Vol. 33, No.
5 May 1990
Barbara Pierce, Editor
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the president,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the editor
should be sent to the National Office.
cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 33, No. 5 May 1990
VICTORY IN THE COLORADO VENDING SUIT
by Marc Maurer
A MOTHER OF BLIND CHILDREN ADDRESSES THE PROFESSIONALS
by Barbara Rooney
THE "REASONABLY PRUDENT" BLIND PERSON:
REFLECTIONS ON THE TEACHING OF THE LAW AND PERCEPTIONS OF
by Christopher Kuczynski
MISSING THE POINT: BECOMING A WAY OF LIFE AT AMTRAK
BLIND MEN WITHOUT ELEPHANTS
RECORDING FOR THE BLIND NOT FOR STUDENTS ONLY
by Adrienne Asch
TAKING IT TO TALK SHOWS: NEW IDEAS ON AN OLD JOB
by Charles Biebl
TEACHING TEACHERS ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS
by Barbara Pierce
MY MOST UNUSUAL DAY
by Zach Shore
WHO'S ABLE TO TEACH?
by Gwen Nelson
I'D RATHER BE MUGGED
by Michael Baillif
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD: LETTER FROM LILLIAN SYKES CHANGING
PUBLIC ATTITUDES ABOUT BLINDNESS:
IOWA'S INFORMATION FAIR
by Peggy Pinder
TO WHET YOUR APPETITE
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1990
VICTORY IN THE COLORADO VENDING SUIT
by Marc Maurer
One of the more disturbing trends evident in Business Enterprise Programs in state rehabilitation agencies today is the growing effort to restrict the earnings of blind food service operators. Even in states in which there are too few trained vendors, agency personnel are quick to divide profitable locations into two-, three-, or four-person partnerships so that no one vendor will be rewarded for hard work and creativity by making an income comparable to that paid to the supervisory staff in the rehabilitation agency's vending program.
The National Federation of the Blind has fought this trend vigorously, and we have been able to reach a satisfactory settlement in what is perhaps the longest and one of the most disturbing cases of income-splitting on record. The victory for vendors is important, not only because one lucrative location has been preserved, but also because the rehabilitation agency in Colorado has capitulated rather than face having the case heard before a Federal District Court. In this case, the Randolph- Sheppard Act has been the vehicle for protecting lucrative locations from being divided on the pretext of increasing the opportunities available to blind vendors.
In May of 1986 the vendor who had been managing the facility at the Postal Terminal Annex in Denver, Colorado, was due to retire. The location, which included vending machines on each of four floors, was quite lucrative; and the Colorado Department of Social Services decided that in the future it would be divided so that two vendors could each service two floors. Although the income to each vendor would, of course, have been only about half of what the vending stand had been producing for its previous operator, the Colorado agency thought that the reduced amount would be enough for the blind. The 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act require that the state vendors' advisory committee participate in the decision-making process when a state agency is considering matters of policy. Dividing such a location among operators is such a matter of policy. Later events demonstrated clearly that the Colorado Department for Social Services had already made its decision by the time the issue was mentioned to the Blind Vendors Committee, which, not surprisingly, opposed the action. The Department went ahead with its plans regardless of vendor objections, so Don Hudson and Richard Jack (both Colorado vendors with a great deal of seniority and both active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado) decided to appeal this decision since both of them were interested in bidding on the location. The Department of Social Services ruled that they had no right to file appeals because its decision had nothing to do with their current locations. Hudson and Jack had no choice but to turn to the Federal Court to seek an injunction, preventing the Colorado Department of Social Services from dividing the location until the dispute was settled. In April of 1986 the court issued an order under which the Department of Social Services was required to staff the location with a temporary vendor until final resolution of the question could be achieved. Hudson and Jack won the right to appeal the Department's decision, and a full evidentiary hearing was conducted in October, 1986. Not surprisingly, the panel, all of whom were employees of the Department of Social Services, ruled in favor of the Department, so Hudson and Jack requested that the matter go to arbitration.
Officials took a year to set up the arbitration procedure. James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind and an expert on Randolph-Sheppard matters, was named by Hudson and Jack to be one of the three panelists appointed to hear the case. The Department of Social Services appointed one member, and those two agreed upon a third panelist. In January of 1988 the panel ruled against Hudson and Jack in a two to one decision. Jim Gashel wrote a lengthy dissenting opinion, arguing in part that the intent of the 1974 Randolph-Sheppard Amendments was to increase not only the number but also the type and quality of food service operations. His memorandum, which may be useful to other vendors fighting similar cases is reprinted here:
From: James Gashel
Re: In the matter of Donald Hudson and Richard Jack vs. The Colorado Department of Social Services Case No. R-S/87-7 This memorandum is prepared to provide analysis of the issues and the requirements of the Randolph-Sheppard Act ( the Act ) as they apply in the above captioned matter. Throughout the following discussion Donald Hudson and Richard Jack will be referred to collectively as the vendors. The Colorado Department of Social Services will be referred to as the state.
The vendors have brought this action to challenge a state decision to split an existing vending facility at the Postal Service's Denver Terminal Annex ( the Annex ). The Annex has about 50 vending machines and provides the blind vendor with a challenging and financially rewarding opportunity. In net income to the vendor alone it is the best facility that the Colorado blind vending program has to offer.
The vendors have argued that the state has violated the Act both substantively and procedurally by attempting to split the Annex. In general they claim that the Act does not permit the state to take an action that would arbitrarily impose an income limit on a blind vendor. They argue that the Act is intended to help each blind vendor to achieve maximum vocational potential. Removing the best facility from the program and dividing it into two facilities (according to the vendors) defeats the purpose of the Act.
The vendors' procedural challenge is that the state by-passed the committee of blind vendors in deciding on its own to change the policy of having only one facility at the Annex. They argue that the vendors' committee was merely informed of the state's decision after it was already made. By-passing the committee violates the legal responsibility of the state to share such decisions (and their making) with the elected vendors' committee. Moreover, the vendors cite a no-forced-partnership policy, which they say the state and the committee have agreed to follow. The policy was intended to prevent partnerships of the type that would have to exist at the Annex under the state's split vending facility decision. Thus the committee's role was disregarded by the state in not sharing the decision making with the committee and by violating a prior policy that the state and the committee had agreed to.
The state's position amounts to a denial of these charges. The state claims that it has the administrative discretion to establish one, two, or more vending facilities at the Annex. According to this reasoning, the vendors have no basis for challenging the state's decision. It does not place any limit on their income or otherwise affect either of them adversely.
On the other hand, the state claims that it is feasible to split the Annex facility into two businesses, each of which will still earn a blind vendor a good income. The state acknowledges not having any particular income guidelines or limits, but the decision to split the Annex was not based on the income level, the state says.
So in general it is the state's basic contention that it had the authority to make the decision to split the Annex and that the decision complied with the Act and carried out its purposes. This is the central question presented to the panel: Does the Act permit the state substantially to reduce the size and income potential of a vending facility to create an additional facility of the same type at the same site?
The Act became law in 1936. At that point it was a very general statute providing a preference for the blind in setting up small stands in federal buildings. There were amendments to the Act in 1954, but the most sweeping and substantive changes occurred in 1974. Those changes unmistakably established the policy and the philosophy of the Act. Therefore, the underlying legislative history of the 1974 amendments is particularly relevant to this discussion.
Policy Direction of the Act
The impetus for the 1974 amendments came from findings of the Congress that the Randolph-Sheppard Program had not grown and had not been sustained in the manner (or in the spirit) intended. In his statement on the floor when the 1974 bill passed the Senate, Senator Randolph identified the conditions that were inconsistent with the policy and intent of the original Act. One condition was the erosion of the program, including the number, type, and size of vending facilities available for operation by the blind. A related condition and concern expressed by Senator Randolph was the erosion of income for blind vendors. Senator Randolph: It was my belief in 1969 that amendments were needed to protect blind vendors and improve the Randolph-Sheppard program. Today... I am more convinced that action is urgently needed. We must prevent erosion of the program and erosion of blind vendors' income, and improve and expand opportunities for meaningful employment of blind individuals. This statement provides the reasoning behind each and every provision in the pending measure prevention of the erosion of the program, prevention of the erosion of blind vendors' income, and improvement of employment for blind people.
Today I am more convinced that action is presently needed. We must prevent erosion of the program and improve and expand opportunities for meaningful employment of blind individuals. That reasoning, which I believe is sound, is written into each and every provision of the measure before us. We need to prevent the erosion of this effort and to prevent the erosion of the blind vendors' income.
We need, of course, to provide an opportunity for improvement, and not only improvement in the program and the facilities, but also improvement in the level of employment of our blind. Floor statements of the other Senators who spoke during the Senate's debate on the 1974 amendments to the Act echoed Senator Randolph's policy direction to expand opportunities for the blind in the program, to prevent erosion of income for blind vendors, and to increase the level of employment provided to the blind in the program. These statements reveal a deliberate policy direction for the Act that Congress carefully described. It is written into each and every provision. Accordingly, we must read and apply the provisions of the Act in light of this clearly stated purpose.
At first glance it may appear that the state faces a situation of competing policy directions. On the one hand the Act anticipates that the number of vending facilities will be increased. On the other hand the state must administer the program in a way that protects the program and blind vendors against income-eroding conditions. There is no question that both objectives must be fulfilled. They are part of the Act's policy direction. However, they are not necessarily incompatible. Nor is it expected that one objective must be fulfilled at the expense of another.
The Act clearly intends that one or more vending facilities are to be established on all federal property. Senate Report 93-937 contains one reference to encourage the establishment of more than one vending facility on federal property where this is feasible (see Senate Report 93-937, 93rd Congress, Second Session, The Randolph-Sheppard Act Amendments of 1974, June 17, 1974, p. 20). This does not mean, however, that the Act favors multiple facilities at single sites when this would result in reducing the size and income potential of an existing facility. The policy of the Act is clearly for the state to do more than simply increase the number of facilities. Otherwise the state could place 5 or 6 vendors at a site and multiply its success rate significantly. Doing so would not actually show success as expected by the Act, however. There is particular concern that the state is in conflict with the Act when the size and income level of a vending facility are reduced solely for the purpose of establishing another site. The Act expects that as many vending facilities as possible will be established in such a way that they do not substantially compete with each other, thereby reducing the income potential of the vendors. This expectation particularly applies when the establishment of a competing vending facility would erode the income potential for a blind vendor at an existing facility.
Reducing the size of a vending facility and reducing its income potential are inconsistent with the predominant policy of the Act. To reduce the size of a facility (even if the reduction is made to open another facility) erodes the growth potential available to some blind vendors. The purpose of the Act is to expand (not to erode) business opportunities for the blind. Expansion must occur both quantitatively and qualitatively. A conflict with this policy direction of the Act occurs whenever a quantitative expansion of the program erodes the quality of an existing business opportunity. Nowhere in the Act is there even the slightest reference to accomplishing expansion of the program by shrinking existing opportunities for blind vendors.
The Act's policy to expand opportunities, to improve income, and to increase the level of employment for the blind was expressly directed by several of the 1974 substantive amendments. Not one of these amendments even encourages expansion of the program by means of reducing the size and income potential of existing vending facilities. The amendments in fact go precisely in the opposite direction. The emphasis is on program expansion by way of opening more facilities in more federal buildings (see Senate Report 93-937, pp. 19 and 20). To do this the amendments include several clear-cut initiatives.
Giving blind vendors a statutory priority was seen as one of the most far-reaching provisions of the amendments. It was intended particularly to curb or reduce competition that resulted in eroding blind vendors' income. Congress was using the concept of a priority for blind vendors to improve the quality of the vending facilities for the blind as well as to increase the number of such facilities. As Senator Randolph said: We need, of course, to provide an opportunity for improvement, and not only improvement in the program and the facilities, but also improvement in the level of employment of our blind. Speaking directly to this point, Senator Dole also said:
Inevitably, competition has arisen for the vending business. And as this competition has developed, the blind have faced an erosion of their opportunities.... Basically, the bill (S. 2581) establishes a clear-cut and specific priority not merely a preference for blind vendors. It backs up that priority with regulations to insure that the priority is given full force and effect.
The Act requires the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Secretary of Education) to prescribe regulations designed to assure that the priority under this subsection is given to such licensed blind persons.... (20 USC Section 107(b)). The regulations are published at 34 CFR part 395. Section 395.16 is designed to assure the priority for the blind at federal sites by means of a permit including a detailed description of the vending facility, the space to be occupied, and the products to be sold. Section 395.33 (not necessarily relevant here) is designed to assure priority for the blind in operating cafeterias under contracts. The permit or contract for each vending facility is applied for by the state licensing agency and approved by the federal property-managing agency involved. These priority and permit requirements are clearly intended to give threshold protection to the interests of blind vendors. They are also designed to expand the blind vendor program both in the number and size of sites available and in their income potential for the blind. As Senator Randolph said, they are aimed at expanding the program, protecting blind vendors against erosion of their income, and increasing the level of their employment. But both the Act and the regulations also contain other relevant provisions that are intended to fulfill these policy directions.
For example: Any limitation on the placement or operation of a vending facility based on a finding that such placement or operation would adversely affect the interests of the United States shall be fully justified in writing to the Secretary, who shall determine whether such limitation is justified (see 20 USC section 107(b)(2) and 34 CFR section 395.30(b)). This provision clearly gives the Secretary the sole statutory responsibility to evaluate and finally approve any limitation that may be made to a vending facility that is operated under the Act.
By contrast, section 107a(c) and 34 CFR section 395.31(c) and (d) give authority to the state licensing agency (in consultation with the head of the affected federal agency) to determine that a satisfactory site exists and to decide whether or not to establish a vending facility. Furthermore, the state licensing agency then applies for the permit under section 395.16, and the federal agency approves or disapproves the permit. These sections do not call for or require the Secretary's involvement. They pertain to the establishment of the vending facility and the specification of the products it may sell. Once established, however, the vending facility exists within the terms defined in the permit or contract. If the permit or contract is to be limited, it appears that the Secretary is to play a pre-eminent role by application of 20 USC section 107(b)(2).
The statutory establishment of an elected state committee of blind vendors was also included to prevent the erosion of the blind vendors' income. The committee has a specified policy-making role in the statute and regulations (see 20 USC section 107b-1(2) and 34 CFR section 395.14). Congress intended that the committee should function to represent the vendors' interests in matters such as the decision that the state made on its own in this case. A decision to split the Annex would certainly raise policy issues and affect changes in the state's transfer and promotion system, especially for the most senior vendors. The plain language of the statute says that such matters may be resolved only with the participation of the blind vendors' committee.
Training, retraining, and upward mobility requirements were also placed in the Act to upgrade the level of employment for blind vendors. Under the amendments of 1974 each blind vendor is actually entitled to follow-up and follow-along services from the state in order to achieve the maximum vocational potential (see 20 USC section 107d-4 and 34 CFR section 395.11). Program and income expansion were also to be accomplished by providing a broader definition of vending facility (discarding the concept of a vending stand ), by provisions for paying vending machine income to blind vendors, and by arbitration and judicial review safeguards. These are among the many requirements that Congress included to prevent the erosion of the program and the erosion of blind vendors' income. As with all of the other provisions aimed at reversing these erosions that Congress found, these requirements are more than procedural niceties. This quick review of the Act and its 1974 amendments shows the integral relationship between each specific requirement and the overall policy direction that Senator Randolph identified preventing the erosion of the program, preventing the erosion of blind vendors' income, and increasing the level of employment of blind people.
As he said: This is written into each and every provision. Therefore anything that is done under the Act must not conflict with the fulfillment of these objectives. Moreover, this policy direction specifically excludes accomplishing these objectives by reducing the size and income potential of existing vending facilities to create additional facilities of the same type at the same site.
The state is required to pursue the programmatic objectives without eroding the income available (or potentially available) to blind vendors. Congress considered the question of the types of limits (if any) that could be placed on opportunities and income to the blind, and a deliberate choice was made. The law, therefore, permits income limits to occur under only two conditions or circumstances. The first is by permitting set aside charges against the net proceeds of a vendor in order to achieve certain very specific programmatic objectives. These are essentially for program maintenance and for vendor benefits (see 20 USC section 107b(3) and 34 CFR section 395.9). These provisions are clearly not aimed at reducing the size of vending facilities but rather are intended to support ongoing program operations.
The second limitation is a ceiling that may be imposed on any vendor's receipt of vending machine income. The income in question is from vending machines that the vendor does not operate, service, or maintain. Payments of such income to a vendor are made to compensate the vendor for competition from the vending machines. But the Act specifically says that no limitation shall be imposed on income from vending machines, combined to create a vending facility, which are maintained, serviced, or operated by a blind licensee (see 20 USC section 107d-3(a) and 34 CFR section 395.8(a)).
These limitations on blind vendor income are very deliberate and very carefully prescribed. The fact that they exist at all shows that Congress considered the question of limiting vendor income and chose only two methods or circumstances for doing it by means of a set aside to support program operations and for vendor benefits; and by way of a ceiling on income from machines that the vendor does not operate. Neither limitation permits the actual reduction in size of a vending facility in order to accommodate the placement of another blind vendor. That is the type of limit that Congress did not legislate, although it could have done so. This review of the Act shows that the failure was not accidental.
