Braille Monitor August-September 1985
National Federation of the Blind
July 2, 1985
The past year has been a time of unparalleled growth and progress for the National Federation of the Blind. All you have to do to verify that fact is look around you and see how many people are here at the convention. This is the largest meeting of blind people which will be held anywhere in the world this year.
And what we have achieved in numbers we have also achieved in public recognition. As never before in our history, we have carried our message to the nation and the world and brought our influence to bear upon programs affecting the blind. One of the most notable recent examples is the three hours we had on May 17 of this year on the Larry King program. The way it came about is a measure of our standing and reputation. One day late in April I was called by the producer of the Larry King program and asked whether I would be willing to be on the show and talk about blindness. He said that the topic was particularly timely in view of the budget discussions then taking place in Congress and that he wanted the best known and most credible spokesman for the blind in the country. When I told him my schedule would not permit accepting the first dates he mentioned, he said that adjustments could be made--and they were.
As I went to the radio station in Washington that rainy night in May, I wondered how many million people would hear our message. I also wondered what I could say to help move public attitudes even a little toward the realization that we are simply normal people who cannot see, people whose primary problem is not blindness but what others think about blindness. It was a massive effort at public education, and educate we did; for it was not just the President of the National Federation of the Blind who appeared on the program that night but also you, the members of this movement. You swamped the telephone lines with an avalanche of calls. We had three hours to tell the nation who we are and what we think--and we told them. Several million people heard our story. When we reflect upon the significance of it, we must necessarily feel optimism and pride, for it was not simply a few leaders participating. There were hundreds of us from all over the country trying to get in, and the calls were taken at random. Yet, it did not matter who was selected. The quality was uniformly high and the message clear. It was this: We are the blind speaking for ourselves, and we know what we want and how to say it.
Of course, the Larry King Show (important though it was) is only illustrative.
Our radio and television spots now blanket the nation. Again, the success is because of cooperative effort. Those of us in the National Office can (and probably must) make the spots, but you the members have to take them to the stations and get them on the air. Even their acceptance by the networks is a testimonial to the growing recognition of our movement and the validity of our message.
We have both new radio and new television spots at this convention. When you have heard them, I believe you will agree that their quality is high and that they will help us advance on the road to freedom. They are available for you to take and distribute.
Last year at the convention we did a great deal of video taping. From that effort came four programs of broadcast quality. Two were fifteen minutes long, and two were thirty minutes long. They feature a dozen Federationists discussing blindness--what our problems are, and what they are not. Those programs are available at this convention. Take them home and see that they are shown on every local television station in the land, as well as to civic and social groups. They have already been widely used. Let us saturate the nation with them.
Anybody who listens to radio or watches television has heard of the Ad Council. Its stamp of approval is the ultimate hallmark of prestige and respectability. To the best of my belief and knowledge, no organization connected with the blind has ever received the blessings of the Ad Council prior to this year. Let me read you a portion of a letter from the Ad Council to the Federation dated February 13, 1985:
"I am happy to inform you that the National Federation of the Blind campaign was accepted by the Bulletin Campaigns Committee of our Board of Directors for inclusion in the Council's Public Service Advertising Bulletin for March-April, 1985. This means that in your approach to advertising media you may state that the project has been accepted by the Council and is to be listed in the Bulletin."
That is a far cry from how it used to be. Of course, as you all know, two years ago we were approved by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Last year we were in the process of winding up a controversy with the National Charities Information Bureau. That is now settled.
When M. C. Van de Workeen, long-time head of the National Charities Information Bureau, saw fit to try to smear us, we investigated and published. Let us recognize both the power and the responsibility which we now have as a movement; for Mr. Van de Workeen lost his job, and the National Charities Information Bureau said that it was reevaluating its policies and instituting reforms. Last fall NCIB and NFB representatives sat down together for a discussion. We arrived at an understanding, and I think there will not be further problems.
During the past year we have continued our efforts on the legal front. Early in 1984 (as Federationists know) the General Services Administration solicited bids from fast food chains to provide food service at GSA headquarters in Washington. Under the Randolph Sheppard Act this was illegal. We protested publicly and went to Congress. Within a week the matter was settled. GSA officials decided it was better to work with us than against us. That was February of 1984.
