Vol. 34, No. 3 March
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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. 34, No. 3 March 1991
VALLEYFAIR: AN AMUSEMENT PARK NOT VERY AMUSING TO THE BLIND
by Curtis Chong
WHY SHE WALKED OUT ON ME
by Zach Shore
THE YARDSTICK: BECOMING A PART OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT IN NEW YORK
by Marc Maurer
DISCRIMINATION CAN COST DOLLARS
by Seville Allen
ORGANIZING A NEW CHAPTER
by Diane Starin
ON REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS AND EQUALITY
by Ted Young
INSENSITIVITY, RESPONSE, AND PROGRESS
I'LL FIGHT BEING MUGGED
by Greg Hanson
A REHABILITATION COUNSELOR WRITES TO THE BRAILLE MONITOR
MY EXPERIENCE AS A JUROR
by Gwen Nelson
WHAT'S IN AN ATTITUDE?
PARENTS FIND THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Erlinda Cantos
CONGRESSMAN SIKORSKI TALKS TO IRS ABOUT EMPLOYMENT FOR THE BLIND
SOCIAL SECURITY: FACTS ABOUT SSI ELIGIBILITY AND PAYMENT AMOUNTS
NEW ORLEANS CONVENTION: WHERE TO START
by Jerry Whittle
[LEAD PHOTO: Smoke stack in the courtyard at the National Center for the Blind. CAPTION: In 1978 the buildings which now constitute the National Center for the Blind were a rundown factory complex. All of the structures were heated by a boiler, located int he central courtyard building. Boilers, of course, require smoke stacks, and this one was particularly impressive. Therefore, when the factory complex gave way to the ultra modern National Center for the Blind, the smoke stack was retained and capped with concrete, marrying tradition and progress, history and the future. Here in all of its grandeur is the smoke stack at the National Center for the Blind.
[PHOTO: Rami Rabby sitting at a table microphone. CAPTION: Rami Rabby, a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind and one of the newest Foreign Service Officers in the U.S. Department of State.
VICTORY IN THE FOREIGN SERVICE: THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE FINALLY OPENS ITS DOORS TO BLIND CANDIDATES
by Barbara Pierce
On January 7, 1991, Avraham (Rami) Rabby of New York City joined the most recent group of successful United States Foreign Service applicants in Rosslyn, Virginia, where they began nine weeks of intensive study in preparation for assignment to overseas posts in the U.S. Department of State. There is nothing unusual about this class of embryo Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) unless you know that Rami Rabby passed his examinations and security clearance two and a half years ago and has been waiting ever since for this assignment. Rabby is an ideal candidate for the Foreign Service, with undergraduate degrees in French and Spanish from Oxford University in England and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago, expertise in bank personnel management, and years of private consulting work and writing. He was born in Israel and educated in Great Britain before moving to the United States and becoming a citizen. But Rabby is also blind, so for a number of years the Department of State maintained that he could not pass its medical exam and in fact that no blind person could pass the Department's test of world-wide availability.
Rami Rabby is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind, and we have been actively fighting this foolish and illegal State Department policy for more than twenty-five long years. But when Congressman Gerry Sikorski joined the battle late in 1988, we began to hope that victory was in our grasp. The struggle has been long and hard, but now the victory is finally complete. By late spring of 1991 Rami Rabby should be serving his country as a Foreign Service Officer overseas.
Though the history of blind people's interest in employment in the Foreign Service can be clearly traced back as far as 1960, when Dr. Fareed Haj attempted to apply for a job as a Foreign Service Officer, the National Federation of the Blind did not find a case of Department discrimination with clear-cut issues until 1975. In the mid-sixties several Federationists, including the then Director of Governmental Affairs, wrote letters on behalf of Harold Snider, who was a student at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Snider was told that he might as well transfer to another program because, as a blind man, he had no chance of being selected for the United States Foreign Service. In 1975 Maryanne Masterson actually applied and was refused consideration for the Foreign Service because of her blindness. The NFB argued forcefully that the State Department was in violation of Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits the Federal government from discriminating against disabled people in employment. (See the Braille Monitor issue of November, 1975.) Eventually Masterson decided to accept a Civil Service job at the Department of State, and the matter was dropped for the moment.
In 1981, however, the issue arose once again. Don Galloway-- a blind man with much experience, including a stint as the Director of the Peace Corps in Jamaica--tried unsuccessfully to become a Foreign Service Officer. (See the July, 1982, issue of the Braille Monitor.) The story was the same. The State Department believed that it was above the law. The grounds were medical: Galloway could not possibly serve in out-of-the-way posts. This time the dispute took almost three years to resolve, but in the end the case was settled with the Department of State paying Galloway more than $200,000 in compensation for the injury done him. But still the Foreign Service included no officers who, as blind people, had knowingly been hired by the Department.
Encouraged by the Galloway victory, Rami Rabby began his effort to change that situation in December of 1985. He took the written test for the Foreign Service, the first step in the complicated application process. His entire adventure is recounted in the February, 1989, issue of the Braille Monitor. When the State Department eventually realized that it was dealing with a highly qualified candidate who had resoundingly passed all of its tests and met all of its qualifications except the visual acuity portion of the medical examination, it realized that something had to be done.
In the late eighties, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) had conducted a survey of the Department of State and reported that, while the Department had a commendable record of hiring the disabled in Civil Service posts in this country, it was very far from being in compliance with Section 501 in the Foreign Service. The Department was under pressure to do something. It had been providing equal access to its examination process in full knowledge that blind candidates would be consistently rejected at a later stage because they would necessarily fail the vision portion of the medical examination.
The Department decided to rule that it did not have to comply with the provisions of Section 501 because of safety and national security considerations, so it reassessed its own accommodations procedures for the written portions of its tests and changed the rules so that its entire process was at least consistent. It announced in November of 1988 that it would no longer provide readers or Braille materials to people taking the tests. If blind applicants could pass the exam without such assistance, then they were welcome to try. The entry examination would be treated as a preliminary test of an individual's ability to deal independently with original documents. No matter that overseas personnel routinely use the services of secretaries and interpreters to help with their work and ambassadors who had lost their sight while employed in the Foreign Service were serving in overseas posts; blind applicants must demonstrate their ability to read independently in order to be considered at all for employment.
This decision, together with Mr. Rabby's and the Federation's opposition to it, received wide media attention, providing us an excellent forum to argue persuasively that blind people can compete on terms of equality if we are permitted to try. But of even more immediate assistance, the discussion attracted the attention of Congressman Gerry Sikorski, an energetic member of the House of Representatives from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who chaired the Sub-committee on Human Resources of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. Mr. Sikorski knew first-hand about discrimination since he had grown up (as he is fond of saying) "a poor Polish boy." He also knows something about the abilities of the blind because his Minneapolis office is run by Judy Sanders, an extremely competent blind woman who happens to be a leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Congressman Sikorski was outraged that well qualified blind people, who wanted nothing more than an opportunity to serve their country, were being denied the chance to do so. He organized an informal committee hearing called a briefing on Capitol Hill in February of 1989 and summoned State Department Officials to explain and defend their policy prohibiting the blind from consideration for the Foreign Service. (See the April/May, 1989, issue of the Braille Monitor.) Mr. Sikorski was not impressed with what he heard and began talking with several of his Congressional colleagues to plan ways of tying the Department of State's budget authorization for the following fiscal year to its compliance with federal law.
This was language that the Department understood; and, as soon as the Department realized that Mr. Sikorski and the other members of Congress whom he had interested in this problem were not going to go away and leave Department officials in peace, things began to happen. In the fall of 1989 the State Department announced that its examinations would once again be made accessible to blind candidates and that it would eliminate the visual acuity requirement from its medical assessment. It also announced that it was about to make a Foreign Service job offer to a blind candidate.
To no one's surprise, that candidate was Rami Rabby. But it took a year to work out the details. The Department wanted to determine independently when reader assistance would be advisable, what forms of technological accommodation could be made, and when each was appropriate. Rabby insisted that such decisions should be made in consultation with the blind Foreign Service Officer.
At last every i was dotted and t crossed so that the way was cleared for Rabby to join the next class of recruits, which was scheduled to begin intensive preparation at the Foreign Service Institute in Rosslyn, Virginia on January 7, 1991. Following this general course in the ways of American diplomacy and five weeks of consular training, two more intensive courses specific to each person's assignment will take place. At this writing, in mid- January, Rabby does not yet know where he will be posted, but he expects to be on the job overseas by May or June. He has already established his competence in French, Spanish, and Hebrew. If new FSOs cannot demonstrate facility in one foreign language by passing a rigorous test of reading and writing comprehension before leaving the Foreign Service Institute, they must remain for six months of language study. Rabby has more than fulfilled this first requirement for achieving tenure in his chosen field.
What are Rami Rabby's chances for promotion in the Foreign Service? How serious is the Department of State about providing equal access to blind employees? No one knows the answers to these and other important questions. But one thing is certain. Until Rami Rabby accepted this job offer, no blind person had ever been hired as a Foreign Service Officer by the United States Department of State. Rami Rabby is now most assuredly an FSO, awaiting his overseas assignment. He now has an opportunity to demonstrate his ability to do the job he has been offered.
Interestingly, he is not the only blind member of his class. The State Department has a policy that its Civil Service employees can move to the Foreign Service without taking the entry examinations. Maryanne Masterson, who accepted the offer of a Civil Service job in 1975 rather than continue to fight for her right to a Foreign Service career, seems to have been stalled in a job answering visa questions over the telephone for a number of years. When she heard that Rabby really had broken the barrier into the Foreign Service, she decided to make the switch and join him as a new recruit.
One more thing should be noted. When the written examination for the Foreign Service was administered in the fall of 1990, several blind people actually took it using Braille materials or readers. This was in marked contrast to the 1988 test, which took place immediately following the State Department's announcement that the written examination would be the first test of each applicant's ability to deal independently with source documents. (No test was administered in 1989 because of the cultural bias lawsuit in progress against the Department of State at the time. Women and minority group members won that suit, and the 1990 test was altered to contain less culturally biased material.)
A new day has dawned for many minority group-members in the United States Foreign Service. The blind can thank a Polish Congressman from Minnesota, who understood that all Americans should have the right to serve their country, and a tenacious New Yorker, who was willing to fight for six years to get a job for which he knew he was ideally suited. But most of all blind people can thank the National Federation of the Blind--the organization that was articulating our dreams of equality before most of us were old enough to understand the concept and that began fighting this battle with the State Department before most of today's blind Foreign Service applicants were old enough to know what foreign countries are.
We in the National Federation of the Blind are fond of saying that we sometimes lose skirmishes and occasionally lose battles, but we never lose wars because our wars are not over until we have won. It begins to look as if the armistice with the U.S. Department of State has been signed.
[PHOTO: Curtis Chong speaking at podium/microphone. CAPTION: Curtis Chong, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Ronda Del Boccio.]
VALLEYFAIR: AN AMUSEMENT PARK NOT VERY AMUSING TO THE BLIND
by Curtis Chong
For many years blind people have been going to amusement parks. We enjoyed the same rides and attractions as the sighted public. Like them, our hearts quickened with anticipation as we climbed the seemingly endless slope that presaged the swooping flight of the roller coaster, and like everyone else we reveled in the fear and excitement of the ride as it plunged through its many sharp drops, twists, and turns.
Most amusement parks thought nothing of the fact that some of their guests were blind. No special policies and procedures governing their treatment were in place, and none were asked for by the overwhelming majority of blind visitors.
In Shakopee, Minnesota, there is an amusement park called ValleyFair. For many years blind people came to the park and enjoyed the rides and attractions there--all with no fuss or bother from anyone. Then, in the late 1980s, ValleyFair decided to make its park accessible to the handicapped. To that end, ValleyFair developed a whole raft of special policies and procedures. Without consulting the supposed beneficiaries of its efforts, the handicapped, ValleyFair put together a set of rules and procedures designed to make the park safe and accessible to them. However, for the blind, these policies and procedures had exactly the opposite effect.
On July 17, 1989, Janet Lee, who is blind, went to ValleyFair with a friend to celebrate her birthday. Janet is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and serves as vice president of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.), the Federation's training center for the adult blind in Minnesota. Because she had been to ValleyFair many times before and had taken many of the rides without any trouble, she expected to have a good time. Alas, it was not to be. ValleyFair's policies regarding the handicapped were now in force.
Janet's first indication that something was amiss was at the entrance to the park. There she observed prominent signs proclaiming that handicapped persons must report to Guest Relations so that they could be informed about the park's policies concerning specific rides. Assuming that the term "handicapped" applied to someone with a mobility impairment, Janet ignored the signs and entered the park.
At the gate the attendant told Janet that she had to go to Guest Relations so that she could be told which rides she could and couldn't ride. Janet told the attendant that she had been to the park many times before and that she was perfectly capable of riding any of the rides. The gate attendant insisted that, nevertheless, she should go to Guest Relations. Janet pushed past the attendant and went into the park.
When Janet tried to board the bumper cars, a ride which she had frequented numerous times before, she was told by the ride operator that, because of her blindness, she could not drive the bumper car. In true Federation style, Janet stuck to her guns, and the operator ultimately permitted her to ride as she had done many times before.
This incident, which Janet rightfully regarded as blatantly discriminatory, prompted her to do some investigation. She learned that ValleyFair had a policy specifically prohibiting blind people from driving the bumper cars and the antique cars. She promptly filed a charge of discrimination against ValleyFair with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Unfortunately the Minnesota Human Rights Department was hoodwinked by the safety argument with which Federationists, in dealing with the airlines, have become all too familiar. ValleyFair maintained that its policies regarding the blind had been developed in consultation with a rehabilitation specialist and a biodynamics engineer and that, for safety reasons, blind people should not be permitted to drive the bumper cars. After all, the park maintained, its policies really weren't designed to discriminate against the blind. Rather, they were in place for reasons of safety. So, although in February, 1990, the Human Rights Department did rule that the prominent signs at the entrance to the park requiring handicapped persons to go to Guest Relations were discriminatory, it found no discrimination in ValleyFair's policy prohibiting the blind from driving the bumper cars.
In the meantime, unbeknownst to anyone, ValleyFair was developing an even more demeaning and discriminatory policy dealing with the blind. This policy manifested itself in July of 1990.
On July 22, 1990, Judy Sanders and I took members of our families to ValleyFair to spend the day at the park. In all, the group consisted of Judy Sanders; her sister and her sister's three children (Jason, Jodi, and Joshua); my twelve-year-old daughter Tina; and me. At the park, Judy and I both encountered situations in which park personnel addressed the children who were in our care instead of communicating with us directly. On one occasion Judy Sanders was not permitted to take her cane aboard one of the rides.
