34, No. 9
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
34, No. 9 October 1991
by Mike Freeman
PRESCHOOLERS: THE EIGHT-YEAR REVOLUTION
by Barbara Cheadle
A CANE IN
by Carol Castellano
ACHIEVING SUCCESS IN THE WORK PLACE
by Rami Rabby
CAN YOU READ
by Tim Cranmer
BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS CONTEST, 1991-92
by Stephen O. Benson
FOR BRAILLE LITERACY: A FIRST STEP
by Betty Niceley
REHABILITATION REFORM: HOLDING OUT A HAND?
by Carolyn L. Weaver, Ph.D.
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND 1992 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
by Barbara Pierce
NOT ON THE
by Marilyn Golden
MOUNTAINS, AND THE ORGANIZED BLIND MOVEMENT
by Ted Young
STUDENT'S BLINDNESS NO OBSTACLE
AND REPAIR: STILL A GOOD CAREER FOR THE BLIND
by Buddy Gray
TUNERS MARCHING TOGETHER
by Stanley Oliver
BIKING BENEFIT FOR THE BLIND
by Karen Brady
WHIMSICAL ADMINISTRATION OF AIRLINE REGULATIONS: KATHLEEN HART DEMANDS RESPECT FROM THE AIRLINES
by Fred Schroeder
IN SHOW BUSINESS? THE ACTOR SAYS YES!
by Dana Elcar
MEET A FELLOW FEDERATIONIST, BOB SIMONSON
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991
by Mike Freeman
From the Associate Editor: Mike Freeman is the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. He is thoughtful and alert to the nuances of daily life and social interchange. Here (with comments of mine concerning an Ohio incident) is a brief article he recently sent to the Braille Monitor:
The legal doctrine of contributory negligence, as applied to
the blind, held that if a blind person travelled outside his or her
home and became involved in an accident, the blind person, simply
by being present, was automatically considered to be negligent, no
matter what the circumstances of the accident. For example, if a
blind person were to cross a street in a pedestrian crosswalk in
accord with the traffic signal and were to be hit by a car, the
driver might not be held responsible even though the car had
disobeyed the traffic signal. This doctrine severely restricted the
independent movement of blind persons. It was a prime reason for
the long struggle of the National Federation of the Blind to secure
passage of White Cane laws in all fifty states and the District of
Columbia. With the enactment of these laws, the doctrine of
contributory negligence was specifically negated, and the blind
gained the right to travel freely in the world on an equal basis
with the sighted.
While the doctrine of contributory negligence, as applied to the blind, and the underlying presumption that blind people are necessarily unsafe travelers have been eliminated from the law of the land, they have not yet been eliminated from the public mind. This was brought home to me sharply by a recent incident.
I work at the Ross Substation complex of the Bonneville Power Administration in Vancouver, Washington. In order to get there every workday I must cross Highway 99, a busy four-lane highway. There is a pedestrian crosswalk with a traffic signal operated by a push button. When the proper button is pressed, the traffic comes to a halt, and a pedestrian can cross the road in safety.
On a recent foggy morning a colleague at work remarked that it must have been more dangerous than usual for me to get to work, inasmuch as the Highway 99 traffic would have found it more difficult than usual to spot me crossing the road. Initially, I replied with some sort of flippant remark such as: "Well, no more than you." Upon a moment's reflection, however, I decided that a further explanation was in order. "There is a good traffic light at that spot," I said. "Assuming that both the vehicular traffic and I obey it, it doesn't really matter whether it's foggy or not. When the cars stop, I go. My safety is my responsibility; and, anyway, it's no more risky for me than it is for any other pedestrian crossing there."
My colleague hesitated, then agreed. I got the impression, though, that he was not completely satisfied with my answer. The notion that the risks I take are my responsibility seemed a bit novel to him. Moreover, even if he were prepared to grant this assumption, I got the distinct impression that he didn't buy my argument that I, a blind pedestrian, was as safe a traveler (with or without adverse conditions such as fog) as a sighted pedestrian.
This is the crux of the matter. Although we have virtually won the battle against insurance companies that discriminate against the blind, we still have a long way to go in convincing the general public that we the blind, as a class, pose no higher risks to ourselves and others than does the public at large, and that we can--indeed we must--assume responsibility for ourselves and our actions in order to take our places on an equal basis with the rest of the public in the continuing adventure of human existence.
From the Associate Editor: Mike Freeman is absolutely right
when he identifies his acquaintance's remark as one of the more
benign but still dangerous manifestations of the conviction that
sighted people must always assume responsibility for the safety of
blind pedestrians because, of course, we can't possibly take care
of ourselves. I am reminded of this truth every time a motorist
leans out of a passing car to inquire of me when I am walking along
a street in my small town, "Where are you trying to go?" First of
all, it is none of his--it is almost always a man--business.
Second, I am not trying to go; I am going. When I am lost, I take
responsibility for asking directions.
But there is still a malignant manifestation of the contributory negligence of blind pedestrians doctrine floating around in the public mind. It may have vanished from the law books with the passage of the White Cane statutes, but there are plenty of people who have not yet got the word.
Early in March of 1991 an Ohio Federationist who uses a dog guide was crossing a busy street in her small town. She had the green light, so she and her dog stepped out boldly to cross the intersection. A young man, who was not watching carefully, turned right on the red light and struck both the woman and the dog guide. Neither was hurt badly, but the woman was taken to the emergency room, where her husband, a physician, eventually got to her.
The incompetence of the officials who dealt with the case is demonstrated by one question the police officer who wrote up the accident report asked the victim's husband: "Can the dog read traffic signs?" No one from the district attorney's office ever contacted the woman to determine how serious her injuries had been. These two things should have prepared her for what happened in Mayor's Court a few weeks later when the case came up for hearing.
Pronouncing it as his opinion that no blind person could independently cross streets in safety, the mayor fined the driver $10 and warned the blind woman not to travel alone in the future. No one knew or cared about White Cane laws or protection. It was obvious to the mayor, the district attorney, and the defendant that somehow the blind woman had caused the accident, even if she did have the right-of-way--and nothing she could say would change their minds. She is herself an attorney by training, and you can be sure that she did not remain silent.
After this travesty of justice was carried out, she attempted to interest area newspapers in her story. They were not interested. She and the NFB of Ohio wrote letters to the mayor, the district attorney, and the police, urging inservice education programs for public officials. They could not be bothered. The woman is still deciding whether or not to bring a civil suit against the driver for damages.
This is an unpleasant little reminder to us all that it is not enough to be in the right. Sometimes it is not even enough to have the law on your side. It is important to remember that we are farther along the road to freedom than we have ever been, but we are not there yet.
by Barbara Cheadle
In 1980 you couldn't buy a white cane for a preschooler for
any amount of money. They didn't exist. I know because we tried to
find one for our two-year-old son. My husband ended up cutting down
an adult-size cane for our son to use. The adult handle was too
large, so he made a smaller one using layers of electrician's tape.
There weren't any canes because there wasn't any demand. There
wasn't any demand because the Orientation and Mobility (O & M)
profession didn't believe in giving canes to young children. O & M
professionals had been taught how to teach adults, and children
were taught the same way--as if they were just smaller versions of
adults. Naturally, this meant most children couldn't meet the O &
M standard for cane readiness. Occasionally a bright, precocious
child would get a cane in elementary school, and very rarely a
preschooler would get a cane, but almost always blind youth had to
wait, often until fifth or sixth grade--usually later--to get one.
But by 1982 this was beginning to change. That was the year the National Federation of the Blind first offered child-size white canes for sale (see the July, 1982, issue of the "NFB Newsletter for Parents of Blind Children," the POBC publication that preceded Future Reflections.) To the best of my knowledge, these were the first mass-produced children's canes in this country. About the same time Fred Schroeder (a blind O & M instructor, an educator, and a leader in the National Federation of the Blind) began giving canes and lessons to all blind children as soon as they entered school in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, school district. (He supervised the Albuquerque Low Incidence Programs from August, 1981, through June, 1986. See the article, "A Step Toward Equality: Cane Travel Training for the Young Blind Child," in the Winter, 1989, Future Reflections.) His success raised doubts about the traditional approach to cane travel for kids and gave the professionals a new model to follow. Then in 1983, while Mr. Schroeder was in the middle of implementing his program, the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind began distributing the video, "Kids With Canes." This video, originating in Nebraska, showed innovative approaches to teaching cane travel to youngsters as young as five. Both the New Mexico program and the "Kids With Canes" video set the stage for encouraging even earlier use of the cane. The following year, 1984, Future Reflections printed an article which openly promoted canes for preschoolers, "Canes and Blind Preschoolers," March/April/May, 1984. Since then Future Reflections has featured a steady stream of articles which focus on cane travel for young blind children-- articles such as "God, Table Manners, and Independent Travel: A Mother's Viewpoint;" "We Have Just Begun to Fight;" "Joseli"; "One White Cane Saga"; "Dan"; "Cane Travel for Preschoolers"; and "Parental Attitudes Can Make the Difference."
Although there were a few O & M instructors eager to experiment with this new approach, the O & M professionals on the whole fought this trend. They wanted nothing to do with this grass- roots movement. And that is what it is. Information and encouragement came from the National Federation of the Blind; but parents--as it should and had to be--took the lead. Perhaps the professionals felt threatened or inadequate to the challenge. Certainly some were downright offended to think that non-professionals (parents! blind people!) could actually teach them something about O & M. Please do not misunderstand me. There are, and have been from the beginning, O & M instructors who are open-minded and earnest in their desire to form partnerships with blind consumers and with parents. But the overall tone has been arrogant and elitist.
Nevertheless, this revolution in the approach to cane travel and children, as led by parents and nourished by the National Federation of the Blind, could not be denied or turned back. And the reason lies in the children themselves. Invariably, young blind children love the white cane. The joy and eagerness with which they accept it is sufficient evidence of the need to make this a standard practice.
Maybe that is what finally turned the tide. Although there is still resistance from individual instructors and institutions, there is a new tone of acceptance (although cautious and usually overlaid with tedious professional jargon) within the O & M field. What evidence do I have for this judgment? There are many signs and indications--such as the warm reception given to the 1989 Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students. Written by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. M. Duffy and published by the National Federation of the Blind, it includes four chapters on teaching cane travel to children from preschool age on up. The mild reaction to what had once been considered an extremist approach was one sure sign that the revolution was coming to an end.
But the surest evidence came in the form of a catalog. In the "New Products" section of its 1990-91 aids and appliances catalog, the American Foundation for the Blind, the granddaddy of the blindness establishment, offers children's canes in sizes from twenty-four inches on up. It seems appropriate, somehow, that the end of the revolution should be marked by the same action which marked its beginning when, eight years ago, the National Federation of the Blind was the first organization ever to sell mass-produced child-size white canes (twenty-four inches and up).
Although there will still be individual battles and skirmishes as parents slug it out with die-hard O & M instructors, it is only a matter of time before it will be standard practice to give canes to preschoolers. However, as we have learned from the recent war in the Middle East, it isn't good enough to win the war; one must then win the peace.
Parents will now be faced with a whole new set of problems and questions. Most of these are not new to the adult blind, but they will be new to parents. Do parents have to wait for permission from an O & M instructor to get a cane? What if the parents and the instructor disagree about the type of cane or its length? Should you wait to get a cane until your child can get O & M lessons, however long that may take, or should your child have a cane right away? Can blind people safely teach or demonstrate cane travel to children? What do you do if your school can't find an O & M teacher, or if the teacher can only come once a month? What do you do if you get a poor O & M teacher and your child begins to lose confidence, not gain it? Most of these questions can be boiled down to these fundamentals: What do the professionals really believe about blindness? Does your child's O & M teacher truly believe that a blind person can learn to travel safely and independently, or does he or she have a limited definition of independence and low expectations for your child?
As we straddle the end of one era and the beginning of a new one in our approach to independent mobility for blind children, parents more than ever need information and guidance. We have come to understand that there are pretty straightforward answers to many such questions. Yes, competent blind people can safely teach and demonstrate independent mobility, and yes it is best to get a cane for a child as soon as possible, even if professional instruction is not yet available. But what parents need most of all and what the National Federation of the Blind is equipped to provide are plenty of inspiration and a philosophical blueprint to follow for the mobility-related problems that will inevitably have to be solved individually by parents and blind youth. Together, parents and the organized blind movement have brought about a revolution; let us continue to work to ensure that every blind child in this country has the opportunity to benefit from our victory.
by Carol Castellano
From the Associate Editor: The preceding article summarized the events that have taken place in the revolution to bring cane-travel training to young children. Reading the account of this victory by determined parents and blind adults is both satisfying and encouraging. Vital as it is, however, to remind ourselves of the details of such victories, it is perhaps even more important to remember that hundreds, and eventually thousands, of young lives will have been rescued by our efforts. Some of these youngsters, maybe many, will never recognize what we have done for them by giving them the chance to grow up normally, with the independence that a cane provides. But we must never allow ourselves to forget how much is riding on our efforts for reform. Here is the story of one child's introduction to the white cane and what it meant to her and her entire family. It first appeared in the Summer, 1991, issue of Future Reflections, the magazine of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Carol Castellano is no stranger to these pages. She has been telling us about her daughter Serena's development for several years now. It's gratifying to see one of our Federation children growing up normally and naturally in a loving, accepting family. Here is the latest chapter in her adventure:
With thanks to Joe Cutter, O & M instructor, a creative and
innovative person who teaches parents to teach their children and
who believes in and respects other people, sighted and blind.
Last Christmas, when she was five years old, our daughter Serena received a cane from Santa Claus. To be sure, her father and I were a lot more excited about it than she was that first day, but it wasn't long before Serena discovered just what it would mean to have a cane in her life.
She realized immediately that by holding that long object out in front of her, she could avoid bumping into things with her nose. She also found that she could get advance warning of steps, curbs, changes in the terrain, and the like. She no longer had to rely on holding someone's hand to avoid potential danger. Suddenly she was free.
It took her about a week and a half to incorporate the new tool into her existing repertoire of travel skills, and then there was no stopping her. The sidewalk was hers. Unfamiliar stairways-- no problem. The way to our neighbors' house was easily learned, and Serena strolled over to deliver a package. At the mall she was free to explore corridors and enjoy the echoes. Finding elevator doors was a snap; escalators provided great amusement (for her, not me). We were able to begin teaching her how to cross our quiet street alone, a skill appropriate to her age. We began to walk to the park like other families, holding hands sometimes for the pure pleasure of it and not because we had to.
One day my husband and I walked over with the children to the local school to vote. While we were busy signing in, Serena went off exploring. She followed the strains of an orchestra, which was rehearsing in the school auditorium, a few hallways away. Halfway down the aisle, heading for the stage, was the new Miss Independence. What possibilities the cane opened up!
I recall how it used to strike me as a little odd to see in the Braille Monitor picture after picture of people posing with their canes. Were they showing pride in being blind? Were they trying to prove a point? Eventually I came to understand that the white cane is both a symbol of independence for blind people and a basic tool of making independence a reality. Matter-of-factly showing the cane in a photograph expresses the fundamental normalcy of blind people's lives.
In this year's Halloween picture of my children, the Queen of the Prom stands holding her cane next to brother Superman. It's not a display; it's not a soapbox issue. To us, a cane in Serena's hand is just the most natural thing. When our NFB friends gathered for a picnic in our backyard, Serena at one point was hanging around in the kitchen comparing canes with the rest of the gang--just the most natural thing.
When I look back, I realize that getting the cane was the most significant event to happen to our family this year. It vastly changed Serena's level of independence; it changed mine. At Grandma's house, we can simply direct her to the steps; no longer do I have to hang onto her along with anything else I might be carrying; she can proceed independently at her own pace. At the library I can rush ahead with my pile of books, without worrying about her tripping on the steps or falling into the fountain. When we arrive at friends' houses, she can navigate the front walks and stairways herself. Serena goes from our car in the driveway, along the walk, up the front steps, and into the house alone; I do not have to walk her. Since we are in and out of the car many times each day, this skill is very important to my freedom as well as hers.
The cane greatly raised our expectations. It is natural now for Serena to move along independently. We expect this of her; more important, she expects it of herself. Would Serena have progressed as much if she hadn't had a cane? I think not. Her curiosity and urge to explore would have been thwarted; she would not have been able to move about nearly as freely beyond the four walls of our home. Her development would have been needlessly hampered.
It is hard to believe that canes are not given as a matter of course to young blind children, since the cane is probably the most important external factor in the development of independence. What does it say about the attitudes of many professionals towards blind people and independence if they will not give canes to children? Could it mean that it is satisfactory, in their eyes, for the blind always to be followers, always to be led?
It is impossible to understand--and chilling to ponder--why anyone would argue against normal, natural independence in a child's life. That is what the cane makes possible. It provides the opportunity for the blind child to make the normal developmental moves away from his or her parents, to be just like any other child, expected and encouraged to venture with increasing independence into the world.
