Vol. 36, No. 3 March
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 36, No. 3 March 1993
by Kenneth Jernigan
NATION'S TOP DISABILITY ADMINISTRATOR TAKES MISSISSIPPI JOB
OF AN ENGINEER
by John Miller
RIGHTS BECOME GROUP RIGHTS?
by Evan Kemp, Jr.
TOWARD A MORE
TOLERANT WORLD: THE PRICE OF DISCRIMINATION
by Jillian Brooks
WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IS IT?
by Gary Wunder
WHAT DO EMPLOYERS LOOK FOR?
JOB SEARCH IN THE GROVES OF ACADEME
by Adrienne Asch
OF THE BLIND 1993 LEGISLATIVE MEMORANDUM AND
ALL IS NOT
BLISS AT TELESENSORY
by Kenneth Jernigan
BLIND PEOPLE AND GUNS
REMAINING VIGILANT: BILL ISAACS TAKES UP HIS PEN
FOR A LIFETIME
by Richard Hassig
by Lorraine Rovig
LIKE A DIFFERENT
by Norma Crosby
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1993 [LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: In 1944 Kenneth Jernigan (right) spent the summer making furniture for sale in his community. It was an ambitious and lucrative summer job. He is pictured here with a friend, surrounded by a number of the occasional tables which were the backbone of his business.]
by Kenneth Jernigan
As a blind child growing up on a farm in the hills of Middle Tennessee in the late 1920's and early 1930's, I did a lot of thinking. This is not surprising since there wasn't much else to do. We lived in a four-room house on a gravel road, and I doubt that an automobile a week passed our door. We had no radio, no telephone, no newspaper, no magazines, and no books except the Bible and the textbooks my brother (four years older than I) brought home from school.
The world of the late '20's and early '30's in rural Tennessee was a totally different place from what we know today. Nobody thought about atom bombs, pollution, or jet planes. About the hottest topic I heard discussed by my elders was whether it was a sin for a woman to bob her hair and what the likelihood was that you would go to hell if you played cards. I had better explain that last remark. I am not referring to playing cards for money, just ordinary games around the family table. And while we are on the subject, there was no question at all about whether you would go to hell if you danced or played pool. You would.
The difference between the world of then and there and the one of here and now was not limited to the rural areas. Let me give you an example. When I went off to the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville at the age of six (that would have been January of 1933), one of the more charming customs of the place was a Saturday morning ritual involving the Scriptures. Shortly after breakfast the small boys (I don't know what happened to the girls since there was strict segregation) were plopped down on a bench and given the task of memorizing a chapter from the Bible. It didn't do any good to protest, object, or try to resist. You sat there until you memorized it, after which you were free to go play.
One's religion had nothing to do with it, nor did one's interest or aptitude. When you got the task done, you could (within limits) go where you pleased and do what you liked. Meanwhile you couldn't. And whatever time you spent trying to beat the system was just that much of the morning gone. I suppose I need not tell you that I quickly concluded to learn my chapter with minimum delay, which I religiously (no play on words intended) did. As a result, I have been a devout Bible quoter ever since--and much, I might add, to my benefit and long-range satisfaction. Ah, well, children are not always in the best position to know what will stand them in good stead.
I don't want to leave you with the impression that everything in that Tennessee world of the '20's and '30's concerned the Bible or religious matters. It didn't. We popped corn in a pan of bacon grease on the wood stove in the kitchen or in a long-handled popper at the fireplace in one or the other of the two bedrooms. (The house had a kitchen, a dining room, and two bedrooms.) We visited our neighbors and relatives, either walking or (if the distance was too far) riding in a wagon drawn by two mules; we gathered hickory nuts and walnuts; and now and again the family sang songs or listened to a neighbor play a banjo. At Christmas time there was a great deal of cooking, but no convenience foods, of course, and as little as possible bought from the store. For instance, we didn't make fruitcake. That would have cost too much. Instead, we made jam cake. The black walnuts, the homemade blackberry jam, and most of the other ingredients came from our farm and required no outlay of cash.
As to my personal situation, it was (if you want to be high-toned about it) what you might call anomalous. Nobody in the neighborhood had ever known a blind person, so there was no one to give advice. My parents loved me, but they didn't know what to do. This led to some strange inconsistencies. For instance, my mother and dad didn't want me to carry wood for the fireplace or stove or water from the spring, which was only a few feet from the house. They didn't want me to play in the yard or go any farther than the porch. They were afraid I might get hurt. Yet, they had no objection at all to my shooting firecrackers at Christmas time.
It was regarded as a natural thing for boys in that part of the country to shoot firecrackers, and I suppose my parents just never thought about it. One of my earliest memories is of me standing on the front porch with a match and a firecracker in my hand and of my father, saying as he went past me into the house, "You'd better be careful, or you'll blow your hand off with that thing." Young as I was, I knew that he was right and that nobody would stop me if I was careless--so I wasn't careless. I developed a technique of holding the match just below the head and pressing the firecracker fuse against it. Match and fuse were held between my thumb and index finger, so there was no possibility of the firecracker's exploding in my hand since my fingers were between it and the flame. Never once did I get hurt, and I think the experience helped me learn something about risk taking and proper caution.
As I have already said, I did a lot of thinking as I was growing up. I also did a lot of planning, for I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in close confinement in that four-room house on the farm. As I reasoned it, I needed to read all the books I could, and I needed to go to college. Therefore, as Braille and recorded books became available to me through the books for the blind program of the Library of Congress, I followed through on the matter and crammed my head as full of book learning as I could. Later I went to college and put the limited environment of the farm behind me.
Meanwhile, I wanted to do productive work and make some money. This wasn't easy since my family (though loving me) thought I was virtually helpless. My first effort (caning chairs at the School for the Blind) brought more labor than cash, but I had to start where I could. Also, we had cows on the farm, and we sold their milk to a nearby cheese factory. During summer vacations I milked cows night and morning and got ten cents a week for it. At the time I was probably eleven or twelve.
During the first part of the Second World War (I would have been fourteen or fifteen), I made a little money collecting peach seeds. I sold them to a man who came by twice a week in a truck. I was told that the kernels were used for filters in gas masks, but I don't know whether that was true or not. What I do know is that I got a penny a pound for them and that there were a tremendous number of peaches eaten in the neighborhood.
Then, there was the NYA (the National Youth Administration), one of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. Beginning in 1943 I washed windows, scrubbed floors, shined the small boys' shoes, and did other chores at the School for the Blind for three dollars a month--fifteen hours at twenty cents an hour. I thought I was rich.
And there was even an extra dividend. I was not the only boy at the School for the Blind who got three dollars a month for working for the NYA. There were quite a number, which meant that we now had a cash economy, with more money in circulation than the boys at the School for the Blind had ever known. It stimulated business. I was one of those who profited. I established a relationship with a local wholesale house and walked there once or twice a week to carry large boxes of candy and chewing gum back to the School. I bought the candy for three cents a bar and sold it for a nickel. Going for the candy was not only good exercise but also good profit. My roommate and I did a thriving business. It helped me get some of the money to start to college.
There was also my broom-making project. A neighbor in the country raised broom corn, and I took it with me to the School for the Blind and made it into brooms. (All blind boys in those days were taught chair caning and broom making regardless of their aptitudes or wishes, and I think I could still do a creditable job at either task.) My neighbor supplied the broom corn, and I made and sold the brooms. We split the profits.
During the latter part of the Second World War (by this time I was sixteen or seventeen) I got a chance during the school year to make some money by sorting aircraft rivets. The Vultee Aircraft Company established a plant near Nashville to make dive bombers, and there were many thousands of rivets in each plane. The workers would drop rivets on the floor; and when the dirt, cigarette stubs, and other leavings were swept up, the assorted mixture was brought to the students at the School for the Blind for sorting. We separated the rivets from the trash, sorted them into sizes and types, discarded any with rough spots on them, and sent them back to the aircraft plant. It was a messy job, but it was a way to make some money. I think I got two and a half cents a pound for it.
But all of these various jobs were preliminary to my first truly big opportunity. It happened like this: In the summer of 1944 (I was seventeen) I wanted to expand my horizons. Farm laborers in our neighborhood made $1.25 per day, working from sunrise to sunset, and I wanted to join their ranks. The pivotal event occurred when they began making hay. We had no power machinery. There was a mule-drawn mower, and after the hay was cut, there was a mule-drawn rake. The men would follow the rake with pitchforks, putting the hay into shocks and then tossing it into the mule-drawn wagon. Then it would be taken to the barn and put into the loft.
I tried to get my dad and the other decision makers to let me try my hand at making hay. They were not only unwilling but didn't even want to talk about it. In fact when I insisted, they indicated to me that they were busy and had work to do and that I should stop bothering them.
Since I was unwilling to spend the summer doing nothing, I looked around for other opportunities. It occurred to me that I might try my hand at making furniture. Lumber was cheap in those days, and I also had the idea of using spools. At that time thread was wound on wooden spools, plastic not yet having come into use, and almost everybody sewed. Spools were throw-aways, and I got all my relatives, plus department stores in surrounding towns, to save them for me. I got them in every conceivable size and then sorted them and strung them on iron rods to make table legs.
The design was simple, but the product was both durable and graceful. I could make a table in a day and could sell it for $10. It cost me $1.75 in materials, so I had a profit of $8.25. My rejection became a triumph. While the men did back-breaking labor in the hay fields for $1.25 a day, I stayed in my workshop, listened to recorded books, and produced tables for a profit of $8.25. No matter how fast I made them, I could never keep up with demand. It was as regular as clock work--$8.25 net profit day after day, not the $1.25 I would have made in the hay field.
I also designed and made floor lamps from spools. The lamp had an old steering wheel for a base with a pipe running up the center, surrounded by four columns of spools, with a fixture and shade on top. I could make it in a day, and I sold it for $25, with a cost for materials of a little over $8. This was twice as much profit as I made from a table. The trouble was that the lamps were harder to sell, so I got relatively few orders.
By the end of the summer I had more money than I had ever seen, and I did it again the following year. I went to college in 1945 and never returned to the furniture business, but it taught me a valuable lesson, as did the other jobs I have described. There are many ways to make hay, and if you lose $1.25, you may make $8.25 if you put your mind to it. As I have already said, the world of fifty years ago was a different place from the world of today--but many of the lessons still hold. They probably always will, and one of them is that making hay is a lifelong process.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Nell C. Carney, former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.]
NATION'S TOP DISABILITY ADMINISTRATOR TAKES MISSISSIPPI JOB
This article appeared in the January 20, 1993, Clarion- Ledger. Written by Butch John, it tells of the appointment of Nell Carney as Director of Mississippi's Department of Rehabilitation Services. Here it is:
Nell C. Carney, who has headed the nation's agency for disabled Americans since July, 1989, on Tuesday accepted the helm of the state's Department of Rehabilitation Services.
"It is my full intention to make the rehabilitation program in Mississippi a national model," Carney said in an interview from her Washington office. "Leadership is what's missing. There's a great opportunity there."
Carney replaces John Cook as executive director of an agency that serves more than 100,000 Mississippians. Cook left the $73,258-a-year position in December.
Carney, who is visually impaired, said she plans to begin work in Jackson Monday. She said she turned down one other job offer and entertained several feelers after President Bush failed to win re-election November 3.
Carney won unanimous approval in Tuesday's meeting of the 1,700-employee state agency's governing board.
As commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Education, she was the obvious pick from about a dozen candidates, board members said.
"She has just impeccable credentials. When you review a resume of a person with such a background, you can't help but be awed. It's difficult to perceive of an individual more qualified," said Dr. Ed Thompson, interim head of the state Department of Health and one of the five state agency heads on the board.
Andy Taggert, chief of staff for Governor Kirk Fordice, called Carney's hiring a triumph for Mississippi.
Carney, who holds a master's degree from Vanderbilt University and more than 90 hours of additional management training at other schools, began her career as an instructor at Middle Tennessee State University in 1974.
She held several counseling and administrative jobs in Washington state and Virginia before accepting the federal position.
"Having worked 3-1/2 years as a federal administrator, I see coming back to a state program as a good experience," she said. "I think Mississippi probably misses a lot of grant money. I'm the one who knows where to find it."
Evelyn Williams, who heads a parents' program to make Jackson public schools more accessible to disabled children, applauded the change.
A former client of the state agency, and a harsh critic of its administration in recent years, Williams said Carney's reputation and experience seemed to promise a service-oriented system the state had lacked.
[PHOTO: John Miller speaks with microphone in hand. CAPTION: John Miller addresses the Job Opportunities for the Blind seminar at the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]
THE MAKING OF AN ENGINEER
by John Miller
From the Associate Editor: At the 1993 Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) national seminar, conducted the day before the NFB convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, seminar participants heard John Miller, a 1988 NFB scholarship winner, describe his recent successful search for a job as a systems engineer. He told the group how important it is for the blind job-seeker to build and exude self-confidence. He said that one must be able to discuss blindness knowledgeably and briefly in an interview and that this can be done only if one has read and studied the articles in the Braille Monitor. He went on to suggest that every job applicant among his hearers concentrate on compiling a strong resume and references who will be prepared to speak enthusiastically and precisely about his or her skills and abilities. Finally he warned his listeners that they had to be prepared to demonstrate creativity and flexibility. An interviewer must be left with the impression that it would be interesting and stimulating to have a blind employee.
That was in July. By November John had moved to San Diego, California, and had begun work with his new company. He came to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of California and reported on how he had actually gotten his job and how it was going. Here is what he had to say:
I am a systems engineer at Quacom Incorporated in San Diego. Just last spring I graduated from Stanford University with both a bachelor's and a master's degree in electrical engineering. This year has been exciting for me. Four weeks ago today was my wedding. I welcome my wife Valerie to the Federation fold for many years to come. We look forward to seeing all of you in Dallas this summer. What I am here to talk about, of course, is employment.
During my four years at Stanford one of the most important things I gained was speaking with many of my disabled friends. In one of our talks we posed a question to each other, "Would you, if you could, take a pill that would make you a non-disabled person?" A number of us concluded "No, we are proud of our identity as disabled persons. We do not need to be like other people." As a matter of fact, it's this kind of strength and independence that we have in the National Federation of the Blind. We can respect ourselves as blind people and take pride in being blind. This is what we need to convey to our employers.
The employment process has two steps: The first is to get the job, and the second is to make our employers and co-workers comfortable with our disabilities. Last winter and spring I interviewed with twenty-three different companies. From that I obtained four second-round opportunities to demonstrate my strength again on plant trips and received three job offers at the end of that rather harrowing experience. At my many first company interviews I did encounter discrimination. One thing I knew at the beginning was that other candidates interview the recruiter. Recruiters interview about ten different people. Some of them they remember favorably, others negatively, others not at all. As blind people we are excluded from the not-at-all category. They will either remember us favorably or negatively. We can use this to our advantage. We will leave them with an impression. Which one that will be is the challenge we face. In the beginning I thought my Quacom first-round interview went quite well. We struck up a good camaraderie, discussed a number of different interests, classes, and some professors that the interviewer had known at Stanford. Then it occurred to me that he was telling me about his interests more than telling me anything to do with the Quacom position or asking me about my past experience. I asked him if he intended to raise any technical questions. He responded, "It's not that I feel you are unqualified; it's rather that I am unqualified to ask you, a blind person, technical engineering questions."
I responded, "It's only fair that you ask technical questions both to me and to others that you interview today. I am a teaching assistant of electrical engineering students. We often deal with electrical engineering issues. If you need to draw to ask the question, do so and describe to me what you're drawing as you go along, and I will give you my answer as well as I can." So a half-hour into the interview I learned that for others it had been a technical interview from the beginning. I had ten minutes left in which to prove my merit. When I was done with the interview, I expected that I wouldn't be hearing from Quacom. But they did invite me down to the plant. I had four interviews there that morning, and then we were taken out to lunch--wined and dined--and told we would have another interview that day only if we hadn't found a good match with one of our previous interviewers.
I was secure in the knowledge that I had found a match, went ahead to eat a large dessert, and felt very sleepy afterwards. I came back and went on a tour of the plant. Then they informed me that the vice president of engineering wanted to interview me at five o'clock. All I could think of was, "I shouldn't have had that dessert." I was so sleepy! I recognized that this was an opportunity because clearly it was not that I hadn't had good interviews, but that the vice president of engineering wanted to have a close look at a blind person they might consider hiring. I took advantage of the opportunity as Rami Rabbi recommends in his book, Take Charge. (Any of you who are looking for a job please follow the road map that Rami lays out; it helped me through the job-search experience.)
I explained that I thought to do good engineering work I would like to work with readers ten hours a week and pay them $7.50 an hour. This would be $3250 a year. I would be willing to pay it out of my salary; or, if he thought Quacom could afford it, they could supply the funds in addition to my salary. He said he would take that into consideration and wrote it into the offer letter I received several weeks later.
Now I had a job; I moved down to San Diego and went to work my first day. I knew that securing the job was just the beginning. I needed to make my co-workers comfortable with my disability. Two weeks later I presented a lecture about disability, the National Federation of the Blind, and positive attitudes to a hundred engineers. I explained to them that I was now in their midst and would be asking questions in meetings when they said, "This line implies..." or "As you can see from this curve...." So they could expect interruptions any time they made a presentation and would now know how best to work with me. I told them that I was proud to be blind and happy to discuss blindness. I also told them that role models in the National Federation of the Blind had taught me that blind people can do anything they put their minds and talents to. I was not a freak or an incredible blind person; I was an average blind person doing an average engineering job.
