Vol. 36, No. 7 July
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
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Vol. 36, No. 7 July 1993
THE TRUE MEANING
OF REGULATIONS: A VOCABULARY LESSON FROM THE
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
by Robert Leblond
TACTILE WARNING APPEAL FIZZLES
FILED IN THE SHEILA HALL CASE
by Scott LaBarre
ONE STEP CLOSER TO JURY SERVICE IN THE DISTRICT OF
by Jennifer Dunnam
REALITY: A BIZARRE NEW TWIST TO THE HANDICAPPED
RECORD STRAIGHT: SHARON GOLD EDUCATES TRANSPORTATION
OFFICIALS ABOUT TRAVEL
by Thomas Bickford
MOVEMENT ENOUGH TO KEEP IT STRONG
by Gary Wunder
FEDERATIONIST DEMONSTRATES THE USEFULNESS OF BRAILLE
RECIPIENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TRUSTS
by Greg D. Trapp
A PROBLEM SOLVED FOR MUSICIANS: THE YAMAHA QY10 NOW TALKS
RESEARCH AND TRAINING CENTER AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
RESPONDS TO CONSUMER CONCERNS
A FAMILY AFFAIR
by Peg Halverson
Copyright National Federation
of the Blind, Inc., 1993
LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: All children learn by watching their parents and by working with them on projects. When David Patrick Maurer, then age eight, wanted to give his mother a head board bookcase for Christmas last year, he and his father, NFB President Marc Maurer, worked together to build the gift. Pictured here at work in the shop, located in the central courtyard building at the National Center for the Blind, David looks on while his father uses a cross cut saw.
[PHOTO: Family portrait. CAPTION: Connie and Bob Leblond with their son, Seth.]
TRUE MEANING OF REGULATIONS:
A VOCABULARY LESSON FROM THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
by Robert Leblond
From the Editor: People are sometimes puzzled at the anger and frustration expressed by many in the blindness community when we talk about our struggle to receive service from the rehabilitation or education establishments. It is hard for these folk to believe us when we say that there is something surreal about the world of governmental regulations and the bureaucratic mind. Often the only effective protection in this jungle is a lively sense of the ridiculous. Even so, we must always remember that lives and futures are at stake in these absurd battles, and too often it is our children who lose.
Robert Leblond is the President of the New England Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind. His wife Connie is President of the NFB of Maine. The Leblonds have two blind youngsters, Seth and Hope. Through the years the Leblonds have had their share of bizarre encounters with the special education and rehabilitation bureaucracies in Maine. Bob Leblond has written the latest chapter in the saga of the family's attempt to get Hope the training she needs in Braille and cane travel. As you read the following story, bear in mind that as a result of the nonsense the Leblonds have encountered, Hope's IEP-mandated Braille instruction now consists of her independent study of the Library of Congress Braille transcription course intended as a course for sighted Braille transcribers. The state vocational rehabilitation agency's itinerant teacher assured Hope that she could finish the course in a year, despite the long periods of waiting while her lessons are graded in Washington, D.C. When Connie Leblond objected that they should have a more realistic estimate for the time it would take to complete the course, the teacher began eliminating lessons and skipping contractions to insure Hope's completion of the course within the year promised. No one has bothered to explain how Hope is to use Braille without knowing all the needed signs. Reading the Leblonds' story may make you feel a little like Alice in Wonderland, but here it is:
Special education regulations can be a nightmare for parents of blind children. How many times has Braille instruction or mobility training been denied to a blind or visually impaired child simply because of a narrow or wrong-headed interpretation of the concept of least restrictive environment? How many children have been refused necessary services due to a too broad interpretation of the infamous Rowley Decision, which states that special education does not exist for the purpose of maximizing a student's potential? Parents and their blind children are all too often inundated by educational regulations that seem to exist specifically for the purpose of lowering the quality of our children's education. Time and again we are constrained by these rules, and we wish there were some way around them so that our children could truly benefit from their Individualized Education Plans. Everyone will be delighted to learn that the solution to navigating this frustrating maze of regulations is simple--become a school department in the State of Maine, and none of the rules will apply to you anymore.
My wife and I are the parents of two blind children in Portland, Maine. We therefore attend Pupil Evaluation Team meetings (PET's) on a regular basis. I should explain that in Maine the PET and the Individual Education Plan Team, which have overlapping but not identical memberships, meet together to make placement and education decisions in one big happy (or unhappy) group. My wife Connie is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine and sits on the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired's Advisory Committee. I am the President of the New England Parents of Blind Children Division, and until recently I served on the Maine Advisory Panel on the Education of Children with Disabilities. By virtue of these activities we are aware of most of the regulations that pertain to special education. Not surprisingly, when we notice an infraction of the regulations in our children's paperwork or procedures, we try to rectify it.
For example, when we attended a PET last year for our son and tried to discuss the purchase of computer equipment, we were told that no one at the meeting had the authority to commit the school department's financial resources; the meeting must be continued to a later date. State and federal regulations clearly provide, however, that a person with that authority must always be present at such meetings. When we reminded the school department of this fact, we were told that these people were very busy. What if they had to go to every PET in the city? It is clear that this particular regulation is not followed in Maine because it is binding on the school, not the child or the parents.
That same year we convened a PET on behalf of our daughter Hope. We were seeking a one-year placement at a residential school in order for her to hone her Braille and mobility skills in a specialized environment. At this meeting none of my daughter's classroom teachers was in attendance. Again both state and federal regulations require that at least one representative from the child's regular education program must be in attendance. Again we reported the transgression and were told that there was nothing that could be done, because the incident had happened in the past. (If I could make myself aware of incidents before they occur, I would be omniscient and could then presumably do without the school department altogether.) Of course the residential school placement was rejected because it didn't fit well with the regulation of least restrictive environment. This rule--it goes without saying--was scrupulously, if not rigidly, adhered to since it thwarted only the student and her parents.
The decision to refuse our daughter the opportunity of a one-year residential placement was made by a state-hired due-process hearing officer who was obviously more interested in giving the school department the benefit of the doubt than in addressing the issue of quality education. This officer was influenced by the testimony of our assistant special education director, one Jane Golding, who stated under oath that the school could find a certified teacher to work with my daughter as specified in the IEP. Although this was refuted by the testimony of a supervisor for the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, who stated quite straightforwardly that there is a critical shortage of certified teachers of the blind in Maine (indeed throughout the country), the hearing officer's decision was that residential placement was denied and that the school must have the appropriately certified personnel in place within forty-five days. It occurred to us to wonder how this was going to be done in the light of the fact that there were no certified teachers of the blind in the state not already employed through the Division for the Blind, and we were further mystified when the position was never advertised.
In an attempt to shed some light on the subject, I contacted our local special education director, Angela L. Faherty, who eventually told me that a certified person had been found to work with my daughter. There were a number of exchanges of views between Dr. Faherty and me during the late summer. They all produced more heat than light. Here is one letter which reflects my frustration and anger and the Portland School Department's unwillingness to work in my daughter's best interest:
August 5, 1992
Dr. Angela Faherty, Director
Portland Public Schools
Dear Dr. Faherty:
I am writing to you today in order to clarify some of the issues that have arisen concerning Hope's IEP and the results of the due process hearing that we initiated on her behalf.
I called you this morning to inquire if the school had the necessary personnel in place to implement the IEP. You replied that the school did not need to hire any additional personnel because you stated that Chris Crinion of the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI) had all of the required people to implement the plan. At that time I asked if you meant the total level of service as written in the plan. You responded in the affirmative. You further stated that a PET was being convened to make specific goals and objectives with the new itinerant teacher in attendance.
Since Mr. Crinion has stated from the beginning that DBVI was unable to provide the specific level of service called for in the IEP, I said to you that this was my understanding of the facts. You responded that it was your understanding that DBVI was now able to provide the aforementioned services with no gaps. I called Mr. Crinion and was told that his letter to you had contained information indicating that his agency could provide six hours of teacher time weekly, not the fifteen hours that the IEP calls for. If my math doesn't fail me, this leaves a discrepancy of nine hours--more than half the total teacher time per week specified in the IEP.
Mr. Crinion at this point attempted to call you and was told you were out of the office for the day. Immediately after his attempt, I then tried to call you and was told that you were in a meeting. Obviously the second of these statements was the correct one, since you eventually returned my call. One must wonder, however, at your reluctance to communicate with Mr. Crinion, a supervisor of the agency that is the key player in the proper implementation of my daughter's IEP.
In any event, I said in my second call to your department, as well as in a call to the superintendent's office, that I did not appreciate being lied to by you. In returning my call, you were upset and indignant that I had referred to you as a liar. You demanded an apology from me. In response, I would like to state that in the first place, when I asked you, not once, but three times, if DBVI had committed to providing all of the services as described in the PET, you answered in the affirmative. This left me to believe that either 1) you were not being truthful with me, or 2) you lacked the intelligence to comprehend the question. I opted for the lesser of two evils. Was I correct, or was the second choice the right one?
If in the future you believe that I am guilty of defamation of character, the court system was created to answer just this type of question; you need not resort to groveling.
Also, in quoting so lavishly from the haring officer's orders, you seem to have neglected number two: "The school shall ensure that the appropriately certified personnel to implement Hope Leblond's IEP goals and objectives are in place within forty-five days of the receipt of this decision." This means that all of the appropriate personnel have to be in place by September 2. You have Mr. Crinion's letter indicating to you that nine hours a week still need to be filled, yet you assure me that the school needs no additional personnel. These are not the actions of someone who is trying to "ensure that the appropriately certified personnel...are in place within forty-five days." You are treating this matter in quite a cavalier fashion, and I resent it and will do everything in my power to compel you to comply with the decision as rendered by the hearing officer.
Very truly yours,
Robert J. Leblond
cc: Marc Maurer
Senator George Mitchell
Representative Tom Andrews
As I say, eventually the school told us that they had hired a teacher to work with Hope as instructed by the hearing officer. When I met the woman, Barbara Lowenberg-Irlandy, I requested to see her teaching certificate. The school department refused this request, which whetted my curiosity. I then contacted the Maine Department of Certification and was told that she was not certified as a teacher of any type. Here is the text of the letter I received in mid-September, 1992, assuring me of this fact:
September 15, 1992
Dear Mr. Leblond:
This letter is in follow-up to your request that Ms. Lowenberg-Irlandy's certification status be provided to you in writing. Currently this person does not appear on the list of certified teachers.
Based on our September 11, 1992, telephone conversation, you are aware that an individual's certification status could change.
Education Specialist II
Department of Education
Armed with this knowledge, I initiated a complaint with the State Special Education Department arguing that the Portland School Department was in non-compliance with the hearing officer's order and that hiring non-certified personnel is contrary to both federal and state regulations. The complaint letter was filed in September of 1992 and, according to yet another educational rule, had to be answered within sixty days.
When over ninety days had passed with no answer to our complaint, Diane Wood (wife of the Vice President of the NFB of Maine) and I went to see the complaint investigator in person. He stated that, although he had received my letter of complaint, he didn't believe that it was an actual complaint and that therefore he did not need to make a decision within the sixty days. He went on to state that, whether or not Ms. Lowenberg-Irlandy had the proper qualifications, the department was prepared to certify the woman, and after this was done he would answer our complaint. Needless to say, we were taken by surprise. Once again the rules had been broken, and once again we were powerless to do anything about it. In mid-January of 1993 we received a copy of a letter to the Portland School Department from the State Department of Education thanking them for having complied so well with the hearing decision and stating that Barbara Lowenberg-Irlandy had indeed been certified since August 24, 1992. Never mind my September 15 letter from the Department of Certification flatly stating that this woman was not certified as of mid-September, but I can't seem to make anyone in the education establishment care. Here is the letter from the Maine Department of Education to the Portland School Department:
January 12, 1993
Dr. Angela Faherty
Director Special Education
Portland School Department
I am pleased to advise you that the Department of Education has reviewed your documents demonstrating compliance with the hearing officer's decision in hearing #92.035, Leblond v. Portland.
Records on file in the Division of Certification indicate that Ms. Barbara Lowenberg-Irlandy's application for certification was processed on November 24, 1992. Ms. Irlandy currently holds certification under certification 291 for a period of August 24, 1992, through July 1, 1993. This certification along with the documentation submitted by you in early September demonstrates that the Portland School System has substantially complied with the hearing officer's order in this matter. The Department is closing this case and will be taking no further action in this matter.
Thank you for your assistance in complying with the hearing officer's decision.
Michael J. Opuda
Due Process Coordinator
Department of Education
There you have it. If you are a school department, you can have your employees' credentials back-dated at your convenience, and no one will apparently stop to consider whether the retroactively credentialed teacher even has the necessary skills to work with the child in question. For example, Ms. Lowenberg- Irlandy, a reality therapist by training (whatever that is), has demonstrated repeatedly that she knows little or no Braille and has not the remotest idea what to do with a white cane. Her approach during this school year, for which she was hired to provide Hope with the skills we wanted her to sharpen at a residential school for the blind, has been to darken and enlarge photocopied materials for classroom use. In desperation I tried writing a letter in early March to ascertain whether the requirements for awarding emergency certification had been met in this case. Here is my letter:
March 3, 1993
Mr. Michael Opuda
Maine Department of Education
Dear Mr. Opuda:
As you know, in the recent past I have questioned the certification of Ms. Barbara Lowenberg-Irlandy, a person hired by the Portland School Department to work with my daughter Hope, a student at Deering High School. You have assured me that the person in question is indeed certified, but what type of certification does she hold? She lacks the qualifications to meet the entry level standards for provisional, professional, or master certification.
She cannot have been granted a conditional certificate, nor is she eligible to receive a transitional endorsement. I therefore have to believe that the Department has granted a waiver. If this is indeed the case, the Portland School Department had to prove several things, including geographic isolation and demonstrated attempts to hire a properly certified person. This attempt must include a search timeline and proof of statewide advertising. However, at a PET held at Deering High School Jane Golding (assistant special ed. director) stated that no search was undertaken prior to the hiring of Ms. Lowenberg- Irlandy.
I would appreciate clarification in this matter: what type of certification does this person hold, and does she meet all of the criteria necessary for certification?
Robert J. Leblond
cc: Commissioner Martin
Rep. James Oliver
Supt. of Schools, Portland
Needless to say, I have not to date received a satisfactory answer. Mr. Opuda is the official who wrote the letter of congratulations to the Portland schools about their having met the hearing officer's requirement for a certified teacher to work with Hope. One might be forgiven for presuming that before writing a letter like the one reprinted in this article under date of January 12, 1993, an education official would familiarize himself with the case and understand the details. But Mr. Opuda told me that he did not know the facts of the certification and that I would have to learn them from the Department of Certifications. The two offices are two doors apart, but it is I who am now trying to untangle the certification confusion.
So when the rules and regulations imposed by the education establishment weigh too heavily on you and you feel you need a break, come to Maine; become a school department; you'll be able to get away with anything short of murder--and flaunt it too!
TACTILE WARNING APPEAL FIZZLES
Those who have been following the truncated dome debate within the A117 Committee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and beyond will remember that in June of 1992 ANSI voted to eliminate its requirements for providing tactile warning strips composed of what are officially described as truncated domes at intersections and the edges of drop-offs such as train platforms. (See "Architectural Barriers for the Blind: the Myth and the Reality" in the October, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor.) Soon after ANSI's decision the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the World Institute on Disability banded together to appeal it. According to the appeals process, the appellants were not supposed to present any new arguments or information in their appeal since the guidelines stipulated that it must be limited to questions of consensus procedures and due process. In fact those who have seen the appeal documents report that much new material was presented, a departure from fair play that apparently very much annoyed some ANSI members.
But the ANSI Board of Standards Review accepted and considered it all. On April 8, 1993, the Council of American Building Officials (CABO), ANSI's secretariat, announced that the ACB-AFB-WIB appeal had been denied on the grounds that the A117 Committee had indeed followed its consensus procedures and had assured due process to all materially affected and interested parties. Here is the press release that was circulated:
For Immediate Release
April 14, 1993
ANSI Board of Standards
Rejects Appeal to A117.1 Standard
The Council of American Building Officials (CABO), Secretariat for the ANSI A117 Committee, has announced that the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR) unanimously voted to deny the appeal to the approval of the CABO/ANSI A117.1-1992 Standard as an American National Standard made by the American Council of the Blind, the World Institute on Disability, and the American Foundation for the Blind. Thus the CABO/ANSI A117.1-1992 Standard approval is sustained as of December 15, 1992.
