THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 32, No. 2 February, 1989
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE BRAILLE MONITOR
PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Vol. 32, No. 2 February, 1989
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
by Kenneth Jernigan
COLORADO SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF AND BLIND CREAMED BY PRESS, AND NO ONE NOTICES
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1989
AIR TRAVEL TO DENVER
by Kenneth Jernigan
VICTORY FOR WORKSHOP WORKERS
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IN LUBBOCK
by Marc Maurer
STATE DEPARTMENT DECLARES
THE BLIND UNFIT
by Barbara Pierce
BLIND TO DIPLOMACY
by Gretchen Letterman
SHENANIGANS AT THE SOUTH
CAROLINA COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF SOUTH CAROLINA INSISTS
ON HONESTY AND QUALITY SERVICES
PARTIALLY SIGHTED, REALLY
by Catherine Horn Randall
CIVIL WAR OR BACK-YARD
SKIRMISH? BLINDED VETS TAKE TO THE
by Barbara Pierce
AND BLINDNESS WAS NEVER AN ISSUE
RAMBLING NEAR GRAMBLING
by David Hyde
by Steve Benson
COMMENTS ON CERTIFICATION
by Claudell Stocker
OF AGENCIES AND FOOTSTOOLS
by W. Harold Bleakley
AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT
OH, LORD, IT'S HARD TO BE HUMBLE
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1989
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
by Kenneth Jernigan
When I was a boy at the Tennessee School for the Blind, one of the more charming customs of the place was a Saturday morning ritual involving the Scriptures. Shortly after breakfast the small boys (I don't know what happened to the girls) were plopped down on a bench and given the task of memorizing a chapter from the Bible. It didn't do any good to protest, object, or try to resist. You sat there until you memorized it, after which you were free to go play.
One's religion had nothing to do with it, nor did one's interest or aptitude. When you got the task done, you could go where you pleased and do what you liked. Meanwhile, you couldn't. And any time you spent trying to beat the system was just that much of the morning gone. I suppose I need not tell you that I quickly concluded to learn my chapter with minimum delay, which I religiously (no play on words intended) did. As a result, I have been a devout Bible quoter ever since and much, I might add, to my benefit and long-range satisfaction. Ah, well, children are not always in the best position to know what will stand them in good stead.
If you wonder how I got started on this topic, it is because of a letter I have just read. A woman from New Jersey (Mrs. Carol Castellano) writes to tell me that she feels the National Federation of the Blind has been a key factor in helping her deal with her daughter's blindness. Four years ago, when the child was a baby and in the hospital for surgery, a social worker gave Mrs. Castellano a strong warning against the Federation, told her how radical and all-around scroungy we were, and advised her to have nothing to do with us. However, while in the very act of reviling us, the social worker gave Mrs. Castellano Doris Willoughby's book, A Resource Guide for Parents and Educators of Blind Children . Before even leaving the hospital, Mrs. Castellano began to read and understand. Ever since, she has been a confirmed Monitor and Future Reflections reader, and she is now writing to tell me what the Federation has meant to her and her family. As I pondered Mrs. Castellano's letter (which, of course, gave me a deep inner glow of warmth), I could not help remembering those Saturday morning sessions of long ago and, particularly, verses 11 and 12 of the fifth chapter of Matthew, which say in part:
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you... and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely... Rejoice, and be exceeding glad....
Let me hasten to say that I am aware of the fact that I have taken these verses out of context and quoted them incompletely and selectively. Nevertheless, they came to my mind when I read Mrs. Castellano's letter, and I think they have at least a modicum of relevance. The Federation is often reviled, and evil is said against us falsely. Moreover, we have certainly been blessed. Even so, it is not always easy to rejoice and be exceeding glad, but letters like Mrs. Castellano's help. Here is what she says:
Madison, New Jersey
December 5, 1988
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
The time has come for me to thank and pay tribute to the NFB for all it has given my family. My infant daughter was undergoing eye surgery for ROP four years ago, when the hospital social worker gave me a copy of Doris Willoughby's A Resource Guide for Parents and Educators of Blind Children along with a dire warning about the NFB and its radical policies.
I read the book right there in the hospital room, and as I read, I could feel the atmosphere changing. Suddenly there was a context, a perspective, a way to look at Serena's blindness that would keep us buoyant and afloat. Not only would we survive this turn of events, we would prevail. It was clear to me right then that we had been placed upon the path to success. I was uplifted and have not been let down yet. As soon as we returned home, I contacted the NFB, met Barbara Cheadle by letter and Florence Blume over the phone, and joined the Parents of Blind Children Division.
With few exceptions, all the helpful information we have received has come from the NFB. It is the only organization that supports parents who have high expectations for their children and does not espouse the attitude that the blind should be grateful for crumbs strewn by the larger society.
One evening in August my mother and I sat discussing the education of blind children. My mother found it impossible to believe that people who worked in this field could be anything but high-minded and goodhearted and correct in their assessments. After all, they are trained professionals. But I myself have seen the kind of insidious and destructive attitudes that many of the professionals demonstrate and that the Monitor and Future Reflections relentlessly expose. The following night I picked up my July Monitor , which I had brought along for vacation reading. There, beautifully composed, were all the arguments I had been trying to make, in Professor Charles Hallenbeck's address to a graduating class. How inspired I was by his words! How grateful I am to him, to you, to the NFB and all its members. Thank you for being there. We, too, are committed to doing all we can to effect change for the better.
Carol J. Castellano
DEAF AND BLIND CREAMED BY PRESS,
AND NO ONE NOTICES
In the summer of 1987 Ted Delaney, a new reporter on The Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, approached the administration of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind with an idea for a story. He wanted to spend a year observing the students and teachers at the School and then write a story on what he had learned. He talked about following new disabled teachers as they began their work and adjusted to their jobs, and he wanted to spend time with various students. School officials thought that this would be a splendid opportunity to educate the public about the School and its work. The article, all 16,500 words and twenty-four pictures of it, finally appeared on October 9, 1988. Actually, the piece (one story about the Deaf Department and one about the Blind Department) was so large that it constituted a separate section of that day's Sunday paper. The teachers and administrators of the school and the members of the National Federation of the Blind were, to say the least, not pleased when they read it. The school's principal, James Osborn, characterized the staff's reaction as ranging from depression to fury. Jim Beal, President of the Colorado Springs Chapter of the Federation, immediately wrote a stinging letter to the Gazette Telegraph's editor; but even so, on the Saturday following publication Delaney attended the school's football game and, approaching the principal expectantly, asked what people had thought of the story. He was shocked and dismayed when Osborn described the staff's distress and anger. The reporter had clearly learned nothing constructive after a year of interviews and observation. The school had lost its chance to educate the community about its work. But most damaging of all, the public's myths and misconceptions about disabled people (but chiefly about the blind) were immeasurably reinforced. Of the hundred or so people with whom Osborn has discussed the article since October (people having no previous association with the school) not a single one has found the negative stereotypes and poor attitudes that riddled the article disturbing. They have consistently rationalized the tone of the article by saying that the teachers and students in a school for the deaf and blind would have to be like that. What did the article actually say? Was it really so bad? Could the school have done anything to prevent the fiasco? Let us look at the facts.
The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind serves about 120 deaf students and about 60 blind youngsters under the age of twenty-one. Many of these are multiply handicapped. Because Delaney found communication with people in the Blind Department easier than talking with students and staff in the Deaf Department, about two-thirds of his story and more than half of his pictures were focused on a third of the students. In fact the communications problem with the hearing impaired seems to have benefited the Deaf Department. The absolute otherness of the methods used in communication seems to have satisfied Delaney's need to underscore the differences between these students and normal children. As a result, the youngsters in the Deaf Department survived the Delaney treatment more or less unscathed. The pictures accompanying the articles upset the School's staff perhaps more than any other part of the debacle. The reporter had come to his story convinced that the school was a bleak and desolate place and that the students and disabled staff were fundamentally and irrevocably different from normal people. He therefore chose pictures that enhanced this preconception. One depicts a child who had left the school early in the academic year. The fact that the youngster was no longer a student at the school didn't matter to the paper. The picture is a full-face shot of the boy without his prosthetic eyes. Nothing could more forcefully underscore the public's conception of the emptiness and blankness of a blind person's life, unless it might be the other truly distressing picture accompanying the story. This one shows a child gazing into a mirror while brushing his teeth at a sink in the corner of his room at the school. Osborn explained that either the photographer had chosen the camera angle very carefully or someone had rigorously cropped the picture in order to insure that it omitted the framed print hanging on the wall and the rug covering the floor. The caption for this picture reads, Scott Berry's dormitory room, like those of most of the blind students, was spare and unadorned. The premise of this story is that there is an unbridgeable gulf separating these children from the rest of the population. In order to sustain his argument, Delaney had to omit entire blocks of information that he had gathered. His plan seems to have been, If it doesn't fit my preconceptions, I'll leave it out. The early childhood program and the community outreach efforts that get most of the students into regular schools for at least part of each school day were, therefore, ignored. The article leaves the clear impression that, once consigned to the school, youngsters never escape except on weekend passes home. But for a reader knowledgeable about blindness and convinced that destructive attitudes are the most significant bar to achievement for the blind, the most pervasive and disturbing problem with this article is something more fundamental than the injustices and downright falsehoods already mentioned. The story is too long to reprint in full, but several passages illustrate the underlying injustice. Early in the article Delaney describes in painful detail the efforts of a new teacher to become familiar with the school's campus. Here (in none-too-literate fashion) is how he does it:
On a Saturday in August 1987, two days before he would begin here as a teacher, Gerry Newell stood at its cusp. He swept his cane out widely and moved forward, counting paces, letting the cane's nib scratch across the pavement. Walking, he tacked right. His arm tightened with the chop of the cane upon grass, and he divined his way back to the center of the cement path. The voice of his wife, Debbie was to his rear and left. `The gym's on the right now,' she said. His wife had come to help him get a feel for the terrain: It would be unbecoming for a 35-year-old man to be led into school the first day. Though blind, he had light perception, the vague ability to tell light from dark. At this spot by the gym, he thought there would be shade in the morning. He counted steps until he got to the other end of the building. There, mornings, the sunlight would snap on again.
His forehead cooked in the heat. The air was heavy with the scent of fresh cut grass. He walked the route again. And again, a half-dozen more times.
Now, Gerry and Debbie began to bicker about Debbie's inability to find landmarks that suited Gerry. Fatigue had set in. He stalked off, muttering about having to do everything himself. Debbie retreated to a shade tree.
Alone Gerry tried to retrace the way to school. He heard sprinklers as he moved ahead. Then, abruptly, he was caught in the cold shock of a swaying wash. Soaked, he was running, his cane slashing outward like a foil. Debbie watched, still sulking. `Good!' she shouted.
This overdramatized and untrue-to-life prose is typical of Delaney's tear-jerking smear job. Obviously Gerry Newell, this first-year teacher, is not a competent cane traveler, but in addition to his personal shortcomings we find all the usual, unflattering ways of describing the actions of a blind person. Newell lets his cane scratch across the pavement, and he counts paces. Only because he has a little light perception can he tell when he passes into or out of the sunshine. However choppily he uses it, Newell's cane becomes some sort of divining rod, enabling him mysteriously to return to the center of the sidewalk. When he runs, his cane is slashing out like a foil. And, yes, his sighted wife is, of course, superior to him and scolds him like a child. The second excerpt is taken from a long description of Gerry Newell's Special Needs Class. Early in the school year the group had a lesson on making toast. Here is Delaney's treatment of it:
Hyrum began to feel his way back. But he bumped into an easy chair, and tried to shove it away. It didn't move. He let himself fall into it. His bread dropped to the floor. He put his head to his knees and began rocking.
This is what Delaney says, and although it may make good reading, it has at least one serious shortcoming. It doesn't track with the truth. If the account is factual instead of fabricated, Hyrum was obviously coping with profound emotional problems as well as trying to adjust to his blindness. Within a few weeks of the episode described here, this student was committed to a mental institution. All of the children in this class are apparently multiply handicapped, but even though Delaney says this, he does it in such a way as to leave the false impression that the primary problem is blindness, not the total mix. Delaney concentrates on this group of youngsters throughout the article, probably because their behavior is particularly bizarre. The result is, however, that the uninformed reader inevitably assumes that their actions are those of all blind students. A particularly syrupy and subjective passage describes Gerry Newell's feelings and behavior as he is warming up the car on a winter morning. Maybe he felt all of the things which Delaney says he felt, but one has to wonder how Delaney knows. Here is how he tells it: As Gerry waited, he listened to the car radio. Sometimes as he pressed the accelerator, he pumped it, feeling the surges of power from the engine. He held the steering wheel, and once in a while he moved the gearshift, sensing the car exerting itself against the parking brake.
And sometimes he wondered what it would be like to simply get in a car and drive off alone.
Gerry accepted his blindness; he had come to have a self-assured pride about who he was.
But sometimes on these mornings, he would think about things he couldn't do: Driving to work. Shopping, without help, at a supermarket. With this kind of writing as credential, a freshman journalism major could expect to flunk the introductory course. Who knows how much (if any) of this mournful daydreaming Newell actually reported to Delaney and how much was the product of the writer's own imagination? Truly well adjusted blind people rarely bother with such fantasies. Why should they? Life can be (and generally is) full and complete as it is. But what is the general public to think when they read such drivel? It certainly reinforces their perceptions of the blind as sitting around on the edge of life, dreaming about being sighted. Still another typical excerpt comes from the description of Gerry Newell's high school science class. He does an adequate job of handling the students, but given Delaney's treatment, Newell seems barely to be in control. It is impossible to tell whether anarchy is really about to break out or the reporter is merely overdramatizing again and distorting the truth. Here is how he tells it:
'Let's have the semi-sighted members of the class pair up with the blind ones.' No one moved.
'But suppose you guys go to college and you have a class with microscopes. Allen let's say you have a lab partner who never met a blind person. What are you going to say, to get that person to help you?'
Allen Colvin cleared his throat. 'Uhhh... Excuse me, like, I'm blind and since I can't see anything, uh, could you, like, describe to me what's in there?'
A slide projector was also set up in the room. He felt over to the light switch and darkened the room. Gerry's teaching assistant, Burdine 'Burt' Haas, turned the projector on. This is how Delaney writes it, and setting aside Newell's invented term, semi-sighted, this passage would feel totally different if Delaney had said that Newell reached for the light switch or moved to the light switch. Sighted writers (particularly, the uninformed) are especially fond of emphasizing the fact that blind people locate things by feeling, as though there was something subhuman about the sense of touch. One regrets acutely the fact that Newell did not bother to turn on his own slide projector if, indeed, he didn't. The whole episode may be simply a fabrication, made up out of thin air to create the effect which Delaney wants. The general reader is left with the subtle suggestion that blind people need help in manipulating even the simplest equipment. And finally, here is Delaney's description of the high school graduation rehearsal and ceremony. It is especially hair-raising:
The graduates were to enter the gymnasium through the second door. They would walk along an aisle that separated the rows of folding chairs from the bleachers, circle to the front and sit down in the front row. When the diplomas were conferred, each student would go up the ramp.
As they practiced, Kevin was weaving badly, tacking one way until he bumped into the bleachers, then another way until he hit the folding chairs. He had told his teachers that he wasn't going to use his cane for the ceremony. `I'd look like a geek,' he said.
But now it was apparent that Kevin was not going to be able to find his way. When it came time for him to go up the ramp, which had no handrail, he put his foot up high, as if expecting a step, then lost his balance and fell forward. Jim Osborn was concerned. What if Kevin fell off? What a scene it would be, a graduate crashing to the floor. The two mobility teachers, Kathy Kearney and Linda Witte, had walked over from the blind building and were watching from the bleachers. `Kevin,' Jim said. `You don't look too good. How about using a cane?'