Before I close, I invite anyone to call me who has questions about how a blind person can do electrical engineering, how a blind person can secure Braille text with less than four months to get the print copy transcribed into Braille, and how a blind person can read in Braille actual handouts with less than a week's turnaround by working with volunteer Braille transcribers. My home number is (619) 587-3975. Thank you very much.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Evan J. Kemp, Jr.]
HAVE CIVIL RIGHTS BECOME GROUP RIGHTS?
by Evan Kemp, Jr.
From the Editor: At the time of this writing (early February, 1993) Evan Kemp is still Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Whether the Clinton Administration will ask him to continue in office (and they probably won't), he has definitely made his mark on the federal government and taken definite and clear-cut stands. As an example, he thought that the Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy campaign was demeaning to the disabled--and he said so. He did it knowing that his views were controversial, and he refused to back down when he was pressured. He thought special awards for handicapped government employees were insulting, not complimentary--and he made an issue out of it, advocating that such awards be abolished. Again he refused to keep silent or retract.
More recently Mr. Kemp has made public pronouncements on the touchy subject of civil rights as opposed to group entitlement. As with his other hot-potato subjects, he has refused to say that he didn't mean it and shows no sign of waffling. He expressed his views on the topic in a speech delivered at the National Press Club in Washington on November 24, 1992; and whether one agrees or disagrees, all who give even a moment's thought to the matter must applaud the behavior of this different breed of federal bureaucrat. He takes a position; he lays it out; you can understand it; and when the heat turns on, he doesn't deny that he said it or claim that he really didn't mean it or was misunderstood. You can like it or dislike it, but there it is without apology or equivocation. Ah, that we had more like him!
His statements at the National Press Club did not, of course, go unchallenged. Five days after they were made (on November 29, 1992), the Washington Post took him to task in an editorial. As in the other cases I have mentioned, he didn't wilt in the heat. Quite the contrary. On December 8, 1992, he counterattacked.
I think Monitor readers will find this exchange not only interesting but thought-provoking. The questions raised and the opinions expressed are worth pondering. Here are the November 24 remarks at the National Press Club, the November 29 Washington Post editorial, and the December 8 Kemp response:
Have Civil Rights Become Group Rights?
by Evan J. Kemp, Jr.
It's a pleasure to be here at the National Press Club. Most of you probably watched President-elect Clinton's first press conference. There the Governor pledged to the nation that his administration would look like America, that it would reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our country. Yet during the campaign candidate Clinton had made vehement statements opposing quotas, opposing group preferences.
That the President-elect used the term "diversity" is not surprising. Though diversity used to bring to mind the image of the melting pot, the richness of America, today diversity is a code word to many for group entitlement, preferences, division-- the very quotas candidate Clinton said he opposed, the very quotas the American people oppose.
I have faced this dilemma as Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as did Eleanor Holmes Norton and Clarence Thomas before me. And it is the dilemma that the new Chairman of the EEOC will face. I have felt, as will my successor, the pressure to use our employment discrimination laws to turn the goal of diversity into a prescription for group entitlement. President-elect Clinton's promotion of diversity and opposition to group entitlement must be reconciled. And I can tell you from experience that this is nearly an impossible job-- nearly impossible because we have not told the truth about what's really happening in universities, in the work force, in our cities. We have not told the truth about what words such as "diversity" and "affirmative action" have come to mean.
I am glad to have the opportunity to be here today, as my time as Chairman draws to a close, to reflect on this dilemma, as well as on what the future may hold.
Twenty-eight years ago Americans confronted the unequal status of blacks in this country. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, and gender in public accommodations and employment. Later Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. And in 1990, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the EEOC, Congress made illegal discrimination on the basis of disability.
These laws, based on a strong consensus, a firm belief in equal opportunity for all, and on the primacy of individual rights, have brought about unprecedented change. America is far better for honoring our commitment to the fundamental principle that all are created equal, that everyone is entitled to the opportunity to compete for jobs for which they qualify, to gain those qualifications through education, to travel, to use public accommodations, and to live wherever they can afford.
I believe that the civil rights movement of the 1960's succeeded because we were forced to acknowledge that one group of Americans had been excluded from these entitlements. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made us acknowledge that the great American melting pot had grudgingly, but unfailingly, absorbed refugees from Europe and Asia but had miserably failed to do the same for blacks. King's simple but eloquent message stirred and unified the nation.
But while King suffered insult, even imprisonment, because of his race, he did not ask for reparations or for special privileges. His dream was for a nation where his children--where all children--would be judged by the content of their characters, not by the color of their skins. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 realized King's dream of inclusion. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave every American the right to be judged by what they can do, not by someone else's stereotypes. Most recently Americans with disabilities demanded and won this right.
Tragically for us all Dr. King's assassination robbed the civil rights movement of his leadership and his vision. Others have used his dream of equality to gain power through group entitlement, promoting distrust and resentment among racial and ethnic groups. Notions of individual responsibility and the duties of citizenship have been subsumed by assertions of rights by virtue of victim status. As author Shelby Steele explains: "We have taken our power from our history of victimization, which gave us an enormous moral authority and brought social reforms, to the neglect of self-reliance and individual initiative."
Once group entitlement became the driving force, the consensus of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 began to erode. Politicians bowed to the politics of pigmentation. The policies of pigmentation were sold as equal justice for all. Employers installed quotas and called them "goals and timetables," colleges lowered entrance standards in the pursuit of fairness, and "race norming" was used to achieve a balanced work force.
This was the well from which animosity among groups began to spring. This animosity can be seen in the charges brought to the EEOC, in the news from Los Angeles to Crown Heights. What part did actual or perceived preferences play in the Los Angeles riots? People are frightened by what columnist William Raspberry has described as "an increase in disputes, claims and counter- claims across ethnic, geographical, gender, and economic lines."
The best advice I can offer my successor is not to give in to those who would carve up American society along ethnic, racial, and gender lines. Because if we do, we will tragically shortchange minority youths by assuming that, because they do not do as well on a group basis as others, they will never do as well. We have already lowered standards and expectations. The individual who does succeed is stigmatized. The others are told that they cannot hope to compete as individuals, only as members of a subgroup. Still others get the message, "Don't even try to compete; success is beyond your reach."
The focus on groups over individuals has translated into favoritism toward one group at the expense of another, creating division and resentment. This iountry is home to some 150 ethnic and racial groups. How do we divide the pie? Indeed, what exactly do we mean by affirmative action? Because if affirmative action is going to be based on group entitlement and proportional representation, an impossible task lies ahead for President-elect Clinton, for the new Chairman of the EEOC, for the entire nation. And why are we suddenly hearing about "diversity"? I'm afraid that the term "diversity" is an effort to make permanent what we had before been assured by the U.S. Supreme Court was temporary.
I remember remarking to a friend how impressed I had been by a recent article by Thomas Sowell that examined the use of group preferences in other countries. I told her, "Now here's a guy who really understands disability!" Sowell never mentioned disability in his article. But he talked about the fact that in Sri Lanka, in India, or wherever preferential treatment has been tried, those who needed it the least got all the benefits. That is the reality of preferences with respect to disability as well.
Entitlements in the guise of quotas have always benefited those persons with the least severe disabilities, or with what I like to call the three H's: hemorrhoids, hangnails, and halitosis. Employers will do the minimum necessary to comply with the law to meet their quotas. And those with the most serious disabilities are never used to fill a quota. Moreover, preferential treatment for persons with disabilities raises other questions. How would it apply to the hundreds of subgroups of disabilities? Should the blind be favored over the deaf? Does hiring one person in a wheelchair excuse a company from considering a qualified applicant with a learning disability?
These were among the questions debated in the twelve years leading up to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was a part of that process, and I can tell you that it wasn't easy, that not everyone liked the answers. But the debate was an honest examination of the fears of employers and the desires of Americans with disabilities. And when we were finished, we had a strong consensus that the entire nation would benefit from including Americans with disabilities in the American dream.
I believe the ADA can and should be a paradigm for the future of civil rights because it is based on individual rights. The ADA charges employers to look at an individual's abilities, rather than disabilities. But, most important, under the ADA employers are not required to hire an unqualified applicant simply because that applicant has a disability. The Act ensures that persons with disabilities who are qualified to do a job will no longer be locked out by discrimination. But it does not mandate that employers use statistics and other group-based numbers to make hiring decisions.
Would that were true under the Civil Rights Act of 1991. That legislation certainly was hard fought. Unfortunately, most of that fight took place behind closed doors, where the politics of pigmentation could be openly pursued. During the private debates over the Civil Rights Act of 1991, so-called civil rights leaders went so far as to plead with the White House for one more generation of quotas for blacks. And yet publicly they proclaimed, "This is not a quota bill."
The fight was over the theory of disparate impact. That theory came from a highly ambiguous 1971 Supreme Court decision in Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. It had come to be understood to mean that neutral employment practices that did not involve intentional discrimination but disproportionately operated to exclude blacks would nevertheless be found to violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, unless they were justified by "business necessity." Never mind that the 1964 Act had rejected this theory. As a result employers came to understand that one way to avoid lawsuits over whether their hiring practices operated in this manner was to hire by group preferences, and colleges and universities changed their admissions policies to do the same.
Civil rights leaders also became quite attached to this system. But the rhetoric of civil rights has never reflected that reality. That was my great frustration during debates over the Civil Rights Act of 1991. No one involved in those debates should claim this law was passed with a broad consensus, other than the stated desire of politicians to "get the quota issue behind us." But did we get it behind us? Absolutely not. Executive Order 11246, which is the father of quotas and group preferences, was never even discussed in the two years of debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1990 and 1991. Some readers of the Act, like the worried business leaders who have embraced quotas and preferences to avoid lawsuits and Fred Barnes of the New Republic, believe it protects them. The EEOC eventually will have to address this issue, and the Supreme Court ultimately will decide it.
We need an honest examination of the policies championed by those well-meaning do-gooders who would protect and patronize the victim, who would base our civil rights laws on the very stereotypes they were meant to dispel. We need to get back to discussions of individual ability and merit versus group stereotypes and entitlement. We must stop viewing our civil rights laws as the solutions to educational and economic disparity.
And we must return to merit, to values. Values, that much maligned concept from the recent election. People poked a lot of fun at the discussion about values. Yet our values have eroded to the point where studies show that children are cheating more and more in school and thinking that they are doing nothing wrong. How can we instill the importance of merit and respect for individuals if we ignore our values?
We must begin honest debate about these issues. The Washington Post took a step in that direction a few months ago in a provocative series on race. The newspaper sponsored two focus groups: one all-black and one all-white. The groups then mixed for a frank discussion about blacks' perceptions of whites and whites' perceptions of blacks. That discussion became explosive at times, just as there will be animosity as we focus on topics that many are afraid to discuss, except among members of their own group. Senate Democrats were afraid to initiate discussion of these topics when Clarence Thomas was considered for the Supreme Court.
It is time to ask: What does affirmative action mean today? Is it more than the removal of unlawful or artificial barriers? Do we owe something special to present-day African-Americans--as opposed to Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans--because blacks have suffered a history of slavery and discrimination? And, even if we owe reparations, can that debt ever be repaid in the devalued coin of racial preferences? In fact, monetary reparations might be far less costly to society than racial preferences.
It is time to ask: What does diversity mean today? Is it inclusion in that melting pot that made our nation great? Is it divisive preservation of ethnic or racial heritage to the exclusion of others?
It is time to ask: Can we afford in today's highly competitive world to discount the importance of merit in the guise of fairness?
This is the challenge we face in the years ahead: to heal a nation torn asunder by tension among groups. That healing can begin only when we face the reality of civil rights in America with honest debate and frank talk. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the debate in this most important of forums.
That was what Evan Kemp had to say on November 24. Five days later the Washington Post responded with the following editorial:
Looking Like America
The Bush Administration's chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission thinks he's already caught Bill Clinton in a contradiction on civil rights. The President-elect has said he wants his Cabinet and Administration to "look like America," yet during the campaign he "made vehement statements opposing quotas, opposing group preferences."
And there, in case you missed it, is the conflict, the whole awful thing, as the Bush Administration continues to view the world. The diversity that the Democratic victor seeks implies the use of precisely the "preferences" that he says he wants to avoid, EEOC Chairman Evan Kemp said in a swan song the other day. No way can the laudable goal be achieved except by suspect means, no matter how many eminently qualified blacks or women or Hispanics or members of other such groups you happen to have in your party or to know; the quota police know quotas when they see them. "President-elect Clinton's promotion of diversity and opposition to group entitlement must be reconciled, and I can tell you from experience that it is nearly an impossible job," Mr. Kemp said. He complained that increasingly, since the 1960's, politicians had abandoned the simple goal of non-discrimination in favor of a "Politics of pigmentation."
In fact, the achievement of diversity in an administration or student body or faculty or work force does not require a resort to quotas. Even a Reagan-Bush Supreme Court continues to recognize that there is a middle ground. Mr. Kemp, of course, is right that a tension exists. Affirmative action does indeed encompass an inconsistency, as its critics never tire of pointing out. To overcome the effects of racial and other forbidden forms of discrimination from the past, precisely those forbidden factors are required to be taken into account in hiring, promotions, and admissions in the present; the cure becomes a reverse dose of the disease.
The Bush Administration's position has been that the cure somehow constitutes the greater threat, that affirmative remedies go too far, entangle the courts, employers, and the like in precisely the kinds of racial and other offensive labeling that they are meant to eliminate, and that they ought to be replaced by a policy of strict neutrality--color-blindness, in the case of race. But it is government that is blinded and--conveniently from the standpoint of those who would prefer that it do less--too often neutralized by such a policy, no one else. Government is supposed to pretend that race or ethnic origin or sexual stereotypes are not a factor in situations where everyone else knows full well that they are.
Mr. Kemp says that he felt, as will his successor, "the pressure to use our employment discrimination laws to turn the goal of diversity into a prescription for group entitlement." No doubt that's so, but the danger that a policy will be carried too far is hardly grounds for its abandonment. There's harm--though not to the same people--in doing too little as well. Mr. Clinton can have a diverse administration and the country still be safe from quotas.
That was the response of the editors at the Washington Post, and on December 8 Evan Kemp commented as follows:
Rights and Quotas, Theory and Practice
by Evan J. Kemp, Jr.
Finally, thanks to the Post's editorial "Looking Like America," the real debate on civil rights has begun. In my speech November 24 to the National Press Club--"Have Civil Rights Become Group Rights?"--I called for such a beginning, for an honest discussion of the state of civil rights. I emphasized we must examine the effects of policies--race norming, quotas, goals, timetables--designed to facilitate affirmative action but resulting in insidious and pervasive racial, ethnic and gender preferences. I asked that we take a hard look at what is producing tensions among groups and fostering division in our society.
I have seen how the group approach feeds these tensions. As a leader of the disability rights movement, I fought for the guarantee of individual rights in the Americans With Disabilities Act. I knew group entitlement fails when applied to disability; employers do the minimum necessary under law to meet quotas and never fill a quota with individuals with serious disabilities. As chairman of the EEOC I have found protection on the basis of group status also fails when applied to race, ethnicity, and gender.
President-elect Clinton has recognized these tensions and resentments, and has been widely praised for doing so. He courageously told whites and blacks that division is unhealthy and must be healed. But the challenge to the Clinton Administration will be to take the next step and examine whether the prescriptions to cure the disease of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination are outdated, even producing a counter- reaction.
According to the Post's editorial, President-elect Clinton "can have a diverse administration and the country still [my emphasis] be safe from quotas...[T]he achievement of diversity in an administration or student body or faculty or work force does not require a resort to quotas."
In theory, no, but in practice, yes. Even after twelve years of Reagan-Bush policies, employers large and small, governments, universities, and nonprofit sector all labor under a regulatory regime that results in the widespread use of quotas.
Here's how the system actually works: the Labor Department requires federal contractors to report the race, ethnic, and gender composition of its work force. Failure to reflect a "correct" composition risks loss of federal contracts. Employers also must grapple with "business necessity" and the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures--the government regulation that requires businesses to justify any selection procedure that has a "disparate impact." This means that, if your payroll doesn't meet the government's prescription for racial, ethnic, or gender mix, you may be sued.
Thus the Uniform Guidelines have become the arbiter of individual merit in American employment. An employer who prefers high school graduates over non-graduates, for example, would risk a discrimination charge because of possible differences in graduation rates among different racial and ethnic groups. But even when an employer successfully defends the "business necessity" of employment decisions, the Uniform Guidelines burden the employer to continue to search for "alternative selection procedures" producing less of a disparate impact (i.e., producing equality of results when comparing groups).
To avoid expensive litigation, prudent employers "hire by the numbers," ensuring that their work force's "bottom line" reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of their labor market. More important, hiring by the numbers satisfies the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (and for that matter, EEOC field investigators), even though the Supreme Court has held Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals, not groups.
While hiring by the numbers has become de facto civil rights policy, it begs the question of whose numbers. According to historian Stephan Thernstrom of Harvard University, there are at least 106 ethnic groups in the American labor force.
Here we get to the issue of diversity, which the media treat as the Holy Grail but which in practice has too often come to mean group entitlement in the workplace and in our universities. President-elect Clinton's desire to make his administration "look like America" is laudable. But how to get there? The Clinton administration can be expected to report this diversity in terms of the percentage of race, ethnicity, and gender for some, but not all, of these groups. Diversity, which used to bring to mind the image of the melting pot, is today a politically correct call for group entitlements--the very quotas a majority of Americans oppose.
At no point in my November 24 speech did I claim or imply that "in no way can the laudable goal [of diversity] be achieved except by suspect means, no matter how many eminently qualified blacks or women or Hispanics or members of other such groups you happen to have in your party or to know..." That's what the Post's editorial said, not what I said or meant.