One day a few weeks ago, Serena's cane got stuck in a crack, and when she pulled it out it broke. The magnitude of the disaster suddenly struck her. "Ooooh," she whined, "now we're going to have to hold hands."
by Rami Rabby
From the Associate
Editor: For several years readers of the Braille Monitor have followed with
interest the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to assist Rami
Rabby to batter down the resistance of the Department of State, which stedfastly
maintained that blind people could not be fit representatives of the United
States Foreign Service. Congressman Gerry Sikorski took up the cudgels two years
ago, and eventually the State Department reversed its discriminatory policy
against the blind.
On Friday afternoon, July 5, as part of the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Rami Rabby participated in a panel of Federationists invited to describe their employment almost on the eve of his departure for London to assume responsibilities as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, Mr. Rabby took the oppertunity to put our decades-long struggle with the Department of State into perspective. Here is the speech he delivered to the packed convention hall:
Two years ago, at our 1989 convention in Denver, Colorado, I
reported to you on my efforts to enter the diplomatic service of
the United States: how I had passed the written examination for
Foreign Service Officer candidates three times; how I had passed
the oral assessment twice; how I was disqualified during the
medical examination, solely on the basis of my blindness; and how
eventually, when the Department of State realized that I was dead-
serious about entering the Foreign Service, it decided to make it
virtually impossible for blind candidates to take the entrance
examinations in the first place.
Much has happened to me, my career, and my life since that Denver convention, as has been reported along the way in various issues of the Braille Monitor. On October 12, 1989, the Department of State reversed completely its historic policy of excluding all blind and otherwise severely disabled candidates from employment in the diplomatic service; the next day the Department notified me of its intention to offer me its first appointment under its new policy; on November 30, 1990, I signed an out-of-court settlement with the State Department which stipulated the conditions upon which I would enter the Foreign Service; on January 7, 1991, along with some forty-five other successful candidates, I began a six- month training program for Foreign Service Officers at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia; and next Monday evening [July 8] I shall be flying from Dulles Airport to the United Kingdom to embark on my first two-year assignment in the American Embassy in London.
Of all the changes I have made during my life, this one is by far the most radical and, in some ways, the most traumatic. It is obviously the most exciting, too. I have changed jobs before; I have changed careers before; I have changed countries before; but never before have I attempted to do all three at the same time. I hope it will work.
What has happened to me personally, however, is nothing like as important or as instructive as the process by which all of us, the National Federation of the Blind, have gone about engineering a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turnaround in the employment policy of one of the most visible and prestigious agencies of the federal government.
In many ways our struggle and victory vis-a-vis the State Department are a classic example of the operating philosophy and strategy which the National Federation of the Blind typically follows in bringing about attitudinal changes in society and social betterment for the blind. Dr. Jernigan always reminds us (as he has done again this week) that our campaigns for greater opportunity and equal treatment are necessarily long, and that we tend to make our progress toward victory in fits and starts, placing our emphasis first on one issue, then on another, as the needs of the moment demand. We may lose some skirmishes along the way; occasionally we may lose a battle; but we always win the war, because the war is never over until we have won it. Now I am not sure yet whether we have won the war with the State Department (more on that later). But this year we have certainly won a battle of major proportions in that war.
That war originally got underway in the 1960s when a number of blind people, some of whom are at this convention, such as Ramona Walhof, Harold Snider, Allan and Billie Ruth Schlank, among others, enrolled in the Foreign Language and International Relations Program of Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. Theoretically at least one of their options was subsequently to enter the Foreign Service of the Department of State. But those were the days before there were any statutes on the books prohibiting discrimination in employment on grounds of blindness, and, to be honest, we were not as powerful and influential as we are today. Jim Gashel was not yet our Director of Governmental Affairs, and Judy Sanders was not yet the District Director for Congressman Gerry Sikorski. So those early Georgetown University students did not enter the Foreign Service.
The second wave of campaigning by the National Federation of the Blind against the Department of State took place in the mid-1970s when Maryanne Masterson sought our assistance to help her enter the Department. Maryanne was then just graduating from college, and the State Department was not only adamantly opposed to blind people working for it in U.S. embassies and consulates; it was not particularly enthusiastic about having us work for it in Washington, DC, either.
We responded to Maryanne: we wrote literally hundreds of letters to then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (as Braille Monitor issues of that period will attest), to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and to anyone else who might wish to join us in the assault. In my capacity the Chairman of the Cultural Exchange and International Program Committee at the time, I well remember accompanying Jim Gashel to at least one meeting at the State Department. Jim Gashel participated in many more negotiating sessions, and what I now know on reliable authority from inside sources is that, on at least one occasion, one member of the State Department's negotiating team deliberately tried to guide Jim into walls, desks, and filing cabinets in a shameful effort to demonstrate how a blind person could not maneuver effectively and with dignity in unfamiliar settings, which has always been one of the State Department's arguments in support of its exclusionary policy.
Well, as you can imagine, Jim Gashel did not go where he did not want to go, and Maryanne Masterson did get into the State Department as a Civil Service employee in Washington, while the Department still held fast against blind appointments for the Foreign Service. That was a victory perhaps not in the mother of all battles, but it was a good victory, nevertheless.
Then there was a lull in the skirmishing and the warring until the mid-1980s when, once again, the National Federation of the Blind went into action, this time in support of Don Galloway, who had served as a Peace Corps Country Director and who wanted to use that experience specifically in the Foreign Service. But although that effort ended in a significant financial settlement, it did not end in a Foreign Service appointment. The Department of State was still dead set against having blind people represent United States interests on the world scene.
The right moment for our real victory in the Foreign Service campaign only came in the late 1980s. Historic events tend to happen when the right battlegrounds, the right armies, the right generals, and the right circumstances coincide and when one of the warring parties either misreads the intentions or underestimates the seriousness of the purpose of the other. Such a historic event was the Congressional briefing on the State Department's exclusion of the blind from the Foreign Service, which was held on Capital Hill during our annual Washington Seminar, on Wednesday, February 1, 1989, by Congressman Gerry Sikorski, with Judy Sanders at his side advising him and guiding him every step of the way.
That Congressional briefing and the devastating testimony which we presented at it were reported verbatim in the pages of the Braille Monitor. However, what I now know from reliable sources inside the State Department is that the Department's senior officials simply did not believe that, when their spokesmen entered that hearing room, they would be confronted by two-hundred-fifty of us from forty-plus states of the Union. I am told that those who were dispatched by the State Department to present its case to Congressman Sikorski felt like cattle being led to the slaughterhouse and that day was for them the worst day of their professional careers.
From that point forward, the only way out for the State Department was us. Not long after that briefing, a new Director- General of the Foreign Service was appointed: Edward Perkins, a black man who had just served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa and who clearly knew something about prejudice, discrimination, denial of opportunity, and unequal treatment. After reviewing the record of the Foreign Service with respect to employment of the blind, he issued a directive in which he stated that the Foreign Service of the United States must reflect a cross section of American society, that no group in America society should be categorically excluded from the diplomatic service unless there was some exceptionally good reason for it, and that he, for one, saw no good reason why the blind should be so excluded.
For someone such as myself who has had a life-long interest in such subjects as international relations, foreign languages, geography, history, cross-cultural communication, and the like, the past six months which I have spent in training at the Foreign Service Institute have been extremely stimulating.
First, there was a wide-ranging course orienting us to the overall nature and operation of the State Department and the Foreign Service. This was followed by an area studies course on Europe, since that is the region to which I have been posted. Then I took a course on what the State Department calls political tradecraft, in which we were instructed in the various functions of a political officer, such as reporting by cable on the political events and personalities of our host country; answering questions at press conferences by telling the truth or skirting and finessing it as the demands of the moment dictate; briefing Congressional delegations who visit our host country and want us to prepare them for their meetings with government officials; and carrying out demarches, which are face-to-face presentations intended to persuade government officials in the host country to cooperate with the U.S. government by doing something we want them to do or desisting from doing something we don't want them to do. Finally we all took the consular course--not one of my favorites--in which we endeavored to learn the intricacies of the statutory provisions and implementing regulations of the Emigration and Nationality Act; and you thought the Rehabilitation Act was bad!
My two-year assignment at the American Embassy in London will be divided into two parts. I shall spend my first year in the consular section of the embassy: handling both emigrant and nonemigrant visas; dealing with passport and nationality problems; and assisting American citizens who, for one reason or another, have gotten into trouble, usually with the law, in the United Kingdom.
My second year will be spent in the political section of the embassy, where I shall be in charge of what the Foreign Service calls a portfolio of subjects. I shall investigate, analyze, and report on developments in those subjects by meeting with my counterparts in the British government; reading material from a wide variety of sources; making contacts among opinion-makers and leaders in British society; and briefing my ambassador, visiting Congressmen and, of course, the U.S. country desk of the European Bureau of the State Department in Washington.
Several weeks ago, I wrote obligatory letters of introduction to the American Ambassador in London, to the Consul-General, and to the Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the Embassy. The response I received from the Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--that is the head of a political section in a major embassy such as London--is interesting. Some of it is ceremonial fluff, but much of it is not and, in its attitude and tone, is indicative of the vast distance we have travelled together over the last twenty- five years.
Embassy of the United States of America, London
June 6, 1991
Thank you for your letter of May 30.
Congratulations on your assignment to London. As I'm sure you know, this is a period of great political and economic change in Europe and in Britain. I am confident you will find that work here in the political section demanding, rewarding, and fun.
Most officers in the section have responsibilities both on foreign policy issues and on domestic political developments. For example, the officer you will replace, David Wallace, has principal action on the UN (a lively account given UK membership on the UN Security Council); CSCE; narcotics; human rights and refugees issues; Latin America; and the Liberal Democrat Party. I would expect you to inherit most of these areas of responsibility, but few portfolios survive transitions intact, so we can look at specific duties farther down the road.
As you can imagine, your assignment has occasioned great interest and I have taken the liberty of circulating your letter to others in the Section. It is Important, I think, for everyone to know your very impressive qualifications as well as your openness about your blindness.
I look forward to meeting you this summer--and to having you come aboard the Political Section next year whenever we can wrench you from the clutches of the Consulate.
Bruce G. Burton
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs
I said earlier that I am not sure yet whether we have actually won the war with the State Department. I believe the war will finally be over not next Tuesday morning when I arrive at the American Embassy in London, but rather fifteen, twenty, or perhaps twenty-five years into the future when some blind Foreign Service Officer not only will have entered the Foreign Service, but will have risen up through its ranks and, at the pinnacle of his or her career, will be appointed United States Ambassador to some nation around the world, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Only then, when the State Department has enough confidence in the blind to entrust to a blind career diplomat the full spectrum of the United States's relationship with some other nation, will we know that we have won this particular war. That career diplomat will not be me, if only because entering the Foreign Service, as I do, in mid-career, I simply don't have the time left to do what it takes to build the necessary track record to become an ambassador. But it may be Cheryl Cameron, who was a scholarship winner two years ago, who is at this convention, who has been accepted by the Peace Corps, and who has just been assigned to the Dominican Republic. Or it may be Alex Barrasso, who is a scholarship winner this year and who, already at age eighteen, expresses a strong desire to enter the diplomatic service. If and when they are appointed ambassadors in the first or second decade of the 21st Century, let us hope that they and the Federation generation of those years will look back appreciatively at this Federation generation, the generation of the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s, and will acknowledge our role in first bringing down the exclusionary barriers of the Foreign Service and in recognizing (to paraphrase Jaques' words in Shakespeare's As You Like It) that all the world is, indeed, a stage, and all the men and women, blind as well as well as sighted, not only have the right but the ability to act on it. Thank you all for everything.
by Tim Cranmer
As Federationists know, Tim Cranmer is the chairman of the Research and Development Committee of the National Federation of the Blind. The following article appears in the Spring, 1991, newsletter of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Here it is:
Ask anyone in the Braille publishing industry why Braille use
has declined in recent years and they will recite a list of
standard explanations. You can count on one serious omission from
the list: they will not mention the poor quality of the Braille
itself generally found in books and magazine. That's right: the
Braille which you and I are expected to read actually slows the
speed of reading and leads to a vague feeling of dissatisfaction.
To focus your attention on the issue under discussion, just examine
a page of really good Braille, like a page from a Perkins Brailler
in good repair, then take a look at the Braille in your favorite
magazine. We all talk about good quality Braille and often refer to
the best Braille as the kind produced on the Perkins Brailler. Let
me ask you: how long has it been or have you ever seen a Braille
magazine that looks as if it could have been produced on a Perkins?
Braille books are better than magazines. The hard-copy books from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) are among the best as far as the quality of the Braille is concerned. I just wish that APH could turn out the Readers Digest with Braille as good as their books.
Can we compare notes? I'd like to know if you observe the same thing that I do in today's Braille magazines.
For starters, the paper used in the magazine can greatly affect the readability of the Braille. The heavily textured paper provides a background stimulus to the fingers which must be overcome by the dots forming the Braille characters. In communication theory, any discernible paper texture constitutes noise, which is mixed with the information contained in the dot patterns and must be filtered out by the reader. The rougher the texture, the more noise it contributes. Ideally the Braille dots should appear to the fingers completely isolated from the page. You got that?
Well, no one knows how to make paper that can support Braille dots while remaining invisible to the sense of touch. The next best thing may be a very smooth paper like the newest product from Blazie Engineering. The so-called Transcriber Paper from APH comes close to having the silky smooth quality that I think is best for Braille. It isn't used in any magazine, and as far as I know, it is not used in hard-copy books.
Even with the best paper, care must be taken to avoid creasing or scuffing the surface while embossing, binding, or otherwise handling the paper during the printing process. Perhaps you have noticed those little creases or pleats along the bottom and sometimes the top margins of Braille pages. These hairline creases often reach far enough along the page to cause interference with the Braille characters of the top or bottom line of each page. I believe that these pleats happen to moist paper as it comes from the rolls and passes through the rotary presses. These same rotary presses create another kind of problem. Examine a page of Braille from your favorite magazine and locate a position on the page where you can feel the holes representing Braille characters on the opposite side of the page. In an ideal world, it should be impossible to feel Braille from the back side. But in our world Braille on the back side of an interpoint Braille page causes more noise. In some cases, again mostly on the rotary presses, there is a slight burring of the edges of the depressions that form the interpoint Braille.
Interpoint noise is well below our notice in well formed (Perkins Brailler quality) Braille books. In magazines, interpoint noise reaches serious dimensions.
As a matter of fact, interference from textured paper and burrs from Braille on the back of the page are of little importance when all Braille characters are well formed of Braille dots of uniform height and diameter. Alas, this too does not often obtain.
More often than not, magazines are circulated to blind readers with Braille dot height less than half the height of the optimum period. Low dots get perilously close to the noise level of the medium. This is most noticeable when low dots occur at the beginning of a paragraph which coincides with burrs from the Braille on the obverse side. And, if that paragraph begins with an ellipsis or an italicized passage, the confusion may require some study and time to sort out.
I've talked to some Braille publishers about the low dot problem. None of them measures dot height in magazines. One told me that the staff occasionally measures the dot height of the Braille on the zinc plate used in the press but not on the paper once it has been embossed. It's my guess that there are times when a zinc plate with acceptable heights can produce a paper page with unacceptable Braille.
There is one thing worse than low dots, and that is Braille that is not uniform. I'm talking Braille that contains a random distribution of normal and low dots. You can imagine what happens to reading speed if you are forced to hesitate at each letter long enough to resolve ambiguities resulting from dots barely above the noise.
Braille publishers may not be aware of the poor quality they produce. Proofreaders can't possibly examine every page of a production run of magazines. If the Braille of the proofreader's copy is good, it is automatically assumed that all copies of the magazine will be as good. That is not a reasonable assumption-- anymore than assuming that a good dot on the metal plate will always produce a good dot on the page. There are many opportunities for lowering quality of the Braille after the plate has been inspected and the proof copy approved.
The Braille we are now getting isn't as good as it should be. Just because you can struggle and make out the meaning of this sentence, just because you can read this, it doesn't follow that it is acceptable Braille.
A watchdog committee in the national associations that promote the use of Braille could do much to improve industry awareness of its problems.
From the Associate
Editor: As steady readers of the Braille Monitor have gathered from
things I have written in these pages over the past three years, I am not yet
a proficient Braille reader. Because I had some usable vision, I was taught
to read print when I entered school and was switched to Braille at the age of
twelve. Although my Braille teacher was herself blind and although she assured
me that her husband could read it rapidly, she herself was not very skilled.
I didn't observe efficient Braille reading until I was an adult and had already
concluded, emotionally at least, that I could never learn to do it well.
Even so, Braille has been an invaluable tool for me. I wrote my college class notes with a slate and stylus, and I used Braille every day for brief tasks and record-keeping. But I always persuaded myself that I was too busy to sit down and practice reading Braille.