Tina, Jason, and I went off to enjoy some of the more energetic rides. On two separate occasions I was required to sit next to one of the children on the High Roller (a roller coaster). The first time the attendant refused to communicate with me but instead said to the two children, "One of you has to ride with him."
This prompted me to pay a visit to the Guest Relations booth. There I was told that, because I was blind, I was required to be accompanied by a responsible adult while riding the High Roller. Apparently, twelve-year-old Tina qualified as a responsible adult in this case. As it turned out, the High Roller was not the only ride for which blind guests were required to be accompanied by a responsible adult. I asked for and received a written copy of ValleyFair's ride policy pertaining to the blind. Here is the text of that policy:
This information is a guide for a person with the following disability: Blind
A guest with the above disability may be safely accommodated on all rides and attractions not noted with an "X." The guest should be accompanied by a responsible adult on all rides noted with an "*."
NOTE: Applicable height requirements apply.
___Amphitheater * Monster +* Antique Cars * Northern Lights * Bayern Kurve @* Pinocchio +* Bumper Cars ___Red Garter * Carousel @* Roadsters _X Children's Climbing Castle * Scrambler * Corkscrew @* Sea Planes * Enterprise _*_Super Cat * Excalibur * Thunder Canyon * Ferris Wheel * Tilt-a-Whirl * Flying Trapeze TOT TOWN * Flume * Ball Crawl ___High Dive Show _X Moon Walk * High Roller ___Swing Art * Hot Air Balloons _X Towering ___Imax * Bike Race @* Kiddie Coaster * Water Ladder @* Kiddie Train @* Rub-a-Dub @* Kiddie U-Turn @* Kiddie @* Lady Bugs * Trabant * Looping Starship * Trolleys ___Monkey Show * Wild Rails
Comments: + Passenger only.
@ The accompanying adult may not ride, should explain the ride to the blind guest and help with loading and unloading. NOTE: Seeing eye dog refer to introduction section.
Needless to say, Judy and I both filed charges of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights against ValleyFair. At the same time, through the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, we got busy spreading the word to the media about ValleyFair's demeaning and insulting treatment of the blind. The story was picked up by a number of radio stations, the local wire service, and quite a few newspapers around the state. The following article, reprinted from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is typical of the favorable coverage we received:
Group Says Park is Biased Against Blind
by Les Suzukamo
ValleyFair amusement park may have been built for kids, but an advocacy group for the blind says its adult members don't have fun there because the park treats them like children.
The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota announced Monday that nine of its members are filing discrimination complaints with the Minnesota Human Rights Department against the Shakopee amusement park because ValleyFair illegally tried to prevent the blind adults from boarding several rides unless they were accompanied by a sighted adult.
"Instead of a good time," said Joyce Scanlan, Federation president, "they were harassed, publicly humiliated, insulted, and treated like children." The group went to the fair on September 23. The fair closed for the 1990 season on Sunday.
The Human Rights Department plans to investigate the complaints once the paperwork is formally filed, enforcement officer Pat Gambill said. The department already is trying to negotiate a settlement with the park over a 1989 complaint in which it believes the park discriminated against a blind woman. The woman, Janet Lee, is one of two blind people who is filing a second complaint against the park, and the park disputes the department's finding.
ValleyFair marketing director Linnea Stromberg-Wise said the policy against letting blind people ride unaccompanied is a safety consideration and is not intended to discriminate against the blind.
"I talked to a blind man today who told me he needed someone to tell him what would happen on a ride; he couldn't go upside down because he was on some medication," Stromberg-Wise said Monday.
She said blind people can board any ride, but the park requires them to be accompanied by a sighted person during busy times to explain what will happen during the ride. During slow periods park personnel can do that themselves, she said.
"If one is able to see the ride, one naturally is able to see what will happen," she said. "If they can't see the ride, they need someone to explain it to them."
But Scanlan said that blind people who want a description of the ride can ask for themselves.
"I just think it's really presumptuous of them to decide they need to tell all blind adults what type of ride they're going on," said Scanlan, who is blind.
Curtis Chong, Fderation vice president and one of the nine people who is filing a complaint over the September 23 visit, had filed a previous complaint over a visit in July with his 12-year- old daughter, who is sighted.
The amusement park ride operators made her ride with her father on a roller coaster, even though she wanted to ride with a friend, he said. The operators talked only to her and acted as if he wasn't there, Chong said.
"I was humiliated," said Chong, who has been blind since birth. He has been a computer systems programmer with IDS for the past 10 years.
"Here I am, trying to teach my daughter, who's sighted and who's 12, that blind people are capable...and they treat her like she's my caretaker," he said.
Scanlan said after the Federation heard about Chong's experience, nine members decided to pay another visit to ValleyFair with a public radio reporter "as a test" of their policy. Chong's July visit complaint is under investigation, Gambill said.
That is what the article said. In response to the charges of discrimination, ValleyFair trotted out the same tired old arguments about safety. Here is an excerpt from the letter prepared by Dorsey & Whitney, attorneys for ValleyFair:
In regards to Mr. Chong's objection to the fact that he was not allowed to ride the High Roller without another person, ValleyFair firmly denies Mr. Chong's claim that this requirement was discriminatory. In order to ensure the safety of its guests, ValleyFair has compiled an analysis on the characteristics of each ride at the Park as well as the nature of various disabilities.... As indicated on the High Roller criteria list, experts evaluating that ride have advised ValleyFair that a blind individual should not ride the High Roller alone. This recommendation was made based on safety considerations. Given this recommendation, ValleyFair had two options: to not allow blind individuals to use the ride or to require that blind persons be accompanied by another individual. ValleyFair believes the latter alternative to be the more preferable.
In this charge, Mr. Chong points out that the ValleyFair policy indicates that on certain rides blind guests are to "be accompanied by a responsible adult." ....Apparently, Mr. Chong did not understand how his twelve-year-old daughter qualified. The ValleyFair policy, however, clarifies this issue:
"For the purpose of our Ride Admission Policy, a responsible adult is defined as someone taller than the post requirement (four feet) who can assist the accompanied person in boarding or deboarding and maintaining his postural control under the dynamic conditions of the ride."
....Again, the purpose of ValleyFair's ride policy is evident--ensuring the safety of its patrons. This is not a discriminatory policy....
There you have a taste of the communication from ValleyFair's high-priced attorneys. It is interesting to note that nowhere in the pile of paperwork prepared by these sober minions of the law could we find a shred of evidence substantiating the claim that the blind, for safety reasons, should not ride the High Roller (or any other ride) alone. Yet, despite the lack of evidence, the blind are presumed to require more safety precautions than the sighted.
Consider, too, ValleyFair's unique definition of the term "responsible adult." The commonly accepted definition of responsible adults is people with their wits about them who are at least eighteen years or older. Apparently, at ValleyFair, anyone over four feet tall qualifies as a responsible adult. Using this twisted logic, a responsible adult could easily be a ten- or twelve-year-old child; and, since the definition contains no references to sight, a blind child could also qualify.
With all of this as background, we decided to test ValleyFair's policies dealing with the blind. On Sunday, September 23, Russell Anderson, Ronda Del Boccio, Nadine Jacobson, Steve Jacobson, Scott LaBarre, Janet Lee, Judy Sanders, Heidi Sherman, and I paid a visit to the amusement park. We were accompanied by two sighted friends and Chris Tetlin, a reporter from Minnesota Public Radio.
We first decided to ride the roller coaster. (ValleyFair calls it a High Roller.) We climbed aboard, and after a short delay the ride began. We later learned that the initial delay had been caused by a ride operator, who found it necessary to phone a supervisor to get permission to let the ride proceed with all those blind people aboard.
We then proceeded to a roller coaster-like ride called the Corkscrew. Here is where the real trouble began. At the head of the line, we were prevented from boarding the ride. An individual identifying himself as a manager told me that the members of my group could not sit together on the ride. Each one of us, he said, was required to sit next to a responsible adult. I pointed out that every member of the group qualified as a responsible adult by ValleyFair's own policy. The manager responded that the responsible adult had to see. It was clear at this point that park management was not going to let us ride the Corkscrew. We, on the other hand, were determined that we would ride. Six members of our group proceeded to climb aboard the ride, and management promptly closed down the ride.
It is interesting to note some of the different perspectives Federationists had during the seemingly endless waiting which followed. Truly, it was a test of nerves. Would management, as some predicted, summon the park's security guards and haul the blind people off the ride? How would the public react to having to stand in line while park management and the blind discussed the issue?
Janet Lee, who occupied one of the cars with Heidi Sherman, tells of how a ValleyFair employee tried to intimidate her by yanking open the car's restraining bar and ordering her to "get out of the car!" When she would not move, the employee went away.
Steve Jacobson said that this reminded him a lot of a similar situation he experienced while sitting in an exit row aboard a United Airlines flight in Louisville, Kentucky.
Scott LaBarre said that this was the very first real experience he had ever had with outright discrimination against the blind. "I knew this kind of thing happened to other people," he said, "but this is the first time I have ever experienced it. When you think of it, ValleyFair is really being rather stupid."
In the ever-lengthening line, members of the public were growing irritated by the long delay. Many of them wanted to know why management simply wouldn't let the blind people ride. Judy Sanders, who had declined to ride the Corkscrew because it simply wasn't her kind of ride, happened to be standing in line; and it was a good thing, too. Judy was able to explain the issue to people who were growing impatient with the long delay. One group started up a chant: "Let 'em go! Let 'em go!"
After forty minutes park management caved in and agreed to let us--but not until they described the ride to us first. Although most of us had ridden the Corkscrew before, we agreed to listen.
One of the managers then launched into a description of the ride, making references to steep inclines, chain-linked drives, and "double helixes." All in all, the description was totally incomprehensible.
Before the ride started up, I heard one park employee ask the manager if the Corkscrew shouldn't be tested first because it had "been down" for quite a while. I distinctly heard the manager say, "Let 'em go."
In three hours we were able to take in only four rides. Park managers trailed us everywhere we went, and at every ride operators insisted that we could not ride together. On the Ferris Wheel, for example, ride operators inveigled sighted people to ride with us. However, to their credit, most members of the public would have none of it. Finally, management apparently gave in. The park was about to close anyway. They simply authorized each ride operator to let the blind folks ride together.
Chris Tetlin, the Minnesota Public Radio reporter, had his tape recorder running throughout the entire visit to the park. He interviewed members of the public and park management. The following story was broadcast:
News Anchor: Eight blind people caused long delays on some rides last night at ValleyFair Amusement park by boarding a number of rides without sighted companions. Protesters are members of the National Federation of the Blind. They say the park's rules are discriminatory. The rules say blind people must be with sighted people on most rides. Chris Tetlin was at the park, and he has this report:
Chris Tetlin: The group of blind people rode the roller coaster, the ferris wheel, the Carousel, and a roller-coaster- like ride called the Corkscrew. During the group's evening visit to the park a trio of ValleyFair managers followed the group to most rides, and in a couple of cases shut the rides down while they tried to convince the blind to allow sighted people to join them. The manager shut down the Corkscrew for forty minutes after three pairs of blind people climbed into cars and refused to get out. Park managers got a chorus of catcalls from the dozens of people standing in line, and at one point there was a chant, "Let 'em go! Let 'em go!" The ride eventually started with the blind people still aboard. ValleyFair adopted its special rule a couple of years ago with the intent of protecting blind customers. Park Operations Manager Rich Hertzel says the purpose of the rule is to prevent blind people from being frightened or hurt when a ride takes a sudden dip or turn.
Rich Hertzel: The rationale for the rule is that we want somebody to be able to ride with the visually impaired person to describe the activity of the ride. We normally, as sighted individuals, assimilate a lot of data that we are unconscious of, the way we react. We just want them to have the same benefit.
Chris Tetlin: But at least some of ValleyFair's blind customers resent the special rule. They say they'll ask for help if they need it. Three of the eight blind people who went to the park last night (Jan Lee, Judy Sanders, and Curtis Chong) have already filed discrimination complaints against ValleyFair with the State Human Rights Department. They have been to the park on numerous occasions, and they're angry that the park requires blind people to go on most rides with "a responsible adult." In practice a responsible adult means a sighted person who is at least four feet tall. The organizer of last night's protest, Curtis Chong, says the rule is demeaning and discriminatory.
Curtis Chong: We believe they don't need any special policies with respect to the blind, and history will bear us out. We have, as blind people, been going to amusement parks since amusement parks were ever invented with no trouble, no problem. We never asked for any special help and never required any. That's where the evidence is that shows that we can function and do all the things everybody else does in an amusement park, and we want ValleyFair to regard us in that way.
Chris Tetlin: Demonstrator Judy Sanders says the safety issue is bogus.
Judy Sanders: One of the things that we discovered a long time ago is that it's the attitude of the public about blindness that is the problem. There is no safety issue here. And while they were sitting on the ride, the public was learning and agreeing with us that it's stereotypic notions that caused the park to have these archaic rules, and the National Federation of the Blind is not going to let them have these rules anymore.
Chris Tetlin: Protestors were eventually allowed to go on the rides, but they faced such long delays that they got only four rides in three hours. The delays angered some of the park's other customers too. Dan Hall from Northfield was one of a few customers who spoke up to defend the park. Hall had five grandchildren with him, and he was mad about being stuck in line at the Corkscrew.
Dan Hall: I wish they would change the policy in one respect, but if they've got the policy, it must be for a good reason. I don't know the reasons, but I'm sure they've thought it through. That is what management is for. So right now, I am on ValleyFair's side, and it's too bad, but I hope it can be settled so rides don't have to be shut down every time somebody wants to come up there and protest.
Chris Tetlin: But most customers who spoke out were angry at ValleyFair. Laura Chesmer and her sister Terese Chesmer of Minneapolis waited in line at the Ferris Wheel while park managers negotiated with several blind people who were trying to take the ride.
Laura and Terese Chesmer, first voice: I think it's total discrimination. It made me sick to my stomach to see that.
Second voice: I mean, just because they're blind, does that mean they can't have fun on the ride, and they shouldn't be allowed to go on it? I mean, they are adults. They aren't going to jump off or something. Some guy in line says, "Stop letting them hold the line up! Let 'em protest some other time, and let the normal people..." What do you mean normal? What's normal?
First voice: Yeah!