In responding to the charges of the appellants, the BSR concluded that the record of evidence clearly shows that consensus was achieved in favor of the Standard as finally approved by the A117 Committee; due process was followed in the development of the Standard; neither the Secretariat nor the Chairman of the Committee acted in a biased or otherwise inappropriate fashion; and the Committee Chairman indicated a willingness to establish a task group to resolve the question of tactile cues for the blind and to encourage further research on truncated domes in the future.
Mr. Richard P. Kuchnicki, CABO Chief Executive Officer, stated that he is gratified the BSR found that the Committee Secretariat, provided by CABO, and the Committee Chairman were diligent in following the consensus procedures and assuring due process to all materially affected and interested parties. "As the representative of building officials who serve all the constituents in their respective jurisdictions," Mr. Kuchnicki said, "It is incumbent upon CABO to endeavor at all times to grant due process to all involved and affected parties." Mr. Kuchnicki stated that CABO has no reason to have a bias because the building official serves the interests of all the people.
According to ANSI procedures, persons who believe that they
have been or will be adversely affected by the results of the subject appeal
have the right of further appeal to the ANSI Appeals Board. Written notice of
the appeal must be filed with the Secretary of the Appeals Board within fifteen
days of notification of the BSR decision.
There you have the press release that was widely distributed as soon as the letter of notification had been received by the three parties who filed the appeal. Here is the letter sent to them by Beth Somerville, Secretary of the Board of Standards Review:
April 8, 1993
Mr. Eugene Lozano
American Council of the Blind
Mr. Paul Schroeder, Director of Governmental Affairs
American Council of the Blind
Mr. Tom Karnes
World Institute on Disability
Ms. Elga Joffee, National Program Associate
American Foundation for the Blind
Mr. Scott Marshall
Associate Executive Director Governmental Affairs
American Foundation for the Blind
Mr. Richard P. Kuchnicki
Council of American Building Officials
Re: Appeal from the Initial Decision of the Board of Standards Review to Approve ANSI/CABO A117.1-1992 as an American National Standard
Dear Madam and Gentlemen:
At its meeting of April 1, 1993, the Board of Standards Review (BSR), considered the appeal by the American Council of the Blind, the World Institute on Disability, and the American Foundation for the Blind from its initial decision to approve the above referenced standard as an American National Standard.
Upon consideration of the written evidence, including that presented by the appellants for the first time at the appeals hearing, and the oral presentations made by the appellants and respondent at the hearing, the BSR unanimously (with one abstention due to disqualification) voted to deny the appeal and thus sustain approval of ANSI/CABO A117.1-1992, as of December 15, 1992. In connection with this appeal the BSR approved the following findings:
1. When viewed as a whole, the record evidence clearly shows that consensus was achieved in favor of the standard as finally approved by the Committee. Whether evaluated strictly on a numeric basis or qualitatively, there was substantial agreement among all materially interested groups concerning the terms of this standard, including the provisions dealing with detectable warnings. It is evident that, thus far, the appellants have not yet persuaded a major segment of the blind community, or other materially interested parties, that the use of truncated domes should be required in this standard. In deciding not to add such a requirement in this revision, the Committee properly adhered to the concept of consensus as that term is used in ANSI's procedures and the voluntary standards community. Indeed, at the hearing appellants essentially conceded this point. It is not the function of the BSR in an appeal to revise the definition of consensus, but rather to determine whether the existing definition was satisfied based on the record. The BSR believes that it was in this instance. Therefore, the BSR determined that the Accredited Standards Committee A117.1 (ASC A117.1) acted appropriately when it did not include section(s) on truncated domes in the final approved version of the standard.
2. The BSR also concluded that due process was followed in the development of the standard and that neither the Secretariat nor the Chairman of the Committee acted in a biased or otherwise inappropriate fashion. This was a large committee, and appropriately so, given the scope of the standard. While distribution of documents was not flawless, as the Secretariat conceded, any deficiencies do not appear serious when viewed in context and, in any event, do not appear to have impacted the final outcome. The subject of detectable warnings was debated at length during committee meetings, and the members of the Committee voted only after full discussion. Due process doesn't require perfect process (although that is always a laudable goal). The BSR finds that due process was granted to all the materially interested parties.
3. The BSR also noted that the Chairman of the ASC A117.1 indicated a willingness at the hearing to establish a task group to resolve the question of tactile clues and to encourage further research on truncated domes in the future. This is consistent with ANSI Procedures, which encourage all participants in the process to seek out acceptable compromises. Hopefully, further discussion may provide a vehicle for resolving the current division of opinion.
Persons who believe that they have been or will be adversely affected by the results of the subject appeal are hereby notified of their right of further appeal to the ANSI Appeals Board. Written notice of appeal must be filed with the Secretary of the Appeals Board within fifteen (15) working days of receipt of this letter, and must be accompanied by a check in the amount of $250 as a filing fee. The notice of appeal must specify the decision from which the appeal is taken, the ANSI body that made the decision, a short statement of the matter in controversy, and the reason(s) why the appellant believes the decision is in error. Please find enclosed a copy of the Appeals Board Operating Procedures for further information.
Beth Somerville, Secretary
Board of Standards Review
That was the letter of notification that the three appellants received, and they had fifteen working days in which to indicate their intention to go forward with the next step in the appeals process. Those fifteen days came and went, and no one filed the fee and documents required by the ANSI procedure. It is now safe to declare that the American National Standards Institute no longer maintains standards about tactile warnings of any kind. Since ANSI is widely respected in the accessibility field, the absence of truncated domes and their ill-begotten siblings in the ANSI standards will surely result in the rethinking of all accessibility regulations affecting the blind. To have achieved this much is a great accomplishment on behalf of all blind people who are fighting for independence and improved mobility instruction.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Scott LaBarre.]
COMPLAINT FILED IN THE SHEILA HALL CASE
by Scott LaBarre
Scott LaBarre is the outgoing president of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), the student division of the National Federation of the Blind. In May he graduated from the School of Law at the University of Minnesota. Late in the month he moved to Baltimore to take a position at the National Center for the Blind on the staff of the National Federation of the Blind. In the 1992-93 Academic Year edition of the Student Slate, the publication of the student division, Scott wrote an interim report on the case of Sheila Hall, a student from Indiana. Here it is:
Sheila Hall is a junior at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). In a speech at the 1992 National Conference of Blind Students Sheila described the difficulties she had incurred with the Office for Adaptive Educational Services (OAES) at IUPUI. The office had been forcing her to accept services which she did not desire as well as invading her personal life by insisting that she must undergo psychological counseling.
The National Association of Blind Students attempted several rounds of negotiation to no avail. Consequently, in February of 1993 we decided to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically Sheila alleged that IUPUI had violated her rights under Section 501-D of the Act. That section is the one the NFB insisted be included in the original bill before we would support passage of the Act, and the Hall case demonstrates how necessary this section will turn out to be. It states that any disabled person has the right to refuse accommodations being offered if he or she so desires. The general thrust of Sheila's complaint is summed up in the following quotation from her letter to the Office for Civil Rights:
"Through IUPUI's Office for Adaptive Educational Services (OAES), the university is attempting to force me to accept accommodations which I neither want nor need. Specifically the OAES demands that I register with the office and arrange all my academic accommodations through them. Furthermore, the university is denying me the right to reader services unless I accept all accommodations which are provided. As a result of these violations of the ADA, I request that the Office for Civil Rights rule that IUPUI's policies violate the ADA and that no blind or otherwise disabled student should be forced to have any relationship with the OAES unless the disabled student desires to do so. Furthermore, the extent of the relationship between the student and the office should be entirely under the control of the student."
The events which led up to Sheila's specific complaint began in the fall of 1992. At the beginning of the semester Sheila visited with each of her professors to introduce herself and to discuss with them the procedures she normally employs to adapt tests, assignments, and other classwork so that she can compete with her sighted peers. Initially all of her professors agreed that the arrangements regarding her blindness would be negotiated and controlled exclusively by Sheila and each of them. Approximately two weeks into the semester, however, Professor James Thomas, Sheila's psychology professor, informed her that he was powerless to make accommodation arrangements directly with Sheila because the OAES had complete control over all accommodations for disabled students.
On September 15, 1992, after having this conversation with Professor Thomas, Sheila received a distressing letter from Pamela King, the director of the OAES. In her letter she told Sheila patronizingly that, though it was admirable that she wanted to make her own arrangements, the OAES must be the entity controlling them.
Here are Ms. King's own words: "It has come to my attention that you are not going through the Office of Adaptive Educational Services in order to arrange for test-taking services. The policy of the University is that any student who requests an accommodation for testing and has a disability must go through the Office of Adaptive Educational Services. I will inform all of your instructors of this procedure. Please provide us with a course syllabus in order for us to continue to provide test proctors for testing in your courses. I appreciate your desire to `Do things for yourself.' But the University has an obligation to its students and to academia to provide equitable education to all students."
After receiving Ms. King's letter, Sheila went to see Vice Chancellor J. Herman Blake about her problem. At first he seemed interested and sympathetic to her views, promising to resolve the matter immediately.
When Vice Chancellor Blake finally responded in writing to Sheila on October 5, 1992, he informed her that she could arrange her own accommodations with her professors but that she would have to comply with several conditions. These were as follows:
"(1) You may not commit any University funds for payment of support services;
"(2) You must register with the Office of Adaptive Educational Services so that your condition can be certified for University policy;
"(3) You must present to your faculty a copy of the ADAPTIVE EDUCATIONAL SERVICES TESTING ACCOMMODATION form, which will be supplied to you by the Office of Adaptive Educational Services; and
"(4) Once you have made your arrangements with the faculty, the faculty member must return a copy of the agreed upon accommodations to the Office of Adaptive Educational Services. You should ask each faculty member to do so."
These conditions left Sheila only a little better off than she had been before Vice Chancellor Blake's involvement. Since the ADA states that no disabled person is required to accept an accommodation unless he or she desires to do so, it seems clear that Sheila should not be forced to have involvement or contact with the OAES unless she wishes to. Therefore, the requirement that Sheila register with the office violates her rights under the ADA.
Furthermore, the arrangements Sheila establishes with her professors should be confidential. As long as the professor involved and Sheila come to a mutual agreement about what adaptations she needs in the class, no one else needs a record of their decisions. By forcing Sheila to register and to provide information to the OAES about all her testing accommodations, the university is forcing Sheila to accept services which she neither needs nor desires at this time. Through Section 501-D the ADA is intended to protect Sheila from intrusive behavior by the university. The ADA gives blind students the freedom to manage their own affairs and to act independently.
Even though Vice Chancellor Blake's letter presumably delineates current university policy, recent events seem to indicate otherwise. As recently as February 8, 1993, one of Sheila's professors informed her that she must go through the OAES to arrange all of her testing accommodations, even though Vice Chancellor Blake's letter seemed to say that Sheila could make her own arrangements, subject to several conditions, of course. Regardless of what the Vice Chancellor said or wrote, IUPUI's policy clearly does not allow Sheila any opportunity to choose which accommodations she needs and how she will employ those accommodations. Consequently the university is continuing to deny Sheila a basic freedom of choice which is guaranteed by the ADA.
Furthermore, Vice Chancellor Blake's stipulation that Sheila may not commit any university funds to such items as reader services also violates her rights under the ADA. In Indiana the only way that a blind student can receive funding to pay readers is through offices like the OAES. Sheila constantly uses readers to complete assignments, conduct research, and take exams. Since the OAES and the university have demanded that she accept all of the services offered by the OAES or none, Sheila has been unable to pay readers from the funds that by right should be available to her through the university. Consequently Sheila has been forced to commit a significant portion of her limited personal financial resources to paying readers.
Through Section 501-D the ADA expressly permits a disabled person to accept accommodations which are needed and reject those which are not. IUPUI is violating Section 501-D by not allowing Sheila to use funds to pay readers unless she accepts all the other accommodations that the office thinks a blind student should need from its staff. Sheila neither needs nor wants the OAES to control her relationship with her professors, but she does need readers. We believe that Sheila should be able to reject the OAES's testing procedures without sacrificing her right to commit university funds for reader services.
Furthermore, if she does use university-financed reader services, Sheila must have the ultimate control of such an accommodation. Using a reader is a highly individual activity. A blind student must be able to control the who, when, and how of reader service. If the OAES, for example, were to mandate that Sheila could have access to a reader only between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. and Sheila had a class during that time, the reader service would be of absolutely no benefit to her. Likewise, if the OAES forced Sheila to use a reader with whom she did not work well, Sheila would not be successful in mastering the print information necessary for completing her classwork.
Therefore, Sheila must have maximum control over who reads for her, when they read, and how they read. Currently the OAES at IUPUI exercises complete control over the who, when, and how of reader service on campus. The spirit of Section 501-D of the ADA intends that a disabled student should have maximum control over how accommodations which are provided to him or her are implemented. Consequently it seems clear that the university is violating Sheila's rights under the ADA by forcing her either to do without any services at all or to accept all of the accommodations offered by the OAES and then by mandating exactly how she should use the reader services.
Because the ADA requires that a person must file a complaint about a violation of the Act within one hundred eighty days of its occurrence, Sheila could not ask for relief from the University's discriminatory actions during the 1991-92 school year, but she included these items in her complaint in order to give the Office for Civil Rights an idea of the trauma she had suffered. The problems first started for Sheila on September 9, 1991. On that evening Sheila called the IUPUI police department to seek general advice on self-defense techniques. For about two weeks a strange man had been following her on Indianapolis buses. He told her that he knew where she lived. Having been raised in a very small town, Sheila was naturally frightened by this encounter. Although the man had never physically accosted her, she feared for her safety in the future. She decided that the most sensible thing was to call the police. Toward the end of her conversation with the police officer on duty, Sheila mentioned that she was legally blind.
Within two hours several members of the residence hall staff had knocked on Sheila's door to ask if she was okay and feeling safe. They told her that the campus police had called them informing them that a "little blind girl" who lived in the dorm might need some help. Sheila assured these Good Samaritans that she was in fact fine. Further, she told them that she might be blind, but she was certainly not helpless.
When the residence hall staff members left, Sheila thought that was the end of the matter, but the next day Pamela King called Sheila on the phone. To her surprise, Ms. King commented that Sheila must be feeling pretty awful about the fact that people were following her on the buses. Ms. King also informed Sheila that she had taken the liberty of setting up psychological counseling sessions for her. In response Sheila told Ms. King that it had been only one man following her and that she had only called the campus police for some general advice. Sheila further told Ms. King that she was feeling fine and certainly did not need any psychological counseling. In addition, Sheila pressed Ms. King to tell her who had informed her about Sheila's call to the campus police. Ms. King admitted that Associate Dean Winston Baker, who is in charge of campus housing, had relayed the news to her.
By now Sheila felt miserable. Every person at the university with whom she dealt was treating her like a child, the helpless, incompetent little blind girl the police had first signaled the residence hall staff about. Furthermore, she felt that the university had violated her right to privacy by spreading the news of her conversation with the police all over campus.
Sheila was further insulted when she visited Dean Winston Baker to ask why he had told Ms. King about her conversation with the police. He said that he had been greatly worried about her and her safety. He said, "I had to tell Ms. King of your situation because she is in charge of people like you." Right then Sheila informed Dean Baker in no uncertain terms that Ms. King was not in charge of her, that Sheila was in charge of herself!
Then Ms. King called Sheila to request that she take part in an intake interview. Sheila told Ms. King that she had never heard of any such requirement before. Ms. King responded by informing Sheila that the office needed to know more about her and her blindness before it could offer her any other services. Sheila said again that she did not believe such an interview was necessary. But out of curiosity she eventually decided to go to the interview.
When Sheila arrived at the office, Ms. Leslie Hawker conducted the interview. As Ms. Hawker proceeded, Sheila realized that she was asking questions that had nothing to do with blindness but which, in fact, resembled a psychological examination.