'No, thanks, I don't need one,' Kevin said. Kathy, Linda and Jim surrounded him.
'Kevin,' Jim said. 'I think you do need one. You are going to get hurt.'
'But Mr. Osborn....''
On graduation day, Kevin walked into the gym in a cardinal cap and gown. He held his cane out in front and moved to his seat without trouble.
Shawn was the class's valedictorian. Before he entered the gym, he had thrown away the speech that he and Michael Piet had written together. On the podium, he stammered and paused through a speech he made up as he went along. Michael Piet sat in the bleachers massaging his temples. At least the speech was from the heart. Shawn thanked his parents, `for what you went through having us.' Then it was time to hand out the diplomas. At the top of the ramp, Jim Osborn gave each student a certificate, then stood with the student as a photo was taken from in front of the stage. When Kevin's name was called, he put his cane out and walked, somewhat gingerly, up the ramp. He took his diploma from Jim Osborn and shook his hand. When the photographer got ready to shoot, Jim loosened his cane from Kevin's hand. Then he slipped it behind his back.
This is Delaney's description of the graduation, and he seems to relish calling attention to disabled youngsters who make unwise decisions again, if, indeed, the account is factual in nuance and detail. Shawn is not the first high school valedictorian to discard a prepared text with unfortunate results. These moments are best forgotten by everyone. In reality this episode underscores the similarities between these graduation exercises and those of a thousand other high schools. But who will remember that fact when squirming with embarrassment for Shawn? But Kevin is the true focus of this passage. Delaney spends a good bit of space in the article talking about him. His descriptions of Kevin's clumsiness and discomfort with the cane are painfully graphic. According to Osborn, however, Delaney's description of the picture-taking after Osborn presented Kevin with his certificate is less than accurate. When Kevin agreed to use the cane for graduation, it was with the understanding that Mr. Osborn would take it so that his senior picture would not include the cane. Kevin handed it to the principal before the picture was taken. It is interesting to note that after he finished school last June, Kevin became a student at the Colorado Center for the Blind in late July. Kevin is happily working under sleepshades and using a cane wherever he goes. He now readily admits that he is blind, and he is learning the alternative techniques that he will need.
That brings us to the obvious and inevitable question of how much of the devastating message of this story is directly attributable to the practices of the school and its teachers, how much to Delaney's melodramatic lack of comprehension and search for sensationalism, and how much to the truth. Students must have strong role models if they are to acquire healthy habits of thought and action. With the exception of one partially sighted teacher who had a good deal of eyesight, Gerry Newell was the only blind teacher on the school's staff during the year Delaney was observing classes. He has since left the job. If Delaney's direct quotes can be believed, Newell's Braille and cane skills are painfully inadequate, and despite his statement to the contrary, one questions his whole adjustment to blindness. The mobility teachers knew enough to recommend that Kevin use a cane during graduation, but in the pictures the canes in evidence are the short, crooked ones that have gotten blind people into trouble for years. Given the students' obvious dread of canes, one is left to wonder how healthy the institution's attitudes about alternative techniques actually are.
Does this mean that the school is the usual sorry collection of teachers and administrators holding outmoded ideas coupled with low expectations? No, not at all. From my interview with him, it is clear that Jim Osborn, the principal, is a caring, sensitive professional with a background in work with the deaf. His school and his students are important to him, and he is working to improve the quality of the one and the prospects of the other. Homer Page, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, has served on the School's Board since February of 1988, and as a result, its majority has recently become sympathetic to the Federation's philosophy. The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind seems to be an institution with a future, no thanks to the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph and Ted Delaney. This is a cautionary tale. One can never be certain as to what members of the press will write when they set out to do a story about the blind. Everyone who talks with the press must be prepared to begin by explaining and continuing to repeat the message that blindness need not be a devastating tragedy and that there is nothing shameful about it. It is regrettable that Ted Delaney never understood this simple truth. Despite his aberrations, he is a persuasive writer; and that fact compounds the damage he has done to the school, the blind, the public, and the truth.
SOCIAL SECURITY, SSI, AND MEDICARE FACTS FOR 1989
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 1989:
FICA (Social Security) Tax Rate: The tax rate for employees and their employers during 1988 (effective January 1) was 7.51%. The same rate applies in 1989. The maximum FICA amount to be paid by an employee during 1989 is $3,604.80, up from $3,379.50 during 1988. The increase results from a higher ceiling in earnings subject to tax, effective January 1, 1989. Self- employment contributions to Social Security will be at an effective rate of 13.02%, continued unchanged from 1988. The maximum Social Security contribution to be paid by self-employed individuals during 1989 will be $6,249.60.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: Social Security contributions will be paid during 1989 on the first $48,000.00 of earnings for employees and self-employed persons. This compares to the 1988 ceiling of $45,000.00. 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 1988, a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $470.00 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $1,880.00 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 1989 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $500.00 for a calendar quarter, and four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $2,000.00. 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 65 through 69 who receive Social Security retirement benefits. The monthly exempt amount in 1988 was $700.00. During 1989 the exempt amount will be $740.00. Technically, this exemption is referred to as an amount of monthly earnings which does not show Substantial Gainful Activity. Earnings of $740.00 or more per month for a blind SSDI beneficiary in 1989 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 1989 : All Social Security benefits (including retirement, survivors, disability and dependents benefits) are increased by 4% beginning January, 1989. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Here are some sample Social Security monthly benefit amounts payable beginning January, 1989: average Social Security retirement check, $537.00; average benefit for aged couple, both receiving benefits, $921.00; average benefit for widow or widower and two children, $1,112.00; average check for disabled workers, $529.00; average benefit for disabled spouse and children, $943.00. The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker who retired in 1988 at age 65 will be $872.00 in January, 1989, up from $838.00.
SSI Resource Increase: There is an annual increase, effective January 1, 1989, in the amount of resources permitted for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients. In 1988, individuals could have resources of $1,900.00, and couples could have $2,850.00. These amounts are increased in 1989 to $2,000.00 for individuals and $3,000.00 for couples. Resources include checking accounts, savings accounts, cash value of insurance, stocks, bonds, and similar assets. Anyone who was previously denied SSI benefits on the basis of excess resources may reapply if current resources are within the 1989 limits. Standard SSI Benefit Increase : Beginning January, 1989, the federal payment amounts for SSI for individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $368.00 per month; couples, $553.00 per month. These amounts are increased from: individuals, $354.00 per month; couples, $532.00 per month.
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 $540.00 for a hospital stay in 1988. If the hospital stay extended beyond 60 days but not more than 90 days, the co- insurance amount was an additional $135.00. In 1989, the Part A co-insurance amount is $560.00. There is no additional co-insurance amount for hospital stays which are longer than 60 days. This is the first major change in Medicare coverage resulting from the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. Other changes will be phased in over the next five years.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible is $75.00. The medical insurance premium which Medicare charges for Part B coverage increases, however, from $24.80 per month to $31.90 per month. This is the amount withheld from Social Security checks for Medicare Part B coverage. Four dollars of the Medicare premium increase will go to pay for the new catastrophic 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 1989 over the corresponding amount of the actual monthly benefit in 1988.
AIR TRAVEL TO DENVER
by Kenneth Jernigan
Now that 1989 is here, the time has come to make definite plans for attending the National Federation of the Blind convention in Denver this summer. As Monitor readers know, registration will begin on Tuesday, July 4; the national board meeting will occur on Wednesday, July 5; and the Opening General Session will be held on Thursday, July 6.
We have made an agreement with Continental and Eastern to be our official air carriers for the convention. The terms are very favorable to us, and those traveling to Denver by Continental or Eastern can make some real savings. Quoting from our contract:
Both Continental and Eastern will offer a 50% discount off of the full coach fare (seats must be booked in `B' class) and a 30% discount off of the normal first-class fare. No other restrictions apply. Continental and Eastern will offer a 5% discount off of the lowest applicable round trip fare (some short-term introductory and promotional fares may not apply). All rules and restrictions will apply. All attendees will be eligible for our ONEPASS travel reward program. This is what the contract provides, but when (as the saying goes) you get to the bottom line, you can save at least five percent off of the lowest discount fare available. That's hard to beat. This program is being handled through the Singer Travel Agency here in Baltimore. Do not (I emphasize do not) contact Eastern or Continental for these rates. Call the Singer Travel Agency. Their toll-free nationwide number is: 800-522-4457. Their other number is: (301) 655-1000. Ask for Karen Alexander. If she is not available, ask for Marcella Giffin. If you can't get her either, ask for Vickie Singer.
Singer Travel has been very responsive to our needs, and I am sure they will do a superb job in arranging our air travel. Eastern and Continental are also giving us good cooperation and will do everything they can to make matters go smoothly. Denver in July is the place to be. The National Federation of the Blind convention is where you will find the action. It will be the biggest and most exciting we have ever had. Don't miss it. See you in Denver.
VICTORY FOR WORKSHOP WORKERS AND THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IN LUBBOCK
by Marc Maurer
Ten blind workers at a Lubbock workshop have filed wage violation charges with the U.S. Labor Department, alleging they were exploited by meager pay rates. This was the lead in an Austin (Texas) American-Statesman news story September 29, 1988. Not only does this statement signal the opening salvo in another battle between a group of blind sheltered shop workers and management, but it voices the frustration, anger, and fear of thousands of others. The general public can hardly credit the notion that blind people, working competitively, can and often do receive less than the minimum wage. The average American has difficulty realizing that the sheltered shops are frequently prepared to spend large amounts of money (money that the public has contributed to help the blind) for legal fees to prevent the blind from organizing and bettering themselves.
Today the front line of the battle for dignity and decent treatment for blind sheltered shop workers is Lubbock. Before that it was Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, Arkansas, North Carolina, and a dozen other places. The locale changes, but the struggle is the same and the antagonists are also the same on one side are the agencies which were established to serve the blind and which have so run amuck that many of them are now only a caricature of what they were meant to be; and on the other side is the National Federation of the Blind, fighting for the right of the blind to have first-class treatment, first-class opportunity, and first-class pay. So the Lubbock headline was more than Lubbock, more than the workers in a single shop trying to better themselves through collective action. It was the expression and synthesis of the move toward freedom of the blind of a whole generation.
In December of 1987, in response to the broadcast of one of the television public service spots of the National Federation of the Blind, a worker at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas, contacted the Federation to ask if there was anything we could do to help. Other workers began asking the same question, and our Texas affiliate started talking with individual workers encouraging, reassuring, and educating them about their rights. By the summer of 1988, the workers were ready to take action.
To understand what happened next, one must remember that in 1986 Congress, at the urging of the National Federation of the Blind, adopted amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Before these changes were made, blind sheltered shop employees, when they were paid less than the minimum wage, essentially had no way of appealing. All of that changed in the fall of 1986. Shop workers who were being paid less than the minimum wage were authorized (if they thought they had a case) to file complaints with the Department of Labor (DOL), which in turn was required to conduct a hearing to determine whether the subminimum wage was justified. The employer, not the blind shop worker, had to prove that the subminimum wage was fair. If administrators in the sheltered shop could not justify the wage being paid to a blind worker, the employee would automatically begin receiving pay at the minimum wage or above. For two years after these 1986 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, nothing happened. Blind shop workers were conditioned by long years of frustration to accept the sub-standard working environment and the subminimum wages established by management. But the shop workers have also become increasingly conscious of the catalytic force of the National Federation of the Blind a force which resists exploitation and promotes self-belief and collective action. We encouraged shop workers to assert their rights, but many felt that if they complained, they would lose what little employment opportunity they had. A blind employee who filed a complaint with the Department of Labor would, people said, become a target. Such an employee might be branded as a troublemaker, be discharged from the shop, and be unable to find employment in any other shop program in the nation. Besides, no one could predict how the Department of Labor would handle such complaints. The first blind worker to bring a test case to the attention of the Department of Labor would have to have real courage. The law had been changed in 1986, but it could not become effective until the blind themselves raised the issue with the proper governmental authorities.
This was the way things stood until shortly after the 1988 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Chicago. Then, in Lubbock (with the encouragement of the Federation) the workers stood up to fight. We began to make plans. This would be the first (and therefore the critical) effort to implement the 1986 amendments of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Although a single employee in a sheltered shop could have raised the issue, we and the Lubbock workers thought it would be better if a number stood together. This would take the heat off a solitary shop worker. If several employees filed a consolidated complaint, they could support one another and exchange information. They could also work cohesively to prevent shop managers from taking reprisals.
As legal counsel the National Federation of the Blind hired former Assistant Secretary of Labor, Donald Elisburg, who probably knows as much as anybody in the country about how the federal Department of Labor functions. If we wanted to make a successful challenge to the workshop practice of exploitation and subminimum wages, this was the time to do it; and we needed the best and most knowledgeable lawyer we could find. Donald Elisburg seemed to be the man. During the Carter years he was a key figure in administering the Fair Labor Standards Act. He studied it, explained it, and lived with it on a daily basis. Surely if anybody could help us reform the shops, Donald Elisburg was the man.
I asked him to join me in Lubbock, where Glenn Crosby (a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Texas) had arranged for a meeting with the shop workers. The meeting took place on Tuesday, September 6, 1988. A dozen workers and a number of their friends came to talk about the shop and plan for ways to improve their situation.
These were blind people who work on the assembly line. They produce equipment to be used at military installations. Among other products they make helmet liners and straps. These latter are complicated pieces of webbing held together with rivets, snaps, and buckles. The production standard at the shop requires a blind worker to assemble four thousand of these straps each day.
I asked each worker at the meeting what he or she was being paid to produce four thousand helmet straps. The answer was always the same $2.05 an hour, less than one half cent apiece. Once the straps have been manufactured, workers are assigned to pack them in cartons. The workers at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock pack eight thousand straps a day. When they do, they are entitled to $2.05 an hour.
A few days before I arrived in Lubbock, management had informed the workers that the shop had fallen on evil times. Each employee (blind workers on the line and sighted staff in the office) had been receiving health insurance coverage paid for by the employer. Shop management said this could not continue. From each blind worker's meager paycheck $65 a month would now be deducted to pay for health insurance coverage. As I heard this story in unemotional terms from the workers, I wondered how much would be left in their pay envelopes. It was not difficult (even assuming a full work week) to calculate a month's wages at $2.05 an hour and subtract $65 for health insurance. The picture was not pretty. In fact, it was very nearly desperate. In Late August management refused to talk with a delegation of workers who asked for an opportunity to discuss this and other issues, so the blind workers decided to picket the plant. The National Federation of the Blind supported this effort. Reporters from newspapers and local television stations came to learn about the deplorable conditions at the shop. The story was distributed nationwide and appeared in the press throughout the country. Eventually management backed down on its demand that workers begin paying for their own health insurance, but before returning to work, each striking worker was forced to sign an agreement stating that with thirty days' written notice, management could cancel health insurance at any time in the future. So the health insurance (the issue that had been the final straw) was at least temporarily resolved, but the Southwest Lighthouse workers were, in their view and ours, still being exploited. The insurance was only a tiny fraction of the problem.
On September 26, 1988, we filed a complaint with the Department of Labor on behalf of ten employees of Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind. From all information we have been able to gather, those in the sheltered shop perform at a rate that equals or exceeds the productivity of sighted workers in the Lubbock, Texas area. They should be receiving not only the minimum wage but an amount above that. The prevailing wage standard for that part of the country would, in our opinion, be an appropriate hourly wage for the blind shop workers.
