THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 31, No. 2                                                                        February-March, 1988

Barbara Pierce, Editor

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

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT

 

National Office
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230

 

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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND—IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

ISSN 0006-8829

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THE BRAILLE MONITOR
PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND


CONTENTS


Vol. 31, No. 2                                                                                       February-March, 1988

 

RADIO READING FOR THE BLIND: SERVICE OR BOONDOGGLE
by Kenneth
Jernigan

BLIND PEOPLE IN BRITAIN
by Ian Bruce

ON THE NATURE OF BEING AN EDITOR

JIM OMVIG LEAVES ALASKA
by Kay Porth

RUTH WHELAN DIES

LOVE, DATING, AND MARRIAGE: BLIND CHILDREN GROW UP AND BECOME PARENTS, TOO
by Barbara Pierce

BLIND PEOPLE AND THE WORLD OF WORK
by Mary Ellen Reihing

OF PARKING METERS AND SLOT MACHINES

COMMENTARY ON A NEWSWEEK CARTOON
by Bill Isaacs

THE COST OF A GIFT
by Marc Maurer

NAC 1987: AN EXERCISE IN TREADING WATER
by Homer Page

OF COWS AND FIRES AND THE ASSOCIATED SERVICES FOR THE BLIND OF PHILADELPHIA
by Barbara Pierce

MY FLIGHT FROM DISCRIMINATION
by Robert Greenberg

SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1988
by James Gashel

AGENCY MOVES TOO SLOWLY FOR THE BLIND
by Tom Condon

KANSAS INDUSTRIES FOR THE BLIND A STUDY IN PROFESSIONALISM AND CHAOS
by Kenneth Jernigan

THEY DO THINGS THEY DON'T DO ON BROADWAY
by Stephen Benson

PERSIMMONS. . .THE SOFT AND THE HARD AND THE CONFUSING

MONITOR MINIATURES

Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1988

 

RADIO READING FOR THE BLIND: SERVICE OR BOONDOGGLE

by Kenneth Jernigan

There is much which is controversial about the field of work with the blind in this country, but when thinking about the matter, one does not usually begin with radio reading services. Yet, that program is somewhere near the top of the list, competing with such perennial favorites as rehabilitation and sheltered shops. It is one of the most controversial services being offered to the blind throughout the nation today. In fact, there are those who will tell you that radio reading is not really a service at all but a giant boondoggle. They say that although there are numerous specially adapted receivers in the hands of potential users, very few blind people ever use them. These critics say that the funds which are used for radio reading would be better spent in expanding and strengthening the libraries in the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped system, that much of what the radio reading services do is already being done by the libraries, and that the whole business is a waste of effort and money—not to mention being a massive public relations hoax, which exploits society's notion that what the blind most need is a gadget and a rocking chair, delivered with a dose of pity and admiration, with the pity predominating.

Those on the other side of the question respond with equal vigor. They say that radio reading provides at least one service which the libraries not only do not but cannot give—namely, making the local newspaper available to the blind on a daily basis. These advocates contend that for many of the blind (especially, the homebound and the elderly) radio reading has been a godsend. It provides, they say, a personal touch and a flexibility which no other medium can give.

Recently this controversy was highlighted for me by certain comments and documents which came to my attention, and it occurred to me that while radio reading is a sizable activity with a large budget and a substantial public relations impact, it has received little attention from the Monitor. Thinking that this neglect should be remedied, I set to work, and I think you will find the results interesting.

I began by searching my memory, doing some reading, and conducting interviews—particularly, with Mrs. Rosie Hurwitz, who is the past president of the Association of Radio Reading Services and who in 1986 was apparently fired from her position as head of the Kansas Audio Reader. (Technically Mrs. Hurwitz was allowed to retire, but there is general agreement that she was given the choice of going voluntarily or going.) Federationists will remember that Mrs. Hurwitz attended our 1983 convention in Kansas City and spoke at some length about her plans for the future and the fact that the radio reading services were having problems with a ruling of some sort that the Federal Communications Commission had made or was considering. For most of us it was about that vague and that important.

But complexities have a way of coming back to make one deal with them. When I began my recent delving into the area of radio reading, I found myself in the middle of subcarrier waves, base bands, and a number of other esoteric things which had never before stirred my curiosity. However, one does what one has to do.

I had my first brush with radio reading when I was Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. In 1969 I went to Minneapolis for some sort of conference and found that Stanley Potter (then head of state services for the blind in Minnesota) had just established a radio reading service. To the best of my belief and knowledge it was the first in the nation, and its general pattern of operation is still the predominant form.

Each FM radio station has associated with it (don't ask me to give you the technicalities) what are called "subcarrier" channels. As I understand it, these channels can be used for broadcasting, but they cannot be heard on the regular FM radio receiver. To hear what is broadcast on a subcarrier channel requires specially tuned crystals—thus, a special receiver. These receivers are relatively inexpensive, and Mr. Potter was buying and distributing them to the blind of the area. The funds for the radio reading project came, I believe, from a private business foundation.

I went back to Des Moines, and the Iowa Commission for the Blind soon established a similar service, but not on a subcarrier channel. We made an agreement with the Des Moines school district to broadcast four hours a day (two in the morning and two in the afternoon) on its regular FM open channel, which could be picked up on any ordinary FM radio. As I remember it, this was 1970 or early '71; and as I also remember it, the Des Moines operation was the second radio reading service program in the nation. However, Mrs. Hurwitz tells me that she has always been under the impression that the Kansas program was the second in the nation. She says that the Kansas Audio Reader was established in October of 1971. As I say, I think this makes it third.

In Iowa we felt that the objectives of our program were somewhat different from those of the Minnesota operation. We did not want to commit major resources to radio reading since we felt that this would dilute what we were doing in the library. We wanted to read the local newspaper and give general information about blindness to members of the public who might tune in—that, and very little more. This meant that four or five hours a day would be all we would need.

The Minnesota program, on the other hand, was striving for a twenty-four-hour-a-day operation, which I believe it probably now has. In this format the reading of the newspaper would obviously not be sufficient to fill all of the time, so reading of other types was done—novels, short stories, magazines, and other material, as well as interviews and pickups from National Public Radio.

At the time of the inauguration of the Minnesota program in 1969, Federal Communications Commission rules tended to create a favorable climate for the establishment of "closed channel" (subcarrier) radio reading programs, and during the 1970's and early eighties such programs proliferated throughout the country. Today there are more than 100. Almost all of them were based on the Minnesota model, using subcarrier channels and special radio receivers.

With all of this activity there was, as one might expect, a move to form a national organization of radio reading service programs to deal collectively with common problems. According to Mrs. Hurwitz the first informal meeting was held in 1975 in Oklahoma City, and this was followed by a formal meeting in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1977. The Association of Radio Reading Services came into being, and (to no one's surprise) Stanley Potter was elected its first president. Not only was he the one who had started it all, but he was also generally liked throughout the field.

In those days (at least, compared to these) the problems were minimal. I heard a little run-of-the-mill growling about whether the American Foundation for the Blind was trying to "take over" the coordination of the radio reading services, and there were a few other such standard worries; but mostly it was business as usual—plans for new government support, a reasonably healthy economy, and bright prospects for the future.

By 1983 the outlook was different. Perhaps it all started with the federal budget crunch and the scramble to see what could be cut and where new sources of revenue could be found. Whatever the reason, the Federal Communications Commission was in a mood to give help to the public radio stations. Commerical FM stations had been able all along to use their subcarrier channels to increase their revenue. They could sell the space for private communication systems or whatever, but prior to 1983 noncommercial FM stations were not permitted to use their subcarrier channels to enhance revenue. Therefore, many of the public FM stations were not using their subcarrier channels and had been willing to make them available without charge to the radio reading services—though, according to Mrs. Hurwitz, rental fees were charged in certain instances.

Now the situation was different. Mrs. Hurwitz says that, after a good deal of negotiation and maneuver, the FCC promulgated a rule saying that from that time forward public FM stations could sell space on their subcarrier channels to enhance their revenue. But there were certain restrictions. If a radio reading service had already been receiving subcarrier space from an F.M. station, that station either had to continue providing the space or help the radio reading service get something equally good. There could be no diminution of either quantity or quality of service. If the station chose, it could (as had been the case all along) charge a rental fee for the space, but the rental fee could not exceed the "incremental" cost to the station—that is, the extra cost incurred by the station because of the operation of the radio reading service. Mrs. Hurwitz says that there is now a great deal of contention as to what constitutes "incremental" cost and that this is one of the problems which the radio reading services are facing.

But back to the 1983 rule of the FCC—a rule which is still in effect. If a public FM station is not selling any of the space on its subcarrier channels, Mrs. Hurwitz says that it may refuse to provide space to a radio reading service, but if the station is selling any of its subcarrier space, then it has the obligation either to provide appropriate space to the radio reading service or find such space on another channel—with the understanding, of course, that rental fees to cover "incremental" costs may be charged. To sweeten the pot for the public FM stations, the FCC in its 1983 rule broadened the band and gave each of them the potential for an extra subcarrier channel.

If all of this makes your head spin, it is hardly more complex than the politics of the radio reading service programs. Apparently the Association of Radio Reading Services (ARRS) established a national office in Dallas in 1983 or 1984. By that time Rosie Hurwitz had succeeded Stanley Potter as ARRS president. Terms of office are for two years, and the ARRS constitution imposes a two-term limit. Mrs. Hurwitz was elected in 1982 and left the presidency in 1986. Her successor is Barbara Wilson of the Rhode Island library for the blind.

The national ARRS office in Dallas was short-lived. I was told by a number of people that Mrs. Hurwitz (ARRS president) and the volunteer head of the Dallas office developed a strong dislike for each other and that Mrs. Hurwitz sent a truck to Dallas and brought the material from the national office back to her home base.

In 1986 another ARRS national office was established, this time in Washington, D.C.; but it, too, was short-lived. It closed its doors in the fall of 1987, giving as a reason the lack of funds. The head of this second national office was Bernard Posner, the retired executive staff member of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.

The director of one radio reading service program summed Mr. Posner up as follows: He didn't have any experience with radio reading services, and his prime interest was in coalitions of the handicapped, with a dash of public relations thrown in. The ARRS board wanted him to try to raise funds, but he either didn't want to or couldn't. At any rate the national office closed.

Under date of November 11, 1987, Mr. Posner and his administrative assistant, Irving Gertler, sent the following memorandum to the radio reading services throughout the country:

TO: All Radio Reading Services

FROM: National Office

SUBJ: Farewell

The National Office of the Association of Radio Reading Services will be closing its doors at the end of November. There are not enough funds to keep on operating.

Later on you will be hearing from Barbara Wilson, ARRS President, as to how you can get in touch with the Association after November.

Bernard Posner has been with the National Office since it first opened in March of 1986, as a volunteer National Director. Irv Gertler came along shortly afterwards—first as a volunteer, then as a paid Administrative Assistant.

ARRS has been like our offspring. We worried over it, we rejoiced in its achievements, our hearts broke over its failures, we watched it grow. And after November. . .nothing.

We have had an enriching year and a half. We have learned, we have grown. We are sad that it has come to an end. Thank you for your friendshiip and your support. We wish you success and happiness and fulfillment. . .all your days.

Bernard Posner
National Director

Irving Gertler
Administrative Assistant

P.S. As a going-away gesture, we are sending you, under separate cover, a flexible disc containing the U.S. Constitution plus Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents, thanks to the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. Hope you like it.

 

One of the principal ARRS services to its members has been the Tape Exchange program, by which individual radio reading services send to a national processing point taped material which they are willing to share. In turn, the tapes are duplicated and sent to other radio reading services. The Tape Exchange program is funded by a grant (said to be $75,000 per year) from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Tape Exchange program was formerly done by the people at the Kansas Audio Reader, but it has now been shifted to the Minnesota radio reading service. There are some interesting reasons given as to why this happened.

Mrs. Hurwitz retired (or was dismissed) late in 1986. From all indications the process was not simple. It is said that each and every one of her employees (six or seven) went to the university officials and said that either she or they must leave. The Audio Reader program is operated by the University of Kansas at Lawrence, and I was told that Mrs. Hurwitz was due for a five-year evaluation in late 1986, at just about the time her subordinates were complaining. I was also told that she was given the choice of taking retirement or being dismissed, that she "chose" retirement, that she left as of the end of December of 1986, and that she was paid through June of 1987, presumably using accumulated leave.

Mrs. Hurwitz may have lost out at the University of Kansas, but that did not necessarily mean that she had lost out with the members of the national board of ARRS. She was the contract officer for the Tape Exchange program, and I was told that the ARRS board said that there must be a contract officer at the location of the Tape Exchange program. Mrs. Hurwitz was out as director in Kansas; her successor was not (as one might have thought would be the case) asked to be the contract officer; and the ARRS board moved the program to Minnesota. So the $75,000, the jobs of the people involved, and whatever else went with the Tape Exchange program left Kansas and went north.

Some radio reading officials believe that Mrs. Hurwitz used her influence to cause the shift to be made. It is said that she has little affection for the University of Kansas and scarcely more for her successor, David Andrews, who worked under her supervision at the Kansas program in the early eighties. It is also said that Minnesota is having trouble operating the Tape Exchange program and that members of the ARRS board have privately admitted that the shift from Kansas was political in nature and unfortunate in its consequences. Regardless of all of this, Mrs. Hurwitz is no longer on the ARRS board and says that she is taking no part in current radio reading service activities.

But there is more to the tangled story of radio reading. It is shown in the following series of letters:

 

The Washington Ear, Inc.
A Radio Reading Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
A Non-Profit Corporation
Silver Spring, Maryland

October 8, 1987

Frank Kurt Cylke
Director
National Library Service f/t Blind
Washington, D.C.

Dear Kurt:

In response to our telephone conversation this afternoon, I am writing to ask you for your reaction to an item which, according to Barbara Wilson, President of the Association of Radio Reading Services, will be on the agenda of their next board meeting scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. October 30th through November 1st.

Certain members of the ARRS board as well as Bernie Posner, their national director, believe that it would be to the benefit of radio reading services to promote their use for illiterates together with the blind and handicapped. They believe it would increase the numbers of people using the services thus adding to the importance of the movement, that it would strengthen the Association and they hope would lead to wider sources of funds. I have even heard it rumored that some would promote the use for illiterates as the primary target group, but I am not certain of this. In any case, they are definitely entertaining the idea of linking the two groups together.

The Washington Ear is deeply concerned for several reasons. To begin with, illiterates should learn to read and should not use a reading service as a kind of crutch. In addition, I believe copyright regulations prohibit the reading of books, magazines, and newspapers over the air to illiterates or anyone else without first seeking clearance. The copyright privileges which we fought so hard to achieve in 1976 apply only to the blind and handicapped.

Finally, I strongly believe that linking the blind and visually limited to illiterates is demeaning and would place an extra burden on the blind, who already have an image problem with the general public. I also doubt that this link would increase funding or volunteer support. It would have the reverse effect.

Kathy Kielich, our executive director, and I have been given time on their agenda 10:30 a.m. on Saturday the 31st. At that time I will present our views to the ARRS board, and I would like to be able also to present a letter from you outlining your objections to this issue. I believe, if at all possible, it would be best to defeat this issue on the board level before it would be taken to the membership at their next annual conference in Omaha next spring. I think at best it could be very confusing to many people connected with the organization who know little about work for the blind, and it would more than likely prove to be disruptive. . . .

Sincerely yours,

Margaret R. Pfanstiehl, Ed.D.
President

 

The Library of Congress
Washington, D.C.

October 14, 1987

Dear Margaret:

I am writing in response to your letter of October 8 in which you ask what our reaction would be to the combining of service to blind and physically handicapped individuals with service to illiterates.

In sum I do not perceive that such a merging would be desirable or useful. Blind and physically handicapped individuals would not benefit from association with the concept of illiteracy if only for the fact that as an identifiable group of the general population they are the most widely read. I concur that a link would be demeaning and help in creating an undeserved and undesirable image.

Sincerely yours,

Frank Kurt Cylke, Director
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

cc: Kenneth Jernigan, NFB

 

Association of Radio Reading Services, Inc.
Serving the Blind and Handicapped
Washington, D.C.

November 4, 1987

F. Kurt Cylke, Director
National Library Service f/t Blind and Physically Handicapped
Washington, D.C.

Dear Kurt:

As you are aware, the Association of Radio Reading Services held a Board meeting recently in Washington, D.C. One of the items on our agenda, originally scheduled on the last day along with future goals and plans, was the issue of illiteracy and radio reading services.

At our last Annual Conference, one of the speakers suggested we look at this area as a possible means of expanding our service and increasing funding. However, it had not been discussed at all at the Board level. At the request of Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl, President of the Washington Ear, Inc., we scheduled a time for her to address the Board and air her concerns although I informed her that we had not discussed it as yet. We were a little non-plused to learn that she had contacted you, the American Council of the Blind, and the American Foundation for the Blind protesting our "idea of linking the two groups together." No such plan had ever been entertained by ARRS nor will be in the future.

After hearing Dr. Pfanstiehl's presentation and after a brief discussion, the Board moved to send a policy statement to all radio reading services citing our statement of purpose which is based on copyright permission for non-dramatic works and does not include illiterates but does include persons with learning disabilities who are unable to use print material.

I hope this clarifies ARRS's position regarding service to illiterates. I do feel radio reading services complement the library service by bringing current local news in depth and magazine articles not available to them otherwise.

We look forward to developing more services nationwide and encouraging listeners to take an active part in their communities. I feel we have a common goal in improving the quality of life of visually and physically impaired persons.

Sincerely yours,

Barbara L. Wilson, President

 

The Washington Ear, Inc.
Silver Spring, Maryland

November 4, 1987

Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke
Director
National Library Service f/t Blind
Washington, D.C.

Dear Kurt:

I am pleased to tell you that the board of the Association of Radio Reading Services at its October 31 board meeting voted to reaffirm its commitment to the blind, visually limited, and those prevented from reading ordinary print matter because of a physical disability.

It is my understanding that you will receive a letter from Barbara Wilson, the president of ARRS, confirming the organization's intent to continue to direct all its efforts towards serving the same groups they always have since the inception of the Association.

You will also receive a letter from Bernie Posner, the national coordinator for the Association. He states that he never advocated including illiterates in the target group which ARRS serves. This is contrary to what we have heard. However, it is now a moot point since the Association has decided to close its national office in Washington, D.C. at the end of this month due to lack of funds. They wisely decided to direct their dwindling resources to support the Tape Exchange in Minnesota.

The decision of the board was definitely influenced by your letter and the other two which were presented at the meeting. The board stated that it never intended to include illiterates among listeners of radio reading services. What really matters is that ARRS will continue to serve the same groups it always had. I believe a potentially disruptive situation has been avoided. . . .

Sincerely yours,

Margaret R. Pfanstiehl, Ed.D.
President

 

Association of Radio Reading Services, Inc.
Washington, D.C.

November 4, 1987

Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke, Director
National Library Service f/t Blind
Washington, D.C.

Dear Kurt:

I just learned about the letter of October 8 that Margaret Pfanstiehl wrote to you regarding opening up radio reading services to the nation's illiterates.

My bridgework almost dropped out when I was supposedly one of the prime movers in this new direction.

Nothing could be further from truth. I never have and I never will support such a move. Further, I don't make policy for the Association; I merely carry out its wishes.

I don't know where she got such a notion, but it isn't so.

With all best wishes.

Bernard Posner

National Director

 

Despite Posner's protestations, many (including Mrs. Hurwitz) say that they have no doubt about the fact that he had meant to add illiterates to the radio reading population.

In view of all of this background one has to wonder what the future holds for radio reading. With the problems of technology and subcarrier channels, the internal politics and infighting, and today's budget restrictions it is clear that there will be substantial difficulties. In the final analysis, however, none of these considerations will be controlling. The decision concerning the future of radio reading will be made by the blind. It will depend on whether they believe the program is basic or peripheral, substance or fluff.

 

BLIND PEOPLE IN BRITAIN

by Ian Bruce

(From the Editor: Ian Bruce is Director General of the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London. When I was in England in the fall of 1987 to attend the meeting of the officers of the World Blind Union, I had a number of conversations with Mr. Bruce and asked him to write an article for the Braille Monitor. He said that he would, and here it is.)

I was delighted when Dr. Jernigan invited me to send an article for your magazine. Although I have not had a lot of contact with the National Federation of the Blind, I have watched your organization and its work from afar over the last four years, and so I welcome this opportunity to tell you something of the position of blind people in Britain today.

In this article I shall try to describe who the visually handicapped people in Britain are; what their position is; what specific services are available; which organizations of and for the blind are active; and, in particular, what the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) does.

Who Are Britain's Visually Handicapped People?

The RNIB estimates that there are some 300,000 blind and partially sighted people in the United Kingdom, which has a total population of about fifty-five million; but only about three-quarters of these will be formally registered as blind or partially sighted. Your definition of blindness in the United States is somewhat wider than ours and, very roughly, includes those people we would identify as partially sighted. Eligibility for registration is assessed in the main on measurement of visual acuity and field of vision. For example, one is eligible to be registered as blind if he or she has very low visual acuity (Snellen level 3/60 or less) but has a full visual field or has slightly better visual acuity (Snellen level 3/60 up to 6/60) and severely restricted field.

The majority of blind people are elderly. Three quarters are over retirement age, and approximately sixty percent are over seventy-five.

What Is Their Position?

While income, employment, and housing are not the only important things in a person's life, they do loom large. Visually handicapped people are among the poorest in Britain. Approximately one-third of the blind people in the United Kingdom receive Social Security; one-third do not receive Social Security but have income levels below the tax threshold; and the remaining third pay taxes. There is no specific State benefit given on account of blindness alone, which is unlike many other countries in Europe. However, the poorest blind people in our country are eligible (as a right) to receive Social Security.

Turning now to employment, there are no firm figures, but the RNIB estimates that the unemployment rate among visually handicapped persons is approximately three times as high as the rate for sighted persons. My guess is that this would be about an average position in Western Europe, but in Eastern Europe unemployment rates among visually handicapped people are extremely low because of special State employment schemes.

As far as housing is concerned here in the United Kingdom, I have no detailed figures, but I would guesstimate that blind people have a better than average chance to live in State-provided housing (which is about one-third of the country's housing) if they are not living in their own houses. Under eligibility for access to State housing, blind people score high on eligibility criteria and will normally gain ready access.

What Are The Specific Services For Blind People?

I would like to turn now more specifically to various services crucial to severely handicapped people in our country. The majority of such services are run and delivered by central or local government and only a minority by the nonprofit sector. I have already mentioned State employment and housing services.

