressures had forced an investigation of the ADC caseload, an official report concluded that "contrary to public misconceptions practically no fraud and very little ineligibility were found."
Both the Illinois survey and a similar report by the New York state legislature have placed major emphasis upon the need in public welfare for positive and constructive efforts aimed at rehabilitation and the reduction of dependency as opposed to merely negative concern over supposed chicanery and abuses. Above all, these studies reveal the complicated and deep-lying sources of deprivation which it is the main business of welfare systems -- local, state, and national — to deal with. As the New York legislature declares in its report: "The single most important problem in welfare administration at present stems from the fact that prevention and rehabilitation efforts require multi-departmental effort — employment, health, mental health, education, housing, correction — yet no practical means exist for leadership and co-ordinating this effort."
The broad implications for welfare of the Newburgh "experiment'* are not far to seek. In the words of a National Urban League report published last August, the city's program reflects "effort being made in organized fashion to build a pattern of thinking which, if allowed to operate, would destroy a carefully-built system of public welfare and social security that has been over a quarter-century in the making. It would conceivably take this nation back to a set of attitudes which delayed effective attack on the depression of the 1930's and came close to playing disastrously into the hands of international communisms."
It perhaps goes without saying that the welfare status of all blind Americans (not only those of Newburgh) is directly involved in the current national controversy surrounding the aims of welfare programing and the rights of recipients. As the Urban League report points out, "punitive action which a community aims at one disfavored group ~ whether economic, racial, or political — ends by infesting that community's standards in general." Where an application for public aid, in any category, is met by the presumption of chiseling intent rather than of legitimate entitlement — and where the solution to welfare difficulties is seen to lie in repressive and degrading "crackdowns" — much that the blind of America have gained through gradual recognition of their rights to material security, economic opportunity and social equality is immediately placed in jeopardy.
A recent editorial in the "Sacramento (California) Bee" has defined the issue in blunt terms: "Underlying this attack on welfare assistance in the false idea that in some ways urban slums and poverty will disappear if government eliminates the humanitarian assistance made necessary by these conditions. Senator Barry Qoldwater wrote Mitchell the program shows the 'kind of courage that must be displayed across the nation if we are to survive.' The Newburgh style of false and vindictive 'courage' would put this nation right back into the l8th century. Of course that might please the senator."
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The recent recommendation by Arizona's Welfare Commissioner Fen Hildreth that the state reject the new and more liberal Federal amendments to social security Aid to the Blind (see THE BLIND AMERICAN, August, 1961) has had repercussions within as well as outside the state's boundaries. Especially noteworthy has been the editorial reaction of the conservative daily newspaper THE ARIZONA REPUBLICAN, supporting the Commissioner's maneuver, and a subsequent hard-hitting letter to the newspaper by Naomi Elizabeth Hess, an active blind leader of Tucson, in opposition to the plan.
The newspaper praised Hildreth' s proposed rejection of the new federal law increasing the exemption of earned income for blind aid recipients from $50 to $80 monthly, "Mr. Hildreth says the new plan would favor a special class of handicapped workers (the blind) but would not do anything for other handicapped workers (the crippled, for instance)," the paper editorialized. "It would negate a basic welfare principle, namely that one reason for rehabilitating a person is to get him off the welfare rolls. If a handicapped person is taught a skill that permits him to earn a living, his welfare payments are no longer justified. Finally, the new federal program would cost Arizona an additional $60,000 to $70,000 a year, with some of the money going to people now supporting themselves without welfare aid.
"We wish Mr, Hildreth well in fight for local control of welfare payments," the REPUBLICAN continued, "He faces some important enemies. Including a natural feeling of sympathy for the blind... The welfare state never gets smaller; it always gets bigger. Fen Hildreth has a lot of nerve, trying to restrain the persistent federal encroachment on local solutions of welfare problems. He needs all the help he can get."