Recently I heard divergent definitions of affirmative action voiced by two journalists, one black and one white. The black journalist believed affirmative action means dismantling illegal barriers to equal opportunity. Her white colleague described affirmative action as preferential treatment. These insights were not the political hyperbole or euphemism of Bush-Reagan policy makers or, for that matter, Post editorial writers. These were citizens telling the truth as they saw it. And their truths reveal the lack of consensus, the myth of the middle ground that characterizes the debate about civil rights.
Where is the middle ground for which the Post's editorial yearns? If by middle ground we mean consensus, that can only be reached by continuing to ask the tough questions--questions such as: In today's highly competitive world can we afford to discount the importance of merit in the guise of fairness? Do we owe something special to present-day African Americans--as opposed to Korean Americans, Chinese Americans, Hispanic Americans, Irish Americans--because blacks have suffered a history of slavery and discrimination? And if the answer is yes, can that debt ever be repaid in the devalued coin of racial preference? We must not be satisfied with facile or simplistic answers that bear little relationship to the reality of the workplace, the universities, indeed, of society as a whole.
The incoming administration, as well as the Post editorial page, must face that fact that, if diversity is used to mask a regime of quotas, we will tear the fabric of this nation along ethnic, racial, and gender lines. Surely none of us wants that.
[PHOTO: Jillian Brooks stands outside with skis. CAPTION: Jillian Brooks is an avid skiier.]
TOWARD A MORE TOLERANT WORLD: THE PRICE OF DISCRIMINATION
by Jillian Brooks
From the Associate Editor: The April, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor included an article by Jillian Brooks of Redding, California, describing her struggle with Redding Radiation, a medical facility that had fired her because of her blindness. The resulting case has taken years to settle, but finally, in the spring of 1992, it was settled resoundingly in her favor. Jillian, who learned about the Federation in the course of fighting this battle and who has subsequently helped to organize and become the president of the Shasta County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, told the entire story to the California affiliate at its 1992 convention last November. The following article is taken from her remarks. Here it is:
In the sessions yesterday and today we have talked a lot about acquiring the alternative techniques that blind people need to succeed. In the student division meeting we talked about ways of getting grants and scholarships and discussed strategies for finding jobs. We've also talked about reasonable accommodation on the job and what you can do to make your job go better. But sometimes it doesn't go better; things go wrong, and you get fired. What do you do then? You have learned all the things you needed to; you have done everything right; you are a qualified employee. But you get fired because you're blind and for no other reason. We've all been discriminated against many times, but this is a big one. I have been fortunate because I have only been fired once. My poor sister has been fired eight or nine times because of vision. But the feelings I had when it happened to me were very similar to those I felt when I learned that my father had died and when my mother died. It was a horrible, horrible feeling, and it will never leave me. I certainly have empathy for anyone else who goes through it.
I am an x-ray technologist, and I have worked in the field for a good twelve years. Several years ago I moved up to Redding, California, and bought a home. I got a job with Redding Radiology, and I worked there for all of four and a half days. Then I was fired because I was considered a safety hazard. When I was being interviewed for the job, I told them that I had a severe vision problem and that I would be using a magnifying glass. I think that's a pretty reasonable accommodation. I pulled it out to show the interviewer, and she said it was no problem. But she fired me the day she saw me use it. She just took me into her office and said, "There is no place in the medical profession for someone using a magnifying glass."
I asked her to check with previous employers, who I knew would tell her that there was no problem, but she wasn't about to listen to me. I hadn't met the Federation yet, so I didn't know about the right to reasonable accommodation. I tried to tell her about my closed circuit television system that I could bring in to use if she didn't like the magnifying glass. Her response was, "I'm sorry about your magnifying glass and your reading machine, but I just don't think that our doctors would be accommodating to that idea."
I felt humiliated and helpless. I had just come to Redding and bought a home, and Redding Radiology was the only game in town in x-ray work. I felt panicky and desperate; I wanted to beg for my job. I started to cry, and she just turned around and walked out of her office. That was the end of that, so I walked home.
This is where my story really starts. I got home and called my sister who lives in New York. She told me that she had a co- worker and good friend named Rami Rabby. She remembered that he was a member of an organization of blind people. She couldn't quite come up with the name, but she came close enough for me to call telephone information and get the listing for the National Federation of the Blind of California. When I called, the first person I spoke to was Linda Milliner. To talk with someone who understood, who knew what I was feeling, who had been there made all the difference in the world to me. No one in Redding understood. Then, after talking with Linda, I met Sharon Gold, President of the NFB of California. After that it was look out world!
The first thing I noticed in talking with Sharon was that she wasn't mad at my employer. She explained that most people are afraid of blindness, and often a little education will bring them around to rational behavior. She seemed to think that, if we could begin a dialogue and allay their fears, we could straighten out the problem. She was prepared to approach them in a very reasonable, adult way. She didn't come storming out, making accusations. But the staff wouldn't even return her calls. Can you imagine not returning Sharon's phone calls? And of course they wouldn't talk to me; I had been terminated, and that was that. On the day I was fired I had been warned by a co-worker not to take any action against Redding Radiology because they were so powerful. She said, "If you do, I guarantee that you will never work in this town again." That really scared me. I had bills and a new house, and I was devastated.
Sharon and I began working together. She wrote letters on my behalf. You have read Sharon's letters; they are impressive, darned impressive, and I think the Redding people decided that this just might be someone they would have to take seriously. I have to say that we went through hell together. I couldn't sleep at night, and she was on the phone with me at all hours. She stuck with me the whole way.
There were a few funny things that happened. The first time we met face-to-face with representatives from Redding Radiology, we got there before any of them were in the room. Sharon, Sheryl Pickering, and I came in, and Sharon is such a take-charge woman that she sat down at the head of the table in their own conference room and made them sit along the sides.
I filed complaints with the California Fair Employment Practices Commission and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. This was before enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but Redding Radiology had received Medicare and MediCal funds, so it was bound to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. We kept trying to resolve the problems, but they weren't interested in negotiating. To hear them talk, you would never have known that I had been doing this work for fifteen years.
Finally, on the day before the statute of limitations was to expire, we filed a lawsuit. No one could accuse us of having jumped at the chance to sue these people. We tried everything to get my job back. They offered me a job in a darkroom, developing film at half my normal wages. Then they offered me $10,000 to drop the suit, but they wouldn't give me my job back. Never during the negotiations did they explore the question of how I might do my job. To this very day they have never checked my references or talked with anyone from my past jobs about how I do my work. They had made their decision, and they had no intention of reconsidering it.
So, as I say, we were forced to sue. We filed suits against Redding Radiology, both the partnership and the corporation, and against each of the thirteen doctors individually. We sued in the federal court and in the state court. Those suits were a positive action, but there were negative things going on at the same time. I was unemployed. There was no money coming in, and I was ashamed. I don't know why; they were the ones who should have been ashamed, but they made me feel like a bumbling Mr. Magoo. And all I wanted to do was to earn my living in the field I had worked in for so long.
In preparing our case, I learned early on that it was very important for me to attend as many of the depositions as possible. I discovered that people actually lie in depositions! I was shocked to discover that. So I figured that, if they were going to lie, they would have to do it to my face. And that's what I did: I made them look me in the eye while they were telling lies about what had happened.
During this time I tried hard to be positive. I concentrated, for example, on the Dress for Success principle. One day I appeared at a deposition wearing a black linen suit with immaculate white cuffs. I looked very chic and professional. I walked into the attorney's office where one of the doctors was being deposed. I had worked for this doctor, so he had known me although it had been a year. When I came in, the doctor jumped up and walked over to me holding out his hand and said, "Hello, you must be Miss Brooks's attorney."
I shook his hand and said, "No way, Dr. Stephens, I'm Jillian Brooks." He stood there shaking my hand, and I could just see the fear on that man's face.
Then he took his glasses out of his pocket and put them on saying, "Oh I'm sorry; I didn't have my glasses on."
I said, "Better watch out, Dr. Stephens; you could lose your job for something like that." You can see that during this time I had my little victories. I had never been deposed before, but in this case I was deposed for more than sixteen hours. I must say that I enjoyed the fact that at the end of each day of my deposition it was the attorney and not me that was sweating. They kept trying to find some indication of things that I couldn't see, that I couldn't do; but they couldn't. They even brought in an ophthalmologist at $500 an hour to testify against me. They would say to him, "Could she read the print on the cards, Doctor?"
"Well she could, but she would have to use a magnifying glass to do so."
"What size print could she read?"
"She could read the very smallest print, but she read it haltingly." I guess I just hadn't read it fast enough for him.
I was very depressed during this time although I did begin to make friends in the National Federation of the Blind. I started learning. I remember Sharon's telling me, "Jillian, your problem is that you don't yet know you are blind." And she was right; I didn't know I was blind, but slowly I began to learn that it is respectable to be blind, and I learned that we have power. It is the brotherhood and sisterhood of this organization that empower us. I like the idea that, if it is necessary, we can mobilize tens of thousands of people to make telephone calls.
As I say, I was very depressed. I was told to keep looking for a job, but Redding Radiology was associated with every job in the town. I would respond to ads in the newspaper with my resume, and nobody would call me. Being unemployed got to be very demoralizing. As we got closer to the trial date, I got increasing pressure to settle.
During the summary judgment trial I was declared a qualified handicapped employee. That was a very large victory because Redding Radiology was trying to make the case that I wasn't qualified to do the job or that I wasn't really blind or that I wasn't blind enough. But the closer we got to the trial, the more pressure I felt to settle, both from my attorney and from the other side. We were heading into federal court, where I was going to be facing a jury, which meant that I would have to convince every juror of the justice of my position. There was always the chance that one of those people would discriminate against me just as the people at Redding Radiology had done. But I wanted the trial because I wanted the written victory. I wanted a precedent that would convince people that they couldn't kick blind people around.
The whole thing became more and more stressful. At about Christmas time they offered me $150,000 to settle the case. I thought about it and then turned them down because I was feeling a little bullied by them. But I agonized over my decision. Then, after the New Year, Redding Radiology's attorneys--which they kept hiring till you wouldn't believe how many there were-- decided that they had better do some depositions of their own. There had already been ten to fifteen depositions, but most of them were done by my attorney. Of course they had to depose Sharon, which was pretty interesting.
They finally contacted my previous employer, my supervisor Yvonne in an urgent care clinic in the Bay area. I had also worked with her in the emergency room at Mills Hospital. Redding had been claiming that I was a safety hazard, that I couldn't perform in an emergency. My supervisor's testimony was that for seven years the only time she had worked with me had been in emergencies--five years of emergency room work and another two years in an urgent-care walk-in clinic. She assured them that I had functioned well. When asked how I did things, she said, "Well she'd look real close at them. She'd use her magnifying glass, but she did everything fine. I trusted her absolutely."
The next day their attorneys offered me $180,000. I called Yvonne and said, "Thank you very much for your $30,000 deposition. I owe you lunch."
We were now about three weeks from the trial date, and I was under incredible pressure. This had been going on for two years and a couple of months. I had had enough. I wanted it behind me. I needed to get on with my life. My brother-in-law, who is a physician in New York, said "You should move from state to state suing everybody who fires you." I don't want to do that. I don't ever, ever want to sue anybody again!
So eventually we did settle for $180,000. Then they came and said, "You have to sign this gag order that says you can't talk about the case."
And I said, "No way!" I really wanted to have my day to tell people what had happened as I am doing right now. I wanted to tell you guys this story. So Redding Radiology just threw up their hands and settled anyway, and here I am.
I want to conclude by saying two more things: I love the National Federation of the Blind. I am now the president of a chapter. I am probably not the best president; I am something of a social butterfly, but let me tell you that I love you. I love what this organization stands for, I am here for the duration, and I care. The other thing I want to say is that three weeks ago on Friday I got a job doing x-ray work in Redding.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Gary Wunder.]
MOBILITY: WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IS IT?
by Gary Wunder
From the Associate Editor: Gary Wunder is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Missouri. He is also a thoughtful and sensitive human being. He spoke at the 1992 Parents of Blind Children Seminar, which took place the day before the NFB convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here is what he had to say as it appeared in the December 1992, issue of Future Reflections, the magazine published by the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind:
Priscilla Ferris was just talking about people misunderstanding what dog guides do. It strikes me that there is a theme here that is appropriate for the cane user as well: Any time a blind person is with somebody who is sighted, his or her mobility is considered by many people as necessarily the sighted person's responsibility. This poses a problem when one is, as I am, the blind parent of a sighted child.
My daughter was four years old when we were out walking one day. There have been times when my daughter knew that I knew everything and times when she was sure I knew nothing. We were going through one of those "I don't think he knows very much" stages. Whether that happened because of something that somebody at preschool said to her about having a blind father, or because it just happens in the development of children, I don't know. But we were out walking one day. I've always walked with a cane, and I've always taken care of Missy--never had one accident whatsoever. But when we came to the curb, she said, "Stop, Daddy, stop!"
I was surprised, and I said, "Missy, I know to stop."
"How do you know?" said Missy.
"My cane falls off the curb," I said.
"Oh, yeah. Well, don't go, Daddy; don't go."
"Missy, I'm not going to go."
"Well, you can't see the light."
"No, I can't see the light, but I can tell when to go by the traffic. Do you know what I mean?"
"Well, when the parallel traffic is going, it's safe for me to go. When the perpendicular traffic is going, it's not safe. Do you know what I mean?"
"No, what's perpendicular?"
So I explained to her that parallel is that traffic moving on my right and perpendicular is those cars sitting out here in front of me. We waited a while, and Missy said, "Go, Daddy, go." I said, "Missy, the traffic in front of me is still going. It's not safe."
She said, "I know. I just wanted to see did you know."
So we crossed the street when both the light and the traffic changed. No sooner did we get across than this woman bent down and gave my daughter a hug. She said, "Oh, you do such a good job with him." So, again, it's the public misperception that it's the dog or the child with the blind person who knows everything, and it's the blind person who is necessarily dependent in travel. That is wrong.
I can't overemphasize the importance of independence when it comes to having a positive self-concept. Whether that independence is used to go down to the store to get a loaf of bread or whether it lets you do something as trivial as getting up and walking off in a huff when you're having an argument, the ability to be mobile is terribly important. The difficult thing for blind people is that we learn dependence at a very early age, but we are not likely to grow out of it as other people do. Children at a year and a half or two years old are dependent, whether they are blind or sighted. Parents hold their hands every place they go. The trouble is that at six or eight years of age many of our blind children are still attached to their parents' hands when walking. And while on the one hand blind children resent that and wish for freedom, on the other hand they mostly come to think that this abnormal dependency is a pretty normal thing for blind kids.
When I was growing up, you didn't get a cane when you were six or four or three years old. The cane was a thing that my parents put off for as long as they could, and they did it with the support of educators. For them the cane was a symbol. It transformed me from being their blind son--which was okay--to being somebody who might grow up to be a blind man. That wasn't okay. So I didn't see a cane until I was about eleven-years-old.
When I was in elementary school, I was taught to read and write Braille efficiently, but my mobility was something else. I was one of the kids who formed a giant human train whenever we went anywhere. We all got into a big line, a line which was led by a sighted teacher. We all followed along. Because blind people were necessarily less mobile than everybody else, we got to go to lunch early. We were the first in line, the first out to recess, and the first back from recess. We were always in the train.
Your blind children don't have to do that today because more and more people are accepting the fact that, if you give a blind child a cane, he or she can learn to move around independently. I thought it was a big deal when I invented a technique that would let me walk around the block. It was called "slide one foot along the curb." I understand now that I was not the first person to invent it, but at the time I thought about marketing it to other blind people. It seemed like a really good idea to me. It was a lot more fun than being hooked up to somebody else all the time.
I remember in high school playing lots of tricks and using gimmicks because I didn't have mobility skills. I remember being told that, if you had to use a cane at all, you used it only when you were outside. If you used it inside, you'd be bound to trip your classmates. That would be a terrible thing to do; it would be irresponsible. Besides, who wanted to look any blinder than they had to? That was the line I was given and believed. So I remember in high school figuring out how long each period was and trying to arrange things so I could strike up a conversation with a fellow student just before the bell rang--especially if the student with whom I struck up the conversation happened to be going to the same class as I. Now it's fine to have interesting, stimulating conversations with fellow students; but it's not fine to believe that that's what you have to do to get from one class to the next. Again, the reason I did it was that it wasn't considered acceptable to use a cane indoors. A cane was an outside thing.
At first I carried the cane with a certain growl, believing, like most people around me, that my mobility was really someone else's responsibility. Most of the time I could find somebody to hang on to. The cane was only there for times when I couldn't force that responsibility on somebody else. I got lots of support for this attitude.
As I said earlier, for a long time my family resisted letting me get and use the cane. They always guided me from one place to another. It wasn't easy to change this when I got to be eleven and was finally introduced to a cane. My brothers and sisters just assumed that somebody in the family ought to have hold of me--if not one of them, then my mother or my father was supposed to hold onto me. We were taught that mobility was a very complex and highly scientific thing that had to be taught by the mobility professionals. If there were no mobility professionals around, well of course you had to hang on.
What's worse is that we were taught that route travel (memorizing how to get from point A to point B) was the only form of independent travel a blind person could be taught. If ever points C and D were to be introduced into that route, the mobility specialist would have to be notified at least two or three weeks before the new route was needed. It didn't sound too exciting to me.
I learned many things about mobility when I started meeting blind people who were independent travelers. I learned some of my best mobility tips from a blind guy who asked me at midnight if I knew how to get from building A to building B on the college campus. I said that I didn't, and the mobility instructor wasn't coming until the next Thursday. My blind friend said that he thought he could teach me how to get there now, so we went out and learned it. He showed me how to use things like trash cans and telephone poles as landmarks. (The mobility professionals had always taught me to avoid those things.) What amazed me most, however, about this experience was that I was being taught by someone who was blind. And he was teaching me that it wasn't so important to learn a slick routine to get from A to B, but that I should learn general skills that would let me travel safely.