At least I knew that practice was the key, but it is human nature always to persuade oneself that one has too much to do to take time for a task that seems difficult and time-consuming. As a result, I wasted more than twenty years when I could have been reading Braille books--all the time telling myself it was a shame that I was never going to be able to use Braille efficiently.
All that changed when I joined the staff of the Braille Monitor. I was suddenly surrounded by Braille and by people who believed in and used it. I decided that I would begin reading as much Braille as I could every day. Dr. Jernigan assured me that my speed would increase if I used both hands and spread my fingers so that I could keep my place on the line with the ones that were not actually reading text. I am still not a rapid reader, but my speed has tripled since I began my campaign. I take an interesting Braille book with me wherever I go when I can anticipate that I might have a little time to read. Unless I have very pressing work to do, I devote all airport and airplane time to reading Braille. I read myself to sleep with Braille, and when I can't sleep, I use the time to read. All of these things I could have done before, but I didn't really believe that it would do any good, and besides, I was lazy.
This explains why I am so enthusiastic about the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. It is exactly what I needed as a beginning Braille reader. Sponsored jointly by the National Federation of the Blind's Parents of Blind Children Division and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, this annual contest seeks to encourage youngsters of all ages and Braille reading levels to read as much as possible. Prizes and certificates reward participants for their efforts, and parent and teacher support are often just the nudge young readers need to push them over into true Braille competence. Reprinted here is the entire Braille Readers Are Leaders contest entry form for the November 1, 1991, to March 1, 1992, contest. It may be photocopied. Entry forms are also available from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Here is this year's form:
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
BRAILLE READING CONTEST
FOR BLIND CHILDREN
Braille Readers Are Leaders
The Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille are pleased to announce our Eighth Annual Contest for Braille readers, kindergarten through twelfth grades.
Purpose of Contest
The purpose of the NFB's Annual Braille Reading Contest is to encourage blind school children to read more Braille. It is just as important for blind children to be literate as it is for other children. Good readers can have confidence in themselves and their abilities to learn and to adapt to new situations throughout their lifetimes. Braille is a viable alternative to print, yet many blind children are graduating from our schools with poor Braille skills and low expectations for themselves as Braille readers. They do not know that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers. The NFB's Braille Reading contest helps blind children realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding. They discover that Braille Readers Are Leaders.
Who Can Enter the Contest
School-age children from kindergarten through the twelfth
grade are eligible to enter. A student can choose to compete from
among five categories. The first category is the print to Braille
beginning reader. This is for children who have been print readers,
but who have begun learning and using Braille within the past two
years. This includes:
- Formerly sighted children who became blind after they mastered print. (Kindergartners and first-graders are not eligible for this category.)
- Partially-sighted children who are or have been print users but have begun to learn and use Braille in addition to or in place of print.
Again, this category is only for children grades 2 through 12 who are within the first two years of learning and using Braille. After the first two years, they must then enter one of the other categories. These are grades K-1; 2-4; 5-8; and 9-12.
Prizes for the Contest
First-, second-, and third-place
winners will be selected from each of the five categories. All winners will
receive a special certificate and a distinctive NFB BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS
T-shirt. Cash prizes are also awarded. In each category the first- place winner
will receive $50, second-place $25, and third-place $10. Prizes will be personally
awarded, whenever possible, by representatives of the National Federation of
All contestants will receive Braille certificates and special tokens for participating. Schools are encouraged to schedule public presentations of the certificates during the yearly school awards ceremony. Alternatively, presentations may be made in the classroom or at the local National Federation of the Blind Chapter meeting or in some other appropriate setting. Members of the National Federation of the Blind will award the certificates whenever possible.
Most Improved Braille Reader
Special recognition will be given to the top five contestants,
regardless of category, who demonstrate the most improvement over
their performance in the previous year's contest. To be considered
for the Most Improved Braille Reader award the contestant:
- must enter the contest for two consecutive years;
- cannot be a winner in the current contest or in a previous NFB Annual Braille Reading Contest;
- cannot have won this award before.
Winners of the Most Improved Braille Reader award will receive $5.
Rules for the Contest
Contest first-, second-, and third-place winners will be selected within each of the five categories. Winners will be chosen based on the number of Braille pages read. The one who reads the largest number of Braille pages will be the first-place winner; the second largest the second-place winner; and the third largest the third-place winner. The completed contest entry form must be received by the judges no later than February 15, 1992. Contestants must submit with their entry forms a print list of the materials read. Entry forms submitted without this list will be returned to the sender. A Braille list and/or entry form is helpful, but not required. This list must contain the following information: 1. Name of student and student's contest category; 2. Title of book or magazine (please include the date of the magazine); 3. Author of book or article; 4. Number of Braille pages read in each book, magazine, or article; 5. Total number of pages read; and 6. Signature of the certifying authority.
The Certifying Authority is responsible for:
- verifying that the student has actually read the Braille material that he or she reports reading and that the material was read between November 1, 1991, and February 1, 1992 (contestants may not count material read before the contest begins);
- filling out and submitting the contest entry form in an accurate, complete, and timely fashion;
- assisting the student in finding Braille materials to read for the contest.
For more information contact Mrs. Sandy Halverson, 403 West
62nd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64113; evenings, (816) 361-
For information about other programs for blind children, contact Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, Maryland 21230, day, (301) 659-9314.
1. What if I didn't know about the contest until after it
began. Can I still enter? Yes.
2. If I enter late, can I still count the Braille pages I have read since November 1? Yes, if your certifying authority will verify that you read those pages.
3. Can I count my Braille textbooks? No.
4. Can I count textbooks if they are not the textbooks I am now using for my regular class work? Yes.
5. What if I don't finish reading a book? Can I count the pages that I did read? Yes. However, be sure to note this on the entry form when you list that book.
6. Can supplemental reading books of beginning reading series be counted for the contest? Yes.
7. What constitutes a Braille page? Each side of an embossed piece of paper is considered one page. If you read both sides, then you have read two pages. This is true even if there are only two Braille lines on one side. On the other hand, you can only count the pages you have actually read. If a book has thirty-five pages, but you just read ten of them, then you can only count ten pages. Also, you can count title pages, tables of contents, Brailled descriptions of illustrations, etc. as long as you really read those pages.
Contest Entry Form
National Federation of the Blind
Braille Reading Contest
for Blind Children
November 1, 1991 to February 1, 1992
- Did you enter last year's contest (1990-91)?  Yes  No
- Have you been a winner in a previous Braille Readers are Leaders contest?  Yes  No
- A Most Improved Braille Reader winner?  Yes  No
Address City State Zip
Parent's Name Phone (H) (work)
Certifying Authority: Name
Address City State Zip
Position: Parent  Teacher  Librarian 
Phone (Home) (Work)
Mail entry to Mrs. Sandy Halverson, 403 West 62nd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64113.
Category: (Check one)
 Beginning Print to Braille (This is for children, grades 2-12,
who are, or have been, print readers and have begun to learn and
use Braille within the past two years.)
 Kindergarten and first grade.
 Second through fourth grades.
 Fifth through eighth grades.
 Ninth through twelfth grades.
One of the prizes for the contest is a special T-shirt. If you
should be a winner, what size would you require? (Check one.)
Children's: S (6-8) M (10-12) L (14-16)
Adult: S (34-36) M (38-40) L (42-44)
For Use By Judges Only
Total Braille Pages
Please use this form when turning in the list of books, magazines, and articles read. If additional paper is needed, be sure to put the student's name and his or her contest category at the top of EACH page and staple the sheets together securely.
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
Number of Braille pages read:
1. Name and date of magazine:
Number of Braille pages read:
2. Name and date of magazine:
Number of Braille pages read:
3. Name and date of magazine:
Number of Braille pages read:
Total Braille pages:
To the best of my knowledge, this student did read these
Braille pages between the dates of November 1, 1991, and February
Signature: Certifying Authority
Mail entries to Mrs. Sandy Halverson, 403 West 62nd Terrace,
Kansas City, Missouri 64113.
For more information, call Mrs. Halverson evenings at: (816) 361-7813; or Mrs. Barbara Cheadle days at: (301) 659-9314.
ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 15, 1992.
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Associate Editor: As Monitor readers know, Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He is also Staff Assistant to the Commissioner for Public Information at the Chicago Public Library. He read thoughtfully the July/August issue of the Braille Monitor, and he had reservations about some of the comments printed. Here is what he wrote in response:
In the July/August 1991 Braille Monitor, Susan Spungin,
Associate Executive Director of the American Foundation for the
Blind, refers to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), as the
blueprint for learning. She says, "For this blueprint to be most
effective, educational decisions and plans should be made in
concert with a team of professionals and parents." She is partially
At one and a half years of age my eye condition was diagnosed as retinitis pigmentosa, which often results in total blindness. As I approached first grade, my doctors and teachers (the team of professionals) asserted that I should use my limited vision to its maximum for as long as possible. My family was directed to enroll me in what was then called "sight saving." Print was to be the medium by which I was to learn to read. That was long before PL 94- 142, and before IEP's.
The sight saving classroom was equipped with the best technology of the day (1948): dark green chalkboards with yellow chalk, yellow paper with heavy green lines, indirect lighting, desks with adjustable work surfaces that allowed the student to bring reading and writing materials closer to the face, and typewriters with large print. Each student wore prescription lenses and had access to hand-held magnifiers. In addition we used large-print textbooks. In third grade we learned to type by the touch typing method.
In my case and in countless others, neither equipment nor teaching techniques would or could work. The techniques and the teachers' efforts were misapplied. The prescription for sight saving class was in error. From the first day of class my limited vision prevented me from reading effectively. Over the course of the next four and a half years my visual acuity decreased while the print I was expected to read became smaller.
I remember alternately gazing out the window and puzzling over a printed page. By fourth grade my teachers had to print out my class work by hand, using large letters and india ink. With all of that I still felt as though I was reading grey print on grey paper. Yet I remained in sight saving class until the middle of fifth grade.
The toll I paid for the professionals' decisions was high. I dreaded reading; my confidence eroded; I feared blindness; I acquired bad reading habits that carried over into adulthood. I never checked a book out of the library. Why should I? I couldn't read it.
During the summer of 1952 the professionals decided that print might not be the appropriate medium for me in getting an education. In September of that year I was transferred to what we referred to as the blind school, where I began to learn Braille. It wasn't difficult. My teacher was competent. She knew Braille. She gave me positive encouragement. My reading and writing speeds were slow at first; however, as I gained proficiency and confidence, speeds increased. In January of 1953, at age eleven, I checked out and read a library book for the first time in my life. It was in Braille.
Over the last forty years teams of professionals have continued to make the same foolish and costly decisions, probably with greater frequency as the years have passed. As a member of the NFB's Scholarship Committee, I have met an astounding number of high school and college students who, because they had some vision, were deprived of Braille or were discouraged from learning it without regard to whether the student could read print well enough to compete with sighted peers. One applicant, not unusual, uses taped books and a closed circuit television magnifier (CCTV). Under optimum conditions she is able to read for only a minute at a time, and that with great discomfort. She is enrolled as a part-time student in a community college, partly because her vision doesn't allow her to meet the reading and writing demands of full-time status. She has asked to be taught Braille, but her family and the teams of professionals with whom she has worked actively have discouraged it.
For the IEP to be effective, that is, for the blind child to benefit from it, the parent must function on a level equal to that of the professionals, not from a position of weakness or subservience, but from one of strength. My impression is that few parents do. I believe it is safe to say that at least a majority of parents regard the IEP process as intimidating and meetings with professionals as adversarial. Too many parents enter IEP meetings assuming the professionals must "know what's best," and will necessarily "do what's best for the child." Those assumptions are often erroneous and prove to be quite costly to the blind child.
"What's best for the child" is a catch phrase that too often translates into decisions that are convenient for the teacher, school, or district and into efforts to make the blind child's educational needs conform to budget priorities.
The IEP is most effective when the parent or parents bring an advocate for their blind child to assist them in the process. The entire climate of an IEP meeting is changed when a knowledgeable, well prepared member of the NFB is present. If one must go through the IEP process at all, it is a good idea to do it with an NFB advocate on your side.
Were my experience forty years ago and that of the college student I described mere coincidence? I don't believe they were. Nor do I believe that de-emphasis on literacy (Braille) was or is "inadvertent" as the Council of Executives of American Residential Schools for the Visually Handicapped alleges. Braille has been under attack from the start. Key to the attacks then and now are negative attitudes, stereotypes, and misconceptions about blindness and blind people.
De-emphasis on Braille is disgraceful, just as de-emphasis on print would be. For the Council to suggest that any "competing curricular offering, required course," or "special education instruction" is more basic than, or takes precedence over, literacy is scandalous and defies logic. In case residential school administrators and other educators haven't noticed, people who have a good command of reading and writing skills tend to do better in math, science, history, languages, music, and all the rest. People who can read and write successfully have a better chance at competitive employment and in any other social interaction, for that matter.
The anti-literacy/anti-Braille position taken by so many educators of blind children and adults has had wider negative impact than they might imagine. Several years ago, I worked at an agency for the blind in Chicago. In support of a program to teach Braille, I submitted a grant request to the Chicago Tribune Foundation. The grant request was turned down. The reasons, according to a foundation spokesman, were that Braille has nothing to do with literacy, it is obsolete, and reading can be done by recordings. I was disappointed that the program did not receive that support, I was disgusted by the ignorance of the foundation personnel, but I was not surprised.
For fifteen years I taught Braille for the Veterans Administration at Hines Hospital. One of my assigned duties was to supervise Western Michigan University interns (practice teachers), aspiring to become rehabilitation teachers. An alarming number of these interns didn't know Grade II Braille, could not write with a slate and stylus, and had to be instructed in the use of the Perkins Brailler. One intern, legally blind and unable to read print competently, didn't know Grade I Braille, though he had taken and passed a Braille course. Though I wrote negative reports regarding deficient skills, all of these interns passed the practicum (internship), and presumably all were certified by the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER).
If future generations of blind people, children and adults, are to be literate, if future generations of blind people hope to be competitive in society, they must have access to the printed word by a medium that will allow writing as well as reading. It is time for educators to grit their teeth and admit that a colossal error has been made. Then they must bring themselves up to speed on Braille and all of its tools, mechanical and electronic. It is time for educators to join us in our effort to require that Braille be made available to any child who wants it and to participate in making sure that sufficient funding is available to make mandates and good intentions mean something.
by Betty Niceley
From the Associate
Editor: Elsewhere in this issue, Steve Benson has recalled with clarity the
experience many of us with a little residual vision had as children in the classroom.
Unfortunately his experience is still being repeated in countless lives across
this country, but there may now be a little hope for today's and tomorrow's
blind children. A prestigious committee has been working for a year on recommendations
and guidelines to be used in determining which youngsters shall be taught Braille,
print, or a combination. There is nothing daring or new in the principles they
have laid down, but it is heartening that the establishment is propounding these
ideas. The fact that the document, which was published in September, begins
with a quotation from Fred Schroeder, a member of the committee and a long-time
leader of the National Federation of the Blind and proponent of Braille, suggests
that trend-setting professionals in the blindness field are beginning to accept
our views as their own. One can quibble with some of the guidelines, but their
publication marks an important milestone.
Betty Niceley is the President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Here are her reflections and her analysis of the guidelines:
For many years the National Federation of the Blind has
stressed the importance of Braille as a major tool by which blind
people compete. The Federation's position on Braille literacy stems
from our general philosophy about the capacity of blind people to
function on terms of real equality. If one believes that blind
people are inherently normal, then it stands to reason that a blind
person who functions below his or her capability lacks the
techniques, confidence, or motivation necessary for full
participation. In other words, if one believes that blind people
are truly normal, then one expects them to function normally.
It is ironic that a major stumbling block to blind people's achieving full equality has been the blindness profession itself. While the Federation believes that blind people are normal, professionals in the field of work with the blind have historically operated from an assumption that the blind are inferior. These differing perspectives have inevitably resulted in conflict between the organized blind and members of the blindness profession.
Evidence of these differing perspectives can easily be observed in the issue of Braille literacy. While knowledgeable blind adults have long maintained that blind children need the opportunity to acquire the same confidence in reading and writing as their sighted peers and, hence, need competent instruction in Braille reading and writing, the profession has been willing to accept substandard performance, based, it seems clear, on the insidious and pervasive presumption that blind children are not capable of functioning on a par with their sighted peers. This clash of convictions came to a head in the 1970s when the educational establishment launched an all-out war against Braille in favor of print reading. The conflict centered on an assumption that to read print, however slowly and inefficiently, was superior to reading Braille. While no one ever came right out and said it, the unspoken message to the blind child was that to be sighted was normal and to be blind was inferior. When the National Federation of the Blind spoke out, objecting to the educational establishment's exaggerated emphasis on print reading, we were accused of being oversensitive and unreasonable. It was at this point in the controversy that the concept of individualized education became popular within the field of special education. The blind were told that children needed to be assessed individually and that broad statements which would lump all blind children into one category were irresponsible. The concept of an individualized education would have been more palatable had it truly resulted in a generation of children better equipped to face the world than the generation that came before. Instead, the opposite has proven to be true. Blind children grew up struggling to rely on limited vision, which comprehensively instilled feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Rather than finding themselves able to compete, these children became convinced that they were inferior, and inferior because of blindness. They were simultaneously denied both the techniques needed for full participation and the confidence to believe that a normal life was within their grasp.