In our country the structure and resources devoted to helping visually handicapped people find work are quite impressive even if they fall down quite often in the practical setting. At the Job Centers, which is what we call places where unemployed people can learn about job vacancies, there are special staff designated to help disabled people in general and blind people in particular. Also, there is a Government Scheme on a permanent basis to lend technical aids required by blind people in order to do their jobs properly. This Scheme is administered by the RNIB and means that if it is clear that a severely visually handicapped person needs a particular technical aid in order to do a job, he or she should get that item of equipment up to a limit of around $10,000. In addition, newly blind adults get special employment assessment and rehabilitation.

Social Services (and, in particular, rehabilitation services) are provided by local government Social Workers in the main. There is a wide range of service design, but a common method of provision is through two kinds of workers, Mobility Officers and Technical Officers. The former, as their name implies, train newly blinded people in mobility skills, particularly using long canes. Technical officers tend to concentrate on developing and enhancing daily living skills. However, a recent study by the Royal National Institute for the Blind concluded that three-quarters of Social Services across the country provided for blind people were not up to the standard we feel is necessary.

Ophthalmology services are almost exclusively delivered through our National Health Service and are available free to anyone in need. However, in comparison with other major medical specialties, waiting lists for ophthalmology appointments are among the longest. Also, our provision and training in the field of low vision aids leave a lot to be desired in many parts of the country.

As for education services, the majority of these for blind young people are delivered by nonprofit organizations rather than local State education services. The split of provision is roughly fifty-fifty if one looks at partially sighted students. Around ninety percent of blind young people up to the age of sixteen are educated in separate special schools for the blind, the majority being residential and run by nonprofit organizations. After sixteen (especially after eighteen) the pattern changes, and the majority of blind and partially sighted students who go on to higher education do so in mainstream universities, polytechnics, and colleges. Even though the nonprofit organizations provide education for younger people, the schools are of course inspected by the national Department of Education and Science; and the fees involved (sometimes up to $30,000 per annum) are paid on behalf of the family by the local government Education Department.

Organizations of and for Blind People

I don't know whether you use these terms in the United States, but in the United Kingdom we distinguish between organizations "of" and organizations "for" the blind. The two largest organizations of the blind are the National League of the Blind and Disabled and the National Federation of the Blind. The former (with around 3,500 members) is a long-established trade union, a Member of the Trade Union Congress, and affiliated with the Labor Party. The National Federation of the Blind (whose then President, David Mann, addressed your Louisville convention in 1985) is smaller, having around 1,000 members and having no links with any political party. Both organizations are very active in pressing for the rights of visually handicapped people in the United Kingdom. In addition, there is a wide range of other organizations of the blind, in the main focusing around particular areas of interest, e.g. computer programming, physiotherapy, chess, bowls, sports in general, piano tuning, office working, etc.

The three largest organizations for the blind in the United Kingdom are the Royal National Institute for the Blind, with an expenditure approaching $50 million per year; Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, with $17 million per year expenditure; and St. Dunstan's for the War Blind, spending approximately $5 million per year. There are quite a few other semi-national and local voluntary societies for the blind, but I think that I am right in saying that the Royal National Institute for the Blind is the only organization in the United Kingdom where organizations of the blind have significant representation as a right.

Royal National Institute for the Blind

The RNIB is governed by a lay Executive Council of ninety-six people, which splits up into six main Standing Committees which make policy on the main areas of work of the organization. Fifty-four of the ninety-six members are blind; and of these, thirty are there as of right, representing organizations of blind people. For example, the National League of the Blind and Disabled appoints eight representatives, and the National Federation of the Blind appoints six representatives. The remaining sixteen members are the representatives of other organizations of blind people. Not only are the majority of seats on the Executive Council held by blind people, but all chair and vice chair positions on the main Standing Committees (except one) are held by blind people. So even though the RNIB is an organization "for" the blind, you can see that blind people have a majority say, and it is a fair comment that the organizations of blind people are the most powerful and coherent group within the policy-making forum. The sighted members come from a number of relevant constituencies such as local and central government, local societies for the blind, other national organizations for the blind, etc.

To run its service the RNIB has 1,700 paid staff and over 10,000 volunteers. Approximately ten percent of the paid staff are blind. The RNIB runs approximately fifty different services in thirty-four different locations across the United Kingdom. Broadly speaking, these services can be divided into three main operational areas, which coincide with the main operating Divisions of the organization.

The Education and Leisure Division runs nine schools and colleges, covering children of all ages—singly handicapped blind people and multi-handicapped blind young people, further education, and a college of physiotherapy. In addition, the Division gives support and advice to mainstream education facilities which have blind or partially sighted students. The Leisure Unit concentrates particularly on encouraging and supporting sports and arts activities.

The Vocational and Social Services Division covers employment and social services. In particular we have twelve Employment Officers across the country helping the State employment agencies to place visually handicapped people in work. Also, there is an Employment Development Unit researching new job areas, developing and monitoring technical equipment of use to blind people, and trying to open up new job areas. The Social Services side runs a consultancy service for local government social service departments to help them improve their practice, and runs three hotels for blind people and four residential homes for elderly blind people—especially the deaf-blind.

The Technical and Consumer Services Division runs our Braille service (we are the largest Braille publishers in Europe); runs our various tape services, including talking books (we lend over two million books each year to our library's 66,000 members); sells $4 million worth of technical aids each year; and has an active program of technical assessment and development of new aids.

The Finance and Administration Division covers many of the functions of a corporate nature, such as Personnel, Finance, etc.

The fifth Division of RNIB is called External Relations and in essence covers fundraising and social action campaign work. We have become much more active recently in our social action campaigning, cooperating with organizations of the blind on joint campaigns. We have two full-time staff who work exclusively on Parliamentary activity, where all the key legislation is considered. Examples of recent campaigns include our successful opposition to the introduction of single size bank notes and the ultimate rejection of a special tax on audio tape. Unfortunately we have been less successful in our income campaign.

You might be wondering where our money comes from! Very roughly, forty percent comes from fees and charges paid for, in the main, by central and local government on behalf of individual blind people; forty percent comes from legacies; ten percent comes from interest on investment; six percent comes from payments made by blind people for the technical aids we sell, albeit at a two-thirds discount; and four percent comes from fundraising activities at the local level.

RNIB's Future

I do not want to leave you with the impression that we are complacent or self-satisfied. We are not. Over the last three years we have actively reviewed three-quarters of RNIB services within the framework of newly developed policy guidelines on the way the organization should be developing over the next decade. Examples of these policy guidelines include the need for us to listen more carefully to the views of blind customers; the need to be more active in our social action campaign; the need to promote our services to visually handicapped peple more successfully; and the need to support more local service delivery. For the last three years we have been one of the fastest growing United Kingdom nonprofit organizations. Indeed, we are the third largest internal United Kingdom service delivery charity. We intend to keep developing over the next few years although that will be hard work, because over the last eight months our legacy income has dropped quite significantly. However, we are actively seeking out new sources of income.

The RNIB was founded in 1868 by a blind surgeon. Its early services were not decided by sighted people but by taking evidence from blind people. That is a tradition we intend to maintain and extend so that RNIB work will become more extensive and more relevant to visually handicapped people, now and into the next century.

 

ON THE NATURE OF BEING AN EDITOR

December 18, 1987

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Last May I sent you a proclamation by the Mayor of our city declaring May, 1987, as National Federation of the Blind Month in ---. I enclosed a photo of the Mayor holding the proclamation and surrounded by members of our chapter. Did you not receive this letter from me? We were hoping that you would include the proclamation and the photo in the Monitor.

Sincerely,

 

Baltimore, Maryland

December 22, 1987

Dear ---:

This will reply to and thank you for your letter of December 18, 1987, in which you say that you sent me a proclamation from the Mayor of ---, (complete with photo) declaring May, 1987, NFB Month in ---. You say that you and others had hoped that the proclamation and photo would be included in the Monitor, and you go on to ask whether I received the material, perhaps implying that surely I would have printed it if I had got it.

The truth is that I don't remember whether I received the material or not, but I probably did. I would imagine that I get from twelve to twenty such packets each month. If I printed all of them, it would be self-defeating, for people would stop reading any of them. Then, one may ask, why print any at all?

It is somewhat like putting salt and pepper on eggs. A little may spice up the product, but a whole box will be thoroughly distasteful. So the question arises: How do I determine which ones to use? After all, proclamations differ from pepper and salt, in that (unlike the uniformity of the grains) each differs. Perhaps a given proclamation is particularly well worded and could be used as a model for other chapters and state affiliates throughout the country. Perhaps it is part of a pattern of state and local activity which shows a high level of work in the state. Perhaps it is from a state or chapter that has not had a history of getting such things done, and this is a way of giving recognition and encouragement. Perhaps it gives geographic balance and spread to a particular issue of the Monitor. Perhaps it provides counterpoint to other items in the issue. Perhaps it arrived in the National Office first and is already typeset, and another proclamation would be duplicative. Perhaps it gets here several months after it occurs, so late that it begins to lose its timeliness. Perhaps it comes at a time when other stories of more importance are breaking, which simply crowd it out. Or (hardest to defend but at least as important as anything else in the whole mix if a magazine is to be ongoing, dynamic, and influential) perhaps it simply strikes the editor wrong, being vetoed by his intuition, or right, being given a go signal. For any one, or any combination, of these reasons a proclamation (or any other article) may be used or put aside. This is what editing is all about—and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

So yes, I probably got your proclamation but didn't decide to use it. As to why, I haven't the faintest idea. But whatever you do, don't stop sending material to the Monitor. Next time it may be yours that is used and somebody else who is wondering why.

Cordially,

Kenneth Jernigan

Executive Director

National Federation of the Blind

 

JIM OMVIG LEAVES ALASKA

by Kay Porth

(Kay Porth is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Alaska.)

On September 15, 1987, Jim Omvig resigned his position as Director of Alaska's Center for Blind and Deaf Adults because of ill health. Mr. Omvig went to Alaska in the fall of 1984 to head up what was then known as the Sensory Impairment Center—an agency which provided prevocational training on a daytime basis only for blind or deaf adults.

When Mr. Omvig arrived, the agency was underfunded, understaffed, and blind or deaf Alaskans were receiving virtually no services. In three short years the budget was doubled, the staff was greatly expanded, a new residential center for the blind was established, new space was secured for services for the deaf, and the agency became an independent entity and changed its name to reflect more accurately what it does. The quality of services was markedly improved.

In the fall of 1985 Mr. Omvig began to experience intense back, rib, and neck pain along with numbness in the legs, feet, arms, and hands. The balance mechanism in the inner ear was also affected. After numerous tests, doctors determined that the spinal deterioration which was causing the back pain and numbness was also causing nerve damage to the point that the adrenal gland was not functioning properly and was hindering the body from absorbing vitamins and nutrients. After various types of treatment, the doctors determined that because of the nature of Mr. Omvig's illness, it was imperative that he retire.

The following newspaper article appeared in the Anchorage Daily News on October 1, 1987:

Illness Forces Omvig to Resign

James Omvig, director of the Louise Rude Center for Blind and Deaf Adults, has been forced to resign his position immediately due to illness. Omvig served as head of the center since October, 1984, when a small cottage on the grounds of the Alaska Treatment Center was the organization's entire operation. He has been credited with developing the center into a new residential training facility in Spenard, and the Center for Deaf Adults and the Anchorage Interpreter Referral Line have a new location on East Fourth Avenue. The agency's board of directors has appointed Omvig's assistant, Donald L. Stiffler, as acting director while a nationwide search is conducted for a replacement. Omvig has also resigned his volunteer position as president of the International Air Crossroads Lions Club and as a board member of the Anchorage Community College Advisory Board and Very Special Arts Alaska. He and his wife Sharon plan to move to Arizona, where Jim will undertake physical rehabilitation.

On October 10 a farewell dinner was held to honor Mr. Omvig. Approximately 175 Federationists, staff, students, former students, community leaders, politicians, and friends gathered for the celebration.

 

RUTH WHELAN DIES

by Mary Ellen Reihing

On Wednesday, December 30, 1987, Ruth Whelan (President of the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware) died of a massive heart attack. I will miss her. So will everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. But she shared her spirit so deeply that it has become a part of all of us. The blind of Delaware have more opportunities today than ever before because Ruth Whelan was among us. It would be hard to think of a better legacy.

When I heard of Ruth's death, I thought back to my first contact with her. Early in 1980 Ruth read an article in the Dover, Delaware, newspaper about the Job Opportunities for the Blind program, and she wasted no time in contacting the National Office of the Federation. She attended a JOB seminar at the National Center for the Blind and quickly discovered that she had found others who shared her positive beliefs about blindness.

Ruth had been blind for ten years. She had been victimized by society's negative attitudes and knew there must be something better. She began seeking blind people in the Dover area and organized them into a group which met weekly. They talked about problems and did things together to build their confidence. Helpful and supportive as these meetings were, Ruth always sensed that there could be something more.

While she was at the National Center, she began reading NFB material and asking questions of long-time Federationists. Before she returned to Delaware, she realized that the Federation could change a good support group into an excellent vehicle for collective action.

Her enthusiasm was contagious, and it was not very long before the Dover chapter of the NFB of Delaware was organized. Federationists in the Wilmington Chapter eagerly welcomed the spread of Federationism throughout the state. A special statewide convention was held in 1982 to adopt a constitution, plan for expanded activity, and elect officers. Ruth was elected president.

I began working closely with her in the winter of 1983 when the Sussex County Chapter was organized. The temperature outside was around seven degrees, and Ruth had a high fever, which signaled the beginning of a bout with the flu. Nevertheless, she attended the organizing meeting and helped bring the chapter into being.

I have been a guest in the Whelan home on several occasions.

Ruth and her mother, Edith Moller, knew the meaning of welcome. I remember sitting at their kitchen table, drinking coffee until three in the morning and planning strategy for a Social Security appeal, which eventually resulted in seven thousand dollars in back SSI payments for a blind woman who had been unfairly denied benefits.

Ruth understood that the road from fear and dependence to self-confidence and freedom was not always clear. She challenged herself to do more, whether the obstacle was persuading a U.S. Senator or mastering a personal skill.

One day, at a national convention, I came upon Ruth at the foot of an escalator. "I haven't used escalators for years, but if other blind people can do it, so can I," she said in a determined voice. "It's not that I have to prove anything; I'm just sick and tired of waiting for the elevator." When I offered to show her a way to use her cane to keep track of the escalator's motion, she thanked me and quietly explained her problem. Diabetic neuropathy had destroyed the feeling in her legs up to the knees. She had to learn a new way to keep her balance. The next time I saw her, I was following her down the escalator.

In the spring of 1987, Ruth learned that she had congestive heart failure. The doctors told her that nothing more could be done medically. With her characteristic quiet courage, Ruth intensified the training of her successor.

That successor (and our new NFB of Delaware President) is Debbie Briddell. Debbie is a bright, energetic, committed Federationist. She earns her living teaching young blind children, and she gives them far more than training in basic skills. She understands that blindness does not have to be a tragedy. The difference between hope and despair is the support and encouragement we give one another. Debbie Briddell combines love for her fellow blind with a willingness to work hard. It is no wonder that Ruth Whelan was at peace when she thought about Debbie's becoming President of the NFB of Delaware.

So Ruth (my friend and the President of the NFB of Delaware) is gone, but her memory and the effects of her love and dedication remain. I will miss her greatly, and so will all of those who knew her.

 

LOVE, DATING, AND MARRIAGE: BLIND CHILDREN GROW UP AND BECOME PARENTS, TOO

by Barbara Pierce

(This article is taken from remarks made by Barbara Pierce on June 27, 1987, at a seminar for parents of blind children at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Phoenix, Arizona. Mrs. Pierce is the Assistant Director of the Alumni Association of Oberlin College and is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.)

I truly believe that the only people who maintain that they would gladly relive those vital, exciting, youthful years of their teens over again are the ones who can't remember the details. I see that all of you had adolescences just like mine—agonizing. I have great news for those of you who are parents of younger kids. I tell you as the parent of (count them) three teenagers, that parenthood of teenagers is just like being a teenager all over again, with all of the pain and agony except that you're doing it vicariously; and, therefore, you can't do anything overt to be helpful at the time. All you can do is sit and suffer.

I will go on to say that every kid that ever lived through those teenage years had the conception that he or she was an ugly, clumsy misfit, who never knew the right thing to do and was never going to be picked to be married to anybody and would always be counted on to fall over his or her feet. At least, sometimes that's the way every kid feels about himself or herself.

Blind kids are no different from any others in feeling that way. The manifestation of those anxieties and fears may be somewhat different sometimes. But the underlying feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty is, I think, the same for all adolescents. And I think it's particularly important that parents of blind children hang on to that sense—that fundamentally you have in your background the experience (the reservoir) of those same kinds of feelings. It's not helpful ever as a parent to say, "I know just how you're feeling." Because every kid is reinventing the wheel and is the first one ever to agonize. But, at least, remember that even when you feel most at sea about whether or not you have anything really to communicate with your youngster about because of the peculiar circumstances of the situation, you've got the emotional underpinnings of it.

I would say that from the early stages (but it is particularly necessary when you are dealing with teenagers) it is critically important that you make sure that they have good role models. You must see to it that blind teenagers meet and get to know and establish friendships with competent, articulate, successful blind adults. It's important that blind kids know that it's possible to grow up to be a really normal human being who does know which fork to use at dinner, who does remember to put his napkin in his lap, who does know what to do in an awkward social situation. It does happen. A lot of us as kids were really bereft of that sort of experience. I truly grew up throughout the early part of my teenage years really having a conviction deep down inside of me that I would never marry. Who would want to marry a blind girl? I was the only blind person I had ever known. I had seen a few blind people selling pencils on streets and playing the accordian in various places in Pittsburgh, and I was quite certain that if one grew up to be like that, I knew nobody would want to marry a blind girl. I wasn't sure that I ever would grow up to be the kind of person that some other human being would elect to spend a life with. So that's why I think role models are terribly important.

The next thing that I would say is that you need to start early. Again, I go back to what one of the previous speakers said. It's hard sometimes to take the time to make the kid pour his or her own bowl of cereal, but you've got to start early teaching a youngster responsibility. How are you ever going to have a teenager who is going to care about the state of his clothing and remember to wash her hair every night or every other night or remember to pick up things and be neat about their lives so that they're acceptable to other people if you haven't started early training that youngster to tie shoes neatly, to tie a tie, and to do all the things that go into civilizing the young of the species? You just have to start early.

You also need to teach social skills. I may be getting into deep water here, but I think social skills are terribly important. It is not an easy thing to do, and in part it is not an easy thing to do because you are dealing with a teenage culture which is different from an adult culture. You don't want to turn your kid into a little Lord Fauntleroy at the age of ten, always wearing a perfect little suit. But it is important, for example, that blind youngsters who do not have any vision at all be trained in the importance of looking at the people they are talking to. It is disconcerting to anyone to have a blind person stand and talk to him or her three-quarters turned away—especially if that person happens to be sighted. It is terribly important that you teach those things. Nobody's going to want to go out on a date with somebody who's not paying any attention to them. You communicate to a sighted person that you're paying attention to them by looking at them, for heaven sakes.

You teach a blind kid the importance of standing up straight and holding the head up straight. Again, with some kids it is a harder struggle than with others. I don't know whether it would have been a hard struggle for my parents. They managed to do it in a way that I think was positively ingenious. I am not a small woman. I'm five seven and a half, but I'm the shortest one in my family. From the time I was a kid, any time my father measured us to see how tall we were, he went through this song and dance of, "Well, you're getting there. You're not there yet. But if you stand up straight, you'll be a little closer to being there." My mother's five eight. He said, "The only problem with your mother is she's not tall enough."

I've never asked them whether, in fact, they ever did this consciously, but several times in my childhood I have a vivid memory of running along in front of my parents and hearing my mother just sort of comment to my father, "Look how straight she stands. When I was a kid, I was so self-conscious about my height that I slumped, but she stands beautifully." Now, that was not directed to me. It was pointedly directed at someone else, but little pitchers have big ears. I heard and understood and was motivated to stand straighter—to keep my head up, to look up.

Another thing that I think is terribly important for children to learn is to eat with good table manners. I will never forget one of my brief sorties into a residential school for the blind. I was to be tested as a junior in high school. They couldn't find an IQ test that I didn't top out of, so they were doing some special oral test that could only be given by the psychologist at the school for the blind. He tested me all morning long. Then, he said, "I've got to go teach a class, and I wonder whether you'd be willing to come in (these are seventh and eighth graders) and talk to them since you are in a public high school, and some of these kids will be going to public high school. Just talk to them about what it's like to be in a public high school."

So, I went in and talked to them. And just in passing: I had a friend who had moved to a different school district, and there was a blind girl in the school district; and Betsy had told me that the kids would grab this child up and haul her through the cafeteria line, and then they'd plop her down at a table and go off somewhere else. This poor kid sat at a table all by herself in a crowded lunchroom because her table manners were so appalling that no one of those kids (and you know what kids' table manners are like) wanted to sit and watch her eat her lunch. Now, those were appalling table manners. Having that in my background, I simply happened to mention to these kids how important it was not to hunker down over your lunch and sort of shovel it in as though you were in mainland China with your bowl of rice and your chopsticks (where that's the approved manner of eating) but that it was important to use your fork and knife correctly and to put your napkin in your lap and to remember to use it—not to eat coleslaw with your fingers, and all these little details of life that do alienate other people when they have to sit and watch it. Anybody who has lived through getting a toddler to eat is pretty hardened to bizarre table manners. Some of us don't ever raise the standard again with a blind child. I think it's really important that that standard be raised.

It's important that a kid be taught the elements of neatness. You can't live the kid's life and go running around tucking the shirt tail in at the age of twenty-three, but at least it's important to give the kind of feedback that says: A neat appearance is important. A clean appearance is important. We must check your clothing at the end of the day to see if it's got spots that need to be treated. If you don't see well enough to observe those things yourself, it's going to be important that you line up somebody who will look for spots and help treat them with spot cleaner. It's important that clothing be clean. It's important that you be clean. It's important that, after a certain age, you use deodorant. It's important that a teenager learn that hair must not be washed just once a week but, depending on how oily the hair is and how exuberant those oil glands are, the hair be washed frequently. Styling is going to be important. Girls have got to learn about appropriate application of makeup. Both sexes have to learn what colors look best on them. These are things that are important for a kid to learn and for a parent to take responsibility for seeing that the kid learns—whether or not they are done by the parent or by someone else.

I guess the other thing I'd say is that it's important to try to teach a child to be genuinely interested in other people. People who are totally preoccupied with themselves and their difficulties are not very pleasant to be around. It's easy for blind kids to trip out on this because everybody's always wandering up to them and telling them (just because they have mastered tying their shoes) that they're just wonderful and inspiring and all of that. Kids can get very caught up in, "Everybody's interested in me." Everybody may pretend to be, but not everybody is—and certainly not all of the time. It's important that kids learn to be interested in other people and learn the conversational gambits of asking good questions to elicit information about other people.