There's a tremendous difference between route travel and truly independent travel. It's strange that it took somebody who was blind to teach me that. But I'm glad, too, because I knew that the guy who was blind didn't have professional certification. He was just a blind man who was looking for something to do at midnight and figured he could help another guy. That was wonderful because, at that time in my life, I didn't believe that blind people could teach other blind people anything. I thought mobility was a highly technical skill, and it isn't.
I remember going for my first job interview. I wanted a summer job, so I went to the Kansas City Association for the Blind, which is a sheltered workshop. That summer I put pins together and put washers on bolts and did all kinds of things that made me a decent little stash of money for a college student. My parents had never seen me travel without the benefit of a travel instructor, so my mother decided she was going to have me followed. She figured that I would catch her if she did it herself (I'm not sure why she thought this), so she asked my cousin to follow me. My cousin was about eighteen years old at the time and rather scatterbrained. She was a nice enough kid but couldn't stay on task (that's the term we use for it now). So I got on the city bus and rode from South Kansas City to Downtown Kansas City, and while she wasn't looking, I got up and off the bus.
It wasn't until two or three blocks later that she realized I wasn't there anymore. She got off, and--not knowing where I was going, only that it had something to do with the blind--she went to a phone book. The first thing she saw was the Bureau for the Blind. She went over to that office, where she and a counselor discussed what a wonderful kid I was while I continued on my way- -unaccompanied--to the Kansas City Association for the Blind. So it didn't do my folks a lot of good to have me followed, but they tried.
It took me years to come to see my cane as a symbol of independence. For a long time I regarded it as something to be used only when I couldn't foist my mobility off onto somebody else.
I want to tell you the story of what broke me of that attitude. I started dating hot and heavy when I went to college. I enjoyed it immensely. One night I went out to dinner with a young woman. Because my date was sighted, I left my cane at home and went sighted guide. (I thought this was the way that the world worked if you were blind.) We had liver and onions, and as I was cutting my liver and engaging this woman in conversation (I was showing her how witty I was), the plate moved closer and closer to the edge of the table and suddenly plopped off into my lap. Well, I was in something of a bind, and I was terribly embarrassed. When my date asked if I wanted her to walk me home so I could change my clothes, I already felt bad enough without also accepting the humiliation of having her walk me home, so I said "No, I'll be fine." I had to walk six blocks home without a cane. There were several four-lane, lighted street crossings, and I didn't like that very much.
After this experience it seemed to me that carrying a cane was probably a very good thing. (I also learned to be a little more careful in cutting liver.) For the first time I realized that I had to be responsible for my own mobility. I don't know why that was such a hard concept to understand. I guess that, after years of being taken care of by people--parents, sisters, brothers, friends, teachers, etc.--who had assumed that my mobility was their responsibility, I had come to consider that attitude just normal.
Priscilla talked a lot about guide dogs and canes. I used a guide dog for a time when I went to college. I enjoyed using a dog, so I don't have a thing to say against using them. However, I want to give you a couple of precautions which I think Priscilla would go along with. When I got my guide dog, I did so because I had some trouble with orientation. I thought, somewhere deep down inside, that I would be able to give a dog the command, "Go to 3402 West 52nd Street," and the dog would figure out for me how many blocks south and west I wanted to go. This didn't happen. In fact, I would say that the dog often aggravated my orientation problems because I couldn't look for the landmarks which were so obvious to me with a cane. I had to keep track in my head of where we were. The dog didn't let me get close to the trash cans or the telephone poles because he knew that was the surest way to get a leash correction. But with a cane I could use these landmarks. In some respects with a dog I had to know more about my surroundings in order to travel.
The second thing I thought the dog would solve for me was a certain tension I felt when traveling with a cane. It used to bother me to be clipping along, and suddenly the cane would hit something. I would have only half a step in which to react. With only that much distance, you better travel tense; you have to be on your guard and quick to react.
It wasn't until I came to an NFB meeting and somebody said, "Your cane is a couple of feet too short," that I realized that I didn't have to react in half a step; that I didn't have to walk with my elbow locked and my arm straight--try holding your arm straight out in front of you for very long. This is what the specialists teach because they say that in order to be a courteous blind person you have to have a short cane that only comes up to your breast bone. Nonsense. Now I have a cane that comes up to my shoulder; sometimes I use one that comes up to the tip of my nose. The length of a cane has nothing to do with courtesy; it has to do with good use. I like traveling with a cane much better now that I get a step and a half or two of warning. I don't find travel to be the ordeal that I did before. With proper advice I wouldn't have had to go through any of that.
There are a number of appropriate mobility techniques for blind people to use from time to time. Sometimes people frame mobility issues as, "I'm fer it or I'm agin it." Do you use a sighted guide or don't you? Do you use diagonal cane technique or don't you? Do you use the pencil grip or don't you? Do you use a collapsible cane or a straight, rigid one? There are times and places for all of these things. The issue is to figure out when you're using a technique because it truly is the most convenient and appropriate for what you are trying to do, and when you're using it as a cop-out. If I want to have a conversation with one of you and we are cutting through this convention crowd, it may be that I will take your arm or you will take mine--whether you're sighted or blind. We do that because it is convenient and appropriate for what we want to do--have a conversation and stay together in a crowd. So sometimes, yes, that means that I may use a person as a sighted guide. But do I give him or her responsibility for my mobility? Not anymore.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pictured here (left to right) are Carl Jacobson, Joanne Wilson, and Ramona Walhof.]
WHAT DO EMPLOYERS LOOK FOR?
From the Associate Editor: With blind people in this country still facing a jobless rate of more than seventy percent, the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Program, which is conducted jointly by the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor, continues to be a vital service to many, many blind people. Each year at our National Convention hundreds of people crowd into the meeting area assigned for the annual JOB seminar. One of the panels on the agenda of the 1992 seminar in Charlotte was a group of three employers who also happen to be blind themselves. They were Ramona Walhof, President of CMS, Inc., which does community outreach and fund-raising; Joanne Wilson, Executive Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, an adult rehabilitation center; and Carl Jacobson, the manager of a two-hundred-thirty-seat cafeteria in the state office building in New York City. They were asked to address the question, "What does the employer look for in a new employee?" Here is what they had to say:
The previous three speakers were all NFB scholarship winners. The people I hire are not scholarship winners and are not likely to be. I say this not to downgrade my people--most of them are great people--but because so often we feature those who have succeeded in outstanding fields. But that doesn't mean that people aren't successful if they aren't top of the line--if they aren't A students through four or six or eight years of college.
When I was interviewing for job after job after job, my perspective was somewhat different from what it is now that I am an employer. Job-seekers are often advised to do research on the companies they are interested in working for. That's not a bad idea; go do it. But some things are generally true about employers. You will hear some things today from all three of us that are quite similar. Obviously there are also differences. We run different kinds of businesses, and we have different personalities.
Employers are all unique individuals. If you remember that and treat us like individuals, you will get much better mileage. If a person treats me courteously, I am much more likely to respond positively and warm up to him or her. Sometimes I hire one person out of twenty-five. That is tough competition. Personality will probably make the difference among the top few candidates. Sometimes I hire one person out of one: I am just hoping that a person comes along who can do the job. That is a different situation, but as a job applicant you won't necessarily know which is which.
Let me say a word about the kinds of hiring I have done. I was the Director of the Idaho Commission for the Blind. I hired both blind and sighted people for clerical, counseling, teaching, and accounting positions. I have run a bakery, so I've hired in food service. I now run a fund-raising, community outreach, public relations business, and I have four offices and hire managers, secretaries, and telephone workers. I don't do all the hiring myself. Sometimes other people do it, and I am going to support the managers in the decisions they make. I tell you all this because my perspective has changed after doing so much hiring. Yet, except for the actual skills needed to do each job, I am mostly looking for the same characteristics in most of these people.
Where do I look for employees? It partly depends on the position. I look in the newspaper; I run ads. The employer has to work the hardest when it's a newspaper ad. I have to answer the phone and schedule interviews. I try to weed people out on the phone if I can. When you run an ad, a lot of people come in who really aren't interested in the job or who don't qualify or who won't be reliable in coming to work. So if I can weed these people out, I will. On the other hand, if somebody is interested and wants an interview, I'm not going to refuse. However, I begin learning about the applicant immediately, while we are still on the phone. If the person doesn't want to do it the way I want it done, that's a negative. If they say, "I want to come in and fill out an application," I will say, "That's fine. Let me schedule an interview."
"Oh no, I don't need an interview; I just want to fill out an application"--Bad! I will remember that person, and it won't help them.
If I say that I can interview the applicant at 2:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 in the evening and ask if one of those times would be convenient, I do not want a big long speech about why neither time will work. I want a yes or a no. We're doing business. Treat me like a business person; I'll treat you the same.
We look through Job Services, the regular employment office. Job Services sometimes doesn't think telemarketing provides wonderful jobs, but a lot of people like it. We don't get as many people as we would like through Job Services, but I am always glad when I get one. They generally know what to expect. Sometimes they want to tell me how to run the business (I won't hire them), but very often the people referred by Job Services are good. So if anyone is looking for the kind of jobs I am hiring for--bookkeeper, secretary, or telemarketer--I am likely to take that person seriously.
Private agencies--employers can't afford to hire entry-level people through private agencies. I have hired through these services, and for some jobs it is a good way to go, but generally for the kind of people I'm hiring I can't afford it, and I can't find the kind of people who want to work for me.
I recruit through people who work for me, people I know, friends of friends, people I have known before. There are lots of ways to get contacts on the job.
What am I looking for? I want you to know what your goal on the job is. I may ask you what kinds of things are important to you in a job. If you haven't thought about it, shame on you! You've got to be able to tell me the atmosphere is most important or the skills are. As an employer I want you to like this job. I am prepared to invest a considerable amount of time in hiring and training you, so I want you to stick. If you haven't thought about that question, the chances are you will mess up the answer, and it won't help you.
What kinds of things can you do? What have you done before? What are your skills? If I don't believe you, I will test you. In fact, I give a reading and writing test to every person I hire. I don't tell them that's what I'm doing, but I do. How? I ask them to fill out an application form. I get applications with misspelled words and illegible handwriting all the time.
You tell me you are a blind person and you can't sit down and fill out an application form. But virtually every employer to whom you will apply has an application form for you to fill out. How are you going to do it? Figure it out. Before you pick it up, you had better know how you intend to complete it. Are you going to ask someone in the office to fill it out for you? That's okay; I would be glad to have someone help you fill it out if you come in the way we ask you to. Are you going to bring a reader? Are you going to take the form away with you? Frankly, I'll be more impressed if you can get it filled out on the spot, but I will let you do it that way. Above all, I want you to get it done and not whine and make me a speech about why you can't do it or why it should be done some other way or what the law requires. Just get it done!
If you tell me you're not interested in pay, then I won't believe you. If I don't talk about it (I may forget), ask me about it in a straight, businesslike way. Don't tell me, "I need to make $6 an hour because I have three kids." I care about that, but as an employer I can't afford to take it into consideration. I want to know what you can do for the business, not what the business can do for you. I know what it can do for you; I've been hiring people for years, and I know how much we can do: we can pay you; we can give you a good solid job; we can supervise you; we can train you till your skills get better. I need to know what you can do for me; are you worth the money I will be paying you? So don't tell me, "I need to make this much money" because I'll probably tell you that this isn't the right job for you. I'll be gentle about it, but that's what I'll probably say. So be direct and factual, but express an interest in salary. I know you care, and if it isn't enough, say so. It's not my fault; maybe you qualify for a better job. Maybe you don't; it doesn't really matter. This isn't the right job for you.
Dress appropriately for the job. You know what job you are applying for, so dress appropriately for that job. If you don't, I am likely to conclude that you will not do so when you are an employee.
Your personality is important. I want some sparkle, some imagination. I don't want you to write me a novel during the interview, but come in with something to say. I ask almost every applicant I hire to tell me something about themselves--every employer does. Have something ready to say. If you say, "Well, what do you want to know?" you have wasted a good chance. I want to know what you think is important about you.
I want to see some indication that you can think. You must be able to read and write, but you must also be able to respond to the questions I ask you in the interview. That doesn't mean that you can't ask me questions or volunteer information. But if I ask you how old you are and you tell me that your mother was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, it doesn't help. It doesn't mean you won't get another chance. People make this particular mistake all the time, but try to form the habit of answering the questions you are asked.
I am out of time. Remember that employers are human. They will respond to you as human beings, blind or sighted. Blindness is important, but it is only one characteristic.
I want to begin by telling you a story that I read in The Reader's Digest years ago when I was in high school. There was an elderly lady who was the envy of all her friends because somehow she always managed to hire the best cooks and maids and chauffeurs. Her friends demanded to know how she always found such good help. She told them that she employed the broom test. She explained, "I take a broom and lay it across my threshold. When the person I'm considering hiring walks in to the interview, if he steps over the broom, I won't hire him. But if he picks it up and props it in the corner, I'll hire him." That story had a great effect on me.
It taught me that, although it is important for us as blind people to have the skills to do the job and also the work habits (Braille and computer literacy, for example) to put them into effect, it is even more important to remember the other factors that influence whether or not we get jobs, the more intangible things that employers look for. These are the things I want to talk about this afternoon because after I find out that an applicant is qualified and has the work habits I need, these are the things I look for. One of these is initiative, and that's what the broom story is talking about. The people who picked up the broom demonstrated that they could look ahead, see what needed to be done, and then do it. I look for that quality in employees.
Another thing I look for is loyalty. I believe that if you are going to work for someone, you ought to have some respect for and loyalty to your employer. Otherwise the job isn't going to work out. I can tell you that people who come into an interview and begin complaining about their bosses and the people they work with don't get much of a chance with me. I am not interested in hiring someone who cannot come to an interview and demonstrate some loyalty to their current employer.
I want to say something about dress. I have had people interview for the job of representing the Louisiana Center for the Blind with the public and potential employers, and they came in looking like slobs. We all know that appropriate dress is important, and a significant part of a person's appearance is body language. I have had people come in who are dressed properly, but they slouch in the chair or they fold their arms in tight and are closed in and nervous. I usually let applicants wait for a little while out in the lobby. During that time my office manager and other staff members are sizing them up and checking out their appearance, posture, and body language. All this is especially important for blind people because the general public doesn't think we have the capacity to take care of ourselves and make a good appearance.
Another intangible thing I look for is common sense. Sometimes this is called good judgment. This is very important to me, but I haven't yet figured out how to teach it to my students. I test for this in job interviews by describing a situation and asking the person how he or she would deal with it. I can usually tell from what they say whether or not they have common sense and good judgment. I have had people come into an interview and listen to me spend fifteen minutes explaining how important it is that we not overprotect blind people and that we teach them independence. Then I say, "How would you handle this situation: You are standing out in the lobby, and one of the students comes along and says `Mabel, would you please take this fifty cents and get me a Coke from across the street?'" And if they tell me, after all my sermon, that they would go get that Coke, the interview is at an end.
Mrs. Walhof said that she gives a little literacy test. I do too. I look very carefully at the resumes and applications of the people who come to us looking for jobs. If there is even one misspelled word on those documents, that applicant doesn't get the job, no matter what else that resume says. I figure that, if a person can't do a good job on a resume after weeks to prepare it, he or she is not going to do a good job for me.
Another thing I look for is how applicants answer the questions I ask them. Do they have the answers. I once had a blind person interview for a job. He started worrying out loud about how he was going to manage to get to work. When I saw that I was going to have to work with him on that problem, I decided that I didn't want to hire him.
Just the other day I had a sighted person who applied for a job. I told her she would have to come in promptly at 2:00. And immediately she began fretting about how she would get her lunch in, since she finished her other job at 1:45. I started helping her think about carrying a sandwich, and then I thought, "Wait! I shouldn't be doing this." That ended the interview. If you expect that the employer is going to take the time to convince you there's a way for you to do the job, you may as well forget it.
I also look for a sense of humor in my employees. Humor is an extremely important part of the rehabilitation process. It is also an important part of getting along with fellow staff members and not taking ourselves too seriously. Work on developing your capacity to see the funny side of things. Laugh at your boss's jokes; it means a lot in an interview.
One last point is references. Please don't just put down people's names as references without checking them out. I always check references. If I call to talk about an applicant and the reference sounds half dead and not at all enthusiastic, that tells me a lot. Make sure that the people you ask don't just agree to have you use their names but are people you can count on to say really peppy, enthusiastic things about you. I'd sum up what I have been saying with this: Not only do you have to have the skills, but you have to be likeable. And my last word to you is, just keep picking up those brooms.
For those of you who don't know, BEP, the Business Enterprise Program, is commonly known as the vending program. Almost every state has one, and you have to be blind to get into it. It provides opportunities for blind people to make a living doing retail work in food service. I currently manage a cafeteria in the state building in New York City. My personal philosophy is that this program has provided me with the opportunity to work, so I have a responsibility to provide the opportunity if I can for other blind people to work as well. So you can see that as an employer the fact that an applicant is blind doesn't bother me; my concern is whether you can make money for me. The clear bottom line in American business is making money. If you can help me do that, I want you. If you can't, you're no use to me. This theme runs throughout American business. As Mrs. Walhof said, from our point of view the important thing is not what the employer can do for you. You have to convince us that you can do something for us.