For the past ten years parents have begun to join in the battle. It is only reasonable that a thoughtful parent would want his or her blind child to be able to read--not be forced to struggle along at ten words a minute or be able to read for only fifteen or twenty minutes at a time--but able to read efficiently and quickly as do others. Even casual observation shows that blind people who grow up as Braille readers can achieve reading rates competitive with those of others. A good Braille reader can stand up before a group and read a speech; he or she can maintain all types of records and organize them with the information quickly available; he or she can read for pleasure without headaches or fatigue; and finally, the good Braille reader can take notes and read them back quickly and efficiently. Parents and blind adults began pressing the special education establishment to reexamine its beliefs about Braille before another generation of blind children lost the opportunity to develop true literacy.
At first the profession was resistant and even hostile, but gradually this attitude began to change, partly because of the self-evident nature of what blind people and parents of blind children were promoting and partly because of the sincere commitment and common sense of many professionals in the field. The past two or three years have marked the beginnings of a radical shift in educational theory as it pertains to reading media. Rather than being the medium of last resort, Braille is becoming recognized as a legitimate and viable alternative to print. While this shift has great value for the literacy of future generations, its greater significance is in the recognition of the fundamental equality of the blind. There is a growing awareness that, given proper training and opportunity, the blind can compete on terms of real equality. The inability to compete is not inherent in blindness, but a tragic consequence of inadequate training and eroded self-confidence.
On June 8 and 9, 1990, a committee of professionals in the field of work with the blind met at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, to develop a set of guidelines to assist teachers of the blind in determining which children should read print and which should read Braille. The members of the committee were Norman Anderson, teacher at the Maryland School for the Blind; Dr. Natalie Barraga, professor emeritus, the University of Texas at Austin; Charles B. Boyer, superintendent, California School for the Blind; Hilda R. Caton, research scientist, American Printing House for the Blind; John di Francesco, president, Braille Revival League, American Council of the Blind; Sr. M. Margaret Fleming, primary teacher, St. Lucy's Day School, Philadelphia; Dr. Randall Jose, optometrist; Dr. Sally Mangold, professor, San Francisco State University; Suzi McDonald, preschool teacher, Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind and the Foundation for Blind Children; Dr. Evelyn Rex, professor, Illinois State University; Fred Schroeder, director, New Mexico Commission for the Blind and member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind; and Dr. Susan Spungin, associate executive director, American Foundation for the Blind. More striking than any guidelines that might have emerged was the fact that leading educators in the blindness field had come together to work collectively to reemphasize Braille as a valuable reading medium.
The Committee agreed upon sixteen factors to consider when determining whether a blind child should read print, Braille, or a combination of both. In the first guideline the Committee reasserts the belief that all blind children have individual needs. This guideline emphasizes the educational tenet popularized in PL 94-142 in the late 1970s that each child has individual learning needs based on his or her own specific characteristics. While no one would argue the value of recognizing individuality, the concept of an individualized education has far too often been used to justify educational services based on a teacher's attitudes about blindness rather than on the learning needs of the child. Nevertheless, this guideline, when kept in perspective, is not particularly harmful to blind children.
In the second guideline the Committee states that blind children should use all five of their senses in the learning process. This guideline emphasizes another popular educational belief that children learn through exploring the world, using all five of their senses.
In the third guideline the Committee recommends that a variety of learning activities designed to utilize all functional senses of the blind child be used during the reading readiness period.
In the fourth guideline the Committee (not surprisingly) recommends that blind children with some remaining vision should have an annual low vision evaluation. This guideline stresses the need for obtaining such information as the diagnosis of the eye condition and whether or not the eye condition is stable.
In the fifth guideline the Committee points out that some children prefer either visual or tactile materials at an early age. This guideline draws attention to the fact that by kindergarten or first grade some children will show a preference for and are more comfortable with either visual or tactile materials. While this is true, it is important that young children be given enough exposure to Braille and reinforcement about Braille's legitimacy so that he or she will not select print simply because of the belief that it is more normal.
In the sixth guideline the Committee notes that totally blind children and those with a profound vision loss will necessarily be Braille readers. While this may seem self-evident, the Committee's definition of profound vision loss includes children who, a short time ago, would have been started at least with print.
In the seventh guideline the Committee legitimizes the idea that some children will use both print and Braille for some educational tasks. This guideline recognizes that some children with a severe vision loss may use both print and Braille, depending on the particular circumstance. The Committee defines a child as having a severe vision loss when performance of visual tasks may require more time, take more energy, and be less accurate even with the use of optical aids or other modifications.
In the eighth guideline the Committee indicates that many children with a moderate vision loss may use print with or without the use of optical aids. This guideline makes the argument that children with a moderate vision loss who show a preference for visual learning and are efficient in the use of print will probably benefit from visual materials. The important element here is the linkage of reading print to efficiency, which is consistent with the point that children must have a competitive means of reading. The Committee hedges a little by defining moderate vision loss as meaning that, with the use of special aids and lighting, the blind child may perform visual tasks almost like students with normal vision.
In the ninth guideline the Committee makes the point that some blind children with remaining vision should receive instruction in both Braille and print reading until it can be determined which reading medium should be emphasized for the child. This guideline recognizes that it may not be readily apparent whether a young child will be a print reader or a Braille reader and, therefore, both print and Braille should be used until the more efficient medium for that child can be determined.
In the tenth guideline the Committee asserts that technology will help develop literacy skills. In this guideline the argument is made that experience with all types of technology will help prepare students for future literacy. While the use of technology can be valuable, particularly in today's high tech age, an overemphasis on technology must be guarded against so that this training does not overshadow instruction in reading and writing.
In the eleventh guideline the Committee makes the important point that some blind children with remaining vision may use Braille and print for different purposes. This guideline recognizes the fact that some children may use print or Braille as the primary reading medium, depending on the academic subject. This guideline is particularly interesting since it draws attention to a point that has long been misunderstood. While the National Federation of the Blind has advocated that legally blind children should receive instruction in Braille, we have never quarrelled with the idea that, if a person with some sight can read the label on a can, for example, there is no reason to label it in Braille.
In the twelfth guideline the Committee makes the statement that blind children with remaining vision may write cursive more legibly than manuscript. While this may be true, the guideline seems unrelated to the question of whether to instruct a child in print or Braille.
In the thirteenth guideline the Committee acknowledges that a variety of factors should be used when making the print versus Braille reading decision for blind children. This guideline stresses that several factors should be taken into account when deciding whether a particular blind child should read print, Braille, or both. Some of the factors listed by the committee are physical and visual fatigue, expenditure of energy and stamina, reading distance from the page, quantity of reading and writing required, portability of devices, equipment and books, size of print, and availability of optical devices. While these criteria are probably worth considering, the point remains that children need a method of reading and writing that allows them to function competitively.
In the fourteenth guideline the Committee states that the use of the slate and stylus is important for blind students. While in and of itself this guideline may not seem dramatic, in fact it represents a major shift in the thinking of the educational establishment. For the past twenty years, few teacher training programs have presented the slate and stylus as anything more than a relic of a bygone time. Now that the use of tape recorders has been proven inadequate as a note-taking device, the slate and stylus are again emerging as a portable and efficient method for personal note-taking.
In the fifteenth guideline the Committee makes the statement that typing/keyboarding and taped materials are valuable supplements to both Braille and print. This guideline makes the reasonable point that these skills should be taught by the middle elementary years, if not sooner.
In the sixteenth guidelines the Committee ends with the statement that literacy is related to flexibility in the use of all types of media throughout the school years. As previously stated, flexibility, as it relates to using print or Braille in ways that make sense, is of course desirable. The skeptical among us might legitimately raise the concern that flexibility increases the amount of teacher judgment and hence makes decision making vulnerable to a teacher's bias toward visual methods.
These guidelines represent a positive step by the profession in recognizing that a literacy problem exists. Additionally, they represent a willingness to see increased Braille instruction as a possible, maybe even probable, answer to the literacy problem.
In September, 1991, the Printing House released its guidelines document under the name Print and Braille Literacy: Selecting Appropriate Learning Media. The finished document consists of (1) an introduction, (2) a statement of basic principles, (3) an assessment and evaluation, (4) guidelines for decision making in selecting learning media, (5) references, and (6) future considerations. Appendices will include normative data (reading speeds, etc.); selected assessment batteries; and vignettes of total Braille users, users of print with Braille and auditory back- up, and users of Braille with print and auditory back-up.
It has taken a long time to attain a change in the beliefs of educators about Braille. While the guidelines document itself contains much in the way of professional jargon, the message comes through clearly that blind children have a right to literacy and that Braille is the means to literacy for blind children. As a first step this document is significant. What it says has been obvious to many for a long time, but the fact that the educational establishment has said it is noteworthy. The longest journey does begin with a single step, and it proceeds one painful step at a time.
by Carolyn L. Weaver, Ph.D.
From the Editor: This article, copyrighted 1991 by Carolyn L. Weaver, is reprinted with permission from the July-August, 1991, American Enterprise magazine. It is not essential for one to agree with all that is said to recognize the importance of the issues being raised. Vocational rehabilitation, along with all of the other governmental programs which purport to help people, is now up for scrutiny and re-evaluation. We of the National Federation of the Blind have argued year after year that the only way to have meaningful rehabilitation is to permit the consumer to have freedom of choice in selecting the service provider. As is indicated by this article and the public pronouncements of government officials, professionals in the field, and just ordinary citizens, change is definitely in the wind. Here is what Dr. Weaver says:
With President Bush's announcement of a major package of
education reforms, "empowerment" is once again the talk of the
town. The debate over choice in education has been reopened, and
with luck progress will be made toward permitting parents to choose
among competing public and private schools. Opportunities for
partisan wrangling over public education abound, however, and there
are entrenched political interests that want to maintain the status
quo. This situation raises doubts about whether Congress will be
able to legislate changes to improve the nation's schools.
If Congress and the administration are interested in implementing the principles of choice and competition, they have a unique opportunity to act in a related area, vocational rehabilitation. VR is a $2 billion government program intended to prepare disabled people to work. It is not nearly as effective as it could, or should, be in meeting this goal.
In June, 1991, Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, a one-year reauthorization of the program, a stop gap measure designed to give interested parties more time to develop a consensus on some of the controversial elements of the program. Comprehensive hearings on a full reauthorization will begin this fall. Congress will then be confronted with the task of reassessing not only the amount of its federal funding but also the purposes and methods of the program. A central aspect of this reassessment should be an evaluation of how VR services are supplied; a key reform that should be on the agenda is vouchers for rehabilitation services.
Is the Program Working?
The efficacy of VR in returning disabled people to work has
long been questioned. The number of people who leave the program
"successfully rehabilitated," that is, capable of being "suitably
employed," according to government statistics, now stands at
220,000 annually (including 20,000 homemakers), down twenty-five
percent since 1979. Of the nearly one million people served by VR
each year, fewer than twenty percent enter the work force in jobs
paying more than the minimum wage. Virtually nothing is known about
whether these people get work because of VR or whether they earn
higher wages or keep their jobs longer as a result of VR.
The government's efforts at rehabilitation have been particularly unsuccessful with disabled workers on Social Security Disability Insurance. DI is the federal government's largest cash- benefit program for the disabled, and it costs about $28 million annually. Fewer than 0.5 percent of the nearly 3 million workers on the benefit rolls return to work each year--less than the proportion who retire or die--and two-thirds of them do so without having received VR. The proportion returning to work has decreased over time. Work disincentives in DI, while critically important, are only part of the problem; the quality and delivery of VR services also play a role.
Disabled people seeking to move into competitive employment are not well served by the VR system as it is currently structured, nor are employers, who can offer these individuals jobs, or taxpayers, who underwrite the system and bear the extra costs of dependency on cash-benefit and medical-care programs when rehabilitation fails. There is not enough competition in supplying VR to ensure high-quality, cost-effective service. Individual choice is severely restricted.
Like public education, vocational rehabilitation in the United States has at its core public financing and publicly supplied services. The federal government sets the ground rules and provides eighty percent of the funding for VR; the states design and run their own programs, subject to the federal guidelines. These guidelines give the states wide latitude to purchase goods and services or to contract directly with private suppliers.
Over the years VR agencies have developed close working relationships with the educational and rehabilitation facilities in their communities, contributing to the notion that the system is a "public-private partnership" that draws on the best of both worlds. VR agencies purchase goods and services from private suppliers-- everything from braces and hearing aids to business licenses, college educations, and medical treatment--and some contract out for psychological testing, job placement, and other specialized services for their clients. Private non-profit organizations are routinely called on to provide training or other services for the mentally retarded and others with special needs in a sheltered- workshop or supported-employment setting. But to suggest that we have the best of both worlds is to imply a degree of competition among suppliers that simply does not exist.
Competition Means Choices
The government has effectively monopolized the provision of VR
services in the United States to middle- and lower-income people
who lack workers' compensation or other insurance protection.
Disabled people cannot directly get access to the private
rehabilitation system when they depend on public support; they
cannot choose among competing public and private service providers;
they cannot choose the line of work for which they will be trained;
and they cannot search out new methods or treatments. The VR agency
and its counselors decide what to purchase, from whom, and for
whom. The only real choice a VR client has is the choice to refuse
services--a choice 100,000 people make annually. This imposes
little sanction on oversubscribed public agencies.
While there is a large, rapidly growing private, for-profit sector of the rehabilitation industry in the United States, it operates basically alongside the government program, serving a different pool of clients referred by different sources, typically insurers and self-insured employers. People who can afford to buy their own services or who are covered by insurance or workers' compensation are served by this sector. Others, to the extent that they receive services at all, are served by the public system. Increasingly, this latter group is made up of young people with developmental disabilities--"transitioning youths" who are leaving special education programs and seeking the skills necessary to work or to live independently.
As with public education, there is inadequate competition in supply and inadequate choice for consumers to ensure high-quality, cost-effective services for the nation's disabled. The problems are more acute in VR than in public education, however, because we know even less about how to rehabilitate people than we do about how to educate them. There are just no tried-and-true recipes for rehabilitation, no typical or standard service regimens. One reason is the great diversity in the disabled population. Disabled adults do not enter the system with what can be even loosely described as a common set of cognitive or physical skills or comparable levels of emotional development or typical job histories and work skills. The underlying mental and physical conditions of people with disabilities vary widely, as do the effects these conditions have on work ability. For example, the needs of the profoundly retarded man who has never held a job contrast sharply with those of the blue-collar worker who has just suffered a stroke or heart attack; the needs of the high school dropout with a spinal cord injury are not those of the deaf housewife forced by the death of her spouse to seek employment. Some VR clients mainly need an education; some need medical treatment; some need help securing a first job and the training that typically accompanies it; and some need little more than a business license or a redesigned automobile.
In addition, we lack both the knowledge and the technology necessary to decide--in a cost-effective and reasonably accurate way--such questions as: Who will benefit from VR and to what extent? Which package of goods and services is the right one for a particular disabled person? What mix of educational, medical, and vocational services is appropriate? How far along should medical rehabilitation be before vocational rehabilitation begins? When is additional education or skills-upgrading appropriate? Which jobs are suitable for which disabled persons? Who are the best candidates for what kinds of rehabilitation? While it may be possible to answer these questions for narrow groups of the disabled population, the answers cannot be generalized, and they change just as rapidly as our knowledge and technology do.
The VR system, organized as it is with services supplied through monopolistic public agencies, is at a distinct disadvantage at identifying and responding to new opportunities and changes in our knowledge--whether in the area of diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, training, placement, or even organization and administration. It is a problem of incentives and constraints. Competition--with the experimentation and innovation it fosters--is essential to solving the complex informational problems that plague rehabilitation, including identifying what is of value.
Public agencies and private firms, if competing to attract new customers, would have the incentive to experiment with new diagnostic and evaluation techniques, new methods of case management or placement, and new forms of administration and financing as they attempted to supply what customers wanted at a price they were willing to pay. The tendency would be for good ideas to be rewarded and, with easy access by new suppliers, bad ideas to be penalized. As customers moved among competing suppliers, valuable information would be gained on how they valued different rehabilitation programs and outcomes relative to their cost of production as well as on how to rehabilitate at the least cost.
