The Braille Monitor

Vol. 30, No. 3                                                                                            March 1987

Kenneth Jernigan, Editor

Published in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President

National Office
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//

Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the editor
should be sent to the National Office.

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230


ISSN 0006-8829


         Vol. 30, No. 3                                                                         March 1987


by Marc Maurer


by Kenneth Jernigan


by Marc Maurer







by Kenneth Jernigan

by Catherine Horn Randall

by Kenneth Jernigan





Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1987



by Marc Maurer

Who has not heard this or that official of a state vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind say, "We just don't have the money." How many clients have been told by their rehabilitation counselors: "We would like to help you, but we don't have the money. Come back next year."

Crying "poverty" is a common theme among most governmental agencies these days, including the rehabilitation agencies. After all, the talk of a budget crunch is very fashionable with state and federal bureaucrats. It may be true (in fact, it is true) that some federal programs have experienced fairly significant budget cuts in recent years. There are also many programs that have not been cut but have also not grown. They have maintained roughly "level funding," taking into account the nation's current moderate annual inflation rate.

But vocational rehabilitation fits neither of these categories.

The heart of the program is the money distributed to state vocational rehabilitation agencies under Section 110 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. In federal budget terms this is referred to as "Vocational Rehabilitation Services State Grants."

Section 110 of the Act provides almost eighty percent of the rehabilitation funding used by each state agency. By law the states are required to match the federal grant with at least one state dollar for every four dollars received from the federal government. Sometimes a few states fail to provide enough money to receive their full federal share of the Section 110 funds. The funds that cannot be used or received by one state are reassigned to other states where the money can be used. Some states actually turn back large sums of unspent federal money each fiscal year. And all the while the blind and other disabled rehabilitation clients of those state agencies are told: "We just don't have the money to help you."

At best this is misleading double talk. At worst it is a knowing, deliberate falsification. The blind consumers of vocational rehabilitation services have the right to know the truth. Is the state agency actually broke, or is it not? If it is broke, why? Looking at the federal side of the funding ledger, it is hard to imagine that any state agency in the vocational rehabilitation program can with a straight face cry poverty to the clients. In very real, actual, monetary terms, vocational rehabilitation has "never had it so good."

Federal spending cuts have been real for many domestic social programs. That very fact has been used by some officials of other domestic social programs as a smokescreen to protect their funding while failing to provide improved (or even meaningful) services. Congress should expect more and better services (not diminished performance) from vocational rehabilitation when the funds are increased. Certainly the consumers should and do. Instead, the trend is decidedly in the direction of more money and less service, with a great deal of crying about nonexistent budget cuts and a lot of blame for the administration thrown in for good measure. This is a situation that the consumers and the taxpayers will not tolerate if they know the truth. Rehabilitation agencies continue to talk about hard times and budget cuts, apparently hoping that no one will understand what is going on or call them to account.

And just what is going on? Are vocational rehabilitation agencies really suffering financially? Here are facts that speak for themselves. Here is the truth about rehabilitation money and funding. For fiscal year 1987 state grants for vocational rehabilitation services are funded at an all-time high of $1,277,197,500. This is up from $1,145,148,000 for fiscal year 1986, an 11.5% increase for fiscal year 1987 over fiscal year 1986. But inflation during fiscal 1986 was only a little over 1%. So vocational rehabilitation funding is now up more than 10% in real dollars over the 1986 spending level.

Then, there is 1986 as compared to 1985. Fiscal 1986 was also a banner year for rehabilitation state grants, funded at $1,145,148,000. That was up 4.1% over the 1985 funding level of $1,100,000,000. Inflation during fiscal 1985 was about 3.5%. So, again, rehabilitation had real growth in funding for fiscal 1986 as compared to fiscal 1985.

The same is true in comparing fiscal year 1985 with fiscal year 1984. In fiscal 1984 the appropriation for the vocational rehabilitation state grant program was $1,037,800,000, as compared to $1,100,000,000 for fiscal year 1985. The increase was 6%, again during a time of relatively modest inflation.

Looking back to fiscal year 1982 (the first full budget year during the Reagan Administration) the federal appropriation for vocational rehabilitation state grants was $863,040,000. So, during the six most recent fiscal years (beginning with 1982) funding for state grants for vocational rehabilitation has grown to $1,277,197,500, for an increase of 48%. This phenomenal growth rate has far outstripped inflation at a time when other federal programs have actually been cut or have received funding only at previous year levels. In fact, the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers shows a growth rate of 12.38% from October, 1982, to October, 1986, the same period during which funding for rehabilitation climbed by 48%. Based on these figures, we observe that federal appropriations for vocational rehabilitation services have increased nearly 36% in excess of the inflation rate during the most recent six fiscal years combined.

These facts are not intended to trigger a political discussion as to the relative merits of this or that president, candidate, or any national administration. In point of fact, Congressional leaders who have sharp differences with President Reagan's budget priorities are largely responsible for the increased funding for vocational rehabilitation state grants during the period under discussion. Still, President Reagan has at least acquiesced in these actions by signing the appropriations measures.

Politics aside, facts are facts. The vocational rehabilitation program is not bankrupt--at least, not financially. In other ways a convincing case can be made that it is. This is the truth, and the figures substantiate it. Blind consumers know that there is much that is wrong with the vocational rehabilitation program, but the problem is not money--unless it is that the program has too much money. Who can truthfully say that the federal-state rehabilitation program has improved its service delivery or responsiveness to human needs by as much as 36% since fiscal 1982? Yet, that is how much the money has increased--the real money, not just the dollar amounts. Most blind consumers would say that rehabilitation agencies are less responsive today than they were in 1982 and that the trend is continuing and accelerating.

Part of the problem of nonresponsiveness by the state agencies for the blind is the smokescreen they use when they take the easy out of telling the blind that money is tight and that they have suffered budget cuts. As the figures demonstrate, the truth is exactly the opposite. Whatever may have happened in the way of federal budget slashing for other domestic social programs, it did not happen to vocational rehabilitation. Perhaps it should have happened. Whether it should or not, we should see that the truth is known and that the excuses stop. We should expect service from rehabilitation agencies in proportion to the money they are receiving. Instead, we are getting less.

If the problem is not money (and it clearly is not), then Congress and the consumers must look elsewhere to achieve the needed reforms in the program. The challenge to do just that is now before us. There is a rising tide of discontent among the blind of the nation for something to be done about the rehabilitation system in this country. Whatever else we know about it, one thing is certain. More and more money dumped into the present system (unaltered and unreformed as it is) will not bring positive results. That has been repeatedly tried. It is obviously time for a new look and a new approach. Meanwhile, let us have a cessation of the cry that rehab is broke, for it certainly is not.



Under date of April 5, 1986, this article (written by feature writer Victor A. Mahoney) appeared in Creative Loafing, which is a newspaper with more than 100,000 circulation throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area. Ehab Yamini (President of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia) is a celebrity in his own right in Atlanta. His massage room at the Downtown Athletic Club is never empty. The Editor of the Monitor has been at that massage room and has experienced the soothing magic of Ehab's hands. Here is Mr. Mahoney's article.

Ehab Yamini is black granite. He has shoulders that go from here to there and a chest that could support a frame of I- beams.

His arms are massive; his hands, steel grips. Ehab is the essence of strength.

But he's a gentle giant, who moves barefoot about his small massage room with the sure movements of a blind man who knows his turf. His great hands fluff out towels and sheets with a delicate touch. There is an easy flow of energy abut him, a controlled power. His strength goes beyond the mere physical.

Ehab--massage therapist at the Downtown Athletic Club--doesn't talk your ear off. He has that instinct which tells him when to draw you out and when to let you go with the flow of the massage.

He relishes good conversation, though.

"You aren't from these parts, are you?" he asked during my first visit. He had already determined from my funny accent that I was from Boston. "I've been there," he told me; "that's a good place--good seafood." And then we talked about Boston and the Irish. Time was ignored. The intensity of the deep muscle therapy was eased by Ehab's enthusiasm for things Boston.

Now, for me, at least initially, there is the awkwardness of the sighted around the sightless. With Ehab that awkwardness disappears quickly. He sets you at ease with expressions such as: "I see you are in pretty good shape"; or "I see where the tightness is." You become relaxed about his blindness. You find yourself concentrating on the man and his special qualities. That's what he wants.

Ehab is South Georgia. At the age of three he was blinded in one eye in an encounter with a cotton field nub. By age five he was totally blind. Midville was rural, poor, and prejudiced enough to let him go without the proper advice and big city care.

The little boy adjusted quickly to the physical demands of his handicap. In a family of twelve brothers and sisters he had to. "I did everything they did," Ehab recalls. "I became the best tree-climber. I watered the hogs. I peeled the peaches. I threw rocks with accuracy. I even learned to ride a bike." He also developed an acute sense of presence. He knew his brothers and sisters were near by the creak of a bone, by the beat of a heart. They refused to believe that he was blind.

Inwardly, the boy was confused, angry, but he kept control generally. Sometimes he'd rebel against his mother's protectiveness by acts of wanton destruction such as turning the dogs loose in the chicken house. Most of his anger was turned in on himself. He became withdrawn. "I thought everyone looked down on me because I was blind," he said.

His family was deeply religious, and their care and concern took the boy through the early darkness with a loving protection that softened his anger. And then he left home to attend the Georgia Academy for the Blind.

When he graduated from the Academy high school in 1965, he had no desire to return to Midville. Here in Atlanta he learned mobility and the use of his long, wand-like cane that is his radar. It was here also that he found his first job, making brooms at The Shelter Shop. "Employment doesn't come easily for the blind," Ehab points out. "About 70 percent of them are unemployed even today." Ever since then, he has worked in their behalf through the National Federation of the Blind, serving as the President of the Georgia affiliate from 1978 to 1980 and holding that same office currently.

Broom-making wasn't Ehab's love. Through a friend he turned to the life of a masseur. "I didn't know what a masseur was," he said, "but when I put on that white uniform as a trainee, I felt good about myself."

Within six weeks he had control of the Swedish technique. At the end of six months, he was doing 15 to 20 massages a day. "They were mostly rubdowns," he said. "I didn't get into deep muscle therapy and reflexology until later."

Ehab is established now. His great reputation as a masseur extends far beyond Atlanta and Georgia. Testimonials could use up walls. Plaudits come in from the mighty as well as from just plain folks. And running through the collection is the recurring reference to Ehab the Man of Great Hands, the Man of Great Heart.

Getting to know Ehab is a pleasant experience. He is without guile. He talks animatedly, openly, about his wife, Sabrina; about playing ball with his son, Balal; about changing baby Hanan's diaper; about his past prejudices. He speaks with pride of his Islamic name, Ehab, which means "Bestower." And longingly he wishes he could see his wife and children. "I know what they look like because I can feel their faces, but I do wish I could really see them."

In his quiet, humble way, Ehab emphasizes that we are all handicapped in some way. The physical or mental handicap is easy to spot. The handicap of the spirit, though, is not always apparent, but always more painful.

"With me," says Ehab, "it is not the loss of eyesight which is important but the gain of insight. I thank God for the gift of a seeing mind, a seeing heart."


by Kenneth Jernigan

There are for each of us certain events which punctuate the passing of seasons--commas, periods, semicolons, and question marks on the calendar of time. Some of these happenings quicken the spirit; others sadden the heart; and still others stimulate the mind to cause it to revel in the wonders of yes and no. There are holidays, work days, birthdays, and special event days.

The year is a veritable wheel of recurrence, winding its way through the seasons and giving us repeated exposure to certain events which (were they suddenly to cease) would impoverish our lives and disturb our routines.