I also need to be convinced that you want the job and that you can do it. The up side of it is that, if you're working for me, I'm not as concerned about your reading skills. I am concerned about whether you can chop lettuce, wash some floors, scrub a lot of pots, and don't mind doing it. You can't feel that these things are beneath you because that's where you're going to start. I started by doing those things, and frankly, if it was good enough for me to start that way, it's good enough for the person who is going to work for me. You aren't going to come in making a lot of money; you'll start by making five or six dollars an hour. You'll look around at the chief cook, who is making twenty or thirty thousand a year and wish you had his money. But the way he got where he is was to stay around for a long time and do a lot of work. I am concerned about what you can do for the overall operation.
If you have some experience in food, I need to know about it as part of our discussion. If you worked somewhere else and loved making salads, tell me about that because I have lots of people who hate making salads. I happen to have a crew right now in which each person likes doing a different thing: salads, stews, soups, and sandwiches. This one guy just loves doing the cold stuff--fruit salads, cole slaw, potato salad--you name it. I'm sick of making those things, but he loves doing it, and he puts it out, and it looks real nice. If it looks real nice, people are going to buy it. Therefore, he's worth money to me. If he can put something out there in a little tub that costs me thirty cents and I can sell it for a dollar, then that guy is helping not only to make his pay check, but mine too. So you have to prove your worth to me.
We have talked here some about what not to do. There is a guy in the BEP Program in New York who just got his license. That means that sometime he will have a chance to operate his own facility. He went in to talk with our district supervisor, who supervises the southern region of New York State, and asked how long he had to be here to get a pension. You don't turn on an employer that way. Don't ask me on your first day about retirement benefits. He also wanted to know if he could wear shorts to work. My customers don't want to see your legs. Wear your shorts at home. He asked me some of these questions before he went to see the supervisor, and I gave him the answers, but he was still dumb enough to ask the questions again. I can predict his future. If you have dumb questions, try to ask them of a friend before you talk to the employer.
The bottom line is that you have to sell yourself to the employer. You have heard things today about the importance of being clean and making a good appearance. A lot of folks are reluctant to tell you about your clothing because for some reason they think our feelings are fragile--that we'll be offended if we are told that our tie doesn't match or our shirt has a spot. Frankly, that is what most of the world is looking at. First impressions are important. Like it or not, that's the reality. Before I came down this morning I got my shirt and tie on, put on my jacket, and my wife said, "Are you going to go out looking like that?" I changed my shirt. If you can't count on hearing that from someone you trust, you are going to go out making a bad first impression sometimes. You need to have somebody to tell you those things. And if they do, don't get an attitude about it. If you do, you will turn off your prospective employer, and you will go around wondering why you didn't get a job. You may try chalking it up to discrimination, but it isn't always discrimination. Often it is either that you weren't qualified or you turned off somebody.
During a brief discussion following the three presentations a question was asked about these employers' attitudes about hiring blind people. They said that they were prepared to provide tours of their facilities and information about their operations in order to insure that the blind applicant was familiar with the job and its expectations. Mrs. Walhof said that she would probably contrive a small test to assess a blind applicant's ability to learn and apply the information provided. If he or she could learn to operate a commercial dishwasher after fifteen minutes of instruction, for example, she would probably hire the person in food service.
She went on to talk a little about accommodating blind people. Her business is very dependent on print. Blind people must be able to handle print, or they can't do the job. In her business she is predisposed to hire competent blind people, but if a blind applicant can't tell her how he or she intends to get the work done, if, as the employer, she is expected to work out all the details herself, she is less likely to look favorably on the application.
She is committed to giving blind people an equal opportunity, but making all the arrangements for them is not equality. If the applicant can't get the necessary information onto paper in some efficient way, he or she can't do the job. A blind applicant must be able to type, write legibly, or use tape in a way that is easy for the secretary to transcribe the information for entry into the computer. Getting the telephone numbers in order to make the calls also requires creativity. The numbers can be recorded, but the blind person must be able to work from tape or transcribe them for personal use. Then the results must be displayed in such a way that it is accessible to the secretary. Braille will not do since the computer entry is done by a sighted person.
A blind employee must be able to move around an office independently. She mentioned a volunteer who came in and could move well enough to do her work but who always asked staff members to get soft drinks for her from the kitchen. This young woman was sixteen. Mrs. Walhof said that she could have been trained to be completely independent, but at thirty she might well be too set in her ways to change. And staff members get bored quickly with taking care of incompetent co-workers. You have to know how to handle your blindness even in entry-level jobs if you want an employer to give you a chance. No employer can afford to teach blind workers the skills they need from scratch. They can afford to give you some training, and some of them will, but the major responsibility belongs to blind job- seekers.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Adrienne Asch.]
A SUCCESSFUL JOB SEARCH IN THE GROVES OF ACADEME
by Adrienne Asch
From the Associate Editor: Adrienne Asch is a longtime Federationist. Because she did not have the luxury of working full-time on her Ph.D., it took her more years than she cares to count to achieve that prestigious goal. But last summer, in the midst of the 1992 NFB convention in Charlotte, Adrienne left North Carolina and flew to New York to defend her dissertation. She returned a day later as Dr. Adrienne Asch, a metamorphosis which many of her friends celebrated with her that evening.
Dr. Asch had already obtained a position as associate professor of social work at Boston University for the coming fall and was preparing to move to Massachusetts within a few weeks. But she had no intention of missing the convention, whatever hardship it cost. Of such dedication is the Federation built.
At the beginning of the week, Adrienne addressed the annual meeting of the National Association of Blind Educators. She talked about her job search and what techniques had worked best for her. Her remarks were printed in the Fall/Winter, 1992, issue of The Blind Educator, the publication of the National Association of Blind Educators. Here is what she had to say:
Now that I shall be a full-time teacher, I expect to have more time to devote to this division. I look forward to working with you in the years ahead.
Although I have done a lot of adjunct teaching, this will be my first full-time position. I shall start in the fall at Boston University's School of Social Work. Let me describe the way I got this job, tell you a little about the interview process, and outline the way I handled blindness and reasonable accommodation. I'll be teaching social workers, who can be about as difficult for the blind to deal with as rehabilitation counselors. Now I have the chance to educate a group of professionals who need to have their attitudes altered.
I have done college teaching and lots of writing and publishing. Those of you who teach at the university level know that the way to get a college teaching job is not just to be a good teacher. In fact, universities often do not particularly care how good you are; they do care how many articles you have published, how many books you have written, and how many grants you have obtained. For many years I worked on my Ph.D., but I had written a number of articles, co-authored a book, and attended many professional meetings. All of these things helped me obtain good letters of reference.
When I began my job search, I applied for jobs in various fields: psychology, social work, medical ethics, and women's studies. I would look through the advertisements for jobs in my field. Each ad I answered required a complicated cover letter. I would advertise myself as a medical ethics specialist one day and a social worker the next. It was amazing how I learned to package my skills. Of course, then I would have to make sure to pick out the appropriate reference letters in my collection to correspond to each application. The people who were writing these letters for me were colleagues, friends, and former advisors. It was somewhat unusual to have references from people who know me personally. I found out later that my friends had written fine letters of recommendation, and this was very helpful to me. These people could speak about the quality of my work and my views on various subjects.
Networking is very important in finding a job at a university. For example, I saw an ad for the job I now have. I wrote a letter inquiring about it and then called a friend who is a sociologist at another university and asked if that person knew anyone on the faculty at Boston University. As it turned out, someone that person knew was on the search committee. This individual also turned out to be someone I knew indirectly. One of the first questions I was asked was whether I would be willing to move from New York to Boston. I said that I would go anywhere that a job was available. I ended up having four interviews by phone. I guess they liked what I said, the articles I sent them, and my letters of reference. Finally they invited me to Boston for an interview.
This interview was a two-day affair. I had a chance to meet everyone with whom I would work. I was invited to give a talk about my research and to listen to descriptions of what others are doing. This was great fun; however, it did take a lot of energy.
I had been sent samples of material which I would be expected to use in my teaching. Also I had material on my computer which I was taking to the interview and to which I absolutely had to have access in order to do what was expected of me. To make a long story short, I dropped the computer on the plane and broke it. With great luck and intensive use of the aircraft's telephone service, I located another computer and got to my interview within two hours of landing.
I gave a talk followed by a discussion which I chaired. I told my audience that they could call my name and I would then invite them to speak one at a time in the same way I would in a class. At the end of the interview, the search committee asked what would lure me to Boston. I had been warned beforehand that I would have to negotiate the terms under which I would work. For example, I discussed salary, case load, conference travel money, and research assistants. Being a newcomer in the academic job market, I needed to know all these things. I did not mention any blindness-related job issues until after the job offer had been made. I had already asked if they had any questions about how blind persons did things, but they indicated that they felt no concern. They had observed me for two days and noticed that I used the skills of blindness but that the results were the same as theirs.
I mentioned my blindness-connected needs during our general negotiations. Rather than give me a computer I did not want, they agreed to pay the service contract on my existing equipment. I asked for a research assistant for ten hours a week. Most professors get this anyway, so they did not consider this need unreasonable. It was clear from the beginning that they were sincerely interested in having me as a member of their faculty, so they were happy to provide secretarial time each day to help me sort my mail. Every human being has individual needs, and I hope that every employer in this country will begin to consider blindness as just one in a range of characteristics requiring a little modification of the job and workplace.
As I said, what made it possible for me to get this job was going to professional meetings, building professional records, and doing the scholarly work people care about. I hope that other blind educators will consider a career at the university level. I shall be glad to assist anyone and will be back next summer with a year of experience under my belt. I have found my job, and there is one for each of you as well.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, orchestrates the legislative activities of the Washington Seminar. He is seated at one of the tables in the Mercury Room, headquarters for scheduling and reporting on congressional meetings.]
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
1993 LEGISLATIVE MEMORANDUM AND FACT SHEETS
Early each February members of the National Federation of the Blind gather in Washington, D.C., for our Washington Seminar. A complete report of this event will appear in the April Braille Monitor. As part of the seminar's activities, Federationists fan out across Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress about matters of concern to the nation's blind. This year there were three issues of pressing importance: modifying or eliminating the limitation on earnings imposed by the retirement test and applying the modified exempt earnings policy to blind people of working age as well as to retirees; including people with severe disabilities among those covered by Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act; and preserving the bulk rate mailing privilege for nonprofit organizations, a policy which is under attack again this year. Here are the legislative memorandum and fact sheets Federationists discussed with their Senators and Representatives February 1 to 3:
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 1993
From: Members of the National
Federation of the Blind
To: Members of the 103rd Congress
Re: People Who Are Blind: Legislative Priorities for the 103rd
Congress, First Session
Public policies and laws affecting people who are blind have a profound impact throughout our society. Most people know someone who is blind. It may be a friend, a family member, or a co-worker. The blind population in the U. S. is estimated to exceed 700,000. Fifty thousand Americans become blind each year. By themselves these numbers may not seem large, but the social and economic consequences of blindness directly touch the lives of millions. Less directly, blindness affects us all.
People who are blind as a group share a unique struggle. More than being a matter of physical disability, the real problems of blindness are lack of good training, lack of opportunities, and lack of correct information about blindness among employers and members of the public at large. If a person who is blind has proper training and opportunity, the physical loss of eyesight itself can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance.
Public policies and laws that result from misconceptions about blindness or lack of information are often more limiting to people who are blind than loss of eyesight itself. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation is a private-sector resource of knowledge, encouragement, and support for people who are blind and for anyone (blind or not) who wants to join in the effort we are making to win understanding and opportunity.
People who are blind are well-organized at the community and grassroots levels throughout the United States. Our policy positions are developed and determined by vote of the blind themselves. This is why the Federation is known by lawmakers and the public as the "voice of the nation's blind." Our priorities for the first session of the 103rd Congress express our assessment of issues requiring action by Congress on behalf of people who are blind this year.
(1) Congress should amend title II of the Social Security Act to modify or eliminate the limitation on earnings imposed by the retirement test and apply the modified exempt earnings policy to persons of working age who are blind as well as to retirees. This proposal seeks to improve the work incentives provided to Social Security beneficiaries. Under a 1977 amendment to the Social Security Act, the same exempt earnings amount--$880.00 monthly, or $10,560.00 annually--is allowed for people of working age who are blind as well as for those who retire at age sixty- five. This proposal calls for increasing the exempt amount or eliminating the limitation on earnings altogether.
People of working age who are blind must not be forgotten as Congress continues to debate whether changes should be made in the Social Security retirement test. A significant relaxation of the present earnings limitation would encourage thousands of beneficiaries to increase their work attempts. Those who successfully find full- or part-time work will pay taxes rather than simply drawing benefits. The results of their greater efforts to be productive will positively affect the Social Security system, as well as benefitting the individuals and families involved. A complete removal of the earnings limitation would provide beneficiaries with the maximum incentive to work. In any case, the statutory linkage which ties together the exempt earnings amounts for retirees and working age people who are blind should not be broken and must be kept in mind as the debate over the future of the earnings test for Social Security eligibility proceeds. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "HOW PERSONS OF WORKING AGE WHO ARE BLIND WOULD BE AFFECTED BY CHANGES IN THE SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT EARNINGS TEST."
(2) Congress should Enact the Americans With Disabilities Business Development Act. This proposal seeks amendments to the Small Business Act so that programs authorized to assist minority-owned small businesses, conducted under section 8(a) of the Act, will be open to persons with disabilities. The Section 8(a) program is designed to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged and to promote the competitive viability of businesses owned and operated by them. To achieve these goals, Section 8(a) authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to enter into all types of contracts with government departments and agencies for supply, service, construction, and research and development. Small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons can be eligible to receive subcontracts to fulfill SBA's procurement obligations. Technical assistance is also made available to minority small business concerns.
This proposal is simply the recognition of disability as a condition of minority status for participation in SBA's targeted efforts to provide economic and technical assistance to members of minority groups. The social and economic disadvantages which accompany disabilities are well-known and beyond dispute. The problem for SBA has been to define disability and the extent of the class of individuals included. To resolve that issue, the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act excludes minor or perceived disabilities from the term "disability" as it is defined in the bill. Another problem has been SBA's lack of legal authority to presume that people with disabilities are socially disadvantaged in the absence of a clear legislative mandate. The Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act will provide that mandate. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ACT: A PROPOSAL FOR BUSINESS OWNERSHIP AND JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES."
(3) Congress should control and stabilize postage rates for nonprofit organizations such as NFB. This request seeks sufficient appropriations and support for a permanent legislative remedy to meet the costs of the United States Postal Service for qualified free or reduced-rate mailings. Under existing law and appropriations levels, nonprofit postage rates could be increased from 11.1 cents per piece for items of letter size to more than 19 cents per piece. An increase of this magnitude would cost the National Federation of the Blind over $1 million in a single year. This cost could not be met by the Federation.
Nothing can be more critical to a voluntary, private sector group of citizens than to have affordable, stable postage rates for mass communications. Paying the postal service's commercial rates for necessary use of the mails would force the National Federation of the Blind to dismantle many programs or to cease operations altogether. Survival for many other groups of importance in our society would also be threatened. If communications with persons who are blind and the public at large are cut, a time bomb is created, since fewer people will understand anything about blindness and even fewer will know of the continuing need to help. Then the downward spiral is in motion, with fewer people helped and even fewer people helping. Soon the benefits are gone. This does not overstate how vulnerable we are to the postal rate crisis if Congress fails to approve adequate funding. The fact sheet entitled "CRISIS IN NONPROFIT MAIL RATES MEANS SERIOUS HARM TO PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND" explains the current situation and gives details on how members of the 103rd Congress can help.
People who are blind are asking for your help in securing positive action by Congress in the areas outlined here. Legislative proposals will be offered to achieve each of our specific objectives. Many priorities confront this session of Congress, but the needs of the nation's people who are blind must not be overlooked. We of the National Federation of the Blind stand ready to assist our Representatives and Senators to understand our needs and to take meaningful action to address them. In partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each member of Congress can help build better lives for people who are blind both today and in the years ahead.
How Persons of Working Age Who Are Blind Would Be Affected
By Changes In The Social Security Retirement Earnings Test
BACKGROUND: The Social Security retirement earnings test has been cited as a penalty imposed upon seniors by which their earnings are taxed to the point where they cannot afford to remain actively engaged in work. For this reason Congress has given serious consideration to repealing the retirement test altogether or perhaps to modifying it. As many as eighteen separate proposals for repeal or modification were offered in the 102nd Congress. The Senate and the House passed differing versions, but no change was enacted. Five bills for changing the retirement test are pending in the 103rd Congress, having over one hundred twenty-five cosponsors so far.
The policy of allowed exempt earnings for people who are blind and receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is closely linked to the debate over the retirement test and is bound to be affected by the outcome. However, at this point the debate has focused largely on relaxing or eliminating the current limitation on earnings for retirees only. But a 1977 amendment to the Social Security Act clearly states that people who are blind and who receive disability insurance benefits are allowed to have earnings each month as long as the average earnings do not exceed the exempt amount provided for people who retire at age sixty-five.
EXISTING LAW: Section 216(i) of the Social Security Act specifies what "blindness" means. The definition of blindness is clearly stated in medical terms. Therefore, blindness can be determined quite reliably on the basis of objective medical evidence. This unique feature of the Social Security Act makes blindness the only defined disability. All other disabilities are determined on the basis of an individual's "inability to engage in substantial gainful activity." This inability is actually hard to determine reliably in many cases.