Chris Tetlin: The five protestors who haven't filed discrimination charges against the park say they plan to now. The three complaints already on file are on review by the State Human Rights Department. Officials say they can't comment on the human rights complaints while the investigation is underway. This is Chris Tetlin.
About a week after the ValleyFair visit, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota issued a press release announcing that nine blind Minnesotans were filing charges of discrimination against ValleyFair with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Again, we received a lot of favorable coverage, typified by this story from the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Blind Visitors Take Issue With ValleyFair
by Julio Ojeda-Zapata
A blind man and woman from Minneapolis have filed discrimination complaints with the Minnesota Human Rights Department against ValleyFair, an amusement park in Shakopee.
Curtis Chong and Judy Sanders visited ValleyFair on July 22 with another blind adult and four sighted children.
Chong said he was not permitted to ride alone on the park's High Roller, a roller coaster. On two occasions, he said, employees insisted his 12-year-old daughter sit beside him.
Throughout his visit Chong, 36, said ValleyFair gatekeepers and other employees repeatedly treated him in a condescending manner by addressing all remarks to his daughter instead of to him.
"There I was, a responsible adult with a job in computers, a father who raised his daughter, and they were assuming that she was responsible for me," Chong said.
"The implication is that we can't take care of ourselves. The implication is that we, as blind people, must be handed on to other people like pieces of baggage without feelings or competence."
Sanders also alleges that ValleyFair employees treated her in a condescending manner and that she was not allowed to carry her white cane on some rides.
Linnea Stromberg-Wise, ValleyFair's director of marketing, would not comment on the incidents.
"We don't make it a practice or policy to discriminate against any individual or group," Stromberg-Wise said. "ValleyFair's number one concern and interest is safety."
According to a ValleyFair document, blind people must be accompanied or supervised by a "responsible adult" to board 36 of 45 rides, including the children's carousel, the Kiddie Train and the Kiddie Lifter.
"We strongly object to any special policies or procedures at ValleyFair dealing with the blind," said Joyce Scanlan, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.
"We neither want nor need anything above or beyond what is provided to the sighted public," Scanlan said. "We are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves at ValleyFair, and it is high time that ValleyFair treat us like the responsible adults we are."
Chong is the Federation's vice president.
That's what the news media had to say, and it is reasonable to ask where things stand today. The charges of discrimination against ValleyFair have been formally filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. We are taking every opportunity to publicize ValleyFair's deplorable and demeaning treatment of persons who are blind. The tremendous support and understanding that this issue has received from the general public is immensely encouraging. Yes, when blind people go to ValleyFair today, they will be required to be accompanied by a "responsible adult," who will likely be a small child. Yes, if blind people visit ValleyFair today they will not be given the right to ride together. And yes, when blind people visit ValleyFair, they can be assured that park employees will address sighted people who happen to be visiting with them.
But things will certainly not remain at a standstill. Blind people, through their own organization, the National Federation of the Blind, are waging the struggle for equality. Like it or not, ValleyFair will modernize its thinking toward the blind; and like it or not, ValleyFair will learn to treat blind guests as the first-class citizens and responsible adults they truly are!
[PHOTO: Portrait of Zach Shore. CAPTION: Zach Shore, Student Division leader and active member of the National Federation of the Blind.]
WHY SHE WALKED OUT ON ME
by Zach Shore
From the Associate Editor: As the president of a state affiliate, I get lots of telephone calls from people with problems. Some of them are folks hoping to get rid of a young dog by giving it to a blind person to act as a dog guide. At the opposite extreme are those blind people so depressed and damaged by their perceptions of blindness that there is very little anyone can initially do to help them. Most, however, are people urgently in need of for someone to listen and understand what they are going through. I can listen; I hope I can understand; and when I can, I help.
The following article, which appeared in the fall, 1990, edition of Insight, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, reminded me painfully of two calls I received this past week. The first was from a woman who became blind rather suddenly last February. She and her husband have two sons about to enter their teens, so she has many responsibilities in her home and no current interest in getting a job. Right now she does not believe that blind people can hold down jobs anywhere, but then she herself is also prey to the stereotypes. She does not even believe she can go up or down stairs without the strong probability of falling. She needs rehabilitation and has established her eligibility to receive it with the state, but she has been calling her counselor for months to beg for training. Mostly he does not return her calls, but this week he told her--or at least so she says--that she could not have any training because she does not want to work outside her home. I am now trying to get to the bottom of that misunderstanding, but in the meantime, I found myself talking to her about ways of moving about safely and easily in her home.
The other call was similar. This woman was sent to her local rehabilitation center for training of various kinds last winter. She was given some cane travel training, but the instructor based his teaching heavily on use of her remaining sight. She questioned him about what would happen if she lost that bit of vision, and he told her to think positively. She woke up one morning seven weeks ago to discover that she was totally blind. She called the agency that had given her the original training, but they told her that her case was closed and there was nothing they could do. In desperation she called the Federation. One of our members drove to her home to give her a usable cane and stayed to work with her a little. She was calling me because she was veering badly and could not safely cross streets. She is about to be married and does not want to be a prisoner of blindness in her own house. I found myself giving her advice about what causes veering and how to correct the problem.
I wonder what the professionals who so violently disapprove of the blind helping other blind people with cane travel would have had me do. Granted, I was not out on the street with either of these women, but if I had been close enough to them, I would have been. That would have been far more helpful to them than my telephone instructions. Of course I can help to see that both of them get the cane travel lessons they need, but simple humanity demands that I pass on to them the information I have and they so desperately need.
Zach Shore is one of our most dedicated and talented younger leaders. Having graduated last spring from the University of Pennsylvania, he has now moved to Seattle, Washington, where he is an active member of our Washington affiliate. Here is what he had to say at the South Dakota convention last May:
I have been speaking before large groups since my high school days. Over the years I have made people laugh, cry, and get excited. Some I have even put to sleep. But not until I spoke in Rapid City at the state convention of the NFB of South Dakota had I ever given a speech which angered anyone to the point of leaving the room.
What I said in that presentation was so offensive, so morally reprehensible, and so emotionally disturbing to one woman that she could not even remain in the room to hear the whole of my remarks. What did I say to evoke such a response? Did I attack any agencies or blaspheme against any groups? Not at all. Did I mock or insult this particular woman? Not at all. Did I use profanity or make obscene gestures? Certainly not.
What, then, could I have said to prompt such an emotional reaction? It is very simple. I told the convention how I went with Andre, a twelve-year-old blind student, to his new middle school and gave him his first cane lesson. Most people in the audience seemed pleased to hear about Andre's success. This irate woman, however, would hear none of it. Why not? This rehabilitation counselor and mobility instructor felt compelled to walk out because she believes it is wrong for me to instruct anyone in cane travel when I am not certified to do so.
This counselor is correct about one thing: my college degree is not in education, and I am not a certified mobility instructor. To some degree her distress is understandable. Credentials are generally important and meaningful. I would not want someone to perform surgery on a child if that person had not graduated from medical school and obtained the necessary certification. And, if mobility instruction really required a master's degree and an official certificate of approval, I would refuse ever to teach any blind person cane techniques until I had obtained the necessary documents. But of course this is not how it is.
I believe that the incensed counselor, and many other professionals like her, are outraged by something much deeper than our lack of certification. They believe that blind people are truly unsafe and therefore are endangering another's life when we teach travel. Many people, both sighted and blind, espouse this view. When they say it, they reveal their lack of belief in the blind. If they do not believe that blind people can travel well enough to teach the techniques, then how can they believe that the blind can ever be safe, efficient travelers at all?
When Andre first began exploring his new middle school with a long cane, he was uncertain and sheepish, but he caught on quickly. He stopped staring at his feet and started looking forward. Negotiating stairs no longer seemed like an obstacle course. Finding classroom doors became easy for the first time. He moved faster and with self-assured strides. After only 30 minutes Andre was feeling comfortable and much less frightened. That was when we met his vision teacher.
This woman explained that she would arrange for all of Andre's classes to be located on the same floor. She also assured him that he would get plenty of extra time to get from one class to the next. As she recited her incantation about how difficult it would be for him to navigate the school building, all of Andre's newfound confidence melted away. The more she talked, the more Andre's demeanor mimicked her defeatist words. I tried to counteract her spell by saying that Andre might be a bit slower at first; but, if he were pushed to keep up with his classmates, I was certain he would do just fine. Unfortunately for Andre I was unable to convince her.
Blind people are teaching other blind people to travel independently every day, and they are doing it without certification. They cannot obtain certification solely because the Association of Educators and Rehabilitators of the Blind (AER) refuses to certify any and all blind mobility instructors. But these blind mobility instructors will go on doing their jobs while irate professionals wave their degrees and stamp their feet. None of this is to suggest that all professionals are bad or against us. That is not true. The blindness system, however, is predominantly out of touch with the realities of what the blind can do.
This is not an issue of safety or of certification. It is simply a matter of fact that blind people can both travel and teach travel safely, whether professionals choose to believe it or not. The angry counselor does not believe the blind are as capable as she, and this is why she walked out on me. It is for that very same reason that we cannot, must not, walk out on Andre.
[PHOTO: Mr. Maurer standing at podium microphone at a head table. CAPTION: Marc Maurer addresses the New York affiliate of the AFL- CIO.]
THE YARDSTICK: BECOMING A PART OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT IN NEW YORK
by Marc Maurer
When we consider the problems that beset blind people today--massive unemployment; imbecilic airline officials, who are convinced that the blind are second-rate; effective training so scarce that in many places it is nonexistent; and a host of others--it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the progress we have made. Nevertheless, we have greater opportunity, more training, and a wider acceptance today than we have ever had.
Much has been written about the intrinsic value of the individual. However, the measurement of success in our country today is very frequently economic. Those who ask what you are worth are saying: "How much money do you have?" Therefore, recent events in Buffalo and Lake Kiameska, New York, help to illustrate that increasingly the blind are being accepted as a part of our culture, using the standard yardstick of America. On the 27th of July, 1990, the employees of the Association for the Blind of Western New York (the sheltered workshop for the blind in Buffalo) voted to be represented in labor negotiations by the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Local 200-C. For the first time ever, blind workers in New York have become unionized. The president of the local, Tom Beady, invited me to participate in a meeting to celebrate this union victory. On August 15, 1990, I went to Buffalo to join with my blind brothers and sisters in rejoicing at the success of our efforts and in planning for the inevitable hard work to come. First, employees become a part of a union. Eventually the time comes to negotiate for higher wages and better working conditions. At the time of my visit, management was paying blind shop workers $2.50 an hour.
A week after the sheltered shop workers' meeting in Buffalo, the state-wide convention of the AFL-CIO in New York was held at Lake Kiameska. Although we had been acquainted for only a very short time, I was invited to make a brief presentation at that event. The 2,000 delegates at Lake Kiameska were astonished to learn of the problems facing blind workers. A number of people commented that the conditions and wages imposed on the blind are a reminder of those faced by all American workers at the beginning of the union movement. Here are the comments I made to the 1990 New York State Convention of the AFL-CIO on August 28, 1990:
President Cleary, delegates, members, and guests: It is a great pleasure for me to come to this convention of the AFL-CIO. In my capacity as President of the National Federation of the Blind, I am continually confronted with this question: What does it mean to exploit a worker? Is it fair in 1990 to pay an employee two dollars and five cents an hour? Does the answer to this question change if the worker is blind?
A century ago most American workers were fighting for the right to form labor unions. But the blind have been waging this battle much more recently. Blind workers were prohibited from participating in organized labor until the late 1970s. Since that time there have been successful efforts to organize in Houston, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Lubbock, Texas. For blind American laborers, joining labor unions was illegal only fifteen short years ago. We, the fifty-thousand-member National Federation of the Blind, fought the employers before the National Labor Relations Board and in the courts, and we won. But it didn't happen without effort and cost. Only a month ago the workers at the Association for the Blind of Western New York in Buffalo voted to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, CLC, Local 200-C. Blind people across the United States rejoice with our brothers and sisters in the Buffalo workshop.
How should top management behave? Is it fair to pay workers two dollars an hour? Those who are on the line manufacturing the products, producing the profits that are paid to management, and creating the goods that are being sold, should receive a decent daily wage for an honest day's work. In Lubbock workers were receiving two dollars five cents an hour. In Buffalo they have been getting two fifty-one. Workshop managers in Lubbock said that the blind employees could increase their pay if they worked hard and met the production schedule. However, the equipment in the shop was ancient and dilapidated. The piece-rate standard demanded that complex helmet straps be fabricated at the rate of four thousand a day--five hundred an hour. Shop workers told me that the equipment couldn't handle much more than that. For making four thousand helmet straps a day, workers were paid two dollars and five cents an hour.
All blind people have a hard time getting work. Those doing the hiring believe that if they themselves were to become blind, they wouldn't be able to handle the job. So blind job seekers don't get many offers. This means that a job at the sheltered workshop is often the only available choice. Monopolies are supposed to be against the law, but sheltered shop managers have a virtual monopoly on the labor of the blind. The result is that oppression often occurs.
I have met with the blind workers in Buffalo and have sat at the table and shared in a celebration with them and the local leaders of this union. Your leaders know that any unprotected worker is at the mercy of management. This is equally true for the blind worker. If those of us who are blind were not able to produce at the same rate as others, different standards of pay would be reasonable. But the evidence is plain. We make as many boxes, sew as many pillow cases, and manufacture as many helmet straps as the sighted. Two dollars and a half for an hour's work is not fair, but it is still legal if the worker is blind. The way to change the situation is to organize. We of the National Federation of the Blind are prepared to put our energy and resources into this effort. We are proud to call you our friends, and we look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead. Our joint activity will help the blind workers, it will help American labor, and it will benefit the American economy.
DISCRIMINATION CAN COST DOLLARS
by Seville Allen
From the Editors: Seville Allen is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and ably edits The NFBVigilant, its newsletter. This article is reprinted from the November, 1990, issue of that publication:
Capital Management, the owner of a fast food restaurant called Pik-a-Pita, learned through its checkbook that discrimination costs money. As the result of a complaint I filed with the Human Rights Commission of Arlington County, Virginia, Capital Management paid the National Federation of the Blind $500.
On January 19, 1990, two friends and I walked up to the Pik- a-Pita fast food restaurant located in the food court of a local Arlington shopping mall. Of the three women, two are blind, and the third is sighted. The sighted woman placed her order, but we blind women were not served.
