Vol. 36, No. 8 August
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
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The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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National Federation of the Blind
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 36, No. 8 August 1993
TO SEA WITH
A BLIND SAILOR: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
by Barbara Pierce
OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: EUPHEMISMS EXCORIATED
by Kenneth Jernigan
LANGUAGE: AN UNHOLY CRUSADE
by C. Edwin Vaughan
FOR THE BLIND DOWNSIZES AND RETHINKS MISSION
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Fredric K. Schroeder
FROM THE EDITOR'S MAILBASKET
by Wayne Davis
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE IN ALABAMA THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
READING MACHINES: A COMPARATIVE REVIEW
by David Andrews
PREJUDICE AND DISABILITY: STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT BLINDNESS
BREAKS INTO RADIO
by Connie Norheim
Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1993
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Hank Dekker learned to sail years after becoming blind. In 1983 he sailed through Hurricane Henrietta on his way from San Francisco to Hawaii. In 1986 he joined hundreds of other dedicated single-hand sailors in a trans-Pacific race from San Francisco to Hawaii and came in third. Now he is tackling the Atlantic. Only a handful of people can boast that they have sailed single-handed across both oceans. Dekker is pictured here on the deck of the NFB 52, the sailing sloop on which he and the National Federation of the Blind are attempting to sail from Cape May, New Jersey, to Plymouth, England.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, (left) and Hank Dekker, Captain of the NFB 52, (right) stand on deck at pier-side in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Captain Hank depends on tactile maps and charts to do his navigation. Raised latitude and longitude lines and markers indicating the position of large cities enable him to make accurate calculations. This map was made by members of the staff of the National Federation of the Blind.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hundreds of people came to Baltimore's Inner Harbor to attend christening ceremonies for the sailing sloop NFB 52 and to wish good luck to Hank Dekker. Under the large Federation sign is President Marc Maurer at a microphone. The Baltimore Orioles' mascot looks on as hundreds of Federationists and other well-wishers cheered the blind sailor on his way.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer and Captain Dekker chat with well-wishers from the deck of the NFB 52.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Captain Hank Dekker waves farewell from the stern of the NFB52 as she is towed toward Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.]
SEA WITH A BLIND SAILOR:
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
by Barbara Pierce
On July 26, 1993, a United States Senator from Iowa, a member of the House of Representatives from Maryland, and the President of the Baltimore City Council joined hundreds of blind people and other well-wishers to cheer a blind sailor named Hank Dekker on his way. As most Americans now know, Dekker was setting out to sail alone to Plymouth, England, and he was doing so as the representative of all blind Americans who dare to dream and to strive, for the men and women of the National Federation of the Blind had made Dekker's adventure possible. This is the story.
July is always an exciting month for members of the National Federation of the Blind because the first week is filled with convention activities. But this year the remainder of the month was almost as busy at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.
Hank Dekker, a self-taught sailor from California, was prepared to sail single-handed from Cape May, New Jersey, to Plymouth. The craft was the thirty-foot sailing sloop, NFB52. The only engine on board would be a small one used to power the generator that charged the batteries for the navigational equipment, the radio, and the running lights used at night to warn other shipping of the presence of the tiny sloop. Although one other blind man has tried to sail the Atlantic alone, no one has yet succeeded.
The challenges are formidable: hurricanes; North Atlantic gales; busy shipping lanes filled with large, fast-moving traffic; and the grueling demands of a 3,200-mile voyage in which the captain is the only person to keep watch, calculate course- changes, and make critical decisions. There would be no time for proper meals and no refrigeration. Dekker would have to be prepared to survive on such fare as dried fruit and nuts, sardines, crackers, and water. He figured that such a trip would take anywhere from eighteen days to a month, but probably a little more than three weeks.
Dekker was convinced that he could make the crossing successfully, and he had the experience to back his confidence. He had sailed twice from San Francisco to Hawaii, once through the edge of a hurricane that capsized his boat, leading to reports of his death, and once finishing third of several hundred in the prestigious Single-Handed Trans-Pacific Race.
The Federation too was ready for the challenge. Believing that blind people have the right to tackle difficult problems and that, given the chance, we can compete equally with sighted people, the NFB was sympathetic to Dekker's argument that crossing the Atlantic was an appropriate adventure for an experienced blind sailor--in short, for him. Having found the Federation, Dekker realized that here was an organization that shared his view of the capabilities of blind people. We decided that together we could make a powerful statement about the capacity of blind people to meet difficult and challenging circumstances.
Therefore, we made plans to try. Together we purchased the boat and fitted it out. We named her the NFB52 for the fifty-two affiliates of the Federation. It was an expression of our conviction that the hopes and dreams of blind people in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico would be aboard the sloop, upholding Captain Dekker in his attempt to become one of the small handful of sailors who have successfully crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific and the only blind man to do so.
On July 26, the third anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Dekker was to depart from the Inner Harbor of Baltimore . The sloop would then be towed through the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Canal to Cape May, New Jersey, where the actual crossing would begin on Thursday, July 29.
Media interest in this adventure was high. The July 26 issue of Sports Illustrated carried an attractively-laid-out two-page story about our venture. The Baltimore Sun did several excellent stories and an editorial, and the day following the send-off ceremonies the Washington Post carried a fine story, complete with a picture on the front page of the Metro Section. The Associated Press story was picked up widely across the country and made the front pages of such papers as the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A camera crew from the NBC program, "Today," spent almost a week in Baltimore filming the story, and it was broadcast together with a live interview with Hank Dekker shortly before he cast off on that Monday morning. Altogether, the launch was covered by at least a hundred and four TV stations, and we have not yet been able to count the number of radio and print stories that were done.
The story that appeared in the Baltimore Sun on Sunday, July 25 was representative of the tone and detail of the press coverage. Here it is:
WITH A VISION
Atlantic Crossing Ends Dekker's Journey Back
by Peter Baker
Hank Dekker is sitting in a lunchroom on Johnson Street behind Federal Hill, discussing a trans-Atlantic voyage he will start tomorrow from Baltimore to Plymouth, England. And he is laughing.
An English manufacturer has shipped a full line of foul-weather gear for use on his voyage, including a $3,000 survival suit.
"They sent a video with the survival suit to explain how to use it," Dekker says and laughs again at the situation.
Dekker is blind--a blind man with a vision.
"The Atlantic trip is a mission and an adventure both," said Dekker, 58, who is receiving support for his voyage from the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind. "I have done the Pacific twice and was the first blind guy to do it. For me, this is just the next level up. There have only been a handful of people who have done both the Atlantic and Pacific, and you always want to improve yourself, be the best in your sport."
Dekker, who lives near San Francisco, has his credentials in order as a sailor.
In 1983, three years after taking up sailing, he survived the fringes of Hurricane Henrietta in a 24-foot boat while becoming the first blind person to sail from San Francisco to Hawaii.
After his encounter with Hawaii wiped out his Loran-C, taffrail log radio direction finder, Dekker navigated the last 400 miles using a Braille compass, conventional charts with raised landmarks and longitude and latitude lines, and an AM radio.
In 1986 Dekker finished third in a trans-Pacific race in a 28-foot boat, even though he did not take up sailing until after he lost his sight.
Sixteen years ago Dekker was chasing other goals. He was a manager of an automobile dealership in Hawaii and a former race car driver. He had a wife and two children, a mortgage, car payments--all the pleasures and encumbrances of a successful member of society. And then the bottom fell out. Glaucoma took his sight and despair took him.
"I started running from myself because I thought, what can blind people do to earn a living?" Dekker said. "I had never talked to a blind person in my life. The only conception of blind people I had was that they sold pencils in front of a department store while playing an accordion.
"I had no idea how I was going to earn a living, pay for the kids' education, make the car payment, pay the mortgage. I fell apart. It was the first time in my life that I had to face adversity.
"I went all the way down the tubes--from general manager of a car dealership right down to washing cars on a used car lot in San Rafael, [Calif.] ... I tried to kill myself."
When Dekker started receiving government disability checks, he said, they were spent "on the cheapest booze I could get. "I used to sleep in hallways, beg for spare change in front of the Greyhound bus station, and pick out the best Dumpsters to eat from," Dekker said.
"I didn't think I could do anything," he said. "If I had known about the National Federation of the Blind when I was losing my sight, they would have been an organization for me to contact. I would never have lost my job, my wife, my family, the mortgage, or anything else."
Dekker has, in part, rebuilt his life through sailing. He found it challenging to his mind and his body, an undertaking in which he could use all his remaining faculties to best advantage.
"When I am at sea, on blue water, I feel the weather changes, the wind, the seas," Dekker said. "If I am asleep in my bunk and the wind changes five degrees, I am awake.
"I am very much attuned to all that is around me. Perhaps I am more attuned at sea than a sighted person is on shore."
Something to Prove
Dekker's voyage, aboard an ultralight Olson 30 named NFB (after the National Federation of the Blind), is a well planned demonstration of the capabilities of blind people.
"I am really trying to turn the sighted world around, to make them realize what is possible," Dekker said.
"I think most blind people are aware of what they can do--especially the people who have gone to school and got their doctorates and master's degrees and can't get a job. They know they are capable. But the public isn't aware.
"What I am doing is really kind of simple stuff compared to a guy who has his doctorate. That guy worked a hell of a lot harder than I worked. But I am getting the publicity because it is sort of a spectacular thing."
To Dekker, the trip is spectacular only to those who have not been there--with sight or not.
His ultralight racer is rigged, as are many short-handed boats, with lines running to the cockpit to minimize deck work. The rig has been beefed up, and a roller furling system has been installed.
His concessions to his blindness are a set of charts that have landmarks, latitude and longitude lines, and major cities marked with beaded paint, a $26 Braille compass, and a voice synthesizer that will give readouts from a Furuno Global Satellite Positioning system.
Dekker is setting out in hurricane season, with the expectation of a passage ranging between eighteen and thirty-four days. He will be taken under tow from Baltimore to Cape May, N.J., and be met by the Fastnet Race Committee when he nears the English Channel.
But in between, over some 3,200 miles, he will be on his own, sailing free in southwest and westerly winds.
"This is probably the best time to go, between May and September," Dekker said. I know we've got the hurricanes, but what are you going to do? I get out of the hurricane season and leave after September,then I have the fierce North Atlantic gales to deal with. It is sort of a flip-a-coin type of thing."
Another concern is commercial shipping traffic, which is far heavier in the Atlantic than in the areas of the Pacific he has sailed.
"This is something all single-handed sailors have a problem with, because no one can keep a watch at all times," Dekker said. "And if you really think about it, you can have the best vision in the world and continually scan the horizon with binoculars.
"... But when you're sitting two or three feet off the water, your horizon is only three or four miles anyway. "So you scan the horizon, see nothing and decide to go below and fix some soup or take a nap or do your navigation or whatever. The minute you go below, a mast comes over the horizon. It is a container ship doing twenty-two knots, and he is over you in fourteen minutes.
"If he runs over you, it's because he wasn't keeping a watch either. I am not being trite about it, because it is a concern. But it is no more of a concern for me than for anybody else."
Dekker does have a radar detector on board that sets off an alarm whenever a radar signal from another boat bounces off his. Should the alarm go off, Dekker said, he then would get on his VHF radio and make contact, explain that he is sailing blind and coordinate whatever maneuvers are necessary.
The NFB also carries the Argos System, which will allow the U.S. Coast Guard to monitor his position and for Dekker to send out a satellite position fix in an emergency.
Overall, however, Dekker has avoided electronic gadgetry. "You can't rely on electronics. You have to know how to sail. I am sailing my boat just as any other good sailor would. We are not buying our way across.
"This is an $18,000 boat, and it is a sailor's boat that is not for intermediate sailors."
Dekker's mission is to take on the world on its terms, not to make the world change to meet his limitations. He is totally blind in his right eye, has pinhole recognition of light and darkness out of the corner of his left eye, is deaf in his left ear, and uses a hearing aid in his right.
"When I had sight, everything came very easily. I was successful at everything I did," said Dekker, who now makes his living as a motivational speaker for corporations including Xerox and IBM. "But I know I was never as good as I could have been. I was only using about twenty-five percent of my faculties before.
"Now I have ten or fifteen percent of my faculties left, and I am better than most people in the world at accomplishing things.
"I have learned to get the maximum out of what I have left. "The public says you are blind and can't do it. The public generally just wants you to sit back and collect welfare because they don't believe you are capable of doing things."
Dekker and his two children, Kim, twenty-six, and Mike, who now is twenty-nine and some years ago attended Mount St. Mary's on a scholarship, are fully supportive of his voyage.
"They like to see their old man moving around and doing things," Dekker said. "They know about the times when I was so far down, and they are glad that I have come back so far."
Dekker recalls his first trip from San Francisco to Hawaii and the encounter with Hurricane Henrietta. He says that for three days at sea he heard reports of his death on the radio. When he got close enough to Hawaii to contact the Coast Guard, the search plane that was sent out got an electronic fix on him that differed from his position by more than fourteen miles. Dekker has more confidence in his navigational and sailing skills than electronics and says that his blindness is only a public barrier that he is helping to break down.
"A lot of people think blind people shouldn't even go for it," Dekker said. "A lot of people say that if you don't make it, it will be really bad for the blind community. Well, that is what everyone wants you to do--just stay home.
"We have to go out there and take our chances, too."
That is what the Baltimore Sun wrote the day before the launch.
July 26 was warm but overcast. Hundreds of people gathered at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where the sloop was tied up. Senator Tom Harkin, Senate sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, spoke to the crowd, as did Helen Delich Bentley, Member of Congress; Mary Pat Clarke, President of Baltimore City Council; and Monsignor Jeremiah F. Kenney. Even the beloved mascot of the Baltimore Orioles Baseball Team was on hand for the occasion. TV cameras, news photographers, and reporters were everywhere, and the party atmosphere prevailed even though no one could forget the difficulty and danger Captain Dekker would soon be facing.
Wednesday President Maurer drove to Cape May in order to be present at the moment when Dekker cast off the tow line in blue water and set sail for England. The two men shook hands across the rail of the NFB52 at 11:00 Thursday morning, and Captain Dekker set sail in the name of blind people everywhere, accompanied by the thoughts and prayers of thousands for his safety.
The winds were light for the first two days, but Friday evening the breeze rose, and Dekker began making good time. At about 11 p.m. he decided that he had better recharge his batteries, so he tried to start the diesel engine that powered the generator, but it wouldn't turn over. So he got out the crank and started it by hand. Until the day before sailing from Cape May, when a single side band radio was installed at the last minute, the electrical system on board had worked perfectly. But suddenly, as the engine roared to life, the entire electrical system apparently shorted out, leaving the craft with no electricity, which meant no electronic navigational aids; no radio; and, most critical of all, no lights. As an experienced sailor, Dekker had already demonstrated his capacity to sail without the first two, but he immediately realized that he could not sail in busy shipping lanes unless his running lights were operating, so regretfully he decided to turn back to Cape May.
His original plan was to sail to within a few miles of the Cape and then call for an escort into harbor. But at about 8 a.m. Saturday the wind dropped, and he was becalmed. With no radio and no wind, he decided to lower the sails and raise a distress signal (actually his red jacket) in the hope that another craft would see it and come to investigate. But no other shipping was in the area all day, and by 3:30 p.m. he began to worry about spending a second night without running lights, so he activated the distress signal on the ARGOS Tracking System aboard and waited for the satellite to pick up the signal and relay it to the monitoring station, from which it was passed by modem to the National Center for the Blind.
In the meantime President Maurer, who was working in his office that Saturday, was concerned because he had noted Dekker's Friday night course change. He had no idea what was happening, but he knew that something had gone wrong. Two days before, he had watched Dekker repair his faulty steering mechanism shortly after the two men had parted company six miles off the New Jersey coast. He knew that Dekker could handle most on-board emergencies, so he concluded that something serious was clearly amiss.
Then at 4:41 p.m. the distress alarm sounded at the Center. The satellite reported that the temperature on the NFB52 was 175 degrees and that the sloop was moving erratically. President Maurer had no way of knowing that when a sailor activates the Argos System's emergency signal, all information relayed to the satellite, except the location and speed of the craft, is unreliable. He called the Coast Guard immediately and asked that someone investigate. A helicopter was sent and then a Coast Guard cutter. After that there was nothing to do but to wait and worry.
Not knowing what was happening, President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan decided that some notification of the situation must be given to the media since there was a good chance that the Coast Guard might make a statement at any time. Here is the press release the NFB circulated widely Saturday evening while we waited to learn what had happened and whether Hank Dekker was still alive:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Marc Maurer
TRAGEDY FEARED IN BLIND SAILOR'S VOYAGE
Baltimore, Maryland, July 31, 1993: Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, has just announced that at 4:41 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday afternoon, July 31, a distress signal was received from Hank Dekker, the blind sailor who is attempting to cross the Atlantic from the United States to England.
"I was sitting in my office thinking about Hank and knowing how much depended on this voyage," Maurer said, "when the alarm from the satellite tracking system sounded." "Earlier Saturday," Maurer continued, "the tracking system computer at the National Federation of the Blind Headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, had indicated that Hank's boat, the NFB 52, had reversed course and sailed 23 miles back toward the East Coast of the United States. It apparently reversed again and started toward England."
"The 4:41 p.m. alarm showed high temperatures on the boat," Maurer said, "possibly indicating fire. I immediately contacted the Coast Guard and asked them to send a helicopter to investigate. They tell me the helicopter is on the way."
"This is all the firm information I have," Maurer said, "but if a tragedy has occurred, we must remember that Hank Dekker is an experienced sailor. Twice in the 1980's he sailed alone in a similar boat from the West Coast to Hawaii. Now, as then, he knew the risks and felt they were worth taking because of what would be accomplished.