Like others, I have certain things on which I can count--things which lift my shoulders, raise my head, and cause me to know that the day will not crawl to a turgid end. I know, for instance, that winter will bring Christmas and a fire on the hearth. I know that summer will bring outdoor cooking and the savor of roasting meat. And I also know that sometime after each NFB convention I will receive a letter from Dr. Walter Stromer, a blind college professor from Mount Vernon, Iowa. It no more occurs to me to wonder whether I enjoy this correspondence than it would to question whether I am glad that the earth turns or the year progresses--although, for whatever it is worth, I am. The 1986 convention of the National Federation of the Blind took place on schedule, and a few months later (equally on schedule) I received my letter:


Mt. Vernon, Iowa
January 1, 1987

Dear Mr. Jernigan:

I have just listened to the Braille Monitor which covers the July convention. You certainly had a large and enthusiastic group at KC. I know that a friend of mine from Des Moines was there and enjoyed it. I have no doubt you will miss the spotlight and the applause and that it will be difficult to keep quiet when Mark M does things in a different way, but I'm sure you will go on to even greater things.

I do want to comment on a couple of items from the convention. First, you really did flub one word in your banquet speech. Is it possible you misread your Braille? From you that is not expected. You were reading from the list of things required by the guide dog people, and the list included "Rain Boats." Rain Boats? Never heard of them. Could it have been rain boots? But rain boats is funnier anyway. And you do handle Braille amazingly well.

As for Recording for the Blind, I intend to write to them with regard to your resolution. Contrary to your whereases, they do ask for feedback with every box of tapes, and of course anyone is welcome to write or call them at any time with complaints. As for the need for them to get in touch with the "organized blind, the NFB,"--this is a bit of arrogance and conceit which is not quite accurate. I think they know that there is at least one other group of organized blind, the ACB, which broke away from the NFB, years ago. And then there are the blind who are consumers but do not belong to either group.

I also intend to write to the Postmaster General to say that I think it would be a splendid idea to recognize some blind person on a stamp. But I think that person should have the approval of the majority of blind people, not just the leader of one partisan group.

Likewise I intend to write to the various dog guide organizations to agree that they should hire blind persons wherever possible. But I would not want a dog trained solely by a blind person, nor do I want blind persons trained in travel only by blind persons.

I' m also glad that the Department of Transportation is going to investigate airlines and rules. What I think they need to keep in mind is that not ALL blind persons want the same thing. Some want and accept help going by air. Some don't need or want help, and some irritate everybody by their angry rejections of any proffered assistance. I hear stories about one such from a small town in Iowa. So by all means, let us recognize different needs and people.

As for the Lutheran hymnal, I think your sarcastic interpretation is one view; there may be another more positive.

Walt Stromer


Baltimore, Maryland January 8, 1987

Dear Dr. Stromer:

I have your letter of January 1, 1987, and I thank you for it. As usual, your opinions are definite and clear-cut.

Sometimes you tell me that the NFB (and particularly I) jump to conclusions and make unwarranted criticism. In this connection you are incorrect in saying that I "flubbed" one word in my banquet speech. Maybe I did, but it was not the word "rain boat." Like you, I don't know what a rain boat is, but that is what the list says. I read and pronounced it accurately.

With respect to most of your other comments, it is understandable that you and I would disagree. I think the National Federation of the Blind is the most constructive force in the affairs of the blind today and that it has done more than any other single entity to better the lives of the blind in this century. From your comments I think that I can reasonably conclude that you do not share this view. This does not mean that my view (which surely you would agree I have the right to hold) is arrogant--or, for that matter, even wrong. Let me hasten to add that it does not mean that your view is wrong either.

By all means, believe what you want-- that blind people should not train guide dogs, that they should do some of it but not all of it, or that there should be no guide dogs at all; that blind people should not be travel instructors, that they should do some of the work but not all of it, or that blind people should have much mobility or none; and that Recording for the Blind is a splendid organization, a poor organization, or a something in between. Believe what you please, but consider whether you have the right to be annoyed or displeased if I hold another view. In fact, is it not the essence of democracy that those of us in the NFB have the right to hold our beliefs and try (by every legal means) to persuade others that those beliefs are right? It seems to me that you are often bitter and resentful because we have views different from yours, because we have organized to do something about what we want to change, because we are joyful and positive in our behavior, and because we are effective.

You are a man of real ability, and in my opinion (an opinion which, of course, you are under no obligation to share) you would have been happier and more productive if you had come to recognize the validity of our philosophy and had put it into practice and helped us propagate it. Whether you believe it or not, this is said with all good will and not one iota of malice.

Let me conclude by agreeing with you that I will at times undoubtedly be uncomfortable with this or that which Marc Maurer will do, but I am confident that he will make a good president and that it was right for me to leave the presidency when I did. Of course, I left the presidency with mixed feelings, for I have found it to be a tremendously rewarding experience. At the same time I have always tried to the best of my ability to do what I thought was in the best interest of the Federation--and, therefore, (as I see it) in the best interest of the blind. Mr. Maurer and I work closely together, and I hope I will have the commitment and good sense to want him to be not only as good a president as I have been but a much better one. Thank you again for your letter and for giving me your reactions to the 1986 NFB convention.

Sincerely, Kenneth Jernigan



On January 23, 1987, the House of Delegates of the Maryland Legislature adopted a resolution commending Dr. Kenneth Jernigan for his "selfless devotion to the blind" and commended him for his work as former president of the National Federation of the Blind. The resolution had been scheduled for presentation the day before, but a major snowstorm hit the area and caused the postponement. As the resolution was being read and discussed, Dr. Jernigan, Mrs. Jernigan, and President Maurer walked to the speaker's rostrum. Since the adoption of the resolution occurred immediately prior to the Governor's State of the State message, the chamber was filled with an assemblage of dignitaries. In presenting the resolution Delegate Elijah Cummings said:


Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Eminent Citizen of Maryland

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan became a part of the life of Maryland in 1978. Within a few months he had established the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. The National Center for the Blind, which serves as headquarters for the National Federation of the Blind, is the nerve center of programs and activities for the blind in the United States.

Dr. Jernigan has devoted his life to serving the blind. However, his accomplishments have ranged far beyond this single endeavor. As I review the accomplishments of Dr. Jernigan I reflect that because of his dynamic presence in Maryland and his ongoing participation in the overall civic life of the state, Maryland is a richer and a better place to live.

He has received many honors and awards. In 1967 he was p resented the Francis Joseph Campbell Award by the American Library Association for outstanding accomplishments for providing library services to the blind. Dr. Jernigan has been awarded three honorary doctorate degrees: Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, presented him with a Doctor of Humanities degree in 1968; Seton Hall University in Newark, New Jersey, presented him a Doctor of Law degree in 1974; and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, presented him with a Doctor of Humanities degree in 1975. Dr. Jernigan has also been asked to serve on numerous advisory boards and planning committees. In 1972 he became a member of the National Advisory Committee on Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (appointed by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare); in 1975 he was named by the Federal Commissioner of Rehabilitation as a Special Consultant on Services for the Blind; in 1976 he was made an advisor on museum programs for blind visitors to the Smithsonian Institution; and also in 1976 he was appointed a Special Advisor to the White House Conference on the Handicapped. In 1977 he was named by the President of the United States to be an advisor for the White House Conference on Library and Information Services.

In 1968 services for the blind in Iowa (under the direction of Dr. Jernigan) had reached a level never before achieved anywhere in the world. In that year Dr. Jernigan was given a Special Citation by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Harold Russell, the Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, came to Des Moines to present the award. He said: "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than anywhere else in the nation or in the world."

The National Center for the Blind established in Baltimore by Dr. Jernigan in 1978 has come to be the finest facility of its kind in the nation. Building this new Federation headquarters (a reservoir of information on blindness, a supplier of special aids and appliances, a growing computerized data base, a place for coordinating and administering legislative information and legal activities for the blind, a facility for gathering together leaders of the blind in seminars for study and planning, and all of the other things that enhance the effectiveness of a national movement) has turned out to be more meaningful and dynamic than anything previously accomplished in work with the blind. The blind of the nation and the citizens of Maryland are proud of it. In partnership with the Department of Labor, the National Federation of the Blind operates the Job Opportunities for the Blind program as an integral part of the work at the National Center for the Blind. Dr. Jernigan serves as Director of the National Center for the Blind. Some of the services available through the Center include Twin Vision books, by which sighted parents and blind children or blind parents and sighted children can read together; scholarships; assistance to the older blind and deaf-blind; Braille calendars; aids and appliances and new technology; consultation to governmental agencies; study and compilation of laws affecting the blind; assistance to parents of blind children throughout the nation in forming self- help and support groups; operation of the National Blindness Information Center; and a broad range of other activities. New technology, new ideas, new methods, new literature, new challenges, and new opportunities come together to make the National Center for the Blind the focal point of change and the vehicle for bettering the lives of the nation's blind. And directing the growth and development of it all is Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.


After Delegate Cummings had spoken, Dr. Jernigan stood at the rostrum and responded as follows:


Mr. Speaker, Ladies, and Gentlemen: I am, of course, moved and gratified by the honor you have given me. Who wouldn't be? But I am sensible of the fact that your action is more than a mere personal tribute. It is a tangible affirmation by you of the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the blind as a group--and not just the blind of this state but, indeed, the blind of the nation as well.

It is no accident that the National Center for the Blind is located in Maryland. After considering the entire country we deliberately established it here a decade ago because we thought it should be in this state--because we believed then (as we still do today) that the climate of opinion in Maryland was and is fertile ground for the expression and achievement of human dignity.

The National Center for the Blind is the headquarters of the nation's organized blind movement, the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind is not a governmental agency or private charity. It is the blind speaking for themselves. It is a watchdog on the actions of the government agencies and private charities. The National Federation of the Blind believes that the principal problem of blindness is not blindness itself but the public attitudes and misunderstandings which exist. We want opportunity and first-class status, not pity and charity. We do not want to be supported by the government. We want to support ourselves, and we want to contribute to the growth and strength of the nation. The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind can be summed up in six words: It is respectable to be blind.

I thank you personally for what you have done here today, and I also thank you on behalf of the tens of thousands of blind men and women throughout the country who make up the National Federation of the Blind.


After Dr. Jernigan's response, pictures were taken of Delegate Cummings, Dr. Jernigan, and the speaker of the House. A number of Federationists were in the gallery to witness the proceedings.

They had come to Annapolis the day before to hold a legislative reception in the evening, and even though more than a foot of snow fell during the morning and early afternoon, the reception went forward as planned. It was well attended by legislators and seemed to be much enjoyed. As in other parts of the country, the Federation's prestige in Maryland continues to grow.



by Marc Maurer

There are approximately 4,000 blind vendors participating in the Randolph-Sheppard program throughout the nation. Each of these vendors must deal on a daily basis with a state agency for the blind. In some instances the blind vendor is encouraged to be an independent business person, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the state agency attempts to custodialize and dominate the vendor's life. What happens when the vendor decides to fight back?

Laura Silas is a blind vendor in Utah. She and her husband Vince each operate a vending stand within the Randolph-Sheppard program. When Laura began operating a vending facility in the Department of Health Building, she was told that she would be required to pay a percentage of the income from certain of her vending machines to the Department of Health Employees' Committee. She assumed that the state agency for the blind knew what it was talking about. Nevertheless, she objected to paying twenty-five percent of the net from the vending machines in question to the employees' committee. She thought it was unfair, but the agency said that it was a requirement.

During the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah (held the weekend of September 20, 1986) Laura asked me whether the payments to an employees' committee could be justified under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. I told her that the National Federation of the Blind has demonstrated dramatically that such payments violate the law. The federal arbitration panel in the Tetzlaff case addressed this question directly. Their decision (published in the Federal Register) states that any agreement made by the state licensing agency granting money from a vending operation to an employee committee is illegal.