The complaint filed with the Department of Labor gives us our first opportunity to test the 1986 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act. We intend to ensure that blind workers in Lubbock and elsewhere are paid an honest day's wages for a competitive day's work. This article is being written in early January, 1989. A few days from now (on January 17) an Administrative Law Judge from the Department of Labor will hear this case. We are asking the Department of Labor to order the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind to pay its blind workers at least the minimum wage. We are also demanding back pay for them.
At the same time that the workers were beginning the process of testing the effectiveness of the 1986 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, a majority of the blind and sighted production, maintenance, and housekeeping and janitorial employees signed pledge cards designating the General Drivers, Warehousemen, and Helpers Local Union 577 (affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America) to be their collective bargaining representative. The Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind refused to bargain with Local 577 on the grounds that, as a rehabilitation facility rather than a business, it could not be forced by the NLRB to allow workers to join a union. With our help the Union filed a petition for a hearing before the NLRB, which was granted. The hearing was held in Lubbock at the main courtroom/auditorium of the Texas Tech Law School on November 10, 16, and 17, 1988. James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind, conducted the hearing for the union. An attorney acted for the Lighthouse, and the hearing officer was appointed by the NLRB.
As in every other NLRB jurisdictional hearing involving a workshop for the blind's refusal to allow its blind workers to form a union, this case hinges on the question of whether the Southwest Lighthouse is an industrial program dependent on business and economic considerations or a rehabilitation center striving to prepare its clients for life and work outside the walls. In every such case so far, the NLRB has found that it has jurisdiction and that a union can appropriately become a bargaining unit for the workers. Three of these cases have been appealed to Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. In the Cincinnati Association for the Blind case (Sixth District) and in the Houston Lighthouse for the Blind case (Fifth District), the courts found in favor of the NLRB, the NFB, and the workers. Lubbock is in the Fifth District. Unfortunately in August of 1988, however, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind was a rehabilitation facility and that the NLRB did not have jurisdiction in any case involving shops for the blind. In view of these contradictory court rulings we were prepared for the Lubbock case to end up in federal court. Whatever the final outcome, the evidence gathered in the November NLRB hearing would be extremely important. Mr. Gashel's task was to build a clear case demonstrating that the Southwest Lighthouse is a business. Contrary to management's wishes, the testimony of the Lighthouse staff went a long way toward proving our case for us. Fred Schroeder (Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and a member of the National Federation of the Blind's Board of Directors) and Joe Cordova (Manager of the workshop associated with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and President of the NFB of New Mexico) provided expert testimony. They presented and discussed seven criteria that can be used to identify an industrial program and eight others that characterize a rehabilitation facility. After Mr. Schroeder's testimony, the hearing officer told him that this material would be extremely helpful in future deliberations.
Even if we set aside the technical arguments showing that the Lighthouse is a business, a number of facts emerged that are indicative of what is really happening in the Lubbock shop. As part of his testimony, Dale Odom (President of the Southwest Lighthouse) stated clearly that everyone at the facility, blind and sighted alike, was being trained in some way. Did this include supervisors? Certainly it did. Did it include Odom himself? Well, yes, but his training was of a different kind. He was then asked to list the supervisors working for him. He could not do so without reading a prepared list. The one person he consistently forgot was the Vice President for Rehabilitation, Kay Escolas. One wonders how important rehabilitation is at the Lighthouse when the president forgets the name of the program supervisor.
Escolas's testimony disclosed highly illuminating information. She explained that her time is spent in the following way: 45% doing vocational evaluations for the Texas Commission for the Blind on people who are not otherwise associated with the Lighthouse, 30% supervising work adjustment activities for those who have completed the previously mentioned evaluation (only 50% of these people will ever work at the Lighthouse), 15% conducting job training for people who are preparing to begin work at the Lighthouse, and the remaining 10% counseling current workers. This last is the only one of her activities which could remotely be construed as rehabilitation. When pressed, Escolas acknowledged that the Texas Commission for the Blind closes as successfully employed the cases of those who take jobs at the Lighthouse. In her exact words, I have to say they are employed.
As the ancient dictum has it: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it probably is a duck. According to management testimony, Lighthouse workers punch a timeclock, run machinery, are subject to disciplinary action, and are given a handbook of policies. All of these activities are characteristic of personnel procedures in manufacturing plants. The Lighthouse has not placed a single person in a competitive job in private industry during the past two years perhaps because the Lighthouse has no placement program at the Lighthouse at all. One worker, who has been looking for a job on her own was told that she must punch out whenever she was going to a job interview and that she could expect no help at all from Lighthouse staff in her search. Odom himself admitted that economic pressures forced him to propose the policy change of requiring workers to purchase their own hospital insurance. Before the striking workers could return to work, they each had to sign an agreement. In labor management parlance this condition is employed by management in a lockout.
And a labor-management struggle is exactly what we have here. The regional NLRB hearing officer rendered his opinion on December 9, 1988, and it was everything for which we could have hoped. The Lighthouse had twenty days in which to file an appeal. Instead, its Board of Trustees fired Dale Odom, the President. This action took most people by surprise. It is widely assumed that the workers' allegations of mismanagement forced the Board to look more carefully into Odom's business practices. Even in the November hearing embarrassing matters had been disclosed. For example, the construction company owned by Donald Bundock, Vice Chair of the Lighthouse Board of Trustees, had done $797,000 of remodeling at the Lighthouse during the three years ending in fiscal 1987. It is not clear how much more information a really detailed court case would reveal, but the Board has chosen to avoid further disclosures.
There is no doubt that the Lighthouse is in financial trouble.
The Board would be hard pressed to find the funds for a long appeal regardless of how important to the workshop managers. As a matter of fact, in December of 1988 the workers were told (not in writing, of course, as the agreement had required) that their health insurance was being canceled. The workers will undoubtedly be interested in negotiating the return of their insurance when they sit down to work out a contract at the bargaining table. On December 30, 1988, the NLRB conducted an election in which the workers chose by a vote of thirty-four to seven to be represented by Local 577 of the Teamsters Union.
Presumably Odom's successor will be leading management's side in the contract talks which are to come. We can only hope that he or she will have more ability and experience than Odom, who ran a gas station before becoming Vice President for Production and then President of the Lighthouse. Southwest Lighthouse can make money, but the administration will have to work if it is to be done. Someone on the staff will have to begin seriously looking for contracts. The plant makes a profit even now, but administrative salaries eat up most of it $420,000 a year. The production payroll is less than $200,000 per year. These figures will almost certainly be discussed when the union contract is considered and when the January 17 Department of Labor hearing takes place.
Other things will have to change as well. The supervisor who, according to the workers, routinely slaps blind and retarded blind workers when she is frustrated will have to change her ways. The other six supervisors will also have to begin treating workers with courtesy. Union contracts protect workers from such behavior, and so does the power of the National Federation of the Blind.
Lubbock, Texas, and the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind will not soon be forgotten. The blind will not forget, nor will the other workshops throughout the nation. Injustice cloaked as benevolence and business (whether well or poorly run) masquerading as rehabilitation do not leave a pleasant taste. These are the hallmarks of the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind and, unfortunately, of too many other sheltered workshops throughout the nation. Ask yourself where these or any other blind shop workers would be without the National Federation of the Blind. The Southwest Lighthouse is one more answer to the question, Why the National Federation of the Blind? It is also one more reason why each of us must work as hard as we can to strengthen our movement and fund its operation. First-class status cannot be given to us. If we want freedom and dignity, we must win them for ourselves and we must pay for them, too.
STATE DEPARTMENT DECLARES THE BLIND UNFIT
by Barbara Pierce
The United States of America is not universally respected among the nations of the world. Its representatives have frequently been accused of insensitivity, obtuseness, and arrogance in their dealings with other nations. One would, therefore, presume that if an applicant for the Foreign Service came along who had graduated from Jesus College at Oxford University having done distinguished work in both French and Spanish, who had earned a Master Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago, and who had spent the eighteen years since in personnel and management work, the State Department would be seriously interested. If that candidate was also fluent in Hebrew and had spent years living in Israel and Great Britain and had traveled widely in Europe, South America, and the United States, he would seem to be even more attractive. If finally this candidate had passed all of the tests for the Foreign Service and had achieved a near perfect score in the final written exam, he would appear to be well nigh irresistible to the State Department's Director of Personnel. He should, that is, unless he happens to be blind. This is the story of what happened to Avraham Rami Rabby, President of the National Federation of the Blind of New York City. It is happening as well to all of us, but especially to those blind Americans who dream of serving their country in the Foreign Service.
Each year on the first Saturday in December, fifteen to twenty thousand hopefuls sit down to take the four-hour-long qualifying examination for would-be Foreign Service Officers. It tests one's knowledge of general geography, history, politics, and management and one's mastery of the international situation today. Approximately 3,000 people survive this test with high enough scores to proceed to the next step, the oral examination. In December of 1985 Mr. Rabby passed the test using Braille and the services of an assistant to write his answers. During the summer of 1986, he took the oral examination for the first time.
This is a day-long exercise consisting of five parts. A panel of interviewers questions the candidate about Foreign Service issues and situations. Then the applicant writes an essay chosen from among several suggested topics. This takes about an hour. Next the candidate reads a document of approximately 1,000 words and writes a summary of about 200 words. After this six candidates are thrown together and given a packet of information about a hypothetical American embassy. Facts are included about several people on the staff and about a situation in which they find themselves. The group then gathers with each person playing one of the parts. Based on what they have been told about the personalities and the situation, they negotiate the problem, with evaluators watching. The final test is called the in-basket exercise. The candidate goes through a series of memos, clippings, letters, and messages, telling the monitor what he or she would do with or about each one.
Rabby passed this test, too, with flying colors even though only about 600 applicants do so. He then began filling out a seemingly endless parade of forms. The only hurdles left were a security check, which could take up to a year, and a medical examination. Almost no one is removed from the process at this stage. The forms were completed, the security clearance begun, and in the fall of 1986 he arrived for the medical examination. The doctor read him a paragraph in his instructions which clearly said that insufficient visual acuity constituted grounds for excluding a candidate. The physician completed his examination and made his report. Rabby lodged a complaint with the State Department, based on the fact that he had been provided appropriate assistance in the testing procedure but was now denied the possibility of passing his medical examination. The Director of the Board of Examiners told him that he was dealing with two separate sets of regulations and that the State Department could override the medical report if it chose. He suggested that Rabby carry on with the process and see what happened.
Rabby took the written test again in December, 1986, and improved his score. The State Department routinely recommends that candidates do this since the application process is so long. The later scores are added to the candidate's file if they are better than the previous ones. The name of an applicant who has cleared all the hurdles is placed on a register for eighteen months. The Department may offer him or her a job during that time. If not, the name is dropped from the register, and there is nothing to do but begin the process again. That is why it is wise to take the initial test every December until a job is offered or the candidate tires of the game.
Rabby, still not having heard about the results of his security check, took the oral test again in the summer of 1987. Again, he scored higher than he had the year before. Shortly afterward, however, he received a letter saying that he was noncompetitive. He called to inquire what this term might mean. Was there something in his security check that they didn't like? Could it be his blindness? The Director of the Board of Examiners would not respond directly, but he did say during the telephone conversation, Blindness could have been a factor in the final review board's decision. They may have thought, based on their experience in the Service, that a blind person would not be able to cope. The Director of the Board of Examiners did say that Rabby could get a copy of his file under the Freedom of Information Act. He did so, though it took nine months. There was nothing in it to suggest that the security check had caused problems.
In the meantime Rabby had taken the written test again in December of 1987. This time he achieved a near perfect score proving, at least, that he is superbly capable of learning from past experience. In the summer of 1988 his case was turned over to a legal advisor at the State Department. This man told Rabby that because of his case, an internal task force had been formed at State to review all of the Department's policies with respect to disabled people. He suggested that Rabby wait to see what the recommendations were. Rabby was not reassured when the legal eagle hazarded the comment that Foreign Service regulations require all officers to travel to work by different routes every day and that a blind person could obviously not do that.
Rabby was scheduled to take the oral test for the third time on November 14, 1988. A few days before he appeared to take this test, he received a phone call and then a letter informing him that he could use neither Braille nor the services of a reader during the examination. The letter which he received reads as follows:
United States Department of State
November 10, 1988
Dear Mr. Rabby:
I refer to your Foreign Service Junior Officer candidacy and, specifically, to the Oral Assessment which you were scheduled to undergo on Monday, November 14, 1988, in Washington. As explained to you today on the phone, it has been decided that, henceforth, the Foreign Service selection process will serve not only to test a candidate's knowledge and intellectual skills, but, as well, to test a candidate's ability to work effectively and independently from original source documents. As a consequence, the Board of Examiners will not offer the Written Examination in Braille nor will it provide the services of a reader for visually impaired candidates at any stage of the selection process, including the Oral Assessment. In response to your question, it will not be possible for you to bring a reader to assist your participation in the Assessment Center.
If I can answer any questions you may have regarding the above, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Board of Examiners for the Foreign Service
Not only Rabby, but every other blind applicant for Foreign service work, was affected by this change in policy. Congressman Bill Green of New York wrote a letter to the State Department protesting this action and pointing out that United States law requires the Federal Government and some other employers to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled job seekers:
United States House of
December 7, 1988
George S. Vest
Director General of the Foreign Service Department of State Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Vest:
I am writing to bring to your attention a specific case involving a constituent of mine but impacting on a whole class of handicapped citizens the blind.
It is my understanding that Mr. Avraham Rabby was recently informed of a change in policy concerning the Foreign Service test. Having passed the written exam three times and the oral assessment twice, Mr. Rabby was informed a week before his third oral assessment that the Foreign Service Board of Examiners would no longer provide the services of a reader, would no longer allow candidates to bring their own readers, and would no longer provide the test in Braille.
The letter which Mr. Rabby received states that it has been decided to test a candidate's ability to work effectively and independently from original source documents. Furthermore, when a member of my staff followed up with personnel at the State Department, she was told that Foreign Service candidates must pass a functional test which includes the ability to see in order to check original source documents.
I would venture to say that all government agencies could describe a job function which would be impossible for handicapped persons to perform. But that is not the intent of the Rehabilitation Act, according to my reading of it. I am sure you are familiar with the Act, but allow me to quote from just one section of it: No otherwise qualified individual with handicaps in the United States... shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in... any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
I do not believe that it is the intent of the Foreign Service to discriminate against the blind, but that is not enough. It must be the intent of the Foreign Service, as a government agency, to make special accommodations to include the blind. I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.
Member of Congress
Rami Rabby is a Federationist. He is not a man to take quietly the kind of injustice meted out by the State Department, and the National Federation of the Blind does not stand by with its hands folded when an agency of the Federal government makes a virtue of breaking the law of the land. Immediately we began talking with members of Congress who were likely to be interested in the situation.
Rabby began fielding questions from the press and accepting invitations to appear on news broadcasts. On November 29, 1988, he was interviewed on the National Public Radio program, All Things Considered. On the thirtieth he and George Vest, Director of Personnel and Director General of Foreign Service, United States Department of State, appeared together on the ABC program, Good Morning America. On December 6, Charlie Rose of the CBS program Night Watch, spoke at length with Rabby. In addition, an Associated Press story went out across the country, and such papers as the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun carried stories. The Federal Times is a paper published for employees of the Government, and its staff conducted the most in-depth interview of all. Here are the story that appeared in the Federal Times and the transcript of the Good Morning America interview :
GOOD MORNING AMERICA
November 30, 1988
7:00-9:00 a.m. (EST)
Joan Lunden, Co-Host: For years the State Department allowed blind people to take its test for the Foreign Service. It even helped them with materials written in Braille, with people to read for them. But recently the Department ended that help, a decision which formalizes the policy of never hiring blind people to service overseas. The decision also ended Avraham Rabby's hopes of becoming a U. S. diplomat. Mr. Rabby, who is blind, had previously passed a series of tests for the Foreign Service. The man who changed the rules for the tests is Ambassador George Vest, the State Department's Director of Personnel and the Director General of the Foreign Service, and he is joining us this morning from Washington. Good morning to both of you gentlemen. George Vest (Director of Personnel and Director General of Foreign Service, United States State Department):
Good morning. Avraham Rabby (Rejected for Foreign Service):
Good morning. Lunden: Ambassador, what you and the Department are really saying, of course, now is that blind people are not suitable for foreign service. Why do you say that? Vest: Because people who serve in the Foreign Service must be prepared to serve overseas, do a diversity of jobs which we think are either incompatible with being blind or dangerous to the blind person him or herself.