"Last Thursday I went with him on an accompanying boat six miles into the Atlantic," Maurer said, "and I know how he was feeling. He was doing this not only for himself but also for all of the other blind people in the world. One of the last things he said to me was what he said earlier in a press conference: There are birds kept safe in cages, well fed and protected--but the birds that sing are the ones in the trees, the ones that are free and take risks.
"The National Federation of the Blind," Maurer said, "has sponsored and promoted this event to call attention to the innate normality of the blind, and regardless of what happens, that has been accomplished. Hundreds of people have tried to sail from America to England, but only a handful have made it. Not one of those others that tried and failed," Maurer said, "was a blind person--but if Hank does not make it, there are bound to be at least a few who will say it was because he was blind. They will forget his two earlier successful trips to Hawaii. Hopefully, most will view what is happening in a different light.
"He is a courageous man," Maurer said, "battling odds and battling to win."
"Our prayers are with him," Maurer said, "and with his family. We hope he is all right, but we will simply have to wait and see. I will have further statements as I get more facts."
That was the press release, and it set off an avalanche of press enquiry. By early evening the Coast Guard had reached Dekker and reported the electrical system was gone but Dekker and the boat were fine. Two men went on board to assess the situation and stayed. Together they decided that Dekker should return to Cape May under sail since everyone was afraid that under tow the craft would be pulled under the surface because of the cutter's much greater speed. Dekker used the time to teach the Coast Guard men how to sail. Dekker reports that it was clear that other men on board the cutter wanted to have a turn on the sloop learning to sail, but the two originally assigned the duty refused to leave.
Shortly before midnight one of the men went below to get something and stepped into six inches of sea water. That is how they discovered the three-inch crack at the very lowest point of the hull. It is not yet clear how the hull was punctured, but the Coast Guard reported that copper grounding for some of the electrical components had been anchored to a block fixed to the hull at the site of the crack. However the mishap occurred, the result was that salt water was pouring in under great pressure, destroying food, clothing, and other personal effects and immersing the diesel engine. The actual amount of damage done to the equipment is yet to be determined at this writing, but it is safe to say that repairs will be extensive.
Knowing that Dekker was safe and that he would be arriving Sunday at the Atlantic City Coast Guard Station, President Maurer issued a second press release Sunday morning. Here is the text:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marc Maurer
SAILOR RETURNING TO EAST COAST
AND PLANNING FOR NEXT ATTEMPT
BALTIMORE, MD--August 1, 1993--"The National Federation of the Blind Transatlantic Crossing, the attempt by the blind sailor, Hank Dekker, to go on a 30 foot boat from the East Coast of America to England, had trouble Saturday afternoon, July 31," Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind announced Sunday morning. "But Captain Dekker is all right," Maurer confirmed. "His electrical system failed and a crack developed in the boat. But he handled it in the same way any competent sailor would. Blindness was not a factor. He is now being escorted back to the East Coast by the Coast Guard," Maurer said.
"It isn't just Hank Dekker who is making this sail," Maurer said. "It's all of us in the National Federation of the Blind, and we are already planning for the next attempt. We'll try again this year if we don't hit the hurricane season. Otherwise, we will go next summer."
Maurer said, "There were two other accidents reported Saturday, one of them a death in a hang glide effort and the other an incident in an amusement park in West Virginia, where eighteen people were shaken up but not seriously injured. The West Virginia incident," Maurer said, "got more notice than Hank Dekker's heroic feat. This fact underscores the reason for the NFB Sail. The National Federation of the Blind Transatlantic Crossing is," Maurer said, "in many ways comparable to Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. It shows what one human being can do with initiative and a dream. If Lindbergh had failed on the first attempt, he would have tried again. So will the National Federation of the Blind and Hank Dekker," said Maurer.
For further information or to support this effort by the blind of the nation, call (800) NFB SAIL. There are continuing updates.
That was the NFB press release, and the Coast Guard also issued a release Sunday morning. The Cable News Network covered the story twice an hour beginning late Saturday evening and continuing all day Sunday. By Sunday evening, when President Maurer reached Atlantic City to welcome Captain Dekker, representatives of the press were everywhere, and press calls were coming into the National Center at a steady rate. Aside from the clear indication of public interest in and concern for Hank Dekker's well being, the most encouraging part of the event was reporters' clear understanding that Dekker had handled the emergency with competence and good sense. Blindness had nothing to do with the problem, and the Coast Guard and the media recognized that fact and reported it. At press conferences Sunday evening in Atlantic City and again Monday morning at the National Center for the Blind, questions focused on the cause of the problem and the possibility of trying the crossing again this season.
That possibility is still the critical question. At this writing it is not clear how long the repairs and refitting will take. Hurricane season has begun and will intensify, and the early autumn gales in the North Atlantic are becoming an increasing concern. Dekker says that, if the repairs can be done in two weeks or less, he will start again. The program "Good Morning America" has just agreed to full coverage of the second launching, and press interest continues high.
We cannot know at this point whether the attempt will be made this season or postponed until next summer, but it is clear that neither Hank Dekker nor the National Federation of the Blind is discouraged by the accident. In fact, viewed in one way, the electrical problem is an example of Captain Dekker's sailor's luck. If the crack in the hull had not opened wide enough to be discovered relatively near land, the sloop would certainly have gone down before repairs could have been made. We will hope and pray for the continuation of Hank Dekker's good luck and for calm seas in the Atlantic during the coming weeks.
Whatever happens from now on, the press attention to the dreams and ability of this courageous sailor and the blind men and women who stand behind him has provided recognition for the work of the National Federation of the Blind that nothing else has ever accomplished. Calls from people who need the Federation's help have been pouring into the NFB switchboard at all hours, and financial support is beginning to arrive as well. Those who wish to know where Captain Hank is in the coming weeks or who would like to support our effort to demonstrate the abilities of blind people can call 1-800-NFB-SAIL, 1-800-632- 7245. The adventure is just beginning.
[PHOTO: Kenneth Jernigan standing at podium microphone. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan.]
PITFALLS OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS:
by Kenneth Jernigan
As civilizations decline, they become increasingly concerned with form over substance, particularly with respect to language. At the time of the First World War we called it shell shock--a simple term, two one-syllable words, clear and descriptive. A generation later, after the Second World War had come and gone, we called it combat fatigue. It meant the same thing, and there were still just two words--but the two syllables had grown to four. Today the two words have doubled, and the original pair of syllables have mushroomed to eight. It even has an acronym, PTSD--post traumatic stress disorder. It still means the same thing, and it still hurts as much or as little, but it is more in tune with current effete sensibilities.
It is also a perfect example of the pretentious euphemisms that characterize almost everything we do and say. Euphemisms and the politically correct language which they exemplify are sometimes only prissy, sometimes ridiculous, and sometimes tiresome. Often, however, they are more than that. At their worst they obscure clear thinking and damage the very people and causes they claim to benefit.
The blind have had trouble with euphemismms for as long as anybody can remember, and late twentieth-century America is no exception. The form has changed (in fact, everything is very "politically correct"), but the old notions of inferiority and second-class status still remain. The euphemisms and the political correctness don't help. If anything, they make matters worse since they claim modern thought and new enlightenment. Here is a recent example from the federal government:
United States Department
May 4, 1993
TO: Office for Civil Rights
FROM: Jeanette J. Lim, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
SUBJECT: Language Reference to Persons with a Disability
As you know, the October 29, 1992, Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 replaced the term "handicap" with the term "disability." This term should be used in all communications.
OCR recognizes the preference of individuals with disabilities to use phraseology that stresses the individuality of all children, youth, and adults, and then the incidence of a disability. In all our written and oral communications, care should be given to avoid expressions that many persons find offensive. Examples of phraseology to avoid and alternative suggestions are noted below.
* "Persons with a disability" or "individuals with disabilities" instead of "disabled person."
* "Persons who are deaf" or "young people with hearing impairments" instead of "deaf people."
* "People who are blind" or "persons with a visual impairment" instead of "blind people."
* "A student with dyslexia" instead of "a dyslexic student."
In addition, please avoid using phrases such as "the deaf," "the mentally retarded," or "the blind." The only exception to this policy involves instances where the outdated phraseology is contained in a quote or a title, or in legislation or regulations; it is then necessary to use the citation verbatim.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions about any of these favored and disfavored expressions, feel free to contact Jean Peelen, Director, Elementary and Secondary Education Policy Division, at (202) 205-8637.
That is what the memorandum says, and if it were an isolated instance, we could shrug it off and forget it. But it isn't. It is more and more the standard thinking, and anybody who objects is subject to sanction.
Well, we of the National Federation of the Blind do object, and we are doing something about it. At our recent national convention in Dallas we passed a resolution on the subject, and we plan to distribute it throughout the country and press for action on it . Here it is:
WHEREAS, the word blind accurately and clearly describes the condition of being unable to see, as well as the condition of having such limited eyesight that alternative techniques are required to do efficiently the ordinary tasks of daily living that are performed visually by those having good eyesight; and
WHEREAS, there is increasing pressure in certain circles to use a variety of euphemisms in referring to blindness or blind persons--euphemisms such as hard of seeing, visually challenged, sightless, visually impaired, people with blindness, people who are blind, and the like; and
WHEREAS, a differentiation must be made among these euphemisms: some (such as hard of seeing, visually challenged, and people with blindness) being totally unacceptable and deserving only ridicule because of their strained and ludicrous attempt to avoid such straightforward, respectable words as blindness, blind, the blind, blind person, or blind persons; others (such as visually impaired, and visually limited) being undesirable when used to avoid the word blind, and acceptable only to the extent that they are reasonably employed to distinguish between those having a certain amount of eyesight and those having none; still others (such as sightless) being awkward and serving no useful purpose; and still others (such as people who are blind or persons who are blind) being harmless and not objectionable when used in occasional and ordinary speech but being totally unacceptable and pernicious when used as a form of political correctness to imply that the word person must invariably precede the word blind to emphasize the fact that a blind person is first and foremost a person; and
WHEREAS, this euphemism concerning people or persons who are blind--when used in its recent trendy, politically correct form-- does the exact opposite of what it purports to do since it is overly defensive, implies shame instead of true equality, and portrays the blind as touchy and belligerent; and
WHEREAS, just as an intelligent person is willing to be so designated and does not insist upon being called a person who is intelligent and a group of bankers are happy to be called bankers and have no concern that they be referred to as persons who are in the banking business, so it is with the blind--the only difference being that some people (blind and sighted alike) continue to cling to the outmoded notion that blindness (along with everything associated with it) connotes inferiority and lack of status; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled in the city of Dallas, Texas, this 9th day of July, 1993, that the following statement of policy be adopted:
We believe that it is respectable to be blind, and although we have no particular pride in the fact of our blindness, neither do we have any shame in it. To the extent that euphemisms are used to convey any other concept or image, we deplore such use. We can make our own way in the world on equal terms with others, and we intend to do it.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: C. Edwin Vaughan.]
PEOPLE-FIRST LANGUAGE: AN UNHOLY CRUSADE
by C. Edwin Vaughan
From the Editor: Dr. Vaughan is a frequent contributor to these pages and a scholar in the field of disability. His most recent book, The Struggle of Blind People for Self-Determination, published by Charles C. Thomas, is available for $40 in bookstores or from the National Center for the Blind. Many of us who write and speak frequently about blindness and the problems that blind people face have struggled in recent years against the increasing pressure to use what has come to be called "people- first" or "preferred" language. It is unwieldy and repetitive, and any ear tuned to appreciate vigorous, precise prose must be offended by its impact on a good sentence. But proponents of this formulaic circumlocution have decided that mention of the person must always precede reference to his or her disability or the effect will be to show disrespect for the individual under discussion. The result has been to shame many good speakers and writers into forms of expression to which they would never otherwise have stooped.
Dr. Vaughan has had enough, and so have many of the rest of us. We are ashamed neither of who we are nor of the characteristics that help to shape us. Here is what he has to say:
From the editorial concerns of academic journals to the opinions of individual educators and agency directors, I encounter a continuing agenda for bringing uniformity in the language used to describe disabled people. Proponents would have everyone use people-first language, such as "people who are blind" rather than "blind people" or "a person who is deaf" rather than "a deaf person." By so doing they claim to focus on the whole person rather than the disability. In April, 1993, an agency executive, expressing his concern for uniform usage, wrote to Dr. Jernigan, "The point is that the language is now putting people first rather than our disability." He went on to say that there had been agreement about this in the Independent Living movement for several years.
In that same month, in a meeting of the editorial board of a major journal in the field of rehabilitation, a prominent educator argued that the blindness field should "get on with it." I have also received specific instruction from journal editors to use the preferred language--"people who are blind." I regret to say that I have sometimes acquiesced in order to get an article past the gatekeepers. The issue has become so important to some that it has even led to empirical research published in major journals.
One of the most recent is an article by Jan La Forge (1991) which tabulated the use of preferred language in all major articles in three major rehabilitation journals in 1988 (p. 50). She concluded that, despite fifteen years of professional effort, preferred language is used only about fifty percent of the time (p. 50). "Perhaps those of us in the rehabilitation profession may need to confront our own possible limiting attitudes before we are enabled to lead the public in consistently employing language signifying positive regard for all human-kind--including those with disabilities" (p. 51). Using the preferred language-- persons first--puts the so-called correct user on the side of humanity and human rights--surely a good place to be. However, near the end of her research, she includes what I judge to be a crucial observation: "We do not even have data to support the claim, and belief, that those who are disabled themselves prefer what is now called nondisabling language" (p. 51). Most of the arguments I have encountered are put forward by the proponents of preferred language, who are so immersed in their crusade that they do not even demonstrate an awareness of other points of view. But these other views, the subject of this paper, make the people-first crusade appear not very holy and perhaps even harmful.
Sometimes preferred language is rejected for literary reasons; it is awkward, tiresome, and repetitive, and it makes articles needlessly long. Reading repetitions of the phrases "persons who are blind" or "people who are visually impaired" becomes tiresome to anyone after ten to fifteen occurrences. This criticism is certainly on the mark; however, it is the least significant of the arguments against the preferred language crusade.
I wonder if the proponents of people-first language believe that putting disabled people first on the printed page accomplishes anything in the real world? Does it alter attitudes, professional or otherwise, about disabilities? What is their evidence? The awkwardness of the preferred language calls attention to a person as having some type of "marred identity" (Goffman, 1963). But the misconceptions that diminish the lives of disabled people must still be countered directly.
There are at least two ways to look at this issue. First, the awkwardness of the preferred language focuses on the disability in a new and potentially negative way. In common usage positive pronouns usually precede nouns. We do not say, "people who are beautiful," "people who are handsome," "people who are intelligent," etc. Under the guise of the preferred language crusade, we have focused on disability in an ungainly new way but have done nothing to educate anyone or change anyone's attitudes.
Second, we are told that preferred usage will cause us to focus on the whole person. In the best of all possible worlds, where ignorance, stereotypes, and advantages over others do not exist, this might be the case. But until we reach that condition- -and that will be a long time coming--might it not be preferable to use language that reflects the actual experiences of most disabled people? In interaction with others, disabilities are almost never ignored. Disabled people learn to manage such situations. If we are going to expend this concentrated effort, why not launch a broader-based, more substantive crusade which would change images and ideas about conditions that are sometimes frightening and seldom well understood? For example, why not work on changing the connotations of what it means to be blind--to challenge old understandings with new insights about blindness? Many blind people are proud of the accomplishments of their brothers and sisters. Just as black became beautiful, blind is no longer a symbol of shame. To say, "I am blind" or "I am a blind person" no longer seems negative to many, particularly those groups with existential interest in the topic.
Finally, in the broadest sense this issue is a political one. From the first book of the Judeo/Christian Bible to the work of Michel Foucault, giving a name is important and suggests domination (Vaughan, 1993, pp. 115-142). There are many different kinds of people with various disabilities. Some groups may have progressed more than others in their effort to redefine their situations in the wider society. Some individuals and groups of individuals wish to name themselves (or at least not have new labels, preferred usage, created for them by experts who would do them good.) So why the current people-first language crusade? Why not respect the wishes and diversity of many directly involved individuals and consumer groups? Is this not in part what empowerment is about? No one objects to other people's use of awkward phrases such as "persons with blindness," if they want to be tedious writers. But isn't it pretentious to make such convolutions the preferred or even the only acceptable constructions? Is this not rather the effort of some misguided professionals who, without listening, are trying to change the world of those they purport to serve?
I know that many well-meaning professionals will disagree and wonder how anyone could question the benevolence of the preferred language crusaders. To me, however, this is a measure of their isolation from the very thinking and actions within disability groups that hold the greatest prospect for changing attitudes and behavior. The concept of preferred language is merely academic--in the worse sense of the term. It means very little with respect to anything of consequence in the everyday world. We can only hope that the day will come when editors will retreat from their misguided demands and once again allow language to become the carrier of positive images as well as letting it reflect the wishes of disabled people themselves.
Goffman, Erving. 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
La Forge, Jan. 1991. Preferred language practice in professional rehabilitation journals. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 57 (1):49-51. (January, February, March)
Vaughan, C. Edwin. 1993. The Struggle of Blind People for Self- Determination; the Dependency-Rehabilitation Conflict; Empowerment in the Blindness Community. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Carl R. Augusto, President and Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind.]
FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND
DOWNSIZES AND RETHINKS MISSION
by Kenneth Jernigan
May 17, 1993, was a critical day in the affairs of the American Foundation for the Blind, perhaps a turning point in its history. It was then that the Foundation board met in a stormy session and by a narrow margin voted to make severe cuts in the organization's activities and operation. The board went further, deciding to relocate the Foundation's headquarters, change its mission, and chart a new course. Whether these actions will lead the Foundation to a new era of growth and strength or signal the beginning of its decline as a major participant in the blindness field is yet to be determined, but there can be little question that the May 17 decisions will have far-reaching effects.