Although blindness is precisely defined, monthly disability insurance benefits are not paid to all persons who are blind. Under the law benefits are paid to only those people who are blind and who do not have substantial earnings. Wealth not resulting from current work activity does not count as earnings and has no effect on eligibility. Only work is penalized, just as with retirees. The amount of earnings considered to be "substantial" for working people who are blind is the same amount that senior citizen retirees may earn without having their Social Security benefits reduced due to excess earnings. This amount is currently $880.00 monthly or $10,560.00 annually. Precisely the same section of the Social Security Act--paragraph (D) of Section 203(f)(8)--is used to establish the respective exempt earnings standards for retirees and for persons of any age who are blind.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should amend title II of the Social Security Act to modify or eliminate the limitation on earnings imposed by the retirement test and apply the modified exempt earnings policy to persons of working age who are blind as well as to retirees. Although the substantial gainful activity earnings standard for people who are blind is currently linked by law to the retirement test exempt amount allowed for seniors, most of the proposals to modify the retirement test have specifically excluded people who are blind from the change. For example, an amendment passed by the House on April 9, 1992, called for raising the exempt earnings standard for retirees to approximately $20,000 per year to be phased in over five years. But the same amendment said that the change would not apply to people who are blind.
Language designed to have a similar effect was also included in retirement test proposals considered in the last Congress by the Senate. However, Senator John McCain has stated his firm intention to offer amendments in the future which continue the statutory linkage between the exempt earnings provisions for retirees and for people who are blind and of working age as well. Technically, if the statutory cross-reference between sections that set forth provisions for people who are blind and retirees is not disturbed by a retirement test change, the change will also apply to people who are blind and of working age. Specific language would have to be included in order for the change not to apply. Also an amendment to repeal the retirement test would need to have specific language inserted to apply the repeal to working age people who are blind.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: Approximately 85,000 people who are blind now receive disability insurance benefits through the Social Security system. At present their earnings must be strictly limited to $880.00 per month. When earnings do exceed this exempt amount, the entire sum paid to a primary beneficiary and dependents is abruptly withdrawn after a trial work period. There is absolutely no assurance that earnings will replace the amount of lost disability benefits after taxes and work expenses are paid by the wage earner. Usually they do not. Therefore, few of the 85,000 beneficiaries can actually afford to attempt substantial work. Those who do will often sacrifice income and will certainly sacrifice the security they have from the automatic receipt of a monthly check.
This group of beneficiaries--people of working age who are blind--must not be forgotten as the debate proceeds toward modifying or eliminating the Social Security retirement test. A significant relaxation in the present earnings limitation would encourage thousands of beneficiaries to increase their work attempts. Those who successfully find full- or part-time work will pay taxes rather than simply drawing benefits. The results of their greater efforts to be productive will positively affect the Social Security system, as well as benefitting the individuals and families involved. A complete removal of the earnings limitation would provide beneficiaries with the maximum incentive to work. In any case the statutory linkage which ties the exempt earnings amounts for retirees and working age people who are blind together should not be broken and must be kept in mind as the debate over the future of the earnings test for Social Security eligibility proceeds.
Americans With Disabilities Business Development Act:
A Proposal For Business Ownership And Jobs For People With Disabilities
BACKGROUND: Persons who are blind and persons with disabilities in general have traditionally had few opportunities to become employed and even fewer to establish and maintain their own businesses. This does not reflect a general lack of ability among this population. It does reflect a lack of the opportunity and financial support necessary to achieve success in the competitive business world. Prejudices and fears of employers have left nearly 80 percent of employable people who are blind either unemployed or substantially underemployed.
Congress has recently sought to address this situation by enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA employers having twenty-five or more employees are now prohibited from discrimination on the basis of disability. Employers having fifteen or more employees will eventually be covered. Regardless of enforcement activities, the ADA is expected to improve work force opportunities for persons with disabilities. But complete equality will require more than employment rights. This fact has been recognized in our government's efforts to underwrite and support economic development programs among members of other traditionally disadvantaged minorities.
EXISTING LAW: Sections 8(a) and 7(j) of the Small Business Act establish a Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program to be conducted by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This program is intended in part to foster business ownership by individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged and to promote the competitive viability of businesses owned and operated by them. To achieve these goals, Section 8(a) authorizes SBA to enter into all types of contracts with government departments and agencies for supply, service, construction, and research and development. Small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged persons can be eligible to receive subcontracts to fulfill SBA's procurement obligations. Section 7(j) of the Small Business Act authorizes SBA to provide technical or management assistance to individuals or minority small business concerns.
Participation in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program is open to anyone who can qualify as both socially and economically disadvantaged. Participants eligible by definition include members of racial and ethnic minorities. Other individuals not included by definition may be found eligible upon application to SBA. Criteria for determining social and economic disadvantage are not clearly specified in law or regulations. As a result program participants are almost exclusively members of the defined minority groups.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION: Congress should enact the Americans With Disabilities Business Development Act. This bill was introduced by Congressman Jim Ramstead as H. R. 5880 during the second session of the 102nd Congress for the purpose of amending the Small Business Act "to authorize small business concerns owned and controlled by individuals with disabilities to participate in business development programs established by that Act." Mr. Ramstead's bill amends several sections of the Small Business Act to include individuals with severe disabilities as a defined minority group for purposes of eligibility in the Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program.
This proposal is simply the recognition of disability as a condition of minority status for participation in SBA's targeted efforts to provide economic and technical assistance to members of minority groups. The social and economic disadvantages which accompany disabilities are well known and beyond dispute. The problem for SBA has been to define disability and the extent of the class of individuals included. To resolve that issue, Mr. Ramstead's bill excludes minor or perceived disabilities from the term "disability" as it is defined in the bill. Another problem has been SBA's lack of legal authority to presume that people with disabilities are socially disadvantaged in the absence of a clear legislative mandate. Mr. Ramstead's bill, backed by the impetus provided by the ADA, will provide that mandate.
NEED FOR LEGISLATION: Defined minority status is a distinct advantage in obtaining section 8(a) eligibility. Proof of both social and economic disadvantage can be both time-consuming and expensive. SBA appears to have great discretion in determining eligibility based on social and economic disadvantage, especially for applicants who are members of non-defined minority groups. It is difficult to challenge the decisions made by SBA in this area because the eligibility criteria are so vague.
Firms needing SBA's assistance cannot afford the time and expense of application delays and appeals. In the absence of defined minority status, business failures and bankruptcies can result. This has been the experience of an owner of a Tennessee sand and gravel business who is blind and is still waiting after many years for approval of his minority business enterprise application. After finally agreeing that he was both socially and economically disadvantaged, SBA then disapproved his application on the ground that the business had not been in operation for the past two years. This is only one example of what happens to applicants who are truly disadvantaged but must first prove their minority status before they can even be considered. Congress should resolve this injustice by amending the Small Business Act to include individuals with severe disabilities as a defined minority group.
Crisis In Nonprofit Mail Rates
Means Serious Harm To People Who Are Blind
THE ISSUE: The 103rd Congress will decide whether federal funds will continue aiding people who are blind and others by meeting some of the costs for reduced rate mailings carried by the United States Postal Service (USPS). Many nonprofit organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) may not survive if forced to pay commercial postage rates. Yet this would be the effect of expected budget plans to terminate federal aid for nonprofit groups to use the mails.
Nonprofit postage rates bring help to people who are blind: Holding the line on nonprofit postage rates will mean the difference between life and death for groups such as NFB which operate in the private sector. Voluntary initiatives made by people who are blind themselves without government expense (such as public education campaigns and drives for more employment opportunities for people who are blind) will decline or cease altogether if postage rates rise further. Materials and resources aimed at personal adjustment and self-help for people who are blind, provided without government cost, will not be available. Organized consultation by people who are blind themselves to assist in developing technology or to advise officials of public programs will not be possible. Communications links among people who are blind to share information, knowledge, and resources will be gone.
Above all, the ability to encourage people who are blind toward self-betterment, growth, and productive living will be lost. This is tangible help made possible now because of federally provided special mail rates. The rates allow for educational communications and fundraising to enlist community, private sector support for the efforts of people who are blind to help themselves. NFB's programs help reduce dependency upon the government by people who are blind. That in itself is a benefit to all taxpayers. But if Congress decides not to use tax money to encourage these private initiatives, demand will rise from among people who are blind for more help from public agencies financed by state and federal tax dollars. Costs to the federal treasury for publicly run programs will rise while private efforts cease or suffer.
HOW CONGRESS CAN HELP: (1) Vote for a budget resolution containing sufficient authority for appropriations to stabilize nonprofit postage rates at current levels.
(2) Vote for FY 1994 appropriations sufficient to stabilize nonprofit postage rates at current levels.
(3) Support legislation now being planned to institute permanent reforms so that affordable nonprofit postage rates will be continued indefinitely without the fear of diminished annual appropriations.
CURRENT CRISIS AND BACKGROUND: Pursuant to the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, federal funds pay part of the costs of postage used for qualifying mailings made by institutions or groups for charitable and educational purposes. Free mail service for people who are blind to receive reading matter, such as books and related reading or writing devices, is also provided with Federal funds. An appropriation to pay for these free or reduced- rate mailings is known as the "revenue forgone" payment to the Postal Service. The current amount is $122 million, appropriated as part of the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act. People who are blind are among those who especially benefit from communications made possible through the mails. Books mailed free and services provided by nonprofit groups are two examples. Churches, schools, libraries, and many other nonprofit groups are also aided.
By law the revenue forgone appropriation is supposed to pay the Postal Service's overhead costs which can be related to providing the free or reduced rate mail service. But if the Federal payment is not enough, the shortfall will cause significantly increased postal rates unless Congress steps in to prevent them. This is exactly the present situation. The appropriation for FY 1993 is $360 million below the full amount needed, but language passed as part of the appropriations bill has prohibited the USPS from raising nonprofit postal rates for letter-size pieces. That practice, requiring the Postal Service to absorb the shortfall in appropriations, cannot continue indefinitely without eventually penalizing those who use this special mail service. The penalty resulting from a continued appropriations shortfall could come later this year in the form of sharply increased postal rates for nonprofit groups, unless Congress acts decisively to provide sufficient appropriations or to enact a permanent legislative remedy in some form. The current nonprofit rate paid for a standard letter-size piece is 11.1 cents, compared to the commercial rate of 19.8 cents. Without an appropriation to the Postal Service, or without some other mechanism to fund free or reduced-rate mailings, the rate of 11.1 cents would have to be raised to more than 19 cents. For the National Federation of the Blind this would mean an increase of over $1 million in the cost of postage for a single year, a cost which could not be met.
A rate hike of this magnitude would mean that substantial sums would be taken directly from programs which now help people who are blind. It would also be impossible to contact new potential contributors to raise additional revenues. If communications with persons who are blind and the public at large are cut, a time bomb is created, since fewer people will understand anything about blindness and even fewer will know of the continuing need to help. The inevitable result is a downward spiral, with fewer people helped and fewer people helping. Soon the self-help organizations of people who are blind will be destroyed. These are the unanticipated ripple effects of rising postal rates, but they are nonetheless very real. Since approximately 50 thousand Americans become blind each year, either there must be continued widespread mailings to the general public to inform them about blindness and how to deal with it, or else an increasing number of those people who have recently become blind will not be found until it is too late and they are hopelessly doomed to continuing dependence.
ALL IS NOT BLISS AT TELESENSORY
by Kenneth Jernigan
By the early part of last year an increasing number of complaints were beginning to surface concerning the performance of the TeleSensory Corporation of Mountain View, California. The company, which is one of the largest producers and distributors of specialized devices and appliances for the blind in the country, was accused of questionable dealings with government agencies, pressure tactics in selling its products, and poor service. Quite naturally it disputed these claims. We had occasion to report on the situation in two articles. The first one appeared in the March 1992, Braille Monitor and was entitled "Concerning Integrity, Monopoly, and TeleSensory." The second appeared in the July issue under the headline "The Pot Boils and TeleSensory Stews."
When I was at the general assembly of the World Blind Union in Egypt in early November, I heard a good deal of comment reflecting dissatisfaction with TeleSensory's performance in Europe. Particularly, I sensed unhappiness with Dr. James Bliss, TeleSensory's president. There were statements that he had overreached himself in Germany and a number of other countries and that TeleSensory's business would suffer accordingly.
Under date of December 17, 1992, TeleSensory surprised the blindness field by a press release announcing the removal of Dr. Bliss as its president. There was no criticism of Dr. Bliss's performance, but underneath the sugar coating (and there was a lot of it) the hard fact was clear. Dr. Bliss had been dismissed as the operating head of the organization, and (despite the fact that he was to remain on the board) he would not continue to lead or play a significant part in the company's management. Toward the end of the release (after all of the kind words) this sentence appears: "Dr. Bliss, a founder and shareholder, will offer his knowledge and counsel to TSC." Knowledge and counsel can be accepted or rejected, and from one who has just been removed as company president, it is more likely to be rejected than accepted.
There are those who say that the Bliss removal was partly caused by slumping sales. There are others who say that the problem was the increasing conflict with consumers which TeleSensory was experiencing and which Dr. Bliss symbolized. Whatever the reason, many blind people will view the change of leadership at TSC as a positive step, promising better things for the future. In order that Monitor readers may judge for themselves the tone of the TeleSensory press release, we print it in full. Here it is:
For Immediate Release
December 17, 1992
James W. Morrell Elected
President and CEO of TeleSensory
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--The Board of Directors of TeleSensory Corporation of Mountain View, California, today elected Mr. James W. Morrell, a member of the Board, as new President and CEO. Dr. James C. Bliss was elected Vice Chairman of the TeleSensory (TSC) Board.
Mr. Morrell has been on the TeleSensory Board for three years. He had been a career-long employee of Saga Corporation and was Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saga Corporation at the time of its acquisition by Marriott. He brings to TeleSensory a wealth of knowledge and experience in the management of an enterprise closely coupled with its customer base. He was particularly effective in building management teams at Saga and in innovative methods of expanding and strengthening that business which was initiated by Saga, becoming the national leader in its field.
Dr. Bliss co-led the development at Stanford University and Stanford Research Institute of the Optacon, an instrument with which the blind user reads ordinary printed matter. The Optacon was the first product of TeleSensory. Dr. Bliss left SRI and Stanford in 1971 to set up the company to manufacture and distribute the product. He has been its President since. Under his tenure, TeleSensory became the largest manufacturing and distribution organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to the provision of products for the visually impaired.
Within TeleSensory Corporation changes are occurring in response to the changing environment of our business sector. The technology of the field is rapidly changing, bringing more alternatives but necessitating choices. What works best within the United States does not automatically meet the needs of TSC's overseas customers who now comprise a third of the market. TSC customers, the visually impaired individuals and the private and governmental organizations which serve them, are impacted by changing economic conditions and the continually changing governmental support base.
All members of the TSC organization take pride in the improvements which our products and services have brought to the lives of the visually impaired population. The company is in a very strong financial position giving a powerful base for the new CEO and his team. Dr. Bliss, a founder and shareholder, will offer his knowledge and counsel to TSC. He will retain his position on the Board of Directors, serving as its Vice Chairman. Dr. John Linvill will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Anthony Cobb.]
BLIND PEOPLE AND GUNS
From the Editor: Anthony Cobb is a staff member at the National Center for the Blind. Here is a letter he recently wrote to The Atlantic Monthly magazine in response to an article which appeared in its January, 1993, issue:
February 2, 1993
Letters to the Editor
To the Editor: How odd to read within the same January issue two entirely opposite approaches to stereotypes, one regarding African Americans and the other Americans who are blind.
I found Nicholas Lemann's treatment of the many facets of black nationalism helpful and full of information which can promote understanding by people like me who stand outside the black experience. I was less pleased later in the issue. In an article treating the need for tighter restrictions on the purchase of guns, Erik Larson is moved to comment, "As the laws are now written, a blind man can buy a gun."
It is not hypersensitive political correctness to feel some alarm at the unreasonable stereotyping and genuine harm to blind people a statement like that promotes. The person who reads it is going to have a number of negative perceptions of the blind as incompetent thoroughly reinforced, to the detriment of capable people who are blind and seek a competitive and productive role in society. I know several blind persons (men and women) who have guns--for all the reasons anyone else might own them. These people represent the same cross section of sensitivity to the issues Larson raises as the rest of the population, and they demonstrate behavior as responsible as that of anyone else.
Larson, however, clearly believes that blindness should be prima facie disqualification for owning a gun, a premise totally unsupportable on any basis other than unreasonable discrimination. The implication that people who are blind cannot be trusted with firearms is no more logical than assuming they cannot own automobiles, buy life insurance, ride amusement park rides, get out of a smoke-filled airplane, or any of the other mistaken notions about blindness which have long been discredited by the experience of thousands of people who are blind. I have always held The Atlantic to be relatively free of the prejudice and attitudinal barriers which keep minorities from being fully accepted in society. I hope editorial sensitivity and awareness on the part of otherwise capable and credible authors like Mr. Larson will once again prove me right.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Bill Isaacs.]
REMAINING VIGILANT: BILL ISAACS TAKES UP HIS PEN
From the Associate Editor: Every Federationist has a responsibility to educate the public about the abilities of blind people whenever and wherever the opportunity occurs. Sometimes this consists of imparting information. Sometimes it means objecting strenuously to injustice or discrimination. And sometimes it requires tactful criticism of inadvertent or unconscious discrimination. The task is often discouraging because in a real sense it never ends. Blindness is a low- incidence disability (to use the jargon), so a large majority of the population will always be relatively ignorant of their own prejudice toward blind people and ill-informed about their capacities. The good news is that there are now thousands of us working on the problem, and each of us makes the job a little easier for the rest.
Bill Isaacs is the President of the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. He is well-read and thoughtful. And when he finds manifestations of discrimination against the blind, he is quick to combat them. He doesn't wait for someone else to take up the cudgels; he sees what needs to be done and quietly does it. He has been actively patrolling the pages of the public press this year and doing what seemed necessary and appropriate. Let us all draw strength from his example and help him in the work he is doing. Here are two of the letters Bill Isaacs wrote as soon as his first-semester teaching duties ended:
December 23, 1992
Hon. President-Elect Bill
Little Rock, Arkansas
Dear President-Elect Clinton: I want to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of the United States. I wish you well in all your endeavors in that regard.