Later Sheila asked Ms. Hawker who had instructed her to give her a psychological examination. She told Sheila that Pamela King had given the order. Ms. Hawker further admitted to Sheila that she was surprised by what she had seen in the interview as compared with what she had been led to expect. Apparently Ms. King had told Ms. Hawker that Sheila was a paranoid person in great need of psychological help. Ms. Hawker then said that Sheila was far from paranoid and certainly did not need any psychological counseling.
After the intake interview Sheila realized that Ms. King had used it as a pretence to submit her to a psychological examination without her consent. All these intrusive and degrading contacts resulted from Sheila's desire to seek some simple self-defense techniques. Later Sheila realized that she felt much more violated by IUPUI than she ever had by the strange man on the bus.
Sheila continued to discuss her problem with responsible faculty and staff at IUPUI, but no official with whom she spoke seemed to understand her desire to be free of the OAES's controlling and paternal attitude. Finally Sheila contacted the National Federation of the Blind through its student division. NABS agreed to work with Sheila to resolve the problems she faced at IUPUI. In early December Pam Dubel and Lori Duffy travelled from Ohio to attend meetings with Sheila at IUPUI. The most important discussion they had that day was with Dean Langston, who was in charge of OAES. He listened intently to Sheila's story and agreed that something needed to be done. First of all he told Sheila that Pamela King would be instructed to write a letter apologizing for her custodial attitudes and that the OAES would not interfere in Sheila's efforts to control her own academic program. Dean Langston further pledged that the university would work with both Sheila and NABS to adopt better policies which would encourage independence rather than foster dependence.
Sheila, Pam, and Lori also had the opportunity to meet with Pamela King, and soon after that meeting Ms. King wrote Sheila to notify her that the intake interview would be expunged from her records and that the office would not provide services unless Sheila so requested. Ms. King said in her letter to Sheila, "As we discussed in the meeting, in the future we will not attempt to offer services unless they have been requested by you as I acknowledge that you are the best person to evaluate your own needs."
When Sheila returned for the spring semester of 1992, however, she came back to face a very distressing event. She had been working for the OAES in its low vision room, teaching students how to use the equipment. After the break, however, Pamela King informed Sheila that the OAES no longer had funds available for her to work there. A few days later, however, Sheila found a notice on campus stating that the OAES was hiring people to assist students in the low vision room to become familiar with the equipment.
Sheila's troubles continued throughout the semester. The OAES demanded that Sheila continue to take her examinations through the Office. If she did not, Sheila was told that she would either receive incompletes or fail them. In one case Sheila attempted to take a sociology examination by using the arrangements made by the OAES, which had reproduced the test in very blurry blue mimeographed large print. Her classmates had received the exam in clear, black print. Sheila struggled mightily to take the version she had been given, since the OAES refused to give her a clear copy. Finally, after a long battle, Sheila was allowed to take the last two pages of the examination using the clear black print. Since she had not been allowed to take the vast majority of the exam with clear print, she not surprisingly scored poorly. If she had been allowed to make her own arrangements with the professor, she could have taken that test either with a reader or with clear and legible print. Sheila is convinced that she would then have received a much higher grade.
As a result of these violations of the ADA, Sheila requested that the Office for Civil Rights make several specific rulings. Her letter said:
First, the Office for Civil Rights should rule that IUPUI has violated Section 501-D of the ADA by requiring that all disabled students must register with the OAES. A blind or otherwise disabled student should register with the OAES if and only if the student desires to receive services from the office.
Second, the Office for Civil Rights should find that IUPUI has violated the ADA by requiring that all accommodations arranged with professors must be certified by the office. If a blind or otherwise disabled student elects to make arrangements regarding testing or any other matter with the student's professor, those arrangements should be honored by the OAES and kept confidential between the student and the professor if so desired.
Third, the Office for Civil Rights should rule that IUPUI has violated the ADA by requiring students to accept either all or no services from the OAES. A blind or otherwise disabled student should be able to choose which services are appropriate and be able to reject the services the student feels are irrelevant.
Fourth, the Office for Civil Rights should rule that IUPUI has violated Section 501-D of the ADA by refusing to give blind or otherwise disabled students any discretion in how accommodations provided by the OAES are administered. Blind or otherwise disabled students should have ultimate control over how they use the accommodations offered by the office.
Fifth, the Office for Civil Rights should rule that IUPUI has violated the ADA by refusing to commit funds to me for reader services. Since the OAES is the source of funding for reader services (the practice in Indiana), I should be able to access reader services as offered by the office. I must, however, be able to retain maximum control over the who, when, and how of the reader service provided to me. If I accept reader services from the OAES, the Office for Civil Rights should further rule that the OAES cannot obligate me to accept services provided by the office, other than those which I request.
Sixth, the Office for Civil Rights should insist that IUPUI comply with the Office for Civil Rights' ruling by May 1, 1993. Since I will be taking my final exams in early May, I should be able to take those exams and complete my final projects free of the current discriminatory policies at IUPUI.
That is what the complaint said, and in late March we heard from the Office for Civil Rights. The news was not good. They informed Sheila that they had administratively closed her case without even conducting an investigation of her claim. According to the folks at Civil Rights, Sheila could not state a claim under the ADA because the University had been providing her with adequate services.
Once we read the letter from the Office for Civil Rights, we knew immediately that they simply had not understood Sheila's complaint. Sheila was not alleging that IUPUI had been providing inadequate services; rather she was alleging that the OAES was forcing her to accept educational accommodations which she did not desire. Since most people view blind persons as helpless and always in need of greater services, it completely confounds them when one of us comes along wanting to decline help.
At the time of this writing (early April), Sheila and Federation leaders are considering the legal options, which range from pursuing the matter further in the Department of Education to bringing the case directly into federal court. Whatever the decision, we intend to stand by Sheila until we have secured a victory in this case.
The biggest reason for our difficulties with disabled student services offices is that they try to help too much. They do not allow the blind student the measure of freedom and control he or she will be expected to exert in later life. In the work world employers do not have offices of disabled employees to help disabled workers. Employers do not take notes for workers, arrange their schedules, and escort them to and from the work place. The individual blind person will have to muster the independent skills so that he or she can complete the job competently. That is why it is crucial that offices like the one at IUPUI help the blind student become independent and ready to face what lies beyond college.
For the last year and a half Sheila Hall has fought valiantly to assert her right to be free from custodialism and intrusive behavior on the part of IUPUI. We will call upon our collective experience, the ADA, and whatever other means are necessary to ensure that she is treated like a first-class citizen.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Paul Kay.]
CITIZENS ONE STEP CLOSER TO JURY SERVICE
IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
For blind people in many parts of this country the arrival of that little post card announcing that one is to report for jury duty still brings with it a sinking feeling which is very different from that familiar to most other busy citizens. For unless the state or municipality has passed legislation protecting the right of blind people to serve on juries, we know that it is all too likely that we will arrive at the courthouse only to be told that our services are not needed.
This has always been the case in the Superior Court in Washington, D.C., which has been clear about its views: blind people may not be admitted to a jury pool even though deaf people, for example, are welcome. Early in 1991 Paul Kay, a lawyer practicing in the District of Columbia and a member of the National Federation of the Blind, was called for jury duty. When he reported to the court, he was of course told to leave. On the whole he was not surprised because this same court was already in the habit of restricting the cases assigned to him as a court- appointed attorney. Because of his blindness Superior Court judges have never given him felony cases. He protested vehemently when he was turned down as a juror but decided to leave the matter as it was for the moment.
Several weeks later Don Galloway, now serving as president of the D.C. affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, was required to undergo the same humiliating experience when he was called to jury duty in the Superior Court. He decided to file suit in the U.S. District Court, a suit which has finally been decided in his favor. The federal judge found that the Superior Court had broken three separate laws in denying Galloway the right to serve on a jury.
Just before that decision was announced in mid-March, Paul Kay was once again called for jury duty in the Superior Court. This time, when he was turned down, he decided he had had enough. He went to the press hoping to exert pressure on the court system to reconsider its policy, and he went to City Council to ask for legal redress. Both the Washington Post and the Washington Times carried stories, and so did the Associated Press. In addition, National Public Radio did an interview with Mr. Kay. When the Federal Court decision in the Galloway case was announced in the midst of the public furor, the media incorporated that story into their coverage as well.
Meanwhile the City Council was prepared to begin considering legislation that would protect the rights of blind citizens to serve on juries. Here are several of the stories as they appeared in March. The first was carried by the Washington Times on March 10, 1993. The reporter was Catherine Toups. Here it is:
Can Justice Be
Sightless Lawyer Seeks Role as Juror
Paul E. Kay is a good enough lawyer to earn a spot before the bar. But forget about putting him in the jury box.
That's the official position of the D.C. Superior Court, which dismissed the District lawyer from jury duty on the basis of his blindness. It was the second time he had been turned away.
The fact that the court believes Mr. Kay can be a lawyer but not a juror sent him into activist mode. Ward 3 D.C. Council member James Nathanson has joined the battle and said he will introduce legislation this summer that would make it illegal to automatically dismiss blind people from jury duty.
Several states, including Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and California, have such laws. A pending federal lawsuit against the District filed in 1991 by Donald Galloway, a blind government worker, makes the same argument.
"There may be some [court] cases in which blindness might be a disqualifying factor, but that's not the case across the board," Mr. Nathanson said.
Court Executive Ulysses B. Hammond said yesterday the court's policy against seating blind people on juries is "under review." He said the policy, which was born long before "today's posture with respect to persons with disabilities," might be outdated.
Mr. Kay, fifty-six, a lawyer for seventeen years who usually is accompanied in court by his guide dog Smokey, calls the policy discrimination. He said he has encountered it before in the six years he has practiced criminal law after leaving the legal staff of the Department of Transportation.
Like other court-appointed attorneys in the rotation pool at Superior Court, Mr. Kay has worked his way up the experience ladder to handle increasingly complex cases.
But he said that, despite never losing a jury trial in D.C. Superior Court, he is not on the appointment list for felony jury trials.
"The point I'm making is that you can get around sight. And, if a lawyer just presents a diagram and doesn't describe it, I wouldn't want that lawyer representing me," he said.
Mr. Kay said he has been told by at least four high-ranking judges that he will not be given complex felony jury cases because he cannot see photographs or the demeanor of witnesses.
"I think I can listen to testimony and evaluate evidence. I have used diagrams in a motion's hearing, and I knew exactly where everything was. If I don't, I ask," he said.
Several rounds of letters and meetings with judges have not helped, he said.
Judge Fred B. Weisberg, presiding judge of the criminal court, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Kay said he is treated differently at the U.S. District Court across the street, where he is regularly appointed to felony cases. "In federal court I'm a lawyer like any other person, and they appoint me to cases. I do my job, and nobody cares that I'm blind."
That was the first story to appear after Paul Kay got angry and decided to do something about the D.C. Superior Court. Nearly a week later, on March 16, the following story, written by Associated Press staff writer Matt Yancey, was picked up in papers across the country. By this time the U.S. District Court had ruled in the Galloway case. Here is the story:
Excluding blind people from juries violates three different civil rights laws, including the 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
"Although a blind juror cannot rely on sight, the individual can certainly hear the witness testify, hear the quaver in a voice...and then add these sensory impressions to the words spoken and assess the witness's credibility," said U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green.
She said the District of Columbia's policy excluding the blind from its Superior Court jury pools solely on the basis of their disability violates the 1871 Civil Rights Act and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act in addition to the 1992 law.
Green issued the ruling in a suit brought against local officials by Donald Galloway, a former director of the Peace Corps' operations in Jamaica and now a manager in the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.
Blind jurors can still be excluded from panels in cases involving significant physical or documentary evidence, she said, but blindness should not be an automatic disqualification for serving in any trial.
At least nine states--Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Oregon, Texas, South Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, and New York--have enacted laws forbidding the exclusion of the blind from jury pools solely on the basis of their disability.
Galloway, who has been blind since sixteen, reported as instructed for jury duty in the city's Superior Court in March, 1991. When court officials saw his guide dog, they told him he could not serve because of his blindness.
Green noted that the same court at one time had a blind judge and that Galloway's daughter had served on a jury in the court even though she is deaf.
"No distinction can be drawn between a blind judge's ability to make factual findings and the abilities of a blind juror," Green said.
Allowing deaf jurors, she said, shows that the district "looked behind archaic stereotypes" in dealing with people with impaired hearing, making it "difficult to fathom why policy differs toward blind jurors."
There you have the AP story. On March 20 the National Public Radio program "Weekend Edition" broadcast an interview with Paul Kay, conducted by correspondent Lynn Neary. Here it is:
Ms. Neary: A federal judge ruled this week that the District of Columbia cannot exclude blind people from jury duty solely because they are blind. According to the ruling the practice violates several civil rights laws, including the 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act. A number of states have similar policies.
On a line with us now to discuss this issue is Paul Kay, an attorney who has argued many cases in the D.C. Superior Court. He's blind, and because of that he's been dismissed twice from D.C. jury duty. Mr. Kay has tried to get legislation passed that would overturn the district's policy on blind jurors.
Mr. Kay, first of all, has this ruling effectively done what you were trying to do with your legislative proposal?
Mr. Kay: Well it has and it hasn't. It has said that the categorical automatic exclusion of jurors on the basis of blindness violates federal laws. We need law passed by the City Council, signed by the mayor, and acted into law that says that the Superior Court of the District of Columbia operates on the local law and that under local law, as well as under federal law, blind people cannot be excluded solely on the basis of their blindness when they come to the jury office.
Ms. Neary: You know I have a feeling a lot of people listening to this might be thinking of the Rodney King case, and in that trial, of course, a video tape is very key. Now do you think a blind person could adequately serve on that trial?
Mr. Kay: Any lawyer who just shows a video tape but doesn't talk about it, doesn't describe it--I wouldn't want that lawyer representing me. I think any lawyer worth his or her salt has to describe a diagram, has to describe a video tape. It probably has some audio as well. You can pick up a lot of things by listening. I can listen to testimony, evaluate testimony; I can make judgments. What's happening is that the Superior Court of the District of Columbia has had this policy about excluding blind people because they say we can't see the evidence. Well first of all, not every case has physical evidence. Suppose there is a gun as physical evidence. I don't have to see that gun. I can touch it; I can feel it; I can probably know more about that gun by touching it than you can by looking at it from a distance.
Ms. Neary: Is there any way that you can think that being blind might be an advantage?
Mr. Kay: Oh yes I can. Suppose one of the most beautiful women in the world came onto the witness stand. Now if I don't know that, I'm going to listen to what she says. However, the guy next to me might be looking at her and be distracted.
Ms. Neary: So you're saying that a jury can be very influenced by appearance.
Mr. Kay: There are all kinds of things that impress jurors. I can tell you another thing: deaf people are allowed on juries with interpreters. Interpreters are allowed to go into the jury room and interpret the deliberation, and once you are in the jury pool and you go into the court, lawyers ask questions. Every lawyer has what we call preemptory challenges, which means that the lawyer does not have to give a reason for saying, "I don't want this juror." Jurors are struck by preemptory challenge every day of the week in many different courtrooms. If a lawyer wants to do that, fine. I have no problem with it. I'm not going to go away mad. I will have done my civic duty as a citizen. A lawyer might not want me on a jury because I am a lawyer.
Ms. Neary: You just want to have your day in court, so to speak. Have you ever had trouble as an attorney because of your blindness?
Mr. Kay: Not trouble trying the case. I've had trouble getting cases appointed to me. I do a lot of court-appointed work, and there are some judges in the Superior Court who do not want to appoint me to felony cases simply because I am blind. In federal court I don't have that problem.
Ms. Neary: There is a difference in the way the two courts treat you?
Mr. Kay: Federal court treats me like a human being. They appoint me to cases. I do my job. Nobody cares that I'm blind. I am just a lawyer. That's all. But in Superior Court, where they don't appoint me to felony cases because I'm blind, I think they can't imagine how blind people function. I will tell you that I have never lost a jury trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Ms. Neary: Pretty good record.