A year ago at the Charlotte convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I discussed the plight of the Foundation at length in a speech titled "Shifting Balances in the Blindness Field." I called attention to the fact that the Foundation had been forced to cut its staff by more than twenty percent, that it had been losing money each year since 1987, and that it urgently needed to rethink its mission and focus its effort. Carl Augusto, President and Executive Director of the AFB, spoke to the convention following my address and laid out the same broadly based and vaguely phrased set of goals that I had been saying were part of the problem. A year has now passed since that Charlotte convention, and with each succeeding month the dangers facing the Foundation have become more apparent. Every year since 1987 the Foundation has spent more money than it has taken in, and even with the draconian cuts of the May 17, 1993, board meeting, it is not clear that the hemorrhaging has been brought under control. In 1987 the Foundation had assets of more than forty million dollars. As best we can determine the figure today would be more like twenty-five million. The annual budget for fiscal year 1994, which is just beginning, was supposed to be fourteen million dollars, down from the all-time high of approximately fifteen and a half million a few years ago--but that was before the May 17 meeting.
By all accounts it was a painful meeting. The Board came to the unavoidable conclusion that something radical had to be done to stop the draining of resources. As a starter, the budget for the coming year was slashed from fourteen million to eleven million dollars, and some fifty additional AFB employees were either let go or told that their jobs would soon disappear. This will bring the AFB staff down to approximately 125, according to Augusto. Though these staff cuts have been made across the board, the entire Southeast Regional Center, based in Atlanta, has closed, at least temporarily; and so has the AFB library, including the Helen Keller Archives, though Augusto says that the library will open again as soon as financially possible.
Perhaps the most startling decision made by the Board was to attempt to sell the AFB headquarters of four buildings at 15 West 16th Street in Manhattan. The Foundation has been at this address (which is a symbol and a landmark in the blindness field) since the 1930's, and Helen Keller herself helped raise the money for construction of the main building and placed materials in a time capsule in its corner stone. According to AFB staff, however, the current offices are expensive to maintain, and the Board of Trustees hopes to find more economical facilities somewhere else in New York City. Apparently the present complex is in such bad condition that each time one repair is made, a number of others are required so that continued occupancy is simply not financially feasible. When asked if the Foundation would stay in New York regardless of what happens, Mr. Augusto replied that, if someone offered the organization attractive facilities at a good price in another part of the country, they would not refuse to consider the possibility of moving, but that he had a hard time picturing the Foundation's not having a New York office of some kind. For one thing, the Foundation says that it is determined to continue its Talking Book recording studios. Although there are those who would disagree, the Foundation says it believes the program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped would be profoundly weakened if it were to lose the pool of talented readers that are based in New York with its theaters and broadcast industry.
Other decisions were made at the May 17 board meeting. The AFB plans to phase out its sales of aids and appliances for blind people, though not in the immediate future. The Foundation says that sales are up at the moment, but according to agency officials the probability is that the AFB will ease out of this area completely now that other organizations provide the service. The AFB has already closed its research department and its section for developing special modifications to solve individual technological problems. Some evaluation of equipment is continuing, but it is unclear how extensive this program will be in the long run, according to Dr. Susan Spungin, AFB's Associate Executive Director for Program Services.
Although publication of texts and other books for the use of professionals and those studying to enter the field of work with the blind has all but ceased for the time being, the Foundation says that it hopes and plans to resume this work as soon as possible. The Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, AFB's monthly publication of research and reports of interest to professionals, will continue to circulate to its 3,300 readers.
Those were some of the decisions made by the AFB Board of Trustees on May 17, 1993. Here is the text of the press release that was circulated following the meeting:
AFB Announces a Refocus of Its Activities & Services
Since its inception, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has been looked to as a leader in addressing the challenges facing people who are blind or visually impaired and the organizations and agencies that serve them. In response to a review of the critical needs of the blindness field and in recognition of the organization's need to achieve fiscal stability, AFB has announced a refocusing of its activities and services and a major reduction in staff.
"The magnitude of the staff reductions and expense cuts was deep," stated Carl R. Augusto, president and executive director, "but a comprehensive action was necessary so we can realistically and optimistically focus our energies on AFB's future. It was time to sharpen our strategic focus, redefine our priorities, and guarantee that AFB's tradition of leadership in the blindness field continues."
The mission of the organization remains the same--to enable people who are blind or visually impaired to achieve equality of access and opportunity--but, in the future, AFB will more strongly focus on three aspects of that mission: being a preeminent information resource that makes creative use of information to benefit the field of blindness, people who are visually impaired, and the general public; being an objective think tank and problem solver with a view toward making the most significant impact on the most important issues facing people who are blind or visually impaired such as addressing the future of specialized services; and being the leader in public education and affecting public policy regarding the needs and capabilities of people who are blind or visually impaired.
Major changes at AFB include staff reductions across all departments; phasing out of the development, manufacture, and support of AFB engineered products; orderly transition from the sale of consumer products to a leadership role in galvanizing efforts to insure and expand the accessibility of products and assistive technology; and until sufficient funds are available, discontinuation of M.C. Migel Library services; deferral of the publication of new books and videos by AFB Press; and closing of the Southeast Regional Center of Atlanta, Georgia.
At its May meeting, AFB's Board of Trustees approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that reflects these reductions. The Board also authorized initiation of the process of relocating AFB's New York headquarters to more cost effective space within Manhattan and selling the buildings it currently occupies.
"We have concluded that we must make these sacrifices now in order to have a greater impact in the future," said Augusto. "As always, we will be looking to all our partners in the field of blindness to work with us to ensure that the significant issues of the day are being addressed."
Further information, including new contacts at AFB, shifting of responsibilities, and other details will be communicated as appropriate.
That is what the press release said, and though it is still too early to tell for certain what all of the changes will mean, it is clear that the Foundation is at last making a serious effort to stop trying to be all things to all people in the blindness field and to sharpen its focus. As Carl Augusto said in an interview, "Instead of trying to implement a hundred good ideas, we are going to have to limit ourselves to choosing ten really good ones and be satisfied with carrying those out." Susan Spungin explained the new focus as a determination to do those things that the Foundation has always done best. Though the staff is still scrambling to develop the vocabulary with which to discuss the new focus, she said that the AFB's activities will flow into each other. She sees the Foundation as developing a strategy center in which problems, particularly those with public policy implications, would be studied and attacked. Naturally arising from this activity would come preparation of materials to assist teachers and professionals in the blindness field. And flowing back from professionals, agencies, and organizations in the field would come information that would be used for further research and development in the strategy center.
Will it all happen? Is there a fund-raising base to support such activities? Can the American Foundation for the Blind both focus its efforts more narrowly and still carve for itself this or any other stable permanent niche for the twenty-first century? These are at least some of the questions facing the AFB and the blindness field. The officials with whom we spoke seemed sobered by recent developments but say they are optimistic about the future. Others in the blindness field with whom we talked seemed to wish the AFB well and applaud the agency's effort to narrow its scope. The field is certainly facing serious challenges in the years ahead, and the demise of an institution as venerable as the Foundation would not be a positive element. The forces outside the field that are working to divide and weaken the effort to protect the interests of the blind and the specialized agencies established to give them service would certainly not be saddened by the disappearance of the Foundation. If the Foundation can weather its current crisis and find for itself a future course of action which is truly in the best interest of the blind, everybody will benefit.
As a final thought, I am moved to comment that most organizations would be delighted with an annual budget of eleven million dollars and a twenty-five-million-dollar reserve. So why is the Foundation in crisis? One could argue that it has overreached its capacity, that it has become inflexible and immune to change, or that it psychologically lives in a bygone era and cannot accept the new realities. However, it may be that none of these is the real problem. When, after the May 17 meeting, I asked one Foundation official about staff morale, the answer came back, "There is no staff morale." The greatest problem faced by the Foundation could be that it has lost belief in itself and its destiny. If that is the case, its troubles are only beginning.
Perhaps the Foundation should contemplate (and I hope they will) the writings of the noted British historian Arnold Toynbee, whose sweeping theory of human development is called "The Cycle of Challenge and Response." According to Toynbee every civilization (and I suppose the same is true of an organization) faces a constant succession of challenges and confrontations, and its viability and soundness can be measured by the vigor and nature of the response. It may meet the challenge head-on, emerging stronger and healthier for the encounter; it may react defensively, desperately--leaving the struggle exhausted; or it may, at the first sign of threat, simply lie down and die.
[PHOTO: Fred Schroeder standing at microphone. CAPTION: Fred Schroeder.]
THE PLACE OF BRAILLE
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: As most Monitor readers know, Fred Schroeder is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and serves as Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. In 1991 he was also elected President of the International Council on English Braille. In mid-June he traveled to Sydney, Australia, to preside at the biennial meeting of the organization's executive committee, during which the group voted to endorse and participate in the Braille Authority of North America's (BANA's) unified code research project. This decision insures that, if a unified Braille code can be developed by the several committees being appointed to work on the project, the resulting unified code will be available for consideration by all users of English language Braille around the world.
While Mr. Schroeder was already on the other side of the world, he took the opportunity to meet with several groups, including the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, which was conducting a Braille conference in Auckland. The following speech was delivered on June 8, 1993, as the conference keynote address.
In the United States blind people have come to realize that the major problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight, but rather societal misunderstanding about blindness. The lost opportunities that blind people have suffered come from a lack of public understanding about their ability to work competitively. As a result blind people in the United States banded together to form the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. Now in its fifty-third year, the Federation has served to focus the efforts of blind people to reach social and economic equality. In short, the Federation serves as a vehicle for collective action, transforming the relatively insignificant voice of the individual into the powerful and influential voice of the many. As blind people our challenge is to shape a new perspective and understanding about blindness. To accomplish this, we must start with a philosophical framework which allows us a clear vision of our potential and of our future. We must then inculcate this philosophy into ourselves so that we as blind people can coordinate our energy through shared beliefs and shared goals.
Once we internalize our philosophy and believe it in our hearts, then it can be expressed through collective action. In this way we stimulate change in the public's perception of blindness. The importance of collective action therefore is that it serves both as an agent of change and as a way of strengthening our own philosophy. Our united action becomes the expression of our belief in ourselves as blind people, and this expression serves to reshape prevailing public attitudes about blindness. As our efforts stimulate change, the change we create reinforces and strengthens our philosophy. In other words, we start with a set of beliefs about blindness; express those beliefs through collective action; and, through the change we bring about, are in turn strengthened and reinforced in our beliefs.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, has helped those of us in the United States to refine and deepen our convictions by clearly articulating the philosophy of the organized blind movement through his numerous speeches and writings. One of the critically important concepts which Dr. Jernigan has taught us is that through training and opportunity blind people can compete on terms of real equality. Dr. Jernigan has clearly understood the relationship of action expressing beliefs and the results of those actions serving to focus and bolster those beliefs. This cycle is vital to a social movement and equally vital to the development of the individuals comprising that movement. If we as blind people are truly to believe that we can compete on terms of equality, then we must initiate the actions necessary to demonstrate this belief to the public at large. We must function competitively if we are to convince society of our basic equality. To accomplish this, we must have mastered the techniques necessary to make our beliefs a reality.
Perhaps there is no other skill more fundamental to personal success in a modern society than literacy. It is so integral to our daily lives that we hardly recognize its presence. We take for granted the ability to read and write in order to communicate thought and archive information. Yet upon reflection we do recognize the importance of literacy as a foundation for learning and organizing the complex of information we encounter daily.
For all of you as transcribers and educators the importance of Braille as a tool of literacy for the blind will come as no great surprise. It affords blind people the same advantages as print affords the sighted. Braille allows us to become educated and to organize the world's complexity in effective ways. It allows us to be competitive in our jobs and is a prime tool for social integration. Using Braille, a blind person can make a shopping list, write down a recipe, or record a telephone number. Braille is a tangible expression of our ability to compete and to become fully integrated members of society.
There is another aspect to Braille which I believe is equally important. I spoke earlier of the cycle of change in which philosophy begets action and the fruit of that action reinforces philosophy. In the lives of blind people this cycle of encouragement and change is strongly tied to our level of literacy. From childhood on, society teaches blind people that we cannot achieve at the same level as our sighted peers. To change this belief system, we must have the courage to assert a contrary view of blindness. In spite of society's teachings, we must view ourselves as competent, capable people. Yet sustaining this positive image of blindness requires mastery of the skills necessary to compete. Using Braille, blind people can achieve literacy and by so doing project an alternative view of blindness premised on their ability to achieve full participation. For blind people, using Braille is tangible evidence of our ability to function effectively alongside our sighted peers. It is an expression of our fundamental value and of the truth of our alternative view of blindness. For blind people, therefore, Braille represents literacy; but it is also a symbol of our true equality. Perhaps this is why blind people value Braille so deeply and so personally.
In the United States we have experienced a serious decline in Braille use over the past twenty-five years. Many theories are put forward to explain this decline. The fact remains, however, that among blind people there is a strong perception that something important has been lost. As a result, through the National Federation of the Blind, blind people have begun pressing for a renewed emphasis on Braille among blind children and adults. At first this movement was viewed with suspicion, impatience, and even hostility among professionals in the field of work with the blind. They sought to explain away the decline in Braille use by pointing to the increase in the number of multiply-handicapped blind children and the proliferation of low vision technology, which they said made Braille unnecessary. But within the past five years there has been a shift in the attitudes of many professionals in the United States resulting in their recognition that the decline in Braille use constitutes a genuine and immediate crisis.
A recent phenomenon demonstrating the concern of blind people about the decline in Braille use is the advent of Braille bills in state legislatures throughout the country. Today sixteen states [the number has now grown to twenty] have adopted Braille bills, which to one degree or another call for a renewed emphasis on Braille as the means to literacy for blind children. Some Braille bills have gone further, requiring competency testing in Braille reading and writing for teachers of blind children. Other Braille bills have sought to identify objective criteria to determine whether a particular child would be better served by the use of print or Braille. A number of the more recent Braille bills have called upon textbook publishers to provide materials in electronic media readily translatable into Braille. This provision is attracting significant interest due to its potential to enhance availability of Braille materials for young blind children.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Braille renaissance in the United States is the shift of attitudes among professionals in the field of work with the blind. The first Braille bill to be adopted was in Minnesota in 1987. It stimulated nothing short of an all-out war between blind people in the state and the professional blindness establishment. In six short years attitudes have shifted dramatically, which has resulted in the development of some recent Braille legislation that has been a cooperative venture among blind adults, parents of blind children, and education and rehabilitation professionals.
The real importance of Braille legislation in the United States has little to do with the substance of the sixteen Braille laws. Our federal legislation requires the development of an individualized educational program (IEP) for disabled students. The development of this plan is accomplished by a committee made up of the child's parents and various school personnel. For this reason the legal presumption of either print or Braille instruction constitutes nothing more than a starting point. Under federal law the educational planning committee can modify instruction for individual children. Thus the legal impact of Braille legislation is less significant than its emphasis on Braille as an expression of public policy. Braille legislation reflects an acknowledgement of the role of Braille as the means to literacy for the blind. Similarly our nation's adult rehabilitation system is coming to an awareness of the critical importance of Braille, both as a tool and as a symbol of the basic equality of blind people. In October, 1992, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) adopted a policy recognizing the importance of Braille as a means for reading and writing. NCSAB represents publicly funded adult rehabilitation agencies.
I regard the current recognition of the importance of Braille as dramatic and positive. It benefits blind individuals through increased literacy and improved social integration. Yet to me the greatest importance of Braille is as a symbol of fundamental equality. If we hold the belief that as blind people we can compete on terms of real equality, and if we have the tools to express that belief in competitive work, then we are able to put in motion the cycle of beliefs stimulating change and change reinforcing beliefs. Braille is a part of our heritage, a tool in our daily activities, and an element in our overall philosophy of blindness. It represents the liberation of an entire class of people from the state of illiteracy and non- participation and affords the means by which full participation and meaningful equality can be achieved. It is a rallying point for both political action and personal expression. Through the use of Braille the individual can attain the dignity that comes from being an educated, literate member of society. Certainly Braille is not the only skill a blind person needs to attain full participation. Yet the significance of Braille as the key to literacy gives it distinct and important standing.
As transcribers and educators we typically view ourselves as needing to focus on both the present and the future. Our immediate concern is to apply labor and technology to meet the requirements of today's Braille readers. The blind student in need of a text and the blind professional in need of a technical manual drive much of our effort and consume us with immediate demands. Still we are also focused on the future--always seeking new teaching methods, better instructional materials, and the newest technologies--and all with the objective of giving the next generation the gift of literacy. Our focus on the present and our dedication to the future are the reasons why we come together in Braille conferences. We meet to explore the latest and the best in production and teaching and to wrestle with the best ways to present ever changing and expanding technical materials. Certainly Louis Braille never envisioned a computer code. Yet the system he gave us, while in some ways very limiting, has proven to be remarkably dynamic. The challenge before us today is to balance the demands of the present with the challenges of the future.
Shortly you will be hearing a presentation about a unified code project initiated in North America. It seeks to consolidate the literary code, Nemeth code for Braille mathematics, music code, and textbook format code into a single unified system. The reasons for this project are readily understandable by Braille readers and Braille producers. When the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) adopted each of these codes, the intention was to meet a particular need for access to information. Yet today the BANA codes stipulate, for example, one symbol for the dollar sign in Nemeth, a totally different one in the computer code, and still a third in the literary code. Difficulties like this one in the present system are obvious and cry out for solution. Hence the unified code project seeks solutions to today's problems. At the same time, if the project is to be responsive and genuinely successful, it must also focus on the future. The project must seek to develop a foundation allowing the code the elasticity necessary readily to accommodate future demands. While the project is ambitious, there is yet one more complexity which must be addressed. Today there is remarkable similarity in the way Braille is written throughout the English-speaking world. Though the unified code project would solve a number of present and future problems, it does have the potential to widen the currently small gaps in the general uniformity of Braille in the English-speaking world.