In her letter to the editor published on August14. Miss Hess dealt systematically and forcefully with the points raised against the liberalized federal program by the newspaper and the state commissioner. Her letter follows:
"Editor, the Arizona Republican:
"The editorial of Aug. 8 on Mr. Hildreth' s proposed rejection of federal aid to the blind does a disservice to the controversy by misstating matters and hailing the move as a courageous blow against the encroachments of the welfare state.
"The new federal law to which Mr. Hildreth is opposed provides that in determining aid to the blind, a state agency shall disregard the first $85 per month of earned income and half of any additional earned income. Mr, Hildreth seems to assume that every blind person on aid receives the maximum of $90 a month. The1959-60 report of the Arizona State Department of Public Welfare, of which Mr. Hildreth is commissioner, reports that the average monthly grant is $72.23. A blind person who earned $85 a month could conceivably receive the maximum allotment of $90 also. For every additional dollar that he received in salary, 50 cents would be deducted from his aid check. It is not difficult to see that at the most such a person would be far from wealthy. Also, Mr. Hildreth does not see fit to estimate how many persons would be affected by the new exemption. From conspicuous lack of success that the interested agency has had in placing blind persons in employment in Arizona, it doesn't look as though he need worry very much,
"Mr. Hildreth says that only one group, the blind, will benefit from this legislation, thereby making it discriminatoiy. On the contrary, blind persons hope sincerely that this exemption will be extended to other groups of handicapped. Historically the blind have been the most vocal in realizing their rights and in organizing to protect and guarantee those rights.
"The federal legislation strikes a blow for the 'rugged individualism' that Arizonans prize. The step from dependence on the aid check to full financial independence is a hard one; it has been proved in other states that increased exemptions of earned income form a stepping stone to financial independence.
"'Why must Arizona lag far behind the other states in aid to the blind? Arizona's program is two-thirds supported by federal funds at present. Rejection of all federal funds may cause the loss of all the benefits for which the blind citizens of Arizona have fought so long and hard. Arizona's program, with its lack of regard for human decency and self-respect, its huge caseloads and tiny salaries, and its general low level of performance can only be helped, not hindered, by federal provisions, which are eminently reasonable.
"Is Arizona going to secede from the federally-assisted program of aid to the blind, or will it realize that the new legislation is in the best interest of its blind citizens?"
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An address by Professor Jacobus tenBroek Chairman, State Social Welfare Board at a Community Dinner Honoring the Board San Diego, California, July 20, 1961
What is the role and responsibility of the State Social Welfare Board amid the perennially recurring and newly developing problems in the field?
There are many answers to this question, depending on vantage-point and frame of mind. To the County Supervisors' Association--Judging from the published comments of some of its members--we are the sluice-gate through which tax funds pour out into arid and unproductive human wastelands. To social workers, laden with their manuals of casework theory and method, we are intermeddling ignoramuses. To the staff of the State Department of Social Welfare, we are often a nuisance, always hard to educate, and not infrequently intractable. To our hearing officers, patiently trying month after month to write opinions on the basis of our past pronouncennents and likely future conduct, we are what Churchill once called "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." To some district attorneys, who are even more outspoken than the chairman of the State Social Welfare Board, we are moddly-coddly do-gooders who misconceive the true character of our clients and their problenns and therefore misapply the remedies. To thenn, we are a formless body with a particularly misshapen head. To the greater public, when it is aware of us at all, we are only another appendage of the state bureaucracy--an entangling arm of the official octopus, more often intent on strangulation than embrace.
These are a few of the images and impressions abroad in the land concerning the members of the Board and their collective personality. Fortunately for us, those who hold these half-truths to be self-evident disagree among themselves. Else we would surely be undone.
Fortunately also, these various explanations of us do not exhaust the alternatives.The law views the Board with rather less passion and less personalizing--although the latter is not entirely absent.The law describes us principally in terms of our specific functions. In these terms we are at our best. Indeed our role is an important one in a large and central area of hirnian endeavor. Let me briefly itemize the particulars of that role.