Mr. Kay: Well, I haven't had that many, and that's because they don't want to give me certain cases, but I have never lost one.
Ms. Neary: So do you think that you are going to be called to jury duty any time soon now?
Mr. Kay: Oh I imagine it will take another two years. I was thinking of going down and saying, "Here I am; I'm ready to serve. When do you want me?"
Ms. Neary: Well thanks very much for talking with us, Mr. Kay.
That's how the press reported the actions of the D.C. Superior Court and the Federal District Court. The City Council must still act on Council member Nathanson's legislation. That should happen within a few weeks. Then maybe this matter will be settled for good, in one city at least.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Jennifer Dunnam.]
TRAVELING THE GLOBE
by Jennifer Dunnam
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the 1992-93 academic year edition of the Student Slate, the publication of the National Association of Blind Students. It is taken from the remarks Jennifer Dunnam made at the 1993 National Conference of Blind Students. Formerly the president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students, Ms. Dunnam now serves as the Braille instructor at BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Because she has learned not to allow blindness to stifle her dreams, Ms. Dunnam has had the great fortune to travel in a number of countries. Here is what she has to say about some of her adventures:
I had never understood the true meaning of Murphy's law (anything that can go wrong will) until last summer when I joined forty-nine other students affiliated with the Arizona Russian Institute in spending a month studying the Russian language in St. Petersburg, Russia. In all of the literature sent to orient us to the trip, we were repeatedly admonished to "expect the worst" and "prepare for the unexpected." On reading these warnings I tried to think of the worst thing that had happened to me on a trip and decided it was the time when, at some point during a fifty-mile bus trip, Greyhound lost a piece of my luggage containing some fairly valuable items. Unable to come up with a worse scenario which any preparation on my part could prevent, I distributed the few valuables I planned to take with me among all of my luggage and did not give the subject another thought...until the Friday morning of my intended departure.
The flight from New Orleans to New York was scheduled to leave at 11:00 a.m., and at 9:00 I was still making last-minute preparations. By the time we arrived at the New Orleans International Airport, it was twenty minutes to eleven, and we could not find a parking place. Five minutes later we parked the car, grabbed my luggage, and ran to the ticket counter. I threw my ticket down and listened in utter disbelief as the agent began telling me that she was so sorry but she could not let me go to the plane because it was leaving in five minutes. I explained to her that I was connecting with an international flight, and another would-be passenger on the flight, who had come running in just behind me, joined me in beseeching her to hold the plane for us, but it did no good. This particular airline had a hard-and- fast rule about on-time departures. I tried to work out a later flight, but there was nothing that would get me into New York in time to catch the flight to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where I had an eight-hour lay-over before going on to St. Petersburg.
I walked away from the counter, incredulous that all the months of planning and preparation for this trip seemed about to come to nothing because I had re-opened my suitcases a few times to include some last-minute items and accepted one too many phone calls from people wishing me bon voyage. I hurried to find a pay phone to call the travel agency in Arizona which was handling all of the arrangements for the group. They told me that they would try to work with the Czechoslovakian airline to get me a seat on the next flight out of New York, which would leave the following Monday, but that I would have to deal with the domestic flight. Needless to say, my relief was intense until I hung up the phone and hesitated at the implications of what had just been said. If everything worked out as I hoped it would, I would be flying alone out of New York into Czechoslovakia, a country where men carrying large machine-guns were in ample supply--not to mention the fact that I could say "yes" and "no" in Czech, but that was about the extent of my familiarity with the language. To be honest, I had no idea how I would handle the situation. It seemed to me that traveling to and spending time in Russia were challenge enough without this new complication.
But the more I thought about it, the more I began to remember things that I had hesitated to do in the past and then, having done them, realized how silly it was for me to have hung back. For instance, I got my first cane when I was twelve, and at that time it was a big deal for me to walk independently within and between the two buildings of the junior high school I attended. I never went alone to places with which I was unfamiliar; I never thought it was possible because I didn't know any other blind people who did such things. My first exposure to the National Federation of the Blind came when I was fourteen, and at that point my idea of what independent travel meant began to change--but ever so gradually. Throughout my high school years I still often sacrificed opportunities because of my inability to get past worrying about the details of moving from point A to point B.
It was not until the first time I attended a Washington Seminar in 1988 that I actually participated in the kind of travel that I had observed blind people doing at other NFB functions. Not only did these people walk quickly and gracefully around the hotel and the Capitol, but they walked around the whole city, even taking the subway when necessary, without batting an eye. By the time I went to my first National Convention in Chicago, I had decided that if all these other blind people could go wherever they wanted to whenever they wanted to, there was no reason why I could not do it too.
In the fall of 1988 I started my freshman year at Louisiana Tech University, which happened to be within walking distance of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. That gave me plenty of opportunity to interact with and learn from the staff and students there and to follow their example. I can remember the thrill I felt the first time I crossed a street independently and unsupervised. That's something I take for granted now. So in 1990, when I was asked to serve as a chaperon in an exchange program for blind high school students in Germany, the idea did not seem nearly as far-fetched as it might have when I was in high school. I spent two weeks in Germany and found that traveling abroad was something that appealed to me very much. Having had that experience made it easier for me the following year when I got a scholarship to study in France for a month during the summer. I traveled there with forty other people from Louisiana. In this French language study program there were about six hundred people representing forty-five countries, and I was amazed by how much easier it is to acquire a language when one is forced to hear it and speak it all day, every day for a month. I even went so far as to hire a reader who didn't speak any English.
Through my interaction with the people I learned a great deal about French culture. One of the highlights for me in this respect was the street survey: Each student in the advanced French classes was given the assignment to choose a topic for research and ask questions about it of at least ten people on the street. I decided to try to get some idea of what the citizens of Angers knew and what they thought about American politics. (As might be expected, I received a wide variety of responses, from people who were very knowledgeable about the goings-on of foreign governments to people who in 1991 thought the President of the U.S. was still Ronald Reagan.)
So I stood by that pay phone in the New Orleans airport and thought about how frightening all this would have been, even three years ago. I decided then and there that, even though I had no idea what I was going to do about traveling alone through Czechoslovakia, I would not waste energy worrying about it and would just figure it out as I went along. Over the weekend I got all the ticket arrangements straightened out, and on Monday I arrived at the airport well in advance of the departure time. I made the trip to Russia via Czechoslovakia without incident. When I got off the plane in Prague, I found an Avis Rent-a-Car outlet and ran into some English-speaking people; we ended up going on a bus tour of the sites of Prague together. When I arrived at around midnight in St. Petersburg--as did all my luggage, amazingly enough--I was met at the airport by a driver sent by the group, and he drove me to the Gostinitsa Gavan, the hotel in which the group was staying.
The month was quite an education for me, not only in learning the language, but also in adapting to a culture which was quite different from that of the other European countries I had previously visited. For instance, we were advised not to drink the water from the tap in St. Petersburg because of the risk of contracting giardia. This sometimes caused some problems for our group because boiled water was difficult to come by with our limited means, and bottled water was not sold in our hotel, so we had to travel to another hotel to get it. On about the third day of my stay I suddenly got extremely thirsty for water. I could not find anyone else in the group who had a need to go to the Hotel Prebalteskaya at that time, so there was nothing for me to do but to go there by myself. My ability to speak Russian is now somewhat better than it was at that point, and all I knew about how to get to the Prebalteskaya was that I needed to get on the number 40 tram. I took this basic first step, and then I started trying to ask people how many stops it was to the Prebalteskaya. By the time I found someone who could understand me and whose response I could understand, we had long since passed the stop, so I took a scenic little tour of St. Petersburg by tram. But when the stop came around the next time, I got off and went to get my water. While I was at it, I managed to learn the word for stamps and bought a couple of those, too.
On weekdays our group's scheduled activities consisted of three hours of class, a few optional excursions, and lectures. The rest of our time was ours to do with as we liked, and we were encouraged to make an effort to meet the Russian people in order to learn as much as we could about the language and culture. This was not difficult at all, because for the most part people were fascinated by Americans. Usually, when people found out where I was from, I had an instant invitation to someone's house or out to a concert, and they almost always wanted to exchange addresses. There was also the fact that we Americans apparently had the words "I am a tourist" written all over us, because we were constantly being accosted by black marketeers trying to sell us anything from watches to military coats to Hard Rock Cafe T- shirts. These people were easy to make friends with, because most of them spoke at least a little English.
When I was on a tour of Novgorod, the oldest city in Russia, I bought a large dinner bell from a black marketeer who had knife slashes up and down one of his arms. He told us that he needed the income from his work on the black market to help support the five other people who lived in a one-room apartment with him. When we asked him about the cuts on his arm, he said that every time he got drunk he cut himself; there was about a two-inch space between the last cut and his wrist.
We saw much evidence of the difficulties of life in Russia brought about by the chaotic economy. Since the average Russian's salary at the time fell about 1,000 rubles short of meeting basic needs for clothing and food, it was common to see people in the subway stations trying to sell shoes or books or anything that might bring enough income to make ends meet. However, the people I encountered were always willing to share what little they had. One man in particular, a nuclear physicist named Zhenya, took us under his wing. He bought us countless tickets to operas and symphonies (some of which, incidentally, were canceled with no prior notice). One time a small group of us took him to a hard currency restaurant for the first Italian food he'd ever had in his life. We also gave him eight dollars to help him work out an agreement so he could wait in the hard currency line instead of the ruble line to put benzine in his car; there was usually only about an hour wait in the hard currency line, whereas four hours was the typical wait in the ruble line.
Zhenya was very curious about my blindness and how I walked on the streets alone and did the other things the people in my group did. In addition to numerous discussions on the subject, I left him with some NFB literature that he seemed to find thought- provoking. And how did the rest of the people I encountered react to my blindness? Well, there was the usual tendency to try to force unsolicited assistance on me. At first this was even more frustrating than usual because I had difficulty communicating to them politely but effectively that I did not need help. So I talked about the situation with one of my group leaders, who taught me some pat phrases, and gradually I learned to use people's over-helpful tendencies in order to practice my Russian as well as to educate them about blindness. When I told people that I was studying at the Arizona Russian Institute, they were curious about the techniques I used to do my classwork. So I told them that I rented a Cyrillic typewriter that cost ten dollars for the month, and I used it to type my assignments so that the teachers could read them. During class I took Braille notes with a slate and stylus, and I hired a reader to read homework assignments and tests to me. Let those who say that blind people need special services and programs set up before they can have access to study in foreign countries take note: I don't believe a word of it. If a blind person has the basic skills needed to succeed in college in the U.S., there's no reason why he or she can't study abroad.
It all comes back to the most important lesson that I have learned and am continuing to learn through my membership in the National Federation of the Blind and from my travels in foreign countries: Blindness need not be a controlling factor in what a person does. It may affect the way in which the individual does a thing, but it should never prevent someone from doing the things he or she wants and needs to do. It is a truth that I am coming to understand more and more as life goes on, and my hope is that every other blind person will come to understand it and apply it as well.
A BIZARRE NEW TWIST TO THE HANDICAPPED PARKING DEBATE
From the Editor: The question of the appropriate use of handicapped parking stickers by blind people is one that recurs from time to time. The policy of the National Federation of the Blind has been that there is nothing inherent in blindness itself that makes it difficult to walk from any regular parking place to a store, office, or restaurant. If the individual blind person has problems that make walking difficult, then he or she of course has every right to a handicapped parking sticker and should use it freely and with a clear conscience. In short, handicapped parking places should be used by those who need them and avoided by those who do not. They are not a convenience to be enjoyed by anyone who can contrive to get hold of a sticker; they are a necessity for those who find walking difficult, painful, or impossible.
Not everyone, however, sees things the way we do. The following brief article appeared in the RSVA Newsletter, a Randolph Sheppard Vendors of America statewide publication in Michigan with a request that people respond to it. Don Drapinski, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, happened to read the piece and sat down to answer it. Both the original article and his answer were subsequently printed in the Spring, 1993, issue of the Michigan Focus, the publication of the NFB of Michigan. Here are both the article and Don's letter:
A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD LAW
by Pat Fales
I have recently had cause to take a look at the law which gives a handicapped person the right to use a handicapped sticker for parking.
First of all, I run a food service operation in a state- occupied building. My employee has been using my sticker for a year and a half. Before she had use of it, other employees of mine had use of it for at least another year. My employee did many errands for me as well as transporting me when I needed it.
All of a sudden, someone in the building feels I am misusing my sticker. There was such an uproar that I sought the law's interpretation. I found that the State Law Building License Bureau on the local level did not know the law as written. The State License Bureau in Lansing did not know, so they referred me to the handicapper organization that headquarters in Lansing. When I called the organization, I finally had the law read to me.
In essence the law says that the handicapped person must be in the car when the sticker is being used.
Each handicap is different, so the use and need of a parking sticker will be different as well. Most handicapped people can drive themselves. Blind people need a driver. I find in my work that many times I cannot do the errands such as banking and shopping for the business. I need my employee to do it for me. So in reality she is me at that time.
I have observed, when I take a cab to do these errands, they park in a handicapped spot. I have also seen and heard that state employees in certain buildings use a state car and a handicapped sticker to assure them speedy errand-running.
If any of you have had similar experience, please join with me in trying to change the law to practically serve each handicapped person in the manner which they need.
You can get in touch with me through the Randolph Sheppard Vendors of Michigan Board.
There it is: surely one of the most unusual, not to say bizarre, arguments ever constructed for using a handicapped parking sticker. Here is Don Drapinski's response:
Hazel Park, Michigan
October 19, 1992
Randolph Sheppard Vendors Newsletter
Please forward a copy of this letter to Pat Fales since it is in response to her article about handicapped parking stickers and their use. If I had had her address, I would have written directly to her also. I don't know if you will print any of the responses you get, but I had to make my voice heard.
I have a handicapped sticker in my vehicle because I am handicapped with a physical disability. I am also blind and have several friends who are blind. None has ever parked in a spot designated for the handicapped using my sticker unless I was with them and was getting out of the car. I assume from the article in the newsletter that Pat feels that blindness qualifies her or anyone doing business for her to use a handicapped parking sticker. In my opinion there is no reason that a blind person needs to use a handicapped spot unless he or she also has a physical disability, and to let someone else park in a handicapped space because she was doing errands for the car's owner is ludicrous. Should I feel good about my wife's using the handicapped parking spot when she goes to the grocery store because a blind or handicapped person may eat the food that she buys? I think not. If I need money from the bank, should I feel good about my wife's parking in a designated space because she is getting the money for me? Absolutely not.
We go many places where we are not able to park in a space that is big enough to allow room to remove a wheelchair from the car. I would like to believe that all of the spaces designated "handicapped" were actually being used by folks who truly needed them, instead of someone who is using a sticker to run in to pick up lunch for a friend who is blind or handicapped. I can't accept the philosophy that "Well, they're actually me while they're doing business for me."
I hope that, even if you don't print this letter, at least you can get a copy of it to Pat and that she will think twice the next time someone wants to use the handicapped sticker.
THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
SHARON GOLD EDUCATES TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS
Independent blind people are used to coping with eagerly offered, unnecessary assistance as we make our daily rounds. We learn various strategies for tactfully turning aside such help without, one hopes, annoying or insulting the person making the offer. We all find these encounters difficult and frustrating, particularly when the person will not take "No thank you" for an answer. But because we recognize that we sometimes do need information or assistance and that there are other blind people who find assistance useful which we think merely annoying, we usually try to be as polite as possible in explaining what we do need or that we don't need assistance at all.
But sometimes the do-gooder has it in mind that some innocent third party is the one who should help--that someone in authority should do something, regardless of how inappropriate or unnecessary such actions might be. It is hard to get at such a problem since it usually manifests itself in frantic but silent gestures and grimaces, whispered demands on the far side of the room, or even nasty letters of complaint written to the hapless official's supervisor at a later date.
In situations like this, the individual blind person can usually do nothing; but, because the organized blind movement is growing in visibility and name recognition, we are increasingly being consulted to provide expert opinion. This is a welcome development and one more reason why it is essential for us to work tirelessly to educate the general public about the National Federation of the Blind and our views about blindness and the abilities of blind people.