The priority for the vending facility at the Annex is implemented by a specific permit. The permit describes a single site. The state's plan to split the site has included a request to the Postal Service for issuance of two permits for separate vending facilities at the Annex. The current permit expresses the value of the priority for a blind vendor at the Annex. It describes the size and scope of the operation. The permit was negotiated on behalf of the blind vendors who are intended to become its beneficiaries.
The Annex facility under the single permit is at the top of the promotion ladder in the program. In splitting the facility the state would be decreasing the income value of the promotion potential for the vendors. The Annex facilities created by virtue of the split would no longer be the best. Therefore, the income possibilities that either of the vendors could realize by promotion would be eroded. Such an erosion is in conflict with the Act's policy direction to prevent erosion of the program, to expand opportunities for blind vendors, and to increase the level of employment for the blind provided by the program.
This is not to say that the establishment of more than one vending facility at any particular site will always violate the policy of the Act. In fact, the state already has one existing site where more than one vending facility is operated. But these facilities are not of the same type one is a snack bar and the other is a dry stand. There is also evidence that the vendors and the state agree on continuing to have a vending machine operation conducted by one blind vendor at the Annex and adding a separate cafeteria operation to be conducted by another blind vendor. These situations are certainly permissible under the Act. But when the state substantially reduces the size and income potential of an existing vending facility merely to create another facility, there is an inevitable and impermissible erosion of the level of income that either of the vendors can obtain. Under the Act the state and the Postal Service appear to have broad authority to determine the exact size and scope of the vending facility at the Annex (see 20 USC section 107a(c) and 34 CFR section 395.30). That authority was exercised when the permit was negotiated in 1981.
Once established at a certain level, however, the vending facility may not be reduced in size or income potential if the reduction is within the control of the parties to the permit. The Act does not allow them to erode the opportunity provided by the vending facility. The value of the priority to be given to the blind under 20 USC section 107(b) is diminished if the vending facility is eroded, and therefore the Act is violated.
Section 107(b) does anticipate that circumstances may arise which justify placing a limitation on the vending facility. The limitation can be approved if the placement or operation of a vending facility adversely affects the interests of the United States. A limitation that is merely the erosion of an existing vending facility opportunity (as in the case of the Annex) would presumably not be justifiable under 20 USC section 107(b)(2). In any case the decision to approve or disapprove the limitation does not rest with the state or the Postal Service. Only the Secretary of Education can approve the limitation. This safeguard for the vendors was included in the Act to protect them against erosion of opportunities and income (see Senate Report 93-937, pp. 16 and 17). If the state unilaterally attempts to impose a limitation on the placement or operation of a vending facility (as in the present instance), it has acted in violation of section 107(b)(2) and 34 CFR section 395.30(b).
By its actions in the past the state has acknowledged that the vendors have an interest in the priority and the permit at the Annex. In 1981 the state decided to negotiate a single permit for the Annex rather than splitting the business among three vendors to operate under three permits, as the Postal Service wanted. The state's 1981 decision resulted from a deliberate policy choice, including the fact that the state's Director of Business Enterprises was overruled. But in 1986 the Director's original position was adopted by the state prior to informing the vendors. The Director of Business Enterprises acknowledged that the 1986 decision represented a change from the state's previous practice of having a single vendor at the Annex.
The permit expresses the level and value of the priority for a blind vendor that now exists at the Annex. It is undisputed that one of the vendors in this action would be awarded the priority to operate the vending machines at the Annex if the state solicited bids for the promotion from all of the vendors in the usual manner. But the state did not do this. The state instead proceeded to implement its decision to split the priority. This caused an erosion of income that one of the vendors would have obtained under a promotion. Therefore, the state's action is a clear contravention of the policy direction of the Act.
The state's action was also a contravention of its own site selection policy. That policy with respect to the Annex is specifically expressed in the existing permit for a single site. The decision to have a single site at the Annex resulted from a deliberative exercise, which involved the vendors' representative committee. The Annex policy was not reached by accident. Once it was established (especially with involvement of the vendors' committee), everyone should be able to rely upon the state to honor the policy or to seek a change through a similar deliberative process involving the committee. In the case before us, however, the state neither honored the policy in effect at the Annex nor sought the committee's deliberative involvement in approving a modification. Thus, the state violated its own policy expressed in the permit and further violated the Act's requirement for vendors' committee participation.
Findings And Conclusions
(1) The arbitration panel has jurisdiction to hear this matter under 20 USC section 107d-1(a) and section 107d-2.
(2) The vendors have standing to bring this action as blind licensees under the Act.
(3) The state and the Postal Service have established a single vending facility to be operated by a single blind vendor at the Postal Service's Denver Terminal Annex. The existence of the vending facility and its size and scope are secured by and described in a permit that was lawfully executed by the parties. The permit was negotiated on behalf of the vendors who are intended to be its beneficiaries.
(4) The permit establishes and describes the implementation of the priority given to blind vendors under 20 USC section 107(b). The state's decision to negotiate and agree to a single permit for the Annex was a policy choice involving a resolution of contending views of the Postal Service, the state's Director of Business Enterprises, the vendors' committee, and other supervising officials of the program.
(5) The Annex facility under the existing permit offers the assigned blind vendor the best promotional opportunity in the state. It is the largest business in the program, considering both its size and income potential. The state's plan to split the facility would erode both the size and the income potential that now exist at this site.
(6) The clear policy direction of the Act is to prevent erosion of the program, to expand opportunities for the blind (both qualitatively and quantitatively), to prevent erosion of the income of the blind, and to increase the level of employment of the blind. This direction provides the rationale for giving a priority to a blind vendor under the existing permit at the Annex. Therefore, relinquishing the permit and dividing the facility as desired by the state is an unlawful erosion of opportunities and income and a violation of the priority established in 20 USC section 107(b).
(7) The state and the Postal Service properly negotiated a permit for the Annex and deliberately elected to develop this location as a single vendor site. 20 USC section 107(b)(2) is designed to protect blind vendors against actions to reduce or limit the priority given to a vending facility. Such actions can only be justified if the proposed placement or operation of a vending facility adversely affects the interests of the United States. When it does, the Secretary of Education is empowered to approve a limitation. Neither the state nor the Postal Service can unilaterally determine that a limitation on the placement or operation of the existing vending facility at the Annex is justified. Therefore, the state's decision to split the existing vending facility was a violation of 20 USC section 107(b)(2).
There was no finding that the interests of the United States were or are adversely affected by the existing vending facility. Also the question was never submitted to the Secretary, and the state did not have the authority unilaterally to impose the limitation.
(8) By practice and design the agency has a policy of not operating two vending facilities of the same type at the same site. This policy was followed when the Annex facility was established as a single vendor location. The state's plan to split the facility would result in two roughly identical vending machine operations serving customers in the same building. This would cause at least some competition between the facilities and the vendors. Having such an arrangement is a violation of the state's policy with respect to the Annex (which policy is expressed in the present permit) and a violation of the state's overall programmatic policy not to establish two facilities of the same type at the same site.
(9) The state decided to change its policy with respect to the Annex facility prior to informing the vendors' committee of the decision. 20 USC 107b-1(2) requires participation by the committee in making such decisions. Therefore the state's exclusion of the committee in this instance violated the Act.
That is what Jim Gashel filed with the chairman of the arbitration panel to assist in establishing the record and to create the best possible climate for appeal. In March, 1988, therefore, Hudson and Jack (in consultation with the National Federation of the Blind) decided to take their case back to the same federal court which had granted the injunction almost two years before. Briefs were eventually written and submitted by both sides, and then there was nothing to do but wait for a decision to be rendered. Tragically, in September of 1989, while things were still hanging fire, Richard Jack was struck by a car and killed. At the time of his death, Richard was serving as president of the Vendors Chapter of the NFB of Colorado. For some years he had also been the treasurer of the Colorado affiliate, and he was always a quiet but rock-solid leader of the movement. On the evening of his death Don Hudson, his friend and colleague, summed up everyone's feeling when he said that in Richard we have lost a warrior in the movement.
The court case wound on for five more months. Then in February, 1990, the Department of Social Services decided it had had enough. It seems a safe conclusion that officials feared that they were going to lose the case. Apparently agency officials thought they could do better with a settlement because it would avoid a binding court decision that could be used in the future by other vendors. On February 23, 1990, therefore, Judge James Carrigan announced the settlement with prejudice, which means that neither party may bring this matter before the court again. The language of the settlement was worked out by the lawyers for the two parties and approved by the court, which incorporated it in a court order. Not only does the settlement spell out the guidelines under which the agency can make decisions to divide food service locations in the future, but it also allows for payment of the NFB's legal fees out of the profits of the Postal Annex location that have accrued since May of 1986 when the temporary vendor took over the location. The Blind Vendors Committee and the vendors of Colorado have voted to this agreement. Here is the text of the settlement:
IN THE UNITED STATES
DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 86-C-754
DON HUDSON, RICHARD JACK (deceased), and the
COLORADO COMMITTEE OF BLIND VENDORS, Plaintiffs,
COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES and
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendants.
ORDER AND JUDGMENT
THE COURT, having read the Stipulation for Settlement and being fully advised in the premises, hereby ORDERS:
1. The claims of the plaintiffs are dismissed with prejudice against the Colorado Department of Social Services and United States Department of Education.
2. This matter is herewith dismissed with prejudice, each party to pay their costs and attorney fees as set forth herein.
3. That certain Arbitration Order entered on December 14, 1987, and the matter referred to as Hudson v. Colorado Department of Social Services, R-S/87-7, is herewith vacated.
4. The United States Postal Terminal Annex Blind Vendors Facility, which is the subject of this litigation, shall not, hereafter, be divided into separate vending facilities, except in accordance with paragraph 7 below.
5. The United States Postal General Mail Facility (GMF) presently under construction in Commerce City, Colorado, shall be operated hereafter as a single vendor facility, unless divided pursuant to paragraph 7 below.
6. A two-thirds majority of blind vendors, voting at a duly noticed meeting, having approved the stipulation, the funds escrowed by the State Licensing Agency (SLA) from the program operation of the Terminal Annex vending facility on Wyncoop Street shall be distributed pro rata to the blind vendors less the attorney fees incurred by the Plaintiffs and/or paid on their behalf by the National Federation of the Blind, Headquarters, Baltimore, Maryland.
7. The SLA and the Blind Vendors Committee shall create new binding Business Enterprise Program Guidelines for the establishment of policies regarding the later division of blind vendor facilities. Such regulations shall provide that:
a. In the event the SLA or the Blind Vendors Committee desires to change the nature or level of service of a vending facility, an economic analysis shall be undertaken at the expense of the SLA but under the joint participation of the Blind Vendors Committee and the SLA which shall include consideration of, but not be limited to:
(1) Architecture and physical structure;
(3) Best utilization of agency resources;
(4) Opportunity for advancement and rehabilitation;
(5) Demand for new locations for trainees.
At the conclusion of said economic analysis, the SLA shall allow sixty (60) days for notice and comment to the Blind Vendors Committee and then to the body of blind vendors for further input, to be taken into consideration in its final written decision.
b. The income, to be generated by any proposed facility were it to be operated as a single operator facility, shall not in and of itself be a criterion for division of any proposed facility.
c. A location operated by a single operator may not be divided except upon the transfer or retirement of the single operator under existing guidelines of the State Licensing Agency.
There you have it. The settlement is a clear victory for blind vendors in Colorado and a ray of hope for everyone working in food service across the country. The Terminal Annex in Denver will remain a one-operator facility, and the new Postal Annex location in Commerce City will not be split either. More to the point, the state agency is unlikely to attempt to sidestep the Randolph-Sheppard amendments in the same way. These were the goals that Don Hudson and Richard Jack had in mind when they challenged the system in 1986. But such efforts always exact a cost.
The Colorado Business Enterprise Program recently awarded the Postal Annex vending facility, and Don Hudson was not the recipient. He is, of course, not the agency's favorite vendor, but he is the one they turn to for training new people and the man they send in when other locations are in trouble. There are indications that the award was made in return for political favors, but at this writing (mid-March) it is too early to know what will happen. There may be another appeal a second Hudson case. Recriminations taken against one vendor for exercising the statutory right of appeal cannot be tolerated. How often has it been true that agency officials believe they can do as they please without regard to the law, fairness, or decent standards of behavior? But what they have failed to consider is the National Federation of the Blind. It is, as it has been for fifty years, the National Federation of the Blind leading the fight as we demand the right to work and earn on terms of equality. The Colorado vending case is just one more indication of why the National Federation of the Blind must and will continue to fight for the rights of blind people.
A MOTHER OF BLIND CHILDREN
ADDRESSES THE PROFESSIONALS
by Barbara Rooney
In the February, 1990, issue of the Braille Monitor, we reprinted Dr. Jernigan's remarks to the conference of the PenDel Chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, which took place on November 17, 1989. Following his remarks that day was a talk by a truly remarkable woman, Barbara Rooney, a member of the Lancaster County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. She and her husband have twelve children, eleven of whom are adopted. The twelfth is a foster child. Four of the youngsters are blind and four have Down's Syndrome. Nine of the children are disabled in some way. The Rooneys have had eighteen years of experience dealing with professionals in the education, social service, and medical fields. As a consumer of services her assignment for this speech, according to the speaker who introduced her, was to tell her audience where the problems are in the system and what, from her perspective, is going wrong. Here is what she had to say:
After listening a little bit this morning, I think that the most important thing I have to share with you is that blindness is okay. I mean that, deep down, it is an okay way to be. And the sooner those working with families who have children born blind or have become blind begin to shift their emphasis to feeling okay and to having positive attitudes about these people, the better a world we are going to have. Through the years my husband and I have had some really difficult times in relating to our family. You should know that we are an adoptive family. That is important only in that we received our children on a basis of joy and fulfillment. Therefore, their blindness was not a problem for us. A majority of families that you will work with, I am sure, have a different perspective. Most have been shocked and have had to learn to adapt and overcome a great sadness. But despite a lot of improvement over eighteen years, the system still allows parents to grieve inwardly while carrying the burden with head held high instead of giving them permission to get on with their lives and feel good about having produced a blind child. That is the basic problem in society. Oftentimes we see professionals running about, trying to fix it and make these children okay. Well, if making it okay means you have to make them sighted, then we have a real problem. In order for integration to take place successfully in a community, it has to take place first in the home.
Although the majority of you here work in rehabilitation of the blind young adult, I have to say that there is just not enough emphasis on early intervention. When we as a society begin looking at children who are born a little different as people who are okay, people we can learn from, and when we help the family to reach that feeling, successful integration will take place. A lot of our arguments will cease, and we will have respect for one another.
No two parents or children are alike. Hence the needs of any two families cannot be identical. The history of each, their dreams, their financial situation, and their expectations for their children are unique. When a child is born blind, there is a disruption in the nurturing system. This occurs because the parents are often in shock and pain. Their dreams of a normal child and I have never met a normal person, so I'm not sure I know what that means are shattered. They are in pain. And what those of us who say we care need to do is to allow these families to express their anger, their anxiety, their guilt, and their sadness, so that a positive nurturing attitude can re-emerge. If it does not, you have what is often called a mutual mal-adaption syndrome, in which the parents have failed to overcome their helplessness and the infant becomes more and more upset. Again, early intervention is the answer, but that intervention must be by those who are qualified. You know, as a parent I'm not so much interested in an individual's credentials as I am in his or her attitudes. I also think we need a lot of left-brain thinkers in this area. I'm sure many of you have read about right-brain versus left-brain thinking. Often this society tries to solve all their problems with the academic right-brain. Those we can't solve we just sit and argue about continually. I think we must have creative people in our field. When faced with blindness, parents often say that they feel lost, as if they are on a foreign planet. You hear that often in association with other disabilities. The more I've heard families talk about feeling alienated, the more sure I am that they are close to justifying segregation of their children. These feelings allow them to keep their children apart from society, so that it almost becomes an expectation. We will manage them somehow but never let them fully adapt to society.
I do want to talk to you about a real positive thing. My first baby was Michelle, and you know what, I couldn't find anything wrong with her nothing at all. Michelle at three months of age didn't know she was different from anyone else. But everybody and their neighbor knew she was different, because I heard about it a lot. I almost felt as if I had to adopt guilt by association that if indeed I was the parent, I would have to feel bad about the fact that this child was born with something called blindness or a different way of seeing the world. Well you know, resolving infertility issues and having the opportunity to become a parent was a priority for me and for my husband. I have often joked with Shellie that, if she had been green with purple spots, it wouldn't have mattered, and I think that's true. Again our perspective, our approach, came from a feeling of joy and fulfillment. So at three months of age Michelle came home doing pretty much what any other three-month-old baby would do, except using her eyes. Many of the books, the few that there were, were negative. They spoke about how my Michelle would not learn to smile at the normal time. She would not learn to walk or sit or feed herself. Boy, it was so depressing. Even the doctors I went to would say, You haven't faced reality. Now this child could have had congenital brain problems, congenital heart, liver, or kidney problems. There was a feeling in the community that everyone should be depressed because she was blind, but I just couldn't feel that way. So Michelle learned to sit up at about five or six months of age, and she learned to smile because, whenever I put her down in bed, I let her feel my face, and she saw my smile with her hands. She began to understand, and she began to smile back. You know, a funny thing happened then. Instead of being depressed, society said, Look at her; how did she do that? She must be able to see. It became more perplexing for me that total inability just to let her be who she was. I remember when she was about eight months old and was crawling all around the house something, again, that she wasn't supposed to do but that she didn't know she wasn't supposed to do and I remember that our then Executive Director of the local Association for the Blind came to take pictures. That child crawled with her hands out in front of her and her head on the floor. It was sort of an insect-like motion with the arms going out like antennae. Someone from an early intervention program came also to see the child I think that everyone was afraid that we were going to be all right and worried that someone could really feel okay about a blind baby. That individual said, Don't let her do that. She must crawl with her hands on the floor. I said, Why? She would run her face into everything. What she was doing made perfectly good sense for her. She taught us about the coldness of the wall compared to the door. Many of the things she did that looked bizarre or unusual for a baby to be doing had reasons behind them. She was exploring her own environment in her own way.