Last summer the Department of Defense quietly negotiated contracts with Burger King and McDonald's to provide food service at Army and Navy bases both here and abroad. This time (unlike the situation in February) our problem was not to prevent an action but to try to undo it. The tactics required were different. Against our advice, the American Council of the Blind and certain agencies decided to take the matter to court, using the Randolph-Sheppard Act as the vehicle.
We told them that the risks were too great and that there were better ways of achieving the objective. Congressional oversight hearings could be stimulated, and negotiations could be carried on with officials of the Executive Branch. In view of the sentiment in Congress we could probably get a resolution of Congressional intent.
But the ACB would not listen. One of their leaders was quoted as saying that they were determined to show the vendors of the nation that the Federation was not the only group working in their behalf. Whatever the motive, the result was disastrous. In one of the shortest pieces of litigation on record, summary judgment was given last January in favor of the Defense Department. Moreover, the court went beyond the question at issue and made pronouncements jeopardizing the entire Randolph-Sheppard program. Commercial food service operators could now apparently bid for any location in the country. The regrettable part of it is that all of this was unnecessary It was principally caused by bad legal strategy, which is what seems to happen every time the ACB (inexperienced in such matters) gets into court cases of this type.
An appeal from the lower court decision has now been made by ACB and the others who brought the ill-fated case, and we have been faced with a dilemma. If we enter the case, we risk losing credibility by keeping such company. If we do not enter, the appeal may be handled badly, and every blind vendor in the country will suffer accordingly. Under the circumstances we had no choice. A few weeks ago we filed a motion to enter the case as an amicus. Astounding though it may seem, those who brought the case have filed a motion seeking to refuse to let us in. In view of our unbroken string of court victories in Randolph-Sheppard matters, one can only explain this conduct on the basis of petty jealousy and fear of being upstaged. We intend to go forward, and we are determined to protect the rights of the blind vendors of the nation, regardless of the effort it may cost or the temper tantrums it may provoke from people who seem more concerned with saving face than saving the program. One is moved to wonder again why any blind vendor in this country would become or remain a member of the American Council of the Blind or fail to join the NFB.
As a perfect illustration of what we are doing to protect and enlarge the rights of vendors, consider our assistance to Pete Howe. We have won two impressive victories in the Pete Howe case during the year. Incidentally, Pete Howe knows what it means to be a Federationist. He has been part of the movement for years, and he is here in the audience today. He participates--not just to take but also to give, understanding and living the spirit of Federationism.
Pete operates a successful vending Businessat the post office in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Last year, at the time of our convention, we were battling hard to help him save his business. The Green Bay post office had moved to new quarters, and they said Pete (though he had been in the post office for years) did not have the right to move with them. He was to be left in an almost empty building. The post office solicited bids from commercial vendors to install machines at their new facility. This is what the postal service thought, but we had different thoughts.As you know, we got a federal judge to grant a temporary restraining order to put a stop to the bids. The order also prohibited any temporary vending in the new post office pending a ruling on our motion. We got our ruling July 20, 1984. It was a complete victory. Pete Howe could move his vending machines and snack bar to the new post office immediately and commence operation.
That was our first victory. It has important implications for every blind vendor in the country. There is now a legal precedent that a blind vendor has the right to sue a federal agency directly. Furthermore, a vendor may not be deprived of a vending facility without due process of law.
Last year when we began the Pete Howe case, the Wisconsin rehabilitation agency argued that Pete was not entitled to move with the post office. Later they said that they had no policy one way or the other and that the matter must be clarified. It was clarified.
We won. This spring the state licensing agency asked the postal service for a permit to cover all vending machine operations and a snack bar at the main Green Bay post office and also at a substation. And Pete Howe is to be the vendor at both locations. That is what the permit says, and all that now remains is for the postal service to sign it. If they do not, there will be an arbitration between the state agency and the postal service--and you can bet we will be there all the way.