Public welfare in California is an enormous undertaking by any standard--in the complexity and variety of its many programs, in the sheer number of persons served, in the amount of money spent, and in the impact of the whole system upon the individual lives of men, women and children. Financial assistance and related social, medical and rehabilitation services are provided for the needy who are under-age and for those who are over-age, for those who are disabled and those who are blind. The major portion of the cost is furnished by state and federal funds. Protective services are provided through inspection and licensing of boarding homes, institutions and other places for the reception and care of aged persons and for children who must have care away from their own honraes. Special provisions are made to protect the rights of children who are placed for temporary or permanent care or for adoption.
At present, there are some 283,000 recipients of aid to needy children in California; 254,000 recipients of old age security; 13,500 recipients of aid to the blind; and 10,000 recipients of aid to the permanently and totally disabled--a total of over 560, 000 needy men, women and children. They are receiving some 456 million dollars a year in direct aid payments and more than 32 million dollars a year in indirect vendor payments for medical care. In addition to the programs of public assistance, thousands of boarding homes and institutions are licensed and several thousand children are involved in adoption proceedings each year.
The actions of the State Social Welfare Board touch directly and sensitively the lives of these hundreds of thousands of human beings. For it is the function of the Board to adopt the detailed rules governing the administration of this vast system of public welfare. It falls to our lot to formulate and put into effect, as the Code says, all "regulations, orders or standards of general application which are adopted to implement, interpret, or make specific the law enforced by the Department," It is our duty to decide individual appeals made to the Board by applicants or recipients of aid who feel themselves aggrieved. Fifty to 70 such appeals reach us each month. This month there are 85. We conduct hearings on denials and revocations of licenses to operate facilities for the reception and care of children and aged persons.
It is also the function of the Board, as some of you may have had occasion to notice recently, to establish and maintain personnel standards on a merit basis, including standards of qualification, competence, education, experience, tenure, and compensation necessary for the proper and efficient administration of aid programs for which the State receives grants-in-aid from the Federal Government. These standards are applicable to and binding on the counties as agents of the State for the purposes of administering state and federal funds provided for such assistance.
A special word might be said about our recent discharge of this function which somehow has been received with less than universal applause. Last February, we adopted a policy, to be implemented next January, looking to a $400 minimum salary for social workers and requiring a Bachelor's degree in a relevant and appropriate subject matter.The representatives of the County Supervisors' Association--and some county supervisors--say that this policy invades local autonomy, interferes with the rightful authority of the administering unit to determine how much its workers shall be paid and violates the constitutional position and powers of the county governments. To some extent, this would seem to be a war of cliches. The counties say that he who hires and administers must fix salaries) the Federal Government and we say that he who pays not only calls the tune but decides the amount of the pay. In these terms, the Federal Government, or we as its agents, have as much right to determine minimum salaries as do the counties since the Federal Governnnent pays fifty per cent of the wages of social workers hired by the counties to administer the public assistance programs. However, this is a stereotyped view of the problem, derived, not from its real nature, but from the form in which the argument has been cast. We do not have here, in fact, the situation in which one level of government is fixing the salaries of employees of another level of government. The counties are not sovereign and independent governments. They do not antedate the states as the states antedate the Nation. Though there were eight cities having legal existence in California before statehood, there were no counties. The counties were created by the State Legislature. They are a legal subdivision of the State. They are the agents and instrumentalities of the State Government. They have no inherent powers.Unlike the states in the Nation, they do not possess residual or constitutionally reserved powers. Their powers and their duties are determined by the State and primarily by the State Legislature. In this respect, they are very much like the State Social Welfare Board. They are simply another arm, department or branch of the same government. In some ways, they have broader powers; and, over the years, they have received more constitutional notice. But their origin, their source of authority and their governmental status is the same as that of the State Social Welfare Board.
All of this is peculiarly true with respect to welfare programs. From 1850 onward, when the State Legislature first created counties in California, the State has assigned welfare functions to the counties. In 1901, those functions were greatly enlarged and made more mandatory. Since then, they have grown steadily. Meanwhile, during the whole of our history as a state, the State Government has also--often jointly with the counties--carried on welfare functions. Finally, the Federal Government entered the field on a wide scale, building on the structure and distribution of functions already existing.