There was a big difference when Jennifer came home. She was born the same year as Michelle, but she had not had as easy a go in her first year or two of life. Jennifer is from Korea, and she did not get a permanent family until she was two-and-a-half. It took us nine months to bring her over because we kept getting this stupid paper from the government. They kept saying, Are you sure you are aware that this child is blind? We kept saying, Yes, and then we would get the paper again.
Are you aware that nothing can be done about the fact that this child is blind? And we kept saying, Yes. The fact that she was blind was not the total reason for our adopting her, but it certainly was part of the reason. We liked Shellie. We liked her as a blind baby, and the thought of adopting and adding to our family a sister close in age who could share experiences with her seemed to make pretty good sense. So Jennifer finally came home at age two-and-a-half. I guess the government finally figured that we meant business and that we wanted her.
Jennifer had been blinded due to vitamin A deficiency. When she began going blind, people in her country of birth still did very primitive things to differences, such as burning the eyes to get the bad spirits out. So Jennifer had undergone some scarring of the eyes. Often such children are drowned in Korea. Jennifer was left in a sewer gutter, actually, and was found by a passer-by.
She received no early intervention, so when she came to us at two-and-a-half, boy were we surprised! This was very different from Michelle's story. This was a child who had experienced blindness sometime during that first two-and-a-half years and had not had anyone to help her understand anything. Developmentally, she was at a five or six month level. We had a lot of work to do.
Do you know who did most of the work? Michelle. Yes, the sister who was eight months younger, but that is the truth. Michelle's abilities and the fact that she had been constantly habilitated and had positive self-esteem, running around as a very confident two-year-old herself, secure in her family, feeling okay about all that she was. Jennifer came in this screaming, clawing, biting child. Jennifer really did not know who she was, where she was, or what she was. We needed to start all over. There were many days when I can remember leading her, by first pushing against her back and holding her hand. Then she began to hold her own hand and walk while leading herself. She had no internal security at all. I don't think she knew very well that she was a human being. She ate whatever she could find on the floor. She had been living like an animal. Fortunately, that isn't what it is like in this country. However, when early intervention fails, which I think we would all agree it still does sometimes, children never quite adjust, and families never quite adjust. Then, unless the child can feel okay about who he or she is, unless the youngster can feel that he or she is a respected member of society, everything we are talking about seems to be irrelevant.
Our daughters have gone to public school. Between the ages of two-and-a-half and five, Jennifer was able to overcome her deficits and walk into a regular kindergarten classroom with sighted children. Michelle followed her the next year. They are both now juniors in high school. They earn honor roll grades, sometimes, like everybody else. They are involved in social events, like everybody else. They have fallen down the steps, like everybody else.
One of my favorite stories about Michelle happened when she reached junior high. Kids are curious, you know. They have learned to adjust to the novelty of being those blind girls in my school. But one of the first things that happened in junior high was that the kids thought it was real funny to jump over their canes as they tapped from left to right down the hall. Then one day a child came down right smack dab in the middle of Michelle's cane and broke it.
Then she took it to the gym teacher and said, I've got a handicapped cane. Can we tape it?
Their life has really been more children experiences teenager experiences rather than blind experiences. I think of them as seventeen- and sixteen-year-old teenagers who happen to be blind. I don't see them working in a sheltered workshop because they're blind. I think that rehabilitation needs to move out of the sheltered workshop and into the community.
I am very concerned, though, about how that is going to happen because I also have a multiply impaired daughter who is eleven. There was a gentleman here earlier who said Nowhere in the state of Pennsylvania do they refuse to teach children who are blind to read Braille. Well, let me tell you a little different. When a baby is born with some vision, that seems to be a real up to those who are working with the child. A tremendous effort is expended, trying to maintain the little bit of remaining vision, even if that vision is not really practical, even if it is only going to be used a little bit, watching television. These children might be able to see a leaf flying by, or they might be able to see some color, but it is not something that they are going to be able to learn to read with. With Michelle and Jenny, who were totally blind, there was no problem.
Everyone knew that Braille would be the way that they were going to learn to read, and it was. But with a child who is legally blind and I don't care what numbers anybody uses each individual child with those numbers is different. I think that there is a time in education when you evaluate the practicality of using large print. How is that going to pay off in the job world? Is the child going to be able to use that skill for employability? Or would it be better to teach that child Braille because it is faster? If there is a stigma attached to Braille, that is another thing we really have to work on.
I would hope that anyone working with my children and my young adults would have a positive attitude about their blindness not one that says, I'm sorry for you because you can't see, but one that says, Hi, I'm glad to meet you. Teach me about yourself. Truly, what I have learned, I learned from my kids. I sense a real need when I am in parent groups; sometimes it becomes very painful because I am surrounded by parents who are still suffering twenty-five years after the birth of their child. They simply haven't been given permission to be okay. Until we do that, I don't think we are going to see eye to eye.
It is important that early intervention for blind children take place in the home. I'll give you an idea of what I am talking about. With the young retarded child you can get along pretty well with having an early intervention program two or three days a week, where the child goes off to school and then comes home. Remember that this retarded child is seeing the world he lives in. Never mind how slowly his mind may work, he is still seeing the world. The young blind child, on the other hand, needs intervention in his home his first environment. He should not be shifted from one place to another when he hasn't yet established what the floor is. I recently heard about a mother who had a child whom she pretty much left lying in a crib because she wasn't sure of what to do. As each month went by, that child looked more and more retarded. That youngster probably functions like a retarded child and will be labeled that way. That is where your statistics are. I heard a gentleman saying earlier, Where are the blind children? They are in other placements. They are labeled retarded, learning disabled, physically handicapped; and that is a shame. Unless they are totally blind and completely normal mentally, they don't have a really good chance at integration.
Another thing that has to be addressed for young families is the medical orientation. As a parent I have often said that I feel betwixt and between. There is a medical orientation to your child, and then there is the educational one. I have felt over the past eighteen years as a parent that somehow responsibility for having these two orientations meet and work for the child is on my shoulders. When you have a child who is legally blind, such as our eleven-year-old, and you have a doctor saying, This child is myopic, this child has severe optic atrophy, this child has wandering nystagmus [what you see in a child who does not focus on any object], and this child has damage in the vision centers of the brain, it is pretty futile to teach her to read. But you know what happens in the system. Because the child's visual acuity falls within the range of legal blindness instead of total blindness, she has not been given Braille. This has happened to my eleven-year-old, who does not yet read, who is still just listening to tapes.
So there are successes, and there are areas where we still need to work. But now I would like to know if you have any specific questions. A listener asked what one thing in early intervention besides the importance of helping the child and the family feel okay would she point to as critical.
Mrs. Rooney : Today I am glad to say that there are infant and toddler programs, but I question the experience of the teachers. One of my concerns is that someone with an orientation toward mental retardation who has no certification at all in Braille and has no experience basically in blindness should not be teaching young blind children. When Shellie was little and there was no program those were the days when you still went to Overbrook [the nearest residential school for the blind] we chose not to do that. The one thing I had was encouragement from the Executive Director of the local Association for the Blind. Although I'm sure she was worried at times she said Go ahead. Why not? that was enough for me. It may not have been enough for another family.
Today there are early intervention programs. I think they are more successful, however, with the low vision child than they are with the totally blind. That is my own personal feeling. Questioner: As a parent, why don't you push for your eleven-year-old to receive Braille?
Mrs. Rooney: We are doing that now. You know, there are some differences being an adoptive parent, and then there are things that are similar. Jessica, our eleven-year-old, was originally diagnosed as hydro-cephalic and totally blind. She had left cerebral palsy, scoliosis, and a very rare and complex seizure disorder because her birth mother took Quaaludes and amphetamines through the nine months of her pregnancy. Jessica's problems are a little harder to swallow in that what she is coping with could have been prevented. In my opinion blindness is the very least of her problems. The seizures are the most serious because she constantly has to start over. That has probably been a challenge to everyone who has worked with her I know it has been a challenge to me as a parent. But at eleven it is not too late to say that the vision is simply not consistent enough. She tests, by the way, at a normal IQ, and we are really proud of that because with all those things wrong we were told that she would be severely and profoundly retarded. She attends a learning disabled classroom because they have no other place for her. She doesn't fit anywhere else, so they just stuck her there. But she attends regular fifth grade for social studies and science, and earns average grades. So it can be done even with a multiply impaired child. It's not easy; it takes a lot of working together.
We feel that the Individual Educational Plan process has been one of the most wonderful innovations in the education of handicapped children. We never blame anyone. When something goes wrong, it is not the fault of the Instructional Unit or the vision consultant or the mobility instructor. It is not the fault of the school district or the state. It's not my fault, and it is never the fault of the child. What is at fault is our IEP. It is a neutral for planning and sharing. Unless parents have the professionals' respect, and unless those parents feel good about their child, that is not going to happen; and you as the educator are going to be trying to carry the ball yourself, which is an unfair expectation for us to have of you. Moreover, it is never going to be completely right for the child. The parents, no matter what problems they are having in coping or adjusting, truly do know their child. They just simply want to be assured that it is all right to feel okay about their child. They want to have some hope of seeing that child in the community as a secretary or a doctor or whatever he or she aspires to be. It doesn't mean that we can't learn at the same time about limitations, and it doesn't mean that we don't have permission to fail. One of my sermons in our IEP process is that my daughter has the right to fail. It is through failures, not by being over-protected, that we learn our own limitations.
THE REASONABLY PRUDENT BLIND PERSON: REFLECTIONS ON THE
TEACHING OF THE LAW AND PERCEPTIONS OF BLINDNESS
by Christopher Kuczynski
Christopher Kuczynski is the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and a practicing attorney with Dechert, Price, and Rhoads, a prestigious Philadelphia law firm. Here are his thoughts about some of the many misconceptions about blindness. This article first appeared in the February edition of The Blind Activist, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania The law of torts says, among other things, that all people have a legal duty to act in such a way as to avoid creating an unreasonable risk of harm to others. The benchmark for determining whether a person has conformed to this duty is the so-called reasonably prudent person. This standard suggests that, given a particular activity, people are required to act as the average person (not the extraordinarily careful or the excessively daring; not the most intelligent or least perceptive) would under the same or similar circumstances. The prudent blind person is required to take into account his or her lack of eyesight when carrying on daily activities that could present a risk of harm to others, but still must act reasonably in all circumstances. This standard is not surprising. Since blindness can be defined functionally, it stands to reason that blind people should and do employ alternative techniques to do that which others do by sight. Using a white cane is a simple example of how an individual acts as a reasonably prudent blind person when traveling on the streets.
All of this would seem to suggest that blind persons, like anybody else, ought to be required to act reasonably. If our failure to do so causes injuries to another, we ought to be liable for them. Similarly, if our failure to employ reasonable care contributes to our own injuries, our damages in a law suit ought to be reduced accordingly, regardless of our blindness. As people who realize that freedom means responsibility, we would not have it any other way. Most of the blind people I know, like most of the sighted, perform the functions of daily life in a way that is reasonable.
When blind people act unreasonably (or negligently) it is because they fail to pay attention, attempt to do things quickly and carelessly, or simply have no regard for the safety of others. The blind are no more likely to be negligent than the sighted, and in no circumstance is negligence a function of eyesight. Yet the blind are a favorite class of negligent actors in torts law hypothetical situations. This summer I took a nationally recognized bar review course. The blind individuals I met in the torts lectures did not resemble any of the people I know. They were often being run down by automobiles because they could not see whether the traffic light was red or green never mind that the blind have developed alternative techniques by which to cross streets safely without looking at the traffic lights. When a sighted person crossed against a light in the examples presented, it was because he or she was in a hurry or was paying attention to something else. When a blind person crossed against the light, it was because he or she could not see. These same hypothetical blind people repeatedly fell into holes because apparently they were not perceptive enough to realize that they needed to carry white canes while traveling.
But are these examples really harmful to the blind? After all, aren't they just teaching tools? I don't know to what extent lawyers' perception of blindness may be shaped by these teaching tools; however, the comments of one professor from a prominent law school in Washington, D.C., cause me to wonder whether these teaching tools are completely harmless. The professor was illustrating the idea of contributory negligence. The example he presented in front of about 300 law students was as follows: A pedestrian, suffering injuries caused by an incident at an intersection, sues the driver of the car involved, claiming that he was exceeding the speed limit. The driver claims that the pedestrian, who is blind, acted negligently by crossing against the light.
To demonstrate that the pedestrian's conduct was negligent (or unreasonable) the professor asked: Now, would a reasonably prudent blind person have crossed that intersection without assistance? With a real sense of confidence and believing that the answer to his question was obvious, he responded, I don't think so. The professor obviously never considered the possibility that the pedestrian was not paying attention or was in a hurry for a late appointment or simply thought he could get across the street before the light turned red. He automatically assumed that the negligent conduct was a failure to obtain assistance and that the average blind person would have certainly done so.
Am I making too much of a casual remark? With the same confidence as that law professor, I respond, I don't think so. Remember that the reasonably prudent blind person is the average blind person. The blind people I know regularly cross busy streets without assistance, utilizing appropriate techniques. But the professor's question and answer suggest that blind people who perform the routine act of crossing a street without assistance are either noteworthy exceptions to a general rule of diminished competence (the super-blind) or are hazards to themselves and society.
If a law professor, working in a major metropolitan center, (where the opportunity to observe independently functioning blind people presents itself frequently) does not believe that the average blind person can cross a street without assistance, is it surprising that the United States Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration have taken so long to recognize that the blind are competent air travelers? If blind people are depicted in torts classes and in nationally administered bar review courses as persons whose negligence is a function of blindness rather than simply a part of what it means to be human, is it any wonder that the State Department assumes that blind people will be inherently more vulnerable to attacks while serving as Foreign Service Officers? If negligent blind people are seen engaging in the kind of conduct that simply does not conform with reality, is it difficult to understand why legislation concerning the blind has long been custodial seeking to protect us from our alleged inability to make judgments about what is good for us? The existence of the erroneous perceptions about blindness, though it can be understood, must not be permitted to continue. The National Federation of the Blind will persist in its efforts to attain equality, opportunity, and security for blind people everywhere. The law professor may have believed that his comments about the blind man crossing the street made no impression or, worse yet, that they were accepted by all who heard them. The reaction of the people around me demonstrates, however, that public perceptions about blindness are changing. Several of my friends turned to me and were incredulous. They have seen me travel independently and asked me, already knowing my response, if I believed what the professor had said. I found, in fact, that I was somewhat more forgiving than they. I tried to account for the professor's misconceptions, but my friends were offended.
This outrage, this belief that something was wrong with the professor's statement about blindness and blind people, represents the changes in public sentiment that have been brought about by the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
MISSING THE POINT:
BECOMING A WAY OF LIFE AT AMTRAK
From the Associate Editor: In the April, 1990, issue of the Braille Monitor, we printed a disturbing story about an Amtrak ticket agent who was so intent on providing special and intrusive service to a blind customer that he refused to sell her a ticket at all when she wouldn't divulge personal information. The repercussions of his action were distressing and might have been dangerous to the passenger. Now we have received evidence of an infuriating variation on that same theme. This time Amtrak sought to explain away an overtly dangerous action on the part of one of its employees by pointing out that if the blind passenger had only been content to allow Amtrak to smother her in unnecessary special attention, the accident could not have taken place. It is the same old tiresome and outrageous situation we find ourselves in in dealing with the airlines. When blind passengers ask to be treated like everyone else, we are willfully misunderstood or written off as social misfits and worse. Yet it is not unreasonable to demand that blind passengers receive the same safe treatment accorded sighted passengers, and when we do not, it is not irrational to insist on reparation and evidence that those responsible have been reprimanded. What follows is an exchange of correspondence between Becky Skinner, a blind Kansan, and Amtrak officials. The outcome of her complaint is far from clear. We must all be vigilant when traveling on public transportation. As the general awareness of the disabled increases, it seems clear that the danger to competent blind travelers increases as well. Here is the correspondence:
Garden City, Kansas
January 13, 1990
Dennis Wiedman, Manager
Department of Transportation
Kansas City, Missouri
Dear Mr. Wiedman:
I am writing you this letter in reference to my phone call to you on Wednesday, January 3, 1990, at 3:00 p.m. I write as a concerned citizen and former passenger of Amtrak. My purpose is to register a complaint about an Amtrak train which started up and left me as I was on the platform attempting to board. I feel that you need to be fully informed about the events which occurred on the morning of December 21, 1989, on Train #3 of the Southwest Chief. I am confident that, after you have heard my story in full, you will agree that some serious action must be taken to prevent the same type of careless, irresponsible, and dangerous situation from happening to future passengers. My nightmare began, as I said, on December 21, a Thursday morning at 9:45 as the Southwest Chief made its regular (but somewhat late that morning) stop in Garden City, Kansas. Weather conditions that morning were extremely cold with a reported wind-chill reading of thirty degrees below zero. My family of four (my husband Jim, my eleven-year-old son Nate, my 21-month-old daughter Kari, and I) were boarding the train for Los Angeles for the holidays. We arrived at the station shortly before the train arrived and checked several pieces of luggage.