For this reason next week the Executive Committee of the International Council on English Braille will meet to discuss internationalizing the code unification project. The risks are great; however, as is often the case, the potential rewards are even greater. The more people we bring into the project, the slower will be the progress and the less likely are we to achieve consensus. But by the same token internationalizing the project offers the tantalizing prospect of a truly unified code--a single, consolidated system used throughout the English-speaking world. The benefit of an internationally recognized unified code is immeasurable. To the developing world the increased access to materials usable by anyone who can read English offers incalculable advantages. With Braille in such limited supply everywhere, an internationally recognized unified code would allow a system of coordinating production of materials throughout the English-speaking world, greatly enhancing availability of materials for blind people.
As with any change, the code unification project is not universally embraced. The radical among us must ultimately be tempered by the conservative and the conservative pulled along by the bold. For the project to work, all must gain a little and give up a little, but all of us must participate. If Braille can be adapted to the requirements of a changing world, then blind people will have better tools with which to meet new challenges. By working together to ensure that the code can meet the changing demands of the new Braille technology and the rising expectations of blind people, we will help ensure the literacy of future generations. But by ensuring their literacy we also ensure more than just the prospect of becoming educated and getting a job. We ensure the true integration of blind people into society.
For the blind of today to stimulate social change, we must have the tools to give tangible expression to our belief in our fundamental equality. By our demonstrated ability to function competitively, we give our philosophy credence in the mind of the public. As the public learns to view us as equals, our opportunities expand. Collective action is the most effective means of progress for the individual and for any class of people, including the blind. For each blind person Braille is the means to literacy, and for the blind collectively Braille is a tangible expression of our fundamental equality.
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."
FROM THE EDITOR'S MAIL BASKET
In the June, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor we published an article by Dr. Tim Cranmer titled "Why I am not a Chemist: The Braille Ceiling." Among other things Cranmer was advocating creation of a unified Braille code of the kind Fred Schroeder mentions in his speech printed elsewhere in this issue. Cranmer pointed out that fifty years ago advanced science books were simply not transcribed into Braille because those who make such decisions assumed that blind people could not study science, so there was no need for the textbooks to be transcribed. Moreover, even today there are expressions routinely used in the various sciences that have never been formally assigned standardized Braille symbols. In fact, though Cranmer did not go into the matter, one of the hopes for a unified code, held dear by blind scientists, is that, with the right unified code, it would be possible to emboss Braille copy directly from the computer files used to produce the print text by merely running the file through a Braille translation program. Scientific books cannot now be produced in this way even though it can be done with books for which the literary code is used.
Of course, this problem has not stopped blind people from entering the sciences, but it has certainly complicated their lives. Even those who argue most passionately that the current Braille code is an essential tool for them in their scientific work say that they have modified it somewhat for their individual use.
The Cranmer article has stirred up a good bit of discussion. Everyone who has so far written in response is committed to Braille and believes that blind people have every right to enter the sciences, providing that they have the ability and energy. But even with these bases of agreement, there is plenty of room for discussion. Here are two of the letters we have recently received:
Garfield, New Jersey
June 14, 1993
Dear Ms. Pierce:
I am writing to comment on the article by Tim Cranmer in the June, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor. The title "Why I am Not a Chemist" certainly caught my attention since I am a practicing chemist. I expected to read accounts of organized discouragement by a series of so-called experts who claimed to know the best careers for young blind persons to follow. But the barrier described in the article is another one with which I am only too familiar.
It was fortunate for me that I had just enough vision to complete my undergraduate degree, but some years later as a blind graduate student I was faced with the problem of reading equations in chemistry, physics, and mathematics by some other means. I learned the Nemeth code and adapted some of its features to my needs in order to create a simple Braille notation for organic chemistry. I recorded lectures and later made Braille notes, including equations, which sometimes had to be inferred from the text of the lectures. Recorded textbooks were most useful, and I was able to transcribe many of the equations into Braille. Though this was time-consuming, I believe that the transcription and interpretation process enhanced my understanding of many of the concepts.
This was a tolerable investment of my time as a student but is too time-consuming for me to do now as a working scientist, so I searched for useful books in physical chemistry and mathematics for physics which had already been transcribed. My intention was to use them for reference when the need arose. Well, of course, the available selection is somewhat less than overwhelming. Additionally, I learned that several of the titles in which I was interested had been deleted from the collection. I consider it tragic that several Braille books on mathematics and physics, which were transcribed with great effort by the transcriber, could be disposed of. Basic texts in mathematical analysis and quantum mechanics which were published thirty years ago can still have considerable reference value. These books are rare and valuable resources which should be preserved.
Regarding the development of a new Braille code to include scientific equations, I believe this is critical if those careers are to be made accessible to interested blind persons. The code should be designed in such a way as to allow production of Braille copies directly from the files used by publishers to produce the print copies.
Another important issue is access to current scientific literature. The texts of many journals exist in computer-readable format. These are not always available to blind scientists at a cost comparable to that of print copies available to our sighted colleagues. However, Chemical Abstract Services has graciously provided me, at the normal price, with diskette copies of a bibliographic publication to which I subscribe. This is an excellent start, but other institutions need to adopt this policy. New technologies make many things possible, including copyright violations. This is a legitimate concern of the information distributors. However, such concerns are also relevant in producing printed materials. It seems to me that blind persons should have equal access to information in whatever medium they prefer.
These problems need to be addressed now if future generations of blind students are to choose careers based on their interest and ability rather than on whether educational and professional materials are available in formats they can use independently.
June 16, 1993
Although I appreciate that, in his article "Why I am Not a Chemist: the Braille Ceiling" Tim Cranmer was trying to portray life for a blind person aspiring to study science in 1939, I feel that he should have clearly stated the fact that life as a blind scientist has dramatically improved since then. I was greatly distressed that such vital information was not included in Dr. Cranmer's article because, if some blind youngster dreaming of pursuing a career in chemistry should read this article, he or she might be discouraged by Cranmer's statement that "limitations of our Braille code place limitations on our education and on our careers."
I feel that I am qualified to disagree with Dr. Cranmer when he asserts, "There isn't any way to convert the print symbols representing my ideas into Braille. What am I to do?" I say this because I am a totally blind college student who is about to complete a major in biology and a double minor in chemistry and secondary education. During my college career I have been hired by my university to tutor groups of high school students in biology and chemistry, in addition to serving as a tutor for students in the nursing and pre-medicine programs. Because I cannot use print, I rely heavily on the Braille code to do nearly all chemical manipulations, including balancing molecular and redox equations, writing electron dot pictures to show how atoms are arranged in a molecule or ion, and performing operations in nuclear chemistry, in which chemical symbols are frequently used. Although I have had to alter the Braille code slightly, I strongly disagree that limitations of the code were the only reason why Dr. Cranmer or anyone else could not study chemistry. Although using Braille to illustrate highly complex molecular structures like benzene rings is not practical, I successfully use the same molecular model kits used by my sighted peers to work with such structures. I can also assure you that, if I could not use Braille to teach chemistry effectively, my employers would not have hired me for the jobs that I now do.
I am not writing this letter to draw attention to my own achievements; rather I want to eradicate any misconceptions that any blind people may have about not being able to pursue successful careers in science. Although there are many reasons why someone may not succeed in science, it is not due to any inadequacies of the Braille code. It is my firm conviction that anyone who has his or her heart set on pursuing a dream and who is determined enough to do whatever it takes to make that dream come true will be successful, despite the obstacles. It didn't matter to me if, as Cranmer put it, "It is ten times harder for blind people than it is for the sighted to become physicists, chemists, engineers, or many other technically advanced professions...." What I want the blind to know is that I'm living proof that it can be done. The Braille code does not place limits on what careers blind people can pursue, but misconceptions and negative attitudes about the abilities of blind people often do.
Valerie A. Negri
[PHOTO: Wayne Davis standing at microphone. CAPTION: Wayne Davis.]
by Wayne Davis
From the Editor: In the small hours of the morning of August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew crashed down on Dade County, Florida. That was not the only area to sustain serious damage before the storm blew itself out, but certainly the people of the greater Miami area suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the hurricane. In the Spring, 1993, issue of the NFBF Outreach, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, Wayne Davis, President of the NFB of Florida and a resident of northern Dade County, described what it was like to live through Andrew and attempt to assist blind people in the storm's aftermath. It seemed appropriate to share this story of pain and optimism on the anniversary of Andrew's destruction and at a time when Americans in the Midwest are also fighting the devastation caused by the excesses of nature. Here it is:
I fancy myself to be a writer, so I thought this article would just flow out of my mind into my computer like water out of a pitcher. But how does one describe the hell that they named Andrew?
The feeling and spirit that was Miami left with the storm that history books will refer to as the hurricane of '92, leaving little as it had been in the southern half of Dade County, which was hit the hardest by the winds that gusted over 160 miles per hour. In the aftermath of the storm, the sound of Spanish music was replaced by the growl of National Guard trucks, and fine restaurants offering a wide range of international foods were replaced by Army field kitchens staffed by people doing their best to provide enough hot meals to keep Andrew's victims alive for another day. Where stately trees once shaded avenues of well- cared-for lawns and beautiful homes, there were streets blocked with fallen trees and broken sidewalks, and far too many of the homes had been reduced to little more than piles of rubble. People who a week before had laughed and played in the sun were walking through what looked like a scene from a war movie with confusion and fear in their eyes.
You have heard all kinds of stories about the damage and hardships suffered in Dade County because of the storm. I won't describe again the things that were shown repeatedly on television. I will try to convey a little of what it was like to survive the storm and to live in Dade County during the weeks and months that followed that terrible event.
Like most other Miami residents the day before the storm hit, we were busy stocking up on things like flashlight batteries and making sure the windows were covered with wood. We live on an island, Normandy Isle, which is part of the City of Miami Beach. We were told to evacuate the island because authorities were expecting excessive flood damage. As we left, I remember wondering if there would be anything to return to. We have lived on the beach for almost sixteen years. Several times hurricane warnings have been issued, and several times the storms have just passed us by. I knew there was a good chance that Andrew would do the same. Another part of me, realizing that I had never been through a hurricane before, was a little excited, as though we were all going to have a great adventure.
We went to the West Hialeah home of one of my wife Carmen's cousins, to ride out the storm. We arrived there late in the afternoon of Sunday, August 23, 1992. Everybody was busy putting the final touches on storm preparations. Other family members were staying there for the duration, and there was something of a party mood to the group. I was recovering from rather significant oral surgery two days before, so I wasn't feeling well, but for the most part our spirits were high. Carmen and I went to bed shortly after midnight and fell asleep right away. The hurricane hit in the small hours of the morning. No movie producer or fiction writer has ever come close to capturing the force of that monster of nature they named Andrew.
We lost electrical power almost at once, and the house was in total darkness until someone lit a candle. Of course the entire metropolitan area lost electricity, so the only light that could be seen outside was that created by the lightning flashes. The wood covering the windows was sucked in and out as though it were cardboard. The plywood was ripped right off one window and the glass smashed. All we could do was keep the door to that room tightly closed. Strange as it may seem, every wall inside the house was soaked. I still cannot explain why that happened. I recall wondering whether I was about to die; I also remember praying. I lay on the bed in the dark, listening to the storm. It sounded like some gigantic wild animal trying to get inside and attack us.
When the storm finally passed on to the west and daylight came, people began moving around. I walked into the front hallway of the house. The floors were wet and cold, and the front door was open. The other family members were outside in the yard, just looking at all the changes Andrew had made. I went out to join them. Trees and wires were down everywhere. Much of the seawall around the lake behind the house was destroyed. The winds had thrown concrete blocks around like paper boxes.
Carmen got on the phone right away and started trying to contact members of the Miami Chapter. Many of the phone lines were down, but she was able to reach several members who lived in the north end of the county. All of the people she talked to were all right, but many of them had suffered a great deal of property damage. What bothered me was all those members we could not reach by phone. Battery-operated radios told us that the south end of the county was all but destroyed.
Carmen and I wanted to get back to the beach so that we could see how much damage our home had received. At first the authorities ordered that nobody drive cars. Because traffic lights were out, only fire trucks and medical vans were allowed on the streets. But by late afternoon we finally got to our home. We were the first people to return to our block. There wasn't much damage done to our property, but all around us trees had fallen, crushing cars, and sidewalks were ripped up. The power was off all over the county, and we were warned not to drink the water. But the really heavy damage was to the south of us.
We couldn't take the plywood off our windows because all of our tools were in the trunk of our son David's car, and he had gone to Tampa to take his girlfriend back to school. Because we couldn't open the windows, the place was as hot as the pits of you-know-where. It was too hot to sleep. That night Carmen and I sat out on our back porch. I remember sitting there with a flashlight and a pistol at three in the morning, watching a raccoon walk down the sidewalk. It was spooky. With no power available, there were no lights at all, no air conditioners, no other electric motors running. We felt like we were miles away from civilization. We heard a boat whistle on the ocean, some two miles away.
It is often said that every cloud has a silver lining, and I guess this one does too. Two days after the hurricane passed through, Carmen and I, white canes in hand, ventured out to a convenience store that was open for a couple of hours. Of course all the traffic lights were either destroyed by the storm or out due to the lack of electricity. I don't mind telling you that I was concerned about how we would get across the two major streets between our home and that store. To my total surprise, people stopped their cars and told us when to cross the street. One man even got out to make certain that we got across a street safely. All things considered, we were pretty lucky.
Ralph and Mary Mormon were valued members of our chapter. Both were diabetic, and Ralph had lost a leg to the disease just weeks before the storm. After many, many phone calls, Carmen was finally able to contact the Mormans two days after the storm. Before the hurricane a county nurse had been coming every day to change the dressing on the stump of Ralph's amputated leg. But because of blocked roads and other emergencies, nobody had been coming to help them since the storm. They existed for days on warm soda and potato chips. These are the last things that diabetics need to eat. All of their clothes and bedding were soaked. Agencies kept promising to send them food and insulin, but for one reason or another, nobody showed up for over a week. Carmen was able to find a wonderful Spanish lady whose family operated a glass company. You can imagine how busy they were following the storm. But that lady, who had never met us or the Mormons, left her business, fought her way through heavy traffic to her home, prepared her own food, and then battled traffic and blocked roads deep into South Dade to take Ralph and Mary much- needed food. The whole ordeal, however, was just too much for Ralph Mormon. He never regained his strength. He died in October, another victim of Andrew. We will treasure his memory and recall his courage every time we think about the Hurricane of '92.
At least one other blind person died as a direct result of the storm. He was a Spanish gentleman, and not a member of the NFB. He walked out on his sixth floor balcony after the storm had passed. The concrete was wet from the rain, and he had not taken his cane, so he did not know that the storm had torn away the safety rail. He slipped and fell to his death.
John Allen, who is a past board member of the Greater Miami Chapter, along with Patricia Fain and their one-year-old son Robby, ran from one room to another as the walls in John's parents' home collapsed. At last the whole family huddled behind a mattress in the laundry room, trying to protect themselves from flying glass and other debris.
Longtime NFB member Larna Gray's home was heavily damaged. It was weeks before we were able to contact her. Carmen worked with the Red Cross and the local transportation office to provide help for members of the disabled community throughout South Florida.
To live without refrigeration for a few days on a camping trip can be fun, but in the aftermath of Andrew the heat added to the wide-spread depression. Small bags of ice sold for as much as five dollars, when you could find them. Nearly everything was closed for the first week after the storm.
The normally blue skies of South Florida were filled with military aircraft, and the thump-thump-thump of helicopter rotors could be heard at almost any hour. Everyone was trying to find things to hang on to that had been part of their lives before Andrew. They lived in houses with no roofs. We know personally of nine people, two cats, and two dogs all living in one room. These people had no extra clothing, so every night they each washed their own clothes so they could have something clean to wear the next day.
Andrew was not the first major storm to hit our coastline, and it will not be the last. With the help of God and of all our friends in the NFB, I am sure that the members of the Greater Miami Chapter of the NFB of Florida will work hard in a joint effort with other organizations here in Dade County to get Miami back on her feet. It won't be easy, but then the NFB is an old hand at taking on big jobs and solving big problems for blind people. The love and concern that were shown to our family by the members of the National Federation of the Blind, both here and throughout the nation, were all that kept Carmen and me going through that terrible time. Many of our Florida chapter presidents offered us the chance to share their homes. President Maurer and Dr. Jernigan called several times to see what they could do to help us and other members of the blind community in South Florida. Dr. Jernigan arranged for money to be sent to blind victims of the storm. These funds have helped many blind people and their families to put their homes and lives back together.
Is Miami recovering? The answer is yes, but it will take years. I lost my job as a result of the storm and have not yet been able to get back to work. And I am just one of many. There are still thousands of homeless people, people that lost everything but their dreams to Andrew.
At the beginning of this article I said that I did not know the words to describe the hell they called Andrew. That is still true, but the storm has passed. Now it is time for the citizens of Dade County, Florida, to look forward to a better day--a day that, with the help of God, will wipe the shadow of fear left behind by Andrew off the faces of our children.
A strange thing has happened in Miami since the storm. People of different racial and ethnic backgrounds who once resented each other are now bound together by the hard times caused us all by the hurricane. We are working together to help each other rebuild our dreams along with the city. When all of the fallen trees have been taken away and all the businesses and homes have been rebuilt, we may just find that what Miami lost was racial prejudice and mistrust of people who speak another language. People now take the time to smile and say hello and to offer a helping hand to each other. It may be that, along with everything else that Hurricane Andrew blew away, some of our hate and fear of those a little different from ourselves has disappeared. If this is true, historians may cite Hurricane Andrew as the glue that helped to bind different factions together to make Miami a better city than it was before. Miami lost? Maybe not.
