Vol. 33, No.
3 March 1990
Barbara Pierce, Editor
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 33, No. 3 March 1990
MORE ABOUT TEXAS GOLD
BLIND WORKERS PAY FOR FEDERAL FOLLY
by Marc Maurer
OF LITERACY, BRAILLE, AND THE ODDITIES OF SEMANTICS
by Kenneth Jernigan
ALL WE WANTED WAS TO DANCE
by Karl Smith
BLIND BOSS CHOSEN TO RUN SPANISH TV STATION
FREE RIDES FOR THE BLIND COST US TOO MUCH
by Zach Shore
FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW CONCERNING DISABILITY INSURANCE
by James Gashel
EMPHASIS ON VENDORS, BUT FACTS EVERY BLIND PERSON SHOULD KNOW
by James Gashel
A WARNING FOR SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM RECIPIENTS
BLIND IS BEAUTIFUL
by Eric Duffy
WASHINGTON SEMINAR: 1990
CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS JOIN ORGANIZED BLIND
IN PRESSING FOR ACTION ON AIRLINES LEGISLATION
by Marc Maurer
NFB OF CONNECTICUT INFORMS MOTORISTS AND EDUCATES PUBLIC
THIEF TO PAY BLIND VENDOR
GROOMING FOR GOLD
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1990
MORE ABOUT TEXAS GOLD
Plans continue to go forward for the fiftieth anniversary convention of the National Federation of the Blind, to be held at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt, Saturday, June 30, to Saturday, July 7, 1990. As befits such an occasion, this convention will not only be the biggest but also the best in Federation history true Texas style. Besides the outstanding program exciting tours and social events are planned. In last month's issue of the Monitor we carried some of the details. Here are more. All roads will lead to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt this summer. Get your reservations in today, and prepare to enjoy yourself at the convention in July.
As is traditionally the case, Wednesday afternoon (this year July 4) will be devoted to tours. There will be a number of choices:
1.) Kennedy Memorial/Texas School Book Depository with visit to West End Shopping area $18.00. This tour will begin with lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory, orders to be made from the menu and cost of lunch not included in the tour price. The Texas School Book Depository, which is now a museum and memorial, is the place where Lee Harvey Oswald stood on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. The West End is one of Dallas's biggest and most interesting shopping areas, where those on the tour can browse through the stores and spend in Texas style an exciting and varied afternoon.
2.) South Fork Ranch, $27.00 Price includes transportation, lunch, and a tour of the Ranch. Those who follow the TV show Dallas will want to see where J. R. lives and examine his home and property. 3.) Wild West Tour, $20.00 Price includes a Tex-Mex lunch, a visit to the stockyards, and a stop at Billy Bob's Texas, advertised as the world's biggest honky-tonk. Don't miss it.
4.) Galleria Shopping Center, $6.50 Buses will leave the hotel at one o'clock and take people to the shopping center. Buses will return to the hotel at 4:30 and 8:00 p.m.
5.) Six Flags Over Texas, $30.00 Price includes admission and transportation. Buses will return to the hotel at 5:30, 8:30, and 10:00 p.m. Six Flags is an amusement and theme park with over 100 rides and other forms of entertainment. Once the admission price is paid, there is no extra charge for rides or other entertainment. A variety of food can be purchased. These are the activities for Wednesday afternoon, July 4 but there is a great deal more. On Friday evening, July 6, there will be an opportunity to witness a real live rodeo. The evening will begin with a 14-ounce T-Bone steak dinner at the Trail Dust Restaurant and will conclude with all the excitement of riding and roping. Price (including dinner and transportation) $30.00. On Saturday morning, July 7, there will be an opportunity (first come, first served until the tickets are gone) to go to a ranch for horseback riding. We believe the price (including transportation) will be $15.00 per person. It must be emphasized that there are only a limited number of tickets available for this activity.
But there is still more. On Tuesday evening, July 3, Glenn Crosby and the other Texans are planning a big outdoor barbecue with corn on the cob and all of the trimmings. It has even been hinted that there may be an unlimited supply of free beer but, then, you know how rumors are. The barbecue will be combined with the traditional Tuesday evening reception and dance under the stars. Yes, the fiftieth anniversary convention will be a time to remember pure Texas gold. And do we need to remind you of the fantastic hotel rates? singles, $27; doubles and twins, $30; triples, $33; and quads, $37. There will also be the usual array of fabulous prizes and the renewal of friendships and everything else that goes to make up the fun and harmony and inspiration of an NFB convention.
But, of course, the tours, the entertainment, and the hospitality are in a sense only preliminary and peripheral. The central activity of the week will be the program that will occur in the meeting rooms at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt, where fifty years of Federation history will be reviewed, where the present will be assessed, and where the future will be planned. No Federationist will want to miss this historic occasion, so get your reservations in today and begin to make your plans to come to Dallas.
BLIND WORKERS PAY FOR FEDERAL FOLLY
The Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely
Handicapped Approves Increase in Payments to NIB: NAC Paid Off
by Marc Maurer
One of the most obscure federal agencies ever created by Congress, the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped, holds enormous power over the lives of thousands of blind workers.
This agency can decide (at least in part) how blind employees in sheltered workshops will be treated, what wages will be paid to them, what minimum standards for working conditions are tolerable, and whether there will be programs for advancement. There are approximately 6,000 blind employees working in the shops. In the neighborhood of one-third of these are being paid less than the statutory federal minimum wage. The Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped has taken no action to change these deplorable circumstances. However, the position of the Committee is not merely one of passive acceptance; this federal agency is fully prepared to defend subminimum wages.
In 1938 Congress adopted the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to provide assistance to the employable blind. In those days, almost no blind person had found a way to become employed. Special workshops had been established in which the blind could receive sheltered work. The term sheltered meant that sighted people were ordinarily not offered this employment. Instead, these jobs were designated and reserved for blind workers.
It is arguable that the system was (at least at the beginning) a benefit. Sheltered employment offered an opportunity for the blind to work and made it possible to demonstrate that the blind were capable of successful performance in an industrial setting.
To promote this sheltered employment, Congress adopted the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, which created the Committee on Blind-Made Products (now the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped). This Committee was given the responsibility of identifying products used by the federal government which could be produced by blind workers in sheltered shops. Federal government agencies were required to order these commodities from sheltered workshops that were under the jurisdiction of the Committee. Federal contracts for such commodities are not awarded through the ordinary competitive bidding process. They are simply granted to sheltered workshops as a form of federal subsidy. Those who established the program theorized that protected federal contracts would help to support the shops and that the shops would offer employment and training to the blind. More employment and more training would help an ever-growing number of blind workers become independent, self-sufficient people.
Even though the system of sheltered workshops increased the number of blind people who were able to find work, segregated employment caused at least as many problems as it solved. Blind people were offered simple, repetitive tasks. The managers and supervisors were almost always sighted. Sometimes sighted people were hired to work alongside the blind; and very often the wages of the sighted were higher than those of the blind even when the jobs being performed were exactly the same and sometimes when the production standards achieved by the blind exceeded those of the sighted. Outmoded production techniques, dismally poor standards of efficiency, and worn-out equipment very often became part of the working environment in these shops. Efforts to inhibit the exercise of free speech and attacks on collective bargaining occurred.
The Javits-Wagner-O'Day program was established at a time when almost no blind person had a job. This program is the same today (or almost the same) as it was fifty years ago. It has almost certainly outlived its usefulness. Nevertheless, this antiquated system controls the working lives of approximately six thousand blind employees. The results are hardship, lack of opportunity, and often hopelessness. Shortly after adoption of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, managers of sheltered shops persuaded the Committee for Purchase of Blind-Made Products to designate a central non-profit agency to distribute federal contracts on behalf of the Committee. The workshop managers formed an organization called National Industries for the Blind (NIB), and National Industries for the Blind got the nod from the Committee to handle federal contracts that were being distributed to workshops for the blind.
From the beginning, National Industries for the Blind has acted on behalf of the Committee. In the fall of 1988, Mrs. Beverly Milkman was selected to serve as Executive Director of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped. Leaders of the National Federation of the Blind wondered whether the change in administration might portend a more realistic and understanding approach. There had been decades of inattention to the needs of blind workers. Perhaps with a new administrator would come a fresh examination of the underlying assumptions which had come to be endemic to the sheltered workshop system. Perhaps there would be a spirit of cooperation with the organized blind movement and a genuine concern for the needs of blind workers.
Early in 1989 Mrs. Milkman visited the National Center for the Blind. She was new to the field of work with the blind, and she did not have background or experience in it. Among other things, this new executive director was astonished that there was any conflict in programs established to serve blind people. Her attitude seemed to say: Surely we are all working for the same thing. Surely those involved in providing charitable assistance to the blind could have nothing but the most noble and praiseworthy motives and objectives. Surely, the good of the blind is paramount, and everyone agrees on what ought to be done for blind workers. In short, Mrs. Milkman affected a complete naivet.
The leaders of the National Federation of the Blind described to Mrs. Milkman in detail the problems that exist in programs dealing with blindness. Of course we told her about the efforts on the part of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) to gain control of programs for the blind. The facts concerning the unethical behavior of NAC were made available. Mrs. Milkman was informed that NAC approves workshops that pay less than the minimum wage, that it has accredited schools for the blind at which some of the most bizarre and illegal acts imaginable have occurred, and that it has condoned actions of officials running agencies for the blind that threatened blind workers. Apparently she learned for the first time that National Industries for the Blind has a policy to pay the costs for workshops to become a part of NAC. By underwriting these costs, National Industries for the Blind can put several hundred thousand dollars into NAC's treasury each year.
But, of course, these are only indirect payments. The financial base for NAC has declined drastically during the past few years. NAC's financial future has always been shaky, but recently its small number of supporters has become even more reluctant than formerly to prop NAC up with further infusions of money. There have been some who have said that the best description for NAC is on the skids, or down for the count.
National Industries for the Blind officials, being aware of the imminent demise of NAC, recognized an immediate danger. When workshop managers have been criticized for the poor treatment meted out to blind workers, their response has very often been that blind people and the public simply do not understand. The workshops in question, the managers say, have been accredited by NAC. This so-called accrediting organization has supposedly reviewed the workshop programs and found them to be in compliance with its allegedly nationally-recognized standards. In short, NAC serves as a shield for some of the worst, most despicable practices occurring in sheltered shops. If NAC were to disappear, shop managers would have to address the reality of actual working conditions and wages. They could not simply hide behind their certificates of accreditation. No longer would there be a supposedly even-handed, unbiased third party to vouch for the workshop when it engaged in shady deception or questionable behavior.
On September 19, 1989, George J. Mertz, President of NIB, wrote to all of the NIB-associated workshops to tell them that the amount being paid by the workshops to NIB for federal contracts was being raised from three and three-quarters percent to four percent. Nowhere in the letter does George Mertz mention NAC. Instead, the purpose for demanding more federal dollars is to establish what he describes as new service programs to the shops. The three programs described in the letter are:
1. A government marketing program to assure that workshops employing blind people are recognized by Federal procurement personnel as a reliable source for competitively priced quality products....
2. A new service development department to assist workshops to enter the government's service market. [and]
3. An internship program to bring blind college graduates into the workshop system.
Prior to the writing of the September 19, 1989, letter, the NIB Board of Directors had voted to make grants to the National Accreditation Council. Less than a month after George Mertz sent his letter to the shops, another letter was distributed, this one over the name of the chairman of the NIB Board of Directors, Abram Claude. This second letter sets forth the urgency with which NIB wishes to support NAC. Furthermore, it raises substantial questions concerning Mr. Mertz's veracity regarding the reason for increasing the amount of workshop money to be paid to NIB which is to say, the amount of federal money because of the requirement that federal agencies purchase from the shops without taking bids and at whatever prices may be set. The letter from Abram Claude dated October 9, 1989, states, in terms that carry an unmistakable message, that workshops are obliged to support NAC. Before the end of the month, National Industries for the Blind held a conference in Austin, Texas. At this conference Abram Claude revealed that National Industries for the Blind was providing direct support to NAC of at least $125,000 during fiscal year 1990. Additional grants are planned for the 1991 and 1992 fiscal years.
National Industries for the Blind receives its money by taking a percentage of all federal dollars paid to sheltered shops for performance of federal contract work. NIB had been receiving three and three-quarters percent of the money paid by the federal government. The NAC grant caused a shortfall in the NIB budget. Therefore, the amount authorized for payment to National Industries for the Blind from federal contracts was being raised from three and three-quarters percent to four percent effective October 1, 1989. Approximately two hundred million dollars worth of federal contracts are awarded to sheltered shops by National Industries for the Blind each year. The additional money to be paid NIB as a result of this percentage change is five hundred thousand dollars. National Industries for the Blind will have one-half million extra federal dollars to spend. The Committee for Purchase approved this increase.
Many sheltered shops have told blind workers that they do not have enough to pay the minimum wage. National Industries for the Blind wants somebody to say that it and the sheltered shops within the NIB system are doing a good job. NIB authorizes a grant to NAC. Additional money is collected from sheltered shops to pay the bill. NAC accredits workshops that pay less than the minimum wage. The Committee for Purchase from the Blind conveniently authorizes payments of federal contract dollars in this cozy little scheme. National Industries for the Blind gets more money. NAC gets more money. Recently NIB testified on behalf of the Committee for Purchase, and the Committee gets increased appropriations. When everybody gets more money, who pays the bill? There are fewer dollars from federal contracts to pay blind workers. The blind, the very people who are supposed to be served by this elaborate system, pay for all these layers of bureaucracy and the chicanery that goes with them.
The organized blind predicted that there would be increased efforts by National Industries for the Blind to support the disintegrating structure of NAC. When Mrs. Milkman became executive director of the Committee, we suggested to her that it would probably occur. She didn't believe that it could. Last spring we received information that the National Industries for the Blind Board of Directors was planning to meet and vote to provide direct assistance to NAC. Mrs. Milkman said that they wouldn't. Shortly thereafter, the National Industries Board authorized a grant. Mrs. Milkman came to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Denver in July of 1989 and, after telling certain cutesy stories, made it plain that the Committee for Purchase would take no action to prohibit National Industries for the Blind from diverting federal dollars from the workshops to NAC through NIB. Specifically, the Committee would make no statement that it was wrong for NIB to pay NAC. On Friday, January 19, 1990, I visited Mrs. Milkman at the offices of the Committee for Purchase in Crystal City, Virginia. I reviewed with her two documents: an affidavit of Joseph Cordova dated January 18, 1990, and a letter of October 9, 1989, from Abram Claude to National Industries for the Blind workshops. The affidavit describes pressure by NIB officials on workshops to commit resources for the support of NAC. Attached to it is the letter from Abram Claude. As you read Mr. Claude's letter, consider certain phrases. He says:
If it were mandatory to be accredited in order to receive government orders, there is no question that all shops would be accredited... we may be forced to seek accreditation in the future from some other type of accrediting body that will not be focused and sympathetic to the very special needs of blind people.
One might insert here that the National Accreditation Council appears to be focused and sympathetic more to the needs of National Industries for the Blind than to the needs of blind people. But Mr. Claude's communication goes on:
This is not a police action.... If you are accredited, please maintain your accredited status. If you are not accredited, I ask you to give immediate and serious consideration to applying for accreditation....
We earnestly seek your cooperation and participation as we attempt to build a solid foundation for NAC in the coming years. A viable NAC is an essential underpinning to our future success. Mr. Claude cannot be faulted for being subtle. The message is clear sign up or else. There are some high-sounding phrases and a few self-serving assertions mixed in with the threats. However, it would be difficult to misunderstand what is being said. Here are the affidavit and the letter in full.
Comes now Joseph Cordova and, being first duly sworn, deposes and states as follows:
1) My name is Joseph Cordova. My address is 305 La Media, S.W., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87105. I am employed by the State of New Mexico, Commission for the Blind, as Director of the New Mexico Industries for the Blind program. I have served in this capacity for three years.
2) The program I direct employs forty blind people in a sheltered workshop which produces commodities for the federal government under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. The federal government is not our only customer, but federal contracts amount to a substantial portion of our work. Without these contracts it is certain that approximately half of our employees would be terminated, since there would not be enough nonfederal work to keep them busy and productive. Federal government orders are placed with us through National Industries for the Blind (NIB). Approximately one-third of our business comes directly from contracts assigned to us by NIB. NIB is a private nonprofit corporation designated by the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped to administer the distribution of all federal contracts awarded to sheltered workshops.
3) Our certification as a qualified workshop for the blind in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program was awarded by the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped. The Committee has specific federal rules for certifying the eligibility of workshops, such as ours, to receive orders for commodities to be purchased by the government. We have complied and continue to comply with the Committee's rules in all respects.
4) The production activity of our industries program is governed by various state and federal laws and regulations, including the state law establishing the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, state laws concerning labor standards and workers' compensation, the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and various other statutes and regulations which we must follow in order to stay in business. We are a unit of a state agency which receives substantial federal funds, some of which are used to pay expenses of the industries program. With the application of these laws, and our use of both state and federal funds, we are subject to significant monitoring and reporting requirements of various state and federal government agencies. All of the products we make are also subject to inspection and approval by the purchasing agency in accordance with contract specifications. In these respects we are typical of sheltered workshops for the blind throughout the United States. Few industries are so thoroughly regulated.
5) Talk has begun to circulate in workshop circles that we may be required to undergo accreditation by a private New York corporation calling itself NAC (National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). Under date of October 9, 1989, our agency received a communication from Abram Claude, the Chairman of NIB's Board of Directors (copy attached) saying that accreditation may be required. NIB has begun to finance a portion of NAC's annual operating costs, as reported to us by Mr. Claude on October 29, 1989, at NIB's 1989 annual meeting sponsored by the General Council of Workshops for the Blind in San Antonio, Texas. I have heard that the total amount to be paid to NAC by NIB during this year and the two years following is about three hundred thousand dollars, one hundred and twenty-five thousand being paid during this year alone. NIB is also picking up the costs for any affiliated workshop that agrees to pursue NAC accreditation. The exact amount of these costs would depend upon the size of the workshop, but the minimum would be several thousand dollars for each of one hundred or so workshops affiliated with NIB.
6) The revenues which NIB has available to pay for NAC-related costs are derived from workshop sales. Until October 1, 1989, we were paying commission fees to NIB in the amount of three and three quarters percent of our gross sales on orders placed with us by NIB. On September 19, 1989, all NIB- affiliated workshops were advised that the commission rate would be increased to four percent effective October 1, 1989.