I told Laura to inform the agency that she had discovered the improper nature of its demands and that she would not pay the illegal charge. She did this in a letter dated October 19, 1986. This should have been the end of the matter. One would think that any responsible public official reviewing the law and finding the actions of a state agency to be out of compliance would, as a matter of course, take immediate steps to make changes. This should have happened in the case of Laura Silas. Not only did her letter inform the agency for the blind that its direction to her to pay an employees' committee was illegal, but the Utah Attorney General's office had also rendered the same opinion in August of 1986.

For several weeks after Mrs. Silas had dispatched her letter nothing happened. Then, under date of December 22, 1986, she received a reply from Robert Walsh, Coordinator, Business Enterprise Program, Services for the Visually Handicapped of the State of Utah. Instead of acknowledging the agency's error in requiring the payment of vending machine income to an employees' committee, Walsh charged Laura Silas with a violation of the regulations for operation of a vending facility. His letter makes it clear that he is raising questions about the suitability of Mrs. Silas to operate a vending facility. But this is not all. The letter also implies that Laura's husband Vince may also not be a suitable vending operator. The message (though crude) is not hard to understand. It is difficult to see this letter as anything other than a threat.

Black's Law Dictionary Fourth Edition contains the following: "Blackmail ... The extortion of money by threats or overtures towards criminal prosecution or the destruction of a man's reputation or social standing ... the exaction of money for the prevention of an injury."

The letters reprinted in this article contain the basic facts. Laura Silas began working in the Randolph-Sheppard Program in April of 1986. Even though the agency for the blind knew that its direction to her might be illegal, it insisted that she pay a percentage of her income to the Department of Health Employees' Committee. Then, the Attorney General issues an opinion that these payments were not authorized by law. Instead of complying with the law the agency for the blind demands that the illegal payments continue, and it charges Laura Silas with a violation of state rules for failure to be quiet and pay up. But here is where the National Federation of the Blind enters the picture. This is the very sort of thing we are committed to preventing. The National Federation of the Blind has been defending the rights of blind vendors for decades. The appeal process is a product of the imagination and work of the Federation. A majority of the case decisions dealing with vending have been reached through the work of our movement. What a difference if there had been no National Federation of the Blind--or, for that matter, if the Federation should suddenly cease to exist or should become ineffective!

Laura Silas understood these facts before her own case of need arose. She is one of the leaders of the Federation in Utah. Her work has helped give strength to the organization so that it now has the capacity to use that strength on her behalf. This, of course, is the way the process should work, each of us contributing so that all of us may thrive. Because of the National Federation of the Blind the outrage which was about to occur will not take place. The object lesson is clear, not only to vendors but to all who have the capacity to understand.

When it filed an application for a vending facility at the Department of Health building, the Utah agency for the blind included an exhibit called "Attachment F." Section Four of Attachment F declares that the vending facility operator must pay a percentage of vending machine income to the Department of Health Employee's Committee. However, the language of this section makes it clear that the agency for the blind (even at the time of the filing) thought that its agreement was quite possibly illegal. This is what the attachment says:


4. The DSVH (Division of Services for the Visually Handicapped) has been asked to return 25% of the net profit from the canned drink machines in the building which are outside of the cafeteria area to the Department of Health. This excludes the machines in the cafeteria. There is only one location within all of the DSVH program that receives such a rebate from the vendor. The legality of this requirement is still under legal consideration. Therefore, the 25% rebate to DOH will be done on an interim basis until a final decision can be reached about the interpretation of the Utah State Law. All parties need to be aware that this Paragraph of the agreement will be voided if it is found to be contrary to the intent and purpose of the law.


The Attorney General rendered his opinion on August 21, 1986. His opinion says in part:


The Attorney General State of Utah
David L. Wilkinson
August 21, 1986

Daryl J. McCarty
Associate Superintendent
Utah State Office of Education

Re: Informal Opinion Request No. 86-38
UBEP Food Service Subsidy of Public Employees' Building Fund

Dear Daryl:

This letter is in response to your request of June 20, 1986, regarding the Utah Business Enterprise Program (UBEP), Utah Code Annotated Sections 55-5-1, et seq. Your specific question is whether it is legal for a UBEP food service vendor to make payments to a public building employees' group or committee.

This question arises out of the particular circumstances outlined in your letter and other correspondence regarding the food services at a newly constructed state-operated building. Essentially, when the building was first operational the employees of the state agencies located in the building were allowed to operate vending machines which supplied employees' groups with an income for their group activities. At about the same time, UBEP started up public food services located in the same building. The UBEP vendor agreed to make payments to the employees' group to replace the income lost when UBEP took over operation of the vending machines. A question then arose as to public employees' groups operating vending machines in public buildings where UBEP food services is located and the propriety of the UBEP vendor making payments to an employees' group to replace income lost when UBEP took over operation of the vending machines.

It is my opinion that payment to an employees' group by a UBEP vendor under the circumstances outlined in your letter is contrary to public policy and state law and an agreement to make such a payment is unenforceable as against public policy.


So said Utah's Attorney General, and surely there can be no misunderstanding about what he meant. After discussing the matter with me during the Utah convention Laura Silas sent the following letter to the Coordinator of the Business Enterprise Program:


Salt Lake City, Utah
October 19, 1986

Robert Walsh, Coordinator Business Enterprise Program
Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Bob:

This letter is in regard to our conversation on Tuesday, September 9, 1986. I apologize for my delay in responding to you. I have been somewhat short-handed, and have not had the opportunity to do so until now.

I have carefully read, and done research on Attachment F section 4 of my copy of the Application and Permit for the establishment of the cafeteria at the Department of Health (hereafter referred to as DOH), which requests that the Division of Services for the Visually Handicapped give twenty-five percent of the net profit from the canned drink machines in the building which are outside the cafeteria area to the DOH. I have made the following observations concerning this matter:

1. A request in a permit, the legality of which is questioned (and in this case has been deemed to be illegal), cannot be considered legal or binding in any way for any length of time.

2. On August 21, 1986, the Attorney General confirmed in writing that the request in Attachment F Section 4 is illegal. Therefore, if it had been binding, which it was not, Attachment F Section 4 would then be void without question.

Prior to August 21, 1986, I had not been given written or verbal request for payment of the money to be received, if Attachment F Section 4 had been legal.

On Tuesday, September 9, 1986, you verbally requested that you and I make arrangements for payment of the money you considered the DOH entitled to, because of Attachment F Section 4. I would like to point out that I have not yet received any written request for payment.

On Tuesday, September 9, 1986, I verbally refused to make arrangement for, or to make any payment to the DOH in regard to Attachment F Section 4, for the reasons mentioned above. After receiving advice from counsel, I am now reaffirming this fact in writing.

You then verbally requested that I give you an estimate of the amount of money I would owe the DOH, if I complied with Attachment F Section 4, from April 14, 1986, (my starting date) to September 1, 1986. I did not keep a record of the number of cans I used to stock the canned drink machines, because, shortly after your assistant, Emmalynn Heath, suggested that I do so, she then told me that this would not be necessary and to discontinue "wasting my time," because the Attorney General had verbally stated that Attachment F Section 4 is illegal and that his written confirmation would soon follow. Having been given the impression that Emmalynn had discussed this matter with you, I followed her advice. It is my belief that I should not have to confirm with you the advice given to me by your assistant, unless she recommends that I do so, or specifies that it is her own opinion and not that of the B.E.P., which in this case she did not.

I have been in the B.E.P. for approximately six months. I do not feel that I have had enough experience with stocking canned drink machines in enough of a variety of seasons and conditions to give an accurate estimate of the amount of money you consider I owe the DOH, especially when such facts as that there are considerably more canned drinks purchased during the summer months than any other time of the year are taken into consideration. Therefore, I am not enclosing one.

You recommend that I pay the DOH the estimated amount of money, legal or not, as a form of good will and to help the B.E.P. make a good impression on, and retain a good relationship with, the Division of Facilities, Construction, and Management. You then implied that failure to comply with your recommendation might not only jeopardize my own operation, but that of other B.E.P. operators, and also risk opportunities to improve the B.E.P. in the near future.

My cafeteria is doing very well financially, considering the short period of time which it has been in operation. But, no matter how well I do financially, I should not, and refuse to be expected to, pay any portion of my net income or operating expenses as a form of good will.

I believe that, as the B.E.P. Coordinator, it is your responsibility to retain a good relationship with the DFCM. I also believe that operating a cafeteria or vending stand which satisfactorily meets the needs of the state employees and complies with all legal contracts and permits would make a good impression on the DFCM. Furthermore, I do not believe that payment of money which has been deemed illegal would make a good impression on the DFCM or help the B.E.P. to obtain opportunities for locations in the future.

As long as I satisfactorily meet the needs of the state employees and comply with all legal contracts and permits, which I have done, my operation should not be in any jeopardy.

I also hope that my willingness to stand up for my legal rights might help to give confidence and support to other operators in similar circumstances, who may otherwise be intimidated or feel frightened.

I feel that the B.E.P. should uphold my decision and that I should not be condemned for exercising my legal rights. If you wish to contact me concerning this or other important matters, please do so in writing.

Cordially, Mrs. Laura E. Silas


Under date of December 22, 1986, Robert Walsh, Coordinator of the Business Enterprise Program for the Utah Services for the Visually Handicapped responded:


Services for the Visually Handicapped
Salt Lake City, Utah
December 22, 1986

Dear Laura:

I have read your letter a number of times. Even though I have had different thoughts about it each time, some of them are fairly consistent.

I am really disappointed that you feel that you have been treated unfairly by the B.E.P. and me.

I have never said nor felt that it was correct for any operator to have to pay a "commission" to any building committee. I also know that Emalynn and I worked hard, under adverse circumstances, to secure the Department of Health Building for a B.E.P. facility. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had taken your approach to the challenge, that you would not be working at the DOH today.

It is not correct for you to say that you did not agree to pay the commission as established until a legal opinion could be obtained. The situation was discussed with you and the others in the training classes held at the Murray B. Allen Center. The fact was reported in the information to the operators when the location went out for bid. It was also discussed verbally with you on a number of occasions. In addition it is also clearly written on attachment F of the Permit signed by B.E.P. and the D.F.C.M. of which you were given a copy.

I do not understand the confusion about "what you should have done" based on "what was said." As I indicated to you I am not aware of you ever having been told that you should not keep track of the canned drink sales outside of the cafeteria area. If after your discussion with my assistant you felt that her instructions were contrary to those previously given by me or in the permit, I feel confident that you would have verified them with me at that time.

The agreement was made in good faith with all the parties involved, pending the outcome of the Attorney General's opinion. For you to now decide that you are not in agreement, is certainly not in the spirit of cooperation I am trying to build between our agencies. I do not understand the logic behind the idea that since it is determined illegal on a certain date that everything established prior to that date is null and void.

I do not believe it is necessary for me to request in writing that you supply the needed information. As far as I am concerned it is just a matter of following the rules and regulations of the B.E.P. and the Permit that is in force.

May I also remind you that you agreed to provide me with the information within two weeks of September 9th. While following up on a number of occasions you told me that the information was being prepared, about to be sent, then that it was mailed, and then it was lost in the mail, and then it was found and finally it was postmarked on November 12, 1986. You also agreed to send a copy which you did not. You can imagine my surprise when instead of the expected information, I received your letter which states that you are unwilling to follow the Permit and the rules and regulations of the B.E.P. Also that I should be understanding of your need to seek counsel to assure that you receive your "legal rights."

If it is important to you, please consider this a written request for the amount of profit from canned drink sales outside of the cafeteria from April 14, 1986 to August 22, 1986.

It is not correct to say that I asked you to pay the commission as a form of goodwill. I asked that it be paid to meet the obligation of the Permit. It should not be hard to see that if we work hard for an extended period of time, and get the best deal we can that to then change our mind is not in our best interest.

This is a concern at the DOH, where they can terminate the Permit with 30 days notice, or at other new locations that we are negotiating for at this time. I recognize that the on-site presence of our Operators is always a more powerful influence than mine. This is the way it should be.