MORE THINGS CHANGE IN ALABAMA
THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
In the June, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor, we described the latest abuse against blind people at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB). The problem centered on a highly irregular banking service called a Consumer Management Account established for the convenience of disabled employees in the industries program at AIDB's Talladega Regional Center. The result of all the hanky panky was the embezzlement of almost $24,000 of worker savings by AIDB staff. By April, when we were writing the story, the Institute had studied the problem itself for almost a year, and the state auditor had been at it for eight months or so, but the informal banking service without individual account records or receipts of transactions was still doing business, despite demands by the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama that the Institute put an end to it and begin helping people learn to do their own banking.
Three months have now elapsed since that report was written, and much has happened. The state auditor has completed and released a report which damns the program and confirms the losses. Regina Hann, the clerical employee with primary responsibility for the paperwork that implemented the scheme, has now pleaded guilty to four counts of theft. And the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) has completed its on-site review and, according to the Institute's public relations director, Lynn Hanner, has unofficially indicated that AIDB will be accredited for another five years, assuming that NAC itself survives that long. The mid- year list of NAC member agencies will tell the tale, but AIDB officials are clearly confident of the outcome of the agency review despite confessions of embezzlement by agency staff and the profound damage done to workers who trusted and depended on them. In other words, no matter what the crime, the incompetence, or the bad publicity, it is business as usual at AIDB and at NAC.
But it will be hard to pretend that nothing has happened at AIDB in the face of the irregular procedures and conditions enumerated in the audit report and the recommendations made to correct the situation. Here is the official report:
Honorable Ronald L. Jones
Chief Examiner of Public Accounts
Under the authority of the Code of Alabama 1975, Section 41- 5-14, I submit this report on the Consumer Management Account (CMA) of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind for the period January 1, 1989 through September 30, 1991.
This report encompasses a special review of receipts and disbursements of the Consumer Management Account, an agency fund of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB).
The Consumer Management Account was established in January, 1989, as a banking service for handicapped consumers unable to perform routine banking tasks. The Talladega Regional Center of AIDB assumed the responsibility of making deposits and withdrawing funds to handle the consumers' personal expenses upon the mutual agreement of the Talladega Regional Center and the consumer, parent, or guardian.
The secretary of the Talladega Regional Center was designated as the custodian of the account. After the secretary resigned, an internal audit was performed on the CMA by AIDB staff. The internal audit disclosed discrepancies in written receipts and deposits. The management of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind requested our department to review the Consumer Management Account.
Management is responsible for establishing and maintaining a system of internal control procedures which provide reasonable assurance that assets are safeguarded from loss or unauthorized use, that all transactions are properly recorded and executed as authorized by management. The following conditions were noted which reduce the effectiveness of the system of internal controls on the Consumer Management Account of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
1. Receipts were not written for all funds collected.
2. Receipts were not always accounted for and deposited intact and on a timely basis.
3. Bank reconciliations were not performed properly or reviewed and approved by supervisory personnel not responsible for receipts and disbursements.
4. Receipts and disbursements were not consistently posted to the subsidiary records of individual consumer accounts.
5. Subsidiary listings of consumer accounts were not reconciled to the bank and book balances.
6. Documentation for monthly bills paid for consumers were not maintained for audit purposes.
7. Employees were not properly bonded.
The lack of procedural controls on the Consumer Management Account of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind resulted in a cash shortage of $23,817.77. This shortage consists of $22,345.67 of receipts not being deposited and overpayments to consumers of $1,472.10.
1. Receipts should be written for all funds collected.
2. Receipts should be accounted for and deposited intact and on a timely basis.
3. Bank reconciliations should be performed properly, reviewed and approved by supervisory personnel not responsible for receipts and disbursements.
4. Receipts and disbursements should be posted to the subsidiary records of individual consumer accounts.
5. Subsidiary listings of consumer accounts should be reconciled to the bank and book balances.
6. Documentation for monthly bills paid for consumers should be maintained for audit purposes.
7. Employees should be properly bonded.
Charges Against Employees
1. Ms. Regina K. Hann, former secretary, and Mr. Mark Skelton, Director, Talladega Regional Center of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, are jointly charged for $23,817.77 as reflected on Exhibit 3.
2. Official demand was made on the official and employee for repayment of this amount. They declined to pay the charge.
At a hearing before the Chief Examiner, relief from the charge was denied as evidenced by the Order of the Chief Examiner, a copy of which is contained in this report. The charge remaining due and unpaid, this report will be certified to the Attorney General and to the District Attorney for collection.
Examiner of Public Accounts
Note: the above document was notarized on May 11, 1993.
____________________Order of the Chief Examiner
This matter coming to be heard the 7th day of April, 1993, pursuant to the provisions of Code of Alabama 1975, Section 41-5- 22, the Chief Examiner is of the opinion that the official and employee have failed to show just cause why the charges should not be paid. Therefore, relief is accordingly denied.
Entered this the 19th day of April, 1993.
Ronald L. Jones
There you have the official report documenting the shamefully casual procedures by AIDB officials and the disappearance of funds to which such practices inevitably led. By mid-June Regina Hann, the secretary in the middle of the scandal, had decided that there was no use in continuing to claim her innocence of the charges against her. At the time her father was also in trouble with the law, and the Talladega, Alabama, Daily Home reported both cases in a story that went on to discuss other unrelated crimes. Here is the relevant portion of the Tuesday, June 15, 1993, story:
Regina Hann Pleads Guilty; Father's Trial Continued
Regina Hann, charged with stealing money from deaf and blind clients of Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, pleaded guilty Monday in Talladega County Circuit Court.
Ms. Hann worked as a secretary for AIDB's Talladega Regional Center, which operated a Consumer Management Account that clients deposited their money into voluntarily.
Her sentencing is set for August 10. A discrepancy was discovered in the account in October of 1991 after an internal audit was conducted by AIDB officials. The probe of account records from January, 1989 to September, 1991, revealed that $23,817.77 was missing.
The Institute requested that a special audit of the account be conducted by Department of Examiners of Public Accounts several months later.
The examiners released a report from the audit in May, confirming the amount of money missing and citing improper management as a possible reason for the disappearance of the funds.
According to the report, Ms. Hann was designated custodian of the consumer account, and the shortage was discovered after she resigned in 1991.
In four counts of theft, Ms. Hann was charged with stealing $3,816 from Hwa Cha Pyon; $3,677 from Kevin Doucet; $1,450 from Horace Smelley; and $7,842 from Candice Williams.
The cases against former Probate Judge Derrell Hann were continued until August 16, according to Judge Jerry Fielding. Hann is Ms. Hann's father.
Hann is charged with theft of county funds and securities fraud, which alleges that he knowingly misrepresented the county's financial condition in order to get a $3.9 million bond issue approved.
His trial was continued "due to the fact that one of the defense attorneys had to go out of town this week," Fielding said.
There you have it. Ms. Hann pled guilty to four counts of theft, and no one yet seems to know what Mark Skelton, Director of the Talladega Regional Center of AIDB, will do or say about the blame placed at his door in the state audit report. As far as we know, the Consumer Management Account is still open, and one can only hope that the safeguards listed in the audit report have been put in place.
Meanwhile things go on as usual at AIDB. A new president has just been named. He appears to know nothing about educational policy, blindness, or deafness; but he can raise money. Perhaps the Institute will have better luck with someone who knows nothing about the program he will be directing and the people whom he will be serving. It is certainly the case that those with purported expertise in the relevant fields have rendered undistinguished service as president in recent years. One would like to be optimistic at the beginning of a new administration. However, when AIDB officials tell the press that past president Dr. Jack Hawkins (who carted off thousands of dollars of state property when he left) was "one of the institution's best, though controversy plagued, presidents," one finds difficulty in stirring up much enthusiasm or hopefulness. We will have to wait and see. Here is the story that appeared in the Birmingham News on July 20:
Auburn's Busta New AIDB President
An Auburn University administrator was named Monday as the fifteenth president of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
Joseph F. Busta, Auburn's vice president for advancement, was chosen from six candidates interviewed Monday by board members, who praised his fund-raising talents.
"I felt like his fund-raising ability would best serve us right now," said Ellis F. Porch of Arab, who nominated Busta, forty-seven, for the job.
Eight board members voted unanimously to hire Busta, who during his interview detailed his eight years of experience lobbying the Florida legislature and the budget growth of $100 million while he was assistant to the president at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
While Busta headed fund-raising for the University of South Florida from 1985 to 1990, private support went from about $500,000 to $24.7 million, he said. Busta also was director for that school's $111 million campaign and financed its $40 million foundations.
Board members said Busta's talent for bringing in money outweighed the fact he has no experience working with deaf and blind students.
Porch compared Busta with former AIDB President Jack Hawkins, who had never worked with the deaf and blind, but is considered one of the institution's best, though controversy- plagued, presidents.
Busta said he must quickly learn sign language so he can communicate with the deaf. He said he didn't expect his lack of those skills to interfere with his ability to run the institutions.
Mary Jane Ackel, regional manager for the Alabama Education Association, said she was satisfied with the choice but would have preferred a president with a background in education. "No practical education experience leaves a little to be concerned about," she said.
Mrs. Ackel conceded she had been a supporter of former AIDB President Thomas Bannister before he was forced out last February under pressure from the AEA. The organization said he failed to provide leadership.
Bannister, a former head of the Utah School for the Deaf, resigned from AIDB after three rocky years in office, but he refused to accept blame for the institution's problems, arguing they were deep-rooted and would outlast him.
Board members are counting on a new administration to bring harmony as well as money into the 136-year-old residential school.
Busta came to Auburn on the heels of a thirteen-month controversy over accusations of wrong-doing by staff members. He turned the department around and enjoyed three quiet years, he said. Busta, a 1969 Auburn graduate, has been Auburn's vice president for advancement since 1990 after nineteen at USF. "I think I'm ready, having served that many years next to the president," he said.
AIDB has 2,600 students with a budget of $33.5 million, about half of which comes from the state.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: David Andrews.]
STAND-ALONE READING MACHINES: A COMPARATIVE REVIEW
by David Andrews
From the Editor: There is perhaps no more attractive- sounding piece of technology for the blind today than the stand- alone reading machine. Just place a page of printed text on the glass, press a button, and sit back to listen to a tireless voice read at whatever speed you choose. That is the fantasy, and as improvements are made in this exciting new technology, it comes closer and closer to reality. But choosing and operating a machine successfully are not nearly as simple as the promotional brochures make it sound, and the cost still seems very high to most of us. If you are contemplating the investment of your hard- earned funds in one of these marvels or even if you merely wish to dream about what to invest in when you win the lottery, read the following article to learn what an objective technology expert thinks about the various options in this important field.
David Andrews is the Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. He understands the complexities of the various machines and manages to explain them in plain words. Here is what he has to say:
The most dynamic and competitive category in adaptive technology for the blind today is that of print reading systems. Included in this category are a variety of systems that scan the printed page and turn its contents into synthesized speech. These include both the so-called stand-alone reading machines and computer-based reading systems. Until just over a year ago there was only one stand-alone reading machine; there are now five. These include the Kurzweil Personal Reader and the Reading Edge from Kurzweil Computer products; An Open Book from Arkenstone, Inc.; the Robotron TR320 and Rainbow from Robotron Pty. Ltd.; and the ReadMan Pronounce from Schamex Research.
What follows is a review of the four major machines currently available. The Kurzweil Personal Reader is left out because, though it is still for sale, its optical character recognition technology and features are outdated. The Reading Edge offers better performance and more accuracy at a lower price. The two Robotron machines, the TR320 and Rainbow, are identical except for speech, so I counted them as one machine to get the total of five. I evaluated the Rainbow since it offers significantly better speech than the TR320.
Descriptions and Features
The Reading Edge
Kurzweil Computer Products
The Reading Edge is the latest stand-alone offering from Kurzweil Computer Products, a division of Xerox Imaging systems. It replaces the Kurzweil Personal Reader, which has been sold for the past five or six years. The new machine was first introduced in the fall of 1992.
The Reading Edge is a compact, one-piece unit with an eighteen-key attached keypad. It measures twenty inches wide by seven and a half inches high by fifteen inches deep and weighs twenty-three pounds. The scanning surface measures eight and a half by eleven and a half inches. With the optional carrying case the machine can be used as a semi-portable unit. Aside from the question of portability, the small, one-piece design is a nice bonus because it can save valuable desk real estate.
Like its predecessor, the KPR, the Reading Edge comes with a bookedge scanner that scans to the edge of the glass which is aligned with the front edge of the machine. This design is handy for reading books since the spine can be put along the edge of the glass, allowing the machine to scan the print, including that closest to the binding. The availability of the bookedge scanner is one of the strongest pluses for this machine and should be heavily weighted by would-be purchasers who read a lot of books. It is possible to read books with the other scanners, but it takes a little more work and ingenuity. The scanner surface on the Reading Edge is somewhat smaller than that of the earlier Kurzweil machine. It measures eight and a half inches by eleven and three quarters inches. If the page is over eleven inches long, however, it is possible to do two scans and stitch the resulting pieces of text together.
The Reading Edge sits at a slight angle--that is, the front is higher than the back. This helps in reading books since the angle helps to hold them in place. There is also a lid covering the scanner glass, which holds books and documents in place. The front of the machine contains earphone and recording jacks. There is also a compartment for storing the keypad. The rear of the machine contains a serial port and the power cord. On the right side are knobs to change volume and reading speed. The latter is a nice feature because it allows the user to speed up and slow down the built-in DEC-Talk synthesizer, even while it is reading a document. No one else offers this feature, although Arkenstone is adding it to the next upgrade of its software, due later this summer. The Reading Edge also has a small credit card-sized piece which plugs into the machine, which contains its software. This design will facilitate software upgrades in the future.
While it does not affect the operation of the Reading Edge, there is one peculiar thing about its appearance. The front of the unit contains a Braille label which says:
the reading edge
a kurzweil reader
xerox imaging systems
The Braille used is of a nonstandard size and is spaced improperly. Further, some, but not all, appropriate Grade II contractions are used, and there is no capitalization. The effect is sloppy considering that otherwise the machine is pretty well designed.
Some of the commands used by the Reading Edge are the same as those used by the Kurzweil Personal Reader, in particular, those used to control the reading itself, such as "read previous sentence," "read current word," etc. Overall the machine is fairly simple to operate. Of the group discussed here, only the Robotron Rainbow and TR320 are more straightforward.
The Reading Edge does not have the ability to control the brightness setting automatically. There are sixteen possible manual settings. The machine will determine the orientation of a page automatically and read it regardless of the direction of the print. The Reading Edge has about 220K of memory for storage of documents, and the contents of the memory do not disappear when the machine is turned off. While documents must be erased or sent to a PC eventually, this temporary storage is convenient. The method used to send documents to an external device using the serial port is the same as on the KPR and is cumbersome at best. Kurzweil has developed an external floppy disk drive option for the Reading Edge, which will be offered in its next upgrade. This accessory uses the serial port-based 3.5-inch floppy disk drive sold by Blazie Engineering for $495.
Another unique feature of the Reading Edge is the use of six keys on the keypad to write Braille. These keys can be used to name or edit a document, write short notes, or enter corrections into the synthesizer's pronunciation exceptions dictionary. It has a Grade II back-translator so that the user can write in Grade II Braille.
For beginners the machine has a startup message that provides brief instructions on how to use it, but the message can be turned off. The Reading Edge has a two-level help system. Like the KPR it has a nominator key, which can be tapped before pressing any of the other keys. The second key will then be briefly described. If only the second key is pressed, only its name or current function will be spoken. But tapping the nominator key and then holding the key down results in a full explanation of its function. This help system works quite well and is available at any time.
Like the KPR, the Reading Edge can be used as a speech synthesizer for a PC equipped with a screen review program that supports the Kurzweil machine. However, Kurzweil's implementation of the DEC-Talk is somewhat nonstandard, so the Reading Edge must be explicitly supported by the screen review program. Existing DEC-Talk or KPR settings will not work. The Reading Edge does have the ability to add inflection to the DEC-Talk, which makes it sound considerably better than implementations without it, such as the one used in An Open Book. However, in my opinion none of the new DEC-Talk units sounds as good as the original ones introduced in the mid 1980's. In particular the pronunciation of some vowels sounds distorted to me.
Both Kurzweil and Arkenstone are about to offer software upgrades to their machines. Among other things both upgrades offer support for additional languages. Check with the companies to get an exact list. I have been able to work with beta test versions of both companies' upgrades. Of the two, the one from Kurzweil is more significant. It is being called Version 2.0; the company has been selling Version 1.01. Kurzweil says that, among other things, the upgrade has improved optical character recognition capabilities. A setting for scanning paper faxes has been added and does offer significant improvements in this area. Other than that, the recognition improvements seem to be minor.
The upgrade also offers support for the Blazie Engineering external disk drive. This is a 3.5-inch 1.44-megabyte external drive which can operate on batteries. The system offers a simple and convenient way to save scanned materials as MS-DOS compatible files. This feature, which works well, is an expensive but valuable option. The Reading Edge now permits Scan Queuing--that is, the machine can be told to scan the next page while it is still recognizing the current page, and it will do so once it has finished. Previously the machine responded with an error message when the user attempted to initiate a scan before the current page was completed. The other major alteration is the inclusion of an additional editing mode. Previously editing of documents, titles, and footnotes was done with a six-key Braille keyboard which was a part of the standard keypad. Now there is also an editing mode for the non-Braille user. The same six keys can be used to cycle through lists of letters and punctuation marks, choosing the ones needed. This is similar to the system offered by Arkenstone's An Open Book. While it is a little tedious, it does work. The Reading Edge upgrade will be priced at $165.
