Vol. 34, No.
11 December 1991
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page Address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the president,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the editor
should be sent to the National Office.
cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
by Kenneth Jernigan
A TASTE OF CHARLOTTE
by Hazel Staley
CONFESSIONS OF A SCHOLARSHIP WINNER
by Jennifer Lehman
NO GOOD FOR THE BLIND IN "GOOD AND EVIL"
by Barbara Pierce
REVIEWS AND REVIEWERS: THE WORLD IN MICROCOSM
by Barbara Pierce
DENIAL: A CRITICAL STEP ON THE ROAD TO EQUALITY
by Barbara Pierce
WHEN MONEY TALKS
by Barbara Pierce
AIRLINE DENIES SEAT TO DISABLED OFFICIAL
THE EVERYDAY USEFULNESS OF BRAILLE
by Lauren L. Eckery
FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO LEARN BRAILLE: NEW YORK FEDERATIONISTS
ENTER THE RING
HONEYBEE VENOM: A POSSIBLE CURE FOR ARTHRITIS?
by Ehab and Sabrina Yamini
A RESPONSE TO ARTICLES ON PIANO TUNING AND A CORRECTION
OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE
by Mary Wurtzel
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991
[2 LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTION: Our Federation family celebrates the
holiday season in many ways and in many places. In a Community
Outreach office window Frosty the Snowman (upper left) carries
his white cane proudly, and at the National Center for the Blind
in Baltimore Patricia Maurer reads a Christmas story to a group
of eager children (lower right). They are seated beside the
Christmas tree that graces our reception area each December.
Wherever you go this holiday season and however you celebrate it,
we wish you peace and joy in the coming year.]
by Kenneth Jernigan
The time has come to plan for the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. As Federationists know, the 1991 convention in New Orleans was a record-breaker. We had the largest attendance in our history, an outstanding program, exciting tours, and superb arrangements by the state affiliate. However, there is every prospect that Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1992 will be even better.
Let's begin with hotel and meeting arrangements. Our business sessions, banquet, and exhibits will be held in the Convention Center. The facilities are spacious and outstanding. Because of our growing numbers, we will require four hotels. One of them (the Radisson) is attached to the Convention Center by an overhead corridor. Another (the Marriott) is immediately across the street. The other two (the Holiday and the Adam's Mark) are close by. The Holiday Inn is two blocks from the Convention Center, and the Adam's Mark is four. Even though the distances are so short, we will have a bus shuttling twenty-four hours a day in a loop from the Holiday to the Adam's Mark to the Convention Center.
All of these hotels are definitely up-scale. Moreover, our rates are, as usual, the envy of all who know of them: singles, $30; doubles and twins, $35; triples, $38; and quads, $40. These rates are in addition to an occupancy tax, which is currently twelve percent (12%). There will be no charge for children who stay in the room with their parents if no extra bed is required. As we now plan it, there will not be a headquarters hotel as such. Rather, President Maurer will stay in one hotel; I will stay in another; and the headquarters of the affiliate will be in still another. Mostly division and committee meetings will not be held in the Convention Center but will be apportioned among the various hotels.
We are now ready to accept requests for hotel reservations. Do not write to the hotels. Even if one of the hotels should by mistake accept a request for a reservation and confirm it, this constitutes notice that such a confirmation will not be valid. Rather, requests for hotel reservations should be sent to: Convention 92, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Requests for reservations should be accompanied by a $40 deposit for each room requested. Payment may either be by check made payable to National Federation of the Blind or by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, or Discover). If a credit card is used, the deposit charge will be made immediately just as would be the case with a check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 15, 1992, $20 of the $40 deposit will be returned. Otherwise, refunds will not be made. Although we cannot guarantee that requests for a specific hotel can be honored, we will do the best we can to place those who have physical problems that impair mobility as close to meeting rooms as possible. I would remind those who wish to place credit card reservations by telephone or who want information concerning the convention that the phone number for the National Center for the Blind is: (410) 659-9314. We will tend to give preference in room placement to those who make reservations early, but we will probably not send written confirmation of reservations and name of hotel until sometime in the spring.
The first official convention activity will take place on Sunday, June 28, 1992. This will be the day for seminars for Job Opportunities for the Blind and parents and educators of blind children, as well as a meeting of the Merchants Division and other activities. The remainder of the convention looks something like this:
Monday, June 29: Registration, exhibits, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee, and various other committee and group meetings. Tuesday, June 30: Meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all); registration; exhibits; and meetings of divisions, groups, and committees. Wednesday, July 1: General convention sessions, morning and afternoon; registration and exhibits, prior to morning session and during the lunch break; and reception, dance, and committee meetings during evening. Thursday, July 2: General convention session, morning; registration and exhibits, prior to morning session and during afternoon; and tours, afternoon and evening; Friday, July 3: General convention sessions, morning and afternoon; registration and exhibits, prior to morning session and during lunch break; and banquet, evening. Saturday, July 4: General convention sessions, morning and afternoon; registration and exhibits, prior to morning session and during lunch break; and adjournment at 5:00 p.m.
This convention will be vintage Federation--interesting program items, exciting tours, plentiful door prizes, vital issues to be decided, and friendships to be made and renewed. Remember that door prizes should be contributed by individual Federationists and by state and local affiliates throughout the country. No prize should be worth less than $25 (cash is always acceptable). Either bring your prizes to convention or send them to: Mrs. Hazel Staley, 5310 Farm Pond Lane, Charlotte, North Carolina 28212; phone: (704) 536-4256. It will be helpful if door prizes are labeled in print and Braille, giving the estimated value of the prize and listing the donor.
When Mrs. Jernigan and I went to Charlotte last summer to finalize arrangements for the convention, we were greatly impressed not only by the physical facilities but also by the hospitality and friendliness of the people. As you make your plans for Charlotte in '92, add the following items to the mix: Food prices, both in the hotel and out, are noticeably cheaper than in any city where we have held a convention in recent years. This will also apply to the cost of the banquet--again less than we have experienced in quite some time. I like good restaurants, and I found one of the finest in the nation in Charlotte. Hazel Staley, president of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, and the other North Carolinians are making exciting plans for next summer. This will be the first time an NFB convention has ever been held in North Carolina or the immediately surrounding area, and attendance figures will probably break all records.
South Carolina (the state immediately to the south) will be coming en masse, as will Virginia (the state immediately to the north). Then, there is Maryland. We intend to make a serious effort to bring home the attendance banner, as do a number of other states--Louisiana, for instance. However, do not rule out the states of the far and middle west. 1992 may well be the year when we pass the 3,000 mark in registered attendance.
The convention program has not yet been finalized, but it should be comparable to the one we had in New Orleans. You will remember that we had the chairman of one of the two major political parties, a cabinet member, a United States senator, top federal and state officials, a first-rate panel of employed blind persons, leading figures from the media, and a challenging array of resolutions and discussions. Charlotte in '92 will be the place to renew acquaintances and make new friends, get information on the latest developments in the blindness field, and have an important voice in determining what the future will be like for those of us who are blind.
For more information about Charlotte and North Carolina, read Hazel Staley's article printed elsewhere in this issue of the Monitor. When I talked with her today, Hazel said that she would be giving details about tours and other convention matters in the coming months. Meanwhile, let's all think Charlotte in '92.
[PHOTO: Semi aerial photo of Charlotte Convention Center with downtown skyscrapers in background. CAPTION: The Charlotte, North Carolina, Convention Center, site of the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, is pictured here at twilight.]
by Hazel Staley
Is the year for you
And the NFB
To meet in Charlotte, N.C.
This little rhyme was given to me by one of our members who asked me to include it in my message to you as his personal welcome. Indeed, we are all excited and delighted about hosting our 1992 convention. Many of you have told me that you have never been to North Carolina; so I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about our state, particularly Charlotte, since this is where you will be coming.
Charlotte is located in the Piedmont region of the state, approximately twenty miles north of the South Carolina line. It is approximately two hours east of the Appalachian Mountains and three and a half hours west of the Atlantic Ocean. New York City is approximately 600 miles to the northeast, and Atlanta about 250 miles to the southwest. Charlotte is 765 feet above sea level and enjoys a truly moderate climate. Severe cold weather is rare due in part to the sheltering effect of the mountains to the west. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of forty-two degrees. Snow is light and infrequent, occurring from December through March. Summers in Charlotte are comfortably warm. July averages seventy-nine degrees. The frost-free season averages 230 days from mid-March to mid-November. Our average annual rainfall is forty-three inches.
Charlotte covers 176 miles of the 530 square miles of Mecklenburg County. In 1991 the population of the metro/suburban area was approximately 500,000, making this the largest city in North Carolina. More than 5.2 million people live within a 100- mile radius of Charlotte. By comparison Atlanta's population within a similar radius is 5.1 million, Miami 4 million.
Charlotte is served by an excellent state and federal highway network, including major north-south and east-west interstate arteries and a modern expanded international airport. Seven major airlines serve Charlotte, offering direct and nonstop flights daily to 130 cities. More than 7.8 million passengers board planes at Charlotte Douglas International Airport annually, ranking Charlotte as the twenty-fourth largest air transportation center in the nation. Over half the population of the United States can be reached from Charlotte in a two-hour flight time.
Rail service is also a vital part of Charlotte's transportation mix. More than 275 trains pass through Charlotte each week, including Norfolk Southern and Amtrak.
As the largest school system in the Carolinas and the twenty-ninth largest in the nation, the consolidated Charlotte/Mecklenburg system serves 77,000 students. The system operates 104 schools, including grades kindergarten through twelve. There are 72 elementary, 16 junior high, 5 middle, and 11 senior high schools, all of which are fully accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. Almost seventy-five percent of the students finishing public school continue their education.
Fifty thousand college students are enrolled in the 18 colleges and universities located within the metro/suburban area. A consortium of ten colleges and universities exchange faculty and course credits in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Charlotte is a national leader in teacher incentives and discipline programs.
Charlotte has approximately 400 Christian churches, including Protestant, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox, plus Jewish and other faiths.
Watch for more "Taste of Charlotte" later.
Now for a few quick, interesting facts about North Carolina:
Population (1990 Census): 6,628,637
Area: 52,700 square miles (The state is longest from east to west, approximately 700 miles.)
Largest City: Charlotte
Name Origin: From Latin Carolus in honor of King Charles I of England
Nickname: Tar Heel State
Motto: "Esse quam videre" ("To be rather than to seem")
by Jennifer Lehman
From the Associate Editor: The National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin this year implemented an idea which several other state affiliates have used successfully for some time: They decided to present their state scholarship winner this fall not only with an academic scholarship and one to the state convention but also one to the National Convention in New Orleans. As Bonnie Peterson, the affiliate president, said, "Introducing a winner to the state convention is exposing him or her to less than one fiftieth of what the Federation is." Bonnie is absolutely right, and the investment the Wisconsin affiliate has made this year would seem to have been an excellent one.
Jennifer Lehman is a sophomore at St. Norbert College, majoring in communications. She reminds us all over again just what the impact of the National Convention is on people who are experiencing it for the first time. If you are toying with the idea of attending the NFB convention for the first time or if you know someone who is doing so, read this article, and consider that this same expansion of the world and deepening of self- confidence is available to everyone who attends our conventions and dives into the activities and the opportunities available. Here is the story of what happened to one young woman as first printed in the Fall, 1991, issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle, the publication of the NFB of Wisconsin:
As I stepped from the oppressively humid jetway into the startling coolness of the New Orleans airport, I felt the apprehension I had been fighting to control begin to overwhelm me. Flying alone for the first time, I had just arrived in an unfamiliar city to spend a week attending a convention of a group about which I knew almost nothing. Lurking beneath my apprehension, however, was a spark of excitement. I realized that this trip could be a challenging and fun adventure. I could not have known then how much I would learn and what an exciting and unforgettable experience the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind would be.
Prior to this convention my contact with other blind people had been limited. I was the first blind student to enter the Watertown public school system and am presently the only one at St. Norbert College. Apart from my younger sister, many of the blind people I had met seemed to exemplify the stereotypic image of blindness. They seemed totally dependent upon others to meet all of their needs. I was not anxious to spend a week surrounded by such people. I felt that there were no other blind people like my sister and me--people who thought of their blindness, not as a handicap or an insurmountable hurdle, but as something which, though sometimes a nuisance, did not have to keep them from doing what they wanted to do with their lives.
Soon after arriving at the convention, I discovered, to my relief, that I had been wrong. The ideas about blindness which I had thought were unique to me and my sister were actually part of the philosophy of the NFB. I was among people whose attitudes and accomplishments I admired and who reached out and made me feel that I was a part of their huge family. The sense of community I felt was one of the most positive aspects of the convention for me.
Another positive aspect was the chance to learn more about the NFB. Before this trip I knew almost nothing about the group. I had heard some mixed reports. For instance, I had heard that it was somewhat radical, especially in its fight for exit row seating on airplanes. I had also heard that it worked hard to promote the teaching of Braille, something which I very much support. Through conversations with members and many excellent speeches, I learned a great deal about the philosophy and actions of the National Federation of the Blind. I found that I agree with much of this philosophy. I plan to become an active member and may even work to start a student division in Wisconsin.
The convention taught me as much about myself as it did about the NFB. I have always considered myself fairly independent, but this convention taught me to be even more so as an improved cane traveler. Walking with so many other people who were also using canes, I gained new skills as well as more of the confidence I needed to help me travel better. As I relaxed and opened up to people, I also gained much-needed self-confidence. I hope that the positive effects this convention had on my self- image will last a lifetime.
Attending the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind is an event I will never forget. I am extremely grateful to the members of the scholarship committee and all those who worked to make this experience possible for me. By winning the Wisconsin NFB scholarship, I received more than just the money to help pay for my tuition. I gained confidence, knowledge, friends, and memories which I will cherish forever.
[PHOTO: NFB of Minnesota members picket outside of ABC affiliate in St. Paul. CAPTION: September 25, 1991, was the date of the fall premier of the ABC television program "Good and Evil." The organized blind of Minnesota made certain that ABC and the public understood what blind people thought of the character George. This picture of three members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota first appeared in the September 26 St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press story, which was picked up by the wire services and reprinted across the country.]
[PHOTO: NFB members picket outside of ABC in New York City. CAPTION: The National Federation of the Blind announced in late September that members would picket the headquarters of ABC television for two hours every Wednesday afternoon until "Good and Evil" was removed from the air. It took four weeks of walking, chanting, and carrying signs to break ABC executives' will.]
[PHOTO: NFB members picket outside of ABC in New York City. CAPTION: Federationists from up and down the East Coast converged on New York City week after week to chant their message: "One, two, three, four, Good and Evil out the door. Five, six, seven, eight, nine, George is an insult to the blind."
by Barbara Pierce
It was a battle about "Good and Evil," and between good and evil--and the good prevailed. But the battle would not have been won--and, for that matter, would not ever have commenced--had it not been for the coordinated, nationwide effort of the National Federation of the Blind. In the end the victory was complete, and the show of strength was such that neither friend nor foe will forget it. In fact, the threatened disaster was converted into a vehicle for unprecedented opportunity.
On September 25, 1991, people in an estimated nine point three million homes sat in their living rooms watching a blind character on an eagerly-awaited new prime-time situation comedy called "Good and Evil." The writer was Susan Harris, creator of the hugely successful programs "Soap," "Golden Girls," and "Empty Nest." The blind character George was played by Mark Blankfield, and the portrayal made fun of blind people and our alternative techniques. He shared billing on the program with the stars Teri Garr and Margaret Whitton. George made his entrance the first week halfway through the show by sweeping laboratory glassware off every surface he could reach with his wildly flailing cane. In the following four and a half minutes he staggered up a staircase and around the lab looking for his lady love (mostly in the wrong direction), made a pass at a hanging coat and struck himself with the coat rack, groped across the body of another male character until even he was irrefutably persuaded of his masculinity, and choked himself on his cane as he stumbled out the door. In subsequent weekly appearances George continued to break any glass in his vicinity and fall up or down every available set of stairs. In addition he created a number of embarrassing situations by failing to recognize that silent people were present or notice when other characters left the room.
In short, every tired old saw about the oblivious, socially inept, clumsy blind person was hauled out and played for all it was worth. From the first preview of the "Good and Evil" pilot, which Federationists saw last summer, we protested in the strongest terms to ABC's Entertainment and Broadcast Standards departments. Our complaints were met with the statement that all the characters on "Good and Evil" were drawn broadly and intended to be parodies of real people. In effect we were asked where our sense of humor was. In letters to those who complained about George to ABC and in press releases and interviews, network officials repeatedly said that, if George had been meant to be a true-to-life character, such a portrayal would have been in poor taste. But no one could possibly miss the parody element, so there was no reason to modify the character or remove him from the script. Here are the exact words of the argument as they appeared in letters written by Chris Hikawa, Vice President for Broadcast Standards, and received by thousands of Federationists:
"George is (and was, prior to his blindness) a klutz, despite his numerous and significant academic and professional achievements. If this series were in any way realistic, we would agree with you that a comedic portrayal of a clumsy blind person might be in questionable taste. However, the series, `Good and Evil' is an exaggerated parody of life with the most outrageous caricatures imaginable. Not one character in this program is realistic or believable. Each is a parody of the most extreme qualities of the values represented by the title `Good and Evil.'"