I have reviewed the financial statements of both your location and that of Vince, your husband. I would not say that they are doing "very well." Even though you each have high quality locations, your total "reported income" for the month of October is $322. Your income for the first 6 1/2 months averaged $519 a month. Vince's average for the 10 months of 1986 is $689 a month. I believe that you both should receive more income for your efforts than is indicated by the reports.

My assistant and I have offered to spend time with you to look at wages, purchasing, etc. On each occasion we have been told "No Thanks."

You say that the location should not be in jeopardy if you are meeting the needs of the employees and the permits. You are not doing this. For example there is no suggestion box. The payment of the commission is part of the Permit.

I think the B.E.P., along with other programs of the Division of Services to the Visually Handicapped have been generous and more than fair to you and Vince.

I hope the above information will clarify the situation so you can comply with the permit and my request and allow you to devote your energies to more productive pursuits.

Robert Walsh, Coordinator Business Enterprise Program


James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, replied to the Walsh letter on January 9, 1987:


Baltimore, Maryland
January 9, 1987

Mr. Robert Walsh, Coordinator Business Enterprise Program
Utah Services for the Visually Handicapped

Dear Mr. Walsh:

I am responding on behalf of Laura Silas to your letter to her dated December 22, 1986. Your letter is a threat to Mrs. Silas' status as a licensed blind vendor in the Utah Business Enterprise Program. Therefore, Mrs. Silas has sought the advice and representation that we (the National Federation of the Blind) provide in such matters.

You allege at least twice in your letter that Mrs. Silas is in violation of the permit for her vending facility and the requirements of Utah state rules and regulations. Your specific complaint with Mrs. Silas appears to be that she has not paid certain vending machine commissions to an employee group at the Department of Health. You are hereby notified that Mrs. Silas has no intention of paying these vending commissions now or at any time. You are also notified that Mrs. Silas will not submit to your attempts to coerce her into violating the laws of the state of Utah.

The position which Mrs. Silas has asked me to convey to you is consistent with the ruling of the Attorney General dated August 21, 1986. Requiring Mrs. Silas to pay vending commissions is illegal and unenforceable. Attachment F of the permit to which you make reference in your letter clearly states that the provision on payment of vending commissions is "void" if a legal opinion determines it to be unlawful. That determination has now been made and the provision is void. Therefore, you have exceeded the authority of your agency by attempting to compel Mrs. Silas to honor this void provision. Officials of government agencies may be subject to personal liability when they exceed the authority vested in their agencies.

Your belief that Mrs. Silas has violated the permit or the state's rules and regulations is unfounded. If you think otherwise, there are procedures available to your agency for the suspension or revocation of Mrs. Silas' license. Threats and coercion against Mrs. Silas and her husband are not in accordance with the law or your agency's procedures. Moreover, these threats are made despite the advice you sought from the Attorney General.

Very truly yours, James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind

P.S. Mrs. Silas directs that if you wish to communicate further on this specific matter (orally or in writing) that you do so with me.

cc: The Honorable David L. Wilkinson Attorney General


Every blind person in the nation would do well to consider the implications of the Laura Silas case. What would have happened to her if there had been no National Federation of the Blind? How much lead time is required to build the legal know-how and resources, get the laws passed, inform blind persons of their rights under those laws, and establish the confidence and communication network necessary to focus the strength successfully to meet a threat like the one posed in the Silas case? The time, effort, and money which a blind person puts into building the Federation today may be the deciding factor three years, five years, or ten years in the future when that same blind person faces attack or discrimination. The Federation is a long-term matter. It is serious business. It is growing stronger every day. It is the strongest force in the affairs of the blind in the nation, and it is here to stay. We are truly changing what it means to be blind.



Once again the Social Security Administration (SSA) has responded favorably to an NFB convention resolution. The attached letter from J. Kenneth McGill (External Liaison Specialist at Social Security headquarters in Baltimore) explains how SSA has revised the notice of benefit changes which goes to all Social Security recipients and SSI beneficiaries at the beginning of each year.

Our Resolution (86-23) asked the Social Security Administration to notify blind disability insurance beneficiaries that some work is permitted while receiving SSDI checks. We also asked that some reference be given to the special blindness rules that encourage work. Notices sent in prior years have only stated the requirement to report all earnings to the Social Security Administration. This approach discouraged work attempts by the blind and other SSDI beneficiaries.

Because of our Resolution and SSA's response to it, the notice that was sent with the January, 1987, Social Security checks was a great improvement. It states forthrightly that work is permitted. Blind beneficiaries are encouraged to inquire about special rules which may apply to their work. The full text of the check stuffer notices is attached to Mr. McGill's letter. Here are NFB Resolution 86-23, Mr. McGill's letter, and the annual check stuffer sent by the Social Security Administration.



WHEREAS, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are an important and in many cases the sole source of income for blind people; and

WHEREAS, the law provides for an annual adjustment to be made in the amount of earnings that will be counted as substantial gainful activity in the case of each blind SSDI beneficiary; and

WHEREAS, by law, the substantial gainful activity test for the blind permits the same amount of earnings for the blind as the Social Security Retirement Program permits for people who retire at age 65; and

WHEREAS, annual notices sent by the Social Security Administration to blind SSDI beneficiaries announce the amount of earned income that will be exempt during the ensuing year for retirees but the notices do not announce the revised substantial gainful activity amount for the blind, a fact which leads to confusion; and

WHEREAS, the notices in question further discourage blind beneficiaries from attempting work by conveying the impression that in general the disabled may not work and must report any earnings to the Social Security office, immediately leading the reader of the notice to the conclusion that benefits cease because of the earnings; and

WHEREAS, this generalization is misleading to blind SSDI beneficiaries and does not accurately report the value of the work incentive that Congress intended to give to the blind through a higher substantial gainful activity: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fourth day of July, 1986, in the City of Kansas City, Missouri, that this organization ask the Social Security Administration to revise the noticed identified in this resolution to convey accurate and complete information about substantial gainful activity of the blind and the annual revisions in its amount.


Baltimore, Maryland
November 28, 1986

Mr. James Gashel
National Federation of the Blind

Dear Jim:

I am enclosing an advance copy of the annual check stuffer scheduled for release with Social Security and SSI checks in January, 1987. The section pertaining to people who receive Disability Insurance and SSI checks has been revised along the lines you suggested. I believe the new language should be less confusing to disabled people, by stressing that work is encouraged and explaining where more information is available. The mention of special rules for blind people should also help to clarify the intent of the notice.

I assured Pat Owens before she left SSA that we would keep her promise made in Kansas City to work on improving the language of this check stuffer. Thank you for your and NFB's participation in the process. Your contributions and active interest in our programs are valued here at Social Security.

J. Kenneth McGill
External Liaison Specialist
Office of Governmental Affairs Social Security Administration


New Payment Amount

Your Social Security benefit is increased by 1.3 percent with this month's check. This automatic increase is based on the rise in the cost of living.

If you are paying for Medicare medical insurance, the amount taken from your Social Security check this month covers the higher premium rate that started January 1, 1987. The basic premium for medical insurance--the amount most people pay--is now $17.90 a month, up from $15.50. Because of the medical insurance premium increase, your check may not be higher than it was last month.

If You Plan to Work in 1987

Beginning January 1, 1987, you can earn more and still receive all your Social Security checks.

If you are now 65 or older, or you will reach 65 in 1987, you can earn $8,160 and still receive all your checks.

If you are under 65 all of 1987, you can earn up to $6,000 and still receive all your checks.

Generally, $1 in benefits is withheld for each $2 you earn over the limit.

Beginning with the month you reach age 70, you get your full check each month no matter how much you earn.

In 1986 the annual exempt amounts were $7,800 for people 65 and over and $5,760 for people under 65.

If you worked and earned more than the annual exempt amount in 1986 while receiving benefits, you must complete an annual report of earnings by April 15, 1987, unless you were 70 or older all year.

Different rules apply to people receiving Social Security disability or SSI payments who work. If you receive Social Security disability or SSI payments, you must report all work. (If you are a payee for someone receiving these benefits, you must report for him or her.)

There are special provisions that encourage disabled people to return to work. A free leaflet explaining these provisions, including special rules for blind people, is available at any Social Security office.

New Hospital Insurance Amounts

For benefit periods in 1987 the Medicare hospital insurance deductible and daily amounts will be:

-- For the first 60 days in the hospital (hospital insurance deductible)-- $520 (up from $492).

-- For the 61st through the 90th day in the hospital--$130 a day (up from $123).

-- For the 60 hospital reserve days-- $260 (up from $246).

-- For the 21st through the 100th day in a skilled nursing facility--$65 a day (up from $61.50).

For more information or to make a report, contact any Social Security office. The address and phone number are listed in the telephone directory under "Social Security Administration" or "U.S. Government."



(This is an Associated Press article which was recently published throughout the country.)

The Supreme Court today rejected a Reagan administration appeal to recover alleged overpayments to Social Security recipients.

The court, without comment, let stand a ruling that threw out the government's claims in a New York case.

The case began in 1982 when New York recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) sued the government to block recovery of the alleged overpayments. Supplemental Security Income, authorized by the Social Security program, provides benefits to needy, blind, or disabled people.

A federal judge in 1983 ordered the administration to drop the recovery program against the New York recipients. On January 4, 1985, the judge awarded $40,734 in lawyers' fees to the recipients.

Under federal law the government has 60 days to appeal final judgments in such suits.

Government lawyers apparently did not learn of the lawyer fee award until 64 days had passed.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last January that the government was barred from appealing the lower court ruling on the recovery issue because it waited more than 60 days from the January 4, 1985, judgment to file its appeal.

"As that judgment was entered more than 60 days prior to the ... filing of (a) notice of appeal, we ... lack jurisdiction to entertain an appeal challenging the judgment or any orders that preceded it," the appeals court said.

Justice Department lawyers said the appeals court ruling could have "dramatic effects." The appeals court ruling "permits the expiration of the time for appeal before the losing party effectively has been apprised that the appeal time is running," the government's appeal said.

It added that the appeals court ruling prevents the government from imposing uniformity in its SSI recovery program, in effect in nearly all states.

The government is losing approximately $1.5 million a year because it is barred from enforcing the recovery program in New York, the appeal said.



United States Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Washington, D.C.
November 24, 1986

Mr. and Mrs. David J. Walker
Jefferson City, Missouri

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker:

Thank you for your letter expressing concern over the airlines' improper treatment of blind air travelers and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) proposal to gather comments on that issue.

I agree with you that blind air travelers should not be discriminated against and I have worked to ensure that the airlines treat all handicapped people fairly. During this past session of Congress, I cosponsored S.2703, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which became law on October 2, 1986. This legislation amends the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to prohibit all airlines from discriminating against blind and other handicapped individuals and requires the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations within four months of October 2, 1986, to require the non- discriminatory treatment of handicapped individuals. The Secretary's rules are to ensure that the airlines do not treat the handicapped differently from other passengers by requiring them to pre- board, sit in certain areas, or other such practices, unless a clear safety risk is shown to exist.

I believe the Secretary of Transportation shares my concern that the airlines ought not to treat blind or other handicapped passengers in an undignified manner. The DOT proposal, to which you refer in your letter, was initiated at the urging of blind passengers who found that the airlines were discriminating against blind persons by refusing to allow them to sit in emergency exit rows, restricting the placement of guide dogs, and informing blind persons that they should not evacuate the plane in an emergency until the other passengers had left the plane. DOT's proposal seeks to determine whether any reason truly exists for treating blind passengers differently in these or other situations, or if these practices are merely a convenience for the airlines. The rules which DOT will draft after reviewing the comments submitted in response to its proposal will be included in the regulations required under the Air Carrier Access Act. To the extent that any of the regulations DOT may issue are inconsistent with the Air Carrier Access Act, they would be subject to being invalidated by the courts.