7) The commission increase was widely discussed at the annual meeting in San Antonio. NIB's practice is to hold closed meetings with the workshop directors from each region. NIB's Vice President of Finance, Guy DeRossi, was present at the regional meetings to discuss the commission increase. In response to many questions from directors in our region, Mr. DeRossi said that NIB's budget for this year had not included the payment now committed to NAC, and the commission increase was needed to make up the shortfall. Other reasons were also given. In a subsequent telephone conversation with me, Mr. DeRossi denied attributing the commission increase to the grant being made to NAC. However, his previous explanation of the relationship between the NAC grant and the commission increase can be corroborated. Many workshop directors in our region voiced objection to the commission increase. They pointed out that while funds are being diverted to provide a grant to NAC, over half of the workshops in our region are losing money. The New Mexico Industries for the Blind could not now afford the cost of contributing to NIB's grants to NAC, even if such a policy were advisable.
8) The program at the same national conference included extensive discussions of NAC. Abram Claude expressed a particularly aggressive point of view in warning that contracts for workshops in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program could in the future be conditioned on NAC accreditation.
9) Policy-making officials of our agency are firmly convinced that NAC accreditation is not in the best interest of blind people. The law requires us to use this agency's resources in ways that best help blind people. We are a public agency and accountable to state and federal authorities for our use of public funds. We are also accountable to the blind to be sure that the resources we use on their behalf are not wasted. Our agency does not approve of the NAC accreditation process or standards. Even so, we currently have no option but to pay NIB's required commission increase which is being used in part to fund NAC. We had no choice in this decision but feel that we are forced to contribute to an unjustified use of NIB's funds. 10) The foregoing statements are true and correct in all respects to the best of my belief and knowledge.
Dated at Albuquerque, New Mexico, this 18th day of January, 1990.
State of New Mexico
County of Bernalillo.
On this 18th day of January, 1990, before me, the undersigned officer, personally appeared Joseph Cordova, known to me (or satisfactorily proven) to be the person whose name is subscribed to within this instrument and acknowledged that he executed the same for the purposes therein contained.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and official seal.
My commission expires 7-6-91
National Industries for the Blind
Abram Claude, Jr., Chairman
Wayne, New Jersey
October 9, 1989
National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has given vocal and continuing support to the concept of accreditation for many years and recently the Board of Directors voted to give significant, direct financial support to the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). The Board voted to provide NAC $125,000 for their fiscal year ending June 30, 1990 which represents approximately 50 percent of the projected budget shortfall for the year with the other 50 percent to be provided by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).
AFB has been the sole provider of financial support over and above income provided by those organizations which are accredited and pay dues. After 20 years of support, AFB understandably felt that it was time for others to give tangible support to this important activity. NIB and AFB have committed financial resources for the support of NAC for a three-year period during which time NAC is committed to substantially expand its roster of accredited agencies and educational institutions serving blind people thereby becoming substantially self supporting. It is the belief of the NIB Board of Directors that the field of blindness needs its own dedicated and specialized accreditation body and the accreditation process is essential to the long-term viability of our work. We applaud those agencies and shops which are currently accredited, and we urge them to maintain their accreditation. For those that are not accredited, we ask that you give the most serious consideration to initiating the process. If it were mandatory to be accredited in order to receive government orders, there is no question that all shops would be accredited. As it is currently voluntary there are some shops that feel it is an unnecessary intrusion or that they already meet or exceed the basic accreditation standards and, therefore, it is unnecessary to go through the process.
Accreditation does not work unless it is universal, and we feel strongly that it is important to have a viable specialized and independent accreditation body to serve the field of blindness. Otherwise, we may be forced to seek accreditation in the future from some other type of accrediting body that will not be focused and sympathetic to the very special needs of blind people. In my personal opinion, the process of accreditation is a unique and important opportunity for self-study and evaluation which will add value to even the most exceptionally well-run shop. It is hard work to prepare for accreditation but it is well worth it. In addition, this peer group analysis process helps to assure our blind workers, the federal government and your local and regional communities that each of our shops is maintaining an appropriate level of service and is operating in an efficient and modern manner. This is not a police action. Quite the contrary, it is primarily an opportunity for self evaluation against a set of established and reasonable standards.
The field of blindness needs your support in this matter. If you are accredited, please maintain your accredited status. If you are not accredited, I ask you to give immediate and serious consideration to applying for accreditation so that the shops associated with NIB may face the world in a unified manner giving clear evidence that we are a group that believes in high standards of performance being maintained in our service to blind people. There is little doubt in my mind that if we do not behave in this manner voluntarily, we will at some point in the future be required to become accredited. If NAC should not prove to be viable because of lack of participation and close its doors, we would then be forced to turn to some other accrediting body with a mission not solely dedicated to serving the field of blindness. It is especially important that our larger more powerful shops be among those that maintain an accredited status to set an example and to lend their strength and knowledge to the process for the general good.
We earnestly seek your cooperation and participation as we attempt to build a solid foundation for NAC in the coming years. A viable NAC is an essential underpinning to our future success.
Abram Claude, Jr.
In the meeting with Mrs. Milkman which occurred January 19, 1990, I told her that very serious matters needed to be discussed. Her statements as Executive Director of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped in support of the National Accreditation Council were being interpreted to mean that the Committee endorsed NAC. The letter from Abram Claude dated October 9, 1989, was being regarded as in accord with the thinking of the Committee. More than ninety days had passed since Mr. Claude's letter had been written and mailed. No word had come from the Committee renouncing the sentiments of Mr. Claude or disavowing the tenor of the communication. If the Committee had not given its outright approval to such a message, its behavior clearly indicated tacit consent. I asked Mrs. Milkman if it were fair for the federal government to assist NAC in extracting hard-earned dollars from the pockets of the blind. She responded by telling me that I was speaking nonsense.
When I asked if the Committee had approved an increase in the federal dollar amount being paid to NIB, if NIB was being paid more federal dollars, if NAC was receiving a grant from NIB, and if the money being paid to NIB was no longer available to pay wages for the blind, she grudgingly admitted that it was all true. I asked Mrs. Milkman if she would disavow the statement made by the Chairman of the Board of National Industries for the Blind. She said that she could not be certain. I asked her if it were reasonable for the Committee to lend its name to the support of private organizations that advocate wage scales below the federal minimum. She responded that the law permitted such payments and that the Committee would make no effort to change this. At several points throughout the discussion, Mrs. Milkman said she would have to check with others about the specifics of what she was prepared to do. National Industries for the Blind testified on behalf of the Committee for Purchase when the budget hearings occurred. NIB has considerable influence in affairs of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind. Whether Mrs. Milkman retains her position as Executive Director of the Committee or goes elsewhere to find work may, in her perception, depend in large part on how favorably NIB regards her performance. Be this as it may, Mrs. Milkman has made at least one point absolutely clear. Unless she is forced to do so, there will be no support from the Committee for better wages or working conditions for the blind. The responsiveness of the Committee for Purchase is, perhaps, exemplified by a letter from Mrs. Milkman to sheltered shops dated January 24, 1990. In this letter Mrs. Milkman tries to steer a middle course. The Committee does not approve of NIB's position on NAC. However, it does not reject this position. Strongly implied in the letter is the notion that whatever NIB and the workshops want to do is perfectly acceptable. This is to be expected. Mrs. Milkman does not wish to appear to be controlled by NIB. She does not say that the workshops are required to pay NAC, but it will be perfectly all right if they do.
It is said that at the end of the Peloponnesian War, there were three groups of people the victors, the vanquished, and the neutrals.
The victors received the spoils. The vanquished were exiled. The neutrals were killed. The Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped has been given by federal law responsibility for managing the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program. It cannot simply say that it does not know any better when problems arise. If the blind are helped, it gets the credit. If the blind are hurt, it deserves the blame. When the decisions to be made are hard, the Committee cannot simply duck them. NIB is demanding that the already meager wages and poor working conditions of blind shop workers be further diminished in order to give money to NAC and, of course, all in the name of standards and quality services. There can be no justification for such behavior. Mrs. Milkman cannot (like Pontius Pilate) wash her hands of the matter and turn the unprotected workers over to the NIB mob. Here is Mrs. Milkman's letter. It speaks for itself.
for Purchase from the
Blind and Other Severely Handicapped
January 24, 1990
Dear Workshop Director:
It is my understanding that there is some confusion among the workshops associated with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) regarding the position of the Committee on accreditation. The purpose of this letter is to remove any misunderstanding with regard to the Committee's present, past, and probable future position in the Javits-Wagner- O'Day (JWOD) Program.
The Committee does not now require and has never required accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, or any other comparable organization. Moreover, there are no plans to require such accreditation in the future. As you are aware, the Committee has its own review procedures for monitoring workshop compliance with the various rules established by the JWOD law and the Committee. If workshops comply with these rules, they are eligible to participate in the program on an equal basis with other qualified workshops, regardless of their accreditation status.
This position should not be construed to mean that the Committee opposes accreditation by any organization or believes that accreditation per se is harmful or a waste of time. Rather, the Committee believes that decisions on accreditation are the province of the individual workshops' boards of directors. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding this matter.
Beverly L. Milkman
The program established in 1938 to help the blind become better employed has adopted a policy that protects shop managers but tells blind workers that they must fend for themselves. Mrs. Milkman and Mr. Claude may well believe that the blind are too weak to respond effectively to this outrage that we constitute no danger, no threat. Others have made that mistake and (too late) have come to regret it. If programs established to help us fail to give quality service and do not achieve reasonable standards, we know how to respond. That is why the National Federation of the Blind exists. We know how to protect ourselves, and we have both the will and the means to do it.
OF LITERACY, BRAILLE,
AND THE ODDITIES OF SEMANTICS
by Kenneth Jernigan
Is it proper to refer to a blind person who cannot read Braille as illiterate? How much do we owe to the blind of the next generation, and how can we balance that obligation with the needs of the blind of today? I recently found myself pondering these and a variety of related questions. Here is how it happened:
December 31, 1989
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I write you to shed some light on a recent controversy I have had with my fellow Federationists. First of all, I must give you some background. I have been in a local chapter of the Federation for over a year and have attended a national convention, which was an enlightening experience. Recently I was lobbying in the state capital for blind rights and further funding. One item on the agenda (an item which I wholeheartedly supported) was the request that Braille training be provided as an option for all children who are identified as legally blind in the school system. These children would learn Braille with other traditional reading and writing methods. I would have been one of those children back in the fifties who would have benefited from such a program. Now, at middle age, after dealing with retinitis pigmentosa for a number of years, I have seen the advantage of learning Braille and am currently pursuing the study of it.
My dissatisfaction arose when my fellow Federationists referred to the adult community, in the process of losing their vision, as illiterate. This term is not appropriate for blind adults since it is synonymous with ignorance, lacking education, and violating speaking and writing patterns. Instead, I prefer to see myself as print handicapped or unable to access print.
We have recently seen Dustin Hoffman win the Academy Award for his portrayal of an autistic savant. Twenty years ago, when I was a freshman and sophomore in college studying many psychologies, the term was idiot savant. When we look to the deaf community, their strides are highlighted by the avoidance of the term deaf and dumb. Fifteen years ago, I was an employee of our local board of education working with emotionally disturbed children. Once again, the terminology has been changed to include learning disabled or the Office of Special Education. I make these illustrations to question the role of semantics in our view of ourselves and society's view of us.
Let us make an assumption that the word illiterate is correct. Is a blind person skilled in Braille who experiences diabetic onset with a loss of feeling in the fingers then considered illiterate? My suggestion is as follows: Avoid emotional pleas to educators and congressmen at the expense of peers and fellow Federationists. We should be aware of linguistics and the part they play. Governmental agencies, libraries, and groups dealing with the blind look to the blind for cues in language and descriptive literature as to how we wish to be portrayed. I thank you for your time, and I look forward to any comments you have regarding this matter.
Very truly yours,
January 11, 1990
I have your thoughtful letter, and I thank you for it. The dictionary in my office says: illiterate 1. ignorant; uneducated; especially, not knowing how to read or write. Certainly a blind person who cannot read may be both well-educated and possessed of learning, but by definition one who cannot read cannot read. Therefore, according to the dictionary, such a person is at least one-third illiterate in fact, more than one-third since the dictionary uses the word especially. Illiteracy, it tells us, means especially not knowing how to read or write. This brings us to the question of what it means to be able to read. Again, I turn to the dictionary in my office. It says: read1
1. a) to get the meaning of (something written, printed, embossed, etc.) by using the eyes, or for Braille, the finger tips, to interpret its characters or signs. That is what the dictionary says, and the definition seems quite clear. You are right in saying that the term illiterate carries negative connotations. You are also right in saying that we should find a way to make Braille available to blind children.
You say that we should not use the term illiterate for a blind person who does not know Braille but that we should call such a person print handicapped or say that he or she cannot access print. How are we to distinguish between a blind child who reads Braille fluently and one who cannot read at all? Both are print handicapped, and neither can access print. There is, of course, an exception. What about the blind person who puts a print page on a Kurzweil Machine and thus accesses print? If we go to legislators and tell them that Braille must be made available to the print handicapped or those who cannot access print, I fear that some of them (being truly illiterate) will not know what we are talking about. We must find a way to get their attention and help them cut through the jargon of some of the educators, so that blind children will have the opportunity to learn to read. In matters dealing with blindness, legislators (like the general public) tend unquestioningly to take the word of the so-called experts not the blind, who live with the problem, but the professional educators, who theorize about it.
Still, we must get their attention and make them understand, and it must be done in a manner that is not only true but also graphic and effective. Everybody (legislators, the general public everybody) knows that to be illiterate is bad, and everybody knows (it is accepted without a second thought) that those who cannot read are illiterate. Therefore, a rather cryptic and powerful way of making our point is to say that a blind child who is denied the right to learn Braille is forced to be functionally illiterate which, incidentally, is often the case and which in certain subtle ways is, at least to some extent, true of all of those who are so deprived. At least, so the dictionary tells us. Actually we are dealing on the one hand with semantics and on the other with the very real down-to-earth question of what we can do to see that blind children have the opportunity to learn Braille. As I have already said, there are certainly negative connotations to the term illiterate, and nobody wants to cast aspersions on blind adults who, for whatever reason, did not learn to read Braille. So we have to speak with care and sensitivity, but we must also speak with whatever acerbity is required to see that blind children have the chance to be and do all that they can and this means the chance to learn Braille. For the blind person there is simply no substitute. In the heat of battle, when we are trying to get something which is urgently needed for our children, we may sometimes forget to be temperate in our language. We should be careful about this. In our attempt to help the next generation we must try to avoid doing things which will hurt the present generation. But after saying all of this, I come back to the central point. Today's blind and visually impaired children simply must not be deprived of the right to learn to read Braille. This is key to their future, and we are the ones who have to get the job done. The children cannot do it for themselves, and their parents do not always have the background, the information, or the clout to do it.
In a sense what I have said does not directly deal with some of the central points in your letter. I do not believe that an adult who has learned to read and has thereby become literate is generally regarded as illiterate if he or she loses the physical capacity to continue to be able to read. This may not precisely square with the dictionary definition, but I think that definition does not contemplate such a situation. Moreover, there is the added question of whether one is reading a book when one gets the information from a tape recorder, a live reader, a speech synthesizer, or (as I have already said) a Kurzweil Reading Machine. The dictionary would imply that one is not, but the matrix for the dictionary definition was formed in pre-technology days, fashioned by people who had probably not thought about the questions we are discussing. I had always believed that the definition of reading was getting the thought from the printed page. By this definition listening to a book on a tape would qualify, even if one generation removed. A sighted person reads a print book (or a blind person reads a Braille book) into a recorder, and a listener later activates that recorder, thus (one generation removed) getting the thought from the printed (or, I suppose, the Brailled) page.
Still, when I stand before an audience of 2,000 people and read the text of a speech, we do not say that the audience read my speech.
We say that I read it and that they listened to it. But later if they hear it on a cassette (especially if it is included in a publication like, say, the Braille Monitor ), we may say that they read it. Does that mean that they are literate if they have access to a recorder, illiterate if they lose that access, and literate if they get it back? Probably not. One could be driven to the madhouse at the extremity of such speculations.
Ah, the labyrinthine complexities of semantics and human speech! The trouble is that the matter does not end with semantics but translates into opportunity or crushing deprivation. Certainly the National Federation of the Blind is cognizant of and sensitive to the nuances of language in setting the tone of public behavior toward the blind. All one need do to verify this fact is read President Maurer's banquet speech of 1989 or mine of 1983.
In trying to get opportunities for our children we must not say or do things which will damage the present generation of adult blind persons, but I reiterate that (regardless of semantics, hair-splitting distinctions, definitions, or high-flown professional theory) we absolutely must see that blind children have the chance to learn to read and that the climate of opinion in the schools (including the nuances of language) encourages and nourishes that chance. At the bottom line this means that blind and visually impaired children (all of them) must have the opportunity to learn Braille. Otherwise, their horizons will be narrowed and their prospects limited.
National Federation of the Blind
The following letters to the editor, which appeared in the Baltimore Sun between June 17 and November 4, 1989, illustrate with stark clarity the crisis facing everyone concerned about the growing illiteracy of blind youngsters at the mercy of too many so-called experts in the field of education. Barry Frieman, whose sensible letter began the furor, is a professor at Frostburg State College. He understands the issues and is concerned that so many children for whom print reading is slow and difficult are being denied instruction in the Braille that would allow them to be competitive with their sighted peers. The full exchange of views is reprinted here from the Winter, 1990, edition of the Braille Spectator, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Here's what the general public, the Federation, and the Maryland School for the Blind had to say:
June 17, 1989
College students are becoming increasingly skilled in the use of computers, but we would not think of taking away their notebooks and pens. It's hard to use a computer and take notes in class, write notes to friends, or write down a new friend's phone number. We wouldn't think of doing away with paper and pencils in our schools. Unfortunately we are doing just that with blind and visually impaired students by teaching them to use machines and by discouraging the teaching and use of Braille.
Instead of discouraging the learning of Braille, we must motivate and encourage the use of this essential tool. If not, we will create a class of functionally illiterate children ill-equipped to go to college or hold most responsible jobs.
In order to meet the educational needs of blind and other visually impaired children, greater attention must be paid to the preparation of Braille teachers. The state must re-evaluate the minimum standards now in force to certify teachers of Braille. We must teach Braille so that blind and other visually handicapped children can achieve their full educational potential.