An Open Book
An Open Book from Arkenstone is a two-piece unit consisting of a Hewlett-Packard IIp scanner and a central processing unit. There is also a small seventeen-key pad used for controlling the machine. The scanner is eleven inches wide, by fifteen and three quarters inches deep, by three inches high and weighs thirteen pounds. The scanning surface measures eight and a half inches by twelve inches. The processing unit is seven and a half inches wide, by seventeen and three quarters inches high, by ten and three quarters inches deep and weighs twenty-one and a half pounds.
The actual name of this machine is "An Open Book," not "The Open Book" or "Open Book." It seems a little silly to me, but it is their machine, and they can call it what they wish.
The scanner is a flat, rectangular device with a lid covering a glass plate. The lid, which is hinged at the back, protects the glass and holds the document in place. To use the system, the lid is raised and the document is placed directly on the glass.
Many people have come to refer to both stand-alone reading machines and PC-based reading systems as "scanners." Technically this is not accurate. The scanner is simply a device which takes an electronic picture of a printed page. This picture or image is then transferred to the processing unit of the reading machine, or to a standard computer in the case of a PC-based system. This image is then analyzed to extract the text, and the resultant text is turned into synthesized speech.
The main part of the Arkenstone An Open Book is the processing unit. It is based on the Ready-To-Read computer introduced about a year and a half ago. This machine, in other words, is based on an IBM-compatible computer designed by Arkenstone. When used as a reading machine, it does not function as a computer, and all you can do with it is scan and read. However, with the addition of a screen review program and standard keyboard it can be converted into an IBM-compatible machine. This can be an advantage to someone who just wants a reading machine now but may want to upgrade to a full PC later.
The system unit is more vertical in shape than many PC's. The front contains a slider control for volume as well as a 3.5- inch floppy disk drive. The back contains standard expansion slots, serial and parallel ports, a video output port, and a jack to connect the keypad or a keyboard. The right side of the unit has a small compartment to store the keypad, an on/off switch, and a reset button. There is also a flap which can be raised, providing access to the expansion slots. Arkenstone says that it designed the physical unit with markings and other aids to make it easier for a blind person to use. I for one have never had a problem sticking disks in disk drives, identifying expansion slots, etc., and I know other blind people who have done it without markings for years. I find this special design to be of no value. It might be of some value to a new user, but I doubt it. The system also produces a variety of tones and beeps to provide indications about what it is doing and that it is still working. These can be of some use.
Along with the scanner and main unit, the Arkenstone has a small keypad attached to it with a cable. This is used to control the different functions of the machine. It actually looks like the numeric keypad found on the right side of 101-key PC keyboards. Current An Open Books can be purchased with either this small keypad, a compact keyboard, or a regular 101-key keyboard. Arkenstone can also install a screen review program.
An Open Book is controlled by using a series of menus. Choices on these menus are accessed by using four keys on the keypad, which represent arrow keys. The user moves up and down between items much as with many PC applications. Once an item is selected, its individual choices are accessed by using the right and left arrow keys. Choices are made by hitting what is called the Select Key, which has a raised dot. The system has Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced menus. The Beginner and Intermediate menus do not make all options available to the user and may be useful to the new user since there are fewer choices to confuse him or her. One drawback to this system, as it is currently designed, is that it takes a number of keystrokes to change many items. One must select an item, move to an individual choice, select it, and then press the Escape Key the proper number of times to back out of the menu system. This machine has three basic modes: the Reading Mode, the Scanning Mode, and the Control Menus. When reading a document, one might hit the Escape Key to leave the Document Reader prior to hitting the Scan Key to scan another page. Since the Scan Key is a dedicated key, it should be possible to go directly from Reading Mode to Scanning Mode at any time, but it is not.
An Open Book does have the ability to control contrast automatically. Arkenstone was the first to offer this feature, and it generally works well and is very useful. You can also control the contrast manually for problem pages. There are a hundred levels of adjustment available when you choose a "Custom Setting." There are also settings for Normal Contrast, Darken Page, and Lighten Page. The unit can also determine the direction in which the print goes on the page and read it, whether it is right side up, upside down, or sideways. This is a great time- saver for a blind person working alone. While it adds a few seconds to the recognition process, it is worth the time to most people, and the feature can be turned off. Different DEC-Talk voices can be assigned to indicate normal, underlined, bold, and italic print. A different voice can also be assigned to the Menus.
The Arkenstone machine also has provisions for batch scanning--that is, one can scan (take pictures of) a number of pages all at once, then have An Open Book do the character recognition at a later time--like when you are at lunch. It takes only about ten seconds to scan a page, while recognition can take from thirty seconds to three minutes per page, depending on the amount of text, the complexity of the layout, and the number of fonts used. This can be a great time-saver for those big jobs. Once the text is scanned and recognized, it is automatically saved on the system's hard disk.
It is then possible to name a document and save it in a category. The system comes with a number of categories already set up, such as bills, books, brochures, general, letters, manuals, recipes, etc. It is possible to establish your own categories as well. The process for naming documents and creating categories is a little cumbersome since one uses the arrow keys to select one letter at a time, rotating through a list of all possible choices. An Open Book, in addition to batch scanning, can scan and recognize a page, then read it, or use the Quick Speech Mode, in which speech is generated faster. However, it does not work very well. It is choppy and doesn't save much time.
An Open Book comes with a built-in 3.5-inch 1.44-megabyte floppy disk drive. It is possible to save files to this drive--a real bonus to someone with a PC or to someone who wants to exchange materials with another person. The system can save files in a variety of word processor and other application formats-- over fifty-five of them.
The upcoming Arkenstone upgrade, which will be offered free of charge to all An Open Book and Open Book Unbound users, consists primarily of bug-fixes and minor feature-adjustments. In my opinion the most significant addition is the ability to adjust the reading speed of the DEC-Talk synthesizer while it is reading a document without interrupting reading or losing one's place. While the feature does not work as smoothly as Kurzweil's hardware-based notched knob system, it does work and is a great convenience. It is also now possible to read a multipage document continuously instead of page by page and to jump to any page in the Document Reader.
Robotron Pty. Ltd.
The Robotron machine, which is from Australia, comes in two models, the Rainbow and the TR320. Other than the speech the two are identical. The Rainbow contains a DEC-Talk speech synthesizer. The TR320 has the same Australian-accented voice as the Eureka A4, also made by Robotron. Most people, including some Australians who have visited the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, have trouble understanding the Robotron voice. It is, in my opinion, the most difficult voice to understand that we have in the Center. Most Americans, me included, find it virtually impossible to understand. One can adjust to it to some degree, but not much. With the TR320 Robotron added both American and English voices, but they are no more understandable. I have chosen to review the Rainbow because I can understand it.
The Rainbow is a relatively compact one-piece unit. It measures twelve and three quarters inches wide, by five inches high, by twenty and a half inches deep and weighs eighteen and three quarters pounds. The scanning surface measures eight and a half inches by fourteen inches. The front panel contains eight keys, which are used to control the machine. The back panel contains the power cord, a serial port, and a port for future expansion. The on/off switch is on the right side. The scanning surface is on the top, of course, and the lid is hinged at the back. The machine is very simple to operate and well designed. It scans and starts reading faster then any of the other machines reviewed here.
There are four arrow keys, which are shaped so as to make their function obvious. These arrows are used to navigate within the text or to move up and down a menu used to change options. Once the desired option is reached, the right and left arrows are used to review the choices. There is only one menu and no choice selection, as in An Open Book--the choice just spoken is the one which will apply. As with the Eureka A4, the buttons are rubber and rock back and forth a little. This means that they do not reliably change a setting or initiate an operation when pressed. This problem doesn't occur often, but if the edge of a key is pressed, it may not catch.
The Rainbow will automatically determine the orientation of a page, but it will not automatically set the contrast. There are only seven contrast settings, which may not be a wide enough range for some purposes.
The manual for the Rainbow came on tape and in print. There was no Braille manual or reference card. The manual was short and clear, but the Rainbow itself has no on-line help. The DEC-Talk synthesizer does produce some extraneous noise, which is annoying. A hissing sound is fairly constant and distracting. This is not true of DEC-Talk synthesizers in the other reading machines. In its favor, the Rainbow does offer inflection to the DEC-Talk, as does the Reading Edge. This improves the listenability. There is a set of commands to control the machine from an external computer. It is also possible to send both text and image files between the two devices.
The ReadMan Pronounce
The ReadMan Pronounce from Schamex Research is the newest reading machine on the market. Like the others it uses a DEC-Talk speech synthesizer.
The ReadMan Pronounce is a two-piece machine with an attached thirty-one-key pad and a joystick control. The two pieces, processing unit and scanner, are the same size, so that the scanner sits on top of the processor, effectively making it a one-piece unit. The stacked unit measures eleven inches wide, by sixteen inches deep, by five inches high and weighs twenty-four pounds. The scanning surface measures eight and a half inches by twelve inches. It uses a Hewlett-Packard IIp scanner, as does An Open Book.
The front of the main unit contains a 3.5-inch 1.44-megabyte floppy disk drive. The on/off switch and all the connectors for the ReadMan Pronounce are on the back of this unit. All functions are controlled from the keypad, which looks like the right side of a PC keyboard: the numeric keypad, the four-key inverted T, the six keys above the inverted T, and the three additional keys above this last group. There are two additional keys at the upper right of the keypad.
The keypad is complex and not well thought out. Most functions are controlled by one of the seventeen keys on the numeric keypad section. There are three modes of operation-- reading, saving and retrieving files, and changing options. Each key has a different function in each mode.
Schamex has assigned each key a letter designation. These are not logical. A is the first key from the left in the second row from the bottom. B is to its right, and C is to B's right. D is the first key from the left in the third row up, etc. These designations go up through I. Then J is the first key from the left in the bottom row, and the Help Key is to its right. K is to the right of the Help Key. I don't know why the Help Key wasn't given a letter, except that all the letters have been assigned, and still there are additional keys. Further, someone may have felt that Help was important enough to get a name. Nevertheless, all this is not very logical. The remaining key designations go across the bottom, up the right side, and across the top like a backward print C. Further, the key used to initiate scanning is the second key from the right in the top row. All the other machines make the Scan Key a large one in an obvious place. Not so the ReadMan.
The joystick is used to control reading and scanning functions. Some people may find it useful, and it may be of some value to physically disabled persons.
In its default setting the ReadMan Pronounce produces a long tone after each key is pressed. Then the command is executed. Since the machine is sluggish in its response anyway, this means that there is a wait of over a second for anything to happen after pressing a key. This tone system can be turned off, but the responsiveness is still not very good. This machine strikes me as something that was designed for blind people by sighted people and shown to us for our input as an afterthought.
The ReadMan has the ability to adjust contrast automatically. It can also be set manually, and there are nine possible settings. However, the machine cannot automatically determine the orientation of a page and adjust for it. It can read print in either portrait or landscape mode--that is horizontally or vertically. But it must be told the mode, and there is only one right way to orient the page in the machine. If it is wrong, garbage will be generated. This has to be considered a major drawback of the ReadMan Pronounce.
The ReadMan can be very slow in the speed with which it processes pages. The more trouble it has deciphering the print, the longer it will take. This is true for all the machines, but the ReadMan Pronounce is the slowest of the group.
The ReadMan has a complete help system: the help mode produces the name and full explanation of any key that is pressed. The machine can also be set at the Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced level. This controls the length of messages and prompting received in normal operation. One unique feature of the ReadMan is the presence of an on-line manual. The system does work well, although the on-line manual is not particularly well written. Some of the wording is awkward, and the grammar is not always very good. The same problems also exist in the printed manual. Since the company is run by Iranians for whom English is not the first language, it would appear that this is the explanation of these problems. There is no Braille or cassette manual.
It is possible to save scanned materials as files. Each file is assigned a number by the user. It is not possible to name files in any other way, and there are no categories for files as in An Open Book.
Scanning and Reading Accuracy
The thing that interests most people is how accurately these machines scan and read documents. I have developed a set of standard documents that I use to test optical character recognition products. These include a poor quality dot-matrix printout--one produced with a 9-pin printer and bad ribbon; a letter-quality printout; a laser-printed sheet with different sized serif and sans serif fonts, ranging from six to fourteen- point in size; a fax; a flyer from Egghead Software; and a page from my bank statement. I scanned each of these pages with each machine. I used default settings to start with and changed things only if the results were bad. So, unless otherwise indicated, brightness, contrast, and print style settings are at their default values for all tests.
None of the machines was able to read the low-quality dot- matrix print reliably. By adjusting the brightness setting of the Reading Edge, I got a good reading with only a few mistakes on a single page. By changing the machine to the Dot Matrix setting and putting the brightness setting at its default, I got a very good reading with only a mistake or two. An Open Book did not do well at the default settings but improved dramatically when changed to its Dot Matrix setting. There were a few mistakes--a few more than the Reading Edge--but I could follow the text. I was never able to get reliable reading quality from either the Rainbow or ReadMan Pronounce with this page.
Both the Reading Edge and An Open Book read the letter- quality document perfectly. The ReadMan made three or four mistakes, and the Rainbow made even more. Adjusting the contrast did not help either piece of equipment.
The next page scanned had a variety of type sizes and faces on it. None of the machines was able to read the six-point Roman or sans serif typefaces well, although An Open Book did the best by a fair margin. Things improved slightly with the eight-point size with all the machines, although everything except An Open Book made a substantial number of mistakes, to the point where the train of thought couldn't be followed. An Open Book did quite well with the eight-point sans serif type, making very few mistakes. In general, all the machines did better with smaller sizes of the Sans Serif type than with the smaller size Roman type. The Reading Edge and the ReadMan did not read cleanly with the Roman type until the twelve-point size was reached. It did well starting with ten-point sans serif type. An Open Book did very well with the ten-point and above in both styles. The Rainbow did not do well until the twelve-point size was reached.
The Reading Edge and An Open Book both read the Egghead flyer pretty well, with only a few mistakes. This page used a complex layout with three columns and a number of graphics elements. It also used a variety of type styles and sizes in different colors. It was easy to follow, and most of the mistakes were at the top. Neither the Rainbow nor the ReadMan Pronounce read the flyer satisfactorily. There were enough mistakes that it was difficult to follow the text.
I next scanned a Fax page, the standard slick thermal printed Fax sheet--the kind that always curls up. All of the machines had trouble with our NFB letterhead. The Reading Edge did pretty well with a few mistakes. It did, however, think that some of the print was emphasized, that is, bold or underlined, when it wasn't. This was a problem that plagued the machine in all the tests. You can set the emphasis voice to be the same as the reading voice so that you do not know it is indicating emphasized print. However, this version of the software cannot be counted upon to convey such attribute information reliably. An Open Book read the Fax quite well and did somewhat better with the letterhead than the other machines. Both the Rainbow and ReadMan Pronounce read the Fax adequately but made a few mistakes.
Finally I scanned a page from my bank statement. None of the machines was able to read it reliably. With numbers there is no margin for error. Of the group An Open Book did the best, but I still would not want to rely on the results for anything important.
Strengths and Weaknesses
While all of the reviewed machines are similar, there are differences in features and in operation, as well as in the accuracy with which they recognize printed pages.
The Reading Edge is fairly simple to operate. It has a good manual, which is provided in print, in Braille, and on cassette. The machine is compact and could be moved if need be. There is a carrying bag, which has a handle, shoulder strap, and backpack straps for maximum carrying flexibility. The bookedge scanner will be a plus to many users. The nonvolatile memory is useful for storing documents, even when the machine is turned off. The speed of reading can be adjusted on the fly. The Braille keyboard is a unique feature. The unit can also be used as a speech synthesizer. Long pages can be scanned in two passes, and it is possible permanently to correct mispronounced words.
On the negative side, the initial version of the machine is somewhat unstable. Some users have reported problems with the machine crashing or locking up. Xerox even warns users of some of these problems on a sheet included with the machine. I locked up the machine once in regular operation and several times when testing the Blazie disk drive option and am not quite sure how I did it each time. Also, frequently the Reading Edge incorrectly identifies print as emphasized. There is only one voice available for indicating such print, which includes bold, underlining, and italics. Some machines offer different voices for each of these attributes. At present The Reading Edge cannot automatically adjust its brightness or contrast setting. In the original release there was no way of permanently archiving scanned text short of transferring it to a computer by using the serial port. This process is awkward and inconvenient at best. Most, probably all, users will sooner or later fill up the machine's memory. As mentioned earlier, a software upgrade, which may be out by the time you read this review, offers support for the Blazie Engineering floppy disk drive, but at $495 the drive is a little pricey.
An Open Book has a full set of features and options. Scanned text can be saved on the unit's hard disk or exported to floppy disk. Files can also be saved or exported using a large number of file types. Uncertain characters can be marked with an unusual punctuation mark, such as the ~, for which the user can later search in a word processor. The three menu levels may be a help to beginners. A number of beginners have reported to me that they found the machine easy to learn. The manual is written in a tutorial style. Tones and sound effects keep the user apprised about what the machine is doing. Finally, An Open book can be converted to a computer if necessary. All one has to do is to add a keyboard and screen review program.
On the negative side, An Open Book is somewhat more complex in its operation than is the Reading Edge or Rainbow. It is more computer-like. It takes too many keystrokes to change some functions. I find myself hunting through menus for what I want. Further, when you change options, like reading speed or DEC-Talk voices, you do not hear the change until later when you make the choice and press the Select Key. The speech is somewhat flatter then on the Reading Edge, making it not as interesting to listen to. The machine just doesn't sound as good. The quick speech option is slow and choppy and of little use.
The Robotron Rainbow is very simple and easy to use in its operation. It normally starts reading text quite quickly, more quickly than any other machine tested. Robotron says that it has dedicated processors for different functions, and this approach does seem to make a difference. The machine, at $4500, is somewhat less expensive than other offerings.