Thank you for writing. Your views are always welcome in this office.

Sincerely, John C. Danforth


Baltimore, Maryland
December 23, 1986

Dear Dave and Betty:

The letter from Senator Danforth is right on the money. I commend you for giving him the education to understand what must be done. Without the Federation at work, this would never have happened.

Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind


by Kenneth Jernigan

Statistics can be misleading, boring, or useful. They can also be just plain fun. All of this was brought home to me recently when I began to study the facts and figures about the leaders of the Federation.

I was moved to make the study when I realized that a majority of our state presidents are now women. We have 51 state affiliates, one in each state and one in the District of Columbia. As of January 1, 1987, 27 of the affiliate presidents are women, and 24 are men. This led me to wonder what other interesting data I might uncover, not only about state presidents but also about the National Board. Here are some of the things I learned:

Let's begin with the Board. The average member is just over 46 years of age. The breakdown goes like this: The oldest Board Member is 62. One member is 60; one is 58; one is 57; two are 54; one is 52; one is 51; one is 45; one is 44; two are 41; one is 40; one is 35; one is 33; one is 31; and one is 29. So there is a spread of 33 years from the youngest Board Member (29) to the oldest (62).

The average member of the Board has been a member of the Federation for 17- 1/2 years. The breakdown looks like this: One joined in 1955; one in 1956; one in 1960; two in 1967; two in 1968; three in 1969; two in 1970; one in 1972; two in 1974; one in 1975; and one in 1982. Therefore, as you can see, there is a spread of 27 years--1955 to 1982.

How about first attendance at a national convention? The average Board Member has been coming to NFB conventions for 15 years. The statistics are somewhat skewed by the fact that in a few instances a member may have skipped a convention, and this has not been taken into account. The breakdown looks like this: One Board Member attended his first national convention in 1956-- and, incidentally, has never missed one since: Donald Capps of South Carolina. One member first attended a national convention in 1961; one in 1962; one in 1968; two in 1969; two in 1970; two in 1971; two in 1972; one in 1977; three in 1978; and one in 1982. As you can see, the spread is 26 years, 1956 to 1982.

As you know, there are 17 members on the National Board of Directors. Eleven of these became Board Members in 1980 or later. Five became Board Members in the 1970's, and one became a Board Member in the 1950's. Here is the breakdown: One of the current members was elected to the Board in 1959; three in 1974; one in 1977; one in 1978; one in 1981; three in 1982; one in 1983; two in 1984; two in 1985; and two in 1986. Counting 1986 as a full year (even though two of the current Board Members were elected in July), the average member has been on the Board for 7 years.

The way that the Members of the Board were recruited into the Federation is interesting. Eight joined because they were contacted by other Federationists; three were contacted by organizing teams; two joined the Federation as a result of contact with the Iowa Commission for the Blind, either as students or visitors; one joined the Federation because of our mass mail campaigns; one (Joyce Scanlan) heard about the national convention when it was in Minneapolis in 1970 and came to see what was going on; one heard about us after joining ACB and becoming disillusioned with that organization; and one joined the Federation because of reading the Monitor.

The occupations of Federation Board Members are also interesting, as well as being quite varied. Three are attorneys; five are engaged in work with the blind; one is a teacher in a public school; one is a hardware store owner (retired); one is an automobile dealer; one is an insurance executive (retired); one is owner-operator of a restaurant chain; one is a homemaker; one is a minister; one is a consultant; and one is a senior analyst and programmer.

In the past we have from time to time printed biographical sketches of the members of the National Board in a booklet entitled Who are the Blind Who Lead the Blind. We are in the process of revising and updating this booklet, and we hope we can soon bring out a new edition. However, Who are the Blind Who Lead the Blind does not give the kind of comparative statistical data and perspective which this compilation provides. With respect to the state presidents we have never gathered any data at all except in scattered articles which have appeared in the Monitorand elsewhere. The statistics about the state leaders are as interesting as those concerning the Board.

Let us begin with age. As would be expected, the average age of a National Board Member is slightly higher than that of the state presidents. Whereas the average board member is somewhat over 46, the average state president is 44. Also, the spread is greater. Here is the list: One state president is 70; one is 65; two are 62; two are 58; one is 57; one is 55; one is 54; one is 52; two are 51; one is 50; two are 48; two are 46; two are 45; one is 44; one is 43; four are 42; five are 41; four are 40; four are 39; one is 38; three are 37; one is 36; one is 35; one is 34; three are 33; and three are 31. So the spread is 39 years, from 31 to 70. It will be observed that there is a clustering around age 40. Seventeen of the state presidents come in the range from age 39 to age 42. I wonder how this compares with the ages of state governors.

Again, as might have been expected, the average Board Member has been in the Federation (17-1/2 years) longer than the average state president (13-1/2 years). Two of the state presidents joined the Federation in the 1950's; thirteen joined in the 1960's; thirty joined in the 1970's; and six joined in the 1980's. Here is the breakdown: 1955, 1; 1956, 1; 1964, 1; 1965, 2; 1966, 1; 1967, 3; 1968, 4; 1969, 2; 1970, 4; 1971, 2; 1972, 3; 1973, 3; 1974, 4; 1975, 4; 1976, 4; 1977, 2; 1978, 3; 1979, 1; 1981, 1; 1982, 2; 1983, 1; 1984, 1; and 1986, 1. So the spread is 31 years, from 1955 to 1986.

As to first-time attendance at a national convention, one state president attended his first convention in the 1950's; seven first attended a national convention in the 1960's; thirty-four in the 1970's; and seven in the 1980's. Two state presidents have not yet attended a national convention. The average state president has attended 12 NFB conventions. Here is the breakdown: one first attended a national convention in 1956; one in 1961; one in 1964; two in 1966; two in 1968; one in 1969; four in 1970; four in 1971; one in 1972; one in 1973; three in 1974; five in 1975; three in 1976; six in 1977; five in 1978; two in 1979; one in 1980; one in 1982; four in 1983; one in 1986; and (as already noted) two have not yet attended.

One of the state presidents was first elected to that position in the 1950's; no current state president was first elected to that office in the 1960's; twenty were first elected state president in the 1970's; and thirty were first elected state president in the 1980's. The average state president has served slightly more than 6 years.

Nine of the state presidents have had interrupted terms. One of these has served as state president for 16 of the last 30 years. The others have served for shorter periods of time.

The state presidents were recruited into the movement in widely divergent ways. One joined because of receiving greeting cards in our mail campaign. One went to a national convention because it happened to be in her area. She liked what she saw and joined up. One attended an organizing meeting because she was responsible for opening the building where the meeting was being held. Again, she liked what she heard and joined. In another instance a Federation student chapter needed an academic advisor.

A blind college professor (now a state president) went to be helpful and found, as he puts it, people he wanted to be like. He joined and has been active ever since.

Another state president visited the Iowa Commission for the Blind (not as a student) and witnessed Federationism in action. Shortly afterward, she joined. One state president reports that while he was a student at Hines Veterans Hospital in Illinois, he met Steve Benson and learned of the Federation. Another reports that she joined the American Council of the Blind, heard their negative comments about the Federation, investigated, liked what she found, quit the ACB, and joined us. Still another reports that he contacted the Federation for help with a Social Security problem, became interested, and joined.

Each state president's story is different. One reports that he read about the Braille Monitor and the Braille Forum in another magazine, ordered both, and joined the Federation. One joined through the NFB Student Division; another was invited to speak at a state convention; two were recruited by relatives who were in the Federation; some were recruited through contacts with the Iowa Commission for the Blind; and many were recruited by other Federationists or by organizing teams.

The occupations of the state presidents are as varied as the methods by which they were recruited into the Federation. The range is unbelievably wide: massage therapist, professor of finance, chairman of social studies department in a high school, college voice teacher, band director, assistant director of college alumni association, heating and plumbing contractor, insurance claims executive, social worker, children's counselor, a number of lawyers, several in work related with computers, insurance agent, contract purchasing specialist, writer-editor for large federal agency, drug and alcohol counselor, and counselor for Girl Scouts. Eight are in work with the blind, and five are teachers. Five are retired. Six are federal employees.

Three are vendors. Regardless of the job, certain characteristics are universal. The state presidents of the National Federation of the Blind are leaders. They are alert, dynamic, and involved in community and civic affairs.

What has been said about the members of the National Board and the state presidents can also be said about the hundreds of leaders of the local Federation chapters throughout the nation--and in large part about the rank and file members of the movement. The National Federation of the Blind is serious business, and its members treat it accordingly. It is as vital and as important as the lives and destinies of us all. Go to our national conventions; go to the state conventions; go to the average local chapter meeting--you will find interested, intelligent, caring, participating people. The blind of the nation know that for the first time in history they can have a controlling voice in determining their own destiny. We have respect for our leaders, faith in our future, and pride in our movement. This is the essence of the National Federation of the Blind.



It is truly the silly season in the State of Iowa. It seems as though every public official has sworn an oath to all citizens to behave whimsically. This weird determination might be amusing if the cost to the blind were not so high. Even so, the contortions and convolutions of Iowa state officials provoke the response these days: "You must be kidding."

It all started when Iowa Commission for the Blind board chairman Arlene Dayhoff (who has long and loudly sung the praises of Commission director Nancy Norman) grabbed at the first opportunity offered her to jump ship. In late August, l986, she accepted appointment to the Council on Human Services. This is the board which oversees the Department of Human Services, the state's welfare agency, with a name confusingly similar to the Department of Human Rights. The Human Rights department is the umbrella agency created in 1986 to house the Iowa Commission for the Blind and several other agencies dealing with minorities. One commissioner gone.

The remaining two commissioners, John Wellman and Dr. Russell Watt, became more and more insistent that Nancy Norman obey federal law. This may seem an unusual point to press, but Norman was serving as part-time director of a state vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind (the Iowa Commission for the Blind) in defiance of the federal law which requires directors of VR agencies to be full-time. On June 3, 1986, the regional Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner, Isaac Johnson, ruled that Norman could not be both part-time Commission director and part-time director of the umbrella Human Rights Department. She did it anyway, jeopardizing Iowa's federal VR money. Throughout the summer and into the fall the commission board asked, pleaded with, and finally ordered Norman to obey federal law. They even adopted a policy that federal law will be obeyed and ordered Norman to choose one job or the other by October 1, 1986. Norman simply ignored this order. But the commissioners insisted, and Norman finally provided an answer in October to the question first raised in June. She said she would do what she pleased. She said so in a letter addressed to the Commission board chairman in his private capacity. Norman was obviously not willing to admit that the board chairman had any authority over her and, to make this point, she refused him even the courtesy of addressing him in his official capacity as Chairman of the Commission for the Blind. (Norman has a long record of doing as she pleases. These same commissioners ordered her to work for a separate agency for the blind in the l986 Iowa legislature and she did just the opposite, thereby winning for herself promotion to head of the umbrella agency she helped to create.) Here is Norman's letter:


Des Moines, Iowa
October 9, 1986

Mr. John Wellman, Director
Citizen's Advocate Office
Des Moines, Iowa

Dear John:

  At the Commission board meeting on September 20, you requested

that I choose either the Director of the Commission for the Blind

or Director of the Department of Human Rights position.  I

referred this matter to Doug Gross of the Governor's Office since

the Governor appointed me to serve in those two capacities.  I

understand that the two of you visited by telephone on

approximately October 2.  I did not realize that you wished for

me to respond in writing, so I am doing so at this time.  Doug

Gross indicated to you that the Governor's Office does not want

to make a change now, and therefore I continue to serve in both

capacities.  The Governor wants the Commission for the Blind to

have a full-time director, and believes this matter will be

resolved by the first of the year.