Barry B. Frieman, Columbia
July 7, 1989
In response to Professor Barry Frieman's letter on the teaching of Braille (Saturday, June 17):
Prospects are bleak for Maryland's blind and visually impaired school-age children, since the experts in special education continue to discourage the teaching and use of Braille. Without adequate Braille skills for taking notes and keeping records, blind and visually impaired children will be ill-equipped for productive employment in their adult years.
The Maryland School for the Blind, which should be at the forefront of teaching Braille, can give you a million reasons why a particular blind child cannot learn Braille. For the mere handful of its students who are taught Braille, motivation and encouragement are certainly lacking. This year, none of the Maryland School for the Blind's students were entered in the National Federation of the Blind's Braille-reading contest the only nation-wide Braille reading competition. It is hypocritical for a school for the blind to claim to offer quality education and not encourage its students to learn Braille.
In the public schools, even when parents know enough to ask for Braille instruction, they are told that it isn't necessary. If they persist in their demands, the local education agency starts to play its bureaucratic stalling game. Parents of a blind child in Baltimore County had to go to due process hearings before the county and the state, causing their child to lose two years of valuable instruction time in Braille.
Do school districts refuse to teach Braille because their teachers are not competent to teach it? It is clear that the competence required of teachers to teach Braille is unacceptably low. We would not tolerate the teaching of reading and writing (in print) by a teacher who has completed only one semester of training in reading and writing, and who has not mastered the techniques well enough to use them in practice. Yet this is the acceptable requirement for teachers of Braille in Maryland.
The Maryland State Library for the Blind, the primary source of reading materials for the blind, has no children's librarian and only 200 Braille titles for primary school-age youngsters. We may laugh off a library with such pathetic offerings for children, but parents simply do not have the option of going to their neighborhood bookstore to purchase Braille books for their blind children. The resources needed to improve the teaching of Braille are modest. Education officials do not seem to have either the understanding or the commitment needed to prepare blind children for productive lives. With the best of intentions, we are creating a class of functional illiterates.
Sharon Maneki, Columbia
[President, National Federation
of the Blind of Maryland]
July 23, 1989
As superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind, I am compelled to reply to Sharon Maneki's July 7th letter about MSB's teaching of Braille.
Our board of directors, which includes members who are blind, has repeatedly reviewed and affirmed the school's philosophy of teaching each child to read in the best medium for that child. I am proud that this school has a national reputation for quality individualized education of students whose capabilities cover a wide range, from above-average students whose only disability is visual impairment to students who are developmentally disabled and severely and profoundly handicapped.
The school does not discourage the teaching and use of Braille. On the contrary, all students who are capable of learning the Braille system and who don't have enough useful vision to read print learn Braille.
We are very pleased that because of a generous bequest, in the next school year we will be able to employ a full-time Braillist and add to our inventory of Braille equipment. Although only about 16 percent of all visually impaired children who are able to read in the United States use Braille, at the Maryland School for the Blind, 25 percent of the students with the intellectual capability to learn to read are using or learning to use Braille. We have students who are exceptional Braille readers, using special Braille codes to read music and mathematical and scientific notation.
This past school year, 30 MSB students participated in Pizza Hut's National Reading Incentive Program. Both Braille and low-vision readers could take part in a contest that is enjoyed by disabled and nondisabled children. Ten-year-old Paul Jackson, a Braille reader, led the way among MSB students by reading 50 books. The previous year, MSB students received awards in the National Federation of the Blind's Braille reading contest.
The Maryland School for the Blind is a unique Maryland institution which is committed to addressing the needs of all visually impaired children in the state, including the multi-handicapped. Among the school's highly trained and motivated staff are excellent Braille teachers and practitioners. We are proud of all our students, our staff, and our programs.
Richard L. Welsh, Baltimore
Maryland School for the Blind]
August 17, 1989
I have read the recent series of letters in the Sun regarding Braille literacy with more than passing interest. Sharon Maneki in her letter of July 7 referred to a boy whose parents had to go through two due-process hearings over nearly a two-year period before the state finally ordered the Baltimore County school district to teach their child Braille. That boy is my son. What the letter did not say was that one of the key witnesses against allowing our son to learn Braille was a long-time employee of the Maryland School for the Blind. Although this man had never met our son, much less evaluated him, he testified against us on the basis that the Maryland School for the Blind had a policy against teaching Braille unless it had to. In short, if you are totally blind and have no other problems, the school will probably teach you Braille. But what about the large population of blind children who, like my son, can read some print, but in limited ways? There are children who can only read print with a large TV screen magnifier, children who can only read for short periods of time before they must stop because of pain and fatigue. There are children who have pinhole vision and can only see a few words at a time. Then there are the children who have deteriorating eye conditions. It is not uncommon for these youth to lose their ability to use print at critical times in their lives just as they start college or as they are trying to establish themselves in jobs. These are the children whom the Maryland School for the Blind will not teach Braille. I know. Even though my son was never a student at that school, he was almost a victim of its Braille policy.
Unfortunately, many parents buy into the school's false reasoning. The necessity for Braille is often not recognized until one is trying to get a job or hold a job. That's a bad time to try to learn.
Braille illiteracy is now recognized by all major agencies and organizations serving the blind as the foremost problem in the education of blind children. It has become a prominent topic in blindness journals. Dr. Richard Welsh at the Maryland School for the Blind would have the public and parents of blind children believe that all is wonderfully well for blind children in this state and that every child who needs Braille instruction gets it. I know from personal experience that this is not so. This is a tragedy that must be stopped.
Barbara Cheadle, Catonsville
[President, Parents of Blind Children Division, National
Federation of the Blind]
September 27, 1989
As an alumnus of the Maryland School for the Blind and as an officer of its board of directors, I am a strong advocate of Braille instruction for blind children, and I use Braille myself. However, Braille is not the best reading medium for every child who attends the school.
The school's policy regarding instruction in Braille was misrepresented in an August 17 letter to the editor. Barbara Cheadle represented the school's policy as If you are totally blind and have no other problems, the school will probably teach you Braille. The Maryland School for the Blind believes strongly in the value of Braille for many visually impaired children. Our obligation is to find the best solution that will help each child become as literate as possible.
Contrary to Mrs. Cheadle's impressions, most of the children who learn Braille at the school have additional problems besides their visual impairment. Nearly half of them have some mild degree of mental retardation. Six are deaf-blind or have serious hearing impairments. Several have neurological or motor disabilities. Several have learning disabilities. In short, they are representative of the multiple-handicapped population of the school.
Many of our Braille students began as print readers and were switched to Braille when it became clear that they could not achieve their full academic potential as print readers. Some are able to read print, but it is obvious that their vision is failing, and they have begun to learn Braille in preparation for the time when they will need it. However, for students whose visual condition is stable and who are able to function well as print readers, we help them become as literate as possible in the medium in which they function best.
Three students whose changing visual condition indicates that they will need Braille eventually are resisting the staff's efforts to help them learn Braille. This is not an unusual reaction for adolescents, and it usually disappears given time, personal support, and sensitive instruction.
The school's responsibility is to do the best it can for each individual who is referred to us. Even though our students share the common problem of a visual impairment, they are very different individuals with very different needs. Even though some people advocate teaching Braille to all visually impaired people, we put our resources and efforts into treating all our students as individuals.
Dennis J. Fisher, Baltimore
November 4, 1989
The Maryland School for the Blind claims that its position on the teaching of Braille has been misrepresented by proponents of Braille instruction for all students who meet the legal definition of blindness. To the contrary, no such misrepresentation has been committed.
In their letters, the two writers are quite clear. The Maryland School for the Blind insists on serving as sole arbiter of who is, and who is not, fit to learn Braille. The Maryland School for the Blind claims to be the infallible predictor of which child will suffer future vision loss and therefore needs Braille and which child will not suffer future vision loss and therefore does not need Braille.
The School's claim of meeting the individual student's needs by not teaching Braille is ridiculous. Try taking notes with a closed circuit TV magnifier, or try searching for a piece of text recorded on an audio cassette. These can't be done as efficiently as they can in Braille.
The proponents are simply suggesting that it would be a good idea to offer Braille instruction to all children who meet the legal definition of blindness. As is the case with reading and writing print, reading and writing Braille can be learned most easily during childhood.
As a matter of public policy, all sighted children are taught to read and write print, regardless of their audio or visual (or even tactile) learning modalities. The degree to which sighted children master (print) reading and writing skills and the future utility sighted children derive from these skills are correctly left as matters of individual choice. The same policy should apply to Braille skills for blind children.
Further attempts by the Maryland School for the Blind to explain its positions are not needed. On the fundamental issues concerning the education of blind children, the Maryland School for the Blind comes up short.
Sharon Maneki, Columbia
ALL WE WANTED WAS TO DANCE
by Karl Smith
From the Editor: In the November, 1989, Braille Monitor we carried an article entitled Louisiana Center for the Blind Students Attend Class in the School of Hard Knocks. Karl Smith of Utah, who was a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind at the time, was one of those involved. His account of what occurred parallels to some degree what we have already reported. Nevertheless, it is worth carrying, for it provides in firsthand graphic detail the feelings and thoughts of one who was there.
Although we often deal with the broad sweep of events, we must never forget that history is made by individual human beings. While the incident (whatever it may be) is occurring, the individual involved feels and hopes and fears in the immediate present. Karl Smith's account of what it was like that night in West Monroe gives us new insight concerning our struggle for equal treatment and first-class status. For that reason his story is an important milestone on our road to freedom, serving as a reminder for those who have had similar experiences and as a spur to preparation for those whose tomorrows are yet to come. Here is how Karl remembers it:
The night of Friday, June 2, 1989, began as an evening of pleasant and cordial relaxation as our group of sixteen students and staff from the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, Louisiana, headed to West Monroe, about an hour away, for dinner and dancing. Such activities are common at the Center. As a matter of course, large and small groups of students and/or staff are encouraged to participate in activities in the community such as movies, concerts, parades, ball games, fairs, horse back riding, etc. This is, in fact, an integral part of the training at the Center since many blind people have never had the opportunity to do these things. Also, many newly blind people do not believe they can enjoy the same kinds of things they did when they could see. In addition, seeing blind people participating in these kinds of normal activities is a very effective way for the public to be educated to the fact that we are normal people who happen to be blind and that we can participate fully and equally in the life of the community where we live.
Little did any of us know that this evening, which began with such happy anticipation of a good time, would end in one of the most shocking and dramatic examples of the misconceptions about blindness and the most blatant case of discrimination any of us had ever experienced. And on a personal level it forced us also to confront our own beliefs about our blindness; to plumb the depths of our souls, where such decisions are made; and to choose whether to deny what we believed and turn away, or to stand up for what we knew to be right and face the unpleasant consequences.
The evening began with a leisurely dinner at The Warehouse, a steak and seafood restaurant on the banks of the Washita River. It was a pleasant time of conversation, laughter, and good food. Around 9:30 we left the restaurant for Sugie's, a local night spot with a live country and popular music band, for some dancing. One reason we chose Sugie's was to hear Talmage Wells, a locally prominent blind singer and keyboard player. This is partly because he is good and partly because we hoped perhaps to show him and those who work with him an example of alternative techniques which might be helpful to him. Mr Wells has never had training and does not use a cane. In fact, he never travels anywhere without a sighted person in attendance.
The band struck up I'm No Stranger To The Rain as our group entered and paid the $2 cover charge, which was accepted without comment. As the waitresses pushed tables together to accommodate our large party, several of us began taking seats. Suddenly I heard Joanne Fernandes, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, say that the owner did not want us in the club because it was crowded and he didn't want us bumping into people and possibly knocking over tables and spilling drinks and perhaps being hurt by one of the patrons.
The owner, Mr. Ron Lunsford, then stated that we were welcome to remain if we wouldn't dance because the dance floor was crowded. He said that we must sign an agreement that if any drinks were spilled, we would pay for them and a waiver that in the event any of us were injured, we would not sue him. Further, we would also have to agree to allow one of the club's staff or one of the sighted members of our party to lead us to the bathroom or to the bar. Despite our attempts to explain that we used our canes to navigate independently and that we did not go around knocking things over, he went on to tell us that he was only concerned for our safety.
At this point we decided to move back outside in order to take stock of the situation and consider what, if anything, we should do about it. I was shocked at this sudden and unexpected turn of events since this was not the first time we had come to the club. In March of 1989 a group of students (including me) had come to Sugie's and had had a very nice time. It was the first time I had ever had the confidence to dance in public. The waitresses and other staff members we met on that occasion were friendly and helpful. The band welcomed us, announcing to the audience that we were there and even dedicating a song to us.
As we gathered on the sidewalk, Joanne asked us what we thought we should do. Some of the group wanted to leave, having lost any desire to go back in. Others of us felt that we should go in, believing that this was a clear violation of the Louisiana White Cane law. As the full realization of what was happening began to dawn on me, I felt a flood of different and conflicting emotions, from anger to humiliation to numb disbelief. Here was a man telling a group of normal, well dressed, and well behaved blind people that he didn't want us in his establishment simply because we were blind. I was reminded of Rosa Parks the black woman who, in the 1950s, refused to move from her seat in the front of an Alabama bus to the back after being told to do so simply because she was black, precipitating the Birmingham bus boycott, which changed the civil rights movement in this country forever.
After some discussion, we decided to call the editor of the Monroe News Star World, a friend of Joanne's, and tell him what was happening. A small group of us went back into the club and asked to use the phone. Meanwhile (so we learned later) shortly after our group re-entered the building, five police cars roared into the parking lot with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Unaware of this because of the noise inside we proceeded to the phone. No sooner had we reached it than we were approached by a police officer who told us to step outside and talk to him. Outside once more, the whole scene took on the characteristics of a bad movie. I had a very hard time really believing it was happening. The officer told us we could not go back into the club because the owner said he didn't want us there. He was worried about our safety and afraid of being liable if one of us got hurt. Our attempts to explain the White Cane Law were useless. He told us not to quote the law to him and that there were better ways to work for civil rights for the blind.
By this time I do not believe any one of us wanted to go back into that club. The enthusiasm for music and dancing was certainly gone. But I, along with a number of others in our group, now felt that a point needed to be made and that the issue had clearly become a matter of civil rights. We must either try to re-enter the club or lose our self-respect. It was frightening. The choice was not easy. The officer said that if we didn't leave immediately, we would be arrested. The challenge was made. There was no turning back. Like a bully drawing a line in the sand and daring others to cross, he had ordered us to turn away and confess that we were second-class. We knew that here was the turning point, the point at which we must decide either to run and let the bully have his way or cross that line and break his hold on us.
Gathering our resolve, a group of seven or eight of us headed toward the door. The officer moved into the doorway, blocking our path. He said that if we attempted to push past him, we were going to be arrested. We gathered close around him and tried to get past. Words were exchanged about our civil right to enter a public establishment without restriction. Looking back on it now, the scene seems almost unbelievable even to me. A group of normal people, who happened to be blind and who simply wanted to enjoy a relaxing evening out, were confronted by an armed policeman, refusing us access to a public establishment in direct violation of the law, as patrons looked on over his shoulder from inside and others sat on the hoods of their cars or stood on the sidewalk nearby. Over the turmoil could be heard the sound of the band inside, pounding out Pink Cadillac and the crackling static of the police car radios. And adding to the unreality of it all were the red and blue revolving lights atop the police cars, casting an erie, undulating glow. I remember thinking that this reminded me of the 1960s when police blocked entrances to theaters and restaurants to prevent blacks from entering. The similarity was even more striking because of the blind keyboard player entertaining, oblivious, inside as blind people wishing to hear him were refused entrance. Suddenly things seemed to happen all at once. Our group around the door broke up as the police officer moved forward, saying to the others, All right, let's arrest them. I heard another officer reading us our rights and the ratcheting sound of hand cuffs. As it turned out, Michael Baillif, a Center student, was the only one of us to be handcuffed. Joanne Fernandes (the Director of the Center), Harold Wilson, and I (both students) were placed in one squad car and Michael was placed in another. For reasons we never determined, we were the only ones to be arrested. We were taken to the West Monroe police station and after approximately two hours of questioning, filling out of forms, and having our finger prints and mug shots taken, Joanne and I were charged with violating City Code Sections 11-306 (remaining on land after having been forbidden) and 11-307 (aiding and abetting others to remain on land after having been forbidden). Michael Baillif and Harold Wilson were charged only with remaining on land after having been forbidden. We were all released on our own recognizance, and arraignment was set for June 28, 1989.
On Thursday, June 8, we met with Mr. Frank Snelling, a prominent Monroe attorney and husband of Mary Landrew (Louisiana's state Treasurer), and with the West Monroe City Attorney, Mr. Harvey Blackwell. After considerable discussion with frequent references to the Louisiana White Cane Law, Mr. Blackwell agreed to drop all charges against us. Unfortunately, however, it was not due to a real understanding of our point of view but rather Mr. Blackwell's desire to extract from us a promise that we would not sue the city of West Monroe or the police department for false arrest and for their violation of the White Cane Law. In fact he said that the mayor of West Monroe had told him not to prosecute any of us and to make sure the city got no more bad publicity over the matter. In return for our agreement not to take any action against West Monroe or the police, Mr. Blackwell agreed to disseminate copies of the White Cane Law to all members of the West Monroe police department and to do staff training of his officers to make sure that in the event something like this ever happens again in any business establishment, it will be the proprietor who is arrested rather than blind people.
In the months which have passed since June 2, 1989, the furor which has raged in newspapers and on radio and TV throughout Louisiana and nationwide (with an Associated Press story appearing in USA Today on June 5) has ranged from positive understanding to some of the most vicious and obtuse examples of sensationalism that I have ever known. It would be hard to believe if I had not lived through it. Certainly this dramatically illustrates the public attitudes and misconceptions about blindness which we must change. It brings into sharp focus the opposing philosophies about blindness which are contending for supremacy. So where does all of this leave us? Now that the immediate heat and emotion have faded somewhat, the entire incident can be viewed in perspective. Sitting in the back of that police car I experienced feelings of anger, fear, frustration and disbelief. These emotions boiled up in me as never before in my life. Since then, these feelings have somewhat dimmed, being replaced with sober reflection on what the NFB really means and how important the support of its members is to me and others trying to become independent, responsible blind people able to compete on terms of equality in a predominately sighted society.