Vouchers May Be the Answer
Competition can be promoted in any number of ways, the most
direct (and effective) of which is to allow disabled people to
choose among public and private rehabilitation-service suppliers
using monies that otherwise would be reserved for public agencies--
that is, through a system of vouchers. Voucher amounts could be the
same for all eligible individuals within a state, based on average
per-customer spending, or they could be graded, based on the
severity of the disability. They could be used to purchase medical,
vocational, or educational services. (The range of services could
mirror that now offered by the states, which is already quite
Disabled people would be empowered to decide which services they wished to purchase from whom, and they would be free to supplement their vouchers with other public or private resources. VR agencies would be responsible for making basic eligibility decisions, but beyond that, they would have to compete on a fee- for-service basis. Diversity in rehabilitation approaches would be encouraged in a system built on decentralized decision-making, competition, and choice.
The rapid growth of the private rehabilitation sector, which has been spurred by changes in worker's compensation laws and the increased likelihood of surviving once-fatal injuries and illnesses, is testimony to the responsiveness of markets. A sector that barely existed twenty years ago now rivals in size the seventy-one-year-old public VR system. If the people now served by VR were able to take advantage of this sector with public resources, new firms would emerge to meet their demands for services, and existing firms would adapt what they offer to attract these new customers.
The beauty of a voucher system is that it could be implemented without threatening the diversity of rehabilitation programs in the states. States could continue to establish basic eligibility criteria and target resources to particular groups within the disabled population. In addition, vouchers could be implemented without resolving some of the thorny issues that tend to bog down discussions of VR reform, such as what the government's proper role should be in financing worker training and rehabilitation programs or whether VR should be made available only on the basis of need or only to people with a reasonable prospect of being able to work in the competitive labor market. While rethinking these issues is important and long overdue, it is not a necessary prerequisite for introducing vouchers and achieving the substantial economic benefits that are likely to result.
Opposition to choice can be expected from VR counselors (whose
training and employment prospects have historically been determined
by federal spending), state administrators (who are able to hire
state employees largely at federal expense and bear only a small
portion of the costs of failure), and those private rehabilitation
facilities that can count on a steady flow of business under
present arrangements. Surely they will argue that public VR
counselors are the only ones with the qualifications necessary to
make complex and important decisions regarding service regimen and
suppliers. And surely it will be implied, if not stated outright,
that those in need of VR services are poorly suited to protect
their own interests. Public VR counselors, however, have no
monopoly on expertise. Vouchers would permit customers and their
families to draw on the expertise of specialists in both the public
and private sectors.
A basic tenet of a voucher system is that consumers--not every one of them, but in general and on average--have keen incentives to be careful shoppers. This is as true of disabled people as of nondisabled people, including many severely retarded people living in the homes of friends or family. Another basic tenet is that the freedom to choose provides the most potent protection we could have against poor service and high cost--freedom to take one's business elsewhere. While some minimal regulation of suppliers may be appropriate, the marketplace is a powerful mechanism for culling the bad from the good.
While opposition will inevitably accompany proposals for market-based reforms, the prospects for rehabilitation vouchers are quite good. Unlike those in public education, the customers of VR are all adults, and they are becoming organized as an increasingly informed and vocal interest group. Independence, freedom of choice, and empowerment are not alien concepts within the disability community; they are deeply held goals--as evidenced by the lively debate that led to the passage of the new civil rights bill for the disabled, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By introducing some clear financial incentives, the federal government can nudge the states to adopt vouchers. Bonuses for the adoption of such plans, along the lines of those envisioned for education, are one option. Another is to restructure the way VR dollars are distributed to the states. Presently, federal dollars are allocated based on per-capita income and population; therefore, allocations are unrelated to the number of disabled people served, the mix of disabled people, the number successfully rehabilitated, or the cost of rehabilitations. A grant formula that rewarded performance (however imperfectly) rather than the mere presence of a program would encourage states to adopt efficiency-enhancing reforms. Because it funds eighty percent of program costs, the federal government has a substantial stake in the performance of state-administered VR programs.
Despite the gap between where we are and where we'd like to
be, this nation has never known more about medicine and
rehabilitation or had available more or better technologies for the
advancement of people with disabilities. The VR system, however,
has been singularly unsuccessful in responding to these advances
and in translating them into meaningful improvements in the lives
and employability of disabled people.
If the administration is serious about empowering people--and there is every reason to believe it is--it should extend its efforts beyond the hoped-for changes in the school system and support choice and competition in another Department of Education program, vocational rehabilitation. Congress, in turn, should take the opportunity presented by the expiration of the Rehabilitation Act to change fundamentally the way we deliver VR services to the nation's disabled, not just rubber-stamp the status quo.
by Barbara Pierce
If you were a college or graduate student, what could you do
with $10,000, or even $2,000? Tuition, books, rent, adaptive
equipment: the demands are endless, and the money one has available
never stretches far enough. As the parent of three students, I know
how unbalanced the equation can be that arranges demands on one
side and resources on the other. And all of us know just how many
more expenses blind students have than most others.
That is why the National Federation of the Blind established a scholarship program many years ago and why we expanded it in 1984. For the most part, people do not believe that blind post-secondary students who have the same dreams as their sighted counterparts are quite right in the head. If they are so foolish as to pursue such fields as international relations, electrical engineering, or medicine, they are dismissed immediately as "out of touch with reality." Even if they major in education, counseling, or computer science, but do not express a burning desire to "help blind people live more satisfying lives," obstacles are still often placed in their paths.
We in the National Federation of the Blind begin with the premise that blind students have as much right as anybody else to try to fulfill their dreams, and we believe that blindness as such is no reason to assume that a given individual cannot do a designated job or enter a particular profession. The individual may not have the intelligence, dexterity, stamina, creativity, or alternative skills to do the work successfully, and some of these limitations may well prove insurmountable, but blindness, which is so often held up as the obvious explanation, is not really the culprit.
The National Federation of the Blind's 1992 scholarship program seeks to find the twenty-six most outstanding blind post- secondary students in the United States today and honor them for their ground-breaking work. We want to help them on their way as much as we can. We will present them with awards ranging in value from $2,000 to $10,000, and we will bring them as our guests to the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind to experience first-hand the excitement and stimulation of a gathering of the largest and most dynamic organization of blind people in the country today.
Every state affiliate and local chapter can help in spreading the word of this extraordinary opportunity for America's blind students. Scholarship applications have been or soon will be mailed to Financial Aid Offices in educational institutions around the country, but many of these will be filed for reference when students come to ask about financial assistance. It is very helpful to have local representatives deliver or mail forms to the actual college administrator who works with blind students. Being identified with such a valuable national scholarship program gives the local chapter and state affiliate prestige and respect, and the local touch insures that more blind students will actually have an opportunity to apply for these scholarships.
Anyone can order scholarship forms from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. State Presidents and members of the 1992 Scholarship Committee will be sent scholarship forms. These may be copied as long as both sides of the form are reproduced. The 1992 Scholarship Committee has been appointed. This hard-working group will gather in the spring to evaluate hundreds of scholarship applications. They will also work closely with the scholarship winners during the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The following people have been appointed to serve on the 1992 Scholarship Committee:
Peggy Pinder, Iowa, Chairman; Adrienne Asch, New Jersey; Steve Benson, Illinois; Charles Brown, Virginia; Sharon Buchan, Alaska; Brian Buhrow, California; Douglas Elliott, Nevada; Priscilla Ferris, Massachusetts; Michael Gosse, Pennsylvania; John Halverson, Missouri; Allen Harris, Michigan; David Hyde, Oregon; Bill Isaacs, Illinois; Carl Jacobson, New York; Tami Dodd Jones, Michigan; Kathy Kannenberg, North Carolina; Scott LaBarre, Minnesota; Melissa Lagroue, Alabama; Reggie Lindsey, Tennessee; Sharon Maneki, Maryland; Marie Morais, New Mexico; Homer Page, Colorado; Barbara Pierce, Ohio; Ben Prows, Washington; Eileen Rivera, Maryland; Fred Schroeder, New Mexico; Larry Streeter, Nebraska; Ramona Walhof, Idaho; Jim Willows, California; Joanne Wilson, Louisiana; Gary Wunder, Missouri; Robin Zook, Utah.
Here is the text of the 1992 National Federation of the Blind scholarship application form:
National Federation of the Blind 1992 Scholarship Program
Each year at its National Convention in July, the National
Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to
recognize achievement by blind scholars. All applicants for these
scholarships must be (1) legally blind and (2) pursuing or planning
to pursue a full-time post-secondary course of study. In addition
to these restrictions, some scholarships have been further
restricted by the donor. Scholarships to be given at the National
Convention in 1992 are listed here with any special restrictions
1. Ezra Davis Memorial Scholarship; $10,000; endowed by Ezra Davis and given by the American Brotherhood for the Blind, a nonprofit organization which works to assist blind persons. No additional restrictions.
2. National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; sixteen to be given: two for $4,000; five for $2,500; nine for $2,000. No additional restrictions.
3. Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship; $4,000; given in loving memory of Anne Pekar by her parents, who say "The purpose of the scholarship is to help others as Anne had tried to do in her various volunteer endeavors.... It is our hope that this small gesture in her name will remind us of the wonderful things about Anne and, in particular, her concern about other people and her desire to help." Winner must be a woman between the ages of 17 and 25.
4. Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship; $3,000; given in memory of Melva T. Owen, who was widely known and loved among the blind. She and her husband Charles Owen became acquainted with increasing numbers of blind people through their work in the "Voicepondence" Club. Charles Owen says: "There shall be no limitation as to field of study, except that it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education."
5. Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship; $2,500; winner must be studying or planning to study in the fields of law, medicine, engineering, architecture, or the natural sciences.
6. Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship; $2,500; given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Barnum, the mother and stepfather of Catherine Horn Randall. No additional restrictions, but preference will be given to those studying architecture or engineering.
7. National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship; $2,500; winner must be studying in the traditional Humanities such as art, English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, or religion.
8. National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award; $2,500; winner must be planning a career in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary teaching.
9. Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship; $2,000; Dr. Isabelle Grant endowed this scholarship in memory of her daughter. Winner must be a woman.
10. Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship; $2,000; given in loving memory of her parents, Charles Albert Kuchler and Alice Helen Kuchler, by Junerose Killian, dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. No additional restrictions.
11. Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship; $2,000; given in memory of Ellen Setterfield by Roy Landstrom, who says: "During the course of her life, she gave of herself to defend the dignity and self-respect of those around her." Winner must be studying social sciences at the graduate level.
CRITERIA: All scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, service to the community, and financial need.
MEMBERSHIP: The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind persons. Recipients of Federation scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind.
MAKING APPLICATION: To apply for National Federation of the Blind scholarships, complete and return the application on the reverse side of this sheet, attaching to the application all the additional documents there requested. Multiple applications are unnecessary. Each applicant will be considered for all scholarships for which he or she qualifies. Send completed applications to: Miss Peggy Pinder, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 814 - 4th Avenue, Suite 200, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515) 236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1992.
REAPPLICATION: We have often awarded scholarships to persons applying for the second or third time. Even if previously submitted, current applications must be submitted to be considered for current scholarships. Those who have previously applied are encouraged to apply again.
WINNERS: The Scholarship Committee reviews all applications and selects the scholarship winners. These winners, the same number as there are scholarships to award, will be notified of their selection by June 1 and will be brought to the National Federation of the Blind convention in July at Federation expense. This is in addition to the scholarship grant.
The National Federation of the Blind Convention is the largest gathering of blind persons (more than 2,000) to occur anywhere in the nation each year. You will be able to meet other blind students and exchange information and ideas. You will also be able to meet and talk with blind people who are successfully functioning in your chosen profession or occupation. Federal officials, members of Congress, and the makers and distributors of new technology attend Federation conventions. Above all, a broad cross section of the most active segment of the blind population of the United States will be present to discuss common problems and plan for concerted action. It is an interesting and exciting week.
AWARDS: The day before the convention banquet the Scholarship Committee will meet to determine which winners will receive which scholarships. The scholarship awards will be made during the banquet.
National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Application Form
Read reverse side of form for instructions and explanation. Form may be photocopied but only if reverse side is also included. To apply for a scholarship, complete this application form and mail completed application and attachments to: Miss Peggy Pinder, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 814 - 4th Avenue, Suite 200, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; 515-236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1992.
Name (please include any maiden or other names by which you have
Date of birth:
School phone number:
Home phone number:
Institution being attended in spring semester, 1992, with class standing (freshman, senior, etc.):
Cumulative grade point at this institution:
Institution to be attended in fall of 1992, with class standing. Send by separate letter if admitted to school after submitting completed application:
List all post-secondary institutions attended with highest class standing attained and cumulative grade point average:
High school attended and cumulative grade point:
State your major:
Awards and honors (attach list if necessary):
Community service (attach list if necessary):
Attach the following documents to completed application:
1. Send us a letter: What schools have you attended? What school do you plan to attend during the coming year? What honors have you achieved? What have you done to deal with situations involving your blindness? What are you like as a person? What are your goals and aspirations? How will the scholarship help you?
2. Send two letters of recommendation.
3. Provide current transcript from institution now attending and transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions attended. If you have not yet attended such an institution or have not completed one year of study, send high school transcript.
4. Send a letter from a state officer of the National Federation of the Blind evidencing the fact that you have discussed your scholarship application with that officer. We prefer that you discuss your application with the Federation state president, but a letter from any Federation state officer will suffice. President's address provided upon request.
by Marilyn Golden
From the Editor: Diane Millner, a member of the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division, who lives in Oakland, California, writes as follows: "Dear Dr. Jernigan: I enjoyed very much reading the Monitor this month (May, 1991) and especially the article by Zach Shore. The day after I read the Monitor I read in a local newspaper a column which discusses the same type of issue in a different context. I thought you might enjoy it and enclose it for your reading." I did enjoy reading it, so I thought I would share it with Monitor readers. It appeared in the June, 1991, edition of the East Bay Guardian. Here it is:
As summer approaches, so does the likelihood that the public
will be the dubious beneficiary of massive press coverage of a
person with a disability accomplishing some unimaginable athletic
For starters, we will all be treated this season to another dose of the paraplegic fellow who made a well-publicized climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park a couple of years ago. "Isn't that amazing!" is sure to be the universal reaction, and all will agree that this is just the thing to educate the public.
Well, actually, not quite all. Many people in the disability rights movement beg to differ. We have long felt uncomfortable with such spectacles and anticipate them with skepticism and even dread.
In thinking about why, I am reminded of a letter I wrote to Brian Wilson several years ago. Brian, the double-amputee who lost his legs under a train in a Central America protest, was considering a cross-country protest walk, but, to his credit, he decided against it after hearing the views of the disability movement. Edited excerpts from the letter follow.
Dear Brian: When a disabled
person does an athletic feat like a cross- country walk or "roll"
with a lot of P.R., it plays into some of the false stereotypes of disabled
people held by society. It emphasizes the giant achievements of one person,
physically, and not the everyday normality and capability we all have. It milks
the image that only a few disabled people are superspecial and can do anything.
Such a project does not tend to change the false stereotypes the public has about all the other "average" disabled people. Such stereotypes include the following notions:
- Disabled peoples' lives are tragic or, at best, grim. In any case, they're certainly not ordinary. These poor people must spend most of their time cursing their luck and wishing they had no disability.
- Disabled people can't really do much of anything. After all, how could one do anything, really, in such a condition? Therefore, the normal response to learning that a disabled person does just about anything (from dressing him/herself to driving, to playing a sport, to earning a master's degree) is surprise. Herein is the origin of the omnipresent "Isn't that amazing!"
Of course, what is revealed by this surprised reaction is the extremely low expectations held by the surprised individual for the individual with a disability.
Now, when someone has low expectations of you, it feels insulting and demeaning (despite any positive intent held by the bearer of the low expectations). When a whole society has low expectations of you, how likely are you to have enough confidence to do much? If you don't do much, it says a lot more about the function of stigma in society than about any inherent limitations posed by your disability.
Therefore, public spectacles of such feats, which are designed to trigger an amazed reaction, can actually backfire and reinforce low expectations, which, in turn, reinforce a certain amount of underachievement.
It must be said that the low-expectations stereotype has, in fact, actually begun to change. But why? Not because of P.R. spectacles, which have been occurring periodically for decades. No, the change stems from a historical phenomenon which is genuinely new over the last decade or two: the rise of the disability rights movement, which has fought for, and won, some integration of people with disabilities into society.
As a result, disabled people have entered the work place, the churches and synagogues, the stores and restaurants of every community. And with this direct personal exposure and interaction, the public has finally begun to learn that ordinary disabled people do what they themselves do.
This is not to imply that the media have no role in changing attitudes. But if changing attitudes was the genuine purpose, it would be far more effective to show the general benefits of mass integration, like the increasing numbers of disabled parents, or Ph.D.'s, or the increasing disabled work force which reduces government-benefits expenditures. However, that doesn't sell newspapers.