There is an unfortunate side issue to all of this business. The Wisconsin Committee of Blind Vendors is headed by a member of the American Council of the Blind. That individual called our lawyer and tried to get him to back off. You know the result. We did not back off, and we prevailed. Nobody wants controversy, but if we are not willing to stand up for our own rights, who will?
It is a matter of knowing when and where to fight. Consider the fast food litigation brought by the ACB in the courts of Washington, D.C., and place it alongside the Pete Howe case in Wisconsin. The lesson is clear. We want no strife or confrontation, but we are simply no longer willing to be second class citizens.
When the ACB fast food case was lost earlier this year, we feared that it would start a trend of attacks on the Randolph-Sheppard program. The trend was not long in coming. The Federal Bureau of Prisons now wants to charge commissions on sales by blind vendors. Making blind vendors pay commissions for the right to operate on federal property is unprecedented, but there are indications that the Secretary of Education may allow it. It is also possible that the Secretary may attempt to rule that the Bureau of Prisons is exempt from certain portions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, those requiring vending machine commissions to be shared with state licensing agencies for the blind. This, too, is without precedent.
And what shall we say to these attempts to deprive blind vendors of the rights they have been given by Congress? The answer is simple. We will fight. We will put a stop to the actions of the Bureau of Prisons--by negotiation if we can, by competently handled litigation if we must. That's what the National Federation of the Blind is all about.
There are other cases involving blind vendors, more than I have time to mention. Here in Kentucky, for instance, there is the Sandra Guthrie case. As is so often the situation, this case would never have needed to be brought if the state agency had been stronger. The office of the State Attorney General was saying that a blind vendor was not entitled to the ordinary due process safeguards which any American should have in an administrative appeal or a court hearing. These safeguards include subpoena power for documents, the ability to compel witnesses to appear, and the right to take depositions. The matter has been taken to court, and in August of this year Sandra Guthrie will have her hearing--and it will be held the way a hearing should be held, with subpoena powers and all of the other safeguards involved in due process of law.
One more matter involving vendors: Robert Albanese (a former blind vendor and not, incidentally, a Federationist) made an appeal several years ago when the state of Delaware denied him a promotion to a more lucrative vending facility. He won his appeal, including a claim for eighteen months' compensation and attorney fees. Then, the state of Delaware appealed the decision to the federal district court. Last August there was a decision against Albanese. And what do you suppose? Instead of defending the decision of its own arbitration panel, the United States Department of Education joined with the state of Delaware in arguing that blind vendors are not entitled to be compensated for losses if the state agency violates the law. Of course, we could not allow such a precedent to stand. Consider the consequences for the vending cases on which we have spent so much time and treasure: Jessie Nash, Betty Moffit, George McNabb, and all of the rest. Last fall Albanese appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third District, and we were granted the right to intervene as a friend of the court. Briefs were filed, and oral arguments were heard in May of this year. We don 't know the decision, but the prospects look good. It has been an uphill battle. We have had to fight both the state of Delaware and the federal government, but if we had not entered the case, it is a virtual certainty that the ruling would have been adverse. The lesson is clear. Vendors who try to fight the battle alone are likely to be cut down one by one, but if we work together in an organized effort, we can build a body of law and experience to bring us to victory and freedom. What is true for vendors is also true for the rest of us. We have learned the power of mutual help and collective action, and no force on earth can stay our progress. This is why we are here. This is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.
Last year in Phoenix Nelson Sabatini, Associate Commissioner for Management for the Social Security Administration, spoke to our convention. He talked about employment issues. He said that he would put an end to special screening requirements applied only to blind applicants for employment. He promised to end segregated training classes used for blind employees, separating them from sighted trainees. He promised that blind Claims Representatives would be allowed to conduct face to face interviews instead of being limited to telephone work only. He promised to review and withdraw a vision requirement which we told him we had found in a job description for a Social Security Contact Representative doing collection work. These were specific, tangible promises--but there was more. Mr. Sabatini made a commitment that Social Security would hire more blind people and would hire them in positions of responsibility. Shortly after the close of last year's convention, he made good on each and every one of these promises. This demonstrates the value of the discussions we have with public officials at these conventions. Often it is not a matter of trying to force them but of bringing situations to their attention and reasoning with them. Whatever else may be said, it is a fact that it is this organization, the National Federation of the Blind, which has made the difference for blind persons in employment with the Social Security Administration.