That was the position ABC maintained from the beginning, and one is struck by its shallowness and naivety. Although the National Federation of the Blind has succeeded in educating many members of the public enough for them to admit that blind people (in theory at least) can be capable citizens if given the chance, there is still a large residue of unconscious prejudice in most people that would cause them to identify a character like George as a more or less accurate extension of a normal blind person trying to cope ineffectually with the sighted world. ABC's concept of George as parody would never even enter the equation. The presence of an incompetent blind person slashing and smashing his way through the program would necessarily give people emotional permission to abandon their newly-learned and difficult-to-accept notion of the blind as equal partners. Moreover, the most devastatingly cruel form of humor at someone else's expense is surely that in which the object of the joke is also its unwitting perpetrator. In every episode George invited laughter at himself by his antics, his stupidity, and his comments. Absurd as every blind person knows his behavior to have been, his actions assumed a semblance of reality just because they were being performed by the blind character. There is a degree less cruelty in wisecracks made by other characters about or to the one being laughed at. Archie Bunker made fun of all kinds of people in the program "All in the Family." Even those who shared Archie's world view understood that part of the joke was his lack of tact and taste, and Archie was usually shown to be wrong in his opinions. The result was that, although everyone was invited to laugh at the jokes, no one was being asked to accept Archie's point of view.
When "Good and Evil" burst on the fall schedule, the National Federation of the Blind mobilized an astonishing range of blind people and their friends and family members. They immediately understood the depth of the insult and the seriousness of the danger to blind people if George were allowed to grope and stumble his way through a weekly sitcom. Federationists wrote thousands of letters to various ABC and Touchstone Productions executives and to the program sponsors. Many people turned to the telephone to lodge their protests. In fact, on Monday, September 23, for about a half hour we flooded ABC Television's New York switchboard with calls to urge the network to withdraw the season premiere of the program.
Participants in the U.S./Canada Conference on Technology, which took place at the National Center for the Blind September 19 to 21, sent a telegram to ABC registering their disapprobation. Here is the text of the message and the signatures of those who sent it:
September 20, 1991
Mr. Robert Iger, President
Los Angeles, California
The undersigned leaders of organizations of the blind, service providers for the blind, and manufacturers of technology for the blind in the U.S. and Canada today viewed a scene involving the blind character George from the new ABC program "Good and Evil." By this telegram we strongly request ABC not to broadcast this program either as a pilot or as a series. It reinforces negative attitudes about blindness and holds blind persons up to ridicule. It demeans, humiliates, and does great damage to much of the positive work done during the last half century. To air this program violates the good taste and fairness which ABC usually promotes.
Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind
Euclid Herie, President and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Susan Spungin, Associate Executive Director for Program Services
American Foundation for the Blind
New York, New York
William Weiner, President
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind
and Visually Impaired
David Andrews, Director
International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind
Deane Blazie, President
James C. Bliss, President
Mountain View, California
Barbara Bowman, Vice President
Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually
Nell Carney, Commissioner
Rehabilitation Services Administration
Curtis Chong, Chairman
Minnesota Council for the Blind
Tim Cranmer, Director of Public Relations
National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB)
Frank Kurt Cylke
Great Falls, Virginia
North Miami, Florida
Jim Fruchterman, President
Don Garner, Director
Blind Rehabilitation Services
James C. Halliday, President
Ted Henter, President
St. Petersburg, Florida
David Holladay, President
Raised Dot Computing
Raymond Kurzweil, Chairman
Kurzweil Reading Machine Division
William E. McLaughlin, Deputy Director
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Rachel Rosenbaum, Vice President
National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind
Mohymen Saddeek, President
Technology for Independence, Inc.
Elliot Schreier, Director
National Technology Center
American Foundation for the Blind
New York, New York
R. Creig Slayton, President
National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, Inc.
Des Moines, Iowa
Graham Stoodley, Chairman
National Client Service Committee
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Suzanne Swaffield, President
Association of State Educational Consultants for the Visually
Columbia, South Carolina
Tuck Tinsley, President
American Printing House for the Blind
The greatest fear that blind people and their friends had was that because of the public's inability to recognize the absurdity of George's behavior, the stereotypical clumsiness and obliviousness to actual events around him which George exhibited would compound the problems blind people already have in employment and social interactions. As more than one indignant correspondent inquired of ABC executives, "What do you suppose the chances would have been for a blind job applicant wanting work in a research facility the morning after George smashed his way around the lab in the first episode of `Good and Evil?' If the employer had seen the show, none at all."
Almost equally disturbing to thoughtful blind viewers was the response to George of the other characters on the program. No one ever got mad at him for smashing everything in sight. Genn, the good sister and the woman with whom George was enamored, never once told him to go jump in the lake despite his inappropriate behavior. On a show memorable for the rudeness, cruelty, and selfishness of most of the characters, everyone was the soul of tact and patience with George. They were united in nothing but their belief that George was not a responsible adult, capable of hearing hard truths.
It is just barely possible that a little of the rough and tumble of real life on a sitcom for George might actually have carried a whiff of humor. But the most demeaning part of this hands-off behavior was the unstated, but graphically portrayed conviction that George was absolutely not an acceptable candidate as a romantic partner. At one point George was wandering around the lab, trying to find Genn as he poured out his love to her. She remained silent, almost cringing from the very thought of physical contact with him. Then Eric, the man whom she loved and her sister was blackmailing into marriage, walked in, and she sheltered in his arms. The message was clear: Genn would not say an unkind word to or about George, but, guilty though she felt over it, she wanted nothing to do with this repellent and pathetic creature.
As the outcry against George began to gather, ABC sent out the program's co-stars, Teri Garr and Margaret Whitton, to make the talk-show circuit, defending "Good and Evil" in general and George in particular. If ABC executives believed that these two women could strengthen their hand, they were gravely mistaken. From the beginning they had recognized that their only possible defense of George was that, like all the other characters on the program, George was a parody and that no one could take him seriously. In fact, if George were meant to be true-to-life, the character would be in very bad taste. With this in mind, here is the transcript of the relevant portion of an interview with Teri Garr and Margaret Whitton on the CNN program, "Sonya Live" for October 2. The interview was rebroadcast later the same day on the CNN program "Showbiz Today." Here are Garr and Whitton's remarks:
GARR: He is handicapped
and yet functioning like a completely normal...
WHITTON: Yeah. He's a psychiatrist.
GARR: He's a brilliant psychiatrist. He has this great sex life. He does all these things. He, he breaks things a couple of times so that's the reality of someone who's blind...
WHITTON: I break things.
GARR: ...and he's completely...
WHITTON: ...very independent...
GARR: And I think that maybe showing somebody that is handicapped but functions very well and goes on with their life is a good thing.
There you have the Garr-Whitton interview, and setting aside the vapid silliness of the responses, one is struck by the inconsistency of their defense of George. He is a brilliant psychiatrist (in some interviews he is a psychologist). But the only evidence we have of George's technique is his jumping out at passers-by in an effort to frighten Genn's mute teenage daughter into speaking. If George was ever a talented counselor or physician, becoming blind has stripped him of all semblance of good sense and professional technique.
George has a normal sex life, according to Teri Garr. The programmatic evidence we have about this statement is that Genn is repelled by the idea of physical contact with him. His wife and her lover, apparently convinced that George won't be any the wiser, are content to occupy his bed while he is there. Most disturbing of all, George is incapable of recognizing that the hand fumbling around in his front trousers pocket belongs to the laboratory chimpanzee and not to Genn, who is talking to him simultaneously from across the room.
Garr and Whitton completed their defense of George by declaring that the reality of blindness is that people break things and that George exhibits independence. They would have done better to characterize George as an animated glass- shattering machine, bearing no similarity to real blind people and demonstrating an absurd degree of dependence. That, after all, was the ABC line, but instead the stars' actual views about blindness and blind people popped out of their mouths--George's behavior is all you can expect of a blind person; and all things considered, he does pretty well, for a blind man. That assessment is what the National Federation of the Blind has fought for fifty years to eradicate. It is no wonder, therefore, that the organized blind movement rose up in dismayed fury to protest George and all he stood for.
Beginning in August, thousands of letters poured into the offices of everyone who might carry enough influence to remove George from the program or the program from the air. The tidal wave was not an attempt at censorship as some have claimed; we had no power to impose our views except the strength of our outrage at this attempt to undo the progress we have made in educating the public about the abilities of blind people. It was rather a sustained, coordinated effort to mobilize public opinion in opposition to what we perceived as a dangerous attack on blind people. Here are three of the thousands of letters we sent:
August 12, 1991
Robert Iger, President
Los Angeles, California
Dear Mr. Iger:
I have just seen a clip from a show which you have in the works called "Good and Evil." Its portrayal of a blind scientist, in addition to being humorless, does more damage than its creators comprehend.
Do you know that the unemployment rate for the blind is more than seventy percent? Are you aware that blind men and women have had their children taken from them for no other reason than that they are blind parents? How would you feel if, while ordering in a restaurant with your 8-year-old daughter, the waitress asked her, "What will he have?"
I doubt that you find these things funny. If you are like most people, you have no true idea of what it is like to be a blind person in today's world. You close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to be blind, and you are completely wrong about it. It is both better and worse than you can imagine.
How can it be better than you imagine? In spite of the astronomical unemployment rate, there are competent blind men and women in almost any field you can name. They live independently and travel to and from work without assistance. They go out to dinner and entertain guests in their homes. In short, the blind are capable of doing almost anything that the sighted can do. The character in this show is an affront to those successful blind men and women. And he is a weight around the necks of blind men and women who aspire to more than disability insurance and days without purpose.
How can it be worse than you imagine? If you want to be a literate blind person in today's world, you will have to fight for your literacy. Schools do not want to teach Braille because their instructors often are not competent themselves. And you will have to fight for training and employment because employers cannot imagine how you could even get to work, much less do a job for them. Most of all, you will have to fight to keep yourself from believing that you are subhuman and incompetent because that is the image that society paints of the blind. This is the image of the blind presented in "Good and Evil."
Through the National Federation of the Blind, I have met thousands of blind people. I have never met one who goes about feeling people's faces or mistaking a coat-rack for a woman. I have, however, met many sighted people who believe that the blind do exactly that. And where do these mistaken people get their notions? Why, from those well-meaning folks who make television shows and movies. It has to stop, and you are in a position to stop it. Beyond that, I believe you may be in a position to do something positive for blind people in America.
Dana Elcar, Pete Thornton on the "MacGyver" series, has become blind due to glaucoma. He is learning to deal with his blindness in the real world. He was afraid, as anyone would be, that an important part of his life was over. But he is learning that with proper training his life can go on as it did before. His character could be doing the same. A television show that follows Mr. Elcar, as Pete Thornton, through the training necessary to function in a sighted world would make for riveting television. Personally, I'd like to see a story in which Pete Thornton, using the techniques of blindness, gets out of a jam that has MacGyver baffled. It would also go a long way toward changing the prevalent hopeless image of the blind in society.
So it seems that the title of your show, "Good and Evil," is also the theme of this letter. Please let me know which side wins.
Joseph J. Miller, Jr.
cc: Garth Ancier, President
Ed Cintron, Manager
American Broadcasting Company
Marcellus Alexander, General Manager
WJZ Television, Channel 13
One of the first people to learn about "Good and Evil" was Bonnie Peterson, President of the NFB of Wisconsin. She saw a videotape of the show in July and raised the alarm immediately. She also wrote forthrightly to ABC executives. Here is what she said:
July 28, 1991
Mr. Ed Cintron, Manager
American Broadcasting Corp.
New York, New York
Dear Mr. Cintron:
I have received a copy of the program entitled "Good & Evil," that ABC is planning to air Wednesday evenings this fall. I have viewed the pilot in its entirety and would like to offer my comments and suggestions regarding the demeaning way blind people are portrayed in it.
"Good & Evil" has a character named George who happens to be blind. George walks into a laboratory smashing glass bottles and equipment. He tries unsuccessfully to find Genn, saying, "I had to see you," which makes voices on a laugh track laugh. George speaks to a coat rack, mistaking it for Genn and saying, "We blind develop such keenness with our other senses to compensate." Eric enters. George places his hands on Eric, who stands submissively. George exclaims that his senses tell him Eric is a "woman with classic features" and a flat chest. Then he apparently touches Eric's genitals (the camera does not follow his hands), at which point he discovers Eric is a man. George departs, again smashing glass and equipment with his cane.
This is a synopsis of the four-minute segment depicting blindness through the character of George. I am a blind woman and member of the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of the blind in the nation, with a membership of over 50,000. I find the exhibition of blindness on "Good & Evil" insulting and demeaning and a complete misrepresentation of the blind and blindness.
Blind people do use the words "I had to see you," "See you later," or other phrases utilizing words of a visual nature without being met with gales of laughter. We "watch" TV, and now I will "see" if I can explain to you my distress with ABC's depiction of blind people as ignorant, inept buffoons.
I do not walk into rooms smashing and breaking things with my cane. I do not caress, kiss, or talk to coat racks thinking they are people. I do not violate the personal space of others or touch people in the manner demonstrated on "Good & Evil" to find out who or what they are. None of it is accurate. None of it is funny. None of it is fair to the blind of this country.
The real problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. Your program, "Good & Evil," displays a great deal of misunderstanding about the blind and demonstrates that ABC has an immense lack of information about blindness.
I am enclosing information about the National Federation of the Blind. I recommend that you contact the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Mr. Marc Maurer, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, Maryland, 21230, (301) 659-9314, to learn more about blindness and the blind. Until that time, I will work to have our local ABC affiliate and the sponsors of "Good & Evil" cancel their support of this program.
I'm certain that this situation can be easily resolved. I do thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.
President, NFB of Wisconsin
cc: Marc Maurer
That is what Bonnie Peterson had to say, and it was probably the first letter that ABC executives received, but not the last.
Duane Gerstenberger is the Associate Executive Director of the Federation. During the last several months he has written many letters on the subject of "Good and Evil." Here is one of the most penetrating:
September 6, 1991
Ms. Christine Hikawa
Broadcast Standards & Practices
Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.
New York, New York
Dear Ms. Hikawa:
I have your letter of August 22, 1991, received in response to my letter of August 14, 1991, to Mr. Robert Iger, President, ABC Entertainment, regarding the pilot program for the new ABC series "Good and Evil" (which apparently will be shown at 10:30 P.M. Eastern Time on Wednesday, September 25). I understand from your letter that ABC Entertainment intends to broadcast this entire program as it now exists despite my suggestion to withhold distribution or at least remove one scene involving a blind character. I write to encourage you to reconsider your decision.
In your letter you tell me that it is the responsibility of the Department of Broadcast Standards to review "all program and commercial material prior to broadcast to ensure that ABC standards and policies are satisfied. In addition to the elimination of gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality, our concerns extend to issues of balance and accuracy, moral tone, and the elimination of negative stereotypes." In the succeeding paragraph you defend and condone the portrayal of blindness in "Good and Evil" by telling me to understand the blind character (George) in the context of the form, theme, tone, and action of the entire program. You say: "However, the series, `Good and Evil' is an exaggerated parody of life with the most outrageous caricatures imaginable. Not one character in this program is realistic or believable. Each is a parody of the most extreme qualities of the values represented by the title `Good and Evil.'" Yet you precede this admonition to consider and understand George in context with this utterly preposterous out- of-context description: "George is (and was, prior to his blindness) a klutz, despite his numerous and significant academic achievements." There is absolutely nothing in this program that suggests, let alone confirms, your description of George. (This is television--not live theater where the audience has a playbill introducing the characters and providing background and context for the action.) Nothing in the opening or closing credits, nothing in any scene prior to or following the scene involving George, nothing in the objectionable scene itself, explicitly or even remotely implicitly, conveys such an understanding of George. How can the viewer possibly know that he was "prior to his blindness" a klutz? The exceedingly brief shot of the actor who plays George in the opening credits perhaps suggests that George is a bit immature or goofy or silly but does not provide the knowledge you apparently have about George. Where, Ms. Hikawa, can the viewer learn of George's "numerous and significant academic achievements"? Are we to tell by his dress? Are we to tell by his speech? Are we to tell by his conduct? Are we to tell by his friends and acquaintances? When he enters, George is unknown to the viewer. No other character refers to him or speaks of him prior to his entrance or after his exit; he plays absolutely no part in the narrative of the program beyond the one scene in which he appears. What the viewer knows about George is available only from the very limited context of the opening credits and what we learn about him during his scene.
One fact we do have seems to me inconsistent with your description of George. In your letter you note that George "has recently been blinded." Ms. Hikawa, George himself tells us he's been blind for over a year: "Oh Genn, I've loved you for over a year now. Ever since you saved my life. I remember it was the day of the accident. I lay there blind, but I was happy because I knew that you existed in the world." Granted, there is no universal, definite, or specific meaning for the word recently. However, in the context of an individual's life--especially a relatively young person--I believe most of us do not regard something that happened more than a year before as recent. So in George we are not watching a character who is struggling with the initial fears and problems that confront a newly blinded person, but rather watching a man who has had some opportunities to adjust to his situation. Yet we see nothing more than a bungling idiot.
However, whether George's blindness will be understood in the context as you describe it or the context as I interpret it is not the critical issue. The real problem about George is the assumption about blindness that you very clearly state in your letter: "Rather, this clown-like performance is that of a klutz whose antics are exacerbated by his unfortunate handicap."
Ms. Hikawa, I wish that at least part of what you presume about viewers' reactions to George could be counted on as true; that is "that the broad caricature depicted in this program will [not] be perceived by others as representative of any actual blind persons." If this presumption can be counted on, then one wonders why George was conceived of as blind. Do you believe the creator/writer just happened to pick a blind person to exhibit such behavior? No, I believe that millions of viewers will--as do you and the creators of George and "Good and Evil"--perceive that this performance is that of a person "whose antics are exacerbated by his unfortunate handicap." (Emphasis added) And it is that which troubles me. Blindness itself does not exacerbate klutziness, femininity, deceptiveness, honesty, sexuality, or any of hundreds of other characteristics and personality traits. My experience--my recent experience--my experience of today--refutes your perception. And the daily experience of thousands of blind persons refutes it; but the public perception (misperception) of blindness as an exacerbating handicap will be confirmed by this portrayal.