Nancy A. Norman, Director
Commission for the Blind


This proved too much for commissioner Watt. He quit. He not only quit, but he wrote Norman a letter explaining why. As he told the Des Moines Register, "I just felt that if we didn't have any ability to control what is going on, then we didn't have any function as a commission." Here is Dr. Watt's letter of resignation:


October 28, 1986

Ms. Nancy Norman, Director
Commission for the Blind
Des Moines, Iowa

Dear Ms. Norman:

At the Iowa Commission for the Blind board meeting of September 20, 1986, it was decided by the members of the Commission that the Commission for the Blind was in violation of the federal regulation requiring a full-time director of the vocational rehabilitation program (federal regulation 34 CFR 361.8). The Commission members also directed that you choose either to be the full-time director of the Commission for the Blind or director of the Department of Human Rights. It is my understanding from your letter of October 9, 1986, to John Wellman, Chairperson of the Commission, that Governor Branstad wants you to continue to serve in both capacities at least until January 1, 1987. This decision appears to be in direct conflict with both the federal regulation and the unanimous decision of the commissioners on September 20, 1986. Because of this violation of the regulation and the action of the Commission, I find I am unable to support "business as usual" at the Commission for the Blind. Therefore, I am submitting my resignation from the Commission effective immediately.

Yours truly, Russell H. Watt, M.D.


Another commissioner gone. The rapidly diminishing supply of commissioners went relatively unnoticed since, as Dr. Watt says, the Commission board has no function. The Governor now hires and fires the director, leaving the Commission board no power to enforce its policies. The commissioners meet every several months or so to listen to Commission staff talk for a while. Beyond that, everyone seems to forget about them. Nancy Norman certainly did. In addition to ignoring their policy determinations, she habitually acted for the agency in matters which should have been decided by the Commission board.

By law, the Commission board determines the Commission budget. The board decides what to request and how much will be spent in the various budget categories. During the summer and fall of 1986 the Rehabilitation Act was debated and reauthorized by the U.S. Congress. The reauthorization created opportunity to earn more federal dollars with additional allocation of state dollars.

All this was well-known to Norman, who could easily have presented the facts and possibilities to the Commission board. She didn't bother. In early December, l986, she appeared before the Governor at a public hearing on the Commission's budget request and asked for $60,000 more than the Commission board had authorized her to seek. She explained this by saying that there had not been enough time since the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act for the commissioners to consider the possibility of earning more federal money. Federationists in the audience refrained from pointing out that Iowa is supplied with a sufficiency of telephone connections for purposes such as this. The lack of time persisted until December 30, l986, when the commission board finally considered the additional $60,000 request. They did it by conference telephone.

In the meantime, a new commissioner was appointed. She has had nothing whatsoever to do with blindness. One commissioner replaced.

Then, welfare chief Joseph O'Hara's shady dealings got exposed in Missouri. Now, this may seem to have nothing to do with Iowa, but the silly season can make use of anything. O'Hara was out and Iowa's Human Services director Michael Reagan accepted the Missouri offer to direct its welfare agency. He'll get more money, have a car, and double the size of the population he serves. And he might escape the silly season. We wish him luck.

Back in Iowa, Republican Governor Terry Branstad moved promptly and in accord with the prevailing silliness. He appointed Nancy Norman to head the state Department of Human Services, the largest agency in Iowa state government. The appointment was greeted with a storm of ridicule, scorn, and jeers.

One hotbed of derision was the Iowa legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats. The Des Moines Register reported that: "[Democratic Senate majority leader C.W. "Bill"] Hutchins wrote a letter to Branstad saying the governor acted too quickly and didn't select from a pool of applicants who would be of the same caliber as Reagen. 'While I am not now making any specific charges against the individual you selected, I do feel administration of an agency with a $700 million plus budget is a job which should only be filled after a thoughtful process in which applicants with significant experience and proven credentials--from across the nation--are considered....' Hutchins said he still is concerned about Norman's ability to take on the job. 'I'm saying her experience has not been with dealing with an agency of that size, and it's the whole scenario: If we lose people like Mike Reagen because of a low salary we ought to address that, and ought not to think of lowering our standards for the type of people who run state government.'"

As Norman's appointment became a topic of state-wide discussion, many blind Iowans must have felt like time travelers.

They were already familiar with Norman's practice of climbing by means of her husband's influence. In l982, over their protests, Norman was appointed commission director by a board chaired by the law partner of her husband. In 1986, Iowa's Republican Governor, though the incumbent, squeaked through to re-election with a bare majority of the votes. Grateful to Norman's husband, one of his most active supporters, the Governor elevated Norman to the Human Services directorship. When asked about this favoritism, Norman replied to a Des Moines Register reporter: "It's a free country." Anyone familiar with modern political discourse knows that, when someone tells you its a free country, you'd better hold your wallet and run.

In 1982, the commission board tried to cover up its favor to Norman's husband by hiring a national search firm to whom it paid nearly $10,000 for camouflaging its choice of Norman. In l986 there was no camouflage. The Governor simply appointed Norman when he announced the departure of her predecessor. No search firm. No nationwide hunt for talent. Just the payoff right there in public.

Public scoffing at Norman's appointment went on for five straight days in the Des Moines Register and has cropped up several times since. The chairman and vice-chairman of the Council on Human Services, both Republicans like the Governor, were furious that they had not been consulted about the appointment. They pointed out that the spirit of the law (if not its letter) required the Governor to receive their recommendations before making his choice. The vice-chairman, a fifteen-year veteran on the Council, told a Des Moines Register reporter: "I am outraged that Governor Branstad chose not to involve the council in appointing someone for one of the most responsible positions in state government. He has slapped us on the face and I am angered that he completely ignored us. So I am reviewing my situation with the department, and that saddens me."

The Council on Human Services, like the Commission board before it, is about to learn that Nancy Norman's style is to do what she pleases (regardless of the law). They won't like it, but Norman enjoys the unconditional support of the Governor.

Another person who must be unhappy with the appointment is Arlene Dayhoff. She had recently fled the Commission herself to help oversee Human Services. Despite her public protestations of admiration for Nancy Norman, she was well aware of Norman's principal fault. Norman can't administer anything, and Dayhoff knows it. Dayhoff must be regretting the opportunity to change agency boards. She's ended up right where she started, having to oversee an agency and make policy for a woman who can't administer and won't follow policy.

The Council on Human Services will have to learn something else about Norman as well. She has a record. In 1982, there were widespread rumors that the Department of Human Services, where she had been a middle manager for ten years, was trying desperately to palm her off on anybody who would take her. In 1986, Human Services workers all across the state are expressing disgust that the woman they got rid of four years ago is now coming back to be their super boss.

Nancy Norman now faces a nasty confirmation battle in the senate. But some legislators are talking of giving the Governor exactly the person he wants. They point out that the Human Services department is a very complex agency with several huge problem areas which will almost certainly explode into public controversy in the next year. Let the Governor have her as director, these people say. She can't handle it. So much the worse for her and her Governor. That's what they both wanted and that's what we should give them.

Back at the Commission for the Blind, search firms are still all the rage. The Governor didn't need a search firm to help him find Norman's qualification for her new job running a $700 million agency. But he's asked the Commission board to conduct an intensive nationwide talent search for a new director to run this $3 million agency.

Another new commissioner has also been appointed, bringing the board up to three again for a time. He lives in Iowa, it is true, but he works in Illinois. Two of the three commissioners live about sixty miles from each other on the Mississippi river, Iowa's eastern border. This places them one hundred to three hundred miles away from most Iowans and therefore beyond the reach of bothersome personal visiting from citizens.

It is the silly season in Iowa. Residents probably get up in the morning and debate whether they should take a chance on learning the morning's news. After all, you never know what bizarre thing one of those state officials will do next. We're waiting for reports from Iowa that cows have started to bleat, sheep to oink, and pigs to moo. Why shouldn't they? The humans around them all seem to have flipped.



by Kenneth Jernigan

As members of the National Federation of the Blind we often say that: "We are changing what is means to be blind." Exactly how do we do that? Do we do it by coming together in meetings and conventions, discussing major issues and trends, passing resolutions, and then taking collective action on a nationwide basis to bring about change? Yes, that is one way we do it--but it is not the only way. Perhaps it is not even the most important way.

Where does our Federationism begin and end? Do we pick it up like a cup of coffee or a piece of paper when we enter the door of the local chapter meeting or the state or national convention--and then put it aside when we leave? What does Federationism mean in our daily lives and routine activities--working, playing, eating, shopping? Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, could give you an answer to that question. A few weeks before Christmas she was shopping in a mall--an ordinary trip, an average day. In one of the gift shops she observed a small shoebox-shaped item. On the top this caption was printed: "Your Personal Retirement Income Program." In small letters was printed: "IRS Approved/Tax Sheltered Income." Also on the top were various attractive retirement scenes: a sailboat and sea gull, golfing, and a San Francisco scene. When the box lid was lifted, the contents were disclosed to be the stereotyped apparatus of a blind beggar: A pair of dark glasses, a tin cup, a pencil, and a pair of shoestrings. Funny? Karen didn't think so--but she didn't just turn away in disgust or fuss and fume. She took action--reasoned, dignified, decisive, effective action.

When the time comes that the majority of us who are blind, along with our families and friends, (and a growing number of our sighted associates and members of the public who have come to understand) take similar action as a routine part of our daily lives, our battle will be largely won. Karen's letter will have repercussions far beyond the immediate results in South Dakota. It should cause each of us to reflect and take stock:


Rapid City, South Dakota
December 1, 1986

Ms. Meris Dickey, Manager
Spencer Gifts
Rushmore Mall
Rapid City, South Dakota

Dear Ms. Dickey:

How disappointed I was recently while shopping in your store to notice that you had among your sale items "YOUR PERSONAL RETIREMENT INCOME PROGRAM," containing a tin cup, sunglasses, shoelaces and pencils. This item is NOT amusing to those of us who are blind. It is demeaning and derogatory toward blind persons. I request that you consider its implications and how it reflects on your business as well.

Blind persons in our country have been working for decades to change the image of blind people. The National Federation of the Blind strives to obtain first-class citizenship for all blind citizens. We can only do that when our sighted friends and the public realize that we are no longer relegated to standing on street corners with tin cups. Thousands of us are employed, raising families, holding public office and participating fully in our communities. Even so, over 70 percent of working-age blind persons are unemployed or underemployed. Why is that? Simply because too many individuals continue to have the antiquated sterotypic image of a blind person, i.e., begging on a street corner. Until the public no longer views us in that way, we will continue to have the highest rate of unemployment of any minority group. Items like "YOUR PERSONAL RETIREMENT INCOME PROGRAM" retard our progress. I am sure that was not your intent. I again urge you to remove it from your shelves.

If you wish to discuss this matter further, I will be glad to visit with you. In addition, I refer you to Mr. Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, telephone (301) 659-9314.

Very truly yours,
Karen S. Mayry, President
National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota


Spencer Gifts, Inc.
Pleasantville, New Jersey
December 29, 1986

Dear Ms. Mayry:

I want to apologize for offending you, as well as anyone else. The item in question (Your Personal Retirement Income Program) was not intended to offend, demean or be derogatory towards blind people. We take great care not to offend people with our merchandise and reject large numbers of items we know would sell simply because they could be offensive to some people. Obviously, we are not 100% effective all the time.

I have referred your letter to our Vice President and General Merchandise Manager. The item in question will be reviewed carefully and a determination will be made as to whether we should continue to carry this item in our stores. In the meantime, I have instructed all our South Dakota stores to remove the item from their shelves and hold the item until that determination has been made.

Again, I apologize if we offended you. It was not our intent. If you'd care to discuss this further, please let me know. You can contact me at the address listed below. I will let you know regarding the final disposition of this item.

Sincerely, Emery D. Clarke
Regional Sales Manager
Lewisville, Texas


by Catherine Horn Randall

(Catherine Horn Randall is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. This article appeared in the January, 1987, Month's News, the newsletter of the NFB of Illinois.)