Recently a blind man boarded a commuter train in California accompanied by his guide dog. Apparently he found a seat without difficulty and settled his dog at his feet. There is nothing extraordinary in what took place. But another passenger watched this activity and decided that the train conductor should have done something, anything. At the very least the dog should have been given a seat like the other passengers. The conductor, who had been taught to leave blind passengers alone unless they appeared to be having trouble, refused to intervene. The result was a letter of complaint to her supervisor. Luckily she had the sense to contact the National Federation of the Blind of California and request a letter of explanation about the way in which blind passengers should be treated. Here is the conductor's written explanation of her actions made in response to the complaint filed against her:
March 12, 1993
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
Los Angeles, California
Attention: Mr. Harry True
This is in response to a complaint letter received March 4, 1993, from Susan Maddox.
When I was training for Metrolink, there was a blind gentleman, named David, who went with us to El Monte to help us with disabled passengers. We were told at that time that the Seeing Eye dog was not to sit on the seat. The dog was to be on the floor in front of the blind person's feet or between his legs. I have spoken to Sharon Gold, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, and she confirms this. She will be following with a letter to Lois Cunning, stating that policy for treatment of the blind.
As far as not assisting my blind passenger with finding a seat, he has never requested my assistance. His Seeing Eye dog finds his seat for him; however, should he or any of my other passengers need my assistance, I will gladly help.
Sincerely, Mary Pabst Amtrak-Metrolink Conductor cc: Sharon Gold ____________________ Here is the letter that Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, wrote in endorsement of Ms. Pabst's behavior and to explain accurately the methods blind travelers use:
March 17, 1993
Los Angeles, California
Dear Ms. Cunning:
This letter will respond to a complaint filed with Amtrak- Metrolink on March 4, 1993, by Susan Maddox of Covina (#2716). I have been contacted by Mary Pabst, the Amtrak-Metrolink Conductor against whom this complaint was registered.
One of the population groups that the Metrolink serves is blind people, who customarily use a white cane or guide dog as a mobility aid. Most blind people who travel alone are skilled travelers and can independently enter and exit public transportation such as buses and trains, needing no help to find open seats.
Under some circumstances a blind person may request the assistance of an employee of the railroad or a fellow passenger in finding seating. It may be appropriate for a Metrolink employee to ask a blind person who is unfamiliar to the employee if he/she needs assistance in locating a seat; however, if the blind person replies that help is not necessary, help should not be forced upon the person. In the case of passengers who are known to the Metrolink employee, it is appropriate to offer assistance to those who are known to need help and inappropriate to give more than a friendly hello to those who do not require assistance. At no time should an employee grab or push a blind person or touch the blind person's white cane or guide dog.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog is any dog individually trained to provide assistance to an individual who is blind or visually impaired. While guiding, such a dog customarily wears a harness with a U-shaped stiff handle. At the seat the blind person will settle the guide dog in an appropriate manner, lying flat on the floor at the person's feet or, if crowded conditions prevail, sitting between the blind passenger's knees. Guide dogs should not be distracted by other passengers or by Metrolink employees. At no time should a guide dog be permitted to sit on the seats of the train.
As a general rule, seating for handicapped persons should be reserved for those who have physical conditions that prevent them from occupying regular seats. Blind people customarily sit in regular seats unless they have physical conditions other than blindness that require the use of special handicapped seating.
Thank you for contacting the National Federation of the Blind of California. Should you require further information, please be sure to contact me.
Very truly yours,
President National Federation of the Blind of California
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Tom Bickford.]
SAUCE FOR THE GANDER
by Thomas Bickford
Tom Bickford is a long-time Federation leader who lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area. He is an experienced and confident traveler who uses a white cane. Recently he was asked to take part in a test of his blindness skills. As so often happens with such things, those constructing the test instrument had their own rather narrow notion of what they were measuring-- in this case the ability of a blind cane user to stop exactly one step short of the street at an unfamiliar intersection. Never mind that in unfamiliar areas blind travelers usually stop further from the street, drifting up to the corner as the traffic flow provides sufficient information, and that most people cross streets without stopping if there is no traffic moving in the area. But after all, why would anyone be interested in knowing how effective the actual techniques of blind travelers are when researchers can measure how nearly they conform to arbitrary, narrowly prescribed standards, defined by what sighted pedestrians do?
The whole exercise was reminiscent of the research conducted a couple of years ago in which a university professor set out to determine how well blind cane travel teachers could see their students at a distance. The avowed purpose of the research was to measure the effectiveness of cane travel teaching by blind teachers, but since the skills being assessed were those of sighted rather than blind instructors, it was no surprise to anyone that the blind teachers did not do as well in the tests as sighted teachers did. As one blind travel teacher said, "Nobody ever argued that blind travel instructors could see down the street as well as sighted ones can; we just maintain that our methods are safe and our students become confident travelers."
Tom Bickford did not appreciate being used in a similarly constructed bit of research that is no doubt now being cited to support the contention that tactile strips of truncated domes really are necessary at street crossings in order for blind people to travel safely. Here is what Tom Bickford has to say:
When I am a participant in a test group and I know that someone will write me up and make comments on my performance in the test, it seems only fair for me to make comments on the test and the test-givers as well. The test in question will no doubt soon make news because it concerns warning strips for the blind at street crossings. But excuse me; I am taking things out of order.
The test was given in several cities under similar circumstances in 1992 and 1993. My test administrator guided me to an unfamiliar area in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. I was asked to approach ten pre-selected intersections, starting anywhere from fifteen to one hundred feet back from the intersection; cautioned that I might pass driveways and parking lots; and instructed to stop when I was within one step of the street--that is, when my next step would take me into the street. When I stopped more than one step back from the curb, I was told I was not close enough. When I arrived at each curb, I was asked what clues had shown me that I was there.
Each intersection was unique. The test sites included a variety of driveways, rounded corners, sign posts, intersecting sidewalks, shallow curbs, and wheelchair ramps--many of which were useful landmarks. At the first intersection the sidewalk was absolutely flush with the street. The tenth was the only one with a traditionally sized step down to the street. The test took place during a quiet time in the afternoon with almost no traffic.
I failed to identify one narrow street, which had no traffic and almost no curb, because I thought it was another driveway. I missed another street when I heard a car waiting to cross the area of the sidewalk in front of me. I stopped fifteen feet back to let the car proceed. After half a minute or so, I decided that the car must be waiting to come out of a parking lot; and, since there was no other traffic anywhere, I stepped out, passing a one-inch curb which I identified later. After two steps my test administrator took my arm and told me that it was a street and that the car had been waiting for a light.
At the very end of the test the final question was, "Would it have been easier if there had been tactile warning strips at the curb?" My answer was, "Not necessarily."
At this point it all came out. The whole thing was a set- up. This was a study to promote the installation of tactile warning strips at intersections and other drop-offs, such as subway platforms. The only criterion on which the other test subjects and I were tested was whether we could stop within one step of the curb. We were not tested on comparable curbs with and without truncated domes, which would have made the final question of the test relevant.
Well, friends, I say it this way: When I am in an unfamiliar area, I use my cane, my feet, my ears, my nose, my sense of time and distance, and all the common sense I can muster. When I think I am approaching a street, I am sometimes cautious enough to stop before I get within one step of the curb.
I don't think that installing truncated domes at every intersection in these fifty states, D.C., and Puerto Rico is the way to make travel safe for blind people. If the professionals want to ensure safe travel for us, they need to begin believing in the capability of blind people to travel safely. Then they need to join those of us who can and do travel confidently in spreading the word to the rest of us who are doubtful about our abilities. That way no one will demand a bumpy strip for the blind at every intersection in the nation.
First, you must believe that safe cane travel by the blind is achievable. The next three steps are these: 1. Get a cane that is long enough. I suggest one that reaches two steps in front of you. 2. Swing and tap the cane widely enough to find the obstacles and landmarks in your path. I suggest a little wider than your shoulders. 3. Feel, smell, listen to, and think about everything around you. Of course, there are more details than these, but with some practice you will be able to travel, and you won't need special bumpy strips for the blind.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Gary Wunder.]
VALUING THE MOVEMENT ENOUGH TO KEEP IT STRONG
by Gary Wunder
Editor's note: Gary Wunder is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Missouri. In September of 1992 he was the National Representative at the convention of the NFB of Maryland. His banquet address was thoughtful and filled with reflections that all members of the organized blind movement would do well to consider. Here it is:
I want to talk with you tonight about what we have the good fortune to share in the National Federation of the Blind and to reflect on what I felt before becoming a Federationist, in the hope that these recollections will help us as we strive to build and strengthen our movement. Some of the questions I asked myself when I was preparing for this evening were these: How did I feel about blindness and about organizations of the blind before becoming an active part of the Federation? How did I feel about myself and about my responsibility to others? What part did I believe other blind people played in my life? Shifting to the present, what motivates us to be here tonight? What experiences separate us from those who do not choose to become involved? And how can we share with others what it means to be a Federationist?
Have you ever been in the position of hearing someone's story and wishing it could have been yours? I have heard many good Federation members say that they always wanted to be involved in helping the blind and that finding the Federation was a Godsend to them. Other members say they believed in our philosophy long before they ever became part of our Federation and that finding this organization was like coming home to a family reunion.
In comparison, my story is downright disgusting. I offer it, however, because I believe that I am not alone and that many come to the Federation for reasons which have nothing to do with who we are as an organization or what we have done. If we want new people to keep us vibrant and strong, we must pay close attention to the things we do that attract them and those that push them away. We are not about to sell our souls for money or members, but we ought to do all we can to see that our organization is well-funded and that it represents a major segment of the blind population.
When I first heard of the Federation, I couldn't think of one single thing I had in common with other blind people. Oh, maybe I could help them in some way or other, as long as it didn't take much time or trouble. I thought of myself as a trail blazer who was certain, from the constant reassurance I received, that I was different from other blind people. Only exceptional people went to public school. Only exceptional people traveled independently with a cane. Why, there were even times when I could travel without a cane at all because I had so many good relationships with sighted people who almost forgot I was blind!
As hard as it is to admit, I did not really want to be around other blind people. My image of others who were blind was almost as negative as the images we find in the general public. I was not happy about using a cane, though it gave me independence, and I took considerable comfort from those who went to great lengths to say I was not like other blind people.
The thing which brought me to Federation meetings was the desire for information. I had seen a movie about guide dogs on television and was trying to learn all I could about them. Initial inquiries led me to a man who sold office supplies in Kansas City. His name was Jim Couts, a National Board Member and a Vice President of the Federation in the sixties. I called this patient man with almost a hundred questions about guide dogs: How do you make them sit? Where are you allowed to take them? How much do they cost? How long are they trained? How long do you train with them at the school? The list went on for quite some time, but this owner of the office supply business had other ideas. He would politely answer one or two questions; then he would begin to talk about other people who were blind. His talk focused more and more on this wonderful group which tried to make life better for the blind. For every question I asked, I had to search for an answer in his digressions.
"What is involved in reinforcing the dog's obedience training?"
"Oh, obedience is something you do every day," he would answer. "Even when I'm away at Conventions with more than a thousand other blind people, I still have time to make my dog lie down, sit, stay, and fetch. I make time between the meetings of the teachers and the lawyers and the businessmen. We have a real crowded schedule, but still a good dog user will make time to take his dog out and to groom her. I groom my dog right there in my hotel room, and then it's off to listen to some federal Congressman talk about Social Security or vending."
This was the nature of our conversations. To hear about the dog, I had to hear about the Federation. After a time it got downright irritating. At this point in my life I'd never heard the term "alternative techniques," but I did know something about alternative sources of information, so I decided to pursue them.
In our discussions Jim had mentioned a blind law student who was also a dog guide user. I decided the law student would be more forthcoming in answering my questions, so I anxiously called and introduced myself.
Little did I know that this law student, named Melvin Lewis, was the acting president of the Kansas City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Not only did he insist on talking about the Federation, but he repeatedly pressed me to attend a chapter meeting. Meetings were on Friday night, he would say. Meetings were open to all--especially to blind people, who should be keenly interested in the matters discussed. Had I said transportation was a problem? Well then, transportation would be provided to and from the meeting. "Did you say you like donuts," he asked. Well the chapter provides food at our monthly meetings, so how about being ready by 7:30? I guessed I could free at least one Friday evening to test the waters. Perhaps it is more accurate to say I was willing to give over one Friday evening to test the donuts.
I would like to tell you that what I heard on that first evening convinced me I had found a new home in the Federation family and that I enthusiastically embraced a community I had been seeking for years, but such was not the case. There were certain people I liked, and certain people who intrigued me. On the whole, however, I was glad for the meeting to end.
After I had been coerced to attend another meeting or two, someone must have become aware that I was losing interest. Knowing I had an ego, the chapter's leadership contrived to get me elected to a do-nothing position on the chapter's board, a position which I felt bound me to continue attending meetings and to become informed on the chance I might be called upon to represent the chapter.
I tell this story, not only because it is my story and therefore I like it, but also because I think it's important to remember that not everyone comes to the Federation for noble reasons. One problem which comes with involvement is that the more involved we get, the harder it is for us to remember a time when we weren't involved. The more important we come to believe our cause to be, the harder it is to relate to those who don't see its importance.
Putting aside for a moment the specifics of my story, the interest in guide dogs and my chance meeting with two strong Federationists, what were the generalizable elements in my deciding to come and being convinced to stay? One was most certainly that the people I talked with did not already expect me to know what they knew and to believe as they believed. They knew that their Federationism was not what was uppermost in my mind. They knew that my desire was to use them for a specific purpose, and they did not react with anger or hostility to my demand on their time.
Instead they began by understanding that I was a self- centered teenager who thought he was very different from others who were blind. They did not challenge or refuse to listen to all I said about my life and what I wanted to do with it. They became my friends by first showing that they cared about me, and when I came to care about them enough to value their opinions, they began to tell me that what I had understood about the world was shallow, arrogant, and selfish.
The men and women who were my reasons for becoming involved came to know almost all there was to know about me, whether they wanted to or not. They knew about my involvement in ham radio, my desire to write a book about my exceptional life, my yearning to ride a motorcycle, the pigs I bought to make my fortune, and my loss of a summer's wages when the pig market dropped. Had my blind listeners told me they were too busy to listen or had they confined our conversations only to issues relating to blindness, I seriously doubt we would have developed a relationship strong enough to compel me to come to meetings, to march in parades, or to sell candy.
Still, knowing all this, too often I find myself wanting to fit new people into the Federation mold quickly, where they can begin to write letters about the proposed changes in Social Security or other important issues. After I've taken the time to give them the literature, I expect them to know our positions on issues and to extrapolate general principles from those to apply to similar problems.
Although the telephone was my major point of contact in building my own first Federation friends, one of my biggest complaints today is that the telephone can completely change what I plan to accomplish in a night as a ten-minute call turns into a two-hour conversation. I find myself wanting to say to those newcomers with stories they find endlessly fascinating that theirs is the story of all blind people, that for each new recruit only the locations and the names change. But then I ask myself how the blind teenager I use to be would react to such indifference.
We don't get people to join us because they already feel as we do about what it means to be blind. Changing what it means to be blind evolves in each of us as a desire once we come gradually to understand what it means to be blind, not just for the single blind person we know best, but for blind people as a class. It isn't the preaching of a well memorized sermon on Federationism that compels people to give of themselves--it is the example of someone they come to admire and wish to emulate.
You will remember that in my story I said I grew discontented after the first few meetings. What is important here is that the people who encouraged me didn't stop after I attended my first meeting. They did not see my attendance as the passage through some great barrier separating the committed from the uncommitted. They knew it would take as much work to get me to meeting three as it had taken to get me to meeting one, and their understanding of this crucial fact was no small matter. Not only did I pester my Federation friends between meetings, but they also went out of their way to inquire about me. Had I saved enough money to buy that new radio I wanted? Was I still skipping lunch so I could put two dollars a week toward the purchase? Had my parents gotten wise to the fact that I wasn't eating lunch, and had I gotten up the courage to ask that girl to the prom?