Allow me to share with you one recent personal experience which illustrates my point. On Thursday evening, August 1, 1991, I accompanied Mr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, to Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport to meet someone on an arriving flight. Mr. Maurer and I are both white males in our early forties. We are of similar size and stature. We were both dressed in dark suits and ties. He is blind, and I am sighted. As we approached airport security on our way to the gate, we stopped before entering the walk-through metal detector to unload our pockets of various metal objects. While we were doing so, a female security guard noticed Mr. Maurer's long white cane and said to me: "Is his cane metal?" Why do you suppose she addressed the question to me rather than to Mr. Maurer? It was his cane; he carries it several hours every day. I expect she asked me for two reasons. First, because she couldn't achieve eye contact with Mr. Maurer, she felt more comfortable speaking to me. But additionally, I think there was an underlying assumption on her part that I, sighted, would be more apt to know than Mr. Maurer, blind, what his cane is made of. If this woman watches the pilot of "Good and Evil," do you think she will reach the conclusions about George and his blindness that you suggest?
Ms. Hikawa, blind persons encounter the kind of misunderstanding shown by this BWI security guard day in and day out. In the experience I observed with Mr. Maurer, of course, no real damage was done. He did not take offense at being ignored. He did not demand that she address him; he simply responded to the question saying that there is some metal on it and that he would walk through without it. Likewise, a visitor to Mr. Maurer's office who--without the slightest hint that he needs assistance--takes Mr. Maurer's arm to guide him around his own office does so not to offend or patronize. The proffered assistance is well-intended and rooted in lack of personal experience and lack of understanding. However, if this person watches "Good and Evil," do you think he or she will reach the conclusions about George and his blindness that you suggest?
When a blind person goes to apply for a job and is asked during the interview how he or she will find the bathroom (which does happen), more than a simple, harmless misunderstanding occurs. If the interviewer regards locating the bathroom by a blind person as either a) difficult or b) critical or c) any of his or her business, this is a perception which makes it exceedingly difficult for the blind job applicant to get that job. It is no exaggeration and no misstatement of fact to tell you that the portrayal of blindness in "Good and Evil" will make it more difficult for individual blind people to get jobs, to travel freely on public transportation, and to enjoy many of the other vocational, educational, recreational, and incidental opportunities so many of us who are sighted take for granted.
Let me point out again (as I did in my first letter) the subtle and more vicious commentary about blind persons made by the portrayal of George and ask you to consider the inconsistency of your statement "Each [character] is a parody of the most extreme qualities of the values represented by the title `Good and Evil'" with the words and actions of the characters taken as a whole from start to finish. Each of the ten characters in the ensemble cast, except George, does act from unmistakably clear motives of good or evil. George, however, just reacts. Which of the "extreme qualities of the values" good or evil does George represent?
The teaser for the second program in this series, which follows the credits for this first program, reflects an unstated but unmistakable amorality on the part of George as does the whole program itself. Through him the viewer learns or has confirmed the belief that blind persons are incapable of behaving with either good or evil intent; their actions are inept and clumsy but are not derived from either high-minded altruism or venomous villainy. No, blind persons are so removed from the mainstream of life--they are so emasculated by their blindness-- their "unfortunate handicap"--that they can only stand by and react emotionally to the actions of those around them. This teaser includes seven exceedingly brief clips with an announcer's interrogatory comments about each major character shown in the clip. Six of the seven deal with characters' actions or motives; the announcer labels these actions or motives good or evil by his comments. However, the clip focusing on George deals, not with his actions or motives, but with his feelings in response to someone else's actions: "And how good will George feel if she [Genn] can't?" Poor, pathetic George. Not good. Not evil. Just responding to life as others live it. Again, Ms. Hikawa, do you believe the passivity is coincidentally assigned to George by the creator/writer? Or is the viewer expected to know that George is (and was, prior to his blindness) a passive, co-dependent personality?
You say ABC Television Network "has always been, and remains sensitive to, the concerns of and issues facing ethnic and religious minorities as well as other special interest groups, including the physically challenged." It is one thing to remain sensitive to concerns and issues but another to take actions in response to sensitivities and concerns expressed by representatives of a minority group. And that is precisely what ABC has done in this instance--remained sensitive but done nothing. Sensitivity without action is essentially meaningless to the individual or individuals who are the recipients--no, victims--of such sensitivity. Sensitivity without constructive action is really indifference. Ms. Hikawa, do you and your colleagues actually believe that you eliminate negative stereotypes from your programming by sanctioning an "exaggerated parody of life with the most outrageous caricatures imaginable"?
Since 1940 the National Federation of the Blind has been dealing with the real problems and issues confronting blind persons. The hundreds of thousands of men and women--the vast majority of them blind persons--who have been a part of our organization throughout these fifty years know what blindness is and what it isn't; we talk about it, we write about it, we think about it seriously. We know both the real problems of blindness and the imagined problems the public mistakenly associates with blindness. The portrayal of blindness rendered in "Good and Evil" is insensitive to the blind; it reinforces negative stereotypes about the blind.
We have no interest in a public confrontation with ABC about "Good and Evil." We have no interest in causing ABC public embarrassment about this matter. As soon as we became aware of this program and had the opportunity to view and evaluate it thoroughly and carefully, we immediately (by my letter of August 14 to Mr. Iger sent by Federal Express) informed ABC television and your Baltimore affiliate of our concerns and suggested what we believed would be appropriate action on your part. We do not regard your letter of August 22 as appropriate action.
I repeat what I said in my earlier letter to Mr. Iger: broadcasting this program would be a malicious, informed act. Removing this program from your schedule (or at least deleting the scene involving George) would be in the best interest of blind persons. It would also be fair and right. This letter should be regarded as a formal, official request by the National Federation of the Blind to take one of these two actions.
Very truly yours,
Associate Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind
P.S. You may be interested to know that a reporter from a major weekly news magazine called Mr. Maurer on Monday, August 16, inquiring about our reaction to the blind character in "Good and Evil." I believe no one within our organization initiated contact with this magazine. Do you believe this reporter called from idle curiosity, or because he thought we might have a reason to react to the portrayal of blindness in this program? If the latter is the case, does it not suggest that at least one other person questioned the appropriateness of this characterization of blindness?
cc: John Sias, President
ABC Television Network
Mr. Robert Iger, President
Mr. Ed Cintron, Manager
American Broadcasting Company
Mr. Garth Ancier, President
Mr. Marcellus Alexander, General Manager
WJZ Television/Channel 13
Ms. Phyllis Shelton-Reese
WJZ TV/Channel 13
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind
Mr. Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
There you have a sample of the letters that poured into ABC from every corner of the country, and in case network executives failed to get the message, Federationists deluged the New York switchboard for about a half hour on September 23 with calls urging and demanding that "Good and Evil" not air on the twenty- fifth. It was clear to everyone, however, that the show would go on, so NFB members began gearing up for the next level of protest.
The NFB of Minnesota mobilized itself in time to conduct a demonstration outside the local ABC affiliate in St. Paul on Wednesday afternoon, September 25, the day of the show's premiere. Harold Crump, the station's General Manager and President, came out to the picket line with coffee and doughnuts in an effort to defuse the demonstration, but Federationists told him politely that they had work to do and kept on marching. This is the story that appeared in the St.Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press on Thursday, September 26:
Blind Group Complains About TV Show Character
by Lydia Villalva Lijo
George is meant to be a funny character on the new television show "Good & Evil." But some blind people, including a group in the Twin Cities, believe the clumsy blind character is getting all the wrong kinds of laughs.
"No, we don't have a sense of humor when it comes to putting us down," said Joyce Scanlan, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Scanlan and about 25 others demonstrated Wednesday evening in front of KSTP-TV on University Avenue in St. Paul.
Scanlan said blind people and those sympathetic to them don't like George because he reinforces old notions about the blind--that they cannot tell when someone else is in a room and that they are bumbling and incompetent.
Those stereotypes lead sighted people to make fun of the blind, to discriminate against them in the work place and to ignore their need for training in reading, employment and everyday life skills, said Scanlan, of Minneapolis.
The Minnesota chapter of the National Federation of the Blind has about 500 members statewide.
"Good and Evil," a comedy, had its debut Wednesday night on the ABC network. KSTP-TV is the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities.
The demonstrators, and the president of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, want ABC to get rid of the character of George. If ABC doesn't heed their demand, the show's sponsors will be pressured to drop their support for the program, said Marc Maurer of the 50,000-member national organization.
Protests against the series are being planned in New York and New Jersey, Maurer said.
Maurer said ABC received thousands of telephone calls earlier this week complaining about the show.
Harold Crump, KSTP president and general manager, said Wednesday he had not watched the show. If he found it offensive, Crump said he would "be on the phone (with network officials) first thing in the morning with a very strong complaint."
Crump said the station wants "no part in causing problems for the blind in this area, or causing embarrassment to the blind."
Crump said he telephoned the network on Tuesday to let them know that the show had drawn complaints. He noted that the behavior blind people find offensive in George may not be part of the series' future episodes.
The demonstrators in front of the KSTP on Wednesday carried signs with slogans such as "Good and Evil Lies About the Blind," and "Don't Bring Back Mr. McGoo," a reference to an old cartoon character.
That was what the Dispatch and Pioneer Press had to say, and the story was picked up by a number of other papers across the country. By October 2 the battle was well and truly joined. Federationists everywhere had circulated the names and addresses of program advertisers to add to their lists of ABC executives, and the mail was pouring into corporate headquarters around the nation. We announced that we would begin picketing the New York offices of ABC Television every Wednesday afternoon until "Good and Evil" vanished from the ABC prime-time line-up. In addition, Federationists in other cities began taking to the streets to go on record personally in opposition to George and all he stood for. Demonstrations were organized outside ABC affiliates in Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Denver; Colorado Springs; and Los Angeles in addition to the one in New York. One-time-only pickets took place in other cities as Federationists urged station managers to press harder on network executives to remove George and his friends from the air. Brochures were prepared and picket signs constructed. Federationists cancelled personal plans and took to the streets. Newspapers across the country made note of the events. The following is a sample drawn from the hundreds of articles that were printed throughout October. It is an Associated Press story that appeared in The Seattle Times, Friday, October 4, 1991:
Blind Group Intensifies Protest of ABC Sitcom
by John Roll
A group opposed to the portrayal of a blind man on the ABC sitcom "Good & Evil" is stepping up its campaign to have the character rewritten or the show canceled.
"The writers of this show simply don't understand what life is like for blind people. The lives and futures of the blind are on the line here," said James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind.
Gashel complained that in a recent episode, the character George entered a laboratory wildly wielding a cane. He virtually demolished the lab, fondled a man he thought was a woman, and made a sexual pass at a coat rack.
"We don't see George as a joke," Gashel said yesterday. "The program showed an image of blindness that is admittedly extreme but is very much in tune with what a lot of people think we really are. And it's not funny."
The Baltimore-based advocacy group started writing and phoning ABC, its affiliates, and the program's sponsors this summer; but George's character wasn't changed, said Marc Maurer, its president.
"There is nothing left but to take to the streets," he said.
The group began picketing Wednesday in front of ABC's New York City headquarters and affiliates in Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. Gashel said about 75 people participated in the New York protest.
"Good & Evil" is an exaggerated parody of life with the most outrageous caricatures imaginable," ABC said in a statement. "Not one character in this series is intended to be realistic or believable....
"If this series were in any way realistic, we would agree that a comedic portrayal of a clumsy blind person would be in questionable taste," the statement said.
But Gashel said the portrayal of a blind person as a physically unattractive, incompetent person only adds to misconceptions that blind people are unable to participate in society on an equal basis.
The series stars Teri Garr and Margaret Whitton.
That's what the newspapers were saying. Sometimes it was clear that reporters did not understand our point, but most of those who covered the story grasped the issue and made it clear that they were sympathetic to our efforts.
Los Angeles, home of ABC Entertainment, was a particularly important place in which to argue our case clearly before the public. We were helped considerably by Chuck Ashman, the host of a weekday afternoon radio program called California Drive. Ashman boradcasts over Station KBLA, the ABC radio network affiliate in Los Angeles. He read one of our early press releases and arranged interviews with President Maurer and Sharon Gold, President of the NFB of California, on his 4-to-7-p.m. program Tuesday, October 1. He later suggested to his listeners that they call ABC Entertainment President Robert Iger to tell him that they didn't appreciate having blind people ridiculed on prime-time television. Ashman told Sharon Gold what he had done later in the week and commented that lots of people must have taken his suggestion since Iger's office called to tell him he had gone too far.
Despite the fact that NBC and CBS television network affiliates consistently refused to cover this story (they maintained that they didn't want to give free publicity to a rival, but the blind remain convinced that out of self-interest they preferred to protect their colleagues), our protest against "Good and Evil" and the demonstrations across the country garnered a good bit of media attention. Newspapers and the wire services carried stories every time we circulated a press release. The Fox and CNN television networks filmed our demonstrations and aired interviews with Federation spokesmen. Even "Entertainment Tonight," a syndicated program produced by ABC Television, covered the story twice. The first time Dr. Jernigan was interviewed for a show aired September 20. Footage from the first episode of "Good and Evil" showing George crashing around the laboratory illustrated our objections, and a statement from ABC executives was read saying that George wasn't meant to be an insult, so he wasn't, and, therefore, that the show would go on. The second clip appeared on "Entertainment Tonight" on Thursday, October 17, and included film of the New York and Washington, D.C. demonstrations of October 16. The voiceover for this footage consisted of interviews with Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the NFB, and James Gashel, its Director of Governmental Affairs. The ABC position was set forth in Teri Garr and Margaret Whitton's statement about how normal and competent George is. The consensus among most people who saw the segment seemed to be that, all in all, the Federation appeared determined, disciplined, and articulate while ABC looked absurd.
With media pressure on network officials building in Los Angeles on October 2, about fifty Federationists gathered outside of ABC Entertainment at 3 p.m. for two hours of picketing and leafleting passers-by. When four representatives from the Federation, including the Presidents of the California and New Mexico affiliates, walked into the corporate offices to ask in person for the meeting with ABC officials that they had been requesting for days by phone and letter, the heat was on. It took almost an hour of negotiation, but the upshot was agreement by ABC to meet with Federation representatives at 11:00 Thursday morning.
President Maurer asked Sharon Gold to represent the NFB at that meeting, which she understood was to take place with Bret White, Vice President of Broadcast Standards. She returned to Sacramento with some of the picketers Wednesday evening and was back in Los Angeles the next morning for her appointment.
She and Sheryl Pickering, her Administrative Assistant, were ushered into the meeting only to discover that, in addition to Bret White and Roland McFarland, Manager of Program Standards in Los Angeles, Chris Hikawa, Senior Vice President of Broadcast Standards for ABC and White's boss, had flown from New York to take part in the discussion. During the meeting Miss Gold was forced to explain repeatedly with various examples why George was unacceptable to blind people, even in the name of humor. She described how completely Americans misunderstand the capacities of blind people and what the impact of George would necessarily be on the lives and jobs of the blind. The executives asked if there was any way that George could be made acceptable, and they were told no. The country is not ready to understand the limits of satire and parody when the object is a blind person. The meeting concluded with the announcement that the ABC executives would meet with the program's producers to see what could be done.
In the meantime the Federation was increasing its pressure on advertisers. Blind people all over the country were inviting friends and family members to join them in writing letters. Several companies told us that they would not purchase further advertising on the show. On Thursday, October 17, The Wall Street Journal printed a story that demonstrated just how hot things were becoming for sponsors and ABC executives alike. Here it is:
ABC Series Loses Ads
At least one advertiser has pulled its spots from the new ABC series "Good & Evil," the new situation comedy that has been the subject of a threatened boycott from the National Federation of the Blind because of its depiction of a blind character.
Unilever United States, Inc., which produces Lipton Tea and Soups, Wisk and Mrs. Butterworth syrup, said it "determined that purchasing time on this series was not within established guidelines." The company had purchased advertising on each episode of the show on ABC, a unit of Capital Cities/ABC Inc.
And Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, the Baltimore organization with 50,000 members nationwide, said Playtex Family Products Corporation also pulled its spots. Joel E. Smilow, chairman of Playtex Apparel Inc. and Playtex Family Productions, said in an interview he couldn't "confirm nor deny" the assertion. "I do know that I had received some mail in conjunction with that program," he said.
ABC declined to comment. The character who offended the National Federation of the Blind is often seen crashing into objects with his cane. In September, ABC said the show is an "exaggerated parody" and "if this series were in any way realistic, we would agree that a comedic portrayal of a clumsy blind person would be in questionable taste."
That is what the Wall Street Journal had to say the day after the fourth broadcast of "Good and Evil," and it focused public attention on the pressure the NFB was bringing to bear on advertisers. Following the third episode, only one sponsor had actually purchased advertising on all three. This was Unilever United States, Inc., and the Federation decided, in the absence of any indication that company officials were contemplating removal of their support from the show, to organize a boycott of three Unilever product lines: Lipton soup and tea products, Mrs. Butterworth's Syrup, and Wisk detergent. We then discovered that Unilever headquarters were not far from those of ABC in New York, so we announced that on Wednesday, October 23, we would demonstrate outside Unilever instead of ABC and conduct an up- dated version of the historic Boston Tea Party using Lipton Tea and dumping it into the New York Harbor. That was the last straw for Unilever. After negotiations with the National Federation of the Blind corporate officials faxed a press release around the country Tuesday afternoon, October 22, announcing that they were pulling out of sponsorship of "Good and Evil."