Today the workers in county welfare departments are administering an integrated federal-state-county program. Half their salary is paid by the Federal Government, More than eighty per cent of the money they spend is supplied by the State and Federal Governments. In this integrated, over-all plan, each of the so-called levels of government possess some administrative and policy determining functions and some financial responsibility. The functions are shared rather than divided or separated. Thus the Federal Government requires and the State Governnaent authorizes and directs its responsible "single state agency" to see to it that minimum personnel standards are established and maintained both with respect to the salaries paid and the connpetence of the workers to do the job. This has been settled law and practice in California for many years.
In the controversy over authority, we are losing sight of the reason for our fixing the minimum salary at $400 and the fact that it is linked to an A. B. requirement in a relevant and appropriate field. The hike in minimum pay is tied to a hike in minimum qualifications. Is there really anybody in this whole broad land who does not appreciate the desirability and even the urgent necessity of seeing to it that social workers who carry out these programs and who do this work are properly trained? At the very least, this is a simple matter of money and administration. The average social worker in a county welfare department spends from $150,000 to $200,000 a year of the taxpayer's money. To see that these disbursements are properly made, in correct amounts to persons eligible under the law, and for the purposes and within the limitations set down in statute and regulation requires a minimum competence that cannot be secured for less than the minimum salary we propose.
But beyond money and administration, we are here speaking of professional work and professional qualifications. Anybody can pick cotton--or at least anybody who has the physical capacity to make his way up and down the rows. This, I take it, is what is meant by "cotton picking hands." More than cotton picking hands, however, are necessary successfully to practice the professions; and to secure the requisite knowledge and skill compensation must be comensurate. We require high professional qualifications for the doctor who prescribes medicine for a case of athletes foot and for the druggist who fills the prescription. We require high professional qualifications for the lawyer who draws an instrument dealing with our money or our property. We require high professional qualifications for the school teacher who helps to educate a normal child. Can we demand less for the worker who deals with human distress, poverty, bewilderment, confusion, with unbalanced, disturbed and defective minds and personalities? Can we demand less for those upon whom we call to help restore broken families and to mend ruined lives?
To the list of general functions of the State Social Welfare Board, two other duties should be added. One has been invoked in connection with the very episode I have just been describing. It is specified in a resolution now making the rounds of the county supervisors. In view of the arbitrary, dictatorial and repugnant way in which the State Social Welfare Board has exercised its power regarding personnel standards, says this resolution, it is the duty of the mennbers of the Board to resign their offices and let someone else take over who can handle the job. Needless to say, this is not only the final duty on the list, but it is the last duty that this Board can perform.
But there is one more worth mentioning. It is our duty, says a statute just passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, in adopting rules and regulations to "strive for clarity of language which may be readily understood by those administering public assistance directly to the applicants and recipients." This is the unkindest cut of all when addressed to a Board whose presiding chairman is a professor of Rhetoric. Come to think of it, this may be the best reason yet for raising social workers' salaries so that we can attract people into the field who can "readily understand our regulations" even though not written in clear language.
From what has been said so far, it can be seen that the functions of the State Social Welfare Board, as the law prescribes them, are much more than the passive routines of accepting, receiving, endorsing and acquiescing. Its functions are the positive and affirmative ones suggested by the active verbs of formulating, promulgating, reviewing, adopting, amending, repealing, establishing and maintaining.
To some extent, however, the law does personalize us. Members of the Board are, by its terms, to be laymen. At least, I believe this to follow from the fact that they serve without pay and on a part-time basis. While, on the one hand, the Board is a public body, defined in the law as an arm of the State Department of Social Welfare, with members duly appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate; yet, on the other hand, its members are drawn from the ordinary ranks and callings of the community. They are not career people recruited from the relevant professions or from the State Civil Service. The Code says that "the members shall be selected for their leadership and interest in social welfare activities, without regard for political or religious affiliations or profession or occupation." I take the latter to mean that even university professors may be appointed!