The instant the train pulled in, my husband and son, their hands full of carry-on luggage, scurried to inquire which car to board. Weeks before, we had made reservations for lower level seating because we have a young child and I am totally blind. After a short delay, it was established that we would need to move a few cars further down from where others were boarding. I, holding my young daughter and white cane, remained standing in the boarding area while the shuffle and loading were taking place. My son boarded; then my husband boarded within an arm's length in front of me. The car attendant was standing in the doorway while my husband unloaded his carry-on bags well inside the entrance area. I was in the process of stepping onto the boarding stool. Just at the instant my husband turned around to give us a helping hand onto the train, it began to move down the tracks.
Very fortunately for my daughter and me, Kathy Juarez, the Garden City ticket clerk, was not far from us. Before my senses had caught up with reality, she quickly grabbed me and pulled me away from that moment of impending disaster. She then informed me of what my ears were refusing to register or my mind to believe. Kathy screamed and waved frantically as the train built up momentum and went on its merry way. It finally came to a halt about one mile down the track (as my husband and I have estimated). By this time my little girl, whom I had been holding, was crying and convulsing in terror and pain. Her little hands were freezing since I had dressed her for a warm train car. Once the train had taken off without me, my husband began to confer with the attendant, who had also seen what had happened.
Conductor R. P. Colleyer, having caught wind of a problem, joined them at the open boarding door. The conductor asked what the trouble was. The attendant proceeded to explain that they had left two passengers behind. As the train continued to accelerate, the conductor attempted to brush the matter off with such comments as, he had not seen passengers out there and assumed they must have been inside the station. Not until the attendant urgently insisted that they must stop the train and get the boarding stool, did Conductor Colleyer finally give the signal to halt.
By some means the ticket clerk learned that the engineer would not back up the train, but rather that we would have to walk. Was a blind mother, carrying a crying and freezing 25-pound child, really going to have to walk that long distance to board her train car? Yes, that was what the conductor ordered. Kathy, the ticket clerk, would have driven us down in her car had we not been offered a ride by one very concerned and upset local onlooker. Of course, Kathy had little choice but to leave her point of duty at the station and escort us to the train. Even once we got to the train, Conductor Colleyer did nothing to acknowledge my presence. He did not even show us the courtesy of relieving Kathy, who was still assisting us. More preoccupied with the still missing train stool, he ordered the ticket clerk and kindhearted gentleman to go back after it.
Once aboard the train, our daughter continued crying and shaking uncontrollably from the cold and the shock of her experience. My husband found it necessary to take her up to the observation car to comfort, calm, and warm her. On his rounds to collect tickets, Conductor Colleyer found my husband there, took our tickets, and apologized. Some time later an official who did not identify himself approached me with a simple apology. I presume it was Conductor Colleyer.
This concludes my adventure boarding Amtrak on that cold December morning. Does this leave you with questions in your mind as it does me? The obvious and foremost question is: Will Conductor Colleyer be allowed to continue in his very responsible position, behaving in this very irresponsible manner? If he is, then is the next person's story going to be covered in the obituary column? Where was Conductor Colleyer, anyway, when he decided to give the engineer orders to move? I do know where I was, and I thank God that the all-important boarding stool was left behind. Otherwise, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have tried squirming out of the proof of his own negligence; he would no doubt have blamed my blindness for my allegedly not being at the right place at the right time. But in this case blindness is clearly not the issue at least, not my blindness. Another puzzling question to which there is surely an answer is why was Conductor Colleyer unwilling to reverse the train in order to pick up my child and me or, for that matter, to retrieve the boarding stool?
My final question is this: What sort of action is going to be taken to prevent this type of uncalled-for, totally unprofessional disservice from happening again on Amtrak? I know that Amtrak has rules and policies for employees to follow. As for me and my concern for other potential passengers, I am determined to pursue my complaint as far as necessary to see that these rules are enforced.
A full refund of our ticket cost is the very least I am requesting.
I am also asking for the assurance that, if I should ever again decide to use Amtrak, I will not have to fear for my life when boarding. Public transportation is extremely important to the blind. This fact is just one more reason why I cannot take my recent experience lightly. Please inform me about what action you intend to take. After thirty days, if I do not feel that appropriate action has been taken, I shall find it necessary to seek legal counsel. Another option that I may consider is to send this letter or a similar statement to U.S. Senators and Representatives, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Kansas Attorney General, and the Kansas City Star and other media. Thank you, Mr. Wiedman, for the positive consideration and concern which you expressed on the phone in this matter. I am willing to cooperate and participate in any way necessary to insure that safety is a part of everyone's Amtrak experience.
January 26, 1990
Dear Ms. Skinner:
Thank you for your recent letter to Mr. Dennis Wiedman and the copy you provided our Office of Labor Relations. We certainly apologize for the unfortunate incident which occurred at the time you were boarding our train at Garden City for your recent travel on Amtrak. Amtrak has a program for assistance to handicapped passengers to ensure that all station personnel and train crew members are aware that a passenger will be traveling who needs added consideration and can see that all needs are met. We ask that those making reservations inform us and cite any special needs in order that our manifests, which are distributed to station and train personnel, will alert all concerned. We are sorry that you did not know of this arrangement, which is covered in timetables and in our travel planner or which will be described verbally by our reservation agents upon notification that a passenger possesses a handicap which impairs one or more physical or mental capabilities. Should you travel with us again, provision of such advance notice should eliminate the possibility of any repetition of the incident you described.
At the same time, the conductor should have viewed the entire length of the train before giving the engineer a signal to proceed. We will have our Assistant Vice President, Transportation, to whom all conductors report, investigate this incident, determine what went wrong, and establish procedures to see that it does not happen again. Please accept our apologies for any apprehension and inconvenience.
As for backing the train, Amtrak does not have complete freedom to do this. Amtrak in that area travels over track belonging to the Santa Fe Railroad and is under their train control. Backing a train on mainline track without authorization from a Santa Fe dispatcher would be grounds for dismissal of the crew members involved. This is for the safety of all passengers, for no one, other than Santa Fe train control personnel, are aware of other traffic on that track. We are glad that others interceded, that the train was stopped, and that you were able to travel. We are sorry if the conductor did not explain properly and offer his own apologies immediately. We are glad that he did so later. All of these matters will be covered in the investigation, and any appropriate action will be taken. We will also see that Kathy Juarez is properly commended for her actions.
As you and your family did travel as ticketed, we will not be able to make the refund of your fare as you suggested. This would not be consistent with Amtrak's governing legislation, which establishes rigid financial goals and constraints. However, as evidence of our concern, if you will send us the original passenger receipts from your tickets, we will provide you with a Transportation Credit toward future travel on Amtrak for a portion of what was paid as our way of making an additional apology and to demonstrate our deep concern for the care and well being of our passengers. This will enable you to travel at least partially as our guests at a time of your choosing. A brief notification to our reservation personnel, as covered above, will ensure special assistance by all. Thank you for your understanding.
Alex T. Langston, Jr.
Manager, Customer Relations
Garden City, Kansas
February 6, 1990
Dear Mr. Langston:
In response to your letter of January 26, 1990, I was quite distressed over our lack of communication. First of all, at the bottom of my letter to Mr. Weidman dated January 13, 1990, you will note that I mailed out two copies of the letter; one went to the Labor Relations Office, and the other went to your Customer Relations Office. Both copies included appropriate cover letters. I am enclosing a copy of the cover letter which was mailed to Customer Relations.
The original Amtrak ticket stubs for the trip in question were enclosed in the letter to the Office of Customer Relations. According to my telephone inquiry on January 30, 1990, with your Customer Relations representative Louis White, the file showed that only the copy to your Labor Relations Office was received. Then it was passed on to Customer Relations from which you responded. Hopefully, you have received or found the ticket stubs by now. Also, I am enclosing a copy of the ticket stubs and a copy of our VISA credit card billing. Furthermore, Mr. Langston, I find it necessary to make some corrections to your misinterpretations of my letter to Mr. Weidman. As I stated in the fourth paragraph of my letter, we made reservations for lower level seating weeks before the trip in fact, when the tickets were purchased on November 18, 1989. If you need a copy of the reservation for lower level seating, it can be supplied. For years I have had full knowledge of Amtrak's handicapped services; otherwise, how would I have known to request lower level seating? Furthermore, my request for that seating by no means meant that I needed anything more than that. Let me make it clear: I am not multiply handicapped, or even a senior citizen, but a mobile and properly trained blind person. I was carrying my daughter and my long white travel cane as I do every day in cars, busses, taxis, planes, or even on horses. So far no other form of transportation has departed while I was boarding.
Lower level seating was not absolutely necessary. My reason for taking advantage of this provision was not solely because I am blind but because I am a responsible blind mother traveling with a toddler.
For instance, I wished to avoid the child's easy access to a descending staircase, as well as other potential dangers for her. The point I really want to make is this: you must not use my blindness as an excuse for this incident! You must not say, We are sorry that you did not know of this arrangement...(to) inform us, and cite any special needs...! Pure baloney! Mr. Langston, I cannot allow you to hide behind that flimsy and absurd response.
That is evading the issue. I am sorry, but that will not work with me. I did not require any special assistance ; all I needed was a stationary train that I could board safely. I think that you, Mr. Langston assuming you are sighted, and even if you are not would desire nothing less for yourself. In other words, the only way in which my blindness is relevant to this incident is that it qualified me to reserve lower level seating.
As long as I am expressing myself on this matter, allow me to paint another, perfectly possible picture. Suppose I had been a sighted passenger who was about to step into the train and it commenced to move down the tracks. What would I have done? What would you have done? This is what my husband, who is sighted, said that he would probably have done under the same conditions having family already on board. He said that he would have probably jumped on board since they gather speed so slowly. Yes, but on that cold and icy morning, mightn't he have slipped? If he had been holding our little girl, as I was, would they have made it? I doubt that you would recommend such dangerous boarding procedures to any of your passengers. It is conceivable that the fact that I am blind and did not attempt to jump onto a moving train may have spared my life and my child's. Thus, it may have spared Amtrak some very serious repercussions.
At any rate, for your sake as well as mine, I hope that my points will be well considered. I had understood that your department's job in cases like mine is that of issuing refunds to show that you guarantee satisfactory service. As for my request for improved procedures, I am trusting Mr. Weidman to handle that aspect at this time.
BLIND MEN WITHOUT ELEPHANTS
From the Editor: In the February, 1990, issue of the Braille Monitor we printed an article entitled Blind Men and Elephants by Hisham Ahmed. The body of the article was a letter from Dr. Ahmed taking the author of a college textbook to task for using the old fable of the blind men and the elephant as an illustration to make one of his points. The fact that our efforts produce positive results is nowhere better shown than in the following letter:
North Miami, Florida
February 13, 1990
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Thank you for your letter of February 6, 1990, regarding the printing of my letter to Professor Rourke in the Braille Monitor . I am writing to let you know that our determined struggle for the cause of the blind, once again, has borne fruit. In early January I received a phone call from Ms. Darylle Steiner, Sales Manager at Dushkin Publishing, the tone of which was positive and reflected an understanding of the issues raised in my letter. She stated that the allegorical tale regarding the blind men and the elephant will be removed from the next edition of the book. About two weeks later I received another call, this one from Professor Rourke himself. The thrust of what he said was also that the tale will not be reprinted in the forthcoming edition of the book. This problem seems to be taken care of, but I assure you that I will carefully monitor the contents of the next edition of Taking Sides .
Hisham H. Ahmed
Political Science Department
Florida International University
RECORDING FOR THE BLIND
NOT FOR STUDENTS ONLY
by Adrienne Asch
Adrienne Asch is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of New York and a noted scholar in the field of bioethics and disability. She is also a dedicated user of the services provided by Recording for the Blind. We asked her to write an article about RFB since not everyone knows how its program operates. Here is what she wrote:
In the December, 1989, edition of the Braille Monitor I noticed the announcement of Doris Willoughby and Sharon Duffy's book: Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students . It appeared that the impressive, information-packed volume had been produced neither in Braille nor on cassette, but only in print. Knowing that I would surely want to read it, I called to ask if it had been sent to Recording for the Blind (RFB) by anyone of the National Center staff who was a registered borrower. To my surprise, a very knowledgeable person about resources and services for blind people did not know that RFB would record a book sent by a registered borrower to be available forevermore on cassette to any registered patron requesting the title from its more than 75,000-book library.
If one such knowledgeable person didn't know this fact, probably many others didn't either. So, although those who are recent college students probably know all about RFB, many others may not realize that it can be an excellent library resource, not merely for students, but for anyone. I suspect that many Monitor readers have never used RFB's services. Others, after years of suffering through its scratchy, low-fidelity sound-scribers of the '60s, have probably vowed they would never use them again. But RFB books are now available on four-track cassettes, usable on any machine that plays Library of Congress tapes. The sound quality is almost always well above adequate, and readers are generally quite clear and understandable even if they are not the professionals used by the NLS for its Talking Book Program. Tapes are tone-indexed; they contain tables of contents, footnotes, references, descriptions of graphs, charts, tables, and photographs everything in the book except indices. Boxes have Braille and print labels on the covers that tell you what is inside. There are Braille and print listings of the pages on each track of each cassette, and they can be returned easily without sighted help by simply using the pre-addressed return labels and putting them in any corner mailbox no need to trek to your local post office.
But the main thing to know is that the library's 75,000 books cover an enormous variety of subjects and represent titles of academic, professional, and general interest that you won't find in the NLS Library. People who moan that they can't get the classics, current literature, or esoteric or controversial books through NLS should not give up until they have checked RFB's catalog or called its toll-free number to see if the book they want has already been recorded. How does RFB decide what its volunteer readers will record? In general, it doesn't decide; its borrowers decide. Although its Collection Development staff will select some books expected to be of broad interest, more than ninety-five percent of what is available and always being expanded depends on the books its borrowers send in to be recorded.
If you discover that a book you want is not in the library, you can change that state of affairs simply by buying and sending two copies, then waiting for it to be recorded. Once it is finished, which may take from two to ten months depending upon its length and complexity, the book stays in the library and is available to you and others.
Why two copies? Because RFB tries to get accurate reading by having someone follow along with the person who is recording to make sure that errors are caught and corrected. At the time you send the books, you should indicate whether you want either or both copies returned, or whether you wish to be reimbursed for one copy. You can be reimbursed for only one copy, but after all, you wind up getting the books you want for no more than your sighted friends pay for the same edition. And the tapes from the library of already-existing books are available to you free, once you register as a borrower. New borrowers, or those who haven't used RFB in several years, pay a one-time registration fee of twenty-five dollars and must prove that they are legally blind.
Other facts may please patrons who sometimes find that NLS sends you what it thinks you want and not what you ordered. RFB sends nothing to you that you don't request directly. Moreover, you receive what you do request within a week of submitting your order. You can order by using forms provided with its ink print catalog or by calling the toll-free number: 1-800-221-4792. At busy seasons, such as the beginnings of semesters, be prepared to wait on hold before having your order taken. Priority for recording new books is given to students needing material for courses and to professionals needing books for work, but RFB will record borrower submissions that do not fit either category, as long as volunteer readers are available. Last, if you know you want to find books on a particular subject but don't know specific titles, you can contact RFB at (609) 452-0606 and ask the reference librarians to do a search of the RFB catalog. They'll send you a computer print-out with a listing of everything RFB has that fits the key words you supply to the reference librarian. The bibliographies I've requested in the last two years, for example, have been on adoption, abortion, genetics, and AIDS. I'm sure that listings for categories of politics, religion, women's studies, history, philosophy, psychology, literature, or computers would give you more books than you could read in a year.
RFB will not fill all your reading requirements. It needs more volunteers to handle the deluge of technical books being sent by students and professionals. It does not record portions of books; nor will it do magazines, journals, or books that don't have a copyright. Sometimes it's frustrating to wait several months for a book you're eager to devour, and sometimes you'd rather read it in Braille than on tape anyway.
As a service organization, it certainly could improve some of its policies and practices. Its one-time borrower advisory committee has been defunct for several years, and even when it existed, it did not seek representatives from consumer organizations of the blind. Although it employs blind people, they are not present at all levels of the staff, and I'm sure that services could be even better if the organization were more committed to hiring qualified blind people and to establishing formal liaison with consumer groups.