Lunden: And what would constitute incompatible or unsuitable or dangerous?
Vest: A person who's blind is asked to move into a foreign community in an area where he or she is not familiar with the locality, will have to deal with people who may be very hostile (because there are many parts of the world that are hostile to us), and will have to as well deal, among other things, with classified documents and have no way on his or her own to know what classification that is. And it's similar in this country. You don't ask a blind person to drive a bus or be a bank teller. There are jobs which are dangerous or unsuitable for them. And in the Foreign Service we're full of jobs like that. Lunden: All right, Mr. Rabby. That's a lot to respond to. Why don't you start off with some of the dangers that the Ambassador cites. Rabby: Well, first of all, I and the National Federation of the Blind very much appreciate Mr. Vest's appearing on the program. Of course, the reasons he gives have absolutely no basis. In fact, when we look at the jobs that blind people are doing both in the United States and in other countries, there are a whole host of jobs and a great variety of circumstances and environments. I very much appreciate the danger issue. I remind you that for eleven years I've lived in New York City, where there were 1,800 murders this year (probably more than in any other city in the world), and I'm still here. But I do appreciate the safety issue. What I would like to do is to debunk the stereotyped notion that just because you are blind you are necessarily helpless and slow and inattentive and unsafe. You know, the National Federation of the Blind is now battling over that same stereotyped issue with the airlines, which prohibit us from sitting in emergency exit rows. Now it looks like the State Department is falling into that same trap (that same stereotype) which associates and equates blindness with lack of safety. Lunden: Let me bring up a couple of other points the ability to determine whether you're dealing with classified information. Rabby: Classified information is being dealt with by blind professionals and management-level people in the rest of the U. S. government all the time. It can be classified information, it's confidential information; and, yet, the rest of the U. S. government has provided blind professionals and management-level people with reading assistance. There is absolutely no reason why the State Department should not do likewise. There is an analogy here with the interpreters that the foreign service provides people in the foreign service who don't speak the language of the country in which they are operating. Lunden:
Okay, Ambassador, here we have a situation where Mr. Rabby would not need those kinds of people, because I believe you speak Hebrew, French, Spanish, and English. Is that correct? Rabby:
Lunden: Do we not unavail ourselves of people with incredible qualifications (such as a person like Mr. Rabby) by having rules like this?
Vest: I have the greatest admiration for the clear qualifications and unusual qualities Mr. Rabby has. But the fundamental rule which is in the Foreign Service Act is anyone joining our foreign service must be worldwide available not just with extraordinary qualifications to serve in one country or another country be worldwide available, and that is in the law.
Rabby: Mr. Vest, you would like to think that at any moment you can pick up one Foreign Service officer in one part of the world and switch him to another part of the world. The fact is, though, that Foreign Service officers are not perfectly interchangeable like that. Whenever you make a personnel decision, you look at the experience of the individual, the language ability of the individual, perhaps family circumstances, and so on; and there is no reason why a blind person should not be subject to that same kind of scrutiny and analysis. Lunden: Thank you both.
DECEMBER 12, 1988
State's Ban on Braille Exam Shuts Out Foreign Service Applicant
by Leslie Aun
The State Department has rescinded a policy allowing people to take the foreign service exam in Braille or with the help of a reader, ruling that the blind do not meet the physical requirements necessary to be diplomats. Until now, blind people could take the examination but were never granted the necessary medical exemption for acceptance to the service. They could request a waiver, but no blind people were granted waivers. So we decided it didn't make sense to offer the test in Braille and readers anymore, said an agency spokeswoman. We're aligning our policy to our practices. The decision has greatly angered Avraham Rabby, who has passed three State Department exams since 1985, and believes himself to be extremely qualified for a position in the foreign service. It is absolutely absurd, Rabby said from his home in New York City. The State Department likes to regard Foreign Service Officers as kind of astronauts who have to work in extremely hostile circumstances. They would like to think only the physically perfect can perform the type of work they do. Diplomacy is nothing more than professional management-level work. The only difference is that Foreign Service Officers do it outside boundaries of the U.S., he said. Rabby, 46, graduated from Oxford University in England with degrees in Spanish and French and later earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. He lived for 15 years in England and six months each in France and Spain, and now operates a consulting business that helps disabled people find employment. Rabby has been blind since age 8. Declining to comment specifically on Rabby's case, the spokeswoman said handicapped people are rarely admitted to the foreign service because they would have difficulty performing many diplomatic tasks. Most Foreign Service Officers, for example, begin their careers as consulate officers, granting visas. A blind person would have difficulty identifying valid documents and photographs, the spokeswoman said. Security in high-risk areas such as Central America and the Middle East could also pose a problem, the State official said. Handicapped people would be more vulnerable to physical threats and would be difficult to evacuate in emergencies.
And all Foreign Service Officers are expected to be available for worldwide assignment, she said, but many countries do not offer the same accommodations for the handicapped that are found in the United States.
We feel it's real hard to put them in circumstances where they move every two years. And some of these cultures don't give the attention to these people that we do.
One veteran Foreign Service Officer agreed with State's assessment. It's not just a matter of moving papers from your in box to your out box, he said. What a diplomat does depends where he is you may be called upon to get an American out of jail, negotiate an arms treaty or trade agreement. Many foreign environments are very dangerous, and I would find it hard to believe that one would be able to deal with some of the situations you'd find abroad without sight, he said. Federal agencies are required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, and officials said Rabby could be sent to safe posts and given manageable assignments. The real problem would come later, they said, when he attempted to advance in the service. The foreign service's up or out system selects out officers who do not receive promotions in a certain amount of time.
Rabby would be unable to serve in many of the assignments that are considered key to a Foreign Service Officer's career. You do have to be able to take many different assignments needed for advancement. He's not going to be able to serve in a trouble spot. He's not going to be able to see somebody raise a gun or throw a bomb at him, said one civil rights expert. He won't have punched his ticket, and they'll probably select him out when it comes time. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, accused State of making excuses to exclude the disabled.
Whenever people have wanted to discriminate against the blind, they've always made these arguments, Maurer said. They always think up some reason why whatever you want to do can't be done. Rabby is working with the Federation to decide whether he will challenge the policy in court.
There is a contradiction here on the kind of face the government likes to present to the outside world, Rabby said. You would think the Foreign Service would want to show the rest of the world that we are a society of equal rights and that minorities have an equal chance at the American dream.
This is what the Federal Times said, and obviously the State Department is convinced that its position on hiring blind Foreign Service officers is the product of common sense, consideration, and compassion for a minority group whose members do not know their own limitations. It is the same old story; we have heard it a thousand times before: Never mind your demonstrated skills, there are things that we believe can only be done using visual cues. Disregard the fact that we make all sorts of accommodations for other workers (secretaries, cars, language interpreters, even electric lights). You require some different equipment, and you may use support staff differently, so we want no part in hiring you. The blind can never be independent. You are dazzlingly impressive, but there is no place for you here. All of these sentiments run through the portion of a press briefing on November 30, 1988, in which a State Department official fielded questions from one persistent reporter. This Group W news man had been struck by the inconsistencies of the Foreign Service's position in the Rabby case. He was looking for reasonable explanations. He is still looking for them. The spokesman's answers were rambling and nonsensical. One hopes that United States foreign policy positions are more articulately and convincingly presented abroad, but perhaps the spokesman's basic problem was the absurdity of the position he was expected to explain. Here is the relevant portion of this press briefing:
Briefer: Charles Redman
12:00 P.M. (EST)
Wednesday, November 30, 1988
Reporter: Mr. Redman, I'm sure you're aware in the news the last couple of days, there's been a gentleman who's from New York, named Avraham Rabby, who has written the Foreign Service exam, has passed it twice. He was in the middle of taking it the last or this past year and he has been told that he would not be hired by the Foreign Service because he is blind. And I wanted to ask you, in reference to federal regulation barring discrimination based on physical handicaps, how the State Department can do that. Redman: First, I would have to refer you to the real experts on regulations, if you want a technical answer. But let me tell you in a general sense, that, to start with, the Department hires many handicapped people, and I think our record on that complies with all the regulations. We hire them into the civil service, but we do not accept functionally blind persons into the Foreign Service. The issue has to be addressed in the context of the Foreign Service Act, which statutorily directs all Foreign Service officers to be obligated to serve worldwide.
The reason this issue has come up is because in recent years we have offered the Foreign Service exam itself in Braille and have provided readers to assist blind employees in taking it. But a review of our system showed that we do not, in fact, hire blind applicants because of our medical clearance requirements, because of security concerns, the situation they would be put into overseas, and anticipated problems that would arise in moving blind persons into unfamiliar settings and cultures. So what has been done here is to simply change our policy to what we see as a more appropriate one, in the sense that we no longer hire them that we don't hire them, we no longer offer the test. It was a matter of rationalizing those two. Reporter: Representatives for the blind would say that there really isn't a security problem, that those things could be worked out as they have been in the workplace in a lot of other federal agencies. Why couldn't those measures be taken in the State Department? Redman: Again, I'm not the real expert on those kind of decisions, but there are number of categories of people who are simply not eligible to serve in the Foreign Service. We have people, for example, with severe mobility impairments and total deafness. In addition to such disabled persons, applicants with health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer don't meet medical standards and are not normally hired into the Foreign Service. So the best I can say is that people have to look at the requirements, the situation under which people serve abroad, and as I said, some of those are statutorily mandated in the sense that Foreign Service is a worldwide profession. That's the best answer I can give you. Reporter: Chuck, just a quick follow on that. When did the Foreign Service quit offering the exam in Braille or with a reader? Redman: I don't know that I have the exact time, but I believe that that is a new decision, which becomes applicable this year. Reporter: Chuck, is it a historic fact that every Foreign Service Officer serves overseas at some point in his or her career? Redman: I can't tell you whether every single one serves. I just don't know the answer to that. But there's certainly no question that, as a general rule, people do, and certainly they are expected to.
Reporter: Well, historically, what was the rationale for offering the test in Braille, if it was policy not to hire them? Redman: That's exactly what has been corrected in this case. People who looked at this anomaly decided that it would be a more appropriate system to simply rationalize the two. Reporter: But why, in the first place, did they not recognize the anomaly and decide to start hiring them, if you're offering the test and they're passing it, rather than stop offering the test? Redman: The reasons we weren't hiring them were for the reasons that I specified, which have to do with the basic ability to serve in overseas assignments that Foreign Service Officers are expected to fill. But as to why the test had been offered to people in those categories who could not quality, however, on medical grounds, I just don't know the history of that well enough to explain why it had been offered. Reporter: What happens in the case of a Foreign Service Officer who loses his sight in the course of his service? Redman: In that case let me see we acknowledge our responsibility to employees who become blind and who can be reasonably accommodated within the existing structure of the Foreign Service. They are retained as members of the Service and provided with various forms of assistance, although they are probably generally assigned domestic posts at that point....
This is what the State Department said in its briefing, and one can only hope that the level of literacy and mental agility displayed by Redman is not typical of the Department as a whole. Myths and misconceptions, injustice and inflexibility: We have fought these every step of our way. The State Department has piled on, joining the airlines, the FAA, and much of the general public, but we are not discouraged. All minorities face these manifestations of discrimination on their way to freedom. Recognizing them for what they are is the first step toward overcoming them. We have called them by their true name, and we have recognized our own ability to order our destiny. Unfortunately the Foreign Service is filled with people who have an inflated idea of their own importance. Too many of them find unnerving the notion that even a blind person might have the capacity to carry out their jobs. The State Department will have to come to terms with reality. We are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens. We have a contribution to make, and we will fight for the right to make it. Make no mistake about it. We will persist and we will prevail.
BLIND TO DIPLOMACY
This editorial by Gretchen Letterman appeared in the December 1, 1988, St. Petersburg (Florida) Times. Our efforts at public education are increasingly effective. Here is a good example.
The late Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, holder of five college degrees, Harvard professor, author of respected texts on constitutional law and countless monographs, was blind. He founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940.
Charles Brown, counsel for special legal services at the U. S. Department of Labor, supervises more than 30 other lawyers and produces a great deal of research in the course of his job. He is blind, too. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, edits an 80-page magazine, handles a mountain of printed materials, and writes 100 letters a week, all without the benefits of sight.
Listing accomplishments of the blind to illustrate that those who cannot see are indeed capable of performing tasks commonly thought to be visual is almost as patronizing as the ludicrous assumption that blind people are less competent than sighted ones. Yet, it is an appropriate response to the decision by the State Department to prohibit a highly qualified applicant from becoming a diplomat because of his blindness. This is a first-class case of discrimination, says Jernigan, whose organization is canvassing members of Congress to persuade them to talk sense to the State Department. Wise senators and representatives will act quickly to do so. Are there things a sighted diplomat could do that a blind one couldn't? A look at three areas answers the question with a solid no. Paperwork. Avraham Rabby, the man turned down by the State Department, made high scores on preliminary entrance exams the department allowed him to take before it declined to let him complete further tests in Braille or with reading assistance. There are countless examples like the ones above of blind people who function normally in jobs that are heavy with paper, even entry level jobs that provide no secretarial help. In such jobs, Jernigan says, the employer should make a reader assistant available to employees. In cases where security clearance is not a problem, the employee could be allowed to bring in his or her own reader. The department could also invest in a reading machine, a fairly widely used device that converts printed words into voice. Negotiations. Avraham received degrees in Spanish and French from Oxford University in England. He earned his master's degree in business administration from Chicago University. He runs a consulting business to help the disabled find jobs. His credentials certainly suggest someone well-versed in the art of diplomatic discussion. Jernigan offers this personal example. One of his duties as the Federation's Executive Director is negotiating contracts with hotels each year for the group's annual conventions. Sight has nothing to do with making a man agree to the price I want, Jernigan says. Safety. Foreign diplomats are often the target of terrorists. If someone wants to shoot our diplomat, Jernigan says, they're going to do it. Taking reasonable precautions to secure one's safety requires intelligence, not the ability to see someone coming at you with a machine gun.
The State Department's decision is embarrassing justification to harp on the obvious: Blindness does not hinder the capacity for understanding and knowledge; to the contrary, there are times when blindness can be an advantage. Jernigan recalls the story of a blind member of the Federation's board who was a passenger on an airplane that had to make an emergency landing. The cabin was in total darkness, and there was this panic, Jernigan says. Because he was used to functioning in the dark, This man led the others out. The State Department wouldn't speak except anonymously to reporters about the case of Avraham Rabby. There are no legitimate excuses for the decision to exclude him from the final stages of qualifying to become a diplomat. There are, however, plenty of legitimate reasons to doubt the effectiveness of an executive department that would operate on the principles of discrimination and ignorance.