Today's dating patterns, I think, do make it easier for blind kids to date. When I was a teenager, the girls sat around chewing their fingernails hoping that somebody would ask them out, and the boys sat around chewing their fingernails wondering if they were going to get kicked in the teeth if they asked a girl out. It was generally a sort of mystifying and pretty uncomfortable situation, because there was always pairing off or pairing off in multiples of two. Now it's different. My own daughters go out in a gang, and some people will start out together and others will end together. Some of them are just sort of there as part of the group. That sort of group activity is, I think, extremely helpful to a blind kid. Encourage your youngster to participate in that kind of activity. I'm going to give you the "Pierce Plan" for socialization. This is the one that I developed as a kid, because I rapidly learned that the girl who had no experience got no experience. It's that catch twenty-two of getting a job. We want to hire people who have had jobs, but how do you get hired for a job unless you've had a job? You've got the same sort of thing for a youngster. So you get the experience in a group, and then you start dropping references. "We saw this neat movie last night." So maybe it registers in the mind of someone that, "Gee, that kid might be blind but I guess goes to movies—must be all right to go to a movie." Or, "You know, there was this terrific wrestling match we had out on the lawn, and I got covered with grass stains." Teach kids to drop hints to let other people know that they're human—that they do these things like everybody else does, that they have fun, that they don't break, that they participate wholly in activities. You need to be the person to encourage that kind of dropping of references.

Basically I would say that the more comfortable the kid is with being blind, the more comfortable everybody around him or her is going to be. Whether or not the kid is comfortable with blindness in the first instance comes back to whether you are. At least, the younger they are, the more that is likely to be true. That's why it's really good that you're here—that you're here among blind people, that you're here openly talking about blindness. I have the two most terrific parents in the world, but my mother (when I was a kid) would have died rather than openly to confess to anybody that she had a blind child. So I always knew that it was important that we pretend that I wasn't blind, which was a little tricky as I began using a white cane and Braille. I had to hide the stylus. I had this nifty place behind the sofa where I scooted the cane as soon as I came in the front door so that she didn't have to see it.

Even if a kid isn't fully comfortable, the kid is always capable of pretending that he or she has things under control. There was my physics class in high school. We had physics groups, and they put me in a group that had my brother in it, for one thing. (I'm sure that the teacher thought that he could take care of me, but I was the senior. He was the junior, so I had to keep him in line.) But this real hunk of a guy was in this group as well, and I didn't know how I could pull my weight. I couldn't read the slide rules. I decided to take as my turf knowing what was supposed to be happening. I laid it out to these people:

"Look," I said, "I can't do a bunch of this kind of stuff that needs to be done, because it's real close work, and I just can't see it. But I will undertake to have studied the experiment the night before in the lab manual and know enough about what's going on in the textbook so that I can keep us straight on what we're supposed to be getting—not that we're going to cook the numbers, but at least we keep trying until we have them right." I came to terms with what I could do, and I went and did it. That guy turned out to be my passport into the world of dating.

Let me talk about whether a blind person should date another blind person or someone who is sighted. I think there are good and bad reasons for doing either one. And there are advantages and disadvantages to doing either. The advantage to dating somebody that's sighted is that the world is mostly made up of sighted people. Therefore, you have a larger pool of people to draw from. At least, theoretically, it ought to be easier to date a sighted person. The wrong reason for dating a sighted person is because that person can take care of you or will keep you safe. I have to tell you that that's the most appealing reason for most parents—especially of daughters, because what they really want is somebody that's going to make sure that nothing happens to their little girl—and can a blind guy keep her safe? There are all sorts of pitfalls to avoid—whether your male companion is sighted or blind. So you just sort of take your chances. I would say that the disadvantage in a blind person's dating another blind person is being sort of stereotyped. You (and others) may think you're not good enough to do anything else. Of course, that's predicated on the notion that blind people are inferior. That is a bad reason for dating a blind person—the concept that one is lowering one's sights to a narrow group of people. Incidentally, it is a bad idea to limit yourself arbitrarily to any narrow group. It would, for instance, be dumb to date only redheads. But there is this sort of general feeling that—as one of the previous speakers put it— you can relate to other blind people. To which I say, "Well, bully." I want the next generation of blind kids to grow up so emotionally healthy and tough-minded that there simply won't be any question of whether anybody needs to relate to somebody else personally because he or she is blind. The good reason for dating a blind person (and candidly the reason that I wish I had dated some blind people, except I didn't know any until I had already been married and had three children) is that it really does engender a kind of independence. You can't be taken care of, and just sort of cling to the arm of your date for the evening if both of you are blind. You had both bloody well better be caning. You can hang on, but cane, too. It does foster independence. And I think that is a really good thing for a blind kid to experience. I would say that a blind person should always cane on a date with a sighted person, and I mean more than just taking your cane along. I mean use it. Don't fold it up and put it away. Use it. I would say it takes maturity for a sighted person to date a blind person and to feel comfortable with that person.

I would warn you parents that there are an awful lot of sighted people out there who are looking either for a mother or for somebody to take care of them—or who are looking for somebody to mother. Such persons tend to home in on blind people. And you just have to depend on raising your kids so healthily that they will pass through that period and not get stuck in a marriage with that sort of relationship.

I guess in closing I would say that blind kids need a lot of feedback. They need honest feedback—what they did well, and (positively and gently said) what they didn't do so well, or what they need to have done. Be prepared to give that feedback or to nurture relationships for your youngster where there are people who can give that kind of feedback to your kid. It's terribly important. Those fragile egos do need to be buoyed up, so it needs to be done positively. If you tell a kid, "You must remember to wash your hair tonight—it really is getting kind of dirty," then the next morning remember to tell the kid how good it looks now that it's clean. That sort of thing needs desperately to be done.

I will simply say that once you get into a relationship where somebody does think that you are a pretty terrific person, it changes the way you feel about yourself. That's what I want you to remember. Nurture that and expect that for your children.

 

BLIND PEOPLE AND THE WORLD OF WORK

by Mary Ellen Reihing

(As Federationists know, Miss Reihing is the Assistant Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind—JOB. The following address was given at a parents seminar on June 27, 1987, during the convention of the National Federation of the Blind at Phoenix, Arizona.)

When five-year-old Debbie received a nurse kit from a family friend for Christmas, she quickly decided that the life of Florence Nightingale was the life for her. When her mother gently told her that blind people could not be nurses, Debbie burst into tears.

Debbie is a grown woman now and is happily and successfully programming computers for a living. Like most adults, she's not doing what she planned to do when she was five. Unlike most adults, she was taught at a very early age to limit her career options. She might eventually have ruled out a nursing career anyway, but she still remembers the shock and pain she felt at her mother's comments.

What should Debbie's mother have done? She knew Debbie would be hurt by the truth, but she believed it was better to disappoint a five-year-old than to set her up for a much greater disappointment later by permitting her to continue to have unrealistic expectations. If the family friend had only thought before giving Debbie a nurse kit, maybe the whole situation could have been avoided.

Debbie's mother showed courage and love in her effort to help her daughter understand blindness realistically. But she didn't have the facts. Instead of lovingly helping her daughter understand the truth, she was unwittingly perpetuating a lie! How different that long-ago conversation would have been if Debbie's mother had known a blind nurse. (I know of at least one at this convention.) Instead of saying that blind people could not be nurses, she might have explained that most nurses use sight to do their job. Instead of saying "You can't do that," she could have asked: "How can we think of ways for you to do that?" At age five Debbie would not have had many answers, but she would have acquired the habit of asking herself the question.

There is a profound difference between the question "whether" and the question "how." The first allows an open-and-shut, yes-or-no answer. The second demands creative and careful thought. The first permits the negative; the second presumes the positive.

At this convention you will find blind people doing jobs you thought were out of the question. So will I. You and I are positive, progressive people. You and I set high standards for ourselves and believe in the normality of the blind. You and I too often secretly wonder "whether" when we could be discovering "how."

If you are a blind adult, you have already let attitudes about blindness limit your expectations. If you are the parent of a blind child, you will let those same attitudes put artificial barriers in your child's path. Instead of feeling guilty and defensive about what you should have known or should have done, take heart from the knowledge that there is a lot of occupational territory out there for blind people to explore. You and I, all of us in the National Federation of the Blind, are mapping that new ground together. Although the list of occupations represented at this convention is impressive, the list of occupations no blind person has yet done is much longer. If we do our work well, that balance will shift in a positive direction for the next generation.

Children learn about work by observing the adults around them and by asking a seemingly endless stream of questions. A two-year-old whose mother is a lawyer will pick up a briefcase and say "Me wuuk." A four-year-old will observe construction workers climbing scaffolding and ask "Why?"

Whether a child is blind or sighted, Mom and Dad will want to provide opportunities for learning about a variety of jobs. A blind child will not see builders at work while riding past in a car, but an erector set is a good way to explore scale models. A visit to the spot where friends are constructing a new home could be educational as well as fun.

Blind children want to know all about the work blind people do. You might be able to arrange for your child to spend a day observing an employed blind adult on the job. Participation in the National Federation of the Blind is critical because it exposes you to a cross section of blind people, not simply a few individuals. If your circle of blind adult friends is not wide enough, your child may falsely assume that the only choices are jobs done by the few blind people he or she knows.

Career education isn't just studying about jobs. Children need to explore their interests, develop their strengths, accept their weaknesses, and recognize that a weakness in one situation may be a strength in another. A child who always points out the truth and falsehoods in the arguments on both sides of a dispute would likely do better as a marriage counselor than as a prosecuting attorney. Someone who hates leaving the comforts of home but loves learning about ancient civilizations could find ways to earn a living studying artifacts but would want to avoid going on archeological "digs" in the Amazon jungle.

Most people would be quite happy doing any one of a number of very different jobs. The concept of one "right" career is more fiction than fact. Flexibility, creativity, and the ability to recognize opportunity and take advantage of it are as important as technical skill. Begin with activities which build self-image and general competence.

Is your blind child responsible for chores at home? When it's time to get under the hood of the car to change the oil or fill the radiator, do you let your child look at the engine? Do you make a habit of talking about jobs people do? How many workers are there behind the counter at the local fast food restaurant? Your child may only know about the order taker.

What about basic skills? Is your child learning to read rapidly and fluently? If reading is a struggle, a wide range of occupations will be eliminated automatically, or at best made much more difficult. (Educators often fail to take future careers into consideration when determining whether or not a child will be taught Braille, frequently making the wrong decision and opting for the exclusive use of large print or visual aids instead of Braille.) Are science, math, and physical education emphasized at school? Are classroom assignments expected to be done neatly and turned in promptly? (Employers are really not impressed when a worker routinely asks for extra time to complete tasks.)

Unemployed blind adults can modify and expand upon some of the same principles for building confidence and skills. There's no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about picking up skills in adulthood which would have been easier to learn as a child. There is reason to feel ashamed and embarrassed about letting fear or false pride stifle exploration and growth. Many blind adults are justifiably angry about what they were not taught at home, in school, or by rehabilitation agencies. That anger can provide the energy to begin to fill those learning gaps. It should not be allowed to become an excuse for failing to try.

On the other hand, a blind individual need not be flawless to be acceptable. By demanding absolute perfection, a person can fail to capitalize on real strengths. It is important to remember that "equal" and "identical" have different meanings. As part of my job, I supervise two secretaries. I have worked with a number of individuals over the past five years and have discovered that each has a distinctive way of achieving the desired results. One person might type rapidly and take shorthand dictation as fast as I can give it. Another cannot take shorthand and is a much slower typist. When I dictate to her, she types what I say directly into a computer. She goes back later to format her work and correct typing errors. Whatever she loses by not using shorthand, she makes up again because correcting a rough draft takes much less time than typing a document from shorthand notes. Both of the people I described are sighted. It seems "reasonable" to "accommodate" their individual strengths because doing so increases the efficiency of the office. Accommodations made because of blindness may be less common, but the same rules apply. Properly understood, "reasonable accommodation" is a bonus for the boss, not charity for an inferior worker.

With the greatest effort and the best skills in the world, it can still be hard for a blind person to find work. Many of our neighbors believe that we are not just unemployed—we're unemployable. For those who are parents, the ordinary family strain associated with being out of a job is intensified by stereotypes about blindness. It's hard to know how to respond when your child says, "All of my friends have dads who work. What's wrong with you?" (I said Dad because It's socially acceptable for mothers to stay home, but male homemakers are still considered a little odd—even after all the talk about "openness" in men's and women's roles.)

One way to answer your child is to say, "My job is finding work. I will work very hard at it until I succeed. After that, I'll work very hard at the job I find." Then do what you say you're doing. Every morning before eight a.m. start working at finding work. Sometimes you will go on interviews. Sometimes you will make phone calls or write letters. Keep at it until quitting time each day. Be sure your children never see you sleeping late on work days or "goofing off" on the job of finding work. Your children will learn good work habits from watching you. They will also have an answer when their friends ask, "What does your dad do?"

Blind parents who are employed can use their work as a means of subtly educating their children's friends about blindness. Most schools have career days. There's no reason why one of the parents who comes to talk about an interesting job couldn't be blind. If blind adults are role models for blind children, why not for sighted children, too? At least some of those sighted children will grow up and work side by side with their blind neighbors. They will, that is, if we continue to work together in the National Federation of the Blind to make it happen.

 

OF PARKING METERS AND SLOT MACHINES

It seems that Paul Harvey has been doing radio news broadcasts since the beginning of time. Well, maybe not quite that long--but longer than most people who are now alive remember. He has one of the largest listening audiences in the business, and his folksy mannerisms are unmistakable.

The people who listen to Paul Harvey take him seriously. Therefore, it is no laughing matter when he makes jokes about blind people which reinforce and give credence to the time-honored myths and misconceptions. Such an event took place on the Harvey broadcast of December 22, 1987, and it stimulated a response from Paul Newman—not the actor but a blind man in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

As you will see from his letter, Mr. Newman is not a member of the Federation, but the Harvey joke struck a chord with him. It often happens that way. The seeds that are planted and the efforts that are made seem wasted, but then an event occurs which brings it all into focus. It becomes clear that nothing was wasted or lost. If Mr. Newman follows through on his purpose to rejoin the Federation (and somehow I think he will), he will probably be a stronger member than he was the first time around. And Paul Harvey (though doubtless without intent to do so) will have helped make it happen. As has often been observed, the ways of providence are strange:

 

Thermopolis, Wyoming

December 23, 1987

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Enclosed is a letter which I wrote to Paul Harvey News which I believe is self-explanatory. I do not know how big Mr. Harvey's following is throughout the rest of the country, but here in Northern Wyoming there is not a whole lot to do at 12:00 noon if you are at home or eat lunch at your desk, as I do, so most of us listen to Paul.

I do not keep a tape recorder running when I listen to Paul. Yesterday I wished I had. However, the one-liner as I quoted it is pretty accurate. It seems to me that this sort of comment is in keeping with the kind of innuendo about us which your organization continues to fight and to break down. Therefore, I wanted to share this with you.

I, unfortunately, allowed my membership in the National Federation of the Blind of Wyoming to lapse, but now I plan to rejoin. Keep up the good fight.

Sincerely,

Paul Newman

 

Thermopolis, Wyoming

December 23, 1987

Dear Mr. Harvey:

I feel it is necessary to comment on a one-liner which you quoted on your principal newscast on Tuesday, December 22, 1987. I am referring to your reference to the man in Las Vegas who broke his glasses and lost his money trying to play a parking meter. On the surface this appears to be simply a tasteless rather unfunny one-liner which might merit an indulgent chuckle from a few sick or unenlightened people. But (as you so often say) let's look at the rest of the story.

It is not known precisely how many people in this country are facing sudden or gradual diminution of vision. Such individuals have sufficient fears, concerns, and apprehensions conceived in their own minds and really do not need someone like you to imply that as their vision diminishes so does their perception of common, everyday objects such as parking meters and slot machines. Knowledgeable individuals and groups in the field of work with the visually impaired maintain that the problems encountered by people who happen to be blind or visually impaired are caused much more by preconceptions and prejudices of the general public than by the visual impairment itself. I myself happen to be totally blind and do not wear glasses. However, discriminating between a slot machine and a parking meter is no problem.

Let's look at the implications. We who are blind or visually impaired meet with prejudice and discrimination as a matter of course. Many of us have had and continue to have difficulty finding employment even when we are qualified. What is an employer going to think about an individual who cannot tell a slot machine from a parking meter? What is a school official or teacher with a visually impaired child coming to his/her school/classroom going to think about having a student who potentially cannot tell the difference between a slot machine and a parking meter? What is the landlord with an apartment to rent going to think about renting to a person who cannot tell a slot machine from a parking meter? The general public has enough misconceptions about blindness and visual impairment and does not need someone like you to reinforce these stereotypes and misconceptions.

I hope you are not encountering visual problems yourself. However, I am sending a copy of this letter to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland. I am sure that should you question your ability to tell a parking meter from a slot machine, someone in the National Federation of the Blind can help.

Mr. Harvey, this is a serious breach of good taste and common courtesy, and I hope you have the guts to apologize to the millions of visually impaired persons who listen to you for repeating that very tacky one-liner.

Sincerely,

Paul Newman

 

COMMENTARY ON A NEWSWEEK CARTOON

by Bill Isaacs

From the Editor: Bill Isaacs, who is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, is an Associate Professor of History at Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, Illinois. He and his wife Ruth are always among the top recruiters of Associates for the Federation.

Our movement tends to affect every aspect of the lives of its members. It is not simply a once-a-month or a now-and-again affair. This is illustrated in a recent event involving Bill Isaacs.

He was listening to the recorded edition of Newsweek magazine when he came across a cartoon depicting Attorney General Ed Meese as a blind man. The reader did not give details about the cartoon, but Bill Isaacs wondered and investigated. He didn't like what he found, so he did something about it. Here are excerpts from his letter to me, along with a copy of his letter to Newsweek. Observe that he is neither intemperate nor strident. Yet, he is firm and to the point:

 

Kankakee, Illinois

December 5, 1987

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

I thought perhaps this letter I sent to Newsweek concerning the cartoon described therein might be of interest to you. Attached is a copy of the cartoon which you may want to have someone interpret to you more fully.

When the reader of the Newsweek magazine interpreted the cartoon on the floppy disc which I received, she referred only to the dog guide, and Meese using the banana as a telephone. My wife tells me that the picture has at least half a dozen negative images included in it, such as the man sitting at his desk with his hat on, with his coat lying on the floor and his cane hanging on the hook where the coat should be. A picture is turned upside down; the name plate on the desk is printed backwards; and the lights in the office are not turned on.

I noticed that Mary Ellen Reihing's father wrote about a cartoon in the Toledo paper which must have been similar to this one. I rather think the Newsweek was viewed by people around the world to a much greater audience. I am waiting to see if Newsweek will publish my letter in their mailbox corner. Their office is pretty good about presenting or publishing negative responses to their materials.

Sincerely,

Bill J. Isaacs

 

Kankakee, Illinois

November 21, 1987

Letters to the Editor
Newsweek
New York, New York

Dear Sir:

I have been a regular reader of your Newsweek magazine for the last twenty-five or thirty years, and I have deeply appreciated the depth and great variety of information which you furnish your readers. As a rule, I find your cartoons very clever in portraying their intended points very well. However, I found your cartoon in the November 16, 1987, issue depicting Ed Meese with a guide dog and speaking through a banana for a telephone in bad taste and offensive.

It is an insult to an intelligent guide dog, as well as to the blind community as a whole. I know thousands of blind people, and I have never yet heard of one confusing a banana with a telephone. And I know many blind lawyer friends who could put Mr. Meese to shame in collecting valid data. Perhaps both Mr. Meese and President Reagan could use a good guide dog to steer them around numerous political pitfalls into which they have fallen in recent months.

I am a dog guide user and a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Our movement has spent the last forty-seven years trying to emancipate the blind from the numerous public stereotypes which classify the blind as being stupid, dumb, clumsy, unintelligent, and undiscerning. The aforementioned cartoon very clearly refers to these misconceptions.

I think a more positive cartoon could be based on a blind person with a guide dog walking carefully around a steep precipice, with the guide dog reaching over and grabbing President Reagan by the coattail and yanking him back from the cliff's edge. Meese and Ginsburg could be pictured in some fashion at the bottom of that incline.

Many of us find blindness a nuisance and not an insurmountable handicap. We would very much like to convince the general public that this is so. Many more blind persons could be very productive American citizens if the sighted community were not so blind.

Respectfully yours,

Bill J. Isaacs
Associate Professor of History
Olivet Nazarene University

 

THE COST OF A GIFT

An Address Delivered by
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
At the John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
December 9, 1987

The blind, the halt, and the lame have traditionally been objects of pity and charity. This has meant a certain degree of kindness, but the generosity has always been a mixed blessing. In physics it is said that for any action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In social affairs the same concept applies. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Those who receive charity are (contrary to the popular belief) always obliged to pay for it.

One of the greatest problems faced by the blind today is that we are the objects of charity. The society at large feels that it will be called upon to give something to the blind. There is no law which requires equal treatment for the sighted. Such a law is unnecessary. However, there is a law which demands that the handicapped shall not be subjected to discrimination—at least part of the time. This law is mostly ineffective. The general public is expected to give equality to a class of persons which it regards as not being entitled to it.

How do we pay for charity? What can be offered in return for the "gifts" we receive? How are the scales balanced? What is taken from the blind (or, for that matter, from other groups) in order to reach equilibrium? To answer this question contrast the position in our culture maintained by the local banker or entrepreneur with that customarily associated with the blind. As I have already said, nondiscrimination laws apply to the blind. They don't apply to the banker. Reasonable accommodation is required for the blind. It is not for the banker. Charitable fund drives are conducted for the blind. It is inconceivable that they would be for the banker. Generosity and pity are felt for the blind. The banker gets something else. For the banker there is sometimes a little envy, occasionally a touch of fear, and almost always a substantial measure of respect. The reason for the difference is that the banker has something that most people in society want. The blind are not regarded in the same way.

What pays for the charity? For a large segment of the population the income tax deduction is insufficient to induce a gift. Instead, there has to be another reason. Charity salves the conscience. It is a tangible reminder for those who have done something which they regard as less than good that their lives are not without redeeming features. But there is something even more powerful than the need to compensate for past misdeeds. It is the wish to feel secure in the knowledge that the donor is helping those less fortunate. This, of course, may be restated. If I can regard you as an object of pity and charity, I am in a position superior to yours. Therefore, if I make you a gift from charitable motives, I am necessarily your superior. The blind and handicapped pay for the charity. The gift necessarily connotes inequality. This means that one of the most serious problems faced by the handicapped today is that we are the objects of charity. If we permit these circumstances to continue, we give tacit consent to the two-class system.