Then, there is the State Department. In 1982 we initiated action on behalf of Donald Galloway. He had worked as Director of Peace Corps operations in Jamaica. In the fall of 1981 he sought employment as an administrative officer in the United States Foreign Service. He was turned down because he was blind. The rejection was based on the so-called medical standards of the Foreign Service. It was a clear-cut case of discrimination since he was unquestionably otherwise qualified.
So we helped Don Galloway with an appeal through the federal Equal Opportunity procedures required by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The case has now been successfully completed. Although the State Department had tried to deny that Section 501 applies to the Foreign Service, they now admit that it does. Procedures to implement the decision will be put into effect, and we will have input in their development. As to Don Galloway, he has been awarded a substantial amount of back pay and the prospect of good future employment. As a part of the settlement, we said we would not disclose the full amount of the back pay. That alone tells you that it is not small. Let me put it this way: If he had been employed in the administrative post he sought with the Foreign Service, Galloway expected somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 per year, plus annual increases. Remember that the appeal took approximately three years and that the agreement we reached with the State Department was intended to provide virtually full compensation for Mr. Galloway for the actual amount of pay he was denied. I am sure you will agree that I have not told you the amount--but I think you get the idea. We are not talking token payments or a few thousand dollars. That is the success we had in the Galloway case.
One of the characteristics of the National Federation of the Blind is that we never quit and we never give up. There is the case of Joyce Stiff. I have talked about it in previous conventions. It is now at an end. We have a court order, and a good one. Joyce Stiff applied to the Federal Bureau of the Census to be a temporary census worker in 1980. Not only was her application denied but there was a refusal even to consider the application. The Census Bureau claimed that they had no jobs that a blind person could do. Joyce went to court, and we helped her. John Halverson, President of our Federal Employees Division and of the D.C. affiliate, and Ramona Walhof (at that time Assistant Director of our Job Opportunities program) appeared as witnesses in Equal Opportunity Commission hearings. John later appeared as a witness in federal court. The court order says that the affirmative action requirements of Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to the Census Bureau. The court specifically overruled the contention of the Bureau that blind people would not be able to do the work. There is also a back pay award of $14,557.95 for Joyce Stiff. We worked with Joyce and her lawyer all the way providing information, encouragement, and support. We are not hunting controversy, but we will no longer lie down passively and be walked on like rugs. That is the meaning of the Stiff case. It is also the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind.
Then, there is the case of Virginia Glynn. She is a physical therapist at a state hospital in Maryland. In May of 1984 all of her professional duties were terminated. She was not fired. In some ways it was worse than that. She was told she could keep her job but that she could only sit and do nothing while sighted physical therapists did all of the work. And they tell me there is no discrimination! As you would expect, we started a federal civil rights complaint. We also took the case to the Maryland Attorney General. One way or another we intended to see that Virginia Glynn was treated with dignity and fairness. I am pleased to tell you that we were successful. Virginia Glynn now treats patients once again, and she does a good job at it, too.
Paul Howard filed an equal opportunity complaint with the United States Postal Service. The case has been pending for more than two years, but there are recent developments. Paul applied to take the Clerk-Carrier examination for work in the Gary, Indiana, main post office. Postal officials told him he could only be hired if the Indiana State Rehabilitation Services said he could do the work. Not surprisingly, Indiana rehabilitation said they did not know of any job in the post office that a blind person could do, so the postal service refused to give Paul the examination. There was an investigation. In May of this year a conference was held in Gary to resolve the matter, and I sent Jim Gashel to help with the negotiations. The settlement that was agreed to will likely involve an analysis of jobs in the post office, to be conducted by the National Federation of the Blind. If the rehabilitation people can't find jobs that blind people can do, we can.