An expression of yours, or at least one of local usage in Arkansas, was printed in the November 30, 1992, Newsweek under "Arkansas Argots." Someone should warn you that it would be offensive to the blind of the nation if you were to use this provincial saying publicly. The expression and its interpretation go like this: "Any blind hog can find an acorn," which is construed to mean "any idiot could figure that out." I am one of more than 50,000 blind Americans, members of the National Federation of the Blind, who have organized ourselves in an effort to change what it means to be blind. Common statements, such as the one mentioned here, rely on old stereotypes which picture the blind in a negative way that is already all too well ingrained in the minds of the general public. Expressions such as this one portray the blind as stupid, inept, or ignorant. If one is seeking to convey an idea, why not use the precise words in place of an old cliche which makes degrading reference to the blind or blindness?
Most people who do use such negative stereotypical expressions do not think of them in the same way that those sensitive to nuance on the subject do. I know that you are well aware of the difficulty Ross Perot got himself into when he referred to his black audience as "you people" in the recent campaign. I would like to take this opportunity to help you avoid a similar pitfall by encouraging you to avoid all references to blind hogs, mice, bats, and men leading one another into ditches.
Thank you for allowing me to share this concern with you, and may God's blessing rest upon the launching of your new administration.
Bill J. Isaacs, President
NFBI Kankakee Heartland Chapter
December 23, 1992
The Daily Journal
I want to respond to the "Far Side" cartoon by Gary Larson, which was printed in your newspaper early in December. This cartoon portrayed blind strikers picketing with signs in front of a building labeled "Center for Illiteracy." The signs, however, make it clear that the strikers' grievance is against ACME Industries for the Blind, located in the building pictured across the street. I recognize that this cartoon is intended to reflect Larson's wacky and satirical world view. Nevertheless, its impact on the blind community was extremely negative.
I suspect that the average viewer of this scene would not even know what the word "satirical" means and would tend to take the depiction at face value. It is not uncommon for the general public to think of the blind as helpless, stupid, and ignorant, or in this case illiterate. Any picture or remark that reinforces this conception, regardless of the original intent, is not helpful in removing this astigmatism from the public eye.
Back in the late 1860's and early 1870's the famous German-American cartoonist, Thomas Nast, exposed the political corruption of Boss Bill Tweed, who swindled the city out of hundreds of millions of dollars, through his skillfully drawn cartoons of this grafter. Most of the immigrant workers of that day could not read, but they got the message of the pictures. Tweed himself referred to those "damn pictures" as the reason for his downfall. He even tried to bribe Nast with money and a trip to Europe for higher education in order to put a stop to the cartoons. The old adage that "a picture is worth a thousand words," is very apropos. The application can be either positive or negative. The Larson cartoon is most definitely negative.
In the fall of 1991 the American Broadcasting Company aired a series called "Good and Evil." It was a satirical comedy which included a blind psychologist, who was a buffoon. The members of the National Federation of the Blind were not so blind as to be unable to find the addresses of the program's sponsors in order to send them thousands of letters encouraging them to drop their sponsorship, which many of them did. The blind from New York to Los Angeles found their way to the appropriate ABC network offices in order to demonstrate and protest against the showing of this unflattering sitcom. After five telecasts of this series, it was dropped by the ABC network.
The fact that the blind cannot see does not mean that we do not know what is going on in the world around us. Using alternative techniques, the blind can be as informed and as productive as their sighted counterparts.
Bill J. Isaacs
Associate Professor of History
Olivet Nazarene University
President, Kankakee Heartland Chapter
NFB of Illinois
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."
A CHOICE FOR A LIFETIME
by Richard Hassig
From the Associate Editor: With an unemployment rate approaching eighty percent, we in the blindness field do not give as much attention as perhaps we should to the matter of job satisfaction. Certainly the first and overwhelming problem is to find a job and then keep it. One of the surest ways of retaining a good job is to do something that one enjoys. These days it is fashionable to speak disparagingly of piano tuning as a career, but everyone who has ever tried to find someone willing to tune an instrument knows how rare these professionals have become in recent years. The following article was written by a man who is satisfied with the vocational choice he made thirty years ago. Here is what Richard Hassig has to say about the profession of piano tuning:
My initial training in piano service at the Minnesota Braille and Sight Saving School was completed in 1957. I worked in Rochester, Minnesota, for about two years, but it became apparent to me that I needed to look for a different location.
In 1960 the opportunity came my way to work for a music store in Davenport, Iowa. I took this chance, and it was a significant help to me. I gained much practical experience working on the pianos which came into the store on trade. I also was given the opportunity to work in many homes and places which otherwise might have taken me much longer to cultivate.
After about seven years with this establishment, I felt that it was time once again to begin business for myself. The reputation I had by now established in the community made this much easier than it otherwise would have been. This endeavor went quite well, but I did miss the work on the older grand pianos which had been possible in the store.
Eventually, in about 1971, my family and I moved into a house which would make this work once again possible for me. It had an attached garage which was quite usable as a workshop.
During the years that we have been here, I have been able to make this into a space quite suitable for that purpose. In the time that we have been in this location, I have had about forty- five grands here for work. Most of them have been restrung, and the hammers have been replaced. And nearly all of them have had a new pin block. I had considerable help from sighted individuals with the first few new blocks, but I have now developed procedures which allow me to do nearly all of that work myself.
In addition to my work for private clients, I do the piano tuning service for three colleges locally and some for the Davenport School System. I tune for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and have worked for many shows which have performed here.
Judy, my wife, and I raised three sons. The youngest is now nineteen, so we feel that we are about done raising children.
When I was leaving high school and the time was at hand for me to make decisions about my career, piano service was my first choice. It was never a last resort or a might-as-well-do-that decision. I repeat, this was my first choice.
Looking back on it now, it was a good decision for me, but even more important, looking ahead, I feel that it was a good choice for me. When I was eighteen, someone asked me, "Do you really want to tune pianos for the next forty years?" Well, I thought that I did. I have been tuning pianos for thirty-five years now, and I look forward to the next thirty-five. Maybe not thirty-six, but thirty-five I think I could handle.
It is not likely that Judy and I will become wealthy because of my piano tuning, but I have been successful. Success, of course, depends on how you measure it. I have gained some respect in this community and have been able to work in many diverse situations and for many types of people. Last year my business took in very nearly $50,000. By my ruler, that is some degree of success, but you decide for yourself, using your own yardstick.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: C. Edwin Vaughan.]
THE STRUGGLE OF BLIND PEOPLE FOR SELF-DETERMINATION: THE DEPENDENCY-REHABILITATION CONFLICT: EMPOWERMENT IN THE BLINDNESS COMMUNITY
by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D.
A Review by Lorraine Rovig
Lorraine Rovig is the Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind program at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland.
Dr. Vaughan writes from his point of view as an experienced professor of sociology at the University of Missouri - Columbia and as a blind person with first-hand knowledge of his topic. Most readers will find this approach to the old story fresh and exciting. He says:
My central tenet is that the behavior of blind people is not a product of blindness or the amount of residual vision, but of socialization. The reactions of parents, teachers, siblings, peers, the health professions, rehabilitation counselors, and the general public have defined the lifestyles of blind people; and distinct patterns have emerged. (page 4)
My purpose is to analyze patterns of domination and subordination, which I and many other people judge harmful.... Many blind people have had their lives unnecessarily restricted while, in the name of benevolence, others who are sighted have advanced in their careers, increased their social prestige, and gained control of economic resources. (page 8)
Dr. Vaughan's professional analysis explains logically how and why the needs of legally blind Americans and the needs of workers for the blind interacted through the years to produce both the patterns of the blindness system and the current success at empowerment enjoyed by some blind Americans. Following many divergent strands, Dr. Vaughan ties economics to the treatment of blind clients with a very secure knot. For example, after a fast side trip through the Industrial Revolution, we read on page 28:
The factory system was extended through
bureaucratic rationality to all arenas of society. In
client-centered bureaucracies the recipients of
services become commodities, are subordinate, and have
little freedom. The opposite is the case for those who
dominate and control such organizations.
And on page 66 he quotes Robert Scott's book, The Making of Blind Men (1969), "In fact, the greater the involvement with agencies of rehabilitation, the greater the likelihood of becoming a product--being molded and managed to fit the agency's procedures and processes."
It is intellectually intriguing to follow the quotations from so many sources. Some of Vaughan's educational fodder comes from academic mainstream big names like educator John Dewey (1920): "When we talk abstractly about the state, bureaucracy, or human rights rather than this or that group of suffering human beings or this or that social arrangement, it is frequently easy to detract attention from specific problems." (page 28) At other times Vaughan quotes the obscure: "Perhaps the worst example of negative attitudes is reflected in an article by a physician, Dr. Stetten, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (1981)...." (page 96) Then again, we run into names we know very well--names like B. Lowenfeld or (of course in opposition) Peggy Pinder, Marc Maurer, and other blind-rights activists.
On the negative side, the worst that a reader can say of Dr. Vaughan's book is that one of his strengths, his background as a professor, is also occasionally a weakness. Just when the reader is rolling along, enjoying the apt quotations and pungent real- life stories that illustrate individual points, the author throws in something stuffy, and we are reminded that this is a book meant for the academic world.
There are many memorable chapters. My favorites are "The Consumer as Part of the Industry," "What Went Wrong With Doing Good," and "A New Specialization." In this last Vaughan explains that Father Carroll was worried, so "In 1953...[he] called a meeting of experts...to discuss the need for a new occupational specialization." Next Lou Reeves and the American Foundation for the Blind got involved. In spite of the objections of numerous blind and sighted teachers of travel (and their blind students), a special AFB conference went on record with "the first step toward the professionalization of this area...the recommendation that one year of specialized graduate education be required for mobility instructors." (page 220)
We have now had nearly forty years of the O and M crowd's efforts to promote the special necessity of sighted college graduates to teach blind persons how to swing a cane. Does Vaughan's sociological approach tell us how the new profession is doing today? He points out on pages 221-222:
The licensing and accreditation requirements are most frequently utilized
in smaller and privately funded agencies. Consumers have less leverage in these
agencies partly because the boards of directors are comprised of wealthy or
prominent citizens who usually know little about the issues involved. On the
other hand, those who work in the larger state-funded rehabilitation programs
illustrate the influence of the publicly funded and bureaucratically organized
work setting. Consumer groups can directly lobby state and federal politicians....
In this context, the requirement that mobility instructors have a master's degree
is not worth fighting about.
Are you curious to know how "Empowerment in the Blindness Community" came about? Do you wish you knew how you could get some? Dr. Vaughan takes his time in the 276 pages of text. As he says, "Sociological interest focuses on how claims about conditions are created, documented, and extended." (page 142) By the end of the book I think only a vested-interest, hard-core rehabilitation professional of the traditional sort could fail to understand why we are at our current stage of empowerment and why the programs run by professionals with such attitudes are an endangered species.
The Struggle of Blind People for Self-Determination: The Dependency-Rehabilitation Conflict: Empowerment in the Blindness Community, by C. Edwin Vaughan, will be published this summer by Charles C. Thomas, Publisher (Illinois). The original manuscript is 299 pages (22 of them a bibliography). A subject and separate index will be added. Estimated price: $40.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: View of the Dallas, Texas, skyline from the city's cultural district.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Statue of a Texas Longhorn cattle drive, located outside of Billy Bob's Texas, the famous country music club.]
LIKE A DIFFERENT COUNTRY
by Norma Crosby
From the Associate Editor: Norma Crosby is the President of the Houston Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. Her husband Glenn is President of the Texas affiliate and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. As you would suspect, Norma is deeply involved in the planning for our 1993 convention in Dallas-Fort Worth. If you were in Dallas for the 1990 convention, you already know that nobody throws a party like Texans, and now that they have the experience of hosting a recent convention, Glenn and Norma assure us that the 1993 extravaganza will be even better. Here's what Norma has to say:
It has often been said that Texas is like a different country, and if you take the opportunity to attend the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas-Fort Worth, we think you will find this to be the case. There is no other state which can claim the diversity in land, people, and culture that you'll find in Texas. Some say that we Texans brag a lot. But then we think we have a lot to brag about.
Texas consists of 267,300 square miles of prairies, high and low plains, rivers, islands, bayous, mountains, valleys, canyons, and forests. There are 254 counties in the state, and one explanation for the large number is that it was necessary for early Texans to do their business and vote at the county seat. So it was determined that none of the boundaries of a county should be more than a day's ride on horseback from the county seat.
Although two-thirds of all Texans are Anglo or of northern European descent, the Mexican culture has probably played the biggest role in shaping the Texas lifestyle. Texas food, music, architecture, language, and fashion are all strongly influenced by 150 years of colonization by Spain and Mexico.
Texans speak a unique brand of English, which sets us apart from other people from the South and Southwestern regions of the United States. One British author, Stephen Brook, described Texas speech as follows:
What nourishing mouthfuls of language, flush with redundancy, one can hear in Texas, words stumbling over each other, vowels endlessly elongated into diphthongs like verbal rainbows, containing elements and ghosts of every vowel sound known to the human race, including a few that, like the Big Bend mosquito fish, are unique to Texas.
Many of us from East Texas speak with a slow drawl which turns one syllable into three. Those from West Texas use minimal language and punctuate their remarks by staring meaningfully at the horizon. South Texans speak a mixture of Spanish and English, which is sometimes referred to as Spanglish, and those from the northern part of the state speak a mixture of all the above. Unfortunately, there is no language course to teach you how to speak Texan prior to your trip to the convention. But you will probably figure it out before the week is over, and even if you don't, we are planning so many fun things for you to do that it won't really make a difference.
When you get to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you will be able to find any type of food you like. But, if you want to get a real taste of Texas, be sure to try barbecue, chicken-fried steak, and Tex-Mex food before leaving. Some say that Texans will barbecue anything, including the tires off their Cadillacs. But real Texas barbecue is beef. Sometimes a Texan will throw some pork ribs or sausages on the pit. But mostly it's beef served with white bread, pickles, onions, potato salad, and beans. And if they give you a plate that isn't made of paper, you have not entered a true Texas barbecue joint. In fact, in most barbecue restaurants you might only be served on butcher paper, and if you're lucky, they'll give you a plastic knife and fork.
Then there's chicken-fried steak. It's usually an inexpensive cut of steak, battered and fried like chicken. It should always be served with cream gravy, and the inside should be tender with a crisp crust. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has lots of restaurants which serve good chicken-fried steaks.
Finally there's Tex-Mex. In Texas we just call it Mexican food. But the truth is that it bears little resemblance to dishes served in the interior of Mexico. It usually contains lots of chilies (peppers, which may be mild, or which may clear up any sinus problem you may have), frijoles (beans), and rice. And of course you can't have a good Tex-Mex meal without washing it all down with lots of cerveza (beer) or a good margarita. If you want a real change of pace, try some cabrito (baby goat, usually grilled over an open fire). It's a favorite of many Texicans.
Then, after you have eaten, take one of the tours which the NFB of Texas is planning for Federationists attending this summer's convention. Of course we will be visiting Six flags Over Texas, one of the finest amusement parks in the nation, and Billy Bob's Texas, advertised as the world's largest honky-tonk. It boasts forty-two bar stations, a 13,000-square foot dance floor, and an indoor rodeo arena which seats five hundred. The remainder of its 100,000-square foot area is filled with restaurants and specialty shops. It's loud! It's gaudy! It's outrageous! It's definitely Texas!
We are also gonna take ya'll to a genuine rodeo, which includes a steak dinner before the fun begins, and of course we won't forget the barbecue dinner and beer that was such a hit in 1990. There'll be a great band, and you'll be able to kick up your heels under the stars. Then, if you still need more excitement, we are planning a visit to the National Museum of Communications, which has everything from a fifteenth-century printing press to early radio, TV, and motion picture equipment.
For those who love to shop and see wondrous things all at once, we will be taking a tour to the Las Colinas Urban Center. This is an eleven hundred-acre city within a city, which includes lots of shops and restaurants. The Mandalay Canal Walk runs throughout the area containing shops. But, if you want, you can take one of the mahogany water taxis for just one dollar. Of course, if you want to see more of the area, you can ride the five and one half mile monorail, which makes a figure eight through the entire Las Colinas development. Then there are the Las Colinas Mustangs. This equestrian statue includes nine giant bronze mustangs galloping through a stream in the Urban Center. The area surrounding the mustangs is a bright blaze of color, created largely of Texas Pink granite. Each horse is one and a half times life size, and each weighs between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds. An afternoon exploring the Las Colinas area is one you won't soon forget.
Besides all the tours and events already mentioned, we also plan a night or two of Texas-style music. Who knows, we may have mariachis one night and Texas rock, country, or blues on another. You never can tell what might happen in Texas. But you had better plan on being with us so that you can find out. There is a song about Texas which says,
die, I may not go to heaven.
I don't know if they let cowboys in.
If they don't, just let me go to Texas.
Texas is as close as I've been.
Most Texans believe that our state is heaven, and we welcome all visitors to our large chunk of celestial real estate, and you don't even have to die to come. Just make your plans to be with us from July 3 to 10 for the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Nowhere else but Texas.
By the way, if you think you shouldn't come because you have a phobia about large, open spaces, don't worry. I hear that most folks wear out only one car driving across Texas; that's not so bad.
That's what the Texans are saying about the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Here are some reminders about hotel registration and convention details. As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who know about them. For the 1993 convention they are singles, $31; doubles and twins, $35; triples, $38; and quads, $40. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is twelve percent. There will be no charge for children in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested.