It would be very good for RFB to make these changes and probably others that users could suggest. We can work for such improvements. (Patrons of NLS may wish that the Books for the Blind program could do it all, and ardent Braille users would no doubt read Braille if material were available.) But meanwhile, discover or re-discover the wealth of reading treasure stored at RFB headquarters.
TAKING IT TO TALK SHOWS:
NEW IDEAS ON AN OLD JOB
by Charles Biebl
Charles Biebl is the Chairman of the Public Relations Committee for the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. He takes his job seriously and works hard at it. No one in the entire organized blind movement is more successful at getting our point of view aired on radio programs than Charles Biebl. He is thorough, conscientious, and tenacious. He reminds me of the widow in the Biblical parable of the judge who eventually granted her request rather than continue to listen to her importunity. The National Federation of the Blind could use Charles Biebl in every state affiliate and chapter. Since there is no practical way of achieving that objective, we must all take a leaf out of his book. His media advice is sound and is based on personal experience. Here is what he has to say:
Several years ago I wrote an article for the Braille Monitor entitled "Taking It to the Media." I would like to enlarge on what I wrote then. If you are in an area in which you are the only Federationist working on press contacts or if your chapter or state president has told you to do what you can to get media coverage for the Federation, you should jump in to the job by beginning to make talk show contacts for yourself. In my opinion the way in which talk show producers plan their programs has changed for the worse in recent years. The days of being able to go into a radio or TV station and talking about blindness without having a specific, timely issue are for all practical purposes gone.
Most talk show hosts would like to zero in on one particular topic: the airline issue, a blind person in the news, or some other issue with current news interest. In 1983, for example, I was able to get President Maurer, who was then General Counsel to the Federation, and a local blind teacher on a talk show just because the teacher was in the news.
I'm not saying that you will never be invited to do a talk show or discussion program if you don't have a specific topic ready, but your chances are reduced. So please, be armed with a topic to suggest if the question is asked. If you just say blindness, you may not get on. Here is a strategy that I have used successfully to get Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, and other Federation leaders on talk shows. When considering an appearance by Federationists on a particular talk show, listen to it first. Find out if it is a show worth bothering with. You wouldn't ask the host of an automobile program to interview a guest from the Federation to discuss blindness even though there are blind auto mechanics because the topic has nothing to do with the repair or maintenance of cars.
When you have found a good prospective program, try contacting the talk show host or producer directly. This could be done by letter or phone, but if you are in the local dialing area, phone contact is better because it is more effective. When talking to the host or producer, it would be a good idea to start like this:
I enjoy your show very much, and I think it would be a good idea if you could interview someone from the National Federation of the Blind about.... If you say blindness, He may say, fine, or he may say, we need to narrow it down. What issue or issues would you like to talk about? You could say, I know of a blind mother who had her kids taken away just because the judge felt she could not take care of them. Or I know of a blind person who was not given a fair chance on his job, and I'm sure you remember reading about it recently in the newspaper. References to specific instances of discrimination will spark his interest more than the word blindness. You might try using psychology as I did in writing to the program, Focus on Issues. I pointed out that they had interviewed members of other minority groups but not the blind, and as a result they invited us to appear.
If you find that a station carries a likely program but that the host is not employed by the station, you might try calling and asking for his name and address in order to write to him. You should include a copy of the brochure, What is the National Federation of the Blind or fact sheets on issues you are suggesting as topics or (if the program is an important national broadcast like the Larry King Show), President Maurer's resume.
Remember that the best time for calling a station to make arrangements for talk show appearances is during normal business hours. Sometimes it is possible to call the producer of a particular show and talk to him as he is screening the calls. But this is rare. He will probably tell you to write a letter to the manager, program director, talk show host, or himself. In all cases ask for the exact name and correct spelling of the person to whom you should be writing. To say "Dear Station Manager" is never as effective as using the correct name. When the program host or producer assigns you an interview date, and particularly if he requests background literature, be sure to send it immediately. Do this anyway, even if the host does not request it.
Occasionally you will be told that someone will get back to you with a date, but no one does. I have experienced this myself. A talk show host once told me that he would let me know by the following week when a Federation representative could appear on his show, but he never called. The only thing to do in this case is to call back and pretend that you have been hard to reach so that you must have missed the call.
If you or the person you have arranged to have appear on the program cannot keep the appointment for any reason, try hard to find another representative. If you cannot find a replacement or if the producer does not want a substitute, see if you can reschedule the appearance. I once had a station reschedule an interview with Dr. Jernigan because it was broadcasting a Baltimore Orioles game at that time. Remember that the whole purpose of your effort is to tell our story and to educate the public. After you have appeared on the show, you should write a letter of thanks to the talk show host. You want to leave him with the impression that he has played a role in giving blind people the chance for equality that we deserve. If he thinks well of us, he may be more willing to have someone appear on his show again when something important happens that affects blind people.
If you are the head of a committee doing PR, as I am, you will have to do things differently. Before calling the station or making any arrangements for appearances, ask the president of your chapter or state affiliate for the names of leaders whose names and telephone numbers can be given to program personnel as possible guests. Then proceed as I have already described with your efforts to persuade show hosts or producers that devoting a program to a discussion of the real issues of blindness would be a valuable and interesting idea.
State conventions present a different challenge since the news value of an appearance by a Federation leader already is obvious. Most radio stations will think the fact that a number of blind people are going to get together in the city is news-worthy. Whether or not it is important enough to devote time to is a question which you should help the staff answer yes to. Begin early with writing letters. For example, if your state convention is in November, start contacting stations in August. Try writing all the stations in a given area.
One year the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland had its state convention in Ocean City, which is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. So I wrote to every station that I knew on the Eastern Shore. I must have written close to two dozen letters to both TV and radio stations. I wrote to the program directors of each one. How did I find their names and correct addresses? I called my public library with my Braille-writing equipment and paper handy and took down the information the librarians gave me. Most public libraries have reference desks or departments, where phone books, media lists, and other references are stored.
Don't expect that every station will respond to your letter. Only four came to the Ocean City convention, but even that was very useful. When I came home from the convention, I wrote thank-you notes to each reporter who did a story. This is not necessary, but the reporter will remember you and the National Federation of the Blind if you do. The note gives you one last chance to remind the media person of just how important it is that people understand the real problems of blindness.
As the person making the press contacts, you should make every effort to attend the state convention. But if you are unable to do so, ask the state president or the person assigned to work with the press during the convention to keep track of which stations covered the event and make a point of thanking the reporters. Keep an address file in the medium most convenient for you, so when it comes to writing those thank-you letters, you can do it without having to call the library again.
Don't be surprised if the library sometimes gives you out-of-date information. Radio and TV people change jobs constantly, and the books and lists that libraries use are printed only once a year. Often smaller libraries don't even get the books every year. Don't let wrong information discourage you. Just keep writing your letters and making your calls. That way you will know when new people come to the stations you work with, and they will know you and the National Federation of the Blind. There is a lot of apathy among the public, the uncommitted blind, and maybe some of us. Only you can judge for yourself where you stand. It is not my job to judge other people, but when I think about all the work there is to do in the Federation, I remember that if I don't do as much as I can, it won't get done. Educating the public by contacting talk shows is something we all can do.
TEACHING TEACHERS ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS
by Barbara Pierce
What does one do when one's child is facing a violation of his civil rights? Most of us in the National Federation of the Blind are used to standing up for our own rights and taking the repercussions of our actions, whatever they may be. It gives a parent pause, however, when the one reaping the consequences is a child, one's own child. This was the dilemma that faced John and Susan Ford, leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, in January, 1990, when their son Brent's teacher called to say that he would not be allowed to participate in a school field trip the next day because the teachers supervising the expedition did not want the responsibility of having a blind youngster in the group. Considering that Brent is receiving cane travel instruction and has never given any indication of constituting a danger to himself or any other student, this decision struck the Fords as a clear violation of Brent's right to participate in an interesting class activity. He was being punished because the teachers involved had preconceived and misinformed notions of the abilities of this blind student. The irony of the situation (the field trip was to attend a presentation about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.) was heightened by the fact that both the teachers were themselves African American. Here is the letter that the Fords wrote to the school's principal:
January 9, 1990
Mark Englehart, Principal
Dear Mr. Englehart:
Today I received a telephone call from Terri Bascom. She explained to me that she was sending permission slips home with the eighth graders in preparation for a field trip on Friday. She further explained that the field trip would be to Keil Auditorium, where the youngsters would see a film and read some materials prepared by a coordinating committee regarding Martin Luther King, Jr., and his contribution to the civil rights of blacks. Ms. Bascom then explained that she was not sending a permission slip home with Brent. She said she and Ms. Stevens were taking about seventy-five young people and they didn't want the responsibility of taking Brent. She said there were lots of stairs and she didn't want the responsibility. I asked her if Brent had fallen down stairs often at school. She replied that she did not know but that she didn't want the responsibility. I said that she would know if he had fallen and that so would I. I then said that I knew she understood about discrimination and that if she could not demonstrate that Brent was unsafe, we would permit him to go.
I pointed out that Brent takes mobility twice weekly and that he travels throughout Valley School, but she reiterated that she did not want the responsibility. Now Mr. Englehart, here are two of your teachers both of whom are black themselves and should, therefore, understand about civil rights and about how demeaning discrimination can be. They propose to take a group of young people and teach them about Martin Luther King, Jr. How on earth can one teach about Martin Luther King without teaching about discrimination? Yet these same teachers propose to deprive a blind child (who participates daily in a public school classroom) of his right to go on this very field trip. How ludicrous!
I realize that these teachers are trying to protect Brent from possible injury. However, discrimination is still discrimination, whether it is founded on hate (black civil rights) or upon love (blind civil rights).
Brent has indicated that he would like to go on this field trip, so I am sending a note giving him our permission to do so. You will note that we are giving this letter some publicity. If Brent is not permitted to go on this trip and other students do go, then on January 16 we will be contacting the Regional Office of Human Rights Enforcement for the Department of Education in Kansas City to file a 504 complaint against Maplewood-Richmond Heights School district and these teachers in particular. This situation is intolerable to us as blind people; and, frankly, it would have been seen as intolerable by Martin Luther King, Jr., as well.
Susan I. Ford
John D. Ford
cc: Terri Bascom, Teacher
Anita Stevens, Teacher
Dr. Jerry Elliot, Superintendent
Jackie Ess, Special School District, Vision Coordinator
Susan Knecht, Itinerant Teacher
Laura Zabalov, Mobility Specialist
Gary Wunder, President, National Federation of the Blind of Missouri
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind
Mary Tessereau, School Board Member
Ann Clark, School Board Member
Patricia Morrow, Editor, Blind Missourian
Barbara Cheadle, President, Parents of Blind Children Division, National Federation of the Blind
That is what the Fords had to say, and it wasn't long before there were results. Mr. Englehart, the school principal, was predictably displeased to find that copies of the correspondence had been sent to so many of the people to whom he reported. He assured the Fords that if they had come to him with the problem earlier, he could have resolved it amicably. The Fords pointed out that they had not known about the teachers' decision until the last moment and that they had done the only thing they could see to do to protect their son's right to attend the school event.
The Superintendent of Schools, who is himself African American, received his copy of the letter on the Thursday before the Friday field trip. He immediately called the Fords to inquire whether or not the problem had been resolved. It had not, and the Fords said so. He assured them that it would be before the day was over.
The solution agreed upon by the administrators was, as most such resolutions are, not all the Fords would have liked. The school principal asked that another member of the teaching staff volunteer to accompany Brent on the field trip. The resource teacher did so, and she and Brent both joined the Maplewood students at Keil Auditorium. Most of the eighth grade sat close to the stage, but Brent, who the teachers had feared would fall on the stairs, chose to sit at the top of the auditorium. The resource teacher followed along behind, and, of course, there were no misadventures as he climbed the innumerable steps.
Did the classroom teachers learn anything about civil rights from this experience? It is hard to say. They did learn that, like our African American brothers and sisters a generation ago, blind people today will no longer settle for being passed over and dismissed as incompetent and of no account. They probably enjoyed the learning of this fact about as little as white Americans did and still do. But perhaps they will learn to look at Brent as the real human being he is, not as the bundle of myths and misconceptions they have projected onto him. If so, they will have grown, and their future students will all benefit.
But the story does not stop here. At fourteen, Brent Ford has until now never experienced discrimination in a form that he could clearly recognize. When his teacher denied him the right to join the field trip, he realized for the first time that all the things for which his parents and their Federation friends have been fighting are of desperate importance to him and his generation, too.
The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri had scheduled a legislative day in Jefferson City shortly after Brent's school adventure. He expressed interest in attending the event with his parents, so they took him out of school for the day. One of the bills about which the Federationists were to be talking with legislators was the Missouri Braille Bill, which had been incorporated in a Children At Risk bill, which was before a Senate committee on the day of the trip to the capital.
Brent, who has never been very excited about using his slate and stylus, was encouraged to write some remarks during the ride to Jefferson City. He did so, using the slate, and when the group arrived, he began talking with legislators about the issue of the availability of Braille to blind school students. They were impressed so impressed that Brent was asked to address the committee which was hearing testimony that day. He was the only Federationist allowed to speak, but he did his work well. The bill passed the Senate and is on its way to the House with a good chance of passage.
This story is a salutary reminder to us all that we never know what effect our work will have on those around us. Sometimes, when we consider the vastness of the sea of ignorance about blindness that surrounds us, we feel as if we are all alone bailing out that ocean with a teaspoon. But there are well over fifty thousand of us, attacking the problem at every point, and we are making progress.
MY MOST UNUSUAL DAY
by Zach Shore
Zach Shore is the editor of The Blind Activist, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. He is also a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. The following article appeared in the February, 1990, edition of The Blind Activist. It reminds us that the fruition of our dearest dreams most often is manifest in the simple and apparently insignificant. Here is what he has to say:
Life is like a mountain climb, my friend's grandmother used to tell him. Some people scramble quickly to the top while others wander and lose themselves along the way. As my friend related his grandmother's philosophy to me, I was intrigued. I waited for him to finish, but he said no more.
Well? I prodded him.
Well, what? he asked, obviously confused.
Tell me the rest of the metaphor, I insisted. If life is like a mountain climb, then what's at the top?
There was silence. It seemed inconceivable to me that he had never asked his grandmother this question. He admitted that he had always been so enraptured by the romantic imagery of the metaphor that he had never considered what might be at the top. That moment was an epiphany for me. For the first time I realized just how often we all are hypnotized by language, forgetting to ask the key questions. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of our movement, I want to ask not just what lies at the top of our mountain or toward what we are climbing, but also how we will know when we finally reach the peak.
But before I can talk specifically about our mountain, I must first tell you about the most unusual day I ever spent. It occurred about a year ago right in my own home town of Philadelphia.
It started out like any other Monday. I had errands to run and business to take care of. At 9:00 a.m. I left my apartment for the post office.
On my way to mail some letters, I had to cross several busy intersections, which I traverse nearly every day. When I reached the first street, I waited and listened to the traffic. As soon as the cars parallel to me began to move, I crossed, and nothing happened. At the post office I found the mail box with my cane, dropped in the envelopes, and headed for the grocery store. At the Shop 'n Save I found the service counter and asked for someone to help me pick out some items. A friendly employee obliged, I waited in line with everyone else, paid for my groceries; and nothing happened.
Nothing continued to happen for the rest of the day. When I at last returned to my apartment, it hit me. Seeing my expression of stunned incredulity, my roommate asked me what had happened. For the first time since I began carrying a cane I could honestly say that absolutely nothing had happened. That was the single most unusual day I have ever spent, before or since. It was the day that nothing happened, and it was so unusual because every other day something does happen.
On any other day crossing a busy street means having an old woman grab my arm and try to help me. On any other day using my cane to find a mail box means having strangers shout, The sidewalk is to your left! You're by the mail box! Turn around! On any other day asking for assistance at the service counter might mean hearing a disembodied voice proclaim over the P.A. system, Someone to the service counter to help the blind man.
Of course, rarely is a whole day like this, but almost never does a day pass without incident. The public, though well-meaning and good-natured, still does not fully understand or accept us. It is not to be blamed or judged. Our task is to teach society. What should we make of my most unusual day? Was it simply a rare series of coincidences, a strange chain of non-events, or was it more significant? Perhaps my most unusual day was a faint foreshadowing of a change which is slowly emerging in the public mind. I firmly believe that these unusual days will become more and more frequent for all of us as the years progress. The public is coming to accept us as equals, but change which is lasting takes generations to produce.
In another fifty or one hundred years, when the airline issue is just a vague, unsettling memory, when NAC has gone the way of so many archaic tools, and when good training is accessible to all blind people, our work will still not be done. Our task as a movement will be complete only when the blind of this nation can travel to their places of business and perform their daily routines unencumbered by incident or episode, just like everyone else. In short, when our most unusual days become commonplace and mundane, then we will truly have reached the top of our mountain. That is what we are climbing for, and that is what we will achieve! My friends, take an active part in this movement, and together we will turn our most unusual days into well-deserved commonplace.
WHO'S ABLE TO TEACH?
by Gwen Nelson
Gwen Nelson is an active member of the Richmond Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. She is efficient and competent, and she does not suffer fools gladly. Small wonder, then, that she should notice the contrast between effective blind travelers and an inept orientation instructor provided by her rehabilitation agency. This article appeared in the Winter, 1990, edition of The NFBVigilant, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia.