For me, it has been much like passing through the refiner's fire. I came to the Louisiana Center for the Blind after becoming totally blind last year because I wanted to learn the skills of blindness such as Braille, cane travel, and daily living skills. But even more than that, I wanted to be in a place where positive attitudes about blindness permeate the very atmosphere a place where I could really learn at the gut level what I had only known intellectually before, that I am a normal person who happens to be blind, with as much to contribute to society as anyone else with my level of intellect and talent. Confronting a businessman (a perfect stranger, who has so much fear, anger, or dislike for me that he is willing to have me and my friends arrested for simply wanting to enter his establishment and who is willing to lie to the police and the press, describing potentially dangerous events which never occurred) brought me face to face with the disturbing realization that there is an element of the public who would rather not have us around. No wonder there is seventy percent unemployment among the workable blind. If other blind people and I are not continually vigilant in helping and supporting one another, we will fall into the trap which has captured Talmage Wells, Sugie's blind singer. When he was contacted the day after the arrests, Mr. Wells said that he had worked at that club for seven months and that he did not know his way to the bathroom and would never consider trying to find his way around the club without a sighted person. He said he could not understand why we were unwilling to accept the courtesy of others as he does. I believe it is likely that Mr. Lunsford's view of Talmage Wells's inability to travel independently has colored his views of all blind people and is partly responsible for the events of June 2, 1989.
In his 1979 banquet speech, Blindness: That's How It Is At The Top Of The Stairs, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan notes that no minority ever passes from second-class citizenship to first-class status without going through a period of hostility. Never has a statement rung so true for me. To anyone who has ever doubted that discrimination against the blind exists, these events demonstrate once again that it does and not only the benevolent kind which is so subtle that it sometimes goes unnoticed but also the open and blatant kind, demonstrating the feelings many people have about us but are afraid or ashamed to express. The important thing is what we choose to do about it.
We can sit back and let the Ron Lunsfords of the world keep us out, letting the police and other state officials violate their own laws or we can stand up with all of the power and force of the NFB and let them know that we are no longer willing to be second-class citizens. The decision is ours but there is only one choice we can reasonably make. We must either go forward or lose much of what we have gained and the choice is not only for the blind as a group but for each one of us as individuals. I made my choice on June 2, 1989, and I hope never again to submit to being second-class or to think or feel that way.
BLIND BOSS CHOSEN
TO RUN SPANISH TV STATION
From the Editor: When I was in Spain at the meeting of the World Blind Union in 1988, I met Miguel Duran. He was poised and determined. As we reported in the Braille Monitor early in 1988, the Spanish organization of the blind (ONCE) has money and power. Duran is certainly one of ONCE's driving forces (perhaps its strongest force). The following article appeared in the January 13, 1990, London, England, Daily Telegraph. Here it is:
A blind Spanish executive is to head one of Spain's three new commercial television networks.
Se¤or Miguel Duran, 34, one of the country's most brilliant businessmen, was named yesterday as managing director of Tele-Five, one of three consortia awarded a commercial television franchise late last year. Until now Spain's television has been a state-run monopoly. Se¤or Duran's message to the blind has always been: The only thing we can't do is drive a car.
Blind since birth, he turned the National Organization of the Spanish Blind (ONCE) from a charity selling lottery tickets on street corners into a major holding group in industry and stock. It has so much financial punch that it was able to take a 25 percent share the maximum allowed under the franchise of the new television company.
He has completely changed the lifestyle of Spain's blind, using advertising to promote the lottery sales into a daily national institution, building training colleges and business schools for the blind, and making sure that every sightless person earns what he calls a dignified living. In his early 20s he mass produced books in Braille. When he was 28 he was made head of ONCE, and the image of the blind beggar with the white stick pleading with people to buy a lottery ticket started to disappear.
Now smartly dressed sellers spend part of the day studying and a few hours selling tickets.
FREE RIDES FOR THE BLIND COST US TOO MUCH
by Zach Shore
As Monitor readers know, Zach Shore was a 1987 winner of a National Federation of the Blind scholarship. He is currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania and edits the Blind Activist, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania.
Blind people must eternally grapple with the question of the free lunch. If, as is obvious to Federationists, it does not exist, what is the price? For the thoughtful blind person, those two-for-one fares, half-price admissions, and cut-rate transit cards for the blind are all charitable programs that give rise to reflection and self-examination. In the October, 1989, issue of the Blind Activist Zach Shore wrote insightfully about his evolving understanding of the matters at stake. Here is what he had to say:
I am a blind citizen, and although I once utilized half-fares for public transportation, I would never accept any blind discounts today. In most major cities, blind citizens are permitted to pay half price or discount rates on all forms of public transportation. I am opposed to such demeaning and unnecessary treatment.
For many years I carried my public transit half fare card with me whenever I traveled in Philadelphia and presented it faithfully with my money, generally saving about sixty cents a trip. I believed that, since I could not drive, it was only reasonable that I should not be penalized for this handicap. Since sighted people had the option of driving and I didn't, I reasoned that I was entitled to compensation. Besides, I used to tell myself, times are tough. I'm not exactly Donald Trump, and I can't afford not to take advantage of every chance to save money. Only much later did I consider that many sighted people cannot drive for numerous reasons and they take public transportation as frequently as I do. I began to reassess my basic assumptions about what I could and could not afford. Sigmund Freud noted that there are two desires common to most humans: the desire to be loved and accepted by others, and the yearning to make one's own way in life financially. Certainly this is as true of the blind as it is of any other group. I recognize that this charitable offer of blind discounts is made with only the sincerest and most well- meaning intentions possible, but nevertheless, their effect is extremely detrimental to the blind. Rather than giving us a helping hand, they prevent us from fulfilling the basic human desire for financial independence by encouraging blind people to remain dependent on public handouts.
Half or discount fares serve to reinforce the prevailing social myths that the blind are the objects of charity and pity, who exist as social parasites depleting the tax dollars of hard-working citizens. Every time blind people use a half-fare or blind discount, they perpetuate the image of the blind as beggars. The bus driver who is presented with a half-fare card will invariably associate blindness with inequality and inability. How can he think anything else? It is simply not worth the cost.
The price we pay in public attitudes far outweighs whatever we might save in the immediate cost of transportation. There is a direct link between blind discounts and our economic and social status. It is no accident that 70% of our nation's working-age blind are unemployed. The majority of the nation's employers view the blind as helpless, dependent charity-seekers, rather than competent, motivated members of the work force and potential employees.
Part of being American citizens is sharing in both rights and responsibilities. We can never hope to gain equal status in society if we are not willing to take on our financial obligations, and that means paying our fair share along with everybody else. As long as we shirk our responsibilities, the blind will remain second-class citizens with all the misery which that entails. There are still no free lunches or free rides not even for the blind. We pay a price for everything we do in life. For the blind as a minority, the price for half-fares is simply too high.
SOCIAL SECURITY: FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
CONCERNING DISABILITY INSURANCE
by James Gashel
Social Security Disability Insurance, known by its initials as SSDI, protects working persons from the complete loss of income in the event of a disability. Cash benefits are payable to disabled workers and their dependents. Medicare coverage is also provided after two years of eligibility for SSDI checks. SSDI is operated under the principles of insurance, not welfare. Hence, being poor is not an eligibility requirement.
These concepts are generally applicable to blind persons as well as to persons with other disabilities. However, several rules apply in special ways to the blind. These and other significant eligibility provisions may be categorized as follows: (1) the blindness requirement;
(2) the substantial gainful activity test;
(3) impairment-related work expenses;
(4) fully insured status;
(5) recent work test;
(6) period of disability;
(7) disability freeze;
(8) trial work period;
(9) working blind age 55 to 65; (10) dependents' benefits; and
The Blindness Requirement: Blindness is a qualifying medical condition, having a specific definition in the SSDI program. A person is regarded as blind if central visual acuity is 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best correcting lens or if the field of vision is 20 degrees or less. Anyone whose vision is restricted enough to meet this definition qualifies medically as blind. This is the critical first step in establishing eligibility for benefits. Substantial Gainful Activity: The concept of substantial gainful activity (SGA) is used in Social Security to determine whether or not a blind person will be entitled to SSDI checks. Thus, blindness is not the only factor to be considered. SGA is an evaluation of any work which a person may be doing. The evaluation is based on earnings. To be eligible for benefits, a blind person may not perform SGA, or, in other words, have countable earnings exceeding $780.00 per month during 1990. The precise amount of countable earnings permitted per month is increased beginning in January of each year. Countable earnings generally refers to income before taxes, less any amount of income that does not actually represent payment for work performed. Any impairment-related work expenses must also be subtracted from income to reach countable earnings.
SGA is intended to be a measure of a person's ability to work, not a measure of income. Income subsidies and other benefits that do not result from work should be subtracted from monthly earnings in order to reach the countable earnings used to determine SGA. Impairment-Related Work Expenses: If a blind person who works has expenses attributable to blindness and necessary for doing the work, these costs may also be deducted from income in order to determine SGA. Payments to readers, purchases of aids, and special transportation expenses (if suitable alternatives are not available) are examples of deductible impairment-related work expenses. These deductions will offset earnings which must otherwise be counted in determining SGA. Hence, they can make the difference between eligibility and ineligibility for benefits.
Fully Insured Status: In addition to meeting the blindness and SGA requirements, a blind person must have worked long enough under Social Security-covered employment to be fully insured. How much work depends upon a person's age at the onset of blindness or at the time the individual ceases to perform SGA. Two general rules can be stated: one applies to persons age 21 in 1950 or before, and the other applies to anyone younger than this. A blind person in the former group must have enough quarters of Social Security-covered employment to equal the number of years beginning with 1951 up to and including the year before the year of disability onset. For persons who became age 21 after 1950, begin counting the years starting with the year after the year in which the person became 21. Count forward up to and including the year before the year of disability onset. For a blind person, the term disability onset may be defined as the point at which both of the following conditions exist simultaneously:
(1) the individual is statutorily blind; and (2) the individual ceases to engage in SGA. If both of these conditions do not begin simultaneously, the year of disability onset will be the year in which both conditions first exist. Six quarters of covered employment is the minimum for SSDI eligibility. However, most persons will need more quarters, depending upon age and the year of disability onset. The circumstances are strictly individual.
Recent Work Test: Blind persons are exempt from a recent work requirement, which applies to individuals with other disabilities. For a blind applicant, this means that quarters of covered employment will be counted no matter when they occurred. The recent work rule for others (not the blind) requires covered employment in five of the most recent ten years. Hence, disabled persons who are not blind must be fully insured and have recent work, but only the former requirement applies to the blind.
Period of Disability: A period of disability may be established for any blind person who works under Social Security-covered employment. The period of disability begins when both of the following requirements are met: (1) the individual is statutorily blind; and (2) the individual has worked long enough under Social Security-covered employment to be fully insured. SSDI checks are payable to a blind person who meets these period of disability requirements and is not performing SGA. For blind persons who are performing SGA, the period of disability continues even though entitlement to cash benefit ceases. Disability Freeze: A disability freeze occurs for any blind person when a period of disability is established. The freeze protects a blind person's Social Security earnings record from the effects of low or no earnings during the period of disability. If the disability freeze is not applied, virtually all of a person's adult working years (including years of no earnings) must be counted in figuring the earnings' average used to establish a monthly benefit amount. So the disability freeze for a blind person exempts from the average all years within a period of disability and is only used if exempting these years would result in a higher benefit. Conversely, if applying the freeze would result in a lower benefit amount, the exemption will be disregarded in order to pay the highest benefit possible.
Trial Work and Extended Eligibility: A person who receives SSDI checks after an initial five-month waiting period is also entitled to one trial work period. This is a period of nine months, used for evaluation of the work, plus three adjustment months, during which benefits are automatically payable. Entitlement to benefits continues uninterrupted during the trial work period. The first nine months of trial work need not be consecutive. A month is counted as a trial work month any time a beneficiary earns at least $200.00.
After the first twelve months of trial work, a thirty-three-month extended eligibility period begins. Re-entitlement to benefits is automatic if work stops any time during this period. During the first twelve months of the trial work period, earnings of any amount are permitted. However, if during the first nine months of trial work, the earnings are regularly above the amount considered to be SGA, entitlement will be suspended after the twelfth month of trial work. On the other hand, if earnings are less than SGA, checks will continue uninterrupted as long as the blind person is not found to be performing SGA.
During the thirty-three month extended eligibility period, entitlement to benefits may be suspended on a month-by-month basis, depending upon earnings each month. Checks are payable for months when SGA is not performed. Conversely, there is no entitlement to a check for any month when earnings exceed the SGA amount. If work with countable earnings above SGA continues at the end of the entire forty-five-month trial work and extended eligibility periods, eligibility is terminated, and a new application must be approved to have disability benefits reinstated at any point in the future. If, however, earnings from work do not exceed SGA (or if there are not earnings at all), entitlement to SSDI checks will continue indefinitely.
Working Blind Age 55 to 65: Blind persons age 55 but not yet age 65 may work while still having the assurance of receiving disability benefits during any month when SGA is not performed. This is the effect of a special rule which allows continuing eligibility for blind persons in this age group who are unable to perform work requiring skills or abilities comparable to the work they did regularly before reaching age 55 or becoming blind, whichever occurred later. Under this rule, SGA is considered on a month-by-month basis just as it is during the thirty-three month period of extended eligibility for a blind person under age 55. In other words, entitlement to benefits is suspended for any month of SGA and reinstated for any other month. Dependents' Benefits: Eligibility for cash benefits from Social Security is also extended to blind persons who have not worked but qualify as dependents or survivors of others. For example, a blind person may be a dependent of someone who is an SSDI beneficiary, a retired person receiving Social Security retirement benefits, or someone who died after becoming fully insured. Blind children, blind adults, blind widows, and blind widowers may all be entitled to regular Social Security checks as dependents.
Medicare: Blind SSDI beneficiaries automatically become entitled to Medicare payments for covered medical expenses after twenty-four months of eligibility for cash benefits. These months of eligibility need not be consecutive. Medicare pays hospital and doctor expenses under certain rules and limitations, which apply equally to blind, disabled, and retired persons receiving Social Security checks. If a person works enough to become ineligible for cash benefits, Medicare eligibility may continue for forty-eight months of work. This includes the forty-five-month trial work and extended eligibility periods. If a beneficiary becomes ineligible for SSDI checks, but eligibility resumes in the future for the same or a related disability, Medicare eligibility should also resume with the first month of entitlement to cash benefits.
SOCIAL SECURITY: EMPHASIS ON VENDORS, BUT FACTS
EVERY BLIND PERSON SHOULD KNOW
by James Gashel
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays monthly cash benefits to people under age sixty-five who have worked a sufficient amount of time in Social Security-covered employment or self-employment, provided they are blind or disabled under the law. Licensed vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard program are presumably blind under the Social Security Act since the definition of blindness used in both laws (Randolph-Sheppard and Social Security) is identical. However, that does not mean that every blind vendor automatically qualifies for an SSDI check. This article is written to respond to the many questions which continue to arise from vendors or persons assisting them in determining their potential eligibility for SSDI checks. In many respects the circumstances under which vendors operate and receive their income are unique and have unique implications that must be understood to deal effectively with Social Security issues. Social Security personnel can apply the requirements of the law correctly only if we are able to give them the facts they need to evaluate income and earnings. This is particularly important for vendors and their advocates. However, many of the facts and concepts presented here apply to all blind persons in dealing with Social Security. Nevertheless, we will highlight the particular considerations that apply in the case of vendors.
Being Fully Insured
For the blind there are three principal eligibility factors which are necessary to entitle an individual to receive SSDI benefits: blindness, being fully insured, and having stopped doing substantial work. For those who are not blind, there is a fourth requirement, being recently insured. You need to have worked the required time under Social Security-covered employment or self-employment. The amount of past work required of any blind person is a matter of individual determination, depending on when the person became age twenty-one and the year in which blindness began, or (if blind before or while working) the year in which the person stopped doing substantial work. For blind people who became age twenty-one in 1950 or later, quarters of coverage are calculated as follows: one quarter is needed for each year elapsing after the year age twenty-one was attained, up to and including the year before the person became blind or stopped doing substantial work, whichever occurred later. For blind people who became age twenty-one before 1950, the years that are counted to have enough quarters of coverage begin with 1951 up to the year before blindness or the loss of substantial work occurred, whichever came later. It is not required that quarters of coverage be earned in any particular year. It is only that the number of quarters (regardless of when earned) needs to total the number of years required for each individual. Younger people who became blind or stopped doing substantial work in their twenties, for example, can qualify with as few as six quarters, but no less. Older people will need substantially more quarters.
Any blind person who has enough quarters of coverage as described here is called fully insured. The Social Security Administration will tell you how many quarters of coverage you have. During 1990 a quarter of coverage is credited for earnings of $520.00 received during a calendar quarter. Four quarters are credited with earnings of $2,080.00 for the calendar year 1990, regardless of when the money is earned during the year. The amount needed to earn quarters of coverage increases annually beginning in January of each new year.
Being Recently Insured
Being blind and being fully insured are the first two important eligibility conditions for SSDI checks. Disabled people who are not blind must also meet a third condition, which is called recently insured. They must have worked enough to earn quarters of coverage in at least twenty of the most recent forty quarters. This means that a substantial number of their quarters of coverage must have been earned during at least five out of the most recent ten years. Social Security personnel sometimes erroneously apply this recent work requirement to blind people. But remember, the blind need only be fully insured, not recently insured.
What does it mean when we say that a blind person has stopped doing substantial work? In addition to blindness and being fully insured, not doing substantial work is the third principal condition of eligibility for SSDI if you are blind. Generally, any blind person whose countable income is less than $780.00 per month in 1990 is (for purposes of the law) not doing substantial work. The amount of time spent at work and the amount of actual labor or management work done does not count. Only income is evaluated in the case of blind people applying for SSDI benefits. Seven hundred eighty dollars is the monthly amount allowed for countable income during 1990. Beginning in January of each new year, the amount of countable income used to measure substantial gainful activity for blind persons increases by law.
All income is not necessarily countable income. Your real income before taxes may be much higher than the amount considered to be countable. Deductions to reach countable income may bring the income below the monthly amount allowed. If someone helps out in a vending business but is not paid, the reasonable value of the unpaid help should be deducted from the vendor's income to reach countable income. The unpaid help is a bonus that must be subtracted to find the vendor's countable income. The vending machine income that some vendors receive from machines that they do not operate or service should also be subtracted to reach countable income. This money does not reflect the level of the vendor's work activity. The vending machine income is entirely excluded because it is a subsidy. But that is not true of income from vending machines that the blind vendor services. It must be counted.