The Rainbow and TR320 do not have optical character recognition accuracy on a par with the Reading Edge or An Open Book. This alone is probably enough reason to eliminate them from serious consideration until this is improved. At $3995, the TR320 has a price advantage, but with the poor voice and poor accuracy, I found it almost impossible to read and understand all but the cleanest laser-printed and type-written pages. The machines do not have the ability to adjust their brightness, or illumination, settings automatically.
The ReadMan Pronounce has a few nice features. Its physical design is compact and well thought out. The on-line manual is easy to use and worthwhile. The joystick is an interesting approach to controlling the machine.
On the negative side, the optical character recognition quality of the ReadMan is sub-standard. This along with the fact that it offers no price advantage eliminates it from serious consideration. In addition, others and I have found the company difficult to deal with. When I originally contacted the company, officials wanted 100 percent of the cost paid in advance. The National Federation of the Blind was unwilling to do this. One must question the viability of a company when it will not accept a purchase order from a reliable customer like the NFB. We ultimately purchased our machine from a ReadMan dealer, Jack Wood of ATR Computer. He has gone out of his way to provide us with good service. Other developments would indicate that the Schamex people are starting to learn and be more realistic about the adaptive technology market. However, they have been less than forthcoming about some aspects of the ReadMan in the past, such as disclosing what optical character recognition software it uses. Since I wrote the above sentences, Jack Wood has ceased being a dealer for Schamex Research because of his concerns with the poor optical character recognition abilities of the ReadMan.
Now comes the $64,000 question: which machine should you buy? Well, it depends. There are of course considerations that can't be quantified here, such as special price offers, the accessibility and quality of your local dealer, what your friends use and can help you with, etc. However, there are also some generalities which will be true for everyone. Because the recognition isn't nearly as good, it is hard to justify the purchase of a Rainbow, TR320, or ReadMan Pronounce. Unless all of your documents are of high quality, I would look at either the Reading Edge or An Open Book.
Overall, I found the recognition accuracy of An Open Book to be slightly better than that of the Reading Edge. However, there are pages that the Reading Edge will read better. For most users the difference is probably hair-splitting and of little or no importance. The Reading Edge is simpler to operate. It is best suited for situations in which you just want to sit down and read things straight through. It starts reading quickly and sounds good. It would be the best choice for public settings, such as a library or university resource center. It is also better suited for reading books. An Open Book is better suited for those situations in which you want maximum accuracy or in which you read more low-quality documents. It is best suited for a user with more sophisticated needs, for someone who needs to save scanned materials for later perusal or for export to a disk for use on another computer. It is also ideal for someone who may need or want to convert the material to a computer file later on.
The reading machine and PC-Based scanning markets are rapidly changing and very competitive. Both Kurzweil and Arkenstone are about to offer upgrades to their reading machines, upgrades that are likely to be out by the time you read this. Both have indicated improved features and better scanning accuracy. So, if you are not sure yet, keep watching or contact the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind for the latest information. Things are bound to change yet again.
Where and How Much
The Reading Edge is available from Kurzweil Computer Products, Xerox Imaging Systems, 9 Centennial Drive, Peabody, MA 01960; telephone (800) 343-0311 or (508) 977-2000. The price is $5495. A sheet feeder is available at an additional cost.
The Arkenstone An Open Book comes in three models, the Standard Edition, the Special Edition, and the Deluxe Edition. They are priced at $4995, $5395, and $5995 respectively. The differences are processing speed and storage capacity. The Standard Edition is based on a 386SX processor and has a 40- megabyte hard disk while the Deluxe Edition is based on a 386 DX/33 processor with an 80-megabyte hard disk. The Special Edition, just released, has a 486 DX2/66 processor and a 120- megabyte hard disk. You will notice that the Special Edition is less expensive than the Deluxe Edition but offers more power and storage capacity by a substantial amount. This is because Arkenstone has received a donation of the 486 processors from Intel and was able to drop the price on this new model. There is absolutely no reason to purchase a Deluxe Edition at this time, and for $400 more the Special Edition makes a great deal more sense than the Standard Edition. While I have not seen one yet, it is my belief that it will offer substantially better performance than the Standard Edition, particularly in speed of text recognition. Arkenstone says that it should be two and a half times faster then the Deluxe Edition. Arkenstone can be reached at Arkenstone, Inc., 1390 Borregas Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089; telephone (800) 444-4443 or (408) 752-2200.
The ReadMan Pronounce is available from Schamex Research, 19443 Superior Street, Northridge, CA 91324; telephone (818) 772-6644. The cost of the ReadMan Pronounce is $5993. A twenty- page document feeder costs $492, an interactive remote diagnostics package is $349, and a heavy-duty rolling carrying case is priced at $379.
For information on the Rainbow and other Robotron products, contact David Stayer, 2704 Beach Drive, Merrick, NY 11566; telephone (516) 868-8718. The cost of the TR320 is $3995, and the Rainbow is $4495.
PREJUDICE AND DISABILITY: STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT BLINDNESS
From the Editor: In January of 1991 I first heard of David Cohen, a young Ohioan who had left college the year before when he suddenly went blind and was now sitting at home spending his time waiting for his friends to come around and hang out with him. Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio were driving a van to the Washington Seminar that year, so we invited him to join the Ohio delegation in order to learn firsthand what blind people can do when we put our minds to it. As it turned out, the experience was very important for Dave. It was difficult because it was physically taxing and he had not been active for some time. But he worked hard and did what he could to learn from the rest of us how to use his white cane and how to discuss legislative issues with members of Congress.
Eventually David decided he needed firstrate rehabilitation of the kind offered at BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and with encouragement and assistance from members of the NFB of Ohio, he convinced his state rehabilitation counselor to send him to BLIND, where he spent a number of months learning the skills of blindness.
After he graduated from BLIND, he returned to Ohio but soon discovered that it would be better for him to attend college at an institution at some distance from his home in order to use his new skills effectively. So in the spring of 1993 he returned to Minneapolis to enroll at the University of Minnesota. Recently the university newspaper, The Minnesota Daily, decided to run a series on a number of students. David Cohen was one of those chosen for profiling. Here is the story as it appeared on May 24:
Prejudice Imposes More Limitations Than Disability
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series profiling university students of varying backgrounds and experiences. No short series could represent the spectrum of diversity on this campus. We started the project intending to acquaint you--and ourselves--with as diverse a student population as possible. A common theme emerged from many of our subjects: people overcome different obstacles to get to, and graduate from, this institution. The profiles will appear this week and the next.
Perspectives on Student Life
by Kendall Anderson
Two bumps in the road tell David Cohen when to get off the bus. The noisy heating duct by Nicholson Hall tells him where to turn as he leaves his literature class.
Knowing when to cross, stop, or turn isn't the hardest part of being a blind student, said the speech communications sophomore. Misconceptions are. "People see me and think cane, blind person, sadness," Cohen said.
A student refused to let the twenty-two-year-old sit next to him in Centennial Hall cafeteria. Cohen believes it was because he is blind. But such blatant prejudice is more the exception than the rule, he said. Store clerks' extra efforts to be nice smack of prejudice whether they know it or not, Cohen said.
The professor who excused Cohen from a map project after he had handed it in--"the prof said he didn't know how I could do it"--reminded Cohen of the limitations others impose on him.
"David prefers to think of blindness as an inconvenience," said Scott LaBarre, a law student and friend of Cohen's.
"Some people would tell you David is denying the true problem of blindness...or they'll say that's fine for David, but he's an exception," said LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Students. Cohen said he's not denying his blindness--just living with it.
He lost his sight due to complications of diabetes at nineteen, when he was a student at Wright State University in Ohio. He transferred to the University after completing an orientation to blindness training program at BLIND, Inc.
Playing baseball, as he did in high school, is no longer part of Cohen's life. Paying someone to read multiple-choice exams is; so is requesting that books be translated into Braille.
But Cohen is reluctant to share some details of his disability. It's important to the former high school golf captain and baseball player that people see his blindness simply as a characteristic.
Cohen opens his watch to read the time. He reaches carefully for folded ones, fives, and tens when paying for his capuccino. If he gets them confused, he asks the next person in line what bill he is holding.
Has anyone tried to take advantage of him? Yes, but Cohen doesn't think he is more vulnerable to crime than others.
"How many sighted people do you know that don't really pay attention to their surroundings?" he asks.
For example, on his way to an espresso bar one day, Cohen commented that an outdoor restaurant was packed. His sighted companion turned to notice what he had pointed out to her.
"Sighted people miss things just like (blind people) do," he said.
Cohen no longer wonders how many eyes are watching him as he finds his way to class.
"I think people probably watch me and wonder what I'm going to do at the corner of a street," he said.
A recent Sigma Chi fraternity pledge, Cohen said he believes interaction is the only way he can combat other students' ignorance about blindness.
"How many blind people do you think the average person really knows?" he said. "People make a lot of assumptions about blind people without really knowing if they're true."
Yes, Cohen said, he jogs and he plays golf. He "watches" movies--"It's interesting how people often adapt their vocabulary to me by avoiding words like see, look, or watch." And yes, he goes to parties.
He also dates, which he said astonishes many people.
Cohen said he knows some blind students disagree with what he calls a simple philosophy: "If you're constantly reminded every day that people have lowered expectations of you, that's tough," he said. "Blindness is really just a characteristic."
Cohen won't use some University services available to him. He does not register through Williamson Hall, a shortcut the University's disability services offers disabled students. Why not?
"Because then what the University is doing, out of kindness, is segregating us," he said.
Richard Allegra, coordinator of Hearing and Visual Impairment Services, said, "Our philosophy is that the student doesn't have a problem, but the environment itself has a problem. We try to help out with that.
"We can get a disabled person into a building with a ramp, but they just might encounter (someone) in that building (who has) a bad attitude toward the disabled," he said.
Rising every morning to sounds instead of sights doesn't bother Cohen. But others' inability to think of him as an equal "breaks down the soul and the self-confidence" he has worked so hard to build.
Cohen finds it ironic that many sighted people are obsessed with learning about his blindness yet frightened by it.
"People ask me all the time, "How'd you go blind?" Cohen said. "But then they don't even want to say the word because blind carries such negative connotations."
To his amusement, Cohen is often referred to as "visually impaired." One man even labeled him "optically precluded."
"This guy was obviously trying to be kind, but he must have studied a dictionary for hours to find that term to describe me," he said.
For Cohen, losing his sight has meant gaining an understanding of what it means to be a minority.
"Three years ago I wasn't a minority," he said. "Today I am."
"The day blindness becomes just a characteristic to other people is the day society's handicap is gone," he said.
"I only have a handicap as long as I don't have the inner strength to deal with the way society perceives me," Cohen said. "That's what handicaps a person."
[PHOTO: Craig Cooper standing at control board of radio station, speaking into a microphone. CAPTION: Craig Cooper at work as a disc jockey at K100 in Fargo, North Dakota.]
ANOTHER FEDERATIONIST BREAKS INTO RADIO
by Connie Norheim
From the Editor: Connie Norheim is the treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota. Recently she sent us the following report on Federationist Craig Cooper, who has overcome several obstacles with the help of the NFB to obtain a job as a disc jockey at a Fargo, North Dakota, radio station. Here is the story as Connie tells it:
"You're listening to the new K100, playing more country with a better variety every hour and every day. It's 12:26. Good morning, I'm Craig Cooper." That's what radio listeners in the Fargo-Moorhead area of North Dakota and Minnesota are hearing now that our newest NFB member has moved to town.
Craig moved to Fargo in February from Waukon, Iowa, where he had been a DeeJay at KNET. He'd enjoyed his work there but was looking for a city with more stations and greater opportunities.
The program director of K100 liked Craig's work and was willing to work with him in making the necessary adaptations. Craig Brailled all the CD's, and a Braille printer was installed to produce the schedule log and the copy he would need to read on the air (promos, weather reports, etc.).
Then came the problem of reading the various meters required by the Federal Communications Commission. The radio station had asked for a temporary waiver from the FCC until Craig had completed his probationary period. During this time the outgoing DeeJay would have read the meters immediately before leaving, and the DeeJay following Craig would have read them as soon as he arrived. The waiver was granted by the regional office in Minneapolis but denied by the Washington, D.C., office.
When Greg Beach, President of the NFB of North Dakota, called Craig to inquire about how everything was going, he learned of Craig's troubles getting on the air, so Greg started making phone calls to the FCC; to the national office of the NFB; to Mike Graham, director of the North Dakota School for the Blind; to communication experts; and to the state vocational rehabilitation agency. As a short-term solution the state agency is paying the wages of a person to do the meter readings for Craig. In order for him to perform his duties independently in the long term, the agency is ordering voice-output equipment from Gentner Systems that will read the meter settings to Craig. He has requested that the equipment be designed to be portable so that, if he moves from one radio station to another, the equipment can move with him.
Although he arrived in Fargo the first week in February, Craig wasn't able to start work at the radio station until May. In the meantime he had rent and bills to pay. Having grown up working hard on his family's farm in Iowa, he was used to keeping busy and paying his own way. So he got a part-time job washing dishes at Pizza Hut. He'd rather be working full-time at the radio station, but for now dish-washing helps pay the bills.
Craig, twenty-four years old, was born blind. He attended the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, Iowa, until the seventh grade and then attended public school. Although he found the school's approach very paternalistic, he learned what he needed. He started learning Braille in kindergarten and finds it an absolute necessity.
He's always been fascinated with radio and has wanted to be a disc jockey for as long as he can remember. He attended college for a year, but when he was offered the opportunity to work at a local radio station, he left school and jumped at the chance to learn the work on the job.
What suggestions does he have for anyone interested in radio work? Foremost, of course, is to cultivate your communication skills. Take any opportunity available to improve your public speaking proficiency. Second, be a competent Braille user. Third, develop your ability to memorize. Although much of the material can be read over the air using Braille notes, Craig has found his hands are often busy adjusting the various buttons and that many times he needs to memorize such things as the weather reports. Finally, be prepared for discrimination--some blatant, some more subtle. "You just have to be that much better to succeed," says Craig.
Craig would love to talk with anyone working as a DeeJay or anyone interested in becoming one. You can contact him at 1538 27th Ave., S., Apt. 312, Fargo, North Dakota; or call (701) 234- 0874.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Mary Beaven.]
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Tim Cranmer.]
This month's recipes come from Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May. According to Mary Beaven and Tim Cranmer, who gathered this group of delicious offerings from the Bluegrass State, the first two recipes are favorites for Derby entertaining.
2« pounds fresh asparagus
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter
¬ cup flour
1 cup dry white wine
¬ cup fresh tarragon, chopped, or 1« tablespoons dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3 cups fat-free chicken or veal stock (or as much as needed)
Fresh tarragon, chopped, for garnish
Method: Wash asparagus. Remove tips and drop them into boiling salted water. Cook until barely tender (3 to 4 minutes). Drain and set aside. Remove and discard tough ends of asparagus stalks. Peel tender stalks and cut each into 2 pieces. Drop the stalks into boiling salted water and cook until tender but still crisp and bright green (5 to 6 minutes). Drain and puree stalks in blender with 1 cup of milk. Melt butter in large heavy Dutch oven over low heat. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is perfectly smooth. Gradually add remaining cup of milk. Stirring constantly until it thickens, allow mixture to simmer about five minutes to rid the flour of its raw flavor. Add white wine, asparagus puree, tarragon, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well and simmer in order to blend flavors (about 5 minutes). Stir in stock until the soup is the desired thickness. Simmer a few minutes more, but do not allow soup to boil because the acid in the asparagus will cause it to curdle. When soup is flavored sufficiently with tarragon, strain it to remove the herb and return soup to Dutch oven. Drop asparagus tips into hot soup and allow them to heat through. Garnish soup with chopped fresh tarragon--lots of it. Makes 6 to 8 first-course servings.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
Method: Boil sugar and water for 5 minutes without stirring. Cool and add mint leaves and refrigerate overnight in a covered jar. Remove mint. Keep syrup in refrigerator to make individual juleps. Syrup will keep for several weeks. To make an individual serving, fill an 8-ounce glass with crushed ice. Add 1 tablespoon syrup, 1 tablespoon water, and 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon. Stir until glass is frosty. Insert mint sprig and straw.
by Thelma Jean Cranmer
Tim Cranmer, who serves as First Vice President of the Kentucky affiliate and Chairman of the NFB Research and Development Committee, reports that, after ten years of perfecting this recipe, his wife Thelma's friends now plead for her to keep it just as it is.
1« pounds ground beef
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans with liquid
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 heaping teaspoons chili powder
2 heaping teaspoons ground cumin
þ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, crushed
þ teaspoon thyme, crushed
¬ teaspoon tabasco sauce
1 bean can water
6 ounces spaghetti, broken into short pieces
Method: Brown ground beef and pour off excess fat. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and rinse. Stir spaghetti into chili. Serves 6 normal persons or two Cranmers.
MARY'S JAM CAKE
by Mary Beaven
Mary Beaven reports that this cake is a favorite with her family at Christmas. In fact, as Dr. Jernigan writes in his article, "Making Hay," in the March, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor, in many places in the South the jam cake was the rural equivalent of the Christmas fruit cake. It is moist and unforgettably delicious.
« cup butter
1 cup sugar
¬ cup brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 cups seedless blackberry jam
1 teaspoon vanilla
« cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
« teaspoon baking soda
« teaspoon salt
« teaspoon nutmeg
1« teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans, broken
Method: Cream butter in electric mixer until soft. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, jam, and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Alternately beat buttermilk and dry ingredients into butter mixture. Stir in raisins and nuts. Then gently fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in 3 9-inch round cake pans, which have been greased and floured. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. When layers are done, allow to cool slightly on racks before removing from pans. When cake layers are completely cool, frost with the following caramel frosting and stack:
Caramel Frosting: In heavy medium saucepan melt 1 stick butter or margarine and add 1 cup brown sugar. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Add ¬ cup heavy cream and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool. Add 1þ to 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat with electric mixer until frosting is of spreading consistency.