Finding this type of treatment unacceptable, I wrote as follows to the mall management on January 23 explaining what happened:
"...I followed my sighted friend in line. I waited to be asked my order. I was not acknowledged by the cashier taking orders. When I asked him if he were waiting on customers or was he not, he replied that he was not. I waited for a few minutes, but he did not indicate that he would take an order from me, nor did any other Pik-a-Pita employee. I find this type of discriminatory treatment intolerable and unacceptable. My mind flashes back to the early 1960s when, as a teenager, I watched news stories of blacks being refused service at food counters. The blind are refused at a food counter almost thirty years later."
I received a polite apology from the mall management and from Capital Management. Capital Management even went an inappropriate step further by explaining that perhaps we blind women weren't served because the employees did not speak much English and perhaps did not understand that we wanted to order food. I could not figure out how the employees understood the sighted woman's English and not my own. As far as I know blindness does not produce an accent making English spoken by blind people difficult to understand. Therefore, finding apologies and poor excuses insufficient and inappropriate,I filed a complaint with the Arlington Human Rights Commission on April 9, 1990. When asked what I wanted as a remedy for the alleged discrimination, I said that Capital Management should buy an ad in the Washington Post stating that the Pik-a-Pita will not discriminate against handicapped persons, and that Capital Management should pay the National Federation of the Blind $500.
On August 17, 1990, I received a call from the Human Rights Office investigator. He informed me that Capital Management would agree to place the ad in the Washington Post and donate $500 to the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation has received the check; and on September 27, 1990, Capital Management placed a statement in the Official Notices section of the Washington Post saying that Pik-a-Pita has a commitment to provide accommodations to handicapped individuals.
I said, when I filed the complaint, that people have to pay for their inappropriate and unacceptable behavior; and I wanted to see to it that Capital Management did just that.
[PHOTO: Diane Starin sitting on a horse. CAPTION: Diane Starin is a horsewoman by profession and avocation. She is also the President of the Glenn-Tehama Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California.]
ORGANIZING A NEW CHAPTER
by Diane Starin
From the Associate Editor: Chapter organizing is a topic of steady interest among active Federationists, and it is certainly a very important one. The Spring, 1990, edition of The Blind Citizen, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, included the transcript of a talk delivered at the 1989 NFB of California convention by Diane Starin, President of the Glenn-Tehama Chapter. It is filled with good advice and useful illustrations and should be helpful to anyone contemplating the organization of a new Federation chapter. This is what Diane Starin had to say:
Last year at the Chapter Interaction Breakfast during our 1988 Convention, I promised that I was going to start a new chapter. And one month later I did. What I want to talk to you about is how I organized our chapter. I'd also like to talk a little bit about our fund-raising activities and what our chapter is now doing.
I became a committed member of the National Federation of the Blind in 1982 or 1983. I attended my first national convention in Kansas City. At that time you could say that I really needed the organization. I was one of these "I don't need a cane" people, but I progressed very fast.
If you are thinking about starting a chapter, the word I want you to keep in mind is "positive." Even though that is what we always profess and try to live, if you don't really think positively in chapter organizing, your efforts won't work. But, if you believe in the old adage "Where there's a will, there's a way," it will.
Our chapter is in a rural area. I live eighty to ninety miles south of the Oregon border. It is an area where a lot of people probably assumed we would be lucky to have a small chapter. I began organizing very positively, and I was determined that we would grow. I have a goal that by next year at this time the attendance at our meetings will be equal to that of the Sacramento Chapter. I say that because currently there are already twelve to nineteen people in attendance at each chapter meeting. We are talking about a chapter located in counties made up of ranch country with three towns spread many miles apart.
I started recruiting members and learning where blind people lived in this way. I moved to Orland, California, a year and a half ago. I'd only been there about six months when I decided to start the chapter. Not only did I not know blind people, I didn't know anyone. I started by calling churches, explaining why I was looking for blind people and telling them about the organization. That effort identified quite a few blind residents.
The second thing I did was to get to know my mail-carrier. I said to her, "Gee, do you know any other people that get Talking Books from the library?"
She said, "Oh, yes. There's so and so, and so and so." She just went on and on, telling me where they all lived. So I got hold of those people too. You know, that strategy can work in a larger city as well as a small town. Everyone has a mail-carrier, and he or she knows other mail-carriers. Of course, once I got some people into the chapter, then those who had lived in the community awhile brought other people.
It's important at the first meeting to have the press. Tell the reporters what you are doing and why. Get a big article. We did that at our organizing meeting. The reporter wrote a companion piece about me that was later reprinted in the Braille Monitor. (See the Braille Monitor, July 1988.) On the front page of the local paper, beside the article and a large picture of me and one of my horses, was the caption, "Diane Starin, who happens to be blind, with her horse." That got attention because people here love animals--horses, dogs, anything. They looked at that front page and said, "What's this?" The people read the caption, and then they read the article. Suddenly, the calls came flooding in, "Will you speak at my service club, my civic organization?" The press really is important.
My public relations effort after that first meeting was also important. Radio and television stations have community service announcement bulletin boards on which they carry notices for nonprofit organizations. They all have different deadlines. You can call the station to learn its address and airing requirements. They'll tell you to send your written announcement one or two weeks in advance, whatever the requirement is, and they'll put it on the air free of charge. What better coverage can you get than that--free coverage on radio and television! Many newspapers also provide space for nonprofit organizations. In this way you can announce monthly meetings and fund-raising activities, especially those that involve the community. Public service announcements are an option that should never be forgotten.
Here's another little public relations technique that I plan to use. We are in sheep ranching country, and in our town we have a big lamb festival each spring. Every community has its special celebrations. I take part in an activity (horseback riding) that the general public doesn't think of blind people doing. I intend to ride in the parade and pass out balloons with the NFB logo to all of the children and NFB literature to their parents so that they can find out what that logo means. I know that many of you don't ride horses; however, you do have your hobbies. And, if what you like to do is something that the public doesn't think a blind person can do, it is a good way to educate people.
Another important thing that raises community awareness is doing community service yourself. I am a full-time volunteer for the local humane society. That tells people in my community that I do the same things and volunteer for the same things that others do. It also puts me in contact with more people, which helps me find more members.
Currently I am in the process of speaking to student assemblies in every school in Glenn and Tehama Counties. I always invite parents (those not working during school hours) to come and attend. The Glenn-Tehama Chapter then gives a copy of "Questions Kids Ask About Blindness" to the school library.
It's really important for you to speak to local Kiwanis and other service clubs because that's where you meet business people. To whom is it better to speak about blindness than business people? Educating them can result in jobs for blind people. Service club members are the employers in your community.
Fund-raising activities provide a means for public education and can serve as membership drives as well. In less than a year, the Glenn-Tehama Chapter has raised approximately fifteen hundred dollars. We raised the first nine hundred of that in the first four months, but you have to know your community. Know the interests of the people. Candy and bake sales are great, because people like to eat. Come up with unusual things that fit the hobbies and careers of the town's residents. In my community that happened to be western key rings. We couldn't order them fast enough. So get a feel for your area and what will sell. Also be sure to get items that won't deteriorate so that, if they don't all sell at once, you can store them and sell them later.
We like to do annual events that people come to expect, to which they can look forward. Garage sales are one. This year we intend to have our first annual bus trip to the Grand National Rodeo Finals at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. That is something my community enjoys. This can become an annual fund- raising activity that the community will look for and come to expect. It is also something that our chapter can join in and do with the townspeople. It gets the general community and the chapter membership involved together and raises money at the same time.
One of the important things to do in a new chapter, especially when, as in my case, the president is the only one who knows anything about the NFB, is to make a list of NFB acronyms and explain their meanings to the members so that they are not interrupting the meeting to ask what DIG, NAC, or PAC means. Knowing something about the vocabulary of the organization helps members to feel a part of it.
We also have philosophy discussions. A recent newspaper article that we discussed at one Glenn-Tehama Chapter meeting was about a dog guide problem in San Francisco. A young woman and her dog guide were traveling from her office during her lunch hour. Her dog relieved himself, and the woman didn't clean it up. A policeman thought that she ought to. The young woman argued with him. She said that the law exempted her from cleaning up after her dog. Unfortunately, it's true that she didn't have to clean up after the dog. There is such a law in San Francisco. However, what we discussed at the chapter meeting was the damage that incident caused blind people and the image of all blind people it gave the public. If you can do so, discuss current issues from the newspaper. Try to anticipate members' reactions and help them to move in a positive direction.
When there are new members and the chapter is raising money, it is important for the newcomers to begin thinking about the whole organization, not just the local chapter. As the state convention approaches, you, as the chapter leader, can set the tone by saying, "Let's give x number of dollars to the state and national treasuries." Chapter members who do not understand the structure and function of our organization may begin by saying, "We don't want to do that! That's too much money!"
When I brought the issue of how much money to bring to this convention to a vote, everybody was in total agreement. There wasn't even any discussion on the amount. I was very pleased. It showed that our whole chapter is developing a healthy philosophy about our relationship to the whole organization and that it makes sense to the membership. I also noticed that, when the subject of buying a DIG policy on our youngest member was brought to a vote, there was no opposition, and the chapter voted to buy a policy on Tenaya Flournoy.
Let me talk a minute about a few of our successes. Believe me, you'd better be ready to work when you start a chapter. I am now teaching cane travel and Braille to five people. Many of the Glenn-Tehama members are newly blinded. I'm very proud of our Vice President Mary. She joined the chapter as a newly-blinded person, and she couldn't bring herself to say that she was blind. This was in April. We had a garage sale in August. I was showing Mary how to count her change when a lady came up and said, "How much is this?" and held up the price tag. Mary said, "I don't know." The lady said, "What's the matter? Are you blind?" Mary said, "Yes, I am." The other important thing for new members to learn about is the power of the NFB. Tenaya Flournoy is a blind child, and her school district was attempting to cut her hours of Braille instruction and reduce Tenaya's exposure to Braille. When her mother, Mrs. Flournoy, said that she was going to bring a person from the National Federation of the Blind to the IEP meeting, suddenly the time of the appointment changed and nobody knew when it was to be. Then, when Mrs. Flournoy told the school officials that she was a member of the National Federation of the Blind and her daughter was too, suddenly the whole issue was dropped and the hours of Braille instruction were not cut.
When we were organizing, one of the new members asked me, "Who does what work in the chapter?" I said, "As things arise and there is need for things to be done, I'll let you know. Whether it's with fund-raising, public education, or any other task the chapter needs done, I, as president, will delegate responsibility."
The person said, "Well, I wouldn't have to do what you wanted. I would do it only if I wanted to."
My reply to that new member was, "You get back what you give," and that is what I really believe. That is what I have discovered in building a new chapter.
[PHOTO: Ted Young standing at microhpone. CAPTION: Ted Young, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania.]
ON REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS AND EQUALITY
by Ted Young
From the Associate Editor: Ted Young is the thoughtful president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. This article appeared in the June issue of the Blind Activist, the newsletter of the NFB of Pennsylvania. As members of a consumer organization, we are often asked to help employers and would-be employees resolve questions about reasonable accommodation. Ted's reflections should help us all focus our own thinking. Here's what he has to say:
All of us, whether we take the time to analyze them consciously or not, have opinions on the subject of reasonable accommodation. Some blind people believe that they can ask for their rights but should not aggressively seek them. Others believe that just being given the right to participate equally in an event is sufficient. But there are those who look further and believe that the blind person should have the right to derive equal or similar benefits from that participation. And yes, unfortunately, there are those who believe that the world owes them everything just because they are blind and who hold that the world does not have the right to require an equivalent return from them. If equality is the sought-after goal, then the crucial point is defining what you believe to be equal. Consider your notion of equality as you read the following examples. Some time around 1972 or 1973 I learned of a blind woman whose husband was in prison. One day she went to see him and participated in the visitation program, which for all visitors consisted of sitting down, facing the prisoner through a glass window, and talking on the telephone. The blind woman had her visit just like everyone else and left.
If you have read this paragraph and seen nothing wrong, then you and I differ fundamentally in our understanding of equality. There was a time when I would have felt that the blind woman in question had received equal treatment. After all, she participated in the visitation program to the same extent as any other visitor. But later it occurred to me that I was wrong. Although she was treated the same and although she went through the same actions as other spouses, she did not gain the same benefit from her participation in the activity. For the other couples, the visit enabled them to exchange countless non-verbal communications with each other. For the blind woman the results of the visit would have been the same had she stayed home and made a telephone call. In other words, the question is not so much whether she was allowed to participate fully in the activity, but whether she gained the same or an equivalent result or benefit from her participation.
This brings us to the question of how one assures equal benefits so that they are truly equal with those obtained by others. Having the couple sit across the table from each other
(with appropriate measures taken to maintain prison security) might be equal, whereas a conjugal visit would clearly go beyond the intent of the visitation program. So how far should a person be accommodated in order to achieve the same result or an equivalent?
A blind person once took a clerical exam for the federal government, and a job came open. The job consisted of taking calls from clients, walking over to a large tub file, getting the appropriate card from the thousands that were there, filling it out, and replacing it. That was the job, all day long. There were no tasks to trade, no easy modifications. The only way that the job could have been done was to have another full-time clerical worker help the blind clerical worker. Obviously that would not have been a reasonable accommodation because the sighted assistant would actually have been doing the job.
We have now reached another concept: a blind person must be able to use the data gained from a reasonable accommodation in order to make a contribution to the job equivalent to that made by any other employee. In order for an accommodation to be considered reasonable, an employer should receive the benefit he or she expects of any other worker in return for the accommodation. Therefore, if a person cannot provide that return despite the accommodation or if the expected accommodation yields far less work than the employer would get from another worker, the accommodation is not reasonable.
I believe that in addition to reasonable accommodations there is an area of what I will call equivalent accommodations. These do not cost any more to the employer than the accommodations provided to all employees; they consist of adjusting the work environment or available resources to achieve equality. It may become necessary for an accommodation to occur because of a piece of broken specialized equipment or medical complication. For example, if a dog guide is sick and it is the employee's only means of travel, should that person be allowed to take a sick day rather than one of a limited number of vacation days? Before some say "no" too quickly, consider the common situation in which employees have the right to take sick days to care for sick family members.
Here is another example for clarification. Suppose that a blind person can do an entry-level job in a factory. The next step in the promotion process, as set forth in the labor contract, is a job that clearly requires sight, such as driving a fork lift. The step above that one is a job that a blind person could do. However, since the labor contract has spelled out the promotion system, the blind person is denied the option to skip the interim position. It seems clear to me that an equivalent accommodation would be one which allowed the blind person to remain in the first step for a longer period of time and then skip the intervening step. How long should the blind worker remain in the entry-level position? If one said that the blind worker should be eligible for the third-level at the same time as a comparable sighted worker would be, I would argue against that notion.