Federationists were delighted to revert to the original plans for the Wednesday afternoon picket of ABC. This time we passed out red balloons saying in white print, "National Federation of the Blind says: ABC must STOP `Good and Evil!'" The word "STOP" was pictured as a stop sign. By this time, the fourth week of demonstrations, the people in the vicinity of ABC headquarters began to recognize Federationists and welcome us back. Cab drivers waved leafleteers over in order to get flyers for themselves and their passengers. Even ABC employees took balloons and brochures. A number commented that the network did not show much respect for other minority group members either.
By now ABC officials were talking about conducting a meeting between senior network executives and President Maurer. They were evidently feeling the pressure. The Nielsen ratings, which reflect the number of households watching prime-time television programs and the audience share that each show has achieved, indicated that "Good and Evil" was doing badly. Advertisers were leaving at an increasing rate, and the publicly visible pressure that blind people were exerting on the network was not going away. If anything, it was growing.
Then, on Thursday, October 24, 1991, ABC announced that it had ordered production of "Good and Evil" stopped. With eleven episodes already completed, it was not immediately clear just how many more would actually air. In unofficial discussions, Federation leaders told ABC executives that we understood the time it takes to make arrangements to replace a canceled program, but we would be mightily displeased if more than one more episode were to appear. In the end, only one more, that of October 30, was broadcast. With that, the curtain came down on one of the sorriest experiments in television humor ever conducted.
The time may come--one hopes that it will--when the American people are ready and able to laugh together about the funny things that happen to blind people. Nothing would be a healthier indication of our final emergence into first-class status and full equality. But that time is not in the foreseeable future. As long as the general public presumes our incompetence, our clumsiness, and our inability to understand or appreciate what is going on around us, blind characters on television who exhibit these traits cannot be funny. Until every blind person has an opportunity to receive effective training and a chance to compete for good jobs, we will all suffer from caricatures like George.
Unfortunately, we cannot go back to business as usual now that George and company are off the airways. George has done damage to us all. We must be particularly vigilant because the danger we face is subtle. George and his behavior were a real and obvious threat. His memory will subside into a vague impression, the confirmation of a general belief. Such impressions are insidious enemies because they are only half-formed and semiconscious. But the impact they have is profound.
Let us close this recital of the stunning victory we have won, this call-to-arms against an ongoing menace, by printing a letter that President Maurer received from a blind chemist, who has until now had very little contact with the organized blind movement. His life has been affected by George and his antics, and all of us must fight to undo the damage. Here is the letter:
November 1, 1991
Mr. Marc Maurer
National Federation of the Blind
Dear Mr. Maurer:
I wish to thank you for providing the videotapes of the TV program "Good and Evil." I am disappointed that the American Chemical Society Committee on the Handicapped did not believe it proper to view the tape at their meeting or prepare a letter expressing their objections. As a past member of that committee I believed such action would be appropriate since it has always been a concern of the committee that disabled persons are discouraged from pursuing careers in science or technology because of false stereotypical images maintained by the public. The committee has attempted to present positive images of disabled scientists in publications and meetings. It was my opinion that the ludicrous image portrayed on the TV program could only damage public perception of blind persons in the laboratory, even though the character was not portrayed as working in that environment.
I am particularly sensitive to this issue since I am a chemist currently working in the Chemistry Department at a technical university and carried out an experimental rather than theoretical project for my doctoral research at another distinguished university. Though I utilized student assistants and technicians in the lab work, I performed a considerable amount of the laboratory work myself and was always working alongside the assistants. Additionally, I have been working at my institution in the Mechanical Engineering Department to develop devices and strategies to allow blind persons to work more independently in a laboratory and gain more benefit from this work.
I usually present a lecture each semester here, including the summer, to an introductory psychology class concerning the barriers faced by disabled persons and the strategies used to solve some of the problems encountered. A major part of my presentation is concerned with the attitude problem and the false images that we have to face. I plan to use the tape you sent me at the start of the lecture to demonstrate graphically the problem.
I am also attempting to have the university's Committee on Disabled Persons consider sending a letter, which I prepared, to ABC. Again, I wish to thank you for the tape and would like to express my thanks to my NFB state president for bringing this to my attention.
There you have a summary of the thoughts and actions of one blind chemist in the wake of the "Good and Evil" program. None of us can afford to sit back and assume that the battle is won. Never before has the organized blind movement achieved such a clear-cut and decisive victory, and in very real ways things will never be the same again. But George and all he stands for still lurk around every corner. Until blind people, all blind people, have won the right to dignity and independence, the National Federation of the Blind must stand ready to defend our good name and counteract the evil efforts of those who would push us down and out of our rightful place.
Yes, it was a battle about "Good and Evil," and between good and evil--and the good prevailed.
by Barbara Pierce
Nowhere has the controversy over "Good and Evil" been more clear-cut than in the rather peculiar world of the television reviewers. These folks are by nature critical, and they must find someone to criticize on a regular basis or risk personal unhappiness and probably unemployment. Anytime a new television program comes along that departs from the run-of-the-mill prescription for the medium, all these critics are likely to look very closely at it. Predictably some will love it, no matter what it is; and some will hate it. You can't please all of the people all of the time.
The reviews of "Good and Evil" followed this scattered pattern with the predominant view (as far as I can tell from reading articles in twenty-five to thirty publications) being disgust at the bad taste at every level of the program. A typical representative was the review which appeared in the Chicago Sun- Times on September 15, 1991, written by Ginny Holbert:
Stupidity Wins the Battle of "Good & Evil"
I can see how ABC got talked into "Good & Evil," a sitcom that premieres at 9:30 tonight on WLS-Channel 7. The premise--the battle between good and evil as played out between two sisters-- has potential. The executive producers, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, and Susan Harris, had some successes behind them, including "Soap" and "Golden Girls." And the star, Teri Garr, is generally funny and sexy and awkwardly touching.
But what I can't see is why ABC didn't dump "Good & Evil" immediately after seeing the pilot. The episode, which airs at 9:30 tonight on WLS-Channel 7, is one of the worst half-hours on the fall schedule.
Like "Soap," the show is apparently meant to parody the convoluted plot twists and simplistic character development of soap operas. But this isn't parody; this is stupidity. The jokes are leaden, the writing is aggressively inane, and the characters are too flimsy to be called cardboard cutouts. And Garr, who comes across as hammy, unpolished, and totally self-conscious, is a crashing disappointment as the evil sister Denise.
In tonight's episode we learn that Denise is plotting to steal her mother's cosmetics business and that Denise's lover has fallen for Genny (Margaret Whitton), her angelic sister. We also learn that Denise ("The only thing I was ever good at was being bad") has deep reasons for being so nasty.
"When I was little, I did everything I could to please you," whines Denise to her aristocratic mother. "But no matter what I did, you always liked Gen better."
"She was cuter," replies Mommie Dearest.
Although the show stinks, you may want to tune in for the slapstick laboratory scene, an all-time classic in the annals of truly tasteless television. In it, a scientist who recently lost his sight comes to court Genny, who is a medical researcher. In the incredibly long, unbelievably unfunny lab scene, the guy thrashes around tripping on his cane and smashing petri dishes. I'm not kidding.
Not evil, but definitely not good.
There you have the Sun Times review, and it was similar in tone and substance to a number of the reviews that appeared the week of the premiere of "Good and Evil." But perhaps the best review of all was written by Paul Johnson and published on September 25 in the Arkansas Gazette. A portion of it is omitted here because its general description of the program is repetitious of the Sun Times review. Here are the relevant portions of the Paul Johnson story:
Tonight's premiere of ABC's new Teri Garr sitcom, "Good & Evil," gives every indication of marking the debut of the fall season's most noxious weed.
A preview of this thirty-minute show turned up not a shred of redeeming quality. It's loud, it's offensive, it's predictable, it's imitative. Worst of all, it's unfunny on an epic scale.
Cranked out by the Witt-Thomas-Harris people who have been responsible for a flock of flops and a couple of hits ("The Golden Girls," "Soap,") "Good & Evil" appears to be little more than a venomous recycling of the "Soap" formula....
Word already has gotten out about a particularly noxious scene in tonight's opening episode.
In it a blind associate (Mark Blankfield) comes to Genny's laboratory.
The character, carrying the familiar white cane, proceeds to reel around in the lab for what seems like half the episode.
The blind man takes fully ten minutes to break every piece of glassware in the room as he staggers and stumbles and flails outrageously with his cane.
He introduces himself repeatedly to a coat rack, which he unexplainably mistakes for a human being.
He reels around some more and breaks some more laboratory equipment.
He lurches and falls down.
He tumbles backward over a lab counter.
He walks into walls and crashes into doors.
The producers have insisted that this shouldn't be offensive to blind people.
Of course they would.
You think they're going to confess that there's a possibility that anyone might consider such carrying-on offensive?
After all, they say, this is just a comedy, just a television show.
The catch is that they may think this show is a comedy. But if it is, why did no one in the room when the show was previewed laugh a single time?
There's an underlying maliciousness to this show that simply precludes much laughter.
From Garr's character's cruelty and venomous behavior to the business with the blind guy, "Good & Evil" comes down too heavily on the side of evil.
And Whitton's character's goodness is portrayed in a mocking spitefulness that makes it clear that Harris believes good is bad.
What's evil here is the mind-set that came up with this objectionable show.
There you have the Arkansas Gazette review, and at every level it is on target. Predictably, blind George, as one of the most controversial elements of the show, called forth special comment from most reviewers, which in itself demonstrates the danger faced by the blind as a result of George and his antics. Julia Keller, the television critic for the Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch, was not impressed by the program, but here is what she had to say about George in her September 25 review:
...These situations, from the mute woman to the return of the almost-murdered husband, are played strictly for laughs. Most puzzling is a strange scene in which Genny fends off the advances of a blind man in her laboratory: as the sightless man thrashes about with his cane, beakers and flasks shatter; desks are toppled. I don't want to turn into one of those critics who scream, "Insensitivity!" at every unusual kink in a writer's imagination, but...making fun of a blind person's clumsiness?
There it is in a nutshell: blind people are clumsy, and making fun of them because of that is in extremely bad taste. What we feared from the beginning of this fiasco was the public's inability to distinguish between the actual and the absurd where blindness was concerned, and we were right.
But not every critic thought bumbling, oblivious George was an embarrassment. Dave Rhein of the Des Moines Register also wrote a review on September 25. Like many others, he found the program astonishingly bad. But with one difference: this reviewer thought George was funny. This is what Rhein wrote:
"Good and Evil" in Need of Salvation
Fourteen years ago, writer-producer Susan Harris hit the big-time with a comedy called "Soap." It was a devilishly funny spoof of daytime soap operas. Tonight, Harris is at the creative helm for a new comedy called "Good and Evil."
"Soap" had a satirical edge that cut like a machete through such taboos of the times (late 1970's) as sex, religion, and homosexuality. "Good and Evil" cuts like a dull butter knife through an overripe tomato--all you get is a disgusting mess. It's a shame, because the show has a good cast. Teri Garr plays Denise, a nasty woman determined to take over the cosmetics company founded by her mother, Charlotte (Marian Seldes). Margaret Whitton plays Denise's sister, Genny, a pure-hearted university microbiologist.
Denise, whose husband suspiciously fell off Mount Everest four years ago, is in love with Eric (Lane Davies) and is determined to marry him. Eric wants to dump Denise in favor of Genny. Meanwhile, George (Mark Blankfield), a klutzy blind colleague at the university, is smitten with Genny.
In tonight's premiere, the only funny scene is one in which George, the blind university psychiatrist armed with a lethal white cane, wanders into a chemistry lab overflowing with beakers, flasks, and test tubes to tell Genny how much he loves her.
That scene aside, "Good and Evil" needs help, and it better arrive quickly.
Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Iowa, contacted David Rhein to discuss his reaction to George with him. Rhein had the grace to pronounce himself somewhat embarrassed to be asked about his reaction to George by a blind person, and he admitted that it had never occurred to him to consider the impact of George on actual blind people. He maintained, however, that the laboratory-bashing segment in the first episode was good physical humor and the only funny part of the program.
A handful of reviewers actually seem to have liked "Good and Evil," amazing as that may seem to blind viewers and those interested in justice for blind people and human dignity. Their views are exemplified by Marvin Kitman's review, which appeared in Newsday on September 23. Most other critics refrained from attacking the National Federation of the Blind in their pieces, but here are Mr. Kitman's words:
"So Funny It'll Scare Sponsors"
They will deny it, but there is a hit list at advertising agencies, a list of certain programs that sponsors direct an account executive to avoid. The list is an old institution that has had some of our favorite programs on it, including "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." Anybody who tells you the hit list does not exist is either not being truthful or just doesn't know what's going on.
And at the head of the list this year is "Good and Evil," which premieres Wednesday night at 10:30 on WABC/7, Susan ("Soap") Harris' new comedy about two sisters, one very good and one very bad, the year's most controversial new show.
Agencies want to keep their clients out of it. This is true of any controversial show. The higher the saccharine quality content of a show the less likely it is to get into trouble. They don't like trouble on Madison Avenue, whatever they say.
And "Good and Evil," the least saccharine show of the year, is trouble.
Amazingly, the blind people's lobby has protested the premiere episode. They say it's defamatory. The National Federation of the Blind, according to Variety, has written to ABC asking it to cancel the premiere episode. And the Federation hasn't even seen it yet!
What its leaders object to is the portrayal of a blind person by actor Mark Blankfield. He is George, a klutzy university psychiatrist who hasn't adjusted to the loss of his sight. He is pursuing the good sister, a microbiologist. George, who doesn't have the hang of his cane and whose seeing eye dog ran after cars, manages to devastate the lab in the course of confessing his love.
The scene is not politically correct. Nobody is allowed to do this sort of thing on TV anymore. It's a no-no in comedy today.
At first I felt ashamed, finding humor based on a physical handicap hilarious. But then I remembered the movie in which W.C. Fields played a man who owns a grocery store that has a waist- high display of light bulbs. In one of the great comedy scenes of all time, Fields is trying to serve a customer who wants kumquats. A blind gentleman walks in and proceeds to level the light bulb display and glass door.
This kind of thing, ineptly done, could be obscene. But Susan Harris has done it aptly. It's a brilliantly funny scene.
Admittedly it's close to the bone. But that shouldn't be surprising. "Soap's" humor was always close to the bone. There are two ways to cut to the bone, one of which is cutting the arm off, funny bone and all. In "Good and Evil," Harris goes just so far. She knows how to reach the limits of bad taste without going over the top.
The animal rights people may be heard from next. The good sister, who is dedicating her life to science, favors animal rights. She refuses to test her new miracle vaccine on YoYo, the lab monkey, because it wouldn't be fair. It has no free choice. So she does it on herself with visible results.
The cosmetics industry will not be thrilled with the discussions about testing cosmetics that have only one small problem (they make faces peel off) or other humorous facts about the cosmetics industry.
The controversy over "Good and Evil" reminds me about the protests over "Soap" when it started in 1977. The moral minority groups found it guilty of obscenity. It was attacked as the raunchiest, most offensive show even before it went on the air. The letter writers were asking that it be killed without even seeing it. How wrong they were.
It's a free country, so anybody can protest anything. What bothers me is when they haven't even seen a show. What these protesting groups have in common is they don't want us to see the show. Sight unseen, they would not let "Good and Evil" go on.
Right now ABC is resisting the blind people lobby. But advertisers hear them. All controversy is equal. ABC won't budge, but wait until the Rev. Donald Wildmon and his people come around, complaining about some of the wilder jokes. Eventually the protests catch up to the show. Networks are not going to keep on a show that is on the hit list for very long. They will kill it sooner than if it wasn't on the hit list.
This would be a real tragedy in the case of "Good and Evil." Yes, it is a controversial show. People will love it or hate it. I happen to think it's the funniest show since "Soap."
As you can probably tell, I'm a Soaphead of the worst kind. I still think about the wackiest sitcom of the 1970's.
"Good and Evil" is not a "Brooklyn Bridge," a drama with funny things in it. Nor is it like those sitcoms that strive to be funny. Even laugh tracks have trouble laughing at some of these.
It's unabashedly funny. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. But when you laugh you really laugh.
I defy anybody not to laugh at the discovery of evil sister Denise's husband Ronald--found frozen in the Himalayas by Rolex collectors from China--defrosting in a Nepal hospital.
"Good and Evil" is a soap operetta, if you will, about a very rich family in the cosmetics business run by a Helene Lauder-type dowager queen, her two daughters and their offspring.
There is the good daughter, generous, gracious Genny (Margaret Whitton), the one devoting her life to medical science in the aforementioned lab. Then there is the beautiful but evil sister, Denise (Teri Garr), who is scheming to acquire her mother Charlotte's (Marian Seldes) empire as well as her sister's boyfriend Dr. Eric (Lane Davies), who she is trying to coerce into marriage unaware that Ronald, who she left for dead in the frozen Himalayas, is about to reappear.
Executive producers Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Tom Straw, along with Susan Harris also have assembled a repertory company of characters in the "Soap" tradition. Teri Garr, who I think is very funny, has the juiciest part as the hated sister. She can do anything--from flashing at her doctor-sweetheart in a fur coat to asking her mother why she never kisses her like Genny, but only shakes her hand--and it makes me laugh.
Marian Seldes is super as Charlotte, the mother who has to explain why she never cared for Denise: as a child she had bad skin. They had to put her out in the garden for a year, hoping it would improve.
Mark Blankfield is the funniest professor-in-love seen in a long time.
And Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara will be opening and closing each show asking those "Soap"-like soap questions: Is Denise evil enough to try to take over her mother Charlotte's company? Will the advertisers kill the show?
"Good and Evil" is the show that people will be discussing at the beauty parlor and on the train into the city the next day, probably the only one this year. It's a raunchy, offensive, sick black comedy.