SHENANIGANS AT THE SOUTH CAROLINA COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND: NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF SOUTH CAROLINA INSISTS ON HONESTY AND QUALITY SERVICES
In the mid-1960's the blind of South Carolina asked the legislature to remove programs for the blind from the state welfare department and create a separate agency. Rehabilitation and other services were performing at such a low level that something obviously had to be done, and the legislature (after establishing a study committee) responded by creating the South Carolina Commission for the Blind. The blind of the state rejoiced; and at first the new commission performed well and made encouraging progress. However, in recent years the earlier gains have been threatened. This has been particularly true since 1985 when William K. James (current Commission director) was appointed. Although blind himself, James seems to have no respect for or understanding of the hopes and aspirations of the people he is hired to serve. It is fair to say that his failure to appreciate the attitudes and behavior of the blind is more than reciprocated.
The November, 1988, issue of The Palmetto Blind, the magazine of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, includes four separate stories devoted to Commission mismanagement. The two which we are reprinting give a blueprint for keeping state officials honest and making them responsive to the wishes and needs of their constituents. The first article exposes the behavior of Commission officials who have been charging personal phone calls to Commission phone lines. The second addresses the impropriety of hiring William T. Putnam, former Executive Director of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board, as a consultant for the Commission just at the time when the state's Legislative Audit Council was conducting a review of the Commission. Both articles are self-explanatory:
Commission Official Pays for Personal Telephone Calls Billed to State
The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina believes in honesty in state government. High state agency officials should be especially careful not only to exercise painstaking care in avoiding impropriety, but to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. While some may dismiss as unimportant state agency officials' practice of making personal calls billed to the state and paid for by the taxpayers, such a practice is less than honest. For some time the NFB of SC has monitored Commission for the Blind telephone billings. It is our contention, based upon these telephone billings, that there has been abuse and misuse of the state's telephone service.
In the May-June, 1988, issue of The Palmetto Blind , the NFB of SC reproduced the May, 1985, Commission for the Blind telephone bill indicating that a Commission board member made 106 long-distance calls during that month, costing taxpayers $200.43. The Commission for the Blind's telephone bill for August, 1985, shows that Commissioner William K. James made 21 long-distance calls on August 9 and 10 from Columbia's Carolina Inn while attending the 1985 NFB of SC convention. All of the 21 long-distance calls that weekend by Mr. James were made to board members residing in Aiken and Hartsville. Mr. James declined to give the reasons for the 21 calls, but at the 1985 NFB of SC convention Federation officials were very much concerned over what they felt to be inappropriate involvement in convention affairs by Mr. James and a couple of Commission board members. Approximately 200 long-distance calls have now been made by Mr. James to blind vendor John Ginn, at taxpayers' expense. The only explanation uttered by Mr. James for these calls is that they were made in conduct of Commission affairs. Mr. Ginn is not even on the Commission's Business Enterprise Program Committee, but is president of the splinter group, the American Council of the Blind of South Carolina, which is able to attract only a handful of persons to its annual convention.
Recently, the NFB of SC wrote to Mr. James concerning another development in the use of the Commission for the Blind's telephone service. The letter is as follows:
Columbia, South Carolina
July 29, 1988
Mr. William K. James, Commissioner South Carolina Commission for the Blind
Columbia, South Carolina
Dear Mr. James:
The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina continues to have serious concerns over what appears to be ongoing abuse and misuse of the state's telephone service. This includes, but is not limited to, your continuing calls at taxpayers' expense to Blind Vendor John Ginn, which you facetiously explain are in conduct of Commission affairs.
According to the Commission's telephone invoice or log for June, 1988, Nancy Buchanan, Director of Client Services, made the following calls at taxpayers' expense: On June 2 Mrs. Buchanan called (704) 295-9301, talking for 10.9 minutes. This telephone number is held by Chetola Resorts-Condos and Hotel in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Also, on June 2 Mrs. Buchanan called (704) 295-7960, talking for 4 minutes. This listing is a private residence in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, which has an office managing some condos. Also, on June 2 Mrs. Buchanan called (704) 295-9341, talking for a total of 7.8 minutes. This phone is listed under Meadowbrook Inn, located in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Please advise us whether or not the above calls by Mrs. Buchanan were of a personal nature or concerning Commission for the Blind business. If Commission business was involved, please describe the nature of the business.
Yours very truly,
Donald C. Capps, President
NFB of South Carolina
In a letter dated August 22, Mr. James declined to furnish any information regarding the Federation's letter of July 29. Subsequently, the NFB of SC advised Commissioner James that the Commission's telephone bill showed that Mrs. Buchanan again called Chetola Resorts on June 24. We also advised Mr. James that his failure to provide information regarding Mrs. Buchanan's calls would result in our taking this matter to other state officials and to members of the General Assembly. This got Mr. James' attention. On September 13, 1988, Mr. James wrote to the NFB of SC as follows:
Columbia, South Carolina
September 13, 1988
Dear Mr. Capps:
This is in response to your letter of August 22, 1988, which I am liberally interpreting as a Freedom of Information Act Request. Enclosed is a receipt and a memorandum regarding reimbursement for personal telephone calls which were charged to the agency.
William K. James, Commissioner
South Carolina Commission for the Blind
The memorandum referred to, from Mrs. Nancy Buchanan, reads as follows:
Date: September 12, 1988
To: William K. James
From: Nancy L. Buchanan,
Director of Client Services
Subject: Telephone Bills
This memorandum is in response to your inquiry concerning recent correspondence regarding long distance charges shown on my telephone bill. Telephone bills contained detailed information which the Agency staff have not been receiving since approximately July, 1987.
Periodically, I find it necessary to use my telephone at work for personal long distance calls. These calls are charged to my home telephone by use of a long distance service billing code. In the course of initiating and returning numerous calls daily, some calls may be inadvertently charged to the wrong system. After this matter was brought to my attention, I reviewed copies of the Agency telephone charges through July, 1987, and I am enclosing $40 to cover personal calls inadvertently billed to the Agency. I also reviewed my personal telephone bills for the last five months and identified over $20 in charges for Agency business calls. I have not sought reimbursement for these calls, and do not plan to do so.
In 1986 I addressed directory assistance charges for telephones assigned to staff members who are blind. Although I understand the Agency made further inquiries, the matter apparently remains unresolved.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. You may use this memorandum in responding to any inquiries.
The payment of $40 to the Commission by Mrs. Buchanan clearly indicates that more than a few of her personal calls were billed to the Commission. Whether or not Mrs. Buchanan inadvertently billed so many personal calls to the Commission, a policy of making repeated long-distance personal calls on the Commission's telephone service is certainly a highly questionable practice. Mrs. Buchanan has been with the Commission almost from its beginning and is a senior official. Further, she has been aware of the NFB of SC's long standing criticism of Commission officials' use of its telephone service. However, this did not deter her from making repeated personal long-distance calls billed to the Commission. Even more troublesome is the fact that Mrs. Buchanan's personal calls at state expense apparently were made over an extended period of time, and yet according to her memo she made no payment to the Commission until September 12, 1988. We will never know whether or not Mrs. Buchanan would have made any payment to the Commission for the Blind for her personal calls had the Federation not raised the issue. Because of Mrs. Buchanan's memo, we wrote the following letter to Mr. James:
Columbia, South Carolina
September 29, 1988
Mr. William K. James, Commissioner
South Carolina Commission for the Blind
Columbia, South Carolina
Dear Mr. James:
Thank you for your letter of September 13, 1988, and enclosures which arrived while I was out of the country attending the Second General Assembly of the World Blind Union in Madrid, Spain. While it is appropriate that Mrs. Buchanan has now reimbursed the state for personal calls made at taxpayers' expense, it seems clear that no responsible Commission employee has been monitoring long-distance calls made by staff to detect personal calls. In order to assure us that this situation may not arise in the future, please advise us what steps your office is taking to monitor Commission long distance phone calls, including the name of the staff member assigned this responsibility.
Yours very truly,
Donald C. Capps, President
NFB of South Carolian
In response to the above letter, Mr. James wrote as follows:
Columbia, South Carolina
October 10, 1988
Dear Mr. Capps:
In response to your letter of September 29, 1988, I am enclosing a copy of page iv of the state telephone directory which is given to all state employees, including employees of the S. C. Commission for the Blind. This notice states in bold type: USE OF THE STATE TELEPHONE SYSTEM IS FOR OFFICIAL STATE BUSINESS ONLY. It further states: Violators are subject to penalties as provided by South Carolina Law (16-13-400, 16-13-410 and others). This is a self-monitoring process.
William K. James, Commissioner
South Carolina Commission for the Blind
The existence of the state law referred to by Mr. James and furnishing employees with page iv of the state telephone directory have not resulted in monitoring Commission telephone bills in the past. Thus, the NFB of SC fails to understand Mr. James' logic that this state law will in some way serve as a self-monitoring device, unless a responsible individual is appointed and charged with this special responsibility. The former method has not worked in the past. The Legislative Audit Council (LAC) spent about a year and a half at the Commission auditing it. The LAC's report released last May indicated that it found no wrongdoing or impropriety in the use of the Commission's telephone service.
More than ever, the NFB of SC holds the position that the LAC audit of the Commission's telephone service was perfunctory and cursory rather than thorough and comprehensive.
As has already been said, four articles in the November, 1988, Palmetto Blind deal with the mismanagement at the South Carolina Commission for the Blind. The revelations in the second article that we are reprinting are at least as bad as those in the first.
Putnam Used To Negotiate Results of Audit So Saith Mr. James
According to an article in the October 7, 1988, edition of The Greenville News, Commissioner William K. James told a newspaper reporter that William T. Putnam, former Executive Director of the Budget and Control Board, was hired and used to negotiate the results of the audit of the Commission released last May by the Legislative Audit Council (LAC). However, Mr. James has given what appears to be conflicting information to The Greenville News regarding the Commission's employment of Mr. Putnam. On September 21, 1988, in an article entitled Retired Budget Board Director's Firm Gets State Consulting Contracts, Mr. James is quoted as saying William K. James, the director of the Commission for the Blind, said his agency hired Putnam for three months this year to develop `better office procedures.'
When contacted a second time by the paper, Mr. James provided alternative explanations for employing Putnam. The October 7, 1988 Greenville News article reads as follows:
Panel For Blind Charged With Wrongdoing
by Tim Smith
The president of a state organization for the blind said the State Commission for the Blind hired the former director of the Budget and Control Board to help influence the outcome of a state audit of the commission.
The retired budget board director, William T. Putnam, said the charge was ridiculous, and the director of the Legislative Audit Council said Putnam did not influence the audit of the commission. Donald C. Capps, president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, said the commission hired Putnam for influence peddling.
He said the federation's position is that Putnam used his good contacts to substantially influence the final version of the report on the Commission for the Blind released by the Legislative Audit Council in May.
William K. James, the commission director, denied Capps' allegations. He said Putnam was used in negotiating the results of the audit.
James told The News two weeks ago that his agency paid Putnam $2,747 in consultant fees in March and April to help develop better office procedures and to act as a temporary administrator. An itemized list of Putnam's activities supplied by Putnam to the agency as part of his invoice shows that much of his time was spent working on the audit.
Putnam, according to the document, met with officials of the state auditor's office, had telephone conversations with the audit council's staff and with members of the governor's staff. The audit council review, while noting some administrative problems, found no evidence of a significant mismanagement by commission staff, as alleged by Capps' organization, according to a copy of the final audit council report. The audit also chided Capps' organization, although it never mentioned it by name, saying the group had interfered with the conduct of commission activities, reducing time spent by staff in providing client services and administering agency programs. James said he hired Putnam to act as agency administrator until a director of administrative services could be hired. He said some of his work involved a review of the draft report of the audit. Asked whether Putnam was used to try to soften the final report, James said, No, not in a sense to try and soften the report. He did work with me in negotiating with the LAC on the results of this. Putnam said he did not negotiate with the audit council. He said he met with the council's director, George Schroeder, and others to correct errors in the draft report. He said he could not recall the errors that were corrected.
As far as using my former office, that is quite, quite untrue, Putnam said. George Schroeder doesn't lend himself to that and don't operate that way.
Schroeder said Putnam did not influence the audit and there were no substantial differences between the draft and final reports. He didn't have any influence on the audit in some sort of sinister sense that I'm aware of, Schroeder said.
There you have it first Mr. James said that he hired Putnam to help with office procedures, but when contacted a few days later, he said Putnam was hired as an agency administrator. Adding to the confusion, Mr. James went on to say that Putnam was employed to negotiate the results of the audit with the Legislative Audit Council. Which was it, Mr. James? Helping out with office procedures would be an unlikely way for the former Executive Director of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board to spend his time. Why would Putnam have been hired as Agency Administrator when Mr. James already holds that position? The NFB of SC believes that the most plausible reason is the third explanation cited by Mr. James for employing Putnam that is, To negotiate the results of the audit.
In the May-June issue of The Palmetto Blind, we questioned the advisability of the Commission's hiring Putnam and paying him $50 an hour to influence the outcome of the audit. As indicated in the newspaper article, the itemized statement of charges presented to the Commission by Putnam clearly shows that most were for services related to the audit. The NFB of SC certainly agrees that because of his former high position in state government, Putnam was the obvious person to negotiate the results of the audit, if negotiations were required. But if all was well, why was it necessary to negotiate the results of the audit? The audit should have been non-negotiable.
The NFB of SC is strongly of the opinion that the state funds appropriated to the Commission for serving the blind should not be used to employ a high-powered former state official to influence an audit. Fifty dollars an hour is certainly not chickenfeed. Although the NFB of SC depends primarily upon volunteers, we would have been pleased to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Schroeder and the LAC to correct audit errors. The NFB of SC was not even given an opportunity by Mr. Schroeder and audit council staff members to discuss the results of the audit, much less negotiate its results. We believe Putnam's involvement with the audit was a significant factor in the final results, since he wouldn't have spent time working with audit council officials and others, including members of the governor's office, unless it was to some purpose.
The NFB of SC resents this third-party involvement and the resulting expense to taxpayers. As indicated in the May-June issue of The Palmetto Blind , we believe that much of the audit is highly suspect. Among other things the NFB of SC strongly disagrees with the LAC's recommendations that vending facility operators should be penalized for success by adding another tax on their earnings. Neither can any thinking, knowledgeable person endorse the LAC's recommendation that we turn back the clock by reinstituting a sheltered workshop or work shelter, as one official phrased it. In many respects the audit represents a disservice rather than a service to the blind of South Carolina.
PARTIALLY SIGHTED, REALLY BLIND
by Catherine Horn Randall Catherine Horn Randall is First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and an Alderman serving in the Jacksonville, Illinois, City Council. This article appeared in the August, 1988, issue of The Month's News, the publication of the NFB of Illinois.
One rainy afternoon a young mother stood across the street from Main Hall on the MacMurry College campus in Jacksonville, Illinois, watching the busy, laughing college co-eds come and go. She cried for her four-year-old daughter who might not have the opportunity to go to college or to lead a full life, because she only had partial sight in her right eye. She was afraid and wondered about Cathy's future, and all she knew to do was to have Cathy evaluated by the professional staff of the Illinois Braille and Sight Saving School in Jacksonville.
The professionals told her that Cathy had so much sight that she wouldn't need to bother with Braille. The bewildered young parents were grateful to the experts for their advice; who else could they turn to? The school didn't tell them that the National Federation of the Blind even existed. Cathy's parents took her home, determined to enroll her in the sight saving program in Quincy, Illinois.