This, then, is the State Social Welfare Board, and these are its functions. The functions are active; they are far-reaching; they are sub-legislative and quasi-judicial. The Board is a lay board; it is part-time and non-salaried; members are selected according to the law without regard for politics, religion, or occupation. In this sense, the Board is a non- partisan body; and in its quasi- judicial function, in hearing and deciding individual appeals, it must act with the impartiality expected of judges.
This brings me to a proposition which I should like to assert and defend as a central thesis. On its face, it is paradoxical. It is not readily accepted. It is this: while the State Social Welfare Board--or any lay board--must be nonpartisan, so must it be partisan; while it must be impartial, so must it be partial; while it must be disinterested, so must it be interested. In short, the Board must be committed; one might even say dedicated.
Phrased in another way, the fundamental role of the State Social Welfare Board, as of all lay boards in the welfare field, is to promote and defend a vital public interest--the public interest in welfare.
What is that public interest? It is an interest in the social integration and personal integrity, in the rehabilitation and restoration, of all of our people who have fallen victim, in the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to the accidents of fortune which beset us all in this man-made world. The public interest in welfare is an expression of the Nation's stake in its human resources, in the rich immeasurable assets of an healthy body politic. Still more deeply, the public interest in welfare is an affirmation of our democratic faith in the freedom and responsibility of the individual citizen. Whatever encourages his independence and self-sufficiency is consistent with welfare and the public interest. Whatever defeats and demeans his capacity to rise to his feet and stand on them is antagonistic to welfare and to the public interest.
In formulating policies and deciding cases, the mennbers of the Board must disregard politics, religion, and occupation. They must put aside altogether their personal connections and aspirations. They may not prejudge cases nor close their minds to the evidence. They may not act upon irrelevant considerations. So much the law and public policy make clear. But the Code also marks out the limits of the Board's impartiality. It cannot, it must not, be impartial or neutral towards the principles of welfare. The members are selected on the basis of their proven interest in welfare. They are neither ignorant nor indifferent, let alone hostile, in their approach to welfare. Instead they are chosen for their recognized leadership in the field. Therefore, in the vital sense of their commitment to the precepts underlying the modern philosophy of welfare, the members of the State Social Welfare Board can never be impartial.
In this respect, of course, this Board is no different from many others who conduct the public business. Take the judge on the bench: he is not expected, surely, to be impartial when he confronts good and evil. His judgment does not fall indifferently upon the just and the unjust. His oath of office is instead a binding vow to serve the ends of justice. How long would society retain a judge who impartially sent to jail equal numbers of innocent and guilty defendants? Such a judge, we would agree, is not "impartial, " but impossible. That kind of impartiality and that kind of judge we could do without.
What then are the underlying principles and precepts which define the role of the State Social Welfare Board and guide it in the regular discharge of its functions? What are our commitments? Like the Commandments of the Bible--and, rather more analogously, like the Bill of Rights--they are ten in number. They are these:
1. No member of American society can be permitted to die simply for want of the physical essentials of life. Freedom from want may therefore be regarded as the minimum commitment, the irreducible objective, of public welfare. It connmands us to do whatever may be necessary to maintain human life--including the provision of such specific means of survival as an iron lung for a post-polio paralytic and an attendant to operate it.
2. The basic needs of life are not however confined to those
upon which animal existence hinges. Besides life and health, beyond the threshold of survival, there are standards of
decency which must be met. The commitment to decency means that recipients of relief must be enabled to live much
as others do in the community; that their dress, diet and dwelling shall not be so shabby or different as to render them
conspicuous; that their work, their play and their routines of daily living--and most of all the extent of their participation in community life--shall not mark them as a caste apart; that they shall not, in any of these respects, wear a public
badge of their status, but rather be permitted to live their lives and associate with others, not indeed upon a lavish scale nor even necessarily upon an average scale, but only upon
an adequate scale. The standards, in short, are community standards, and the level is adequacy.