If you don't know what I mean yet, just compare it to "Sibs," on ABC Wednesdays at 9:30 and "Princesses" on CBS Fridays at 8, both of which I'll be discussing on Thursday.
There you have one of a handful of favorable reviews of "Good and Evil." Duane Gerstenberger, Associate Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote to Marvin Kitman under date of September 27, 1991, as follows:
Mr. Marvin Kitman
Melville, New York
Dear Mr. Kitman:
I have read your commentary "So Funny It'll Scare Sponsors," which appeared in Newsday on Monday, September 23, 1991. Twice within this piece you make declaratory statements which are errors in fact. In criticizing our reaction to the ABC Program, "Good & Evil" you say: "And the Federation hasn't even seen it yet!"; "Sight unseen, they would not let `Good & Evil' go on."
Mr. Kitman, we have in our possession a complete, unedited videotape of the program discussed in your commentary. This copy was transmitted by ABC Closed Circuit to ABC affiliated stations sometime in mid to late July. We have had this tape since Monday, August 5, 1991. By August 14, 1991, the date of one of our earliest letters to ABC about this program, numerous elected leaders, staff members, and volunteers of our organization had viewed this program--complete, whole, unedited, without commercials. One of the leaders of our organization wrote ABC about the program July 28, 1991. Prior to writing, she, her husband, and her children viewed this program--complete, whole, unedited, without commercial interruptions. By mid August I had watched this show so many times I could quote dialogue from it. I estimate that before our organization made a concentrated effort to contact ABC about "Good & Evil" more than a hundred of our active, leading members had viewed this program--complete, whole, unedited, without commercial interruptions.
If you wish to see the correspondence we had with ABC about this matter, we would be pleased to send it to you. We would have shared it with you before you wrote your commentary had you talked with us. I find it ironic that you castigate our organization for our actions in this matter without talking with us directly, and your main reason for castigating us is based on your presumption that we did not have the facts, i.e., we had not seen the program. Mr. Kitman, we knew what we were objecting to; we knew the facts. When you write about us, please get the facts.
Very truly yours,
Associate Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind
P.S. I am sending this letter via fax and in hardcopy by first class mail. Along with the original I am sending information about our organization. I hope you will take the time to read it.
There you have a sampler of views of "Good and Evil" and George. It isn't scientific, but it is representative. Regardless of what Marvin Kitman and his friends may think, from the standpoint of the blind, at least, the world is a more civilized place now that "Good and Evil" is off the air and can be forgotten.
by Barbara Pierce
A day or two after ABC announced that it was canceling "Good and Evil," Dr. Jernigan was working in his office at the National Center for the Blind when his phone rang and the receptionist told him that someone from "Entertainment Tonight" was on the line. He of course took the call and found himself answering the question that everyone has been asking since the ABC announcement: "What is your reaction to the cancellation of `Good and Evil?'" Dr. Jernigan replied that he was naturally delighted to have an end to a program that was doing steady and profound damage to blind people and that he was encouraged to learn that collective action could still exert influence on powerful organizations in this country. At that the interviewer said with some surprise, "You don't actually believe that the Federation's activities had anything to do with the decision, do you?"
To which Dr. Jernigan replied, "Of course I do, and the proof is that you have called me to ask my reaction. You wouldn't have sought me out if you thought that the National Federation of the Blind wasn't a player in this game." The interviewer laughed and acknowledged the truth of Dr. Jernigan's statement before ending their conversation. ABC and the executives and the corporate sponsors who bailed out will no doubt continue to deny that public pressure orchestrated by the organized blind movement had anything to do with the demise of this ill-conceived sitcom, but it is immensely important that we and the public understand what the organized blind have accomplished. Never before have we accomplished such a victory, and it is an important step forward in our march toward equality and first class status.
The one thing that everyone on both sides of the "Good and Evil" controversy can probably agree upon is that the name of this program cannot be too soon forgotten. The writers, production company, network, and sponsors all got their fingers burned on this one, and there are more than enough hard feelings to go around. All of these people gambled on a wacky idea for a new kind of sitcom and lost.
But what about the blind? The program's Nielsen ratings were never high, but even so, each week people in some ten million homes tuned in to see blind George make a fool of himself and, by extension, of every other blind person. That's a good bit of reinforcement of the old stereotypes that will now have to be overcome. Almost more frustrating than this increase in the load of public education still to be done is the monolithic unwillingness on the part of the entertainment personnel involved in this dispute to understand the damage they have done to blind people or to admit the impact that our protest had on their ultimate decision to cancel the show. Here is the cancellation notice that appeared in USA Today on October 24, 1991:
ABC Lets the AX Fall: "Good & Evil" Canceled
by Peter Johnson
ABC canceled the controversial sitcom "Good & Evil" Wednesday, making its first schedule adjustment of the season. The irreverent series--which starred Teri Garr as the evil heir apparent to a cosmetics empire and Margaret Whitton as her good sister--had come under attack for its comic portrayal of blind people. It also pulled in very low ratings. The move by ABC is one of several the network is expected to make to shore up its low Wednesday night ratings. An official announcement of the cancellation is expected today.
ABC and company never did publicly acknowledge the impact of our collective action, but the National Federation of the Blind did not hesitate to announce our victory far and wide, and a number of newspapers mentioned our protest as a clear factor in the decision. Typical of the stories printed was one in the Los Angeles Times for October 24. The remarkable part of this story is the extended quotation from Susan Harris, chief writer of the show. Ms. Harris is clearly bitter about the fact that ABC did not tinker with the time slot for "Good and Evil" in order to put it in a more advantageous position. She appears to remain convinced that it would have succeeded if it had been given another chance. One should never underestimate the human capacity for self-delusion; Ms. Harris can apparently not conceive that the controversy stirred up by George might have been sufficiently unpleasant and damaging to have persuaded ABC to cut its losses or, even more inconceivable, that the program's concept might have been a bad idea. The unpalatable truth of the matter is, Ms. Harris, that the show wasn't funny--none of it. But if the writers hadn't decided to engage in blind-bashing in every episode, we would, as an organization, have kept quiet. They chose the battleground. We warned ABC, the production company, and the sponsors that George's presence on the program would mean war, a war that the blind have won. Here is the Los Angeles Times story:
ABC Drops "Good & Evil," Irks Series Creator
by Daniel Cerone
The cancellation of "Good & Evil," which pitted Teri Garr as the evil executive of a cosmetics empire against Margaret Whitton as her good sister, had nothing to do with the controversy over the sitcom's portrayal of a blind character, ABC maintained Thursday.
Network spokesman Jim Brochu cited low ratings--the comedy series ranks 77th out of 101 prime-time series that have aired on the four major commercial networks this season--as the primary reason why production was halted after eleven episodes of a thirteen-episode order.
Ever since its debut September 25, the series from Witt- Thomas-Harris Productions has been under attack by organizations representing the visually impaired, led by the National Federation of the Blind, for its depiction of a bumbling blind psychologist, played by Mark Blankfield.
The Federation's Director of Governmental Affairs, James Gashel, called the cancellation a "definite victory.
"I think ABC officials had become aware of the fact that blind people all over the country found this show totally unacceptable and demeaning," he said Thursday from Maryland. "ABC wouldn't talk about the show [to the press]. They were embarrassed by it. They didn't consider its portrayal of blind people from the start, and they took a hit over it."
Series creator and co-executive producer Susan Harris sided with ABC in denying that "Good & Evil," which was in a tough time slot on Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m., was canceled because several major advertisers had pulled out of the show under pressure from advocacy groups.
Beyond that, however, she was miffed.
"We're all upset," she said Thursday from her home in Los Angeles. "It was very sudden. The series aired only five times. Once it was opposite the Country Music Awards. Two other times it was opposite baseball playoff games. And [this week] it aired opposite a pivotal game in the World Series.
"To pull it off the air at this point and not try to move it around is not fair," she said. "It was never given a proper time period. This is too good a show to do this to."
Witt-Thomas-Harris has three other series on NBC--the hits "Empty Nest" and "Golden Girls" and newcomer "Nurses." She said they wouldn't do another for ABC without up-front guarantees of getting a better shot at staying on.
Harris, who was once harassed and later embraced by the gay community for the Billy Crystal character on "Soap," said that the blind character in "Good & Evil" would have evolved in a similar fashion given the chance.
"I'm sorry we offended the blind," she said. "It certainly was not our intent. We've always kind of poked fun at and found humor in everything, the darker sides of life as well."
ABC did not immediately announce how many of the remaining "Good & Evil" episodes will air, or what will replace it.
That is what the article said, and Susan Harris is far from being the only one to misunderstand the real issues involved in this entire controversy. On October 26 in a Gannett News Service story printed in the Wausau, Wisconsin, Daily Herald, Tony Thomas, one of the "Good and Evil" producers, explained that the tragedy of a decision like ABC's to cancel is that real people lose real jobs as a result. The seventy-percent unemployment rate among working-age blind people is quite obviously not real to Mr. Thomas. One is left to wonder what such people thought the blind were objecting to when we argued that George perpetuated public attitudes about blindness that are the root cause of the job discrimination we face. The blind are apparently not real people, and we are not lacking real jobs. Here is the opening of the Wausau story as it appeared on October 26:
ABC's "Good & Evil" Gets Ax
ABC's cancellation of the comedy "Good & Evil" leaves 11 actors, 30 crew members, eight writers, and a director out of work.
"What everybody forgets is that when a show is canceled, so are a lot of hopes and dreams," says executive producer Tony Thomas.
Wednesday, ABC told Thomas and partners Paul Junger Witt and Susan Harris their show was dead after five episodes, the first cancellation of a major new fall series....
"Everybody's career was on the line here," Thomas says. "There were a lot of late nights and sweating it out, spending two hours on one joke to make sure it was just right." ____________________
There you have the thoughts of Tony Thomas, and it is obvious that he shares Susan Harris's and ABC executives' capacity for denying painful truths and rejecting timely warnings. The organized blind will continue to fight for equality for the blind at every level of society, and we hope that someday, when we have achieved our goal, we will be able to afford to engage in the verbal slug-fests of situation comedy. But let us also hope that even then we will not be made the objects of ridicule solely because of blindness. Rather, we can work toward laughing together at the genuinely funny aspects of blindness and absurd contrasts between its realities and the misconceptions of the public.
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 Barbara Pierce
Perhaps the most closely guarded secret prior to the season premiere of "Good and Evil" was the identity of the program's sponsors. Shortly before the first episode, President Maurer sent a letter urging twenty-three potential sponsors not to purchase advertising on the show because of the damage the character George would do to all blind people. What impact that letter had on sponsors is not absolutely discernible, but one thing was clear when the program aired September 25: the program had a lot of unsold advertising. Several spots were used to promote other new ABC shows; and Touchstone Productions, the company that produced "Good and Evil," bought one thirty-second slot to promote one of its upcoming motion pictures.
Those companies which did purchase space on the show discovered several days later that the sky had fallen on their heads in the form of outraged letters. In an effort organized and coordinated by National Federation of the Blind members around the country, blind people and others offended by the program began writing to corporate headquarters with objections to "Good and Evil" and to the sponsor's association with it. Each week the scenario was repeated. The turnover among sponsors was astonishing. A total of 26 different advertisers purchased space on "Good and Evil" during its first five weeks, and only four bought time on more than one episode during that time. Several companies had apparently purchased time on other programs which either did not air or did not produce the audience share that ABC had promised; so, according to the terms of the advertising contracts, the network was responsible for airing the advertising on programs that would provide the company with the guaranteed audience exposure. "Good and Evil" seems to have received several advertisers through this interesting back door. The sponsors (Dow Chemical Company being the most vociferous so far) say that they had no notion that their good names were being associated with "Good and Evil," and Dow promised the many who wrote letters of protest that they would certainly not have anything more to do with the program.
PepsiCo, however, presented a different situation. The National Federation of the Blind has had a good working relationship with company executives, who have consulted with us about the appropriateness of several of their advertising campaigns. The blind were distressed to find that two of PepsiCo's subsidiaries had purchased advertising on "Good and Evil." Federation officials contacted PepsiCo immediately and were assured that the matter would be dealt with. The NFB agreed not to use PepsiCo's name in subsequent press releases, and we did not. PepsiCo was as good as its word; no further advertising by any of the PepsiCo group appeared on "Good and Evil" during the remainder of its short, controversy-filled life.
Playtex, Aetna Life and Casualty, RJR Nabisco, and Walmart dealt with the wave of consumer protest in a different way. All four responded to the people who wrote to them by saying that they had purchased advertising on only one episode and that they had no intention of supporting programs that were controversial or offensive. They had no further plans to buy space on "Good and Evil," and they were pleased to know about the objections that had been voiced. These were hardly bold and courageously principled pronouncements, but the company decisions resulted in a clear erosion of the program's sponsor base.
Unilever United States, Inc. provided the most interesting and certainly the most significant sponsor activity in the "Good and Evil" struggle. During each of the first three episodes, Unilever advertised at least one product. The company was bombarded with letters and calls, but no positive corporate response seemed forthcoming. So after the third program with Unilever sponsorship, the NFB announced a boycott of three of its products: Lipton soup and tea products, Mrs. Butterworth's Syrup, and Wisk detergent. Then, on the eve of the fourth episode of "Good and Evil," the NFB announced that we would picket Unilever headquarters on Wednesday afternoon, October 16, and execute a symbolic dumping of Lipton Tea in the New York Harbor. That did the trick. Tuesday afternoon Unilever faxed a press release to media outlets across the country. Here is the text:
New York, NY, October 15, 1991--Unilever United States, Inc. today announced that its operating companies will no longer purchase advertising participations on the ABC television program "Good and Evil." Unilever's initial decision to advertise on this new television series was based on a pilot episode. After reviewing subsequent programs, as is company policy for all television programming, it was determined that purchasing time on this series was not within established guidelines.
That was the brief statement Unilever made, and again, it is notable for its unwillingness to admit that pressure from the blind forced its change of policy, if not heart. But the pilot, which Unilever personnel admit to having watched in making the decision to buy advertising time on the program, was in fact the first episode, in which George smashed the research lab and made a pass at a coat rack, and they did not conclude from that footage that the program was in bad taste or would do damage to blind people. Unilever continues to send letters to those who wrote to them protesting their involvement with "Good and Evil," and the company code on recent correspondence indicates that they have now sent well over three thousand placatory letters. Be all this as it may, every concerned blind person should be pleased and grateful to Unilever for its decision to extricate itself from "Good and Evil," and NFB leaders rapidly changed plans and resumed the usual picket outside of ABC's New York offices instead of visiting Unilever.
On Tuesday, October 29, the Braille Monitor learned that inadvertently the NFB had accused one company which was actually innocent of having purchased advertising on "Good and Evil." The Corporate Secretary of American Home Products called to explain that it had sold the company that produces Woolite, one of the products advertised on the fourth episode. American Home Products sold the company months ago, and the product information provided to the NFB did not reflect this fact. Moreover, to add insult to injury, American Home Products had planned to buy advertising space on "Good and Evil" but had reviewed the pilot and decided, based on what their reviewers saw, that the program did not meet company standards, so they canceled their sponsorship plans before the program ever aired. Despite that action, they were now being deluged with letters from blind people asking them to desist. The Associate Editor gladly assured the American Home Products executive that the Braille Monitor would be pleased to set the record straight. American Home Products and probably a number of other companies deserve commendation for recognizing the damage being done by "Good and Evil" and refusing to have anything to do with it.
There is no doubt about it; money talks, and whether ABC wishes to admit it or not, the exodus of program sponsors has to have played a significant part in its decision to cancel "Good and Evil." The collective action of blind people was undoubtedly instrumental in persuading these sponsors to steer clear of what they were made to see was a controversial program. The organized blind can take pride in the knowledge that we refused to remain victims of some people's perverted sense of humor and instead forced an end to a disgraceful media attack on us.
[PHOTO: Portrait of Justin Dart. CAPTION: Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.]
From the Associate Editor: As Monitor readers know all too well, the federal Air Carrier Access Act was passed in 1986 in an effort to protect disabled air passengers from discrimination at the hands of airline personnel. Members of the House of Representatives and Senate made it clear in floor debate that they intended to protect disabled people from such injustices as the exclusion of blind people from exit row seats. As everyone who flies on commercial planes today also knows, ever since the Department of Transportation finished writing the regulations intended to implement the Air Carrier Access Act, the disabled have been in many ways even worse off.
True, airline personnel now bend over backwards to see that no one that they deem to be unqualified to handle an emergency is assigned to a seat in an exit row. In the old days a blind person was occasionally assigned to such a seat and, if he or she was unlucky, arrested for refusing to move in compliance with airline policy. But by and large, the subject of the capacity of disabled people to deal with the various responsibilities of air travel did not arise.
Today, hundreds of times every hour, cabin crews across the United States make an announcement at the beginning of the flight in which, by direct statement or by implication, the passengers are reminded that blind people cannot carry out the responsibilities required of those seated in exit rows during emergencies. We know that in fact it is not necessary to assess conditions visually in an emergency in order to do as good a job as others can during a crash, but whether a blind person is present on the plane or not, every passenger on every commercial flight is reminded that the airline thinks that we are incompetent. All this is just one more reminder that disabled people are still being treated like second-class citizens and that we must continue to do what we can to change the situation.
Blind people are not the only ones who face demeaning treatment by the airlines. Justin Dart is the Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He is also a friend and colleague of the organized blind. Recently he has been traveling around the country encouraging people to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that he flies in and out of all kinds of airports on all sorts of aircraft. Mr. Dart uses a wheelchair, and as a result he has had some clashes with airline personnel that rival the worst of the degradations that blind people have faced in exit row confrontations. In early August of 1991 Mr. Dart had a very distasteful encounter with the flight crew of a small aircraft. The incident reminds us that our battles with the airlines are far from over and that others have reason to stand with us. This is the way that the New York Times described the incident on August 6, 1991:
In an act that has outraged some advocates for the disabled, a commuter airline affiliated with Northwest Airlines refused to allow the head of a White House committee on the disabled and his assistant aboard a flight on Saturday because both were in wheelchairs.