In Oklahoma we have had a dispute over the exclusion of dog guides from a sheltered workshop. Not just any old workshop, but the Oklahoma League for the Blind, dominated from top to bottom by the ACB. Last summer a new plant was opened in Tulsa. Sandra Spencer is a worker in that shop. She refused to be bullied, and we helped her file a discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Labor. The decision by the area office of the Department (issued in April) was in favor of the League. It found that there is no discrimination if a workshop orders blind employees to leave their dogs at home or forces them to place the dogs in kennels away from the worksite. Of course, this deprives the dog user of independent mobility on the job. We have appealed the ruling to the national office of the Department of Labor, and we intend to win.
We continue to be involved in a wide variety of Social Security appeals, dealing with alleged overpayments and denial or termination of benefits. One such case involves Jeff and Zena Pearcy of Texas. They got a notice from Social Security telling them to pay back several thousand dollars in SSI benefits. We believe that they were not only not overpayed but that their checks were illegally terminated--and we are working to prove it. The expertise we have developed in the details of the Social Security law and its special provisions dealing with the blind are key in a case like this. What other organization either of or for the blind do you know which handles and wins these appeals?
In this connection consider the case of Wanda Petcher, a blind resident of the state of Delaware. She applied for Supplemental Security Income in June of 1982. She was not aware of the National Federation of the Blind. So-called "experts" gave her misinformation, and Social Security officials wrongfully denied her benefits. Wanda decided there was nothing more she could do and resigned herself to living without SSI. Then, she met Ruth Whelan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware, and joined the Federation. With knowledge she gained through the Monitor and with assistance from Ruth Whelan, Mary Ellen Reihing, and Jim Gashel, Wanda filed an appeal. The hearing took place shortly before last year's convention. Ruth Whelan served as Wanda's representative, and Mary Ellen Reihing traveled to Delaware to participate in the hearing. I am happy to inform you that Wanda Petcher is now receiving all of the benefits to which she is entitled, along with retroactive payments from the date of her original application in June of 1982.
During the past year we have been fighting major battles against discrimination by airlines and insurance companies. Last year, as you know, there was a bill in Congress called the "Fair Insurance Coverage Act." It was introduced by Congressman Jim Bates of California and Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland. That bill was prepared by the National Federation of the Blind and was introduced at our request. There were hearings, and several Federation leaders appeared to testify. Shortly before Congress adjourned, the bill was favorably reported by the subcommittee to which it had been referred, but time ran out.
Naturally, we are back at it again this year. The Fair Insurance Coverage Act has just been reintroduced with over a hundred co-sponsors. Later in the convention Jim Gashel will give you the bill number and further details.
Meanwhile our efforts in Congress have borne positive fruit in the insurance industry. You will be hearing more about this later in the convention. For the present let me just say this: Last December as a direct result of our efforts in Congress, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners revised its model regulation on blindness, a regulation which we caused to be adopted in the first place. Last December's modification was made over the strong objection of the insurance industry. The new model is an unequivocal prohibition against any form of different treatment (higher rates, different coverage, or what have you) for blind people as opposed to sighted people. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has adopted it. It is now up to us to get the states to follow through and implement it. If there had been no National Federation of the Blind and if we had not taken up the battle, there would have been no bill in Congress, no model regulation by the state insurance commissioners, and no equal treatment for blind people in receiving insurance coverage. It is that simple and that compelling.
One of our greatest challenges during the past year has been our battle with the airlines. Again, you will get the details from top federal officials, representatives of the industry, and our own members later in the convention; but no report of our year's activities would be complete without at least a summary. We are now engaged in several lawsuits involving airlines. As Federationists know, Judy Sanders was arrested on a People Express flight last fall when she tried to return home from Boston. In February Russell Anderson was arrested at Washington National Airport when he declined to move from an exit row seat which had been assigned to him by USAir personnel. We protested that arrest and closed down the USAir ticket counter in Washington the following evening. Suits are pending in both cases; and, so help us God, we intend to win them--in the courts if we can, in the streets and the forum of public opinion if we must. We will not be treated like children or herded like cattle on airplanes, and those who think otherwise have only themselves to blame for the consequences.