3. Lack of the necessities of life is one thing. Abuse of people and invasion of their rights is another. In the first case the public must supply the deficiency. In the second it must interpose its protection. Accordingly, it is a welfare responsibility of the public to remove children from circumstances and environment in which there is neglect or abuse, to institute guardianship for adults not able to care for themselves, and to provide institutional care for those whose mental or physical condition requires custodial supervision for their own safety and well-being or the safety and well-being of the public.
4. In American society, the need for rehabilitation and self-support--with all that that implies--is second only to the need for sufficient food and shelter to keep body and soul together. For rehabilitation and self-support for the rehabilitable are inseparably connected with the basic moral, social and political tenets of our system: with individualism, with self-reliance, with initiative, with the dignity and worth of the human person, with equality of opportunity both economic and social, and with full rights of participation in the normal activities of the community. So the Federal Social Security Act provides for "helping to strengthen family life and helping needy families and individuals to attain the maximum economic and personal independence of which they are capable. "If the opportunity for rehabilitation and self-support for the rehabilitable is not simply a basic human need in psychological terms, it is in our system surely a basic social need--as basic as the fundamental principles of American democracy.
5. Public assistance is assistance by the public in the interest of the public as well as that of individual beneficiaries. This is clearly recognized by the national Social Security Act and the dependent state measures. The aim, says Sec. 19 of California Welfare and Institutions Code, in providing public assistance to the State's needy and distressed is to promote the welfare and happiness of all of the people of the State. The interest of the general public, the well-being of the Nation itself, is a basic value expressly designed to be achieved and protected.
6. Poverty is rarely a matter of willful choice on the part of its victims. It results generally from the complexities and imperfections of the social and economic system, and from such other factors beyond individual control as disability. disease, old age, minority status, lack of skills or training, deficiencies of mind or personality.Therefore the receipt of public assistance should be conditioned only upon need. It should not hinge upon the reform or reconstruction of all the moral and behavioral patterns of minority groups and deviant individuals. It should not embrace or entertain sumptuary provisions to be applied discriminatorily to recipients of aid. Above all, it is positively immoral to refuse to feed needy children because of the supposed or actual moral derelictions of their parents.
7. Public assistance programs should not, moreover, be designed to maintain a static pool of labor at the level of subsistence to be made available to employers on sub-marginal terms as needed.Public assistance is not the modern counterpart of the Statute of Laborers of 1348.
8. As poverty and immorality are not synonymous, so need itself is not a crime. Fundamental to the welfare creed is the recognition that those who are in need are neither sinners nor delinquents, that men cannot be driven to their salvation by the threat of punishment. The methods of the welfare law are not the methods of the criminal law--the law of crime and punishment which seeks not to help but to chastise; not to cure but to suppress; not to understand but to retaliate.Until very recent times, the law of crimes had the whole field of welfare to itself. It failed utterly to solve, and managed only to aggravate, the human problems of poverty and immorality, of abnormality and nonconformity.While dealing roughly with the symptom, it has failed even to identify the disease.
9. The programs of public assistance are not designed to classify, symbolize or stigmatize their underprivileged recipients as a subordinate or extra-constitutional group. The clients of welfare are not a lesser breed without the constitutional law. Indigence, unlike crime or contagion, does not warrant stripping people of their freedom and their rights. As Justice Jackson pointed out, "The mere state of being without funds is a neutral fact--constitutionally an irrelevance, like race, creed or color." So welfare recipients, like anybody else, are entitled to all the protections of the Federal and State constitutions: to the equalprotection of the laws, with its requirement of reasonable and relevant classification; to due process of law, with its requirement of proper procedures and presumptions; to security in their persons, houses, papers and effects; and to immunity from unreasonable searches and seizures--in short, to all the safeguards of minorities and individuals systematically erected through the centuries of Anglo-American legal history. These are safeguards for all, for the poor and troubled as well as for the comfortable, not to be "grudgingly given and imperfectly applied" to the lowliest or the neediest among us.