In some organizations I've belonged to in the past, each new or potential member is assigned a mentor or a sponsor. This person is the newcomer's real tie with the organization and the person who makes it his or her business to really get to know the fledgling. In the beginning it is not so much what the organization stands for or how many successful programs it has that matters. What matters is that someone in that organization cares about the newcomer in a very special way. The seasoned member will attempt to get a word in here or there about how the organization has experience in some situation the newcomer is discussing or how the organization has changed the way things used to be, but in the initial months of membership I strongly believe the emphasis must be on the person we are trying to bring to our cause. These new members must come to realize that they need us and that we need them if we are to help others as they have been helped. Our aim in working with a new Federationist must be to have such an exemplary impact that he or she hopes some day to be for a newcomer what we have been for him or her.
How do we begin building a Federationist, one who shares with us a common background communicated by our history and our literature? Passing on many of the speeches and articles we prize is an important first step, and so is sending in our newcomer's name and address for the Monitor. I emphasize the words "first step," because we live in a time when reading matter is readily available, and although each of us can cite instances in which we would like more information in specific subject areas, few of us suffer the dearth of material Dr. Jernigan describes when he talks about one magazine having to last the entire summer. The key to getting our new members to read our literature and absorb the information is to plan some organized Federation activity for reading and discussion. Sunday afternoons are a particularly good time to invite a small group for coffee, cookies, and a chat about some Federation topics. Sometimes taking five or ten minutes at a chapter meeting for presentations can also encourage people to read and come prepared to present. Again I emphasize that the answer is personal involvement with the new member and that no amount of efficiently distributed literature can substitute for this one-on-one contact.
With all the pressures we have to perform in our jobs, to meet the needs of our families, and to carry out the other duties which fall to us as Federationists, the kind of extended involvement I'm encouraging is difficult to embrace. Certainly no one of us can be there for every new or prospective member, but neither can we continue to grow as a Federation if we believe the mechanical work of our organization is more important than the human interactions which draw and keep men and women involved in our cause. Our claim that we are a Federation family is one which both old and new members must find credible and experience as true.
Of course, central questions which must be asked and answered are these: why is the Federation worth building, and what does it do for people to justify the emotional and financial commitment demanded of its members? We don't have to look far for examples of lives which are better because there is a National Federation of the Blind.
Just this week I was invited to lunch by a man who is now successfully employed as an airline reservationist. To avoid the possibility of embarrassing him, let me refer to him as Joe. When we first met some twelve years ago, my friend was a very scared college freshman who had come from a sheltered workshop in a midwestern state. He had been told that even the work in the shop was beyond him. He was advised he would continue to need constant counseling, that his social mannerisms were such that he would never be accepted in society, and that any thought of pursuing work in a competitive profession was nonsense.
While my friend outwardly rejected this gloomy assessment of his capabilities, inside he believed much of what the professionals said. In truth he had little reason to contradict them. Few were the experiences he could point to in which he had been truly accepted as a valued member of any group. Intellectually he was average. His speech was often uncomfortably loud. His dress was often sloppy, and his manners left much to be desired.
For many of us meeting Joe, it seemed that perhaps we had finally encountered a blind person we simply couldn't help, but after a time we came to admire that stubborn personality who, despite his self-doubt and negative experiences, was determined to be a success. Cringe as we might at the thought of another phone call or a chance meeting on the street, we could not ignore the fact that part of being a Federationist meant helping any blind person who could benefit from what we had to offer. All of us had preached to others about the necessity to be open to the needs of newcomers, and now we had the chance to see whether our words were spoken from down deep in our guts or simply words used to coerce others to accept people they did not want to accept.
It would be wonderful if I could tell you my friend Joe left the campus to pursue a job in the career he had chosen as a college freshman. The truth, however, is that he did not become a rehabilitation counselor, and I doubt that anything we might have done could have changed him into a person who would have been warmly received as a member of the helping professions. Even so, we were more successful than we ever dreamed we could be. Discouraged because he could not be a pilot, my friend had been told to abandon his dream of working in the travel industry. Now he fills rather than flies the friendly skies, and I believe he is as happy in his job as any person I know. To compensate for his ground-bound position, Joe uses his time off to take advantage of the flying privileges granted to airline employees. It is not unusual for him to spend a weekend flying from Houston to New York, to Los Angeles, to Denver, and then back to Houston. What does he get out of this? I haven't a clue. But I am certain he is as content in his job and in his use of his spare time as I am, and I am content to simply be grateful that yet another man has found happiness in his life.
Knowing Joe has been a wonderful experience for me, not only because he has a story of success in which we were able to play a part, but also because he continues to bring to my life adventures I have only dreamed of experiencing. A little over a year ago my telephone rang during supper, and although we don't usually take calls during meals, I found I was being summoned to the phone. "I think you will want to take this," Sue told me as I took the call.
"Hello," I said.
A voice on the other end said "Hey Gary, I bet you've never been called from 35,000 feet before. Hold on just a minute--Excuse me, Ma'am, can I get another soda?"
Was I glad to be placed on hold, my supper getting cold, so Joe could get a Coke? No, not really, but I couldn't help thinking with a bit of envy about how I had heard about telephones on airplanes, had yearned to call someone, but just couldn't part with the $10 it would cost me to call and tell a friend I was flying above the clouds and was calling for the fun of it. Perhaps I also had too much false pride to admit I wanted to play with the telephone.
In this Federation of ours we become so involved in each other's lives that we can sometimes feel threatened and overwhelmed. When the work we do determines whether Joe gets a job, whether Rita keeps a job, or whether Deborah will have the opportunity to receive training for a job, we must come face to face with the fact that this is no game we play in the Federation. We are more than performers providing entertainment for a Convention banquet, more than the casual representative who stands before a Lions Club touting the merits of yet another community organization. Our contact with the legislature is more than an abstract exercise in democracy. It will determine how much income a recipient of Social Security receives, whether a blind child will learn to read and write, and to what extent training will be available to help blind people in our journey toward first-class citizenship.
Is our organization perfect? Is every decision we make the right one? Have we always met our fellow blind people with open arms? Have we consistently done our best to advance this noble cause? Of course the answer is that we have not. We are as frail and as prone to fall victim to temptation as any other group of men and women. At times we become lazy and make promises we don't keep. At times we feel put upon by the demands of our involvement. At times we take for granted the privileges we enjoy as blind people in the 1990's and forget the responsibility which they impose. Even so, we share a wonderful bond in our Federation, and we know the world is a far better place for many because of what we do.
In a recent inaugural address it was observed that "Until he has found a cause larger than himself, no man is truly whole." Anyone who has labored in this organization can testify to the truth of these words, and on those nights which bring an end to many hours of work, we who share in this cause know what it is to sleep the sleep which springs from the toil of service in a cause which is good and just.
And how do we answer our critics who malign our motives, question our rationality, and deride us as negative and hostile malcontents? To the extent that we answer them at all, perhaps we should remind them of the words spoken by Theodore Roosevelt, who said: "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
It has been observed that "Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution, long after the emotion of the moment has passed." I hope something in this weekend's activities has touched each of you so deeply that you will feel a renewed sense of how important it is to share what we have with others. Together we have the possibility to bring about positive life changes for many who are blind, and together we will meet this challenge with joy, enthusiasm, and determination.
FEDERATIONIST DEMONSTRATES THE USEFULNESS OF BRAILLE
Fred Mansfield is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Ten years ago his sight became so poor that he decided to learn Braille, and he has been using it ever since. Often older people who lose their sight are told that Braille will be too hard for them to learn and not useful enough to justify the time and effort. Most of us, of course, take longer to learn things when we get older, but that is no reason to stop learning; just ask Fred Mansfield, treasurer of the La Luz Chapter of the NFB of New Mexico and an active member of his church and community. The following article, written by Gussie Fauntleroy, appeared in the August 28, 1992, edition of The New Mexican. Here it is:
When Fred Mansfield goes to the store, his grocery list is on one of those stiff little pieces of paper that fall out of magazines. It doesn't matter what's printed on the paper--a subscription offer, a mail-order form--because Mansfield doesn't read it. He feels it.
Mansfield, a sixty-eight-year-old retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Santa Fe, is legally blind. He learned Braille about ten years ago after his sight deteriorated after a cataract operation. He can see enough to get around in his house, but he can't drive, and he can't read printed material.
For most of his reading Mansfield depends on Talking Books-- books that have been recorded onto cassette tapes. For things like making grocery lists, jotting down phone numbers, and other daily tasks, though, Braille is extremely helpful, he said.
Using a pocket-sized gadget called a slate and stylus, he punches Braille dots onto stiff pieces of paper, like those stuck in magazines. Then he tucks the slip of paper away for later reference.
Only about forty percent of the blind people in New Mexico read Braille, according to John Brewster, manager of the New Mexico Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The state library program, better known as the Talking Book Library, offers a variety of alternative reading services and equipment for the state's visually-impaired people. The program also has access to recorded books and material nationwide.
Braille is an alphabet whose letters are composed of combinations of six dots embossed on the page to be read with the fingers. The system is difficult to learn, particularly for those who have lost their sight late in life, Brewster said.
Mansfield agreed. At fifty-seven, he spent four months at an orientation center for the sight-impaired in Iowa, similar to New Mexico's School for the Visually Handicapped in Alamogordo. While learning new ways of doing daily activities, he spent at least an hour every day in Braille class.
"It's a matter of getting your fingers sensitized to the dots and a lot of practice," he said. "I was slow. But if I complained, they said I should have started [learning Braille] when I was six or seven."
Mansfield mastered the basic alphabet and went on to the second stage of Braille, a system of almost two hundred special signs and shortened versions of commonly used words. It was worth it, he said. Now he can read almost anything in Braille.
"Some members of the blind community are encouraging the educational system to teach Braille in the lower grades," he said. Besides being easier to learn at a young age, Braille is almost indispensable to high school and college students, who need to use reference materials. Special education teachers could learn Braille well enough to teach it to sight-impaired public school students whose parents can't or don't want to send them to the residential program in Alamogordo, he said.
Currently two counselors at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind in Santa Fe teach Braille to the legally blind at no charge, said Lou Manus, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Commission for the Blind.
Mansfield said he believes pocket-sized tape recorders and Talking Books play an invaluable role for the blind. Until he learned Braille, however, he felt handicapped.
For example, Braille allows Mansfield to try out new foods. He uses recipes written in Braille. And every Friday Mansfield gets his church's bulletin for the upcoming service.
His wife looks up the hymns and reads the words to him while he punches them out in Braille--so on Sunday, like everyone else in the congregation, Mansfield can read the words and sing along.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Greg Trapp.]
WHAT SSI RECIPIENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TRUSTS
by Greg D. Trapp
Greg Trapp is an attorney practicing in New Mexico and a member of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico. He has done research on the ways in which trusts can be used to assist people receiving Supplemental Security Income.
As we were going to press, Mr. Trapp notified us that the federal budget bill, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA- 93), contains an amendment which will drastically reduce the circumstances under which a trust can be used to qualify a person for Medicaid. The law, as currently proposed, could even require the state to seek reimbursement from the estate of Medicaid beneficiaries. The bill is being debated as this edition of the Monitor is being distributed. The likelihood that this amendment will pass makes it even more important to understand your rights and to be involved in the political process. The changes, however, will not affect the use of trusts to maintain SSI eligibility, only that for Medicaid. Here is Greg Trapp's article:
Are you named in a will? Are you about to receive money from a legal settlement? If so and if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, you may have good reason to consider the advantages of using a trust. A trust could make it possible for you to receive an inheritance, settlement, or gift and still be eligible for SSI and Medicaid, if the state rules permit.
A trust is a legal instrument in which a first person, called a grantor, places property in the control of a second person, called a trustee, for the benefit of a third person, called a trust beneficiary. The trust designates a trustee and specifies how he or she is to manage the trust funds, called the trust principal. The most common type is a testamentary trust, which is created at the time a will is made. In addition to protecting inheritances, trusts can also protect a gift or legal settlement. If the trust is intended to supplement the needs of an SSI recipient and if the recipient cannot spend or control the trust principal, then it is called a special needs trust.
It is important to emphasize that, if you are given money or property directly, you will be unable to create a trust and may have to exhaust these assets before you will be eligible for SSI or Medicaid. Therefore, it is essential to do advance planning while the money or property that you expect to receive still belongs to someone else. Once it is yours it is too late to establish a trust for SSI or Medicaid eligibility.
Benefits A Trust Can Supplement
A special needs trust can be used to establish or maintain SSI eligibility. In some cases a special needs trust can also make a beneficiary eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid will pay for medical treatment, prescription drugs, and transportation to treatment. In most states eligibility for SSI automatically entitles a person to Medicaid. However, a trust which qualifies a person for SSI will not necessarily qualify him or her for Medicaid. If you are thinking about a trust, you should give careful consideration to its impact upon Medicaid eligibility, separate from SSI. Even if it is not practical to use a trust to qualify for Medicaid, you should still consider a special needs trust to establish SSI eligibility since the trust principal can be used to pay directly for medical costs or to purchase health insurance.
What The Trust Can Pay For
A trust can pay providers directly for items other than food, clothing, and shelter without causing a reduction in SSI payments. Items which can be paid for by a trust can include medical care, telephone bills, education, entertainment, and travel. The cost of attendance at professional meetings or conventions such as the NFB's could also be paid by a trust. The trustee can also make cash distributions to the trust beneficiary; however, cash which is distributed directly to the beneficiary will be counted as unearned income, resulting in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in SSI benefits after the twenty- dollar unearned income disregard is applied. Payments made directly to providers for items such as food, utilities, clothing, and shelter will also be counted as income and could result in a reduction in SSI benefits. However, the reduction resulting from these direct payments will not be greater than $164.66 per month during 1993. Direct payments from the trust for food, utilities, clothing, and shelter exceeding $164.66 in any single month will not reduce SSI payment in that month. If trust distributions would reduce or terminate benefits, the distributions should be made in a single month so as to minimize the loss of benefits.
In some cases a trust can also be used to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid can pay for medical expenses which could otherwise rapidly exhaust an inheritance or settlement. In the case of a person with serious medical problems, Medicaid eligibility can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in trust distributions. Because Medicaid programs are overburdened, Medicaid trusts are closely scrutinized to prevent wealthy persons from benefiting at the expense of the poor.
The Terms Of The Trust
The Social Security Administration does not consider trust principal to be a resource of the trust beneficiary if he or she is unable to revoke the trust and does not have direct access to the principal. So a trust created to assist a blind beneficiary should be a discretionary trust, which grants complete control to the trustee. It should include a statement of the goals and purposes of the trust. It should also contain a specific clause stating that the purpose of the trust is to supplement state and federal entitlement programs and to pay for only those items or services not paid for by the entitlement programs. It should also state that the purpose of the trust is to create a better quality of life than would otherwise be provided by the entitlement programs. It should also describe how public policy would be benefitted by the trust. To show a benefit to public policy, the trust could state that the purpose of the trust is to enable the beneficiary to become employed or otherwise become less dependent on public benefits.
The trust should include provisions protecting the trust principal from potential creditors or changes in the law. In the case of a non-testamentary trust, it is critical that the trust be in place so that it can be funded directly by the gift, settlement agreement, or court. As noted earlier, if you are given the assets directly, you will be unable to create a trust and may have to exhaust the assets before you will be eligible for SSI or Medicaid. Finally, since a discretionary trust places complete control in the trustee, the grantor should take great care when deciding whom to name as trustee.
Whom Can A Trust Benefit?
The appropriateness of establishing a special needs trust will primarily depend on the grantor's income, marital status, age, and health and the potential amount of the trust principal. If the grantor has a blind or disabled spouse or child, the spouse or child may be benefitted by a trust later, even if the family's present income or resources currently prevent SSI eligibility. When the bread-winner dies, his or her income will cease, and the surviving blind or disabled family members may then become eligible for SSI benefits.
A trust will be appropriate for persons who have a financial need for the SSI program or who need Medicaid to cover medical expenses. It will be most beneficial to a blind or disabled SSI recipient in cases where the assets that would otherwise be given directly to the recipient are relatively modest. Small amounts of money received in the form of an inheritance, for example, can easily cause SSI ineligibility unless the inheritance is paid into a trust. Use of a trust to shelter larger amounts may be appropriate when there is a need to qualify for Medicaid, when the beneficiary would be unable to spend the money placed in the trust, or when the beneficiary has a desire to preserve the money for future heirs.