From this point on, I shall tell my own story. As I look back at the enormous implications to my life and to my education from being denied the opportunity to learn Braille as a child, I am as angry and frustrated now as my mother was afraid for my future in 1951, I happen to be an only child, and I like to think that I was constructively spoiled by my parents. They could not have been more supportive of me. If they had received common-sense guidance, I know I would have learned Braille. Whatever I needed to help with my education, my parents enthusiastically provided. If we had only known it, what we needed most was the National Federation of the Blind, Braille, and cane travel skills. Unfortunately for me, we used the term partially sighted while I was growing up. I wasn't really blind, because I had some sight. So I didn't think of myself as blind until I began losing my remaining vision in my late twenties. I was a blind child and a blind college student who was trying to get along without either of the most important skills of blindness, namely Braille and cane travel. I took typing lessons when I was ten, and again in both junior and senior high. Typing, I believe, is another essential skill for blind and legally blind students.
A partially blind student who reads print and takes notes with flair pens or markers and uses tapes is still greatly handicapped if he or she does not know Braille. I didn't have much confidence in myself in high school or college, and I think not having the skills of blindness was part of the reason although I did not realize it at the time. Eye strain was a constant problem for me in school. How wonderful and practical it would have been to make an easy transition from print work to Braille when I used my eyes too much. For years my father tutored me every night in math. My mother read to me so much that by my senior year in high school she had damaged her vocal chords. I always loved school despite the hard work. I was feature editor for both my junior and senior high newspapers.
I earned a bachelor of arts degree from that same MacMurry College, where my mother had despaired for my future nineteen years earlier. College took me four and a half years and four straight summers to complete. I am now convinced that, if I had had good Braille skills, I would have been able to handle four courses a semester like everyone else instead of taking only three. I had a totally blind friend a year behind me in college who took full course loads each semester and used Braille. To blind and partially blind students I would say this and I would say it with every fiber of my being: Join and become active in the NFB. It is the greatest gift you can ever give yourself. Take the initiative to learn Braille and cane travel. This may seem a tall order, but believe me, it is an essential one. You will find the role models that you always needed in the NFB. You will learn that it is respectable to be blind.
WAR OR BACKYARD SKIRMISH?
BLINDED VETS TAKE TO THE FOX HOLES
by Barbara Pierce
The last two years have witnessed a nasty little battle between the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF), a group created by three disaffected past employees of the BVA. Citing dissatisfaction with the way BVA spends its money, the three (John Fales, BAVF President; Dennis Wyant, BAVF Secretary; and Don Garner, BAVF Treasurer) founded the organization in 1985 and publicly announced its beginning on June 12, 1986. On March 8, 1987, Washington, D.C. Federal District Court Judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, issued an injunction forbidding BAVF to use the name Blinded American Veterans Foundation or any name in which the words veterans and blinded (or blind ) are used together. The BAVF has appealed this ruling, and things are at a standstill for the moment.
This is the barest outline of the situation, but Monitor readers know that such facts do not begin to tell the story. We are too familiar with complexity to say, You two groups are both working for the rights of blinded veterans. Why don't you forget your differences? Very often life is too complicated for such simple solutions to be constructive. Here are the details as the Braille Monitor has been able to gather them. Readers must ponder them and judge for themselves.
The Blinded American Veterans Foundation is not a membership organization. The stated goal of its five Directors is to assist sensory disabled former United States fighting men and women. As their descriptive brochure says, What we will strive to accomplish is to become a nationwide focal point and clearing house for research, rehabilitation, and re-employment efforts and for information dissemination and education programs.
Those in government at one level or another are the target of their educational efforts. According to the BAVF, the research concentrates on sensory disabilities and prosthetic devices and sensory aids, as well as on basic issues of personal importance to veterans with sensory disabilities whatever that means. Formation of a corps of volunteers to help veterans with sensory and communication disabilities is also said to be part of the plan. This corps seems to be a network composed of the Directors' friends, living across the country.
That is what the officers of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation said they were setting out to do, and, according to their press releases and annual report, it is pretty well what they have spent their time and money doing. With as much fanfare as they could muster, they have presented awards to members of Congress and reporters whom they have found to be sympathetic to the BAVF and to veterans' concerns. They have produced and are marketing a red, white, and blue telescoping cane called the Americane. No one seems to know much about this device except that it is subject to falling apart, but its name alone raises eyebrows in some quarters.
A large chunk of the BAVF's 1987 budget went toward producing the U.S. Constitution and the Veterans Administration's Veterans' Benefits Handbook in print and on flexible disc. These were mailed to 17,000 blind and disabled veterans, and extras were sent to radio reading services, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and others. Both Wyant and Garner hold jobs that, potentially at least, provide the BAVF opportunities for influence as well as for dispensing largess. Wyant serves as Director of the Veterans Administration's Education and Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Service. Garner is the Director for the Veterans Administration's Blind Rehabilitation Service in Washington, D.C. There are four VA Blind Centers across the country Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, and California. In its annual report the BAVF said that it donated $500 to each of these centers in fiscal year 1987 (its first year of operation) and planned to contribute $2,000 to each in its second. Parenthetically, it should be noted with commendation that BAVF claims responsibility and credit for insuring that these four centers did not (as they had planned to do) seek accreditation from NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). According to President Fales, a $10,000 grant has also been awarded to George Buck Gillispie, one of the BAVF's Directors, to cover the cost of touring these four centers in order to assess their needs and encourage their clients.
The question inevitably arises of where the Blinded American Veterans Foundation gets its money. They say they have sought and received a number of in-kind gifts. Officers of the BAVF told the Monitor that their office space is donated, and Kurzweil Computer Products and Anheuser Busch figure prominently in their literature as contributors. BAVF also seems to have received some corporate contributions. But the biggest source of income, and the one that brought the wrath of the Blinded Veterans Association down on BAVF's head, has been the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). This program is the method by which federal employees contribute to the United Way plus others. Federal employees can give to any or all of a long list of charities chosen by the CFC. During the 1987 Combined Federal Campaign, the BAVF was on the list, and federal employees contributed generously so generously that by June of 1988 the BAVF had already raised $35,000 $7,000 more than in the entire preceding year. This was too much for the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA). Dr. Ronald Miller, BVA Executive Director, acknowledges that the entrance on the scene of the BAVF has damaged the BVA's fund-raising efforts. He says he believes that people confuse the two organizations. According to Miller, people who have contributed to the BVA for years without paying close attention to the exact name inadvertently designated BAVF as the recipient of their CFC gifts in 1987.
BVA's funds and past fund-raising practices figure prominently in the BAVF's dissatisfaction with the older group. The three BAVF officers accuse BVA of not really helping veterans. They say that a building fund just lay in the bank when it could have been helping people. They also object to the image of blindness projected by the BVA's direct mail materials. Dennis Wyant characterized these as pitiful.
The Blinded Veterans Association was chartered by Congress in 1945, and today it says it has about 6,800 members, most of whom (according to BAVF) live in Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Those with service-connected injuries may vote at national conventions. In the past six years, the BVA has worked hard to recruit new members. As a result, Miller estimates that the organization has enjoyed an 80% increase in membership.
The BVA's programs fall into three areas. The Field Service Program stations six Field Service Representatives across the country to serve as role models for blind veterans and to counsel them and their families about available services. In partnership with the federal Department of Labor (DOL) the BVA, according to Executive Director Dr. Ronald Miller, conducts an employment outreach program in which three (soon to become four) Field Service Representatives around the country seek out veterans who want to work and then help them find employment. According to Miller, in fiscal 1988 an experimental program in New York, called Amer I Can, has proven particularly successful. One of the BVA's Field Service Representatives trained personnel from the New York employment service and the DOL Veterans Employment and Training Services so that they could work more effectively with blinded veterans. Miller says that in this first year, twenty-nine veterans have returned to work in New York. The program will be expanded in the months ahead. Miller says that the third element of the BVA's program is its public information effort. This includes publication of the BVA Bulletin , as well as mailings to veterans, and educational mailings to the general public.
There are clearly hard feelings between these two organizations. BVA makes it fairly clear that Fales was forced to resign from his BVA position in 1982. He is no longer a member of the BVA, but both Wyant and Garner have continued their memberships. To everyone's credit in this dispute, they have managed to contain the battle so that blinded veterans who need help have apparently not suffered. The students at the four Blind Centers supervised by Garner have not, as far as Miller can tell, been discouraged from joining the BVA. And Miller is careful to limit his comments to facts and to avoid character assassination.
The conflict may be drawing to a close. In September, 1988, the BVA's summary motion, requesting the Appeals Court simply to review the material in the Federal District Court case, was denied. On February 6, 1989, oral arguments in the BAVF's appeal will be heard. There is no way of knowing how long the judges will take to make their decision. It could be as long as a year. In the meantime the Blinded American Veterans Foundation continues to use its name, but it was not listed as a charity in the 1988 Combined Federal Campaign. Both organizations have spent money on the court fight money that could much better have been used to further their goals. We can only hope that the blind will benefit from the eventual resolution of the dispute.
AND BLINDNESS WAS NEVER AN ISSUE
Election day, 1988, did not hold many surprises for most voters around the country. There were the usual number of close counts and come-from-behind victories, but mostly the candidates won or lost with varying degrees of grace and style. In Boulder County, Colorado, however, an upset occurred that had everyone talking. The Deputy Mayor of Boulder, a liberal Democrat, beat an incumbent County Commissioner, the only Republican on the board. Everyone but the victorious candidate seems to have been surprised by the outcome. The polls and pundits apparently expected voters to preserve the voice of the minority on the Board of Commissioners. The notion that the electorate might have decided that choosing the best candidate was more important than preserving the two-party balance didn't cross the experts' minds. The winner in this Boulder County race was Homer Page, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. He was sworn in on January 10, 1989. We reprint here the news stories that appeared in the Daily Camera (the Boulder, Colorado, newspaper) after the election and after the swearing-in ceremony. Notice the handling of Page's blindness by the press; it isn't mentioned. In fact, it wasn't an issue in the election at all. In 1985, when Page ran for Mayor, one of his opponent's supporters brought up the matter of blindness, and Page dealt decisively with the questions raised, but this time the press and the public alike apparently decided that visual acuity was not an appropriate measure of either candidate's competence. We are clearly making progress in educating the public. Boulder County voters have gotten the message.
Here's what the Daily Camera had to say:
BOULDER DAILY CAMERA
NOVEMBER 9, 1988
Commissioners All Democrats Now: Page Ousts GOP's Smith; Stewart Re-Elected
by Sharon Gillen
Voters swept the lone Republican off the Boulder County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, replacing five-year Commissioner Buz Smith with Boulder's Democratic Deputy Mayor Homer Page and handing Longmont Democrat Ron Stewart his second term. The election means that all three seats on the board will be filled by Democrats for at least two years. It also leaves the Democrats in control of all county elected offices. The race between Smith and Page was close as late returns came in from east county precincts, but Page held onto a lead inspired by Boulder voters, winning the $41,500-a-year job for a four-year term. Page said he was not surprised by the closeness of the race the results of which were unclear until after midnight. He attributed the narrow victory to the fact that he was running against an incumbent. He also remembered Smith's narrow victory in 1984. Smith was at a loss to explain his defeat other than to say, I think I'm in the wrong party to win in Boulder County. He noted that almost 60 percent of the county's voters are unaffiliated, and they have a strong tendency to vote Democratic. But he added he would not consider switching parties. Page said, What really did it was our ability to convince the public there was a difference on environmental issues between the two of us, especially on open space.
Page had said he would resign his seat on the Boulder City Council if he won. The rest of the council then would appoint someone to fill the vacant seat....
Smith, 50, a Boulder resident, was appointed a commissioner in January, 1983, when Republican Bob Jenkins resigned. Smith was elected to a four-year term in November, 1984. He focused his campaign on his successes as the minority Republican commissioner, on the need for economic growth and on his roles as a lobbyist and county representative on the state and national levels. Page, 47, has been a Boulder city councilman for seven years and deputy mayor for three years. He is director of the University of Colorado Office of Services to Disabled Students and a teacher in the School of Education. Stewart, 40, of Longmont, was first elected a commissioner four years ago after an eight-year stint in the Colorado Senate, including two years as minority leader.
BOULDER DAILY CAMERA
NOVEMBER 10, 1988
GOP Feels Silenced by Dem Trio
by Sharon Gillen
A Board of County Commissioners filled with three Democrats won't change the way county government is run, some party insiders say, but Republicans fear they have lost a voice with the ouster of Buz Smith.
Smith, the minority commissioner on the board for five years, was defeated Tuesday in an upset by Democrat Homer Page, a Boulder councilman. As of the swearing-in ceremony in January, the board will consist exclusively of Democrats for the first time since 1980. That's when Republicans put one member on the board, ending six years of total Democratic domination. But Democrats have held a majority since 1972 which limits the impact of adding a third Democrat to the board. And Democratic Commissioners Jose Heath and Ron Stewart, who was re-elected Tuesday, say few of the day-to-day decisions in county government are partisan issues. Ninety-five percent of the decisions we make are not partisan, Heath said.
Still, local GOP members are wary that without a Republican to carry their message, the views of a lot of county residents will not be heard.
And some say the new board make-up proves a need to change the system to force election of the three commissioners by geographical districts rather than countywide. However, that would be hard technically to do since it would require passage of a home-rule charter or the addition of two more commissioners an idea voters soundly defeated in 1986. The Democratic commissioners, trying to head off charges that some residents will feel unrepresented, are pledging to work even harder to listen closely to differing opinions and to foster cooperation with all county communities. The real issue is not Democrat vs. Republican but style, individual interest, and individual expertise, said Page, who plans to concentrate on really getting in touch with cities in the county other than his hometown of Boulder. He plans to quit his job as director of the CU Office of Services to Disabled Students when he takes over the full-time commissioner's job. Fritz Satterley of Boulder, a long-time Republican, explained Wednesday what she and other local GOP members were thinking:
There is a concern about the make-up of the new Board of County Commissioners the ultra-liberal element that is going to be representing the whole county now. We've certainly had enough of that with the Boulder City Council. There will be no balance on the Board of County Commissioners.
She said that although Smith was in the minority, at least he was a spokesman for the opposition. He would bring things to the fore that maybe the other two (commissioners) hadn't thought of. Who's going to be the challenger now?
When (the Democratic commissioners) take the oath, we have lost the representation.
But Stewart said, I think you'll continue to see a healthy discussion of issues, noting that he and Heath sometimes see things differently. He said commissioners' daily decisions are more often affected by public input than by political stances. Martha Weiser, an environmentalist and government watchdog who has seen Page on the council and the commissioners in action for years, said she believes little will change in county government. People who think otherwise need to be reminded... their input always will be heard and respected.
I see more problems with public perception than with performance, of an all-Democratic board, Weiser said. She also said issues such as open space will see more unanimity and less controversy. But she, as well as the commissioners themselves, doubt more county money will go toward open space the budget, they agree, is stretched to the limit already. Smith was attending a National Association of Counties meeting Wednesday and unavailable for comment.
BOULDER DAILY CAMERA
NOVEMBER 10, 1988
Page's Upset Victory Caught Council by Surprise
by Sally McGrath
Boulder City Council members had not thought much about who they should appoint to replace their colleague Homer Page if he was elected to the Board of County Commissioners. No one thought he would win.
But Page's upset victory Tuesday over incumbent Republican Buz Smith Tuesday changed all that.
I really didn't think Homer was going to win, Councilman Matthew Appelbaum said Wednesday. I never worried about who we were going to appoint when he left.
Mayor Linda Jourgensen was not deluged Wednesday with calls from interested applicants.
I haven't heard from anybody, Jourgensen said Wednesday afternoon. We'll encourage people to come fill out an application if they are interested.
Councilman Spence Havlick said he developed a list of possible candidates Wednesday.
It's the best upset of the 1988 campaign anywhere, Havlick said. I thought a lot of people would assume Mr. Smith was representing an unrepresented group in the county. Council members contacted Wednesday said they will look for a replacement who shares Page's values.