10. The dignity of man is not lost by virtue of poverty and the receipt of welfare benefits. No less vital to welfare than to democracy itself is a sensitive regard for the personality, the personal rights, the inviolable privacy of the individual--for his prerogative to live his own life and to manage his own affairs free from arbitrary restraint or oppressive surveillance. At bottom, this is a faith in the responsibility and rationality, the simple capacity for self-determination, of the individual client of welfare services. The principle of human dignity, at work in our field, encourages guidance but prohibits governance of the client by the social worker and administrator. It commands respect for the personal integrity, the moral worth and the productive powers of those in need. It prescribes a presumption of normality, of the ability to manage one's own affairs and make the ordinary choices about life and living--which is the counterpart in social welfare of the presumption of innocence in the law of crimes.
These then are the articles of our commitment. In their service we are not neutral but partisan; we are not indifferent but partial; we are not above the battle but in the thick of it. In the spirit of Jefferson, we declare our hostility to one particular form of tyranny over the souls of men--the tyranny of involuntary circunnstance and ill-fortune which deprives them of equal rights and normal opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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By Floyd W. Matson
James Richardson, although blind, successfully supported his Dallas family for 23 years through proceeds from the vending stand which he operated in a local branch post office. For several years prior to his death last August 20, he was actively assisted in the business by his blind wife, Mabel — and more recently by their 17-year-old son Paul, also sightless.
On August 23 Mrs. Richardson was notified by the Texas Commission for the Blind, which owns the stand, that she could not continue to operate the enterprise and must vacate the premises on that day. The decision was made by Commission Director Lon Alsup, on the basis (according to accounts in two Dallas newspapers) of past criticisms by Mrs. Richardson of the Commission's procedures and practices -- specifically, through letters she had written to various state representatives and congressmen.
"If she proves herself later on — if she stops writing political letters about us to Washington — I'1l let her have a newstand again. But she's got to prove herself," Mr. Alsup was quoted as saying by the Dallas Times Herald. According to the Dallas News, the Commission chief declared with reference to the critical letters: "I just decided I didn't want any more.... I'd be in trouble all of the time.... She's not capable of running the stand. She doesn't have what it takes to run it, spending all that time writing letters."
Mrs. Richardson, who with her late husband had been active in state blind organizations, replied that her letters to elective officials had indeed been critical of commissioners who "don't want us to have a thought of our own. They want us in a state of custodial care." Maintaining that her long association with her husband's business was proof of her competence to run the stand, she sought a fonnal hearing from the state commission in an effort to gain reinstatement. After a week of increasing press and public attention to the case, with growing support for the blind widow from political authorities in Washington and in the state capital at Austin, the Commission for the Blind granted a four-hour hearing and review of its decision.
Folloving the hearing, the Commission voted unanimously to uphold Mrs. Richardson's eviction and to reject her appeal. Its official statement asserted that her "application for a license to operate a vending stand under the business enterprise program" was being rejected because she had not complied with regulations requiring a formal application, "The Commission finds further that the vending stand for which Mrs. Richardson has applied is not available, since such vacancy was filled" five days before, the statement added.
Although the commission announcement was silent regarding Mrs.Richardson's letter-writing activities. Director Alsup "in his testimony said at first he did not think she was qualified but later said her experience in helping her late husband would permit her to be licensed without any formal training," according to a report in the Dallas News . "He refused repeatedly to say whether or not he had any objections to her that he would not have to other applicants, declaring "I don't have to answer that,'" the newspaper reported.
Mrs. Richardson immediately announced her intention to appeal the commission decision to the courts. "I feel I am being discrimiated against," she told the commission, "because I have written letters to Congress. It is my intention to prove that anyone has a right to contact a congressman. It's not a question of cooperation with the commission. It's a question of the difference between cooperation and servitude."
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Florida's "Blind Worker of the Year"; Mrs. Gertrude Sitt of North Miami Beach, secretary of the Florida Federation of the Blind, is the recipient of the first annual "Florida Blind Worker of the Year" award given by the state's B'Nai B'Rith Society as an adjunct to its program of placing blind workers in industrial employment. The title, along with a braille wristwatch, will be awarded each year to a blind Floridian who has achieved employment mainly through his own initiative.