Presumably the second- and third-step jobs would pay more, so the blind worker should move into the third-level job soon enough to match the sighted worker's overall pay.
I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say that reasonable accommodation must vary according to circumstances. We, as blind people, will always be forced to grapple with such cases. So, when you contemplate what is reasonable accommodation and what is not, ask yourself if you are treating the case fairly. How will your notion of equality influence your decisions? Only when we have a clear understanding of what equality means will we know what to fight for.
[PHOTO: Portrait of Dennis Polselli. CAPTION: Dennis Polselli, President of the Metro West Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts.]
INSENSITIVITY, RESPONSE, AND PROGRESS
From the Editor: Dennis Polselli is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts. He is also an administrator at Framingham State College. When he first went to Framingham, the atmosphere was one of doubt and chill, but it is clear from recent occurrences that real progress has been made.
In a letter to me dated November 7, 1990, Mr. Polselli summed up the situation as follows:
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Enclosed is a letter written by Cynthia Forrest, Dean of Students and chairperson of a search committee for Director of Counseling at our college, a committee I served on. One of the prejudices we face is that people are not used to seeing blind persons in a decision-making capacity as part of a committee as to who should or should not be hired. Such was the case when the applicant for the position turned the tables on me and started asking questions about my slate and stylus and how I take notes. At the end of the interview she commented on how remarkable it was that I maneuvered around the room, got my own coffee, and threw my own trash away. The search committee, in the next meeting, was outraged and without my prodding, voted to take a stand. The enclosed letter is the result, and I wish to share it with the blind of this country, for as you and I have previously discussed, my road to acceptance in college administration was not always an easy one; but I believe I'm having positive impact.
Yours in Federationism,
October 31, 1990
Dr. Barbara Spence
Dear Dr. Spence:
During our recent interview with you for the Director of Counseling position at Framingham State College, there was a moment in the interview which caused us some concern that we would like to bring to your attention. There was a question that was directed to Dennis Polselli regarding the stylus he was using to take notes. While this question was most likely intended to be quite innocent, the focusing of the interview on the writing instrument of this committee member who is blind seemed confusing and inappropriate, since we were moving through our questions of you at the time. This questioning by you focused attention on Dennis and his blindness rather than on the interview of you. We felt that you were perhaps uncomfortable with Dennis and the fact that he was blind.
As a Committee, we wanted to express our concern that, while we believe that you did not intend to treat either the Committee, collectively, or Dennis, individually, with insensitivity, the end result was that this line of questioning did, in fact, focus on Dennis and his writing instrument rather than on the interview.
At the close of the interview you also made a statement to Dennis that mentioned he moved around the room with ease. This statement was another moment of insensitivity. We hope that this feedback will be taken in the spirit of learning which is our goal in sharing this information with you. Please feel free to call on any one of us if you have any questions.
I'LL FIGHT BEING MUGGED
by Greg Hanson
From the Editor: Greg Hanson is a student at the University of Iowa. He is also a blind person, a Monitor reader, and the vice-president of the Five Seasons chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. He read the article by Michael Baillif in the May, 1990, Braille Monitor entitled "I'd Rather be Mugged," and he felt called upon to comment. If you haven't read the Baillif article or if you did read it and don't now remember it, you should look it up. It is thought-provoking. So are the comments by Greg Hanson. Here they are:
After reading Mr. Baillif's comments on muggings and pity for the blind, I must confess that I agree with the basic premise that we should not feel proud of being avoided by the street people around our nation. I do, however, have to beg to differ with Mike on one point of fact. Why should we let ourselves be put in that position in the first place? In the case of to be or not to be mugged, I would rather rely on my survival instinct and martial arts skills to defend myself from these punks.
Now you may ask the inevitable question, "Can a blind person learn effectively to defend himself?" Well, I am here to tell you that it is more than possible--it has been and is being done. I am not saying that it is an easy task, this learning self- defense, but it can be learned by blind people just as well as by the sighted.
I have been involved in martial arts training for close to five years with a little sabbatical somewhere in the middle of it all. By January of 1991 I will be a full black belt in Tae Kwon Do, the Korean form of martial arts. I started two years after totally losing my eyesight from diabetic retinopathy. Now I am teaching self-defense to elementary school kids and single women through our local neighborhood center.
Learning martial arts, whether it be some form of karate, judo, or Tae Chi, for instance, requires very little adaptation from the norm. Most schools of martial arts use the "instructor up front" method of teaching. That is, the instructor stands in front of the students who are in ranks or lines and shows the entire group the various techniques and stances. In the case of a blind student, the instructor needs only to position the student's arms, legs, hips, and shoulders in the appropriate stance and move the various parts through the technique. It is the student's duty, then, to remember the position and movement. The blind student must also be aware of direction and location of the instructor and other students. This is not extremely difficult, because practice of almost all of the movements requires a yell with each technique. Also, there are plenty of other students around to point the disoriented blind person in the right direction. Personal style is later developed and the board-breaking and sparring take some ingenuity, but there are medals and certificates hanging over my desk to prove that it can be done.
As far as self-defense against muggers is concerned, the techniques developed in martial arts training are designed for that purpose. Of course, there is a difference between sparring for points and defending your very life. As independent and progressive blind people, we have as much right to be on the streets as anyone else. There have been a few attacks on blind people in my state this year. The reaction of the press and law enforcement officials is that the attacked blind should not have been out there in the first place. That is the wrong attitude to have. We need to bank, shop, stroll, and party once in a while, too. Most of us can and should learn to survive. In a few short weeks a reputable self-defense course or martial arts school can teach the basics. How far you progress and how awesome you become are entirely up to you. There is no reason to be helpless. And in answer to Mr. Mike Baillif, "I'd rather not be mugged. Instead, I will kick, punch, and dazzle my attacker with fancy footwork and then fade into the shadows from whence he came."
No, I am no longer afraid to go where I need to and do the things I and others do every day. There are limits, of course, to everything. If it is a matter of a few dollars lost, I will submit. There is no sense being extreme. If my life or safety is in danger, though, that is a different story entirely. Then I feel sorry for the maniac who does not expect a blind person to survive. It is as simple as that. In a "live or die" situation, I choose to live.
For now I continue to train and work toward that coveted black belt. I continue to teach the self-defense classes. I am teaching fifth- and sixth-graders that they don't have to settle for being victims, either. We who are blind are not the only "easy targets." Children are victims more often lately. This is a sad fact, but we do what we can to change the stats. How about a commitment from each of us to do something about our own security? Confidence and freedom are the ultimate rewards. A little work and some determination are the only expense. Let us quit being targets for the street thugs and crazies.
A REHABILITATION COUNSELOR WRITES TO THE BRAILLE MONITOR
From the Editor: There are many myths in the blindness field. One of them is that the National Federation of the Blind hates and attacks all who work in the rehabilitation establishment. The corollary is that everybody in the rehabilitation establishment fears and/or hates the Federation. The following correspondence is pertinent to this fallacy. It is typical, not exceptional. With names and places omitted for obvious reasons, here it is:
December 11, 1990
Dear Mr. Jernigan,
For some reason, several months ago I began receiving the Braille Monitor at my office. I now begin to search my mail in anticipation of each new issue. I am not blind. I am a rehabilitation counselor for the blind. Your articles are interesting and informative, and probably better information than anything we in the field receive from our own state office. I particularly enjoyed the October-November article, "The Rehabilitation Services Administration: Its Relationship to Blindness and Consumerism." I am sure the contents are verbatim, and are not cleaned-up for publication. It's easy to hear the frustrations and concerns of consumers when something is presented in this fashion. I would like to share with you that the concerns expressed therein by consumer members of NFB are concerns that are shared by rehabilitation counselors who want to do what they should be doing for the blind and are hampered by a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. It's too bad that NFB has to "persuade" us to do what we should be doing anyway; but, as long as we don't, keep up the pressure. I, for one, welcome it.
These are issues that are close to us practitioners and this is the kind of dialogue that we need in order to build a strong partnership.
I wish I could thank whomever put me on the mailing list, but since I can't, please accept my $25 as "partial payment" of my dues.
Very Sincerely yours,
January 2, 1991
I have your letter of December 11, 1990, and I am taking the liberty of printing it in the Braille Monitor. Let me hasten to add that I am so disguising it that even your own mother would not recognize it. I have no wish to get you into trouble. However, I think that others in the field should hear what you have to say. We of the organized blind are not hostile to rehabilitation practitioners who are truly professional and sincere in their behavior, and we pose no threat to them. Quite the contrary. Likewise, rehabilitation practitioners who are interested in the well-being of their clients are not hostile to us. There should be a natural alliance of enlightened self- interest. This is a point which should be repeatedly made to counter the propaganda of those in the rehabilitation establishment who are more caught up in bureaucratic jargon and feathering their own nests than helping blind persons achieve a better life.
Thank you for your letter and your contribution. Both are appreciated. Incidentally, spread the word to your colleagues. We will be happy to send the Braille Monitor (Braille, print, talking book record, or cassette) to anybody who wants it.
National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Gwen Nelson.]
MY EXPERIENCE AS A JUROR
by Gwen Nelson
From the Editor: Gwen Nelson is the second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Her late husband, Jimmy, was also active in the organization. Gwen takes her Federationism seriously. Therefore, when she received a summons to appear for jury duty, it caused her to do some soul searching. Here (as reported in the NFBVigilant, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia) is how Gwen describes it:
One afternoon I was looking through what seemed to be a routine batch of mail when I found a rather official-looking envelope. The envelope contained a summons for me to appear for jury duty. I knew one blind person who had received this same type of summons, and that individual wrote "blind" across the envelope and returned it to the court. The individual was not contacted again.
For a brief moment I considered making the same responses as my blind acquaintance. After all, I reasoned, jury duty certainly would be an inconvenience. My term was to last for a month, and I was to call a number at the court each day to hear if I was to appear. My next thought was that even if I were to appear, I would not be permitted to serve because someone might object to my serving because I am blind.
Then, as a Federationist, I was really ashamed, because many blind people before me who believe as I do that blind people should be first-class citizens, had stood by their convictions so that now I had the opportunity to accept the responsibility and privilege of taking my turn on jury duty.
Yes, I did have to wait around the courthouse for hours. It was inconvenient, but I did serve on a jury. I had the assistance I needed to read printed materials submitted as evidence at the trial. And, as I look back, I am truly glad that I chose to fulfill my duty as a citizen. Jury duty was educational and rewarding. Now, when people ask me, I will have one more reason to say that I am proud to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO: Lorraine Rovig standing at microphone. CAPTION: Lorraine Rovig, Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind program and enthusiastic advocate for the rights and abilities of blind people.]
WHAT'S IN AN ATTITUDE?
From the Associate Editor: I have a friend who is accident- prone. She walks into door jambs, slips off steps, stumbles over tree roots, and crashes into coffee tables. I have another who loses things and spends hours every week hunting for objects that have vanished into thin air. My husband is absent-minded. He depends heavily on his calendar, but I have learned through the years that part of my job in our family is to remember things for us both. All of these people happen to be sighted, and all are inconvenienced to one degree or another and at one time or another by these annoying traits.
All of us know dozens of people, including ourselves, who have these inconvenient little characteristics. They shape our lives to some small degree and have some slight impact on our personalities, but they do not define our characters or determine who we are. Generally we human beings are more interested in learning whether others are bright, competent, trustworthy, amusing, compassionate or cut-throat, dangerous, selfish, intemperate, bigoted. This is so unless the individual under scrutiny is disabled. Then character traits, good or bad, slide out of focus, becoming nothing more than repercussions of the disability--blind people are always cheerful or surly or patient or whatever trait the disabled person is exhibiting at the moment. Instead people concentrate on the superficial details of existence, blowing them all out of proportion: How does that person using a wheelchair negotiate stairs? Do the children of blind people always put their toys away? Can he really pick up that coin with a prosthetic hand?
As blind people, we have learned to tolerate this obsession with the unimportant in the general public. It arises from ignorance and can be combatted by patient education. Each of us is engaged in this struggle for enlightenment every day. It is, therefore, both dismaying and frustrating to find that a blind woman has weighed into the battle for truth and perspective on the opposite side. To make matters worse, she is clearly talented, competent, and ambitious. Her name is Sally Hobart Alexander, and she has written a book for children from the point of view of her young daughter. It is called Mom Can't See Me, and it contains virtually all the stereotyped notions and attitudes about blindness that we fight to eliminate or put in their proper perspective: Braille is hard to learn and difficult to use. Blind people bump into things and depend on others to keep obstacles out of their way. They can no longer teach school or even know much about what goes on around them because they can't depend on vision. All this comes from a woman who (also according to the book) has a good marriage, is successfully raising two attractive, well-balanced children; travels independently; goes canoeing; and in general lives a perfectly full and normal life.
The whole thing is a tragedy. Of course, Mrs. Alexander has the right to her view of the world and of blindness, and she is free to write a book that reinforces the negative stereotypes of blindness and magnifies out of all proportion the inconveniences we face. It is not surprising that Macmillan Publishing Company would choose to produce the book; after all, it appears to the ignorant to be a refreshingly realistic portrayal of the daily burden of blindness. Only the blind are damaged by it. Only our efforts to educate the public about our abilities and competence are undermined.
Galley proofs of this book were sent without comment to Lorraine Rovig of our national staff in August of 1990. Publishers usually do this when they are soliciting reviews. Macmillan obviously hoped that the National Federation of the Blind would provide a glowing review that it could use in promotional materials. Sandy Halverson of Missouri and I happened to be at the National Center when the manuscript arrived, and Miss Rovig read it to us for our reaction. She then wrote to Macmillan in an attempt to explain why the book would be damaging to blind people. Of course, Macmillan has never replied to the letter and has on the contrary arranged the usual promotional book-signings and public relations efforts. We did not expect anything else. Contracts had been signed, resources were committed to the project, and editors were riding the fashionable wave of disability texts for children.