The environment, commitment to mediation, housing, and human needs those are things Homer is very strong on, Havlick said. It will probably be somebody relatively moderate, Appelbaum said. That's fair. Homer was fairly good on the environment and strong on human services. He was not an anti-growther but a strong believer in the Comprehensive Plan. Page will resign at the end of the council's final meeting of the year on December 20. The council will have 30 days to appoint a replacement to fill his term, which expires in November, 1989.... There was one council member who wasn't surprised by Page's victory Page. I guess I did expect to win, he said.
RAMBLING NEAR GRAMBLING
by David Hyde
As Monitor readers know, David Hyde is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. He gets around and enjoys himself wherever he is, but especially when he is with Federationists. This article is reprinted from the Fall, 1988, Oregon Outlook, the newsletter of the NFB of Oregon.
There are things which those of you who have not been in Louisiana in August should know. During the day, the temperature and the humidity vie for supremacy and the humidity generally wins; Bourbon St. in New Orleans really is all that it is cracked up to be; places like Patrick O'Bryan's really do exist, and hurricane glasses do hold 32 ounces of refreshment. Hospitality is great, Cajun food is wonderful, and the Republicans are not the only ones who enjoyed Louisiana last summer. I had the opportunity to attend the convention of a fraternal organization there in August and, while in the neighborhood, decided to spend several days at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, which is at the northern end of the state near the Texas/Arkansas border. It is a medium- small town and is the nearest neighbor to Grambling University of football fame.
The Center for the Blind is located in downtown Ruston and is comparatively small considering the amount of work that is done there. The two-bedroom student apartments are located eight blocks away from the center and are equipped, I am delighted to say, with air conditioners.
I arrived in town on a Thursday evening, dropped off my bags, and was whisked away to a meeting. Our topic for the evening, to my delight, was a story by John Steinbeck. We read it and spent some time discussing the characters' motivations, the theme, and the tone of the work. It reminded me of my college days, and, for that matter, so did the students. Many were college-bound, either returning to school or preparing to attend for the first time. Most had been to the National Convention in Chicago, and all of them made me feel welcome.
Friday's classes started at 8:00 a.m. Students (all but those who were just beginning their stay at the center) walked there from the apartment building. There are many routes from which to choose, and I never took the same one twice. They involve intersections with traffic lights, intersections which should have traffic lights, railroad crossings, and sidewalks which would do credit to a roller coaster. The students help each other when asked and give advice to newcomers. Since Ruston has no public transportation, work with buses must be done in Monroe, which is about a half-hour away. Shopping malls can also be found in Monroe. These provide excellent travel routes. The outing begins as a group excursion, and then each student or pair of students is given an individual assignment.
Because the Louisiana Center is privately operated, sleep-shade training is available and, in fact, mandatory. Using sleep shades is not limited to private orientation centers, but it is not available or even allowed in many rehabilitation facilities. Students here learn cane travel, cooking, Braille, and other skills under shades. At the Louisiana Center for the Blind, sleep shades are worn by those students who possess any amount of vision. The purpose of the shades is not to prepare students for eventual total blindness, which may or may not occur, but to enable them to place all of their trust in the alternative techniques they are learning. When this trust is developed, a student is able to function independently, using that combination of visual methods and blind techniques which gives him or her the greatest efficiency. Even after moving to a new house or losing more vision, he or she will be able to use the skills learned in training to continue living a successful, independent life. Use of sleepshades is also available at orientation centers in Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, and Minnesota. While learning mobility, I find that I function better under shades in many situations than I ever did when using my vision, remarked one student. It makes my night travel much easier. I don't have to wait for my eyes to adjust to changes in light, and my cane finds obstacles such as steps or the lake! All students learn Braille. They start with the slate and stylus and Grade 1, working their way up to Grades 2 and 3. Grade 2 Braille, the most commonly used in books, enables students to read the Braille materials available at the Center. Students also use Braille for their grocery lists, recipes, and class notes. They learn to cook both at the Center and in their apartments. The facility has no central kitchen or dining room for serving students. As a result, cooking becomes a real survival skill. The students share ideas, recipes, shopping chores, and dinners. Lunch at the Center for those who have cooking class in the morning is a gastronomically profound experience. The morning's classes have been hard at work, and samples are freely available. During the last few weeks at the Center, students must prepare two meals, one for four people, and the other for forty. I was privileged to attend one of the former, prepared by a teacher from Monroe. I heartily recommend her stuffed rigatoni, and I hope her recipes will appear in future issues of the Braille Monitor . By the time students leave the Center, cooking has become fairly easy. After all, if you can cook for forty people and satisfy them, dinner for two is a breeze. Both planned and spontaneous activities are always available. While there, I enjoyed a roller-skating party organized by the Center and took a trip to the horse races in Shreveport with a number of students and staff. All are encouraged to find their own recreational activities, and many do. There is much camaraderie between the students and staff of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Barriers are quickly broken down, and often it is hard to tell who is who. Staff do not work an eight-hour day, and neither do students. Visiting one another's homes, dinners in common, impromptu activities, and general friendship are the rule.
Twice a week all students attend seminars, where many topics are discussed. Participation in the seminars is general and enthusiastic.
Finally I would like to say a word about the townspeople of Ruston, who also play an important part in the students' lives while they are at the Center. I think of Sarah, who opened up her restaurant to teach jam and jelly making to the students, or the Mayor of Ruston, who appeared in over 100 degree heat at the ground-breaking ceremonies for the new student recreation center. And there are the citizens of Ruston, who have been willing to learn that blindness is not a big deal and that blind people (whether students, staff, or visitors from the far Northwest) are just people nothing more, nothing less. Like everything else, it comes down to attitudes. The Center teaches that blind people can and do succeed in life. Ruston has begun to believe in this truth, and the students themselves are living proof of it.
by Steve Benson
As Federationists know, Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He and the entire Illinois affiliate worked with zeal and efficiency to host our 1988 national convention.
In late 1987 and early 1988, I contributed articles to the Braille Monitor promoting our forty-eighth annual national convention, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. I tried to convey the ambiance of the headquarters hotel and its restaurants, lounges, and public areas. I also attempted to portray the atmosphere and spirit of Chicago vividly enough to persuade Federationists and friends to attend the largest gathering of blind people in history. Since I had made certain predictions regarding attendance and registration, I approached my writing with commitment and enthusiasm. It was great fun, made more so by the tremendous turn-out.
On three previous occasions I had helped host national conventions. Hosting the 1988 convention was quite different from the others. This was my eighteenth national convention. There are common themes connecting and running through all of them. Everything that the National Federation of the Blind is can be found at the annual convention: hard work, commitment, outstanding leadership, unity, determination, basic belief in the competence of blind people, boundless enthusiasm, and love. The National Federation of the Blind convention is a unique and inspiring event. Its impact on the lives of those who attend, especially for the first time, is profound. All blind people (members and non-members, friends or foes) benefit substantially and palpably from what occurs.
All of that having been said, I can add one more very important characteristic; the National Federation of the Blind convention is fun.
Now that NFB of Illinois members have fully recovered from the responsibility of hosting, the affiliate looks forward to 1989. It would be so easy for us to sit back, relax, and watch the Colorado affiliate perform what we know will be a superb performance, but that won't work. Now that we know firsthand what is involved in hosting a convention of the size and complexity of ours, we plan to take an active part in making the 1989 convention the largest, most successful gathering of blind people in history. Most Illinoisians have never been to Denver. We look forward to it with eager anticipation, and we plan to move a large contingent west for our forty-ninth annual convention.
The big difference between the forty-niners of the National Federation of the Blind (as I have already said, this will be our forty-ninth convention) and the forty-niners of the last century in California is that we know we will strike it rich in Colorado. If you hope to get a room in Denver in early July, you'd better act today. I look forward to meeting all of you. I'm going to be counting noses to see if any other affiliate can top Illinois' attendance record of 1988. See you in the Mile-High City.
COMMENTS ON CERTIFICATION IN BRAILLE
by Claudell Stocker
Claudell Stocker is the capable Head of the Braille Development Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. She recognizes the value of Braille and is working to encourage teachers to become certified in Braille through the Library of Congress program. Here is what she says about it:
It is encouraging to note that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (LC) is receiving inquiries from two important potential sources for Braille transcribers. The Braille Development Section is receiving requests from teachers of visually impaired and blind students who wish to enroll in the LC literary Braille course, and LC-certified teachers employed in graduate schools are inquiring about certifying their student-teachers before graduation.
This interest in LC certification has positive aspects for teachers, future teachers, and students. Teachers and future teachers can look forward to more thorough knowledge of the subject they are teaching. Certification will provide more credibility and prestige to the teacher's credentials. Students and parents will feel they are in more competent hands with the knowledge the teacher is LC-certified in literary Braille. The special education teacher will have the convenience of being able quickly and accurately to transcribe class lessons, workbooks, and other materials for the students, instead of having to do without or send lessons to Braille groups who are already overworked trying to keep up with textbook transcribing demands. However, the greatest benefit will be for young blind students and adults who have recently lost their vision. There is a direct correlation between the proficiency of the teacher and the predictability of a student's success. In this case, it can make the difference as to whether or not the blind student develops basic literacy skills or remains in a veil of semi-illiteracy.
OF AGENCIES AND FOOTSTOOLS
by W. Harold Bleakley
As Monitor readers know, Harold Bleakley is the principal owner of AIDS Unlimited, which provides a wide variety of products to the blind. He is also a member of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.
November 25, 1988
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Of all the issues of the Braille Monitor containing important material, I believe that November 1988 has to be at or near the top. Of necessity, most of us spend the greater part of our time with the needs of the day. Consequently, it does our mind and spirit good periodically to get out of the muck and mire of daily routine and take the long view. Of course, if we become too much absorbed in the long view, we may get awfully hungry or trip over the footstool right in front of us. At the same time, life becomes pretty dreary if all we think about are footstools and lunch. While the whole issue was thought-provoking, one or two of the articles struck me the most. One of the major subjects in the issue was Braille. When I went to the Pittsburgh School for the Blind at the age of 12, they started immediately to teach me Braille. I think I had never heard the term before. But my teacher explained that Braille is the way blind people read and write. The teacher of Braille was blind and had very high standards and a most positive attitude. All the other kids were reading and writing Braille. I learned it and used it, too. That was when I was 12 years old, but it's the same now. If I lost it, I would feel the same as an illiterate seeing person must feel.
I have never given very much thought to what is wrong with Braille. It does what I want it to do. It is clear when I read and clear when I write. There are always fine points that a specialist in any discipline can point out as needing improvement. However, Braille works for me, and it works for many other people that I know who use it. As far as I'm concerned, why try to fix it? It ain't broke. Then there was the report of that meeting in Canada. There were so many top brass people there that, if it had been a military meeting, they would have needed a hand-truck to bring in the medals. I am not one who says, Get rid of all the agencies. I believe there are certain types of agencies which, when operating in a field of needed services and staffed and managed by persons with sound attitudes, can be extremely helpful to many blind persons. It seems to me that the objective should not be to knock down the agencies, but rather, as you have said so often, to change the way many of the agencies deal with the problems of blindness and blind people.
In reading the report of the meeting in Canada, my mind scanned the history of my own experiences. In the late 1930's, when I was almost through high school, the major concern of most of my colleagues was whether there would be a spot open for them in the Pittsburgh Association for the Blind sheltered workshop when they graduated. The word consumer was not in use. We heard the term civil defense, but not civil rights. The National Federation of the Blind had not been formed. As far as I knew, we as blind people were not expected to go much of anywhere. We were just to be kept safe and protected. We were told what to do, and we accepted it, because, after all, the professionals in the Association for the Blind knew much more than we did.
Then over the years, things began to happen. Black people began to raise a fuss; more blind people were employed; more blind people went to college; the NFB was founded. Civil rights took the place of civil defense. Then came the concept of input, borrowed from the computer field. I believe that, in some quarters, the advisory committee was conceived as a method of fending off participation in important, real-world matters by those persons whom the agency was set up to help. The advisory committee provided input for those who came to be called consumers. Of course, the social planners had to balance things off, so sometime before 1969, they invented the term provider. Now, on the one hand, we had the consumer and on the other the provider. While in many places, this was a very sincere effort to change things, unfortunately, all too often, it has been an attempt merely to systematize the charade.
A typical example of the systematized charade occurred a number of years ago when I was president of the Philadelphia Center for the Blind, a quite substantial organization. I was invited to become a member of the Governor's Committee on Relationships Among Consumers, Private Agencies Serving the Blind, and Public Agencies Serving the Blind. The published purpose of the committee (called the mission ) was to improve relations. We had a number of meetings, all of which were in Harrisburg, necessitating my absence from the office for a full day for each meeting. Many fairyland ideas and high thoughts were expressed. The air in the meeting room was as thick with platitudes as it was with cigarette smoke. Members of the committee were urged to refrain from specifics. It would tend to divert the committee from its goals, the chairman said. At the end a report-writing sub-committee was appointed. The report was written and approved by the majority of the committee. It then went to the governor's office where it died a quiet death and was buried beside hundreds of other advisory committee reports. However, the grass roots had made their input. In fact, the grass roots had gone through the ritual dance that is all too fashionable.
The report in the November issue made me take the long view instead of tripping over such footstools as the governor's committee experience. I thought about the fact that, without the success of the process going on in the Canadian meeting, there are only two alternatives. One is continued conflict, which diverts the energy of both parties from the solution of the problems confronting both blind persons and the agencies. The other alternative is for blind persons to become as docile as my colleagues and I were when I was in high school at the Pittsburgh School for the Blind. In the interest of focusing twice the energy on the solution of the other problems that confront us, I devoutly hope that the Canada meeting marks the beginning of the end of the punishing struggles I have seen down through the years. It goes without saying that, never again, will blind persons return to the hopelessness of the days before 1940. It is a different world. A number of the other articles in the November, 1988, issue of the Monitor started me thinking, but I must not get too absorbed in the long view. There might be a footstool in front of me that I need to avoid.
AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT
State of Connecticut
By His Excellency WILLIAM A. O'NEILL, Governor
An Official Statement
Through the years many organizations have developed programs to promote self-confidence and pride among blind persons. The National Federation of the Blind is one of these excellent groups.
Founded in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind strives for equality, security, and opportunity for all blind citizens in the United States, and now has a membership of more than 50,000 individuals, the blind speaking for themselves. Reorganized in our state in 1971, the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut is committed to these concerns, offering hope and encouragement to individuals adjusting to blindness and restoring their self-confidence. In the belief that the real handicap is not the loss of eyesight but misconceptions and misinformation about blindness, members of the Federation are changing that perception via television, radio, newspaper, public speaking, and distribution of source materials to schools, senior centers, and Connecticut libraries.
To foster independence, the Federation helps blind men and women obtain employment through its Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program.
The NFB of Connecticut acts as an advocate for equal rights and non-discrimination under Connecticut law, and worked for the successful passage of the White Cane Civil Rights Act of 1973. Each year Connecticut residents observe White Cane Safety Day in October to acknowledge the accomplishments of blind persons and to increase public awareness of the significance of the white cane and guide dog as symbols of independence.
The NFB of Connecticut is holding its annual convention in New Haven this year. Joyce Scanlan, President of the Minnesota affiliate and board member of the NFB, will be the keynote convention speaker. Therefore, to welcome Joyce Scanlan, in tribute to the dedicated members of the Federation, and in appreciation of their vital work in our state, I am pleased to designate October, 1988, as National Federation of the Blind Month in Connecticut.
William A. O'Neill
On the weekend of November 11-13, 1988, the NFB of Pennsylvania held its convention in the city of York. The York Chapter, which was only recently formed, is headed by Margaret Haas, who is both personable and energetic.
In preparation for the state convention Ms. Haas talked to city and and county officials concerning appropriate public recognition.