It's perfect, I thought as I took one last look at the condominium I was planning to purchase. As I signed the contract, I began thinking of the things I would have to learn. One of the most important would be use of the shuttle bus and the city bus to and from my place of employment. About a month before I moved, my rehabilitation counselor contacted me to see if I would like orientation services from the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped (VDVH). I accepted the service after being assured that it would be given immediately rather than after the general two-to-three-month waiting period. I did receive immediate service, but the quality was severely lacking.
At our first meeting my sighted, credentialed instructor surprised me by asking me to show her the shuttle bus stop since she had not located it, and I did so.
The following day we set out to ride the city bus. The transit information service had told me to take a Robinson bus, but the driver of that bus told me to take another line because it would be closer to my home. I asked the instructor to show me that route. She responded by telling me that I should ride the Robinson bus since, as she put it, there are more quiet crossings. Since I insisted on learning to use the stops closest to my home, she agreed to come back the following day.
The next afternoon we waited a long time at the bus stop for the bus that came closer to my home. When it didn't arrive, I asked the driver of a passing bus when it would arrive. He directed us to the correct stop. By this time the instructor had been with me most of the afternoon. She suggested that I continue using the Robinson bus (even though the trip is longer).
I contrast this fiasco of wasted time, dealing with someone whom VDVH deemed qualified to teach travel, to my experience with blind Federationists at our Washington Seminars. We did not wait at incorrect bus stops, and we did not always take the more quiet crossings. We used the most efficient means to make our way about Capitol Hill. We traveled on the Washington metro rapid rail system and traversed the myriad of connecting tunnels throughout the Capitol Hill area. We had no sighted, credentialed instructors to teach us the way. In my comparison of the VDVH instructor with my blind colleagues, my Federation friends win hands down. Yet the VDVH will not hire blind people as mobility instructors because its policy follows that of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. That policy states that one must have sight to teach blind people to travel safely. How many accidents have you heard of that involved blind mobility instructors or their students? Aren't we facing yet one more myth?
I'D RATHER BE MUGGED
by Michael Baillif
As Monitor readers know, Michael Baillif is the President of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind. He is also a first-year student at the Yale University School of Law. This article is reprinted from the Winter/Spring edition of the Student Slate, the newsletter of the Student Division. On the face of it, not many of us would express a preference for being mugged, but Michael argues his case persuasively. Here is what he has to say:
The city of New Haven, Connecticut, is a bad place. Street crime is all too common, and only the unwary, innocent, or foolish run errands without the illumination of daylight or the protection offered by large groups.
Exercising blissful disregard of this fact of life, a friend and I recently strolled out after dark in search of a bank auto-teller machine. As we rounded a corner, moving away from the main thoroughfare, we encountered another friend who was walking toward her car. The three of us talked cheerfully as we strolled further down the block. After a time we stopped to continue our conversation before saying goodbye. Without warning we were accosted by a man who was obviously quite intoxicated. As he grew increasingly belligerent, it became all too apparent that his motives for engaging us in conversation were less than benign. This surmise was confirmed when a second, very large, man (evidently a friend of his) approached us from the opposite direction. Needless to say, things looked very grim. All of a sudden, the first man looked at me and asked, What's that? gesturing toward my cane.
I ignored him as I busily calculated the extent of my emergency medical coverage. Addressing a similar question to my friend, he challenged, Why's he got that? What is it, a hockey stick? In a matter-of-fact tone, my friend responded, No man, that's a white cane; he's blind.
The man was immediately mortified. Ohhh gee! I'm so sorry! We shook hands and introduced ourselves. I was Michael; he was Tyrone. After several more apologies, I reassured him that I was not offended and that everything was cool. Look, he told me, you remember, my name is Tyrone. I'm around these streets all the time, and if you ever need anything, you got it! I thanked him for his offer. As he moved away, still contrite, he called out as his final comment, Hey, I'm black.
Concluding our errand and turning toward home, my friend and I laughed about the incident. But the more I played it through in my mind, the more depressed I became. My friend perceived only the short-term benefit of Tyrone's reaction to my blindness; we were not mugged. This was a good thing to be sure, but I was greatly distressed by the larger implications. As a blind person I was thought to be so pitiable, inferior, and removed from reality that I could not be afforded equal treatment, even where street crime was concerned! I'd rather be mugged, I brooded to myself. It is absolutely necessary for me to be perceived and treated as an equal if I am to achieve in life those things for which I strive. If this insistence upon equality carries its price, assessed in a renunciation of preferential treatment, and an abdication of seemingly beneficial immunities, I'll pay it. I would rather be physically mugged as an equal than spiritually brutalized as an inferior. As I mulled over the encounter with Tyrone, however, it occurred to me that perhaps Tyrone himself had unconsciously identified the means by which blind people will eventually make the transition from inferior wards to equal citizens. Tyrone had intuitively grasped the reality of which so many service providers, social workers, psychologists, and so-called professionals seem to be unaware to be a blind person is to be a member of a minority group. The struggle of blind people to achieve social respectability is synonymous with that of any other minority group battling to attain first-class citizenship. When Tyrone said, Hey, I'm black, he was implicitly saying I can relate to you; I understand what it means to be demeaned and insulted. I know how it feels to be treated like an object rather than a person.
I understand, and I'm sorry. Perhaps it was empathy and identification rather than pity and condescension which spared me from being mugged. I hope so. Tyrone's departing comment certainly evidenced a muddle of pity and understanding. Yet somehow, because of our shared minority experience (his blackness and my blindness), he was nevertheless closer to perceiving and treating me as an equal than the larger, more respectable social establishment has ever been. Just as in the case of Tyrone, however, the way to reach this establishment is to instill in them the recognition that blind people (as surely as those who are black or Jewish or female) are part of a minority group. We are striving, not for paternalism and custodial care, but for liberation and equal treatment. This is the banner we must carry. It is also the battle we must fight.
As we are successful in our endeavors, some members of our group will inevitably face the negative ramifications of equality. Some of us will be mugged. Nevertheless, the short-term evil is acceptable, and even preferable, to the insidious and pernicious violence done to our dignity, our will, and our humanity when we accept the convenient compromise which results in second-class citizenship. Certainly I prefer to be accorded equal treatment without being mugged in the process; nevertheless, if a choice must be made, I'd rather be mugged.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD:
LETTER FROM LILLIAN SYKES
From the Editor: There can be no doubt that we have made great progress in changing public attitudes about blindness and, moreover, that the pace is accelerating. How are we doing this? Is it being done through the work of national, state, and local leaders? Yes. Is it being done by our radio and television public service announcements? Again, the answer is yes. Is it being done because of learned articles and seminars and conferences? Once more the answer is yes.
But there is something else, something which undoubtedly results from the things I have listed but which is ultimately the catalyst to the final goal the goal of full participation by the blind in society on terms of equality and first-class status. I refer to the vigilance and determination of rank and file blind people and their sighted family members, friends, and associates. In short, to the heightened level of conscience on the part of the tens of thousands of members of the National Federation of the Blind. If today in this country a book or a magazine makes a disparaging remark about the blind, the publisher can expect to hear about it. If a TV program shows the blind in a false light, somebody will unerringly zero in on the matter and object.
All of this comes to mind because of a letter I have just read from Lillian Sykes of North Carolina to the NBC producers and writers of the show Golden Girls . I gather that this program (which I confess I had never heard of) has wide national popularity. Here is Lillian Sykes's letter:
Summerfield, North Carolina
February 25, 1990
Writers and Producers
New York, New York
I have been a Golden Girls fan since its inception. You have through the dialogue of your characters dealt with many issues which should be brought to the attention of the public. However, on the program which aired on February 24, 1990, you really showed your prejudice about blindness. One of your characters (Buzz) was dressed in an outfit befitting a clown. Another of the characters (Ma) said, I have never seen a sighted person dressed like that.
I doubt that you would have used the words white person or black person. This shows me that you are very much uninformed about blindness. It saddens me to know that anyone as intelligent as producers and writers can be so ignorant about blindness. No self-respecting blind person would dress like that. Blind persons are just as particular about their attire as any one else. There are Braille tags (one is attached) which can be sewn into the inside of clothing to enable a blind person to match clothing.
I have never seen a blind person dressed in such a manner, and I know a lot of blind people. I am a sighted woman married to a blind man. We belong to an organization, the National Federation of the Blind, which is fifty years old this year and is more than fifty thousand members strong. We go to the state and national conventions each year. Therefore, I am in a position to know how blind persons dress. There are other things about blindness which you do not know. There are blind doctors, blind lawyers, blind scientists, blind teachers, blind bankers, and blind people in all walks of life. It is only the prejudice of people like you which holds them back.
Blind persons keep house, cook, bake, do needle work, and raise families; they ski, climb mountains, play baseball, bowl, garden, go to movies, and watch TV. Some of the ones I know can also use a chain saw. (You should have used one on this segment.) Instead of putting blind people down as you did on this show, why not have one showing a blind person leading a normal life, as most of them do. If you are in doubt, why not come to one of our national conventions as Paul Harvey did. This year's convention is at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport in Dallas, Texas, June 30-July 7.
For more information or a positive attitude about blindness, contact: Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (301) 659- 9314.
cc: Marc Maurer, President, NFB
Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director, NFB
Barbara Pierce, Chairman, Public Relations Committee, NFB
Hazel Staley, President, NFB of North Carolina
WXLL, Channel 12
CHANGING PUBLIC ATTITUDES ABOUT BLINDNESS:
IOWA'S INFORMATION FAIR
by Peggy Pinder
As Monitor readers know, Peggy Pinder is the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. The information fair she describes here is the product of a long evolution. Several state affiliates conduct such events (Maryland for one, from whom Iowa first took the idea). It can be adapted to fit any state's talents and staffing capacity. Here is the way that Iowa does it:
How do we inform parents about the capabilities of blind people so that they learn to expect performance and participation from their blind youngsters? How do we inform elected officials about the capabilities of the blind so that they will understand our basic philosophy when we discuss specific bills or policies with them? Is there a good way for blind people to demonstrate our alternative techniques to the sighted so that, by watching their reactions, we can really come to believe ourselves that our techniques are as effective as theirs? In answer to all these questions and, because it is just plain fun, the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa holds a public information fair every year in early January at the beautiful Des Moines Botanical Center building on the Des Moines River near the center of Iowa's capital. This year one of our members who has a camera took about twenty minutes from other assignments to snap a picture record of the information fair. Here are pictures and accompanying descriptions of our 1990 information fair, the place to be between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 10, 1990. Invited guests will be described using their titles, so the others mentioned will be Federation members.
Our information fairs are famous for bringing severe weather (once a blizzard that closed the northern third of the state). But this year's weather was balmy, helping to bring our largest attendance ever. Parents, kids, and invited officials first stopped at the registration table to get their twin-vision name tags, already printed and charmingly (because she is always charming) Brailled before their eyes by Ruth Schroeder using a slate and stylus. State First Vice President Bob Ray and I as State President helped to greet guests as they entered. Here I am handing complimentary drink tickets to Representative Bill Harbor (R - Henderson).
Guests were shown to the first of the Botanical Center's two large function rooms by the children of several members, including Boy Scout Marc Ray, son of Bob and Jan Ray. In the first room, NFBI members had set up displays around the outer walls, leaving the center free for a new attraction organized by Deb Smith: a demonstration of martial arts by a blind Iowa State University student, Clay Gurganus, and two of his friends. The three martial artists offered to show guests some simple techniques, an offer which several legislators and children eagerly accepted. Here one of the blind elementary-school-age children in attendance practices the widely-known martial arts high leg kick while one of the Iowa State students reacts in the accepted defensive posture.
In one corner, Federation members had set up a small woodworking shop. Here, Dewey Cummings leans into his work on the lathe as Senator Leonard Boswell (D - Davis City), Mrs. Boswell, and Representatives Halvorson and Harbor watch.
Next to Dewey, Howard Craig operates a drill press while Representative Joan L. Hester (R - Honey Creek) observes. Iowa is moving very slowly toward implementation of roadside vending, and Rocky Smith decided that the information fair would be a good time to talk about both roadside vending and legislative foot-dragging. He and Joe Van Lent, both pictured here in front of the display, made a large sign describing roadside vending and then lined up a number of vending machines, donated by Coke and Greater American Distributing, to show elected officials how the project is intended to work. As guests entered the function room, they saw activity all around and martial arts in the center but always, always at the far end the huge sign and large display of vending machines.
All were drawn to the vending area where numerous discussions, like the one pictured here, took place between Van Lent and the guests. Here he is joined by his wife, Lora, as well as Representative Mark Shearer (D - Columbus Junction) and Karen Kearney, wife of a prominent Republican activist.
At public information functions we never have enough copies of the Voice of the Diabetic , which we find to be as popular as the Braille alphabet cards. Ron Johnson staffed a display about health, including literature about diabetes, in which he showed our guests how to take blood pressure, using a talking blood pressure device. Here Ron takes the blood pressure of Representative Shearer, who has been relaxing and chatting with blind constituents.
A large display taught guests about Braille, its comparison to print, and its versatility. As a part of this display, we set up games such as Monopoly which are available in Braille. Here Ron Greene shows one of our guests how to play Monopoly with a board having raised lines and Braille markings. On the other hand, he may be whipping her in a quickie game of sudden-death Donald Trump Property Swapping. After guests made the rounds in the first function room, they crossed the hall to the second room or took the longer route through the botanical area with winding paths, a small stream and wooden bridge, and the brand new display of spring flowers. Arriving in our second exhibit space, they found another relaxed atmosphere with displays around the walls and Curtis Willoughby in the center, showing interested guests how informative a white cane can be. Two years ago a gubernatorial candidate decided that the cane was so informative when used properly that he donned sleep shades and raced up and down the cane enclosure with a nine-year-old Federation member, calling to me as I stood on the side lines that he was, by golly, going to beat that kid this time. The kid, much more agile and practiced, did not allow this prophecy to become a reality.
My own legislator, Representative Phil Tyrrell (R - North English), picked up his strong sense of confidence in the value of a white cane from seeing me use one. When he attended his first information fair in 1987, he was one of the first in the cane enclosure, where he picked up a cane and calmly started walking around. Now every year he practices his skill (or maybe shows off a little) as others watch. Here, Curtis listens carefully to Representative Tyrrell's cane technique as Tyrrell strides confidently down the cane course toward the camera. Debbie Smith and the parents of a blind child watch as Representative Halvorson unaccountably walks behind Tyrrell and away from the cookies. Guests, both elected officials and parents of blind children, were delighted and impressed to learn about Doris Willoughby and Sharon Duffy's new book, a comprehensive reference guide for teachers of blind children, which received its first public introduction at the fair. As Curtis says of it, it is priced at $7 a pound and well worth every penny, as those who have examined it can attest.
Here, Doris Willoughby and Debbie Smith have a friendly chat with a mother and her two sons, one of whom is blind. This chance to talk to blind adults and to see them in action is one of the important reasons why we invite parents and their families to our information fair. Secretary of Agriculture Dale Cochran, a long-time friend of many blind people in the state, enjoys attending our fair to greet old friends and to meet new ones. Here he shakes hands with Joel Jeffries, who is demonstrating efficient computer use by a blind person, a skill he knows well since he recently began employment in this very field. We were also joined by Secretary of State Elaine Baxter and by several assistant majority and minority leaders in both the House and Senate.
Among her many talents, Verla Kirsch is a skilled seamstress. Federationists teased her for years because she half-finished the same half-finished pair of pajamas for her husband at fair after fair. We all wanted to know if he had any completed sets at home. She finally finished them, to the joy of her husband, who liked them immensely and promptly left them in a motel while out of town. Here, Verla works on a new project, housecoats for her two youngest grandchildren, who are now wearing their new apparel. Sitting behind her sewing machine, Verla lifts a housecoat to show its seam to an aide from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley's Des Moines office. While making a complete garment, Verla uses her sewing machine and alternative techniques as she explains their usefulness to our guests. Although not pictured here, Margaret Warren, one of our deaf-blind members, was seated nearby, talking with guests and demonstrating the capabilities of deaf-blind persons.
Of course, we show the use of Braille wherever we can, and Wally Schroeder stands here behind a wide variety of Braille cookbooks, explaining their use (and probably the excellence of the cookies baking nearby) to Representative Jane Teasford (D - Cedar Falls), who is obviously interested, but like most other guests, she is probably equally interested in the end product. People of both sexes are always interested in food and its preparation. Here Representative Pat Murphy (D - Dubuque) and Representative Dave Hibbard (D - Booneville) listen intently as Revanne Duckett explains various alternatives used by blind persons in the kitchen. She stands behind a table which is groaning not with food but with the simple, useful alternative tools used by blind cooks. The two representatives have worked themselves round to the corner of the room off which the actual kitchen opens and from which the smell of baking cookies is wafting.
We deliberately set a relaxed atmosphere and design the display areas to encourage interaction between guests and Federationists. We want to talk, to explain our ways of doing things, and to show our guests that we are capable of holding our own in our communities when given the simple courtesy of a chance. The guests always respond, chattering with Federationists about whatever is in the news and about blindness, eating the cookies (as Speaker of the House Pro Tempore John Connors does here while chatting with one of our volunteer helpers), and leaving with a wave and a smile.