In a relatively free society when two parties transact business, one sets the price, and the other determines the quantity. It never happens that one party decides both price and quantity. If the buyer says that fifty items are required, the seller will establish the price. If the seller indicates that the price for a specific commodity will be one hundred dollars, the purchaser will determine the number to be bought. The number may be zero or some quantity higher than that. If, on the other hand, the purchaser says that the price of the commodity will be not a hundred dollars but fifty, the seller may decide to take the merchandise and go home. In other words the quantity may be zero.

The blind (just like others) have always needed certain basic commodities. Food, shelter, and clothing are essential. In the past governmental institutions, charitable organizations, or benevolent individuals have provided these necessities. But price and quantity are never controlled by the same party. The blind demanded a certain quantity; those who made the gifts controlled the price. Only when blind people began to have sufficient resources to meet basic needs, did these circumstances begin to change. If a group of individuals within society never has the opportunity to choose whether it will determine price or quantity, it lacks the essentials for freedom. Until fairly recently, the blind have been in this position. Blind people determined quantity, and someone else set the price. Because blind people were not regarded as having any trading stock—goods or services that could be sold—payment had to be made in other coin, and the price was always high.

Blacks in America constitute a minority. As this group began to move from second-class status to full equality, it faced almost the same economic circumstances that now confront the blind. But there was one significant difference. Blacks were regarded as having the capacity for manual labor. The blind are ordinarily not considered suitable to perform the ordinary job in the ordinary place of business. Therefore, in the effort to become a fully integrated part of our society, blind people are at a greater disadvantage than blacks have ever been. This is true despite the absence of blind slavery. The difference is that the blind are thought of as having nothing to offer. Not only are the skills and talents possessed by the blind not sought in the job market, but often those blind persons who volunteer to give their time without cost find their offer rejected. In the minds of many the final summation for blindness is: nothing to sell and nothing that will be accepted as a gift—complete worthlessness.

Of course, this understanding of blindness is completely false.

The blind represent a cross section of the general population. All of the talent and all of the virtue that can be found among ordinary human beings is possessed by the blind. All of the abilities that others possess (except the ability to see) are possessed by the blind. The blind people I know are as bright, as energetic, as willing to give without counting the cost, as anxious to do a good job, and as trustworthy as anyone else in society. They are also as dull, as boring, as willing to take without giving, and as lazy. In other words blind people have all of the characteristics of the general population, except one --sight. The problem is that blindness has been regarded as the only meaningful attribute. After it has become clear that the individual in question is blind, nothing else matters. In the minds of many this one factor is the final summation.

Do I state the case too strongly? Recently a blind man in St. Louis, Missouri, approached the ticket counter in a Trailways bus depot. He wanted to buy a full-fare bus ticket. The ticket agent told him that he must produce a doctor's certificate because this was necessary for a "handifare" ticket. A "handifare" ticket costs less than the ordinary bus ticket. The blind man (a member of the National Federation of the Blind) responded that a "handifare" ticket was not needed. He wanted to pay full fare for an ordinary ticket. Nevertheless, the agent refused to sell him one. When the blind man insisted on his right to pay full fare, and when he refused to leave the counter until such a ticket was issued to him, personnel at the Trailways bus station called the police and had him arrested. The language used by the police and their behavior at the depot is reminiscent of the ugly confrontations in the black civil rights movement.

Last March a blind man in Washington State bought a ticket to ride on an Amtrak train. After boarding, he tried to ascend the stairs to the upper level of the observation car. The conductor told him that blind people were not permitted on the upper level. Amtrak (just like Trailways) sells tickets to the handicapped at a reduced rate.

Last spring I received a letter from a woman in Rochester, Indiana, which is all too typical. It describes in miniature the problem. The writer's mother is blind. Inadequate training, segregation, and lack of opportunity are the result. The life portrayed in this letter is dismal. Here is what it says:

Dear Sir:

My mother has been legally blind for about twenty years. During all that time she has been in a nursing home in Rochester, Indiana, and she is only forty-three years old. She has not in all that time had any training that the blind need, such as how to read Braille. The nursing home has been her only world because of her inability to get around. I feel my mother desperately needs help. She needs to be taught the things the blind need to function in society. She is much too young to be in a nursing home.

I wonder if the National Federation of the Blind can help in this matter. I don't have money or the know-how to assist her, and I was told maybe you could help. She's wanting to get out of the nursing home.

Sincerely yours,

Twenty years of a person's life is a long time—and for this woman (and many others like her) those twenty years are a bleak memory of twisted hell—of desolation, pain, and lack of opportunity. We in the National Federation of the Blind are organized to make absolutely certain that blind men and women have something better to do with their lives than go into nursing homes in their twenties. I wonder whether the bonds of steel and leather traditionally associated with captives and slaves have caused more desolation in the lives of those who have been forced to endure them than has been caused by the kind of "compassion" which consigns blind people in their twenties to nursing homes.

What should we do to promote a more realistic approach? I do not recommend that all charity come to an end. Nor do I recommend that the blind stop accepting all gifts. Instead, I urge all of us to try to understand the nature of what we do. For all human beings everywhere there are times that demand charity. However, there also comes a time when responsibility must be accepted. Full participation in society will produce more and cost less than dependence upon charity. If we, as a culture, systematically refuse to permit a group of people to reach its potential, then we have set the stage for conflict. Such behavior creates an inferior class. When the group that is regarded as inferior discovers that the two-class system is a lie, it will insist upon its rights. When this happens, there will be confrontation.

The blind of this nation (organized in the National Federation of the Blind) are committed to achieving equality and first-class citizenship. We regret that there is apparently a certain amount of conflict built into the transition from second- to first-class status. But we know that blind individuals, blind people as a group, and our entire society will benefit if the worth we represent is recognized and given its proper place. We are appreciative of the kind words, the good wishes, and the donations of those who have joined us to ensure that our struggle for freedom comes to fruition. But we are also committed to ending forever the philosophy which says that the proper role of the blind person is the recipient of someone else's charity. The proper role for the blind is the same as it is for the sighted. There should be charity given and received on both sides. There should also be responsibility and opportunity.

 

NAC 1987: AN EXERCISE IN TREADING WATER

by Homer Page

(As most Monitor readers know, Dr. Homer Page is Deputy Mayor of Boulder, Colorado. He is also a Professor at the University of Colorado.)

The 1987 annual board and membership meeting of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) was held on November 13-15 in Dania, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. Perhaps the most significant impression that an observer took away from the 1987 annual meeting of NAC was one of an organization that is just barely treading water. NAC has cut back on staff and reduced its budget over the past two years. A number of agencies have refused to re-accredit during the past year, most notably the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in North Carolina and the Rhode Island state agency which serves the blind. In addition, attendance at the 1987 annual meeting was noticeably down.

When those attending the 1987 NAC board meeting arrived at the Airport Hilton in Dania, Florida, they were greeted by over 200 members of the National Federation of the Blind. Federationists had gathered from throughout the nation to let NAC and the public know that NAC accredits the most repressive agencies and has failed to involve consumers in the development of standards for services that could actually make a difference in the lives of the blind.

The 1987 NAC annual board meeting was the smallest in many years. Under seventy persons attended the NAC banquet, and fewer than thirty-five were in attendance when Dennis Hartenstine, the NAC Director, gave his annual report on Sunday, November 15.

On Friday, November 13, three busloads of Federationists visited the Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida. Representatives from the local newspapers, television stations, and radio came out in abundance to cover the story of blind persons protesting against the policies and practices of the very agencies that are supposed to be helping the blind. The press was genuinely surprised that we had come from all over the nation to make our voices heard, and that so many of us were active in our communities, had families, and held positions of responsible employment. One can only imagine what Florida's NAC-accredited agencies tell the press and public about the blind.

A second item which caught the attention of the press was the reaction of Federationists to a loud bell which rang whenever anyone pressed a button which activated a pedestrian walklight at a crossing directly outside the front door of the Lighthouse. Each time the bell rang, a resounding chorus of boos went up, followed by the chant, "You don't need a bell when you teach the blind well." A sign was also prominently displayed at this crosswalk which said, "Blind Pedestrians."

No symbol could have better demonstrated just how little respect NAC-accredited agencies have for the ability of blind persons than did this degrading bell and sign. Thousands of people each week drive by this location and are told that blind persons are not capable of performing the simple task of crossing the street without very special equipment and attention. Is it any wonder that there are blind workers who, according to the director of the Lighthouse, are paid under ninety cents an hour? This figure was verified in an article that ran in a local newspaper, which quoted directly the director of the Lighthouse.

Mr. Hartenstine stated in his annual director's report that NAC should not be judged by the relatively few agencies that it has been able to accredit in its twenty-one-year history, nor by the organization's inability to find new sources of revenue, nor even by the quality of services that it provides to its accredited agencies. Rather, he asserted it should be judged by the impact that it has had on the field of work with the blind and on the lives of blind persons.

When I think of that bell and the sign at the Lighthouse of the Palm Beaches and those persons working inside who receive under ninety cents an hour, I find that I must agree with Mr. Hartenstine. NAC must be judged on its impact on the quality of services that NAC-accredited agencies provide and on the damage which those agencies have done to the lives of blind persons. The Lighthouse, of course, is NAC-accredited.

 

OF COWS AND FIRES AND THE ASSOCIATED SERVICES FOR THE BLIND OF PHILADELPHIA

by Barbara Pierce

After looking into the short, sorry history of Associated Services for the Blind of Philadelphia (ASB), one is reminded of lines from an old girlscout camping song about the great Chicago fire:

One dark night when we were all in bed, The cow kicked the bucket in Mrs. O'Leary's shed.

What portion of the blame for the catastrophe which followed the action of Mrs. O'Leary's cow belonged to Mrs. O'Leary, her cow, or the Chicago city fathers is hard to determine; but the fact that Chicago vanished in a conflagration was immediately and painfully obvious to everybody.

Yet, in the case of ASB, it is important for the blind of the nation to have some idea of what has happened and why—of who is responsible for the various parts of the mess, and what can be done about it. We are the recipients (and too often the victims) of such services. We are the employees (and sometimes the Board members) of such agencies. The saga of ASB is highly instructive if disheartening. Each strand of the plot is tangled with others, and every time one seems to have isolated a single element of the story, it suddenly opens into new vistas of questionable practice or double-dealing.

For an organization that came into being as recently as 1983, the Associated Services for the Blind of Philadelphia has created a melodrama with an astonishingly large cast of characters, a significant number of whom have angled for the job of Executive Director or have served, however briefly, in that position. Even to begin to understand the current situation, we must go back to the founding of ASB.

In October of 1983, three loosely-related agencies merged to form Associated Services for the Blind: Volunteer Services for the Blind, Radio Information Center for the Blind, and the Nevil Institute for Rehabilitation and Services. In July of 1984 W. Benjamin Holmes was named Executive Director, a post in which he served for almost exactly three years. One ominous indication of uncertainty and distrust from the beginning was that (rather than establishing a compact, working board of directors for the new agency) the architects of the merger combined the boards of the three groups, bringing the size of the new board to about fifty members. The Executive Committee alone numbers fourteen, a guarantee that the Board will yield its authority to the Director and the Executive Committee.

From the beginning, the NFB of Pennsylvania opposed the merger, fearing that it would result in expanding bureaucracy and decreasing service to blind people. In retrospect, exactly this seems to have happened. The Radio Reading Service, clearly the stepsister of the ASB operation, has suffered a decline in programming quality since the merger, and the listenership has predictably shrunk as a result. The station has had an unfilled full-time staff position for several months, and there seems to be no rush to fill it.

Sensible, adequate, and speedy delivery of social services to blind people is a goal that has eluded agencies in the field almost completely since Dr. Jernigan left the Iowa Commission for the Blind. One can perhaps understand a bureaucratic state agency's inability to cut red tape in order to respond quickly and adequately, but one always hopes that private service agencies can do better. ASB, however, has rigidly refused to provide any social service to blind clients unless that service is contracted for by another agency or provided by grant money from an outside source. Humanity and compassion are, of course, the last things that one can expect from a large, many-layered bureaucracy.

The final indication that the Pennsylvania Federationists' fears about ASB's threat to the blind have been justified is provided by the ASB's Braille Division. Management, as so often happens, has taken the lead in fighting against workers' efforts to form a union. It is already clear that Braille production in 1988 will be down since ASB has lost the contracts for producing all of the magazines it has been publishing, including The Braille Book Review, Ladies' Home Journal, and Jack and Jill. Information about book production contracts for this year was not available at the time of writing, but the news is expected to be bad.

The years of the Holmes tenure as Executive Director were far from smooth, though there are those who give him full marks for doing a good job of completing the actual merger. However, in its first three years of existence the Braille Division compiled a deficit of $200,000 for the first year, $125,000 for the second year, and at least $60,000 for the third year. Holmes pointed out to a Braille Monitor reporter that during the final few months of his service the Braille Division was operating in the black, a contention disputed by others we interviewed. A large part of the confusion stems from the fogginess of the financial picture available even to members of the Board. No one (at least, no one with the consumer's interest at heart) knows for sure what is happening fiscally.

At any rate, during the summer of 1985 the employees in the Braille Division began agitating for the opportunity to have representatives sit down with management to discuss work-related policy issues. Not until this request was refused did they begin to discuss forming a union and petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to recognize them.

As one might have predicted, management fought this effort with all the tools usually employed against labor, including high-priced attorneys and appeals to the NLRB. In late 1985 ASB appealed to the NLRB to block formation of a union on the grounds, first, that as a nonprofit agency it was not under NLRB jurisdiction and, second, that any bargaining unit should include all ASB workers. With this second maneuver ASB hoped to defuse the unionizing impulse by including groups of workers with diverse concerns and interests.

The union leadership, however, agreed to the larger bargaining unit and submitted a revised petition to the NLRB the next day. As a result an election was held in February of 1986, but ASB appealed again on the first ground—that it should not have to deal with a union. The ballot box containing all workers' votes in the union election was impounded for a year while the ASB lawyers dragged everyone through the second appeal. The NLRB, unimpressed by ASB's strange logic, ruled in favor of the workers. Finally the ballot box was opened in April of 1987 to reveal that ASB workers had voted for the union by a margin of two to one.

While this expensive and all-too-familiar farce was being played out before the NLRB, the Board of Directors concluded that ASB needed an Executive Director with more financial acumen than Holmes had demonstrated. They wanted him out without having to fire him, so they offered him a month-to-month contract. Holmes, not unnaturally, disliked this proposal and began looking for other employment. The arrangement allowed both parties to write history according to their own lights. Holmes could say that he had decided to leave voluntarily, and the Board could begin the search for his successor without having to make him a sizable severance payment.

A nationwide search for a new Director began in the spring of 1987. Holmes actually left ASB last July, while the Board was still poring over some one hundred fifty applications, including three from current employees: Peg Hess-Fenell, head of public relations; B. T. Kimbrough, Director of Services; and James Swed, Director of Development and past Director of two of the three agencies comprising ASB. Louis McCarthy, President of the union, offered to do the job for $30,000 a year instead of the $57,000 being advertised, but his application was apparently not taken seriously.

Someone was needed to serve as Acting Executive Director of ASB until a candidate could be hired. Joanne Davidoff, the President of the ASB Board and a member of the ACB, was tapped to serve until the end of August when she would return to her regular job at Overbrook School for the Blind. Ms. Davidoff probably regrets the impulse that landed her in the leadership of ASB for even such a short time. For one thing, it increased her visibility— visibility, for instance, concerning the contract which Associated Services had with the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), which operates a paratransit division to transport disabled passengers. It is now a matter of public knowledge that for at least two years SEPTA has provided Ms. Davidoff door-to-door service to and from Overbrook or ASB every work day. Not only does this arrangement underscore Davidoff's dependence, but the company does not have jurisdiction in Montgomery County, where she lives. Some ASB workers have complained because she has been the only blind person to be offered such convenience, and others (in the NFB) have felt that this arrangement suggests that blind people cannot travel safely and independently.

This last consideration probably does not weigh heavily in Davidoff's thinking. As President of the Board, she issued the invitations to the annual volunteers luncheon in 1986. A quotation from this invitation seems to typify her attitudes about blindness and blind people, herself included. Here is what it says:

"The professional takes one hand and the volunteer takes the other of our blind and visually impaired friends. Together they lead him from a world of dismal uncertainty into a brilliant future of independence."

Davidoff, then, was at the helm on August 10, 1987, when management and the union clashed—ultimately sending the union out on strike on August 25. The union had already filed four unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. These had to do with ASB work policies and decisions taken without consultation with the union; and the NLRB had scheduled a hearing to consider all four charges.

On that fateful August 10, 1987, Louis McCarthy (President of the union) was consulted about time-off policy by another employee in the Braille Division. When he paused to explain the policy, Abraham Varghes, a supervisor, told him twice to stop discussing the union and get back to work. McCarthy assured him that the discussion was work-related and finally threatened to slap Varghes with an unfair labor practice charge. Varghes, who does not speak English well, reported to his superior that McCarthy had threatened his life.

Management announced that they would investigate the incident. Four days later McCarthy received a memo demanding that he cease threatening employees, visitors, or volunteers. He was told not to discuss union matters on work time. If he did not comply with these demands, he would be open to disciplinary action. This memo was placed in his personnel file during the same week as the incident with Varghes, so McCarthy concluded that it constituted a reprimand. Management denied this interpretation, but they made it clear that they intended to use the memo whenever it suited them.

The memo was written and placed in his file without McCarthy's witnesses being heard despite ASB's earlier assurance that there would be an investigation. David Brown, Head of Personnel and agency negotiator with the union, explained that one witness refused to comment when asked what happened between McCarthy and Varghes. Brown seems to have assumed that the man did not wish to embarrass a coworker. McCarthy, however, has collected affidavits from a number of witnesses, including the worker who refused to talk to management. These support his version of the incident. McCarthy reported that the worker was afraid of bringing down the wrath of management on his head when he was questioned.

For a week and a half McCarthy and his shop stewards unsuccessfully attempted to persuade management to conduct good-faith negotiations, but management would not yield. During their morning break on August 25 between twenty and thirty workers began a protest in the cafeteria at ASB. When they were told to return to work or go home, they moved to the street, where the nine-day-long strike began. Three days later the NFB of Pennsylvania (led by Betsy Gerhart, First Vice President, and Pat Comorato, one of the Pennsylvania affiliate's leaders and a Member of the ASB Board since 1983) joined the picketers.

For the first several days, picketers made no effort to close the ASB building. They contented themselves with registering their grievances against management by using picket signs and interviews with the media. The NFB was instrumental in dealing with the press. Stories appeared on television and radio and in both of the Philadelphia papers. The two stories that follow are illustrative of the coverage—less than ideal but alerting the public to the situation at ASB:

 

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

AUGUST 27, 1987

Employees on Strike at Firm That Makes Braille Products

by Edward Power

Carefully guided by his seeing eye dog, Devin Lukens paced a strip of pavement at Ninth and Walnut Streets yesterday, a poster hanging from a string around his neck. Near him, other people with posters tapped their way around the circle with white canes.

"ASB Has Unfair Labor Practices," read Lukens' sign.

"Conversation, Not Confrontation," read another.

The twenty workers, about a half dozen of them visually handicapped, were in the second day of a strike against their employer, Associated Services for the Blind (ASB), at 919 Walnut Street. The employees contend that ASB unfairly reprimanded the president of the newly recognized union. Louis McCarthy, the union's president, was accused of threatening a supervisor with bodily harm.

"If we had just gone back to work," said Lukens, explaining the walkout, "they could have done it to someone else."

"We might as well start now and show them that they can't do this to us. They're not going to do it now and they're not going to do it later," said Lukens, a Braille proofreader who has worked for ASB for about six years.

Lukens and about thirty-five other workers are represented by the ASB Employees Group, a small, independent union that won recognition from the company in April. Since then, contract negotiations have been going on between the union and management, but both McCarthy and ASB officials said yesterday that the strike has nothing to do with wage or benefit demands.

At issue, they said, is an August 10 incident involving McCarthy, a worker in ASB's Braille department, which translates books and magazines into Braille, assembles Braille texts, and ships them to various institutions around the country, including the Library of Congress.

McCarthy said yesterday that on August 10 he was discussing a work-related problem with another ASB employee when a supervisor approached them and told the pair not to discuss union business on company time. When the supervisor gave the pair a second warning, said McCarthy, the union president turned to the man.

"I told the supervisor that if he continued to harass any of my members, that I would slap him with a [labor practice] charge," McCarthy recalled.

But the supervisor, said Joanne Davidoff, acting executive director of ASB, contends that McCarthy threatened to harm him physically.

Four days after the incident, McCarthy said, he was notified that a letter was being placed in his personnel file. The letter cited the supervisor's contention of a threat and enjoined McCarthy from any future threats at the risk of losing his job, he said.

On Tuesday, McCarthy and about twenty other employees staged a protest in ASB's cafeteria, asking that the letter be removed from McCarthy's file. Soon after the protest began, said several union members, an ASB supervisor entered the cafeteria and told the workers to return to their jobs or go home. About twenty workers then took their protest to the sidewalk in front of ASB's offices.

"Anybody here will tell you I may do a lot of things and say a lot of things," said McCarthy, "but I'm not going to threaten anybody's life."

"Basically, their attitude toward us is condescending and disrespectful," said Margaret Wilson, a Braille transcriber who has worked for ASB for eight years. "We get a total lack of appreciation. We come to work in good weather and bad. The salaries are bad, the raises worse."

McCarthy said that union representatives have had two meetings with ASB officials to discuss the strike issue but that management representatives have refused to discuss removing the letter from McCarthy's file.

Davidoff said of the dispute: "We'd like for them to come back to work. We don't want to see them lose money. We don't want to see them lose their jobs. We think we're bending over backwards to be responsive."

 

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

AUGUST 29, 1987

Strikers at Braille Facility Get Support from Other Groups

by Edward Power

A group of about twenty-five striking workers, many of them visually handicapped, drew support yesterday from other Philadelphia unions and a national advocacy group as they entered a fourth day of a walkout against a company that produces Braille texts.

The strikers, members of the Associated Services for the Blind Employees Group, continued to picket yesterday in front of the company's offices at 919 Walnut Street. They walked off the job Tuesday when company officials refused to withdraw a letter of reprimand from the personnel file of an employee accused of threatening a supervisor with bodily harm.

The employee, Louis McCarthy, is a worker in the Braille department of Associated Services for the Blind and is also the president of its employees' union, which only recently received recognition from the company after a two-year legal fight.