Unincurred business expenses are another form of subsidy that must be excluded from real income to reach countable income. Although space for the vending facility is provided without charge in most instances, the value of the space is an unincurred business expense. Without the contribution of the space, the vendor would have to pay the cost;
so the free space artificially inflates the vendor's income. Its value should then be subtracted from the vendor's real (before taxes) income. The building management should be able to provide an estimate of the charge per square foot if the space had to be rented. Free utilities are also an unincurred business expense. Their value can be determined. It is the amount of the utility costs (even though the vendor does not pay them) that should be subtracted from the vendor's income.
Impairment-related work expenses should also be considered and subtracted from the vendor's income. Paid help for clerical assistance, reading, driving, and other services of a work- and impairment-related nature can be deducted to determine countable income. Buying devices that are blindness-related and used in part (or entirely) for work is another form of impairment-related work expense. Monthly installment payments on accounts for equipment purchases can be subtracted to reach countable income. So can care of a dog guide or the purchase of some medications. Special transportation services, such as taxi fares when public transit is not available or cannot be used, are also deductible. Impairment-related work expenses can actually be any costs resulting from blindness and necessary (at least in part) for work.
In sum, real (before taxes) income is not necessarily countable income, especially in the case of blind vendors. The Social Security Administration is only interested in identifying countable income and will exclude other income that is not an accurate measurement of work. The exclusions include any subsidies, the reasonable value of unpaid help, unincurred business expenses, and impairment-related work expenses. Once these standard deductions have been made, countable income that is below the amount allowed will not be called substantial gainful work. If countable income is above the monthly amount allowed after all of the deductions have been made, substantial gainful work has been achieved, and eligibility for SSDI checks will stop after a trial work period is over. The trial work period will normally be over if there have been earnings of $200.00 in any month for nine months, not necessarily consecutive months.
Social Security Disability Insurance is in surance , not welfare . You have to earn entitlement by working and paying in during enough calendar quarters. Once you meet the eligibility conditions, benefits can then be paid. Being poor is not one of the conditions. Rich people also qualify for Social Security. The question of whether one agrees or disagrees is not really relevant. The law is the law. While the Social Security Act is not everything that it might be, the work incentives we have won give blind people the opportunity to get a foothold and begin to support themselves without abrupt termination of their Social Security benefits. Whatever one may think of the law, it is certainly better for the blind than it used to be. And the blind are not now lumped with other groups of the disabled, something which resulted from NFB efforts. Most disabled people who are not blind can only earn $490.00 per month before their SSDI checks are terminated. Moreover, they have a much harder time than the blind in establishing initial eligibility for benefits. In numbers there is strength, but numbers alone are not enough. Knowledge and concerted action are also required. The National Federation of the Blind is a force to be reckoned with. It grows stronger each day. What would life for the blind of this nation be like if the National Federation of the Blind did not exist, and never had existed?
A WARNING FOR
SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM RECIPIENTS
From the Associate Editor: Most people are unaware that the Social Security Administration conducts random reviews of its program recipients in order to confirm their eligibility for receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. The Program Review and Integrity Division is charged with randomly selecting people for these reviews and conducting them. All this is, as I say, little known and absolutely legal.
The form letter sent to program recipients who have been selected for review, however, fails to point out that the interview may be conducted in a location other than the recipient's home if he or she prefers. The letter informs the individual of the impending review and announces that the official will appear at the recipient's residence to conduct it.
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, learned about this policy recently, when a Federationist called the California affiliate's office to inquire whether or not the review had to take place in her home. The following letter is the result of Sharon's investigation. We would all do well to take note of the facts. Such investigations are legal, but they need not take place in the recipient's home. Requesting that the interview take place on neutral ground is psychologically supportive to the recipient being reviewed. Better yet, the Social Security Administration might consider mentioning this possibility in the text of its notification letter. Here is what Sharon Gold wrote to the Program and Integrity Review Division:
January 24, 1990
Mr. Joseph Gribbin
Program and Integrity Review
Social Security Administration
Department of Health and Human Services
Dear Mr. Gribbin:
This letter is written concerning Social Security Form SSA- L8550-U3 (7-89), which is used by Quality Review Analysts in the Program Review and Integrity Division when setting appointments for random reviews of any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.
I was recently contacted by a local resident who is blind and a Supplemental Security Income recipient, concerning a letter she received from the Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Region IX, in San Francisco. The letter was from Larry Kukan, Quality Review Analyst of the Program Review and Integrity Division. It explained that the lady's name had been picked ... by chance for this special review to determine if the amount she receives is correct. Through the form letter Mr. Kukan requested to visit you AT YOUR HOME... and explained that the Social Security law allows me to visit and ask you questions.
The only telephone number provided on this form letter is a number in San Francisco a long distance call from Sacramento. The letter specifically says that collect calls cannot be accepted an extreme hardship on persons with very limited fixed incomes such as Social Security Program and Supplemental Security Income recipients.
The reverse side of this form letter sets forth sections from the Social Security Act which authorize the Social Security Administration to collect the information requested in the review.
Anyone reading this form would think that the Social Security Administration can make a home visit and that such a request is supported by law. This gives rise to the implied threat that, if the Social Security or Supplemental Security Income recipient does not allow the in-home visit, the benefits may be reduced or eliminated altogether. This makes the approach by the Social Security Administration threatening and intimidating.
Absent a properly executed search warrant, the United States Constitution protects the right of a person to keep his home safe from unwanted intruders. In other words, a person is free to invite whom he wishes into his home and leave on the doorstep those persons whom he does not wish to admit. Although the Social Security Administration knows that it cannot enforce the in-home visit requested by the form letter SSA-L8550-U3, the letter does not provide for the information being requested to be supplied to the Social Security Administration in a setting other than the recipient's home. In this day of high crime rates and understandable suspicion, many people do not want to have strangers in their homes.
Similarly, it seems unusual that the Social Security Administration would put its employees in the position of being the stranger in the home. Whether or not the Social Security Administration chooses to continue the practice, the recipient of benefits should not be led to believe that he or she must submit to an in-home visit by a stranger rather than have the evaluation done in a public setting.
The National Federation of the Blind respectfully requests that the Social Security Administration revise Form SSA- L8550-U3 to include language which clearly advises the Social Security or SSI recipient that an in-home visit is optional and which also offers alternative settings in which the review might take place. In the case herein discussed, the lady had a means of investigating her rights, but many recipients do not have this opportunity or are intimidated by the content of the form letter into believing that there is no choice. Upon learning her rights, this lady chose to have the review held at the office of the National Federation of the Blind of California, and a telephone call was made to the Program and Integrity Review Office to request the change in location.
Very truly yours,
Sharon Gold, President
National Federation of the Blind
P. S. As an added note, I might tell you that I was present during the meeting. Mr. Kukan was most pleasant, and he was able to obtain all of the information that he required even though the meeting was not held in the recipient's home.
cc: J. Kenneth McGill
Office of Disability
Social Security Administration
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
BLIND IS BEAUTIFUL
by Eric Duffy
The following article is reprinted from the Winter, 1990 issue of the Buckeye Bulletin, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. Eric Duffy is the First Vice President of the Ohio affiliate and a 1987 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner. Here is what he has to say:
Early in life I concluded that I was an expert when it came to blindness. After all, it seemed to me that one who had always lived as a blind person ought to be able to discuss blindness without perpetuating the stereotypes and misconceptions that I already knew existed. I also believed that, despite attitudinal barriers, I was living a pretty full life. It seemed to me that I was certainly doing better than most of my classmates at the Ohio State School for the Blind. As I grew up, the staff at the school only reinforced my beliefs. I was told that I was not like most blind people. They said, In many ways you really do act sighted. You have a lot of potential, and you're really going to go far.
Given this background, it is no wonder that I graduated from high school believing that I was an exceptional blind person. After all, I was planning to attend a small private college, which meant that I was going to do it without the financial support of the state rehabilitation agency. Once I got there I joined the marching band. I was recruited by several of the fraternities on campus, and I was elected to the Student Senate. There were times when I was foolish enough to walk around campus without a cane, and I considered it a compliment when my friends said, I almost forget you're blind.
I never dreamed that applying for a scholarship would teach me how much I didn't know about blindness. But of course it did, for the scholarship program to which I am referring was that of the National Federation of the Blind. Each applicant is required to submit a letter of recommendation written by an officer of his or her NFB affiliate in addition to the application for a scholarship. In order to get this letter, I met with Bob Eschbach, then president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. Although I didn't know it at the time, that was a meeting that would change my life forever.
After becoming active in the Federation, I began to hear people say things like it really is okay to be blind. I also heard people contend, even more surprisingly, that it is respectable to be blind. I suppose to some extent these statements of conviction parallel the strategy within the Black freedom movement when the phrase black is beautiful was a clarion call in their struggle for equality.
I recently read about a study suggesting that the general public does not believe that black is beautiful. Young children were given pictures of several women (both Black and White) and asked to point to the prettiest. The Black women were seldom selected. The same thing occurred when the children were asked to select the person whom they believed to be the most intelligent. I suspect that blind people would fare even worse than Blacks did if a similar study were done involving us. This conviction is strengthened when I hear people say things like, She's beautiful. It's too bad she's blind or She's really quite bright, but she's blind. Obviously most people do not believe that blind is beautiful. However, that may soon be changing.
Kimberly Bundy (newly-elected secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of the Miami Valley) may be responsible for some of this change. Kim who is blind has competed for several years in the Miss Miamisburg Pageant, the first stage in the Miss America competition. In previous years the judges have let their attitudes about blindness interfere in their assessment of Kim's beauty, talent, and other abilities. Several of them even asked her, If you did win, how would you get around during the Miss Ohio Pageant? Of course, Kim was able to answer this question. However, for many years her answers were not good enough. In fact, I believe that in spite of winning the most recent pageant, her answers to such questions are (when taken independently) still not good enough. Our history teaches us that none of us makes it alone. It is possible for us to make the individual progress that we do as blind people only because of what we are able to accomplish collectively. Those who came before us opened doors which we are now able to walk through. In the same way we will open doors for the next generation of the blind. However, just as Kim Bundy (like the rest of us) has benefited from the work of the National Federation of the Blind, all blind people will benefit from the efforts of Miss Bundy. For as I said, Kim was a winner in the most recent Miss Miamisburg Pageant. She is now preparing for competition in the Miss Ohio Pageant in June. If Kim can walk down the runway using her white cane and win this pageant, we will all be one step closer to freedom.
Whether or not Kim wins the pageant, what she is doing is important to all of us. Kim is demanding that she be seen as a competent, independent, blind person. If she is to have a chance of winning, she must convey to others her belief that it is respectable to be blind. She must convince the world that she believes it is okay to be blind. However, if Kim walks down the runway without either her dog guide or a white cane, people will assume that she is trying to hide her blindness. Kim has several good reasons for not using her dog guide in these pageants. However, the only reason she does not use a cane today is that she was not given proper instruction in the use of the cane as a student at the State School for the Blind, where she enrolled in order to develop the skills of blindness. However, Kim is now learning to use the cane with the help of her blind brothers and sisters. By June she will be able to walk down that runway cane in hand, telling the world that she is content being who she is; that it is respectable to be blind; and, yes, that blind is beautiful.
WASHINGTON SEMINAR: 1990
The National Federation of the Blind's 1990 Washington Seminar (conducted from Sunday, February 3 to Wednesday, February 7) was one of the best we have ever held. The preceding Friday more than one hundred early-bird Federationists from around the country, most of them students, gathered for an all-day Saturday seminar sponsored by the Student Division. The day was packed with informative and thought-provoking agenda items and was climaxed by a banquet Saturday evening with an address delivered by James Gashel, the Federation's Director of Governmental Affairs. Scott Labarre, a student at St. John's College in Minnesota and a member of the Student Division Board of Directors, emceed the banquet, and his considerable skills in chairing were required to control the exuberant audience. Everyone had a marvelous time that evening, and with renewed enthusiasm and determination, participants promised one another to invite even more students next year to this exciting and educational event.
On Sunday evening, February 3, 1990, nearly four hundred people gathered for the first event of the Washington Seminar, a two-hour briefing. The crowd heard from Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, and James Gashel about issues of current importance to the organization and about the details of the seminar. Dr. Jernigan announced that Lynn Cutler, Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, would address the group the following evening during the briefing. More discussion was devoted to a press conference planned for Tuesday, February 6, during which President Maurer and Congressman James Traficant, primary sponsor of the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals bill, along with several co-sponsors were to call for stepped-up efforts to pass this legislation now that the Department of Transportation has agreed to publish its final regulations implementing the Air Carrier Access Act before March 30, 1990.
A dozen or so news organizations attended the press conference on Tuesday and produced stories about the issue in the days following the press conference. Room 2220 in the Rayburn House Office Building, scene of the press conference, was fairly small, so the more than two hundred and fifty Federationists who gathered for the event stood patiently in the hall, demonstrating their determination to end airline discrimination. President Maurer reported to the group at the close of the meeting, and the crowd responded with a mighty cheer and a spontaneous rendering of our song, Let's go out to the Airport. It was clear that neither the news media nor the occupants of near-by offices were used to such enthusiasm and such discipline in the halls of Congress. This is a reaction that we encounter often. It is this commitment and energy focused on achieving our goals that explains why we accomplish so much in our efforts to improve the lives of blind Americans. Here is the legislative agenda of the organized blind movement for 1990:
For more information please contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 1990
From: Members of the National Federation of the Blind To: Members of the 101st Congress Re: The Blind: Legislative Priorities for the Second Session of the 101st Congress
Blindness has a dramatic impact on the lives of millions of U.S. citizens. One-half million people in this country are blind, and fifty thousand Americans become blind each year. The lives of millions of others friends, neighbors, family members, business associates, and co-workers (although not blind themselves) are nonetheless affected by blindness and its social and economic consequences. As a result, public policies and laws concerning the blind have a profound impact throughout our society. The blind themselves are best able to understand and explain the personal and social impact of blindness. Loss of eyesight is a unique condition. It is not debilitating in a general sense. Most blind people (and those who know them) do not regard the blind as disabled. Still, misclassification of the blind as disabled has become the greatest social limitation we face.
If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, the physical loss of eyesight itself can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance. Misconceptions about blindness, coupled with lack of good training and limited opportunities, are the real handicaps. Although most sighted people have had some contact with blindness, it is still largely misunderstood, and it continues to be more a problem of public attitudes than physical disability.
Public policies and laws that result from misconceptions about blindness or lack of information are often more handicapping to the blind than loss of eyesight itself. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). We are the blind speaking for ourselves, and the NFB is our vehicle of self-expression. We join the NFB through local chapters and statewide organizations which are located everywhere in the United States.
The blind are well organized at the grass-roots level throughout the United States. Our policy positions are developed and determined by vote of the blind themselves. This is why lawmakers and the public at large now recognize the NFB as the voice of the nation's blind. Our priorities for the second session of the 101st Congress express our assessment of current issues requiring action by Congress on behalf of blind persons of all ages.
(1) Congress should enact the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. This request seeks approval of legislation to make unmistakably clear the Congressional intent that persons who are blind may not be subjected to unfair and discriminatory restrictive seating practices of airlines. The Air Carrier Access Act (Pub. L. 99-435) already prohibits discrimination against the handicapped
in air travel, but the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation are preparing to issue restrictive seating rules requested by the airlines. The rules are expected to give commercial flight crew members a choice in classifying passengers as those who may have direct access to emergency exits and those who may only have secondary access. Blind persons would by regulation always have secondary access to the exits.
The airlines and federal authorities appear to have little regard for the law or the will of Congress. It is outrageous that blind people are still subjected to arrests when they take seats assigned to them by the airlines. Law-abiding blind citizens have been hauled off to jail for not accepting discriminatory orders by airline personnel. Yet DOT enforcement authorities refuse to intervene to protect the personal liberties and safety of blind passengers. The fact sheet entitled Air Travel Rights for the Blind gives more details and suggests specific legislation that the 101st Congress should enact. There would be no cost to anyone, including the government and the airlines.
(2) Congress should approve the Right to Participate Without Modification amendment during further consideration of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This request seeks to prevent future use of the Americans with Disabilities Act as a source of legalized discrimination against the blind. Our common experience is that laws which prohibit discrimination against the disabled as a general class tend to have distorted and unintended effects which may be detrimental in specific disability cases. The Right to Participate Without Modification amendment would establish clear-cut requirements that must be met in order for modified services or benefits to be provided in a nondiscriminatory manner.
It is harmful to us when accommodations are made that falsely imply limitations caused by blindness. From the moment it is signed into law, the Americans with Disabilities Act will affect blind persons and millions of others in almost every activity of our lives. Even the small gains made in passing equal rights laws for the blind and disabled in many states will be threatened or could be lost forever. The right of access for some should not also become the right to cause discrimination against others those of us who already have access. The fact sheet entitled Preventing Legalized Discrimination Against the Blind: Changes Needed in the Americans with Disabilities Act gives more details on the Right to Participate Without Modification amendment. If The Americans with Disabilities Act becomes law, it must include this amendment.
(3) Congress should amend the Social Security Act to give blind persons the flexibility they need in choosing acceptable and desirable sources of post-secondary training and employment services. This request seeks enactment of legislation to allow blind persons to select, design, and pursue the assistance required to become employed and self-supporting. Under existing law beneficiaries of Social Security programs (and all other blind people seeking training and employment services) are blocked in most cases from obtaining this help through any agency other than the one designated to provide rehabilitation services to the blind in each state.
Existing law authorizes Social Security to reimburse the state agencies when a beneficiary achieves employment, but states are reluctant to participate substantially in this results-oriented program. Funding participants (rather than programs) would be a better option. That can be done by letting each beneficiary choose the agency or training source that will be most responsive. The beneficiary (not a government agency) is often in the best position to know which training sources can best meet the need. Under a plan which gives blind beneficiaries greater freedom to choose among providers for their training and employment programs, cost-effective reimbursement for services could be made to private agencies and training sources as well as to state rehabilitation agencies. The fact sheet entitled Breaking the Monopoly: Expanding Choices in Rehabilitation for Blind Adults gives more details and an outline of the specific legislative changes that the 101st Congress should enact.