As a result, the County Commissioners declared November, 1988, National Federation of the Blind Month. The Mayor of York proclaimed November 7-13 Blindness Awareness Week, and the proclamation which he issued showed that the York Chapter had done its work well. Many older chapters would do well to study the model and copy the example. Here is the Mayor's proclamation:
Blindness strikes without prejudice. It is a condition that strikes fear in many, misunderstanding in most. Many sighted people would rather be dead than blind. It is this fear and misunderstanding that cause some newly blinded to be unable to cope with it. It is our hope that through Blindness Awareness Week the community might better understand the nature and needs of blindness.
Blindness, although a nuisance, is not an insurmountable obstacle. People adapt to their environment. With today's technology, much of what a sighted person can do a blind person can do as well. As resources for the blind increase, so do opportunities. There are many blind individuals working in our society today, including nuclear physicists, lawyers, and systems analysts. As the public is educated about the abilities of the blind to work and participate in the growth of our society, many of the stereotypes of blindness are falling away. The purpose of Blindness Awareness Week is to help alleviate the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist in relation to blindness.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, William J. Althaus, Mayor of the City of York, Pennsylvania, do hereby proclaim the week of November 7 - 13, 1988, as Blindness Awareness Week in the City of York and urge all citizens to educate themselves on the problems and concerns facing blind individuals in today's society.
Given under my hand and the seal of the City of York this first day of November in the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighty-Eight.
William J. Althaus, MAYOR
OH, LORD, IT'S HARD TO BE HUMBLE
From the Editor: I am sure you remember the song, so I won't waste your time repeating it. We try not to let mistakes get by us in the Monitor, but now and then we mange up. In the January, 1989, issue (thank goodness, it only occurred in the print edition and not in the Braille or recorded versions) we printed an article entitled Singing Freedom's Song. In that article on page 32 (remember this is the print edition) a paragraph reads:
The point of view is that of the workshop manager, and the tune belongs to Home, Home on the Range. The final verse is the cleverest, but to understand it the closure with successful employment. Here is how it goes.
That is what we said, and when you get right down to it, it doesn't make much sense. Here is how it should have read:
The point of view is that of the workshop manager, and the tune belongs to Home, Home on the Range. The final verse is the cleverest, but to understand it the listener must know that the McDonald's Corporation conducts a hire-the-handicapped program called McJobs. One must also remember that in rehabilitation jargon, a 26 is a case closure with successful employment. Here is how it goes.
Without going into too many technicalities, let me say that we have a computer program which is used for our final typesetting in print, and this is where the goof-up occurred. But just to show that the computer is not the only one that can make mistakes, consider another one in the January, 1989, issue. On page 70 in the recipe for Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole there is a passage which says: In one stick (one cup) butter saut until tender. It should have said: In one stick (1/2 cup) butter saut until tender. Two in one issue. Ah, well, as we earlier opined, it's hard to be humble.
LAMB AND RICE
by Cynthia Handel
Cynthia (Cindy) Handel is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. Here is a recipe she recently sent, along with the following note:
This recipe for preparing lamb and rice is a Greek recipe. My grandmother prepared it this way and taught my mother, who taught me. I think it's very good, and I never use mint jelly! Cut all of the fat off of a leg of lamb. Season it with salt, pepper, and oregano. Brown in a covered pan (I use an electric frying pan), and be sure that there is always a little water in the pan so it doesn't stick. Turn the lamb frequently, and brown about half an hour. Place in a roasting pan with about one cup of water. Cover and roast slowly. For a six- to seven-pound leg of lamb, I cook it at 275 degrees for about three hours. Don't overcook so the lamb gets dry.
Remove the cooked lamb from the pan, and keep it warm. To the liquid in the pan add one cup of water and two cups of converted rice and a little lemon juice about a teaspoon. Cover tightly and turn temperature up to 350 degrees for one-half hour. For Christmas dinner my mother serves this with tossed salad, feta cheese, and Greek olives.
by Barbara Pierce
The Monitor's Associate Editor does more than write. She also cooks.
Place ¼ cup heavy cream in a heavy saucepan. Reduce it to 2 tablespoons by simmering gently on medium heat. Then add 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Chambord. Then add 6 ounces of German sweet chocolate and then whisk in ¼ cup unsalted butter. As soon as mixture is melted and smooth, pour it into a shallow bowl and allow it to set (approximately 2 hours). Scoop the mixture by teaspoonfuls and roll into balls with the hand. Roll in cocoa (if desired) and chill or freeze in tightly covered container. Makes approximately 1 ½ dozen.
by Patricia Woelfer
Miss Woelfer is a staff member at the National Center for the Blind. She handles mail, supervises the switchboard, and otherwise assists President Maurer. She also does gourmet cooking.
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Method: Simply spoon each of the spices into a spice jar and shake well to mix.
HOLIDAY RAISIN BREAD
by Ramona Walhof
Ramona Walhof is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. She is also a first-rate cook.
Dissolve two tablespoons yeast in 2 cups warm water. Add 1/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup honey (or ½ cup sugar), 2 more cups warm water, 4 cups wholewheat flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix well. Now add 2 more cups warm water, about 6 more cups wholewheat flour, 2 cups English walnuts in chunks, and 2 cups raisins. Knead well. Dough should be soft and elastic. Oil outside of dough completely and let stand until double in size. Push down and shape into two large loaves or more smaller ones. Grease loaf pans and place dough in them. Oil top of loaves. Let rise until double in size.
Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Bread is done when sounds hollow when tapped on top. Slice while hot if desired or slice and toast for breakfast.
Area Code Handbook:
We are informed that AT&T and the National Braille Press have joined forces to produce two items: The Area Code Handbook and the AT&T Consumer Resource Guide . The Area Code Handbook contains the most recent area codes, listed by city and state. The AT&T Consumer Resource Guide contains useful tips, including the best times to call at the lowest rates; where to call for phone repairs; and other services offered by AT&T. Both of these items are available free of charge from the National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115, telephone (617) 266- 6160.
Notice from Committee on Concerns on the Deaf-Blind:
For the past two years the Committee on Concerns on the Deaf-Blind has sent to affiliate presidents letters requesting that each of you appoint someone within your state to coordinate the work of finding deaf-blind people, interesting them in the National Federation of the Blind, and recruiting people to act as interpreters. Some of you have done this, and to you we say thanks. To those who have not done this, we ask that you find someone within your state to do this because we feel that it would strengthen the movement as a whole. Please let me know the names and addresses of those that you appoint, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me (Braille letters preferred): Boyd C. Wolfe, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Committee on Concerns on the Deaf-Blind, 1314 N. 1st Street, Apartment 214, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
WordPerfect product documentation is now available on IBM PC computer disk. WordCruncher, a text retrieval program, makes it quick and easy to look up either specific or general information. Jump to any chapter, subheading or page in the book. Look up all references to any word. Manuals are available for WordPerfect 4.2, WordPerfect 5.0, WordPerfect Library, WordPerfect Executive, DataPerfect, PlanPerfect. The cost is $40. Shipping, cassette instructions, and Braille-marking on both 5.25 and 3.5 inch disks are included in the price. Cassette and large print catalogues are available. Send check or money order or requests for more information to: Grassroots Computing, P.O. Box 460, Berkeley, CA 94701, (415) 644-1855.
Barbara Pierce, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and Associate Editor of The Braille Monitor , has just been named to a three-year term on the Advisory Committee of the Ohio Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired. She joins Barbara Fohl, a leader in the Ohio affiliate, on this committee.
We have just learned about the death after a long illness of John Knall, for many years one of the leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. John's commitment to the Federation and to all that it stands for was rock-solid. For many years his memory was the final arbiter in all questions of Federation history in Ohio. He served as President of the Mutual Federation of the Blind for many years. At the state level he did an admirable job both as Second Vice President and as Secretary. His organizational ability was legendary. His loyal and loving wife Mickey, the Cleveland chapter, the Ohio affiliate, and all of us are diminished by John's passing.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Modified monaural record player, capable of playing Library of Congress-produced recordings; includes variable speed and superior sound quality, $110. In any format contact: Darryl Roberts, Post Office Box 665, Macomb, Illinois 61455.
Marion Gwizdala, 4812-A Hidden River Court, Temple Terrace, Florida 33617, writes: Our state affiliate is preparing to secure legislation to provide criminal penalties in cases where a guide dog is attacked by a person or an animal under the control of a person. Please place an announcement in the Monitor asking people from other states to tell us if they have statutes of this type.
Karen Mayry, President of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind, says: The Diabetics Division has compiled a list of aids and appliances for independent living by blind diabetics. The list is available in print and Braille ($2.00) and is updated approximately twice a year. In addition, we now have the A.D.A. (American Diabetes Association) Food Exchange List for Meal Planning available for $15.00. Many individuals, as well as hospitals and rehabilitation services, have ordered them. These items may be ordered from the National Office of the Federation or by writing: Diabetics Division, National Federation of the Blind, 919 Main Street Suite 15, Rapid City, South Dakota 57701.
Mark Harris writes: At its November, 1988, meeting the St. Louis Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri elected officers for 1989: President, Mark Harris; Vice President, Susan Ford; Recording Secretary, Sue Null;
Corresponding Secretary, Janet Dew; Treasurer, Eunice Johnson; and At-Large Board Member, Mark Dew.
Letter to a Departed Friend:
From the Editor: Mary Main, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, is about the finest person I know. Her letter to her departed friend, Howard May, reached me too late for inclusion in the January, 1989, Monitor , but she asked if I would print it so, of course, I am doing it. It is as timely now as it was a month earlier when she wrote it and besides, Mary is Mary. Here is her letter:
Some twelve years or more ago you called me on the telephone and asked me if I would like to join the National Federation of the Blind. Had your voice been less warm and friendly you might never have heard from me again; for I am no joiner, and the last thing I thought I wanted was the companionship of others who are blind. As it was, I raised every objection I could think of. How could I get to Danbury, where the nearest meetings were held? You told me patiently that there was a couple called Trueheart in Stamford who would be glad to bring me with them to the meetings and added that you were sure I would like them. I did. They became close friends of mine. Before long I became addicted to the NFB, my reservations worn down by the friendliness of the Truehearts and others in the Danbury Chapter. It was a warmth and friendliness which has pervaded our Connecticut affiliate and which emanated from you, and which you have left to us as our inheritance. I wonder if you ever realized how much that long-ago telephone call meant to me, how much interest and activity and friendship it brought to a life which might well have become static at that time? I think of the many others who must have been warmed by your voice. You have left us, dear friend, but you are not gone. You will live in our hearts for many years.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For sale: Classic VersaBraille with overlays and manuals, $500. Visualtek Voyager, one year old, $900. Contact: Mike Reagan, Box 30807, Lincoln, Nebraska 68503.
Ernest Robbins, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, and Tyrone Palmer, Secretary of the Chatham County Chapter, write:
The National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County held its gospel musical extravaganza on Sunday, November 20, 1988, at the Bethlehem Baptist Church. The theme, We Won't Give Up, was very appropriate for this particular occasion. Because not only did we all get to hear some good gospel music, but the public got the opportunity to see for themselves just how capable and productive the members of the Federation are. Also during our gospel musical extravaganza we crowned the winners of our 1988-89 Mr. and Miss National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County Pageant. The two runners-up were Mrs. Maggie Smart and Mr. Isaac Heyward. The winners were Miss Denise Howard (who is only fourteen years old and is a bright high school student) and Mr. Clarence M. Green. We are proclaiming our Federation message throughout the city of Savannah, which is: It is respectable to be blind.
Harold Carter, 111 West State #401, Rockford, Illinois 61101, says that he would like to be contacted by anyone who has or knows where to get a Stainsbee Interpoint Writer. He says that he is not interested in the interline writer but only the interpoint.
We recently learned from Jack Carlo of the celebration last April of the fortieth anniversary of the Worcester Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts. Mr. Carlo says that over a hundred people were present, including NFB of Massachusetts President Priscilla Ferris and other leaders of the affiliate. Some of those in attendance have been active in the affairs of the Worcester Chapter during the entire forty years of its existence. Congratulations to the Worcester Chapter and thanks to Jack Carlo for telling us of the celebration.
Tom Anderson writes: The National Federation of the Blind of Mahoning Valley (which is located in Youngstown, Ohio) met on Sunday, November 27, 1988, and held elections for 1989, with the following results: President, Louise Anderson; Vice President, Rose Ann Kocher; Secretary, Theresa Dolly Andervich; Treasurer, Thomas Anderson; Board of Directors (three-year term), Mary Lou Cahill; Board of Directors (two-year term), Katherine Goldman; and Board of Directors (one-year term), Helen Tabak.
Charles Hallenbeck, one of the leaders of the NFB of Kansas, writes as follows: This announcement from KANSYS, Inc., 1016 Ohio, Lawrence, Kansas 66044 - Shareware for your IBM compatible computer. Try our read-only editor RALPH The Reader for reading your WordPerfect, WordStar, or clear text file a screen at a time, searching forward or backward for desired information, or jumping directly to a specific point. Maximum file size is limited only by your computer's memory. RALPH was downloaded by more than 200 persons within the first two weeks of its availability on the boards. Get your copy soon. Share it with your friends. Send us $10 if you like it.
Which Did He Mean:
From the Editor: Some do it for cosmetic reasons; some because of sensitivity to light; and some (harking back to other days) because they think it makes them look less conspicuous, less blind, more in keeping with what is expected of them. Some don't do it because they have no cosmetic problem and would find it an inconvenience. Some don't do it because they feel enough inner security to regard it as a minor matter, bordering on the stereotype. And some don't do it for just plain cussedness, the determination to wear their blindness like a badge and be damned to who doesn't like it. Recently I received the following note. Such things spice up the day. Here is what it said:
Mr. Gernagan, please take this as constructive criticism, and realize it is coming from a person who may some day be blind also. Blindness as a result of diabetes runs in my family. Please suggest dark glasses (as Stevie Wonder wears) for the blind out of consideration for the seeing. Many blind have very offensive looking eyes, empty sockets, eyes that wander, etc. This makes for a distraction, discomfort, and may be a cause for ill treatment. Just as we try to cover up scars/warts, replace missing teeth, use prosthesis, etc., etc. (if at all possible) to look more attractive why not do so? Please consider and pass on to your organization.
We are informed by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Beach of the Vanderburg Chapter of the NFB of Indiana as follows: The Duck went into the drug store and bought a chapstick but he didn't pay for it. They put it on his bill.
There are many things which come as extra benefits from being a member of the National Federation of the Blind. For one thing, your sighted family members tend to get more or less educated about blindness.
For another they often (wherever they are in the country or the world) contribute to the movement. The Pinder family is a case in point.
Last year Peggy's sister Martha was living in Illinois. Here (as reported in the August, 1988, Month's News , the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois) is what Steve Benson had to say: Another Tribute: Last fall (1987) the NFB of Illinois became acquainted with a new secretary to the president. Martha Pinder has been an excellent worker. Not only has she provided superior secretarial services to the president. She has done an outstanding job recording The Month's News . Her bright, clear reading style has brought verve to the newsletter that will be missed. Martha Pinder is leaving Illinois. She will be entering a graduate program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, this fall. Martha, thank you for spending some time with the Illinois affiliate, and thank you for your hard work in the president's office. We wish you all the best at school and in your chosen career.
Andy Rood writes: On Saturday, November 19, 1988, the Jacksonville Chapter, NFB of Florida, held its election of officers. Elected were: Rhonda Moody, President; Bonnie Thrift, Vice President; Dale Mahone, Recording Secretary; Andy Rood, Corresponding Secretary; and Jim Bowen, Treasurer.