Blind children and their parents get a chance to talk in a relaxed setting with a wide variety of blind persons from throughout the state. Families often come as a group, with the blind child and sighted siblings diving in together. One family with several children under the age of ten came through the door, and a sighted sister saw people everywhere with white canes. She turned to her blind brother and said in a half-accusatory tone (as children do): Well, where's your cane? For the first time both brother and sister were in a setting where it was normal to carry a cane, and the brother answered sheepishly that it was home behind the door. Both children left with an altered appreciation of the white cane and the people who carry it. After circulating through the displays and meeting Federationists, the guests gather at the refreshment table to chat and to dispatch the food. As they leave, Federationists hand them a small gift a simple wooden object like the ones on which the lathe and drill press operators are working. Some years we have given wooden candle holders; some years it has been a gavel and gavel rest; some years, like this one, we have presented a flag stand holding Iowa and U.S. flags. All the gifts proudly bear the Federation's name. We also take these small gifts along with us when we visit Congressional offices during the Washington Seminar, and we see them year after year when we return, displayed on desks and shelves on Capitol Hill.
We also hand every departing guest some Federation literature, including the most recent National Convention banquet address and Presidential Report, as well as material about any bills on which we are currently working. Some years, like this one, there are no burning issues, but we continue to hold the fair as part of our ongoing work to change what it means to be blind. We like it, and our guests seem to like it, too.
From the Associate Editor: May is the month in most parts of the country when fresh strawberries begin appearing in grocery stores at more-or-less reasonable prices, and by June we have hit the peak of the season. It seems to me that strawberries just don't taste the way they did when as children my brother and I slipped stealthily down the hill and into the strawberry patch. There we helped ourselves to as many berries as we could gather before the fear of snakes (Mother had once seen a garter snake curled around a strawberry plant) drove us away or the appearance of Mother herself, carrying baskets for us to use to pick enough for dinner, chained us to the drudgery of serious work. Those berries dead ripe, still warm from the sunshine, and a little sandy were as good as anything I have ever tasted. Except for the unfortunate souls who are allergic to strawberries, most people must have some memory equivalent to my early romance with the ill-gotten berries. How else can one explain the nearly universal enthusiasm for home-made strawberry treats. Here are several time-tested favorites. Brighten your early summer with one or more of these delicious recipes.
FRESH STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM
by Marc Maurer
President Maurer, whose prowess in the kitchen is widely known, maintains that this is the only way to make strawberry ice cream. The pattern may be adapted quite satisfactorily to make other fruit ice creams, but listening to President Maurer, one gathers that strawberry is the best.
up to one half gallon half and half
6 eggs, beaten
one quart washed, hulled, and pureed
one cup sugar
one tablespoon vanilla
a pinch of salt
Method: In a large bowl combine one quart half and half, beaten eggs, strawberries, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Transfer mixture to the can of a five-quart ice cream freezer. Add up to a quart of half and half. The mixture should fit comfortably into the can and will make one gallon of strawberry ice cream. Follow manufacturer's instructions for packing the ice cream freezer with ice and rock salt and begin cranking. This ice cream is delicious whether you store it for at least one hour in a conventional freezer as the manufacturer recommends or lick it off the dasher as soon as the ice cream freezer can is opened.
STRAWBERRY DREAM CAKE
by Patricia Maurer
Mrs. Maurer's spectacular strawberry cake recipe appeared many years ago in the Braille Monitor, but a compilation of favorite strawberry recipes would seem incomplete without mention of it. And since many of us missed it the first time around, we decided to reprint it here.
1 package white cake mix
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
1 small package strawberry gelatin
3/4 cup oil
1 package (10 oz.) frozen strawberries or
1 pint fresh strawberries, cleaned and pureed
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 cups confectionery sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Combine the cake mix, eggs, flour, water, and gelatin, and beat for two minutes. Add 1/2 of the strawberries (save the rest for the frosting). Beat cake batter for an additional minute. Add the oil and beat for one minute more. Bake the cake in a greased and floured jelly roll pan (15-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches) for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees. To make frosting, combine the butter or margarine with the confectionery sugar and vanilla and beat well. Add the reserved strawberries and frost the cake.
FRENCH STRAWBERRY TART
by Barbara Pierce
This is a recipe to remember when you want to impress someone special without spending much time in preparation.Ingredients:
Method: Make the tart shell by mixing 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 1 unbeaten egg and mix well. Then add 1-1/2 cups flour and gently mix well. Chill slightly and roll out on well floured surface or, better yet, waxed paper. This dough is very short and very hard to handle. Roll a 12-inch circle about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and transfer, using the waxed paper or the rolling pin, to the outside of an inverted 9-inch cake pan placed on a cookie sheet. Mold the crust to the bottom and side of the pan, making sure that there are no thin places in the crust, particularly where the bottom joins the side. Trim away any extra dough so that the shell reaches to the point where the rim of the pan begins. Bake the crust (dough side up) in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned. Allow to cool a little before transferring to a serving plate and removing the cake pan.
Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon peel, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and nutmeg. Spread this mixture evenly across the bottom of the crust. Pile the strawberries on top of the cream cheese and chill.
Stir the corn starch into the water until smooth. Add preserves and cook stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil and is thickened. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and allow to cool to room temperature. Then pour the mixture evenly over the tart. Allow to chill through. You may garnish with whipped cream, but this dessert does not need the help.
GRANDMA'S STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
by Catherine Randall
Cathy Randall is the First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. She also loves strawberries and strawberry shortcake.
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter or margarine
2/3 cup light cream
strawberries, as many as you can fit in the serving bowls
vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, as you prefer
Method: Mix the dry ingredients and cut in the butter or margarine, using a pastry blender or 2 knives held scissors-fashion. Combine the egg and cream and add to the other mixture, gently mixing with a fork until the flour is just moistened. Then either scrape into a generously greased 8-inch round cake pan (building up the dough at the edges so the cake will rise evenly) or knead slightly on floured surface and cut into 6 2-inch biscuits. Arrange these on an ungreased sheet and bake both biscuits and cake versions in a 450-degree oven until done about 10 minutes for biscuits and 16 to 18 minutes for cake.
To serve, split a biscuit or wedge of cake and arrange in a large dessert dish. Crush some of the berries and stir in a little sugar if the berries are not dead ripe. Spoon crushed berries over each serving and top with ice cream or whipped cream and as many whole or halved berries as possible.
FANTASTIC STRAWBERRY SOUP
by Bill Tormey
Bill Tormey, whose wife directs the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind, is a professional chef in Baltimore, Maryland. Both the Tormeys testify to the excellence of this summer first-course specialty.
1 generous quart fresh strawberries
5-6 tablespoons sugar
3 cups plain yogurt
1 cup sweet cream
22 mint leaves
1 cup Kirsch liqueur or strawberry Schnapps or your favorite
Method: Clean the strawberries. Pick six of the best looking berries out of the batch and set aside. Remove the tops from the rest of the berries and puree them in a food processor. Add the sugar before slowly pouring in the sweet cream. Then add the yogurt. Finish with liqueur if desired. Garnish each serving with a half strawberry and two mint leaves; chill well before serving.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE
by Betty Bowman
While we were collecting these recipes, I promised several people that a strawberry rhubarb pie would be included. Someone even promised to send me a favorite recipe for one, but, of course, I have forgotten who that kind soul was, and no recipe appeared. I do not make this pie because my husband does not care for rhubarb, but I love it. This is my mother's version, and I can attest to its excellence. As a child I considered that the risk of encountering snakes was well worth the anxiety when strawberry rhubarb pie was the reward.
pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie
2 cups of washed, hulled, and sliced strawberries
2 cups of sliced rhubarb stalks
1-1/3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1-1/3 tablespoons butter or margarine
Method: In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and orange peel. Stir well to spread the flour through the sugar. Add the fruit and stir to coat rhubarb and strawberries with the dry ingredients. Line a 9-inch pie plate with rolled pastry and fill with the fruit. Dot the top with butter or margarine. Then roll the top crust and slash the center several times so that the steam can escape. Carefully lay the crust across the top of the pie and seal the edges. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 425 degrees.
TO WHET YOUR APPETITE
From the Associate Editor: Our fiftieth annual convention, June 30 through July 7, 1990, promises to be the biggest and best gathering of the blind in history. Some activities and events will take place for the first time, and some things will happen in connection with our Golden Anniversary celebration that are never likely to take place again. But some activities, though new in content, are old convention favorites. Here is a sampling of what you have in store as prepared by Federation divisions and committees. In many ways an NFB convention is a smorgasbord of events. Plan to come early and stay busy.
Job Opportunities for the Blind Seminar
Lorraine Rovig, Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind program, says:
Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB), will hold its national seminar on Saturday, July 7, 1990, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the Dallas-Fort Worth Hyatt Regency Hotel. Several program items are already lined up: a presentation on reasonable accommodation, a panel on secretarial and medical transcription work how to learn it and how to get hired to do it; a panel on how to get hired by a federal agency which includes the Selective Placement Program Manager from the U.S. Department of Justice; a presentation by a professor of music, and another by a woman who turned her volunteer job into a full-time professional position. Other program items are being planned.
JOB is a free program of the NFB and the U.S. Department of Labor available to anyone who is blind and looking for work in the United States. Some services are also available for employers, service providers, parents, and other interested parties. The national JOB seminar is free. Walk in the door, take a seat. For further information, call 1-800-638-7518 (in Maryland, call (301) 659-9314).
National Association of Dog Guide Users
Bob Eschbach (Member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the National Association of Dog Guide Users) reports that even the dog guides will love this year's National Convention. There are a number of relief areas for the dogs near the hotel. Arrangements are being made to provide written suggestions about where to take them. As has been our tradition, the division will meet on the first Sunday of the convention (July 1 this year), and it looks like a good program is emerging.
After months of searching, the Division has located an editor for our newsletter, Harness Up. Bill Isaacs has agreed to handle these responsibilities and is looking for good articles and news items from everywhere. Please send any material to Bill Isaacs, Box 332, Bourbonnais, Illinois 60914. Because of the recent inactivity of the newsletter, those who paid five dollars this past year will not need to pay for another year's subscription. The next Harness Up will be published in June and will include all pre-convention information. In addition, those desiring specific convention information may send requests to Priscilla Ferris, 55 Delaware Avenue, Sommerset, Massachusetts 02726. Be sure to include your address.
Michael Baillif, President of the National Federation of the Blind Student Division, writes: At this year's National Convention the Student Division will sponsor two events, which present opportunities for enrichment. On Sunday, July 1, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., the Student Division will hold its annual Student Seminar. We will consider issues of concern to blind students in a way which is both instructive and entertaining. Everyone is invited.
While the Seminar offers opportunity for philosophical enrichment, on Wednesday evening, July 4, from eight p.m. to midnight the Student Division will host a Monte Carlo night, providing the possibility of material gain as well. This memorable event will feature a cash bar, provide a wonderful environment for socializing, and allow those card sharks attending the convention to display their prowess at poker. Both of these events will be fun and worthwhile for all. We hope to see you there.
National Association of Blind Educators
Pat Munson, President of the National Association of Blind Educators (NABE), writes to say that the division will hold its annual meeting Monday, July 2, at 1:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Dallas-Fort Worth Hotel. All educators and other interested persons are welcome. We will discuss such topics as eliminating archaic attitudes about blindness harbored by many in special education departments, preparing for and finding a good job, passing those required standardized tests, motivation, focusing one's energies on obtaining salable job skills, blind educators from pre-school to university and their job techniques, and the formatting of graphic material in Braille texts. The meeting will conclude with the presentation of the fourth annual Blind Educator of the Year award. Through NABE we are changing what it means to be blind. Come and share in our success!
Public Relations Workshop
The Public Relations Committee will conduct a workshop from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Sunday, July 1, for all those interested in sharpening their public education skills. Attendees will be expected to take an active part in the morning's program. Planning, organizing, writing, and speaking are all PR skills that will be addressed. You don't have to have past experience or current PR responsibility to take part in this workshop. The committee is looking for people who are interested in this aspect of the Federation's work and who believe that they have some skills to offer.
The Committee on Associates will meet at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 2. Final results of the 1990 recruiting year will be available on tape and in print. Ribbons will be available during registration on Sunday and Monday in the registration area, as well as on Monday evening at the Committee meeting. Those who do not pick up their ribbons will receive them by mail. The Committee will conduct an Associate-recruiting workshop from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3. Check the agenda for location. Nationally prominent Associate recruiter and 1988 champ Bill Isaacs will coordinate the workshop. Snacks and drinks will be available.
Attention Writers and Newsletter Editors
Tom Stevens, President of the National Federation of the Blind Writers Division, informs us that it will sponsor a grant-writing workshop from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 30. The coordinator will be Suzanne Bridges of Louisiana, herself an accomplished grant-writer. The registration fee will be $5, to cover the cost of materials provided. Taping will be permitted. Check the pre-convention agenda for the location.
During Saturday afternoon, June 30, the Writers' Division and the Correspondence Committee will co-sponsor a workshop on the preparation of newsletters. Patricia Munson of California and other experienced state newsletter editors will assist in the workshop. Discussions will include formatting, layout and design, recruiting of writers, copyright, and an extensive question and answer session. The location will be announced in the pre-convention agenda.
Parents of Blind Children Division Seminar
Barbara Cheadle, President of the Parents of Blind Children Division, reminds everyone that a day-long seminar entitled Who Are the Professionals and What Should They Do? A Seminar for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children will take place in our convention hotel on Saturday, June 30. The seminar is free, but special educational packets will be available at a cost of $30. Both parents and teachers will find these extremely valuable, so bring along some extra cash or your check book.
Child care for infants and preschoolers and organized activities for older children will also be available during the seminar. This year Lori Anderson (formerly LeBlanc) and Johnnie Burns will be in charge of the children ages 5 and up. (Depending on the number of children we have, they will be divided into two or three different age groups, and appropriate activities or field trips will be planned for each group.)
There is a $5.00 minimum fee for each child who participates in our organized child-care program and activities. If there is sufficient interest, one of the activities for children ages 9 and up may be a trip to the Six-Flags Amusement Park. The fee for this trip, which would include cost of transportation, a box lunch, and admission to an unlimited number of rides at the park, would be $25 per child. Please let us know on the preregistration form if you are interested in this activity for your child/children. Fill out and return the preregistration form along with your check or money order as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 1990. Although preregistration is not required, it is strongly recommended for children ages 5 and up, for whom special tours or activities have been planned. The preregistration figures will help us plan for adequate volunteer counselors, bus space for trips, sack lunches, etc. We will NOT take more children on an activity than transportation or the number of adult supervisors will allow, so please assure your child's spot by pre-registering.
Public Employees Division
John Halverson, President of the National Federation of the Blind Public Employees Division, reports: The Division will meet at 1:00 p.m. Monday, July 2. A representative from the U.S. Department of Justice will speak about employment opportunities in her department, and another speaker will discuss the outcomes of the contract let by the Social Security Administration to provide computers and training to blind employees. See you in Dallas.
Computers, Computers, and More Computers
The 1990 meeting of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science (NFBCS) will be held at the 1990 National Federation of the Blind convention in Dallas, Texas, on Monday, July 2, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Program items this year include: a technical interchange, which will help people who want to discuss computer problems with each other; a discussion of computer technical support, including considerations of the role played by the rehabilitation system; and a discussion of Grade 2 Braille translation: hardware versus software. These items and many, many more computer-related topics will be considered at the NFBCS meeting. Past attendees are familiar with the crush of people that inevitably occurs at the registration line as folks try to pay their NFBCS dues. This year, in an effort to alleviate the problem, we are encouraging people to pre-register. That's right, if you send us a check for $5 (including your name, address, phone number, and occupation), your membership in NFBCS will be renewed for another year. Send your $5 dues to: Susie Stanzel, Secretary-Treasurer, NFB in Computer Science, 11905 Mohawk Lane, Leawood, Kansas 66209.
Ideas for Blind Job Hunters at the 1990 Convention
Wonder how going to convention can benefit your job search? Here are some ideas from the Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind:
* Bring Copies of Your Resume With You. A number of blind people have made contacts at the National Convention that led to full-time jobs.
* Attend the Division and Committee Meetings (held mostly on July 1 and 2). These are national meetings of blind teachers, lawyers, factory workers, secretaries and transcribers, vendors, and so on. Introduce yourself to the speakers (platform or audience) who interest you, ask them to talk with you later in the coffee shop or the lobby.
* Talk to Everyone You Meet at Convention. If you are standing in line, if you are resting in the lobby with other folks next to you, if you find yourself walking down the corridors in step with a stranger, introduce yourself. As time permits, find out what jobs others are doing, how they found them, what techniques they use, and whether they know of job openings in their fields. When you meet blind people who are searching for work as you are, share ideas on job hunting. Ask members of NFB chapters in other states whether they know anyone who is working in the field that interests you. If they do and that individual is at convention, arrange an introduction through this mutual acquaintance. (The chance-met person may have no useful information for your personal situation but may know someone else who is wonderfully helpful.) Good luck works better if you work at making it happen.