Blind people are asking for your help in securing positive action by Congress in the areas outlined here. Legislative proposals are now pending to achieve each of our objectives. Many priorities confront this session of Congress, but the needs of the nation's blind must not be neglected in the legislative agenda this year. We of the National Federation of the Blind stand ready to assist our Representatives and Senators to understand our needs and to take meaningful action to address them. In partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each member of Congress can help build better lives for the blind both today and in the years ahead.
For further information
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Air Travel Rights for the Blind
S. 341 (S. Rept. 101-45), H.R. 563 Short title: A bill to amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to prohibit discrimination against blind individuals in air travel.
Senators to cosponsor: contact Senator Hollings. Staff contact: Steve Palmer, Majority Staff, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, (phone) 4-9350.
House members to cosponsor: contact Congressman Traficant. Staff contact: Dan Blair (phone) 5-5261.
The Problem: Arbitrary restrictions on seating of blind passengers are a most common form of degrading discrimination against the blind in air travel. Airline personnel routinely humiliate and bully blind people for sitting in their assigned seats near emergency exits. Law-abiding blind passengers are even arrested and hauled off to jail for taking seats assigned to them by the airlines. Lengthy flight delays are common in these incidents. Airline personnel create the delays and use them as a tactic to humiliate blind passengers publicly. As a result other passengers are encouraged to side with the airlines and are incited to express anger against the blind. In these situations blind persons are trapped and subjected to discriminatory treatment which cannot be resolved merely by moving from seats near exits.
Existing Law and Regulations: Section 404(c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (enacted by Pub. L. 99-435) prohibits discrimination against qualified handicapped individuals in air travel. Citing this law as a reason, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is preparing to issue a rule requiring secondary access to exits for all blind passengers on all flights. Other passengers, chosen by airline personnel, would have primary access to exits. In a related rulemaking, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has also proposed a rule to give the FAA a free hand in imposing seating restrictions, regardless of their discriminatory impact.
The combined effect of the FAA and DOT rules would be to nullify the nondiscrimination mandate of Pub. L. 99-435. The regulatory scheme of using two rules to reach a single discriminatory result was devised by the airlines and the government to circumvent the clear intent of the law. Officials have said that the rules will not discriminate against the blind, but sight will be required for any passenger to be seated near an exit. The FAA has never had a regulation to limit seat assignments of the blind. Citing evidence gathered in 1973, the FAA concluded in 1977 that a seating restriction rule was not in the public interest. There is no factual basis for a contrary position today. However, the final, discriminatory rules are expected to be issued shortly. Proposed Legislation: Congress should enact the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. Identical Senate and House bills are pending with sizable bipartisan groups of cosponsors in each chamber. The Senate bill has been favorably reported from committee and is ready for floor action. Hearings have not been held in the House.
The bill calls for adding the following sentence to section 404 (c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958: An air carrier shall not restrict seating in aircraft on the basis of the visual acuity of a passenger or the use by a passenger of a white cane, dog guide, or other such means of assistance.
This measure would maintain the FAA's responsibility to regulate safe air travel. Criteria that have a safety-based justification could be used to support policies that exclude passengers from seats near emergency exits. Restrictions based on blindness or visual impairment have no safety basis and would therefore be prohibited.
Need for Legislation: According to the Senate Commerce Committee's report: In passing the Air Carrier Access Act, Congress clearly intended that blind persons not be subjected to discrimination in any form in their use of air transportation. Restrictions, imposed in the name of safety, but lacking any legitimate safety basis, that exceed those imposed on other passengers are one such form of discrimination....The mere presence or absence of a handicapping condition, as in the case of blindness, should not in and of itself suggest the need for seating restrictions. Congress did not intend for the FAA to impose discriminatory seating restrictions on blind individuals, especially when such restrictions had been found earlier by the FAA to be unnecessary. (See S. Rept. 101-45.)
Approval of this legislation is necessary now to pre-empt the expected regulations. Safety is a matter of serious concern to proponents of this bill. Arbitrary assumptions about passengers' abilities excluding all blind persons from all seats with direct access to exits will compromise safety for the blind and others on all flights. Backers of this seating ban at the FAA and the airlines are simply emotionally committed to beating down the blind in hopes of being praised for promoting safety. At the same time they are permitting airports and airways to become so crowded as to create a very real public danger. Reports have shown that the FAA's maintenance standards have actually contributed to the loss of lives.
Not one life has ever been lost because a blind person was seated near an aircraft emergency exit. Lives have been lost when sighted persons have improperly opened the exits. Still, no one would seriously propose banning all sighted persons from seats near exits. Similarly, the bill now pending is a serious solution to a real problem. The commitment to safety and civil rights for the blind was made in good faith by Congress and President Reagan. It must not now be subverted by administrative action.
For further information
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Preventing Legalized Discrimination Against the Blind:
Changes Needed in the Americans With Disabilities Act
BACKGROUND: The Americans with Disabilities Act has passed the Senate as S. 933 and is pending in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2273. This measure is being proposed to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Under the bill it would be discriminatory to deny disabled persons access to (1) employment; (2) services, programs, and benefits of state and local governments (including public transportation);
(3) public accommodations and transportation provided by private entities; and (4) telecommunications services.
The bill identifies physical barriers to the disabled as discriminatory.
Its premise is that limits on physical access lead to restricted participation or outright denial of opportunity. Under the bill opportunities are to be barrier free. A legal standard of accommodated participation is used as the rule of thumb for nondiscrimination. This standard differs from the equal participation standard adopted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Physical accessibility requires modifications to architectural design features. Changes in programs in order to accommodate them to the physical limitations of the disabled are also required by the bill.
The Problem: The accommodated participation standard is appropriate in some instances but not appropriate in most. The focus on accommodations in the case of the blind reinforces the false presumption that blind people are denied access unless special modifications can be made for them. This misconception about the blind is harmful and leads to discrimination. While blind people are vitally concerned that federal laws must be passed and enforced to prohibit discrimination, Congress must act carefully in setting the civil rights standard. Otherwise, the law intended to prohibit discrimination could actually promote new forms of prejudicial treatment. This will happen if blind people are required to use legally mandated accommodations that they do not want or need. A 1986 law requiring airlines to make services accessible to disabled persons is proof that blind persons can face serious harm from a general nondiscrimination law aimed at removing physical barriers. Seating restrictions, never before required to be imposed upon the blind under federal law, are now being planned by the Federal Aviation Administration. The law did not contemplate the occurrence of such a result in the name of nondiscrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act could have the same damaging impact on civil rights in other areas by restricting the blind to use of accessible hotel rooms and through seating restrictions for the blind on public buses. Policies such as these are predictable unless clearly prohibited by the plain language of the law. Proposed Amendment:
Congressman C. Christopher Cox of California is preparing to offer an amendment to give disabled people the right to reject any physical or programmatic accommodations that they do not want or need. The Right To Participate Without Modification amendment would establish clear-cut requirements that must be met in order for modified services or benefits to be provided in a nondiscriminatory manner.
The guidelines for nondiscriminatory accommodations would be placed in a revised portion of section 302(b) of the bill and in a proposed new section 514, to be added to title V at the end of the existing text. These sections prohibit policies requiring the use of accommodations for all disabled persons. Forcing the blind to accept or use unwanted accommodations would be discriminatory. Services or benefits provided to disabled persons could not be different or separate from the services or benefits provided to others unless each disabled person also has the opportunity to receive exactly the same services or benefits that are provided to nondisabled persons.
Need for the Right To Participate Without Modification Amendment:
The accommodated participation standard is no doubt very appropriate for many disabled people. This standard should help to make their participation possible. For blind persons, however, the accommodation standard incorrectly assumes a degree of inability and directs unwanted and even harmful changes. The individual's true abilities are overshadowed by accommodated participation, and the changes made become the focus of everyone's attention. It is assumed that the individual could not participate were it not for the accommodation. It is harmful to us when accommodations are made that falsely imply limitations caused by blindness. Opportunities necessarily depend on public understanding and social acceptance. This will be the case with or without the Americans with Disabilities Act. Blind people want to be accepted on terms of equality with the sighted. This is a proper and realistically achievable objective. Our equality will be blocked, however, if we are faced with a federal law that implies a degree of permanent inequality.
From the moment it is signed into law, the Americans with Disabilities Act will affect blind persons and millions of others in almost every activity of our lives. If the Act sets accommodation as the standard for using most facilities and services, many thousands of us will be forced to endure discriminatory practices in almost everything we do. Even the small gains made by the adoption of equal rights laws for the blind and disabled in many states will be threatened or could be lost forever. The right of access for some should not also be the right to cause discrimination against others those of us who already have access. There must be a balance. The Right to Participate Without Modification amendment will help to strike that balance. The Americans with Disabilities Act must not be approved without it.
further information contact:
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Breaking the Monopoly:
Expanding Choices in Rehabilitation for Blind Adults
H.R. 855: A Bill: To amend titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act to promote the rehabilitation of blind beneficiaries under the SSI and OASDI programs, and to assure that the blind receive the most appropriate employment and training services which are available by permitting them to select the agencies to which they will be referred for such services.
Background: Federal support for rehabilitation of the disabled began in 1920, but programs for the blind did not receive federal assistance until 1943. Current rehabilitation services include various forms of medical, social, recreational, vocational, educational, and research-oriented programs that are intended to improve the living conditions and lifestyles of all disabled persons in America. Employment was once the principal goal of the law, but the emphasis has shifted to serving the diverse social and independent living needs of the entire disabled population. The employment goal is now subordinate. However, recreation, social services, and even medical care needs will almost all be met for the vast majority of blind people if they get suitable jobs with pay and responsibilities commensurate with their individual abilities.
Existing Law: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-112), as amended, authorizes most of the current federally supported rehabilitation programs. Almost 1.5 billion dollars in federal financial assistance is distributed to the states under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act. The designation of a specific state agency to serve the disabled and blind is a prerequisite for receipt by any state of its share of the federal funds.
Titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act also authorize the use of separate funds to pay for the costs of rehabilitation services for disabled and blind people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The beneficiary rehabilitation funds provided by the Social Security Administration are in addition to direct appropriations for rehabilitation services approved annually by Congress. For largely historic reasons the Social Security Act allows beneficiaries to obtain rehabilitation services only from the state agency designated for them under the Rehabilitation Act.
Under these arrangements options for most blind people to choose among training sources are realistically nonexistent. This lack of a free choice, a major deterrent to effective, responsive training and employment services, leaves almost 80 percent of employable blind people largely outside of our nation's workforce.
Proposed Legislation: Congress should amend the Social Security Act to give blind SSI and SSDI beneficiaries greater freedom to develop individualized training and employment programs. A bill to accomplish this objective has been introduced in the House by Congressman Harold Ford. It presents a natural alternative to the present Social Security funding arrangement by allowing recipients of SSDI or SSI benefits to designate for themselves individually selected agencies, public or private.
The Bush administration has sent Congress a similar legislative proposal, included as title V of the Administration's proposed Social Security Amendments of 1989. Under the bill SSI and SSDI beneficiaries would receive rehabilitation services provided by public or private agencies. State rehabilitation agencies would become one of several potential sources of service. Referrals for service would be made directly by the Social Security Administration and not by the state rehabilitation agencies.
Need for Legislation: Expansion of the Rehabilitation Act to support a broader range of services (including social, recreational, and independent living services) has substantially increased demands upon state rehabilitation agencies to provide a wider variety of services to growing numbers of disabled persons. As a result of this trend, state rehabilitation agencies are less able to respond to the training and employment needs of blind persons seeking service. The training and employment aspirations of the blind have also changed dramatically, further stretching the Rehabilitation Act's single state agency system beyond its limits. The needs and potentials of the blind in the 1990's are simply not the same as they were in the 1940's, yet services are supposed to be provided to the blind through essentially the same state-federal administrative structure as has been in place for over fifty years.
Changes in law are needed to respond to these evolving service demands. The legislation seeks authority for the Social Security Administration to contract for rehabilitation services on behalf of its beneficiaries. This is the next logical step in the evolution of rehabilitation services for the blind. The legislation would leave the existing Rehabilitation Act structure and funding arrangements intact and reduce demands on overburdened rehabilitation agencies. Blind beneficiaries would have greater flexibility in choosing among existing or new service providers. State boundaries and limits on out-of-state spending would no longer be road-blocks for blind persons in finding the best program to meet individual needs. Agency accountability would be increased by giving the blind the flexibility to choose programs that work. In addition, Social Security funds paid to achieve training and employment goals would reduce demands for continuing cash outlays from the SSI and SSDI programs. This is a cost-effective approach that Congress should now enact.
CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS JOIN ORGANIZED BLIND
IN PRESSING FOR ACTION
ON AIRLINES' DISCRIMINATION
by Marc Maurer
Arrogance without power may be either pathetic or amusing, but if it is coupled with force, it is neither pitiable nor funny. It becomes probably the single most important factor in the destruction of personal liberty. For over a decade the blind have been battling for the right of equal treatment with the sighted in air travel. Our principal opponents have been most of the airlines and (through their influence and scare tactics) the media and government officials, such as some of those in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation. Their weapons have not been fact and reason but prejudice, misunderstanding, and fear.
But not all government officials have adopted the emotionalism of the airlines. A substantial number have listened carefully to the arguments we have made and responded with understanding and judgment. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the announced position of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation is that the blind are second rate and not deserving of equal rights in air travel. Despite the lack of evidence to support this arbitrary point of view, FAA and DOT officials persistently engage in a game of Let's Suppose. The fantastic scenarios dreamed up for this game always place the blind in the worst possible circumstances. Occasionally, blind people have been tempted to counter with suppositions of their own. It is quite conceivable that circumstances would be favorable to the blind in airline emergencies. In fact, it is virtually certain that scenarios favoring blind travelers are statistically more likely than the ones which put the blind at a disadvantage. But prejudice, misunderstanding, and fear rarely change because of logical argument. Since they have been created by insecurity and ignorance, they tend to generate the usual products of those qualities presumption and arrogance. In the case of the airline battle the arrogance might be relatively harmless if it were not sanctioned and supported by governmental power.
For over a decade the blind have been treated like children and wards by airline personnel. When we complained about the discrimination, we expected prompt and decisive action from the government officials charged with regulating airline behavior. Equal treatment for the handicapped was the law of the land. The Department of Transportation did not react as we thought it should and the law required. In the early stages of the struggle the airlines were surreptitiously informed by Department of Transportation officials that the Department would take no action to prohibit their discriminatory behavior. This brought a clamorous reaction from the blind. Thousands of letters were written, and hundreds of articles were printed in newspapers. There were also numerous congressional inquiries. The Department of Transportation (reacting to all of this public pressure) made symbolic gestures toward what it called gathering information.
Finally, Congress adopted the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986. Although the Department of Transportation made a number of self-serving protestations that the rights of the handicapped would be protected, its behavior did not change at all. An avalanche of letters of complaint continued to be written by the blind. Members of Congress introduced the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. If it is adopted, this act would settle conclusively the question of seating for the blind. Airlines could not adopt discriminatory seating policies. The Department of Transportation could not authorize segregated seating for the blind. The Federal Aviation Administration would not be permitted to assert that separate but equal for the blind is necessary for safety. On February 6, 1990, at a press conference called by the National Federation of the Blind, several members of Congress were present (along with hundreds of blind people from throughout the United States) to call for hearings on the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act in the House of Representatives.
Jim Gashel, the Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind, brought the press conference to order, welcomed members of Congress and the press, and introduced me for a statement from the organized blind. The character of our movement as a crusade for the rights of blind people everywhere is shown by the language used in the conference, by the support of those who came to help us win equality, and by the spirit of the blind who were there. Here is the statement which I made:
There is a famous and dramatic story in which a member of the Gestapo insists that a Jewish father pick which of his two children will be permitted to live and which will be sent to the gas chamber. The author focuses on the agony of the father and the children. There is much less emphasis on the awesome and irresponsible use of power.
Our situation today is not as straightforward. However, the Department of Transportation (our government) has announced that it intends to use its power to choose which people are to be permitted to have the best chance to survive in an airline emergency. The blind have been selected for the unenviable position of greater risk of death. According to proposed rules to be adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a subdivision of the Department of Transportation, the blind may not sit near emergency exits on planes. The FAA does not require us to be last in evacuations, but it will never let us be first and it is an accepted fact that those who are first out in an airplane crash have the greatest chance for survival.
In 1986 the Air Carrier Access Act was adopted by the Congress and signed by the President. These events should have brought an end to a pattern of discrimination against blind air travelers that had been intensifying for years. However, this is not how it was. The Air Carrier Access Act, Public Law 99-435, stated that there should be no discrimination against the handicapped in the provision of air transportation. Before the Act was adopted, blind air travelers were very often met with hostility and intimidation when they insisted on the right to fly on the same terms and conditions as others. After the adoption of the Act, blind air travelers met with hostility and intimidation when they insisted on the right to fly on the same terms and conditions as others. There was a new law on the statute books of the United States, but nothing else changed. The question is why? The answer is perfectly evident. The FAA was persuaded by the airlines to nullify the will of Congress with administrative rules. The proposed language of these rules states that although the Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination against the handicapped, blind people will not be permitted to board the planes and travel the airways on equal terms with the sighted. In a two-step administrative rule-making process the Department of Transportation and its subdivision the FAA are proposing to adopt language which can only be described as a deliberate effort to deceive the public. The DOT rules say that there shall be no discrimination against the blind. The FAA rules parrot this phrase. However, these rules will (as they put it) clarify safety requirements for handicapped passengers. This clarification will establish, for the very first time, restrictions on seating for blind passengers. The proposed FAA rules say that there is no discrimination against blind persons and that there are no restrictions for blind travelers. However, in order to be permitted to sit in certain parts of an aircraft, passengers must be able to see. The machinations of the authors of this labyrinthine artifice simply boggle the mind. The authority being used for this clarification is the Air Carrier Access Act, the law which prohibits discrimination against the handicapped. Consequently, because Congress adopted new civil rights legislation to secure the right of handicapped passengers to equal treatment by the airlines, there are proposed government sanctions restricting seating in air travel.
The FAA says that the blind are less safe than others. If this is true, the proposed restrictions may be justified. If it is not true, the restrictions should not be allowed. The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind people in America. We have searched our records and our memories. We have been unable to find a single incident in which a blind person contributed to an injury. We have asked the National Transportation Safety Board for records in which a blind person caused difficulty or contributed to circumstances that were not safe. No record has ever been discovered. We have sought information from the records of the Civil Aeronautics Board. There is nothing which demonstrates that blindness is a factor causing increased risk. The FAA cannot point to a single episode in the entire history of aviation which suggests that blind people are a greater safety hazard than others. On the other hand, we who are blind have flown millions of miles and have handled ourselves with as much competence as the rest of the flying public.