Ross, Sterling, "Sheltering Zebley Retroactive SSI Benefits in Trust," 25 Clearinghouse Review 1335, February 1992.
Sheldon, James, "PASS: SSI's Plan for Achieving Self-Support," 25 Clearinghouse Review 962, December 1991.
Silber, Mayer Y., "The Effect of a Trust on the Eligibility or Liability of the Trust Beneficiary for Public Assistance," 26 Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal 133, Spring 1991.
PROBLEM SOLVED FOR MUSICIANS:
THE YAMAHA QY10 NOW TALKS
In the December 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor we printed an inquiry from Suleman Currim, who wondered whether any other musician had solved the problem of making a modern music synthesizer's liquid crystal display accessible through synthetic speech. Dr. Tim Cranmer, Chairman of the NFB's Research and Development Committee, read that inquiry and remembered an article he had recently read. Immediately he sat down to write to Mr. Currim and send him the article. Recognizing that the information might also be useful to other musicians and electronics experts, he also sent the material to the Braille Monitor. The article written by Wayne Thompson does get extremely technical in the middle, but the general points he makes are important and comprehensible to all of us. It is vital that we find ways of encouraging manufacturers of today's technology to remember that some would-be purchasers will need to modify their products, and they can make simple, inexpensive modifications in the design and at the time of production that will make that task easier or in some cases even possible. Wayne Thompson is an electrical engineer who has worked for the past eleven years at the Department for the Blind, the state vocational rehabilitation agency serving blind people in Kentucky. Here are Dr. Cranmer's cover letter and Mr. Thompson's article:
December 4, 1992
Mr. Suleman Currim
Dear Mr. Currim:
Mr. Wayne Thompson is the engineer for the Kentucky Department for the Blind. He has adapted many products for speech or Braille output. He recently completed work on adapting a family of musical instruments, synthesizers, and MIDI devices which display error messages and other information through a liquid crystal display. Mr. Thompson's attachment makes this information available through a speech synthesizer.
The enclosed article written by Mr. Thompson will give you a good idea of what is involved in adapting a particular musical instrument for speech output. As you can imagine, the procedure could be rather expensive.
If you would like to follow up on this matter, you may write or telephone Wayne Thompson, Department for the Blind, 427 Versailles Road, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601; (502) 564-4754.
T.V. (Tim) Cranmer, Chairman
National Federation of the Blind
Research & Development Committee
Here is the article to which Tim Cranmer referred:
Making the Yamaha QY10
Music Sequencer Accommodates
Blind and Visually Impaired Users
Many musicians who are blind or visually impaired are finding it increasingly difficult to use today's sophisticated music gear. The trend to equip every device with an alphanumeric visual display is a great aid, if you can see it.
Musicians and composers who are sight-impaired may find themselves becoming less competitive with their sighted peers, who can take immediate advantage of the latest electronic music gadgets. Certainly success is not measured by the amount of technology you can command. But, if your inclination is to use high tech to help create and promote your music, then you are at a distinct disadvantage if you are blind or visually impaired. Ironically, the same technology that created this access barrier can be used to bridge it. This article describes one such case.
Most solutions for providing blind and sight-impaired persons with access to visually displayed text involve either Braille or speech. Text-to-speech synthesizers have been used for years by the blind community to convert text into a synthesized, not-so-human sounding voice. Many such text-to-speech circuits and consumer products are available. Most use a combination of hardware and software to string together and speak phonemes according to speech rules coded into the designer's algorithm.
For Braille access conventional Braille on paper can be produced by a number of commercially available Braille printers. Also available are paperless Braille displays. These are electromechanical or piezoelectric based devices that create one or more lines of temporary, refreshable Braille by raising and lowering small pins arranged in a specified pattern.
The correct access approach, Braille or speech, depends on many factors, including the task at hand, the user's skills, and cost. Speech is generally much less expensive than Braille and was the preferred means of accessing the QY10's visual display.
Making the QY10 Talk
Yamaha's QY10 Music Sequencer is typical of the trend in music technology: cram the most features and programmability you can into a box smart enough to tell the user what to do next. The QY10 communicates to its user through a sixteen-character LCD (liquid crystal display). Targeted for the masses as well as for serious musicians, the QY10 is fairly easy to operate, but it's not a toaster. There are lots of buttons and lots of messages on that LCD. Time must be spent experimenting and reading the user's manual (another barrier for sight-impaired persons). But with a little patience you'll soon be making music. Imagine, however, undertaking this learning process with a piece of black tape covering the QY10's visual display--extremely difficult. (I've learned never to use the word "impossible.")
The primary task of the speech interface for the Yamaha QY10 Music Sequencer is to allow a blind user to access the information visually displayed on the QY10's sixteen-character LCD module by having it spoken. This section briefly describes the operation of the hardware and software designed to accomplish this task. The speech interface uses commonly available parts and could be built by anyone with average electronic technician skills. This same interface has also been successfully connected to Yamaha's MDF2 MIDI Data Filer, which also uses a sixteen- character LCD module. Reference the schematic throughout this section.
Connection is made to the QY10 by ribbon cable connected directly to the LCD module inside the QY10's case. The actual soldering point is on the QY10's circuit board and is visible after removing the back cover. A row of fourteen solder points terminating an internal flat, flexible cable to the actual LCD module can be found. This provides the most convenient connection point to the LCD module. Solder a fourteen-conductor ribbon cable to this row of pins and route it out the back between the case halves. You will have to notch the case back cover slightly to allow exiting clearance for the ribbon cable when the case halves are reassembled.
This cable plugs into J1 on the interface and contains all signals associated with the LCD module. The signals needed are passed on to optional J4, which allows direct connection of a Hewlett Packard 1560B logic analyzer to assist in the development, testing, and troubleshooting of the interface. (It was definitely not optional when I was designing this interface.)
LCD data lines are buffered by U9 for the 74S189 RAM chips U5 and U6, which are used to capture, in real time, copies of all character data written to the sixteen-character LCD module. U4 presents one of two addresses to the RAM chips U5 and U6. The write address is selected when the QY10 is writing data to its LCD display and is latched into U3. The read address is placed at U1 P24-P27 and allows the 8749 single chip microcomputer to read the RAM contents for later speaking. If the two requests should occur simultaneously, then the write must obviously take precedence since we must never miss capturing copies of characters written to the LCD.
Everything discussed so far occurs automatically in real time without any help from the 8749 microcomputer chip U1. This hardware approach to LCD data capture was necessary because data and instruction writes to the LCD by the QY10 are far too fast to be intercepted directly by software routines within the 8749. The 8749's duties are now to read the captured data from U5 and U6, process it, monitor the user pushbuttons, monitor the QY10's cursor address for changes, and send data and instructions to the speech circuit for speaking. Details on these tasks can best be understood by reading the source code, but a brief overview of firmware functions is as follows:
The firmware is burned into the onboard EPROM of the 8749 microcomputer chip U1. At power up an initialization routine sets various speech parameters and other flags. Then the code begins a polling loop, watching for either of the two user pushbuttons S2 or S3 to be pressed, or a cursor movement by the QY10. One pushbutton invokes a routine to cause speaking of the entire sixteen-character LCD module. The other pushbutton, or a detected change in the QY10's cursor location as read at U1 port P20-P23, causes only the word or item where the cursor is currently located to be spoken.
The 4-bit RAM read address is placed on U1 port P24-27 prior to reading the captured RAM ASCII data at U1 port P10-P17. Data characters and instructions are written to the speech circuit via U1 port DBO-DB7 using U1's WR and INT lines to handshake with the speech circuit.
Additional information, including source and hex code, may be obtained by contacting the author at the Kentucky Department for the Blind, Assistive Technology Services Branch, 427 Versailles Road, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.
The recently passed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has spawned a new era of public awareness of the many ways in which individuals with disabilities are discriminated against, often unintentionally. Projects like the one described in this article are custom retrofits attempting to overcome the information denial inherent in products designed without regard for sight-impaired users. Custom modifications are expensive. Most individuals cannot afford the engineering costs involved in creating such specialized access interfaces. Often their only recourse is rehabilitation agencies who use public funds to provide technical services to individuals who qualify for assistance. But many don't qualify, and funds are limited for those that do.
I would like to issue a challenge to the manufacturing industry. Throughout the design phase of a new product, maintain an awareness of how that product might be used by individuals with disabilities. Get external input. Get input from persons who are blind and currently using similar products. Contact disability advocacy groups and rehabilitation agencies to avoid re-inventing the wheel. Obviously manufacturing considerations and cost will greatly restrict what can be done to accommodate an admittedly small market. But oftentimes a little forethought during the design stage can result in an extremely useful feature or access method for users with disabilities at a minimal increase in cost.
For example, if the Yamaha designers had made available a connector on the QY10 giving access to the fourteen lines controlling the LCD, along with technical interfacing specifications, my job would have been considerably easier. In fact, if such a connector currently existed on the QY10, then the speech interface described in this article would probably become a commercially available product. Thousands of blind and visually-impaired people with musical interests could simply purchase the speech interface accessary and plug it into their QY10. As it stands, however, having to tear into the user's QY10 to solder a fourteen-conductor ribbon cable makes a commercially available speech interface for the QY10 highly unlikely. (By the way, due to the somewhat standard fourteen-pin interface scheme used by many alphanumeric LCD modules, I would encourage all manufacturers of products containing these LCD's to consider making that port available through a connector to simplify connection of speech devices for blind users.)
No one wants to increase the cost of products for all people just to accommodate a few. But often it's a matter of awareness, not cost. A little advance planning could make future products much easier to adapt for users with special needs. The many facets of the music industry offer varied career opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired as well as for those having other disabilities. Let's think of them before we build things. In the meantime, I'll be in the lab if you need me.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: John Maxson.]
RESEARCH & TRAINING CENTER
AT MISSISSIPPI STATE RESPONDS TO CONSUMER CONCERNS
In the May issue of the Monitor we published a letter written by Curtis Chong, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, to Mr. John Maxson, Associate Director of the Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision. Mr. Chong was concerned about the quality of the Braille agendas he had been given at two successive conferences organized by the Rehabilitation Research & Training Center. Mr. Maxson answered Mr. Chong's letter on the very day it arrived. The tone of the response was positive, and the writer's intentions were clearly equally constructive. Here is the letter:
Mississippi State, Mississippi
April 16, 1993
Thank you for your letter of April 4, which I received today. I was pleased to hear from you.
To begin, let me say that I intend to take immediate action to ensure solution to a problem which I thought had been solved last fall. You are correct in bringing this to my attention, and I really appreciate your taking the time to share concrete examples of the Braille formatting problem with me. If we are to be a national training resource, we have an obligation to provide our Braille (and large print) materials to participants in the same quality as our regular print materials.
The Center uses the WordPerfect 5.1 word-processing application for desktop publishing. To produce particular materials (e.g., agendas, cover pages, and special documents), our word-processing specialist uses graphical elements to enhance these documents. The Center also uses the Duxbury DuxWP Braille translation program to translate Braille materials. We have discovered that the Duxbury DuxWP does not work properly even when we think that we have stripped the graphical elements. In the future we will retype the agendas and other materials in standard WordPerfect format to ensure that the graphical elements do not interfere with the Braille translation program.
In June of this year we will be adding another staff member who is a Braille reader. It will be her specific responsibility to proofread all materials which are produced in Braille prior to publishing. Please be assured that the Braille formatting problem will be solved.
I want to thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to present at the Seattle meeting. Our conferences for professionals in service to persons who are blind are enhanced when consumers can actively participate. As you indicated, we both believe in the ability of persons who are blind and the positive impact which technology can have in the areas of independence and employment. I hope that we can continue to work together in the future to share this message with people around the country.
With warm regards,
John H. Maxson
Associate Director and Training Director
[PHOTO: Mr. and Mrs. Ruemmler in front of their fireplace. CAPTION: Cliff and Sally Ruemmler.]
CLIFF NOTES: A FAMILY AFFAIR
by Peg Halverson
From the Editor: When we began discussing the recipes from the Kansas affiliate to be published in this issue of the Monitor, Susie Stanzel, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas, called attention to the following profile, which was first printed in the Spring, 1993, issue of the FreeState News, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas. Peg Halverson, one of the leaders of the NFB of Kansas, wrote the piece, and Susie felt that it would make an interesting addition to Kansas's contribution this month. Now meet the Ruemmlers--Cliff, Sally, and Keri-Ann; they and people like them are making a real difference in the organized blind movement:
At the last National Federation of the Blind of Kansas convention, we elected new officers and several board members to serve for the next two years. Most of those elected have been long-time Federationists and have been leaders in Kansas and other affiliates, and we know them well. However, one officer, treasurer Cliff Ruemmler, is a new face and voice to Federationists. We in Johnson County have come to know him as an active Federationist and one who puts Federation beliefs into action. It is with pleasure that we share a little about Cliff with you.
Cliff and his wife Sally are sighted members who reside in Olathe, Kansas. Their son Cliff is a Certified Public Accountant who works as an auditing manager in California. Suzanne, their older daughter, works for the City of Olathe and is getting ready to start college. Their younger daughter, thirteen-year-old Keri- Ann, happens to be deaf-blind and is currently attending the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri. Their efforts to obtain an appropriate education for Keri-Ann, as provided by PL 94-142, brought Cliff and Sally to the Federation. Cliff explains the process:
"Actually, it was Sally who was looking for resources for Keri, because just about the time we got here in the Kansas City area we realized that there was something inhibiting her, something besides her deafness. At the time we were told that Keri-Ann either had a severe learning disability or was mentally handicapped, mentally retarded. Seeing other things that she did, we didn't buy into either one of those causes. It took us about three years to run into Ralph Bartley at the Kansas School for the Blind, and they diagnosed her immediately as being blind. That is why she couldn't see and function in the normal classrooms. It was through Ralph that we came in contact with Susie Stanzel and the Federation, and we just progressed from there."
About his participation in the Federation, Cliff says: "Sally should be the one [being interviewed] because I always like to stay in the shadows and be of support. My whole philosophy of being involved with the NFB has always been that it is an organization of and for blind people and that a sighted person, in my opinion, should not influence direction or philosophy, because we are not blind and will probably never understand blindness completely. My feeling has always been that my involvement should be following the direction and the path that the blind members of the NFB set--the direction they want to go. My role should be one of support, not one of leadership in terms of choosing direction, but rather following the direction that you guys set and supporting that direction. I don't think as sighted people we can make good judgments, because we are not blind and we don't know the true impact of programs or legislation. But we should be there to support and help make everything happen, based on the direction that the blind members set. My being in the shadows doesn't mean keeping quiet; it means giving support."
Both Cliff and Sally are active Federationists in state and local activities. Sally was instrumental with reference to Resolution 92-2, dealing with the education of deaf-blind students in the state of Kansas. As recording secretary for the Johnson County Chapter, Cliff works hard. When she can, Keri-Ann attends chapter meetings and has begun quite a friendship with Dean and Susie Stanzel's daughter Lori. She's as sharp as a tack and full of fun and is getting her alternative techniques down pat. As for the proper attitude--Keri-Ann was born with it!
Whether you are a first-time job seeker or interested in furthering your career or education, Cliff is an excellent resource for job seekers. But I'll let Cliff tell his own story:
"I spent twenty years in the military prior to retiring in 1982. I started out my first year as an engine mechanic on aircraft. Then I went to flight school and spent the rest of my nineteen years flying various types of aircraft. In about 1978 I realized that I had to get out and make a living, so I started going to school, and in that five-year period I accumulated five degrees--three associates', a bachelor's, and a master's."
When talking about himself, Cliff is very humble, so I'll tell you that he has an associate in science in instructional technology, an associate in arts, an associate in science and flight engineer technology, as well as a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in management and human relations. Lest some of you think you are too old to go to school, Cliff became a student at the age of thirty-five. During my interview with Cliff I indicated that I found him to be an encouragement and a unique and future-oriented person. His motivations aren't nearly so lofty, he says. "I was just an old guy who got scared and knew he had to eat."