But there's more. Most pernicious of all, these P.R. spectacles pander to the prevailing myth about disability: that if only you have pluck and spirit, you'll make it. A more accurate view is that people with disabilities experience certain kinds of discrimination and exclusion in the same way that women, people of color, and gay people experience discrimination and exclusion.
Such exclusion takes many forms. Examples include inaccessible buildings and telecommunications, unusable transportation vehicles, denial of job opportunities, segregated schooling, placement into institutions, lack of necessary support services, and social isolation. The more discrimination disabled people experience, the less easily they "make it" in society.
I will agree that a disabled person with lots of drive and spirit can often overcome more discrimination than one without that drive and spirit. But this is also true for women, people of color, gay people, impoverished people, etc.
To emphasize this subjective element of drive and spirit to the general public doesn't help anyone. Why? Because, in the eyes of society, the "drive and spirit" element is the whole story about disability. The general public doesn't understand that the much more important element for disabled people is the discrimination, segregation, and exclusion which come from barriers in the society and from distorted stereotypes about what disabled people's lives are really like.
The "drive and spirit" notion is not just an innocent misunderstanding. It is actually very dangerous. If all we need is drive and spirit, there's no reason to remove barriers, no reason to outlaw discrimination, and no reason to change society.
So, dear reader, while exceptional people certainly deserve recognition, think twice before lionizing such feats because of your feelings about disability. Most ordinary disabled people also do things that might surprise you, not because the people are amazing, but because these are ordinary human things to do and the people are ordinary humans. What holds us back are the barriers in society, combined with false attitudes about us, including--no offense--your own.
Of course, the point here is not to knock athletes with disabilities--not at all. The disability community has athletes-- bad ones, mediocre ones, and great ones--as does any other community, whether it's a community by gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or what have you.
Rather, it's a question of perspective. Yes, news stories about athletes with disabilities belong in the newspaper. But they belong in the sports section--not on the front page.
by Ted Young
From the Associate Editor: Ted Young is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. He thinks carefully about his Federationism and acts in accordance with his convictions. In the Spring, 1991, edition of The Blind Activist, the publication of the NFB of Pennsylvania, he grappled with the question of when it is appropriate to ignore or make the best of the difficulties that crop up in our paths and when it is our moral obligation to try to resolve them. Here is what he has to say:
When I was young, I used to hear an expression, "You're making a mountain out of a molehill." Since molehills are those small mounds created by moles working under the ground, the expression implies that the person involved is making a big issue out of practically nothing.
Recently a blind person contacted me with a legitimate discrimination complaint. He agonized over whether he should fight for his rights. The question was not whether or not he had been wronged, but whether the battle was worth fighting. In thinking about this, it occurred to me that what a person considers a molehill or a mountain depends in large measure on what he or she thinks of him- or herself. In other words, if you don't believe in yourself or if you have come to believe that you deserve less than others, then a problem that may be a molehill to someone else can be a mountain to you because you are likely not to believe that you have the ability or the right to overcome it. Unfortunately, many blind persons have been taught in many ways throughout life that they are less than average and should expect less of themselves and others. When one really believes this, the average molehill becomes as steep as a mountain. Why all of this fuss over the question? After all, who cares if some blind people face bigger molehills than others? It is important because of the way we deal with those big molehills. If something seems easy to change, if we believe that we can handle it, then we may try. Otherwise, we may well sit back and try to ignore it.
One way of ignoring those molehills--and I have heard this one a thousand times--is by saying, "It's not worth making a fuss over." Sure, the person making the statement agrees that something is wrong, but he or she has decided to live with it. One might argue that there is nothing wrong with this way of thinking; maybe it is a form of being well adjusted. After all, society likes people who don't make waves. And, if you refuse to sit back and to let the problem continue, you are not viewed as a well adjusted blind person; you are disgruntled, possibly bitter about your blindness.
The major problem with this course of inaction is the over-all effect it has on others, namely your fellow blind people. If one does not try to change things that are wrong, one leaves the injustice for the next person, and eventually it becomes standard, the customary way of acting. This is what Harold Lasky meant when he said, "We acquiesce in the loss of freedom every time we are silent in the face of injustice."
But, one might argue, life is full of molehills, and surely the person who struggles to conquer or eradicate every one of them would truly be a bitter, complaining lout. So how does one decide which molehills should be attacked and not merely ignored? At least one usable guideline might be to determine whether the molehill arises because of one's difference and would be absent for people without that difference pursuing the same task. If it does, then it should be tackled. In other words, if a barrier exists because of the blindness of the person involved, then it needs to be fought because to ignore it leaves the problem unsolved for the next blind person. When looked at from this perspective, we have a duty to fight to eliminate barriers that exist because of blindness. I suspect that most of us know this and that the hostility we sometimes encounter from other blind people when we fight for our rights is suppressed guilt on the part of those who would not when deep down they knew they should.
The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization that chooses to sit back and be polite and self-deprecating when injustice faces blind people. Whether it is through seeking legislation, representing clients of agencies who are not receiving their full rights, or advocating for parents of blind children in the state education bureaucracy, we patiently and steadfastly carry out our goal of improving conditions for blind people. Naturally, this effort sometimes earns us such epithets as "militant," "maladjusted," etc.; but such terms only show that we are hard at work doing what we should be doing. Sure, it would be easier to sit back and be long-suffering (society's synonym for well adjusted), but the long range price for present and future generations of blind people is too great.
The following article appeared in the May 4, 1991, edition of the Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, South Dakota. Julaine Arient-Rollman has served as secretary of the Black Hills Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota and won an NFB of South Dakota scholarship this year. Who says non-traditional blind students can't excel? Here is the story:
Overcoming obstacles hasn't been a particular problem for Julaine Arient-Rollman, a forty-two-year-old homemaker and mother with a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwondo.
She will graduate from Black Hills State University in May with a major in history and a minor in English. She has a 3.8 grade-point average, and she is blind.
"Most obstacles I've had to overcome involve people," she said, referring to her blindness. "I don't believe my blindness is a disability; it's a characteristic. It's no different from someone short who has to stand on a ladder or a tall person who has to stoop when walking through a doorway," Rollman said. Next fall she will attend the University of Florida at Gainesville and work toward a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. She recently received a $500 achievement award from Recording for the Blind in Princeton, New Jersey. She was one of nine winners selected from more than sixty applicants in a national search.
Interest in rehabilitation counseling grew out of her work with Western Resources for dis-ABLED Independence in Rapid City. She is a peer support counselor and trainer.
"That experience has confirmed that I'm doing right in going into the field I have chosen," she said.
As a child she was diagnosed as having ocular albinism with horizontal nystagmus. She sees only light in her right eye and must use a special high-powered microscopic lens for her left eye to see printed material. The material must be held within an inch or two of the lens in her glasses.
She graduated from Illinois Braille and Sight Saving (High) School in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1968. She then attended McMurray College in Jackson, majoring in English. She left school after two and a half years to become a wife and mother. During that time Rollman worked as a manager for Tupperware for twelve years.
"I won five company cars that I couldn't drive," she said with a laugh. In addition, she helped charter a Lions Club for women, was president of the local PTA, acted as a den mother, served as athletic director at her son's parochial school, and was elected president of the Business and Professional Women's Association. In 1984 she took up Tae Kwondo, earning a third-degree black belt and certification as a Tae Kwondo instructor through the U.S. Olympic training center. She later established J.A. Wonders Olympic TKD, a school for teaching martial arts.
Her nineteen-year-old son, William Rollman, is an Olympic hopeful in Tae Kwondo. She has coached fifteen state champions, five national champions, and two potential Olympic athletes. In 1988 she moved to Rapid City with her husband and decided to return to school. She has been taking classes at the BHSU branch campus at Ellsworth Air Force Base and at the main campus in Spearfish. She also serves as a student tutor three days a week at the Academic Skills Center.
Rollman said her experience at BHSU took some adjustment but overall it had been positive. She records many of her professor's lectures. Tests are administered orally. And at home she uses a computer that has auditory commands so she can hear when typing or when a mistake is made. It prints large white letters on a black background for better viewing.
"Most of the faculty have been really helpful," she said.
"They have been willing to experiment and do things differently for me. It's worked out nicely considering the resources available...There aren't any."
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."
by Buddy Gray
From the Editor: Buddy Gray is a member of the Tuscaloosa Chapter and the state board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama. He is also a piano technician who is concerned that a good career opportunity is being overlooked by young blind people today. He and other piano technicians met at the NFB convention in New Orleans to discuss common problems, aspirations, and concerns. After the national convention he submitted the following article to the Braille Monitor:
Long hours and determination have enabled the blind to venture into fields previously thought restricted to the sighted, but the piano technician career field (a lucrative, respectable, and public-oriented job) may be overlooked too often now as an employment opportunity for the blind. After tuning pianos for twenty years, I have a business that is steady and financially rewarding. Although the electronic music boom has decreased the sales of acoustic pianos somewhat, there are still millions of pianos to be tuned, repaired, or restored. At an average of $45 per tuning in less than an hour, this field can also be a very profitable part-time second job. A technician may set his own hours, own his own business, and thus determine how much money he makes.
A well-trained technician needs only a few tools, transportation, and a driver who can assist with paperwork. Some married couples choose to work as a team, tuning and repairing. The skills needed are fine-tuned. Not everyone can hear the difference between right in tune and a little off pitch. Few people (sighted or blind) can put their fingers right on the troublesome part of the hundreds of parts inside a piano. It requires practice, but once you have been properly trained, you will immediately win the respect of a large portion of the human race--music lovers. Perhaps the most important aspect of the piano technician's job is the public contact. People still respect hard work. The blind technician says to the public that he is willing to pull his own weight. Plus, traveling from house to house is an opportunity to meet children who can be influenced early in life to look past blindness. It is also a chance to meet community leaders who can put issues important to the blind before the public.
Although we always want to strive for bigger and better lives for the blind, let us not be too proud to consider a career as a piano technician simply because it is a traditional career for the blind. Schools for the blind and rehabilitation centers should take a hard look at this career and ask why a field once dominated by the blind is now becoming a sighted career, while the blind are unemployed or assigned to menial tasks. If anyone is interested in becoming a tuner or piano technician, please contact Buddy Gray or Amye Rice at Buddy Gray Music Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at (205) 345-1296.
by Stanley Oliver
The modern blind piano tuner commands one of the highest-earning fields among employed visually impaired. Thorough training and some mechanical skills are necessary. In 1988 a group of successful, determined tuners got together with a purpose in mind--to preserve and enhance the long established field for newcomers. The Visually Impaired Piano Tuners International was accepted early this year as an active participant within the World Blind Union. Today it has some eighty members and correspondents scattered among several nations. Contacts range from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Canada, England, and Spain to the U.S.S.R. Differences in language have not been an insurmountable problem. An increasing number of tuners use computer equipment to keep track of clients, send out reminder cards, etc. Voice synthesizers and screen readers are very much in the picture.
A sizable number of colleges across the U.S. and Canada employ blind tuners for total care of large inventories of expensive instruments. The called-for skills of restringing, new hammer installation, regulation, voicing, and tuning to artists' standards are being done currently to the expressed satisfaction of many educational institutions, dealers, and concert halls. Learning the field well and being continuously updated is an absolute must. The finest school encompassing the technical and business areas needed to earn an excellent living is the Fries Piano Hospital and Training Center in Vancouver, Washington. Of some 200 graduates, some eighty-five percent are very successfully employed. This is a far cry from what regrettably often occurs--terminal rehabilitation and study without the dollar reward at the end. The recommended course could run some eighteen months. Much depends on the learning ability of the applicant. For full particulars, including a print and cassette catalog, contact the school at 2510 East Evergreen Boulevard, Vancouver, Washington 98661; phone (206) 693-1511.
The Piano Technicians Guild (the 3,700-member professional body covering the piano field) has around one hundred blind craftsmen and includes all the world's major piano makers. The technical standards for membership are identical for every entrant. In its history, it has had a blind national president, executive director, regional vice presidents, and innumerable local chapter officers. The blind tuner is thoroughly accepted as a competitive equal. A monthly technical journal replete with detailed "how-to" articles is available from the PTG home office: 4510 Belleview, Suite 100, Kansas City, Missouri 64111; phone (816) 753-7747. The periodical is $85 annually and worth its weight in gold for its practical value.
The 1992 convention of the Piano Technicians Guild takes place July 22-26 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Sacramento, California. We expect Bo Jung Lee, director of a tuning school, Seoul, Korea; and Enrique Perez Bazan, Madrid, Spain. Aids Unlimited, managed by Hal Bleakley, will have a large exhibit of some of their 300 devices useful for the blind homemaker.
Visually Impaired Piano Tuners International is presently involved in updating the data on tuning, past and present, carried in the U.S. Department of Labor publication, Occupational Handbook. The PTG is the source closest to the rapidly changing economics in the field. VIPTI issues a cassette newsletter. If you are interested in entering the field, wish to correspond with tuners in foreign countries, or wish to become a member or exchange technical data, contact VIPTI, 1965 East Outer Drive, Detroit, Michigan 48234; phone (313) 891-9226.
by Karen Brady, News Staff Writer
This article appeared in the August 5, 1991, Buffalo News.
While more than 700 cyclists biked Sunday to benefit the Blind Association of Western New York, close to 80 informational pickets from the National Federation of the Blind walked to protest the association's policies.
"I'm not sure I understand," said John Shine, a cyclist from Norstar Bank. "My understanding was we were doing this for them." And that is exactly why the pickets were there, they said, on the outskirts of the ninth annual bicycle "Ride in Plain Sight" to raise funds for the local Blind Association. The bicycle ride and a stationary bike challenge raised $47,553.50 for the association. Spokeswoman Joan Simon said that was a 42 percent increase over last year.
"We want the cyclists and the people of Western New York to know that there are people in the association workshops making $2.51 an hour while the executive director makes $65,000 a year," said Jenniver Vara of the Buffalo Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York State and former resource center coordinator for the association.
"We don't think much of the money raised today will be used for the blind," she said. "Not when you have sighted workers being hired, and management and public relations consultants called in, and bonuses paid to management and a director with a car leased by the board."
Several guide dogs, sighted spouses, and friends walked with Federation of the Blind members, chanting and holding up posters with their claims against the association: "Backward philosophies, sub-minimum wages, contempt for the blind, threat of layoffs, decline in rehabilitation services, mismanagement, waste. ..." Federation members from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland walked in the picket. Among them was James Gashel, government affairs director of the national group, the largest organization of the blind in America, who had come from its national headquarters in Baltimore. "The blind are being exploited here," he said. "They are working for next to nothing. They have no benefits, and this is supposed to be an association for the blind." Vincent Tagliarino, president of the Federation's Buffalo chapter, said "The (Blind Association) won't bargain with the union, which is only asking for minimum wage. The talks have been going on for a year. They're stalled at wages."
A year ago this week the nearly 70 employees in the sheltered workshops of the Blind Association became the first in the state, and one of only a few in the country, to unionize when they joined the Service Employees International Union.
"I'm among the fortunate ones," said Shirley Lazich of North Tonawanda, who has assembled expandable file folders in the workshop for the past six years. "I'm married and live mainly on my husband's wages. I couldn't live on mine."
Neither could Mike Deinhardt of Orchard Park, a co-worker in the shop for three years.
"Trying to make ends meet would be impossible," he said. "If it weren't for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), I couldn't survive at all."
The association can legally pay less than the minimum wage of $4.25 per hour because sheltered workshop law allows it, said protesters who also criticized the association for "backward philosophies such as building apartments specifically for the blind when segregation based on a handicap is an old-fashioned idea that benefits no one."
Ronald S. Maier, executive director of the association and personal target of some of the protesters' claims, was only yards away in a festive tent, where the fifth annual Stationary Bike Waterfront Challenge was going on at the same time as 15- and 25-mile courses were being covered by Plain sight cyclists. "You can't please everybody," he said of the protesters. "We serve over 10,000 persons a year, of which this is a handful. We're not dismissing their concerns, but we wish they would work with us, not against us.
"Or against me. Some of them honestly and philosophically disagree with our policies. And some of them have a thing about me, rather than the agency. But we do satisfaction surveys, and they don't reflect any of this sort of negative feeling."
As for his salary, Maier said, "I don't pay myself, I don't hire myself. I am employed by the board."
"I guess everyone has a right to disagree," said Elizabeth C. Harvey, chairwoman of the Blind Association board of directors, "but I feel there are more constructive ways to disagree. Like positive suggestions. It's easier to be a critic than not." Mrs. Harvey was unable to discuss salaries, she said, "because a contract is being negotiated."
As she spoke, 48 corporate teams of five persons each happily worked themselves into frenzies in the stationary bike challenge. Most of them appeared oblivious to onlookers and protesters.