It is quite possible to conjure up circumstances in which blind people might conceivably be at a disadvantage in an emergency. The airlines sometimes say something like this: Let us suppose that the airplane had crashed and was teetering on the edge of a cliff. Would a blind person know that it wasn't safe to jump off the edge of the wing? I kid you not. I heard a safety expert for one of the major American air carriers say exactly that. It is equally conceivable to imagine circumstances in which the blind are at an advantage. Perhaps it is dark with the lights out or there is smoke in the cabin. Blind people are accustomed to handling themselves without sight. The absence of light would not matter. More to the point, there has never been an instance where a plane has teetered on the edge of a cliff, but there has been an instance when a blind person led others out of a darkened airplane cabin in an emergency.
It is important that we in America make it rock-bound clear that artificial barriers and prejudicial distinctions will not be tolerated. We must find a way to show the FAA and the airlines that they may not team up to twist the will of Congress expressed in civil rights legislation into a weapon that will decrease freedom of movement and travel for the blind. The Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act has been reported out of committee in the Senate. It is being scheduled for floor action. So far, Congressman James L. Oberstar of Minnesota has not scheduled a hearing on this bill in the House. We call upon Congressman Oberstar to give this piece of legislation a public review. Let those with the facts come before the committee to be heard. One of the most sacred traditions of our democratic form of government is that there shall be an opportunity to express differing points of view. We believe an unbiased examination of the facts will demonstrate the justice of our cause. We believe that the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act is an important step in the process of bringing fairness and equality to the blind. We call for hearings to be scheduled on this bill.
At the conclusion of this statement the prime sponsor of the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act in the House of Representatives, Congressman James A. Traficant of Ohio, was introduced. He said:
I want to commend the Federation of the Blind. I became aware of the problem when Barbara Pierce, a beautiful woman here in this room, had an incident on an air carrier that developed into a real brouhaha. I couldn't believe that. I started to look into the matter. There are really grave concerns that everybody has, certainly in the Congress. One is safety. There have been no studies or tests that could document the fact that a blind passenger would, in fact, prevent safety opportunities for sighted passengers or others on the craft.
I have witnessed myself, at least on several occasions, individuals seated in the emergency exit rows and near windows, who were children seven and eight years old who did not have the physical capability of opening up the door. I think that this is more than what is referred to as a safety issue because no one can document safety factors which would, in fact, support the theory that sighted air passengers are threatened by blind passengers seated in such rows. I think it is more of a civil rights issue. When individuals buy airplane tickets, they are part of a lottery in seating. And those individuals close to exit rows and seats in the event of an emergency, not all may make it certainly should have that chance. But a blind passenger, subject to the interpretation now currently in the government, is regarded as a second rate citizen and pushed to the back of the bus. They do not have the same opportunity for their own welfare and for saving their own lives in the event of a tragedy. I believe that's wrong. And unless anybody can come forward and document the fact that there's clearly a safety issue here and a risk to sighted passengers, then, this administrative policy and direction of the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation should be struck down, and struck down with legislation.
I am glad to see that the Senate has reported out this bill. I am hoping, with 160 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, that a fair and honest hearing will take place and that these issues that concern safety as well as rights will be addressed. If you buy a ticket, you should be entitled to the same rights as any other passenger. The lottery that is available for all, supposedly, shouldn't exclude a certain few. That's the issue at stake. Again, I commend the Federation for their outstanding effort. I apologize, to a degree, for what some construe to be a callousness of our government in this regard. Hopefully, as with many other cases of controversy concerning an issue, there will be deliberation, communication, dialogue, and results. I think it is a good piece of legislation, and one that deserves to have a hearing. Hopefully, it will be passed by the Senate, as it was reported out of the Committee. That will move us toward some specific action in the House, which hopefully will resolve the issue.
Congressman Traficant was asked how the airlines reacted to the Bill. He said:
Basically, the airlines' position has been what Federation members have expressed. They [the airlines] do not support the legislation. They continue to cite certain safety issues that seem to be somewhat taken out of Disney World at this point. That's not to make light of it. We're very concerned about the safety factors. And in looking at the safety factors I, today, challenge the FAA to cite one specific incident where a blind passenger has caused the loss of life or a tragedy on an airline.
A member of the press asked what information had been produced by the FAA to support its position, and Congressman Traficant responded:
I think that like many sighted people in their review and analysis of the world of those who can't see, they are frightened. They fear the unknown. They suspect, and they document. They conjure up scenarios that, in this instance, seem to be very dangerous. And I think that is the greatest problem that we have. I think that it is this particular feeling and this emotional response that has taken hold here, and we haven't really analyzed the data. I am asking for the data. I would be the first to admit that we would not want to (and I firmly believe that the National Federation of the Blind does not want to) endanger anybody's life or risk safety on an airline. But then again, on the other hand, I think that we're remiss and that we will have abandoned our responsibility by letting blind passengers be second rate passengers who do not have the same safety opportunities that sighted passengers have.
A member of the press asked this question: If the FAA does not have an incident where a blind person might have hindered an emergency situation, then, aren't they making a judgment on whose life is more important, a blind person's or a sighted person's? Congressman Traficant replied:
Well, I think that is absolutely the case at this point. They are saying so for whatever reasons. I am not going to impugn the integrity of the FAA and those people making decisions, but that's specifically the stand they have taken. What we are saying is: show us the facts. We do not believe they have those facts. In fact, we think that we can counter those with the truth and that we will prevail.
Another member of the press spoke: Congressman, I heard of a number of instances where blind people have actually been arrested for not giving up their seats. Is that true? Congressman Traficant replied:
Yes, that has happened, and I believe that members of the blind community have taken great abuse with some of the actions that have come down. And they have stood up for their rights. It's unfortunate to see a beautiful young American, who happens not to have sight, be bullied and taken off an airplane while most of the sighted passengers, because of the dynamics that ensued, sided with the airlines because they did not know the true elements of this case. So what we are saying is, Yes, that did happen, but it shouldn't happen. If the FAA is to continue to perpetrate this policy, they are going to have to give hard facts. One way or another we must resolve the issue and answer the question. Whether or not they agree with me, with the Federation of the Blind, or with 160 cosponsors, they must make the decision predicated upon facts have an open and fair hearing, and tell us what the facts are. Show us what the facts are. We haven't seen them. They are not in existence. And I don't think anybody should decide who can live and who cannot live without the facts. I think your question is right to the issue.
Several other members of Congress appeared at the press conference to support passage of the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. Congresswoman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana spoke of the eloquence of the Federation, and urged that there be hearings on the Air Travel Rights Bill. Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder of Colorado next spoke. She said:
Thank you to the National Federation of the Blind for pushing this. And thank you, Congressman Traficant, who have really moved this forward. What you have heard described is clearly a wrong. There is no question: It is a wrong. And the way we remedy that wrong is with Congressman Traficant's bill. I think the time has come to move it front and center. The reason half our colleagues can't get through here [to the press conference] is that you've got so many people out in the hall lobbying this bill which is great. We're grateful to see that enthusiasm. I think it shows how very important the right to travel is. It's a very essential part of people's freedom today, and you the blind want to travel as normal citizens and not as members of a lower status. It's absolutely wrong.
So, you have heard the very eloquent pleas. You've heard the testimony, as we all have. And now, we want to get on to the work of getting this bill passed. And I think we will, don't you, with all these people here? I tell you. It's great! Thanks for all being here.
Congressman Benjamin Gilman of New York addressed the press conference with these words:
I want to commend our good colleague from Ohio, Mr. Traficant, for bringing this measure before us in the Congress and moving it forward toward the floor for consideration. We hope we are going to see early consideration of the bill in this session, and many of us are going to do whatever we can to help Congressman Traficant bring that about. I, too, want to commend the National Federation of the Blind for your eloquent remarks pointing out how the discrimination process has been working in many of our airlines despite the fact that we have a measure on the books, the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, which prohibits discrimination against qualified handicapped individuals in air travel. I think it's long overdue that we address the problem. And it is certainly a national problem. It is certainly appropriate that it be before the Congress, and I am hoping that we can attack it early in the session. Congressman Traficant, we are here to help. Thank You.
Then, Congressman Larry Craig of Idaho said:
It's my tremendous pleasure to join with my colleague here, Jim Traficant, in sponsoring H.R. 563. I must also recognize the representative from the Idaho Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, Ramona Walhof, who is here today in the audience. I don't know if there is a great deal more I can say that hasn't already been said about this important piece of legislation. We are simply talking about equal rights. We are talking about an opportunity to be treated like everyone else. Most importantly, we are talking about an opportunity for people who have tremendous capability to cope under the circumstances that many of the airlines suggest that they cannot handle. In many instances the blind know their surroundings better because they work hard at understanding the sighted. I am tremendously pleased to have been a cosponsor and now again be a cosponsor of this legislation, and I'll certainly work hand in glove with my colleague to assure that we can move this in a timely fashion through Mr. Oberstar's committee. I serve on Public Works and Transportation, and we are going to move this along at a rate of speed that we hope will get it to the floor during the balance of this session so that we can have a vote on it, and get it to the President for his signature. I am convinced that if Congress acts in a responsible manner, our President too will do the same by signing this into law. Thank you for your persistence and your tenacity in pushing this issue forward. I look forward with a lot of encouragement to seeing it as a part of our law.
The foregoing are representative excerpts from the statements of support for the rights of blind people to travel as equals on the airlines. Several hundred blind people were present at the press conference. The room was much too small to hold us. After participating in the formal activities, I stepped into the hall to speak with Federationists. I said that the pledges of support had been strong and that twelve news outlets had covered the conference. I reiterated briefly the expressions of encouragement that had been made. The hallway we were in was almost a block long, and we filled it from end to end. In true Federation spirit, a number of people began singing the airline song.
Photographers and reporters had been packing their equipment to leave. However, when they heard the roar of the crowd, they grabbed their cameras. They said to me, Can they sing it again? We could, and we did. The halls of the Rayburn building rang with the vibrant spirit of the Federation:
Let's go out to the airport.
We're just part of the crowd.
If you insist on preboarding us, the NFB will raise a national fuss...
NFB OF CONNECTICUT
INFORMS MOTORISTS AND EDUCATES PUBLIC
John J. Hadlow is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. He is also a man with drive and persistence. When he became blind in 1986, he began to use a white cane and found that motorists seemed unaware of the provisions of the state White Cane Law. At least, says Hadlow, they seemed unaware of the provisions of the law since they consistently failed to stop or give me the right of way when I crossed the highway in front of my home near Danbury to catch a bus to go into town.
Hadlow and Jacquilyn Billey, President of the NFB of Connecticut, decided that something needed to be done to educate the motoring public. Here is how Hadlow tells it: After giving the matter thought, we decided to prepare a card to be mailed out by the state Motor Vehicle Department with all driver's license renewal applications. These would be sent to all drivers in the state. I discussed the matter with the people at the Motor Vehicle Department, and they were enthusiastic and helpful.
Next, I went to the art department of the Grolier Corporation, printers of Encyclopedia Americana and Book of Knowledge . They translated my rough sketch into camera-ready copy for the printer. After more than six months of negotiation, the Motor Vehicle Department agreed to use our inserts for the next four years, but at this stage Jacquilyn and I hit a roadblock. The Motor Vehicle Department did not have the money to pay for the printing. They estimated we would need 500,000 per year.
Here in Danbury we have one of the largest printing establishments in the United States, Danbury Printing and Lithography. They agreed to donate the printing if we would supply the paper, which we did at a cost of $2,500 for the first year's supply of 500,000 copies. We have now bought an additional two-year supply (one million copies) on the same terms except that it cost us $7,200 because of the increased cost of paper.
The program has been operating for over two years, and we feel there are noticeable effects. Here in Danbury and in all parts of the state we have had additional distribution through high school driver education programs, AARP, and fraternal organizations. I have also had these inserts put into the pay envelopes of the members of the Danbury Police Department. After all, they are the ones who must enforce the law, so they ought to know what it says.
At the Denver convention last year I distributed quite a number of these inserts to NFB members from various states, and there was widespread interest in the program. Not only is this a good way of promoting safety but also of getting the name of the National Federation of the Blind before the public. I think other states should consider adopting similar projects. Here is what the insert says :
OBEY THE LAW
When You See Pedestrians With
A White Cane Or A Guide Dog...
They Have The Right Of Way!
AND REMEMBER... By law you MUST STOP for pedestrians in crosswalks.
For further information contact:
The National Federation of the Blind
135 Burnside Avenue
East Hartford, CT 06108
Sponsored by the Connecticut Motor Vehicle Department.
CONN. GENERAL STATUTES
TITLE 53, 1987 REVISION
Sec. 53-211. Use of white canes by others than blind persons prohibited. Vehicles to reduce speed, grant right of way. (a) No person, except one wholly or partially blind, shall carry or use on any street or highway, or in any other public place, a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white tipped with red.
(b) Any driver of a vehicle who approaches or comes into the immediate vicinity of a person wholly or partially blind, carrying a white cane or a white cane tipped with red, or a person being guided by a guide dog, shall reduce speed or stop if necessary to grant the right of way to such person.
(c) Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars.
(1949 Rev., S. 8543; February, 1965, P.A. 448, S. 43.) History: 1965 act amended Subsec. (b) to include persons with guide dogs and to change duty of driver from taking such precautions before proceeding as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to reducing speed or stopping as necessary to grant right-of-way to blind or partially blind persons and amended Subsec. (c) to increase maximum fine from twenty-five to one hundred dollars.
THIEF TO PAY BLIND VENDOR
From the Editor: The following article by Margaret O'Shea appeared in the January 24, 1990, issue of The State, South Carolina's largest newspaper. We received it from Donald Capps, NFB of South Carolina President. Here is the article:
Bacon cheeseburgers and candy bars can be pretty expensive for people who try to get them for nothing.
A customer caught cheating blind vendor Norman F. Hood has agreed in an out-of-court settlement to pay $625 for passing off small bills as $20 bills. If the money's not paid by March 15, the man will be sued in magistrate's court under terms of the settlement. Hood, who operates the concession stand at the Solomon Blatt state office building, spent more than $400 in legal fees to file a complaint after discovering that a regular customer was robbing him. The man would order food at the Blatt canteen and pay for it with a $1 or a $5 bill, but he would tell Hood that he was handing him $20. Twice Hood accepted the man's money, only to find his cash drawer short at the end of the day. The third time, Hood asked an assistant to look at the bill he had been offered. It was a five.
In all, Hood lost $17.53, but he asked for more commensurate with the defendant's contemptible conduct.
The settlement calls for a $200 payment plus legal fees. Hood pressed the claim with the help of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, which has lobbied for and monitored state laws giving blind vendors dibs on concessions in public buildings. Federation President Donald Capps said the case should send a message, loud and clear, that we cannot and will not tolerate this type of conduct. We believe blind vendors have as much right as anyone else to make an honest living. To deliberately cheat a blind vendor out of his profits, simply because he can't see, is a low and petty crime. Neither Hood nor the Federation would identify the man involved in the complaint.
Columbia attorney V. Jean Burkins said the settlement provides that the name not be disclosed unless the man doesn't honor the agreement. If that happens, he'll face a jury trial in open court, and his name will be a matter of public record, Ms. Burkins said.
GROOMING FOR GOLD
Do you want to try something different and exciting at the NFB's fiftieth anniversary convention in Dallas? The Mary Kay Cosmetic Corporation is sponsoring a seminar on color coordination, clothing selection, make-up application, hair and nail care, and much more in other words, all aspects of good grooming and personal appearance. Each person attending the seminar will also have at a separate time a private session with a trained consultant. At that appointment there will be a complete facial, help with application of make-up, and personalized color coordination, including color swatches to use in clothing selection. Wait this is not just for ladies! Men can get color-coordinated too! It never hurts to learn all we can about looking our best. What: Personal appearance and grooming seminar Where: Hyatt Regency DFW in Dallas (Check your pre-convention agenda.) When: Sunday evening, July 1, at 6:00 p.m. Cost: $15.00 (Everyone who pre-registers for the seminar will receive a $10 gift certificate toward the purchase of Mary Kay products.)
The NFB Treasury will receive $10 of every registration fee and twenty percent of all sales at the Mary Kay table in the exhibit hall. Mary Kay has everything from women's perfumes and men's cologne to hair care products, skin care systems, and all types of make-up.
To pre-register, send name, address, and check made payable to Molly White for $15 to: Marie Cobb, 202 South Augusta Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21229. If you have questions, you may call (301) 644-6352.
by Kenneth Jernigan
Somewhere around 1970, when the National Office of the Federation was at the Randolph Hotel Building in Des Moines, I began making a concoction which I called NFB Tea. I served it to the first seminar, which occurred in the fall of 1973, and I served it in the presidential suite at national conventions. Some admired it; others couldn't tolerate it; but everybody knew about it. Then, as the seventies passed into history and the eighties came and went, the custom of serving NFB Tea at conventions and seminars faded. However, there are those who pine for the good old days and long to see a revival of the soothing brew. They continue to ask that the recipe for NFB Tea appear in the Monitor.
When I remind them that I put it into the Monitor some time early in the seventies, they simply respond with annoyance, saying that they don't remember it, don't have that edition of the Monitor, or don't want to be bothered with irrelevancies. Since the recipe is now quite different from what it was when it appeared in the Monitor a decade and a half ago and since the requests continue, it seems worthwhile to print it again. So here it is as revised: You can make as much or as little NFB Tea as you want by increasing or decreasing the quantity of the three basic ingredients. Just keep the proportions the same. Pour equal parts of pineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice or cranberry cocktail into a large container. If you don't intend to use at least as much as a forty-six-ounce can of each of these juices, it hardly seems worth the bother, not to mention which it will be difficult not to overflavor. After you mix these three basic juices, the fun begins. I usually add about one-third as much peach or apricot nectar and one-third as much apple juice as I have used of each of the three basic ingredients. Sometimes (but not always) I also add a small amount of pear nectar if I have it, about half as much as I have used of the apple or peach. Then I begin to sweeten the mixture with either sugar or sugar substitute and add flavors, tasting as I go. I regard certain flavorings as indispensable, but NFB Tea is a highly flexible brew, which should be crafted to the taste of the brewer. I always use vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I use liquid cinnamon and nutmeg, and if I don't have the liquid, I make it by heating the ground spice in water as strong as I can and straining it.