The fall 1961 convention of the California Council of the Blind will be held at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego October 20 through 22, according to an announcement by Council President Russell Kletzing. "The emphasis at the convention will be on reviewing and understanding legislative program," the president adds.
New Honors for John Nagle: The aggressive and indefatigable Washington Office Chief of the National Federation of the Blind, John F. Nagle, continues to win friends and influence people in large numbers on behalf of the organized blind and their cause. Last July, as a participant in the Third Regional Conference of the National Rehabilitation Association, he took a leading role in a panel on "The Meaning of Disability to the Individual." His talk was so effective that he was invited to present it again before a conference of Coordinators for the Employment of the Physically Handicapped held on September 8 under sponsorship of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Mr. Nagle reports that requests for copies of the speech have been so heavy that Civil Service officials plan to send it to the 2,500 Coordinators throughout the coumtry.
The 40th anniversary of the American Foundation for the Blind is to be signalized this month in a special (October) issue of THE NEW OUTLOOK FOR THE BLIND. The magazine, in addition to carrying accounts of the organization's history and its contributions to the welfare of the blind, is to contain the annual report of the AFB.
tenBroek Named to Study Commission: Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, President of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, has been appoint ed by California Governor Edmund G. Brown to membership on a Welfare Study Commission which will take "a critical new look" at the state's social welfare procedures. Dr. tenBroek, who is chairman of the State Social Welfare Boaird in California, will serve with 18 other prominent citizens on the new commission which was authorized by the 1961 state legislature to recommend improvements in public assistance and welfare programs.
Food for Thought; A Recorded Magazine? Mr. Roy Zuvers, of 1118 Frederick, Independence, Missouri -- remembered by many as the official recorder-on-tape of the National Federation of the Blind convention at Kansas City last July — presents some provocative suggestions in a letter to this journal. He writes in part: "I think that much could be done toward education of people in many different fields through a recording program, and several other organizations also, but there is room for more. My interest is along the lines of speeches and information recorded 'live' at such events as convention meetings and banquets. The tapes could be put into a library of master tapes and copies made available to anyone. It is certain that blind people would not be the only ones to benefit by such a program.
"I am also investigating the idea of a recorded magazine," Mr. Zuvers continues, "I have found that if an organization wants to, they could put out such a magazine every month for a subscription price of ten dollars per year. The subscriber would read the magazine and then return the tape to the appointed place to be recorded again and sent out with the next month's issue. . . I would be interested to know what other people might think of these ideas."
The development of a special sealed tape containing eight hours of reading material, which can be placed on a spindle without touching the tape itself and will rewind automatically after playing, is contemplated by the end of this year as a result of joint efforts by the Library of Congress and Recording for the Blind, Inc. The project has been made possible by grants totaling over $60,000 from the Council on Library Resources.
Social Note from California ; The energetic president of the San Fernando Valley Braille Blazers, Inc., Rita Bergman, was married on July I5 to Charles Davidson, also a member of the San Fernando Chapter of the California Council of the Blind and formerly an active worker in the Arizona Federation of the Blind,
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John F. Nagle, a frequent and generous contributor to these pages, is Chief of the Washington Office of the National Federation of the Blind. Himself without sight, he is a past president of the Associated Blind of Massachusetts and practiced law for many years in his home town of Watertown, Mass.
Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, president of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, delivered the address which appears in our current issue before a community gathering last July at San Diego, California, in honor of the State Social Welfare Board of which he is chairman. Dr. tenBroek is also past president of the National Federation of the Blind and the author of numerous books and monographs on public welfare and constitutional law.
Dr. Floyd W. Matson, is editor of THE BLIND AMERICAN and the co-author (with Jacobus tenBroek) of a recent book, entitled HOPE DEFERRED: PUBLIC WELFARE AND THE BLIND.
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