Workers at the commuter airline, Mesaba Aviation, told the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, Justin Dart Jr., and his executive assistant, John Lancaster, that they would not be allowed to board its flight from Minneapolis to Pierre, South Dakota. Mr. Dart and his party were then flown in a larger aircraft to another city in South Dakota and driven 165 miles to Pierre.
Officials with the airline say they have a policy of denying people in wheelchairs access to aircraft that seat fewer than thirty passengers. Such a policy is allowed under Federal law, according to Department of Transportation officials and legal experts with groups representing the disabled.
"What really got me angry or upset--no, anger is not the right word--depressed and sobered was the abrupt and shocking revelation of just how far we have to go," Mr. Dart said today in a telephone interview from his hotel in Pierre. "If this thing can happen to a Presidential appointee, someone they know is a Presidential appointee, you wonder what happens to others."
Airline Informed in Advance
Mr. Dart said he was particularly upset because his office had made the reservations and bought the tickets in advance and had informed the airline that he and Mr. Lancaster used wheelchairs. But until the two men actually tried to board the aircraft, no one informed them that they would be barred.
The incident was, in some ways, one of the more glaring examples of what advocates for the disabled view as the difficulties endured by those with physical and mental handicaps who travel by plane. It also highlighted two trends that appear to be on a collision course: the increasing mobility of the disabled and the steady rise of commuter airlines, which often use smaller aircraft on which it is difficult to accommodate the needs of people with physical impairments.
Jeffrey Jones, director of market planning for Mesaba Aviation, said the policy was not meant to discriminate against people with disabilities. He said the narrow aisles and doorway on the 19-seat Fairchild Metro III aircraft that his company flies between Minneapolis and Pierre made it impossible for company workers to carry someone in a wheelchair onto the plane.
Yet such a policy places some cities virtually off-limits to some people with physical disabilities. Other than Continental Airlines, which provides service from Denver, Mesaba Aviation is the only passenger airline serving Pierre, the capital of South Dakota. Mr. Jones said that, because the city was so small, the company decided earlier this year to stop using a fifty-seat Fokker F-27 aircraft it had been using on the route. It now only flies the smaller Fairchild Metro III.
City Becomes Almost Inaccessible
Advocates for the disabled say this means the city becomes virtually inaccessible for anyone in a wheelchair who is not flying from Denver.
Mesaba Aviation is a publicly held corporation that has a contractual relationship with Northwest Airlines, which is also its largest shareholder. Although it is a separate company, it uses the same colors as Northwest and operates at airports under the name, Northwest Airline; often reservations on its flights are made through Northwest.
Mr. Jones said that the refusal to allow Mr. Dart and Mr. Lancaster to board at Minneapolis airport was the first incident of this type he knew of at Mesaba Aviation and that it could prompt the company to revise its policy.
But advocates for the disabled insist such incidents are a frequent occurrence because Federal regulations allow it.
"This doesn't surprise me," said John Bollinger, an official with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. "It's the kind of thing that travelers with disabilities face all the time. Unfortunately, the final rules that the Department of Transportation wrote provide a technical way out for the airlines not to board Justin and others like him."
Special Lifts Being Developed
Several companies are in the process of developing special hydraulic lifts and wheelchairs that can be used to help people in wheelchairs board small commuter aircraft. On June 12, the Federal Aviation Administration ruled that the Federal Government would reimburse airports for up to seventy-five percent of the cost of such devices.
Mr. Dart, sixty, is the son of a prominent California Republican who was a major adviser to former President Ronald Reagan. The elder Mr. Dart died in 1984. The younger Mr. Dart was disabled when he contracted polio at the age of 19.
On the trip Mr. Dart was joined by his wife, Yoshiko, and Mr. Lancaster. They were able to reach their destination only after the company arranged to have them fly in a larger airplane to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and had a van take them to Pierre. But, Mr. Dart said, the van provided by the airline had no back seats, forcing him and his wife to spend the three-hour trip sitting on its floor amid two wheelchairs and luggage.
"It made me feel like a real second-class citizen," said Mr. Lancaster, a former marine who has been in a wheelchair since suffering spinal cord damage when he was wounded in Vietnam in 1968. "I thought these kinds of problems were pretty much behind us."
Mr. Dart and his party have been traveling around the country talking with businessmen, state officials, and advocates for the disabled on how to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark civil rights law enacted a year ago banning discrimination against individuals with physical and mental impairments. In order to make a connection to their next destination, Anchorage, South Dakota officials had chartered a plane to fly them back to Minneapolis.
But after inquiries from reporters, officials at Mesaba Aviation apparently changed their minds. Late Monday afternoon Mr. Dart called to say the airline was sending one of their larger aircraft to pick them up in Pierre.
[PHOTO: Blind woman works in kitchen with appliances. She is reading a Braille card taken from a recipe box on the counter. CAPTION: Naomi Dvorski of Iowa uses Braille as naturally as other cooks use print.]
by Lauren L. Eckery
From the Associate Editor: We can hope that the time will come, sooner rather than later, when an article like the following will no longer be an appropriate candidate for inclusion in the pages of the Braille Monitor. No one needs to persuade the sighted about the pervasive usefulness of print; the case has been made so effectively that even those for whom it is inconvenient, awkward, or painful struggle to use it. But would-be Braille-users and parents of children for whom print is not an efficient tool still need down-to-earth examples of the value of Braille in the conduct of everyday life. So here are some practical reminders about Braille from a busy, organized working woman and mother who uses Braille as efficiently and automatically as her sighted counterparts use print.
Lauren Eckery contributes feature articles to News From Blind Nebraskans, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. They are always lively and interesting, and many of them find their way into the Braille Monitor. This one first appeared in the Fall, 1991, issue of News From Blind Nebraskans. Here it is:
It is the early 1970s, and my family is traveling by car to Minnesota for a vacation. Both my mother and I like to read and crochet on long trips.
The dimness of the evening sky envelops us gradually, and my mother stops reading. She also decides she can no longer crochet. She wants to check the time but cannot see her watch without turning on the overhead light. She chooses to listen to the radio or take a nap.
Meanwhile, in the back seat of the car, I continue my activities. I read my Braille magazine for a while. Then I crochet several rows on my afghan. Braille labels help me keep the different colors of yarn in order. Now and then, I check the time on my Braille watch, the excitement mounting as we near our final destination.
It is the later 1970s or early 1980s. I am singing in my church choir. During our Thursday evening service prior to Good Friday, the lights are extinguished one by one until it is nearly dark in the sanctuary. While the choir sings, I notice a discreet scramble for notes and lyrics. I continue singing the alto part I have memorized and reading the lyrics in Braille. Rather than becoming anxious and embarrassed by struggling to continue the music, I go on as before, experiencing the special tone of the service.
It is any day. I am speaking to a group of school children, who are interested in what I am saying about blindness: "Given the proper training and opportunity, blind people can lead normal lives." But their favorite part of the presentation is the show- and-tell segment, during which I demonstrate various aids and appliances enabling the blind to be independent. Their greatest curiosity seems to revolve around Braille. "What is it? What do you do with it? How do you read and write it? Is it hard to learn?"
Simply telling the children that Braille is a blind person's equivalent to print is seldom enough. They seem to understand that Braille can be used in school for reading and taking notes, but for what else can one use it? Again, to oversimplify, saying that we use Braille for the same purposes one uses print often goes uncomprehended. The children want concrete examples.
At our 1991 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, held in New Orleans, Louisiana, the usefulness of Braille was one of the underlying themes of our discussions. In the course of attending convention activities, I was observed and approached by several new Federation members who were losing some of their vision. They were grappling with the fact that they needed to learn Braille. Two young women who spoke with me knew that it made sense. They had been told that Braille could be useful to them, but they were reluctant to commit the full amount of time and effort necessary to learn Braille well enough to use it on a daily basis. Their lack of motivation seemed to stem from a lack of everyday examples in which using Braille could be useful and necessary for them. They, like the children I have spoken of previously, understood that Braille was useful for academic and employment pursuits, but what about blind people who are neither in school nor working? How could they make Braille such a part of their lives that they couldn't resist learning and using it efficiently? I was pleased to give these convention delegates concrete examples and encouragement in the use of Braille.
With the advent of our efforts to obtain a Braille bill in Nebraska, readers of News From Blind Nebraskans and other interested parties might appreciate some further examples of the everyday usefulness of Braille in the lives of everyday independent blind persons. Although the list is endless, here are some examples which have occurred to me during the writing of this article:
Taking telephone and other messages; making grocery and other lists; keeping telephone numbers, addresses, and other informational index files; placing Brailled clear plastic sheet overlays into printed children's books so that blind parents, teachers, and others can read to blind or sighted children; keeping recipes, crochet or knitting patterns, and instructions of various types in Braille for efficient and independent access- -and the list goes on.
One can label almost anything in Braille: photographs; phonograph records; cassette tapes; video tapes; games; puzzle pieces; food items; medications; printed materials for later filing; checks; receipts; bills and other documents for independent handling of finances; household and other appliances; newsletter mailers; coupons; greeting cards; post cards; gift tags; yarn, thread, and other needlework equipment; etc.
At this point one might decide that such labeling mania is overwhelmingly time-consuming. Abbreviations to the rescue! For instance, when I label a spool of thread, I abbreviate the color so that the small label will fit on the end of the spool--"bl" for blue, "br" for brown, "bk" for black, "gy" for gray, "pk" for pink. Most blind people use a combination of memory, recognition by touch, sighted assistance, and Braille labeling for identification.
An especially interesting example of labeling comes from my storehouse of childhood memories. One of my favorite pastimes for most of my youth was cutting out and coloring paper dolls freehand. For several years I could see blobs of color well enough to use a color-coded system for naming my paper dolls ("Laurie" was blue skirt and white top, for example). As my vision waned and the diversity in the names I chose for these paper dolls increased, I eventually changed my naming system to one in which I wrote each doll's name in Braille on it. To this day, I have a collection of some of those paper dolls. My ten- year-old daughter, Lynden, has enjoyed looking at Mommy's collection. She has asked me the names of many of the dolls. Although I do still remember the names of some of the dolls with colored clothing by recognizing some other characteristic about them, reading the Braille names is foolproof. If I had wanted to continue coloring the dolls' clothing, I could have devised a labeling system for my crayons and paints, but at the time Braille was my preferred choice, whether I colored the dolls or not.
Years later, as a young adult, I took a cue from my creative childhood's adaptive technique. When I lost the slight amount of vision I had, it was simple and natural for me to separate my yarn colors into individual bags and place a Braille label in each one for identification. This method works well for multicolored crochet projects.
One who is just beginning to learn Braille might feel exhausted by this incomplete list of examples. But believe me, if one has no opportunity to learn or use Braille or if one is limited in his or her creative capacity in devising multiple practical applications of Braille, he or she can indeed be illiterate and unnecessarily dependent on others for assistance.
On the other hand, if we use Braille pervasively in our lives, we will become experts at reading and writing it just as print users do with print. One of Lynden's earliest and best methods for beginning to learn print, besides watching "Sesame Street," was reading labels and signs in her environment. Why not make Braille as normal a part of our environment?
The main purpose for passing a Braille bill in every state of the Union is to maximize the independence and equality of blind persons, be they children or adults. Now, who could in good conscience oppose adoption of a Braille bill once they truly understood the everyday usefulness of Braille?
From the Associate Editor: Despite the advances that have been made recently with distinguished members of the special education and rehabilitation fields raising their voices in defense of Braille and its importance to blind people, beleaguered parents of blind children in many states are still facing unpleasant battles with school personnel to win adequate Braille instruction for their youngsters. But what recourse does a mother have when her child comes home from school with headaches because the teacher insists that large print, read slowly with eye strain and poor posture, is preferable to Braille? In such a situation Tracy Soto of Rochester, New York, turned to her local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Together they are fighting to get more Braille instruction for Ms. Soto's eight-year-old daughter. They have also launched a campaign to educate the state legislature and the members of New York's Board of Regents, which has primary jurisdiction over all education matters in the state. Here is an article describing the conflict of wills. It appeared on October 1, 1991, in the Democrat and Chronicle:
Mother Wants Braille in Schools
by Linda K. Wertheimer
With her legally blind daughter's academic struggles as her impetus, a Rochester woman has helped start a movement to require more Braille instruction in New York State.
"She can't read a book unless it's large, large print. She needs more Braille," said Tracy Soto of her 8-year-old daughter, Winada Fleig.
Soto has been working locally to get more services for Winada, a student at School 29. Soto also belongs to the National Federation of the Blind of New York's Rochester chapter, which met last week to gather support for a statewide policy on Braille instruction. Some state legislators' representatives also attended.
"We launched a statewide effort in Rochester because Tracy Soto has been so interested in getting her child what she needs," said David Arocho, president of the 1,000-member New York State affiliate.
Other states in the last few years have approved bills that give blind children the right to become literate in Braille through their school, Arocho said. The Braille system of raised dots lets blind people read and write through touch.
A blind child needs to take Braille daily to learn the system well, Arocho said. Winada gets a few hours a week of Braille, Soto said.
Members of the state federation plan to meet with state Education Department officials in the next month to promote the proposal. Other chapters around the state will follow the twenty- member Rochester group's lead by running meetings for local lawmakers.
"The tendency the last fifteen to twenty years is to prefer that children use vision to the exclusion of Braille. It gets you blind children who are functionally illiterate," Arocho said.
He said blind children then grow up relying on recordings or large-type books; they can't take notes or perform other tasks. Legally blind children have vision of twenty over two hundred or less in their better eye with corrective lenses or have a medical problem that causes visual deterioration.
Kathryn Hargis, acting coordinating director of special instructional services for the City School District, has reservations about the federation's proposal.
"I object to the presumption that visually impaired people should be Braille readers," Hargis said. "I don't think we can say something is right for everybody."
Hargis said the district decides whether it's best for a child to learn Braille or to read with other devices. The district also adheres to a research-based philosophy when it comes to its twenty-eight visually impaired students, she said.
"We try to keep kids using vision as much as possible," Hargis said.
Getting Braille material takes too long, she said. The district obtains its Braille books through a Braille lending library.
"With Braille, people in the vision field believe it should be taught when it's needed," Hargis said. "I think, in the not too far future, the technology is such that Braille may become obsolete."
Arocho called it a myth that Braille material is difficult to obtain. Technology allows publishers to convert material they put on computer software into Braille, quickly, at about 5 cents a page, he said.
With an enlargement system a blind child can read eighty words a minute at best, Arocho said. If children learn Braille at a young age, they can eventually read up to three or four hundred words of Braille a minute, he said.
Beth Hatch-Alleyne, secretary of the Federation's Rochester chapter, said her parents fought for her right to take Braille when she was a primary school student in Maine. Her school eventually agreed to send her to a school for the blind for a year so she could learn Braille. The twenty-three-year-old said she has used Braille regularly ever since.
For most of her school day, Winada reads her work in large print through a closed-circuit television system, Soto said. Winada reads her homework in large print by a high intensity lamp at home; when she read something last week, she put her head within an inch of the page to see the words.
"She gets headaches from trying to read the large print," Soto said.
Hargis would not comment about Winada's case, which will be discussed at a hearing at a later date.
"If she's getting headaches, she needs further assessment. Reading with their nose to the book is normal for kids with vision impairments."
That was the way the newspaper reported the difference of opinion between the special education professionals and a parent who knew only that her daughter needed more Braille and fewer headaches. Tracy Soto, however, had the support of her local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind--people who knew first-hand how important her struggle was, important for her own child, but critical, too, for all the other youngsters across New York who are being denied the Braille that would enable them to learn and work competitively. The Rochester chapter was determined to use every opportunity it could find to educate the public, the legislature, the State Department of Education, and local school officials. Kathleen Hart, an active and committed new member of the Rochester chapter, sat down to write a letter to the editor of the Democrat and Chronicle, which had published the original story. Someone had to undercut the presumed expertise of the special education professional who had gone on record saying that Braille was quite likely to become obsolete and who saw no future difficulties for a youngster who can read large print only when the page is an inch from her face. A blind adult, speaking from a wisdom born of painful experience, can also command respect. The expertise acquired in the school of hard knocks often has a solidity and power that academic theory lacks. Here is the letter to the editor that Kathleen Hart wrote in support of learning Braille:
October 10, 1991
This letter is a response to the article entitled, "Mother wants Braille in Schools," found in the October 1, 1991, issue of the Democrat and Chronicle. I am thirty-two years old and have been blind since birth. I just learned Braille this summer because, when I was in school, everybody believed that I should use print since I had usable vision. No one in the school system considered the effects of reading printed material, i.e., eye strain and headaches. At best I might read eight to ten pages of printed material an hour. I am now determined to make Braille a more efficient means of reading.
Learning to read Braille as an adult is frustrating. The best analogy I can give is that of a person who has had a stroke and must learn to speak again. You know you possess the skill, but it takes time to relearn it. I may know all the characters, but now I must build my speed to a point where the skill becomes practical. What makes this more of a challenge is that I am currently in seminary and am carrying a full course load. Closed circuit television systems, recorded materials, and readers are not the most efficient means to study and research papers. I hope to begin using some Braille by next semester.
The National Federation of the Blind is not asking for mandated Braille for every blind child. We are saying that Braille should be a viable option for all blind children, regardless of their visual acuity. The school system should present all options to the parents and students without bias. When Braille is the desired medium, then competent instructors of Braille must be employed. Large print may appear useful in the elementary years when the teachers perceive the work load to be light, but as load increases through high school and into college, it becomes less efficient and more burdensome. This I report from experience.