Next I add small amounts of a large variety of other flavorings. I emphasize that you should begin with only dribs and drabs. Remember that you can always put more in, but once it's there, you can't take it out. The mixture of flavors will depend on the whim of the moment and what I have handy. But I will always use at least eight or nine in addition to the cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. Here are some of the ones I use: almond, Angustora bitters, anise, apple pie spice, arrack flavoring, banana, blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, brandy flavor, butternut, butterscotch, butter rum, caramel, cherry, peach, chocolate, clove, coconut, coffee flavor, English toffee, a tiny amount of ginger, hickory nut, lemon, pineapple, lime, maple, orange, orange bitters, pear, pecan, pistachio, pumpkin pie spice, root beer, rose, rum flavor, sassafras, violet, sherry flavor, strawberry, tangerine, walnut, and most anything else I can find.
I don't use mint, eucalyptus oil, or wintergreen. It will also be observed that NFB Tea contains no tea. When I first started making the brew in the early seventies, I used Lipton tea, but I abandoned the practice before the end of the decade. It had to do with some of my Mormon friends and also with my evolving taste. I like it better without the tea.
When the mixture has been thoroughly concocted and tasted, a good deal of ice should be added and stirred in. All that remains is to enjoy the product and try different proportions next time, but not different proportions among the three basic ingredients pineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice or cocktail. And no omission of the three basic flavorings vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Anything else goes.
PEANUT BUTTER PIE
by Barbara Pierce
Those who attend the annual Washington Seminar each February know that the Capitol Holiday Inn, our headquarters hotel, used to have peanut butter pie on its menu. This dessert was extraordinarily delicious, and Federationists asked hopefully for it for years after the restaurant had ceased to carry it. We have been returning to this facility now for so long that the sales staff considers us to be valued customers, so for several years now, the hotel has made special arrangements to have peanut butter pie on the menu for our members during the Washington Seminar.
I tried to get the hotel staff to give me the name of the bakery that makes this pie so that I could attempt to print the recipe in these pages, but so far, at least, I have failed. I will keep trying, but in the meantime, here is the recipe that I have developed for my family and friends. It is as near the real thing as I can create. I freely admit that it is not exact, but my family, who have not, of course, tasted the original have voted it a favorite. Because of their enthusiasm, I usually make it in a 13 by 9 inch pan rather than a pie plate. Cutting these proportions in half should fill a 9-inch pie plate nicely. The graham cracker crust directions, however, remain the same for both versions.
1 packet (12) graham crackers
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 12-ounce bag chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups milk
1 cup sugar
7 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup real cocoa
a dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large container Cool Whip, use the small container for one pie
(a pint of whipping cream may be substituted)
Method : Crush crackers and pour melted butter or margarine over the crumbs in the 13- by 9-inch baking dish or 9-inch pie plate. Press the crumbs firmly across the bottom of either dish and up the sides of the pie plate. You can chill this crust, but you will have better results if you bake it at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and smells done. Carefully melt the chocolate chips together with the condensed milk and spread evenly over the crust. Chill the dish thoroughly. Heat the peanut butter slightly so that it will pour easily. A microwave is ideal for this job. Pour the peanut butter evenly over the chocolate layer and return the dish to the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
In a large sauce pan combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt, stirring well to break up the lumps of cornstarch and cocoa. Slowly add all the milk, stirring constantly. Do not begin heating until the mixture is free of lumps. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Continue cooking and stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and add vanilla, stirring gently to cool the mixture slightly then cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the filling and refrigerate until well chilled. With a mixer at high speed beat the chilled filling until it is fluffy and then fold in the Cool Whip or whipped cream. Spread the filling evenly over the peanut butter layer of the dessert and chill thoroughly. You may garnish with whipped cream. Serve in small slices; this dessert is very rich.
The following item appeared in the January 11, 1990, Fresno (California) Bee :
Forewoman Says Blindness No Bar to Civil Duty
by Jim Steinberg
Don't say extraordinary, heroic, astounding, or anything like that, instructed Toni Eames of Fresno, jury forewoman in a Superior Court cocaine possession trial. There is nothing amazing about her being a juror who is blind.
She is not the first, but blind jurors are rare. She says that is unfair. To Eames, a Fresno State University adjunct professor of sociology, her jury duty is not a case of the miraculous, but one of simple non-discrimination. True, she said during a break in jury deliberation Wednesday, she has extra chores in getting to court, absorbing evidence, understanding physical exhibits. But she has what she needs to get that job done. She is a blind person who copes, and Eames said that all anybody needs to know about any blind person facing any task: Can the person cope? Eames and her husband, Ed, both teach at Fresno State as well as at the California School of Professional Psychology. All she needs is her guide dog, Ivy, and spoken explanation of physical exhibits in court.
**Salt Lake City:
President Maurer recently received a letter from Milton Taylor of Utah, which said in part:
There have been some recent leadership changes in the Salt Lake Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah. Milton Taylor was elected President, with Premo Foianini as Treasurer, Gloria Taylor as Secretary, and Michelle Foulger as Board Member. We're excited about the possibilities of reaching out to more blind persons in the Salt Lake area, blind persons especially who are not fully aware of what is possible for them. We know that at the grass roots level is where it counts. One of my chief goals is to establish a greater sense of responsibility for unity and brotherly love. We win people by truly caring and letting them know that we really want their life to be the best it can be.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: LS&S Group's latest catalog contains descriptions of more than 1,000 products many of them new of particular interest to visually impaired and blind people. For a free print 1990/91 catalog call LS&S Group, Inc., toll-free: 1-(800) 468-4789. Illinois residents call: (708) 498-9777. If you prefer a voice-indexed cassette catalog, please send $3 to LS&S Group, Inc., Post Office Box 673, Northbrook, Illinois 60065. Your $3 will be refunded with your first purchase.
We are informed by national board member the Reverend Frank Lee of Alabama, of the death of Solomon Greene on Friday, January 19, 1990. Mr. Greene died of cancer, which he had been battling for the last year. At the time of his death he was first vice president of the Huntsville Chapter of the NFB of Alabama and was a former state board member. Shortly before his death Solomon Greene married Louise Greene, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama.
**Medical Transcription Reference Books:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I have the following medical transcription books available: AAMT Notebook 1981 , one Braille volume, free; Pathology Words and Phrases:
A Quick Reference Guide: 1988 , three Braille volumes, $25; Stylebook, Editorial Manual of the AMA, 1987 , five Braille volumes and two supplements, $35. Please inquire by phone or cassette or Braille correspondence to confirm availability: Janell Peterson, 303 Harvard Avenue, East, Apartment 302, Seattle, Washington 98102-5487; (206) 328-4778.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For sale, low cost print and Braille system: For IBM compatible computers. Hardware and software. System consists of the Brother HR40 Daisy Wheel Printer with 15-inch wide carriage, tractor, and friction feed. Easy to operate with print and Braille manuals. Special soft roller for producing draft quality Braille. Braille translation software for Grade 1, 2, and computer Braille. Two text formatter programs for ASCII and Word Perfect files. Print and Braille and disc based documentation for all. Tractor feed 60-weight Braille paper included and ink ribbons. Original cost one year ago to me, $1,700. Will sell for $800 plus shipping. More information contact Mr. Tandy Way, 8909 Peppermill Court, Tampa, Florida 33634; (813) 885-7182.
**Call If Interested:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I am a 34-year-old blind man. I have a successful career, and I am now working very hard at establishing my own business. I live in New York City, but I consider myself a country boy. I am looking for that special woman to play guitar for, to go for long walks with, and who understands the unique circumstances of being blind. I am a fitness freak and would appreciate a woman who keeps herself fit. My name is Peter, and you may call me collect at (718) 507- 7207.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Pamphlets on menstruation, childbirth, menopause, and even an introductory book on sexuality for children are now part of our list of publications in Braille or large print. We have also recently transcribed a 690-page (in 7 volumes) spelling dictionary of oncologic terms for medical transcribers and a 195-page dictionary of commonly misused words, which contains correct usage, definitions, and examples. For a Braille or large print catalog, contact TFB Publications, 238 75th Street, North Bergen, New Jersey 07047; (201) 662-0956. All orders must be prepaid and must include an additional $.25 for orders under $1.
Fred Schroeder, who ought to know, writes as follows: On January 5, 1990, Cathy Schroeder, President of the Albuquerque Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, underwent surgery to remove her gall bladder. She has subsequently returned home and is recovering speedily.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I have a seven-year-old Visual-Tek Voyager VR1 for sale. This is a device for magnifying print. I am asking best offer. I will take inquiries on cassette or in Braille. My address is: Kerry Smith, 890 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake, Illinois 60014; and my phone number is (815) 459-1551.
We are informed of the death of one of the leaders of our Alaska affiliate, Gwen Canham. She died December 5, 1989, in Anchorage. She was a former treasurer and then later second vice president of the NFB of Alaska. Gwen Canham was a woman of great principle and strength and will be missed as a member of our organization.
Barbara Pierce, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, reports that on Saturday, January 13, 1990, the National Federation of the Blind of the Miami Valley came into being. A number of loyal Federationists from the old Dayton Federation of the Blind as well as many new faces were on hand for the great event. The members of the Board of Directors of the newest Ohio chapter are President, Jana Schroeder; Vice President, Jeannette Huskey; Secretary, Kim Bundy; Treasurer, Larry Ward; and Board Member, Myers Bost. We expect much from this lively new chapter.
Diane Felice of Ohio writes: The Capital Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio coordinated and hosted a Christmas party for the students of the Ohio State School for the Blind on December 18, 1989. A fun-filled evening was had by all as local Federationists intermingled with the festivity-oriented teen-agers during the pizza party, door prize, and gift-giving segments but bowed out graciously while students cut the rug during the high-spirited dance contest.
**A Model Mayor:
The National Federation of the Blind of Wyoming held its annual convention September 30, 1989, in Casper. Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind was the national representative, and the day was filled with interesting and important activities. Mayor Shamley of Casper was on hand to welcome the convention, and his remarks were a model of what it would be helpful to have public officials understand about blindness and the National Federation of the Blind. Whether Mayor Shamley wrote his remarks after reviewing some of our literature or Tammy Kearney, the energetic president of the affiliate wrote them for him, they are worth reprinting as a useful example to us all as we contact community leaders. Here is what Mayor Shamley had to say:
I am pleased to welcome you to our community. On behalf of the Casper City Council, city staff, and the citizens of Casper, I extend our best wishes for a successful and productive conference.
The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of the blind in America. Its ultimate purpose is the complete integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality, which involves the removal of legal, economic, and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievement by all blind people of the right to exercise to the fullest their individual talents and capacities. It means the right of the blind to work along with their sighted neighbors in the professions, common callings, skilled trades, and regular occupations.
One thing I think we all have to remember is that the real problem of blindness is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness is only a physical nuisance.
Again, I am pleased to be here this morning. If there is ever anything I or the City of Casper government can do for you, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Laurie Eckery writes: On January 6, 1990, the following persons were elected to office in the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, Omaha Chapter: President, Larry Streeter; First Vice President, Lonnie Merritt; Second Vice President, Gary Thompson; Secretary, Laurie Eckery; Treasurer, Carol Thompson; and four board positions: Sandy Streeter, Alan Kopetzky, Jerry Eckery, and Kathy Brahmer.
Tom Bickford, who works at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, submits the following: Just by living and successfully using the alternative methods that we do, blind people show the world, including some authors, how practical and sensible these methods are. As an example: If you are searching for an invisible object, you can feel for it. To extend the reach of your arm, you can use a long white cane. In H. F. Saint, Memoirs of an Invisible Man , RC 25986, a man becomes invisible through an accident at a scientific laboratory.
An un-named government agency takes an interest in the case and tries to capture him, but he repeatedly escapes. The search methods evolve as the story goes along. Late in the book the agency corners the invisible man in the lobby of an apartment house. Some of the agents, all of whom are sighted, have long canes, the kind blind people use, sweeping them back and forth to search for someone they cannot see. It appears that blind people are not the only ones to recognize the value of the long cane.
Allen Schaefer, President of the Prairie State Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, writes as follows: With deep sadness we report the death of Mrs. Virginia Kemp of Dwight. She was a long-time member of our NFBI Prairie State Chapter. She gave much happiness to and shared much kindness with all who knew her.
Donna Posont of Michigan submits the following: The NFB of Michigan Parents Division is selling sweatshirts and t-shirts with print and Braille lettering Braille Readers are Leaders. The shirts are royal blue with white raised Braille dots and yellow lettering with the NFB logo and the words National Federation of the Blind. The sweatshirts are available in children's sizes small, medium, and large for $15; and adult sizes small, medium, large, and extra large for $18 and extra, extra large for $20. The t-shirts are available in the same sizes for $8 for children, $10 for adults, and $12 for adult extra, extra large. To order, please make check or money order payable to the NFBM Parents Division. Be sure to include $2 for shipping and handling for each shirt ordered. Please remit to: Donna Posont, 4539 Rosalie, Dearborn, Michigan 48126.
Here is how the Federation works:
January 29, 1990
Dear Mrs. Maurer:
On January 26, 1990, I called your office and spoke to you concerning a call we had received from the parent of a visually impaired child. A local theater had refused the parent's request for seating near the stage so that the child could also see and enjoy the show.
You assured me that you would put the parent in touch with your contact person here in the state of Washington to help resolve the situation.
I was advised by the parent today that your contact person was effective in helping theater personnel to a better understanding of the needs of the visually impaired youngster. As a result of this intervention the theater provided four seats near the front of the theater for the family, and the child enjoyed the show along with everyone else. Thank you for your swift and outstanding intervention on behalf of this family. It was timely and impressive. And the family was just delighted.
**Statement from a Chapter President:
We recently received the following letter from Tami Dodd Jones: On January 15, 1990, the Lansing Chapter, National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, held elections. The new officers are: Tami Jones, President; Joe Sontag, Vice President; Margaret Conry, Secretary; Vickie Chapman, Treasurer; Cathy Parker, Ombudsman; Dorothy Eagle, Chapter Representative; and Joy Osmar, Board Member. Our chapter has several important goals for 1990. We plan to work with our state legislative committee to get our Braille literacy bill passed. We will work on membership-building and increase our fund-raising efforts to keep our chapter strong and growing. And we will find new and better ways to educate the public about blindness and the goals of the Federation. Together we hope to accomplish these major goals. And I, as president, pledge to work to make it so.
Jacquilyn Billey, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, reports that on January 13, 1990, the Greater Waterbury Chapter of the NFB of Connecticut became the affiliate's seventh chapter. The officers elected were President, Esther Levegnale; Vice President, Mary Terrell; and Treasurer, John Casolo. If the name Casolo sounds familiar to you, it is probably because John's daughter Jennifer made recent headlines as a result of an incident in El Salvador. The new chapter shows every sign of being active and energetic. Already a news story about it has appeared in the Waterbury Republican , and flyers listing the organization's projects have been circulated in the community. Good luck to the newest member of our family in Connecticut.
**Tenth Anniversary Election:
Lola Pace (President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wichita Falls, Texas, almost since its beginning) writes to report that in January, 1990, the chapter celebrated its tenth anniversary and elected the following members to serve as officers: Lola Pace, President; Mary Barker, Vice President; and Darlene Holcomb, Secretary-Treasurer. Evelyn Stephens was re-elected to the board, and Dale Pierce, who has been a member of the Federation for just over a year, was also elected to the board. Congratulations, Wichita Falls; we'll see you in Dallas.
**A Small Pot of Gold:
Julie Vogt is a thoughtful and active member of the NFB of Minnesota. She also takes seriously her responsibility as a citizen. On October 15, 1989, she attended the first annual convention of the Rainbow Coalition in Minnesota. Thanks to her articulate presentation concerning the importance of the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act (H.R. 563), the Rainbow Coalition passed a resolution urging Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota to schedule a hearing for the bill. In our ongoing struggle for passage of this bill, we need all the friends we can persuade to help us. Julie Vogt has provided us all with a fine example. Here are the letter and resolution sent to Congressman Oberstar by the Rainbow Coalition:
November 8, 1989
Congressman James Oberstar
2209 Rayburn Office Building
The Minnesota Rainbow Coalition passed a resolution at its recent statewide convention endorsing the right of blind people to travel freely on our nation's airlines and supporting the passage of the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act (H.R. 563). It has been brought to my attention that this bill is currently stalled at the committee level, and that you, as head of the subcommittee on aviation, are the man with the power to get it moving.
Speaking for myself and on behalf of the Minnesota Rainbow Coalition, I strongly urge you to convene hearings on H.R. 563 as soon as possible. According to Mrs. Joyce Scanlon, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Minnesota, there are between nine and ten thousand blind Minnesotans who will be affected by this bill. These people do not deserve to be left in limbo on an issue which so vitally affects their mobility in this country. I hope that you, as a responsible representative of the people, will do all that you can to ensure the speedy passage of this bill.
I thank you for your attention in this matter and ask that you keep me informed as to your actions in regard to it.
Julie Quinn, Chair
Platform & Issues Committee
The Minnesota Rainbow Coalition acknowledges the right of the blind to travel freely on our nation's airlines and therefore endorses the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act (H.R. 563). In addition, the Minnesota Rainbow Coalition supports the National Federation of the Blind, headquartered at 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland, in its legislative efforts to secure travel rights for the blind.
Passed 10/15/1989 at the Minnesota Rainbow Coalition's first statewide convention.
**An Entrepreneurial Enterprise:
Many of us know Bee Hodgkiss, a member of our Minnesota affiliate, as one of the regular volunteers who helps unload and load the truck-full of materials which we take to our National Convention each year. Recently, Bee established a business to produce engraved, tactile signs, awards, and maps on clear acrylic. With sophisticated computer and related equipment, Bee can provide made-to-order items, which can have Braille and/or print lettering. The system Bee uses digitizes photographs, logos, other graphics, and lettering and transfers the image onto either 1/8 inch thick or 1/4 inch thick acrylic. Items can be produced on a piece as small as 2 x 2 inches and on up to 6 x 6 inches for portraits and most graphics and 8-1/2 x 11 inches for some other applications. Wedding invitations, marriage licenses, birth certificates, graduation announcements, and certificates of appreciation can be photographed by the system, digitized, and reproduced in acrylic. Portrait style photographs can be reproduced with this process. For further information you may contact Bee at: Suite 2604, 1117 Marquett Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403; phone (612) 333-3100.