"We must reach out to other blind people. We must make it clear that our business is the business of human beings." So spoke NFB National Secretary Allen Harris during his banquet address at the NFBI 1986 convention this past September in Peoria. This phrase in Allen's speech has come to mind, time and time again.

In November I received an early morning telephone call from Mary Ellen Reihing in Baltimore. Mary Ellen's call was in response to a letter the National Office had received from the distraught mother of a legally blind seventeen-year-old teenage girl. The girl's mother had heard one of Dr. Jernigan's public service announcements and had written for help for her daughter.

Laurie Porter and I spent a memorable Saturday, traveling over 300 miles to meet Lynn (not her real name) and her family. We talked with Lynn at length about the problems she faces as a partially blind person. She is a high school senior, and she is having real problems keeping up with reading assignments and homework in general. Lynn was an honor roll student last year, but her grades have suffered this year.

The unique problems of being partially blind kept cropping up throughout our conversation. Laurie and Lynn could really relate to each other, because Laurie is also partially blind. Mary Ellen had sent Lynn a packet of Federation information including a Job Opportunities for the Blind application form and a national scholarship form. Lynn had filled out both forms before Laurie and I arrived.

We left my copy of the "Four Pioneers" video tape programs with Lynn and her family. I hope they have learned more about the Federation by watching the tape. Laurie and I spent a wonderful day together, and we each made a special new friend in Lynn.

I think we were able to show Lynn and her family how much we do care about other blind people, because we were willing to travel several hundred miles to meet and talk with them.

Lynn is ambitious. She had a job interview at a pet shop that afternoon after we left. Her dream is to start her own day care center some day. I hope we in the Federation will be able to reach out to help her fulfill her dream.

A mutual friend introduced me to Greg Suddarth. Greg will have become a Ferris Wheel Chapter member of the NFB of Illinois by the time you read this article. He hopes to obtain sheltered workshop employment in Jacksonville.

Greg had never seen an NFB fiber glass cane before I gave him one of mine. He prefers his new NFB cane to his old rehab short cane. Like Lynn, Greg is anxious to learn more about the Federation and to meet our members.

Recruiting Federation members is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. You make new friends, and you introduce them to a national network of caring blind friends around the country. I doubt that I shall ever be able to repay the NFB for all it has done for me, but it is fun to try. If each of us in Illinois would make a solemn promise to ourselves to recruit a new member, we could significantly change what it means to be blind for hundreds of people.

Let's get back to basics. We truly are in the business of human beings. There is no more precious gift we can give to another person than that of membership in our Federation family.

In conclusion, I shall borrow a line from Shakespeare: "The more I give to thee the more I have, for both are infinite." Please make reaching out to a blind person the top priority on your 1987 list of New Year's resolutions. You won't regret it.



by Kenneth Jernigan

During the past year and a half there has been a great deal of commotion about Playboy magazine. It all started in July of 1985 when Congressman Chalmers P. Wylie (Republican of Ohio) offered an amendment to an appropriations bill to prevent the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) from producing Playboy magazine in Braille. The amendment passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the President.

Shortly afterward, it was noised about in circles knowledgeable about blindness that Playboy had found a golden opportunity to get publicity (and possibly to increase their prestige and respectability). Very soon the American Council of the Blind was also contacting the media to get on the bandwagon. Then came the much publicized "lawsuit." The lawsuit is now at an end, and the American Council of the Blind has its so-called "victory"; but one wonders if they really understand what they have done and what the long-term consequences will be. Before commenting on the matter, let us consider the American Council of the Blind's version of the situation. Here is the complete text of what they said in the September-October, 1986, Braille Forum:


ACB Triumphs in Censorship Battle

by Lynn Abbott
Legal Assistant

In what can only be described as a thrilling victory, the American Council of the Blind has emerged the victor in its "Playboy lawsuit" against the Librarian of Congress. Declaring the librarian's elimination of Playboy magazine from the Braille publications offered through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped as violative of the First Amendment, District Judge Thomas F. Hogan found the facts of censorship to be constitutionally impermissible. Those who benefit from the diverse selection of publications available from the Books for the Blind program have been given back their right to read what they choose.

The situation surfaced in July 1985 when Congress was considering the budget for the Library of Congress. Representative Chalmers P. Wylie (R-Ohio) offered an amendment to the legislative branch appropriations bill which would, in effect, prohibit the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Daniel Boorstin, from continuing production of the Braille edition of Playboy. Representative Wylie determined the magazine to be morally offensive and should not be available to blind readers. Unfortunately, the Wylie amendment was adopted by Congress and the President signed the appropriations bill into law late last year.

The American Council of the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, the American Library Association, PlayboyEnterprises, and three subscribers to Playboy--ACB members Scott Marshall, Deborah Kendrick, and Brian Charlson-- filed a lawsuit on December 4, 1985, to protest the cutback in funding aimed specifically at Playboy because of its content. The cause of action cited in the complaint was the violation of the free speech provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The cessation of the Braille edition of the magazine represented blatant censorship and paternalism toward blind people, and the action of Congress could not remain unchallenged. The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. After several months of "discovery" or fact-finding, the plaintiffs submitted a motion for summary judgment with the court. Such a motion requests the judge to decide a case based on the information gathered through the discovery process, thereby eliminating the need to go to trial. On August 28, 1986, attorneys representing the parties to the action appeared before Judge Hogan and presented their arguments orally.

Much to the surprise of all in attendance, the judge announced his decision at the conclusion of the oral argument. "Bench opinions," or decisions issued orally by the judge following the presentation of evidence, are quite rare, but most welcome. A written opinion will be issued by the court at a future date, more fully outlining the judge's reasoning.

Judge Hogan noted from the bench that he desired to issue an opinion immediately in order to prevent further delay in the case. "The court has concluded...from the materials submitted to it on summary judgment motions of both the plaintiff and defendant, judgment should be entered for the plaintiffs on their claim of First Amendment violation by Dr. Boorstin on his decision not to publish Playboy in 1986 because this decision was non-content neutral..." The judge remarked that he did not fault Dr. Boorstin personally, because he was in a bad position. "He was in the classical position of a bureaucrat who faces either sanctions from Congress or certain Congresspersons because of his actions if he did not strike Playboy..."

Recommendations concerning acceptable and appropriate remedies will be submitted to the court in order that the judge may fashion an order of relief. Negotiations are underway with the defendants, and hopefully an agreement will be reached soon.

In the meantime, as the plaintiffs anxiously await the written opinion and relief order, the ACB national office has been bustling with activity. ACB staff has been spreading the good news via the Washington Connection, over radio and television, and through newspapers and magazines across the country. National Public Radio, the New York Times, CBS Morning News, USA Today, the Washington Post, ABC Radio, and even the BBC have brought this important ruling to the attention of the public.

(Note: Readers should note that an appeal of this decision by the defendant is possible. However, this is considered unlikely, under the circumstances.)


This is what the Braille Forum had to say, and since that time there have been further developments. It has been agreed that NLS will produce back Braille issues of Playboy for 1986 and that it will continue to produce the magazine in Braille for 1987 and the foreseeable future. It has also been agreed that there will be no appeals from the judge's decision. In short, the lawsuit is over; the ACB has claimed its victory; and we can survey the situation to determine what really happened and what it means.

The first thing one is moved to say is this: Some people are perpetually unlucky in love, some in war, and some in lawsuits. The American Council of the Blind falls into this latter category. Even when it appears to win, it loses--and big.

For openers: Disregard the publicity, and see what really happened. The Wylie amendment passed by a very narrow vote. It would almost certainly have been reversed by Congress in the next appropriations bill. In the meantime Playboy continued to be available on cassette (as it still is) from the Associated Services for the Blind of Philadelphia. Anybody who wanted it could get it without cost so nobody was prevented from getting the magazine or deprived of the right to read.

Taken alone in that context, the ACB lawsuit was harmless enough and a mere publicity stunt--but it cannot be taken alone. It diverted the attention of the public and the media from the real problems of blindness and allowed them to deal with the blind at a level at which they felt comfortable and at ease. There were lots of poor taste jokes about feeling the Playboypictures in Braille and a good deal of talk about how Congress should be ashamed of depriving the blind of some of the few remaining pleasures they could enjoy, etc. When the so-called "victory" was achieved, many in the media and some in the Congress seemed to feel that they had done their good deed for the blind and now they could forget about them.

But the real effects of the Playboy lawsuit are only now beginning to surface. Never before in all of the history of legislation concerning the blind has anybody been able to make the Books for the Blind Program of the Library of Congress controversial. The Playboy lawsuit has succeeded in doing it. I recently talked with one NLS official who was very much concerned about it. "What will happen," he said, "if individuals or committees from the Congress begin to inquire about the titles in our overall book collection?" Playboy is tame, a veritable Sunday school pamphlet, compared to some of the items in the NLS collection. If the lawsuit had never been brought, the whole thing would long since have been ended; Playboy would have continued to be available; and the Books for the Blind Program would have continued to be noncontroversial both in budget and content.

Now, we face a different situation. Moral issues have been raised. The program is controversial. There is every likelihood that budgets will receive closer scrutiny than in the past. And above all, there is the very real possibility that someone from the Congress will choose to make further inquiry about the content of the books in the NLS collection. If this should occur, the ruckus created by the Playboy incident will seem like child's play compared to the outcry and controversy which will ensue.

The only beneficiary of the lawsuit was Playboy itself, which got a great deal of free publicity. The losers were the blind. We were made to look ridiculous, and our library programs were made controversial--a feat which would have seemed impossible to achieve before the Playboy lawsuit.

Yes, the ACB is unlucky: in love, in war, and in lawsuits--especially in lawsuits. It has loved certain agencies and others who have not helped it; it has failed abysmally in its wars; and as to the courts--perhaps the ACB should devote its talents to other areas and leave the courts to those who understand them.



The National Association of Blind Educators is an organization devoted to encouraging blind persons to enter the field of education. Throughout history there has been a succession of blind men and women who have been recognized for their superior contributions as professional educators and leaders in the organized blind movement. It is not surprising that the founder of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, was universally acclaimed as an outstanding scholar through his work at the University of California at Berkeley.

For this reason the National Association of Blind Educators has created a special award to recognize the achievements of blind professionals who have demonstrated superior ability in their work as educators. This award, known as the "Educator of the Year Award," will be presented during the annual business meeting of the National Association of Blind Educators. This meeting will take place on Monday, June 29, 1987, in Phoenix, Arizona, in conjunction with the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The recipient of the "Educator of the Year Award" must be present to receive the award.

The honoree will be presented with a plaque appropriately inscribed to reflect the significance of the recognition being bestowed. The honoree will also receive a cash award in the amount of $200. Two runners-up will also be recognized for their achievements as outstanding blind educators.

Selection of the "Educator of the Year" will be by the recommendation of a three-member committee comprised of board members of the National Association of Blind Educators. Each member of the committee is an outstanding educator in his or her own right. The chairperson of the committee is Patricia Munson, who can be contacted at: 833 Key Route Boulevard, Albany, California 94706. Also serving on the committee is Allen Schaefer of Illinois and Lev Williams of Tennessee.

Anyone wishing to recommend an outstanding blind educator for consideration should submit the following information in writing to Patricia Munson at the address above.

1. A letter of nomination must be submitted to the chairperson of the selections committee by Wednesday, April 15, 1987. The nomination letter may be submitted by the nominee or on behalf of the nominee by a friend or colleague. The letter should include a professional profile of the nominee, as well as information on community service or other distinguishing activities.

2. At least one letter seconding an individual's nomination must be submitted by the prescribed date to the selections committee chairperson. This letter may also be from a friend or colleague and should affirm the nominee's qualifications. This letter may also be used to expand upon or provide additional information which the committee may find useful in making its selection. Additional letters seconding a nomination may be submitted on behalf of an individual nominee.