Whatever his motivations, Cliff has much wisdom and shares it freely in JOB seminars, and his warm, direct manner of delivery ensures that all participants gain something lasting.
He doesn't lecture or preach; he just starts talking; and, before you know it, there is a lively, interactive discussion. Cliff offers sensible job-search and career-search techniques and has a way of getting participants to think for themselves.
For the past few years Cliff has worked for Deluxe Check and it is Deluxe Check whom we must thank for bringing the Ruemmlers to Kansas. To be sure, we'll be hearing more from and about them in the future. Look out world--Cliff, Sally, and Keri-Ann are part of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas and are changing what it means to be blind in Kansas and throughout the country. It is, most definitely, a family affair!
This month's recipes are from Kansas.
ORANGE SHERBET SALAD
by Maxine Bohrer
Maxine Bohrer is the second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas. She was instrumental in preserving and nurturing the South Central Chapter for many years.
1 6-ounce package orange Jello
2 cups hot water
1 pint orange sherbet
4-1/2 ounces Cool Whip
1 11-ounce can Mandarin oranges
Method: Mix the Jello with hot water, and stir in the sherbet until dissolved. Fold in Cool Whip and oranges. Spread in a 9 by 13-inch rectangular pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Different fruits and flavors of Jello can be substituted.
PEANUT BUTTER PIE
by Peg Halverson
Peg Halverson is the treasurer of the Johnson County Chapter and a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Kansas.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
6 ounces (1 cup) chocolate chips
1 9-ounce carton Cool Whip
Method: To make crust, combine cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter, and press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Blend sugar and cheese. Add peanut butter and milk, beating until smooth and creamy. Fold chocolate chips and whipped topping into mixture and pour into crust. Refrigerate 5 hours or overnight.
GINGER LIME PUNCH
by Carol Clark
Carol Clark has been a member of the NFB since the mid- 1960's. She is currently the president of the Johnson County Chapter of the NFB of Kansas, as well as a state board member.
2 6-ounce cans frozen limeade concentrate
1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger
4 cups cold water
1 large bottle of ginger ale, chilled
Method: Pour concentrated limeade and lemonade into punch bowl; add ginger. Chill for at least two hours to blend flavors. Add cold water and ice. Pour ginger ale down sides of bowl. Fluted lemon slices, small lime slices, and mint sprigs may be floated in punch. Yields 20 servings.
LOVE BOAT CAKE
by Cliff Ruemmler
Cliff Ruemmler is the secretary of the Johnson County Chapter of the NFB of Kansas, as well as our very capable state treasurer. He is the cook in the family. Sally would like to forget that there is a room in the house called a kitchen. Cliff brought this cake to a chapter meeting, and it was a huge success.
1 box yellow cake mix
1 large container Cool Whip
2 pints strawberries
1 can crushed pineapple
1 jar Maraschino cherries
2 boxes vanilla pudding, prepared according to label directions
Method: Bake cake in 9- by 13-inch pan and cool. Layer vanilla pudding and pineapple. Then layer half of Cool Whip and strawberries. Top with remaining Cool Whip and cherries.
BLACK BOTTOM CUPCAKES
by Mary Thompson
Mary and John Thompson have been members of the National Federation of the Blind for many years. John worked for the NFB both in Iowa and at the National Center for the Blind. Mary makes these cup cakes at Christmas.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 beaten egg
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 6-ounce package miniature chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Mix the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt together until creamy. Fold in chocolate chips and set aside. Mix the remaining 1 cup sugar with the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, water, vinegar, and vanilla to make cake batter. Fill miniature cupcake liners 1/3 full with cocoa mixture. Then drop 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese mixture on each cup cake. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
by Cindy Hallenbeck
Cindy Hallenbeck is the president of the Douglas County Chapter of the NFB of Kansas, as well as our state Secretary.
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon onion, or more
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup ripe black olives, sliced
1 cup sour cream
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
3 or 4 green chili peppers, seeded and chopped
1 10-ounce package corn chips, crushed
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Method: Cook the onion and beef in skillet until brown. Drain the grease, add tomato sauce, and simmer for 20 minutes. In separate container mix together the olives, sour cream, cottage cheese, and peppers. Spread the corn chips in the bottom of a 2- quart casserole dish, reserving a few for the top. Add half the meat mixture. Cover with half the sour cream mixture and 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese. Repeat these layers once more. Top with the remaining chips and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Serves 6 people.
[PHOTO: Jacobsons sitting on the floor with their daughter. CAPTION: Nadine and Steve Jacobson with their new daughter Elizabeth.]
We are delighted to report that Nadine and Steve Jacobson, leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, have become the proud adoptive parents of Elizabeth Maria, who was born April 2, 1992, in India. She arrived in Minneapolis in April, and her mother says that she is as active and curious as her parents could wish. All three Jacobsons will be in Dallas to greet and meet Federation friends at the convention.
**Four More States Pass Braille Bills:
The first quarter of 1993 has seen four more states consider and pass new Braille literacy legislation. The four are Florida, Idaho, Indiana, and Iowa. This brings to eighteen the number of states working to protect the right of blind youngsters to learn the code and have Braille texts more accessible. Congratulations to everyone who worked to make these victories possible.
Renee Donalvo, Secretary of the NFB of the District of Columbia, writes to report that at its convention on March 26 and 27, 1993, the affiliate elected the following officers: Don Galloway, President; Joie Stuart, First Vice President; Linda Black, Second Vice President; Renee Donalvo, Secretary; and Dennie Jones, Treasurer. James Carter, Paul Kay, Gail Snider, and Artis McMoris were elected to serve on the Board of Directors.
**Conference on Blind and Visually Impaired Children:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Eighth International Conference on Blind and Visually Impaired Children will be held September 29 to October 2, 1993, in Edmonton, Alberta. It is an interdisciplinary conference for parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals, and health service providers who are concerned about the well-being of blind and visually impaired children. Contact the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the organizers, for registration information at (403) 292-0492.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Romeo Braille embosser, 40 characters per second, good condition. I paid $4,100 in 1991, asking $2,500, willing to haggle. If interested, contact (in print or Braille) Casey Cook, 2444 Road 20, Apt. C-102, San Pablo, California 97806; or call (510) 234-7953.
We have been asked to carry the following request:
I would like to hear from anyone who is a technician working in central service dispatch in hospitals. You may contact me at (515) 280-6314; or write to Howard Craig, 219 Fourth Street, Apt. 404, Des Moines, Iowa 50309.
We are grieved to report that Fred Maurer, President Maurer's father, died on Monday, May 24, 1993, after an illness of several months. President Maurer, his brothers, and sister were with their parents in Bellevue, Iowa, at the time of Mr. Maurer's death. Mrs. Maurer, Sr., and her children will be in our thoughts in the difficult weeks and months ahead.
**Easier Ways, Inc.:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Aids Unlimited, Inc. has a new name. In a special meeting on May 6, 1993, the shareholders approved the recommendation of the Board of Directors to change the name of the company from Aids Unlimited, Inc., to Easier Ways, Inc. Nothing has been changed except the name--the same people, same ownership by blind individuals, same quality products, same competitive prices, same fast delivery, same respect for customers, same address, which is 1101 N. Calvert Street, Suite 405, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. The company has the same phone number, (410) 659-0232, same fax, (410) 569-0233. Taking everything into consideration, we just feel that Easier Ways, Inc. is a better name.
Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, reports that on May 25, 1993, the fortieth chapter of the NFB of South Carolina came into existence. Thirty people gathered at an area restaurant for the organizing meeting. The newly elected officers of the Marion County Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina are Sherry Sawyer, President; Kelly Sawyer, Vice President; Lou Benjamin, Secretary; and Tommy Godbold, Treasurer. South Carolina may well be the first state affiliate to have forty local chapters as well as three statewide divisions. Congratulations to the South Carolinians and especially to the members of the Marion County Chapter.
**ROP Registry Announced:
Margaret Watson, a dynamic young mother of a blind child who has gathered some research data indicating that retinopathy of prematurity may be caused by exposure to light rather than to too much oxygen, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
The organization, Prevent Blindness in Premature Babies, is trying to locate people with the eye disease Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). This disease was formerly called Retrolental Fibroplasia, RLF. ROP, a disease that affects premature babies, prevents the eye from developing properly and can lead to permanent damage and blindness, even later in life. ROP is the leading cause of blindness among children in this country. In the nearly fifty years of this epidemic there has been no formal means of counting the babies with ROP. That is why our organization was formed: to compile a national registry and to provide information and support to adults and to parents of children with ROP. We want to demonstrate that the prevention of ROP is an issue of utmost importance that must be addressed immediately. Participation in this registry will help to protect the vision of future generations of premature babies.
People who were born prematurely or whose child was born prematurely and who have any degree of vision loss as a result should write to request a copy of our newsletter and survey. Write to Prevent Blindness in Premature Babies, P.O. Box 44792, Madison, Wisconsin 53744-4792.
Kay Boyd, President of the La Luz Chapter of the NFB of New Mexico, reports the following election results: Kay Boyd, President; Pauline Gomez, Vice President; Brenda Aikin, Secretary; and Fred Mansfield, Treasurer.
[PHOTO: NFB of New York members in office of Governor. CAPTION: Pictured at bill signing (left to right): Gisela Distel, NFB of New York president; Murray Diamond, vendor and member of NFB of New York Merchant's Division; Jack Ryan, Assistant Director, New York Commissioon for the Blind and Visually Handicapped; Governor Mario Cuomo, seated; Carl Jacobson, NFB of New York first vice president; and Fran Burko, advocate for the disabled of New York. Second row: Governor's legislative staff.]
**New York Passes Little Randolph-Sheppard Act:
Gisela Distel, President of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, reports the following:
It has become a law! After years of educating the New York State Legislature, both the Assembly and the Senate passed our Mini-Randolph-Sheppard Act in the 1992 session. In August Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed the bill, and on January 1 the law took effect.
The Mini-Randolph-Sheppard Act gives blind vendors priority in state-operated buildings in the same way that the Randolph- Sheppard Act gives them priority in federal locations. Employment opportunities will expand to include more than one hundred state facilities throughout New York. Working with the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped Business Enterprise Program (the state program which oversees vending operations), the National Federation of the Blind of New York is striving to find employment for all those on the trained vendor lists and many more unemployed blind people.
"It may take a while to find a location for everyone on the list," said Carl Jacobsen, State First Vice President and legislative chairman, "but we won't give up. We'll make sure that New York keeps its promise to us and abides by the law." Thanks to many years of hard work, the NFB of New York can claim an important victory.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Stanley Oliver.]
We are saddened to report the death of Stanley Oliver of Detroit, Michigan, on Sunday, May 30, 1993. Mr. Oliver joined the Federation in the very early days and served on the Board of Directors in the seventies. In recent years he formed an NFB interest group for piano tuners and was quite active in his local chapter. He is survived by a son and daughter, both of whom teach in the Virgin Islands; his wife died last year. He will be deeply missed by those who knew and worked with him.
**Pen Friends Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Peter Rosik of the Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union in Slovakia writes to request pen friends for two blind colleagues who are interested in improving their English. Sylvia Kyžov would like to correspond by cassette tape. Her interests are music, singing, dance, literature, and traveling. Her address is Sylvia Kyžov , Garlicka 10, 085 01 Bardejov, Slovakia. Peter Kavka prefers to correspond in Braille and print. His interests are nature, literature, music, art, and travel. His address is Peter Kavka, Tr. SNP 77, 040 11 Kožice, Slovakia.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Dell System 200, 80286 AT IBM-compatible computer with a black and white monitor; Citizen 24-pin, wide- carriage printer; and Cardinal 2400 baud modem. It contains 640K RAM, 20MB hard drive (compressed to 40MB), 5 1/4-inch and 3 1/2- inch floppy drives, 101 enhanced keyboard and an XT keyboard, no speech card.
The software included is WordPerfect 5.1, Lotus 1-2-3 (version 2.0), MS Works (1.0), MS DOS (4.0, not in use), Dr. DOS (6.0), Grammatic (4.0), Procomm (2.4), and Computer Conversations VOS (5.5).
Asking price is $500, or best offer. If interested, contact Bryan Sattler, 305 New Scotland Avenue, Apt. 2B, Albany, New York 12208; or call (518) 459-2177.
[PHOTO: NFB of New Hampshire members celebrate Ed Vachon's birthday with cards and cake. CAPTION: Pictured here at Ed Vachon's 80th birthday celebration are members of the NFB of New Hampshire (left to right): Lucille Lynch, assistant treasurer (Ed's daughter); Ed Meskys, president; Mr. and Mrs. Vachon; John Parker, vice president; Terry Dufault, treasurer; and Louis Gossling.]
**New Hampshire Affiliate Honors Federationist:
At its Board meeting on April 24, 1993, members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire celebrated Edward Vachon's eightieth birthday and his many years of leadership in the affiliate. Vachon is almost a charter member of the NFB of New Hampshire, having joined in July, 1956, just a few months after it was founded. Vachon is presently semi-retired as a piano tuner and technician.
For many years Vachon was the chairman of the organization's Legislative Committee and had a close working relationship with several members of both state houses in Concord.
**Seeking Adoption Information:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am interested in hearing from persons who have pursued or are in the process of pursuing either a private or an agency adoption. I would like to locate names of agencies that are willing to work with persons without discriminating against them due to blindness. I am also interested in obtaining names of attorneys throughout the country who may be able to assist with locating children for private placement. I would appreciate Braille or cassette tapes from anyone wishing to share information regarding this endeavor. Contact Suzie Yost, 825 Weiblen Place, New Orleans, Louisiana 70124.
**Braille Transcription Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
At South Dakota Industries (SDIB) Braille Printing Services, we provide Braille services for 30 cents per Braille page. Our staff (who are blind or visually impaired) take pride in prompt, dependable, and courteous service. We encourage you to try us and recommend our service to others.
For more information, please contact Frank Green, SDIB Braille Printing Services, 800 West Avenue, North, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57104; phone (605) 339-6581; toll free 1-800-658- 5441; or fax (605) 330-6082.
**New Sailing Courses Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
East Shore Sailing of Ithaca, New York, has expanded its sailing programs to include instruction for persons with visual impairments, either partial or full. East Shore Sailing has taught sailing and windsurfing courses for ten years, including accredited physical education courses for Cornell University and Ithaca College.
Through the assistance of the Royal Yachting Association in England, an audio compass has been obtained for teaching blind sailors. In addition, scale models of sailboats are used to help blind sailors determine the layout of the boats used in the teaching course.
Classes are available both weekdays and weekends through September. For further information on sailing programs for the visually impaired, contact East Shore Sailing at 1000 East Shore Drive, Ithaca, New York 14850; or call (607) 273-2560, or FAX (607) 273-7873.
We regret to report the death on May 22, 1993, of Ormand Scott, the husband of Minetta Scott of Middleton, Massachusetts. Mr. Scott was eighty-six at the time of his death.
The Scotts were long-time, faithful members of the Massachusetts affiliate and worked tirelessly to organize and nurture local chapters around the state. Ormand's loyal support and hard work for the organization he loved are a loss to us all, and he will be deeply missed.
**New Talking Thermometer Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The newest home health aid designed for blind and visually- impaired people is now available from Blazie Engineering. Temp Talk, the palm-sized talking thermometer, accurately measures body temperature from 89.6 to 107.6 Fahrenheit.
Temp Talk gives special-needs users, including older adults, convenient access to potentially life-saving information. Precise clinical temperature readings are both spoken clearly and shown on an LCD display. Temp Talk is easy to use orally, rectally, and under the arm.
Attractive and durable, Temp Talk runs on two replaceable batteries that last for several years. Large-print and tape- recorded instructions for use, plus a protective carrying case, also are included. Choose Temp Talk in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.
Blazie Engineering features the Temp Talk thermometer in its complete line of products for blind and visually impaired people. The Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind also carries the English version of this thermometer. For more information or to receive a free catalog, contact Blazie Engineering, 105 E. Jarrettsville Road, Forest Hill, Maryland 21050; or call (410) 893-9333. Dealer inquiries welcome.