Both as a blind person and as a former teacher of special education, I am genuinely concerned about the view of Ms. Hargis. She said that the district determines whether or not a child should learn Braille. By this statement she and the district have denied the parents and child their rights in the education process. An Individualized Education Plan is a process that grants the parents and student the right to participate in the development of the educational goals of any child with a disability. The City School District is denying parents and students this right, which is given under P.L. 94-142 and subsequent laws. If a parent, such as Ms. Soto, is in disagreement with the school, he or she needs to be taken seriously and supported.
Attitudes such as those of Ms. Hargis do not address individual differences; rather they promote conformity. God has given each human being gifts that need to be nurtured. God encourages us to embrace the differences of our sisters and brothers, not insist that all conform to one way of life. One should not be made to feel that the use of printed material is superior to the use of Braille, for truly this is not the case. Both are valid systems. Just as printed material will not become obsolete for persons who have sight, so too, Braille will not become obsolete for blind persons. The key to this open-minded attitude is that educators become receptive to diversity and allow children the means to achieve their maximum potential.
I wish my parents and I had known about the National Federation of the Blind when I was a child. I might have learned much earlier than six months ago that I could use Braille. Then studying would not have been as difficult, and reading for pleasure would truly have been a pleasure.
I encourage any parents who have questions about Braille or any other blindness-connected concern to contact the Rochester chapter of the National Federation of the Blind at 251-1334 or join us at our monthly meetings held this month on October 19, 1991, at 2:00 p.m. at St. John's Home.
[PHOTO: Family portrait of members of the Yamini family. CAPTION: Ehab and Sabrina Yamini and seven of their children.]
by Ehab and Sabrina Yamini
From the Editor: Ehab Yamini is a long-time Federationist. I don't know when I first met him, but it was undoubtedly sometime during the seventies. About that time or a little later he was president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia--and he was a strong and energetic president.
Ehab was working (and still is) as a masseur at a health club in Atlanta. I have experienced the refreshing and restorative value of his massage, and I can give personal testimony to its effectiveness. Apparently others feel the same, for Ehab has letters of commendation from everybody from President Bush to some of the finest athletes in the country.
But Ehab has not been content to work at just one job. Several months ago he and an associate visited the National Center for the Blind to talk about his plans to establish a school for training masseurs. He said he felt that this was a much neglected profession by the blind, one that could offer an opportunity for good pay and real service to people.
While he was here at the Center, Ehab also told President Maurer and me about another enterprise in which he is engaged. He has hundreds of hives of bees and has broadened the business far beyond the mere selling of honey. He sells bee pollen, royal jelly, and associated products. As Federationists will remember from his appearance at last summer's NFB convention in New Orleans, Ehab is a major producer and a national player in the bee business. He has his own product labels and does large-scale shipping throughout the country.
Even so (and perhaps this is part of the secret) Ehab's operation is still very much a family business. His wife Sabrina and his children were busy filling individual bottles of bee pollen from bulk containers at all hours during the New Orleans convention. And Ehab believes very strongly in the value and efficacy of what he is doing. He is like that--whether he is doing massage, planning the establishment of a school, or extolling the virtues of the honeybee. He is also a man of high principle, one who believes in working hard for what he gets and paying his own way.
Recently he sent me an article (the one we are printing here) on the curative values of honeybee venom. I have heard a little about these theories before, and I am sure they will be controversial. This is not why we are printing the article. Rather, it is to show how varied and diverse are the occupations which blind persons are entering and how vigorously and individualistically the blind are moving toward first-class status and full participation in society. It is not necessary to agree with the premise in order to respect the effort and honor the spirit. Ehab and Sabrina thought Monitor readers might find their article interesting, and I agree with them--so here it is:
Arthritis is a serious disease that affects some 37 to 50 million Americans. That's one in every seven people. With over 100 different types of arthritis its victims include people varying in age and background, including children and young adults. Arthritis is no longer thought of as the "old folks' disease."
The word arthritis basically means joint inflammation, "arth" (joint); "itis" (inflammation). A joint is defined as any place in the body where two bones meet. The ends of these two bones are covered by cartilage, a tough, stretchy tissue that performs as a shock absorber and prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. In many arthritic patients this is where the problem lies and arthritis is at its worst, causing much inflammation and pain. Normally, inflammation is the natural way the body responds to injury by sending healthy cells of the immune system to repair damaged and injured cells in the injured area. During the healing process the inflammation usually will dissipate; not so with many forms of arthritis. With arthritis, inflammation becomes a constant part of the problem and may result in the death of healthy tissue, causing even more damage and more inflammation. Hence, a vicious cycle is born.
The human body secretes cortisone, a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands, to relieve inflammation of an injury during its healing process. However, in arthritic patients it seems that the natural, useful production of cortisone becomes somewhat limited. This, undoubtedly, is where Apis Mellifera (the honeybee), and the science of apitherapy (bee venom therapy) comes in.
Upon stinging her victim subcutaneously, the honeybee's venom immediately acts on the central nervous system, which stimulates our pituitary and adrenal glands, enabling the body to increase production of cortisone to the injured area.
When an individual who is afflicted with arthritis is treated with honeybee venom, the patient receives stings directly on the arthritic area (usually a joint). The venom immediately soothes the area by producing a numbing effect which helps alleviate the pain associated with arthritis. After several days of inflammation (from the stings and/or arthritis), the swelling and pain should diminish or leave completely. (Extent of treatment may vary according to severity and type of arthritis. In addition, some types of arthritis may not respond as well as others.)
The honeybee venom has for many years proven effective against the ills of arthritis on arthritic humans, monkeys, mice, horses, and even dogs. There are many, many research papers by German, English, Russian, and American scientists and doctors that indicate the effectiveness bee venom has on arthritis and how it surpasses the medications on the market, past and present, in the relief of pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. (Honeybee venom is also known to have a positive effect on other types of inflammatory disorders that include tendinitis, gout, bursitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, and others.)
In 1965, a study was conducted by the New York Cancer Institute in which there was found that "beekeepers have the lowest incidence of cancer of all the occupations!" In addition, a study was conducted in 1971 by another group that concluded "honeybee venom injected up to twelve milligrams per week had no adverse physiological or mental effects."
The father of modern-day apitherapy, Dr. Philip Terc, used bee venom treatment on different types of arthritis for forty years. He often said he was convinced that almost all true arthritis and rheumatism can be radically and permanently cured with bee stings, except those cases of many years standing, where the joints already have been destroyed and ossification has taken place. Six-hundred and sixty (660) arthritis cases by Dr. Terc were published-and the results were as follows: 544 cases (82 percent) perfectly cured, 99 cases (15 percent) improved, and 17 cases (3 percent) unimproved.
Used to medically treat arthritis are a group of drugs produced in the laboratory to resemble the cortisone produced naturally by our bodies. Unlike our naturally produced cortisone, the synthetic cortisones, commonly termed corticosteroids, are powerful drugs with sometimes death-threatening side effects. Additionally, corticosteroids are given in unusually large dosages in comparison to our bodily produced cortisone which is released in small, minute dosages. Some of the serious side effects of corticosteroids include cataracts, ulcers, increased bodily hair, softening of the spine, and diabetes, to name a few. These drugs do not cure and no scientist, doctor, or drug manufacturer has claimed so. They only offer temporary relief. However, there is much world-wide research with scientific data to substantiate the many successful claims of a "cure" of many forms of arthritis with honeybee venom.
So why, with 37 to 50 million Americans being afflicted by this debilitating disease, isn't honeybee venom being used in the United States? Why is the medical profession holding on to the dangerous corticosteroids that only offer temporary relief from the ills of arthritis and allow so many helpless victims to look to "false hope" medications on the market? Maybe the answers lie in the fact that there are billions of dollars generated from the suffering of arthritic patients in the form of medicines, disability aid and insurance, and medical care; or it may be just plain ignorance. Another pioneer in bee venom therapy, Dr. Joseph Broadman, author of the book, Bee Venom: The Natural Curative for Arthritis and Rheumatism, wrote: "Resistance to bee venom as a curative has been strong in America, and it is strange that one of the most advanced countries in the world allows millions to go in agony and be crippled unnecessarily; even worse, almost all of the medical profession is completely ignorant of what bee venom can do and has done. It is this resistance and ignorance that has forced me to write this book...."
Why, in 1928, could we accept the accidental discovery of the world's first antibiotic, penicillin, (by Sir Alexander Fleming) from a green mold, the same green mold oftentimes found on foodstuffs in our refrigerators, and today not accept that an insect, created by the same Creator of the mold, could have the answer to many of man's ills. And to say that bee venom research is not a priority in the U.S. with the medical community is a Hippocratic shame!
Only about one percent of the populus are allergic to bee stings. A simple swelling from a bee sting is a natural reaction by the body; and even if a person is stung, for example, on the knee and swelling spreads to the hip, this is normal. An allergy to bee venom will show exaggerated symptoms such as excessive itching over the entire body, breathing difficulties, and intense swelling over a greater part of the body. Immediate medical attention is needed. (Special note: Before any bee venom therapy is begun, one should be tested by one's doctor for any possible allergic reactions.)
The components of bee venom have been analyzed and reported in several scientific papers. Honeybee venom is very complicated chemically, and is said to contain histamine, dopamine, melittin, MCD-peptide, including several enzymes and a host of proteins.
We hope that, in some way, this article has affected the suffering patient, the common citizen, and/or the scientist to further inquire into the medicinal use of honeybee venom as a tool against the ills of arthritis and possibly other human ills. And more importantly we hope that we have influenced someone in the general public to join us in seeking new discoveries from Apis Mellifera (the honeybee)! For further information write to the authors at 954 Byron Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30310.
Bee Venom: The Natural Curative For Arthritis and Rheumatism,
Broadman, Joseph, M.D., 1962
Bees Don't Get Arthritis, Nalone, Fred, 1979
From the Editor: Our recent articles concerning piano tuning and repair brought us an interesting letter and a correction. We are glad for the one and sorry that we goofed concerning the other. Here are the letters:
October 27, 1991
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I have just finished reading the two articles on piano tuning in the October, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor. I am glad to see that somebody is finally saying what I have thought for years--namely, that piano tuning, although it is a traditional field for the blind, is one in which a blind person can earn a good living. However, the two articles leave a little out.
It is true that a blind person working on pianos is extremely visible because he/she is constantly dealing with the public. What is also true is that a blind piano tuner will find that this skill is extremely portable and can always be counted on to bring in a little extra money. Here is what I mean.
When you and I last spoke (in Massachusetts sometime in the mid-eighties), I was working for the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind as a subcontractor tuning pianos in school systems. I left that position in late 1986 because I was burned out. A move to the state of Maine took me through several career changes, but I always had a few pianos to tune along the way. My family and I recently moved to Bethel, where I began work as studio editor for a publication called Voices for the Blind. I am still tuning both pianos and people as I edit audio tapes. It is what is called patchwork economics. But piano tuning plays a major part in the way a buck is made in the Wood family.
Anyway, thank you for running those articles in the Monitor. I needed to see it in print to reaffirm my feeling about piano tuning.
Yours in Federationism,
Rich Wood, Vice President
National Federation of the Blind of Maine
October 25, 1991
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
As you might imagine, I was delighted to read in the October Braille Monitor the articles by Mr. Gray and Mr. Oliver regarding piano tuning. The servicing of pianos has been, for me, both enjoyable as a career and nicely profitable financially. I was, however, surprised when I read the caption on the photograph of Mr. Oliver and me. There is one slight error. I am a graduate of the Emil Fries Piano Hospital, not a director.
Very cordially yours,
[3 PHOTOS: Activities in the child care room during an NFB convention: Blind child standing with a cane next to a crib; adult and blind child playing with blocks; two blind children seated on floor reading print/Braille books. CAPTION: Child care is a happy place at the annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. There's lots to do, new friends to make, and pleasant adults to play with and teach the children. The 1992 convention in Charlotte will be no exception.]
by Mary Wurtzel
From the Editor: Recently Mary Wurtzel, who has worked in our child care program during national conventions, sent me the following article. She said that it had been written for the fiftieth anniversary convention in Dallas but that she had been too busy with her children and a host of other things to get it to me. I thought it was as pertinent now as it would have been following the Dallas convention, so here it is:
During this fiftieth anniversary year it seemed fitting to me that something be shared with Federationists about the development of child care given at our national conventions. It seemed even more appropriate after the generosity shown by everyone at the convention in Dallas in 1990, when on the last day about $800 was collected to help cover child care costs.
I can best share with you from my own perspective, which began in 1982 in Minneapolis. I first took my daughter Maria, then seventeen months old, and my son Freddie, four and a half. We took them with us for the next seven years, and then our new little son Marc came to the convention when he was three months old.
It seemed to me that more Federationists were having children, and they wished to bring them to national conventions. I want to make it clear that I am not advocating that all parents bring children to conventions, but it may be helpful for people to understand why more parents do opt to do so. As the years have passed, more and more children have come to convention. We now serve over sixty children altogether during convention week, and this doesn't reflect the preteen or teenage population not served in child care.
So why do people bring kids to convention? Wouldn't it be easier to leave them home? My guess is that in earlier decades people were more likely to leave kids home with friends or relatives. This option is not as feasible for parents of the '90s. One reason for this is that our society has become so mobile that many parents live far away from any relatives and also because people move around so often that it is hard to make friends with whom one feels close enough to ask that several children be left for perhaps as long as ten days, even with pay. It is possible to find a care-giver by advertising in the newspaper, but parents may feel reluctant to do so with all the horror stories out there about child abuse and such.
For many families NFB convention is the only "vacation" they can afford for the year, so they wish to include their children. I believe, though, for many parents in the NFB the reasons for bringing kids to convention go even deeper. We want our children to feel a part of the movement. Our children make involuntary sacrifices for the Federation. Their parent or parents must go out of town on a weekend so can't share in their school or extra- curricular activities. Other times mom or dad is on the phone in the evening and isn't available to discuss the child's problem of that day or to help with homework. They are left with baby sitters while their parents attend one more meeting, or sometimes if a sitter can't be found, they attend the meeting and are bored to tears and get the feeling people are unhappy with the noise they can't help but make just because they are kids. They also participate in fundraisers. My own kids have hiked ten miles in a hike-a-thon or sold candy.
Returning to the subject of convention, for many families the convention is the only vacation they can afford to take either because of time constraints or money. If this is the case, then people want to include their whole family. It is also a fantastic experience for children to be able to see different parts of the country every year. They also grow more and more knowledgeable about blindness. They are the future public and live in the same society we do. Thus, they pick up stereotypic attitudes, too. Their education also must be an ongoing process.
Parents of blind children want to bring them so they feel a part of things from the beginning. It is also an opportunity for them to make friends with other Federation kids, both blind and sighted. They also make friends with adults in the NFB who can serve as role models.
I want to share a word about convention costs, not in any sense of complaining or martyrdom, but just to indicate that financially this is also a major sacrifice and calls for commitment on the part of families. It has cost over $3,000 to take our family of five to convention.
I coordinated child care for eight years. In 1991 in New Orleans, Carol Coulter was in charge. At first I began an NFB toy chest to which people donated toys, and I went to garage sales and bought toys. Then Greg Bartholomay wrote letters and got several beautiful toys donated.
Many state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals continue to work to make child care at NFB conventions possible. Mostly they do not get recognition for this work, but they certainly deserve the thanks of us all.
In conclusion, I hope everyone better understands the role of the child care at our national convention. I hope you will all help in the future--financially, with your time, but especially by just valuing our fine family of children and getting to know them. The children are our future, and that's why it's important for them to experience NFB and our national convention in a positive way, for this is what they will carry with them throughout their lives.
From the Associate Editor: One of the pleasures of this column in the Monitor is the opportunity for us all to get to know a little more about the members of our Federation family who send in recipes. In an effort to broaden the group of people whose culinary offerings are shared in these pages, the editors have decided to invite each state in turn to contribute a month's recipes. It will be up to the president and anyone else whom he or she chooses to pull into the decision to determine whether one person or several will be invited to select recipes. States are welcome to choose state or regional favorites or take advantage of the season of the year. This month it is Alabama's turn. Louise Greene, President of the affiliate asked Robert Kelly, First President of the Huntsville chapter and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama, to gather up some of his favorite recipes. Here they are:
by Robert Kelly
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup oil
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups chopped apples
1 cup chopped nuts
1 3-ounce package cream cheese
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup oleo
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together, then beat in oil until smooth. Sift dry ingredients and stir into mixture. Add apples and nuts to mixture, then turn into 9 x 13- inch pan. Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Beat icing ingredients until fluffy and spread on cooled cake.
PASTA AND SHRIMP WITH RICOTTA CHEESE SAUCE
by Robert Kelly
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, optional
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon reduced-calorie margarine
1/2 cup skim milk
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
8 ounces small shrimp, shelled, deveined, and sliced lengthwise
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed completely
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3 dashes liquid red pepper seasoning
1/4 cup shredded, low-fat Monterey Jack cheese (1 ounce)
12 ounces of linguine
Method: Saut garlic and red pepper flakes in hot margarine in a 10-inch non-stick skillet for 2 minutes, or until garlic is golden. Whisk in milk and ricotta, stirring until smooth. Add shrimp, peas, parsley, salt, nutmeg, and liquid red pepper seasoning. Cook over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in cheese. Meanwhile, cook linguine in a large pan of boiling water following package directions. Drain and rinse quickly in hot water. Transfer to large bowl. Top pasta with hot sauce. Toss well to coat. Serve immediately.