In the end, my predominant reaction to this book is pained regret that a woman with so much going for her seems to believe that she is courageously breasting the tide of misfortune. If she does not believe this, then she knows how lucky she is and has chosen to make money by exploiting the public's misconceptions of blindness. In either case our work has been made more difficult. We must reach a little deeper and try a little harder to demonstrate to the world, blind and sighted alike, that blind people are not defined by a few inconveniences. We must demand that the world focus on our accomplishments, not complications. Here is the letter Lorraine Rovig wrote to Macmillan Publishing Company:
August 21, 1990
Ms. B. Lyons
Macmillan Publishing Company
New York, New York
Dear Ms. Lyons:
Thank you most sincerely for sending a galley copy of Mom Can't See Me by Sally Hobart Alexander, photographs by George Ancona. Unfortunately, although it has much to recommend it, it does not meet our criteria for progressive books about blindness and blind people. We could not recommend it to parents, teachers, or children.
No doubt you will wonder why. I wish you could have been in the room when I read the copy of Mom Can't See Me to two blind women, one from Ohio, the other from Kansas City, Missouri. Both are totally blind professional women, wives, and mothers, who are active in sports and social engagements; and both women were appalled at some of the attitudes evidenced by the author.
For example, neither woman believes she collects a great many bruises because she can't see. Both women have perfected their ability to travel well with the long white cane. Both know other women who use guide dogs in similarly successful fashion. In fact, both women regularly travel around the United States independently for speaking engagements and other activities.
One woman believes that none of her children when young successfully stole cookie dough without her knowledge; the other believes her eleven-year-old son has a similar lack of success in fooling Mom. I'd like to note that, since Mom Alexander is writing this book, it seems odd for her to say that she doesn't know that her daughter is stealing cookie dough. But I wonder how many readers will notice the illogic of the statement made by the child. We three women expect that the general attitude held by the public will lead most readers to swallow the proposition that blind mothers couldn't possibly know what their children are doing. The National Federation of the Blind has had to go to court in many cases to get children returned to blind mothers or parents because some neighbor called a social worker, and the social worker kidnapped the children based solely on this proposition.
Both women recoiled at the strong suggestion that Mom cannot teach elementary school after becoming blind. No, the copy does not directly state this. Yes, most readers will leap to this conclusion. As the director of the National Federation of the Blind's national program Job Opportunities for the Blind, I can put Mrs. Alexander or you in direct touch with totally blind elementary school teachers with full-time and part-time jobs. However, principals and other hiring personnel will find that this book confirms their prejudices. Mom Can't See Me will put one more brick in the wall that blind school teachers must break down before being seriously considered on the basis of credentials and personality, as are other candidates.
My audience and I were particularly distressed that this book states, "Braille is hard to learn." We know individuals (with average intelligence) who have learned Braille in as little as two weeks. We know many, many children and adults who learned Braille or are currently learning it. The average length of time to learn Braille well is six months. You likely learned print when you were in first grade. It probably took you six months to learn the print code well. (No more mistakes in knowing a "b" from a "d" or forgetting the sound of a "th" and so forth.) Mrs. Alexander's daughter says she knows because "I tried it." Does this mean she studied Braille for five minutes whenever she decided to play being blind? Did she sit down on a regular basis with a teacher? Did she study the physical skill as you and I studied the print code?
Her mother is obviously intelligent. Did she have a teacher who told her directly or by implication that learning Braille is hard? Did her mother practice feeling the dots, as recommended, for at least fifteen minutes each day? Have you heard the one about the self-fulfilling prophecy? One of the major problems facing blind children and adults today is the attitude of many professional teachers in special education that Braille is hard to learn. Without Braille many blind individuals are illiterate and lack sufficient skill successfully to handle a competitive job in the modern world.
All three of us feel confident this book will continue to reinforce the prevalent attitude about the incompetence of blind adults. We find this especially regrettable since the author shows a great deal of skill in writing and could have written a book with a much more positive and more realistic tone.
I've enclosed two articles written by blind mothers that were printed in our national magazine. Upon request, I can give you the names and phone numbers of these two authors and the individuals to whom I read the text of the book by Mrs. Alexander. Other material is available.
As soon as print copies of Mrs. Alexander's books are available for sale, we would like to purchase one copy of each title for our Research Collection on Blindness. We wish to acquire one copy of any book by a legally blind author or about those who are legally blind.
Again, thank you most kindly for sending a review copy.
Miss Lorraine Rovig
National Federation of the Blind
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
[PHOTO: Portrait of Ollie Cantos. CAPTION: Ollie Cantos, President of the California Association of Blind Students.]
PARENTS FIND THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Erlinda Cantos
From the Associate Editor: The following letter appeared in the Winter, 1990-1991, edition of The Blind Citizen, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California. The story it tells of parental love and redoubled hope for the future should encourage us all to work even harder to reach out to blind high school and college students. Here are excerpts from the article as it appeared in The Blind Citizen:
November 9, 1990
I have just returned home from the 1990 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of California, where I had the chance to see for myself why this organization means so much to my son Ollie. I directly observed how people who recognize that it is respectable to be blind dealt with their blindness.
I would also like to say that Dr. Jernigan is the most powerful, eloquent, and dynamic speaker I have ever heard. I loved listening to him! His enlivening speeches, along with those of others including yours, made me more aware of what the National Federation of the Blind is all about. I felt particular pride and joy in seeing my son speak well in front of a large crowd of state members.
At the convention I had the real pleasure of meeting the leadership and other members of the Federation. Everyone was friendly, making me feel as if I was already a part of the organization.
There were two highlights to my trip: being informed of Ollie's election as President of CABS and seeing him receive the Lawrence (Muzzy) Marcelino Memorial Scholarship. These two things came as surprises to me. After Ollie told me about the kind of person Muzzy was, I was honored to know that the scholarship was given to Ollie in his memory. Now that he is in his junior year in college, I really feel the burden of his heavy educational expense, so the scholarship comes in handy.
I would like to thank you for acknowledging in public my presence at the convention. I'm sorry that I was caught by surprise and was not able to respond immediately. It's now time to say to you what I should have said. "This is just the beginning." With my husband (if his schedule permits), I will be around at every state and national convention and will become a permanent supporter of the Federation.
One thing that I believe needs prompt action is the resolution calling for all the blind to have the opportunity to learn Braille because I feel that Ollie has been cheated by not having learned it. When he delivered his remarks, the piece of paper he was holding distracted him from delivering an even more meaningful speech. Afterwards, Mrs. tenBroek, who was sitting behind me, stood up and muttered to Fred Schroeder, who was sitting next to me, "Ollie should learn Braille by next year." I strongly agreed. None of the others had the same problem Ollie had because they all knew Braille.
Admittedly, when he first came back from the convention and told me about the idea of learning Braille, my response was, "What for?" Now, after seeing the advantages of knowing Braille, the first thing I told Ollie was to hurry up and finish learning it all. Now he is learning even faster than before, with more reinforcement from his mother. I had thought it was only for totally blind people. I had felt the same way about the use of a cane. When I picked Ollie up at the airport after his first national convention and saw him carrying a cane, I was furious. I thought that it was the most pitiful state in which I had ever seen my son. My husband and I commenced a lengthy argument with him that ended in hostility toward him for not listening to us. Ollie stood firm with the support of his sister. I remember saying to him, "You never used a cane for 20 years; why do you need one now?" As days went by, we slowly realized why he needed one, but we still had some reservations.
Since the convention I have made a complete turnaround. With the support of my husband I am glad to say how proud we are that our dearest son carries a cane. We remind him to keep it extended at all times, even in our presence. Ollie said, "I prayed very hard every single day that you would understand the reality, that I needed to carry a cane." His prayers were heard and obviously answered.
The resolution concerning White Cane Safety Day, sponsored by Ollie and passed by the ASLMU (Associated Students of Loyola Marymount University), was the very first in any university. Its adoption helps to set a precedent for all colleges and universities throughout the country.
My husband and I would like to extend to you as the outstanding and tireless leader of the NFB of California our heartfelt thanks for everything you are doing to help our son to become a future leader, not only in the NFB, but in the country. He has all the potential to become a leader in whatever he does. And as a way of showing our appreciation for enabling him to become independent and giving him self-respect and self-confidence, we will uphold the ideals of the Federation. As a start we're now members of the PAC Plan. In addition I am now a member of the Parents Division. My husband shares my strong conviction that parents play a very important role in their children's successes, and for this reason we would like to stay involved in the movement. Since Ollie's early childhood we have made sure we were aware of what was going on in his academic and personal life. When he needed help, understanding, and advice, we have always been there.
Keep our warm regards, and more power to you.
Linda and Orlando Cantos
CONGRESSMAN SIKORSKI TALKS TO IRS ABOUT EMPLOYMENT FOR THE BLIND
From the Editors: One of the strongest champions for fair treatment for the blind in employment is Congressman Gerry Sikorski of Minnesota (see article elsewhere in this issue). Whenever and wherever he can he seeks to help us achieve equal opportunity and first-class status in society. One of his latest attempts involves the Internal Revenue Service. His letter is self-explanatory. Here it is:
November 9, 1990
Mr. Ron Patterson, Chief
Employee Program Section
Internal Revenue Service
Dear Mr. Patterson:
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Civil Service, House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, I have been contacted by Mr. Peter M. Scialli, Ph.D. with regards to your job vacancy for a clinical psychologist (announcement #90-A-1032-N). According to Job Opportunities for the Blind, a program run by the National Federation of the Blind in cooperation with the United States Department of Labor, seventy percent of employable- age blind persons are either underemployed or unemployed. In light of these statistics, it is not surprising Dr. Scialli has expressed concern that, in spite of his credentials, his application would not be taken seriously.
As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I have continually fought discrimination within the workplace, including aiding blind applicants to the Foreign Service, investigating Hispanic employment practices within the Federal government, and exposing the underrepresentation of women and minorities at the Department of State. It is important to recognize that blindness, like most physical disabilities, does not in any way lessen an individual's ability to work well and to be effective on the job. My District Director is a prime example of this. Her blindness has in no way limited her efficiency, knowledge, experience, and ability to do her job effectively.
In choosing the right applicant for your job vacancy of a clinical psychologist, I am sure that your considerations will be reflective of an individual's academic and professional capabilities when making your decision. I am further confident that your choice will be a wise one based on an applicant's educational background, experience, and references.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
GERRY SIKORSKI, Chairman
Subcommittee on Civil Service
Committee on Post Office and Civil Service
FACTS ABOUT SSI ELIGIBILITY AND PAYMENT AMOUNTS
by James Gashel
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is not for the rich or the moderately well-to-do. It is for persons who have low income or no income. It is a program which permits recipients to better their condition by employment. How can a blind person have gross wages of approximately $1,000 per month, month after month, and still be paid an additional $300 per month tax-free through SSI? This article answers that question and more.
Standard Payment Amounts
There are standard federal payment amounts for individuals and couples under SSI. These are the maximum payments made to SSI recipients in states that do not make additional (state supplementation) payments. Beginning January 1, 1991, the federal payment amount for individuals is $407 per month and for couples is $610. These are increased at the beginning of each new calendar year to reflect annual cost-of-living adjustments required by law. States can add a supplementation payment to the federal amount. These vary from state to state. Specific living arrangements of recipients may also increase or decrease the amount that can be paid.
How Income Affects Payment Amounts
Income from sources other than SSI affects the SSI payment amount. Income includes money received in the form of Social Security benefits of any kind. Recipients who do not have income from other sources will receive the maximum federal payment amount plus any state supplementation which may be paid. All income must be reported, but not all of it is counted. Resources (savings and property) do not affect benefit amounts.
Working while receiving SSI is almost always to a blind person's financial advantage. The earnings rules of the SSI program actually allow blind recipients to have higher earnings than are permitted for blind Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. The result is that many people who work enough to lose SSDI eligibility may qualify for SSI checks instead.
How Resources Affect Eligibility
Resources do not affect SSI payment amounts but do affect eligibility. Recipients cannot retain (or save) much money or valuable property, but ownership of some money and property is exempt. Ownership of a home of any value is not counted as a resource. Cash (in the bank or otherwise) of up to $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples is exempt. Benefits cannot be paid to persons who have resources that exceed these limits.
How Income and Resources of Other Persons Affect Payment Amounts and Eligibility
The income and resources of other family members may affect anyone's eligibility or payment amount. For example, a blind child younger than 18 may receive SSI checks if he or she is living with parents whose income and resources are within certain limits. The presence in the household of other children who are ineligible will be considered. SSI payments to an adult who is married to an ineligible spouse are affected by the ineligible partner's income. The resources of an eligible spouse are also considered.
Unmarried persons receive SSI checks as individuals. Married persons who have spouses who are not aged, blind, or disabled may also be paid as individuals. Married persons are counted as a couple under SSI only if both members of the couple are aged, blind, or disabled and if together they meet all other SSI eligibility requirements.
How Blindness Affects SSI
There are three categories of SSI recipients--the aged, the blind, and the disabled. In many respects recipients in all three categories are treated alike, but there are some special rules which apply to the blind only. The most important of these is the allowed deduction of work expenses from income to cover a blind person's ordinary employment or self-employment costs. Another difference is that state supplementation payments may in some instances be higher for the blind than for others. California is a notable example, but most states supplement all categories to the same extent if they do it at all.
Eligibility for blind persons under SSI does not depend upon inability to perform substantial gainful activity. However, rules pertaining to substantial gainful activity (similar to rules used in Social Security Disability Insurance) do apply to disabled persons who are not blind. This is a significant difference and an advantage for the blind. It simplifies eligibility. After the determination is made that resources are within the SSI limits, income evaluation is essentially the only remaining step for blind persons.
Evaluation of Income
Income from all sources is evaluated to determine how much of it must be counted. Countable income reduces SSI benefits dollar for dollar. Income that is not countable is referred to as "excluded" and has no impact on the recipient's SSI check. There are two types of income--unearned and earned. Both must be counted. Unearned income affects SSI payments more than earned income.
Unearned Income: Money received from sources other than work activity is generally considered to be unearned income. This includes the amount of any Social Security check, payments from private annuities or pension funds, veteran's benefits, unemployment benefits, or worker's compensation payments. This is not necessarily an all-inclusive list of the sources of unearned income, but the examples should help. Unearned income may be in-kind (the value of any goods or services received) as well as cash.
Earned Income: Money from work activity is generally considered to be earned income. If a person is self-employed, net (before taxes) income from the business must be determined. The amount of the gross revenues used to pay any business expenses does not count as income. The income of an employee is the gross amount of the wages paid. The income of a self-employed person is the net amount earned by the business before individual self-employment taxes are paid. Earned income may also be in-kind as well as cash.