One more thing on this subject. We have obtained a victory in the Michael Hingson case against Pacific Southwest Airlines in California. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has agreed with us that the decision of the lower court was in error. You will remember that Mike was denied boarding and that he was bodily removed from a PSA flight. He suffered physical abuse at the hands of airline personnel. Yet, the district court said there was no denial of his rights. We are on the road to reversing that injustice. Our contact with airlines has, of course, not been limited to confrontation and court battles. During the past year we have held several meetings with high level officials of major air carriers. We went to United's headquarters in Chicago, and American sent senior officials to our headquarters at the National Center in Baltimore. The results are mixed, but there have been positive developments. These carriers nave substantially rewritten their procedures as a result of our meetings, and most of the custodial requirements and demeaning language have been removed. The struggle is long, and the battle is difficult, but we are definitely making progress. This can be measured by the fact that these airlines have felt the need to negotiate with us.
We continue to face cases involving child custody and blindness. Last July Jennifer Jones of North Carolina was notified that her former husband (now living in Pennsylvania) was attempting to obtain custody of their children. Jennifer's blindness was being raised as one of the reasons why the father (fully sighted) would be a more suitable parent than the mother, who is blind. Of course, we were compelled to intervene, I am pleased to tell you that the case was satisfactorily resolved and that Jennifer has custody of her children.
Last September Jim Tucker of Washington state sought our help in a custody dispute involving his children. In this instance a court in San Diego had already determined that he should not be allowed to have his children because of his blindness. Working with the leaders of our California affiliate we asked the court to reverse that decision and declare that Jim Tucker's blindness would not be an obstacle in child rearing. We won a total victory, and custody was restored.
Last year it became necessary for us to embark upon a major effort to defend the constitutional rights of blind persons (particularly, Federationists) in the states of Missouri and Idaho. As we met at the 1984 convention in Phoenix, the battle was just getting fully under way. The fight in the courts and the press has been vicious and hard, and in Idaho we have suffered temporary reverses; but in Missouri we are beginning to see signs of victory.
The first of the three lawsuits we filed against state officials in Missouri was successfully settled last October with concessions and an apology. The second was successfully concluded in February. The court decree reads in part:
"Defendants apologize for any injury suffered by the National Federation of the Blind as a result of the investigation of the Bureau for the Blind.
Defendants agree to pay the sum of ten thousand dollars to the National Federation of the Blind for the purpose of cosponsoring the 1985 national convention of the National Federation of the Blind."
So the state of Missouri apologized, and they are graciously helping pay for the costs of this convention. Moreover, they removed the damaging material from Tom Stevens' personnel file and gave him back pay. This is a far cry from the boasts of a year ago when desks were being searched and so-called investigations were being conducted. Our third Missouri lawsuit (the Dottie Neely case) is still very much alive, and it is unlikely that we will agree to any settlement before trial. The principal issues involved in the first two cases are still before the court in the Neely case, and they should be definitively resolved. Perhaps the apology of the Missouri officials is sincere and they truly regret their gestapo tactics, but an example is needed for future would-be violators of the law and transgressors of the rights of the blind. If we had failed to take up the challenge in Missouri and Idaho, the dignity and self-respect of every blind person in the nation would have been to some degree diminished, and we would have been false to our heritage and unworthy of our trust.
During the past year we have successfully defended the principle that blindness does not disqualify a person from serving as a hearing officer in a judicial or administrative proceeding. Our assistance in this case was specifically sought by officials of the state of New York when a ruling by a blind administrative law judge (William Kirchgaessner), who works for the New York State Human Rights Commission, was challenged in court on grounds that Kirchgaessner is blind. We filed a brief in the case and offered other assistance. I doubt that I need point out the consequences for all of us if an adverse ruling had come down from the court. But I am pleased to tell you that the ruling was not adverse. We had a complete victory, and Kirchgaessner's fitness to serve was affirmed by the court.