* Be Ready to Take Notes. Carry a slate and stylus with notecards, a small cassette recorder, or a notebook. Jot down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of people you meet or hear about who might help your job search. Write down job hunting ideas, names of companies and agencies, titles of positions anything you mean to follow up on once you are back home.
* Find the JOB Table in the Exhibit Hall. Make an appointment to meet with the director or the assistant director of JOB. We'll help you brainstorm about your job search and can often arrange introductions to helpful contacts among the conventioneers.
* Try out the Aids and Appliances in the Exhibit Hall. Learn their strengths, weaknesses, and costs. Ask the vendors for introductions to blind individuals who use the machines that interest you. Very often such folks will cheerfully sit down with you in the nearest coffee shop and answer your questions. Add their opinions to the data gleaned from the vendors in order to come to some conclusions about the equipment you wish to have to be job-ready in your chosen profession. Gather up ideas from folks at convention on the many ways other people have gotten their equipment costs covered. * And, of course, Attend the 1990 JOB National Seminar. July 7, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the convention hotel.
Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind Diabetics Division, writes to say that the Division will meet this year at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 2. The group will discuss new trends in diabetes management and nutrition. Everyone with an interest in diabetes is welcome.
During the convention kidney dialysis will be available at two locations near the hotel (see next announcement). Those interested in making arrangements for this service should contact the facilities personally.
Kidney Dialysis Available at Convention
During this year's National Convention in Dallas, Texas, dialysis will be available. Individuals requiring dialysis must have a transient-patient packet and a physician's statement filled out prior to treatment. Patients should have their dialysis units contact the desired location in Dallas for instruction on what must be done. There is a mandatory prepayment of twenty percent (approximately $25-$27) which must be paid before each dialysis treatment. This is the amount not covered by Medicare. Following are two dialysis locations which are close to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Hyatt Regency:
1. Irving Dialysis Center, c/o Irving Community Hospital, 2845 West Airport Freeway, Suite 120, Irving, Texas 75062; phone: (214) 258-0880. For scheduling contact: Dwight Stevenson, Director of Nursing. This dialysis location is open six days a week (Monday-Saturday) and is about ten minutes from the hotel, right off the south entrance of the airport.
2. Dialysis Center HEB, 2700 Tibbets Drive, Suite 203, Bedford, Texas 76021; phone: (817) 354-8811. For scheduling contact: Louise, Head Nurse. This dialysis location is open three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and is about fifteen minutes from the hotel, right off the south entrance of the airport.
Please schedule your dialysis treatments early, as space may be limited. If your dialysis unit cannot confirm a space for you, contact Ed Bryant for assistance at: 811 Cherry Street, Suite 306, Columbia, Missouri 65201; phone: (314) 875-8911.
Mary Brunoli, President of the National Federation of the Blind's Music Division, writes: By popular demand the Music Division of the NFB is again sponsoring the Musical Talent Showcase. This will take place on Tuesday, July 3, 1990, at 8:00 p.m. Prizes will be $25, $50, $75, and $100. Entry fees will be $2 for Music Division members and $5 for non-members. Judging will be done on originality, stage presence, musical talent, and interpretation. We would welcome assistance from anyone who knows about recording.
How about a special song in honor of our Federation's fiftieth anniversary year? The Music Division is also sponsoring a song- writing contest. The write combination will win you a $50 prize. The song must have a positive philosophy and be about twenty-four lines in length and set to a familiar, easily- learnable tune. Deadline will be June 16. Send cassettes or material to: Miss Mary Brunoli, President, NFB Music Division, 171 Washington Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06106. Songs will be judged at the convention. We are hoping that the winning entry can be performed before the entire convention.
Human Services Division News
Betsy Zaborowski, President of the National Federation of the Blind Human Services Division, reports as follows:
The Human Services Division will meet from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 2. In the past we have dealt with a wide spectrum of relevant topics, including most recently: blind professionals dealing with violent clients, involvement in professional organizations, and specific questions students in the professions have for their blind senior colleagues. The topics for this year's convention will include speakers and panels dealing with employment issues and strategies for professional advancement. As usual, we will highlight occupations which offer unique and challenging opportunities for blind human service workers. The National Directory of Blind Human Services Professionals will also be available for new members who did not get a copy at last year's convention. The Directory will be revised again this year.
Forms to update or add your career information will be available at the divisional meeting or by writing: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, 1308 36th Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218. The Directory includes short biographies of over fifty blind human services professionals from throughout the country, representing fields including social work, psychology, medicine, counseling, advocacy, and rehabilitation. It is a good resource for professionals throughout the country who share similar problems. By being in touch with blind people doing various jobs, we have been able to assist students and fellow professionals who have been facing job discrimination. We hope to continue to expand the Directory. So if you are employed either on a part-time or full-time basis, please complete one of the Directory information forms and return it to me.
The division has distributed one issue of its newsletter and hopes to increase the frequency of its publication in the coming year. Informative articles, letters, announcements, and other material are welcome. Newsletters are a very important way for us to stay informed between conventions. Submit material in either print or Braille to Betsy Zaborowski.
The Division is open to all Federation members but is especially designed to assist blind human services workers and students in related fields. If you would like to become a member and will not be at this year's convention, you can send your dues ($10 for regular members and $5 for student members) to: Ms. Julie Deden, 1259 South Clayton, Denver, Colorado 80210. Hope to see you at convention. It should be a wonderful fiftieth birthday for us all!
In a recent letter Janet Caron from Pompano Beach, Florida, said: On Saturday, January 13, 1990, the South Palm Beach Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida elected the following officers: Joseph B. Naulty, President; Janet Caron, Vice President; Pamela Gregory, Secretary-Treasurer, Joan Gregory, Board Member; David Evans, Board Member; Richard Giombetti, Board Member; and Marion Jackson, Board Member.
**For Those Who Ride:
Under date of January 31, 1990, we received the following letter:
Dear Dr. Jernigan,
I would greatly appreciate it if the following item could could appear in the Monitor Miniatures section. I am recovering from the succesful removal of my left eye, and the process of obtaining a prosthesis will begin in mid or late February. I will soon be able to resume horseback riding lessons (English style), and I would like to hear from other blind people who ride (either English or Western) who also have artificial eyes.
I am targeting this specific population for two reasons. First, I would like to hear about the experiences of other blind riders. The stable where I take lessons has a very positive attitude about people who are blind. A young boy in my class is blind and partially deaf, and a man whom I have not yet met has advanced to the point that he is competing in shows.
Second, I would like to know if there are safety concerns that I should be aware of when riding which might have a bearing on the prosthesis. Can the eye be worn when riding, and if so should a patch be worn over it? Should the eye be removed when riding? I want to take proper care of the eye, so while these questions may seem odd, I am asking them with sincerity.
I may be contacted in Braille, on tape, or in print (typed) at: Post Office Box 45, Phoenix, Maryland 21131. I may be also be called in the evenings and on weekends at (301) 592-9175.
**Long-Time Federationist Dies:
Under date of January 19, 1990, President Maurer received the following letter from Ed McDonald of West Virginia:
Dear President Maurer:
I am writing to notify you of the recent death of long-time Federationist Joe Smith of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Joe was a charter member of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, and at the time of his death he represented the Parkersburg (Wood County) Chapter on the organization's board of directors. For a number of years Joe operated a vending facility in the Parkersburg Post Office building. At one stage in his life, however, he worked as a coal miner at a time when the union movement was beginning to take hold in West Virginia. Thus, he understood the importance of organization and collective action in solving common problems like low wages and poor working conditions. Later he applied these same principles to the problems of the blind when he became actively involved in the creation of the Federation's West Virginia affiliate. He was also involved in organizing both the Parkersburg and Morgantown chapters.
Joe attended several National Conventions, and despite failing health in recent years, he continued to participate as much as possible in state conventions and board meetings. He died on December 24, 1989, at the age of eighty-three. West Virginia Federationists are proud of the legacy and the integrity of Joe Smith. He was our colleague and friend, and we will miss him.
**Continuous Form Braille Labels:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
American Thermoform Corporation Now Offers Continuous Form Braille Labels ATC has recently developed EMBOSSABLES for exclusive use in any standard Braille embosser. This brand new item, first of its kind, is made of specially formulated plastic and unique adhesive backing. It is available in 8-1/2 x 11-inch size. EMBOSSABLES are packed fifty sheets to a box for $23.95. They can be ordered by contacting: American Thermoform Corporation, 2311 Travers Avenue, Commerce, California 90040.
**Opportunity to Serve:
Bruce Gardner is a Senior Attorney at the Arizona Public Service Company. He is also an active Federationist. As evidenced by the following letter, he now has an opportunity to make an increased impact on programs for the blind in his state:
Office of the Governor
February 9, 1990
Arizona State Government and I are both grateful that you have agreed to serve as a member of the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind Board of Directors. One of the satisfactions of holding office is the opportunity to recognize outstanding citizens by naming them to positions of leadership within our state government....
**Masons Take Notice:
Fred Flowers, one of the officials of the Masons in Maryland, writes: Come and join the William A. Jones Square Club of Blind Masons of the National Federation of the Blind. All Master Masons in good standing who would like to join our Square Club please send your name, address, name of lodge, and lodge number to: Fred Flowers, 3525 Woodstock Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21213.
Ernest Robbins and Tyrone Palmer write: On Saturday, January 20, 1990, during our first busines meeting the National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County, Georgia, elected officers to serve for the next two years. They are as follows: President, Ernest L. Robbins; First Vice President, Isaac Heyward; Second Vice President, Ellen Parker; Secretary, Tyrone Palmer; Treasurer, Bertha Robbins; and Clarence M. Green and Louise Phillips, Board Members.
**Right on Pitch:
We have been notified that Allen Schaefer (President of the Prairie State Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and Treasurer of the National Association of Blind Educators), who teaches vocal and instrumental music in grades kindergarten through eight, has earned a signal honor. For the second year in a row all of his junior high school music contestants received Division I ratings in the Illinois Elementary School Association's State Music Contest held February 24, 1990. Fifteen soloists and ensemble groups from Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Junior High School posted perfect scores, to set a new school record. This is also the first time that any school in IESA competition has earned completely perfect ratings in two successive years. This triumph caps a long history of excellent performance on the part of Schaefer's students. Since 1972 they have brought home 434 Division I, 103 Division II, and 3 Division III ratings in state music competition. Congratulations to Allen Schaefer for a truly extraordinary accomplishment.
Peggy Chong of BLIND, Inc., the rehabilitation center run by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, reports that the grand opening of the remodeled space of BLIND, Inc., on the first floor of the Skyway News Building in Minneapolis took place on January 24, 1990. Rick Hokenson, Director of State Services for the Blind of Minnesota, was on hand to cut the ribbon, and television station KMSP did a story on the event during the evening news with positive coverage of BLIND's work and of the capacities of blind people. Students served as tour guides, and everyone pitched in to make the day a glorious success.
**Talking VCR Available:
President Maurer says: During the past two or three years I have been asked several times if anyone makes a VCR (video cassette recorder) that a blind person can operate. Of course, some of the standard controls are simple play, stop, fast forward, and rewind. However, the programming functions are more complex. The recorders provide on-screen assistance what you have done so far shows on the television screen, together with possible options for your next choice. Seeing the screen is obviously helpful in deciding what to do. Not long ago I received a brochure describing two VCR's with talking remote control units. The advertisement said that these machines (manufactured by Optonica, a division of the Sharp Corporation) were fitted with Voice Coach. Because I had received a number of inquiries about such a feature, I asked the representatives to bring a machine to the National Center for the Blind. Although I do not personally watch television more than two or three times a year, I know many, many blind people who do. I examined the VCR and tried the talking remote control (Voice Coach). It appeared to work.
There are two models of this VCR. One is stereo, and the other is not. I am told that both have four video heads, so if there is a descriptive video service in your community, the stereo VCR makes it possible to record this service.
Company representatives selling the VCR asked me if the Federation would be interested in marketing the product. The stereo unit sells for $600, and the non-stereo for $400. They said we could buy them for a small discount. However, they also told me that these VCR's are available from Boston Information Technology (BIT), a company operated by Mohymen Saddeek. Because the Federation's principal focus and purpose is not the sale of technology, I have serious reservations about whether we should tie up major amounts of capital in such machines. BIT is in the technology business. Why not simply tell people that the machines are available and let those in the business sell them to interested buyers? So, for your information, the toll-free number for BIT is 1 (800) 333-2481.
Remember that while prospects look good in the Senate of the United States for the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act (S. 341), there is still much work to be done on its companion bill, H.R. 563. Continue writing and calling your members of Congress to discuss with them issues of importance to the blind of America. Your ongoing interest in these pieces of legislation will convince our legislators of our commitment to change what it means to be blind.
The Sacramento Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California distributes a monthly newsletter. One of its features is a set of trivia questions about the NFB. The answers are given at the next chapter meeting. If you want to know, you have to come. Here are samples from the March, 1990, newsletter: Who was our Washington Representative before Mr. Gashel? In the 1970s where in Washington, D.C., was our Washington Office located?
Who was the first NFB Treasurer?
When did we adopt our motto The NFB is not an organization speaking for the blind it is the blind speaking for themselves?
Under date of January 22, 1990, Kathleen Owens writes:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
A number of years ago Bob Owens from Trenton, New Jersey, used to attend the NFB conventions. Although he hasn't attended conventions for a number of years, there are still people he knew that do attend them. Bob died on January 1, 1990, of coronary artery disease and diabetes. He was sixty-three years old, and we were living in Morrisville, Pennsylvania (across the river from Trenton). We were still receiving the Braille Monitor .
Colleen Roth sent to President Maurer a press release which said in part:
WTVG, TV 13
For Immediate Release
Area Winners of 1990
Jefferson Award Selected
WTVG is pleased to announce that five Toledo area individuals have been selected to receive the prestigious Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service. These five were chosen from a field of sixty nominations submitted by members of the community at large....
4. Colleen Roth serves in a number of organizations supporting those with disabilities. Blind since birth, she has demonstrated that insight and vision come not from the eyes, but from the heart. She is, along with her many activities, a licensed Respite Care Provider, surrogate parent for children with disabilities, and reads as a lector at her church.... The five will be honored at a luncheon on March 23rd at The Inverness Club of Toledo. Each will be presented with a bronze Jefferson Award medallion.
When President Maurer received a study regarding the performance of children with low vision, he had this to say:
For many years I have held the opinion that blind people who do not use Braille but read and write only with print are at a disadvantage. A ten- page scholarly paper copyrighted in 1990 by the American Academy of Optometry entitled, Visual Characteristics of Low Vision Children reinforces my belief. It says in part: A classroom evaluation of these [low vision] children showed that overall, the clinically determined visual acuity corresponded with classroom performance. A high rate of use of prescribed low vision aids was found, and a reading evaluation on a standardized test showed poor performance with respect to reading speed and comprehension, but almost all the children had adequate reading accuracy. It is nice to know that the professionals have begun to reach the conclusion that if you are blind, it is difficult to read print. It is a sad commentary that the study does not (so far as can be determined) recommend that these low vision children begin to read Braille. In fact, I have not found a single reference to Braille in the entire ten page paper.
However, even though this synthesis of esoteric, scientific research appears to reach the not so profound conclusion that visual performance deteriorates with vision loss, it recommends increased emphasis on teaching with visual aids. Visual aids don't work very well, they say. So, they recommend that more of them be used. If this were a government survey, one would expect its conclusion to look like this: The bureaucracy is causing trouble. Let us establish a bureau to study the difficulty caused by bureaucracy.
Clayton Hutchinson of Computer Conversations has contacted the Monitor to say that initial sales of the Verbette, the new pocket-size speech synthesizer, have gone so well that until August 1, 1990, he is increasing the savings to Monitor readers from $25, as announced in the April Monitor Miniatures, to $150. He added that this decision reflects his company's commitment to providing blind people with the technology they need at the lowest prices possible. For more information about the Verbette, call Computer Conversations at (614) 263-7574.
President Maurer says:
Once in a while there are unusual occurrences at the National Center for the Blind. Recently a man called and asked if we had any connection with a vending business. Of course, we are substantially involved with blind vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard Program, and we have tens of thousands of public service messages on vending machines throughout the United States. Consequently, the man's question was answered in the affirmative. Then, he asked if we wanted to buy jelly beans. It seems that he is in the salvage business. A train wreck occurred not long ago. One product retrieved from the wreckage was a quantity of black jelly beans specifically, 26,400 pounds of black jelly beans. The man wanted to sell these to the National Federation of the Blind at a reduced rate, of course.
Did we buy them? No. Sometimes we buy things that are offered at a good price. We try to make items available that are useful to the blind and might otherwise be hard to get. Most people know that we sell canes and talking clocks. But we also have other things available. One of my favorites is our rice cooker. You can put water, rice, and such flavorings as you want into this device; and it will cook the rice and turn itself off when the rice is done. We also have the Audio-Technica Compact Disc Player available to individuals at the discounted rate of $200.00. The rice cooker is a nifty device. The compact disc player has both a good reputation and a low price. We are able to make these available because we have found a way to obtain them at favorable rates. Nevertheless, even though the jelly beans could be had for a very low cost, I didn't think we could reasonably find a use for over 26,000 pounds of them.