Braille Monitor March 1986
The annual meeting of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) is traditionally held some time late in the fall. It is intended to be the highlight of the year for the organization--a time for renewal of commitment, recounting of accomplishments, and a demonstration of momentum and achievement. But at Little Rock in December of 1985: IT WASN'T THERE.
First, there was money: IT WASN'T THERE. NAC indicated that it had been operating at a deficit and that dues must be increased. NAC officials rather sheepishly announced that, to make up the deficit which was in excess of one fifth of NAC's entire budget, NAC had asked agencies for the blind and "supporting organizations" (the code word for the American Council of the Blind) to make voluntary contributions to NAC's treasury.
Then, there was the payment of dues. IT WASN'T THERE. There was much discussion at the NAC meeting about a growing phenomenon in the NAC world: delinquency in the payment of NAC dues. More and more agencies are simply not paying their annual dues assessments. It is customary in our society for those who fail to pay their way to be cut off from the goods or services for which they have not paid. In NAC land, however, you get what you pay for and you also get what you don't pay for. NAC obviously needs so desperately to claim at least 100 accredited agencies that it is willing to continue accreditation for agencies which are not paying for this service. One wonders if an agency, once accredited, can ever get rid of NAC without blunt and public dissociation. Many more agencies will undoubtedly consider openly repudiating NAC after hearing the news from Little Rock. Those agencies who have faithfully paid their dues are to be assessed higher dues to carry the load of those who do not pay theirs.
But it wasn't just money. It was also attendance. IT WASN'T THERE. NAC's 1985 meeting was smaller than ever. An attempt was made to swell the ranks by bringing in as many local people as possible, but the effort failed. There were several times as many blind picketers as there were NAC attendees.
Moreover, the individuals who were notably by their absence could only have been an embarrassment. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was announced as giving a keynote address. HE WASN'T THERE.
NAC's Treasurer: HE WASN'T THERE. When the treasurer's report was called for in the membership meeting, the Treasurer hadn't bothered to show up, and the report was given by that perennial assistant treasurer and bearer of bad news, James Olsen of Minnesota. Olsen serves both NAC and the American Council of the Blind as Assistant Treasurer and is managing the deficit financing of both organizations. At the Little Rock meeting he was elected Treasurer in his own right.
Dr. Otis Stephens: HE WASN'T THERE. Otis Stephens is a past president of NAC. He received the Distinguished Service Award from NAC at its banquet on Saturday evening. He didn't bother to come to Little Rock to receive the award. There are doubtless good reasons and good explanations. Those who can, do. Those who cannot, explain.
There was also somebody else. There was Allen Jenkins. HE WASN'T THERE. For twenty years Allen Jenkins (the long-time administrator of California's Orientation Center for the Blind) has ridiculed and disparaged NAC. He has lampooned them and said they were a detriment to the blind. Neither his orientation center nor any of the other components of the California rehabilitation department have been NAC accredited. There have been persistent rumors that NAC was trying to make a deal to get the California rehabilitation program to accept its accreditation and that it was willing to offer inducements. At the 1985 Little Rock meeting Allen Jenkins was put on the NAC board. In view of his past attacks and assertions perhaps he was ashamed to come, but he let himself be elected. Be this as it may, HE WASN'T THERE. It remains to be seen whether a bargain was struck. California's rehabilitation programs for the blind have never accepted NAC accreditation. The next few months will tell.
Hostility toward the Federation by Little Rock officials: IT WASN'T THERE. Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind (AEB) has been a long-time NAC supporter. It is NAC accredited. Under the circumstances it was logical that AEB be picketed during the NAC meeting. The logic was followed. A policeman arrived at AEB shortly after the picketers did. Obviously called to the scene by angry AEB officials, the policeman approached Marc Maurer and demanded to know what was going on. Marc assured the policeman that the Federation had a permit to picket and the policeman, changing his demeanor completely, asked what the picket was about in a casual, conversational tone. Marc explained the basic point, and the officer left, saying "Man, I'm with you."
NAC's hope for the future: IT WASN'T THERE. NAC's credibility: IT WASN'T THERE. NAC's support from the public, from the blind, from the agencies: IT WASN'T THERE.
From the point of view of the NAC adherence, Little Rock in 1985 was a disaster, an underscoring of the financial and moral decline of the organization which started with such public hoopla and fanfare in the 1960's. There are still attempts to keep a stiff upper lip and put on a good show, but the handwriting is on the wall. The time is predictably at hand when the report of the NAC meeting will be easy to make and simple to tell: IT WASN'T THERE.