Kathleen Hart has recently joined the National Federation of the Blind. She is deeply religious, and she aspires to be one of the spiritual leaders of our nation. Of course, this kind of leadership requires not only a dedication to moral principles but capacity for real understanding and genuine courage. Kathleen Hart has written to President Maurer. Her letter shows that she is a person of determination, that the airlines are (as we have demonstrated many times) whimsical, that assertiveness helps, and that--although there have sometimes been setbacks in the airline struggle--the argument is far from over. We in the National Federation of the Blind do not give up. Here is what she says:
Dear Mr. Maurer:
I recently spoke with David Arocho regarding my flight home from the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind a few weeks ago. He suggested that I relay my experiences to you. I have some usable vision but prior to convention had never used a cane. Hence I have been able to sit anywhere I was assigned or that I requested on a plane without inquiry. On my flight from Cleveland to Rochester I was using my cane, as I had been since Tuesday of that week. I also had requested an exit row seat because it was a smaller plane and I have always felt more comfortable near an exit on smaller planes. The ticket agent in New Orleans had no problem assigning me an exit row seat. The problems arose when I boarded the plane in Cleveland.
I was on Continental flight 4432. As I was settling in my seat the flight attendant appeared and informed me of the regulation. They asked me to move. I politely declined, stating that I had sat in exit rows in the past and was capable of executing the duties which they listed. She left and shortly thereafter the pilot came back, making the same request. I made the same statement as I had to the flight attendant. During this time I was careful not to make a spectacle of myself. The young woman sitting next to me inquired about the problem. Once informed, she was very supportive of my position.
After that a member of the ground crew came to speak with me. I again assured her of my capabilities. After further discussion in the front of the plane, the person who last spoke with me came back and said she would allow the plane to leave the gate if I was certain I was capable of carrying out the responsibilities of a person sitting in an exit row. I again repeated that I would not remain where I was if I were incapable. Thirty minutes after the flight was scheduled to leave, the plane finally left the gate without a change in my seat assignment.
Both David and I felt you would be interested in this experience. I hope it may be of some assistance.
by Fred Schroeder
From the Associate Editor: Fred Schroeder is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. Ever since he concluded in high school that Braille was an essential tool for him if he was to succeed in life, he has been a passionate proponent of the code. In recent years he has served on countless committees and as a representative of the NFB at numerous national and international meetings concerning the use and proliferation of Braille. Here is his report on one of his most recent efforts:
It is not surprising that in recent years the National Federation of the Blind has focused significant attention on the issue of Braille literacy. The reason for this emphasis is uncomplicated and easy to understand. For blind children Braille represents the only efficient method by which to read and write, and hence, for blind children to be literate, they must be able to read and write Braille.
In the process of promoting Braille literacy, a number of important issues arise. Children and newly blind adults must have adequate opportunity to learn Braille, and Braille must be produced in sufficient quantity for it to be readily available for use. A recently emerging problem has been a move to restructure the code in a number of radical ways. While proponents of Braille restructuring argue that Braille can be greatly improved, blind people remain skeptical about the need for altering it. During the 1980's some minor alteration of Braille took place, enabling it to be more readily produced by computer translation. On the one hand, the more readily Braille can be produced by computer, the more available it will be. On the other hand, purists would argue that Braille should meet the needs of blind readers, not satisfy the peculiarities of computers. More recently, discussion has taken place concerning whether Braille should be altered to consolidate separate codes (such as the Literary, Math, and Computer Science Codes) into a single code.
The problem of preserving Braille is further complicated by trends in other English speaking countries which use either the North American code, the code used in the United Kingdom, or a combination of the two. International trends are important to the degree that they affect the greatest possible availability of readable material. If the North American code and the code used in the United Kingdom drift too far apart, it is possible that materials produced in one country could be illegible or at least difficult to use by Braille readers in other countries.
Additionally, if the North American and British codes drift further apart, other English speaking countries will necessarily end up choosing one code or the other, thereby limiting their ability to use the greatest number of available materials.
In 1982 an International Conference on English Literary Braille Grade 2 was held in Washington, D.C. A primary goal of the conference was to work toward international cooperation among countries which produce English Language Braille. While it is unlikely that all differences between the North American and British codes will ever be completely worked out, it is entirely reasonable to hope that an international effort will at least result in the codes not drifting further apart. In fact, the Washington conference showed an international willingness to find areas in which the codes could be modified to be more compatible. As a result, a number of study groups were established to examine areas of international concern until such time as a second international conference could be convened.
In 1988 a second conference was held in London, England, with ten English-speaking nations in attendance. They were Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Zambia. During the London conference it was determined that a permanent international organization should be founded to continue the work of the Washington and London conferences.
On May 30 to June 1, 1991, an International Conference on English Language Braille was held in Ontario, Canada. The conference was organized by a group known as the International Coordinating Committee on English Literary Braille. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind hosted the conference at its Lake Joseph Holiday Center.
During the Toronto conference a new organization, the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) was founded. The purpose of ICEB is to provide a medium for international cooperation among national standard-setting bodies on English Language Braille. ICEB will not function as a super Braille authority, mandating code changes to its members. Instead it will serve as a vehicle for studying the international impact of changes proposed by various national Braille authorities. ICEB will be headquartered at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Toronto, Canada.
During the founding meeting officers were elected from among
delegates present at the conference. They are President, Fred Schroeder, United
States; Vice President, Connie Aucamp, South Africa; Secretary, Darleen Bogart,
Canada; and Treasurer, Isobel Yule, United Kingdom. Additionally two Board Members
At-Large were elected. They are Joan Ledermann from Australia and Raeleen Smith
from New Zealand. Officers, Board Members At-Large, and the organization's Immediate
Past President constitute the Executive Committee. Since the organization was
newly established, it had no
Immediate Past President. However, Bill Poole of the United Kingdom has served as the Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee and is recognized as a driving force in the establishment of the new organization. For this reason he was asked to serve as Immediate Past President, thereby completing the Executive Committee.
ICEB has established a number of study groups, which will address wide-ranging issues. Their titles and chairs are as follows: Committee A - Constitution, Fred Schroeder, United States; Committee B - Linear Braille, Conchita Gilbertson, United States; Committee C - Advanced Contracted Braille, Martin Milligan, United Kingdom; Committee D - Grade One Braille, Marjorie Troughton, Canada; Committee E - Code Comparison, Norma Schecter, United States; Committee F - Rule Simplification, David McCann, United Kingdom; Committee G - Composition Signs, Connie Aucamp, South Africa; Committee H - Education Impact of Contraction Changes, Hilda Caton, United States; Committee I - Interface with Mathematics Braille, Stephen Phippen, United Kingdom; Committee J - Print Symbols, Stephen Phippen, United Kingdom; Committee K - Dissemination of Information, Fred Schroeder, United States; Committee L - Fund Raising, Chris Gray, United States; and Committee M - Interface Between English Braille and Foreign Language Codes, Bill Poole, United Kingdom.
The new organization appears to be off to a productive start. It is anticipated that ICEB will meet once every four years with its Executive Committee conducting business between meetings of the General Assembly. The spirit of international cooperation is high, and the commitment to promoting Braille literacy is stronger than ever. With this foundation ICEB will doubtless quickly assume a productive role in coordinating the work of national Braille authorities throughout the English-speaking world.
by Dana Elcar
From the Associate Editor: On Friday, July 5, 1991, the television actor Dana Elcar spoke to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. His remarks were one more reminder of how much the philosophy and encouragement of the Federation can do to assist blind people everywhere and in every walk of life. This is the way President Maurer introduced Dana Elcar:
We met Dana Elcar because of our involvement with the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. He came to the National Center for the Blind. We spent close to a day together--talking, working, wondering, planning, dreaming. He is an actor. I am not an actor. I do not know what he does or how he does it. But he is becoming blind, and we in this organization have information that he needs. We can also use the excitement and the talent that he brings. We need each other. To talk about the show business profession and blind people working in it, I introduce to you the actor, director, writer, and producer from Santa Paula, California, Dana Elcar:
Thank you, President Maurer and everybody on the Board or whoever else made the decision to invite me here to participate in this convention and to be a part of the program. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am finding it one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had in my life, and I thank you. Mr. Maurer said that I am losing my sight or going blind. I think that I have to admit that I am blind. I also want to thank you for the sense of support and encouragement and the warm feeling of being with you all and being able to make that statement and also just learning and growing into that blindness. I do not like it, but it is a fact. I appreciate your help and your energy, which have come to me.
I bring you greetings and warm regards from Henry Winkler and John Rich and from an extremely wonderful, handsome, and powerful young actor named Richard Dean Anderson, who plays McGyver. And from two men named Steve Downing and Michael Greenberg. I will very briefly tell you my experience. When I began to lose my eyesight, I was on the show McGyver. We were on our fourth year. The cause was glaucoma. Progressively it was getting worse and worse. I finally had to go to Steve Downing, who was the executive producer and the creative writer at that time, and say, "Steve, I think we're going to have to do something. We have to make Pete Thornton have the same qualities, the same visual abilities that I have, or we're going to run into trouble. I can no longer jump out of helicopters. I can't run down hill at night at a fast pace over logs. It simply will not work."
So we discussed this, and he thought about it and called me back the next day, and he said, "You know what? This is perfectly natural. Let's do it."
So they began to write into the character of Pete Thornton a man who had glaucoma and was losing his vision. I want to tell you how proud I am of them for doing that.
It came as somewhat of a surprise--not truly a surprise, but I was a little tentative about bringing up the subject. I was talking to my daughter, who lives in New York. She is becoming an actress. She also works in a restaurant. She does lots of things. She's now a script supervisor for a television show. She's making her way, and she said, "Dad, there's only one thing you can do. Talk to them and say that you have to be together, that Pete Thornton and Dana Elcar have to have the same visual abilities."
And I'm grateful to her for giving me the strength to do that. On the other hand, you hear a lot of things about Hollywood, about how hard it is, how cold it is, how mean it is. And yet there were people there who immediately responded and said, "Of course. That's the obvious thing we have to do. We want you on the program--you are good for the program. The fact that you are losing your eyesight does not mean that you have forgotten how to act." So we did that and I am eternally grateful to them. We are at the end of our sixth year. We are on hiatus, and we are starting our seventh year of the show McGyver. We have just concluded a contract agreement with me to proceed into the seventh year.
Believe it or not. I don't know how many people have gone before, but I think I am one of the few people who have ever played a blind person on television and have been blind. I may even attempt to play some people who are not blind. And the people whom I am currently working with are willing to make that experiment with me. They want to encourage me. I want to tell you that there are good people out there. There in support of us.
I want to tell you quickly a little bit about the other things that I do. I am also the artistic director of a small theater in Santa Paula, California. It is small, but it has very high standards. It's a professional-standard theater. My wife is the general manager and publicist. She does a lot of work. We all work together. It's a semi-amateur theater, but it has professional standards. When I began to lose my vision, I thought, "This is going to be another problem. How am I going to do this? I can't even see the stage. How can I possibly choose plays and choose directors and choose designers and then go and judge whether the work is good enough and proceed as the artistic director of this theater?"
Well, you know, I chose to see if I could do it. And you want to know something? I'm still doing it. From time to time I say to my sighted friends, "Listen. Does that look like I think it looks?" And they either say "Yes" and I say "Great" or they say "No, that's not right." And then I will get up and yell and say, "Hey, wait a minute! This is not working here." And I am the final buck. You understand?
That has been a great thing for me. One of the things that happened
for me in this experience which I think was pivotally
important was that I didn't stop doing what I was doing. The people who run Paramount Pictures, the people who are ABC, the people who run the Show McGyver, my own instincts, my daughter's encouragement, my family's encouragement, and I want to tell you, also the crew's encouragement--that is to say, the people who are working on the crew in Vancouver, Canada--were unbelievably staunch. They would not let me fail, and you know how they did it?
They simply expected the best of me. I, therefore, expected the best of myself. I could give no less. I am grateful to all of those people and to that experience of not stopping. It is very important to keep going. One of the things I've learned in life is that everybody falls down; falls down! It is important to get back up. Yesterday I had lunch with some wonderful people from this organization. Among them, the writer of the book, Walking Alone and Marching Together, Floyd Matson, which is, incidentally, a meaningful and wonderful book; the history of this organization is just overwhelming me. I admitted to them that I was learning how to walk with a cane, be mobile with a cane. But I hadn't successfully done it in places that I wasn't familiar with. This was something that President Maurer had encouraged me to do when I met with him that day that we talked. And I have been taking some lessons. But I hadn't really tried it where I was unfamiliar. So after lunch Floyd said, "Well, I'll walk you to the elevator. You can get it from there--Right?" [Laughter]
So I said, "You betcha. I'm gonna do that." Now I don't know whether...you all are probably aware--but I was not so conclusively aware--that there are two buildings here. So I went up the elevator in the wrong building. I got off at the right floor. I white-caned my way along, and I went for a long way. I did not find the familiar sound of the ice machine or the corner that preceded it, and then I didn't find the little doorways along the way, one of which was going to be mine. I said, "Something is wrong here." Then I got back to the elevator and went down. At one point in the conversation at lunch as I was telling them that I did not know how to do this, one of the people said, "If you were sighted and you didn't know where the other elevators were, what would you do?" And I said, Well, I'd ask."
So Sharon said to me, "Well, you dummy, ask." And so I did. Then I got to the right elevator, and believe it or not, I made my first trip here at this convention with a white cane. [Applause] Thank you very much.
by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Associate Editor: The May/June, 1991, issue of The Braille Examiner, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, included another in author Deborah Kent Stein's series, "Meet a Fellow Federationist." Bob Simonson grew up caught in the bind of having a little usable vision, which the experts insisted he depend on exclusively. Bob Simonson has succeeded despite the resulting disadvantages of his early years. Here is his story:
"I think every partially sighted person can tell a story about being punished for referring to himself as blind," says Bob Simonson. His particular story occurred when he was attending fifth grade in a regular class in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. One day he did not see the teacher signal for the class to line up earlier than usual at the end of recess. When he finally wandered inside, late and confused, the teacher demanded an explanation. "I didn't see you wave us in," Bob answered. "I'm half blind, you know."
He has never forgotten the teacher's stinging slap. It came not merely from anger at a ten-year-old's excuse. It expressed outrage that a boy who could apparently see would claim that he could not.
Soon, however, Bob's visual limitations could no longer be ignored. That same year, he was called in from the playground to talk to a man who showed him eye charts and asked a lot of questions. Their meeting initiated Bob into the special education system.
Bob had had low vision all his life. By third grade, as the reading load mounted at school, he began to fall behind his classmates. A special projector made reading a little easier, but due to his nystagmus (uncontrollable eye movement) he could not use glasses or hand-held magnifiers. Each year schoolwork became more of a struggle.
The Wheeling school system, which included Buffalo Grove, had a Braille class, but the special education teachers advised Bob's parents that he had enough vision to rely on print. In sixth grade he was separated from his old friends and assigned to a sight-saving class in Arlington. The ride on the school bus took an hour and a half each way. In the new school he could not even use the projector, which he had once found helpful, because it belonged to the Wheeling schools.
During the next several years Bob's education was at the mercy of bureaucratic whims. He was arbitrarily transferred twice during junior high. A parade of resource teachers came and went through his sight-saving class at Elk Grove High School, none staying long enough to work with him consistently. The only adaptive technique he learned--one which he found invaluable--was the use of the tape recorder. With recorded books he began to catch up on some of the work he had missed because of his reading problems.
Looking back over those chaotic years, Bob reflects, "I think all my trouble in school came down to the philosophy most of the teachers had--blind students and partially sighted students were completely different from each other. No matter what, blind kids and partials had to be kept apart." But at last, after a long and bitter battle, Bob's parents persuaded the school district to let him attend the Braille class at Wheeling High School. At that time (the late 1960's) Wheeling was a regional high school which routinely served students from Buffalo Grove.
Bob was home at last--back with the friends he had left in sixth grade. But by now he was a high school junior. Too much time had elapsed. Old friends had changed. And he still had no method for reading effectively. Even in his new class, the teacher made little effort to teach him Braille, believing that he had too much sight to need it. He was even required to take driver education, so intense was the pressure to be "normal."
After graduation Bob enrolled at Western Illinois University, where he majored in music. "I went into music for the wrong reason," he admits today. "I liked it, it was important to me, but it wasn't really a passion. It was partly that I was afraid I couldn't do anything else well." Outside his studies he played percussion with a jazz band. When, after his junior year at Western, the band set out for Minneapolis, Bob left school to go along.
Within two months the band disintegrated, and Bob was on his own in a strange city. He spent a year playing intermittently and searching for steady work. At last he returned home and entered Roosevelt University, earning his music degree in 1978. To help meet expenses he played at weddings, performed in clubs, and taught drums at a music store.