PORK CHOPS & POTATOES
by Robert Kelly
5 or 6 medium baking potatoes
1 medium onion, sliced for rings
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 10-ounce can golden mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6-8 pork chops
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice potatoes and place in lightly buttered baking dish. Place onion rings over potatoes and add bell pepper. Combine condensed soup and milk and spread mixture over vegetables. Add salt and pepper. Season pork chops and place on top of mixture in dish. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Thick chops should be turned once to assure thorough cooking.
SWEET 'N' SAVORY CHICKEN SALAD
by Robert Kelly
1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
2 cups cooked chicken, cut in chunks
1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained
1 can (10-1/2 ounces) unsweetened mandarin oranges, drained
1 can (4 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 small cucumber, diced
1 scallion, finely chopped
Method: Mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, and tarragon to make a dressing. In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients, except lettuce leaves. Pour the dressing over the chicken salad and toss lightly. Serve on lettuce leaves of your choice.
by Robert Kelly
3 cups sugar
3 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
Method: Cream butter, Crisco, and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beat well after each. Add milk and flour, a little at a time. Add vanilla and lemon flavor. Fold in baking powder last. Grease and flour a large angel cake or Bundt pan. Pour batter into pan and place it in a cold oven. Then turn the temperature to 350 degrees. Let it cook 1 hour and 15 minutes. Before opening the oven, turn off the heat and let the cake cool in the pan.
by Robert Kelly
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 stick margarine, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup nuts, optional
1/3 stick butter or margarine
Method: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients, except those for topping, and pour into large buttered casserole dish. Combine topping ingredients and put on top of sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Serves 8.
Sue Drapinski, Treasurer of the NFB of Michigan has asked us to print the following reminder:
NFB tote bags and "Braille Readers are Leaders" T-shirts and sweatshirts are available from the NFB of Michigan. The tote bags are $10, T-shirts are $9, and sweatshirts are $15. All shirts are available in children's sizes S, M, and L, and adult sizes S, M, L, XL, and XXL.
Please include $2.00 for shipping cost per item and send orders to NFB of Michigan, 111 W. Woodward Hts., Hazel Park, Michigan 48030.
Sandy Hansen, Vice President/Secretary of the Black Hills Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, writes as follows: On June 6, 1991, the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, Black Hills Chapter, held their annual election. The following people were elected: Joe Bollwerk, President; Sandy Hansen, Vice President/Secretary; Jean Thompson, Treasurer; Board of Directors: Tommie Blake, Irene Sears, and Polly Weedman.
**Wyoming Libraries Receive Our Book:
NFB chapters everywhere are on the move. It's still a good idea to encourage librarians to purchase our books for their collections, but if for whatever reason they will not, sometimes the only way to be sure that the books are available for those who need to read them is to present copies to the library staff. This article appeared in the Lander Wyoming newspaper:
The President of the Fremont County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind was in Lander Thursday to present a copy of a new book on the blind to the Fremont County Library.
Bud Peterson, a visually handicapped person and president of the local organization, presented a copy of Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement in the United States, 1940-1990 by Floyd Matson. Peterson said the chapter meets once a month, usually on a Wednesday near the end of each month, at the Riverton Senior Citizens Center.
A copy of the book was also presented to the Riverton Branch of the Fremont County Library. Roberta Olson, Librarian at the Lander Library accepted the book from Peterson. Olson then demonstrated the use of a sophisticated reading machine, which the library has available for the visually handicapped, using the new book.
**Change of Address:
The address for the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) International Braille Pen Pals Club has changed because Ronda Del Boccio has moved to Colorado Springs. If you are interested in participating in this international program, please write to her at 1915 E. Van Buren St., #12, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909, or call (719) 475-8586 (work) or (719) 475-8680 (home).
We need participants from other countries. Please let Ronda know of any organizations, schools, clubs, or individuals who might be interested.
**Attention Martial Arts Enthusiasts:
Gregory Hanson is seeking correspondence with any blind person who is studying or would like to study martial arts. He has been involved with Tae Kwon Do, the Korean form of Karate, for more than five years and has recently received the black belt and certification to teach. Respond in Braille, print, or cassette to Gregory Hanson, 2010-A Broadway Street, Iowa City, Iowa 52240, or call (319) 354-6314.
**Self-Inking Stamp for Sale:
The Albuquerque Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico is selling self-inking stamps embossed with the Free Matter for the Blind postal designation. These stamps produce a perfect imprint every time without the mess associated with conventional stamps. They are ideal for chapters that must put out large mailings or individuals who wish to dispense with messy and old-fashioned ink pads. Each stamp costs $10. Orders should be sent to Greg Trapp, 1309 Wagontrain Court, S.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87123.
[PHOTO: Scott LaBarre seated at table microphone, reading Braille notes. CAPTION: Scott LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Students.]
**Student Division Winter Conference:
Scott LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Students has asked us to print the following:
The National Association of Blind Students (NABS) will conduct its third annual national conference for blind students on January 31 and February 1, 1992, in Washington, D.C. We will kick off the conference with a fun-filled reception on Friday evening at 8:00 p.m., location in the headquarters hotel to be announced. On Saturday, the first, there will be both morning and afternoon sessions, in which we will discuss a wide variety of topics ranging from the how-to's of being a successful blind student to the current issues which confront blind students. On Saturday evening we'll cap the conference with a festive banquet, featuring a keynote address from a prominent leader in the blindness field. In past years the student conference has been a high-spirited, educational, and inspirational event.
At the conclusion of the conference the National Federation of the Blind will conduct our annual Washington Seminar from Sunday, February 2 to Wednesday, February 5. Students are strongly encouraged to remain in Washington for the rest of the seminar. It is our opportunity to inform our nation's legislative leaders about issues which are of the greatest importance to the blind of America.
The NABS conference and the Washington Seminar will be held at the Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. Room rates are $69 for singles, $74 for doubles, $79 for triples, and $84 for quads. The cost of registration, including a banquet ticket, is $20. To make your reservations, please contact Diane McGeorge at the Colorado Center for the Blind, 2232 South Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80210, (303) 778-1130. Hotel reservations must be made by January 1.
For any other questions regarding the conference, please contact Scott LaBarre, 2809 Fremont Avenue South, Apartment 214, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408, (612) 874-8327.
Don't miss this exciting chance to change what it means to be blind. Come join us in Washington.
**As the World Turns:
As this issue of the Braille Monitor goes to press, we have about come to the end of state convention season in the Federation. September, October, and November witnessed twenty- seven this year, and as one might have expected, the result has been a number of changes on the political map of the Federation. For your information, here are the names of the new chief executives of our state affiliates: West Virginia, Ed McDonald; Colorado, Homer Page; Vermont, Renee Pavlus; Georgia, Max Parker; Indiana, Paul Howard; North Dakota, Greg Beach; and New York, Gisela Distel. Congratulations and good luck to all these new state presidents.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dick Morris holds son Christopher during a meeting of the Public Relations Committee at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]
From the Associate Editor: It is with deep sorrow that we announce the death on November 11, 1991, of Christopher Morris, the six-year-old son of Dick and Dianna Morris of Missouri. Dick is the Recording Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and the Treasurer of the Springfield chapter. He is also the voice of the recorded edition of The Blind Missourian, the publication of the NFB of Missouri.
The Morrises adopted Chris in December of 1986, when he was sixteen months old. He had been abused as an infant and as a result never developed properly. But Chris was a loving and appealing little boy. He was happy to be rocked by any affectionate pair of arms, as long as his parents were nearby. Chris always attended the Public Relations Committee's seminars and meetings at our national conventions with his daddy and won everybody's heart. He will be deeply missed by his big brother Kevin and his devoted parents. Dick and Dianna have our deepest sympathy and also our profound admiration for the quality of love and life they gave Chris and continue to give Kevin.
[PHOTO: Greg Beach and Barbara Walker stand with Greg's guide dog Rocky. CAPTION: Greg Beach, newly elected President of the NFB of North Dakota, stands here with Barbara Walker, President of the NFB of Nebraska.]
**News from North Dakota:
Greg Beach, President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota, has asked us to print the following:
The National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota held its state convention on Saturday, September 21, 1991. In an attempt to meet the goal of the National Federation of the Blind to educate the public about the abilities of the blind, we invited professionals (such as home health nurses, social workers, and special education instructors) to come to our convention. We provided continuing education credits to those who attended.
As our special project for 1992 we are in the process of preparing resource information folders for distribution to those health care providers who work with people who are losing their sight. Walmart has agreed to donate the folders, and the Lions have agreed to assist with the cost of distribution.
The following Federationists were elected to serve as officers: President, Greg Beach; Vice President, Tom Capes; Secretary, Bev Rilley; and Treasurer, Connie Norheim.
**Cookbook Being Compiled:
We have been asked to print the following:
The NFB's Cultural Exchange and International Programs Committee is engaged in a new fund-raising activity--a foreign cookbook called International Dining. It will be exciting to have each of you send in foreign recipes. The cookbook will be produced in both Braille and print, and for each recipe that you send in, your name will be placed in a pot, giving you a chance later to win a copy of the cookbook. Please be sure your recipes have ingredients that are available in the United States, and send them to Cheryl McCaslin, 3115 Crestview, Apt. 107, Dallas, Texas 75235.
We have been asked to print the following:
For sale: Visualtek Voyager with 14-inch amber screen. The unit is in excellent condition, having had only approximately six to eight hours of use by one individual. I am asking $1,300, which includes owner's manual, dust cover, and insured shipping in its original carton. All reasonable offers will be considered. A $50.00 donation will be made to the National Federation of the Blind if sold through this publication.
If interested, contact Barry Wood at 6904 Bergenwood Avenue, North Bergen, New Jersey 07047, or call (201) 868-3336.
We recently received the following announcement:
The Decatur Area Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia proudly announces the appointment of our first vice president, Robert James Smith, to the Elderly and Handicapped Committee of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Board. As blind and visually impaired persons, we reserve the right to express our views and needs concerning public transportation. Therefore, we congratulate Robert James Smith for this important appointment, and we encourage him to speak out continually on issues affecting blind and visually impaired persons.
Sandra Parkinson of the NFB of Connecticut writes as follows: "The Thames Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut elected the following officers on October 19, 1991: President, Junerose Killian; Vice President, Michael D'Amico; Secretary, Sandra Parkinson; Treasurer, Glenn Killian; and Director, Fatima Perez. We have our meetings on the third Saturday of every month."
**Walks With India:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"I am writing to request that you include in your magazine some information about the audio cassette recordings which have recently been released by VOLKARIEL PRODUCTIONS. The two-cassette album, entitled "Walks With India," is composed of four meditations which guide the listener into country walks during the four seasons. The voice recording is accompanied by original music composed and performed especially for this album. Together the voice and music have created love songs to nature. The album is accompanied by a booklet which contains the main text of the recordings. The booklet has been translated into Braille and accompanies the original packaging. Without the Braille the album retails for $29.95; the price is $34 with the Braille. Contact: India G. Monroe, VOLKARIEL PRODUCTIONS, 2614 Plata Drive, Santa Rosa, California 95403; phone: (707) 578-4538. California residents must include 7-1/2 percent tax."
**What's In A Name:
From the Editor: Here is the end of a long trail. Apparently sometime in late August Mary Wurtzel, acting in behalf of the Committee on Parental Concerns of the National Federation of the Blind, sent me a letter announcing the establishment of a newsletter and asking that Monitor readers suggest a name for it. The first issue of the newsletter was slated for October. And, for all I know, it made its debut in timely fashion. In any case, I assume that a name is still wanted. Here is Mary Wurtzel's announcement:
It's been long awaited. It's here now. It's been worth the wait. What is it? It's the newsletter from the National Federation of the Blind Committee on Parental Concerns. Who will want to read it? Any parent. Any blind parent. Anyone who wants to be the best parent possible. Anyone interested in issues surrounding being a blind parent. This will be a general interest newsletter focusing on ways to parent as a blind person. There will be product reviews, personal interviews with blind parents, discussion of adoptions by blind parents, and much, much, much more.
When will the first issue be published? October 1, 1991. It will be a quarterly publication, issued January, April, July, and October. What format will it be published in? The newsletter is designed to be "interactive." That is, it is hoped that the subscribers will be active participants in each issue. For this reason the newsletter will be produced on tape. These tapes are to be returned, hopefully with comments which can be used in future issues. How much will it cost? Subscriptions will be $15 per year. Checks should be made payable to: Blind Parents Newsletter, c/o Mary Wurtzel, 1212 North Foster, Lansing, Michigan 48912.
What is its name? Well, Blind Parents Newsletter just won't make it as a name for a great newsletter. Remember interactive? There will be a contest to name the newsletter. Everyone who subscribes will have an opportunity to submit a name. There will be a prize for the creative person who submits the chosen name. Be the first. Send your subscription in today.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "I have the following items for sale: Complete Braille chess set, $10; Clovernook Braille Cookbook, one Braille volume, $2.50; The Problem of Wineskins: Church Structure in Today's Technological Age--by Howard A. Snyder, 5 thermoform Braille volumes, $15; The Day the World Ended--by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witz, nonfiction, cassette, $3.50; and soft plastic cassette boxes, 8 cents each. Write in Braille or tape: Elizabeth R. Saunders, Post Office Box 667, Macomb, Illinois 61455."
**The Lion Magazine Available on Tape:
Pat Barrett, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, writes to say that The Lion, the publication of the Lions service organization, is available on tape at no charge. Those interested in receiving it should contact Variety Audio, San Jose Public Library, 180 San Carlos Street, San Jose, California 95113-2096.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Blind Children's Fund and the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped Preschool have announced their sponsorship of a five-day national conference: Innovative Methods and Materials from Denmark: Developing the Full Potential of Infant, Preschool, and Multiply Impaired Blind and Visually Impaired Children, featuring Lilli Nielsen, Ph.D. of Denmark. The conference will be held September 21-25, 1992, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For further information contact: Sherry Raynor, Blind Children's Fund, 230 Central Street, Auburndale, Massachusetts 02166, Phone: (617) 332-4014, FAX: (617) 244-0690; or Betty Dominguez, NMSVH Preschool, 230 Truman, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone: (505) 268-9506, FAX: (505) 265-4866.
**Biography and Request for Book:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"First, the third part of my biography (My Testimony) is available in Braille from: Mrs. Lois Baskerville, 1015 Oxford Avenue, Sparks, Nevada 89431. The first two parts are: My Search for Myself and HAM Radio at My Fingertips. Anyone interested should send at least $10 with his or her order. Also, does anybody have a Braille copy of John Donne's poems? If so, I would either like to borrow it, or if it is not needed anymore, I would hope it could be donated. Contact: Ms. Gayle Sabonaitis, 11 Maxwell Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01607."
From the Editor: Sometime back we carried an announcement that Edgar Sammons of Mountain City, Tennessee 37683, would like to have pen pals in Braille. Apparently we gave his address as RFD 2, Box 1840. We should have given it as RFD 1, Box 1840. Edgar Sammons is a long-time member of the Federation, and anyone who corresponds with him will find his letters interesting. Incidentally, he was seventy-eight years old October 30 of this year. He and I have been exchanging letters for twenty or thirty years.
**Donation and Recognition:
As Federationists know, Barbara Cheadle is the editor of Future Reflections magazine and the president of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Under date of October 16, 1991, she received the following letter:
Dear Mrs. Cheadle:
I am writing on behalf of Barbara Aiello and Jeffrey Shulman, authors of The Kids on the Block Book Series. Their story, Business is Looking Up, which features a visually impaired main character, has been chosen by Silver, Burdett & Ginn for inclusion in the 1993 edition of the World of Reading Program. Barbara is the president of The Kids on the Block, Inc., and Jeffrey is the publisher at Twenty-First Century Books. They have chosen to give the $1,000 reprint fee for this project to the National Federation of the Blind. You should be receiving the donation shortly. Thank you.
Teresa S. Tauscher
Twenty-First Century Books
We recently received the following announcement from Helen Dodge: "I am asked by the Bay Area Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California to let you know of the results of our election of officers for the coming year. The following were elected: President, Jana Littrell; First Vice President, Pinky Johnson; Second Vice President, Mildred Rivera; Secretary, Helen Dodge; and Treasurer, Lief Johnson. Corinne Vieville and Doug Edwards were elected to the Board of Directors. Our chapter has been steadily growing in membership. Five new people were voted in at the last meeting.
The National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico is participating in a fund raising project with Wild Orchid Productions, a company which makes audio tape dramatizations of romance novels. For fans of this form of casual reading (both blind and sighted), these books on tape can be a fun new way to enjoy a favorite pastime. The NFB of New Mexico receives one-quarter of the purchase price on all books ordered by calling (800) 347-2160. Order now for gifts to your romance novel reading friends for Christmas or for those long winter nights by the fire in January.
**A Gift of Love:
From the Associate Editor: These thoughts were submitted by one Federationist, but it is really a message from the collective body of the National Federation of the Blind and is meant for every blind and sighted reader of these pages. Here it is:
December is the time of year when we think especially about giving. Giving warms the heart and restores the soul. When we give, we are more likely to count our blessings and give thanks for the benefits we have received.
When we count the blessings of 1991, let us remember to include the National Federation of the Blind. If it were not for the Federation, we who are blind would not be abroad in the land, taking our place in society and sharing in the responsibilities of membership in it. Although more blind people are an integral part of their communities than ever before, full integration and equal participation for all of us continue to be our most precious dream for the future.
Blind and sighted people alike have a responsibility to ourselves and to the generations that follow us to be certain that the National Federation of the Blind continues to be there when blindness strikes a family or when a blind person needs the strength and support of other blind people.
This December, when you consider making your gifts of love, please remember the National Federation of the Blind and make a donation. If the NFB is to be here for all of us in the coming year and decade and century, it will be because each of us has helped to make it so.