In Maryland the owner of a health spa refused to admit a blind couple to membership. He said it was a matter of safety. Even when we pointed out to him that his actions were in violation of the state White Cane Law, the owner persisted. So we called the press, the State Attorney General, and a friendly legislator--a man, incidentally, who is Chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and knows something about civil rights. After a confrontation in the presence of television cameras and the press, the owner had had enough. He gave a public apology, said he would admit blind people to membership, and opined that he had learned a lesson. Not only are our activities varied, but we do get results.
In the brief time which can be given to a report of this sort it is difficult even to touch on all of the things which should be mentioned. Our program of Job Opportunities for the Blind, operated in partnership with the United States Department of Labor, continues to yield wonderfully positive results. In January we passed the 500 mark--over 500 blind persons helped by JOB to find competitive employment at above the minimum wage.
There are other developments: I, as President of the National Federation of the Blind, have been elected to membership on the Executive Committee of the World Blind Union. In addition to the print and Braille versions, we are now providing to anyone who wants it a Braille edition of our monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor, which is (by far) the most influential journal about blindness being published. Future Reflections, our magazine for parents, has become the largest and most widely discussed publication dealing with the problems of blind children. We continue to record and distribute the Journal of the American Bar Association. Our Committee on Research and Development is doing outstanding work and has made important breakthroughs in developing new technology for the blind. Some of the results are on display in the exhibit hall, and you will get more details later in the week.
Our scholarship program is bigger and better this year than ever before. We will award at this convention (counting travel expenses for recipients) almost $100,000 in scholarship aid. We have made arrangements to secure a new supply of the original Sharp talking clocks. They should be available in October. During the past year we have implemented our resolution to provide business and job related loans to the blind. To date we have loaned $176,213.19 to eight blind persons, helping them advance in their jobs or go into business on their own. In partnership with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped we are now producing in Braille a book which has long been needed but which (because of its length and, therefore, its cost) has never before been available to the blind--John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. It should be ready by the end of December. NLS will place a copy in each of the regional libraries, and we will have copies for sale at our cost. We will have both hard bound copies (40 volumes of approximately 300 pages each to the set) and magazine type copies (130 volumes of approximately 92 pages each to the set).
Finally, let me tell you something which speaks to the long-term view we take of things and the fact that we never quit. It was over ten years ago when we began to fight for the right of our state affiliate in Missouri to use the name National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. A few days ago we finished the job. Our Missouri affiliate (by court sanctioned settlement) may now use the name National Federation of the Blind of Missouri--and nobody else can use it.
This is a report of what we have done during the past year--and what a year it has been! Filled with problems, accomplishments, unparalleled growth, attacks from our opponents, new members, and a quickened spirit of freedom--it has been an absolutely wonderful time. And we must not simply chronicle the physical. We must also talk of the spirit--for we are not only an activist and civil rights organization but also a crusade and a movement. In this year of accomplishment we have kept faith with our heritage, with the blind of the nation, with each other, and with ourselves. If Dr. tenBroek were alive today, he would feel a mighty pride in what we are doing. We are giving substance to the dreams which he and the other founders of our movement believed and cherished and hoped would come true.
This is not only a report of the year's activity. It is also a public sharing between you, the members of the National Federation of the Blind, and me, the elected President. I stand before you to give an accounting of stewardship. If I am to accept the responsibility and honor of being your President, I must be prepared to stand in the front of the battle and never ask others to make sacrifices which I am not willing to make myself. I must lead by example and not merely by command. This I have tried to do. I have led the movement as wisely, as vigorously, and as lovingly as I have had the ability and the knowledge to do.
And you as members have responsibilities, too--each of you, not just the officers and leaders. You must live your Federationism on a daily basis and be prepared to sacrifice for it and take the long view. You act not only for yourselves but also for the blind who went before you and for those of tomorrow and the next generation. Our movement is a sacred trust; and we are the ones who must live it, dream it, and make it come true. Working together and supporting each other, we will not fail. For the first time in the history of the world we who are blind have the power to determine our own future. Let us make the year ahead even better than the one we are finishing. This is our pledge to each other. This is the meaning of our movement. This is the National Federation of the Blind.