Determining Countable Income
All income must be reported to the Social Security Administration in order to obtain a properly-determined SSI payment amount. SSI works on a monthly accounting period, so the monthly income is the figure to be reported. Procedures for evaluating this income must be carried out to determine how much of it must be counted. Here is the basic method for determining countable income and the resulting SSI payment amounts for blind individuals or couples:
Step 1: Begin by obtaining the total monthly income from all sources. Some forms, such as housing subsidies and food stamps, are not counted as income, but it is safe to assume that all other forms of income must be included. If the calculation is being done for an eligible couple, use the couple's combined income.
Step 2: Divide the total monthly income into two categories--unearned and earned. These will be treated somewhat differently, so it is necessary to know the amount of income in each. It is possible that one category or the other will have no income.
Step 3: Use this step to determine countable unearned income. Some unearned income can be excluded from the total amount. Go to step 4 if there is no unearned income.
(a) In all cases where there is unearned income, up to $20 is subtracted (or excluded) from the total. If the unearned income is less than $20, the remaining portion of this $20 deduction is subtracted as described in step 4 (a). The deduction of $20 does not increase if the calculation is being made for a couple.
(b) Some SSI recipients participate in a program called PASS (plan to achieve self support). To have a PASS one must have the plan approved in advance by Social Security. Any amount of unearned income being used in a PASS should be subtracted from the remaining unearned income at this point. If there is no approved PASS (or no unearned income being used in an approved PASS), go to step 4. For a couple's calculation, all unearned income being used in a PASS for either or both partners should be combined and subtracted from the unearned income.
(c) The remaining unearned income is countable. Save this figure for use under step 5.
Step 4: Use this step to determine countable earned income. Some earned income can be excluded from the total amount of earned income. Make the following subtractions in the order indicated, stopping whenever the resulting figure reaches zero:
(a) Subtract any remaining portion of the unearned income deduction not used under step 3. If the unearned income were $15, $5 would be left over for use in this step. If the unearned income were $20 or more, none of it would remain for use in this step. If there were no unearned income, the entire $20 deduction should be taken in this step.
(b) Subtract $65 from the remaining earned income. The deduction of $65 does not increase if the calculation is being made for a couple.
(c) Divide the remaining monthly earned income in half. One half is excluded, and the other half is countable. From this point forward deal only with the countable half. This is the remaining countable earned income, but there are more deductions to be made.
(d) Subtract the full amount of any ordinary and necessary work expenses for blind persons. If both members of an eligible couple are blind and if both are working, subtract the total amount of their combined work expenses. Costs that may be included are the following:
1. Income tax payments or the amount of taxes withheld from an employee's wages, including FICA and self-employment Social Security contributions;
2. The cost of transportation to and from work or of any work-related transportation not paid for by someone else, such as an employer;
3. The cost of meals while at work;
4. Dog guide expenses;
5. The cost of purchasing any equipment or supplies used in the performance of the work;
6. Professional fees or union dues; and
7. Any other expenses that are reasonably necessary and work-related. Self-care expenses do not count.
(e) Subtract from the remaining earned income the amount of any earned income being used to fulfill a PASS. As described in step (3) the PASS must have been approved in advance by the Social Security Administration in order for this subtraction of earned income to be made.
(f) The remaining earned income is countable.
Step 5: Determine the total countable income by adding the resulting figures from steps 3 and 4.
Step 6: Subtract the total countable income from the monthly payment amount for individuals or couples. Only use the couples rate if both persons are eligible for SSI. Subtract the countable income from the combined federal and state payment amounts. Contact a Social Security office in your state to determine if state supplementation applies. The resulting figure after subtracting the countable income is the monthly SSI benefit amount that should be paid.
By following this explanation step by step, you should be able to calculate SSI payment amounts in many circumstances. Try computing an SSI payment amount with a simple example such as a blind person's having monthly earned income of $1,000. Apply the subtractions called for in steps 3 and 4. It is reasonable to expect that the resulting countable income would be approximately $87 per month. This $87 must be subtracted from $407--the payment amount for an individual in a state without supplementation. It would be subtracted from a higher amount in a state with supplementation.
A Word to the Wise
There are many individual considerations which may apply in particular circumstances and which may significantly affect eligibility or benefit amounts. All of the facts must be presented to the Social Security Administration for a formal determination. Any determination can be reconsidered or appealed in a hearing.
The National Federation of the Blind has made a concerted effort to assist blind persons in dealing with SSI issues. It is no accident that through the years blind people are legally one of the three categorical groups under SSI, and the distinctions made between the blind and others have significance. Working with the Congress and the Social Security Administration over a period of many years, the National Federation of the Blind is responsible for bringing about many of these distinctions. Sometimes we understand the application of the SSI law better than representatives at the Social Security office.
No one can seriously challenge the role that the Federation has played in this area. We have successfully attempted to shape and direct the SSI program toward offering blind people a hand up, rather than strictly providing a handout. Why do blind people need a strong and effective National Federation of the Blind? The answer can be found in many of the rights and benefits provided to the blind by SSI and other programs of the Social Security Administration. It is only by our own concerted action, through the National Federation of the Blind, that blind people can know the facts and make sure that the law works as intended. The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is fulfilled when we help one another and ourselves through collective action. This is exactly what we have done for blind people in the SSI program.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The French Market, New Orleans, Louisiana.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: A streetcar passes Jax Brewery in New Orleans.]
NEW ORLEANS CONVENTION: WHERE TO START
by Jerry Whittle
From the Associate Editor: Jerry Whittle is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana and one of the most prolific contributors to the efforts of the Writers Division. He is also an enthusiastic and knowledgeable proponent of the attractions of New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a walking encyclopedia of what to do and see in the city where the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be held. Here are his tips about what you should see and do:
This year's National Federation of the Blind convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana, poses a pleasant problem. Because of the rich heritage and historic significance of this bustling port city, there are so many varied and exciting activities that it will be impossible to find the time to do everything that is available.
The names and locations of the myriad restaurants, bars, and clubs reveal the Spanish, French, African, Indian, and Irish influences upon this unique American city. Brennan's on Royal is famous for its sumptuous brunches and haute cuisine, including eggs benedict and bananas foster. Try Mr. B's crayfish fettucini with a delicious sauce. For that special lunch, try Commander's Palace in uptown New Orleans on Washington. If it is jazz that tickles your fancy, the Pete Fountain Club at 2 Poydras Place on the third floor of the Hilton is a popular haunt. Snug Harbor on Frenchmen's Street offers a wonderful singer; Tipitina's on Napoleon, Club My-Oh-My on Chartres, The Ol' Toones Saloon, Papa Joe's, Ryan's Irish Pub, and The Famous Door-all on Bourbon are just a few of the clubs featuring jazz and potables. Incidentally, while in New Orleans, almost everyone ventures into the world famous Pat O'Brien's on St. Peter's for a hurricane. While in your favorite pub, you might want to try a Ramos gin fizz, which consists of egg white, orange flower water, and gin. Another popular drink is cafe brulot, which consists of hot coffee, spices, orange peel, and liqueurs blended in a chafing dish, ignited, and served in a special cup.
If you want to learn how to prepare some of the wonderful dishes that have made New Orleans famous the world over for fine food, perhaps you would like to take a class in creole cooking taught by a professional chef. The demonstration includes sampling, in addition to lunch and transportation. Creole cooking has four main ethnic influences. It blends the Spanish flair for sharp seasoning, the French mastery of sumptuous sauces, the African skill in fine cooking, and the Indian's knowledge of special herbs and fruits. Speaking of Creole, conventioneers will certainly want to try gumbo while in New Orleans. Gumbo is the African word for okra; however, there is also a filet gumbo. Filet is powdered sassafras leaves and is sometimes used as a substitute for okra. Gumbo can include a variety of meats: chicken, turkey, ham, or fish, to name a few. It is served with rice as a spicy soup or a main course. Another staple of New Orleans is andouille. Andouille is a plump and spicy country sausage that is often served in red beans and rice.
In addition to all the varied cuisines and the festive atmosphere of New Orleans, one can find other fascinating places to visit. Plantation homes are popular historic sites for adults and children. The most famous of these, the Beauregard-Keyes House, was built in 1826 and was the home of Confederate general Pierre Gustave Beauregard. It was later purchased by Francis Parkinson Keyes and has been preserved with many of the original antiques. Other homes abound, surrounded by lovely gardens and courtyards and offering elegant dining on the premises, such as the restaurant at Randolph Hall.
There are many riverboat cruises featuring dixieland jazz, dancing, and fine food. The Creole Queen is just one of the paddle wheelers plying the mighty Mississippi. The Audubon Zoo, containing over 1200 species in their natural habitats, is another popular tourist site. Transportation is provided. Many Federationists might enjoy a walking tour of the French Quarter or Vieux Carre. This educational stroll also includes the Cafe du Monde and shopping at the Riverwalk and Jax Brewery on Decatur.
The Aquarium of the Americas is one of the newest attractions, at the base of Canal Street in the French Quarter. It features aquatic life of every description in a variety of authentic natural settings. This stroll through nature should also whet one's appetite for a unique American excursion--a swamp tour--replete with alligators, water snakes, and hundreds of species of birds including egrets. Transportation and lunch are provided. Perhaps you have heard of the term "Bayou," which is a Choctaw Indian word for creek, referring to the thousands of inland water passageways that wind through Louisiana.
These are just some of the possible sights to see in the wild and wonderful city of New Orleans. When one couples all this variety with the full agenda of the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, one is almost overwhelmed by the question of where to start. No matter where Federationists begin, they cannot lose.
Wonderful accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Hotel are guaranteed. Southern hospitality at its best will be extended by this year's host affiliate--the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana. As in the past, hotel room rates for the convention are phenomenally low: singles, $28; doubles and twins, $35; triples, $38; and quads, $40. An additional occupancy tax of $2 per night will be added to the room rates, plus sales tax of eleven percent. There will be no charge for children under twelve in a room with their parents. Room reservations should be made by writing to: Hyatt Regency New Orleans, 500 Poydras Plaza, New Orleans, Louisiana 70140; phone: (504) 561-1234. Do not call the Hyatt toll-free 800 number. A full convention agenda, including division meetings, informative speakers, interesting exhibits of the latest technology, and an exciting banquet are always assured. All we can say is, "Laissez le bon temps roulet!"--Let the good times roll.
This year both Passover and Easter arrive in March. Both are joyous celebrations of salvation, and many Americans look forward to the festivity and good food of the holiday season. For the first time in twenty-one years, the Easter Bunny will not be hiding carefully dyed eggs around our house and adding candy of his own. But every cloud has a silver lining, and I realize that this year I will not be finding jellybeans in odd corners for months to come. Whether your holiday prayer is "Next year in Jerusalem" or "The Lord is risen," may your holiday celebration be filled with friendship and joy. Here are recipes to help your celebration along.
by Lorraine Stayer
Lorraine Stayer is the editor of the Writer's Division magazine, Slate and Style. She is also the wife of David Stayer, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New York and the cantor who beautifully sings the invocation before one general session each year at our National Convention.
The Passover meal is filled with symbols and tradition: special prayers, unleavened bread, salt water, bitter herbs, and a lamb shank. One of the dishes is charosis, which represents the mortar for the bricks that the Children of Israel were forced to make during their slavery before their escape from Egypt. In the Middle East almonds are substituted for the walnuts of this recipe, and three or four figs, a quarter of a cup raisins, or a few dates are added since they are fruits readily available in the area. Lorraine reports that, although this is a traditional Passover dish, many people have commented that it would be delicious as a side dish at other times of the year.
2 large apples, cored and peeled
1 cup walnuts
1/8 cup sweet, kosher red wine (Manischewitz will do, but Carmel
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Method: About an hour before serving, chop the apples and nuts together. Add other fruits if desired. Season with spices to taste and stir in enough wine to bind the mixture, making it resemble the mortar it represents. Cover the mixture tightly and refrigerate until serving time.
HOT CROSS BUNS
by Barbara Pierce
On Easter morning the Pierces have hot cross buns for breakfast. When I acquired this recipe years ago, the accompanying note informed me that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday have miraculous powers. This may be so, but they taste fresher on Easter if they are baked on Saturday. Last spring I brought hot cross buns to the National Center staff at Easter time. They vanished immediately. My family approve of them as well.
1 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter or margarine
4 well-beaten egg yolks
2 1/4 cups scalded, cooled milk
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
7 to 8 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 egg whites, beaten till frothy
1 cup rinsed currants
1/2 cup candied fruit (optional)
Method: On the day before baking, in a large mixing bowl combine sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, and yeast dissolved in the water. Stir in salt, nutmeg, and cloves, and half the flour. Beat this mixture well with an electric mixer or with a wooden spoon. Gently stir in the frothy egg whites, then stir in currants and candied fruit, if desired. Work in enough additional flour (3-4 more cups) to make a soft dough. Knead well, adding more flour only as needed to handle the dough. This will take about 10 minutes. The dough is ready when it is smooth and elastic. Place it in a well-buttered bowl and butter the top of the dough. Cover the top with a damp tea towel and put it in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours. Refrigerate the dough overnight.
At least an hour before you are ready to make out the rolls, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it stand in a warm place. Knead the dough lightly and divide it into 30-36 pieces of equal size. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place the buns 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheets. If you wish, you may cut a cross in the top of each bun. Butter all exposed surfaces liberally, cover the rolls, and allow them to rise in a warm place until they are doubled in bulk, about an hour and a half. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the buns with 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water combined. Bake the buns until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove buns to cooling rack, and when they are cool frost them with a cup of confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and enough water to bring the glaze to spreading consistency.
by Betty Niceley
Betty Niceley is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky and of NAPUB, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. She is also a good cook and an enthusiastic sampler of unusual foods. Here is an excellent sauce to dress up an Easter leg of lamb. Betty says that it makes a nice change of pace from mint jelly and is delicious.
1-pound can purple plums, sieved
1/4 cup reserved syrup from plums
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
Method: Stir all ingredients together to make sauce. If you have a food processor, everything can be thrown in together and mixed for a few seconds to puree the plums. Just be sure to remove all seeds from the fruit. Sometimes they miss a seed or two, even when they say the plums are seeded. Trim excess fat and skin from a 5- or 6-pound leg of lamb. Rub the surface with dry mustard and sprinkle it all over with seasoned salt, pepper, and ground allspice. Roast it as you normally would, but baste it four times with the sauce in the last hour of roasting. Any extra sauce can be added to the pan drippings to enrich the gravy. Be sure not to overcook the lamb. Cookbooks used to warn that lamb should register at least 175 on a meat thermometer. The numbers have been revised downward into the 160s so that the meat is still nicely pink.