Bob's father was an active Kiwanis member. One day in 1976 someone from the National Federation of the Blind spoke at a Kiwanis meeting he attended. Bob's father brought home the speaker's card, and Bob began to receive NFB literature. Since high school Bob had believed there ought to be an organization of blind people which would work for change. Yet, when he first learned about the Federation, he was skeptical. After all, these folks might be real losers. What could you expect from a bunch of blind people?
Bob's fears vanished when he finally attended an NFB student conference in Springfield. The people he met seemed to make real sense. They asked tough questions of the rehabilitation system, of potential employers, and of themselves. The whole event was well-organized and ran almost flawlessly, and it had all been arranged by people who were blind!
Looking back, Bob believes that discovering the NFB marked a major turning-point in his life. As soon as he graduated from Roosevelt, he entered a rehabilitation program in Nebraska which emphasized a positive philosophy about blindness. Working under sleep shades, he learned to use a long cane. He began to study Braille, and he developed new confidence in his own abilities. Nevertheless, change was slow and often painful. "You can't undo twenty-eight years in eight months," one counselor warned him. Though her words made him angry, Bob had to accept that she was right. Even today he sometimes feels he is hampered by the gaps in his early education and by the negative attitudes he absorbed about being blind.
Over the next several years Bob's life centered on music. He remained in Lincoln for a year after completing the rehab program, playing country rock and teaching drums. Then he spent two years with a road band, moving endlessly from town to town, gig to gig. For a time Rapid City, South Dakota, became his home base, and he joined the Black Hills Chapter of the NFB. But life on the road was exhausting, and the rewards dwindled fast. By this time Bob's parents had retired to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where they had lived before moving to the Chicago area. When the road band fell apart, Bob packed up and moved to Michigan, determined to make a major change in his career and in his life.
In 1985 Bob entered an MBA program at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. But even after he completed his degree in 1988, job hunting was an ordeal. For eighteen months he sent out resumes, made phone calls, and went for interviews, without receiving a single offer. Finally, when he hung on the edge of despair, he was offered a position with Commonwealth Edison in Chicago--not his chosen field of business administration, but in computer programming.
In August, 1990, Bob returned to Chicago to begin a rigorous training course. After long days in the classroom, he would rush over to Blind Services and spend several hours with readers, plowing through programming manuals. At times he wondered if he could compete, but in March he completed the course successfully. He is currently working as a programmer/analyst in customer and financial information services.
His job at Commonwealth Edison provides new challenges and a steady pay check. But Bob says that music is still in his blood. Two months after he left Marquette, he returned to play with a band which opened for Buddy Guy, one of the legends of Chicago blues. Though he is settling into life in Chicago, Bob still has strong ties to Michigan. His parents are there as well as many friends and fellow musicians. Most of all, there is Michelle. "When I left to take this job, I wasn't sure the relationship was strong enough to survive," Bob confides. "But, thanks to Ma Bell and a lot of visits back and forth, it seems to be healthy. We're doing fine."
From the Associate Editor: The nip of autumn is unmistakably to be felt in most parts of the country. It is the season of hearty lunches and quick suppers that can be put on the table quickly following an afternoon of outdoor activity. Here are some sandwich recipes that can be made ahead and frozen. Popped into the oven, not the microwave, for a little longer than the specified cooking time, they are all delicious and warming.
HOT CORNED BEEF SANDWICHES
by Betty Bowman
From the Associate Editor: Betty Bowman is an Associate Member of the NFB from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an excellent cook. She is also my mother; that is why I can recommend these recipes unconditionally.
10 to 12 hamburger buns
1 12-ounce can corned beef, shredded
1 cup cubed Velveeta cheese
1/2 cup sweet relish
1/2 cup catsup
1/4 cup minced onions
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Method: Mix filling ingredients. Fill buns. Wrap individually in foil. Heat for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
by Betty Bowman
6 and 1/2- or 7-ounce can tuna
1/4 pound American cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons minced onions
2 tablespoons chopped sweet pickles
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
6 hot dog buns
Method: Flake tuna and combine with other filling ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Split buns and fill. Wrap sandwiches individually in foil. Place in shallow pan and bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. If frozen, heat at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
HAM AND CHEESE ROLLS
by Betty Bowman
1/2 pound soft butter
3 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, grated
12 hamburger rolls
1 lb. chipped ham
12 slices Swiss cheese
Method: Mix first five ingredients. Spread mixture on both sides of each roll. Place ham and cheese on rolls. Wrap sandwiches in foil. Heat 10 minutes at 400 degrees. This recipe can be stretched to make sixteen sandwiches. It can be made ahead and refrigerated. If so, heat for 15 minutes.
HOT CHIPPED HAM SANDWICHES
by Betty Bowman
1 pound chipped ham, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup cubed Velveeta cheese
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
To the above mixture add:
2 tablespoons olives, chopped
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet relish
2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Method: Thoroughly combine and place mixture in 10 to 12 buns and wrap in foil. Heat at 250 degrees for 30 minutes.
**South Carolina Continues to Lead the Way:
Writing in the July 25, 1991, Positive Note, Don Capps says:
"An already strong NFB of South Carolina and NFB are now even stronger. On Tuesday evening, July 23, the 34th chapter of the NFB of South Carolina was organized. It will be known as the Edgefield County Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina. Eighteen persons attended an organizing meeting held at a restaurant in Johnston. For several months Junior Wright of our Aiken Chapter had been making calls upon blind persons in the area. This past Monday and Tuesday Betty and I worked in the Edgefield County area when the heat index was 110 degrees. When Federation work is to be done, weather should not stand in the way, even when conditions are not ideal. That's what leadership is all about. Frank Coppel, NFB of SC treasurer, also worked in the extreme heat in the organizing effort. The new chapter has good officers. Ben Rushton, who was assisted by the NFB of SC and the NFB a few years ago in a successful child custody case, is president of the new group. He will do a good job. Other officers include: Vice President, Effort Cheatham; Treasurer, Sylvester Holmes; and Secretary, Aletha Rushton.
We have been asked to print the following:
I am selling an XL Voyager Visual Tech, brand new, $2000. If interested, call Micki Fishel (301) 358-4606.
We recently received a letter from Lola Pace of the Wichita Falls, Texas, Chapter, which said:
"When my husband Preston and I were in New Orleans for the national convention earlier this month we purchased one of the copies of Walking Alone and Marching Together. We wanted to give it to one of the area libraries in behalf of our chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wichita Falls. When Preston and I went to the Kemp Public Library to take the book, we also took some other literature along with some of my cards, giving them a local source for contact. No matter how much the organization is publicized, it seems that it is never enough. The Kemp Public Library is the largest library in the area with a very broad range of subject matter. We should have our book in all the libraries, and we will try to get some of the others to purchase it."
**Wedding Bells--Federation Helped Make it Possible:
In a recent letter Gisela Distel, President of the Capitol District Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, says:
"The Capital District Chapter is very happy to share this
wonderful news with you and our friends. On Saturday, July 27, 1991, Ellen Sattler
and Norman Cash were married. Both are active members of our chapter, and we
wish them many years of love and happiness together. The Federation had a part
in bringing these two people together. In his pursuit of independence and gaining
employment, Ellen's son, Bryan, purchased a personal computer. Bryan, former
chapter vice president, needed assistance learning his new computer system.
Norm heard about his situation and volunteered his time and computer expertise.
They worked together at Bryan's house, where Norm met Ellen. The rest is history.
Ellen and Norm are active chapter members. They participate at meetings, give generously of themselves and their time at our fund raisers, and are great friends. We'd like to extend our congratulations to both Mr. and Mrs. Cash."
In July, 1991, the governor of Michigan appointed Dr. Abraham Nemeth, distinguished mathematician and active member of the NFB Research and Development Committee and the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, as chairman of the Michigan Commission for the Blind. Dr. Nemeth, who will serve through September 30, 1993, joins Allen Harris, president of the NFB of Michigan, on the commission board. As Monitor readers know, Dr. Nemeth is the creator of the Nemeth Braille mathematics code and was named as the NFB Blind Educator of the Year in 1990. We commend Governor Blanchard for the wisdom of this appointment, and we congratulate Dr. Nemeth.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "The Aids Unlimited, Inc., free Christmas supplement catalog is now ready for distribution in print or on cassette. Contact: Aids Unlimited, Inc., 1101 North Calvert Street, Suite 405, Baltimore, Maryland 21202; phone (301) 659-0232."
Through special arrangements with some of the largest long distance telephone companies in America, the LifeLine Routing System can donate 10% of your long distance telephone billing to the National Federation of the Blind; and it doesn't cost you any more. In most cases, it costs less. Your long distance service will be routed to a carrier which will provide high quality service. Donations of 10% of your long distance billing are calculated on the net domestic amount. The customer receives an overall average discount of between 4% and 8% from the standard AT & T rates. Some discounts are as high as 15%. Customers receive one phone bill for local and long distance charges. For most parts of the country no access code is required. This LifeLine service is provided through AmeriVision Communications Inc. at P.O. Box FF, Norman, Oklahoma 73070. Your long distance phone bill is less, so you have more money. The National Federation of the Blind gets a 10% donation, so we have more money. For information call AmeriVision Communications at (800) 800-7550.
**Order from Michigan:
"Braille Readers Are Leaders" t-shirts and sweatshirts are available from the NFB of Michigan Parents Division and are available in children's sizes small, medium, and large and adult sizes small, medium, large, x-large, and xx-large. The price is $9 for t-shirts and $15 for sweatshirts. The Michigan affiliate also has the new NFB tote bags, which are off-white with dark blue logo and the wording "National Federation of the Blind" on the front. They are made of heavy canvas and sell for $10. All items may be ordered by sending a check or money to: NFB of Michigan, 111 West Woodward Heights, Hazel Park, Michigan 48030. Please include $1 shipping per item. For further information, please contact Sue Drapinski at (313) 546-6910 after 5:00 p.m.
**Two New Chapters and Growing:
We recently received the following communication from Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California:
On Friday evening, August 9, 1991, the Indian Wells Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California was formed. The Indian Wells Valley is located in the high desert ninety miles north of Lancaster. The Indian Wells Valley is an area of California never before served by a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. The president of the new chapter is Jerry Richer. On Saturday, August 10, we organized the Santa Clarita Valley Chapter. The Santa Clarita Valley is in Los Angeles County and is located south of Lancaster and north of the San Fernando Valley. The president of the chapter is Lynn Coats. We are on the move and growing.
We have been asked to print the following:
I have a Sanyo CCTV camera, NEC monitor with adjustable stand and XY board. The original price was $2800. I will sacrifice at $950. It is in excellent condition. If interested, contact Janet Henderson, 9381 Robinwood Drive, Grand Blanc, Michigan 48439; or phone (313) 695-2008.
**Appointed to Executive Committee:
Ruth Swenson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, recently received the following letter from Arizona Senator John McCain:
Senate Office Building
July 26, 1991
I am writing today to ask you to become a member of my Executive Advisory Committee on Disabilities. Because of the overwhelming response from members of my ad hoc committee on disability issues, I have decided to set up a formal, organized Executive Committee which will meet with me directly. The committee will be composed of approximately fourteen people from all parts of Arizona. We will hold regular meetings while I am in Arizona to discuss concerns and issues affecting the disabilities community. Your input will provide me with direct access to your views on a variety of issues.
Mary Donahue, Secretary of the San Antonio Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, writes as follows:
"Michael and Belinda Lane are the proud parents of a baby daughter, Saber Christina Lane, born June 14, 1991, at 4:30 a.m., at Humana Women's Hospital, San Antonio. She weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and measured 21-3/4 inches in length. Belinda is the San Antonio Chapter treasurer.
Melissa Chilton of Tennessee has asked that we carry the following announcement: "For a free copy of Bi-Monthly Classifieds for the Visually Impaired, send a 90-minute cassette and a self- addressed stamped envelope (75 cents postage) to: Chilton and Company, 4905 Park Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37209."
**Vegetarian, Vegan, or Macrobiotic:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "I am interested in corresponding with other blind and visually impaired persons who follow a vegetarian, vegan, or macrobiotic diet. If you would like to share recipes, books, philosophy, or other information, please let me know. Letters in any form are welcome, but Braille would be great if possible. Contact: Ms. Sandy Abrams, 1420 Locust Street, Unit 30-P, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102; phone (215) 985-0413 (before 10:30 p.m. eastern time, please)."
**Books to Sell:
Gayle Sabonaitis of Massachusetts has asked that we carry the following announcement: "I have two Braille books for sale. One is Report on Women and Cancer, $10. The other is Care of the Breasts, $5. Contact me in Braille only: Gayle Sabonaitis, 11 Maxwell Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01607."
**Large Print Magazine Available:
We have been asked to print the following:
America At Large, the nation's first large print magazine, is now available from Bolinda Press America. Published quarterly in January, April, July, and October, with a subscription price of $15.80, America At Large offers four-color artwork, photos, graphics, and two-column text set in clear fourteen-point type, which provides an attractiveness and readability previously unknown in large print periodicals.
Feature articles on popular subjects, personalities, health and fitness, travel, the environment, and topical social issues comprise the body of America At Large. Regular columns on bridge, cooking, gardening, book reviews, and horoscopes and two crossword puzzles also appear with occasional short stories and other original fiction.
As the sister publication of The Large Australian Magazine, America At Large will deliver a uniquely international flavor while remaining interesting and accessible to all.
The release of America At Large reflects the goal of Bolinda Press America, and its parent company Australian Large Print, to fill the need for good mid-range fiction and non-fiction in large print book publishing and to deliver quality materials for those who require or prefer large print.
For more information about America At Large or Bolinda Press America's large print books (a catalog for which is available in large print) please call 1-800-848-8810 or write to P.O. Box 14402, Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66215-0402.
Kerry Smith, Secretary of the Mississippi Triangle Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, has written to tell us of the formation of this new chapter. Gary Wunder, National Board Member and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, was present for the first meeting of the chapter. The following people were elected to office: President, Mike Floyd; Vice President, Daryel White; Secretary, Kerry Smith; Treasurer, Lori Mahoney; and Board Members Lyn Lundgren-Parks and Jack Bornmann.
We have been asked to print the following:
I have for sale a VersaBraille II from TSI, complete with battery charger/power supply, carrying case, Braille manuals and operating instructions, two disk drives, and Panasonic KXP1091 printer. In addition, I am selling several programs, including the Duxbury translator with Braille instructions. The unit is two years old, has had moderate use, and is in excellent working condition. I am asking $3,500 or best offer. Contact R.B. Gomez, 2017 55th Street, Sacramento, California 95817, or phone (916) 456-2735.
Jerry Vaughn, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee and president of the Reelfoot Chapter, reports that his chapter has recently been given a gift by the Wal-Mart Corporation, which has a program to encourage charitable giving among its employees. If they sponsor a fundraising event to benefit a non-profit organization, Wal-Mart will match the amount raised. If employees bring in $500.00, for example, Wal-Mart will add an additional $500.00. Jerry Vaughn learned about the program by talking with his Wal-Mart store manager. He suggests that other chapters may be able to raise significant amounts of money if chapter presidents will contact the managers of Wal-Mart Stores in their areas to ask about the Wal-Mart Matching Funds Fundraising Committee.
President Maurer recently received a letter requesting the assistance of the Federation in locating people to participate in scientific research relating to blindness. The letter was written by Professor Sharkey of the University of Hawaii. He mentions Tammy McFadden, who is the daughter of Nani Fife, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii. This research may be beneficial to blind people. Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Mr. Maurer:
I am a professor in the Department of Speech at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. I have been researching verbal and nonverbal communication behaviors of blind people for three years. My co-researcher, Tammy McFadden (second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii) and I are in the process of continuing this line of research. We are trying to locate a number of people who would like to participate in this study. Therefore, we are contacting as many schools and organizations associated with blindness as possible. We hope that with your help, we may be able to continue the research in the hope of bringing the sighted and blind communities closer together.
Our long-term goals are to provide verbal and nonverbal communication training programs for blind individuals and also to provide sensitization programs for sighted people. We are in the process of finding grants to help in providing compensation for our participants who volunteer. As of now, this project is in its infancy, and we are trying first to locate 40-50 legally blind people who have the following characteristics:
1. Light perception or less
2. Prelingually blind; i.e. blind before the age of two years
3. Native English speaker
4. Over the age of 16
Here is a broad description of what the participants can expect. The participants will be brought to a lab at a local University (to be established through connections at various Universities across the mainland), and each will be paired with another person. They will be asked to talk about any topic they wish for 15-20 minutes. This conversation will be videotaped. Each person will then, independently, be asked to answer questions from a questionnaire with the use of an audio cassette tape to record his or her answers. The total time required should be between one and two hours. All information and participation in this study is strictly confidential. Some form of monetary payment will be given for participating.
William F. Sharkey, Ph.D.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Anyone interested in participating in this study should contact Professor Sharkey at: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Speech, George Hall 326: 2560 Campus Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822; phone: (808) 956-3323.