Joining the pickets yesterday was Betsy Gerhart, a state board member of the National Federation of the Blind, which pledged its support to the workers. McCarthy said he also had received messages of support from local branches of the hospital workers' union and the Teamsters.

Gerhart said, "We have been concerned for some time with what's been happening in this agency, their attitudes toward the blind and their lack of service to blind people in the community."

Gerhart said her Federation has promised to bus in visually handicapped people from Maryland and Delaware to join the strikers on the picket line next week if the company does not settle the dispute. She said similar support has been provided for blind workers in at least three other states.

"In other situations, the same kinds of tactics were used to stop workers from unionizing," Gerhart said. "And now here they're harassing the president of the union.

Patrick Comorato, one of about fifty board members of Associated Services for the Blind, also joined the strikers yesterday.

"As a board member," said Comorato, "I think the board is remiss in its duty and responsibility to the blind, and I think it's a bad situation here."

McCarthy said late yesterday afternoon that Associated Services' management had rejected a proposal by the union that the letter of reprimand be removed from McCarthy's file and that the company conduct a new investigation into the allegation against him. McCarthy said that if the company had agreed, the workers would have immediately returned to their jobs.

Joanne Davidoff, acting executive director of Associated Services, could not be reached for comment.

The strikers make up about a quarter of the company's work force.

Comorato said he believed the strike may jeopardize funding for Associated Services, much of which comes from federal contracts.

"If you're a member of the public and you see picketers outside and hear about acts they [Associated Services] are perpetrating against blind people," said Comorato, "would you contribute to them?"

Off and on during the strike, McCarthy met with ASB officials in an attempt to resolve the dispute. It was clear that ASB had no interest in addressing the underlying problems of distrust and the pervasive feeling among the strikers that management was guilty of bad faith. The only proposal ASB made to the workers was that they would not be penalized for the strike if they returned to work. ASB officials were silent on the matter of the reprimand of McCarthy, which had already formed the basis for the union's fifth and sixth fair labor practice charges, which were filed with the NLRB.

McCarthy sums up the ongoing problem when he says that management feels that they are doing their share by just meeting with union representatives. The strike was really caused because ASB officials refused (and continue to refuse) to deal directly with the union on matters of concern to the workers. McCarthy quotes Michael Coyle, Vice President of the ASB Board, as telling the press that "the blind want to feel as if they have some say in things." The condescension and patronizing paternalism of that remark are worthy of many of the sheltered shop officials we have dealt with through the years. But Coyle was referring to workers who earn above minimum wage and have a respectable benefits package. One is left to conclude that because most of the union members are blind, management feels that they do not deserve a bargaining agent, or even simple courtesy.

When Federationists and members of other unions began to augment the picket line, union members decided to limit building access to those employees whose work had nothing to do with ASB or direct service to the blind. In practice this meant that employees of the Braille and Talking Book Library and employees of ASB (including those of the Multistate Center, under contract to ASB) were denied entrance. Coyle, who serves as Director of the Regional Library, was picked up physically and returned to the sidewalk when he attempted to break through the line to reach the door. Frank Curt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, was out of town that day, so Mary Levering of his staff made the decision not to cross the picket line. The Multistate Center was closed and book orders rerouted to Clovernook. Cylke affirmed the decision when he returned to NLS.

An ASB Board meeting was called inside the building at one point, and Pat Comorato chose to remain on the line rather than attend the meeting. Gloria Sewierski, one of the ACB representatives on the Board, came out to chide Comorato for his decision. She justified her crossing the line by pointing out that she didn't work there and that it was not her issue. One wonders how she can sit on the ASB Board without feeling that a worker strike is of importance to her. One is also reminded of the perhaps apocryphal exchange between Emerson and Thoreau after Thoreau had been jailed for protesting slavery. "Henry," Emerson is supposed to have said, "why are you in jail?" To which Thoreau is supposed to have replied, "Why are you not in jail with me?"

On September 3, 1987, Associated Services sought an injunction to end the strike. For the first time in the two-year-long struggle with management, the union employed an attorney to accompany McCarthy to a conference in the judge's chambers. There a compromise was worked out. The reprimand would remain in McCarthy's personnel file but could not be used for any purpose. When the NLRB ruling on the union charges comes down (presumably in February of 1988) the letter will either be destroyed or placed in the file for personnel use, depending on the ruling. Union members returned to work as soon as this agreement was reached. Negotiations continue between the two sides in an effort to write a contract. Differences between the union and management are far from settled.

During the closing months of 1987, the Executive Directorship of ASB has resembled nothing quite so much as a revolving door. When Davidoff returned to Overbrook School at the beginning of September, James Swed, Director of Development for ASB, was named Acting Director of the agency. Swed was one of the original applicants, but he did not make the final group of candidates. He has said that this was due to his age and the fact that the Board did not wish to repeat such an arduous search again in three years. Swed may well have administrative skills, but his most remarkable personal characteristic seems to be that he carries a rigid, crooked cane with a wheel similar to a furniture caster attached to its tip. Perhaps he finds this a helpful mobility innovation, but observers report that he seeks a human guide whenever possible. David Brown apologized for his lateness to a recent negotiating session with the union by explaining that he had had to take Swed to the bus stop. With one acting Executive Director dependent on paratransit and the next dependent on human guides, is it any wonder that ASB mobility students have trouble learning to travel effectively and confidently?

The Board finally made the astonishing announcement in early September that Michael Coyle would assume the post of Executive Director on October 5, 1987. Coyle, member of the Board's Executive Committee and chair of its Finance Committee, had not been a candidate for the Directorship. When asked why he had been named, Joanne Davidoff at first explained that there were no experienced candidates in the pool. When the names of B. T. Kimbrough and Swed were mentioned, she backed down from this position, but she could not give a convincing reason. Coyle has maintained that he did not seek or want the job, but this is hard to credit. As a member of the Executive Committee, he was, of course, in an excellent position to kill off any of his competitors.

Coyle was invited to the Pennsylvania NFB Convention the second weekend in October, less than a week after he started his job as ASB Director. Terry McManus, President of the affiliate, characterizes his performance on the platform as "astonishingly arrogant and insulting." It was transparently obvious to everyone that his hope was to forge an alliance with the NFB at the national level in order to protect ASB from criticism by the Pennsylvania affiliate. James Gashel, who was the National Representative at the Convention, made it clear that the entire organization supported the position of the Pennsylvania affiliate.

On October 22 a delegation of six, representing the NFB of Pennsylvania, met with Mr. Coyle to discuss a position paper on ASB written by the NFB. The Federationists were Betsy and Tom Gerhart from the Montgomery County Chapter; Hadyn Wyer, NFB of Pennsylvania Second Vice President and member of the Delaware County Chapter; and Joe Hardin, President, and B. J. Hairston and Pat Comorato, members of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter. Facing them were Michael Coyle, B. T. Kimbrough, and an employee of the store on the ASB premises that sells aids and appliances. The employee is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter. Apparently Coyle thought he could demonstrate some sort of power by commanding an NFB member to attend the meeting. The employee, however, did not take part in the discussion.

Coyle was not interested in discussing the substance of the paper. The Federationists had a number of questions which Coyle instructed Kimbrough to answer, much to the latter's annoyance. Coyle did what he could to sow dissension in the NFB delegation by insulting one member of the group repeatedly. Needless to say, the meeting was not particularly successful or amicable.

Here is the text of the NFB of Pennsylvania position paper followed by the letter that was sent to each member of the negotiating group and to Terry McManus over the signature of Joanne Davidoff. The Braille Monitor has learned that the text of this letter was drafted by Michael Coyle. Judge for yourself which is more dismaying: that the President of Associated Services for the Blind was willing to sign such an illiterate and inaccurate letter or that the Executive Director of the agency was guilty of writing it:

Position Paper National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania

The National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania (NFBP) endeavors to collaborate with you to build an agency where a blind person can go and get the proper training, thus reducing blindness to a mere physical nuisance. Presently, ASB has a long way to go to meet this important objective. It is essential that management and staff realize that, with the proper training, blindness can be reduced to a mere physical nuisance. This goal can be attained by providing training and a positive attitude pertaining to blindness. The following outline is a blueprint to meet these stated objectives. If ASB would implement the various provisions of this Position Paper, the blind of the Delaware Valley will have a unique opportunity to be productive human beings, functioning in the mainstream of society.

Board of Directors

In order for an agency to effectuate positive changes, it is necessary to have a board made up of persons who possess the knowledge and philosophy to provide the guidance management needs to make the necessary changes. Currently, the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind has eight (8) or more members on the board. They are: 1) Julian Siewierski, 2) Gloria Siewierski, 3) Joanne Davidoff, 4) Mae Davidow, 5) Evelyn Kaufmann, 6) Margaret MacKenzie, 7) William McDonald, and 8) Charles Irons.

Moreover, the board is merely a "rubber stamp" of decisions made by the executive committee. When reviewing the executive committee, the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind has five (5) members on it: 1) Joanne Davidoff, 2) Mae Davidow, 3) Julian Siewierski, 4) William McDonald, and 5) Charles Irons.

It is obvious that the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania has been denied meaningful input. This situation must be remedied. If ASB is serious in wanting to work wth us, the following steps must be taken immediately. The following representatives of the NFBP must be put on the board of directors: Betsy Gerhart, First Vice President of the NFBP;

Joseph Hardin, President of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter;

Hadyn Wyer, President of the Delaware County Chapter and Second Vice President of the NFBP; and Thomas Gerhart, President of the Montgomery County Chapter.

Further, the following persons should be put on the executive committee: Betsy Gerhart and Patrick Comorato.

This should be done in time for the next meeting of both the executive committee and board of directors.

Management

In order to demonstrate to the community at large and to the employees of ASB that blind persons are capable of speaking for themselves and running their own affairs, a qualified blind person must be hired in the next highest position to that of the executive director. This should occur within a reasonable amount of time. Whenever positions are filled at ASB, qualified persons with the proper philosophy of blindness and who possess the training in that philosophy should be hired. ASB staff should be able to train other blind persons, namely, clients, that, with the proper training and the use of alternative techniques, blindness can be reduced to a mere physical nuisance. The staff should serve as models.

Another major objective of management should be to utilize the vast resources in the blind community, such as the many successful blind persons who are currently working or functioning independently. These persons can provide peer group counseling and run groups dealing with the attitudes toward blindness. ASB should only serve persons who are legally blind. These persons have been denied services and are the last to receive quality services. The only two departments which should be exempt from this policy are the Radio Information Center for the Blind and Recorded Periodicals.

Braille

GOAL: Immediate and inexpensive Braille for those in need. Subsidize the department, if necessary, using Kurzweil and computer, in combination, to produce off-the-street Braille, skip proofreading, and for rapid Braille, volunteer typist corps for short Braille jobs or typing on disc for later production on Braille or print printers. Cost should not exceed $.10 a page, which is the local rate for print copies or the cost of the disc and $.10 a page for other materials. Computers and equipment should be made available for computer-literate blind persons to make their own Braille copies of disc material at $.10 a page. A thermoform machine should be available for blind persons to use to make their own copies at $.10 a page. A modem system should be available to blind persons to upload discs of material needing to be Brailled, which can then be picked up by the blind person or mailed to him or her. Discs should be kept and their availability advertised so that, in some cases, the sale of materials will more than repay the cost of production. When demand for immediate Braille is slow, an effort should be made to produce computer discs for nationally-sought materials, such as laws and regulations pertinent to blindness.

Store

GOALS:

1. To be self-sufficient and provide blind persons easy access to materials of use to the blind and visually handicapped.

2. To assist blind persons in obtaining those products which are not carried directly.

3. To stand behind products sold, assisting the customer in remedying when defective products are purchased. Advertise at least one sale a week, using the Radio Information Center for the Blind. Offer a service to Braille games and other items not put in Braille by other sources. Have Science for the Blind either make weekly pickups of items to be repaired or offer space for their technician to repair items on the spot. Package items needing return to other manufacturers for the cost of return mail. Order items for blind persons if the store chooses not to carry them directly. Carry at least one sample of as many products as possible so that blind persons can determine if they want to order products not carried by the store. To make carrying more items feasible, move toward a nationwide mail-order business.

Rehabilitation

GOALS:

1. To provide blind persons with sufficient Adjustment to Blindness services so that they graduate able to transfer those skills to all areas of life.

2. To provide a philosophical education in blindness that teaches the person to believe in him- or herself to the extent that he or she seeks to maximize his or her capacities.

3. Develop a satisfactory residential program so that rehabilitation service can be offered to persons who live beyond commuting distance. Expand services to include minor household maintenance skills. Hold weekly group meetings on adjustment to blindness, using as a base of discussion the recorded banquet and other speeches of the NFB, including such speeches as:

"Blindness: Is History Against Us," "Blindness: Is Literature Against Us," "The Cross of Blindness," etc. Have clients attend at least one monthly meeting of the local chapter of the NFB.

The Radio Station

GOALS:

1. To provide the blind community access to information not otherwise available from audio sources.

2. To provide a forum where any and all issues affecting the blind community can be discussed in a free and open atmosphere.

3. To provide original and innovative programming that will increase the number of people who listen to the station.

4. To fulfill the commitment made to the blind of South Jersey.

METHODS:

1. Use the widest possible range of reading material and periodical surveys to find out what information people really want to hear.

2. Encourage all members of the blind community to use the Radio Information Center for the Blind to express their views on subjects that affect the blind community.

3. Utilize staff members to cover stories as they happen. This will show the general public that blind people are interested in the things that affect us all. Secure press passes so that staff can have access to meetings and other events that happen around the area.

4. More programming aimed at the people who live in New Jersey should be implemented.

Recorded Periodicals

GOAL:

To provide a wide range of magazines at a lower cost.

METHODS:

1. Use other magazines and local outlets and organizations (NFB and Pennsylvania Association for the Blind's) to promote the distribution of magazines.

2. Explore the methods used by other people in this field to find out how they are able to produce magazines at a lower cost.

3. Evaluate the present method to see where the added expenses are coming from and remedy the situation.

Employment

GOALS:

1. To find competitive employment for legally blind people.

2. To survey possible job sites and educate prospective employers as to the capabilities of blind people.

3. Work with other existing programs, such as but not exclusively, Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB), BVS, and the Private Industry Council.

4. Hire staff members who truly believe that blind people can compete equally when given proper training philosophy.

5. Staff members should serve as role models in this area. Staff should include blind persons so that when they go out to speak to employers, they can immediately begin the educational process.

Development

Consolidate the position of executive director and director of development. The high level of middle managerial staff should provide sufficient flexibility and latitude for the executive director to represent ASB in its relationship with the corporate community. An important development function should be to identify those municipal, county, state, and federal funds which may be appliclable to the function of ASB.

Center for Independent Living ASB should begin considering a transition plan for the CIL (Center for Independent Living) to be operated by an independent, tax-exempt board of directors, a majority of whom are blind. This is consistent with the mandates of Public Law 99-506 (The Reauthorized Rehabilitation Act). The scope and direction of the CIL should encompass the following blind program objectives: 1) Organize the blind community. 2) Educate the blind community. 3) Mobilize the blind community to remedy problems defined by the blind community.

The development of leadership is an important aspect of independent living. The advocacy rule of the CIL should be the essence of its program. Finally, giving the community its own sense of power can only be achieved if the CIL is independent of ASB.

Volunteers

GOALS:

1. To locate qualified volunteers who will fulfill the needs of the agency.

2. Volunteers will be recruited to meet the needs of blind persons in the community.

3. Volunteers will be educated as to the proper philosophy to work with blind persons.

4. Realistic volunteer recruitment and orientation will be developed.

5. List of blind persons and their requested needs should be developed and matched up with volunteers who can meet those requirements.

METHODS:

1. Recruit volunteers using electronic and print media.

2. Volunteer Coordinator should speak at local community groups, civic organizations, and churches.

3. Contact volunteer organizations.

4. Contact corporations which have programs for retirees.

ORIENTATION AND TRAINING:

1. Acquire the films "We Know Who We Are," and "The Blind, An Emerging Minority."

2. Obtain NFB literature to give to volunteers to take with them to read.

3. Have qualified blind persons conduct the orientation to discuss the "do's and don't's."

UTILIZATION OF VOLUNTEERS:

1. Volunteers, once trained, will meet the needs within the agency. Volunteer Coordinators should meet with department heads monthly to determine where volunteers are needed and where they may be overutilized so they can be moved into an area of need.

2. Volunteers should be matched up with a person who requested assistance in the same community, if possible. This should be done using volunteers in a blind person's neighborhood, whenever possible.

We are certain that ASB will work with us to implement this philosophy and program which will afford the blind of the Delaware Valley an opportunity to obtain self-sufficiency and opportunity, thus improving the quality of life for every blind person.

Respectfully submitted,

National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania

ADDENDUM

The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind has always been that a blind person should be the executive director of an agency which serves the blind. This philosophy has not changed, and it is out hope that when the new permanent executive director is chosen to run ASB, it will be a competent blind person.

Our Position Paper stated that a blind person should hold the number two position. The reason for this was that Michael Coyle, who happens to be sighted, was at that time the Executive Director. We did not want to give the appearance of slighting him.

We feel that the new permanent executive director should be a competent blind person, who can travel independently, who uses Braille efficiently, and who believes that all blind people should use Braille, who will work to promote good rehabilitation services, who will expand the rehabilitation services and direct positive changes to be made in training programs, who will expand and utilize the Electronic Aids Program to its fullest potential, who will promote a positive image of blindness to both employers and the general public from whom donations are received, who will believe that every blind person has the right to make a better life for himself, and who would turn Associated Services for the Blind into an agency of which we can all be proud.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 24, 1987

Greater Philadelphia Chapter
National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dear Friends:

On behalf of the Associated Services for the Blind, I wish to thank you for your position paper and for presenting it to Mr. Kimbrough and Mr. Coyle at your meeting of October 22nd, 1987. I find the position paper very useful. I'm glad to find that some of your recommendations are already being done at ASB.

The question of representation on the Board of Directors is of paramount importance to your organization.

At our Executive Committee meeting of November 19, this all important matter was referred to the Nominating Committee for their review and consideration.

In relation to the many other excellent suggestions in your paper, most of those fall into the area of service under Mr. Kimbrough. I have referred these matters to Mr. Kimbrough and his staff for their input and comment.

ASB joins with the NFBP in it's desire to want to afford the Blind of Delaware Valley an opportunity to obtain self sufficiency and opportunity, thus improving the quality of life for every blind person.

Sincerely,

Joanne M. Davidoff
Chairperson
Associated Services for the Blind

 

In the preceding letter note that Coyle pretends to assume that the NFB delegation represented the Greater Philadelphia Chapter only. Coyle was apparently still on his divide-and-conquer kick, a ploy that had not worked at the state convention and would not work in Philadelphia. It is hard to know what to make of Coyle's reference in the letter to the meeting of the ASB Executive Board on November 19 since there is no Executive Board in the governing structure of ASB. Perhaps he was referring to the then seventeen members of the Executive Committee, who presumably met on November 19 to accept Coyle's resignation. Or perhaps that group was expanded for the evening to include a few additional Board members. Certainly Pat Comorato, a member of the full Board, was not apprised of the meeting. Since Davidoff's title in the closing of the letter is incorrect, one can perhaps safely lean toward the first explanation—namely, that Coyle (more absent-minded than sinister) simply did not remember that he had an Executive Committee rather than an Executive Board.

The Monitor has learned that the letter dated November 24, 1976, was drafted a few days before Coyle tendered his resignation on November 19. He had presumably not intended to stay long since he had never resigned from the position of Director of the Regional Library. There has been much speculation about why he did resign from ASB. Coyle himself says that, within three weeks of his taking the job, his blood pressure had risen enough so that his wife insisted that he resign. Others point out that in October he recognized for the first time just how massive the problems facing ASB really are, and he probably did not wish to be remembered as the Director under whom ASB foundered. He certainly recognized that the Federation was not going to go away, and that by itself was probably hard on his blood pressure.

Usually reliable sources close to the Executive Committee have told the Braille Monitor that after his resignation, Coyle supported B. T. Kimbrough to serve as acting Director. Coyle would not comment on this story when asked directly, but in a close vote of the Board James Swed was chosen by a narrow margin.

That vote took place at a meeting on December 10, 1987, which turned out to be quite a free-for-all. The Federation had been given permission to make a presentation to the Board, and a group of eight from the Pennsylvania affiliate came to the meeting. A small delegation had attended the previous meeting of the Board and had recorded the proceedings without anyone's raising a question about their presence. On this occasion, however, even though chairs had been placed for the visitors, Board members suddenly objected to having guests in the room.

The Federationists were escorted to another room, where they were eventually given coffee, after a discussion in which some Board members said that they were guests and should be given lunch, and others asserted that they should not receive any hospitality at all. The Board then voted to close its meetings and prohibit taping of the deliberations. The Federation delegation was admitted during the NFB presentation.

The presentation, which Terry McManus and Betsy Gerhart made, was moving and articulate. They reviewed the history of ASB and the NFB's concerns, and they mentioned the position paper so carefully written and hopefully presented to ASB personnel. They assured the Board that the NFB was desperately eager to work with ASB to improve services to blind people. Several members of the Board were very impressed with the presentation, but it is doubtful that the majority wished to consider objectively a true partnership between the agency and the organized blind.

As this article is being written it is still not clear what the ASB Nominating Committee will do with the NFB demand for increased representation on the ASB Board and for two positions on the Executive Committee. On December 9 Robert Apple, Chair of the Nominating Committee, called Betsy Gerhart to say that she and others could submit their resumes for consideration. She, her husband Tom, and Hadyn Wyer did so. If appointed, their presence would bring the number of Federationists serving on the board to five. This compares to eight ACB members. When the Executive Committee was reappointed in December, three of the five ACB members were removed. This was apparently ASB's way of addressing the NFB's request for participation in the Executive Committee. It is, of course, not a satisfactory solution. The Executive Committee is the body in which real authority resides, and Federationists understand the political process well enough to continue the demand for representation in the body that actually determines the policies affecting blind people.

Before ending this summary of ASB misdeeds and bad judgment, we must call attention to the Executive Committee itself. A relative handful of people (by ASB standards) holds the real power. These are businessmen, who apparently think that they are helping the blind when they make decisions among themselves and impose those decisions on the rest of the Board and the agency. It is a cosy group, and one suspects that being a member can be lucrative. For example, Robert Apple (Second Vice President and Chair of the Nominating Committee) has written insurance for ASB. Thomas Unkefer, also a member of the Executive Committee, completed $200,000 worth of remodeling of the ASB lobby in the summer and fall of 1986. That contract was let without seeking other bids. Perhaps both men are serving ASB without profit in these matters, but no one can tell. The NFB of Pennsylvania has learned enough in the last several years to be genuinely concerned about what may be happening to ASB financially. At the time of this writing the NFB of Pennsylvania is considering the possibility of writing a letter to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania to seek help in straightening out the ASB mess.