**The Glenn Connection:
From the Editor: Since 1974 we have had a souvenir coffee mug at the banquet each year at NFB conventions. For the past four years we have bought the mugs from George Glenn, a man who is interested in our work and who sells a variety of specialty advertising. He asked me whether some of the state affiliates or others who read the Monitor might be interested in doing business with him, so I told him we would run an announcement and see. George Glenn is honest; he delivers as promised; and he has a variety of products. Here is part of what he wrote for inclusion in the Monitor:
Specialty advertising is everywhere. From the logo on an ink pen to the message on your morning coffee mug. Lapel pins to keychains. Jackets to t-shirts. The shapes and forms it can take are endless. I can handle small orders or large at a reasonable price, providing items for use in fund raising or as souvenirs at state conventions or other meetings. These items can be personalized with any message. Call George Glenn, toll-free: 1 (800) 673-6089, or write: Glenn Connection, 228 West Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701; FAX: (301) 663-6656.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Used notebook sale. Although these notebooks have printed advertisements on them, they are much sturdier than anything I have found in stores. They are large, three-ring notebooks, which will hold between sixty and seventy Braille pages (size 8-1/2 by 11 paper). Price: $1 each. Contact: Charlene Groves, 1899 Washington Valley Road, Martinsville, New Jersey 08836.
We recently received the following announcement from Norma Baker of the Austin, Texas, Chapter: The Austin Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas elected officers at the January meeting. They serve a one-year term. Elected were the following: President, Tommy Craig; First Vice President, Jeff Pearcy; Second Vice President, Jeanine Lineback; Secretary, Norma Gonzales Baker; Treasurer, Zena Pearcy; and Board Members, William C. Johnson and Aundrea Moore.
**South Dakotans Recognized:
We recently received the following news item: The 1990 South Dakota volunteers of the year were announced by Governor George Mickelson in January of 1991. Among them were Karen Mayry and Art Peterson, both volunteers in the NFB of South Dakota office. Certificates were written as follows: "Certificate of Appreciation from the State of South Dakota. Awarded in grateful appreciation for your dedication and devotion in providing volunteer services to the people in your community and the state's citizens."
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I am learning Braille and would like pen pals from anywhere. I'm interested in the Federation, music, motorcycling, animals, and reading. I know Grade 1 Braille and am learning the contractions. Please write me: Ruth Davis, 4450 California Avenue, #222, Bakersfield, California 93309.
**Free Religious Quarterly:
From the Editor: We recently received the following letter: "Please announce in the Monitor that there is a free religious quarterly, Glad Tidings, containing three sections: articles of inspirational and instructional nature; a news section, containing news of and about the readers; and The Question Box, which contains Bible questions sent by the readers with whom we deal. John Bessire, Editor, 2704 Flannery Road, San Pablo, California 94806."
Janet Caron, Federationist from Florida, writes as follows:
In January of 1991 the South Palm Beach Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida held elections, with the following results: Joseph B. Naulty, President; Janet Caron, Vice President; Pamela Gregory, Secretary; David Evans, Treasurer; Joan Gregory, Board Member; Marion Jackson, Board Member, Richard Giombetti, Board Member; and Betty English, Board Member.
[PHOTO: Clarence Green and Denis Howard stand inside a church wearing crowns and sashes. CAPTION: Clarence Green and Denise Howard, winners of the 1991 Mr. and Miss NFB of Chatham County, Georga, Pageant.]
We recently received the following communication from Tyrone Palmer and Ernest Robbins, Federation leaders from Georgia:
As Monitor readers know, the National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County, Georgia, holds its annual benefit gospel musical extravaganza about this time every year. This year's program was held on Sunday, November 18, 1990, at the Bethlehem Baptist Church. And if I say so myself, this year's program was without a doubt the most scintillating and the most successful program that we have ever had. For example, this year's master of ceremonies was radio personality and choir director, Mr. E. Larry McDuffie. And also, we were very proud of the fact that Sunday, November 18, 1990, was officially declared National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County Day by the mayor of Savannah, the Honorable John P. Rousakis. During our gospel musical extravaganza we crowned the winners of the 1990-91 Mr. and Miss National Federation of the Blind of Chatham County Pageant. The two runners up were Mrs. Maggie Smart and Mr. Isaac Heyward. And the winners were Miss Denise Howard and Mr. Clarence Green. And, incidentally, the theme that was chosen for this year's joyous occasion was "We won't give up."
**Sharon Maneki Honored:
The Winter, 1990-91, edition of The Braille Spectator, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, included the following announcement: "On October 9, 1990, Sharon Maneki [President of the NFB of Maryland] was recognized as the National Security Agency's Disabled Employee of the Year at a luncheon attended by the Director of the National Security Agency and other dignitaries. In presenting the award, the Director recognized Sharon's outstanding contributions to the NSA mission and her civic activities." We join the National Security Agency staff in congratulating Mrs. Maneki.
[PHOTO:Portrait of Mary Main. CAPTION: Mary Main, committed Federationist and great lady.]
**A Drop in the Bucket:
From the Associate Editor: Mary Main, whom I think of as the dowager duchess of Connecticut, but who is in reality one of the kindest, most down-to-earth, yet remarkable women it has ever been my privilege to know, recently wrote me the following letter:
November 27, 1990
I was particularly interested in your article about the services for the blind in Jamaica. I know there must be many countries that have fewer services and less equipment, but I have always had a certain sentimental sympathy for Jamaica because a forebear of mine, who came to America in Colonial days, was granted a large property there and became enormously wealthy--I don't like to think by what means. Alas, the land was sold and the wealth dissipated long before I was born, but my father, who was to have been sent there as a young man to manage the property, often spoke of it. For this reason I felt a particular sympathy for those blind Jamaicans who have so little.
I have decided to ask my daughter-in-law to send my very small collection (a few commercially recorded books, some embossed maps, talking clock, slate and stylus, etc., but, alas, no Braille books) to them after my death. The books at least would be more suitable for adults and perhaps you could send me an address to which they can be sent.
I realize this is only a very small drop in the bucket, but if you have ever had a leaky roof, you will know that drops eventually fill a bucket. Perhaps if this letter were to be published in the Braille Monitor others might send equipment they no longer need or have it sent after death. Of course, no matter how many drops we contribute, we can never begin to fill that ocean of need out there, but this should not stop us from trying to fill one bucket.
With best wishes,
Right you are Mary, and every drop that splashes into the bucket will help. The address for the Jamaica Library for the Blind is: Attention Mr. Lawson, Jamaica Society for the Blind, 111 1/2 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6, Jamaica, WEST INDIES.
We recently received the following announcement: The Tucson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona held its election November 17, 1990, with the following results: President, Karen Ortega; Vice President, Jennifer Feingold; Secretary, Darrell Shandrow; Treasurer, Sharon Omvig; and Board Member, Robert Tullis.
**Braille Authority of North America:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"The Braille Authority of North America is pleased to announce the following slate of officers: Darleen Bogart, Chairman, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Toronto, Ontario; Ralph McCracken, Vice Chairman, American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, Kentucky; Lynne Luxton, Secretary, American Foundation for the Blind, New York, New York; and Sally Hering, Treasurer, Lake Bluff, Illinois. Two new organizations have joined BANA: National Braille Press and California Transcribers and Educators for the Visually Handicapped."
[PHOTO: Portrait of Dan Frye. CAPTION: Dan Frye is a first-year law student at the University of Washington, where he is putting to work the leadership skills and political acumen he learned as a member of the National Federation of the Blind.]
Dan Frye is a first-year law student at the University of Washington Law School. He recently ran against ten other students who were seeking election to fill two seats on the Executive Council of the Student Bar Association. Dan won one of those seats and is therefore one of two representatives upholding the interests of the first-year class on that Executive Council. Dan, who is the immediate past president of the South Carolina Student Division, is a 1990 graduate of Erskine College. He is also a 1990 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship winner. Before beginning the 1990-91 academic year last October, Dan spent four months working in the NFB of California Office, serving as an advocate for blind persons.
**George Blackstock Receives Award:
The Public Works Department of the City of Napa, California, reports that George Blackstock has received a Metropolitan Transportation Commission Award of Merit for his design of a tool that provides a guide for engraving bus stop poles with the Braille letters "BUS." The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is the regional transportation planning agency for the San Francisco Bay Area. The engineer's drawing for the new tool is being made available to municipalities and transit agencies that wish to use it. Mr. Blackstock is a member and officer of our NFB of Napa Valley Chapter and the owner of the Fix-A-Bike Shop.
**Lon Sumner Donates Picture:
Lon Sumner is the First Vice President of the NFB of Sacramento and a vendor in the California Business Enterprises Program. In the early 1950's Congressman Jennings Randolph, the co-author of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, gave Lon an autographed picture of himself. This picture has hung in Lon's living room ever since. Lon has donated this historic picture to hang at the National Center for the Blind. His generosity in sharing this picture will bring enjoyment to the blind of the nation in the coming years.
Some of our chapters circulate a monthly newsletter. The Orange County Chapter of the NFB of California has been writing a newsletter for six years. The December, 1990, issue contains an appeal for membership, which accurately describes the advantages and opportunities of joining and becoming active in the NFB. There is reward in doing for oneself, but there is even greater reward when we do for others. In the case of the NFB, we benefit individually from our collective effort. The appeal reads: "HELP WANTED. We are looking for an unlimited number of creative, energetic, positive, hardworking individuals that want to change what it means to be blind. Benefits: equal friendship, increased knowledge about blindness, and feeling good about helping others."
Patricia Munson, Editor of The Blind Citizen, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of California and a member of the affiliate's board of directors, writes to report on the most dynamic and exciting state convention in the California affiliate's history. More than a dozen new parents of blind children attended, and some fifty-seven members raised their Pre- authorized Check Plan pledges or joined PAC for the first time. This is what she says:
Enthusiasm was especially evident among California Federationists as we gathered for the 1990 National Federation of the Blind of California Convention, November 1 to 4. There was the usual excitement brought about by our coming together in common purpose. However, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the National Federation of the Blind and California's fiftieth year as an NFB affiliate was a high point and cause for exuberant spirits. We were especially proud to have Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan in attendance to represent the National Office.
The weekend activities included special interest seminars as well as a lively convention agenda. The convention considered sixteen resolutions and a whole host of issues concerning the blind of California, including the quality of rehabilitation services and instruction available from the California Orientation Center for the Blind, education available to blind children, and employment opportunities for the blind.
Officers re-elected at this convention were Sharon Gold, President; James Willows, First Vice President; Nancy Marcello, Second Vice President; John Bates, Secretary; and Donna Siebert, Treasurer. Re-elected to the Board of Directors were Sandy Ritter, Betty Hendricks, Nick Medina, and Patricia Munson. Other members who serve on the Board of Directors and who were elected at last year's Convention are Dora Mae Dobbins, Jerrold Drake, and Joy Smith.
Dr. Jernigan's banquet address kept the audience on the edge of their chairs with interest as he described how individual Federationists are applying our collective action to resolve local issues of prejudice and discrimination against the blind. Ollie Cantos received the Lawrence (Muzzy) Marcelino Memorial Scholarship, and Lynn Coats received the LaVyrl (Pinky) Johnson Scholarship. Three new chapters received charters, including the NFB of Tracy, Matt Millspaugh, President; the Shasta County Chapter, Jillian Brooks, President; and the Diabetics Chapter, Donovan Cooper President.
A number of special awards were presented following the banquet address. Lavon Johnson, the Director of the Sacramento Braille Transcribers, was presented with the Kenneth Jernigan Award for outstanding service to the blind community. Mrs. Johnson joins the National Federation of the Blind by openly and publicly supporting our proclamation that it is respectable to read and write Braille. Hazel tenBroek received the Golden Anniversary Award. When presenting this award to Mrs. tenBroek, Jim Willows, First Vice President of the NFB of California, said, "This award we give with love and deep respect to a very special person, for fifty years and more of meritorious service to the blind of this nation."
NFB of California President Sharon Gold presented the final 1990 award by saying, "We have one other award that we give--not every year, but when we find someone who has given significantly to our movement, someone whose work and dedication in the National Federation of the Blind stands out beyond all others. This award is named after Jacobus tenBroek, who, of course, was the founder of our movement fifty years ago, and he probably has been in our minds more this year because of our fiftieth anniversary. It is sometimes hard to separate all of our leaders because they are so united in what they have done. They carry on, one after another, because of the teaching and training of one another. Therefore, it is hard to think about Dr. tenBroek without thinking about the person whom we wish to honor tonight. This person has also given many long years of dedicated service.
"He came to the movement as a young man nearly forty years ago and made a significant impact upon the organization almost immediately. He grew with us and guided us and led us so that we have grown with him. It is Dr. Jernigan whom we honor with the Jacobus tenBroek Award from the National Federation of the Blind of California."
He was presented with a walnut plaque. At the top is the engraved logo of the National Federation of the Blind. The plaque reads, "National Federation of the Blind of California Jacobus tenBroek Award Presented to Kenneth Jernigan for Outstanding Service to the Blind of California and this Nation. November 3, 1990."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Examining the capstan of the brig Niagara are (left to right): Jack and Penny Warmbrad, Judy Jobes, state representative Tom Scrimenti, and a tour guide.]
Judy Jobes, President of the National Federation of the Blind, Erie County, Pennsylvania, reports that the organization conducted a very successful chapter-building activity on September 16, 1990. The brig Niagara, a restored sailing ship which originally served in the War of 1812, has recently been opened for public tours at the port of Erie. The Chapter organized and broadly publicized a specially arranged tour of the ship for interested blind people and local dignitaries. Area press and television, a state representative, a local judge, and a number of blind people turned out for the occasion. Following the tour, refreshments were served in a nearby facility, where Judy Jobes and other chapter members had a chance to talk with people about the Federation and its projects. Federationist student leader Zach Shore was on hand for the event since he had been working with Judy on student chapter building that weekend. All in all it was a useful and enjoyable activity for everyone who attended.
In the January, 1991, edition of News and Views, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, Wayne Shevlin, the new editor of this publication, included the following thought-provoking little poem. Everyone can benefit from pondering its truth:
Are you an active member--the kind that would be missed?
Or are you just content that your name is on the list?
Do you attend meetings and mingle with the flock?
Or do you stay at home to criticize and knock?
Do you take an active part to help the work along?
Or are you satisfied to be the kind that just belongs?
Do you ever go to visit a member who is sick?
Or do you leave the work to a few and talk about the clique?
Think this question over; you know right from wrong.
Are you an active member, or do you just belong?opyright,
National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991