The "Educator of the Year Award" represents a real opportunity to honor a blind educator who has made significant contributions both in his or her professional work and to the organized blind movement. Please submit your nominations as soon as possible so that the selections committee will be able to give each recommendation the careful attention it deserves.



(Here is how it was done in Brockton, Massachusetts. May the rest of us go and do likewise.)

City of Brockton, Massachusetts
Office of the Mayor

A Proclamation

"National Federation of the Blind Month"

WHEREAS, through the years many organizations have developed programs to promote self-sufficiency and pride among blind persons. The National Federation of the Blind has long been committed to this concern. Today the Federation is represented by fifty thousand members nationwide, who continue to work to secure equal rights and opportunities for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, now in its forty-fifth year, stands in the forefront in meeting the needs of our blind people. Its members offer service such as counseling to newly blinded persons, self-rehabilitation, and public education; and

WHEREAS, in an effort to aid in the self-sufficiency of the blind the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts helps to obtain employment through its Job Opportunities for the Blind program; and

WHEREAS, in addition, the Federation is an advocate for equal rights for the blind under state law: the rights of employment, to rent or purchase housing, to travel on public thoroughfares and public conveyances, and to obtain access to public places. In 1980 the Blind Jurors Law and in 1981 the law prohibiting discrimination in the sale of insurance to blind persons were also passed; and

WHEREAS, in tribute to the dedicated membership of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts and in recognition of their vital and worthwhile work;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CARL D. PITARO, Mayor of the City of Brockton, do hereby proclaim the month of November, 1986, as:


and urge all the citizens of Brockton and surrounding areas to support the work of the National Federation of the Blind.

Signed and Sealed

This 22nd Day of October, 1986



(Gene and Ethel Parker are long-time Federationists from Mississippi. It was E. U. who provided the stimulus which led to the establishment of the Pre-Authorized Check Plan. Here are seven casseroles from Gene. If the recipe is from Gene Parker, it is good. You can count on it.)


2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped

Brown beef with onion and pepper in large skillet. Add:

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 can tomatoes, chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 small can ripe olives, chopped
1 8-oz. package fine noodles, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 can cream corn
1 small can tomato sauce

Mix and place in greased casserole. Cover with grated cheese and bake in 350 degree oven for one hour. This will serve about twelve people. I usually divide mixture into two casseroles and freeze one (without the cheese) for later. When ready for frozen one, just defrost, add cheese, and bake.


1 can white tuna
1 16-oz. can French style green beans, drained
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can French-fried onions
1 large can chow mein noodles

Mix first four ingredients. Pour into greased casserole and bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Top with French-fried onions and bake five minutes more. Serve over chow mein noodles.


3 cups cooked rice
1-1/2 cups drained tuna (cooked chicken may be used instead)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup cooked green peas, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup shredded cheese

Combine all ingredients except cheese. Mix thoroughly. Pour into a greased 1- 1/2 quart casserole. Top with cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven thirty-five minutes.


2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped broccoli
4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup buttered breadcrumbs

Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain well. Place in a lightly greased 1-1/2 quart casserole; top with chicken. Combine remaining ingredients except breadcrumbs, stirring well. Spoon mixture over chicken, top with breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.


Cook 1/2 cup rice until tender in 1- 1/2 cups chicken broth.

Combine with:

2 cups cooked diced chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pour mixture into greased casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove one hour before baking. Sprinkle with a heavy layer of crushed potato chips and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. This serves about six people and can easily be doubled for a crowd.


Melt one stick of oleo in a casserole. Add one cup uncooked rice, 1/2 medium chopped onion, two 10-ounce cans chicken broth, one can chopped mushrooms. Salt and pepper about six pieces of chicken and place on top. Bake uncovered one hour at 350 degrees.


1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 10-oz. can tomatoes & green chilies
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 8-oz. package tortilla chips

Brown beef and onion; drain. Chop tomatoes and mix with soup. Lightly crush tortilla chips; layer all ingredients in a two-quart casserole, beginning and ending with chips. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. Do not prepare dish much in advance or chips will get soggy.




Lois Nemeth writes:

The Milwaukee Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin recently held its elections of officers for the coming year. Elected were: Bonnie Peterson, President; Arthur Tyson, Vice President; Cheryl Orgas, Treasurer; and Lois Nemeth, Secretary. The two board positions are held by Paul Gabias and Mike Hall.

**Deaf-Blind Directory:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

"The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults announces the publication of its revised DIRECTORY OF AGENCIES AND ORGANIZATIONS SERVING DEAF-BLIND INDIVIDUALS, 1987, which is designed as a resource and an aid to parents and professionals who are seeking services for deaf-blind individuals nationwide. The Directory includes Federally Funded and Public and Privately Funded Programs, and the listings appear alphabetically according to state, city and name of agency. The data include director's name, geographical service area, eligibility requirements, age range of the population served, major services, communication modes, funding sources, and contact person. The Directory's three-ring binder permits the addition of updated material which will be forwarded periodically to users. To order, send $10, payable to HKNC, to: Community Education Department, HKNC, 111 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, NY 11050, (516) 944-8900."


Tom Anderson of Youngstown, Ohio, writes:

"I have the sad duty to inform you that Mrs. Violet Doepping, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Mahoning Valley for almost twenty-five years, passed away on Tuesday, December 16, 1986. She was eighty-three years old."

**Informational Fair:

Ruth Schroeder, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, tells us of an Informational Fair held by the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. The announcement says: "On Wednesday, January 14, 1987, the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa will hold an Informational Fair. Our purpose is to offer the opportunity to meet and talk with successful blind people and to provide demonstrations and exhibits of methods and ideas. We are inviting legislators, other public officials, and families with blind children. Exhibits and activities will include: woodworking; computers, including one which will display your name in Braille and greet you aloud by name; games; travel; Braille; cooking and sewing; methods used by the deaf- blind; employment opportunities; aids and devices; and activities especially for blind children of all ages. This exhibit will include a small gift for every blind child in attendance. This event will be enjoyable for all ages, since guests may proceed from one exhibit to another informally and participate actively. The location will be the beautiful Des Moines Botanical Center; after attending the Fair, you may stroll among the impressive plant displays (with no charge for our guests). Light refreshment will also be served."

**Accepts New Position:

Richard (Dick) Davis, long-time teacher and rehabilitation counselor at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, has accepted employment at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, where he will be assisting in the development of the new programs which that state is inaugurating."


We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

"Free Matter Mail Labels: Bold-print, self-adhesive, and touch-keyed for orientation. 1 x 3-1/2", 100 for $2.00. Unique 3 x 4" package size, has bold outlines and embossed boxes for address location, 50 for $2.00; custom-printed with return address, only 50 cents more. Send to: J.P. Enterprises, Department M, Box 44217, Denver, Colorado 80201. Free information and samples. (Braille, cassette welcome: send tape for information.)"

**Strip on the Stairs:

On January 11-12, 1987, the American Foundation for the Blind sponsored a conference on mass transit in Washington, D.C. It was the sort of conference one might have expected. Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, attended and participated in the sessions. He says:

"The conference was attended by approximately 150 people. The unquestioned assumption throughout the conference was that the environment must necessarily be changed to afford blind travelers access to mass transit. With this premise topics were centered around issues such as providing inservice to transit employees and textured edge protection.

"The absorption with low vision issues was snowballed to an alarming extent. Speaker after speaker talked about the hazards faced by the low vision traveler, with the solution inevitably being a need for high contrast visual information. We were told how dangerous a flight of stairs can be for the partially sighted traveler if the first step is not marked with a black strip. No one raised the opinion that since it is unlikely that all staircases will ever be so marked, then the low vision traveler relying entirely on vision will always be in danger. Although the obvious solution is the use of a cane, at no time was cane travel proposed as a solution for the problems of the low vision traveler."


The officers of the Dayton, Ohio, Federation of the Blind for the present year are: President, Claude Ray; Vice President, Robert Kuchlewski; Treasurer, Charles Kuhnwald; Recording Secretary, Martha B. Hays; Corresponding Secretary, Sheila Samson; and Board Members Ronald Williamitis and Jana Schroeder.

**Air Travel Card:

The airlines have so consistently misrepresented to blind passengers that Federal Aviation Regulations are the same thing as airline policies and that it is an FAA regulation that blind persons may not sit in exit row seats that we have printed a billfold-sized card which we are making available without cost to anybody who requests it. On one side of the card is a picture of the United States eagle, accompanied by the following language:

Public Law 99-435
October 3, 1986

To amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to provide that prohibitions of discrimination against handicapped individuals shall apply to air carriers: "Prohibition on discrimination against handicapped individuals; no air carrier may discriminate against any otherwise qualified handicapped individual, by reason of such handicap, in the provision of air transportation." (Section 404(c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 as amended)

The other side of the card reads as follows:

STATEMENT of the Honorable Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Secretary of Transportation responding to inquiries from Congress, July 22, 1986, regarding the legal status of airline procedures including restricted seating:

The Secretary of Transportation
Washington, D.C.
July 22, 1986
1986 JUL 24 PM 1:15

The airline procedures filed with the FAA under 14CFR 121.586 (a Federal Aviation Regulation) do not become, or have the authority of, Federal Aviation Regulations. They are simply company policies. The FAA does not enforce these policies.

Elizabeth Hanford Dole

At the left edge of the card is the seal of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This card may be helpful in dealing with airline personnel. If you want one, contact your state president or write to: National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

**What's Your Opinion:

Claude Everett is a Federationist from Monterey, California. Recently he sent a letter to Andy Rooney, one of the regulars on the television show 60 Minutes. Here in part is what he said:

Dear Mr. Rooney:

I feel that I must write to you after recently reading "Charity is Never Easy" in your recent book Pieces of My Mind.

I must compliment you for your statement that you do not give to the blind man who begs on the sidewalk with his dog in front of Sax Fifth Avenue. Because you say, "He demeans every blind man who does not beg." He not only demeans all blind men and women who do not beg but every self-sufficient blind person in this country.

**Federation Wedding:

Dick Porter (President of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia) and Joyce Turner (Board Member of the Charleston, West Virginia, Chapter) were married December 27, 1986, at the Boulevard Church of Christ in Charleston, West Virginia. The minister was Mike Smith, who is First Vice President of the NFB of West Virginia. Another Federationist from West Virginia, Marvin Whiteman, provided the music. Many Federationists were on hand at the wedding to help celebrate this joyous occasion. Congratulations and best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Porter.

**Dies From Cancer:

On January 12, 1987, Harold Krents (whose life story was the basis of the movie and broadway play "Butterflies Are Free") died at Calvary Hospital in New York City, where he was being treated for brain cancer. Krents was a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. His autobiography To Race The Wind gives his view of what it was like to be a blind student at Harvard Law School. The book was made into a television movie, which was broadcast on CBS in 1980. Krents had been blind all of his life. Federationists will remember that he spoke at one of our national conventions a number of years ago.

**New Chapter:

Hazel Staley, President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, writes:

"On Tuesday afternoon, December 30, 1986, ten people met at the library in Albemarle, North Carolina, and organized the National Federation of the Blind of Stanley County. Others had planned to attend but were unable to be there because of illness. They plan to join later. The following officers were elected: President, Maryland Dickerson; Vice President, Janie Hinson; Secretary- Treasurer, Carrie Smith; Board Member, H.K. Efird. The chapter plans to meet at 7:00 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month."

**Jargon Jitters:

Please give me no directives. I'm tired of the term. Nor do I want your guidelines; Just the mention makes me squirm. I will not contribute input, Though I'll gladly have my say. If you ask me to communicate, My answer's: "Not today." I'm dead set against relating, But I'll be a loyal friend; And if you ask for this in depth, Forget it! It's the end!