In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, but for the 1993 convention you should write directly to Hyatt-Regency DFW, Post Office Box 619014, International Parkway, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Texas 75261, or call (214) 453-1234. Hyatt has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize not) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the hotel. The hotel will want a deposit of $40 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged immediately, just as would be the case with a $40 check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 20, 1993, $20 of the $40 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
Hotel reservations should be made early. Remember that seminars for parents of blind children and for blind job-seekers, as well as several other workshops and meetings, will be conducted on Saturday, July 3. Convention registration will begin on Sunday, and both Sunday and Monday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Monday morning annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, which is open to all. General convention sessions begin on Tuesday and continue through Friday afternoon. The annual banquet will take place on Thursday evening, July 8.
Remember also that we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Prizes should be relatively small in size and large in value. Cash, of course, is always popular. In any case we ask that all prizes have a value of at least $25. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time to Lawrence Doiron, 7917 Pointer, Houston, Texas 77016; phone (713) 631-3013.
This month's recipes come from Idaho. One of the delights of living in this state is that you can enjoy the great outdoors. People still hunt wild game, grow gardens, and home-can fruits and vegetables. Potatoes are wonderful, but they are not the only delicious crop. Idaho's fruit, particularly its sweet dark cherries, deserve to be as famous as the Idaho potato. The following recipes require some of Idaho's special foods, but even if the Idaho version cannot be found, they are still worth preparing and enjoying.
Blueberries grow abundantly in northern Idaho. Try Trudy Barrett's Blueberry Orange Nut Bread.
BLUEBERRY ORANGE NUT BREAD
by Trudy Barrett
Trudy Barrett is an active member of the Magic Valley Chapter of the NFB of Idaho.
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Method: Grease and flour 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs, milk, orange juice, and grated orange peel. Stir until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture until blended. Fold in blueberries and walnuts. Spoon batter into pan. Bake 1 hour, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Wrap in aluminum foil. Store overnight in refrigerator. Serve next day.
VENISON SWISS STEAK
by Sandy Chess
Sandy Chess is the secretary in the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho state office. Sandy and her husband each got a deer last fall, and her husband got an elk.
1 1/2 to 2 pounds tenderloin venison steak, cut into individual
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 quart tomatoes (I prefer home-canned)
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Method: Dredge meat in seasoned flour and, using a heated skillet, brown it quickly in oil on both sides. Place meat in layers in large baking dish. Spread tomatoes, peppers, and onion over meat and between layers. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
SPICY MEATBALLS WITH SAUCE
by Ramona Walhof
Ramona Walhof is the President of the NFB of Idaho and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. All who know her recognize that she is also an excellent cook. She says that these spicy meatballs can be made with either ground venison or ground beef.
2 to 3 pounds ground meat (beef or venison)
1/4 pound cracker crumbs
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
Method: Mix above ingredients with hands and shape into balls approximately 2 inches in diameter. Brown meatballs on all sides in oiled skillet.
2 #2 (20-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 chopped onion
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Combine all sauce ingredients. Place meatballs in large dutch oven, pour sauce over them, and cover. Place dutch oven full of meatballs and sauce in preheated oven and cook for 2 hours at 325 degrees. If using a lower temperature, cook longer. This dish benefits from long, slow cooking.
by Ramona Walhof
Pheasants are still plentiful in some parts of Idaho, and cooked like this, they are delicious.
2 to 4 birds recommended
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Pluck, clean, and cut up birds. Try to remove all pieces of shot. Roll bird pieces in flour, salt and pepper to taste. Use plenty of flour; it will make the gravy better. Brown on all sides in frying pan. Place in deep roasting pan or dish with cover. Pour evaporated milk over bird pieces until completely covered. Roast at 325 degrees for 3 hours, or until tender. If oven temperature is too high, the milk will curdle. If handled correctly, the milk will make delicious gravy. If you keep the dish covered, you should not need to add additional milk.
FROZEN STRAWBERRY JAM
by Sandy Chess
It's nice to live where there is still space for a garden. Even for those without time or space to grow their own, fresh fruit is plentiful in season. Homemade jams and jellies are just as good as you remember them and quicker to make. Try these:
2 3/4 cup sugar
1 box pectin
2 quarts strawberries
Method: Wash and dry plastic containers and lids. Wash and stem 2 quarts strawberries. Crush strawberries. Measure 4 cups crushed strawberries. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with pectin. Gradually add pectin/sugar mixture to strawberries, stirring vigorously. Let stand 1/2 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 1/2 cups sugar into strawberries. Keep stirring until sugar dissolves. Quickly fill containers to within 1/2 inch of top. Put the lids on tightly. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours, then freeze. Makes about 3 pints.
SWEET CHERRY JAM
by Ramona Walhof
3 pounds dark sweet cherries
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 box pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine
3 1/4 cups sugar
Method: Boil jars and lids for 10 minutes and drain. Place cherries in 6 to 8-quart kettle. Add lemon juice. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with pectin, then add to cherries. Bring mixture to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. To reduce foaming, add butter or margarine. Add 3 cups sugar and continue stirring while mixture boils for 1 more minute. Fill jars to within 1/8 inch of the top. Cover quickly with lids and tighten. Turn jars upside down for 5 minutes, then turn upright. You should hear the lids pop within the hour to show they have sealed. This jam will be best if you wait a month or more to eat it.
by Ramona Walhof
Of course, we must have at least one recipe for potatoes, although most people already know how good Idaho potatoes are.
1 acorn squash
2 to 3 cups pumpkin, cooked or canned
1 medium onion
3 8- to 10-ounce Idaho potatoes
Milk or cream to taste
Season to taste
Method: Chop and saute one onion, then place in large saucepan. Wash, cut up potatoes, and add to onion. Also add pumpkin and enough water to keep mixture from boiling dry. Add salt and pepper and other seasoning as desired. Cook until potatoes are done. Cut acorn squash in half and clean. Then place both halves, cut side down, in microwave or oven to bake. When done, scoop fruit out of skin and place in blender. Blend until smooth. Then blend potato/pumpkin mixture until smooth using as much of the water as needed. Combine squash and pumpkin mixtures. The resulting mixture should be thick and smooth. Reheat, adding milk or cream until soup has attained the thickness you wish. You may peel potatoes if you wish, but the peeling will be cut fine in the blending process, as will the onions. If you wish to have a low-fat soup, this is it. If you do not care about calories, you may add butter or grated cheese for a little different flavor.
Laurie Eckery of Nebraska sends us the following announcement: The election of officers for 1993 for the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, Omaha Chapter, held December 18, 1992, gave the following results: president, Larry Streeter; first vice president, Craig Groff; second vice president, Gary Thompson; secretary, Laurie Eckery; treasurer, Alan Kopetzky; and board members, Lonnie Merritt, Hank Vetter, Linda Groff, and Sandy Streeter.
**Tandem Vacations for the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Two for the Road Tandem Touring, a Greenville, North Carolina, based company, has just announced plans to offer tandem touring vacations for the visually impaired. The concept behind the idea is to offer to the visually impaired an opportunity to take an active vacation with friends or family members.
The five day/five night vacation packages include deluxe accommodations, all meals, daily vehicle support, luggage transport, expert tour guides, and various types of evening entertainment. Tandem bicycle rentals are available. The tours are designed for adults. Anyone under 18-years-old must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Three tours are planned in the fall of 1993 for the visually impaired. Two tours target the beautiful southern coastal area of North Carolina, and one tour highlights the graceful rolling terrain of the Piedmont region of the state. In addition to North Carolina, tours are being planned for 1994 in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. All tours are limited to ten tandem teams. As with any tandem team, there is a captain (person in front) and a stoker (person in rear). A visually impaired stoker and a sighted captain should register as one tandem team.
The primary advantage of tandem cycling for the visually impaired is that it allows active participation without any modification of the sport. Two for the Road Tandem Touring plans to offer all information before, during, and after the tour in both print and Braille in an effort to provide the best service and communication for all customers.
To receive a brochure or additional information about the tours, write to Two for the Road Tandem Touring, Route 3, Box 552, Greenville, North Carolina 27858 or call (919) 756-4885.
**Peace Corps Volunteers Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Peace Corps is looking for 12 special people, trained and experienced in education for the blind. The men and women who are selected will serve for two years as Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco. They will work in a long-standing Moroccan Government program teaching blind mobility, including grooming, self-help, and recreation in schools for the blind. Applications are being received now. The Volunteer candidates will leave in June or July to begin language training in Arabic and French, as well as cultural acclimatization in Morocco.
In addition to good will and determination, you'll need either: a BA/BS in Special Education with an emphasis on the visually impaired; or a BA/BS in Education with at least 3 months work experience with the visually impaired; or a BA/BS in any discipline with at least 3 months work experience with the visually impaired. There is no upper age limit. Experience and maturity are highly prized. All medical and dental care is provided, as is air transportation to and from Morocco at the beginning and end of service. A monthly living allowance for food, rent, and transportation is also provided, and Volunteers accrue $200 U.S. for each month of training and service satisfactorily completed. Repayment of most student loans is deferred during the period of training and service. "Perkins" loans are partially forgiven--fifteen percent of principal and accrued interest for each year of service.
Call your local Peace Corps Recruiting Office or call 1 (800) 424-8580, Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Richard Webb, secretary of the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa reports the following election results: Bob Ray, president; Curtis Willoughby, first vice president; Fred Moore, second vice president; Richard Webb, secretary; and Lora Van Lent, treasurer. Joel Jeffries, Bill Pearce, Jan Ray, and Revanne Duckett were elected to board positions.
To this announcement Mr. Webb appended the following inquiry: If anyone is using MIDI, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, on a personal computer, Richard Webb would like to know what kind of screen reader you are using. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 93261, Des Moines, Iowa 50393; (515) 279- 5542 or (515) 274-1341.
**National Writers Conference Planned for September:
The Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind will sponsor a National Conference for Blind Writers at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, beginning on Friday, September 10, and concluding on Sunday, September 12, 1993. Registration fee will be $25, and accommodations at the National Center will be provided free of charge. A donation will be requested for the cost of all meals at the Center. If you are a blind or visually impaired writer and would like to attend the conference, write to: Jerry Whittle, 22 University Boulevard, Ruston, Louisiana 71270, for an information packet and application form. If you need further clarification about these preliminary facts, you may call (318) 251-2891.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a young breeder of dairy goats and am interested in receiving any correspondence in Braille or on tape from any other blind person in my situation. Write to Stephanie Pieck, Song of Joy Nubians/Song of Praise LaManchas, Ithaca College, Rowland Hall, Room 13, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca, New York 14850. Or call (607) 256-8213 until May 1st. After that date I can be reached by mail at RD 3, Box 200, Hurst Road, Altamont, New York 12009; telephone (518) 861-5522. Nubians and LaManchas are specific breeds of dairy goats. Song of Joy and Song of Praise are the two names I have registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. They appear before the names of all of the animals I breed to differentiate them from animals bred elsewhere.
**Pen Friend Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Davide Reitano, a twenty-year-old blind Italian college student, is in search of pen pals with whom he can correspond in Braille. He is fluent in English, German, French, and of course his native Italian. His address is Davide Reitano, via V. Bellini 28, S. Gregorio 95027, Catania, Italy.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
On November 20, 1992, the St. Louis Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri elected the following officers and board members: John Dower, president; Rick Burch, vice president; Susan Ford, recording secretary; Tom Clark, corresponding secretary; Thelda Borisch, treasurer; and Robin Wallen, member at large.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pictured here in conversation at the reception to honor Nell Carney are (left to right) Tony Francavilla, Director of Colorado Rehabilitation Services; Diane McGeorge, Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind; Homer Page, President of the National Federation of the Blind and Boulder County Commissioner; and Dr. Nell C. Carney.]
**Federationists Host a Reception to Honor Nell Carney:
On Saturday, December 12, 1992, the then Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Nell Carney, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. The preceding day the students and staff of the Colorado Center for the Blind hosted an elegant reception in Mrs. Carney's honor. Dr. James Dixon, Commissioner of RSA Region VIII, and about fifty other rehabilitation, disability, and political dignitaries attended the event.
Center students and staff had cut down the Christmas tree that graced the reception area and decorated it and the entire Center building. They also prepared and served the lavish refreshments. Several of the guests made a point of inquiring who the Center had found to cater such a lovely reception, and Diane McGeorge, Center Director and member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, made certain that everyone understood that Colorado Center students and staff had done it all. The entire reception was a ringing testimonial both to the honor in which Nell Carney is held by blind people and to the quality of the rehabilitation carried out at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
Following the academic awards ceremony on Saturday, Dr. Carney and several Federationists were guests at a celebratory luncheon hosted by the Dean of Health and Human Services at the University of Northern Colorado. At the luncheon Dr. Carney was presented with a special award in recognition of the significant work she has done to enhance the lives of disabled Americans.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Kathryn C. Davis.]
**Center Named for Federationist:
In a recent letter we were informed that the Center for the Visually Impaired in Daytona Beach, Florida, recently dedicated its new building to Kathryn C. Davis, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. The letter went on to say:
Kathy Davis, counselor and Coordinator of Disabled Student Services at Daytona Beach Community College, was recently honored by the board of Directors of the Center for the Visually Impaired at the agency's grand opening celebration of its new facility. The building was officially dedicated in her honor and will bear the title of the Kathryn C. Davis Center for the Visually Impaired. A portrait of Mrs. Davis was unveiled for the occasion and now hangs in the reception area of the agency along with a commemorative plaque.
Kathy Davis has led the Center through some very difficult times. A founder of the CVI, Mrs. Davis was president of the Board of Directors in 1991 when the agency was in extreme peril because of internal staffing problems. Rather than allow the agency to close its doors and cease providing necessary independent living skills classes to the older adult blind of Volusia County, Mrs. Davis assumed the responsibility of executive director and recording secretary for a period of five months. This was quite a challenge considering that she was already employed full-time by Daytona Beach Community College. Nevertheless, she was determined that the agency would survive and that she would provide the necessary direction and leadership to put it on solid ground once again.
With the help of the Board of Directors, the backing of the Division of Blind Services, and the United Way, Kathy began the rebuilding process of the Center. Staff was hired and board members agreed to cover various speaking engagements. Kathy soon acquired the necessary skills to be an effective executive director. In this capacity she not only conducted board meetings and took minutes, but spent many hours engaged in such activities as reorganizing the agency, communicating with Blind Services, writing grants, and generally coordinating all CVI-related activities.
The first priority during these months was to hire a capable executive director and a rehabilitation teacher. In May of 1991 Robert Hodge was hired as executive director. Robin Whitely was brought back as the agency's rehabilitation teacher, and an orientation and mobility instructor has recently been hired.
Kathy, blind since birth, has been a respected faculty member and counselor at Daytona Beach Community College since 1980. She is also known for her many contributions as a community volunteer. Her three children are presently completing their bachelor's and master's degrees. For the past ten years Kathy has raised her children as a single parent.
On December 28, 1991, she married Dr. Thomas F. Davis, professor of mathematics at Daytona Beach Community College and current president of the Board of Directors of the Center For the Visually Impaired. Tom is very supportive of his wife's many worthwhile endeavors. Both Kathy and Tom are committed to the organized blind movement and derive tremendous pleasure from working with visually impaired people of all ages.
Norma Gonzales Baker, secretary of the Austin chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, reports that the chapter recently held its annual election. The following board members and officers were elected: Tommy Craig, president; Jeanine Lineback, first vice president; Buddy Brannan, second vice president; Norma Gonzales Baker, secretary; Wanda Carruth, treasurer; and Andrea Moore and Mary Ward, board members.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Kurzweil Personal Reader 7315 with software upgrade and both table and hand-held scanners. I paid $12,500, and am asking $7000 or best offer. Contact Katie at (818) 341-5925.
Karen Mayry, president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, writes to say that Mike Klimisch, one of the affiliate's young leaders, was recently recognized by his alma mater, Mt. Marty College, as the Outstanding Alumnus of 1992. The criteria for this award include graduation from the school during the past five years, community involvement, and participation in parish and other community activities. Congratulations to Mike Klimisch.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma will be selling zippered slate and stylus holders during the 1993 National Convention in Dallas. The holders are gold nylon with the NFB logo in indigo/navy. The price will be $3 each or 2 for $5. Plan now to look for the Oklahomans.
**Wishing to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am looking for a used Optacon. If you have information about one that I may purchase, please contact Tamika Polk, 3122-B Utah Place, Greensboro, North Carolina 27405; Phone (919) 375- 8216.
Marilyn Rixse, secretary of the Little Rock Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas, reports the following chapter election results: Rector Turner, president; Nancy Mathers, vice president; Marilyn Rixse, secretary; Wilma Sitterfield, treasurer; and Bessie Ragland, Eddie Lyles, John Mathews, Dorothy Avants, and Buford Stinnett, board members.
Recently President Maurer received a note from Gwen Rittgers of Kansas City, Missouri, in which Gwen said that this year she will be 79 years old and that she has now been a member of the Federation for 53 years. This means that Gwen Rittgers goes back to 1940, the year of our beginning. The Federation is stronger because it has had those to anchor it with the character and the spirit of Gwen Rittgers.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Unused VersaPoint embosser, still in its original packing carton. Runs at five characters per second and does graphics. Manuals for operation included. Asking $2200 or best offer. For more information contact Michelle J. Smithdas in Braille only, at 10 Marino Avenue, Port Washington, New York 11050.
Byron Sykes, secretary of the Rockingham County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, reports the following chapter election results: Wanda Jackson, president; Randy Mabes, vice president; Byron Sykes, secretary; Lillian Sykes, treasurer; and Maude Dodd, board member.