So there it is. Mrs. O'Leary's cow has certainly kicked the bucket. The flames have already licked their way through the straw. It is not too much to fear that the whole ASB structure may already be alight. Officials of ASB and members of the ACB point fingers at the NFB and the union for crying "Fire," but we will always try to save blind people and their jobs. Terry McManus and Betsy Gerhart said nothing less than the truth when on December 10, 1987, they assured the Board of ASB that the NFB wants to be a part of the solution. The trouble is that any real solution must have the good of the blind at its center. It must be carried out by people who believe in the capabilities of the blind, working in partnership with blind people who can respect themselves. Let us hope that it is not too late for Associated Services for the Blind to learn from its past mistakes.

 

MY FLIGHT FROM DISCRIMINATION

by Robert Greenberg

(Robert Greenberg was a scholarship winner at the 1986 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Kansas City. Both he and his wife Orna are active Federationists who live their Federationism on a daily basis. Here is Bob's account of what happened as he and his wife were traveling from Florida to Connecticut after the meeting of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped—NAC.)

I love airplanes. They are my secret passion. I've been a world traveler since the age of two. You can turn me loose in any terminal you wish, and I will feel at home. I have a large collection of airline timetables (from as early as 1969), and if you are not careful, I will spend the rest of the day with you explaining the differences in the designs of each commercial aircraft model and the year they were purchased; and I will gladly bore you to death telling you the difference between a Boeing 727-200 and a DC9-80. For me, traveling is the most enjoyable pastime—it was, that is, until Sunday, November 15, 1987.

On that date I boarded an American Airlines flight in Fort Lauderdale, bound for Hartford with a stopover in Raleigh/Durham. The first part of the flight was comparatively uneventful—with no more trouble than the fact that I was assigned a seat in an exit row without having asked for it and was badgered a bit by flight personnel who wanted to take my cane. The stopover in Raleigh/Durham was equally uneventful, the only notable occurrence being the effort by airline personnel to cart me through the airport instead of letting we walk. It was only after my wife and I took our assigned seats on the flight to Hartford (again, exit row seats, which we had not requested) that what can only be called an ordeal commenced.

A flight attendant brought me a safety brochure in Braille so that I would be familiar with how to use the exit door in case of an emergency. Well, that's more like it, I thought, grateful for (and surprised by) this courtesy. I turned to my wife, who was also a bit annoyed by the incident in the terminal, and said, "You see, society as a whole is enlightened. We just encountered a few dopes in the terminal and on the first leg of the flight."

I read the brochure carefully and found explicit instructions that my cane should be placed flat on the floor. Just as I thought. I followed these instructions and read on. Then, the following sentence came up: "In case of an emergency, you have to get off the airplane and leave your cane behind." "But," I thought, "that is exactly the time that I would need my cane."

Before I could finish reading, the flight attendant returned to inform us that we must move out of our seats. I asked her to explain the reason for her request, and she informed me that under federal law I am not allowed to sit in an exit row. Then, the nightmare started.

A whole chorus of officials, men and women, old and young, basses, sopranos, altos and tenors, descended upon us and informed us that our seats were reserved for people who are not deaf, blind, children under eight, mentally retarded, elderly, or pregnant. My wife (sighted) would seem to qualify for those seats, but I think she was blind "by marriage" as it were, and this chorus of officials was just as determined to oust her as me.

Both law and logic were abandoned at this point. Someone came on the loudspeaker and told the passengers that "a blind passenger was not cooperating and was preventing the flight from leaving the gate." I was outraged. I did not ask them to stop the flight. I was not hijacking the plane. I was merely sitting in my assigned seat—which they sold me. I was minding my own business and complying with the law. Next, the captain told the passengers that there was a federal law which I was violating. I could hear the crowd roaring and hissing around me. My stomach started to turn over, and I began to sweat.

"This can't be real," I told myself. The passengers started to shout obscenities and say things that they would probably be ashamed about later—at least, I hope so. "Who do you think you are, you ---, S--- B---!" "We will throw you out of that window!" "Why don't you just go to ---!" The captain then read the rule about who may and who may not sit in the exit row to the angry passengers and then addressed my wife and me, saying that "this was not the way to win public sympathy."

Our ordeal was far from over. Realizing that psychological torture would not move us, they tried bribery. They offered us first-class seats. By now I was indignant over this whole unnecessary and humiliating incident. I said: "No, thank you. I don't want first-class seats, just first-class citizenship."

At this stage the plane was forty minutes late. Officials (smiling officials according to my wife) were walking up and down the aisles bringing over to our seats passengers who wished to express their disgust with our behavior and "uncivilized conduct." I thought I was going insane. I held my wife's hand, glad that there was another witness to this outrage. Feeling my distress, she whispered in my ear: "Robert, remember that the whole NFB is standing here with us."

An official of the airline, Mr. Dunlop, informed us that he would call the police to arrest us if we didn't move. But the police refused to comply with his request, simply because there was no law we were violating. Not that the police are heroes in this drama. Later on one of them was to inform my wife that "He wished he could get his hands on us."

The rest of the story is even more degrading. The airline announced the cancellation of the flight, and we were all asked to take our belongings off the plane. The roar of the crowd was incredible; my ears rang from the four-letter words which were directed at us; each individual on the plane found it necessary to express in our ears their feelings toward us. It was as if the whole world turned dark with hatred, and the airline people and police stood there smug and smiling, looking on as everyone disembarked.

A policeman came to me and told me I should speak to the chief of security on the phone. While I was on the phone with him, which was a good ten minutes, the re-boarding of our flight started. Then, we were told that we were not to board the flight. Indeed, the ground personnel clarified to us at this point that not only were we not to complete our flight to Hartford on American Airlines, but we were banned from ever flying American Airlines again. "You are not flying American ever again," they said.

We were stranded at Raleigh/Durham with no means to get home. While I was on the phone my wife went to ask for a refund for our tickets. When she reached the counter of American Airlines, she noticed one of the American Airlines ground personnel give the policeman a list with handwritten names. She overheard her saying "Here's a list of NFB people." My wife could see both our names on that list. When the officer suddenly noticed her, he hid the list, covering it with his palm. "What do you want?" he asked angrily.

My wife urged the ground personnel, and they agreed to refund us some of our money, although they claimed the tickets were worthless. On the checks they wrote that they were involuntarily given.

We left the American terminal, and the police escorted us all the way to Continental and stood closely behind us while we were at the counter. We caught a Continental flight to Newark and traveled to Hartford without further incident. We arrived home five hours late and out $150 (since we had to buy new one-way tickets ten minutes prior to departure).

I still love airplanes, and I hope to continue flying; but I must confess that the experiences I have just related have shaken me. A way simply must be found to put a stop to the senseless humiliation which the airlines are more and more frequently inflicting upon blind passengers.

 

SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1988

by James Gashel

The beginning of each year brings with it some annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost-of-living increases, and changes in deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 1988:

FICA (Social Security) Tax Rate: The tax rate for employees and their employers during 1988 (effective January 1) is 7.51 percent. This is up from 7.15 percent during 1986 and 1987. Self-employment contributions to Social Security will be at an effective rate of 13.02 percent, up from an effective rate of 12.3 percent during 1987. The actual self-employment contribution is twice the amount of the employee contribution (or 15.02 percent in 1988), but the effect of the self-employment tax is reduced by a 2 percent income tax credit.

Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: Social Security contributions will be paid during 1988 on the first $45,000.00 of earnings for employees and self-employed persons. This compares to the 1987 ceiling of $43,800.00.

Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 1987, a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $460.00 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $1,840.00 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 1988 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $470.00 for a calendar quarter, and four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $1,880.00.

Exempt Earnings: The earnings exemption for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is the same as the exempt amount for individuals age sixty-five through sixty-nine who receive Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly exempt amount in 1987 was $680.00. During 1988 the exempt amount will be $700.00. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of monthly earnings which does not show "Substantial Gainful Activity." Earnings of $700.00 or more per month for a blind SSDI beneficiary in 1988 will show Substantial Gainful Activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment-related work expenses.

Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1988: All Social Security benefits, including retirement, survivors, disability and dependents benefits, are increased by 4.2 percent beginning January, 1988. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.

Here are some average Social Security benefit amounts payable beginning January, 1988: average Social Security retirement check, $513.00; aged couple, both receiving benefits, $876.00; widow or widower and two children, $1,077.00; average check for disabled workers, $508.00; disabled spouse and children, $919.00; maximum retirement check for worker reaching age sixty-five in 1988, $822.00; average retirement check for worker reaching sixty-five in 1988, $513.00; minimum retirement check for worker reaching age sixty-five in 1988, $407.00.

SSI Resource Increase: There is an annual increase, effective January 1, 1988, in the amount of resources permitted for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients. In 1987, individuals could have resources of $1,800.00, and couples could have $2,650.00. These amounts are increased in 1988 to $1,900.00 for individuals and $2,850.00 for couples. Resources include checking accounts, savings accounts, cash value of insurance, stocks, bonds, and similar assets. Anyone who was previously denied SSI checks on the basis of excess resources may reapply if current resources are within the 1988 limits.

Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1988, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $354.00 per month; couples, $532.00 per month. These amounts are increased from: individuals, $340.00 per month, and couples, $510.00 per month during 1987.

Medicare Deductibles and Co-insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co-insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co-insurance amount. The basic co-insurance amount for Medicare Part A was $520.00 for a hospital stay in 1987. If the hospital stay extended beyond sixty days but not more than ninety days, the co-insurance amount was an additional $130.00. In 1988, the Part A co-insurance amount is $540.00 for any hospital stay of sixty days or less and an additional $135.00 if the stay is beyond sixty days but not exceeding ninety days.

The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at an annual $75.00 amount, just as it was in 1987. The medical insurance premium which Medicare charges for Part B coverage increases, however, from $17.90 per month to $24.80 per month. This is the amount withheld from Social Security checks for Medicare Part B coverage. The cost-of-living increase for Social Security beneficiaries is greatly reduced by this substantial increase in Medicare premiums. Therefore, many Social Security checks will not be increased very much in 1988 over the corresponding amount of the actual monthly benefit in 1987.

 

AGENCY MOVES TOO SLOWLY FOR THE BLIND

(This article by Tom Condon appeared in the December 3, 1987, Hartford [Connecticut] Courant. It spotlights the long-standing discontent which the blind of Connecticut have felt with their state agency, and it underlines the cynical banality of the statement which some of the more regressive agencies so often make when the blind call them to task: "Let's get together. After all, we are all working for the same thing." Here is the article.)

Cherie Heppe is a marvelously accomplished young woman. She has a degree in zoology, speaks German, and plays several musical instruments. Her craftwork adorns her apartment in Hartford's West End.

Now, she'd like to embark on a career as a chiropractor.

She happens to be blind, but that never has deterred her.

The only thing standing in her way is the State of Connecticut.

Heppe said the state's board of education and services for the blind was so slow in getting promised payments to a California chiropractic school that she had to give up her place in the September class, and again in the January class.

She said the board in the past has been exceedingly slow in getting her the equipment she needed for work and said a counselor once discouraged her from seeking a professional career and instead suggested she do piecework in a sheltered workshop.

"I'm disgusted. I really think the state agency is a disgrace," Heppe said. "I'm not subhuman, I'm a person. If they can't provide services for me, dissolve the board and let me contract for them myself."

The agency's director, William E. Patton, disagrees. "I don't really believe that is accurate. We think we're doing a good job," he said.

The board does have its defenders. Nonetheless, it was easy for me to find a half dozen blind people with problems similar to Heppe's.

"Cherie's problem is very typical of the problems blind students have although many are reluctant to speak out. But it's a bad situation," said Jacquilyn Billey, head of the Connecticut chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

The constant complaint from the blind people I spoke with is that the board takes way too long to get them equipment for school or jobs.

Allan Lincoln of Milford said when he was taking a course in auto mechanics, he needed a particular wrench for the section on transmission repair. He said by the time he got it, the section was over.

A young woman from the Hartford area, who asked that her name not be used, said when she was taking college courses, she didn't get funds for a reader—someone to read textbooks to her—until the semester was almost over.

"It puts blind students in an awful position," she said.

These kinds of complaints have been made about the agency for several years. Two years ago, a blind student at the Hartt School of Music at the Unversity of Hartford complained that she failed two courses because she didn't get books in time.

Heppe and others also said the board takes forever to fix equipment, such as Braille writers, when they break down.

Perhaps the most distressing thing these people have to say is that many agency counselors don't encourage them.

"I learned Braille, but I wasn't pushed to. I wanted college courses, but they discouraged me," said Susan Manchester of Fairfield, who said she took the courses anyway.

"They give you the minimum, that's all. The board can be an excellent resource at times, and at other times they completely drop the ball. They have some employees who really care, but they're in the minority," she said.

The agency is designed to provide counseling, education, and training for the state's blind persons. Patton said the agency has 115 employees, almost 100 of whom are sighted, and an annual budget of $12.7 million. He said most of that goes to towns for special education programs.

Patton said he sympathizes with complaints of blind students, but said the state bureaucracy is by nature slow. "It takes time for us to purchase things through the state system, especially high-tech items," he said. "As a state agency, we just cannot do things overnight."

He said he has submitted a bill for the next session of the legislature to allow his agency to stockpile equipment, so it will be handy when people need it. It's about time.

The agency also had better start thinking of its clients as potential doctors instead of poor little patients.

"I'm capable, qualified, and I need a career," said Heppe. "And I'd be good at it.

"Isn't that what we want? Or do they want us on the welfare rolls?"

 

KANSAS INDUSTRIES FOR THE BLIND A STUDY IN PROFESSIONALISM AND CHAOS

by Kenneth Jernigan

Whenever and wherever in the English-speaking world people think of high drama, knee-slapping comedy, tragic miscalculation, or villainous intrigue, they think of William Shakespeare. At the beginning of his plays Shakespeare always listed what he called the dramatis personae—or cast of characters. Since Kansas Industries for the Blind is possessed of the elements of both drama and farce, let us begin by cataloging the dramatis personae. There is Republican Governor Mike Hayden, who in January of 1987 replaced his Democratic predecessor; there is Winston Barton, Secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services for the State of Kansas, who reports to the Governor; there is Joan Watson, who until recently was Commissioner of Rehabilitation and who reported to Barton; there is Dr. Richard Schutz, Director of the Division of Services for the Blind, who reports to the Commissioner of Rehabilitation; and there is Caroline Lauer, who reports to Dr. Schutz and is Administrator of Kansas Industries for the Blind, which consists of sheltered shops in Topeka and Kansas City and a small home industries program. There are also Susan Munck, Director of Marketing for Kansas Industries for the Blind; Richard Edlund, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas; various legislators; the blind of the state; and a few buffoons. The scene is the State of Kansas, and the time is 1986 to present. Does this strike you as a bit melodramatic—a strange way to commence a discussion of the problems besetting a sheltered workshop program? Not if you know Kansas Industries for the Blind.

Perhaps the best way to begin is by quoting an article which appeared in the Special Labor Day, 1987, Issue of the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas. The article (which was written by Dr. Charles Hallenbeck, who is a professor at the University of Kansas at Lawrence) properly sets the stage:

The Sheltered Shop Crisis

The existence of sheltered employment for the blind in Kansas has been a good-news bad-news situation for years. The good news is that it is better than nothing; the bad news is that it is not much better. The shops (Kansas Industries for the Blind) are operated within Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services, within that agency's Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and within that organization's Kansas Services for the Blind. The state officials responsible for the following scenario are, therefore, Winston Barton, SRS Secretary; Joan Watson, his VR Commissioner; and Richard Schutz, her KSB Director. Deep within this bureaucracy is Caroline Lauer, manager of the two KIB shops.

As the SRS empire has expanded out of control in recent years, its internal rules and bizarre bookkeeping practices have taken a toll on the shop operations. Even with super management it would have been difficult to operate a business enterprise profitably; with ordinary management of modest skill, there was no hope. The shops are losing their shirts!

At NFB prodding, a "Legislative Post Audit" was conducted during the summer and fall of 1986, which documented many of the problems but glossed over many others. There has been no constructive action put into place since that audit, except for the regular "gripe sessions" kindly provided by Watson and Schutz, intended no doubt as a cathartic release for the unhappy shop workers. Needless to say, the shops are losing more than their shirts this year.

A decision has apparently been made to close down the shops as of the end of June, 1988. The decision was made in secrecy and was kept secret until Watson and Schutz could break the news to the public a little at a time, in true crisis-management style. The nature of the deception and cover-up is truly astounding. On September 2, 1987, Watson and Schutz explained in person to workers at the Topeka shop that the Kansas City shop would be closed and insisted that "no decision had yet been made" about closing the Topeka shop. They were there on an emergency visit to explain a lengthy document dated August 25, 1987, sent by Watson to the Kansas state legislators in Wyandotte and Shawnee counties, where the two shops are located. Question number one:

If only the Kansas City shop was targeted for closing, why prepare the Shawnee (Topeka) legislators for the bad news? Watson and Schutz deliberately lied to persons whom they believed knew no better. Many who attended that "briefing" did know better, and by now everyone does. Many shop workers picketed the Watson home the next evening.

NFB has learned that on August 25, the same day Commissioner Watson was preparing the legislators for the sound of the falling axe, Schutz met with Lauer to tell her that, in fact, the Topeka shop would be closed, too. In dismay, Lauer asked for the news in writing, and Schutz obliged. Here is a transcript of the handwritten memorandum from Schutz to Lauer dated August 25, 1987:

TO: Caroline Lauer

FROM: Richard Schutz

DATE: August 25, 1987

RE: Fiscal Year 1989 Budget Proposal

This memo is to confirm the following information I shared in face to face discussion with you earlier today.

Commissioner Watson told me yesterday p.m. that the SRS secretary's current FY-1989 budget proposal is to request no funds to continue any part of the KIB beyond the end of FY-1988-- that is, the proposal is to discontinue all of KIB effective 6-30-88.

Commissioner Watson also said the secretary does not want this proposal to be made public at this time.

Commissioner Watson and I agreed to share this most recent proposal with you, but you are directed not to share the information with anyone else until authorized to do so. I shall seek more clarification as soon as I can about when the information can be shared. You will be notified when the information can be shared with the public. My understanding is that the reason for the latest proposal is that the shortage of state funds is projected to be so severe that it is not considered prudent to use those funds to continue KIB.

The letter of that same day from Watson to the legislators in Wyandotte and Shawnee counties outlines the case against the blind of Kansas. We are losers all, according to the Commissioner's figures, and it makes sense for a prudent state agency to wash its hands of the lot of us. In Mrs. Watson's own words, ninety-seven percent of shop workers are also receiving SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). We will have more to say about Commissioner Watson's declaration of war against the blind in future issues of this newsletter.

Two items of curious relevance to the shop crisis took place during early August of 1987. A letter from Schutz to shop workers laid off from the Kansas City shop enclosed a JOB (Job Opportunities for the Blind) application and encouraged them to explore every avenue for their future employment. Schutz was overheard remarking that "NFB always says we don't do anything for the blind. Let's see them do something for a change." Of course, Schutz and his staff are well paid to provide services to the blind. NFB is the only means of keeping them honest and monitoring the quality of those services.

Shortly after Schutz's August letter to the shop workers, he and Watson attempted to explain to Richard Edlund (President of the NFB of Kansas) a new plan they had dreamed up. They were soliciting bids from agencies in Missouri (including the Kansas City Association for the Blind, the Rehabilitation Institute, and Whole Person) to deal with the job placement problem created by closing the Kansas City shop. A $30,000 contract was to be awarded for that purpose. If you or I were unable to perform the job for which we were being paid, we probably would not be able to keep our job and hire people from Missouri to do it for us. We would probably be relieved of our duties so that more competent persons might take our places. The KIB shops are called "sheltered shops." It is becoming crystal clear who is being "sheltered" in the shop situation and who is being left out in the cold.

This is what Dr. Hallenbeck said in the Labor Day, 1987, newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas, and one is left with the feeling that there is a great deal beneath the surface. Apparently the members of the press had the same feeling. The following articles from the Topeka Capital-Journal (which provide background and show the temper of public opinion) are typical:

 

SEPTEMBER 4, 1987

SRS May Eliminate Program for Blind

The state may close or try to get a private agency to operate Kansas Industries for the Blind next summer, Social and Rehabilitlation Services Secretary Winston Barton said Thursday.

He said he was considering alternatives to continuing operation of KIB, which employs about fifty blind and sighted people in workshops at 425 MacVicar Avenue and in Kansas City, Kansas.

He said he was considering not seeking an appropriation for KIB in his agency's budget for the fiscal year which starts July 1, 1988.

"The program cost the state about $2 million last year, and it sold only $1.3 million in products. That's a $700,000 loss on the operation," Barton said.

A recent study of KIB by the Legislative Division of Post Audit showed it to be a money-loser. It cited products that cost far more to make than they were sold for, including mattresses manufactured by blind workers that cost the state $2,000 each and were sold for about $200.

KIB came under legislative scrutiny last year, when lawmakers found that they could scrap the manufacturing program, give all KIB workers $15,000 a year, and save more than $1 million in the process.

KIB employees average $6,000 to $7,000 a year in pay for their jobs, according to Barton. Those are generally light manufacturing and assembly jobs, including household items and occasionally stringing of tennis racquets.

Barton said he hopes that some private agency will take over operation of KIB, and operate it more efficiently.

Barton said in preparing his giant social service agency's budget for next fiscal year, "We are working on a budget level with a 1.2 percent increase in funds, and our agency is growing at six to seven percent a year, so you look at every program closely.

"We may propose eliminating the program, but we aren't going to leave those people high and dry. We are going to try to get some program for them, to continue the program, or find them work," Barton said.

He said he was confident that many KIB workers could find good jobs outside of KIB. "These people are talented, and I believe we can help them find jobs in private industry," Barton said.

"This is just a proposal. We may make it and be told by the governor or the legislature to put that money back in. The point is that nothing is going to happen until June 30."

Joan Watson, SRS commissioner, said, "The workers are concerned, and I am appreciative of that concern."

But she agreed with Barton and said no decision yet had been made on what to do with KIB.

Watson said Kansas is one of only ten states that operate sheltered workshops for the blind. She said most states over the past ten to twenty years have turned their workshops over to private agencies.

Barton said he has scheduled a meeting with KIB staff in Topeka next week to discuss his budget proposal.

 

SEPTEMBER 13, 1987

Fate of Blind Workshop

Hinges on New Contracts, Products

The gentle humming of sewing machines fills the background as the nearly fifty employees of the Kansas Industries for the Blind (KIB) at 425 MacVicar, go about their daily business. There is no idle chatter among the group, just intense concentration as each performs his or her assigned task as if it were the most important job in the world.