The original creator of this dip and sandwich spread was Jenny Benedict, who operated a turn-of-the-century Louisville tea room and apparently did quite well as a result of this delicacy.
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
grated pulp of 1 medium to large cucumber
1 medium onion, grated
salt to taste
2 drops green food coloring
Method: Before using pulp, extract juice from grated cucumber by squeezing it in a cloth napkin until it is relatively dry. Combine all ingredients except mayonnaise and food coloring. Add enough mayonnaise to make a smooth spread. Stir in enough food coloring to tint spread a delicate green. Spread on tea sandwiches or serve as dip with vegetables or chunks of French bread.
This delicious entree was originally prepared at--and therefore named after--the old Brown Hotel in Louisville.
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
6 tablespoons flour
1 « cups Parmesan cheese, grated
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
¬ teaspoon black pepper
Method: Scald milk and bay leaf in a saucepan. In a separate heavy saucepan melt butter, and, using a whisk, stir in flour. Make a roux by cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove bay leaf from milk and add milk to roux a fourth at a time, bringing mixture to boil after each addition and continuing to stir constantly. When entire mixture is thickened, remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese is completely melted. Stir in heavy cream, pepper, and salt. Cool. Makes 6 cups.
24 strips bacon
12 slices Vienna bread
4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
3 pounds turkey breast, thinly sliced
12 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
Method: Fry bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels to remove all fat. Set aside. Lightly toast bread. Place bread slices in an oven-proof dish. Top each with 2 tomato slices, 4 ounces of turkey, « cup mornay sauce, 1 ounce Cheddar cheese, and 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese. Bake in 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until tops of sandwiches are golden. Top each sandwich with 2 slices of cooked bacon. Makes 12 sandwiches.
**American Airlines Responds to Passenger Complaints:
In the June, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor, Dr. John Smith described his frustrations at the hands of American Airlines personnel who insisted that company policy required them to place him in a wheelchair or provide him with no assistance in the airport. He wrote to the airline, and under date of June 25, 1993, he received the following answer:
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Dr. John W. Smith
Indiana University South Bend
South Bend, Indiana
Dear Dr. Smith:
It was a pleasure to speak with you regarding the issues you raised in your article about sight-impaired customers traveling on commercial airlines. We share your concerns and are eager to make your ventures as trouble-free as possible while maintaining effective safety standards.
Your article raised two specific issues that I would like to address. First, the requirement to use a wheelchair when being assisted in the terminal is not a standard company policy at American Airlines. I regret that this was presented to you in this manner when you arrived in Nashville, and your remarks have been forwarded to the appropriate management personnel in an effort to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
Secondly, your article addressed the Braille in-flight safety cards stating that one must leave one's cane on board the aircraft in the event of an emergency evacuation. As we discussed, this policy applies specifically to aircraft having an inflatable slide used to expedite evacuation. Since canes can potentially puncture the slide, they are not allowed to be used. Another concern is potential injury to fellow passengers who are trying to evacuate simultaneously.
Dr. Smith, as we discussed, your article has raised some valid issues that we will review thoroughly. We will revise our Braille in-flight safety cards accordingly.
Thank you so much for your help and insight. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
Ms. G. Paige
**Attention Chess Enthusiasts:
Heinz Adam, Asst. Secretary for the United States Braille Chess Association (USBCA), has asked us to carry the following announcement:
Do you like to play chess but don't have the necessary contacts to play as many games as you would like? Perhaps you think there aren't any chess partners at your level for you to play. Or is it that you just haven't got the time for the game or the stamina to face the pressures a tournament would impose upon you? Perhaps you just need to improve your game. Or maybe you have never played chess and wish you had. If you have harbored any ambition to play in a chess tournament but never had the opportunity to do so, take heart. There is a solution. You can enjoy the game and the fellowship it provides. Join the USBCA, an organization that can inexpensively and effectively meet any of these needs.
A $10 check payable to Jim Hart, our treasurer, and sent to Bob Rathbun, our director, 37 Hampshire Street, Lowell, Massachusetts 01850, will make you a member for a year if you join the USBCA in an odd-numbered year. If you join in an even- numbered year, you pay $15 for a two-year membership.
The USBCA publishes a quarterly magazine on cassette titled Challenger. These cassettes are yours to keep for a fee of $10 a year for members. A subscription to Challenger is optional, but it is a valuable asset.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Toshiba 1000 portable computer with 640K memory, 3.5" disk drive, external 5¬-inch disk drive, MS-DOS in ROM, as well as a 768K memory RAM chip, into which information can be stored without losing it, even when the power is off. The internal speech card will support Vert and Vocal-Eyes screen readers.
Also for sale is a Dyconics inkjet portable printer, which takes both tractor-feed and single sheets of paper. It works well with this portable computer and makes an excellent connection with the Braille 'n Speak. Will throw in an extra unopened ribbon. The price for each item is $500, or best offer for either or both. If interested, contact Otto Zamora on cassette or in Braille at 1826 S.W. 136 Place, Miami, Florida 33175; or call (305) 596-8540.
**Writers' Conference Planned:
The Writers' Division of the National Federation of the Blind will sponsor a National Conference for Blind Writers at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, beginning on Friday, September 10, and concluding on Sunday, September 12, 1993. The registration fee will be $25, and accommodations at the National Center will be provided free of charge. A donation will be requested for the cost of all meals at the Center. If you are a blind or visually impaired writer and would like to attend the conference, write to Jerry Whittle, 22 University Boulevard, Ruston, Louisiana 71270 for an information packet and application form. If you need further clarification about these preliminary facts, you may call (318) 251-2891.
**VHL International Network:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
VHL Family Alliance (von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome) is an international network of family support groups. It provides an opportunity for families affected by VHL to share their knowledge and experiences with each other and the medical community. Our goal is to improve diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life for VHL families. We offer a newsletter, pen pals, phone support, and local groups in ten states and England with more forming. The newsletter is available on tape. We read Braille. Write VHL Family Alliance, 171 Clinton Rd., Brookline, Massachusetts 02146; or call (617) 232-5946 or 1-800-767-4845 for the nearest contact person.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Now Available: The TwoTimer. If you use a talking computer and take dictation from a tape machine, the TwoTimer allows you to don a standard pair of stereo headphones and hear both your computer's speech and your dictation machine, one in each ear. It allows you the added advantage of doing your work in silence. The TwoTimer is based on a small speaker modified to include connections for both a speech synthesizer and a tape machine. The volume level can be controlled either from your equipment or by the two controls on the TwoTimer. The speaker in the TwoTimer is easily switched on to act as the speaker for your synthesizer, making constant cable changes unnecessary. It is equipped with þ- inch connectors that will fit most synthesizers and tape players. Price, $75, including earphones. Contact Traxler Enterprises, 611 North Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin 53226-4248; or call (414) 774-2331 (Voice), (414) 774-2475 (BB).
**Recipes Available on Tape:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The National Federation of the Blind of Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas, has compiled a tape recording of original and well-loved recipes called "Variations." The tapes are available for $5 and may be purchased by contacting Connie Eckard, 4100 North Goulder St., Trailer #38, Odessa, Texas 79764.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale an Arkenstone An Open Book, deluxe edition, demonstration unit in mint condition, featuring 120 Mhz HD and ADF. I am asking $4,100. If interested, you may contact Joe Renzi in Braille or 3.5" (no 5.25") PC disk at Reading Technology, 9269 Mission Gorge Rd., Suite 108, Santee, California 92071; or call (619) 491-2142.
We were recently notified that Sister Joan Ridley of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic, a longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, was installed on June 13, 1993, to serve as President of the order for a four-year term. Sister Joan was influential in helping the Louisiana affiliate establish the Louisiana Center for the Blind in the mid-'80's. She is an attorney and has been a member of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic since 1965. Congratulations to Sister Joan and to her order.
**People with RLF Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
An author with RLF (Retrolental Fibroplasia) would like to interview other adults with RLF for a book called Small Victories. The book will tell the stories of adults, aged thirty through sixty, who were born very prematurely and are leading fulfilling lives. A very broad definition of "fulfilling" is being used. It is being written from a literary perspective rather than a research perspective and will include stories of individuals with RLF as well as the stories of those who developed no apparent disabilities as a result of their prematurity. It is the author's intention that parents of premature babies be able to use it as a source of hope and inspiration.
The author developed RLF in 1946 after being born prematurely in Salem, Oregon. She is the mother of a premature baby and Executive Director of an educational foundation. For information about the interviews call or write Mary Lou Dickerson, 719 North 68th Street, Seattle, Washington 98103; (206) 782-6129.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: David Schnair (1907-1993).]
We regret to report the death on June 1, 1993, of David Schnair, one of the long-time leaders of the Blinded Veterans Association. Mr. Schnair, who was eighty-six at the time of his death, had been a member of the BVA Board of Directors continuously since 1952. He was active also beyond his immediate BVA responsibilities. Several times he served as a representative to meetings of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, and in 1988, traveling alone, he attended the Quadrennial conference of the WBU in Madrid, Spain. He was a remarkable man and a lively companion; he will be deeply missed by all those who knew him.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Kathy Kannenberg, chairwoman of the Distribution of Publications Committee.]
**We Need You!:
Kathy Kannenberg, chairwoman of the NFB Distribution of Publications Committee, writes to say:
The Distribution of Publications Committee needs to hear from you. We would like to hear any stories you may have about the ways in which Federation literature has changed your life or that of someone you know--see Robin Zook's article, "Reading the Literature," in the January, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor. Your story does not have to be as amazing or as well-written. We would also like to hear about what you are doing to get NFB literature into people's hands. Please send all correspondence, in any format, to Kathy G. Kannenberg, 602 Dixie Trail, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
**Reading Test Participants Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and Mississippi State University are jointly conducting a research project on the reading and writing skills of adults who have visual impairments. Volunteers (between the ages of twenty-five and sixty years) are needed to take a standardized reading test in adapted media and prepare a short writing sample. The testing and a verbal questionnaire take approximately three hours and are administered at a time and location convenient to the participant.
If you would like to participate or would like some more information before you decide, please contact Laurel Tucker or Laura Edwards at PCO, Institute for the Visually Impaired, 1200 West Godfrey Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19141, or call (215) 276-6094.
On May 8, 1993, the Decatur Area Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia elected the following officers: Wayne High, President; Robert Smith, First Vice President; Adam Shapiro, Second Vice President; Sandra Watts, Secretary; Gladys Taylor, Treasurer; and Rosetta Brown, Board member.
**Games For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale several Nintendo games, $10 each. For a list of approximately fourteen game titles, contact Cheryl Dresser, 127 Boulanger Ave., West Hartford, Connecticut 06110.
**Braille Books for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The following Braille books are now available: Quilting and Patchwork, 3 volumes, $6.00; Macrame Techniques and Projects, 2 volumes, $5.00; Hobbies for Art and Craft Materials, $20.00; Spanish/English Dictionary, 10 volumes, $25.00; Lessons in Macrame, 2 volumes, $6.00; Prepared Cooking or Cooking Techniques for the Blind, 3 volumes, $10.00; Handicrafts from Scraps, 2 volumes, $5.00; Hobbies, 3 volumes, $8.00; American Pocket Dictionary, 7 volumes, $25.00; Using the Cranmer Abacus, 1 volume, $2.00; Women Alive: Crafts for Fun and Profit, 2 volumes, $5.00; and Betty Crocker Cookbook, 9 volumes, $25.00. To place an order for any of these books, send a check to Tulia Dragona, 238 75th Street, North Bergen, New Jersey 07047.
**Travel Planning Services Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
My name is Susan Brewer; I am a totally blind travel agent specializing in travel for the disabled. My main objective is to work on behalf of the traveler with special needs in dealing with airlines, cruise lines, hotels, etc.
My services are available for both corporate and vacation travelers. Please call at any time if I can be of assistance in meeting your travel needs. Call toll free, (800) 600-2767; or (513) 931-2234. Don't forget to ask about our new Cruise Club.
**Wishing to Buy:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am looking for a used large APH four-track cassette recorder in good working condition. Contact Joseph Laplaceliere in Braille or tape at 604 60th Place, Fairmont Heights, Maryland 20743; or call (301) 925-1674.
**NFB of California Receives Grant:
We recently received the following press release concerning the California Public Utilities Commission:
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced today that the National Federation of the Blind of California has been awarded a grant in the amount of $90,000 from the Telecommunications Education Trust (TET) to reproduce TET-funded consumer information materials in Braille and large print and on cassette tape for statewide distribution to the blind and visually impaired. The purpose of this TET-funded educational program is to help blind and visually impaired consumers use telecommunications products and services more effectively.
The National Federation of the Blind of California is a fifty-three-year-old organization of blind persons that works to improve the lives of blind Californians. The organization received a 1992-1993 TET grant to reproduce the Consumer Action Telephone Information Project fact sheets in media readable by the blind and to begin dissemination of these materials to the blind of California. The grant also made it possible for the organization to establish a consumer information line on its Newsline for the Blind computerized newspaper reading service.
The 1993-94 TET grant will make it possible for the NFB of California to reproduce additional TET-funded fact sheets for the blind and visually impaired and to increase the distribution of all of the fact sheets.
There you have the press release, and we say, congratulations to the NFB of California for the grant and for its work in providing accessible information to blind people in California.
**Request for Overseas Correspondence:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: "I'm hard trying to improve my English and in this respect I would find it nice if it was possible to correspond with some native- English-speaking people. Would you be able to place a summons in your Monitor Miniatures in which you can ask for me whether there are people who'd like it to correspond with me? I have the use of a scanner so I can read typed or printed texts. I also use Braille but in the Netherlands we don't use the shorthand Braille system. We write all the words completely. I'm learning your English shorthand system but it's still a bit difficult for me. So if they want to correspond with me in Braille, I'm afraid I have to ask them to write the Braille completely and not to use the shorthand system, at least not in the coming few months. I think I'll be able to deal with the shorthand properly enough about a few months." Contact: Kim D. Hoogenraad, Wamelplein 113, 1106 DX Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Donovan Cooper.]
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, reports that Donovan Cooper, one of the leaders of the NFB of California and Immediate Past President of the NFB Diabetics Division, has recently returned home from the hospital. Donovan had a hip replacement on June 17 and the following day suffered a heart attack. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery later that week and has been recovering ever since. He is now clearly on the mend, though sorry to have missed the National Convention. We wish Donovan a rapid return to full health.
John TaBockhorst, Treasurer of the Bix Beiderbecke Chapter of the NFB of Iowa, reports the following election results: Debra Smith, President; Tom TaBockhorst, Vice President; Mary Hartle, Secretary; John TaBockhorst, Treasurer; and Mike Manahl, Board member.
**Cassette Duplication and Recorded Cassettes for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Four-track cassette duplication service is offered, C-60 or C-90. Also, sports cassette highlights albums are for sale, each $3.50 or three for $10. Some titles are: "World Series History" and "Super Bowl History"--too many to list. A recorded list can be had at no cost. Others are: "The Curse of the Bambino" and "Fenway: A History of the Boston Red Sox." Communications are acceptable on cassette, in print, or in Braille. Make payments to Gintautas Burba, 30 Snell Street, Brockton, Massachusetts 02401.
**Braille and Large Print Production Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Friendly Productions of Texas, Inc., is a new company, less than a year old, based in Fort Worth, Texas. Its interlinear Braille products are embossed in Grade II Braille on both sides of the page. These same pages are also printed in large, bold- face type to meet the needs of people with visual impairments. There is a blind person on the staff as Braillist and production person. The new company's clients include Embassy Suites, Inc., and a number of Houston's restaurants. If you have need for Braille and large-print production services or know of individuals or organizations that do, contact Friendly Productions of Texas, Inc., 3045 Lackland Road, Suite 210, Fort Worth, Texas 76116; or call (817) 731-5908, 1-800-326-5679.
**Whole World Language Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Audio-Forum of Guilford, Connecticut, has published its Twentieth Anniversary Whole World Language Catalog, which lists the largest selection of self-instructional foreign language courses available on audio and video cassettes from a single source. The fifty-two-page catalog, available free, features a range of two hundred thirty courses for seventy-nine languages at various levels of learning, all emphasizing the spoken language.
In addition to the popular Spanish, Italian, and French language courses, Audio-Forum offers do-it-yourself cassette courses in a wide range of Native American Indian, Russian and East European, Asian, and African languages, all of which are detailed in the catalog.
Most of Audio-Forum's full-length self-instructional language courses were developed by the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute. The self-study method is basic--listen and imitate, the same method used to learn to talk as children use. Only native-born speakers are recorded, ensuring correct, natural pronunciation and intonation of the standard version of each language.
The catalog is available free by writing to Audio-Forum, Dept. B, On-The-Green, Guilford, Connecticut 06437; or by calling, toll-free, 1-800-243-1234.
**"Animal Called the Blues":
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Charles Atkins, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, is an experienced songwriter and performer of the blues. His career extends over more than twenty years. Recently Mr. Atkins and The Blues Boys produced a limited-edition cassette recording of original blues, titled "Animal Called the Blues." To order this tape send a check or money order in the amount of $10 to Blues Bear Co., Charles Atkins, P.O. Box 752, Quincy, Florida 32353.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Toshiba T1000 laptop computer with Artic Vision hardware and software built in. The computer has 512K of RAM plus an additional 768K of expanded memory installed. The expanded memory can be configured as a hard drive RAM disk. There is also a built-in 3.5-inch 720K disk drive. There are parallel, serial, monitor, and external ports. I am asking $700 or best offer. Please contact Loren Mikola at 13135 Argyle, Southgate, Michigan 48195; or call (313) 284-9772.