The atmosphere seems serene on the surface, but underneath lies worry and fear. Imprinted on one woman's bright yellow t-shirt the words "Save Kansas Industries for the Blind" seem to say it all.

According to Winston Barton, Secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services, it is time for the state to cut its losses where KIB is concerned. Yearly subsidies of $700,000 per year will soon be a thing of the past. Barton said there are two options: turn the KIB over to private enterprise (an idea most blind employees feel is risky) or make the operation more self-supporting.

The KIB staff is pushing for option two, and to convince state officials that they can run a successful business, Marketing Director Susan Munck has begun an all out campaign to drum up new business. So far, it is working.

Last week KIB employees began working on a new contract for the Essex Group which Munck said could be worth up to $1,500 per month. Dennis McCartney, purchasing agent for Essex, said KIB won the contract fair and square through a competitive bidding process. The job requires KIB employees to label cardboard cartons.

Today, Munck is on to the next hurdle. "Custom Woods and Refinishing has asked us to bid on the assembly of Kansas wind devils (a hanging wooden ornament)," she said. The company's owner, Sonny Campbell, is working on a contract for the product with a major national retailer. The outcome of those negotiations could mean a steady stream of business for KIB for many years to come.

KIB currently produces more than 200 products ranging from household items to flyer kit bags used by military pilots, and the search for new products is ongoing. Soon, Munck said her staff will expand their line of wares to include blankets, mattress pads, and bedspreads. All items are available to government, business, and individual customers.

Barton said KIB is on the right track with its marketing attack. "The marketing is the biggy. The products are not sold as well as they could be. There is an old cliche 'find a need and fill it.' They need to find out what institutions and government agencies need, and make it," he said.

Barton said his agency needs to demonstrate to the governor and the legislature that state allocations for KIB can be cut from $700,000 to $200,000 per year. If it does become necessary to turn the operation over to private enterprise, Barton said a group in Wichita, which also operates a workshop for the blind, has expressed interest in taking over both KIB's Topeka and Kansas City operations.

"The concern I have with the Wichita group is that they were struggling a number of years ago, and I'm not sure they are ready to take over KIB," said Munck. If the operation were to fold, she believes blind employees would be left with no recourse other than to go on welfare.

"You take a sixty-five-year-old blind woman who wears a hearing aid and has arthritis in her arms and legs—where is she going to find another job. One girl was targeted for a nursing home before they brought her here. She has cerebral palsy, is totally blind, and thinks KIB is great. Our workers are good people, they don't want to go on welfare," said Munck.

Thoughts like these make Munck and the KIB staff even more determined to see their operation become self-supporting. "We have a very open mind about the type of products we can produce. Anytime a product or idea is brought in, we check it out and see how we can work it into our operation," she said.

 

NOVEMBER 15, 1987

Looking for a Light

Uncertainty in the Kingdom of the Blind

by Gene Smith

Jim Waggoner paused in his endless round of collections, and his nimble fingers straightened the stacks of plastic-bagged pillowcases on his handcart, his sightless eyes trained on the load.

"I don't like it," he said bluntly, when asked what he thought of the proposed closing of the Kansas Industries for the Blind workshop at 6th and MacVicar, where he has worked for the last twenty-four years.

"Look at all these blind people here. What're they gonna do for work?" he demanded.

Told that higher officials in the Division of Blind Services claim many move up and out, to better jobs in the community, he snorted. "I've never heard of any of 'em gettin' better jobs. Damn few of 'em. Really none that I know of."

A Lawrence resident, Waggoner was a maintenance supervisor at the Sunflower Ordnance Plant at nearby DeSoto when he started to lose his sight. That was 1953, and he'd been there seventeen years. By 1959 he was totally blind.

Since 1963 he has commuted daily to his new job in Topeka, riding with a neighbor, another state employee who works not far away.

He works as a packer and material layer. He is at the top of his salary range. He makes $2.74 an hour—well below minimum wage.

"It is damn poor pay, I'll tell you that," he admitted. "But I like the work around here."

Now seventy, Waggoner is unlikely to work too many more years anyway—but one of those from whom he picks up completed pillowcases is Barbara Jackson, a Topeka native who's worked here since earning her undergraduate degree in psychology from Salina's Marymount College in 1981.

A piece worker, Mrs. Jackson says she's here "because I needed something to do." She tried to get some sort of job in her field after graduation, but soon found with no advanced degree and no experience, there was nothing available to her. "A lot of us are refused jobs on the ground that we can't see."

She no longer looks for other work. "I haven't totally given up, though. I just haven't quite known where to look."

Blind since birth, Mrs. Jackson remarked, "when I heard that the Kansas City shop would be closed, I thought, 'Well, we're next.'"

She may be right.

Citing a likely budget shortfall of up to half a million dollars in the subsidy needed to keep the operation afloat past next summer, new Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Winston Barton has proposed to Governor Mike Hayden that there be no KIB financing for the 1989 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 1988.

Barton said the state could not continue to spend more than $700,000 per year to subsidize a workshop program, but added if program operators could find a way to cut costs, he would be willing to discuss it.

In the 1987 fiscal year which ended June 30, the two KIB workshops together fell $735,590 on the wrong side of the ledger.

Joan Watson, commissioner of Rehabilitation Services, and Dr. Richard Schutz, director of the Division of Services for the Blind, said the two big problems are a lost federal mattress supply contract and a need to better utilize available state funds to leverage the most federal dollars for Kansas social aid programs.

"Federal Prison Industries exercised their (production) priority (on the mattress contract) and pulled it out from under six blind workshops in the country," explained Caroline Lauer, administrator of the state's blind workshops in Topeka and Kansas City. "And that contract was worth $1 million in sales to us."

When that happened, she said, the latter facility was essentially out of work, since mattresses were their principal product. That was in 1985, and by the 1987 fiscal year fourteen blind workers were laid off for four pay periods because of lack of work. Agency figures indicate at present only a dozen persons are employed there.

And Mrs. Watson reported, "We are short more than $1 million. We will lose $1,062,345 in federal funds this year" for federally-supported rehabilitation programs in Kansas unless the state digs up enough money to provide the required 1:4 match to qualify for the federal dollars.

Sheltered workshops for the blind don't meet the federal rehabilitation criteria, added Mrs. Watson, a small, sweet-faced woman with graying hair and a quiet, understated manner.

"There is no anticipation that there will be enough. . .funds. We know that some cuts will have to be made," and while there was no intent to short-change anyone, "there really are some choices to be made. Someone is not going to be served!"

She pointed out the sheltered workshop program for the blind represents "about a $2.1 million budget supporting fifty persons."

SRS figures indicate since 1953 KIB has run at an annual deficit ranging from the FY-86 high to a low of $126 and "has realized a profit or break-even status in only eight years of its forty-seven-year existence." Two of those years were in the '80's. In 1982 the operations made $57,075, and in '84 they showed a profit of $19,792.

Dr. Schutz says, "Very few states today operate this kind of sheltered workshop for the blind"—some ten, to his knowledge, including Connecticut, Indiana, South Dakota, Oregon, Arizona, Virginia, Kentucky, and a "big program" in Georgia.

On the other hand there are "over 100" such programs operated by private not-for-profit corporations, including one in Kansas:

Wichita Industries and Services for the Blind (the former Kansas Foundation for the Blind, renamed in September). The Wichita facility employs "in the low forties," he reported, including about thirty blind workers.

The bottom line, according to the SRS officials, is that at present it's costing a total of about $15,000 a year to pay forty-eight blind workers an annual wage of around $5,000 each. And it's not cost effective.

Summing up, Mrs. Watson said, "The issue is kind of locked into what's the best opportunities for people in Topeka and Kansas City."

Consequently, Watson, Schutz, and the SRS staff recommended an effort to transfer the two blind workshops to ownership and operation by some nonprofit corporation not yet identified, and a bill giving SRS authority to sell or lease the state-owned operations is proposed for the 1988 legislature.

They cite the example of Wisconsin, which took similar action, and say perhaps a contract could be drawn under which the new private operator would receive a decreasing state subsidy for three to five years.

If that attempt fails, the original proposal was to close the Kansas City workshop at the end of the 1988 fiscal year, coupled with an effort to find jobs for the dislodged workers elsewhere. However, Mrs. Watson said the newly-appointed SRS secretary proposed to simply close both workshops instead.

Other options are to rock along while "encouraging" workshop employees to find new private-sector jobs, to transfer them "to another department of the state that's more involved in manufacture" (meaning the Department of Corrections) or simply to continue as they have been.

The last option is what most of the workers themselves seem to want—as does Mrs. Lauer, who says "the grass is not always greener" on the private nonprofit side of the house. She points out she came from just that field before becoming administrator of the KIB workshops four years ago and says, "They're still gonna need a subsidy from the state."

A tall, attractive thirty-four-year-old with a brisk, forthright manner and a faintly confrontational air, Mrs. Lauer said she has been in rehabilitation services for fourteen years. She came here from Illinois, where she was director of a program for a multiple disability group with 300 clients.

"This program also returns somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million a year to the state," she reported. "And also this is a rehabilitation program, and I don't know any other rehabilitation program that's required to make money. The state has never really made up its mind what we're supposed to be.

"We've said for a long time that we didn't have the tools we needed to turn the agency around—and that's the biggest difference now. Secretary Barton is giving us the tools to do that. He's really letting me be the administrator of the program—which is something that has not been done in five years."

Between now and next June, she continued, the program must demonstrate the thirty-two blind workers and their eight sighted co-workers (plus five other handicapped and six Civil Service employees) can reduce the subsidy need—"and we're currently doing that" by streamlining paperwork, becoming more efficient within the plant, looking for a better product mix, and placing a new emphasis on marketing those products, with "better utilization of the resources that we have."

At the moment, the Topeka workshop makes school erasers, mops, and pillowcases—almost exclusively for VA hospitals, schools, and other public agencies. They have made many other items in the past, and there once was a determined effort to sell such products to the general public—even to the point of selling door-to-door—but those efforts have been largely neglected in recent years.

Mrs. Lauer observed, "Up until recently, this part of the agency really had kind of rested on its laurels. Nobody thought of the day when they might not make mattresses. And so now we need time to regroup and diversify."

She contends Barton didn't decide to close both workshops, but was blind-sided by Mrs. Watson and Dr. Schutz. But, she shrugged, Mrs. Watson is a Carlin political appointee and on her way out, while professional civil servant Schutz "really didn't want it to work."

Straightening up, Mrs. Lauer declared, "My goal is to salvage the program for the state of Kansas and the employees—and that's a heck of a risk. You've really got to feel down in your heart. You've got to be able to look at somebody. . .and see what they can do. And Richard Schutz doesn't see those people forty hours a week. I do!"

Helen Gordon was hired as a visually handicapped worker in 1984, after she was laid off from her private industry job. "I went all over town" in a fruitless search for another job, she recalls, adding, "I see a lot of people out there (on the KIB workroom floor) that can't go anyplace else and work."

In 1986 she applied for a Civil Service job as a "sheltered workshop technician"—and got it, the first legally blind worker in the history of the facility to do so. "It's been a real difference for me," she said. "This is the best opportunity available to many of the older workers here."

And she said, "It was a real shock to me" that SRS officials would propose closing it. "I'm still shocked. I don't believe they'll close it. I have no intentions of looking for another job."

Rex Simmonds agrees. Simmonds, another Topekan who has been blind since birth, was sewing mop heads in a corner of the building. He, too, was surprised when the proposed closing was announced—and he doesn't think it will happen either.

Simmonds is one of those in the shop paid on a piecework basis— a variation that enables them to earn much better incomes. Said Mrs. Lauer, "I've got (blind) people here that make $10 or $11 an hour, and those jobs are commensurate with the community." But there are only seven such jobs in the Topeka workshop.

Mrs. Florence Vaughn, a totally blind glaucoma victim who's worked at KIB for twenty-three and a half years, says she went to work there to support her child when her marriage fell apart, and has stayed because the knows of no place else she could find a job. "People just don't hire 'em," she says of the blind, reporting "at some places they won't even let you fill out an application. We have some people out here with college degrees, and they can't get a job."

Nevertheless, she expects the state to shut down the program. "If they do close the shop out here, a lot of us are gonna apply for a blind pension. There's no other way! Some of these people are not capable of doing" many other things. Kansas, she noted, has no blind pension now, "but a lot of other states have it."

She paused and added, "The shop in Kansas City wants to go to private ownership, but we don't. Why not keep one and let the other one go? I think that would be more than fair."

Clearly, some agree with her—but others don't.

Caroline Lauer believes "we can become very efficient here," and says the potential there is now being realized.

"I think the staff I have is the staff to make that happen.

Nobody that was here four years ago is still here, other than me. Most of them retired. They'd all been here twenty or thirty years; it was time for them to go. It was time to have some staff that did not want to be paternalistic toward the blind."

Ultimately, the 1988 legislature will decide the fate of Kansas' blind workshops. They may decide to scrap the whole program, to give it away to some still-unidentified private group, lump it in with the state prison system. . . Who knows?

But somehow it's hard to envision a group of politicians deliberately throwing half a hundred blind workers out into the snow.

And as Helen Gordon remarked, "There's no doubt in my mind that there's people who come through here with the skills and the knowledge to do much more than just sit out there sewing."

 

After reading these articles and the item in the Kansas newsletter, one is left with questions. Why should the Kansas workshops consistently lose money, and what could possibly cause a deficit of over $700,000 for fiscal 1987? After all, the shops do not pay taxes, which should give them an edge in competing with private enterprise. They are given a preference in receiving federal contracts, and they are not required to provide reserve funds for upkeep of machinery and plant.

Of course, some might argue that the problem is that the blind workers are not competitive, but this will not stand up. As an attachment to her letter of August 25, 1987, to State Senator Salisbury, rehabilitation commissioner Joan Watson provides relevant data. She says that for fiscal 1987 there were (as an average) twenty-one workers in the Kansas City shop and that they had average annual earnings of $5,422 each. This would mean that the workers in the Kansas City shop should have received total earnings of $113,862 for fiscal 1987. In the same letter Commissioner Watson says that there were (as an average) thirty workers in the Topeka shop with average earnings of $4,876 each for fiscal 1987. This should mean that the workers in the Topeka shop earned $146,280 during fiscal 1987. Commissioner Watson further says that during fiscal 1987 there were six workers in the Home Industries program with average earnings of $1,628 each. This would mean a total of $9,768. If we add the three totals, we get $269,910 as the grand total of earnings for workers in the Kansas Industries for the Blind program for fiscal 1987--which means that if there were absolutely no labor cost at all, the program would still have gone in the red for almost half a million dollars. So it can't be the fault of the workers.

This excuse that all of the problems of the sheltered shops in the United States can be attributed to the inability of blind workers to produce is (and always has been) phony. The employee handbook which is given to the workers says: "Purpose of KIB:

The purpose of KIB is to employ blind persons to manufacture high quality products to be sold for enough revenue so the program at least breaks even financially."

But if the purpose is to "employ blind persons," why is it that every time contracts are lost or other problems occur it is the blind workers (not the sighted supervisors) who are laid off? One has to wonder whether during all of the financial difficulties a single civil service employee was laid off or discharged—and, for that matter, whether salaries did not increase.

As legislators and others have repeatedly said, it would be much cheaper to close the shops and give the money to the workers as a straight grant. The state would save money, and the workers would receive decent wages. It is no wonder that there is talk of turning the shops over to a private, nonprofit organization— but as the blind have learned to their cost, this can also have its problems. Any enterprise (sheltered shop or anything else) is only as good as its management. The problem may be that the state employees responsible for the operation of the shops and the rest of the rehabilitation program in Kansas know that their jobs do not depend upon their productivity or efficiency of performance. They get the same pay regardless of how incompetent or inefficient they may be.

In this connection it may be instructive to read the following memorandum:

 

DATE: February 23, 1987

FROM: Susan Munck

TO: Caroline Lauer

SUBJECT: Bidding Subcontracts

I was contacted by Bill McKnight from the Shawnee County Jail to see if we could make a cloth mattress cover for the jail. I costed this item out using two different materials, drill cloth and cotton/polyester sheeting. The drill cloth mattress cover ended up at $15.54, and the cotton/polyester mattress cover was $12.14. I was given a 280 percent overhead to use in the costing. Because of it, it made our price noncompetitive. I checked with the NIB Technical Center to determine if our material or labor costs were out of line, and I found that they were not. Officer McKnight indicated that the initial order would be for 200 mattress covers, but he said the prices I quoted were too high. They are currently paying $6.25 each for them.

I feel compelled to bring some points out at this time. Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to bid on several lucrative subcontracts but was underbid by commercial companies. Kansas Industries for the Blind pays subminimum wages to their blind employees while commercial companies pay minimum wages or higher. Therefore, it would seem logical that we should be able to compete with these companies. However, because we are mandated by SRS Finance to use an inflated overhead, we are unable to bid competitively.

It would appear to me that at a time when we are trying to increase sales and put people back to work in the Kansas City shop, we cannot afford to be losing subcontracts. I have raised the question before about the overhead I am burdened with in bidding and costing, and I feel we have reached a critical point where we need to resolve this issue.

Some of the contracts I have bid on and lost were: a mailing of 63,000 newsletters for the Greater Kansas City area. We bid 12 cents each. However, a commercial firm got the bid for 1.5 cents each. The second one was a wind sock for a Kansas City company. This was a long-term contract with the initial order of 700. Our bid was $3.00 each. A commercial company got it for $1.05 each. The third bid was to American White Goods to make a bib apron. They wanted 1,000 aprons. Our bid was $3.37 each. They sell their current aprons for $1.50 each. I would assume that if they are selling them for $1.50, they are paying less to have them made. The last bid was for the Shawnee County Jail.

If our accountants are unable to come up with a system to break down the overhead for individual products, it will be an exercise in futility for me to continue with the humiliation of trying to bid subcontracts.

I would appreciate it if you could please forward my concerns on this matter and provide me with some direction for further actions on subcontract work.

cc: Dr. Richard Schutz

 

As Susan Munck points out, bidding for contracts is an exercise in futility if one arbitrarily adds 280 percent to the cost of production. What is to be done with the 280 percent?

But, some may argue, the subsidy, the subminimum wages, and even some of the business incompetence can be justified by the fact that the shops are not really places of work but therapy. They are operated by professionals—professionals who are skilled in rehabilitation and who bring to the task of helping their blind clients the concern and precision of a trained surgeon. After all, a talented surgeon may be inept at business matters but good at saving lives. Rehabilitation professionals are similar in function. They are not business people. They are professionals. Above all, they are professional. Those who believe such arguments should examine the following memorandum from Carolina Lauer to the employees of the Topeka shop. Keep in mind that it was issued only a week after her moving statements to the news media. Also keep in mind that at the time of this writing she still has her job. (Punctuation and spelling are as they appear in the memo.) Let us hear no more about the "professionals" who run Kansas Industries for the Blind. While some of the professionals who are employed in the field of work with the blind are truly professional, this can never be an excuse for incompetence, laziness, or sloppiness—and where there is true professionalism, it is not. Far too often, the so-called "professionals" in the sheltered shops and the rehabilitation agencies simply hide behind the term. Here is Caroline Lauer's memo:

 

DATE: November 23, 1987

FROM: Caroline C. Lauer

TO: Topeka KIB Employees

SUBJECT: Recent Events

I am aware of the meeting you held with Dr. Schutz, during the week I was out of town. To say that I am astounded at the allegations that were made, is to say the least. I need to let each and everyone of you know that I let you know where my loyalties lie and that I was in support of your decision to remain state operated. I trusted each of you and it is apparent that none of you were or are willing to support me.

During the recent weeks in my life I have ended a 13 year marriage. As if that is not difficult enough, I have chosen to be the parent to leave. Leaving my 3 children behind. Through all of this I counted on the employees of KIB to "give me a break". I knew that I could hang on to my job and that this would be my therapy, so to speak. I guess I was wrong. I placed more faith and trust in each of you than you were able to give.

The allegations that have been made are unfounded. I know that and each of you know that. I'm not sure what some of you hope to gain by continuing to hurt, but so be it. It is not on my conscious (sic), but on yours.

I hope for those of you that I have gone the extra mile for that you will take a few minutes and remember that I've cared for each of you, I've fought for you when you wouldn't fight for yourselves, I've worried about you when you've been sick, when you have had a crisis in your life, I've given you a break, something you could not give me. Remember that although I've made mistakes, so have each one of you. I've forgiven each of you for your mistakes and given many of you chance after chance.

Remember first and foremost I am a professional in the field of rehabilitation. I've worked a number of years to gain that credibility, no one will take that away. It is mine, not yours. If I had done something wrong, I would be the first one to own up to it. Each of you know that I am always brutally honest. Each of you should have that quality.

I have done what I've done for KIB for each of you, not me. I am not a self-servant person. I did not make a stand for KIB for me, but for each of you. I can find a job, many, most of you cannot.

If you think this is a letter of resignation, IT IS NOT! I plan on remaining at KIB. I will perform my position description as it is written, nothing more, nothing less. If you want KIB saved as a state operated facility, then each of you will have to fight for it.

To each of you, Civil Service or otherwise. To those of you that I have been loyal to, to those of you that I have provided an opportunity to, to those of you that I have been a friend to, to those of you that I have supported, to whoever sent the Data General Messages to my husband, remember what I've done for you. Remember when I needed support, you were not able or willing to give of yourself to offer or give me that support. If you can live with that and feel good about yourself, sleep well when you go to bed. Someday, each of you will know that it is like to lay your heart on the table and then have it stomped on.

Don't ask me to give you more that (sic) you have given to me. Do not ask me not to be angry, do not ask me not to hurt. I am not capable of letting all of this be water under the bridge.

To the one Civil Service Staff who has been able to show her loyalties, and be a friend, I thank Amy Johnson. She has laid her heart on the table and you need to know that you have stomped on her heart also. I am her friend, and I will help her deal with the hurt you have caused her. I thank Amy for her friendship, her loyalties, her trust, her honesty. I have that with Amy, none of you will ever have that.

Life goes on, I'm sure some of you will use this memo against me. What else is new? But I can go to sleep at night knowing I have done the very best I can do and I will continue to do so. But my best will be for the job of the Administrator, not for each of you.

 

This memorandum needs no comment since it speaks so eloquently for itself. Obviously there are severe problems in the Kansas Industries for the Blind program, and solutions must be found. As is so often the case, those solutions are not likely to come from the officials charged with the responsibility of operating the program. They must be found by the blind working together in collective action. In short, they must be found by the National Federation of the Blind.

 

THEY DO THINGS THEY DON'T DO ON BROADWAY

by Stephen Benson

Do you remember the 1977 convention in New Orleans, the 1978 convention in Baltimore, or the 1985 convention in Louisville and how much fun they were? Do you remember the 1972, 1974, and 1975 conventions at the Palmer House in Chicago and how much fun they were? Every national convention has its own unique characteristics. Each one establishes new records, sets new programmatic standards; year after year they get better and better.

In 1972 the NFB of Illinois was still really a fledgling affiliate. We had some talent and organizational skills, and lots of enthusiasm. We had an overwhelming desire to make everybody feel welcome. Every night hospitality in the Red Laquer Room of the Palmer House was alive with good cheer, renewal of old friendships, and hundreds of voices lifted in song expressing true Federation spirit. On Wednesday night hospitality rose to a fever pitch with the Red Garter banjo band providing an evening of entertainment. It was peanuts on the floor, high spirits, and more songs. It was great fun!

In 1988 our national convention will totally eclipse all previous attendance records. It will, indeed, have its own characteristics. The NFB of Illinois, now a well-balanced blend of grizzled veterans and fresh new faces, will demonstrate polished organizational skills as we present a fabulous array of tours and evening entertainment. We will show you that we know how, in true Chicago style, to throw a party. The NFB of Illinois' cup of enthusiasm is literally overflowing. When you come to convention '88, be prepared to have the time of you life in Chicago, my kind of town.

 

PERSIMMONS . . .THE SOFT AND THE HARD AND THE CONFUSING

(From the Editor: As those who frequent the National Center for the Blind know, I am uncommon fond of persimmons. Now, there are those who disparage that noble delicacy, and so it was with a great deal of pleasure that I received from Mrs. Sharon Omvig not long ago the following article. Where it came from I don't know, but we are using it in this issue instead of the usual recipes which we print. Read, and drool.)

Bright jewels of the fall season, persimmons please the eye whether seen as golden orange orbs on leafless limbs or mounded in glistening plenty at the market. They are also the source of some confusion.

A native persimmon, found in the Eastern states, is a seed-filled, rather small fruit that is too puckery to eat until the first frost. It turns soft and sweet and perishes rapidly. Rarely will you see a native persimmon in the West. What you do find are the big, showy Oriental kinds.

Although all Oriental persimmons are similar in their rich, very sweet flavor, they divide quite cleanly into two groups. The first—Fuyu is the predominant market variety—is good to eat while firm and ripe; the second, represented mainly by the Hachiya, is astringent and inedible unless soft-ripe.

The persimmons that are best when firm-ripe have flat bottoms. In addition to Fuyu, other flat-bottom varieties are Gosho (or Giant Fuyu) and Maru (or Chocolate, because brown streaks run through the fruit). These crisp persimmons are much ceasier for newcomers to the fruit to like. Even when very ripe, they retain more texture than Hachiya types do. They also keep their texture when cooked.

Hachiya-type persimmons have pointed tips. Similar varieties, mostly found in home gardens, are the Hyakume, Tampopan, and Tanenashi. Hachiya-type fruit are too astringent (from tannins) to eat until soft and ripe. However, they are the most intensely flavored persimmons. Unless handled in specific ways during cooking, the sweet, creaming pulp will revert to bitter astringency. In baking, this behavior is neutralized by baking soda, but unless soda is added to the pulp before it is mixed with other ingredients, the resulting product will be gummy.

Crisp persimmons are the first to appear in the fall; soft-ripe ones usually linger into December.

Ripeness: How to Determine

Feel a Hachiya-type persimmon. When it gives readily or is actually squishy when pressed and begins to look translucent with a slightly dull skin, the fruit is at the ideal eating stage.

For Fuyu-type persimmons, color is the main clue. Fruit should be shiny, with a bright, deep orange color. It should feel solid, like an apple, but even when the fruit is riper and gives to gentle pressure, this variety makes excellent eating.

Frequently you will notice black streaks on the skin. These are harmless markings caused by bumps or branches whipping against the hard fruit on the tree.

How to Store Persimmons, Hasten Ripening

At room temperature, the fruit ripen slowly—one reason why many people like to keep piles of persimmons in bowls for fall decorations. To hasten ripening, especially of Hachiya types, enclose fruit in a paper or plastic bag with an apple for three to five days; check frequently.

In the refrigerator, you can store firm persimmons up to about one month; check occasionally for spoilage.

To freeze persimmons, fruit should be at a ready-to-eat stage; both types will be soft when thawed. Freeze whole fruit in a single layer; when solidly frozen, enclose in plastic bags. Or scoop soft Hachiya-type pulp from skin and pack in small containers; cover surface with plastic wrap (to reduce darkening) and freeze. Held at zero degrees or colder, fruit will keep up to the next season.

Cooking with Persimmons

Raw or cooked, Oriental persimmons make a delicious contribution to the table. With more than brief heating, both types begin to lose their bright color; handled carefully or preserved (canned or frozen) as directed here, they make attractive offerings year-round.

Slice off stem end of a soft ripe Hachiya-type persimmon and nestle in a stemmed glass. Serve chilled, if you like, to scoop from skin with a spoon; squeeze fresh lime juice over the fruit or splash with hazlenut-, almond-, or orange-flavored liqueur.

Or cut a Fuyu-type persimmon into wedges, starting from the bottom without cutting into the stem end. Peel back skin to create a petal effect. Lay fruit stem side down on a plate. Serve with hazlenut-, almond-, or orange-flavored liqueur to pour over fruit; serve with knife and fork.

 

Glazed Persimmon Wedges

Spicy, glazed persimmon wedges are a sweet-savory counterpoint to baked ham or roasted pork.

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds crisp-ripe Fuyu-type persimmons cup

(1/8 pound) butter or margarine

1 teaspoon ground ginger

teaspoon ground cumin

teaspoon curry powder

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon raisins

With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, cut off persimmon stems and peel; slice the fruit into -inch thick wedges, discarding any seeds.

In a ten- to twelve-inch frying pan, combine butter, ginger, cumin, and curry powder; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until mixture foams. Stir in persimmons and lime juice. Heat mixture until sizzling, then reduce heat to low and cook, turning fruit occasionally with a spatula until hot and lightly glazed, about five minutes.

Serve warm in a bowl; sprinkle with raisins. Makes two cups, five or six servings.

 

Hachiya-Type Persimmon Syllabub

Use the thick version as a dessert or sauce; sip the thin syllabub.

1-1/2 pounds soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmons 1 cup whipping cream

1 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1-1/2 cups milk, optional

Pull stems off persimmons, cut fruit in half, and scoop pulp from skin with a spoon; discard any seeds. You should have two cups pulp. In a food processor or blender, whirl persimmon pulp until pureed; set aside.

With an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar (scrape bowl sides often) until mixture will hold soft peak. Stir in persimmon puree, sherry, and lemon juice to taste. Serve, or cover and chill up to one day.

To serve as a dessert, stir persimmon mixture, then ladle into small bowls or wide-mouth wine glasses and eat with a spoon.

To serve syllabub as a beverage, stir milk into persimmon mixture. Pour into wine glasses or cups to sip. Makes six or seven dessert servings, about -cup size, or six beverage servings, about one-cup size.

 

Baked Hachiya-Type

Persimmon Indian Pudding

If you like, accompany this pudding with a sauce of the thick syllabub and a garnish of persimmon chutney (see recipe later) and slices of crisp Fuyus.

pound soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmons

2 teaspoons baking soda

cup sugar

cup (1/4 pound) butter or margarine

cup dark molasses

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

cup cornmeal

teaspoon ground cinnamon

teaspoon ground ginger

teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup raisins

cup chopped walnuts

Pull stems off persimmons. Cut fruit in half and scoop pulp from skin with a spoon; discard any seeds. You should have one cup pulp. In a food processor or blender, puree pulp with baking soda; set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat together sugar, butter, and molasses until blended; add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir flour with cornmeal, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Gradually stir into creamy mixture along with puree, raisins, and nuts.

Pour batter into a buttered six- to seven-cup loaf pan or ring mold (no deeper than three inches); cover tightly with foil. Put pan in a larger pan and place in a 300-degree oven. To larger pan add three-quarters inch boiling water around loaf pan or one-half inch boiling water around ring mold. Bake until pudding is firm in center when lightly pressed, about two hours. Let stand ten minutes, then run a knife around side of pan to release pudding. Invert onto a plate. Serve warm or cool, cut into slices. Makes twelve servings.

 

Persimmon Chutney

Use crisp persimmons for a chunky chutney, soft persimmons for a smoother texture. The chutney goes well with curries, grilled cheese sandwiches, and ham, pork, duck, or goose.

2 pounds crisp-ripe to soft-ripe Fuyu-type persimmons; or 2 pounds soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmons

3-1/2 cups water

pound (2 cups) dried apricots

1-1/2 cups raisins

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

or 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon mustard seed

teaspoon chili powder

1-1/2 cups white wine vinegar

1-1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

salt

To prepare Fuyu-type persimmons, cut off stems and peel with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler. Chop fruit, discarding any seeds; you need 4-1/2 cups fruit.

To prepare Hachiya-type persimmons, pull off stems, then cut fruit in half and scoop pulp from skin with a spoon; you need 2-2/3 cups fruit.

Set fruit aside.

If using Fuyu-type persimmons, in a five- to six-quart pan combine fruit with water, apricots, raisins, ginger, mustard seed, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook ten minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, then more frequently as mixture thickens, until most of the liquid evaporates and chutney is reduced to seven cups, about forty-five minutes; remove from heat.

If using Hachiya-type persimmons, in the five- to six-quart pan bring water, apricot, raisins, ginger, mustard, and chili to boiling; reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook ten minutes. Add vinegar and sugar, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced to 4-1/2 cups, about fifty-five minutes. Stir in Hachiya-type fruit and remove at once from heat.

Salt chutney to taste. Serve chutney warm, or store in covered jars in the refrigerator up to one month; or freeze in easy-to-use units.

Makes 3-1/2 pints Fuyu-type chutney, three pints Hachiya-type chutney.

 

MONITOR MINIATURES

**Employed:

Rita Lynch, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, writes as follows:

"I am very proud to let you know that I just began a full-time job. My position is secretary for the vice president of a publishing company. It is still a fairly small company, but it is expanding rapidly. I have all sorts of duties, and I really like my job. I am very happy to be working. I am grateful to the NFB for all it has done in helping me to come so far. It may not seem like a big thing to others, but to me it is a dream come true."

**They Continue to Write:

November 28, 1987

Dear NFB:

I am writing regarding the article in the Washington Post on August 20, 1987, and the shabby treatment of the blind by the airlines.
What can be done? I am appalled.

Thank you,

Cora Morley Edlund

**Elected to BANA Office:

The National Federation of the Blind is a member of BANA (the Braille Authority of North America), which has the responsibility of receiving, revising, and standardizing the Braille codes (literary, music, mathematical, etc.). At its meeting in New York on November 4, 1987, BANA elected President Maurer to be its Vice Chairman.

**Ray Dinsmore Dies:

Joe Money, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, writes:

"On December 7, 1987, Raymond Dinsmore died after a long period of illness. Ray was one of the founders of the New York affiliate and served as a member of the national Board of Directors. After moving to Indiana in the late fifties, he worked very effectively in the legislature. Ray also served as affiliate president and member of the board in Indiana. In 1974 the Indiana affiliate honored him by naming our special service award the Raymond Dinsmore Award. Ray was a true Federationist, and we mourn his passing."

**Elected:

Connie Sheila Ryan writes: "The Following is a list of the officers of the National Federation of the Blind of Phoenix, Arizona, elected on November 14, 1987: President, Harlene Stone;

First Vice President, Tom Johnson; Second Vice President, Boyd Wolfe; Secretary, Connie Sheila Ryan; Treasurer, Art Dinges. The two Directors are: Cary Taylor and Fred Rockwell."

**Musical Extravaganza:

Ernest Robbins, President, and Tyrone Palmer, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County, Georgia, write:

"The National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County held its Annual Gospel Musical Extravaganza on Sunday, November 15, 1987, at the Bethlehem Baptist Church. Our theme for this year was 'We Won't Give Up.' During our Gospel Musical Extravaganza we crowned the winners of our 1987 and 1988 Mr. and Ms. National Federation of the Blind Chatham County Pageant. The two runners up were Clarence Green and Eleanor Parker, and the winners were Ms. Leila Mae LeCount and Mr. Issac Heyward. Not only are we rapidly increasing our membership, but we are proclaiming our Federation message throughout he city of Savannah loud and clear, which is "It Is Respectable To Be Blind."

**Without Hindrance:

We recently received the following communication from Sheila Killiam of Oakland, California:

Bay Cruise Experience: One day this summer (1987) three friends and I decided to take the Blue and Gold Cruise around San Francisco Bay. We are all blind. Canes and dog guides were equally represented. Throughout the entire venture we were in no way ever singled out for special treatment or consideration. We bought our tickets, waited in line to board, walked freely about the vessel, spent time on all three levels, got drinks and sandwiches at the snack bar, and disembarked without ever being treated differently for any reason. This, by the way, includes other passengers. There was a time or two when we asked directions of fellow passengers, and we simply got the information and went on our way. What a pleasure to be just one the of crowd! We all had a great time. Blind people can maneuver about a moving ship without difficulty. We know. We did it.

**Brief Hospital Stay:

Recently Diane McGeorge was hospitalized for what some might have called a minor surgical procedure. However, she said it felt to her quite major at the time. At any event she is (at the time of this writing) home, almost completely recovered, and back on a full work schedule.

**Optacon:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

"Optacon for sale. About ten years old but only used some 100 hours. Never had any problems. $1,000 or best offer. Contact: Norman Coombs, 590 Harvard Street, Rochester, New York 14607; telephone (716) 442-4059."

**Talking Home Control System:

If you are interested in acquiring a talking system to control home appliances from a centralized location using a computer, contact Kado Systems in Pflugerville, Texas 78660; 512-990-2390. Kado Systems markets a program called Fasthouse for the Apple Computer, which is designed to operate the Powerhouse X10, a powerful home appliance unit. Given the right set of hardware and software, Fasthouse can be made to talk on the Apple Computer. Programs to control the Powerhouse X10 from an IBM Personal Computer are available, but no information has been obtained as to whether these programs will work with existing screen review systems for the PC.

**Elected:

Lori Duffy writes: The Capital Chapter of the NFB of Ohio held its annual elections on November 14, 1987. The following persons were elected: President, Eric Duffy; Vice President, Alex Kayne; Treasurer, Patricia Eschbach; Recording Secretary, Shelbi Hindle; Corresponding Secretary, Lori Duffy; and Board Member, John Depp.

**Military Attacks Randolph-Sheppard:

In recent testimony before a Congressional committee representatives of the military said that the Marine Corps now has thirteen fast food franchises in operation, seven Burger Kings, four McDonald's, and two Wendy's. Army and Air Force bases have eighty-eight operating Burger Kings, while the Navy has forty-six McDonald's units in operation. Currently, "there are more than 150 (fast food franchises) of these outlets in military installations, generating $200 million in sales and contributing $25 million to military community, social, and recreation programs," said subcommittee chairman W. C. "Dan" Daniel, D-Va. Put another way, this means that the battle to save the Randolph-Sheppard Act in facilities operated by the military is in danger of being irreversibly lost. As we reported in earlier issues of the Monitor, the ill-fated lawsuit which was brought against the Department of Defense a few years ago aggravated instead of helping the situation. Personnel on military bases will put up a hard fight to save the $25,000,000 per year which they now get from welfare and recreation funds, and the fast food chains will fight with equal vigor to protect their profits.

**Tis the Season:

Peggy Pinder, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, writes:

In early December the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa held a board meeting in Des Moines. The board rejoiced in a letter from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller informing Iowa airport managers that there is no legal basis for arresting blind persons seated in exit rows and decided to mail the letter to all police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors in counties where airports are located. Everyone present quickly snapped up a personal copy.

The presidential candidates were holding meetings in the same hotel used by the Federationists. Federation members fanned out and made sure that each man received a copy of the Attorney General's letter. When publicly asked if he would help the blind win their civil rights on airplanes, Representative Richard Gephart (Democrat, Missouri) replied that he would have to look into the issue before he took a position. An aide to Senator Paul Simon (Democrat, Illinois) said much the same. When the Reverend Jesse Jackson learned that the Federation board meeting was in progress across the hall, he asked for an opportunity to address the board briefly. Asked his position on the treatment of blind persons on airlines, Jackson replied: "Of course I'll help, because it's right. I support you in your efforts to affirm your civil rights and to achieve the basic protections that you need. I do because it's morally right and because it's good for our nation."

**Dies:

Lorraine Webb, Secretary of the Syracuse Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, writes:

"On November 22, 1987, the National Federation of the Blind lost a loyal member and a true friend. Don Morris of Glenns Falls, New York, passed away after a long illness. Don had been a member of the National Federation of the Blind of New York State since its inception in 1959. Don will be missed by us all."

**Music Boxes:

The National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania has music boxes for sale. These lovely wooden boxes display the NFB logo on the top and play "Glory, Glory Federation." They are lined with blue fabric and contain a small space to keep jewelry or other small items. The boxes are $30 each plus $1 each for shipping. For your NFB music box or for more information contact: Cindy Handel, 25 Pleasantview Avenue, Willow Street, Pennsylvania 17584; 717-464-2110.

**Election and Civic Activity:

Diane Kelker, newly elected President of the Northcentral Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, writes to tell us that on December 12, 1987, the following people were elected to chapter office: Diane Kelker, President; Robert Raisbeck, Vice President; Len Thorwaldson, Secretary; and Sharon Eddington, Membership Chairman. These officers will serve the chapter until January, 1989. Ms. Kelker goes on to say that: "At 8:00 p.m. that evening the chapter co-sponsored an appreciation night for the Wausau Area Transit Service employees. The co-sponsor was the Visually Impaired Program Club of Northcentral Technical College. The party took place at a local pizza parlor. The host organization jointly presented certificates of thanks and appreciation to all of the employees of the bus company. It is sincerely hoped that this appreciation night will become an annual NFB and VIP tradition."

**Hospitalized:

As we go to press, we have just received information that Kathy Sullivan has been hospitalized for surgery. We do not have details. As Federationists know, Kathy is one of the long-time leaders of the NFB of Wisconsin. Her zeal for the cause has always been unflagging, her devotion unswerving.

**Director Appointed:

James Omvig (see item elsewhere in this issue) has resigned as director of the training center in Alaska. In the center's December, 1987, newsletter Darrel Nather (chairman of the center board) says:

"We are extremely pleased to announce the selection of Ms. Carolynn J. Whitcher as the new Executive Director for the Louise Rude Center for Blind and Deaf Adults. Ms. Whitcher is from St. Paul, Minnesota. We expect her to be on board early in January, 1988. Ms. Whitcher is presently the Assistant Director, Deaf Services Division, of the Minnesota State Department of Human Services. She comes to us well qualified, having a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling and extensive post-graduate studies in counseling, supervision, and American Sign Language."

So says Chairman Nather, and regardless of how well the new director may serve the needs of the deaf, it is clear that the emphasis on training blind persons will no longer be in the forefront. This underscores once again the problem which inevitably exists when the training of the blind and the deaf are combined.

**Gallagher Honored:

A recent news release from the American Foundation for the Blind says in part:

"William F. Gallagher, Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), received one of the top honors in the optometry community—the 1987 Carel C. Koch Memorial Medal. Presented by the American Academy of Optometry, the award is given annually in recognition of outstanding contributions to the enhancement and development of relations between optometry and other professions. The award was presented in a special ceremony held during the Academy's annual meeting on Sunday, December 6, at the Marriott City Center Hotel in Denver, Colorado."

**Dies:

In a recent letter Dawn Roberts, Secretary of the Fort Wayne Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, writes:

"We here in Fort Wayne have a death to report. The death is Elaine Patrum. She was a long-time Federationist. She sent a contribution to the National Office for years before we even had a chapter in town. She was a person who had the true spirit of the Federation at heart. She was always trying to help someone whenever she could. We will all miss her a great deal."

**Premature Christmas Present:

On the Monday after Thanksgiving (November 30, 1987) Justin Dart, Jr., Commissioner of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, was reportedly given a letter bearing the signature of President Reagan telling him that his services would no longer be needed after December 15. Whether this is the way it happened or not, Dart was out in early December, and the state directors of vocational rehabilitation were trying (with the usual results) to get the President to reconsider and give Dart his job back. The December 14, 1987, Washington Post said in part:

In the controversy surrounding the forced resignation of rehabilitation services Commissioner Justin Dart Jr. from the Education Department this month, the sharpest contention has been over charges of mismanagement leveled by Dart and his supporters against Madeleine Will, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitation services....

Dart, son of the late Justin Dart, California businessman and member of President Reagan's first "kitchen cabinet," was asked to resign after he scrapped his prepared testimony and publicly criticized the Education Department before a House subcommittee November 18. At the hearing, he complained that the office headed by Will was plagued by "profound problems in areas such as management, personnel and resource utilization" and was "ravaged by disunity and hostility internally."

It was these problems, not a policy disagreement over services for the severely handicapped, that led to his firing and disunity among advocacy groups, maintains Dart, a polio victim who uses a wheelchair....

Federationists may have some different perspective on the matter from either the Washington Post or the state directors of rehabilitation in view of the fact that they had occasion to hear and talk with Dart at the 1987 National Federation of the Blind convention in Phoenix.

**Dies:

Jacquilyn Billey, President of the NFB of Connecticut, writes to tell us of the death on November 19, 1987, of Jeanne Calusine, who was one of the most dedicated and faithful members of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut.

**More Surgery:

Dick Porter, President of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, has had more than his share of dealings with surgeons lately. In 1984 he had open heart surgery, and in January of last year he was diagnosed as having cancer in the area of the right shoulder. He had surgery to remove the cancers in March and in June, with a stop along the way for a gall bladder operation in May. At this writing (early January) he is scheduled for yet another bout with the surgeons. He goes to Charleston Memorial Hospital on Monday, January 11, 1988, for a cancer operation and to set a fractured right shoulder. With all of this Dick is active and in good spirits. Your Editor talked with him on Friday, January 8, and he said he thought he might be in the hospital for a week. Then, he moved on to talk about legislation and developments in the affiliate. Federationists are a hearty lot.

**Surely You Wanted To Know:

There are certain facts which no civilized human being can afford to be without—facts about English nobility, for instance. There were, at a recent count, in descending order of seniority in the aristocratic league table: four Royal Dukes (Edinburgh, Cornwall, Gloucester, and Kent, all close relations of the Queen), 531 hereditary barons, and 286 life barons, the last often being former politicians in the House of Commons booted upstairs for reasons of age or political convenience. The title of Life Baron, more commonly known as Life Peer, is a junior award made only for the holder's own lifetime; he passes on nothing to his children.